...now browsing by category


The House Cat

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Today is the one month anniversary of the appearance of the “house cat” on the blackboard at my coffee place, Caribou Coffee at City Center, Woodbury MN. Here it was this morning:

(click to enlarge)

January 17, 2018

Here it was on December 17, a delightful surprise visitor:

The cat appears, Dec. 17, 2017

I came to look forward to the cat, and wondered if it would survive anonymous fingers with chalk in hand. Here it is on January 1, 2018.

That Caribou Cat, Jan. 1, 2018

By this time I was noticing it was being noticed. The notation above the cat was by a man facing very serious surgery. (I don’t know the outcome, since I haven’t seen him since, and he never shared contact information. I hope the surgery went well for him.)

On Jan. 10, I took another photo. It was beginning to look crowded out. I wrote a note to the manager, hoping that somehow this marvelous cat could be saved, as long as possible.

Here’s Jan. 10:

The cat on Jan. 10, 2018

So, am I a “cat person”? Actually I prefer dogs, but neither are helpful to me – allergies. My visits to home with dogs…or cats…are always of limited duration.

But animals are good to bring calm to a stressful time. They are good companions, and I applaud them all – mostly.

Today, as you can note, the blackboard was cleaned, and I like the topic theme at the beginning of 2018.

Have a great day!

The Caribou Cat

Best wishes to the cat! May it have many lives yet to live!

Four Brief Homilies at Christmas 2017

Monday, December 25th, 2017

Sunday morning, Christmas Eve, a reader told me he’d been listening to Krista Tippet’s “On Being”, and the guest for this particular program was David Steindl-Rast, the old man in the Gratitude video from Dec. 22. The interview is a lengthy one, and well worth your time.

This morning, Christmas Day, Fr. Harry Tasto, a retired Priest and gifted homilist, gave his Christmas message at Basilica of St. Mary.

He spoke, briefly, to seven specific constituencies within this “family” called Church:
1. The Children
2. Those who are Young, previously below 21, now defined by some as Young into their 30s
3. Those in Middle Age
4. Finally, those who are Old

His brief remarks encouraged personal reflection back to myself in those ages – how did the world look to me, in those ages? What was my place in that world of others? What is it now?

He then talked to specific audiences he knew were in the Church this day, since they are of this Church always, not always satisfied parts of this large very old, not always comfortable, sometimes messy and even offensive “family”.

5. The Regulars
6. Those who come once in awhile
7. Those who rarely darken the doors, maybe never, even, but know the family is gathering there, much like Christmas dinners this weekend.

We’re all in families like described above, this day, and all days.

Fr. Tasto caused me to think back to two other “homilies”, one at a workshop in suburban Houston TX in 1998; the other at the Cathedral in San Antonio TX in 2000. Both came at an important time in my life. My story of them was my 2000 Christmas card, three very brief panels which you can read here: Homilies001

Today begins the next 365 days for all of us. Where were we a year ago? Where will we be a year from now?

Gratitude 2017; and “The One We Feed”

Friday, December 22nd, 2017


Angelica Cantante, Orchestra Hall, All Is Well, Minneapolis, Dec. 16, 2017


If you read no further than this paragraph, do take seven minutes to watch Louie Schwartzberg on Gratitude. I first saw this piece of film in 2012. Its message is powerful and timeless.


At this season, December, 2017, we are a nation at war against each other. A place where a few “winners” win, and everyone (including the winners) stand to end up as losers….

I think of that old proverb, often attributed to a Native American elder: the “Two Wolves” inside all of us. It is a proverb full of wisdom.



There is great good, all around, still. You don’t need to look far. There is reason for Gratitude.

There’s this gift from “anonymous” I saw on the blackboard at my local coffee shop, last Saturday morning. The sketch is a day brightener, possibly the work of some high school kid, gifted in art. I’m not the only one who has noticed it. I predict it won’t be erased any time soon.

Blackboard at the Coffee Shop Dec. 16, 2017

Thursday I saw an acquaintance writing a note above the sketch. I know he’s facing a very serious surgery very soon. He wrote: “This drawing is awesome: who?” A simple, anonymous act lifted someone’s spirit.


