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“And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-37) – Houston and TX

Monday, August 28th, 2017

UPDATE from Sean, 3:30 a.m. Tue Aug 29 – see end of post

UPDATE from Sean, 2:02 p.m. Wed Aug 30: Have had 4 sets of people randomly walk up to help. Two photos of the street today.

Two Photos of Sean’s Houston street today, Aug 30, 2017, from Sean.

Second photo

*

Yesterday was a very pleasant day here. There was some rain, but it was of short duration, and gentle, without thunder and lightning or wind. It has been a good year for rain, here. The temperature was perfectly warm. Everyone who likes flowers, and green, would like it here, now.

I noticed such things as I was sitting, visiting, with our elderly friend, Don, on his deck across the street.

A young girl roller-bladed past us on the street below; a young woman was walking her dog, who “met” a neighbor dog across the street. They apparently were friends, just a dog version of “hi, how are you?”. A few obligatory sniffs, no bark, and back to walking.

Back home, an e-mail from my sister, whose son and family – my nephew – live in the Bellaire section of Houston TX, a few blocks from a major bayou. “M” lives in suburban Rochester NY; her daughter and family live in the San Diego area.

3:47 pm. CDT: “Hi all and thanks for the notes…[son and family] are certainly in the midst of what you see on CNN or FOX or wherever. They are in their home but there is significant flooding with water up to the second step. According to [sons] last note about an hour ago (3:34 pm CDT) they had lost power and so cell phone use is pretty limited and I will not be calling for updates. He has said he will text when he can. They do not plan to evacuate – they really cannot evacuate unless by boat. Ironic because they are in a quiet residential area but of course all are in the same situation. They live … about five long block from the bayou. They just moved from their ranch home to the three story a few months ago and that area, [3xxx] Linkwood [Dr], is much messier because it is closer to the bayou and one of the reasons they moved was because of the flooding. It is still raining there. [Daughter-in-Law] had said they were stocked with water and food but of course we hope for the best with them and with all of the neighboring families. I know that you all will keep … family and your own friends and families in your prayers. It is a mess and likely to get worse – It is a real tragedy. I will keep you updated when I can, tornadoes are also a problem in the area. M

Mary gave me a different address than I had in my address book. I wrote back. She responded at 9:30 p.m.:

Hi all..it is 3xxx Tartan Lane…Houston. If you google you will see the area is very residential. Not much to do but wait for more news but as far as I know, the family is at home on Tartan Lane. Last I heard around 4:30 PM EDT there was no electricity in the area and the cell phones had lost power. And it is still raining very heavily I suspect as soon as they can be evacuated they will try and get to a hotel as it will be very difficult to stay on Tartan Lane. Long night ahead for everyone in the area. It is going to be hot and humid and even though [my son] had said (at last communication) there was no structural damage to the home, it is flooding and of course their cars were not protected and are probably under water. I will send a note as soon as I hear from them again, in the meantime lots of folks need thoughts and prayers. Unfortunately, they had no idea that this catastrophic flooding would occur in their area. More later…unfortunately. M

For a time, I sat transfixed to the Weather Channel, one of whose reporters was in the very area where my nephew and family live. The first smatterings of stories were being told.

I wondered who was living in their former home on Linkwood Drive, which was apparently even more vulnerable than theirs.

For me, as for my sister, and the rest of our family, what was very abstract had become very real…and continues to be real, as I write in the middle of this night in suburban St. Paul.

We live in a connected world. The latest tragedy anywhere is connected to us almost instantly, and, usually, it is some tragedy, somewhere…..

But those other events are abstract. Thankfully it’s not me, in my neighborhood. For most of us, today will be a nice day, with assorted but tolerable variations from one home to another to another.

I thought to myself, “who is my neighbor?”

“Everyone”, I answered.

I will add to this post as I receive updated information. Check back.

UPDATES:
5:15 a.m. Monday from M: Note from [daughter-in-laws] mom last evening. Their home is just outside Austin. “[We] are visiting friends in Solana Beach just south of San Diego! We were to return yesterday but rescheduled for Tuesday due to the hurricane. The last I heard was that they are safe and can go to second floor if needed….no power so don’t want to waste power on cell phone. Another family of five showed up at their door and took shelter with them. The water had not entered the house yet but both cars are flooded. That is about all I know now. I will let you know if I get any updates. So far our place [near Austin] is okay according to our neighbor and we have not lost power.
Pray for all

11:47 a.m. Monday from M (Mary) re son and family (Sean): Hi Dick…you do such a nice job with blogs!

Sean did send a brief text this morning stating they are able to remain at home for now and are staying in place on Tartan Lane and that the waters had receded slightly. It is still raining, of course, and there are likely to be community service issues for quite a long time. I would imagine restoration of electrical power is not on the top of the list! They should be fine but certainly there will be a lot of difficulties in the next few weeks and months. It is ironic that I planned to go down to Houston next week and spend some time with the children while Mom and Dad traveled on business…those plans have changed!

It is so true that the probing fingers of tragedy dig quickly and deeply into wide circles – and in the process draw so much diversity closer together. Have a great day – I will keep you updated. M

from Sean, 3:30 a.m. Tue Aug. 29, 2017: I am just seeing this as power was restored late yesterday for us. The damage is incredible and it is not often you see coast guard helicopters and boats doing rescues from your front steps.

Our house made it through with no water and we only lost power for about 36 hours. We were a refuge for never before met neighbors – seven people and two cats – as they saw 4-5 of water enter their homes. The devastation here is only surpassed by the true feeling of community and outreach for support. There is no shortage of people helping, offering to help or the like.

The storm took many by surprise as it escalated from a TS [Tropical Storm] to slow Cat[egory] 4. Friday at lunch time many people were gregariously laughing. Saturday, [our kids] had a swim play date with two friends. 20 hours later one of those friends was being rescued by smashing a hole through a second floor wall to escape the flood waters. We lost a car and a bunch of ancillary items in the garage but the devastation is real – our old house (we moved in June) which we still own and were going to rent or sell – had four + feet of water in it. I have pictures but they are not connected to this computer.

I cannot stress enough that the unselfish assistance being offered at the drop of a hat with no wish for acknowledgment has been refreshing. Community as it should be – working together – not tearing apart. I will never look at another’s tragedy or disaster the same way again.

