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#1094 – Dick Bernard: A Homily to begin a New Year

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

See also Jan 11 and Jan 20, 2016
My Christmas message here, Dec. 17, 2015.

Aloha.

We just returned from nineteen days in Hawaii, most of which time was a wonderful visit with my cousin, Georgine, and her circle, as well as the use of her home on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Mahalo!

Only one previous time, in 1985, did I visit Hawaii. Certainly I’m no expert on our 50th state. Still, there are many learnings, simply from observing. In later posts, I’ll share more observations about the Hawaii I saw the past 19 days. This initial post focuses on events part of three of those days.

We are home bodies. Christmas and New Years this year was far away from home. One becomes aware of customs and traditions, similarities and differences, inclusion and, yes, exclusion.

December 23 was not a particularly good day, and in mid-afternoon in a McDonalds restaurant in a Kailua-Kona Walmart, I had the good fortune of passing about an hour of time listening to a concert of community elders sitting across from me (picture below, click to enlarge). They were simply folks, singing in English, and in Hawaiian, tunes familiar, and unfamiliar. At most, there were about nine in number. It was a very pleasant time, and they seemed pleased there was an audience.

Singers in McD's in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, Dec. 23, 2015

Singers in McD’s in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, Dec. 23, 2015

Earlier, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Dec. 20 edition featured an essay by Minnesota home-boy Garrison Keillor on Christmas. Neat: GK Honolulu Star-Adv001.

But the high-lite for me was the Christmas Day homily of Fr. Stephen at Annunciation Church in Waimea (called Kamuela by the post office, as there are six Waimea’s in the islands.)

One doesn’t have to be Catholic or even Christian to know the basics of the Christmas story: Jesus was conceived and born, and on goes the story.

I happened to be sitting in a pew directly in front of a doll, the infant Jesus, which, ironically, was directly in my sight-line to the crucifix on the wall behind the altar.

Fr. Stephen had a very simple Christmas message which I interpreted like this: Jesus was born, and then he died, and then he was resurrected…the basic elements of the story we all know.

But in a most gentle way this teacher seemed to nudge my thinking in a new way. Surely, Jesus went away, leaving his disciples behind, those folks who had become dependent on him doing miracles and such. There they were, stuck with continuing the hard work Jesus had begun.

In a sense, perhaps, we were being reminded by our homilist that we need to learn that we are the ones who “must be”, as Gandhi so famously said, “the change we wish to see in the world”. We cannot delegate our responsibility to someone else. At least that is how I heard the message.

I started to see the Christmas message a bit differently than I had always seen it. If those apostles of Jesus were a bit slow on the uptake, so long as he was on the scene, so are we, and its best that we nudge ourselves off of our sense of hopelessness or dependence on whatever it is that holds us back, and get to work, actively, in our own spaces and places to make our community, our world, a better place for everyone. It’s not enough to blame the President, or the Republicans, or whomever. We are, each of us, responsible….

With our involvement the world can indeed become a better place.

At the end of Mass December 25, the excellent community choir sang the Hawaiian Christmas song – you’ve all heard it: here’s Bing Crosby’s rendition.

Mahalo, everyone at Annunciation in Waimea, Big Island, Hawaii.

Fr. Macedo, Dec 25, 2015

Fr. Macedo, Dec 25, 2015

Annunciation Choir 12 25 2015

Annunciation Choir 12 25 2015

A PS: A couple of days later I was back in the same Church, again listening to the same choir, and the same pastor. It was Holy Family Sunday. The message this time was about the tough time this Biblical family had for some years after Jesus was born. As Christians know, Herod was not especially happy at this new child. The family was not welcome. They became “Illegal Immigrants” for a considerable time

After church, myself, this stranger, this short term “migrant” in Waimea, was welcomed to participate in the after Mass hospitality.

Migrants are not a pleasant topic these days.

Back home, going through mountains of mail was a Refugee Facts001. Might be a good fact sheet to look at as this New Year begins.

Aloha.

#1093 – Dick Bernard: “Let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with me”

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

This space goes dark for the next 2 1/2 weeks as we take a long awaited vacation trip. An early wish for a great Christmas season, and Happy 2016.

My most uplifting find recently has been “Let there be Peace on Earth”, sung Sep 5, 2015, for Pope Francis and many other religious leaders at the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City. You can listen to it here (link in the first paragraph).

World Link Exchange Students with Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Elder Martti Ahtisaari Mar 5, 2010

World Link Exchange Students with Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Elder Martti Ahtisaari Mar 5, 2010

Thirty eight years ago, I took my then 13 year old son to a brand new movie, “Star Wars”. More on that at the end of this post.

Today, the latest sequel of Star Wars opens in theatres, closely following the latest U.S. Republican Presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas; and less than a week after the Climate Change agreements in Paris, and on and on and on.

As this year ends, I raise a question for thought and discussion: who are we “Americans”, and how are we, and should we be, in the World of which we are part?

Over a year ago, April, 2014, I met Ehtasham Anwar, Pakistan native and civil administrator in one of Pakistan’s largest cities, who was ending a year as a Fulbright/Humphrey Scholar at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School. He made his statement to me, then, and more recently included it as part of a public post on Facebook (here).

The relevant quote: “Through the eyes of media, rightly or wrongly, I had always seen the United States as an aggressive country, a war monger nation, and the biggest obstacle to my dream of a dream world—a world free of hunger, disease and war.