My list of positives for 2017 is long, thus “gratitude” in the subject line. From my list I choose some examples possibly gifts to yourself for the New Year:

There’s the book, FIRE IN THE VILLAGE, by my friend, Anne Dunn. Anne is Native American, and she wrote this book of 75 short stories “to celebrate my seventy-fifth journey around the sun.” One of the stories, “Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, can be found here, an earlier post at this space. (Information on how to order the book is at the link.)

AND SO IT WAS by Annelee Woodstrom is another gift. Annelee is another long-time friend, who wrote this book, her third, during her 91st year 2016-17. Annelee grew up in Hitler’s Germany (born 1926), and has lived since 1947 in northwest Minnesota. Here is my description of the book and of Annelee. She experienced the worst, and made the best of it long term, and has many life lessons to share.

GADSDEN’S WHARF: Some years ago I was privileged to meet Rosa Bogar, a tireless advocate for community. This Fall came her most recent message, about an event at Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston SC – a place where most of her ancestors arrived as slaves in the long ago. Rosa grew up in Orangeburg SC, with its own very troubled history in the civil rights era. She has long lived in the Twin Cities. Her most recent project is here: Gadsden’s Wharf001. Here is more about this reminder of the past, which is Rosa,s effort towards a better country and world for us all.

All three women are powerful witnesses for all of us.

Not to leave out the men:

PHANTOMS OF THE FRENCH FUR TRADE is a three volume scholarly work by Timothy Kent of Ossineke MI. Timothy’s personal biography is most fascinating. I got to know Timothy through his extraordinarily effective explanation of the Voyageur life. He lived the life, so as to write authentically about it.

You won’t reach Timothy by e-mail! Yes, he’s very civilized.

My friend, Jerry Foley, who has two degrees in history, and is French-Canadian by ancestry, has read the books and says about them: “Timothy Kent’s books are very detailed and easily readable stories of French Canadian families and of the fur trade, written by a person who loves this history. The books are insightful and well worth reading.”

A SONG IN THE DARK. Yesterday, at Orchestra Hall for a marvelous “A Minnesota Orchestra Christmas: Home for the Holidays”, I was scanning the program booklet and came across a marvelous Essay by noted pianist and accordionist (and fellow French-Canadian) Dan Chouinard. His comments about Holidays, and music, strike a chord. You can read them here: Dan Chouinard001

FINALLY, THE YOUNGSTERS – those of my school age grandchildren’s generation.

Last Saturday, at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis (photo leads this post) we heard over 200 2nd through 12th graders in concert as part of Angelica Cantante. In the group were three of our grandkids. Their sister, not as musically inclined, sat with us).

“All Is Well”, the second to last number sung by the massed choirs, particularly spoke to me. Here is a version of this song sung in 2012 by another youth choir.

Of course, “all” is not necessarily “well”…probably even amongst some of the choristers, or those of us in Orchestra Hall, or anywhere, for that matter.

But in that assembled group of youngsters I saw the essence of what our community, in the largest sense, must do to survive as a society: we must be a team, working together. At this point in our history, our country is not a team.

Merry Christmas.

In the spirit of the season: grandkid creche from some years back.


As often happens in my tiny corner of the universe, as I began composing this post, into my e-mail inbox, at 5:07 p.m. Dec. 13, 2017, came a remarkable article from the New York Times, “The Heroes of Burial Road”. The full headline is this: “The Heroes of Burial Road: Many Haitians can’t afford funerals, and bodies end up in anonymous piles. These men offer them some dignity.”

The narrator in Gratitude talks about our great gift of clean water, which we take for granted; the heroes in the NYTimes article give simple dignity to people who cannot afford even a simple funeral.

We take so much for granted in the United States. We feel so entitled. But look a little deeper. Every U.S. community has similar stories of people who have died without family, without resources.


There is much for every one of us to consider, at this Christmas, 2017.

Last Sunday, Janice Andersen in our church newsletter gave some perspectives, worth reading: Advent, Janice Andersen001 Janice, and many like her, have been inspirations to me for many years. The bridge that precedes and ends this segment was at a Just Faith Retreat we attended with her in May, 2005. Janice is a powerful witness to the best in each of us. Consider people like Janice as the bridge to other communities with needs.

