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Micah 6: 6-8 “6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, wi...

Monday, December 9, 2019

That Christmasy Feeling

My wife, Melanie, and I recently put up our first Christmas tree in our new home.  We always have a real tree that we buy from a tree lot; a tree that has been recently cut in the mountains and transported to Charlotte.  This year we bought a tree that is nine feet tall, the tallest tree we have ever bought.  It would not fit into my CRV so I asked the people at the tree lot to tie it on top of my car.

On the way home from the lot I thought it would be smart to stop and check the tree to make sure it was not loose.  I pulled into a parking lot, opened my car door, got out of the car and shut my door.  As soon as the door shut the rope used to tie the tree snapped.   When I tied the two severed ends together it was too short to fasten to the car.  So I rolled the window of the car down, put the rope into the window, got into the car, rolled the window up, wrapped the rope around my hand and held on while I drove the remaining seven miles home.

We made it home with the tree, although, all the way home,I had visions of the tree flying off the car and onto someone’s hood or through their windshield or hitting someone standing in their yard. Needless to say, the tree had not yet given us that Christmasy feeling.

In the driveway I unwrapped that thin, rotten, sorry (and some other names) rope from the tree and began to slide it off the car towards me.  At this point, I did not know how much that tree weighed.   I realized how much it weighed as it began to roll off the car into my arms.  The sound of it hitting my side mirror and knocking it to the ground filled my ears.  

And there I stood.  Tree on the ground.  Mirror wires dangling from the car.  No visions of sugar plumbs.  No sounds of angels singing.   No Christmasy feeling.  

I put the tree stand on the tree and took it inside.  I stood it up.  It was crooked.  I tightened one side and loosened another side of the stand.  Still crooked.  I loosened it more; tightened it more; loosened it; tightened it.  Finally I loosened one side so that it couldn’t be loosened any more, stood up and pushed the tree in the direction it needed to go.  Tightened it.  Looked at it.  Almost straight.  Good enough.  Walking away, looking at it, I quickly calculated the cost of the tree with the side mirror of the car added into the calculation.  Plus labor.  I did not feel Christmasy.

We added the lights.   One strand wanted to blink, not all the time, just once in a while.  We yanked it off the tree.  We discovered we did not have enough lights for a 9 foot tree.  Melanie ran out to CVS for more lights.  I took a break and listened to Christmas music while she was gone.  She returned.  Traffic was horrible.  Crowds of people were everywhere.  She bought 600 more lights.  We put them on.

And then, standing there in the dark, the tree glowed.  The Trans-Siberian Orchestra began to play the Christmas Canon, and a miracle began to take place in each of us.  “On this night, on this night, on this very Christmas night...” sang the children, as we began to hang the Christmas ornaments; ornaments our children had made; ornaments we had purchased on our travels; ornaments given to us by special friends or family members; ornaments of sleds and mangers and angels.  After we finished we stood staring.  It was beautiful.  This tree.  This first tree in our new home took our breath away.

And the children sang, “This night we pray our lives will show, this dream he had each child still knows, on this night, on this night, on this very Christmas night.

And we felt more than Christmasy.  We felt the miracle of Christmas.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

My Ebenezer

Thirty-two years ago in February 1987, my wife, Melanie, and I moved into a new home.  Well, the house was actually 12 years old, but was new to us.  It offered us more living space, a big yard, a large garage, a deck, and a swimming pool.  Our daughter was four years old and Melanie was five months pregnant with our son, so the move was timely.

We lived in that house until January 31 of 2019.  Our children became adults there.  We raised dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, turtles, gold fish and probably an assortment of other critters that I cannot remember or don’t want to think about.  I taught my children how to swim there.  In the back yard, I hung a tire swing in the oak tree; I planted a vegetable garden almost every spring; we played kickball, and croquet, and bad mitten.  The back yard was where we had cook outs on the grill and sat on our deck and later on our patio and had dinner.

Inside, our gathering place was the den where we watched our favorite shows on TV or used the computer.  Our son liked to use the stairs to send his hot wheel cars whizzing down a track from the top to the bottom.  And at night I would either carry the kids in my arms upstairs to their beds or shew them up as I ran behind them.

A lot of love happened there.

Seeing the house empty, and walking out and locking the door, never to return, was hard.

