this stormy present occasion is piled high with difficulty
Again and again I keep coming back to Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Annual Address to Congress when he wrote ( and I saw wrote as the speech, now known as the State of the Union, was not delivered by the President in person until Woodrow Wilson first did it in 1913) so this speech was read to Congress by a clerk.
Mr. Lincoln closed this address with these words.
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.
The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.
As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.
We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.
We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves.
No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us.
The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.
We say we are for the Union.
The world will not forget that we say this.
We know how to save the Union.
The world knows we do know how to save it.
We, even we here, hold the power, and bear the responsibility.
In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.
We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.
Other means may succeed; this could not fail.
The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.
they did not value resources, communities historic nature
Today’s haiku is adapted from a quote from US Representative Teresa Leger Fernández of New Mexico when she made a statement about the US Forest Service and that they made multiple miscalculations, used inaccurate models and underestimated how dry conditions were in the south-west, causing a planned burn to reduce the threat of wildfires to explode into the largest blaze in New Mexico’s recorded history.
Representative Fernández said, “These are complex issues. Starting a prescribed burn in an area where there are homes and watersheds and communities should be something that you take incredibly seriously because those are high value assets. They did not value the resources, the communities, the historic nature of these communities and so they went forward allowing more risk than they should have.”
She was speaking about forest management.
You could easily think she was talking about any number of things in the news right now.
When talking about right now I must be talking about rights.
Right to vote.
Right to have your vote counted.
Curious how right and right are the some word.
The online Merriam-Webster defines the words like this:
>Something to which one has a just claim.
>Conforming to facts or truth.
>Being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper.
>Qualities (such as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of moral propriety or merit moral approval.
My thought this morning was to write about how difficult it has been of late to construct a daily haiku and write some commentary in a light hearted way when I am feeling anything but lighthearted.
I saw this quote of Representative Fernández’s and thought how easy it would be to use the words in a commentary on how so many decisions and actions are being taken today without any consideration to the value the resources, the communities, the historic nature of these communities and so they went forward allowing more risk than they should have.
Then by chance I hit that word right.
Seems there has been a major disconnect on the importance of this word.
I am reminded of Proverbs 21:3 (NIV) –
To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
It was a long time ago but I had to take a class in school to learn how to drive a car.
It was a free class offered by the Grand Rapids Public Schools, all you had to do was sign up.
The only restriction was that you had to turn 16 years old, legal driving age, either before the class started or by the time it finished to sign up.
In the winter of 1976, for reasons I have never understood, my Dad was interested in my getting a drivers license.
At the same time he also took a life insurance policy out of me.
Maybe he thought it was a good investment.
It was January and my birthday was in July and I knew that I couldn’t sign up until then but he kept after me to sign up for drivers ed.
Maybe he just wanted to avoid another summer of having a kid in drivers ed instead of during the school year.
To make him happy I went into the office and asked for a registration card and filled it out and dropped it in the office inbox and forgot about it.
I can’t say I have had many you-could-knock-me-over-with-a-feather shocks in my life but a week later, this would have been January still, I was walking home from school in the snow with my buddies when my Dad pulled up next to us in his car, rolled down the window and said, “get in.”
This NEVER HAPPENED.
The first thing that went through my mind was to examine my conscience to figure out what I done wrong.
Truthfully, the list was so long I most likely didn’t know where to start.
My buddies all looked at me with that oh-are-you-in-trouble look and they all moved away from me to get away from any possible shrapnel.
Very slowly and tentatively I opened the car door and got in my Dad’s car.
My Dad’s car was one of the pleasures’ he allowed himself to indulge in.
My Dad had driven a Thunderbird convertible in the early 1960’s when there might not have been a more coveted car in America.
He updated that to the Buick Riviera, which in the late ’60s had POWER EVERYTHING.
From the Riviera, he got a 1976 two door navy blue Mercury Cougar.
It was this car I was now sitting in.
Sitting in the front seat and waiting to find out what I had done.
My stomach was doing all kinds of calisthenics and I kept my mouth shut.
My Dad drove pulled away from the curb and said, “We are going to the park so I can show you have to drive. School called and you have Driver’s Ed at 4 o’clock!”
Talk about you-could-knock-me-over-with-a-feather!
We got to the nearby Riverside Park and I was put in the drivers seat of my Dad’s Cougar and on a snow covered park road, I got a quick lesson in how to start a car, put it in gear and drive.
While I drove, my Dad explained that School had called and said that due to a cancellation there was an opening in the Drivers Ed class that started that day.
