‘Tomorrow we go,’ said Chet. ‘Tomorrow is the First Day,’ Jane agreed. Tomorrow we are in Fourth Grade, noted Billy B. ‘No more…’ Schools Out…Schools Out…Teacher Let The Monkeys Out…,’ laughed Neva J. ‘What will we do for fun,’ asked Darryl? ‘Well we can still go to Pounds Hollow until Labor Day…and there is a John Wayne movie on at the Orpheum…The War Wagon…and it should be good for a thrill,’ Chet replied. ‘I am looking forward to our annual trip to DuQuoin for the State Fair,’ grinned Billy B. ‘I hope Friday is a bit cooler…it is so hot in the classrooms at Hillcrest when we first return,’ Jane opined.
‘We will go to Pounds Hollow on Saturday and spend the entire day,’ Neva J. promised. ‘I can not wait because my new diving suit arrived in the mail this morning,’ Chet replied. ‘I will snorkel with you, Chet, and we will see what the depths of Pounds Hollow have to offer,’ Billy B. replied.
Pounds Hollow was especially chilly on August 13. There was almost no one present for the last swim before Labor Day. Billy B. was surprised that the usual old man that took his money and issued him a wire basket to place his clothes in…was not present. In fact… no one seemed to be working at the little Dressing Room and Store at the Hollow. Chet simply climbed over the table in the open window and retrieved he and Billy B. a wire basket. Billy B.’s cousin Brenda had come along and she laughed when she saw Chet take command of the situation and in turn, she did the same thing for her and Neva J.
Chet and Billy B. lost no time in exploring the murky depths of the Hollow. As they dove for the sixth time…they saw a brilliant light at the surface of the water. It was so bright that they could see clearly the bottom of Pounds Hollow. When they came up from the lake…Neva J. said that they must get out of the water and leave Pounds Hollow. There was a brilliant light in the distance…that looked like a…mushroom…
Over the past few days, I have lost two friends. Both were fine men and ‘One of a Kind’…if you ever met them you did not forget them. Have you known someone who captivated a room…by their presence in it? Doug left us this week. He was a humble man and I do not know if he ever realized the powerful good influence he had on those who knew him. We knew each other best when we were teenagers and starting out on our Christan Walk. Doug hails from a wonderful family of whom many are my friends. For the past several years I have known him through Facebook and every time I see a photo of him…I recall my friend who was strong of faith, full of life, and passionate about scripture and serving God. Doug had a Big Heart and it was full of love.
Every day is golden. Each day counts. We are all making a difference in countless people’s lives…and we may not realize it. As I am seeing each of my human family as special and unique and understand that they have something special for my life…if I am willing to receive it. It is easy to go about our daily routine believing that others are out to get us or have a different politics or faith than we do. It takes more effort to look at our fellow travelers as our brothers and sisters…our family.
My life is not a segmented and forgotten series of events…it is a linear progression of friends and loved ones…of people who added to my living experience and who helped me along the path. I can not forget anyone…no matter how long ago we fellowshipped together. Each of us is a player on the Stage of Life…and our life whisks by like a weaver’s shuttle. While we are on Stage…let us love our family…and learn from them …and appreciate them…
‘I can not believe that School starts Friday, Billy B. said to no one in particular. ‘It seems that we just got out for summer…and now they ‘pull us back in,’ Chet laughed. ‘One thing for certain…it has been a hot summer,’ Jane said with a sigh. ‘Well…it is raining now…and I like it,’ Darryl said. It is 80 degrees and it is one of the cooler summer days that we have had for some time,’ Neva J. noted. ‘Pounds Hollow will be closed on Labor Day,’ Chet mused. ‘Why don’t we all load up in my station wagon and take a trip to the Hollow,’ The Wiz announced! ‘I will pack a picnic basket and some bottles of Red,’ Neva J. exulted.
