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Monday, December 29, 2014

Entry 27: Free Cuba For the Gospel of Christ

December 29, 2014

Dear Friends

Re:  Entry 27 (in English)

I used to have a list, it was really a joke, born in the realization of my late youth (in other words, my 20’s) when I finally realized that the party of my birth was not likely to be the party of my death.  I have grown more circumspect—read wise—about it now, recognizing that neither party really represents me fully.  The joke was a list, that there were three things I wanted to see in my lifetime:  (a) Bill Clinton impeached (and this was 3 years before that whole sad, sordid tale of woe); (b) Pete Rose in the Hall; and, (c) Cuba opened to America.  I didn’t say it was a consistent list, as it jumps from politics to sports to…well, religion.  The last better said as “Liberating Cuba with the Gospel”.

[As an aside, the fact that the most improbable on the list—Clinton’s impeachment—actually happened amazes me still to this day, I’m even more amazed by the warm nostalgia the press at least has for the Clinton years. Perhaps one day we will look back on that period as a sad chapter in personal morality, where it became fashionable to be, well, “kardashian”.   As to Pete Rose, well I thought that was the one winner on the whole list, but now I doubt it will ever be.]

Back to Cuba.  This had its genesis in my love of foreign-broadcast short wave radio.  If you’ve ever listened to short wave, the 1980’s were an especially fruitful period, what with the Cold War and all still on.  Some of the most accessible broadcasts (by which I mean those that were powerful enough to reach me in my mountain hovel) were Soviet, Chinese and Cuban.  Cuba was especially prolific, on almost every major broadcast band, even some of the AM (medium wave) bands.  I really became fascinated with the music, the politics and the social commentary—I have very little practical Spanish knowledge despite having two college Spanish courses—so it was all in English.  The political discourse was laughable.  The Cuban government was and is so obsessed with the United States and the US knows so very little about Cuba.  Every event that happened, according to Radio Havana, was the result of, the fault of, or the plan of the United States trying to undermine the Castro regime.    The most amusing part of the whole matter is how little the people of the US, outside of south Florida, really know about Cuba.  Here was Cuba, at every turn blaming the US and the Embargo for its problems while most Americans not only didn’t know where Cuba was in relation to the mainland, but cared about it even less.  It was as if some obsessed would-be Romeo mailed letters, wrote sonnets, composed ballads that were never delivered, read or even heard by Juliet.  The United States and Cuba aren’t just in different spheres, they have literally been in different dimensions, and most Americans forget Cuba even exists (even worse than the way we act with the Canadians and Mexicans, which is unfair and wrong, because to me at least they are like brothers).  It must be vexing to the Cubans or more especially their government (it applies to Cuba what Mexico’s President Diaz once said about his country: “Poor Mexico, so far from God, so Close to the United States”)

I can give you all the standard arguments as to why we should lift the embargo, establish relations, and allow trade and travel. You likely have heard them all, and whether or not you may agree, at least you must acknowledge that our current policy (a policy we have had longer than the Cold War lasted) has not worked.  I could also try to defend my assumptions against all the anti-immigrant talk that is out there (sadly, among Christians as well as others), or the political calculations of the south Florida vote, but any of you still misguided enough to depend on cable news, any cable news, as your sole source of information can probably raise loud arguments against my views.   At the bottom of it all are people. Remember, we are talking about people, individuals.  Individuals who have the right to hear the Gospel—and we have the obligation to take it to them, Fox News or MSNBC, Republican or Democrat, all notwithstanding.  That is my reason for wanting Cuba opened and for being thankful that our President is doing what he is doing, regardless of whether his reasons are cynical political calculations.

We didn’t call it cynical when Paul co-opted the Roman court system, the Roman transport system, the Roman trade system, the Roman laws and practices, all to preach the Gospel to the heart of the Roman Empire.  The Roman Empire, built on the blood and backs of slaves and the brutality of the ruling classes, was overrun by Christianity.  If you think the Castro brothers, or their government, can withstand the Gospel being preached to the individual, it still does not matter or relieve the obligation to preach it.  The command, commission, of Jesus was to Preach the Gospel (it wasn’t qualified as to race, religion, government, country).  Do you really trust one day America, or its government, won’t turn on you?  One day we may need those Cuban missionaries, preaching the Gospel to us.

And where is it written that America is cannot change?  Indeed, there are two Communist countries with which have we have fought wars—all in living memory—and we have re-established relations (China and Vietnam.  Remember, the Korean War was really the Chinese War).  Come along now, preach the Gospel to every creature, not just those far enough away as to not upset the balance in the Electoral College.  It may not change your world, but I know it will change theirs.

Free Cuba For the Gospel of Christ!

I remain,


Fessler

Entrada 27: Cuba libre para el Evangelio de Cristo!

29 de diciembre 2014

Queridos amigos
Re: Entrada 27

Yo solía tener una lista, que era en realidad una broma, nacido en la realización de mi juventud tardía (en otras palabras, mis años 20) cuando finalmente me di cuenta de que el partido de mi nacimiento no era probable que sea el partido de mi muerte. He crecido más de leer circunspecto sabio en eso ahora, reconociendo que ninguna de las partes realmente me representa plenamente. La broma era una lista, que había tres cosas que quería ver en mi vida: (a) Bill Clinton sometido a juicio político (y esto fue de 3 años antes de toda esa historia triste y sórdida de dolor); (b) Pete Rose en el Salón; y, (c) Cuba abrió a América. Yo no dije que era una lista coherente, ya que salta de la política con el deporte a ... bueno, religión. El último dijo mejor como "Libertadora Cuba con el Evangelio".
[En un aparte, el hecho de que el más improbable en la lista de Clinton-juicio político-realidad sucedió me sorprende aún hoy en día, estoy más sorprendido por la nostalgia caliente a la prensa, al menos, ha hecho durante los años de Clinton. Tal vez algún día vamos a mirar hacia atrás en ese período como un capítulo triste en la moral personal, donde se puso de moda a ser, así, "kardashian". En cuanto a Pete Rose, así que pensé que era el ganador en toda la lista, pero ahora dudo que alguna vez será.]

