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To Write

I believe it was in Austria that I bought this small piece of Swarovski crystal, and because I am a writer, its significance–its symbolism, if you will–attracted me. For thousands of years quill-pens and ink were used by those who would set down their thoughts or who would write descriptions of their lives and of their being. It is interesting to contemplate that only late in the 19th century were writers able to lay aside such primitive instruments. Shakespeare, the writers of the Bible, and even Thomas Jefferson used quill-pen and ink to scribe their work.

Such creation was careful and deliberate, carrying weight and consequence, signifying thought and contemplation. Today, (as I do at this moment) we easily dash off strings of words, sometimes with less than thoughtful reflection.

During this season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, in which many of us pick up pens and write a few words in the Christmas cards we will mail to family and friends, let us think deeply. May we choose carefully our words, and with our finest pen, or cheapest ballpoint, or by strokes on a keyboard tell those we love that indeed we do.

A blessed and merry Christmas to all.

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Note: An interesting video from Swarovski is here.

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Art/Architecture Christianity/Religion Church Road Trip Journal

Sunday in Globe, Arizona

Summer road trip. Day 25 Sunday June 26, 2011

Brother and Sister Dean came to Globe 19 years ago. Since then, they have baptized scores of people, and have erected this fine building. Actually the front half of it was already standing when they bought the property; the extensions were added by them. All of it is paid for.  I want to honor this fine couple today for their commitment to God and to His Church. They are a wonderful couple, with the Work of God being uppermost in their thoughts and plans.

We joined them in a sweet service on Sunday. Several visitors were present, and were praying in the altar.

More food afterward, of course, and Italian it would be. Delicious meal in a wonderful atmosphere.

This building piqued my interest as they showed us around Globe.

In the evening, we met them in Judy’s Cook House for a snack and for more great visiting.

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Arizona Art/Architecture Photography Road Trip Journal

Saguaros

Summer road trip. Day 12 Monday June 13, 2011

They weigh as much as five tons. Filled with water, giant saguaros embellish the desert area here around Tucson, standing as giants with upraised arms. We had Monday free to do some sightseeing, and after asking the Allens for recommendations, we pointed our Jeep west down Speedway, traveling several miles into the open desert area. We drove as far as the Saguaro National Park visitor center, where we spent quite a lengthy time observing the displays, watching a film about the area, and walking the trails that were close to the great building that housed the visitor center.

It was early afternoon when we arrived, and I had worried about the flat midday light hindering my photography, but it really worked out quite well. I was fascinated by the lines and shadows created by the splendid architecture. Once as I walked on the outside plaza, something skittered quickly in front of me, and when I looked at the edge of the cement, I saw a light-colored lizard. He was of a cooperative nature, who stayed in place for several minutes: I think he was posing. 🙂

Many birds flew about, lighting frequently atop the massive cacti. Many of these saguaros are hundreds of years old; a two-feet sized one being around 30 years old.

In the evening, at the Claim Jumper, we had our last meal with the Allens. These are absolutely precious people. Their two children are wonderful, completely immersed in the work of God. We said our good-byes on the parking lot before heading back to our rig at the church. On Tuesday morning, we would head down to Sierra Vista.

In the distance can be seen Tucson, a beautiful city of more than one million.

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Art/Architecture The World

How High the Moon; How Wide the Wall

It’s revealing that, although I have heard Jerry tell this joke scores of times over a wide number of years, at this moment when I want to mark it down here, I can’t recall the details. The gist is:

A bootlegger was standing before a judge and something in his testimony gave rise to the judge questioning his veracity concerning his claim of having seen something at quite a distance.

“Are you sure you saw that?” the judge asked.

“Yes.”

“But how far can you see?”

“How far is it to the moon, your honor?”

Amazing isn’t it that with our naked eye, we can see that shinning orb which hangs suspended nearly 239,000 miles away from the earth.

This morning’s news carries the story that new exploration reveals the Great Wall of China to actually extend further than thought in years past, greatwall1and already it had been marked as one of the wonders of the world. Some have said it is visible from the moon; others dispute that.

The Great Wall of China is even greater than once thought, after a two-year government mapping study uncovered new sections totalling about 180 miles, according to a report posted on the website of the country’s national mapping agency.

Using infrared range finders and GPS devices, experts discovered portions of the wall concealed by hills, trenches and rivers that stretch from Hu Shan mountain in northern Liaoning province to Jiayu Pass in western Gansu province, the official China Daily reported on Monday.

AP

Wikipedia’s take on whether or not the Great Wall is visible from the moon.

