If We Are Going to Make Good Decisions

What I have a hard time understanding is that for many Americans their political party identity is a stronger bond than the need for the truth. One party has been more masterful at using this piece of social dynamics, but both parties have been guilty.

I find this distressing as we are not playing for “funzies” with people’s lives here. People need the truth in order to make informed decisions and choices. The corollary to this is that so many people do not care or want to be informed by the truth. They get their information at the grocery store waiting in line or at the hair salons and barber shops, usually from people who had a hard time just graduating from high school. Our recent experience with the science of the covid pandemic is still fresh in my mind and the disinformation is still rampant.

Heaven forbid we put much faith in an education. That’s not politically correct on the Right at all. We are in for a dilly of a time until both sides value good information as necessary for making good choices. And yes, sometimes history will not reflect well on us. Our past is what it is. To hide and distort it is a game for fools. The spin doctors will try to do this – I don’t have any respect for spin or the spinners. Information generated by hyper partisanship is generally trash and intended for the lowest common denominator, those that don’t care about the truth, they just want to be led.

I have no problem being guided by Jesus and some other teachers as well. I do have a big problem being guided by organized religion. I think organized religion and Christian values are far apart and have always been like this. One is about Christ and the other is about men and their needs. You decide.

Some more food for thought – take care.

What’s In My Head Today

I’m don’t want to look at the news anymore. It doesn’t get any better and the stories are the same. Our country cannot hold a lawbreaker that held the highest office accountable. Climate change threatens the earth and humanity and the responsibility for this impending doom is a circle of “not me” heard from each part of the circle. Scientists are ignored because we might have to learn something if we listen. Learning is under attack from the culture warriors who are afraid someone might really learn what happened in our past and what is going on today. And organized religion is up to all of the bad it has been guilty of for most of its history – there is a good lesson to teach our kids – some religious history.

And then there is the constant hyper partisan politics, just one salvo after another fired over the bows of the ships of political parties. Sometimes one party tries to help people, the other party has no interest in helping, just in maintaining power and money for themselves. What is the point in all of this?

We are very divided as a nation. The starting point to unity might be some common recognition of problems. Forget that as recognizing problems is viewed as a weakness and caving in by one party so this is not going to happen. The only solutions acceptable to one side are a constant diet of culture war wins.

So, I am more and more convinced to stay out of all of this, and away from many of those responsible for the “…condition my condition is in…” (borrowed from some song lyrics – just don’t remember what song, sorry). We no longer argue and debate how much to tax us or what policies are needed to help. No, the big wars are over what history we should hide from our kids, what books to ban from our libraries, what science is bad for us to understand, and what control the government needs over some of our bodies.

To tell you the truth, much of this disgusts me and the people doing this as well. Avoidance is my strategy going forward. I am somewhat fortunate that being in Vermont is a kind of insulation from the rest of the world, and especially what is nasty and disgusting. Vermont is my firewall – hope it holds. I do not need a steady flow of the “National Enquirer” front page passing as news and the people that make the news. The power brokers on the right look like a casting call for a malignant remake of “Springtime in Hitler’s Germany, ” (sorry, Mel Brooks, but it is what it is).

One of the greatest challenges in life is those that will not help themselves. That’s where we are now.

Take care and I am going to try to take care of my mental health.

Getting Ready For Winter (Yup)

It’s that time of year, wood piles in preparation for the coming winter are common sights here in Vermont and the north country. I am a little too old to cut my own anymore so I have my firewood delivered. I like to stay a year ahead and make sure my wood is good and dry. I had 5 cords of hardwood, mostly maple, ash, and cherry delivered this July. Now, the chore of stacking this wood is on my to-do list. I have about 5 cords stacked from last year that will be my winter’s fuel this year. Hopefully, by the end of the coming winter I will not be getting into the wood delivered this year. It is a common expectation for Vermonters to survery their woodpiles in February and wonder, “Do I have enough to get throught the rest of the winter?” I like to have enough. It’s no fun to be out of wood and some more winter weather still ahead.