Volver a Cuba. Esto tuvo su génesis en mi amor por la radio de onda corta de difusión extranjera. Si alguna vez has escuchado de onda corta, la década de 1980 fueron un periodo especialmente fructífero, lo que con la Guerra Fría y todos en pie. Algunas de las emisiones más accesibles (y me refiero a los que eran lo suficientemente potente como para llegar a mí en mi cuchitril montaña) eran Soviética, China y Cuba. Cuba fue especialmente prolífico, en casi todas las bandas de radiodifusión importante, incluso algunas de las bandas de onda media (AM). Me quedé fascinado con la música, la política y lo social comentario-tengo muy poco conocimiento práctico español a pesar de tener dos universitarios españoles cursos-así que fue todo en Inglés. El discurso político era ridícula. El gobierno de Cuba ha sido y es tan obsesionado con los Estados Unidos y los EE.UU. sabe muy poco acerca de Cuba. Cada evento que ocurrió, según Radio Habana, fue el resultado de, por culpa de, o el plan de los Estados Unidos tratando de socavar el régimen de Castro. La parte más divertida de todo el asunto es lo poco que la gente de los EE.UU., en las afueras del sur de la Florida, de verdad saben de Cuba. Aquí fue Cuba, a cada paso culpando los EE.UU. y el embargo de sus problemas mientras que la mayoría de los estadounidenses no sólo no saben donde Cuba fue en relación con el continente, pero se preocupaba aún menos. Era como si un obsesionado aspirantes a Romeo envía por correo cartas, escribió sonetos, romances compuestos que nunca fueron entregados, leer o incluso escuchadas por Julieta. Los Estados Unidos y Cuba no son sólo en diferentes ámbitos, que han sido, literalmente, en diferentes dimensiones, y la mayoría de los estadounidenses olvidan Cuba aún existe (aún peor que la forma en que actuamos con los canadienses y mexicanos, que es injusto y equivocado, porque a mí por lo menos, son como hermanos). Debe ser irritante para los cubanos o más especialmente su gobierno (que se aplica a Cuba lo que dijo una vez que el presidente Díaz de México sobre su país: "Pobre México, tan lejos de Dios, tan cerca de los Estados Unidos")

Te puedo dar todos los argumentos estándar en cuanto a por qué debemos levantar el embargo, establecer relaciones, y permitir el comercio y los viajes. Es probable que todos ellos han oído, y si está o no estar de acuerdo, al menos hay que reconocer que nuestra política actual (una política que hemos tenido más tiempo que duró la Guerra Fría) no ha funcionado. Yo también podría tratar de defender mis suposiciones contra toda la charla anti-inmigrante que está ahí fuera (por desgracia, entre los cristianos, así como otros), o los cálculos políticos del sur de la Florida voto, pero alguno de ustedes todavía lo suficientemente equivocada a depender noticias por cable, cualquiera de noticias por cable, como su única fuente de información, probablemente, puede elevar argumentos fuertes en contra de mis puntos de vista. En el fondo de todo esto son las personas. Recuerde, estamos hablando de personas, individuos. Los individuos que tienen el derecho de escuchar el Evangelio, y tenemos la obligación de llevarlo a ellos, Fox News o MSNBC, republicano o demócrata, a pesar de todo. Esa es mi razón para querer Cuba abrió y por ser agradecido de que nuestro presidente está haciendo lo que está haciendo, sin importar si sus razones son cálculos políticos cínicos.

Nosotros no llamamos cínica cuando Pablo cooptado el sistema romano tribunal, el sistema de transporte romana, el sistema de comercio romano, las leyes y las prácticas romanas, todo para predicar el Evangelio al corazón del Imperio Romano. El Imperio romano, construido sobre la sangre y espaldas de los esclavos y la brutalidad de las clases dominantes, fue invadido por el cristianismo. Si usted piensa que los hermanos Castro, o su gobierno, puede soportar el Evangelio se predica a la persona, que todavía no tiene importancia o aliviar la obligación de predicarlo. El comando, comisión de Jesús fue a predicar el evangelio (que no estaba calificado por motivos de raza, religión, gobierno, país). ¿Usted realmente confiar el uno en Estados Unidos de hoy, o su gobierno, no se convertirá en su vida? Un día podemos necesitar esos misioneros cubanos, predicando el Evangelio a nosotros.
Y ¿dónde está escrito que Estados Unidos no se puede cambiar? De hecho, hay dos países comunistas con los que tenemos hemos luchado guerras-todo en la memoria viva y tenemos relaciones restablecidas (China y Vietnam. Recuerde, la Guerra de Corea fue realmente la Guerra chino). Ven ahora, predicar el Evangelio a toda criatura, no sólo aquellos lo suficientemente lejos como para no alterar el equilibrio en el Colegio Electoral. La apertura de Cuba al Evangelio puede dejar estadounidense ha cambiado, pero el Evangelio cambiará para siempre las vidas de los cubanos.

Cuba libre para el Evangelio de Cristo!

Quedo,

Fessler
[note:  thanks to Google for the translation]