I also believed the US citizens were too mired in their own worldly pursuits that they did not have time to attend to what the US government was doing elsewhere in the world in their name and with their tax money. They either endorsed or, at best, remained indifferent to the US aggression and highhandedness abroad. Their heart, if at all it was, did not beat for the humanity at large. They were thus equally to be blamed for the death and misery that their government brought to people in many parts of the world every now and then.

And then I got an opportunity to travel to the United States and live among, and interact with, the citizenry. Myths were shattered. Concepts were changed. I met some of the best persons in my life in the United States. They were as humane, if not more, as anyone else on the globe. Overwhelming majority disapproved war. They too felt disturbed over the US hegemonic designs. They too worked for the cause of peace. They too wanted a world full of happiness and joy, not only for them but for others too.

Where then was the disconnect? My confusion compounded. With so many good people, why was there no impact seen on the US policies? Was the church and the clergy playing its due role? Those who were working for peace failed to inspire their own families, how could they expect to impact the US policies? What were the obstacles? Way forward? Messages?

My quest led me to a journey—a journey through the hearts and minds of the common Americans. During my nearly a year-long stay in Minnesota, I talked to people from all cross sections of the society: those who had given their lives to the cause of peace; those who had taken part in, and personally seen the horrors of, the World War II and the Vietnam War; those who had participated in the civil rights movement; those who were well off; those who belonged to less privileged segments of the society; those who were the academicians, and had been keeping an eye on, peace and related issues all around the world; those who claimed to have belonged to the inner circles of the US security establishment; those who spoke from the pulpit; those who used arts as a weapon for peace; the men; the women; the young; the old; the rich; the poor; the white; the people of color.”

World at Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College March 5, 2009

World at Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College March 5, 2009

(Completely unintentionally, the previous three posts, Dec. 10 (Muslims), 12 (the old barn) and 14 (Paris Climate Talks), catch my feelings as this year nears an end: I see a base of hope on which we can build. But “hope” is not an easy word. It requires great effort to achieve the aspiration of hope.)

I observe that there are, essentially, two “worlds” in which the vast majority of we Americans live, every day. Ehtasham was correct in his observation.

The first world is our daily lives: who we see and interact with in all sorts of ways, from passive to active. This is our real world, for the most part an environment of peace, understanding, caring. Publicly, it is largely invisible, and not a place of constant violence or talk of war. It is the America Ehtasham saw when he spent a full year here, in 2013-14. I see this world each day; as do most Americans.

We are basically good people.

There is a much smaller, louder, extremely aggressive, artificial and negative world; a very aggressive place that inhabits the daily TV “news” of death and destruction, “reality” shows, advertising, and the often near-insane rhetoric of contemporary American politics. Daily we watch and read about the artificial “America”. Sadly, the recent “debates” speak to the most bitter portion of that relatively small alternate universe where fear, suspicion and respect only for war and dominance moves the agenda.

As citizens we cannot pretend that all we can do is to be a decent person in our own small circle. That is not enough.

We each must choose which of these worlds to be part of; and, importantly, whether or not we will work to change the public conversation. We cannot be detached.

As the old Native American story about ourselves as a wolf goes, we choose what to feed.

The best each of us can do is to, as Gandhi suggested, “be the change we wish to see in the world.” .

Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis' Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis’ Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

A Look Back at “Star Wars”, the Spring of 1977

The spring of 1977 was a difficult one for me, personally.

A new movie was opening in the United States, called Star Wars, by a young filmmaker, George Lucas.

It sounded interesting, and I took my son to the film at the Northtown Theatre in Blaine MN. It was a super movie. I liked it; my son loved it. The rest of that summer he went to the film many times; it is one of the very few movies where I can still remember where I saw it.

Somewhere that summer I got a theater poster for the film, and Tom had it on the wall of his room. Later I kept it rolled up in a closet. In 1995, I had it mounted, and gave it to my son. He still has it.

In 1983, the Strategic Defense Initiative, called Star Wars, entered the geopolitical conversation. The words became useful for those whose livelihood depends on enemies.

In more recent years, one of my son-in-laws has made a couple of movies on a Star Wars theme. There are thousands of people who make similar production. David has done two; they were both well done.

Star Wars had and has a grip on us.

And everyone has their own interpretation.

As a Dad, that spring of 1977, I saw the movie as a simple good (Luke Skywalker) vs evil (Darth Vader) film. I might have seen one of the sequels to the original, and at some point I’ll see the version that opens today, and I’ll find it interesting, after the passage of 38 years.

I wonder what we’ve learned in the past 38 years.

Surely, there are vastly more sophisticated weapons of war; now among the fears is taking out space satellites that we all rely on for even basic communications. We do war remotely now, with drones, piloted from places half a world away.

Star Wars was a good movie.

It would be nice if Good prevailed, to be helpful to all….

Who is Evil?

#1091 – Jerome Meyer* and Dick Bernard: At Christmas Season 2015. The Old Red Barn; and The Cottonwood Tree

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

As 2015 ends, all best wishes for peace and kindness embracing everyone, everywhere. As sung so movingly at Pope Francis’ visit to the Twin Towers Memorial in NYC some months ago, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Here are two stories to help bring perspective as 2015 comes towards an end.

Pictured, the old Ferd and Rosa Busch barn between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND, built about 1915; unused since 1997. (Photos by Tom Maloney on May 24, 2015.) The Cottonwood tree (link at the end of this post) remains, about a half mile east of the old barn.