As I was leaving, I saw the large stone that had sat in our front flower bed for all the years we lived there.  On impulse, I decided to take it with me.  It weighs about 100 pounds so it was not easy to lift into the trunk, but I was determined that it was going with us.  I unloaded it into the flower bed of our new house, in our new 55+ neighborhood.  It has been sitting there since February 1, 2019.  Seeing it each morning fills me with joy.  Seeing it at night under the porch lights gives me comfort.

Today I read that the word Ebenezer means “stone of help”.  It struck me that the rock that I had carried from our old house to our new house is just that.  Somehow that stone, sitting inanimately, and motionless, speaks to me and moves me from present day to yesterday and back.

So, if you are ever in our neighborhood, stop by.  And on the way in, say hello to Ebenezer.  He sits in the front flower bed.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Paper Products

Years ago, at a church I attended, we used to have a lot of meetings.  Some of the meetings would include a meal or light snacks.  Frequently, the person in charge of the meeting would arrive early only to find that there were not enough cups or plates, or spoons or a combination of all or everything.

This problem affected those meetings and was recognized as a problem but no one seemed to have an answer or care if there ever would be an answer, because they were involved in larger issues, things that were of importance to God.

Things went along this way until an older couple decided to own the problem and to treat the problem as if it were a special ministry from God that they were called to do.  With them this small problem was not a problem but a blessing, because it gave them the opportunity to serve the church in a special way.

They never announced what they were doing, they just went about solving the problem quietly and unseen.  Suddenly, meetings had enough paper supplies; more than enough.  The supply room shelves, which once were empty, were now always full.  At first, no one knew how this was happening.  It was like Christmas morning when you opened the supply room door.  

One afternoon as I was on my way home from work, I stopped in at the Church and went to check to make sure we had enough supplies for an upcoming meeting.  As I entered the building I saw them, working silently, stocking the shelves with supplies that they had purchased.  It was as if I was watching a holy sacrament being performed.

I did not interrupt them.

I knew the answer to my question.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

It’s the Small Things

I recently read an article written by a person who had corresponded with a man in prison serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.  In his last letter, this man realized that he had just a few years to live and that he would never see the outside world again.  The letter went something like this:

“ I deserve to be here.  I have wasted my life.  When I think back on it, its not the big things that I think about, but the small things that I miss the most.”

“I miss the rain.  The feeling of it falling from the sky and down on my head. And the way rain smells as it falls in the trees.

I miss church choirs and church bells.  Sunday mornings.

I miss dragonflies over ponds.  And fish jumping.

I miss fried trout over a campfire.

I miss gardens and farms with fields that stretch as far as you can see.

I miss animals like dogs and hogs.  And birds.

I miss toast with homemade jam.

I miss picking berries on bushes and seeing a cornfield full and ripe with a small breeze blowing.

I miss coffee on the porch when it rains.

I miss people talking to you for no reason; people you can trust with what you say.

I miss waking up and hearing people you love talking in the kitchen.

All these things...that’s what heaven is.  All these things.  And that means that there are no small things, are there?  Nothing is little or insignificant.  Everything is huge and holy and so stuffed with miracles that the miracles leak out and give us hope for this world.  And maybe for ourselves.”

In the end, it is the small things that will save us.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Unofficial Goat Supervisor

I retired today (for the third time).  Everyone asks, "What are you going to do next?"  I have a number of things in mind.  Travel, write, get involved in ministries at church.  But a recent development has presented itself that has me really excited.

Our new neighborhood has hired goats to clear out an area where the trees are not going to be cut down and where someone with a weed eater would have trouble.  The first set of goats that were placed under the trees apparently were not hungry and lay under the shade of the trees most of each day.  The second set of goats were hungry and cleared the area of underbrush in no time at all.

Just when we were thinking that the goats were a good idea, the goats rebelled, led by a small female Spartacus who pulled down the electric fence with her horns and led the goat herd toward Albemarle Road.  Who knows what the plan was once they reached that busy road.  Maybe they were going to catch the bus into downtown Charlotte or ride toward the greener pastures in the town of Albemarle.  Or maybe they just needed a break and were headed to Stooges Pub and Grub down the road about a quarter of a mile.

At any rate, before they managed to get out of the neighborhood, neighbors saw them and ran after them.  Being unfamiliar with the techniques of goat herding, a scene looking a lot like something out of  an episode of the Little Rascals ensued before all the goats were rounded up and put back into their pen.