Monday, December 8, 2014

Entry 26: Random Memories on Turning 50

December 8, 2014

Dear Friends


Re:         Entry 26

Dodge Trucks with their squashed front ends, almost like they were squinting at you.  My neighbors who could build or fix anything, and who I thought were cool because they wanted to end the war in Vietnam, and they played Led Zeppelin and John Sebastian and all other kinds of wonderful and weird stuff.  I didn’t realize how close they were to going to Vietnam, or for that matter, my own brother.  I used to tell my dad I was going to Canada—I was like 7 or 8.  He would always say “don’t join the army”.  Hearing the John Denver song “Country Roads” in the summer of 1971, before I started first grade.  My brother Mike came out on the front porch and said “Hey, A.D., there’s a guy on the radio singing a song about West Virginia!”   And it was one that did not make fun of us.  The wonder when Channel 4 in Pittsburgh, or better yet, ABC or NBC, said the name of the state on the national news.  It wasn’t until later that I realized most of the world didn’t know this was the center of the universe.  The slate pile burning in the winter, the snow never staying on it.  Red dog roads.  The smell of coal burning.  Train horns, the slack-slack sound of the locomotive starting and pulling the cars, you could hear it jump from one car to another all the way up the valley.  Going to Fairview for the Homecoming parade.  And the bonfire they would build on the side of the football field.  Every once in a while, I will hear a combination of sounds, especially in the fall, or smell dried leaves and for some reason it takes me back to the Fairview High School Homecoming Parade, around 1972.  USA-1 plates on the Chevy Camaro in the garage showroom.  Underwood Deviled Ham sandwiches on Kettering’s bread while watching Sesame Street sitting with Anna, my neighbor, in her house the year before first grade.  I didn’t realize until later her teenage son had died from leukemia.  Maybe I helped by being there. I hope. She was such a nice lady.  She could bake bread, any kind, and would always bring us some.  Agnes, who every two days or so would send me to Junior’s for a box of barley and a can of corn beef hash (I did this for her until the day before I got married). My dad never let me take her money, at least when he knew.  When I got older, I wouldn’t take it on my own accord.  Mary Kitchen Corn Beef Hash.  It’s like 50% fat.  She lived to be 99.  Charley, her son, would say “Hey boy, go down to Junior’s and buy me a pack of Luckies.”  I think I was six.  Myrtle would say “these aren’t for you now are they?”  He had a tattoo; I think it was an eagle, with dates on it.  I asked him when I got older why he got it.  He said he got drunk on leave in Paris after Bastogne.  He later got called back up for Korea.  I always thought that if you were going to have a tattoo, you really needed a story like Charley’s.  Not anymore, someday, somewhere, I imagine some 75 year old explaining the little duck tattoo on her calf. I bet it won’t be about being surrounded by the Germans.  When my other neighbor’s house burned down, the night they both died, I ran outside and it was 2 a.m., the house was fully on fire.  Charley picked up a section of a wall that was like four concrete blocks and threw them through the front door to save them but the fire exploded out.  He couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds.   He taught me how to sweat copper fittings. I think about him a lot, I wish I could talk to him now.  My grandfather used to bring me home a 5 cent candy bar called a “Chunky”.  Sometimes the one with nuts or raisins.  I saw one a few years ago, it was like twice the size, and I didn’t try it as I liked the memory better.  Walking down to the Esso station to get a Coke in the summer, hoping it would be frozen.  Six ounce glass bottles.  My Uncle Sam getting a stereo and playing records on it.  My cousin Junior who was deaf, but you could always hear him coming because he would play the radio very loudly and put his hand on the dashboard speaker to feel the vibration.  I can’t imagine not knowing what it’s like to hear music and only to feel it.  Meline who was crazy and lived across the street, who would go down to the railroad tracks and fill up a coal scuttle from cars sitting on the siding.  My dad said that he was in the war and lost his girlfriend and he was never the same.  Sometimes he would talk to me, and he seemed normal.  Later I realized this was probably mental illness, but no one said that then.  Ziggy who had a German shepherd, a very nice pleasant dog even though he looked scary.   And my dog, Johantz, who was the opposite.  Once he ran away for four days and I thought he was dead.  Then I saw him coming up the street all alone, his ear tore a little, thinner. He acted as if he hadn’t been gone.  Anne the cook at the school and the biscuits she would make. Winter plays before Christmas and the smell of the curtains in the auditorium.  The smell of the oiled floors in the schoolhouse.  Mrs. Davies playing the piano in the third grade. Tony, my neighbor, had a Willys Truck with knobby tires.  Once paid me two dollars to climb his pine trees and tie a rope to the top so he could cut them down without them falling over the hill. I can’t write about my dad without crying, I have at least one dream a week when I get to talk to him.  I can remember it all like it was yesterday.  It was.
I remain,
 
Fessler

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Entry 25: The Unravelers III


September 30, 2014


Dear Friends

Re:         Entry 25

Someone once told me to never confuse the American People with the American Government; they are not one in the same.  In recent months, on several fronts, we have come to the point of the question I never thought I would seriously pose:

Do you trust these clowns with your lives?

A few points of distraction:  They want to disarm you while dismissing terrorism all around.  They surveil your calls, your computer habits—this blog—and record everything.  They collect your taxes and use some of them for purposes the mass of people would never countenance if given the direct choice.  They decry “climate change” and forego vital domestic energy assets in the name of world climate leadership, while Russia holds Europe hostage over energy (and Europe likes it, apparently).  They have their agencies act as arbiters of free speech, in violation of the founding principles.  They welcome immigration without scrutiny in the name of compassion, but with the cynical knowledge of its effect on electoral politics.  They let Americans rot in foreign jails.  They coddle enemies ([tell President Putin] “… This is my last election ... After my election I have more flexibility”) while demonizing and ridiculing and stereotyping half of their citizenry (“…And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations..”)  They seek to limit what you can eat, drink, choose—unless that choice is to kill an unborn child.  They divide us.  They dominate us.  They dictate to us.  They tell us what to think, to believe.  They watch terrorists roam our streets and care more about the world’s opinion than their citizen’s safety.   They spout their insolent sophomoric nonsense from their juvenile teenage-wise spokesmen and women, and expect us to fall in line.  They turn our military leaders into their personal lapdogs.  They indulge in the arrogance of the idolizing of their own ability and intelligence yet are incompetent in actual leadership and execution.  They open the borders and in walks Ebola.

Do you trust these clowns with your lives?

There are things out there, that are truths, and we know they are truths because, well,  they just are.  One of them is that men and women are equal and that in that equality, God gave them rights that cannot be denied—rights like the ability to live, and to live free, to choose to do as it pleases you so long as that right does not infringe on the rights of others.  One of the reasons we even form governments that last—and last all over the world—is that the people bond together and voluntarily consent to the government, and not the other way around.  In fact, whenever the government becomes too strong and begins to destroy the reasons the people put it in place to begin with, the people have an unfettered right to alter or to abolish it and to put in its place a new government, one that has as its foundations the original principles and organizes itself in such as way as to protect the people, their lives and their happiness.  And it isn’t just with the drop of a hat that such decisions and changes are made—to be prudent, no people should just change their government because of some correctible problems—people will suffer much and should only change things if it is the last resort.  But at the end of all of this, when any government becomes more important that those that granted it power, and when it in and of itself derives its right to govern from itself and not the people, that is the same as tyranny.  When this happens, the people have an absolute duty to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.  Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Now, dearest reader, I am loathe to tricking you, but by now you probably realized that most of the last paragraph was a poor paraphrase of Jefferson’s prose, the italicized part verbatim, from the Declaration of Independence.    For you see, we have been here before.  I believe the choice is coming, and I am not advocating anything but peaceable change in the way things are done to restore freedom to the consent of the governed.

I ask again:  Do you trust these clowns with your lives?

I remain,


Fessler

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Entry 24: Banned from the Lexicon

September 16, 2014

Dear Friends

RE: Entry 24

There are certain words, phrases better said, that should no longer have a place in public discourse.  For those of you who may continue to flail away your fleeting hours watching the news of any stripe, you poor wicked demented children of the cord, you are often exposed to many of these phrases; and so much so that they pass through you as ghosts, unseen, leaving their haunting residue on your very souls.