(click on any photo to enlarge it)

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND May, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND May, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND, May 24, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND, May 24, 2015, by Tom Maloney

Psst! Hey you. Yeah, I mean you.

It’s me speaking. The old red barn. I’m guessing very few of you have ever seen me because I’m tucked away on an old abandoned farm acreage near a seldom used township road a few miles from the main hiway and somewhat hidden by a large grove of trees.

So, why am I talking to you?

Well, I just heard from a reliable source that I will be torn down, smashed and buried in a big hole and finally covered up by the Mother Earth I was built on. I’m sure my demise will not show up in the death notice column in the local paper; and there probably won’t be an obituary.

So before I’m no longer around I would like to say a few things to you.

I probably have had three or four farm owners in my life time. And sad to say the current owner no longer has any use for me, I’m so obsolete. I knew my time on Earth was getting short, as so many of my barn friends have disappeared from the local landscape.

For most of my life I could see up to 10 barns over the horizon. Now I can only see one across the barren field and that one has it’s days numbered too. I’ m sure my current owner needs a little more land for a larger farm profit.

I probably was built in the late 1930’s. I’m too old now to remember the exact year. This makes me well into my 90’s.

I’ve seen many good productive farm years and a few bad ones and years when the owners struggled just to exist and make bank payments. Some how we all survived. I’ve felt summer temperatures of more than 100 degrees and winter temperatures of 20 degrees below zero with very strong winds.

I’m still standing. Very few metal nails were used when I was built from local timber because most of my wood frame was held together by wooden pegs.

Boy, was I a beautiful sight when I was built. I thought I was a castle. For awhile I was the best looking barn in the township with a bright coat of red paint, white trim, a shiny roof, four tall lightning rods, and a big weather vane on top of a large dome shaped cupola.

I had new pulleys and a long trolley under the roof to hoist the bales up in the hay loft from the wagons.

In the early days, similar to all my fellow barns, I was the farm building with the most activity. I was used seven days a week 365 days per year. I provided shelter and a home for 12 cows that were milked twice per day. The mornings were started early as the farmer milked at 5 am in the morning, then came back at 5 pm for the evening milking.

There were always a few calves in the pens, sometimes a few pigs, and in the early days, four work horses that were used for field work before modern tractors took over.

There were always about a dozen cats that called me home. They couldn’t wait until the milking started because they always got a good supply of fresh, warm milk. I also had a large storage area in the hayloft where bales were stored for the milk cows to eat and straw for their bedding.

I even got electricity sometime in the early 1940’s. Then, the old kerosene lanterns were only used when electricity went out during storms.

I still can hear the faint sounds of laughter of the children playing games and swinging on the ropes hanging from my wooden beams. Believe it or not, I even had a barn dance when one of the farmer’s daughters got married.

Sometimes people made fun of my name by asking “were you born in the barn?” if you left the door open in the house and the cold air came in. Or if your fly was down on your trousers, people would say “your barn door is down”.

What glorious memories I hold onto. I’m now old, tired and spent. My wood frame is bending, my foundation is crumbling, and I’m about to fall over. The cold North winter winds continue to shake my whole body.

However, I have no regrets, I have served my owners well, and I’m proud of it. I haven’t been used in the last 20 years. My roof now is battered and has a big hole in it, so I sometimes get wet inside when it rains and when the snow blows in.

My once bright red paint now is faded, most of my windows are broken, my wood frame is leaning, the lightning rods are broken off and my weather vane is rusted in one position.

The original farmyard light no longer is on electricity and has been disconnected for many years. The only light I have now is nature’s sun and an occasional bright moon.

I still have a few feathered friends visiting me and a couple of cats that seek shelter. I wonder where they will go when I am gone.

So, I guess this is the last time you will hear from me. The few area farmers I still have around me probably will give me only a quick glance and then go on with their daily work when the big rigs arrive to take me down, bury me and cover me up.

I can’t complain though, because I have had a good, productive life. Hopefully there will be a few people who will remember me. But that soon will pass as new generations farm. My only regret is I will have no marker where I will be buried, and no one will ever visit my grave site. But I guess that’s okay – I was just an old barn.

Summer corn fields will now hover over me, and winter ice and snow will cover me.

Well, I’ve got to go now because I see the sun is setting in the West, and the end of the day for me has come.

By Jerome Meyer of Albert Lea Minn.

Our generation was lucky to have lived and enjoyed these things.
It’s sad the next generations will not have these memories.

The Busch Barn, the morning after the roof blew off, late July, 1949

The Busch Barn, the morning after the roof blew off, late July, 1949

F. W. Busch farmstead, with brand new barn, 1916.

F. W. Busch farmstead, with brand new barn, 1916.

The original barn at right, circa 1907.  This first barn was just to the north of the second barn.     Busch farm harvest time 1907.  Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa's sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch.  It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background.  Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

The original barn at right, circa 1907. This first barn was just to the north of the second barn.
Busch farm harvest time 1907. Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa’s sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch. It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background. Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

ABOUT ANOTHER FARM VETERAN: an essay I wrote about a Cottonwood tree on the same Busch farm, here.

* – The cast of characters for the stories, above:
Someone named Jerome Meyer apparently wrote the story about a barn near Albert Lea MN, which is above. As yet, I have been I unable to verify, or get permission from, the author, or know when the article was written, but his story, from my own childhood experience, rings so very true. It came to me as an e-mail, forwarded by a long-time good friend. My thanks, and if necessary, apology, to the real author of the Old Barn.