So, I have now appointed myself as the unofficial goat supervisor of the neighborhood.  This should keep me busy for a while and is a worthy profession.  Each morning I will walk past the goats and make sure they are hard at work and not lounging in the shade or plotting anarchy or pulling the fence down.

A working goat herd is a happy goat herd I always say.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Wedding Homily for Erin and Tony

 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 
(1 Corinthians 13)

I wish I could give you some words of wisdom from the homily given at my own wedding 41 years ago.  But I can’t. I can’t remember a word of it. But you will, because this homily is different. Because I am your Father, Erin, and soon to be your father-in-law, Tony and every time I see you from now on I am going to ask you about it.

This is a moment of great beauty and great meaning which transcends the flowers, the dress, the music (sorry Sandy).  What makes this time so special? This moment embraces two qualities that are central to our humanity- love, and hope.

Human beings feel these things as no other creatures on earth.  We are the only ones who have the capacity to truly love one another, to cherish one another and to hope with one another.  Because of this, these two feelings carry the spark of the Divine; they are God’s signature within us.

God has also given us the ability to choose with whom we share our love and our hope.  And this is why this day, this moment, means so much. Because by marrying one another you are saying more than just “I do.”  You are saying I choose you. A wedding is about making a choice to love someone for a lifetime and committing your life to that person; It is about giving and opening your heart without reservation to that one special person. Today, you are saying far more than “I do”.  You are saying “I do” believe in love. I do believe in hope. You are saying “I choose you for a lifetime of both love and hope.” Today you are affirming the mystery of God’s love and hope, and saying that you care for one another and will care for one another no matter what.  You are saying that you believe that your future together will be brighter because you are together.

You are expressing with your presence and your promises here today something that poets have been trying to put into words for centuries.  So, let me try to express it with a story. Erin, when you were three or four years old you used to stand on the living room couch and look out the window of the front of the house, waiting for me to come home. One night I had worked late and I just knew I had missed you and that you were probably in bed. Bus as I drove up the driveway I could see your face in the window, waiting for me. No matter what kind of day I had had, no matter what I had done, your love grounded me, put my priorities in order and gave me hope.  

As a couple, your love is the shelter from the storm; it is a light in the darkness of your day. Today, you are promising to nurture your marriage and protect it from the wind, the rain and the cold. Today, by saying I do, you are promising to be the light for each other, with your love, with your hope and with your choices.

I would like to say something to the friends and relatives who are here today.  Most of us are familiar with the beautiful words of St. Paul we heard a moment ago- his clear and eloquent verses about love.  We hear this scripture often at weddings. But Paul was not talking about marriage. He was writing to the Corinthians about how to live together as a community.  And so, I would like to ask all of you here, this community, to take those words to heart, to make those words a prayer- and then give them back as a gift to this couple.  I ask all of you to strive, very simply, to be the definition of love for this couple; to be patient with them and kind to them. Rejoice with them. Believe with them. Hope with them.  Endure with them.

This is what Paul asks of the Corinthians- and really, it is what Christ asks of us.   If we truly live this way- with this couple and with each other- we will give this bride and groom gifts more valuable than any gift on their registry; gifts that will not tarnish and will not wear out.  The gifts of love and hope.

Erin and Tony, it is my prayer that you will always give hope and love a place in your home and that you will always choose to love one another, and that this love gives you reason to hope that the future is always bright.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Not So Very Long Ago

Recently, I have been going through a lifetime of old photographs belonging to my mom and dad.  Mom and dad have passed away and the photographs are now my responsibility.  I am sorting them out to distribute among my brothers and other family members.

The photographs are in boxes and are in no particular order.  Each box contains dozens of envelopes from various pharmacies that developed the film.  Each envelope contains at least 50 or so pictures.  Each picture contains a memory and I have been living in the memories of my childhood and early adulthood for the past 30 days. 

One envelope, in my mother’s handwriting, was labeled “One Easter, not so very long ago.”

The pictures inside the envelope are of my children and my brother and sister’s children having an Easter egg hunt in my mom dad’s backyard.  And, even though that photograph was taken over 30 years ago, like my mom wrote, it seems like only yesterday.

Both of my children are grown now and living on their own.  But wasn’t it not so very long ago that I held them in my arms and told them stories?  

Wasn’t it not so very long ago that we played games on the floor of the den?  

 Wasn’t it not so very long ago that we laughed as we made up silly songs that they sang in the tub?  

Wasn’t it not so very long ago that I carried them up to bed and tucked them in and kissed them good night?

