The Highest Patriotism

July 4, 2015


“The highest patriotism is not blind allegiance to official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to hold her to a higher standard.”
— George McGovern





Looking through Dad's old photo album

Dad's album from WW II










Memorial Day

May 26, 2014


A Memorial Day display at Green Lake

A Memorial Day display at Green Lake



I love how someone’s private memorial is shared in a public space like this bench along Green Lake in Seattle.  This appeared in the early morning hours of the Memorial Day holiday.  I wonder what it means to its creator(s)?


The Face of the Fields

April 10, 2014

Stubble in the fields near Collegeville, MN

Stubble in the fields near Collegeville, MN

“The hum of the wind in the tree-tops has always been good music to me, and the face of the fields has often comforted me more than the faces of men.”
— John Burroughs, from The Writings of John Burroughs, vol. 15, The Summit of the Years

I like the phrase, “the face of the fields.”  Here is the stubbly face of the Minnesota landscape near St. John’s University in Collegeville.

Barn with flag

Barn with flag




Beloved Dad, In Memory

March 10, 2014

Dad, you will always be with us in our hearts.

Dad, you will always be with us in our hearts.

“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal,
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it,
and, when the time comes, to let it go,
to let it go.”
— Mary Oliver

My Dad died last week.  His was a peaceful death.  One day, you could tell things just were not quite right.  Dad was more confused and unbalanced on his feet, but he was still as hospitable as ever, offering his visitors in the nursing home a beer (he kept a stash at the nursing station so that he could offer his drop-in guests a beer, a ritual of hospitality he maintained all his life).  Two days later he died peacefully in his sleep.

Dad had just celebrated his 95th birthday, so his was a long, full life.  He experienced the joys and sorrows of a life well lived.  He suffered the losses of his parents, ten of his siblings, and countless friends.  But he found comfort in and was sustained by his family — nine children, 18 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren — his faith, and his farm and community.  Here are some words from his eulogy that reminded us of what such a long life entails:

“Dad would have been 8 years old in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic.  Could that 8-year old have even imagined that someday his children and grandchildren would have passport stamps from Israel, Peru and Ecuador, Thailand, Botswana and Morocco, and dozens of other countries?

Dad left school after 8th grade because, back then, there was no system in place to bus farm kids to the high school in town.  So at age 14, he finished school and stepped into the working world.  Think about Dad as that young adult.  Could he have imagined that he would send nine children to the University of Minnesota, and have several children and grandchildren with advanced degrees?

Dad would have been in his mid-teens when the New Deal’s Rural Electrification Program brought electricity to Minnesota farms.  Could he have imagined then that 80 years later we would be checking e-mail and taking photos with Smart phones smaller than a deck of cards?”

Dad was a loving parent and an exemplary role model.  When I was growing up, he worked a day job and then farmed full time on evenings and Saturdays. (Sunday was always a day of rest.)  So we are grateful that he had three decades of “retirement” with more time to fish, hunt, bowl, and play cards.  He played on the community’s over-35 baseball team well into his 60s!  Even when the tillable fields were eventually rented, Dad always cut and baled the meadow hay.  He planted a small patch of corn for the wild deer.  He mowed our expansive lawn and kept it tidily groomed. He bought huge bags of birdseed at Fleet Farm and suet from a local butcher so that he could feed the birds every day.  He was a good steward of the land.

And now his work is done.

The family came together to mourn his death and say goodbye.  All nine children gathered from Israel, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  His son, who is on the parish cemetery board, helped prepare the burial site.  His granddaughters did the readings for the funeral mass.  His grandsons were pallbearers.  The church choir, of which Dad was a member well into his 90s, sang at the mass.  The town’s miliary honor guard added color and touching solemnity to the ceremony and honored Dad’s army service in WWII.  Countless people contributed salads and side dishes for the luncheon after the funeral — lots of Minnesota hot dishes.

We are all so grateful that we had Dad with us for so long.  He will always be with us in our hearts.

Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn.  Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass.  Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down.  Let the shed
go black inside.  Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid.  God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

The funeral procession took Dad past his farm one last time on the way to the church.

The funeral procession took Dad past his farm one last time on the way to the church.





Veterans’ Day Reflections

November 11, 2013

Flags honoring fallen soldiers, Evergreen-Washelli cemetery

Flags honoring veterans, Evergreen-Washelli cemetery

Memorial Day remembrances

Veterans’ Day remembrances

There Will Come Soft Rains
by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

“We owe it to ourselves to remember what war is, so that we do not go lightly into its great darkness.”

— Gary Kamiya, “Bitter Fruit: Behind the Scenes, America Buries Its Iraq War Dead”

Of Thee I Sing

July 4, 2013

The kitchen window at my Dad's house

The kitchen window at my Dad’s house

Embroidery by my sister Margaret

Embroidery by my sister Margaret

Happy Fourth of July!  This is my fifth Fourth of July post, and it’s fun to look back on my past posts to see which thoughts and images I chose to celebrate this quintessential summer holiday.  Here are links to my old posts:  2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.  Enjoy!