All of us have heard them, the 20-something idiot-laced punditry that has come to dominate every news network (yes, gasp, Fox too I daringly proclaim in hushed tones).  The words and phrases, so overused, are often poetic-sounding, laced with imagery, but now so much said they become stripped of color and meaning.  Sort of like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, they’ve played it so much at Christmas, I keep wanting George to drown, for Potter to take over the town, for Uncle Billy to get the chair.  Yes, it has come to that.
So here is the start of my list.  With luck, longevity and nothing better to do in the future I will supplement it:

In harm’s way.  I once looked this up to see where it originated.  I don’t recall finding it out, but I probably have confused clicking on a Google ad for loss of interest.   It is poetic, and projects a vision of strength, daring and courage.  I have this picture in my head of Nelson, standing on the bridge of a storm-tossed brigand, one arm sleeve dangling, then flapping in the wind, driving the ship headlong into the teeth of the fire of the French.  But it is no longer so.  Everyone uses it, in every context.  I once heard it at church (so many of these banned phrases end up in the offices of America, like gum on the floor of a theater, still pathetically on display but lacking utility and flavor).  “In harm’s way” has come to be used in lieu of “danger” by every clueless commentator on every talk show.   Worse, it is passive voice.  Yipe.
It is what it is.  What does this even mean?  I have actually heard this used by professionals—and I have taken to asking for an explanation every time.  Getting one is really enjoying, because the doper logic that coined that phrase falls apart when scrutinized or forced into clarity.  Once my high school gym teacher (and football coach) a great man, told me “don’t define a word using the same word”.  Pretty simple.  But time and again some clown will use this phrase and when challenged will say something such as “like, man, it means that it is all that it is and all that it can be”.  Somehow, those five words got transmogrified from the book of Exodus.  Ban, please.

The optics of the situation.  This is a relatively new one, maybe in the last year or so it has taken on a life of its own.  For the non-Fox News groupie, it means “it looks bad”.  But instead of saying that, someone got Roget in a headlock and he burped up that sentence.  My grandfather, from Italy, once sold a horse.  When someone came to buy it, he asked about the animal's health.  “She no looka too good” was the response.  About a week later the man came back asking for his money, claiming that my grandfather never told him the horse was blind.  “I tell you, she no looka too good”.   Clarity should be a goal.
A Conversation (as in “we need to have a national conversation about…”).   Blabbita blabbita blabbita.  Whatever happened to the days when someone attacked us, we did not get in touch with our inner self, try to understand the enemy’s desire to harm us, wonder how we could all get along, looked inwardly, morbidly so, at how we could have people hate us?  We signed up, went away, finished the job, came home and drove Chevys.  I say “we” in a broad sense.  More like our fathers and grandfathers.  They had no need for a “conversation” about anything.  The clueless classes that call for the rebuilding of America would have the need to have a conversation with a snail darter.   When America needed ditch diggers, our forefathers would shut up and dig.  They didn’t have some kind of existential angst over the philosophy of ditch digging. Only the well fed and over indulged can afford to be philosophical when there is work to be done.

God save us from ourselves.
I remain,


Fessler

PS—my grandfather never owned a horse, at least not in my memory.  But he did sound like that.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Entry 23: The Last Light from Vega

September 2, 2014

Dear Friends

RE:  Entry 23

When I was younger, there was a song, by the Alan Parsons Project named “Some Other Time”.  It was during that period when it was fashionable to write and promote what were called “Rock Operas” or songs in the Pink-Floyd style of thematic concept music.  It was a time when LP albums rotated into infinity across America, the one cent weight of copper pushing the diamond tip into the vinyl at 33 rounds per minute.  This particular song had a line in it that I think about almost every time I look up in the night sky, a very poetic line for a rock song (before I tell you the line, I think the most poetic line in a rock song is in “America” by Simon and Garfunkel—“…and the moon rose over an open field.”  We can debate later).  The line from the APP song is “now the starlight, which has found me lost for million years, tries to linger, as it fills my eyes ‘til it disappears.”

The other night to a clear sky I was looking up, nearly at 90 degrees at the apex of the night sky is the star Vega, one of the brightest stars in the northern hemisphere night.  I looked it up; Vega is about 25 light years away, meaning that light travels over 150 trillion miles to my eyes.  Another way of looking at this is that the light from Vega emerged as a photon 25 years ago, so the surface light that I see (if say, I could see the surface of Vega like the sun) is 25 years old.  I am seeing that star as it looked 25 years ago.  It could have exploded 24 years, 11 months and 29 days ago.  I won’t know until tomorrow.  Another thing to remember, is that because Vega is larger than the sun (2.1 times larger, according to Wikipedia), that light photon was created at least tens of thousands of years earlier in the heart of the star, taking that long to get to the surface before it began its interstellar journey to  deposit its last ghostly remnant on me.  The thing about light, it creates pressure.  We don’t think of it in the sense of pressure pushing light as, say, a water hose, but the pressure of light is very substantial (look up “solar sail” if you don’t believe me).  That photon of light, that infinitesimally small amount of energy, traveled across the emptiness of space and spent itself in my retina, converting itself to a small amount of heat (so small as to be impossible to measure with our technology).  That it survived the journey to me is a miracle.  That it exists at all is a wonder.

I heard a documentary last month; I was listening but not watching.  It is very hard to watch television today, even the historical documentaries have taken it upon themselves to create false drama in everything (the fact that the History Channel is more pop-culture and trivia about pawn shop items tells you all you need to know).  Anyway, I was listening, not watching and realized that the speaker—a famous astronomer—was saying something that was utterly astounding.  He said, and I’ve heard it before, for years now, that 80% of the universe is “unaccounted for” as “dark matter and dark energy”.  Don’t know what it is, can’t see it, can’t measure it, can’t tell you what it could be, but we know it is there because we can see the effects of it.  In any other context this would be called faith.  I was once told by a friend that religion—faith—was worthless, because there were no real unknowns in the world.  Oh really? I asked.  And what of gravity?  You can point out the mechanics of it but you can’t say why it exits.  Or quantum mechanics?  Below the subatomic level, things get really, well, weird, inexplicable in normal terms.  When you get small below the particle level the theories are that the structure of everything is like…foam.  Wrap your mind around that.  And dimensions, we know four (well, there was a Fifth Dimension, but that age of music is gone); but there are theoretically more, maybe more than a dozen.  The whole concept of “Horton Hears a Who” may be more realistic that we think, only in dimensions and not size. And time—our “fourth” dimension--well that is constant isn’t it?  Time is a concept, and a manmade one.  Does time even exist, or is just a relative comparison between two things which are not really constant at all (which is basically what Einstein was saying)?  And time travel?—theoretically possible according to modern physics—at least backwards.  There is a theory, very difficult to prove, and somewhat of a paradox called “quantum entanglement”, or in the vernacular, and pejorative, “spooky action at a distance”.  Let me give you the Grant Town version:  two related particles, regardless of the separation of space or time between them, act in similar fashion so that when one is changed, the other exhibits related changes with no apparent connection between them.  This would mean that if I hit a bell on Earth last night it would instantaneously ring on Vega, 25 light years away, without delay (please, no physicists letters…again…I know I don’t have the description exactly right).  If two things act that way, that theoretically makes instantaneous communication across vast distances possible.  So what is it that we think we know?  We’re but blind, groping our way through the world.  And what is it about science that is constant? 