So much time has passed.  But it seems like no time at all.

How is it that I am old and my children are approaching middle age?

My advise to the young is to cherish every moment.  

My advise to the old is the same.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Big Three

I never leave the house unless I check to make sure if I have the big three- my wallet, my keys, and my cell phone.  These are the three essential things that I cannot go anywhere without.  I keep my wallet in my back, left pocket.  Doctors are now saying that men should not do this because it affects the way they sit and causes back problems.  A wallet, they say, should be carried in one of the front pockets.  Now, that’s a problem because I carry my keys and my cell phone in both front pockets.  To switch my keys to my back pocket would result in tragedy, and I have enough trouble with my cell phone without the added problem of butt dialing someone every time I sit down.

I once tried to switch my keys from my right front pocket to my left front pocket.  When my phone rang I was forever pulling out my keys.  And once I switched my wallet from the left back pocket to the right and I could never quite find the right way to sit.  No, my wallet has to stay in my back left pocket.

As soon as I enter the house I take my keys and wallet out of my pockets and put them in a place reserved for them on the bedroom dresser.  If I don’t put them there I run around the house searching for them, turning things over, saying words I should not say under my breath.  When I finally find them, it is like life is worth living again.  I have imagined life without them and it was not a life that I want to lead.

I used to have a big four.  My glasses were once right up there with my cell phone, wallet and keys.  But now that I broke down and admitted that I needed bifocals, I never forget or misplace my glasses.  I am always wearing them.  So, no more big four.  Just the big three.  When it was the big four, leaving the house looked a lot like I was doing the Macarena.  Now it just looks like I am patting myself on the legs and butt saying, “phone, keys, wallet!  Let’s roll.”

Friday, April 5, 2019

Rules to Live By from Bessie Delphia Helen Griffin Whitley Balkum

I was going through some old Bibles of my mother’s this morning and I found a Bible that was given to her by her mother, Bessie Whitley Balkum.   I thumbed through it, looking for notations in the margin and small things that may have been inserted between the pages.

I found a folded, typed page titled “A Message to My Children”.    It was signed “Written by and lovingly dedicated to my children by Bessie Delphia Helen Griffin Whitley Balkum”.  The text of the “Message” contained some rules for living that she applied to her life and that she wanted her children to incorporate into theirs.

I share the thoughts of my wonderful grandmother now:

“ Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.”

“Make your friends see that there is something in them.”

“Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.”

“Think only the best.”

“Be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.”

“Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to a greater achievement of the future.”

“Wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.”

“Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.”

“Be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”

“Think well of yourself and proclaim this fact to the world not in loud words but in great deeds.”

“Live in faith that the world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.”

My grandmother raised 13 children.  Her husband died before the last one was born.  She did not have an easy life.  She never had much money or material things.  But she never let her circumstances dictate how she treated others or how she thought of herself.  Visiting her, I was always sure of two things: that she loved me and that she was happy.  And now I know why.  I hope that I can pass these things on to my children.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Watching Ice Melt

Let’s get something straight.  Nenana is the town and Tenana is the river.  Each year the people of Nenana, Alaska watch the ice melt on the Tenana.  And its a big time thing.  This year the person who can guess the date and time that the ice melts wins $225,000.00.  That’s right.  The date and time that the ice melts on the Tenana River.  Previous ice melting dates and times all the way back to 1917 are published for people to look at to assist them in making their guess.  In order to guess a person has to purchase a ticket.

The official way of measuring when the ice melts (down to the last second) is done with a large tripod that sits on the ice on a specific spot on the ice. The tripod, which actually has four supports, is usually positioned about 300 feet offshore in the same general spot each year. The people of Nenana celebrate the placing of the tripod with a festival.  A line is somehow attached from the tripod to a clock and once the tripod moves 100 feet from its position the line is broken and the clock stops marking the exact moment that the ice melted.  In 2018, the ice officially melted on May 1 at 1:18 pm.

I was curious as to how this all began and did a little digging.  It seems that it began in 1906 with a group of fellas with names like Gunnysack Jack, Jonesy, and Duke in a bar looking for something to do and they all decided to bet on when the river ice would melt.  The winner that year was none of those guys but was a man named Oliver  (what?) who won a few free rounds of drinks at the bar.  The real, serious contest did not actually begin until 1917 but had its beginnings with Gunnysack, Jonesy, Duke, and of course, Oliver.