Thanks for your notes and messages of support. We had our house blessed the day we moved in and the holy water sits on a shelf in the living room. What if we did not move this year, what if we did not bless the house – a lot of what if’s…but we all know where the answer lies – Above.

God bless,

Sean

Sean included a link to Houston Chronicle website, with this note: “…some good photos about the devastation many of these are a number of these are within a mile of our home. Pull up a map and look at Corpus Christi, to Beaumont, to the Woodlands to Katy. It would take about 9 hours to drive the circumference.”

From Sean, in response to question “how can we help?” 4:28 p.m. Tuesday: It is a great question and frankly one we wrestled with down here amongst members of our church group. There are a lot of volunteers and supplies are coming and then logistics get bad, etc. So what do you do? We walked the neighborhood (my street) this afternoon and just started helping people cart stuff out.

So, how does someone help outside of Houston? Well, the Red Cross will be taxed – so volunteer, donate to local chapters in honor of Houston, have your church find a sister church and send supplies directly to them. Financial to Red Cross, etc. But by helping them in other regional areas it will allow them to draw more supplies. That is the best thing I can think of right now. I will come back with more.

Dick Bernard: Planting Onions…and Glorious Flowers

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Today’s post is a recollection about my Aunt and Uncle. Shortly, we leave for a few days vacation. This computer will lie quiet for awhile. The following post has nothing to do with politics…then again, it may have everything…. At the exact same time I was composing this, among many critical issues, the most important of all, “repeal and replace” “Obamacare” has erupted in our nations Capitol. Insuring all of we citizens against catastrophic medical costs is a very, very big deal everyone needs to care about. In my view, the launch of this supposedly new plan is like launching a nuclear bomb against an unsuspecting people…. Here is a long and readable summary to read on this issue, if you wish. I will write later on my deep personal concerns on this matter. More in coming weeks.

Vincent Busch May 7, 2013


(click to enlarge any photos)

“Forwards” are not always welcome, as anyone who does e-mail knows.

Sometimes, like a couple of days ago, comes a gem, one such reaching me from a North Dakota farm near my ancestral farm at Berlin ND, a blog post by Rachel Held Evans received and forwarded to me by a good friend.

What caught my attention was the headline: “…Planting Onions*….”

What attracted my memory was remembering a row of onions I watched being planted by my Uncle Vincent May 7, 2013. (See photo which leads this post).

Uncle Vince was 88 at the time, and this visit he had a compelling need to plant some sweet onions in the now nearly vacant one acre garden he and his sister Edithe had kept alive long after the rest of the nine family members who had lived there, helping with and enjoying the fruits of the garden, had passed on.

Now there were only the two of them. and for seven prior years they’d lived in assisted living in town. But near every day they’d drive out to the old farm, and every spring was the ritual planting. Every year, the actual planted area decreased, but every year the entire acre was cultivated, to keep weeds at bay.

Now the gardeners were down to my Uncle, and he had very little energy left to expend. But once again he had plowed the ground, preparing the soil, and now it was time to plant something.

Six months earlier his sister had been admitted to the Nursing Home, and Uncle Vince now had to come to the farm alone. This year about all he was managing to plant were a couple of row of sweet onions. In his quiet way that pleasant day in May, I seemed to be witnessing almost a religious rite, near grief: a nod to a past that was rapidly disappearing.

It was while looking for the photo that leads this post that I came across another photo of something else I had seen at the same farm, a few minutes earlier that May day, as we drove up the lane, past the long vacant farmhouse.

Aunt Edithe’s voluntaries, May 17, 2013

Those and other flowers were Edithe’s passion, and probably in a previous year she had planted them, and here they were, unattended, but beautiful nonetheless, adding life to the house and surroundings..

No one had been by to remind them that it was time to bloom; they paid no mind that no one was weeding around them, or making sure they had water; or that they had an audience to admire them. They just were….

It seems to me, now, four years later, that both Uncle Vincent and those flowers were sending their own messages to us, about things like reverence for the land and tradition, about devotion to the better sides of our nature. Many other messages can be conveyed. They are for you to contemplate yourself and, if you wish, to share with others as well.

Have a great day.

* – Ms Evans post talked about “revisiting Madeleine L’Engle’s Genesis Trilogy,” and being “struck by how forthcoming the author is about her own fears around raising children during the Cold War. She writes of one particularly worrisome season: “Planting onions that spring was an act of faith in the future, for I was very fearful for our planet.”

In her Mar. 1, 2017 blog post, Ms Evans commented: “Planting onions” has come to signify for me the importance of remaining committed to those slow-growing, long-term investments in my family, my community, and the world, no matter what happens over the next four years”.

POSTNOTE
Time went on after that May visit to the garden.

In mid-July I made another visit to Vincent and Edithe; and once again Vince and I went to the old farm between Berlin and Grand Rapids.

July, 2013 in the garden

Vincent told me the rows of sweet onions were no more – he had gone out to the farm by himself, after dark, to plow the garden, and by mistake plowed them under.

It was clear to everyone that Vincents memory and general health were failing as his sisters had.

My next trip, in September, it was even more clear.

In November, 2013, Vincent joined Edithe in the memory care unit at the St. Rose Nursing Home in LaMoure. In Feb, 2014, she died at 94. Almost exactly a year later, in Feb, 2015, Uncle Vince passed on, having just reached 90.

At the lunch after Vincent’s funeral, neighbor farmer Pat Quinlan recalled the onion sandwich Vince had given him one day when he was over helping. It was the funniest of stories, as the photo below attests. Probably Vince would have squirmed, but it was all in great humor. Vince was who he was. In life, he would appear to be just an ordinary farmer with a small farm. But he was oh, so much more….

Pat Quinlan (at right) remembers the onion sandwich, February, 2015

We have only our own images of what heaven might be like.

Perhaps there is a garden and flowers and gentle breezes there.

Meanwhile, here on earth, let’s do what we can to make this world a better place for all of us.

Edithe and Vince in their garden July 27, 2007

Flowers and Onions, July 27, 2007

Edithe and Flowers, July 27, 2007

Edithe with the flowers from the garden July 27, 2007

Uncle Vincent’s Pastureland

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Thoughts on the final day of 2016.
Remembering a North Dakota farm family.


(click to enlarge any photo)

Since 1934 an impressive cottonwood tree has stood watch over the former Busch farm between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND. I took the above photo, and wrote a story about the tree in 2005. The story is accessible here.