There are so many stories, in each and every one of our lives.

Let’s get to work.


Christmas Card 1977

The phrase within the card:

“Then said a rich man.
Speak to us of Giving.
And he answered,
You give but little
when you give of
your possessions. It
is when you give of yourself that you
truly give.”

Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet

Dedicated to Dad, born 110 years ago today, Dec. 22, 1907. Died Nov. 7, 1997

from a great friend in Europe: To be sure, Mr. Bernard, very discouraging indeed but thanks for “keeping on keeping on”!

Aneurin, known as Nye, Bevan (UK politician, member of parliament & holder of various cabinet positions) said” “The whole art of Conservative politics in the 20th century, is being deployed to enable weath to persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power.”

That art has been further advanced by the U.S. in the 21st century. Many have pondered why so many are so easily persuaded to vote against their own interest.

Today, Angelica Cantanti. And a memory of Jerry Brownfield

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis

This afternoon, 4 p.m., at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, open to the public, is a concert by the children’s choirs of Angelica Cantanti. Details at link. Free Will offering will be asked.

This is an outstanding group with a long history. Two nights ago, WCCO-TV featured the choirs on local nightly news. You can watch the segment here. Son-in-law Bill is the person interviewed on this segment.

Disclosure: three grandkids, Ted, Kelly and Lucy, will be on stage today. We’re really proud of them.

Come on down.

Jerry Brownfield

Just past midnight came sad news from a friend in Bellingham WA. Beth announced the death of her husband of 53 years, Jerry. It seems fitting to share what she had to say, in twin with the young people’s concert I proudly publicize above.

I think I met Jerry only one time, at their home in south Minneapolis, before they moved to Washington state. At the very least, he, like Angelica Cantanti, can help give meaning to this season.

(click to enlarge)

Jerry Brownfield, Ptarmigan Ridge, WA 2007

Here’s Beth’s e-mail to her list about her husband:

Dear Friends,

Jerry, my sweetheart of 55 years, and married 53 years, “walked into the forest” (as my native friends would say) on Thursday, Dec 7, after a sudden and brief illness.

FOR what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek spirit unencumbered?
ONLY when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

Kahlil Gibran

This is from Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, on death, and is fitting to Jerry’s situation. Pneumonia took his life and his breath. A stroke seven years ago took his singing voice and his balance. His death released him into a transition to a new relationship with his family and many friends. We picture him stepping into the forest, with a twinkle in his eyes, and bold steps into the world of nature that he loved most of all.

The picture of Jerry in front of Ptarmigan Ridge (Mt Baker) was taken 10 years ago. His full obituary is also on the Moles Farewell Tributes: here (Jerry Brownfield) where comments may be made.

NOTE: If you sent previous messages to us by email or post could you post those on the Moles Farewell Tribute site? We cannot do that on your behalf. We have received over 20 pages of collected emails. They were priceless and we would love having them collected here and shared with friends who experienced different facets of Jerry. Jerry would not have believed the influence and impact he had on so many people.

Jerry’s memorial service will be held at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Bellingham, WA Saturday, January 27, starting at 3:30 pm, followed by a reception from five to six where we can share stories and memories.

Donations in his memory to Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center (13 Prospect St.#201, Bellingham, WA 98225), or Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival here.

Regarding myself, I am surrounded by love and support from our family, neighbors, Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, book groups, hiking groups, YMCA, Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival Committee, Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, my Lummi friends, etc.

I am grieving, remembering, and forever grateful to have had Jerry in my life for all these years. Right now I am “Chopping Wood & Carrying Water” picking up things that Jerry used to do, carrying on with the things that Jerry supported me on for our entire life together.

Jerry would want you to know that he appreciates each of you for supporting him, or supporting me. Both he and I, from different planes, are grateful you have been part of our lives. Jerry’s hiking friends will scatter 1/2 of his ashes at Ptarmigan Ridge this summer. Jenny, Amie and I will decide the placement of the remainder.

