Ice covers the landscape this morning. I ventured out yesterday morning and then discovered that it was slick underfoot. Currently, it is 19 degrees but it feels like 9. Reminiscent of the winters of my childhood. In our neck of the woods, our winter clothing varies from heavy coats, gloves, and neck scarves to light jackets and sweaters. The forecast is 50 degrees for Sunday. You can get a chill and a hot flash on the same day.
Frozen we are in today’s world. We consider saying a word of encouragement to our neighbor but we fear being misunderstood. Our houses become our fortresses. We have become a bit insular because of our inactivity in interaction. The wave we do at our neighbors if we are outgoing…but what are their names.
Porches were vital when I was a kid. Air conditioning was a rarity in poor homes and even in the middle class. Everyone sat outside on their front porches and ‘took some air’ each evening. We took turns porch visiting. It was a common occurrence for our neighbors to knock on our door and engage in a pop-in for an impromptu visit. We knew who was sick and who was well. We knew who was out of work or hurting financially. We knew who was hungry and needed a basket of garden produce or food staples to get them to the end of the month. People who were depressed said that they had the Blues. Some who were troubled emotionally said that they were Nervous.
Some of our neighbors were rescued by their regular fellowship with others. They may have had the Blues but the friendly faces and concern of their friends helped. There are no easy answers…but it helped.
Sunshine comes in many forms. We rejoice in the warm rays of the Sun…and we warm ourselves by the fireside of our friends.
‘I swear this continuing darkness gets on my nerves more than anything,’ He said. ‘I do not remember the last time that I saw the sun,’ She said. ‘It is always cold here…I am glad we brought our comforters,’ She said. ‘The iPhone flashlight helps out if you can find a place to charge the phone,’ He said. ‘I think that we must have taken a wrong turn back at the fork in the road…none of these shadows look familiar,’ She said. ‘The last sign I saw said Chicago 20 Miles…but we have driven for a long time and I still do not see the lights of the Windy City,’ He said. ‘I was born in Chicago…you know…at St. Mary’s Hospital in 1957,’ He said. ‘Your mom was lovely both on the outside as well as her soul,’ She said. ‘Mom grew up in Southern Illinois and her first job was in the Shoe Factory,’ He said. ‘When I was a small boy I was walking along our front porch in Sauk Village and I thought that at least we have a nice house this time,’ He said. ‘What does this time mean…you were 3 years old,’ She said.
‘The little girl reminds me of an old movie that I saw with Jane Fonda…it was a horror movie…the image of the little girl who was first bouncing a ball and then a head…stuck with me all of my life,’ He said. ‘I think the movie was French,’ He said. ‘What do you think that the girl with the head typified,’ She said. ‘I have always considered that she was the Devil,’ he said. ‘Why would we see her now…after all of the years that have passed,’ She said. ‘Maybe it is the end of time…Grandma A. often spoke of the Battle of Armageddon and the end of time and the Seven Last Plagues,’ He said. ‘I have always believed that we never see the Devil until he has overtaken us,’ She said. ‘The Bible says that he can appear as an angel of light,’ He said.
‘There is plenty of seats in the front…please come down and take a seat before we begin,’ Pastor said. ‘There will be refreshments and hot coffee and even some wine at the conclusion of the service, Pastor said. ‘Pastor when will the sun shine again,’ asked Patrick? ‘Well, that is a good question…I wish that I had the answer…this perpetual night is creating a lot of depressed people,’ Pastor said. ‘When will we let the pretty little girl in…it is cold outside and she has a big beach ball,’ Patrick said.
‘I simply love the beach…the sand and watching the ocean are soothing to my soul,’ Girl said.
MJ and I made it out to church this morning. MJ was all smiles as she was greeted warmly by Pastor Kerry and many of our fellow parishioners. The church is a booster shot for life. In our new normal of vaccinations and booster shots for Covid we are in dire need of our fellow travelers. I love music. I am a bit addicted to symphony music and jazz. Our new pianist is incredible. The piano has fascinated me since I was a child. For my career as superintendent of Building Services @ Southern Illinois University, I played Symphonic music in my office all day long. When I am listening to Mozart or Beethoven or Debussy I am transported to another place.
We are experiencing our share of potholes due to the winter weather. Life is full of pot-holes. We can be driving along life’s road with not a care in the world…and then the abrupt bump of a pothole takes us off guard. It is impossible to dodge and weave around them all. I reflected on the potholes of my life as I walked the streets of Eldorado yesterday. If it were not for the hope for tomorrow we might get a little discouraged. I thought of the beautiful testimony of the mother of the recently deceased Tyre Nichols. What a demonstrated hope in the face of unspeakable tragedy!