A few blocks to the west of the tree stands a piece of pastureland, which, 106 years after the prairies became a farm, has yet to see a plow. For reasons only my Uncle Vince knows, this pasture was a very important piece of ground to him, even though it was only a small part of the farm.

This was a pasture well known to Vince and Edithe’s parents and brothers and sisters, going back to the beginning of the farm in 1905; and known to any of their nephews and nieces who visited on occasion. We became familiar with “cowpaths” and the lane from pasture to the barn, and if old enough we could watch the cows being milked by hand, and even try our hand at milking. In a sense, the cows were part of physical life of the Busch place, the milk cows with names.

For most of its years it was pasture for a few milk cows. Here is a photo from the 1940s labeled Aunt “Edithe’s favorite milk cow.” Unfortunately, the cows name isn’t included; most certainly she had a name.

“Edithe’s favorite milk cow”, 1940s

My first vivid memory of the pasture is in the winter, sometime in the 1940s, watching what seemed to be gigantic white rabbits loping across snowdrifts. It wasn’t an illusion:

Uncle Vincent and Uncle Art with a productive hunt for rabbits, sometime in 1941-42.

Over the years, the rabbits disappeared, for some reason never explained to me.

As for the cows, we grandkids, who showed up from 1940 on, knew the drill: Twice a day, cows came home via the cowpath – force of habit, I guess – with a lead cow. Here’s an old slide from Nov. 1980 showing my Uncle and cousin Mary Kay. (double click to see the cows in the background, or a closer view of the cowpath)

Uncle Vince and Cousin Mary Kay (on a cowpath in the pasture, Nov. 1980)

In my growing up time, there were maybe 10-15 cows maximum, milked by hand twice a day, later usually by Edithe and Grandma Rosa. Kids were allowed to try milking, but it was hard work – the fun wore off very quickly. Cats hung around for a possible treat. Once in awhile a cow “kicked the bucket” partly full of milk, probably the origin of the saying about dying.

The cream separator initially was hand-powered. Cream and milk would be kept in cans, and kept cool in a water tank by the door of the barn. For years, Uncle Art kept the old separator; later he gave it to me; I think my sister has it now…”antiques” have their day…a nuisance, but yet a reminder of what once was.

I can remember the tedious job of hand-churning cream to make butter: the butter didn’t just magically appear. We kids didn’t have the patience, I’d guess. But once in awhile you could actually see the butter begin to appear.

Once in awhile we might be there when a truck came from LaMoure to pick up the milk and cream. In LaMoure was a small Land-o-Lakes Creamery which made things like butter and, perhaps, ice cream. At least once I can remember a visit to the creamery. Every time, however, we stopped at the Dairy Bar in the same building (photo below) for ice cream. Successive renditions of that Dairy Bar continued until very recently. I think it’s now closed.

LaMoure ND June 28, 2009. Edithe, Vincent and Dick Bernard at what used to be the Creamery and the Dairy Bar in LaMoure. We all appear to be tired. Must have been a busy day.

I can’t fix a date when the Busch’s stopped milking. It probably came sometime in the 1960s, before Grandpa died, and by then Grandma was in her late 70s. There quite likely was an extended period without cows in the pasture. Someone could correct me on this.

Beginning about 1980, Uncle Vincent began to graze a small herd of beef cattle in the pasture. This lasted until the bad winter of 1996-97, when snow conditions and his own advancing age made it impossible for Vincent to take care of the cattle. On occasion one or another of us would go with Vince to the pasture. The cattle were familiar with him; for strangers, particularly if there was a newborn calf nearby, extreme caution was advised. Mama’s cottoned no nonsense. Strangers were a threat.

After 1997, for reasons known only to Vince, this particular piece of pastureland lay unused, except he allowed a neighbor to cut and bail the hay for a fee.

Vincent in the pasture spring of 1987, photo by his sister, Edithe.

From 2006 on, Vince and Edithe lived in LaMoure, and the trips to the farm normally did not include the pastureland.

But in early October of 2012, just about a month or so before Aunt Edithe went into the Nursing Home in LaMoure, Uncle Vince felt a need to go out to that pasture one last time, and that we did, on a very breezy and chilly North Dakota fall afternoon. It would have been wiser to stay home, but Vincent was determined, and we went.

This particular day, Vince had his mind set on pieces of tin on an old feeding station out in the pasture, and we set about successfully taking off the roof, later to be used to cover a broken window or two on an old shed on the farmstead.

October 4, 2012

The farm has now been sold, and the young couple with three young children who now own the farmstead and have a contract to purchase the pasture in a given time period. When I was at the farm in early October, I saw the two calves who, by next summer, will bring farm life to the pasture, as the family is rebringing life to a rural North Dakota farmstead.

Two young calves outside the Busch barn, Oct. 6, 2016

Uncle Vince would be pleased, of that I’m certain.

As this year ends, and a new one begins, what do you remember about your growing up years when your life was being formed?

Busch barn, rural Berlin ND, May 24, 2015 at approximately 100 years old.

COMMENTS:

from Jon, Uncle Vince’s grand-nephew Jan. 3: Hi Dick..Hope you had a Merry Christmas.This is Jon Busch..Don’t know what you know about the pasture land..But in my few conversations with Uncle Vince with my dad alive the land where the pasture is has never been tilled for crops (native prairie). It was grazed by livestock many years ago. Also there is a native American burial ground at or near the farm..Not sure if nearby or on their property no idea if that would be the pasture? Or mounds? Elsewhere.. Thanks for all of the time you guys spent working on this stuff. Have a happy new year…Jon

Response to Jon from Dick: Over the years I’ve gotten to know a great deal about this particular piece of pastureland, primarily many visits with Vincent, which is a main reason I’ve endeavored to deal very carefully with it, particularly carving it out as a specific parcel of the property. It is a legacy of the family. It was very, very important to Vince, for some reason; more so than even the surrounding long-tilled land which was more valuable. Your Grandpa George, Vincent’s older brother, as you doubtless know, had a great affinity for this land as well.

The Indian mound(s?) of which you speak were a short distance north of the Busch property – to the north of what I call the Grand Rapids road. I do not know much about them, except they existed and (probably) weren’t respected by someone or other over the years. The Busch farm sits very near the western edge of the James River, and no doubt saw a great deal of Native American activity in pre-white settlement, which primarily came with the railroad about 1880 or so.