“How Will Future Reckon With Cousin Kenneth”

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Prenote: In a sense, consider the below a trilogy of Thanksgiving thoughts, with the primary part, the second, on civility, the most important. In addition, from a long-time colleague and friend, here is a collection of 10 short poems pertinent to Thanksgiving 2017: 2017 Thanksgiving.


“Cousin Kenneth” is a thought provoking column I saw in the Minneapolis Star Tribune at Thanksgiving, 1993. All I know are the words in the column. “Cousin Kenneth”, if still alive, is now 24 years older. I wonder how life went for him…. (Click to enlarge the jpeg, double click to enlarge some more:)

Here is a pdf if you wish to print out: Cousin Kenneth 1993002


No, I can’t ‘blame’ the League of Women Voters (LWV) for this long ago memory of Kenneth. I’m a member of LWV, and on Nov. 19, the local chapter leader sent us the following from the League of Women Voters, U.S., which is very pertinent, especially this Thanksgiving.

“Setting the Table for Civility” over the Holidays

As part of the League’s partnership with the National Institute for Civil Discourse, LWV members are invited to participate in “Setting the Table for Civility”. It is an opportunity for individuals, as we gather with friends and family for the upcoming Thanksgiving and year-end holiday season, to take action to promote civility. These include exploring three basic questions:

• What are you most thankful for about living in America?

• How do you feel about the deep divisions and incivility we see now in our country?

• What can we do to revive civility and respect and find more effective ways to listen to each other and work together?

Tools and materials are available to support conversations at family gatherings, within faith communities, on campuses and on social media. This could be a great way to engage new members and to invite non-members to join the League in an activity that brings people together and helps us build more civil dialogue in communities.

Happy Thanksgiving! And may your dinner discourse be civil.


(click to enlarge)

I saw the above announcement at Basilica of St. Mary Nov. 19. That afternoon was the dedication of the bench pictured above, on Hennepin Avenue, under a large tree. A Basilica staff person said that, already, an emergency vehicle had stopped to see if the form on the bench needed assistance – they had not heard about the new sculpture. Some weeks earlier, the sculpture was displayed in the undercroft (Basilica-speak for “church basement”). Postit notes were available for people to comment on the meaning of the sculpture. One said “I don’t like this at all”. Why is known only to the writer.

What was this “World Day of the Poor”? Turns out that this year is the first, and it is a Papal Message by Pope Francis, Nov. 19, 2017. Here is his statement.

It is my understanding that Pope Francis “walked the talk” as a Priest and Bishop in his native Argentina.

Dad. A Family Memory

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Prenote: My Dad died 20 years ago today. I had been planning to write a little piece about him for some weeks, and in fact had been at the place where he died, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL, on October 22-23.

I digress for a moment: We were tiny town folks, and church was central to our lives, so my thoughts are occupied now with the folks of Sutherland Springs TX, where 26 people were killed inside the community church at Sunday service. Who will stop this insanity?

I think back to that chapel at Our Lady of the Snows, where I attended Mass Oct 23, as Dad would have. To my family: “I went to 7:30 Mass on Monday morning. There were about 30 of us.” There have been lots of wake up calls to deal with the crisis of guns in America. Sutherland Springs should be at the very top of our list: it can happen anywhere, to anyone….

(click to enlarge photos)

Chapel at Our Lady of the Snows Oct 23, 2017



My Dad was like most of us. He had a good run, of almost 90 years. He contributed more than he took. He earned compliments and (I’m sure) criticism. Those who knew Dad can fill in their own blanks.

He lived ten years at Our Lady of the Snows, on the bluff just east of St. Louis in Belleville IL, from age 79 till his death. To prepare for his upcoming 80th birthday (Dec 22, 1987), he walked 80 consecutive daily 15 minute miles. My sister, Flo, and I were there for the “birthday walk”. It took him 13 minutes…

Henry Bernard about to begin his 80th 15 minute mile December 22, 1987

Nine days after he died I was in Chicago at a conference at O’Hare, and in the Sunday Chicago Tribune I found this column, by Mary Schmich: Schmich My father died001. To this day, whenever I hear that the father of someone I know dies, I send this column on.

It spoke to me.