As it happened, my card was sitting out on the desk and the school was calling to see if I was eligible for the class.
See, when I filled out the card, I put my birthday as being in July, 1976!
The current year.
The school was calling to check if was old enough.
In other words, had I been born in 1959 (when I had been born in 1960).
My Dad said that my Mom had taken the call and she looked at Dad and asked what to say.
“TELL THEM YES!,” my Dad said.
About an hour later, I was dropped off back at school and found the Drivers Ed class where the teacher had my card in his hand.
“You Hoffman?” he asked.
I said yes and the class started.
The teacher started talking to the class about driving and getting a drivers license.
happy the man and happy he alone who can call today his own
Adapted from, Happy the Man by John Dryden (1631-1700)
Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own: He who, secure within, can say, Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today. Be fair or foul or rain or shine The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine. Not Heaven itself upon the past has power, But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
Of late, I have been reading a lot of Civil War history and Grant out in the West and the battle of Shiloh in Tennessee.
While I was reading I was reminded of my families visit to the battlefield in what must have been the spring of 1976.
Once my brother Paul got married and moved to the Washington DC area in 1969, our family spring vacation trips were to Washington and all the memorials and museums and other sights along the way.
But in 1976 (I think) my brother Paul had a short term assignment to the west coast and my Dad decided we would go south instead.
I am not sure of all we saw but we went to the Land between the Lakes in Tennessee and the Shiloh Battlefield.
My Mom always got us some new clothes for our spring trips and this year she bought me, Pete and Stevie and Al matching spring navy blue windbreakers with MICHIGAN in gold letters across the back.
Everywhere we went, at all the diners we stopped at and such, folks would say, “Y’all from Michigan are you??” and we would smile and nod and wonder how did they figure that out?
Anyway part of the Shiloh Battlefield connects with the Tennessee River at a point named Pittsburgh Landing.
This is where boats that supplied the Union Army under US Grant were able to dock and where much of the Union Army ran and hid after the first day of battle.
Today it is a parking lot and overlook of the river where you can park and look over the river and the read the plaques that describe the scene in April, 1862.
We drove around the park and pulled over at Pittsburgh Landing and parked.
There was one other car already parked there.
Outside the car was a little family of a young man and his wife with the wife holding an infant baby wrapped in a blanket.
The man and the woman looked none too happy and it turned out the young man had locked his keys in the car.
He was able to get a coat hanger from the Park Rangers and was trying to work the hanger into driver door but as I remember it, the doors had metal frames and he couldn’t work the hanger past the frame.
My Dad walked up to car, my Mom of course had engaged the young Mom in conversation about diapers and bottles and that the baby bag was IN THE CAR, and Dad looked over the situation.
The car was a hatch back and he noticed one window, one of the back windows that pivoted out on a hinge horizontally, was open just a tiny bit.
The young man pointed out that the window had a latch that let you open the window but he couldn’t get his hand in nor was his hanger long enough to reach the locks.
The young man looked at my Dad and said he didn’t know what else he could do but break the back window.
Maybe a bit drastic but the baby was beginning to fuss and the young wife was beginning to fuss as well.
But my Dad said to hang on and he called us boys over.
“See if you can reach in there”, he said to us with our skinny little arms and hands.
I don’t know which one did it, but one of us could reach in and at least open the latch so the window opened about two more inches.
This got the young man excited but it turned out even with the window open wider he couldn’t get anything unlocked.
“I am just going to break it”, he said.
But my Dad said to hang on and he went to out car and came back with a screwdriver.
My Dad always had a tool or two in the glove compartment of the car.
“Maybe we can detach the window from the latch”, my Dad said.
The young man got the plan right away but he could not get his hands inside the window with the screw driver and get the screwdriver on the screw heads that held the latch plate to the glass of the window and get any torque to turn the screws.
Us kids tried also with no luck.
But my Dad was a Dentist and was used to working with his hands in small spaces.
I can see it in my mind as he took the screwdriver and reached in through the gap and it seems with just his fingers got that screwdriver in place and exerted enough pressure to be able to turn the screws out of the plate.
As soon as the first screw turned us boys all cheered.
My Dad kept at it and removed four screws, took the latch plate off the glass, open that back window wide and reached over the drivers seat and unlocked the door.
“There you go,” he said with this big grin.
The young mom bursts into tears and hugs my Mom.
The young man looked like he wanted to burst into tears and shook my Dad’s hand over and over.
Us kids were all thrilled to have been there, to have helped and to have witnessed ‘Pater triumphans.‘
My Dad, he just looked happy.
