Monday, March 19, 2018

Just Do It

 My local readers might feel they are hearing an echo from the Jeffries household this week but the importance of voting is a bit of a passion for both of us.  Back in California, we generally felt very hopeless about the outcome of a race or proposition. Because of the extreme and well-monied liberal stance of California, its high population, and the mal-distribution of representatives at a state level, we pretty much knew which way any particular voting wind would blow.  In a single generation, we saw many social issues become positively draconian in their impact on rural California and on traditional values.

I've lived long enough to see respect for individual rights and hope for positive change for all to actually find a balance ----- for a moment, at least.  Then the loud, insistent yell of special interests eroded that moment and in a matter of just a few voting cycles, pretty much anything goes now in that late great state.

Here, Caruthersville can be seen as a microcosm of California.  We have loses to our economy, high unemployment, high poverty rates, blacks, whites, and Hispanics, churches galore, and public social services.  I have noticed that people do build bridges between the various groups and churches to effectively serve the community where local government cannot but we need more than that. We need job skills and training. We need industry and retail merchants. We need to imagine a more beautiful Caruthersville, take advantage of our ideally suited location for arts, music, and a boardwalk of shops that draw in out of town visitors.

I know I've been here less than a year and many of you might tsk-tsk me, conceding to past disappointments.  But the things I listed above are what gives hope to a community, and even better, unify a community.  Personally, I think the economic downward spiral is as bad, if not worse, than the tornado of '06. Yes, that tornado caused instant and devastating damage to families (some of who I know now) and business and the greater community, but, the long, sustained, quiet, insidious downward pull of the local economy is a community killer.  Willing and creative minds need to go out in the world and push for what we need, what our entire community needs.

So, ask yourself,  how do you view the past recent years? How have you been affected personally; what about your neighbors? How often have you felt the sting of neglect because maybe you didn't live in the "right" neighborhood? Based on what I've seen and heard since moving here, I think even some of our own city leaders can testify to that question and what that sting may feel like.

When I lived in California I was accused of having an island mentality.  It took a lot to get me out of Turlock.  I had everything I needed there and more.  Coming here, I learned right away I had to throw off that kind of thinking but, you know, it's just not that easy and I'm darn near paralyzed when it comes to driving beyond Hayti.  Me. Driving. Alone. I think when Wal-Mart closed many of you, especially the elderly and impoverished, felt stranded, too.  Well, you WERE and more than a year has passed since its closing and nothing has happened - absolutely zero.  In fact, Absolute Zero's definition should be extended to include a before and after of C'ville, with the closing of Wal-Mart.

So, come April 3rd, VOTE.  Vote for yourself, vote for your neighbors. Vote for your community.  Take the long view. We can build something and all we need is effective leadership from the top down.  We need unity, communication, and most of all, we need WILL.  If you think there is even the remotest possibility of not voting on April 3rd, vote absentee. Go to the courthouse.  The last day you can vote absentee is Monday, April 2nd. Don't think your preferred candidate will win without your vote.  That is how candidates lose elections. The voting population here is small. Your vote can't get lost in a sea of numbers here. 

So, to borrow a Nike ad line:
"Just Do It!"

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Haiku My Heart

Life to the fullest
Forty-nine years or just three
Thread stretches and snaps

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In Memorium

I just found out that a friend of almost 50 years, died last July. Linda and I met when we were 21 and living in San Diego. She had just returned from a year in Vietnam serving with the Red Cross. I was green. She was tired. We clicked.

Over time and long distance, Christmas cards became our once a year contact as we both moved on from our lives in San Diego. But from then to now, we always kept track. We reconnected in Phoenix, AZ, Kerrville, TX, Reno, NV, and Portland, OR. 50 years. 4 visits. Those reconnections were never dull. Now you are gone and I find that the world is a duller place knowing that you aren't out there anymore helping our wounded warriors slay their dragons. In the end, you had your own dragon to slay.  I'll miss you. I have all your Christmas cards and letters. They will always be one of the best parts of my Christmas memories. Fly on my friend. Fly on.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Slowing Down

There's nothing like moving to the south to slow a person down.  As I sit here at the tail end of winter waiting for Spring's official appearance, I'm already thinking about the heat of summer.  Heat I can manage.  Triple digits back home in July/August was more the rule than the exception.  We all had a sort of built-in sensor for 98 degrees.  When temps dipped beneath 100, we sighed with relief. Instead of arid air searing our lungs and keeping us inside, the heat of 98 degrees caressed our skin.  Sitting in the shade was do-able if not necessarily pleasant.