His kids left a permanent marker in memory of Dad at Our Lady of the Snows Apartment Community on Memorial Day, 1998. Here’s the marker for the flagpole, photo from Oct 23, 2017. (Neither Mom nor Dad have gravestones. They both donated their bodies to schools of medicine for medical research.)

Marker at the flagpole at Our Lady of the Snows Apartment Community, Belleville IL Oct 22, 2017


There are lots of things to remember about my Dad.

Today is election day in many places, including our town. Most certainly, Dad would vote. If he had a partisan preference, he never said it to me. He was interested in political topics. I recall a long term project of his was to read the biographies of all the Presidents of the U.S. I graduated from high school in the 6th year of Dwight Eisehower’s time, so Harry Truman would have been the most recent biography. In 1983 he and I visited the Eisenhower Library in Abilene KS, and on the same trip Lyndon Johnsons Johnson City TX.

His livelihood and job as a school teacher and small town school superintendent depended on “taxpayers”. He would muse about “NRFA” (pronounced nerfa, No Reelection For Anyone), but I highly doubt he ever practiced that philosophy – it was just his expression of disgust at politicians at all levels whose primary interest was to get reelected.


In 1981, his wife, my Mom, died too soon, at 72. He was 73. They lived year round in San Benito TX, 245 miles south of Sutherland Springs. I think he went through a personal crisis in this time…how to go on. A life-saver for him was to go back to teaching, volunteering to teach English as a Second Language across the street at the Berta Cabaza Junior High School.

I recall that when he traveled he often would send postcards to his students back home, reasoning that this may be the only mail they ever received.


He was born in 1907, as modern life was just beginning to bud. A couple of months ago I participated in a program in which I attempted to condense his first 18 years into seven minutes from his writings. Here is what I came up with: DAD STORIES told early 1980s– 2. My spoken rendition of these memories can be viewed here, beginning at about 8 minutes.

About 1920, Grafton ND. Henry Bernard is tall kid in white shirt. Other family members are his parents, Henry and Josephine, and siblings Frank and Josie, and two families visiting from Winnipeg Manitoba. The 1901 Oldsmobile still exists in an auto museum in Pennsylvania.

Those who know me, know I like to write. It seems to have followed some genetic trait inherited by my Dad from someone long ago.

After Mom, his wife Esther, died in 1981, Henry embarked on what became a regular routine.

He developed a two week cycle for letters to we kids. Monday was to his oldest (me); Tuesday for the second child, Mary Ann; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday for Florence, Frank and John. The other days he wrote to other family or friends, here there and everywhere. He was constantly intellectually active.

His tiny apartment (96A, which is now used for storage), was set up for his daily activities. Here’s his desk on Dec. 22, 1987.

Henry’s “home office”, 1987

For whatever reason I kept my set of letters and a few years ago donated them as part of the family archive to the University of North Dakota Chester Fritz library (his haunt in years of living in Grand Forks.)

I had, frankly, forgot about the donation of the letters till a surprise e-mail came on July 26, 2017: “Dick: Greetings. I wanted to let you know that the family history materials you donated in 2009 and 2010 have been processed. The materials are now formally part of the Initiatives in French Midwest Heritage Collection. Your materials are Series 29 and the finding aid for the collection can be viewed here:

I want to let you know that I very much enjoyed processing this material. Your father seemed like a really great guy and I am honored to help document not only his history, but that of your entire family. Please look at the finding aid and let me know if you have any corrections. Thank you.”

The writer was Curt Hanson, Head for Special Collections at the University of North Dakota. Dad was an interesting guy. Here’s a column about him in the Grand Forks (ND) Herald May 31, 1987: Henry Bernard by C Haga001

There ensued further conversation ‘back and forth’, including a later comment from Curt: “A funny story regarding the processing of your Dad’s papers. I have, truly, never come across someone as Catholic as your father. The fact that I am Lutheran may account for this! Your father would frequently date his letters by noting something similar to “17th day of Lent 1987.” This caused me to have to look up and determine when the 17th day of Lent was in 1987. I had to do this frequently!