The Wiz always had a lot of money. One time he asked Neva J. and Billy B. to keep ten thousand dollars that was in a little suitcase for him while he went out of town…and he often was out of town. Once Neva J. had asked him where he got all of his money…and he replied that he had many business ventures and also…he was a bit good at magic. Neva J. had opened the suitcase and let Billy B. peer in at all of the $100 bills…Billy B. had never laid his eyes on so many greenbacks. The Wiz spoke little of his life outside of the classroom…but he was extremely generous with his friends. He provided Christmas Dinner for every family in Eldorado…with all of the trimmings. If The Wiz heard of someone who was having their power shut off for lack of paying their bill due to their simply being poor…he paid the bill and kept paying it until they were back on their feet.
When the station wagon arrived at the Hollow…there were several of the kids from Special Education having a picnic…and sitting alone with a meager fare of baloney sandwiches and Kool-Aid to drink. Immediately The Wiz invited the kids over to join him and Neva J. and Billy B. and Chet and Jane and Darryl. As they enjoyed the hamburgers and hot dogs and a little sip of the Red Wine…they laughed and clapped while The Wiz performed a magic act for them. At the conclusion of the Magic Act…The Wiz asked each child what they wanted for the New School Year…one wanted to be able to read better…another wanted to understand arithmetic…and yet another asked for a friend… The Wiz had tears in his eyes…and he said all of their wishes were granted…and that this would be the best school year that they would ever have. Donnie Latham asked The Wiz,’ Will you watch over me and my classmates and ensure that people are not mean to us…and that they do not laugh at us…and that they accept us?’ ‘I will watch over all of you every day…you will be safe…no harm will come to you,’ promised The Wiz.
‘Suddenly I am happy that School begins on Friday…I am going to help The Wiz watch over our friends…and I will be their friend…if they will have me,’ said Billy B.
I love the woods. I have been enjoying Campus Woods @ Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale for 45 years. Today I drank in the splendor of Giant City State Park. Giant City is only a few miles from my home. When I am in the woods…I feel close to God. The splendor of his creation envelopes me. I think that if I ever see my Guardian Angel…I will see her/him in the woods.
I wonder if we do not tend to live too much in the artificial. Television and movies and Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu. The political pundits that we agree with are on our radios and TVs and we identify with their heated rhetoric and hidden agendas…that usually involve how much money that they can glean from us. Do we forget that we are Dust to Dust…and we came from the earth and to the earth, we will all return? Yesterday Pastor Kerry likened the Christian walk more to a riding lawnmower than a motorcycle through a humorous anecdote. Are we content in puttering along on our riding lawnmower…or do we want to take Christianity out on our motorcycle and see what the ‘Old Girl’ can do?
Little Egypt is a group of small towns and villages…and hamlets…that comprise Southern Illinois. Riches and economic prosperity have not been widely known in our region of the nation. I have traversed the towns and villages of my home place. Sweet honest and faithful people abound. We wait for the hope of the Gospel. We wait for Christ’s words to take root in the hearts of mankind. I used to tell my friend, Brent, who was also my supervisor at SIUC…that all of us native Southern Illinoisans learned to make our entertainment without the aid of monetary resources. I remember playing with sticks that I found in my yard. I recall catching Lightning Bugs in a jar. I played and rode my bicycle until dark and then went into the house to listen to the Joey Bishop Show from my little bedroom. Regis Philbin was Joey’s Co-host. We waited patiently for someone in power…who was interested in us…
Jesus’ love was the answer. Not his wrath…his love. Quartet Gospel Music was a solace. The Statesman Quartet and the Blackwood Brothers spoke to our hearts. When we listen to Gospel Music…we knew that God loved the Poor Of The Earth. When Big Chief of the Statesman Quartet sang… his resonate with Base voice…we understood that God had not forgotten we former Coal Miners and Farmers of Little Egypt.
I have met many people in my life…but only a handful that was memorable. John Holt was memorable. John was the genuine article. I first became acquainted with John when I accidentally became a member of our church’s governing board called the Session. I had been asked by a friend if I would submit my name for consideration for an elder position on the Stewardship Committee. I had been a trustee many years before and I assumed that the job was somewhat similar to what I had done previously. My friend told me that the Stewardship Committee only met a few times per year and that I would not be a member of Session. I consented and the next thing that I knew I was a member of Session for a three-year commitment. After a few weeks, I thought that I would bow out quietly…but John asked me to stay. I respected him to the extent…that I stayed.