All blessings to everyone, everywhere.

COMMENT:
from Madeline, Dec. 12: While I was in Sweden, I learned why barns are traditionally red. Scandinavians brought the concept with them to the US: link here.

from Christina: I so enjoyed the piece about the old barn. It brought tears to my eyes. I forwarded it to my brothers and sisters and my kids. My youngest son bought my folks’ farmstead about two years ago. It’s a different house but still the same old barn. One of my brothers said he thought it would be OK to tear that barn down. I think he just wanted to tell us if we want to tear it down it would be OK. When I forwarded this piece I said I hoped [my son] would let the barn die and fall on its own. My Dad’s name is still written on the milk separator door. The barn has so many memories. Thank you for sending it. I copied the piece so I could keep it.
A Blessed Christmas to you and your family.

from Norm: Like all oldies, even the barn has added a few years: [from the post] “I probably was built in the late 1930’s. I’m too old now to remember the exact year. This makes me well into my 90’s.” We like hearing, “Wow! You don’t look a day over 75.” Wonderful piece Dick and makes me want to do something similar for some of the memories around.

from Larry: Having grown up on a farm, I, too,have have memories of our old barn. I was about 4 when our barn was brought across Bald Hill Creek (which ran through our farm) from somewhere south of us. Playing in the hay mow, milking cows since I was about 7, turning the cream separator before we got electricity in 1947 or ’48. Our old barn “died” when I was a grown man, and my mom had it buried. Now the old house is gone, too, so it is too difficult to visit my old home.

from Jerry: I enjoyed the story of the red barn. I have watched many barns end their life too, including one on the farm where I grew up. As a kid, some of those barns seem enormous and stately.

from Norm: A great observation from the old red barn!

We had two similar barns on our farm, one of which is still standing albeit eight feet lower than it was when originally built on an adjacent farm that my Dad bought many years ago. The thing was toppled by the wind before it could be anchored down on its new foundation and had to be jacked up, that is, primarily the roof, with new sides put in place and some roof damage repaired before it could be used again.

I am sure that it has lots of stories to tell as well and I will have to seek them out the next time I am at the farm that is now owned by one of my brothers and myself.

The other barn was knocked down and buried many years ago just as apparently is the fate of the red barn whose story you shared with us.

Ah yes, lots of good memories, Dick, of growing up on a modest farm (by Iowa or North Dakota standards) albeit with lots of hard work and toil often for very modest returns. On the other hand, we raised our own beef and chickens so we never starved and, of course, never thought that we were poor or whatever.

from Jane: Thanks, Dick. We have an old barn here on our farm, built into our hillside in 1901. Luckily it has had a metal roof for about the last 50 years, so it is doing pretty well. We saved it from pushing out and down the hill about 20 years ago. Our barn was built by Ole and Lena Waage, so we have Ole and Lena’s barn! We’d love to renovate it, if Santa leaves the where-with-all!

#1087 – Dick Bernard: San Bernardino

Friday, December 4th, 2015

The afternoon of San Bernardino, December 2, 2015, I was in Bloomington MN at Presbyterian Home, visiting my long time friend, Lynn, who had been admitted there the previous day.

It had been a very tough month for Lynn and his family. The previous week, beginning with Thanksgiving evening, when he went into intensive care at a hospital, had been even worse.

Such times are most always uncertain, almost chaotic, even when everyone knows that there is a new and unavoidable “normal” facing them.

So, I passed the word along to friends who knew Lynn, and would want to know his status. The first message from family had the word “hospice” as part of its content; early the next day, Lynn made a remarkable rebound. By Monday, plans were made to move him to the Nursing Home.

Friend Ruhel, owner of the popular Gandhi Mahal restaurant in south Minneapolis, called and asked if he could ride along when I went to visit; another of Lynn and Ruhel’s friends, balladeer Larry Long, called with the same request.

So, about noon on Wednesday, the three of us met at Gandhi Mahal and traveled south to the Nursing Home.

Ruhel brought along some soup and bread for his friend. Larry brought his guitar.

Ruhel, native Bangladeshi, sat in the back seat, Larry in the front, and I drove.

There was some kidding about me “Driving Miss Daisy”….

I think we surprised Lynn when we appeared at his room.

He was especially delighted to see Ruhel and Larry.

As we chatted, Ruhel took out the soup and the bread, and helped feed Lynn, whose limbs are not working the best.

It was a very tender time.

(click photos to enlarge)

Ruhel and Lynn, Dec. 2, 2015, Bloomington MN

Ruhel and Lynn, Dec. 2, 2015, Bloomington MN

Shortly, Larry took out his guitar, and sang Lynn’s favorite anthem, “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”*.

Larry Long and Lynn singing Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream Dec. 2, 105

Larry Long and Lynn singing Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream Dec. 2, 105

I noted that Lynn had a very strong voice when he sang along: much, much stronger and in tune than when I had first heard him sing that song eight years earlier at a meeting. It reminded me of my Uncle singing “Amazing Grace” some months before he died. There was no hesitation in his voice that summer day in LaMoure ND, as if Uncle Vince knew something was on the way for him, shortly.

Another resident came walking past, heard the music, and wondered if there was a program. There was a bit of conversation, among which Lynn revealed that he was a Naval Officer in WWII, and our visitor said he’d been on “mop-up” duty in the Army at the ending period after the deadly Battle of the Bulge.