While I was processing your father’s material, I had to spread out on a table here in Special Collections. One day last month, the Department was visited by an Orthodox Jew who was researching the history of the synagogue in town. He was dressed all in black, with both a payot and a yarmulke. He sat at the table right next to where I was processing. I found it ironic that an incredibly Jewish man was working next to the papers of a very Catholic man. Maybe it is just me, but I found that to be interesting.”


The last family reunion, including many of us, September, 1996, at Our Lady of the Snows.

I close with a few more photos, mostly from Dec. 22, 1987. Happy Birthday to my daughter, Heather, who is 42 today; and an early b-day to Henry’s daughter Mary Ann, whose birthday is Nov. 10, and his son Frank on Nov. 17.

Perhaps you can take some time for remembering your own Dad (or Mom, or whomever) stories….

Henry, Dec. 22, 1987

Henry at 80. He was a ceaseless walker, until almost the end of his life.

St. Louis from Our Lady of the Snows, Dec. 1987. Now the trees have grown and the skyline is visible only in the fall after the leaves have shed.

St. Louis, Oct 23, 2017, from Cahokia Mound IL, a few miles northwest of Our Lady of the Snows.

“OldStuff”, Bingo, and the Travel Game.

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Monday, I took our 88 year old friend and neighbor, Don, to see the Fall leaves along the Mississippi River on the Wisconsin side of the river (across from Hastings and Red Wing, Prescott to Bay City WI). It was a fun afternoon, and we ended up at an antique shop in Bay City WI. It was a beautiful day.

(click to enlarge photos)

Bay City WI Oct 16, 2017

This was a nice shop, the proprietors a retired married couple. The man had a specialty: making bat houses. Yes, bat houses.

I’d never seen a bat house; if there is a “Parade of Bat Homes”, his would have been on the tour, a unique design, a work of art. Each house, he said, was a unique design, and there was a demand for his work.

When we were there, he also was completing a hand-carved wooden horse, which was a marvelous work of art.

I’m an antique, not an antiquer, but this was a most pleasant visit.


Saturday, my spouse convinced me to go to the semi-annual Bingo in the “Undercroft” at the Basilica of St. Mary. (Undercroft is a gussied up name for Church Basement.) There seemed to be about 100 of us. A good time was had by all.

How Bingo became a Catholic “tradition”, at least in the places I grew up, is a mystery to me. Wikipedia does have a history of Bingo, which dates Bingo back to 1929 in the U.S.

In the tiny towns of my growing up, Bingo was a social affair, using corn kernels for covering the numbers; with small prizes, like a can of soup, or sometimes a pie. It seemed a Catholic thing. No $100,000 prizes then!

I got to thinking about one of the curiosity things still saved from the junk on the ND farm: a set of Bingo cards from about 1936:

Bingo cards, etc., from a bingo game kit.

Here are the instructions for the game: Bingo 1936001

What intrigued me on Saturday was the large number of young adults in attendance, all enjoying themselves. Sitting next to me was a Dad and his teenage son, autistic and deaf from birth. Dad was signing the numbers for his son, and they were having a very good time.

BONUS: when I dug out the Bingo cards, I found in the same bag 83 playing cards which were an obvious part of a board game. Here are the variety of cards: Travel Game001 The set was incomplete. There was no board and no rules, just the somewhat bedraggled cards.

You can find most anything on the Internet. Here is a history of the game. Because the set includes a 30 miles card, it appears it would date from the 1937.

Trees, “junk”, and nostalgia…not all bad!

Have a great day.

Minneapolis Oct 15, 2017

#1301: The Medicine Wheel and The North Country Trail

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Monday I was in Valley City ND for an Alumni event at my alma mater, which I knew, back in 1958-61 as Valley City State Teachers College. The infrequent visits back are always nostalgic, this one more so than most.

My motel was a short walk from Medicine Wheel park, which I’ve known about since its first rough rendition back in 1992. It is a fascinating place, within sight of I-94, atop the “hill” which helps give Valley City its name. Here’s the park brochure: Medicine Wheel Brochure002The most recent Alumni Bulletin of the college tells the story of the Medicine Wheel, which you can read here: Medicine Wheel 001.