John seemed to have more duties in the church than anyone that I knew. He did everything from operating the sound system on a weekly basis…to locking the church nightly…and even changing the light bulbs when they burned out. I joined him on the church lock-up duties as well as many of the physical needs of our church. John challenged my faith…he made me want to be a better Christian. John was not afraid to disagree and when he told me something I took it to the bank…he was the real deal!
Jonn was my idea of a Renaissance Man. He could speak widely and with considerable knowledge on a variety of subjects. I have never met a greater example of a Servant-Leader.
John has often been called the ‘Go-To Guy,’ due to his intricate and vast knowledge of not only the sound system of our church but almost any Physical Plant needs for First Presbyterian.
John was known by many and respected by all. I have listened with rapt attention to his explanation of our Presbyterian Faith…I have never heard a better or more detailed council of what it meant to be a Presbyterian. He was unassuming and a bit quiet…but his eyes held a world of knowledge and understanding…and love for the fellow members of the human family.
Not long after John and I met…I was involved in a retirement business adventure…I had an Opportunity Meeting in Carbondale…invited many people…almost no one came…John was one of the few that attended. John admitted that he did not want to sell insurance…but he wanted to support me…
John Holt did not talk about being a Christian…he showed us…
When I was a supervisor and then a manager in the housekeeping industry I learned to look up. It is well known in cleaning that we tend to see areas that need attention if they are directly in front of our eyes or beneath us. Cleaning professionals rarely look up unless trained to do so. If you do not believe me just go into any restroom and look at the ceiling vents or run your hand across the stall tops or the top of the door. We see life from a bit of a myopic view like horses with blinders on.
Recently Jonathon purchased the book, Flip It Like This by David Hayward who is also known as the Naked Pastor. His cartoons shine a light on the cold and cruel results of many of our religious dogmas.
Many who leave churches suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Much of what churches are requiring of their parishioners or congregants are the fruits of the leadership’s narrow bias and prejudice and fashioning a god after their political and fever dreams of control. The old adage has never been more true than today when the profiteering of the poor Christian is at its zenith; ‘Do as I say…not as I do.’
‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
‘Just where does our 4th Grade Teacher come from,’ asked Jane. ‘The Wiz is from Bath, England from his teenage years but was born in Chicago…and he was a professor of Medieval Literature at Oxford for 10 years prior to moving to Eldorado,’ Chet replied. ‘He and his son Darryl moved to Eldorado to be near his sister Prudence who has lived in Eldorado since her early childhood when the family was split by the divorce of their parents,’ continued Chet. ‘Prudence is our Town Celebrity as she is a best-selling author,’ Neva J. remarked. ‘She writes the most engaging Murder Mysteries that take place in Eldorado…and Little Egypt…I have read all of her books,’ Neva J. said with a wide smile. ‘Prudence is often referred to as the Agatha Christie of America,’ Billy B. offered. ‘But…in any case, The Wiz always dresses in black clothing and often wears a traditional Wizards Hat. ‘It is said that he was trained as a magician by Harry Blackstone the famous magician who was born in Chicago…and he and his sister Prudence were born in Chicago and when their parents divorced he traveled with his father to Bath, England…where is Dad was from…and Prudence moved with her mom to Eldorado where her mother and sisters lived and Prudence’s grandmother and aunts resided, Neva J. said.
‘Well…I suppose we must begin…is everyone present…if you are not present…please say absent,’ The Wiz said with a sly grin. ‘This year we will study arithmetic and spelling and improve our cursive writing and time travel and history and health and magic,’ The Wiz announced with some Chicago…Bath…Oxford…flare!
Have any of you ever been to Maine…and seen the Lighthouses and enjoyed lobster…or seen the great sailing ships,’ The Wiz asked with a wink as he looked directly at his son, Darryl, and Jane and Billy B. and Chet. ‘You know Maine is the home of the great Horror Author…Stephen King…although you will not hear of him until 1974 with his first published novel…Carrie,’ said The Wiz.