Larry Long and new friend: "the Battle of the Bulge"

Larry Long and new friend: “the Battle of the Bulge”

As it happened, Larry has been working on an album of military based songs, intended to, as I understand him, help bridge the communications gap between those who think war is the only answer, and those who think peace is the only answer. One of his ballads, a long one, is the words of a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge put to music. So, he sang the song for the veteran and the rest of us. It was a very powerful moment, just four men, together.

Our “audience” headed off to his room, and we drove back to the restaurant, and spent some minutes talking about this and that.

Then we all went home.

My first notice about what had happened in San Bernardino came via the evening news….

I thought back to the American response after 9-11-01.

This time, so far, I’ve noticed a much more muted response by the public, which is, I think, the best measure of reality.

If there is to be peace on earth, indeed, it will have to begin with each of us, maybe with that cup of soup and piece of bread and some music to accompany.

What San Bernardino will represent in days to come is up to us.

All Blessings at this season of peace.

* – Larry and I talked about the Ed McCurdy song, Last Night I had the Strangest Dream. He said the strongest rendition he ever heard was that of Johnny Cash. You can listen to that Johnny Cash version here.

Comments:
from Jeff P: Thanks Dick, the note of the vet from the Battle of the Bulge and the songs reminded me of a childhood memory. I may have been 7 or 8 years old , It was early evening or late afternoon in December (in Upper Michigan in December its dark by 3:30 i think) I was at a neighbor kids home, and the radio was on, we were playing something on the floor in their living room. As it was the Christmas season they were playing Christmas songs, the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” started to play and the radio in the kitchen was switched off or turned to another channel. I think I looked at the other kids, and one of the older daughters said that her father had been in the Battle of the Bulge and could never listen to that song after his experience. He forbade the song in their house and the mother hearing it quickly shut it down.

from Flo: Really appreciated your blog, including having Larry Long as part of your group with Lynn. I’m so glad you could all be together, each sharing what you brought to your relationship together.

#1085 – Dick Bernard: Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

This is the first year I can recall not purchasing or sending or giving a single Thanksgiving card.

I was thinking about that this morning, then it occurred to me that I was making my judgment about reality based on television news, which has truly become the “daily dismal”, particularly in recent days (not everyone is being attacked or killed or enemies). I need say no more than to ask you to compare the “news” being reported on the media every day against the reality in your own neighborhood and community: the saying: “…difference between night and day” comes to mind.

There is no comparison. The “news” on the news is an aberration.

If I were to make a list of good things that have happened this past year it would be very long. I just wasn’t noticing them.

Most recently, on Monday, grandson Ted, a sophomore, arranged two pieces for his school jazz band. It’s more than simply Grandpa pride that I can already say he’s a gifted musician. Ted is on the vibes, at right.

(click all photos to enlarge)

So St Paul HS Jazz Band, first concert of 2015, Nov 23.  Grandson Ted at right.

So St Paul HS Jazz Band, first concert of 2015, Nov 23. Grandson Ted at right.

I could repeat Ted’s story, in different ways, for the rest of our nine grandkids, at assorted places enroute to or in adulthood. I could fill an entire column with each of their stories, all as unique as each of them.

When the oldest, now 29, was born in August, 1986, I began to introduce myself at assorted meetings as a Grandpa, with my hope to leave a better world behind for her and her contemporaries everywhere in the world. I try to live this dedication. Oftimes I can be discouraged, but this younger generation is more aware than we might think they are, and just waiting for the old folks to step aside.

I think we’ve left them a mess; but they’ll do their best.

Mostly the rest of this post will be 1984 photos of North Dakota sent to me Nov. 22 by good friend, David Thofern, along with this note:

“I thought you might be interested in a few photos from the 1984 Wisconsin to Seattle bike trip that my wife and I did. I’ve always told people that North Dakota was my favorite state to bike through. I never get tired of the prairies and extremely friendly people. We entered North Dakota at Fargo and rode north up Hwy. 38 to Devils Lake where we joined US 2. At that time, US 2 was pretty quiet since most traffic was on I-94. That was before the recent oil boom.

The guy standing in the door of Johnson’s Store was Art Johnson. It was his last day of operating the general store that his dad had operated for many years. Ironically, the store was in Hope, ND. The photo of the rope was the fire escape in our room in Page, ND. We were relieved that no fire broke out during our stay.”

North Dakota 1984 (see Thofern text above)

North Dakota 1984 (see Thofern text above)

"Fire escape" in ND Hotel Room 1984

“Fire escape” in ND Hotel Room 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

Hwy 2 North Dakota 1984

Hwy 2 North Dakota 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984 Lewis and Clark Highway about 16 miles from Williston ND.

ND 1984 Lewis and Clark Highway about 16 miles from Williston ND.

Williston ND 1984

Williston ND 1984

Those of us of a certain age remember “1984”, George Orwells year….

Will there be tragedies to come? Of course. Most everywhere.

There is reason for optimism for the future – as it will be determined and lived by our kids and grandkids. My guess is that my generation, particularly, will not get high marks from them a few years down the road. We have messes we’ve left behind.

But I am optimistic for the future.

Happy Thanksgiving.

POSTNOTE: I initiated this blog in March, 2009, as “Thoughts Towards a Better World”. It was a hopeful note, then. It is a challenge to try to follow up on this model, but this Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to reaffirm it.