Some of the firewood I bought needs to be split again, some chunks are too big for the size I like them to be, and besides, I love splitting wood. My job as soon as I was old enough to manage handling an ax was to split firewood for our summer farm in Washington, Vermont. My dad taught me how to split wood with an ax (no mauls in those days) and the idea was to learn to read the grain of the wood, pay attention to the knots, and learn how to split the wood using your wrists and not your back to power throught the wood. A little wrinkle of your wrists as the ax struck the wood did most of the work along with a good ax. It would get to be very rhythmic work, and for me, thinking time. We always had a little elm in the woodshed at the farm and my dad had me learn how miserable some wood, like elm, can be to split. I admit to using a hammer and some gluts (steel wedges) on some of the nasty pieces.

Our garden has been productive this year, a little more rain would have been nice, but the weather is what it is. We have been busy canning, making raspberry jam and bread and butter pickles. Dilly bean pickles will be next on our canning table.

I have 32 high bush blueberry bushes and they have also been productive but the berries are a little small in size. I am blaming the shortage of rain when needed on the small size of the berries. Instead of being the size of the end of my thumb, this year the blueberries are more the size of wild blueberries, kind of dinky and a lot of work to pick a pail. Some years everything works and some years, it doesn’t.

I will be busy over the next few months with other “getting ready for winter” chores. I like to button up the house, eliminate any sources of drafts, and add more insulation where needed. My home was built in 1830 so there are always spots that need some attention every year getting ready for winter. The late summer and fall are nice weather to be outside and working. I am not very good in the high heat and humidity of the summer, I’ll take the fall any day over those hot and humid days of the summer.

I’ll have more to share with this work of getting ready for winter. This is where I am at right now. Eventually, I will be putting the garden to bed for the winter, mulching and feeding the soil so next year’s garden will get off to a good start. This fall work is some of my most favorite work to do. I admit to being an “old Vermonter” and a Scotsman as well. Most of my perspective on life and living comes from both.

Take care and it is a good time to start “getting ready.”

Some more of the “rest of the story” (the villiany within and those that enable this villiany)

Many in the Republican Party have flaunted and thumbed their noses to our laws and the Constitution. This has been going on for some time. They have used lies and dishonesty without penalty. I am not talking about exaggerating the size of crowds. I am talking about lies and illegal acts that have been their tool box. It is not unfair to say so much of this is very reminiscent of the Nazi period and Hitler’s rise to power. I think this is a big part of the GOP playbook.

Our system has been slow to respond to the villiany from within. But now, we are seeing that no man is above the law. Yesterday, Trump under oath, in questions from the NY Attorney General (this is a financial fraud investigation), from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, only answered one question, his name. Trump pleaded the 5th Amendment to all the questions asked him after answering the one question of his name. His son Eric, pleaded the 5th over 500 times in similar questioning last October. Trump has made the statement that only mob bosses plead the 5th, those guilty of crimes. Well, I think Trump affirmed what I have been saying for years – Trump is the head of a crime family. Do not forget that Trump learned at the lap of Roy Cohn, another villian in history.

Earlier this week, the FBI went to Trump’s home in Florida, Mar Lago, and executed a search warrant issued by a Federal judge. The Dept. of Justice had to show and convince a judge what evidence of a crime they were looking for, where it would be found in Trump’s home, and prove probable cause of a crime. In the case of a former president, the Constitutional requirements to obtain a search warrant of a the president’s home would have been amplified and adhered to beyond any doubt not. Anything obtained in the process of the search would have to documented and listed and the list provided to Trump. Trump had two of his attorneys present during the search to represent him and protect his rights. The FBI cannot reveal what they obtained, in this case, about 12 boxes of material and documents, but Trump can reveal the search warrant itself, and the itemized list of what was taken in the search.

I go back to those of you that have, and continue to support Trump and the party. You and I are clearly on different moral and ethical plains. Yes, it makes a difference in relationships and the assumption of integrity. Why wouldn’t it? That is a rhetorical question – the answer is self-evident.

We, as a nation are struggling to bring justice to those who have acted like they were above the law, whether they be Congressmen and women fomenting and plotting to undermine an election and cancel the peaceful transfer of power or presidents that have acted with impunity as they have flaunted the law and acted like dictators. Of course, they scream when the wheels of justice turn to them. This is what bringing justice to those who have escaped justice with impunity until now is like.

Let it happen, and maybe some will be also going through a process of self-examination and questioning.

“And Now You Know the Rest of the Story”

My title is borrowed from Paul Harvey and his sign-off closing from his old radio show, “The Rest of the Story.” For those of you that are not familiar with Paul Harvey, he often furnished good back stories to the major news events of the day. When I was about 12 years old, I came down with nephritis, a fancy name for some kind of kidney disease. I was stuck in the Barre City Hospital (hot happily) for about a month.