The current park is very impressive, a part of the American Scenic Byways. It is an interesting stop for travelers who know of it. At the park in early morning, just about sunrise, I met a person from Norway who was leading a bus tour through the area.

It happened, this trip, that I met the legendary Professor, Joe Stickler, who in sundry ways made the park possible. He was at the evening event, a soft-spoken but very friendly native of the Dayton OH area, who, I gather, made science come alive for generations of students. Prof. Stickler in turn gives the credit to generations of students who have brought the Medicine Wheel to its current state. Here’s what Joe says he’s been reading.

I asked if I could take his photo:

(click to enlarge)

Joe Stickler, Valley City ND October 2, 2017

This same day, I rendezvous’ed with my sister and brother-in-law at the Motel, and told them about the Medicine Wheel just down the street.

The Medicine Wheel was not new to them. They said that a number of years earlier, as new members of a group called the North Country Trail Association, they had attended a regional conference in Valley City. Medicine Wheel is part of the North Dakota Sheyenne River branch of the trail.

Carter at the North Country Trail marker at Medicine Wheel Park, Valley City ND October 2, 2017.

Flo and Carter are very active as stewards and volunteers of the Itasca Moraine (MN) portion of the trail, and I asked Carter how they happened to become involved. Carter remembered a day shortly after he’d retired: he decided to go for a solitary walk on an area trail. On the hike he met a solitary hiker coming in the opposite direction. The other man was a new volunteer for the North Country Trail. They chatted and the rest is history.

There is plenty of bad news in recent days.

My belief is that the positive stories above are replicated in thousands of ways, everywhere, every day, in our country and in the world itself.

What are your stories, where you live?

1. I had planned, this day, to begin the retrospective on the recently completed Ken Burns/Lynn Novick series on Vietnam. The most recent post is here. I’ll add one or more posts perhaps beginning later this week. Check back.
2. While in Valley City I learned of the heinous massacre in Las Vegas.
Just weeks ago, I heard, in person, Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly give a very powerful talk on guns and our society at the Augsburg University Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Hopefully it will end up accessible on the internet. For now, check their website: Americans for Responsible Solutions.

I ask myself, about being cause in the matter of solutions: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”. Every one of us has more influence than we think. We just need to get in action.

“Respect the Board, Please”

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

June 11, 2017, about 11 a.m. at southwest corner of the space formerly occupied by the Scaffold.

Today, as I have for 16 years, I’ll go to my local Caribou Coffee, spend my usual 1 1/2 hours, sip a single cup of coffee, and come home to begin the rest of my day.

This coffee place is a busy, very civilized place. I imagine that it reflects this suburban community of over 60,000 quite well. The people I see every day, from my own neighborhood, to the post office, to other places, reflect civility and respect for each other. In point of fact, I travel around more than most in this metropolitan area of more than 3,000,000 people, and the usual experience is the same: civility and respect.

We are basically good people in this country of ours.


In the coffee shop there is a blackboard where people can and do write things. Occasionally I’d see someone draw something there, or post a few words. Personally, I’ve not lifted a piece of chalk….

A couple of Saturdays back, I came in to see a simple declaration on the Board, then the next day, a response below it:

(click to enlarge)

Public messages at coffee, June 24, 2017

The unknown authors were not known to me, nor perhaps to others. In fact, the sign seemed not to be noticed.

A bad cold side-tracked me from my favorite haunt for several days, and when I came back the sign had been erased, replaced with the simple phrase that titles this post, accompanied by a chalked smily face. Perhaps something had happened in my absence. There were no other comments on the now blank board, a frozen conversation as it were.

Yesterday, I watched an artistic employee draw a commercial for the featured coffee at the space. It isn’t the same.


We are, basically, a civil society with, most recently, a very mean and very visible edge to it, particularly in the very public and belligerent political discourse. The few “shouted” words on the blackboard dramatize the downside of our current situation in this country of ours.

Each one of us has a responsibility to change that conversation in the many simple ways available to do us. This is not a big deal. I notice a lot of genuine politeness among strangers recently, that I had not been seeing. That is a very good thing.

In and of itself, the three word complaint on the Board at Caribou was no big deal.