We look into a glass, and darkly.  That line was written about another type of faith.

I remain,


Fessler

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Entry 22: Walking the Ridge (Part III)


August 13, 2014

Dear Friends

RE:  Entry 22

Part III

Often, in his dreams, the scene splayed out before him, in a shocking vision of bursts of light, concussive uneven rhythm of the shell blasts and the screaming.  In those dreams, the light had sound, the color had feel, and the sound had fangs.  He would awake with scent of cordite in his nostrils, or at least the sense of it, his hands clenched and numb.  It was hard to explain to anyone and he rarely spoke of it.  There were times when he would come across someone who had died in the war, at least inside, and they wore the death on them like a rainbow coat, only the spectrum was varied in grays and black.  They never talked but understood.

Had you asked him before, from the tales he had heard from the old men, he would not have thought this.  War had been away so long on its journey that the sheer personal horror was either bottled up inside of 75-year old men (for most of them it had not ever nor ever was coming out), or had long since been converted and melded into the distance of their youth, or was only now just legend, as if every once in a while it had to stalk the earth for men to remember.  The cold and utter brutality of it, mercilessness surrounded by terror, the wading through the fear as it eked out the life and left behind death, even in the living.  When he was young, he would not have thought it so, as he had imagined, from books and poems and songs, of flags uncased and unfurled, and marching glory into the wind. No book spoke of the mud. And the infection.  And the engorged rats. And ever-present stench of death.  No one spoke of men reduced to the pure emotions of rage, fear, terror and relief, all rotating through on a psychotic irregular cycle, over and over and over and over.

When it was over, it was difficult to imagine and visualize, as real as it was, it was hard to believe it had actually happened.  And yet in the dreams he got to see it again, if only in glimpses. 

Why this place had reminded him was curious.  He had seen this land clear cut many years before, so that nothing stood on it higher nor thicker than a briar bush, and yet, over the years, and years since, trees had returned and tall trees, hardwood, but not the trees, red spruce, which had once covered and made this a forest. Perhaps it was because of this memory that he often came here and remembered and silently relived.  It would always take several days to recover the sense of forgotteness that had comforted him after all this time.

He picked up the shotgun and walked up and around to the top of the ridgeline; from here, he could see the Allegheny Front, about 30-40 miles to the east when the sky was clear.  Most of the wildlife was either waiting for twilight, or like the birds, oblivious to him.  Every so often he was see a hawk or a crow, sometimes a buzzard-those you could tell at distance by the gnawed looking ends of their wings. He knew them very well and could make them out before any other bird in these years since. The sun was up, high enough in the sky to be above the Front to the east, and it made the day very hot, with the baking smell of the old, dried leaves replacing the memory of the gunpowder in his mind.

I remain



Fessler

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Entry 21: All The Power Lines Go East

August 5, 2014

Dear Friends

Re: Entry 21
Once upon a time, I was asked to speak at a conference on gas drilling.  Well, to put it more correctly, I was asked to fill in for someone who was asked to speak at a conference on gas drilling.  To the extent possible, I prepared, practiced and otherwise readied myself for the encounter (“the extent possible” being defined as that amount of content I could congeal from Wikipedia and Google while eating a Wal-Mart yogurt about an hour before the gathering. Of course, I jest). All went well, I spoke a bunch of words in a string that at least sounded coherent, no one seemed to be paying much attention until I asked for questions. To my utter surprise, about a dozen hands shot up, the sight of which caused me to vibrate with glee.  I selected an older women dressed in what appeared to communal-type clothing with a few buttons on her Chairman Mao blouse (“Impeach Nixon”, “Don’t Trust Anyone over 30”, “McCarthy”, and so forth).  She proceeded for the next 10 minutes to use my questioning period to lecture the crowd, me, the people on the panel, the hot dog guy in the hotel lobby and Curtis, the guy who hangs around outside, on the very evils of capitalism and gas drilling and all sorts of mean and nasty things (I actually kept thinking “this is Alice, from the Restaurant, in the song”—a very obscure reference that you should look up now!).  She was followed by several other commune types until I said, “If there are no actual questions, thank you very much”. The crowd sputtered some applause, mostly in relief, and I stumbled back to my seat.  This is where the real fun began.

I was approached by a rumpled –looking man who asked, politely, for a moment of my time (“Great” I thought, “Amway…”).  But no. He understood that I was a cog in the system, asked where I attended University (that is how he said it), and proceeded to berate me, my education, my dachshund, and so forth, on the lack of understanding on global warming.  I listened, until I had an opening—remember I had the advantage of being perceived as an idiot, not wholly implausible mind you, but an advantage nonetheless—and I said: “how did you get here today?”  He stopped and looked at me and said “what?” I repeated the question.  He said “Oh, I know what you’re getting at, that is the fallacy in the system, they cause us all to be prisoners to the corporate machine, but while you want to burn your fossil fuels and blah, blah, blah (fill in the blank, as you all have heard this self-righteous crap for 10 years now)…”. 
I leaned in and, almost at a whisper said.  “I’m a Christian.  I believe in faith brother, and I believe in the Gospel.  And what you seem to have right now is your very own gospel. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s more fundamentalist and more dogmatic—and tolerates less dissent—than the smallest backwoods country snake-handlers.  I know one thing about a gospel that if you believe it, if you preach it— Live it! (At this point, I was talking at a level that several around me stopped to hear what I was saying). Before you want to tell 3 billion people in the world that they can’t have electricity and all that it provides so that you can sit here in the United States and drive your hybrid car, and measure your carbon footprint and surf the internet and play pretend farmer—Live it!  You don’t like coal, which is 40% of our electricity in this country, go to your breaker box today—today brother!—and turn off 4 out of every 10 breakers.  Having surgery? Let’s hope you have it at Hospital (my phrase, now) where the power is renewable.  And no antibiotics, and no internet and no….toilet paper (I ran out of things at this point).  What you preach is bitter gall to the millions in poverty that you pretend to care about, this is the problem with your theology, and that is what it is, theology.  So before you go trying to proselytize me, give me the keys to your car, I’ll use it, you should walk home in the good conscience of the righteous man that I know you to be.”