So, if you are looking for something to do this coming winter, entrer the Nenana Ice Classic and watch the ice melt on their webcam.  It is better than watching paint dry.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lost Socks

Today I gave up hope; hope that I would ever see the mates of the socks that I keep tucked away at the corner of the sock drawer.  Why had I kept them these many years?

I was like the father of the prodigal son who scanned the horizon of his fields each morning and night hoping to catch sight of his son returning home.

As each new basket of clean clothes returned from the laundry room I looked through them hoping against hope that I would find the wayward socks that had lept out of the washer and journeyed the world in search of a better sock life.  And finding none, they returned home, flinging themselves into the clothes basket asking for forgiveness.

Where do these socks go?  Some have suggested that the dryer is a portal to a parallel universe where socks rule and humans are worn and thrown away.  And once a sock enters it never returns.

More practical people suggest that socks, full of static, cling to bed sheets or clothes and find their way into dark closets or shelves and lay there for years; hearing their owners walking around calling their names but never responding.

The sad statistics are that the longer a sock is missing the more likely that it will never return.  Quick, decisive action is imperative.   The first 24 hours are crucial.  The entire house must be mobilized.  Clear communication is vital.  A detailed description must be compiled.  A timeline has to be hammered out.  And even if these things are done, there is no guarantee.

And so, today, I took the pile of mates out of my sock drawer and put them into a box and put the box into the attic.  I am sure that if I look in the attic tomorrow they too will be gone.  Free at last to wander.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Goodbye, House

Dear House on Statesman Drive,

You have been a wonderful home for us.  We bought you 32 years ago and moved into you on a February day that was filled with wind and sleet.  Our daughter, Erin, was four years old and our son, Jeremy, was 4 months away from being born.

You had a large, two car garage, an above ground swimming pool, a big yard, three bedrooms, a roomy yet cozy den, and an adequate kitchen.  And we came to love you.  And we called you home.

Our children grew up in you; from toddlers to teenagers to adults.  There were many adventures along the way.

And now my wife and I are moving.  Our children have homes and families of their own.

As I clean you out and spruce you up, moving box after box to the car and taking them to a new house, the voices and footsteps of the past echo in the silence and emptiness of you.

In the hallway between the kitchen and the den I can still see my five year old daughter, Erin, in her dance dress, showing me the ball and change.  By the fireplace I can see the cradle where our son, Jeremy slept as Erin leaned over and kissed him.  In the empty dining room I can hear the chatter around the table as the talk turned, over the years, from dolls and toys to cars and dates and schools.

As I climb the stairs, I see Jeremy constructing his giant hot wheels track from the bottom to the top of the stairs and sending his cars racing downward through two loops before crashing into the front door.

In the driveway the sounds of roller skates and bicycles fill the air and sounds of splashing and laughter come from the place where the pool once sat.

When I was cleaning out the storage room I found, behind the door, some writing on the wall that I had never seen before although I am sure it was there for quite some time.  It said simply, yet profoundly, " Erin loves Jeremy."

The love that filled you is what made you a home.  And we will carry this love into our new house and it will be this same love that will make this new house our new home.

Goodbye house on Statesman Drive.  We love you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

Our trip to Europe was coming to an end.  My father-in-law and I were standing on a bridge in Paris overlooking the Seine.  Our travels had taken us through Germany and Switzerland and now we were in France.

We had seen some breath taking sights, eaten some wonderful food, met a lot of different people, traveled by airplane, train, subway, and automobile, slept in a lot of different hotels, been lost in unfamiliar places, hiked down mountains, walked on rocky beaches, looked into the face of the Mona Lisa, and had the time of our lives.

That evening, as the sun was slowly sinking and Notre Dame Cathedral loomed in the distance, my father-in-law said to me, "Eric, we have had a good trip, but right now I would give all the money in my pocket for some pinto beans and cornbread."

It is good to travel; to get out and see the world.  It is a good thing to know that your way of living is not the only way; that you are not the center of the universe.  It is good to feel out of place, to learn new words and do things in a different order.

But it is also good to know that there is a place for you, a place that fits you like a glove, a place that is yours, that you know and you don't have to think before you act; a place that feels, and smells and tastes like home when you return- like pinto beans and cornbread.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Moms and Pops

Some of the best restaurants I have ever eaten in are known as Mom and Pops.  These are typically small, independently owned  (sometimes by a family) restaurants, that are usually one-offs (not franchised) and can be found at only one location.  They specialize in foods eaten by the people who live around them and they cook them with secret family recipes that made them famous.