Over my life-time, now nearing 77 years, the size of the usable pasture land decreased as it is part of a watershed which, when combined with the natural consequence of wetter years, and drainage by farmers upstream, increased the permanent wetland. The gate to what we used to know as the south pasture has long been unusable and I think the south boundary of the property has been somewhat difficult to fence because of the water issue.

Thank you very much for your comment.

from Fred: This is an excellent, evocative and thoughtful study. It brought to life a different time, one with which I can identify — there were farmers in my family too. Very nicely done.

from Joe: I read and greatly enjoyed your essay about the pasture and your excellent 2005 story about the old cottonwood tree. Thanks for both.

from Gail: Good story. Even better, it’s true.

from Shirley: Another “so-very-interesting” piece! Thanks.

from David, whose Mom grew up on the then-adjoining farm: I still recall that great old barn.

from Leila: One of my relatives had an old barn near Forman that withstood all kinds of severe storms when others didn’t. He claimed that it was because air could move easily through all of the gaps in the roof and walls.

Response from Dick: It makes sense. They do get very strong and frequent winds out there! Often! There is another factor with this particular old barn. About the first day of August of 1949, the roof blew off the 1915 barn during a big windstorm. As a matter of fact, we were staying in the house, 200 feet away, that very night. It was a scary evening to say the least. I was 9, and I remember the fright of the night! There was lots of damage in LaMoure County. Re the barn itself, all that was lost was the entire roof; even the floor of the hayloft was intact. My Dad, being a schoolteacher and on summer break, stayed and helped build new roof beams, one at a time. My Grandpa had made the form, based on a barn he saw in the area. The construction of the beams was by hand and thorough. It is also possible that the roof itself, at least to this point, buttresses the rest of the structure, but that will change unless it is re-roofed. Without extensive and very expensive renovation, the barn will not be saved. Most likely, I would guess, someday we will see a pole barn for the small herd the new owners of the farmstead hope to have. It is an interesting process.

from Jo: Your farm story brought back my entire childhood until I turned 17 and came to [college]. I can read paragraph after paragraph of your story and it so resembles my story. We had a huge red barn which also went with the wind. It lifted the roof and haymow over the house we lived in and set it down on the pasture past us. This haymow we used to swing out over and drop into the hay that had been brought in by a team of horses and hayrack and pulled up to the huge opening with a chain which the horses pulled up (the sling hooked unto the dropped down part). When that load of hay was in the proper part of the haymow, a trip rope would trip the catch and it would drop unto the haymow floor. It took many trips with that hayrack, (each held 2 slings) to fill that large area. There were holes to throw down the hay into each stall below where the milk cows stood. For safety sake, I am sure, each hole was surrounded with about a 5 foot tall box around it with a lid. Harder to put the hay down as have to be lifted up before going down. Our cream cans were not picked up, they were driven to the Casselton Creamery by us. As we waited for them to be processed, our great and always anticipated joy was to order and savor an ice cream malted milk. They probably cost 10 cents or a quarter.

Our pasture was filled with large cottonwoods under whose shade in summer we would sometimes picnic. One of the first “jobs” I had was to help to drive the milk cows to the “North Pasture”. It was through the regular pasture and over the railroads tracks so there was a gate to get over the tracks and one to get into the N. pasture with due diligence paid to making sure there was no train either way. Not being old or big enough to open those gates, pulled shut with a barbed wire round, I was the chaser for cows that started other ways.

So thanks for triggering some very old memories. Life is so far from that now. Thank goodness.

from Dick, in addition: Thanks very much for this. We are old enough, now, I’d guess, to admit that we had our feet pretty deep in what truly were “the old days”. We just came to the farm to visit, but because we moved so much (my folks were both small town school teachers), the farm really became a “home town” in a very real sense of the word for me. They didn’t get electricity until the very late 1940s, so a wind charger did that duty; Grandpa was the rural telephone guy (“three longs and a short”, and perhaps 20 parties could “rubberneck” on calls), that sort of thing. But it was a good, solid upbringing for us.

*

Below are two photos, one after the storm, and one of the beams. You can click twice on them and see a closer enlargement.

Henry Bernard in the hay mow June, 1991, standing by the roof beams he helped construct in 1949.

Look closely at the below and you can see all five Bernard kids, including John, who was then a year old. Plus Mary Ann, Florence, Frank and Richard. Henry is hidden behind Richard.

The Bernard kids the morning after the barn went down, summer 1949. Richard (Dick) is the kid facing away from the camera.

#1104 – Dick Bernard: Revisiting “The Bones of Plenty”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s Reflective Testimony to Ourselves and Coming Generations: “Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now”.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

UPDATE May 1, 2016: The official Lois Phillips Hudson website is here.

UPDATE Feb. 27, 2016: Six pages from North Dakota State University (Fargo) Archives, Feb. 23, 2016. Hudson NDSU Arch001Mrs. Hudson taught at NDSU 1967-69.
*
In 1962, Lois Phillips Hudson published “The Bones of Plenty”.

A New York Times Book Review commentary said this about the book: “It is possible…that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson’s story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.”

While I grew up a North Dakotan, I missed the book at the time of publication.

In early Jan. 1962, freshly graduated from college (Valley City (ND) State Teachers College), I entered the United States Army, spending two years playing war in the rattle-snake infested foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Ft. Carson, Colorado and other places, like Hanford Firing Range, Washington.

After the Army, life interfered with things like recreational reading; I don’t recall ever hearing about “The Bones of Plenty”.

In fact, it wasn’t until my friend, Nancy Erickson, told me about the The Bones of Plenty a few years ago, that I took the time to read it, and it spoke to me, very personally. It was my people she was talking about: rural North Dakotans who had lived through and survived the awful years of the 1930s, “The Great Depression”.

The “Bones of Plenty” is set in rural Stutsman County North Dakota in 1934, set primarily in Jamestown and rural Cleveland ND (photos which follow are of Cleveland ND* taken January 27, 2016).

(click to enlarge)

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the  main street.

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the main street.

At the time I was introduced to “The Bones of Plenty” by Nancy, I was spending more and more time with my Uncle Vincent and Aunt Edithe in LaMoure, a town little more than an hours drive from Cleveland.

When I’d ask Vincent, a lifelong rural Berlin ND farmer, about the Depression, he would always reply that 1934, the year he was nine, was the worst. (He was 2 1/2 years older than Lois Phillips, then living on the rural Cleveland ND tenant farm, not far away).

