Leaves are changing color and holding on for dear life. I saw many of them spinning on their limbs this afternoon. They are certain that they must not let go…they have been holding on since spring…and what comes next. As I sit writing this on the Writing Porch…I see that the leaves on my neighbors tree have changed their color overnight.
October is my month. I was born on October the 24th, 1957. When I was a child I had some difficulty remembering just which year in the 1950’s that I had been born. At times I thought that the year was 1956…while on other occasions it seemed like that it was 1958. These days when I fill out a digital form that requires that I submit my date of birth and the year that I was born…I have to scroll….and scroll…and scroll. Halloween was a fun time in the early 1960’s. I loved the old monsters of filmdom, Frankenstein and Dracula and the Wolf Man and the Mummy. I purchased monster model kits at the Ben Franklin Dime Store and put them together and hand painted the creatures. The Dime Store had many model car kits and a few monster kits. The Eldorado Ben Franklin Store seemed to have a bit of everything…and yet it was not a large store.
Presidential campaigns are hard fought in the closing days of October…prior to election day on the first Tuesday of November. Almost every election cycle we hear the media speak of the threat of an, ‘October Surprise,’ where one or the other of the two primary contenders reveal a last minute negative news item on their opponent. In my thoughts I think our October Surprise this year can be that we live in a divided country…but we do not have to be divided. We can make a conscientious decision that although everyone around us is giving into the temptation to be prejudiced and biased and to believe that political parties are inextricably linked to faith…we can resist and reach out our hand to our neighbor and embody…peace…
Tomorrow is the conclusion of one of my 4 favorite months. It has gone by like the blink of an eye. A week in Maine added in the supersonic travel of September. I was sitting and contemplating getting my booster shot when my cell phone rang and it was a tape recording reminding me to get my flu shot. Our world is replete with viral challenges. As I traversed Campus yesterday I saw the most interesting and brightly colored tents outside Morris Library. Now I have always loved the Library…but especially now since they hired Jonathon…and he so enjoys being a member of their team.
Stress can cover you with a blanket of depression. Where once you saw sunlight peeking through the clouds of despair…now you see clouds obliterating the sun. When you cozy up and tuck yourself in under the warm depression blanket…it brings some sore comfort. Have you ever heard someone announce that everything bad happens to them? When you keep this attitude for some time…you are in danger of becoming the attitude. The sun will come out again…but you will not see it…because you still are ensconced under your blanket of despair.
‘Midnight Mass’ is an elegant horror movie. Over its 7 episodes it has a healthy and deep discussion of faith and how we interact with it. Probably the most lovely singing that I have ever heard in a scary movie. It is the type of show that you think about after it is over. One of the characters says during an episode…just before she dies, ‘I keep forgetting that this is not my real life…and I do it…over…and over…and over…and over…again.
My good friend, Rob, had the famous Almond Joy and Mounds Candy Bar line, ‘Sometimes you feel like a nut…and sometimes you don’t,’ for his character to utter in a wonderful church play…written by our pastor, Kerry. We are surrounded by joy…and happiness…and love…and suffering… and sickness…and death. We must be light bearers in the darkness…
Billy B. and Chet and and the rest of the Lost in Space Gang were hyped about October arriving in just 3 days. A new family had just moved in down the street and one of the first things that the mom did was to put up a Fall Welcome Banner and some Halloween decorations. It appeared that they had some kids that were the age of the LISG…and Chet was going to ask them if they wanted to join the Gang…as a way of welcome to the neighborhood. Chet was the captain of the crew as he had the Robot costume from the prime time TV series, Lost in Space. The Gang was scheduled to go on a Ghost Walk on October 1st. They were going to investigate the claims of ghost sightings in a big house on Illinois Avenue in Eldorado. No one had lived in the old mansion for many years and some of the windows were broken out. Billy B.’s mom had just put out on the coffee table… their’ figurines of a classic witch called Witch Hazel, and a horseman carrying his pumpkin head under his arm…in the spirit of the famous Washington Irving short story of, Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. There was also a Wizard called The Wiz…to make up the trinity.
It was especially chilly…or indeed cold on the October 1 Friday night. Jane’s mom had sent along little thermos’s of Hot Apple Cider for each member of the Gang…who had become a cadre of explorers. Jeff had brought a large magnifying glass that he said his father used in his business. The new kid, Daryl, had an english accent…not a pretend accent…a real accent! He was quite friendly and glad to be a part of the group. He had been born in America but had lived most of his life in Bath, England. Daryl told us that he was used to celebrating Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th…but he said that Halloween seemed, ‘Ever so much more exciting!’