The Great Wall is a maximum 9.1m (30 ft) wide and is about the same color as the soil surrounding it. Based on the optics of resolving power (distance versus the width of the iris: a few millimetres for the human eye, metres for large telescopes) an object of reasonable contrast to its surroundings some 70 miles in diameter (1 arc-minute) would be visible to the unaided eye from the moon, whose average distance from Earth is 384,393 km (238,857 miles). The Great Wall is of course not a disc but more like a thread—it can be seen from much further than would be possible if it were simply a 30 foot disc. Still, the apparent width of the Great Wall from the moon is the same as that of a human hair viewed from 2 miles away. To see the wall from the moon would require spatial resolution 17,000 times better than normal (20/20) vision.[16] Not surprisingly, no lunar astronaut has ever claimed seeing the Great Wall from the moon.

Incidentally, if it were possible to see the Great Wall from the moon, one ought to be able to see many of the world’s highways as well, given that many surpass the Great Wall in width and brightness.

Some say The Wall which extends more than 4500 miles across China is visible from space, though not from as far away as the moon; others say not so.

A few years ago my son Steve and his wife had the opportunity to walk a section of the Great Wall. “Amazing,” he told me. “An amazing sight.”

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Edit: August 2010  I want to clarify that the image here is not mine, but is included in the quoted material attributed to AP and to Wikipedia.

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Lines and Angles of Tucson

Tagging along with Jerry at a church business conference here in Tucson, I admired the lines and angles of our hotel, and once, between sessions,  as he napped, I wandered about taking pictures.

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I can’t think of a way to take pictures of such places as these without gawking, and a fair amount of neck craning,  and when I do so, I probably appear less than urbane and sophisticated; more likely I assume the appearance of a small town Missouri girl turned woman gone to the big city.

The mountains ringing Tucson and the flora and fauna of the region are magnificent, speaking to the creative thrust of Almighty God. Architecture and design such as demonstrated in this Hilton Hotel in east Tucson speak to the genius and gifts of mortal man.

And I? A recipient of both giftings as I wander about, staring at the play of light and shadow on the lines and angles of Tucson.

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Art/Architecture Music video

Quartet at Inauguration Both Live and Recorded

On one of my columns recently, where much inauguration controversy was raging, my blogging friend Rob wisely commented:

Not going to touch some of the controversy, but I did want to say that the highlight of the event for me was the instrumental quartet that performed in the middle of the inauguration.

What a gathering — the best violinist and cellist of our modern day, a rising star of a clarinetist, and the pianist to whose concert I once took a group of my piano students.

It was unexpected and beautiful. I had not expected anything in the inauguration to move me to tears, but that song was just so beautiful, I couldn’t help but thank God for inventing music and giving these people such gifts to share with the world.

I agreed with his assessment, and this morning was interested to learn that what most people heard was not live music, rather a recording. The report is that the extreme cold was feared to have made it impossible for the instruments to stay in tune. As I understand it, the quartet played live, also, matching note for note the recording.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriella Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill made the decision a day before Tuesday’s inauguration after a sound check to use a previously recorded audio tape for the broadcast of the ceremonies.
From AP

Please listen to this hauntingly beautiful performance, a stellar component of the inauguration of President Obama.

EDIT Friday Jan. 23: Now it seems there is a flap over this being done. Yahoo News reports:

NEW YORK – To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we go again.

The revelation that millions of people who saw the inauguration of President Barack Obama were actually listening to recorded music instead of the actual performance of the Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman-led quartet has led to comparisons of lip-synching (though, in this case, might the correct term be hand-synching?) and drawn comparisons to other infamous cases, including Ashlee Simpson’s “Saturday Night Live” debacle and perhaps music’s most famous pantomimes, Milli Vanilli.

More details here.

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School Supplies

In Springfield, Mo. where I grew up, our school started in September, right after Labor Day, if I recall correctly, and since our family never had an abundance of money, I suspect it was probably not August when we bought our school supplies, but more likely, it was the days just before the opening bell that we went to the store to buy these treasured items. That jaunt was one of the highlights of my year, for I loved school and everything that went with it, and I recall my delight when I became the owner of such precious items. It’s probably accurate to say a kind of euphoria overtook me at these times.

A couple of days ago when I went into our new Super WalMart here in Lake Havasu and passed through the school section, I spied a Pink Pearl eraser tucked in the company of scissors and paper clips and glue. I stopped, fingered the eraser package, and my thoughts flared and carried me to those long-gone days when, with my mother, I stood by such shelves, and made my selections. Pink Pearl was my brand. I bought one on Monday–actually two–for that’s how they were packaged.

Clearly, I think of Big Indian Chief tablets, and though I don’t recall seeing any in stores in recent years, I do find they are still manufactured, at least in limited form. Covers of dark red with an Indian chief in full dress feathers protected the wide-ruled sheets beneath. They weren’t of the spiral ring style, but were glued at the top with a black band. There was a line to write the name of the owner of this fine pad of paper. Maybe I bought other tablets, but I don’t remember any of those, just red Big Chiefs.