Mysterious magical Maine was now firmly planted in the minds of our intrepid travelers. ‘I can not wait until we move to the Artists’ House near Ocean Point,’ Jane proclaimed. ‘I have been making arrangements with the Artist…who is a bit mysterious,’ noted Neva J. ‘She did say that we could stay rent-free as long as we took care of the house and grounds,’ Chet asked. ‘Yes…and she wants us to all try our hand at painting in her studio and she has left many blank canvases and a multitude of paints and brushes…she says that her Studio has been used as a School for New Artists for many years and that she has chosen us as this years class,’ Neva J. said with a quizzical expression.
‘I must find a pack of #2 pencils and a big eraser,’ Chet said as he hurried through Muckleys’ Ben Franklin Dime Store. ‘I have a Big Chief Notebook…I like it because of the big spaces that are between the lines…I tend to write in humongous letters,’ Billy B. said with a smile. ‘Mom said to buy Musilage and not Paste this year…but I like the Paste better…especially how it smells,’ Jane laughed. ‘I can not wait to see which wooden desk that I get…I feel like an executive with my own desk and opening the top of it and storing all of my school supplies…and a Mad Magazine…inside,’ Darryl noted. ‘Aren’t you afraid that your Dad…The Wiz will discover your Mad Magazine,’ Chet asked. ‘Not if I hide it in my folder,’ Darryl answered with a wink.
‘I saw the Old Sailor at the Candy Bins…two aisles over,’ Jane said with a look of fear in her eyes. ‘When he saw me he smiled and winked at me and said I will see you back at the Lighthouse…soon, Jane continued. ‘I think that the OS has a special place for us in his heart,’ Chet laughed. ‘Yes and he had Mylo the Maltese with him…,’ Jane commented. ‘Mylo…in the Candy aisle,’ Chet grinned. ‘He told me one other thing…he said that we were now Mainers and that Maine was where we belong,’ Jane mused. ‘Well, that would suit me…I love Maine and the Ocean and the lobster and the cool weather in the summer,’ Neva J. said with a twinkle in her eyes.
‘Let us move to Boothbay,’ announced Neva J.! ‘We will rent the house that the Artist who lives just before Boothbay Harbor told us she would rent to us for the winter,’ Neva J. continued. ‘We will need a snow shovel,’ Chet commented. ‘Won’t it be grand…we will ski and wear snow shoes and skate on the frozen Ocean at Ocean Point Inn…and I bet that there are a lot of Snow Days at School,’ Billy B. said excitedly! ‘We will pay for the adventure with my Irish Sweepstakes Winnings,’ Neva J. announced. ‘Perhaps the OS could use some help around the Lighthouse,’ Chet laughed. ‘I imagine that it is quiet in the winter…with the shortened days and the winter clouds…and the light from the Lighthouse illuminating the rocky shore…
The soothing rains of August contained to fall on our intrepid five adventurers…as The Old Sailor looked on…as if seeing the future…
Kenny Loggins sang, ‘I’m alright…Nobody worry ’bout me…Why you got to gimme a fight?… Can’t you just let it be?’ Our human family is a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes and sizes and faith in God and those who choose no faith walk. Many of our politicians want to lecture us as to what the Founding Fathers intended good government to be in our land. Sadly their definition of ‘good government’ mirrors their myopic vision of freedom and their close-minded political/religion Hydra Headed Monster that is much more political than Christian.
Have you ever attempted to squeeze a circle into a triangular mold? Both are made of concrete and are the same size. It is impossible unless you chip away at the circle…and leave jagged wounds where the smooth contours of the continuous circle once were. In many cultures a circle is a symbol of endless love…some use the circle as an icon of God’s love for us.
Today…it seems that the loudest voice…and the biggest lie…win the argument. Have you ever been in the minority of opinion or lifestyle or love or faith and felt the accusatory eyes and heard the evil whispers of the majority of your friends and colleagues and neighbors and social circles…as they place their large magnifying glass over you for an in-depth examination as to…what is wrong with you? Our desire to be accepted is strong…just ask the Lemmings.