The Bible says that ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.’ We are in a bit of a race with hurdles…and moats…and alligators…and more…
However…spring is coming and the sound of the turtledove will be heard in our land. The resilience of the human spirit is immeasurable. Knock us down and we are similar to the Bozo The Clown Punching Bag that I had in Chicago. I would hit him and he would go down…only to come back up with a large grin on his face. Illness plagues our human family…yet we love life. Reversals of fortune are routine on the rocky road we travel…and yet we seek a better day. When it is the night…we know that morning is coming.
Life is not a sprint it is a marathon. At times the horizon is crystal clear with unlimited visibility we walk forward with the confidence of the protected. Our heads held high and a spring in our step and a song in our hearts. Then the horizon becomes cloudy and a fog rolls in and we can not see what is ahead. Hope is life. We have felt the miracle. We have been a part of the mystery and the majesty. We know that God is unchanging and that he will keep us from falling off the road of life.
MJ and I were watching the PBS Series, Frankie Drake, and Frankie made a profound statement to Agatha Christie. She said how she loved Agatha’s books and how the murder case that they were both working on could never be as exciting as Ms. Christies stories. Agatha answered that was why she was a writer. There is a bit of truth to the Fictional Female Sleuth Franke Drake’s observation. I think that I have always seen life through the eyes of a writer. Today I traveled to Eldorado for at least the 20th time and I think it may be more like 25 over the past year. Each time that I am there I see the Eldorado of my childhood. I am no longer 65…but rather 5 to 15. When I look at the Orpheum Theatre I see the Marquee lit with the advertisement of the movie Frankenstein or Dracula or the Creature From the Black Lagoon. I see kids and kids at heart walking into the Movie Emporium with smiles on their faces and their eyes wide with wonder.
I see Uncle Bill at the top of the Old City Hall Steps smoking his ever-present cigarette. I see Aunt Guelda knocking on the door of the little red house that we rented from her on West Street. She had Sprite for our stomachs and some chicken soup as Neva J. and I were down with the Tomaine Poisoning that we swore we contracted from some bad fish from Shawnetown. Shawnetown was a booming place in Little Egypt at one time. ‘At the time of Illinois statehood (1818), Shaneetown and Kaskaskia, then the State Capital, were considered to be the two most important settlements in the state.’ Encyclopedia Britannica. By the 1960s it was known for its bars and its fresh catfish and its historic Bank.
Eldorado seemed big to me. We had a carnival every year…that Grandmas’s church referred to as a ‘Carn-Evil’ and one year I bashed my head on the Scrambler. The blood flowed…it often does from a head wound. Neva J.s’ friend Smoky who drove a cab for a living…drove us to the hospital. The Carnivale owner was so afraid of a lawsuit that he presented me with a humongous bear from the shooting gallery. It was the largest that they had…I felt vindicated.
Jim P. was forcibly removed from the Orpheum on Friday night. He had been drinking and was loud and ready to fight someone. He created quite an entertainment for the intermission of the regular movie. Later I became acquainted with his mom and sister and dad as we attended the same church. He was nicer in church.
Contentment is exciting. Following the beat of your own drummer and listening to your own muse is invigorating! As someone told me not long ago that I seemed to truly do my own thing…what a compliment!
The snow is melting as rapidly as it came. Tomorrow it is forecast to be 50 degrees. It is thus far an exciting winter. Mylo was seen by our Vet yesterday for a bump on his nose. We are thankful that it was benign. He is just starting in the world and has many more adventures. As I took copious snow photos at Giant City this morning I thought about the value of quiet. We of midwest stock value our serenity. I grew up in Eldorado and it was a quiet town. Then I lived in Elkville and it was even quieter. For the past 22 years, I have lived in Carbondale, which is somewhat more noisy and energetic…but I live in the country and it is quiet. Quiet allows time for reflection and thought about the sundry shades of life in the slow lane.