Oh, I hated this time and confinement. It was in May and the weather was breaking after a long Vermont winter. I could hear kids playing outside my hospital bedroom window, some of my friends coming over from our house on King Street to get my attention. Our home was not far from the Barre City Hospital so this was equally tormenting as I wanted to be home and playing outside.

Little did I know my future wife was also a patient at Barre City Hospital at this time and she was just down the hall from me. She said the nurses talked about some bratty kid down the hall that kept whining about going home. I was so mad at our doctor, Dr. Dente, that when he came into my room, I would roll over and look at the wall and not talk to him. I guess I was a brat. During the month of my stay, a gang of nurses came in and held me down and forced me to have an enema. I don’t think I needed one – I think this was more a show of force. I fought like a tiger, but I was overpowered by some brutes (lol) – some of the old Barre City Hospital nurses.

Radio was a bigger thing then (still is for me) and the radio was turned on first thing in the morning in our house. The radio stations were local, the announcers were members of the community, and the programming was good. My father brought my radio over to the hospital so I could listen (no tvs in the rooms back then – at least not in my room). With all day to lie in bed the radio was my best friend and this is when I came to enjoy listening to Paul Harvey and his radio show, “The Rest of the Story.”

And now for some more commentary (from me).

A few pieces of news from yesterday – first the big story is the FBI search of Mar Lago, Trump’s home in Florida. This had to be predicated by a signed search warrant and evidence presented to a judge to convince the judge there was sufficient evidence to, and probable cause of a crime. I cannot overstate this part, and then the unprecedented search that was made of a former president. This was at the highest levels of seriousness and accountability in our government. As an aside, Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI is a Trump appointee and also a member of the ultra conservative Federalist Society – the same group that advised on Trump’s Supreme Court appoinments. It should not go unnoticed that this FBI search was on the anniversary of the Nixon resignation in 1973. I have always believed that the country was and our system of government was cheated in not holding Nixon accountable. We need to do this for leaders and should do it when warranted. It is my most sincere wish that we finally, as a nation, have the will to hold leaders accountable. This process was aborted when President Ford gave Nixon a pardon and left justice waiting.

My second story, this resonates with me, is the death of one of my favorite historians, David McCullough. Some of you may have read his great history, “John Adams.” I first discovered David McCullough with his history of the Panama Canal, “The Path Between the Waters.” He also wrote of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, a fascinating story, and “1776,” a history of the American Revolution. There are other titles I am missing here off the top of my head, all good history. My favorite is the John Adams history. David McCullough was 89 and lived on Martha’s Vineyard.

My last story has to do with the death of singer/actress Olivea Newton John. She had been battling cancer for many years and was 73 years old. When we were a young family and with Jamie about 5 years old, we had a vacation in our favorite place, Wells/Ogunquit, Maine. We went to the movies in Oquanquit one of the nights we were staying in Maine and the theater was playing the movie, “Grease” with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. I have to admit I was not really aware of Olivia Newton-John then, but I new of John Travolta. Well, during the movie, our Jamie, the young fella, was dancing to all of the music – he loved it. He danced his way out of the theater at the end of the movie. Others in the audience got quite a kick out of this. I have always been grateful for a wonderful evening and memory we got from this movie and the fun music that was so much of the film. RIP Olivia Newton-John and thanks for the happiness we had with your talents.

And now you know, “The Rest of the Story.” (thank you Paul Harvey for a great line to close with.

Note: the picture is of me several years ago on the First Branch of the White River between Chelsea and Tunbridge – I would rather be fishing is the message (lol)

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And there is the garden…

Well, this is what Susan and I have been up to lately. We have now made 70 jars of raspberry jam in the last couple of weeks. My best estimate is we are about half way through our raspberry crop with still lots more to pick and coming. Four years ago I started a new raspberry patch with 100 new plants from Elmore Roots in Vermont. These are of the Kilarney variety and produce lots of great berries.

I just started picking blueberries yesterday. We have 32 high-bush blueberry bushes and they are loaded. I will be picking both berries pretty steady for another week or so.

And then, we start with the pickles and dilly beans. I picked our first cukes this morning – and then the tomatoes are coming. Not to mention, I have five cords of wood to stack. I’ll be able to talk again maybe in September. Oh, it is good to have all of this to do. The garden has been good to us this year.

