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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Covered Bridge

It was a beautiful Sunday in spring. Perfect for an afternoon drive. We live in a bustling city but just outside of town, the subdivisions morph into pastoral countryside. We turned down a little country road and were rewarded with the sight of a beautiful, century-old covered bridge sprawled across a serene-flowing river. After stopping to snap photos, we got back in the car and decided to cross the bridge to see where it led. Surprisingly, vehicles are still allowed to traverse the historic structure at a wicked 5 miles per hour. Rumbling over the clunky, wooden planks, we thought about the horse-drawn wagons that had bumped over this same route years ago. On the other side, we came upon the last vestiges of what was once a thriving saw mill town. A few old dilapidated, wood houses, a church and a weathered barn are all that remain. Over the decades, the acreage around the town has grown into a lush forest and the surrounding fields flaunt millions of midnight blue phlox...all bobbing their perky heads in the gentle breeze. Standing knee-deep in wild flowers, we gazed up at the sagging, decrepit barn and embraced the utter stillness and peaceful solitude of our surroundings.

In the blink of an eye, we were transported back one hundred years. It was all so unexpected to discover this lovely, hidden little place. It's quaint, quiet and basically undisturbed today. But I wonder what it must have been like a century or more ago. The buzz of the saw mill. The and sweltering, covered in saw dust performing a dirty, dangerous job. The women...outside washing clothes, tending their gardens, baking bread. The children...helping out with the chores. From sunup to sundown, no electricity out there in the sticks. No mammoth, modern-day grocery stores, no Home Depots or malls. No computers or fast food or cell phones or TV.

It was a back-breaking hard life back then. Yet the simplicity and beauty of that bucolic, little village today masks the difficulties and hardships those country folk faced.  Every so often, I wish I lived in a simpler time...with no worries of terrorists or identity theft or oil spills. But then I come to my senses and realize that I'd be lost without the microwave, computer and a million other technological conveniences.  Still I'm glad that sweet, little country village has not entirely disappeared. The rugged, old covered bridge was like a time tunnel that for just a brief spec of time, guided us to a peaceful oasis far removed from our crazy, hectic, modern society. Over a hundred years after the town's demise, it continues to provide an unpretentious beauty, grace and homespun charm that is often lacking in our world today. I think we'll be back for many more visits.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Solitary Man

The solitary man. He walks alone. The sands squish underfoot. The waves lap at his side. The wind slaps his face. He must be cold. He wears a jacket and stuffs his hands in the pockets for warmth. Does he have a destination? Or is his walk merely for relaxation?

What is he thinking as he plods along the deserted shoreline? How far is he going? How far has he already come? Does he notice the thousands of footprints that have already trod this stretch of beach? The telltale impact of countless feet...yet where are the masses who left these marks?

A cloudless blue sky. A curvy, tan ribbon of beach. A man in black. Scenic beauty. Quiet stillness. What awaits this solitary man? Will he turn around and go back the way he came? Or will he travel forward...round the far bend? Just to see what's there. Is he curious? Or does he already know what he will find?

I follow behind this stranger. At a distance. With my sleek, ultra-slim camera. He is unaware of my stealthy photo snapping. I follow him because I too am curious...about him.  We round the bend. He turns back. At last, he sees me. We nod a greeting. I am tempted to speak and carry on a bit of chat with him. But I decide against it. I let him go without a word. He climbs up a hill into the dunes and disappears. I continue walking...seeking out my next solitary man.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Liberals do Lunch.

Afternoon lunch in a swanky D.C. eatery...three top administration officials casually discuss the merits of allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the United States: 

By god, that stupid Arizona law is gonna kill us. We need all the minority votes we can drag over the border.

Damn strait and I'll have another martini.

But illegals can't vote.

Oh, we got people working on that.

I don't care if illegals are not legal. I don't care if they're breaking the law. They have rights..... And make mine a double.

Well, technically they don't have rights in the U.S. but once we give them amnesty, then they'll have rights.

Yah, and if we send them back or prosecute them, the wife and I will lose our housekeeper, Conchita, all our landscape people AND our nanny. It's just not fair.

That Conchita sure makes tasty chili rellenos. Yummy.

And your nanny ain't so bad either. Yummy. Heh, heh , heh.

Tell me about it, amigo. Ha, ha, ha.

Guys, you're missing the point. That crazy tea bagger crowd is gonna vote us out.

Naw, they're just a bunch of old coots who like to fart off at town hall meetings.

OK. Here's a plan: we keep the illegals and ship the tea baggers off to Ciudad Juarez. Set up a phony town hall meeting. Hire a Glenn Beck look-alike to drive the bus and before they can scream "Sara Palin"... they're across the border and those Mexican drug gangs will pick off every one of their sorry butts. 

Elder care...Mexican style. Ha, ha, ha. 

That's crazy, dude. Did you lose part of your brain when you got that goofy hair transplant?

Hey, don't mock my new hair revitalization. Or my butt lift and my nose job. And how about that snazzy new, fifty grand, security fence around your vacation compound?

All thanks to taxpayers.

Ya gotta love em. Cheers. 

But can we fight this Arizona law?

I say we boycott the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.

Vegas is not in Arizona, you idiot.

Oh, thank god. I've got tickets to Cirque du Soleil and a spa session at the Belagio coming up soon.

We'd be slumming it without the American taxpayers, that's for sure! Ha, ha ha.