I can attest, having shouldered the task of closing down the 110 year old farm, that the family never recovered from the trauma of the 30s.

And they weren’t unusual: being trapped in years of uncertainty has its impact. “The folks”, their siblings and many others lived in the shadow of the 30s their whole lives. “The Bones of Plenty” put “meat” on those bones for me. It helped me understand why they lived as carefully as they did.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016. Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

Jan. 27, 2016. Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

*

Fast forward.

January 6, 2016, one of those occasional unusual e-mails came to my e-screen.

A person named Cynthia Anthony introduced herself: “I’m seeking permission to post links to your posts, numbers 490**, 499**, and 565**, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson. I am the director of the Lois Phillips Hudson Project, and run a website dedicated to preserving her legacy – you can view [the site] here.”

As we began our chat, I found that Cynthia lives in western New York state, I am in Minnesota (but North Dakotan to the core). She had come to be custodian of Ms Hudson’s boxes of archival material after Ms Hudson’s death in 2010, in part, I gathered, because of her involvement in something called the Rural Lit Rally. She said the boxes had yielded little about Lois’ 8 years in ND, nor about her parents and their kin. She knew a lot about most of the rest of Lois’ life, beginning about 1937, mostly in Washington State, most around Redmond.

Redmond, among other things, is the headquarters of Microsoft.

I agreed to help Cynthia sort out the North Dakota connection of Ms Phillips Hudson (and invite the reader of this blog to do the same. Here is the portal for submitting comments, etc., to her.)

Included in the many boxes was a manuscript of a nearly completed book, Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now (click on the title for ordering information). Ms Hudson had apparently been working on the book from about 2000 till near her death; roughly the decade of her 70s.

On careful review, a decision was finally made to publish the 390 page book as it had been left by Ms Hudson, including occasional typos and notations about incomplete verification of sources.

*

I have read Unrestorable Habitat, and I recommend it without any qualification whatsoever. It is powerful, and it is uncomfortable.

In many ways “Unrestorable Habitat…” is autobiographical and about the world of Lois Phillips Hudson, from youth forward. It weaves personal recollections and direct observations of contemporary life, as seen by a young girl, then by a woman who ultimately retired as a college professor in 1992, about the desperately poor rural North Dakota of the 1930s, and country village, thence city of Redmond, Washington, from the 1930s to the end of her life.

The book offers the reader a great deal of food for thought about our present technological age.

No reader who cares about the future of our planet will be comfortable reading Ms Hudsons observations. We are all complicit in the deteriorating state of our planet. Start with myself, writing this post on a computer in a comfortable room, soon to be transmitted to who-knows-where by internet….

As I read Unrestorable Habitat, I have to ask myself, how do I fit into this narrative of squandering our future for the comfort of today? What can I, as an individual, do to make the future hospitable or at least survivable for the generations which follow, as well as for other living species?

The problem to solve is not someone elses: it is mine, and all of ours.

This book would be a great one for book clubs. I recommend it highly.

* – In 1920, the first census of Cleveland showed a population of 341; in 1930, 273; 1940, 246; 1950, 181…the current population is estimated as 82.

** – The references to The Bones of Plenty in previous blogs are found in #490; 499 and #565

Jan. 27, 2016.  The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment.  Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

Jan. 27, 2016. The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment. Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

COMMENTS
from Jermitt: Thanks for sharing information on Lois Phillips Hudson book “The Bones of Plenty”. There are two books about the dust storms of the Great Plains and depression of the late twenties and early 1930 that I really like. They are The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, The Great Plains by Ian Frazier and Pioneer Woman of the West, by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson. I just finished my book “Memories of a Grateful Past” Stories of Family and Friends from the Heart 1830-1985. The book has 470 pages of stories about family, friends, and my work as a teacher and eighteen years of working with the Wisconsin Education Association (1968-1985). The book also includes family stories from South Dakota during the depression and drought. It has gotten wonderful reviews, so I’m pretty excited about it. The books will be printed and sent to me by April 1.

from Curtis: As a history guy is it just on ND? Just finished Eva’s Story by Eva Schloss. Story of a survivor of the death camps of WWII. After the war her mother married Otto Frank. Tough read about what humans did to other humans.

Response to Curtis: Bones of Plenty is 100% about Stutsman County ND, basically rural Cleveland and Jamestown in 1934. Unrestorable Habitat is mostly about Redmond (suburban Seattle) in the 2000s, but includes lots of autobiographical flashbacks to Hudson’s growing up on the ND farm.

from Lynn: Thanks Dick, This reminds me that when I worked for the North Dakota Farmers Union we were privileged to have Lois speak to a youth group, I think in 1968. Very memorable experience!

from JoAnn: Thanks for all your interesting discussions. I can remember receiving a copy of “Bones of Plenty”, I believe from my mother. My brother and I enjoyed the incongruity of the lovely title. I totally enjoyed the book. I was not old enough to participate in the actual worst periods of those times, but i certainly lived through the after effects of those years. My grand father lost his bank in Wheatland in spite of my mother donating her $5000 inheritance from an uncle in the vain attempt at saving the bank. (Quite a chunk in those days.) I can remember many conversations (this would have to be early 40s as I was born in late 39) in which my father would end with the phrase, “Well, we can always move to the Ozarks.” I guess that was his escape plan if we couldn’t stick. My husband and I have recently moved and while unloading and sorting and selecting books to keep, I actually handled BONES OF PLENTY today. I acquired along the way somewhere, a book entitled, REAPERS OF THE DUST, a prairie chronicle also by Hudson. More recently I found THE WORST HARD TIME by Timothy Egan, which, as my brother would say,”Another miserable book”. This I took to mean another book about a miserable time. Egan’s book is not about our local area but covers the horror of the dust that covered the earth of the high plains during those “dirty thirties.” The descriptions were unbelievable. Perhaps you’ve read this book already. Anyway, thanks for directing my thoughts back to those memories. You do great work with your blog. Cheers!

from Emily: Great article! Thank you for sharing! I hope you are well.

from Debbie: Thanks for this info, Dick. I love reading books about Dakota. I do believe I read Bone of Plenty way back when. Will look for the other.

from Christina: I googled for some information on those two books. I think they both might be very interesting especially “Unrestorable Habitat.” I like John Grisham’s books. I am now reading Gray Mountain. I know it’s fiction but based on true situations. This one is about the coal companies strip mining the mountains, miners with black lung diseases,the water being polluted from the coal slush & waste being dumped into the valleys etc. The coal companies have the lawyers pretty well sewed up . I am thankful how Gov. Link got that reclamation project passed. Many object to the EPA but thankfully some one is watching out for our environment. Thanks for the book recommendations.

from Kathleen: Thanks very much. Our library system has it. I look forward to reading it when I return from CA.