He actually looked like he admired what I said, for a split second, and then he walked way, mumbling something about ignorance.  Apparently, I had given him my card at some point early in the conversation, because a week later I received a 14 page letter that was about as incoherent and ranting, but devilishly exhaustive, as a Unabomber manifesto.  I keep it still.
Now, you can choose to figure out how much of this was true and how much I embellished.  The fact is that we live in a country, in a part of that country better said, where we are as close to energy independent as anywhere in the world (and curiously, all the power lines go East).  In the mean old days, before we were led by these enlightened better-dressed hippies who believe in love not war, and peace at any cost (even the cost of your soul), energy independence meant security.  Countries once and still do go to war for energy, and yet our ruling classes, our government, weaken us by its adherence to a theology as strict, as intrusive, as intolerant as the Inquisition.  God save us all from the fools in charge.

Now don’t go all wobbly on me.

I remain


Fessler

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Entry 20: Returned Mindless from the Interregnum


July 30, 2014
Dear Friends

Re: Entry 20

[Note to readers:  Forgive me, as July has been consumed with the building of a deck, the cathartic properties of which are far more beneficial than sitting at a computer screen typing endless, albeit eloquent, blather]
I have always been fascinated by how memory intersperses with mind and flows back and forth; in that, how when something does not seem right, it is often not right, and then after the passage of time, and then often after years, makes sense.  Where does that memory reside?  How does it sit in the endless loops of the organic computer in our heads until it is retrieved by a random passing event, or a smell, or a vision of something that recalls streams of information?   In March I woke up at about 5:30 a.m., a dachshund lying next to me,  I could hear someone in the kitchen, and in the faint light and smell and I was certain—no, more than certain—I actually was 15 years old and the dachshund was Johantz and my father was in the kitchen.  Both are gone now. But that memory, that feeling—it was more than a feeling or a dream—it was real for a few fleeting seconds.  No simulated reality was more real in my mind.  It was reality in the few seconds before I realized that the time and place where I was, was gone.  And yet it lies beneath the sable folds of shadows enveloping memories of times past.  (That “sable folds” line, I got that from some Civil War thing or some PBS stuff I watched once.  I always wanted to work it in somewhere, somehow)

And then there are the weird things about memory.  Like the time I was 10 or 12 and was standing in a gas station garage with a friend.  And he picked up a highbeam footswitch from a car that was lying on the floor (if you known not to what I refer, that is so, so sad).  He clicked it a couple of times and said, “Look at this! Something like this will never break!”  I could tell you where I was standing, what it looked like, the greased skidded concrete floor of that Esso station—the way gas stations used to be.  I thought about that over the years, time and time again, I didn’t know why but something about that scene was wrong, or out of balance, or something, just not right.  One day, out of the blue, for whatever reason, I was sitting in a college class and I thought:  If that highbeam switch would never break, what was it doing lying on the greasy floor of a gas station?  Of course it was broken, and what my mind knew, even if I could not articulate it, even if I could not define it as a problem to be solved, was that it was a problem and I had the answer all worked out but accessed years later.
And we think we understand the human mind?  In centuries hence men, if there are men then, will look back at the abject barbarity of our medical practices—at least as they view them from the future.  Our minimal understanding of the human brain is apparent in the dopy pharmaceutical commercials that clog everything I watch (I told my youngest son that marketing has gotten so good that you can tell who the shows you watched are targeted to by the commercial type.  For him, its body wash, running shoes and sports drinks.  For me its hair coloring, creepy old people dating services and various medical enhancements and accoutrements).  Back to the pharmaceuticals:  you know, they have some clown talking about the drug being advertised to some other clown who appears to be interested, and they’re having this conversation that no one could ever have unless they’re on LSD already. But it all seems so, so, so possible.  And these people seem to have it all together, they look good for 60, have layered yuppie clothing (why is that, all these people wear styling scarves, and polo shirts with popped collars over llama yarn sweaters—why doesn’t anyone wear a pair of sleep pants and an old Ramone’s T shirt like they do at the Fairmont Wal-Mart?). They look good in those commercials-- except for the hepatic psoriasis which this new drug Slitmythroatforme© will provide 80% of relief for the test subjects, but my doctor warned me that if I have bulbous knots appears at the ends of elbows, or if my hands being to swell and crack like the elephant man, and 25% of people reported unsightly green patches of fungal growth along the philtral ridge (look that up, it’s funny) which has to be removed before it calcifies and 10% of the executors of the people that the drug has killed report that the decedent’s last words were “Rosebud”, and whatever you do, do not shake hands with a pregnant women while taking the drug and it may give you a tendency to sleep drive and arrrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The one for the anti-depressant—the side effects are thoughts of suicide and depression.  No wonder our health care system is a mess.

I’m stopping and if you’re lucky, you won’t hear from me until August.

I remain


Fessler

Monday, June 30, 2014

Entry 19: The Unravelers II

June 30, 2014

Dear Friends

Re:  Entry 19

For ages and ages, men have predicted the end of time, if there is such a thing as time.  Some take comfort in the prediction, as it has the potential of wiping their slates clean (even though it wipes them with it).  When we talk of "the apocalypse" (small a), it is usually one of the pop culture fads that show us the end of time in some horrific, blood-spattered, violence-induced, yet curiously fascinating, way.  Have you envisioned such for yourself? Most people in their vision survive and are left on the other side as one of the hardy souls, rebuilding mankind in the dream of a democratic freedom-loving, windmill-powered, grain-eating, little-kids-running-around-in-joy, eco-utopia.   Generally, in the fall of man, or government, or country, or an ideal, it is rarely thus.  Rarely noble, rarely uplifting, even less rarely interesting.  It just unravels.  Slowly, imperceptibly at first, like one thread in the hem of a sleeve, then the sleeve, then the shirt.

Have you noticed it is happening across generations?  Maybe not to everyone, but to many.  Take any family and trace their generations, and it is indeed surprising to find how many have slipped below the level of the prior generation, either economically or morally or both.  I know a family, many exist, where the grandparents sacrificed, raised their children, the children grew up self-possessed and self-sure but lacking the drive of their parents to succeed for the sake of the next generation.  So that by the time the third generation arrived on the scene, they were living in what was left of grandma's dream--maybe even living in her house--with an air of past superiority and yet utterly lacking in the ethic that gave them the chance both they and their parents squandered.  Who was at fault?  They rewrite the book of Judges word by word, page by page, never seeing.  Go and see them for yourselves.  They clot the aisles of a Wal-Mart on a Saturday night, all across the land.