I've got it. Let's take a fact-finding junket to Mexico.

Awesome! We can spend one week in Acapulco. Another in Los Cabos and just to be fair...five days in Cancun.

Just make sure Rahm doesn't hear about it. I don't want him hauling his foul-mouth along with us.

Not to worry. He's too busy protecting those poor, misguided 9/11 terrorists.

Well, bring your Cipro, scuba gear, golf clubs, your passport, security ID, birth certificate, first born child and other personal documents. They're really strict over there. They don't want no stinkin' gringo drug dealers coming in to Mexico.

Ya. But they're happy as a Margarita to let em loose on our side of the creek.

Speaking of Margaritas...let's have a round to celebrate our bold decision.

Ahhh, here's to sun, sand and tequila. 

It's good to be in power.

Thanks to the American taxpayers. Ha, ha, ha. 

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For Lighthouse Lovers

I am fortunate to live near a big, beautiful, blue inland sea...otherwise known as Lake Michigan. It's vast. It's treacherous. It's very deep. And it's quite breathtaking. For centuries, lighthouses along the coastline of Lake Michigan warned ships of danger and guided them to safe harbor. In the state of Michigan, there are 115 lighthouses. These historical structures were a feat of architectural and engineering ingenuity...built to withstand the savage elements of wind, water and weather. Many of the lighthouses are no longer in official operation. Some have been converted to tourist attractions, bed and breakfasts or even private residences. Yet, today each lighthouse still stands proudly as a silent but majestic reminder of its unwavering service.
A beacon of brilliance, a shining light in the darkness,
a reassuring hope for seafarers of long ago.

Here are some photos I took of the 2 lighthouses on the pier at Grand Haven, Michigan on a recent sunny May day. The structures were built between 1875-1905. The square shaped building at the end of the pier housed the fog signal. The more traditional tower contained the guiding beacon. They are still in operation. A high, black steel catwalk connects the two lighthouses. Back in the day, the lighthouse keeper crawled or walked along the catwalk to access the structures in order to avoid being swept out to sea by crashing waves that washed over the pier.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

The Path

It was a lovely path, indeed. An inviting dirt trail in the the beaten track...that I happened to encounter. Wild dogwood and other colorful woodland flowers lined both sides. Towering trees flaunted their lush, leafy greenery ...providing welcomed dappled shade. The waters from a cool stream splashed nearby. A family of white-tail deer popped their heads out from behind the bushes...unsure as to proceed or dash away. "Who is this interloper?" they seemed to wonder. "Is she safe or does she portend danger for us?" The gentle path meandered up a steep slope to the top of a hill. I could not see the other side.  Like the wary deer, I wondered: "Is it safe or does it portend danger for me?"

What was on the other side of this innocent looking path? A treacherous ravine?  A bear cave?  A pack of coyotes? A nest of rattle snakes? A wretched tangle of thorny brambles and poison ivy?  A crazed killer? (We all know they like to hide out in the woods to snag their human prey.) Would this seemingly serene, easy terrain suddenly become more difficult? Would I have to stumble over fallen rocks, dead trees, mud, tall prickly weeds?

Or did the path abruptly end? Would I have to turn around and hike all the way back?  Did I have enough water? Would it get dark before I could find my way out? Would I become lost in this solitary woods?  Would this sweet little path become my undoing? Should I simply turn around and not even bother to follow the path?

Thinking back to my hesitation as I stood at the trailhead of this quiet path in the woods, I am reminded that we all have decisions to make about which paths to follow in our lives. Many people settle for the easy road. Or at least the course they think will be the smoothest. While others prefer the way that offers more of a challenge. Not knowing where it will lead makes it even more enticing. More of an adventure. Some folks insist on knowing everything about the path before they embark upon it. Still others enjoy the thrill of traveling where they have never been...dangers, pitfalls and all.

I suppose most of us traverse through life following a variety of paths. Sometimes we'll opt for the dull and unexciting but safe and secure way. Other times we'll feel enterprising and pursue a more daring route. A lot of people trudge through life like sheep following others on well-populated paths. Those who are bolder, prefer to explore the path not so heavily trodden. It's scary. It's often lonely. It's filled with surprises. Sometimes they're called foolhardy and rash. Sometimes the path will end unexpectedly. But that doesn't stop the risk-takers. They thrive on new and exciting challenges. Forging down the path least taken affords the seeker an opportunity for more personal reward and self-fulfillment.

Some of us amble our way contentedly through life while others charge headlong with the fury and passion of a lovesick rhinoceros. How we explore life is different for all of us. As for me...did I follow the path in the woods? Of course. And I promptly came upon a large rattle snake slithering across the trail. I quickly backed away, not knowing if more were in the bushes. I patiently waited while the big guy crossed the road and then I continued on my way, carefully watching my steps. But in the should always watch your steps carefully...that's just a given. Eventually the neat little path gave way to a rutted, rock-strewn, muddy and very narrow trail. Finally, the path ended. And I found myself gazing upon a small but absolutely beautiful waterfall, sparkling in a beam of sunlight like jewels in a brilliant rainbow of color. Amazing. The path had led me to the secret of the woods. It was worth the hike.                                                       

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Spring Walk in the Woods

Ahhh, the glories of Springtime in the Rapids...Grand Rapids, Michigan, that is. Here are some photos I took recently during a morning walk in a nearby woodland.

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