School supplies have a unique scent, especially school paste, which emits a savor of peppermint–and to tell the truth–a taste of peppermint. I know, for in our school, we all occasionally took a nip of the white, smooth stuff. Distinctly adding to the school aroma is that of a newly opened box of crayons, pristine and unbroken, their sharp points a flare of blended colors. So careful would we be of our new crayons, and what a sad moment when the first one broke, or became so worn down, we had to peel away the paper covering, and finally they weren’t even kept in their own container, but were dumped helterskelter in the pencil box.

I racked around in my brain this morning, trying to remember my  pencil boxes, but I just couldn’t bring up any images. I bobbed around on the internet, looking at pencil box images, and despite my extended surfing, I did not find a pencil box that seemed familiar.

Until…I recalled cigar boxes. Now, I’m not at all sure where I would have come to possess a cigar box, for neither my dad, and certainly not my mother, smoked cigars, but that’s what I used to store my school supplies; cigar boxes.

I realize now that I love cigar boxes–love the way they look, and the slightly wicked aroma that accompanies them, and the fact that for all my years in elementary school, I stored my school supplies in a cigar box. It’s strange, I have no recollection of how I came to possess such an item…and how about the other kids who also used cigar boxes?  Where did we get them? Maybe we went to the drug store or the grocery store and asked if we could have the empties. I don’t remember.

Once I visited in the home of my friend Barbra Day; she opened a drawer, and several pencils were there.

“Whose pencils are those?” I recall asking her.

Nonchalantly, she replied. “Oh, anybody who wants them.”

I was impressed with that, for in our home, there weren’t pens or pencils just laying around, or a supply stash somewhere. We had our own items, carefully tucked away in our boxes.

The pencils we used gave a strong scent of cedar when we sharpened them at school, and if our lead broke while we were at home, we used a kitchen knife to fashion a point. Often my pencil eraser would wear out before the pencil was used up, and the metal ring that clasped the eraser would dig into the paper where I was attempting to annihilate my errors.

Watercolor sets were furnished by the school, and when they handed to each of us a metal pan with pats of color, and sheets of paper, and little brushes, we budding artists (and non-artists, such as I) enthusiastically began our work. On very special occasions would the teachers bring out the easels, pots of poster paint and big floppy brushes to accommodate our artistic bent. I remember yet how fine it was to dip my brush into a jar of brilliant paint, and blaze it over the eager white paper.

Impossible for me to explain is my fascination with Dorothy Lynch’s (whom I don’t recall seeing since 6th grade in Bailey School) notebook paper. I probably have never mentioned this to a soul until this moment, for it can’t be explained, but there was something about her paper that I liked. It had a certain “tooth,” I guess one would say. It was a little rough–not like newsprint–but not slick like ordinary notebook paper. Strange memory.

There is much to be said for Big Box Stores and WalMart and KMart and Target where one can buy bundles of Bic pens and cartons of yellow pencils and bags of assorted-color plastic paper clips and made in China pencil boxes. There is much to be said for affording the finest watermarked paper and Montblanc pens, and Fahrney Pelikan pens which can be purchased at a discount rate of $1,418.00. There is certainly much to be said for being able to easily buy school supplies for one’s children.

But there also is much to recommend striving, and for the cherishing of materials which is brought about by the understanding of their limited supply.

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Cabinet Room Dances and Other Irregular Escapades

“I felt like yelping, ripping off my clothes and circling the room.”

I stared. He grinned.

Oh, it was a great conference, he said, actually exceeding his expectations, but for four days, from morning to evening, he and his wife had sat in closed rooms for these intense meetings. Toward the end it was about all he could do to keep himself seated.

In the June issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, on page 15 is a full page picture of Betty Ford, barefoot, with her feet firmly planted atop the Cabinet Room table. The date of the pose is January 19, 1977.

Betty Ford
Such a scene happened in this way. It was the last full day in office for Gerald R. Ford, and the White House was in a stage of controlled chaos; goodbyes were being said, movers had brought in boxes, and pardons were being written.
“I walked over to the West Wing to say goodbye to members of the staff who had served President Ford so well, ” Betty Ford recalled later. “On the way back to the family quarters I passed by the empty Cabinet Room and thought, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to dance on the Cabinet Room table.'”
Shortly after President Ford’s inauguration following the resignation of Richard Nixon, the new president had asked David Hume Kennerly to be the official White House photographer. Smithsonian reports that he grew very close to the Ford family.
Now on this final day he and Betty were walking together when she told him of her secret desire.
“Well, nobody’s around.'”
Betty Ford: “So I took off my shoes, hopped up there, and struck a pose.”
Kennerly: “She said, ‘I just think I’m going to do this.’
Then she’s on the table. She’s a tiny woman, really, in very good shape. Very graceful, as a former dancer with the Martha Graham company.
She got up there, and with his small Leica Rangefinder camera, he snapped a few black and white frames.
According to Smithsonian, “Kennerly says he does not know why Betty Ford danced on the table, but he has a guess. “Very few women have had a seat at that table,’ he says. “I bet you could count them on one hand at that point, and knowing her support for the Equal Rights Amendment”–she endorsed it–“she was tap-dancing in the middle of this male bastion. She was storming the walls of the gray suits and gray-haired eminences.”
This picture and dynamite story call for a jamboree. I celebrate Betty Ford and her endearing nerve, and I revel in her Cabinet Room dance.
To my young friend whose wearied body and tortured mind once dredged up a questionable tension-relieving maneuver: Table the resolution.
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My Brother, Junior