Some of this is inevitable, at least on some scale, this stumbling, then reversing, of upward mobility.  And I am not even addressing the economic slavery our government is creating by impoverishing its poorest and most vulnerable with the soft tyranny of its handouts.  I am talking about the generational change we have all been witnessing--the self-sacrifice of the desire to lift up the next generation at even the cost of suppressing oneself has been lost in America today.  It built America, it brought millions of people here looking for an opportunity to lift up their children, but it is surely gone. And gone in a million little ways.  Gone in the ways we age now (as if everyone over 50 is so self-possessed with finding themselves in some investment retirement utopia surrounded by the tanned buff vitamin-swilling 60-is-the-new-20 types you see in Viagra commercials).  What ever happened to grandpa?  He bought you a penknife when you were six, and took you fishing, and talked about the war and horses and how they put up hay and barn dances and simple things.  That is gone, gone.  Today, gramps is likely to be cruising around in a sporty convertible, already on his third wife, self-centered, self-possessed and self destructing.  I never remember my grandparents buying new furniture.  Somewhere in that memory is one of the million reasons for the loss of America.

No magic answer lies beyond the next curve in the road.  More than likely, the low, gnawing mediocrity we have have allowed our government to become will consume itself.  You can hear it in the answers of our leaders, who in every word talk about "working to protect American families" or "trying to save the middle class values" (neither of which they, respectively, possess nor want their children to espouse).  This smug, self-serving government has become our burden.  Too bureaucratic to be effective, too godless to be faithful, too big to be safe, ready to crush its own people rather than protect and serve them.  People of the government, by the government, for the government.

But lo, the Lord is the Lord of the Harvest.  And I am proud of the workers who have gone when I did not or would not or could not go.  The time is coming when we all must decide if service to the Lord means service.  And I thank my sons (my real ones) who have gone to fulfill the Great Commission, may the Lord go with you.  The time of the church is not waning for it is more necessary now in the face of what is coming.  Now is the time to rise to the occasion.

I remain,

Fessler



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Entry 18: The Unravelers

June 10, 2014

Dear Friends

Re:  Entry 18

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord lasts forever.  This is from Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 8.  I intentionally misquoted it once, by adding one word but not changing its meaning to emphasize a point.  Someone told me that the United States would last forever.  I added the word “only”, before “the word of the Lord” and emphasized it by saying at the end “nothing else on this earth lasts forever".  As sad as it may seem to all of us, the United States will not last forever.  Some people have gone to great lengths to prove that their particular countries or homelands are to somehow be glorified or honored by the Lord by preservation (remember the “JerUSAlem crowd?).  There is nothing new to this thought that successful countries, in the world’s definition, will last forever, or that somehow those countries possess an honored, if hidden or obscured, place in the word.  If you doubt, Google the term “British Israelism” and ask yourself how anyone ever believed (or believes) that was supported by the New Testament, let alone the Old.

But back to America.  It takes a considerable amount of hubris to think that America, the United States, will last forever.  The current incarnation of the United States barely survived a civil war not 150 years ago, where one whole side used the word of the Lord to justify enslaving their fellow man.  I hate to break it to you if you are not a student of history, some of you may hang on some vague concept of “states’ rights” as the basis of the American Civil War, but there was no state right apparently worth fighting for greater than the loss of what the South considered its most valuable asset—human slaves.  I have often considered the Civil War to be one of the greatest acts of righteousness of the United States—it took that to wipe out one of its greatest acts of unrighteousness, slavery.

We may be at the end of history, watching the unraveling of America as we knew it, eaten from the inside out by selfishness, and commercialism, and pleasure-seeking—the pursuit of happiness now defined as personal preference to do whatever one may want--and that financed by the taxpayer.  The country that roused itself from the Great Depression to win the Second World War, having done so by self-suppression to a higher cause, probably could not do that today.  I watched a documentary about a 17 year old from Clarksburg in the 29th Infantry Division, who went ashore at Normandy and fought his way through France, saw terrible things, did terrible things.  17 years old.  Today he would be in therapy because he did not get a Little League trophy when he was 8.  in 1944 he helped save the world from tyranny.

Where are these men today? I can tell you most assuredly, I am not one of them.  I am one of the unravelers of America.  It is a truth all Christians must face, that American Christianity is only spread when Christians are in the majority, or at least that is how we all seem to talk lately. If only we elected this man, or that woman, or finally got the majority back.  Well, you have got to believe that our government was elected by a majority—and you might be content to point to a president as the culprit—I would be more inclined to point to the majority that elected him.  Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon and Paul (in case you are counting, I left out Judas and Matthias, added Paul), all of these men took the Gospel to the majority—in their day they were the minority, and they did it to the point of death, it being so important to fulfill the commandment that they did not wait until Rome decided to stamp “official” or “majority” on them.  The next time you hear someone lament the end of prayer in schools as the beginning of the end of America, ask them why God is so limited by the lack of a schoolboy’s prayer.  He most certainly is not, and like all excuses for lack of action—action being the obligation to spread the Gospel—it has the hollow ring of unbelief and disobedience.  Get up, get out, spread the word! Stop whining about how it is all unraveling.  God is the God of the whirlwind too.

We may be watching, experiencing, living—assisting!—the end of America.  It may not survive my lifetime, the end most likely will be financial, a slow, strangling collapse, if we continue at this pace with this government which disdains, disowns, disregards the values that made it so special.  The grass and the flowers and the earth with America will pass, but the Word?  Not so.  Not so.

I remain

Fessler

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Entry 17: Attitude

June 3, 2014

Dear Friends

Re: Entry 17

The last time I really had the flu was several years ago, in late January or early February. I remember this time distinctly because my youngest son Ogal was going with his team to a varsity basketball tournament about 200 miles away and I could not go. It was really the first of his games I missed, but given that he was a sophomore on a team with 7 seniors, even though he was on the varsity team, I did not think he would play that much. The tournament he was going to was one of the premier in-season tournaments in the state, and I did not want to miss it, but I could not drive. So I stayed at home, it was too far away to pick it up on the radio, so I mostly slept and whined, and moped, partly because of sickness partly because I could not be there.

The prior game went into overtime, so their 9 pm tip off became more like 9:45, a fact that made my head pound even more. At about 9:30 I was lying there thinking and realized that I might be able to get the broadcast over the internet, so I set up a laptop on a side table and looked for Beckley stations. It took several tries and searches, I listened to a number of commercials but when they went back to the main broadcast it was either country music (remember the old joke about country music? I played a record backwards and you know what? the guy got his dog back, go his truck back, got his girl back, got out of prison…). Finally, I just happened on the right station at the precise time and had it, at the start of his game. I was lying there with a blanket over my head, heard the announcement of the starters, the announcers talked to the coaches, and on and on, until the tip.

