Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Looking Forward, Looking Back

I had an experience recently that, today, has my mind in a quandary. Should I say anything?   Should I just keep my mouth shut?    What can I possibly say? — I don't know jack!   Can I just forget about it and move on?    What gives me the right to move on when — for others — that's so much more easily said than done?

I woke up this morning thinking about the Holocaust… not so much that time period itself — that incomprehensible epoch in 20th century history, but rather the ongoing effect that it has on the lives of people still struggling with it today — even people who were not even born until after WWII ended! This is not something I had spent much time thinking about, and it's shocking for me to realize what a sheltered life I've been living.

YouTube link to Terry Kelly's 'A Pittance of Time' video clipBecause my Dad spent 5 years of his life serving in WWII, I found myself this morning drawn back to my blog… reading the article I wrote about him on the anniversary of his death, last November 11th. reListening to The Pittance of Time and this time really watching the video… I got a whole new sense of those Veterans — who appear almost in apparition — so proudly marching up and down the aisles in the supermarket. I never noticed, before, that they aren't really there (to some) in the video, and it really drove home, to me, the haunting and long-lingering memories of the holocaust — relentlessly appearing and reappearing, throughout one's life. What an intrusion into one's life!    What a violation to one's exclusive sense of self!    What a barrier to moving on

Commenting on my "Lest We Forget" blog from November 11th, my friend mgordon06 sent me a very evocative posting that also drove home to me how different all of our life experiences are… especially around these less talked-about aspects — The Secrets Of — our lives.

Thanks for opening my eyes, men!
John Lennon (YouTube) ImagineI searched for articles about WW Veterans to put here, but it was so overwhelming! Then I thought of a link to John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance"…

… Instead, listen to John Lennon's Imagine — one of my favorite songs of all time — listed now on YouTube with 5,355,167 Views. Imagine!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Total Eclipse of the Moon — 9:30 to 11:55 pm

Last night at about this hour I had committed myself to be on a conference call, but although that was very interesting… I found myself drawn to what was happening in my back yard as Mother Earth cast her Wintery shadow far out into space. So I kept skipping out into the back yard, snapping pictures every 15 minutes or so, as the Moon's normal brilliance was obliterated by that shadow, bit by bit, until finally after a period of about 2 hours everything returned to normal again.
click here for Full Size image, made as a composite of 11 snapshots in Groton, Ma, on Feb 20, 2008
The image is a composite made from a 11 snapshots of the Total Lunar Eclipse, taken from 9:35pm thru just before midnight, February 20th, 2008, from our back yard in Groton, Massachusetts. For the complete Flickr album, click here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Steeped In History — our UUC — FPCoG, 1662 - 2008

Today we had such an inspiring service at The First Parish Church of Groton that I went back afterwards to take the pictures you see below. The thumbnails aren't all that inspiring, but if you click thru to get the larger images you will read what is essentially the roster of the UUC church leadership during the last 350 years.
The Groton Meeting House Leadership Throughout Our History
FPCoG Leadership 1662-1826; click here for Full Size imageFPCoG Leadership 1826-1916; click here for Full Size imageFPCoG Leadership 1916-1963; click here for Full Size imageFPCoG Leadership 1963-2008; click here for Full Size image
1662 - 18261826 - 19161916 - 19631963 - 2008
The oldest one is titled "Ministers of the Town" because back then it wasn't just a church — it was where every Groton Town Meeting was held. The next one starts in 1826 — the year the Puritains split off to form their own church because the FPCoG adopted Unitarian Universalism as their creed, and thus began our current "Ministers of the Parish" roster. The sequence continues thru present day with Elea Jesse Kemler (currently on sabbatical).

The four panels shown above are inside the church, roughly in the four corners of the sanctuary. So I have always wanted to see them all in one place to make it easier to see that they really do all fit together. And it was only today when we heard history highlights of the principle players in this long saga that I finally decided to capture the rosters this way and to "move this saga into cyberspace". Google the names in these rosters and you will read fascinating stories of every ilk!!

The 2ndpart of today's service focused on the rich history available "Off The Walls" in the sanctuary. We heard the stories behind the commemorations inscribed throughout the church — from the external 1755 history, to the Dana, Moors, Dix and Young plaques. And since I was taking pictures… see also the pipe organ, chandeliers and Puritain-inspired box pews.

Dating from 1662... The First Parish Church of Groton (Flickr) is indeed Steeped In History!!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Treasured Memories of my Brother, "Johnny"

All evening on the day that my brother Johnny died... my wife, youngest daughter, and I gathered and went thru family albums — pictures from the many times we shared with him. From that, EjP came up with this collage that she made of her favorite snapshots of Johnny over the years, my sister Nanci wrote this blog and came up with this tribute, and I created the multimedia presentation on YouTube that you can watch by clicking on the picture below.
click here for the multimedia presentation of Johnny's pictures on YouTube
In this picture Johnny and I are at "Red Rocks" — on the corner of his property in Ontario where the Canadian Mississippi river makes a sharp bend around solid granite boulders. On this homestead where Johnny and Lorraine lived during the 90s, we would hike or canoe to "Red Rocks" to hang out, appreciate nature, have bonfires, and just watch the river flow. This picture — one of my favorites — shows me and my family hiking down to "Red Rocks" with Johnny and Lorraine when my children were young. We also dove off those rocks into the depths — but not very often because the Mississippi River was pretty cold, there, most of the year.