I was excited about it for days and when we began circling the arrivals area at the Las Vegas Airport on the Friday before Easter, I could hardly contain myself. It was our 4th time around when I spotted my brother, Farrell E. Forrest. Junior, he was to me, for he bore our father’s name and I had never called him anything else.

It has been years since we had been together, and there he stood, distinct and sorted out from the bustling crowd as though a spotlight had beamed him. Junior, my brother, my baby brother. He urged out his shy smile, released the handle of a luggage piece, and we embraced there on the walkway–Good Friday in Las Vegas.

Junior had flown from Toronto that day, although he had been in the States for a few days. His home is near Pittsburg, but for several months now he has lived in Antofagasta, Chili. He is an electrical engineer and is vice-president of something or other connected with the Dunlop Corporation. He did his college work in Ohio and immediately on graduation went to work for Dunlop (maybe one of its subsidiaries, not sure), and has continued with them until now–a couple of breaks in there I’ll write of later.

Junior is 64–doesn’t look it–at least in big sister’s eyes, and is the sweetest man you will ever meet. He is smart, humble, soft-spoken, courteous and beyond excellent as a father and grandfather. He speaks glowingly and with obvious great affection of his late wife, Rose, his only daughter, Sandy, and of his two grandchildren, Brad and Moriah.

I had emailed telling him not to eat any airport food along the way and that we would stop for dinner after picking him up. A Cheesecake Factory was near and we pulled in there, snagging a beautiful outside table where, in the picture above, you see him. We talked and ate and smiled and lingered…then it was time to go, and we drove to Lake Havasu and to the door of the London Bridge Resort Hotel.

It’s Spring Break here, and though it was 11:30 at night, the parking lot was jammed and huge boats on trailers were blocking the driveways. Young people ran about in various stages of dress and undress.

“Hope it’s not too noisy, and that you can sleep all right. It’s Spring Break here, and Lake Havasu is one of the major destinations for college students,” I mentioned at one point. He was aware of it and thought he wouldn’t have any trouble sleeping.

We would pick him up for breakfast at 8:30. Jerry helped him in with his luggage and left him standing at the check-in counter.

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My devotional blog is here. 

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Drama Woes

I giggled when I read this a few minutes ago, for it always tickles me when professionals have the same kind of troubles as we mere mortals. During these few days before Easter, all over the United States–and in other parts of the world, no doubt–churches are planning Easter dramas, dragging out props, hammering crosses, reciting lines, staking out flowers, fashioning angel wings and sewing peasant frocks.

In addition to the joy of presenting the story, the camaraderie that arises from such production is long-lasting, and glorious memories are indelibly filed in our brain’s special saving spot. When we were pastoring in Rialto, there were lots of very talented people in our congregation, we produced dozens of dramas, and we often played to a packed house. What fun that was! What sheer exhaustion! What challenges we faced!

Once we invited Pastor Berl Stevenson’s church to come up from El Cajon and present special music during intermission, or between acts–can’t quite remember, but this part I vividly recall. His group was singing–beautiful music–when one of our crew got mixed up and let down the curtain we had rigged, completely obliterating the singing group. It was terrible…but they were troopers and kept singing, but now the sound was muffled, all we could see were feet, and across the congregation there was lots of snickering.

Anyway, today I pay tribute to all you who are scurrying about to finish up the Easter dramas, and to give you hope, and to let you know if something goes wrong, you’re in good company.

When the tenor Gary Lehman slid down the raked stage into the prompter’s box on Tuesday night during Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” at the Metropolitan Opera, stopping the show at the start of Act III, he entered a storied history of midperformance mishaps at the opera.

This was the second consecutive time in the six-performance “Tristan” revival that trouble halted the production. Last Friday, Deborah Voigt, who was singing Isolde, left the stage during Act II because of a stomach ailment and was replaced by Janice Baird, her cover, who made her Met debut.

You’ve got to read all this funny stuff over at the New York Times. They titled the article Many Nights at the Opera House Have Involved the Emergency Room

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My devotional blog is here.