But, like all things, slowing down as shades of meaning.  Humidity may slow me to a standstill at lower temperatures here and the mosquitoes are a new problem I had my first battles with last summer.  But other areas of life have pushed hard at my busyness index.  Shopping is a big area that has changed.  Shopping takes planning. Shopping takes deciding.  Shopping asks me if I need to take a short jaunt or a longer, day-long event.  I've opted mostly for the short jaunt mainly because I am reluctant to stray too far off.  This desire to not drive much beyond Hayti, on my own, is a mystery that came with our arrival.  After 8 months, I've decided not to fight it.  But not straying far has allowed me some benefits.  

Spending less on impulse purchases is an obvious big one but I have also come to like the space of time that now happen between Starbucks runs.  In eight months, I've been to Starbucks twice.  Considering that a Starbucks run was an almost daily occurrence in my former life, this is a slow down that could be measured in latte light years if there was such a thing.

Slowing down with people is another biggy.  People are mostly friendly here. I chalk that up to Southern politeness which I like very much.  But for a person who comes from a world where someone can become an "instant" friend, navigating the waters of Southern politeness can be tricky. Family members, long gone, are still present in conversation as if they were just in the next room and would appear at any moment.  Memory is kept alive here.  My family is small and scattered all over.  We're in CA, WV, WI, NY, CO, IN, TN, and OR.  Most of that extended list lives in Wisconsin and New York and most of them I haven't seen since childhood.  The rest are my immediate family or in-law connections. California has one, West Virginia has one. Tennessee and Indiana have five and two respectively. Any way you cut it, my family is small.  

The Pirate was an only child. He calls this place home but he's probably just one of a handful of people who have few family roots here. And, those who might remember his parents are themselves very old.  That string of memory is being stretched very thin.

Of course, there is that pesky old thing called aging (excuse the pun).  It's inescapable and I may look in the mirror and see a woman holding together fairly well but the evidence of slowing down is constantly present.  My knee tells me all the time that I am no spring chicken (yes, I used that cliche) 

So, I slow down and figure out the Plan B of how to get on in daily life.  Do I want pictures of the other side of the flood wall? Pirate is on duty. In fact, he's on duty for a lot these days, God love him.  And, I'm slowing down to savor the change, to observe a new world, to encounter people in a new way.  Slowing down allows for clarity and depth of meaning and understanding.  Slowing down is very much like reading the Bible. The slower and more carefully you read it, the more meaning you find, the more connections you make, and the more applicable its lessons become.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The River Has Peaked

Well, I finally made it down to the river today. The Pirate went with me because my climbing days are over thanks to a pair of very bad knees. Up he went on the flood wall, nimble salt that he is. 
The word on the street says the river is peaking today at 41.5 feet. It should be back down to pre-flood stage by March 20.
For my non-local friends reading this, the end of Ward Ave. has a nice little park and loading ramp for fishing boats. The Bunge Grain Elevator is right next to it.  The first pictures here are of the park and pavilion all overwhelmed by Old Muddy. Farther down and away from the park, the land is lower and the water is almost all the way to the base of the flood wall.Yeah, that big concrete strip running down the middle of some of the pictures is the flood wall.

This is the Bunge Grain Elevator where barges dock to pick up
 loads of whatever is on the menu.

One of the roads that go into the park.

Looking more or less south. That is the casino
off in the distance.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Shape of Wind

So far, since arriving here, I have HEARD an earthquake, I've watched a river rise, and I've even seen a funnel cloud in early June being pulled along to somewhere by the cloud that birthed it. But in all my life, I can honestly say that I've never seen the shape of wind.
Flipped bleachers at the Pemiscot County Fairgrounds.

Back home in sunny California, the Golden State lived up to its name.  The weather was generally pleasing with the rain interspersed fairly evenly across the seasons (when we weren't in the midst of a drought).  Being in the Central Valley, we did have our share of wind and I loved it.  Allergies didn't plague me so a walk on a windy day was pure heaven.  On the edge of the valley, against the foothills, the wind would blow through the Pacheco Pass or push up over the western hills from the Coastal Mountains and pour down into the valley.  There was nothing to stop its forward motion.  