The sound track from Johnny's "in memoriam" slide show comes from the "Elderly Father to Son" video detailed in my blog where I allude to the foreshadow of losing Johnny. I tracked down a collaborator on that video, in Japan, and he (skutflut) helped me to find these lyrics + haunting melodies which — in my mind — have become synonymous with the sad time period of Johnny's last days. Hence, my "Multimedia Tribute To John Hickey" which I proudly present in memoriam in his honor. The pictures-only counterpart is also available as a Flickr slide show or Album.

Go, fly in the wind with our sister, Gaye, dear brother; your spirit will always live on in my heart.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Our Great Blue Heron Rookery (New England Winter)

For weeks now I have been waiting for just the right weather to get exactly the conditions I want for the "New England Winter" version of my four-season Great Blue Heron Rookery project, and on this day — Feb 29th, 2008 — I have decided to give up on waiting for a better day and to instead go with the panorama I took several weeks ago. And I don't normally do this… but I'm going to set the date of this posting to match the date these pictures were taken because this story is all about the pictures and that date seems the most relevant. The only reason I delayed publishing this article until now is because I've been waiting to see if any better photo op's would come along, and so far that's not been the case.

For geographic details on this Rookery see my New England Fall article entitled “Great Blue Heron Rookery along Rte 2”, or its New England Spring counterpart, “Springtime at the Great Blue Heron Rookery”.

I remember the day I took these pictures. We'd had somewhat of a blizard — enough for snow to be stuck on all the trees — and very little wind, so the whiteness was still pervasive. But with so much cloud cover, there really wasn't enough light to get good pictures. That's why I didn't post these until March was on the horizon… I had been waiting for blue skies to appear when there was still snow on the dead trees, and now I just don't think that's gonna happen. Moreover, once I declare "the end of Winter", Spring will come sooner and we'll be done with endless blizzards, n'est-ce pas? ?

On the right is a picture I took of myself after my promenade thru the Wintery woods that day, on the North side of the Rookery wetlands. For more, click here for the Flickr album of snapshots used to make the above panorama. The panoramas themselves start here, in this Flickr album; just Next / Prev your way thru, following my usual presented in pairs paradigm.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Morning After — Johnny's Spirit Lives On

Below is the "lonely and empty" scene that I saw this morning when I looked out into our back yard, onto the firepit where we gathered for a memorial service — the celebration of Johnny's life — last evening.panorama made from 4 snapshots in our back yard; click here for Full Size image
How blessed I am to have had such a meaningful gathering of men, women, and children around a blazing fire in our back yard last night. Just as the darkness was falling upon the yard, some of my men arrived to help me set the fire. When all was ready, my wife and daughters joined us to watch the first sparks ignite the kindling. Over the next half hour, longtime friends and family arrived. Finally, we all held hands in a circle — the mid-Winter fire now blazing — and I began by briefly describing the final chapter, where cancer took Johnny's life, and then told stories about what it was like growing up with Johnny — the much older brother who showed up at the family home returning from far away cities, driving fancy sports cars, bringing home his lovely new wife and eventually his baby daughter, Karina. I was awe-inspired by my big brother.

Many people around the fire had actually known Johnny, so we heard stories about him being in our wedding in 1979, when he showed up in his RV with Lorraine, and when we saw them both over Christmas/New Years on a few occasions. I talked about how earlier that afternoon I had "labored for an hour" shoveling away the snow to expose the fire ring, and what a privilege that felt like — being the one to prepare the site the way I know Johnny would have liked his send off to be.

Much later, after an inside dinner and reminiscing, when everyone had gone home... I went outside by myself to watch the tiny flames amid dying embers, still fighting on a cold Winter night to generate enough heat to incinerate the remaining fragments of wood. And finally it really hit me that Johnny's time on this Earth has indeed run out; from here on in I will feel his warmth in the flames, hear his spirit in the rustle of the wind in Wintery branches, and sense his presence in the stillness of a dark cold Winter's midnight silence.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Farewell to My Brother "Johnny" — July 1941 - Feb 2008

At 5:45am Atlantic time this morning, my brother "Johnny" died with his head in his wife Lorraine's lap after she'd been holding him and comforting him throughout what the Doctors had said the previous evening would be his last night. It was quite a shock, having first heard of the return of Johnny's cancer only 3 days ago. But it turns out... that's the way he wanted it — to spend as little time in the hospital as possible, and to not have family come visit him only because he was ill. He lived life on his own terms; for the last 5 years, happily in retirement right near the Atlantic ocean in New Brunswick, Canada.

click here for Full Size imageclick here for Full Size imageBut Johnny lived in NB only during retirement. When he was a teenager — and I was "only knee high to a grass hopper", as he would always say, Johnny and our Dad built the log cabin and log boat house that you see here on the left. Shown on the right is the same "cottage" only from the back looking towards the lake, and you can see the little stone building which was our sauna on the far right. The picture of Nanci and I swimming thru the ice — after a sauna — was taken in 1969 on the same day as the one on the left because you can see the swimming hole in the ice right near the metal dock structure in the lakefront picture.
click here for Full Size imageMany of my memories of family life with my big brother took place in that homestead, including the very last family celebration we had there (far right) when we celebrated Johnny's 40th and my 30th birthdays. We always enjoyed being almost exactly a decade apart;
click here for Full Size imageJohnny's Dad — my Mom's first husband — was a tragic victim of WWII. In the years after Pigeon Lake we often visited Lorraine and Johnny on the Mississippi River (really!) in Southern Ontario. That's where my kids have fond memories of playing with frogs (etc.) on the beach, and we all enjoyed watching the myriad of wildlife along the river, canoeing or hiking down to Red Rocks for picnics, watching the stars with Johnny until the wee hours around campfires.

Fare thee well, big brother of mine — I will miss you dearly!!