#1057 – Dick Bernard: More thoughts from Anne Dunn. “The next seven generations”

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

My friend, Anne Dunn*, is always worth paying attention to. She has great wisdom, from life.

Today came two items, one from Anne, the other about something which Anne said. The sources were different, and, well, you can read them in the same sequence that I did.

I believe Gull Lake is the prominent resort lake just north of Brainerd MN, though I might be wrong. I believe the Treaty of 1855 referred to in the commentary is this one**, though at this writing I am not sure.

First, from Anne’s Facebook post this afternoon: “Water Walkers are those who are still strong enough to make long walks and those who are dedicated to making the future a better place for the next seven generations. They make many steps across the land and every step is a prayer. Together they are engaged in a sacred dance.It requires a commitment of time and energy. In many cases these young women leave their children behind because they believe this is what must be done to accomplish their vision of a better tomorrow.They also are prepared to endure the hardship of deprivation and extreme weather conditions. Sometimes they might face derisive comments from those who do not understand that they walk for the lives of all nations.They carry the water as women have been doing for centuries. They remember that their children are born of water. They recognize that water is vital to the lives of those nations that depend on it for survival.Water walkers raise awareness. They are hard to ignore as they go along the highways and byways and skyways in their skirts and shawls.What do such women do at the end of their walk? They return to their homes and teach those who will listen. They educate the young and those not so young but newly aware of their special place in creation.We cannot live without water and the water walker is a messenger of that fact. She is also one who helps seek real solutions to the real problems of the growing pollution around us. Water walkers take the steps for those who stay at home because of ignorance, financial restraints, physical limitations or apathy.”

Later I was reading today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, and in a column “Indian fishing and wild-rice harvesting, in context” recalls a conversation Anne Dunn had with him about water (the reference is about one-third of the way down).

There is no need to add anything to either Anne’s commentary, or Michael McNally’s column. There is much “food for thought” in both.

Thanks Anne, and Michael.

* Anne Dunn appears often on these pages. Simply enter her name in the search box for other columns at other times.

** – here is a story of the final Minnesota treaty, at Huot Crossing, October 1863. Huot Crossing Trtyt 1863001

#1033 – Dick Bernard: The Great Olden Days of the 1950s

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

A couple of days ago a friend sent me this forward.

It is an intriguing piece of video, especially for someone like me who was 10 in 1950 and 20 in 1960. It only takes two minutes to view. Take a look and return.

There is, of course, lots to agree with, especially if you lived through childhood and adolescence then. (I’m fond of saying that the real proof that there is a God, is any kid who survives childhood. I can tell my stories; you can as well….)

At about the same time the video crossed my threshold, so did the below 2×2 well worn time-damaged photo labelled “Berlin [ND] Picnic Sept 7 1952”. The handwriting is unmistakably my grandmother Rosa Busch (who is at left in second row behind the little child and, likely, the childs mother.) I have scanned the photo at high resolution so as to make it possible to easily enlarge it. Most likely, given the nature of that day, this is the Ladies Aid (or Rosary Society?) of St. John’s Catholic Church in Berlin.

Take a look at those Moms, in my Grandmas yard, September 7, 1952. Their’s are the faces of the good old days.

Berlin Picnic Sept 7, 1952

Berlin Picnic Sept 7, 1952

I took a look at mortality statistics for our country – sort of the marker for how it was, and how it is. Here are a couple of items worth looking at:
(1) a chart about developed world life expectancy at birth from 1950-present is in the upper right hand corner, here. (click on the chart to enlarge it) NOTE: the projection to the end of this chart is to 2045; notice the point on the chart for 2010-15.
(2) 75 Years of Mortality in the United States 1935-2010 from the Centers for Disease Control.

It would seem to me that a 12 year increase in average life expectancy from about 66 to 78 years over 65 years of history (first chart) is pretty significant.

Maybe there were some down sides to the good old days?

But maybe we prefer looking at the up-side of some of those changes which the video narrates?

Start with the photo of those women. In 1952, the status of “women’s rights” was much different than it is today.

Change didn’t come easy, but it came.

As for surviving, I’m one of those who lucked out, who made it through the assorted risks of growing up. There were far more risks then, I know. No seat belts in cars; you took your chances with drinking water and home-canned food. Who of my age does not recall the lines to get the Salk Polio Vaccine back in those early 1950s?

And the bomb shelters which reminded us that we were in some bulls eye for one of those Soviet bombs aimed at us (and we aimed our own bombs at them, I guess).

I watched Sputnik blink across the night sky at exactly the same spot as the photographer in the same yard of my Grandmas in the Fall of 1957. In those days, Sputniks path across the night sky was printed in the newspaper (it would have been to the photographers right, to the southeast), and on a clear night, as the saying goes, you could see forever, especially on the pristine prairie “back in the day”.

Now, I’m at the age where nostalgia tends easily to trump reality: it is fun to look back in memory to how it used to be (I think).

But not so fast: I see Johnny, in my North Dakota town when I was 10. In today’s terms he’d be so-called severely retarded. He lived at home, and he was older than we kids who used to persecute him till he’d chase us down the street with a bat, or a stick, or whatever. I was not “happy days” for Johnny (who’s still alive, I hear.)

In many ways we’ve over-corrected, I admit, but by and large I’d rather be where I am, now, than back in those olden days.

COMMENTS:
from Joyce, June 3:
Whenever someone waxes nostalgic about the good old days, I think about the plight of those for whom the ’50s were a horror show, in particular, African Americans, but also intelligent women who had few outlets for their intelligence, Jews (universities openly had Jewish quotas in those days and HR departments displayed signs stating that Jews need not apply) and all the people whose careers were destroyed by the McCarthy witch hunts.

from Flo: Thanks for bringing some reality to the good old days! Some kids who were tortured by parents, siblings, or bullies are the angry ones now torturing all of us in retribution!