Usually, by the time it reached Turlock, it had spread out across the farmland and had become a soft breeze. But whether strong or gentle, it was usually always around.  Spring was especially beautiful. The wind would blow through the almond orchards and for a few weeks we would have a faintly pink tinted "snowfall" as almond blossoms fluttered to the ground.

For the most part, winds didn't do much damage in my area. We did have our random tree falls but generally, they were not the usual occurrence.  It wasn't until I arrived here that I even knew there was such a thing as a straight-line wind, a wind that blew horizontally to the ground. A quick Google search educated me on the wisdom of respecting a thunderstorm wind. The whole idea of wind and its sister, rain, took on an entirely new meaning for me.

The first thing I learned to do was walk the front and back yards after a good "gully washer", as my dad used to like to say.  All manner of stuff was found - tree limbs, twigs, pummelled baby birds (that was a hard one), bird nests, unhatched eggshells, and small critters have all ended up in our yard.

But, next to all this, it was my vision of the shape of the wind that totally knocked me out.  Remember February 24th, just twelve days ago?  The Pirate and I were at Little Pizza Heaven enjoying our monthly music night with The Jax.  We went out knowing the rain would be rough.  We were actually on a tornado watch.  Sometime into the evening, it turned into a tornado warning (though there was some disagreement about that because the sirens never went off). Anyway . . . 

We lost the street lights momentarily and when they returned, I got my first look at the shape of wind when it's blasting through a horizontal rainfall. The swirls and sweeps and rushes of the wind are visible, exciting, and dramatic.  It's like watching a flamenco dancer burning the ground with icy heat.  Of course, I was mainly clueless as to what this could all mean but I certainly learned the next day when I read of two tornadoes directly north and directly south of us, both about equal distances from us.  To say we were right in the middle of it, would not put too fine a point on it.  

So now I have two elements of nature to respect: respect the river and respect the wind.  Oh, and did I mention that we lost electrical power for about 4-5 hours?  Oh, yes, we did.  And now we are talking about getting a generator.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Season for Reflection

I've been pondering Lent this week - most especially of the care for others and recognizing God's presence within everyone.  Matt. 25: 31-46 tells us we will be judged on what we do and don't do for others.  Jesus is pretty specific about it, too.  Lately, I find myself more conscious of this than ever.  Perhaps it has something to do with aging but frankly, I attribute my current deeply reflective turn of mind to my church community here; a church community that fosters prayer, adoration, education, and community in action for its members.  For the first time, after a lifetime of multiple moves and being a member of many parishes, I am deeply experiencing Bible study and a love of my faith in a way that is deeply meaningful and personal.

So, how do we respond to Matthew's Gospel of the Lord? How far do we take His instructions? How do we recognize the difference between enabling and truly helping? Should we try to recognize this or is it only for us to provide the perceived need?  Do you give the drug-addicted drugs? Do you give food to the obese never thinking about its value for their bodies?  Do you pay a person not to work or ignore the over-indulgences of alcohol addiction and sex addiction? And what about social alienation? How do you help to find balance and stop self-abuse? 

The answer is easy; listen to Christ's words. Unfortunately, the world around us makes it complicated.  So, how do you reject worldly complications and actually help?  Do you choose one way? Or, do you choose many ways? Where do you help? How do you help? 

Each of us has a station in life but we don't have to stay there. It's only a starting place wherein we are open to accepting help, open to being aware of seeing the needs of others and act; understanding that movement from our starting place can be upward or downward.  We can rise up or sink into the abyss, squandering life's possibilities.  Movement is as much physical as it is spiritual. We can remain at a physical low while acting in a way that elevates us spiritually just as a person more well-placed can squander his gifts and be lost in a sea of selfishness and disdain or even fear.

We are given only one life to get it right but in that single lifetime, we have many opportunities. We can start out wrong but have countless chances to grow in the love of God by giving service to others. We can also start out well-placed but, in the end, fall into selfishness or despair and loss of hope.

For me, there are two simple keys. One is to recognize God's presence in my life and the lives of others. The other key is to act. And, it's not up to me to judge the value of my actions. That I will leave to God.

Just Do It

  My local readers might feel they are hearing an echo from the Jeffries household this week but the importance of voting is a bit of a pass...