There used to be one such restaurant that specialized in hot dogs with a sign that stated "Famous since 1946".   It must be nice to be able to point to the date of your notoriety.  Fame usually happens so incrementally that it is hard to tell when you got that way.

The waitresses at Mom and Pops all call you Shoog and Honey and Sweetheart, even though you don't know them and have never been there before.  They will encourage you to take your time when you are ordering, and when they bring your ticket to your table they will apologize and say something like, "I'm sorry.  I'm just laying this right here.  Now y'all stay here at this table as long as you want to, I'm just bringin' this so you will have it, but if you want anything else you just holler."

Some of the waitresses even have their own clientele who ask if they can be seated where "Jamie Sue is waitin' on tables".  Once seated, Jamie Sue will come to their table and greet them with a hug.

Some (but not all) of my favorites:

The Dam Restaurant near a dam in Baltimore, Maryland where we had Dam ham sandwiches, Dam french fries, Dam potato salad and Dam iced tea; and where the waitress asked if we were ready for our Dam ticket.

Bob's Grill in Kill Devil's Hill, North Carolina whose restaurant motto "Eat and Get the Hell Out" is on their sign out front.   Nobody seems to pay any attention to the motto.  The restaurant is always full.  Nothing else needs to be said.

The Four Corners Diner in Atlantic Beach, NC .  The name does not come from the owner's love for UNC basketball, but from the fact that the Diner sits at a crossroad.  This is where my father and brothers and I used to go and drown our fishing sorrows in bacon, eggs and lots of hot coffee.

The Shiny Diner in Rocky Mount, NC.  It has another name (The Highway Diner) but everyone I know that eats there calls it the Shiny Diner, because it is shiny, outside and inside.

The Conscious Coffee Cafe in Talkeetna, Alaska.  They advertise that the average person spends 25 minutes to 1.5 hours there.  My wife and I ate there for 1.35 hours several years ago and we spent most of that time talking with the owner who told us her story of moving from Maryland where she was a veterinarian and how much she loves Alaska, and the 35 feet of snow they had last winter and how her home is off the grid and she powers everything with generators.

The Soda Pop Shoppe in Savannah, Georgia where we ate hot dogs and we met a lawyer at the table next to us who told us about meeting Tom Hanks when they filmed the movie "Forrest Gump" and how there was not really a bench in the spot where Forrest sat with his box of chocolates.  And then he told us about meeting Clint Eastwood when he directed the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil",  and how nice Clint was to everyone and how he got to be an extra in the movie.  Exciting stuff.

You can find these restaurants almost anywhere you travel, but you have to search them out to find them or you have to have luck to stumble upon them, and then you have to be there at just the right time.  But, if this happens, you will never forget it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Walk in the Rain

I went walking in the rain the other day.  I had on a waterproof jacket with a hood, old running shoes that have seen better days but were used to getting wet, a pair of faded jeans, and a T-shirt I got back in the days when I was running in races with the face of a Viking on it.

The rain had turned into a slow, steady drizzle and I quickly realized that my glasses were of no use so I took them off and put them into my jacket pocket.  The world looks different when you are nearsighted and not wearing your glasses; foggy and mysterious, soft around the edges.

The fall rain, combined with fallen leaves has a unique smell that is only present that time of year, that I associate with high school and wrestling season and endless running drills in a sweaty gym.  And on this particular day, I was back in that gym, on those mats; young again with boundless energy.  And I wasn't even aware that the drizzle had turned to downpour and that I was soaked from the waist down.

Despite the rain, I crossed the highway and walked into the park across from our neighborhood. Because of the rain I had the entire park to myself.  I walked the trail that wound through the woods and listened to the sound of the rain coming through the trees, like whispers on the wind.  And then I walked to the small stream that was near overflowing, its waters reaching the top of the bridge.  Rain changes things.

Soon, I found myself in a road near the field that months ago during summer was planted with corn.  This was the field that I had walked to the day before my sister died three years ago and had been followed by a dragon fly.  I had told my sister about it and she said that lately dragon flies had swarmed her each time she went outside.  And now, every time I see a dragon fly, I think of that day and this field and the quiet summer corn, and her.

From the field I walked back home, and the rain fell steadily all the way back.  And as I unlocked the door to my house, I was thinking about what a good walk it had been.