There it was…the Ghost House…and the wind whistled through the broken window glass. Daryl pushed lightly on the front door and it swung open with a screech. With each of their torches on…or as we say flashlights…they could see and old couch and arm chair. Along one wall of the front room was a large fireplace with hot coals shining in the grate…and the smell of smoke in the air. Chet said that he believed that someone was either still in the house or had been there recently. Chet could be relied upon to be practical in his assessments. He was a friend of few words…and he meant them all. A wizened voice called out from the upstairs…’Who is in my house?’ Jeff dropped his father’s giant magnifying glass. Jane said that it was time for a cider break. Down the stairs floated a woman dressed as a witch and Jane offered her a cup of warm cider. She not only took it joyfully but then began to ask each of the children’s names. She went on to state that she and her husband had lived in the House many years ago and that they liked to return for a visit during October. Billy B. asked if anyone else heard soft music playing? Daryl said that he did and that everyone should look at what he was watching that was coming down the road. Before the Gang’s bugged eyes was a boy playing a ukulele while riding a bicycle…with his head bouncing around in the basket of the bike…
‘Oh that is Egbert coming back from the school,’ said the woman with the look and apparel of a witch. I asked him to ride his bicycle down to see if his father was done grading papers. He is the 3rd grade teacher. About that time the lights came on…and there was an elfin man with a pointy hat and a wide grin. ‘Daryl my boy…is this the nice group of your classmates that you were telling me about?’ ‘Yes Father…but I did not want to reveal the secret before you performed a couple of your magic tricks for them,’ said Daryl. ‘Oh my my my…I have mused up the fun again, said Daryl’s dad…my name is Job…but you can call me…The Wiz…’
Summer has returned to Little Egypt. It is 84 degrees and feels like 88. Eighty-eight is forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday. Last week I was wearing a light sweater and now short sleeves are in order. In Maine, two weeks ago it was primarily short sleeve weather. The crispness of fall will come again…and none too soon.
I remember sitting in the Orpheum Theatre in Eldorado, Illinois and hearing the film projector that screened the movie on large reels from one to another. The projector would make the most interesting and comforting of sounds by clicking of the sound of ‘flick’ as each of the individual photos were whisked across the bright light of the projector at such a rapid rate that what I saw on the screen had then illusion of motion. There were even cases of subliminal suggestion that occurred from time to time. This would be done by, say, an advertiser splicing a photo of their product on one or two frames. Such as while you are watching a western you see a momentary shot of a beautiful Coca-Cola and suddenly you must go to the lobby and purchase a coke. Or perhaps you are watching television and a frame of film suggests to ‘Smoke Marlboro Cigarettes’ and you suddenly want to try Marlboros.
Life is a bit like a movie. The photos of our days whisk by with the flick of the master projector. First we are young…and then we are middle aged…and then we are old. We travel our road of life as we had planned until we are deterred by a subliminal suggestion. At times they are good suggestions…but often they are suggestions that have an agenda that benefits the person that is making the suggestion. We are in a selling world. Have you ever had an old friend call you and express their desire to renew old acquaintance…and to discuss a business plan that they have or a product that they are shilling for? How many of you friendships are transactional?
Wonderful people pass away and before long few people remember them or know of their life. I have witnessed on numerous occasions the death of good and hard working human beings who once they were buried and current family and friends had left this mortal soil…the next generation know little if anything about them. Now that is not the most extraordinary element of our flickering film of life…as it is somewhat customary for the daily rhythms of the life that surrounded the deceased to be altered in the extreme…once they are no longer around. Our earthly journey back to Jerusalem is not about permanence of placement…it is about the journey and who you helped along the way.
Costume parties are fun. Halloween Costume Parties are especially enjoyable. The big night had arrived…it was Halloween once again. Billy B. and his mom had spent all day Saturday decorating for the Sunday event. They had the expert assistance of Billy’s friend, Cyndy, who was a master at decorating for Halloween. The Bump house had never looked more festive. Neva Jane had decided to do something innovative and different for 1964…she was combining the children’s Costume Party with a Halloween Costume Party for her adult friends. Now, Neva Jane had many adult friends who were into a party… The adult attendees would enjoy adult beverages like Highballs and Bloody Mary’s…while the children would partake of faux adult drinks as well as Coca-Cola and Chocola and Kool-Aid. Billy B.’s mom was a Beatnik or new age thinker. She was going to have the joint Parties…together.