#1005 – Dick Bernard: Photos of Positive People, and a Call to Act.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

(click to enlarge)

Park Rapids MN Mar 14, 2015

Park Rapids MN Mar 14, 2015

There are lots of good things going on in the world, every day, every where.

This fact is easy to miss in a contemporary media environment that incessantly emphasizes bad news. But all one needs to do is to look around, listen, and get engaged.

Here’s a little photo gallery, with small captions, from just one recent week, taken at a League of Women Voters Saturday afternoon workshop in Park Rapids MN, and at a meeting about overpopulation of the planet in Minneapolis. Most of the speakers were ordinary folks, just like the rest of us. But this gave particular power to their presentations, in my opinion.

And at the end, a recent article I spied in last Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about Climate Change, and something I wrote about the same topic 10 ten years ago.

The March 14 workshop in Park Rapids was about Sustainable Agriculture, and the citizen speakers well informed, and interesting. (In the end, my opinion, it is always ordinary citizens who will make the difference…and time and time again, I hear the “expert” speakers affirm that the essential folks towards positive change are the folks we’ve never heard of.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Sally Shearer, Park Rapids MN, Mar 14, 2015

Sally Shearer, Park Rapids MN, Mar 14, 2015

Sally Shearer talked about the history of Minnesota agriculture, beginning, of course, with the indigenous people. She especially referenced a particularly interesting older book, Helping People Help Themselves, by Roland H. Abraham, about the history of agricultural extension,

Ed Poitras, Mar 14, 2015

Ed Poitras, Mar 14, 2015

Ed Poitras talked about this experience, as a boy in WWII, with Victory Gardens in his home state of Massachusetts. For those of us of a certain age, we remember gardening, cooking, canning, raising chickens, and the like. These are lost arts which may well again become essentials.

Anne Morgan, Mar. 14, 2015

Anne Morgan, Mar. 14, 2015

Anne Morgan gave us a primer on garden seeds.

Les Hiltz, Mar 14, 2015

Les Hiltz, Mar 14, 2015

Les Hiltz talked about bees and beekeeping. Bees are crucial to sustinability.

Winona Laduke, Mar 14, 2015

Winona Laduke, Mar 14, 2015

Winona Laduke was the most high profile speaker, and she spoke with feeling and intelligence and intensity about the land and the traditional ways.

March 19 in Minneapolis, David Paxson gave a jam-packed session on the issue of global overpopulation. His website is worth a visit.

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David Paxson, Mar 19, 2015

David Paxson, Mar 19, 2015

Finally, in the March 22, Minneapolis Star Tribune, in the Science section, I found an article about Al Gore and the issue of Climate. The article (pp 4&5), and some of my “history” with Mr. Gore (pp 1, 2 & 3), can be read here: Al Gore, 2005, 06, 2015002

In my opinion, Mr. Gore is a visionary, well worth paying attention to.

For me, personally, the solution ends up with those who are in the seats, listening.

Others better informed and in one way or another more “important” than us, may, in fact, know more than we do. But in the end it is every individual setting out to make a little difference, who will make the big and essential long term difference.

It is what we – not they – do that will make the difference.

Mar 19, 2014, Minneapolis

Mar 19, 2014, Minneapolis

#978 – Dick Bernard: A Teacher and a Butterfly

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Life takes it own course, and in our often too-frantic lives, we miss the gentle things that really make a difference.

So it happened, yesterday, that I had to leave, early, the funeral of a retired educator to attend to an equally important duty: taking 10-year old granddaughter, Addy, to the soon-to-end (Jan 8) Monarch Butterfly film and Exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. (If you’re in the area, carve out the time for the program: it is well worth it….)

Marty Wicks, the retired educator whose life was celebrated yesterday, was a lifelong public educator. Her life is summarized here (4 pages): Marty Wicks001. She accomplished much.

I come from a family filled with public educators. That was also my background and career, and I think most in the education profession, including Marty, would agree that “lifelong educators”, especially in public education, early on realize that miracles can and do happen on their watch, but often these happen without their direct knowledge, and ofttimes many years later.

Marty’s brother-in-law, in a tribute to her, gave a personal example of how she, as his sister-in-law, was a powerful teacher to him, personally.

She made a positive difference, the best any of us can hope for.

Funeral over, and before the lunch, I had to make a rapid departure to pick up my granddaughter for our “date” with the butterflies at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

We had tickets for the 1:00 showing at the Omnimax, and like the rest of the packed house we sat transfixed as the remarkable story of Canadian researcher Dr. Fred Urquhart’s near lifelong quest to track the Monarch Butterfly migratory pattern came to life. Part of his incredible story can be read here.

Central to the story is Monarch PS397, tagged by some west suburban Minneapolis students in August, 1975, and remarkably discovered by Dr. Urquhart in Michoacan Mexico four months later, literally minutes after he began his first visit to the Monarch sanctuary, 2000 miles from where PS397 had begun its journey.

The two events: a funeral for an educator; and the central role educators played in one of the most remarkable stories of tracking a migration of an insect, thereby contributing to human knowledge, came together for me on Saturday afternoon.

Film over, Addy and I then went to the Butterfly Exhibit at the Science Museum where adults, kids and butterflies mingled happily in a summer-like environment (perhaps this doesn’t include the little tike whose nose became home base for a friendly butterfly, stopping by to visit!) It was warm in there: tip, if you go there, leave coats behind!

The Exhibit and the Film are at the end of their run here, but there are still a few days; and doubtless you can probably catch them somewhere else. Here’s the website for the film.

There is much more to be said, but more words from me are superfluous.

At the end of the day, I thought of a snapshot I took in November, 1999, North Dakota (below). It has always symbolized for me the entirety of relationships (the tree) and how individuals can shine like the sun, at a particular time for a particular person or persons. Like ourselves and the Butterflies, yesterday, we coexist together.

For certain, Marty Wicks “shone”, and lives on in many ways.

Addy, being ten, will likely have good memories from yesterday, but as kids are wont to do may well move on to other interests.

The important thing was the experience, the opportunity, to learn and to grow. We can all learn.

(click to enlarge.)
ND Sunset Nov 1999001

#964 – Dick Bernard: Thanksgiving? The implications of Ferguson MO

Monday, December 1st, 2014

This will be one of a series which all begin “Thanksgiving?”