Pretend is the life that many of us know best. We have the mask that we wear in public. It is a fine mask. We have fashioned it for many years and made upgrades to it and repaired it when it is damaged. Many will attest that they do not lie…while they are living one. Often we are a bit quiet in a public setting or on a committee or when our opinion is asked…we do not want to stand out…we do not want to be different…we do not want to damage our mask…
Love is the answer.
‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another…’
‘I love floating on the water,’ said Billy B. ‘Me too…but I need an innertube to stay buoyant…while you have a built-in inner tube…apparently…as you can float for hours on end,’ Chet laughed. ‘I do not know how I learned to float so long…but one day I just lay back and let the world pass me by,’ Billy B. grinned as he looked up at the blue sky and the white clouds. ‘When I am at Pounds Hollow and floating it seems that I am in a different and much kinder world,’ Billy B. mused. ‘I think that the water in your ears that blocks out sound lends to a peaceful feeling,’ Darryl noted. ‘I still can not get over the joys of Maine and the scary time that we had at Pemiscot Lighthouse…and the Old Sailor who wanted us to say hello to Stephen King,’ Jane laughed. ‘I purchased a working miniature lighthouse that has a light that rotates all night long in my bedroom…like a nightlight…and it makes me feel safe from the OS,’ Jane continued. ‘OS…I like that nickname…I am going to see if the Spencer Gift Catalog has any statues of Old Sailors and if they do I am going to get one as a memorial to Mr. OS,’ Neva J. said with a smile. ‘Can you believe that tomorrow is Back To School shopping at P.N. Hirsch…then Muckley’s Ben Franklin Dime Store for school supplies,’ Billy B. asked. ‘It seems like yesterday that we began our summer break and then was the 4th of July…and now school begins in less than two weeks,’ Darryl sighed. ‘This year my dad is going to be my teacher…The Wiz will be calling on me for the correct answer to the lessons…I will have to do some studying,’ Darryl worried.
‘Sometimes…I feel like I am still in Maine…I wake up from a nap and I am on the rocky shore surrounding Pemiscott Lighthouse…I can see the OS grinning at me from the Lighthouse Windows…,’ Chet whispered. ‘Funny that you would say that, Chet, but I too find myself walking on the rocky shores of Maine with Neva J. and Billy B. and Darryl…and we are still enjoying our Maine Holiday,’ Jane said with a tear on her cheek. ‘Last evening…I was at the Bar at Ocean Point Inn and Donavan was preparing me one of his special mixed drinks…when I asked him how could I still be in Maine…he winked and said that once you get Maine in your blood…you never leave,’ Neva J. commented as she had a faraway look in her eyes.
‘How about this for a revelation gang…I was at Mt Desert Isle this morning and they were filming the Storm Of The Century and Stephen King asked me to sit next to him as he advised the Director regarding the script,’ Billy B. laughed. ‘Could we be trapped in a Stephen King novel,’ Chet mused. ‘This probably sounds ridiculous…but yesterday I could have sworn that I saw Stephen King outside the Orpheum Theatre…and when you think about it…how do we know about Stephen King in 1963…or are we Time Travellers,’ Darryl smiled with a sly grin.
‘I believe that our Time Travel and our inability to really leave Maine…has something to do with the Pounds Hollow Water,’ Chet proclaimed! ‘It may be a bit of a Black Hole on the Earth and our swimming in it…and especially floating on it…facilitates its’ magical powers,’ Jane said with a wink. ‘When we are floating on the magical waters of Pounds Hollow…we seem to travel to wherever we are thinking of…only with additional ruffles and flourishes from the Mysterious Black Hole,’ Darryl postulated. ‘Let us return to the Hollow…for a reset,’ Neva J. said as she led the charge to the 57′ Chevy.
‘The water feels wonderful and it is as peaceful and serene as ever…but how did we arrive at P.N. Hirsch Department store…’