Life in Eldorado consisted of school and home and the Orpheum Theatre in the winter. During the summer we added swimming at Pounds Hollow. We swam a lot. The church was a big attraction for my extended family but mom and I watched mostly from a distance. We were a bit of the black sheep of the religious family. The minister of their church of choice often spoke until upwards of midnight during the Thursday night mid-week service. I attended on a few occasions and usually fell asleep prior to the conclusion of the message. It was a pentecostal church and if you know anything about the Pentecostals they often demonstrate their enthusiasm for their faith verbally and at times physically. I thought that it was fascinating simply on a spectator level. We took my friend Johnny U. with us on one of the few occasions that we attended and he got into the swing of things fairly quickly by calling out…’ Boo…and Yeigh,’ and I knew that he was enjoying himself. My Grandmother Askew had been a member of the little denomination since the days of its founding in the 1930s. Granma Askew took her faith seriously. My mom and her sisters loved their mom. We all went to her house every Monday night to visit together. It was at Grandmas’ that I learned that there was no Santa Claus. My aunts told me to my mother’s chagrin. I protested that I was certain that there was a Santa Claus because he had visited me at our home on West Street. My aunt Wanda grinned and said, ‘Why kiddo…that was Old Bob Winters dressed up like Santa. I protested that I was certain that there was an Easter Bunny and a Tooth Fairy…because she left me a quarter under my pillow every time that I lost a tooth…
I remember Shop Class. Working with wood has never been my talent. Mr. Hill assisted me in making a pen holder…and I have it to this day. However, I did enjoy Mechanical Drafting. I was good at it. I may have missed my calling…
My cousin Billy H. told me that he and I should visit the Grove Church. It was Pentecostal on steroids. Many of the congregation danced in the spirit and often fell onto the floor seemingly passed out in the spirit. One of the ministers played a mean Organ and the other had a lovely singing voice. It was considered a bit of a religious adventure to visit the Grove. It was rumored the ministers were Gay…and I could care less. My cousin was Gay and in the closet and he led a sad life due to the prejudice of the 60s.
Presbyterian has been my church for the past 25 years. The people intrigue me. I have never met harder-working people who put arms and legs to their faith. The clear and serious intention of my fellow congregants to demonstrate their faith through helping others is inspiring.
The Woods was quiet this morning. The Woodpecker; Pecked and Pecked. The snow melt water from the high hills flowed through the rocky creek. Life is not the hurry-up manic frenetic proposition that we have made it. It is calm and it is quiet and it is good. It needs a bit of reflection and consideration as to where it is going and the path to follow…
‘Grandpa, tell me about when you were a child,’ said Grandson. ‘Well that was a long time ago…in a place far far away,’ Grandpa said. ‘We lived in a nice neighborhood in a Chicago suburb and it reminded me of Leave It To Beaver,’ Grandpa said. ‘I watched Bozo every morning and led a carefree life with my friends,’ Grandpa continued. ‘I also enjoyed Captian Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans…chocolate milk in the afternoon and then a little lay down for a nap,’ Grandpa winked. ‘What years did you live in Chicago,’ Grandson asked? ‘Oh, I guess that is about 300 years ago or thereabouts,’ Granpa said. ‘How have you lived so long…Grandpa, Grandson asked? One-A-Day Vitamin and a good cigar,’ Grandpa said.
Grandma asked, ‘What are you telling Grandson…one of your tall tales?’ ‘Did you see the news that President Kennedy was assassinated…they shot him in the head,’ Grandpa asked? ‘Yes and I feel so sorry for Jackie and the children,’ Grandma said. ‘My primary worry for you Grandson is that you do not have to go to Vietnam,’ Grandpa said. ‘What is Vietnam,’ asked Grandson? ‘A terrible war that was fought a long time ago,’ Grandma said.
Grandon asked, ‘What is a Church?’ ‘Grandma and I attend church most of our lives,’ Grandpa said. ‘Yes we ended our time with the Presbyterians…they were hard-working and very nice people,’ Grandma said. ‘Salt of the Earth…I say…Salt of the Earth those Presbyterians,’ Grandpa said. ‘You went to Church to learn about God and study his word and worship with others,’ Grandma said. ‘Are there any churches left,’ Grandson asked? ‘Grandma…get those Bible Story Books out and show them to Grandson, ‘Grandpa said.
‘Snow is beautiful,’ She said. ‘Yes…Grandpa often told me about it,’ He said. ‘Sometimes it feels like life repeats itself,’ She said. ‘I have questions on why we can not seem to travel more than a few miles outside our town, He said. ‘I have seen that weird girl in my dreams,’ She said. ‘Have you seen anyone else recently,’ He said. ‘Only the little girl who was bouncing that grotesque head…and that…I think was in my dreams,’ She said.
‘What time is it,’ She said. ‘What year is it…,’ She asked. ‘Where are we,’ She said.
‘Einstein said that time is an illusion,’ He said. ‘Or perhaps it is circular and we visit where we have visited…before,’ He said.