Jane was coming as Glenda The Good Witch from the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Buddy was attending as Barney Rubble and had talked his friend, Tommy, to come as Fred Flintstone. Jeff C. would be Linus from the Peanuts Characters. Jeff C. loved Peanuts. He once told Billy B. that he reminded him of Charlie Brown and that he thought that their class was torn from a page of the Peanuts comic strip. Billy’s dad, Willam, was going to film the festivities with his new 8 millimeter camera. Billy, of course would be the Creature From The Black Lagoon…and Chet would be the Lost In Space Robot.
Clang went the Bump doorbell and at the door was Frankenstein…or someone who looked remarkably like the original Boris Karloff character. There he was with a massive Cohiba Cigar and mumbling…’Smoke…Good.’ Coming up the driveway was Dracula. When Billy B. greeted him and invited him in for a glass of wine…he said…’I never drink…wine…’ Billy had just completed the last minute preparations for the Party by stuffing each gift bag for both the children and the adults with 10 monster comics…they were only 12 cents each. Susie brought Billy B. a faux Bloody Mary and he took great joy in imbibing the adult brew…much as he did enjoy…candy cigarettes. Billy B. had a bit of a crush on Susie…although she was several years older than he. As he drank the Bloody Mary…suddenly he had the revelation that Susie would like to dance… The Wolf Man was already twisting the night away with Billy’s mom…and he looked remarkably like Lon Chaney Jr.’s movie character of the nocturnal beast. Billy B. closed his eyes as he twisted with his paramour
Susie…when he opened them he saw that he was dancing with…The Bride of Frankenstein. Along came Frank…and he was no longer smoking a Cohiba…he was drinking a Highball and wanting to cut in…
Chet poured cold water on Billy’s fevered brow. ‘Billy…what happened,’…Chet asked? You were Twisting with Susie and all of the sudden you began to yell to Frankenstein that you meant no harm…it was just Chubby Checker’s….wonderful and compelling lyrics. Neva Jane asked Billy if he had taken a drink from the adult table…and he replied that Linus had given the drink to Susie and that she had brought it to him. Linus spun his blanket into a whip and knocked the drink out of Billy’s hand…and turned on his heel with a self satisfied smile…and walked out of the Bump home.
Billy enjoyed monster and scary movies. He had ever since he had watched Frankenstein and Dracula at the Orpheum Theatre in Eldorado, Illinois when he was a wee child. Neva Jane drove him to the Theatre each Sunday afternoon…and he stayed until evening. He had no thoughts of school the next day or the television show, Lassie, that signaled to him that his weekend was almost over. Lassie came on Sunday evenings and once Billy had watched it…he knew that it would soon be bed time…and Monday would greet him the next morning. Billy did not care for school…much. He and his best friend, Chet, loved Halloween. Chet dressed up as the Lost In Space Robot…and he had the voice down perfectly of the mechanical star of the popular program. Billy’s cousin, Gene, had the most intricate of Universal Studios Monster Masks. They were made of latex and they covered your entire head…and were expensive and movie quality. As Billy Bump and his best pal, Chet, watched the original Frankenstein movie that headlined the Month of Monster Movies at the Orpheum…he could visualize he and Chet making friends with the much misunderstood Monster. Frankenstein was obviously looking for a friend. He had been brought back from the dead and he wanted to make the most of his second chance at life.
Chet and Billy B. had planned a Halloween party with Buddy and Jeff and Jane. It promised to be a special event. Chet would be the center of attention with his Lost In Space Robot costume and his robot arms akimbo and his robot voice. Billy B. would be coming as the Creature from the Black Lagoon and he would borrow cousin Gene’s Creature Head and Creature Hands to produce a frightening image of movie lore. Billy B.’s mom was going to make popcorn balls and Chets mom was supplying the hot dogs and buns. Directly after the party they were going trick or treating and they were determined to be the best costumed kids on the block.