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today. Be fair or foul or rain or shine But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour
just another straw is always sunrise somewhere still holds, reveals much
I have never been to Yosemite and most likely, I have to admit, I will never get there.
But I get pleasure knowing it is there.
I know its a manipulated moment in time, but after years of seeing it, I can still stare in wonder at Ansel Adams photograph, “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park.”
It was dismay.
It was with grave misgivings.
It was with sadness that hit my core when I read that someone had visited Yosemite and had to leave a record of their visit with spray paint.
Stupid I know.
Misplaced and maybe over reacting.
But hear me out.
I can spit in any direction and hit more problems with this world than can be collected in an encyclopedia.
Climate, politics, human rights, civility, guns, housing, wages, food and almost any other story that appears on any front page, and it becomes quite the pile of straw on the camels’ back.
I saw a story on NBC news last night about abandoned disabled people in Ukraine that if it didn’t break your heart and drive you to your knees to beg forgiveness from God for being part of the population of a world that allows this to happen then I don’t know what to say to you.
There is enough, too much, we can agree I think.
And Yosemite National Park got tagged.
Why is this the straw that seems to break my back?
I would say it goes to state of mind.
Yosemite is not easy to get to.
I don’t think it is the type of place you say, “Hey lets go spend a day …” but more of the place where you might say, “Let’s plan …” and you make the trip.
According to the National Parks Website, reservations are needed during peak hours.
Once at the park and the decision is made to hike the Yosemite Falls Trail, visitors are advised that:
Start your hike early; this trail can become very hot mid-day in the summer. By starting as early as possible, you will be able to hike during the cooler part of the day. The upper portion of the trail is exposed, receiving no shade until late afternoon or early evening.
Avoid becoming dehydrated or experiencing heat exhaustion. Drink plenty and drink often; pace yourself; rest in the shade; eat salty snacks.
Sprained ankles and knee injuries are common on this trail. There are many areas of loose sand mixed with rocky terrain, which makes for slippery footing.
Stay on the trail; there are numerous steep drop-offs and ledges off-trail.
Know your limits. Pre-existing medical conditions can be easily exacerbated on the steep ascent.
Do not swim or wade in the creek above the waterfall.
The Parks Website states, If you make the one-mile, 1,000 foot climb (via dozens of switchbacks) to Columbia Rock, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock. From there, it is worth the time and energy to hike another 0.5 miles (0.8 km) (some of which is actually downhill!) to get a stunning view of Upper Yosemite Fall. Depending on the season, you may even feel the mist from the fall, which may be welcome respite after the tough climb.
I am assuming that some one read all this, knew all this, packed up there gear, maybe a lunch, water, good shoes and then made sure they had at least two cans or colors of spray paint all ready for the hike.
Who thinks this?
Who plans this?
What does that say about us?
Can you hear them going over their supplies?
As I have already admitted, in today’s news about the climate, politics, human rights, civility, guns, housing, wages, food and almost any other story that appears on any front page, there is plenty to get me going.
As I said, I saw a story on NBC news last night about abandoned disabled people in Ukraine that if it didn’t break your heart and drive you to your news to beg forgiveness from God for being part of the population of a world that allows this to happen then I don’t know what to say to you.
But the story of man’s inhumanity to themselves is as old as Caine and Able.
To willfully damage Yosemite with malice aforethought?
John Muir was the man who set up some of the first boundaries of what became Yosemite National Park and camped their with Theodore Roosevelt that led to lots of parks and preservation of wild areas for the benefit of all of us (Though I have to point out it was Mr. Lincoln who signed a bill on June 30, 1864, granting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias to the State of California “for public use, resort and recreation,” the two tracts “shall be inalienable for all time“).
Mr. Muir once said, “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising.“
It is always sunrise somewhere.
It is always a new day.
But this place, once the sun comes up, reveals a place I don’t recognize anymore.
festina lente make haste slowly in long run but eat everyday
Festina Lente, in the latin, or ‘make haste slowly’ or ‘more haste, less speed.’
It has been adopted as a motto numerous times, particularly by the emperors Augustus and Titus, the Medicis and appears over and over in literature.
To combine the two concepts a logo of an anchor and a dolphin together was been devised.
According to Wikipedia, “The meaning of the phrase is that activities should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are rushed too quickly then mistakes are made and good long-term results are not achieved. Work is best done in a state of flow in which one is fully engaged by the task and there is no sense of time passing.”