‘Deja vu…,’ She said…
‘I am telling you that something is in the middle of the road,’ She said. ‘Oh I think it is just the fog, He said. Clunk and then a sound of steam escaping. ‘Get out and see what we hit,’ She said. ‘I think it was a small deer,’ He replied. ‘Come here and look…you are not going to believe this,’ He said. She exited the car and walked slowly to the figure laying in the road. ‘It is Him…he looks like he is asleep,’ She exclaimed. ‘How could it be Him…he died thirty years ago,’ He responded. ‘Well just look at the smile on his face…that is Him, She said. ‘We must get Him to a hospital while he is still breathing,’ She said. ‘First of all, where are we…I do not remember ever being on this road before and there have been no road signs for hours,’ He said. ‘The last road sign that I saw said turn left and we would reach our destination,’ She said. ‘Oh my God…he has disappeared,’ He said! ‘What day is it…you know…when did we leave on our trip,’ She asked? ‘We left when your Mom said that she could not come with us…she was sick…I believe her terminology for her illness was, ‘Spitting Up Yellow,’ She said. ‘Were we at Mom’s at the time of our departure or was that a dream…Mom has been dead for many years,’ He said. ‘Your Mom is not dead…we had dinner with her this evening,’ She said.
‘There has not been another car but ours for a long time,’ He said. ‘Well that is to be expected when you insist on traveling at night,’ She said. ‘Someone is tapping on our window…I can hear them whispering,’ He said. ‘What are they saying, She asked? ‘They are saying for us to turn around and don’t drown, He said. ‘The newscaster on the radio reported that there is a flash flood along the Little Muddy river,’ She said. ‘I used to swim in the Little Muddy when I was just a lad,’ He said. ‘Do you have any more of those delicious brownies that you brought,’ He asked? ‘Here is the last of the Coffee Cake…I have not baked brownies since I was in Brownies in school,’ She said. ‘It is only fifty miles to Eldorado…yet this trip seems that it will never end,’ He said. ‘You have not lived in Eldorado for nearly 50 years,’ She said. ‘Now I hear a little girl laughing,’ He said. ‘Is she saying anything,’ She asked? ‘They are cute and so funny with their simplistic fears and delusions…I am going to meet them and bounce my ball,’ the Litte Girl said.
Stop…there is a Little Girl in the road…and she is bouncing…a Head…
Begin Again is a quaint concept. We have been raised with many good and not-so-good ideas that our parents bequeathed to us. Often we stop at that jumping-off point of our lives. Especially where prejudice and bias reign supreme. We know we must be the best people and the ones that God loves simply because we have been told as much. Later in life, we identify with those who have a similar lifestyle to our own. Surely the way that we do things must be the best way. Our peer group informs us who to love and who to hate. After all, our peers must be right after all they are our peers…
Religion is notorious for the judgment of humans against other humans who do not have the same sins as they do. Some churches have excellent headgear. Apparently, Christianity must be connected with hats…and nice ones. One faith will sprinkle you on your forehead when you are baptized while another insists that you must be fully submerged underwater to be really baptized. Many churches insist that you must never allow a drop of alcohol to touch your lips…unless you are in your basement closet and have the light off…or on vacation somewhere far away. The heterosexual will protest that they can not worship with the homosexual…but their married friends who are ‘sleeping around’ are simply victims of their healthy libidos.
Wink we do at our sins and shortcomings. Point our fingers we do at others who do not meet our standard that was developed by a group of as fallible leaders as any human being that you can find.
Chicken Little of the fairy tale was certain that the sky was falling…and from his limited perspective, it seemed right. I had a manager when I was working at University who insisted that soon our department would be contracted out and that we would all be out of a job. Later he was fired and I understood his perspective.
A parishioner leaves the congregation and the others disown them. They ceased to follow the precepts of the leader and were guilty of imbibing Saspirilla on Sunday. Shaking of the heads and constructive criticism ensues. They have backslid and are a bit doomed…while the person who left has a wide smile and a dance in their step…they have been let out of jail…
The abundance of rain yesterday has provided waterfalls in the Giant City Creeks. I can literally sit and watch the water cascading over the old sandstone rocks and hear its music for hours. A simple life is a beautiful life. The more I look…the more I see. Living in the moment is a powerful illumination of our miracle.