#1083 – Dick Bernard: Let Us All Make A Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Antoine Leiris’ powerful message to the terrorists who killed his wife in Paris, November 13, 2015. As of this morning over 50,000,000 views on Facebook: here

Thursday, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the November 2015 Program Notes included this Thanksgiving Essay by Dan Chouinard. It is presented here as both pdf ( Dan Chouinard002) and jpeg (below).

(click all photos to enlarge)

Dan Chouinard in Minnesota Orchestra Program Notes for November, 2015

Dan Chouinard in Minnesota Orchestra Program Notes for November, 2015

A friend sent this cartoon later Thursday:

from a friend, November 19, 2015

from a friend, November 19, 2015

Overnight came a capsule of news about the hysteria about Syrian immigrants engulfing the United States, fanned by political rhetoric; and too dangerous for the American media to touch; and too dangerous for we Americans to not confront in as many ways as we can.

In between, a day-filled with American sights which do not fit, at all, the above pictures: flags flying at half-staff to remember the victims of the carnage in France; messages going back and forth to people in other places; lots of silence among people not knowing what to say, if anything.

Still, today, one week after 11-13-15 in Paris, reminds me far too much of one week after 9-11-01 in the United States, a reactive time, manipulating us towards what seems to be never-ending war. I think of that long ago Crisis Sequence sheet someone handed out at a workshop 40 or so years ago, which I still refer to. It fits….

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

We are said to be a friendly country. I saw many examples of that, just yesterday, and will again, today.

We are a friendly country.

But this isn’t the political and media ‘talk of the town’ this day, one week after Paris 11-13-15. We come across as angry, belligerent, scared to death…..

Who are we, really, we Americans? Those of us who aren’t among the fear and hate-filled – the overwhelming vast majority of us – need to speak out; to give support.

*

Years ago, with family, I visited the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Enroute there, a drive-by of the not yet open Twin Towers on Manhattan.

It was the end of June, 1972.

What has happened to us as a country since 9-11-2001?

Or have we not been honest with ourselves about who we really are, deep down?

Late June, 1972, at the Statue of Liberty.  Photo Dick Bernard

Late June, 1972, at the Statue of Liberty. Photo Dick Bernard

Late June 1972 at Statue of Liberty

Late June 1972 at Statue of Liberty

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972.  (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972. (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Our World, Suburban Boston, late June, 1972.  The above photos by Dick Bernard

Our World, Suburban Boston, late June, 1972. The above photos by Dick Bernard

#1075 – Dick Bernard: A Prairie Home Companion comes back home to Anoka.

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

POSTNOTE Oct. 25, 6 a.m.: Here’s last nights program at the Anoka High School Fieldhouse: Prairie Home Anoka001. You can listen to the program here. It was a phenomenal evening. More comments later today.

(click to enlarge photo)

Anoka High School Seventh Avenue Singers with Garrison Keillor October 24, 2015

Anoka High School Seventh Avenue Singers with Garrison Keillor October 24, 2015

*

Tomorrow, tickets in hand, we’re off to see the Prairie Home Companion (PHC) – I’ve had tickets for weeks. This time the show is at Garrison Keillors Alma Mater, Anoka Senior High School, in a town and school community in which I lived and/or worked from 1965-81.

If you can read this, you can listen to the show on Saturday, here, regardless of where you are in the world.

I first happened by PHC in 1977, thanks to my friends Don and Laura. You could walk in off the street then, and find plenty of good seats. Things changed when they went national.

Keillor, of course, plays off the old and familiar of rural America, and Anoka was the big town of his youth, where he went to Junior and Senior High School. That then-small County Seat town, along with the rural precincts between St. John’s University and Freeport along I-94 west of St. Cloud (Lake Woebegone Country) gave Garrison the base for his always rich stories.

Saturday will probably be a particularly rich show.

Though I rarely see or listen to his show these days, I’ve seen it in person at all phases of its evolution, most recently back in January 17, 2015 at the Fitzgerald Theatre, and at the day long celebration of its 40th anniversary at Macalester College in St. Paul in July, 2014. On that particular day I watched the “yarn spinners” do their magic in person, unfortunately without master sound effects man “Jim Ed Poole” (Tom Keith) who died a few years ago. (His replacement, Fred Newman, is right fine, as you’ll hear!)

(click to enlarge)

Garrison and yarn-spinning gang at Macalester College St. Paul July 4, 2014

Garrison and yarn-spinning gang at Macalester College St. Paul July 4, 2014

Fred Newman, July 4, 2014

Fred Newman, July 4, 2014

I was lucky to live and work in Anoka when it was germinating the ideas for part of Garrisons “little town that time forgot but the decades cannot improve”.

When I go out to Anoka on Saturday I’ll be thinking of Ralph’s Grocery along the east bank of the Rum River, which I got to know in the 1960s. Garrison would deny Ralph’s begat Ralph’s Pretty Good…, doubtless, but how else would his “Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery” get its name? There Ralphs sat, just a block or so north of Main Street.

Then there’s Pastor Inkqvist, and Father Emil. They have to be Pastor Hyllengren of Zion Lutheran and Father Murphy of St. Stephen’s; the latter my elderly Parish Priest in the old Church and rectory downtown; both powerhouses in their respective competing religious communities a few blocks apart.

And Anoka was the home of the Pumpkin Bowl, the school football field, and the big Halloween Parade, and the “Tornadoes”. It is most appropriate – planned, doubtless – to have the show in Anoka right at the edge of Halloween.