“No place can be real emotionally unless we’ve imagined the life there, and our imagining is not likely to be very substantive if not informed.”
— William Kittredge, Southwest Homelands

The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

New York City architecture

New York City architecture

Flag refection in revolving doors, Times Square

Flag reflection in revolving doors, Times Square

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
— Mark Twain

“Travel is not altogether an indulgence.  Going out, seeking psychic and physical adventures, can reawaken love of the shifting presence of the sacred Zen ‘ten thousand things’ we find in the wiggling world.  Travel, then, is a technique for staying in touch, a wake-up call, not a diversion, but a responsibility.”
— William Kittredge, Southwest Homelands

I’m back home again after my first trip to New York City.  Now, when I read a novel set in NYC, or see a movie that takes place there, or hear news of the big city, I will have a better sense of the geography of the place and my responses will be more grounded.  I know now how walkable the city is, and that despite its size and population, NYC is manageable because it feels like a collection of small villages.

I do feel that tourist travel is an indulgence, but for me, it is a necessary one.  Any travel is mind-broadening.  And it’s good for the spirit to feast on new sights and experiences.  The challenge is to hold on to that sense of wonder and adventure as I transition back to the familiar geography of my home and workplace.

I can see that traveling on vacation is, on some levels, an escape from my “real” life.  I do partly agree with this comment:  “Looking, consuming with the eye and producing nothing, can never be a genuine life.”  (Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Not Now Voyager)  Schwartz goes on to reflect on the risk of traveling as an escape from the struggles of making a meaningful life at home:  “Nonetheless, when we’re gripped by uncertainty, travel feels like a ready solution to the problem of What next?  What to do, what to think, what to be? . . . On a trip, there’s always another monument, another excursion, another natural wonder to visit, to prove to ourselves that we’re doing something.”

My time in New York City felt like that — always another sight to see.  I couldn’t have sustained that level of sightseeing for too many more days.  After four days in the city, I felt full, and glad to return home to digest and make sense of all that filled my mind.  New York offers such richness, and I can see that it is easy to overdose.

And now it is time to learn once again how to be at home:

” . . . the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive a the ground at our feet and learn to be at home.”
— Wendell Berry

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
— The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Red, white, and blue

Vintage canning jar with small flags

Fourth of July patchwork

Flag in felted wool

When you consider today’s contentious and polarized political climate, it truly seems a marvel that the delegates of the thirteen colonies came together to unanimously declare their independence.  And we descendents are very gratified that they did. We too often take these rights for granted and seldom ponder what they mean until we feel they are threatened.

Marilynn Robinson talks a bit about rights in When I Was a Child I Read Books:

“Jefferson says that we are endowed with ‘certain’ rights, and that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are ‘among these.’  He does not claim to offer and exhaustive list.  Indeed, he draws attention to the possibility that other ‘unalienable’ rights might be added to it.”

Robinson points out that the framers of our Declaration of Independence were quite clear where these rights come from: “Each person is divinely created and given rights as a gift from God.  And since these rights are given to him by God, he can never be deprived of them without defying divine intent.”

Life.  Liberty.  The pursuit of happiness.  What other God-given rights might you add to the list?

I’m back from Texas and will be sharing some of my trip photos and impressions over the next few days.  We travelled 1,566 miles in our rented car, so we saw quite a bit of Texas.  If I had to describe Texas in two words, they would be flat and windy!  We enjoyed the Texas weather, which was in the 70s and 80s.

Here are some photos from our Texas rambles:

Landscape near Chappell Hill area, east of Houston


Vintage Dr. Pepper sign on building in Chappell Hill. Dr. Pepper was invented by a pharmacist in Waco, Texas.

Weathered sign along a Texas back road. The Wild West is still alive!

The Edythe Bates Old Chapel at the International Festival Institute near Round Top, Texas. It is used as one performance space at this music academy.

Concert Hall at the International Festival Institute. Mighty fancy digs in the middle of Texas!

Inside the Stuermer Store in Ledbetter, Texas. The store has been in business since 1891. We stopped in for malts from its soda fountain (formerly a saloon bar).

Cash register at the Stuermer Store, which is part museum, part local store.

The proprietress of the Stuermer Store is the grand-daughter of the original owner. She rang up all sales.

A maze of bridges near Dallas, Texas.

More bridges in Ft. Worth. Heaven help you if you didn't know where you were going!

Exterior, Chapel of Thanksgiving in Dallas

Magnificent "Glory Window" in the Chapel of Thanksgiving

Reflections on a Dallas skyscraper look like distortions in a fun house mirror.

Pioneer Plaza Cattle Drive sculpture in Dallas: 70 larger-than-life bronze cattle and 3 cowboys

Silhouette of windmill

The flat fields near Corpus Christi were so huge that it took three tractors in tandem for planting.

The ubiquitous Texas state flag. We saw them flying all over on our trip.