Welcome to West Topsham Views

This is my view looking east down the Waits River Valley on Vermont Route 25. As you can see, it is a very rural setting with mostly mountains and forests. It is a simple setting mostly uncluttered by life in the 21st century. This is where I get my peace and clarity of mind. This is where I have time to think and be with my thoughts.

You will find some of my thoughts here on this blog – those I was able to capture and put in writing. I am somewhat of a thinker and also independent in my thinking. I refuse to let anyone do my thinking for me. My thoughts are mine and here to share if you are interested. I make no claim on being right or having the best ideas, but they are my ideas. I try not to insist on my thinking, but I do share it as it is. Come to your own conclusions as I have. This is the organizing premise here – come to your own conclusions as I have.

I am going to bounce around between comments on our present place in time and then some happier thoughts about a rural life and education. I spent a good part of my life as an educator and I have some thoughts about the business of learning. A warning, I worked in alternative education programs for at-risk young adults and thinking outside the box was the process of finding what worked. I tend to believe that what worked for my students would work for all students as I really pulled from my history and experience as a life-long learner.

I will also share some pieces dedicated to rural life in Vermont – something very dear to me. This is my home and my happy place. This is where I have roots and those in my family that have passed have their final resting place. I am also a 3rd generation American so the idea of America being a welcoming place and land of opportunity for all is important to me.

Please enjoy if you are so inclined.

Thank you for visiting with me and take care.

Place is more than where I am

(the Robert Burns statue overlooking Barre City Park)

Place has a big role to play in our lives. Our hearts know place and want to be there. Place is where we had our beginnings, it is where we were with family, it is where we learned to be human, and it is where we find true peace.

Place is not somewhere we travel to because we are already there. If you have to journey to your place then you are not living there. You cannot lose your place, but you can leave it, and many do. Place is where we see the same views our ancestors saw. It is where we have history. It is where people know our name and know of us and those that came before. It is where we put our loved ones when it is time for their last rest.

I think the sense of place is missing in our culture today and is part of the cause of a society that appears to be unsettled and not at peace with itself. Transience and place are not compatible. There are no roots in transience. Transience is a type of living that is dominated by only the very present, it is a state of being where you are at the moment, and maybe somewhere else in the next moment. Transience does not have the capacity to work with memory. It is too fluid and always moving. Memory and transience are not compatible. It is like the life of a nomad on a great desert that is alway shifting with the sands of time.

I think transience makes us fearful of most things. We cannot depend on much as it is not of our place. We fear the unknown and when we are not in our place, the world is a great unknown. Faces we see are strange and not familiar to us. Why would they be? Situations are hard to know and understand. The predictable part of life is not there.

Americans leave their place because they can, and mostly to chase money. Our aspirations are often dominated by dollars, and not by the values of place that make for a healthy place to live and raise a family. When we are disappointed in our quest for finances, we are not happy, and the support of a history and family is often not there for us. We become more and more dependent upon a government to provide for us and make the opportunities we think we need. As more and more turn to government to provide what they think they need, our political life becomes a push me – pull you struggle (which side will get what they need, those with or those without). The larger challenges of providing for the long term are never taken up as the immediate needs and wants of each side take up all our energies and devotion.

I was looking for a silver lining in the cloud of the pandemic, enough of a pause in all the other stresses of life to give us a chance to understand place and the importance of place to us and our families. I think we missed the chance.

I am in agreement with Dorothy – “I want to go home.”

“Truth Tellers”

“She was a real ‘truth teller.'” I just heard this being used to describe a person. This has really resonated with me. We are desparate for “real truth tellers.” We need the truth tellers to speak up. Our country is exhausted with the double speak and spin of the politicians. We need the “truth tellers.” We may not always like the truth. The truth is not about trying to please or appeal to a base. It is the truth – it stands by itself. It does not need a spin show. It just needs to be spoken and heard.

What has moved me beyond human comprehension is our willingess of late to accept out-right lies and falsehoods. Too many of us do not seem to have any working filters to sift out the lies that are passed for respectable communication. I am also equally shocked that there seems to be no penalty or chastisement for lying to the public. The lies are repeated and repeated on the platforms and take on a life of their own. Our culture is hurting becasue we cannot tell the truth and be honest with each other. We only have ourselves to blame and only we can fix this.