Back between 1965 and 1981 I either taught, or represented the teachers, in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, already a sprawling school district encompassing thirteen then-largely rural townships. By 1971, Anoka High School had come to be Fred Moore Junior High, when the massive new high school was built north of the tracks. We’ll see the show in the fieldhouse of the now old “new” high school….

Garrison was gone by the time I came to Anoka, but there were a fair number of school teachers who survived and live on in one or another of his phenomenal stories. They were names familiar to me.

I can live those days vicariously now.

But anyone who tunes in can tune in on their own growing up, wherever that happened to be.

Some of the laughter you’ll hear tomorrow night will be my own, and I plan to go decked out in my 40th anniversary Prairie Home Companion T-shirt, and my Powdermilk Biscuits baseball cap (“Has your family tried ’em? Heavens! They’re tasty!”

POSTNOTE:
Is William Keillor Garrison’s root? From the History of Anoka County by Albert Goodrich, 1905
(click to enlarge)

History of Anoka County by Albert Goodrich, 1905

History of Anoka County by Albert Goodrich, 1905

A FEW WORDS AFTER THE SHOW:
Monday, October 26: Since the entire show is accessible on-line (at beginning of this post), the sounds are all there for anyone who’s listening.

I taught in Anoka-Hennepin district from 1965-72, then represented the teachers there, including Anoka Senior High School, from 1972-81, and my son did his Sophomore year there about 1979-80 or so. So I experienced the evening quite intensely. Lyle Bradley and Coach Nelson were very familiar to me. I did get one photo of Lyle Bradley, 90, and still vibrant.

Garrison listens to Lyle Bradley, about this and that....October 24, 2015

Garrison listens to Lyle Bradley, about this and that….October 24, 2015

This was a very personal program for Garrison. That was obvious from the beginning when he came down into the audience and led the few thousand of us in several songs before the show began, including the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, as I recall.

There was reverence shown to public schools and teachers, particularly Anoka, his alma mater. I’ve followed Garrison for years, and there were some serious speed bumps a few years ago between himself and public education, but it appeared that was in the past.

His family, his schools, and his community were the relationships that made him what he is today.

I was particularly struck by his reference to growing up autistic. It was an affirmation to any who struggle in any way with autism or its effects.

It was amusing to hear the skit about the Homecoming game between Anoka and Visitation (a Catholic girls high school in St. Paul). Anoka won 6-0, of course, but he softened the edge between zealots for no holds barred competition, and those who emphasize team play and empathy for the underdog. (In the skit, Visitation was the hard-edged competitor, and Anoka the softer feelings oriented team.) It came across especially well, knowing that Anoka-Hennepin has gone through some rough years lately over LGBT issues. There was a “you factions can get along” sense that I was left with.

School people were heavily involved in the program, from kids, to teachers, to the librarian, to the Principal. A school is a social system which, in our society, everyone can enter and have an opportunity to find their muse.

I left renewed and buoyed in lots of ways. When you’re aging, you lose essential touch with the systems of youth. And this show was important for me – though I hasten to acknowledge that we have nine grandkids, and the day after PHC, we went to a wonderful vocal concert in Bloomington which involved two of them, grades eight and ten.

Still, it was great to see the greater community of kids as well.

Thanks, Garrison. You done REALLY good!

#1073 – Dick Bernard: Concert Today in St. Paul, 1 PM: “From Darkness to Light: A Journey Toward Peace & Reconciliation”

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Peace is possible. Just take a look at St. Paul, Minnesota, and its Sister City, Nagasaki, Japan.

(click to enlarge photo. pdf here: Civic Symphony Oct 18 15002)
Civic Symphony Oct 18 15001

By chance I was at St. Paul’s Landmark Center yesterday, at the same time as the St. Paul Civic Symphony was doing its final rehearsal for this performance.

It will be magnificent. I know. I heard all of it.

After the rehearsal, Music Director Jeffrey Stirling stopped by the Nagasaki-Hiroshima Exhibit (where I was volunteering), and I asked him about the now 60 year Sister City relationship between St. Paul and Nagasaki.

He said that, to his knowledge, the cities relationship, the first for any American city with any city in Asia, was largely brought into existence through the efforts of Louis Hill, Jr., the grandson of railroad magnate James J. Hill.

He didn’t know Mr. Hills specific motivation.

I asked, was there any online history of the forming of the relationship?

Mr. Spirling wasn’t sure, but directed me to the Hills Grotto Foundation. This article, there, doesn’t answer the question, but is nonetheless fascinating reading.

Another link, here, outlines the timeline of the relationship.

The exhibit at which I volunteered continues through Nov. 28 at the northwest corner of Landmark Center, on the Main Floor. At first glance, it appears to be a small exhibit. But one of the visitors there, yesterday, spent the entire time watching/listening to survivor stories on one of four DVD players, and she was engrossed. She was 7 years old at the time of the Atom bomb, she said, knowing of it as we Americans would have known it, through child’s eyes.

Leaving the exhibit, I met a Japanese-American couple, from Minneapolis, who recounted how WWII impacted on their family.

More information on remaining events can be seen here.

#1046 – Dick Bernard: 50 years ago today. A personal memory. Remembering a death.

Friday, July 24th, 2015

(click to enlarge all photos)

At the Busch farm, August 1964.  Barbara at right, Dick next to her.  Grandma and Grandpa Busch at left.