But it was not viewed as innocuous, and someone (not I) complained about it.

In a very small way it brought to the surface the rather ugly tenor of that public conversation we confront daily in the newspaper, the internet and the media itself: a single dimensional view.

We are better than what caused “Respect the Board, Please” to be written.

Have a good 4th of July.

POSTNOTE: The flag and flower appear in an earlier post which many have read: Here, scroll down to comment 24. The flag and flower are gone now…most recently I was back to the site this past Sunday. It is another place I will be watching.

Dick Bernard: A Matter of the Family of Humankind

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Today is the day before the 4th of July. Three random thoughts on the matter of “family”.

(click to enlarge)

Ste Famille QC, June 2017

1. A few weeks ago, my brother John took a short trip into the Quebec of our French-Canadian ancestors (Dad was 100% French-Canadian). Within Ste. Famille, part of the beautiful Ile d’Orleans, John noted the evocative roadside sculpture shown above. (In the background is the north channel of the St. Lawrence River; just a ways to the right out of eyeshot is the famous Ste. Anne de Beaupre.)

This sculpture and John’s photo interpretation make one of those pictures “worth a thousand words”. I have my thoughts, you have yours.

2. During this same time period the results came for my DNA analysis through, in my case, 23andMe. I’ve done family history for many years, and just hadn’t gotten around to the ancestry piece.

I finally did it. I’m glad I did.

The results were a little surprising, but only a little.

My analysis has me as 99.9% European, primarily (37%) French and German but 22% British and Irish and 26% “broadly Northwestern European”*.

A look at the map (below), and a most cursory knowledge of immigration patterns over thousands of years fills in most blanks, I suppose, for most of us.

(click twice to enlarge more)

In my case, one of my primary root families, the first Collette (as we spell it) ancestor in our French-Canadian bunch came from Brittany more or less between Brest and St. Malo, which area is directly south of westernmost England, and the rest of the French roots were mostly along the western side of what is now France. The British Irish is hardly a surprise.

(A friend whose German ancestors came from the Ukraine, and was by definition a “German from Russia”, took the same DNA test, and told me that her analysis was that she was “mostly French”. It surprised her; it didn’t surprise me. She didn’t look German, and her family name didn’t sound German, but by geographic location (Alsace-Lorraine) her French ancestors had likely been part of the Germanic portion of Europe.)

I am very happy I invested in 23andMe. At the minimum, it is a gift to later generations who might wonder who they are. I recommend the process.

Questions? Feel free to ask. I’ll share what I know: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

3. In the meantime, I continue in the process of really looking carefully at “stuff” from the German ancestors in ND. There continue to be interesting surprises, including this postcard which surfaced recently. (Shown are both sides of the card.)

(click twice to further enlarge the writing)

This “postal” has its own rich story, which must rely on individual interpretation of snippets of facts within. I only know a few of the facts, but here are some pieces I can share:

A. The card was to my grandmother Rosa Busch who, at the time the card was delivered was about 27 years old, had lived on the farm for six years, and had two children, ages 4 and 2. Berlin, her town, had come into being in 1904. She and her spouse came from extreme southwest Wisconsin, near Dubuque IA. It was a time when land was available and a boom of sorts was on, relying on railroad transportation.

B. Eagle Butte, according to Wikipedia, was incorporated in 1911, the same year of the postmark on the card.

C. It is unlikely that the correspondent had ever lived in or near Berlin ND. The towns were far apart in a day before easy access between places.

My guess, and that’s all it is: the two women probably knew each other when they were growing up in southwest Wisconsin. Eagle Butte is a place name I’d never heard of until I saw this card.

What’s your theory?

That’s three very short stories for July 3, 2017.

* – POSTNOTE: The analysis noted that I had more Neanderthal components than 89% of the sample. This, of course, gave an opening to my four younger siblings – payback time for things remembered from our youth! But, Neanderthals were survivors, and it can’t be all bad. Maybe when they were handing out the chromosomes I got most of the good stuff! Anyway, so goes the argument.

We are all part of the human family, and all residents of the same planet which has no boundaries. It would be nice if we remembered that, always.

Have a great 4th.