‘We need to help our town,’ Billy B. mused as he drank the dark and rich coffee from the electric percolator. ‘Eldorado is a gift and often I either do not see its potential or I choose to ignore it,’ he continued. ‘We could start with re-erecting the sign at the entrance of Eldorado that said, ‘Home of 5,000 friendly people and One Ole Sore Head,’ Chet suggested. ‘I have always believed that we should embrace our roots and not try to be Carbondale or Champaign but taut our lustrous heritage, Jane offered. ‘We have a rich history of Coal Mining and our Eldorado High School sports teams are renown,’ Neva J. mused. ‘Our education system has some of the finest teachers in Little Egypt…and our Town And Country Days are the envy of our region,’ Chet said with a smile. ‘Halloween is special in our town and there is always a mysterious event that occurs that none of us can explain,’ Daryl said. ‘I have an idea…why not have Halloween in January…somewhat like Christmas in July,’ Neva J. postulated with a wicked laugh!
The Orpheum Theatre was up for the novel idea of Halloween in July and promoted it both in the Eldorado Daily Journal as well as the Southern Illinoisian Newspapers. It soon seemed by the plethora of responses that our group received that this particular idea was welcome by many Southern Illinois residents. After all, it was original! So Saturday, January 21st was designated as the Winter Halloween Spectacular. It was a good day for the event as Winter was a third over and people wanted to get out of the house. The Orpheum was showing a triple feature of; Frankenstein and Dracula and the Creature From the Black Lagoon. At the last minute the Bride Of Frankenstein was added in place of the Creature From The Black Lagoon…to preserve continuity. There was bobbing for apples outside Muckley’s Ben Franklin Dime Store and Hot Cider…which many remembered from Christmas. The kids and adults alike broke out their Halloween Costumes that had not been in storage long. The guest of honor would be a Houdini portrayer. He was said to be almost as good as the original Houdini and many believed that it was indeed Houdini…returned from the grave.
Houdini had a stage in the Town Square and seemed oblivious to the fact that the temperature was 20 degrees. He was dressed in swim trunks and nothing else as he was lowered into a humongous bottle that was filled to the top with water…and he was lowered with both his feet and hand shackled and he was upside down. Now Houdini had spent his life debunking life after death and the charlatans who proposed the theory such as seances and other sundry methods of giving false hope to the departed’s loved ones. After his death, his wife held a yearly seance in an attempt to contact her departed husband if indeed there was life after death. He had told her that he would do his best to contact her if he could. ‘The final Houdini seance took place on October 31, 1936, on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles, at 8:30 p.m. Bess was accompanied by her ‘manager’ (and lover) Edward Saint. The event proved unsuccessful, and at the end of the recording, Bess solemnly states, ‘Yes. Houdini did not come through.’
The Houdini portrayer struggled and wrestled with his padlocked chains and shackled legs. The crowd of five thousand gasped and some fainted as it appeared that all was lost for the poor actor…when suddenly he freed himself and fell out of the watery grave…gasping for air. There beside Houdini was an etheral figure of a little non-descript woman…smiling.
‘Bess…we did it again…’
Cold rain is falling today. I noticed it profoundly when while in the woods I began to shiver. I sat in the Subaru for a while and engaged the steering wheel heater and held it eagerly. As I often do I thought of what it is like to be homeless in a cold rain. I noticed with some interest that some politicians are saying that they desire equal opportunities for all of our people…but not equal outcomes. That sounds logical on its face, doesn’t it? The first sentence is the one that is problematic. Our country does not afford the equal opportunity. Or as Dr. Margtin Luther King said it is hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps…if you do not have any boots.
Cold commands all of my attention when I am feeling its bitter wrath. Hunger tends to have the same effect on me. I vividly remember what it feels like to not be hungry because I missed a meal…but the hunger that comes from missing several and wondering where I could find the next one.
I downloaded the most popular camera application in 2020. It is called 1998 and replicates what photos looked like before our smartphones. 1998 Camera even time stamps each photo with the date of the photo but instead of the year it replaces it with 1998. Light streaks are built into the finished photo. The granular image is part of the package. While reading the same article that led me to the Retro 1998 Camera there was also a surprising statistic that the current generation is returning to the flip phones of the 90s. They eschew the glitz and glamour of the IPhones and desire the simplicity that the Flip Phone affords.
We are searching for real. Simpler times are our heart’s desire. Information is at our fingertips…but much of it is damaging. Our minds are captivated and captive by the tiny screen.
Yet…the homeless have much more serious and immediate concerns. Forgotten people they are. What if God tells us that in our next life…we will be homeless…and that he believes in equal opportunity…not equal outcomes?