At the Busch farm, August 1964. Barbara at right, Dick next to her. Grandma and Grandpa Busch at left.

Yesterday afternoon, enroute to a meeting, I stopped to take a couple of photos:

3315 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis MN July 23, 2015

3315 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis MN July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis, July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis, July 23, 2015

Fifty years ago today I lived in a rented upstairs room in this house, just a block from KSTP-TV; and my wife, Barbara, was in the University Hospital less than two miles away, my memory says on 8th floor, in intensive care, .

It had been a very long two months since we arrived in Minneapolis in late May, when Barbara was admitted for a hoped for kidney transplant, her only remaining option to live.

This particular Saturday morning, 50 years ago today, she had fallen into a coma, and at 10:50 p.m. she died. The previous day there had been a brief rally, not uncommon for those critically ill.

Among the whisps of memory was my going to the Western Union office in downtown Minneapolis after she died, sending a telegram to relatives.

Communications was not instant, then. Mine was a very succinct message.

While death is never expected, particularly in one only 22 years old, there really was little hope left: three major operations in two months, no kidney transplant.

July 25, alone, I drove west to Valley City, North Dakota, where the funeral was held on July 29.

In a family history I wrote for our son on his 18th birthday in 1982 I remembered the day of the funeral this way: August 1965001

It was a very lonely time, I have never been able to recall many specifics of particularly the first month after her burial, but life went on for 1 1/2 year old son Tom and I.

It was very early in my life too – I was 25 – and I grew up in a hurry. It has informed my life and my attitudes ever since.

I became very aware of how important and how broad “community” is in society.

There were, out there, among family, friends and many others, people who in diverse ways helped us get through the very hard times. By quirk of fate, the funeral was one day before President Lyndon Johnson signed into federal Law the Medicare Act, societies immense gift to the elderly of this country, one of whom is now me. Here’s Grandpa Busch’s first Medicare card, dated July 1, 1966: Medicare card 1966001

Today in our country we debate whether or not everyone should have a right to medical insurance; whether it is a responsibility of the individual, or of society at large.

Medicare was debated then, too.

It was not on Barbara’s or my radar screen. Debate is a luxury when survival is the only issue.

Our married life was very short, only two years, and almost 100% of the time distracted by the progression of a finally fatal illness. We never really got to know what a “normal” marriage might have looked like.

I think we would have done well together, but that is sheer speculation. The inevitable tensions of a normal marriage were something we were never able to experience.

Three weeks ago I made a visit to Barbara’s grave in Valley City. It is in St. Catherine’s Cemetery, high on a hill just east of town.

June 29, 2015, Valley City ND St Catherine's Cemetery

June 29, 2015, Valley City ND St Catherine’s Cemetery

St. Catherines Cemetery, Valley City ND June 29, 2015

St. Catherines Cemetery, Valley City ND June 29, 2015

Yesterday I went briefly into the University Hospital, including up to the eighth floor, which is now used for other purposes than 50 years ago.

In the lobby area I lingered for a moment by a plaque recognizing the founding of University Hospital in 1916, near 100 years ago.

University of Minnesota Hospital, July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, July 23, 2015

Elsewhere, in the medical wing of University Hospital, doubtless were patients for whom yesterday was, or today will be, the last day of their lives.

It is the single immutable fact that we all face: at some point we will exit the stage we call “life”.

Take time to enjoy the trip. The Station001

My public thanks, today, to everyone who helped Tom and I, in any way, back then in 1965, before and after, especially the public welfare system and public and private hospitals.

#1044 – Dick Bernard: The Women in the Yard. Looking for Clara.

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Thursday I published a piece that included a family photo taken 72 years ago, in the summer of 1943, in rural North Dakota.

Everyone was in that picture, except for the Mom, and I observed that “[t]he entire family is in the photo, save their mother, Clara, who was probably taking the picture”.

The family was not kin of mine, so I didn’t know of them except by name, but they were near neighbors and fellow church members with my grandparents Rosa and Fred Busch.

I would have been three years old when that picture was taken at the nearby farm.

Overnight it occurred to me that in the same batch of photos I’ve been reviewing for a long while now, might be a photo which includes Clara Long*.

It is here:

(click to enlarge)

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952.

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952.

There seem to be 24 women in this picture, plus one youngun’. My Grandma Busch is directly behind the little kid. Aunt Edith, my Aunt and her daughter, is in the back row at far right, it appears. This picture was in the yard of the Busch farmhouse, where pictures were traditionally taken when people came to visit. The photo was unusual size, about 2×2″, so probably taken with someone other than Grandpa’s camera.

Most likely it is the women of St. John’ Catholic Church in Berlin, both social and service, as typical in churches then and still.

Such a photo truly speaks “a thousand words”…indeed many more.

Perhaps Chistina, the sister-in-law of Clara, who e-mailed to comment on the earlier photo, will remember Clara, and see other women of the town she recognizes.

It occurs to me, now many years later, that these women represented the life of that, and every, community in more ways than one.

Grandma, just as a single instance, birthed nine children in the house that you cannot see, just to the photographers left. By September, 1952, she and he husband Fred had been married 47 years, and their youngest child, Vincent, was 27.

Likely all those women are gone now, but what a legacy they no doubt left behind.

Here’s to the ordinary women and men who brought this world to life, one person at a time!

Thank you.

* – I was incorrect. According to a family member, Clara had died when the youngest was two years old. The photographer was likely the second wife.