Billy B. went to pick up his Creature from the Black Lagoon Head and Hands and his cousin Gene led him into the room that he kept his collection of Universal Studios Monster Masks. Billy was a bit scared of what he was seeing. It was just weird. Aligning the walls were the most realistic and hideous collection of lifelike masks that he had ever seen. It was like being in a Hammer Studio movie. There was the Wolfman snarling at him and the bandaged wrapped face of the Mummy. He looked behind him and staring into his eyes was a Ghoul with a toothy grin and one of the large and elaborate heads of the Mole Men. Billy’s cousin said, ‘Boo,’ and Billy B. ran out of the door and out of the front door and down the block. Although Billy enjoyed monster movies and scary stories…cousin Gene’s realistic masks were a bit too much for his young mind.
Once Billy B had asked his mother who the devil was…and she had answered that she was the devil. Billy responded with a shriek and tears and his mom said, ‘You silly Kid…I was just teasing you…’ Billy wondered if that was really the case… On another occasion he had been suddenly awoken and heard an audible voice tell him, ‘You are meaner…than the devil!’ He took it seriously and attempted to mend his ways. Nevertheless he loved a good fright and a monster movie and popcorn balls and watching Chet portray the Robot from Lost in Space.
For a man for all seasons…my season has come. I love fall! I walked campus this morning with a light sweater on…and it felt…right. We are back from our great Maine adventure and ready for what autumn brings us. Last week in Maine was really a prelude to the happy season. The unlimited natural beauty of Maine is unparalleled. It is inspirational for a lover of fall. The leaves on the trees were changing colors…almost before our eyes. Bodies of water enthrall me. I can sit and stare at the ocean for hours. I think that is why I enjoy the Ocean Point Inn so much, in East Boothbay.
Fall and winter…scratch me where I itch. I like the shorter days. I enjoy the cooler weather and the L.L. Bean sweaters and deerskin gloves. I began working at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale in the fall…October 10, 1978. I was 20 years old…but turned 21…14 days later. Southern Illinois University
opened up a new world of opportunity and possibilities for me and MJ…and later Aaron and Jonathon. I became a member of a community that welcomed me and appreciated me. I learned what it was like to work with colleagues from over 70 nations. I loved the diversity.
In a world of uncertainty…there is one thing that is certain…time passes like a weavers shuttle…and life is short. I anticipated retirement for many years and now I have been retired for almost 11 years. Spend as little time contemplating worry and strife as you possibly can. Think about the good things that have happened to you and do not dwell on the bad.
‘It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.’
‘Hello Eeyore,’ said Pooh.’
‘Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,’ said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.’
‘We just thought we’d check in on you,’ said Piglet, ‘because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.’
‘Eeyore was silent for a moment. ‘Am I okay?’ he asked eventually. ‘Well I don’t know to be honest. Are any of us really okay? Thats what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now Im feeling rather sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is so Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.’
‘Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.’
‘Eeyore looked at them in surprise. ‘What are you doing?’
‘We’re sitting here with you,’ said Pooh, ‘because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.’
‘Oh,’ said Eeyore. ‘Oh.’ And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.’
‘Because Pooh and Piglet were There.’
(A.A. Milne, E.H. Shepard)
Fall is in the air today. Pumpkins and Pumpkin Spice are coming in the door of our lives. I relish the chill and the crispness of autumn. The forbearer of holidays and hot apple cider and sweaters…from L.L. Bean…and falling leaves and birthdays. Fall is a time for looking forward and for looking back. Our 2020 and 2021 Pandemic has been created two of the most challenging years that any of us have ever lived through. We pray for an end to our terrible scourge…
Fog creates uncertainty and shadows and things seen in silhouette. It is easy to believe that someone who speaks kind words to you and tells you what you want to hear…is your friend…but beware. There are some pastors and religious leaders who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Bible speaks of them. I know precious people who have been abused by cult leaders. They have been taken extreme advantage of and sexually abused. They have been emotionally and mentally abused. Their lives have been altered and changed by this heinous abuse for decades. They were told by their abusers to keep quiet and to tell no one…and many have obeyed the wolf’s command and have suffered and been in poor health and emotional distress for 40 years and more. Our minds and our emotions and our allegiances are malleable…especially when we are young. Much of the direction of our lives is commensurate on who we were listening to in our formative years. Studies have illustrated that a high percentage of sexual abuse is perpetrated by an abuser that the abused not only knows but is comfortable with. Authority figures pervert their authority in order to take advantage of the vulnerable.