Then something miraculous happened. with 5 minutes to go in the first quarter (they are eight minute quarters), the announcer said “Checking in for the Warriors, No. 5, Ogal Fessler”…. I sat straight up on the couch, my headache instantly gone, I was healed. I looked at my wife and said “maybe he had to give his shirt to another player who forgot his” (this had happened when he was a freshman). No, it became clear it was Ogal playing, and the longer it went on, the better I felt. The game was very close, they were playing a team from Mt. Hope that was going to close at the end of the school year and had a very good player, it went back and forth, and Ogal was in and out the whole game, had three points, made a basket, got fouled, missed a basket, was fouled, made one of the free throws. In my head he was the star. Later, the coach told me that the Warriors had no answer for Mt. Hope’s best player, so they put Ogal in figuring he could play defense, maybe take the fouls, but Ogal shut him down, we could not have won without him. I do not remember being sick after that, I even went down to pick him up about 3 am and I went to work the next day. I really wanted to talk with him about what happened. I could have bled out on the sidewalk, I think I would have waited until I spoke with him before I died, just to know (I had a relative that once did this, my aunt waited to die until the day after a dinner honoring my father--she said that if she died before it would be cancelled, and he never got any recognition, so she was determined not to ruin it. I went to her house after the dinner and told her all about it. She died eight hours later. Don't tell me attitude does not matter).

Now as nice as that is to experience as a parent (and it is hard to describe to your children why that is, they just have to wait until they become parents to understand), the revelation to me was the fact that I was cured—not just made to feel better—but actually cured. I marveled at how such a change in circumstances could lead to a such a transformation as to how I felt. I did not really forget this, this attitude leading to change, and came to conclude (or wonder) that my personal outlook oftentimes was and is in conflict with reality. Or more to the point: my reality was clouded by my attitude, and my attitude could greatly influence my perception of the world.

This should not be a surprise to Christians. In 2 Timothy 1:7 it says “for God has not give to us a spirit of fear; but of power and love and a sound mind”. How else, in the face of difficulties that some Christians in the world must face, can they be believers? How else can we convince the world to believe in the unseen, if we mope around all day? It is the same spirit of verse that the Lord calls us to be cheerful givers, to go exhort and to encourage one another, to build one another up, to call each other to the higher calling of the Gospel. Attitude. It is not just some poster on a wall, but it is power—to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans, 8:6). These are not just words in an old book, but power, real power. Imagine, if I could harness the energy for sports or other pursuits into living for the Lord, or devote the time or attitude?

I remain,

Fessler

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Entry 16: Part II Walking the Ridge


May 22, 2014

Dear Friends

RE:  Entry 16

Part I

He opened the truck door and swung one boot, the left one, onto the door sill and relacing it, put back on his gloves and stepped out onto the dirt road.  He reached below the seat on the driver side, to the right at the bottom and worked the latch, rolling up the seat forward and took the gun out of the cloth case from the storage area behind.  It lay among assorted things, a torn shirt used as a rag. A broken coffee mug, one jack stand with the pin missing on the riser, an empty glass Coca Cola bottle and a crushed roll of paper towels, half soaked on one side with oil.  Turning, he pushed the front seat back and put the gun case across it, sliding the gun out, opened the bolt and looked at it, closed the bolt.  He pushed the lock on the truck door down, swung the rifle out over the door and closing it in one motion, walked down the road patting his right side pocket for the shells.

Part II

The road itself wasn’t really just dirt, but a mixture of clay and red dog, the vitrified remains of burning coal refuse dumps. It was something you just didn’t see any longer, and the look of it reminded him of all the time as a kid he spent picking the little red shards out of his knee or stuck into the side of his rubber-soled tennis shoes.  He walked on this road as it transformed from a road to two parallel ruts with a high center of weeds, to just a path, up against the side of the hill, the remains of what had to be an old logging path—taken for its width—and followed it over a collapsed culvert and up.  He entered the woods in earnest now, no longer in the sunshine, and even though it was bright out—and even though half the leaves were down—the play of shadow and light across the trees and the ground made it much like the twilight.  The frost was still down here, mostly on the dark leaves, but as soon as he stepped on them it left a warm boot print.  Where he entered, it was a small gully that was in reality a cloven separation of the hill itself and the higher he followed the old road up, the wider and wider the rift became.  It wasn’t a sharp drop, more like a gentle slope down, that from the top had to look like a shallow dish, cracked from the rim to the bowl.  He was slowly making his way up the convex inside of the dish.

While somewhat cold, it was not unpleasantly so—being the kind of enjoyable sunshine cold of October after a very hot September.  It would be some months before the deep, damp, set in cold of January.  That was the thing about fall around here.  It was the last dry season. Most of the other months, from November through May, sometimes June, were wet—the definition being that it wasn’t really summer until you could sit on the ground without your pants getting stained.  He reached the part of the road that doubled back away from the rift, to the right around the side of the face of the ridge, sort of a switchback to avoid the grade.  And though it was little more than a path it was wide enough for some primitive equipment, maybe the width of a team of horses.  The place, a hundred years before, was the center of one of the great national timber booms, since moved far west, when these hills were stripped bare of native red spruce and hardwoods.  What grew back, at this elevation, wasn’t the spruce—there were some smaller examples, just not in abundance, given their slow growth especially at this height and on the leeward side of the hill—but mostly hardwood, oak, beech, ash and maple. 

Along up ahead he saw a gray squirrel ring around the side of an oak tree, peer out from behind and then scamper out of sight.  The woods were alive with the sounds of mostly birds, not a few crow, squirrels and chipmunk—the latter being so loud that it seemed that somehow its thrashing around the leaves and its chirpy bark, all things that called attention to itself, was some type of reverse defense mechanism.  Once he remembered while squirrel hunting years ago he was sitting in stand of hickory, his back against a tree, watching the squirrel all around, run up and down around and behind, to the point that they became almost oblivious of his presence.  He had a shotgun then, a 12 gauge single shot, laid across his lap, just watching.  One of the noisy chipmunks scampered back and forth across the forest floor, and kept stopping to look at him, head cocked sideways.  He didn’t move.  The chipmunk kept to its activity, which seemed to have no purpose at all, until it picked up what was either a part of an acorn or maybe a bud and jumped, all at once, onto his boot.  He didn’t move as the chipmunk ate its little meal, sitting on the toe of the boot, stopping, every few seconds, turning its head sideways to stare as if trying to figure out what this thing was, not ever confused enough to be alarmed.  He leaned slightly forward and made a clicking sound with his mouth, the chipmunk stopped, dropped the food, froze, staring.  When he smiled at the chipmunk, with widened eyes it shrieked, went straight into the air about a foot, as if riding a rocket, ran into and under the leaves.  He saw more squirrel that day in that place than he could recall before or since, but never used one shell, never fired one shot.

I remain

Fessler