Thanksgiving for me was at a nursing home in North Dakota, with my last remaining relative from my Mom or Dad’s generation – her brother. His health is such that he’s confined to a wheelchair and is on oxygen, and while he is very sharp mentally, in relative terms, he’s in the Peace Garden Suite – the place where people with Alzheimers and the like live. He has no short term memory to speak of.

Lately, joining him in his unit have been an attorney with a long history and strong positive reputation in the town; and another man, an excellent musician, who until recent months was living in the Assisted Living portion of the Nursing Home complex.

Such is life for all of us. Here today, then gone. We can pretend that we’ll beat death, but however we beat the odds, some day it certainly will catch up to us, as it has, already, with one-fourth of my cousins.

But that isn’t what has me up at 4 in the morning on this day.

More, I’m thinking about the national insanity facing us: the aftermath of Ferguson MO.

Ferguson MO is todays Selma, Alabama, 1965, and I wonder what we’ll do about it, as a society.

None of us are expert on this case, certainly not I.

But enroute home from North Dakota last Friday I kept thinking of the “Un-indicted Co-conspirators” in the case. There were three of them, to my way of thinking: Michael Brown, teenager, unarmed, who’ll never be able to speak for himself, dead on a Ferguson street in August; and Darren Wilson, police officer, who killed the teenager, also un-indicted, with the opportunity to prepare a perfect case before a Grand Jury. He could tell his story to the world.

Michael Brown can’t.

Just before Thanksgiving, in my Nov. 25 post, I described what possibly was going on with Michael Brown that day in August, 2014: “stupid kid action”.

This wasn’t about what happened in the street – we’ll never know for sure about that; rather about the snip of convenience store video and the cigarillos. There are only conflicting witness accounts of what happened in the street. Wilson had plenty of opportunity to defend himself, but Brown never had that chance, dead with six bullets striking him.

I’ve known plenty of “stupid kid” situations in my life. Any of us who are honest would admit to our own “stupid kid” actions in our own pasts. Somehow we lived past them; stuff we didn’t tell our parents about…that, likely, they don’t want to know.

Overnight I thought of one scenario similar to the street scene in Ferguson MO. It involved one Byron Smith in Little Falls MN, who shot and killed two local teenagers who were up to no-good in his home; in fact, they had a history. All of the actors in the Little Falls scenario were white, and Smith was indicted, tried and convicted, and is now serving a life sentence.

Above, I mention three un-indicted co-conspirators.

The third: the sacred Gun*, most always the accessory to the crime of killing someone in our society.

I struggle with how to personally stay engaged with both of the issues Ferguson again identifies: active racism in our society; and insane reverence for the Gun.

Without the Gun placed in action by Officer Wilson, no one would have been dead, and “Ferguson” would not now be a household name.

This is far beyond a simple Second Amendment issue (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”)

We have embraced violence by weapons in this country. We are the lesser for this.

* POSTNOTE: This is no anti-gun rant. If somebody likes to hunt, the gun has its place. The Uncle referred to above still has six common weapons, safely stored. They were valued by him – very much a part of his life on the farm, always for hunting.

I brought along several albums Vince had kept over the years, and he became particularly animate about three photos like the following:

(click to enlarge)

Vincent and Art with the catch of Jackrabbits sometime in 1941-42.  At the time, jackrabbits were numerous and a nuisance.  He had similar photos with skunk, and ducks, etc.

Vincent and Art with the catch of Jackrabbits sometime in 1941-42. At the time, jackrabbits were numerous and a nuisance. He had similar photos with skunk, and ducks, etc.

Guns had their place in the rural areas. Not like today, when the right to kill another human in supposed self-defense is viewed as almost a sacred right by some.

#944 – Dick Bernard: Rightsizing.

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

This past week was a phenomenal early fall day in our area, easily matching the postcard vistas featured for Maine on the evening news. A couple of days ago, I took this snapshot along my walking route: just some brush along the shore of a storm drainage pond. Whatever the source, it’s a nice pic, and I invite you to click on it to enlarge.

(click to enlarge all photos)

October 16, 2014, Woodbury MN

October 16, 2014, Woodbury MN

The photo doesn’t match at all the title of this post, nor the content to follow, except that this kind of scene would have been seen by my parents and grandparents and all generations before in their times in this part of the world. The only difference is that we can now take photographs of them, and even amateurs like myself can do an okay job with our equipment (mine a Samsung).

This post was, rather, spurred on by a headline I saw in the Business section of the Wednesday Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Earlier Black Friday spreading” (Oct 15, 2014). Shortly, the “Christmas” music will become a constant at my coffee shop, and the “shop till you drop” drumbeat will begin, to buy more than you need, with money you may not have, to give to someone who may not want the gift given. I suspect there are plenty who will be just as happy when this “joyous” season passes, as will be the merchants…and churches…for whom this two months or so is a major generator of money in the till.

There is no “Christ in Christmas” here in our country, at least not publicly, or it has to wrestle in to get any genuine attention.

This summer I’ve had much more than a normal opportunity to reflect on how material goods diminish in value (and interest) as the twilight of life comes.

We’ve spent the summer dealing with the treasures of a 109 year old farm in North Dakota, where everything had a use, or future use. My Uncle and Aunt kept everything.

Leaving aside assorted large goods, like an old farmers dining room table, the first cut of the treasures in the house and farmyard occupies a small portion of storage. There are really valuable things to me, an historian, like photos and books, but the essence of the residue shows in this picture from inside my garage, taken this week.

October 16, 2014

October 16, 2014

I do not worry about these boxes being stolen. A self-respecting thief might ask “why did they keep THAT?” But I certainly won’t fault my Aunt and Uncle. They were being prudent stewards of what they were given, even if most of it had no earthly use for them, or anyone who follows.

I retired fourteen years ago, and in the same year moved from one suburb to another.

When I left my last work career of 27 years, I took home two boxes. The one I use quite often is pictured below. The second I’ve never opened and thus should be sent for recycling.

The ten years of living in a condo yields this box of “knick knacks” (also pictured). It hasn’t been opened since I moved, and likely won’t be until someone goes through my stuff and asks “why in the world did he keep THAT?

I could show my Dad’s two boxes, same story.

You get the point, I think.

Why not give more attention to downsizing, than getting more and more? Profits are okay, but there can be other priorities as well.

Oct 10, 2014

Oct 10, 2014

October 10, 2014, in a suburban garage.

October 10, 2014, in a suburban garage.

October 10, 2014, Woodbury MN

October 10, 2014, Woodbury MN