When something seems too good to be true…it is. Listen to your gut feelings…tell someone when you are made to feel uncomfortable. When an authority figure tells you that you are special or that they need you to keep a secret until your dying day…they are preparing to use you for their own lust and satisfaction…and not only do not have your interest at heart…they despise you and hold no value for your humanity…
There are churches that seek the deed to your life. The want to control your daily movements and your private life…including your finances. Some from those fellowships will extoll you that the best way to healing is to keep the secret of the devils that abused you… Nothing could be further from the truth! The road to your healing is to shed sunlight on the darkness that these evil people operated in. When you hide the abuse that you suffered it is like giving the abuser carte blanche to continue to abuse.
The Sun is shining on the lives of many who have suffered under the perversion of the gospel of Christ. Many of these false prophets proclaim that to leave them and to think for yourself will cause you to get sick and die. On the contrary…you will heal and get well…while their perversions will consume them…
My L.L. Bean Deerskin and fleece lined house shoes…were ‘Wicked Good!’ MJ’s parents, Fernie and Berl, bought me a pair for Christmas…for several years…when I was much younger and had smaller feet. I padded around our little 4 room house in Elkville, Illinois…and felt warm and secure and well served by such fine footwear. On our first day in Maine, a week ago Sunday, we traveled to L.L. Bean. MJ had told me that I might want to search for a new sweater…and that is all that I needed to hear. I found a wonderful black sweater that was heavy…only like L.L. Bean makes them for the harsh Maine winters. One time I had a pair of slacks that were quilted. They were the warmest slacks that I had ever owned…and they were from L.L. Bean. I also found a pair of Deerskin gloves…and they reminded me of my former beloved slippers with the only difference that they would keep my hands warm.
Ports of Italy is an Italian restaurant that is in Boothbay Harbor. Two and one half years ago when we visited Maine…we dined at Ports twice. The cuisine and service are five star. Have you ever had the experience of being served at a restaurant and feeling like you were home? That was our first experience and it has been replicated each time that we have been privileged to have dinner there. In 2019 our server was a gentleman from London, England and he was a consummate professional. This time we had a lovely lady who was a native of Italy and she advised us as to the glories of the Limoncello cake. Last Friday I had the Lobster Ravioli…and it was to die for… Have you ever had homemade pasta? There is a difference that is outstanding.
A Taste of Maine is just outside Portland…on the way to Boothbay Harbor. Their Seafood Casserole taught me what I had been missing in Little Egypt…when attempting to enjoy seafood. Also, their Lobster Mac and Cheese is chuck full of Lobster…and sensory heaven…
It is a rainy and cool day as I look out from the Writing Porch. Similar to my impressions of our 2011 porch addition…I feel like I did the first time that I sat out on it. It reminds me of Maine.
So, last Saturday as we drove back to the Portland Airport we had a little time to kill…as so we stopped again at L.L. Bean. I found another sweater…
During our recent holiday in Maine I decided that Camden is one of my favorite towns. From the Ironworks Gallery to the Waterfront Restaurant…Camden is a joy to visit. Joy is the owner of Ironworks Gallery and she told me of some health challenges that she has undergone in 2021. I could see her appreciation for life exuding from her eyes.
Tomorrow…a week ago…we journeyed to Camden for the specific purpose of enjoying a, ‘To Die For,’ plate of clams to rekindle the marvelous memory of enjoying the same dish 2 and 1/2 years ago. As we excitedly walked up to the Waterfront Restaurant a dignified man wearing an extremely wide brimmed straw hat….called out…we are closed. When I heard his cry…I wondered who that he was talking to? We were. ‘On a mission from God.’ He repeated his entreaty. I looked up and suddenly realized that he was speaking to us. He mentioned that he was sorry but that he was short of staff and that they had to have a day off… MJ kept walking…and we called out to her a time or two before she halted…none of us could believe that our favorite clam serving waterfront view eatery…was closed…on our first visit after so very long. Somewhat similar to General Douglas McArthur…we vowed that we would return. And return we did…on Thursday…for succulent and delightful fried clams and perfect Dirty Martinis.
Lobster is one of my favorite foods. I remember when my in-laws vacationed in Maine 30 years ago and upon their return to Elkville, Illinois…MJ asked them if they had enjoyed some lobster. Fernie replied that they had not as she had supposed that it would be cheap in Maine and that rather than cheap is was expensive. Market price for seafood changes daily and it never went down during our weeks stay