I am reminded of this phrase, ‘festina lente’, as I watch this country and this government deal with the problems of high inflation, high cost of food, high cost of housing, high cost of fuel, high human cost of guns, lack of baby formula, and any number of the current crisis’s that are today’s news.
Festina lente is the watchword from history for today.
Responses to these problems should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence.
If tasks are rushed too quickly then mistakes are made and good long-term results are not achieved.
We can all agree on that, right?
I am reminded of a time in the history of the United States called the Great Depression.
The people of America finally got so fed up with the festina lente attitude of the Government in Washington that in one if the great electoral upheavals of all time, they voted in Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.
President Roosevelt appointed social worker, Harry Hopkins as the Secretary of Commerce and in that role, the day after the inauguration in March of 1933, Mr. Hopkins started spending money to provide relief in the form of food and housing.
He was told he couldn’t do that.
He was told that such a program could not work.
He was told that giving out money that way would not succeed in the long run.
Mr. Hopkins replied, “People don’t eat in the long run, they eat every day.”
day age we live in you’re entitled to hate them you know what I mean?
“And I think that the day and age that we live in now, it’s just so negative that you see it in everything. Sport, politics, whatever it is, it’s like if you disagree with someone you just feel that you’re entitled to like hate them and talk bad about them and just bash their decision, when everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, you know what I mean?”
PGA Golfer Justin Thomas commenting on the pro golfers who opted to play in the new Saudi backed golf league … and about life in the United States in general.
Back in the day, I think there were just as many opinions and just as many thoughts but if you wanted to express them to the world at large you wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper or called AM talk radio.
Since few people read editorials and fewer people listened to AM talk radio, the opinions were muffled.
Today, all anyone has to do is voice their opinion on social media and their opinions are amplified beyond the wildest imaginations.
Of all the emotions available, it seems that giving into rage, giving into hate, are the most embraced by social media.
I don’t watch the Simpson’s often but I saw the one where Homer went on a work’s outing to the local minor league baseball team and was warned by his wife to not make a drunken fool of himself.
Homer replied that he ‘ … had a ticket! A ticket which gives me the right … no … the OBLIGATION to make a drunken fool of myself.’
As Mr. Thomas said, today we feel ‘entitled to hate.’
The only thing that is left is for when we are obligated to hate.
Sounds stupid until it is remembered that this was not beyond anyone’s wildest imagination and in the book, 1984, by George Orwell, every day all the employee’s gather in the lunch room for the required ’10 minute hate.’
has nearly worried the life out of me at times I should be sorry
Sometime history can come alive for me and I have to talk about it.
I have been fighting my way through the Civil War campaigns of Ulysses S. Grant this summer.
I started Chattanooga and have worked backwards in time through Vicksburg and am now in the middle of the Shiloh campaign.
In my reading, I came across a minor character by the name of Col. Thomas Worthington, of the 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
By all accounts the Colonel, a graduate of West Point in 1827, was a perfect pest of a person.
General Sherman especially found the man to be beyond belief and took pains to describe him in ways so that others would understand how unbelievably bad the feller was.
The accounts in the books I was reading were so overwhelming in both their statements on the man’s inability and the total agreement of all the authors that the man was useless and his own worst enemy that I had to stop for a minute.
Could this Colonel Worthington have been such a jerk?
Or, after the passage of time, when history revealed that General’s Grant and Sherman were great officers, that it became open season on anyone who didn’t recognize their virtue at the time and everyone is just jam piling on poor Colonel Worthington.
I had never heard of the guy to be honest and I thought could he really have been so bad?
So I searched him out.
With the wonder that can be the World Wide Web, I found copies of two letters about the Colonel that were written back in 1864.
The first one is hand written and states simply:
“Today I verbally told Col Worthington that I did not think him now fit for a Colonel; and now upon his urgent request, I put it in writing.”
The note is on letter paper printed with the heading, EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington.
It is dated, March 31, 1864.
It is signed, A. Lincoln.
So maybe the Colonel was unwell and was requesting permission for sick leave and that is what Mr. Lincoln meant when he told him he was ‘not fit for a Colonel.”
The Colonel came back later to see Mr. Lincoln a few months later and this time, the President tried send him off to someone else.
The other letter is actually a transcription of a telegram:
It is dated: (Recd Cipher – 6:30pm) City Point, 3:10pm August 29, 1864.
It is addressed to:
His Excellency., A Lincoln, President of the US.
Your dispatch of 1.40 p.m. in relation to permitting Col. Worthington to come here is received.
I should be very sorry to see the Colonel. He has nearly worried the life out of me at times when I could not prevent an interview.
It is signed, US Grant, LT General.
I can imagine Mr. Lincoln laughing as he sent off his message to the General.
I can hear him say, “Grant will love this.”
It took the General less than 2 hours to get the telegram from the President, think about it and dictate his reply and get the reply encoded and say, nope, not me, don’t send him here.
That those two guys took time out from the Civil War to play guess who’s coming to dinner made me laugh.
It made them a little more real.
All respect to Colonel Thomas Worthington, but if Abraham Lincoln and US Grant felt this way I have to feel that the verdict of history has been just.
Colonel, you must have been one world record of a pest.
In fact, for millions of people in Britain, 2022’s growing sense of disaster is another chapter in a story that goes back at least 10 years – to rules and regulations that turned the welfare state into a mess of trapdoors and tripwires, to the hacking back of benefits, to the dire treatment of disabled people and to a new world of work where chronic insecurity and flatlining pay are an everyday reality.
What struck me is the thought that I have been focused on the Covid years of late and all the issues it has caused.
This article (based in Britain but a lot of applies here) made me realize how long, going back to the the Housing Market crash of 2009 and the first time I got fired by the same company.
Talk about insecurity.
Back in 2009 the company I was working for called me into the office on a Tuesday and I was told my job had been eliminated and that my last day would be Friday.
In the next sentence, I was told that the company was creating a new corporate department and that I was wanted to be on that team and I was offered the same job I was doing but if I wanted it, I would be doing that same job in Atlanta.
So off to Atlanta we dragged all the kids and that chapter of our life started.
Then in 2020, I got call to be in a meeting on a Tuesday and once again I was told that my job had been eliminated and my last day would again be Friday.
The first time it happened, I felt it was the current economic climate.
The 2nd time it was pure spite and meanness and people who I worked with turning out to pretty small people.
If you read this blog, you will know this turned out okay for me but do I have trust in my job, any job?
Do I jump any time I get a note to be in a meeting?
piece of cloth, a sound make something not cloth nor sound totems of love, hate
Adapted from the passage:
A flag is a piece of cloth and a word is a sound, But we make them something neither cloth nor a sound, Totems of love and hate
From the poem, John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benét.
According to Wikipedia
, John Brown’s Body (1928) is an epic American poem written by Stephen Vincent Benét. Its title references the radical abolitionist John Brown, who raided the federal armory at Harpers Ferry in Virginia in October 1859. He was captured and hanged later that year. Benét’s poem covers the history of the American Civil War. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1929.
The photo is of my Great Great Grand Fathers grave.
When he was 18, he joined the 16th Michigan Volunteer Infantry and later fought in Virginia and wounded in action at the Battle of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862.
Here is a larger extract from the poem.
One cannot balance tragedy in the scales Unless one weighs it with the tragic heart. The other man’s tragedy was the greater one Since the blind fury tore the huger heart, But this man’s tragedy is the more pitiful. Thus the Eastern board and the two defended kings. But why is the game so ordered, what crowns the kings? They are cities of streets and houses like other cities. Baltimore might be taken, and war go on, Atlanta will be taken and war go on, Why should these two near cities be otherwise? We do not fight for the real but for shadows we make. A flag is a piece of cloth and a word is a sound, But we make them something neither cloth nor a sound, Totems of love and hate, black sorcery-stones, So with these cities.
Even today, We do not fight for the real but for shadows we make.
A flag is a piece of cloth and a word is a sound.
But we make them something neither cloth nor a sound, Totems of love and hate.
In Topeka, as a small child, my mother took me with her to the little vine-covered library on the grounds of the Capitol.
There I first fell in love with librarians, and I have been in love with them ever since- those very nice women who help you find wonderful books!
The silence inside the library, the big chairs, and long tables, and the fact that the library was always there and didn’t seem to have a mortgage on it, or any sort of insecurity about it – all of that made me love it.
And right then, even before I was six, books began to happen to me, so that after a while, there came a time when I believed in books more than in people – which, of course, was wrong.
That was why, when I went to Africa, I threw all the books into the sea.
The silence inside the library, the big chairs, and long tables, and the fact that the library was always there and didn’t seem to have a mortgage on it, or any sort of insecurity about it – all of that made me love it.
Not any sort of insecurity about it.
I’ll pass over any discussion about working at a library and being aware of tax-payer funding and other such insecurities to focus on the magic and wonderfulness of that line, ‘[didn’t have] any sort of insecurity about it.’
Mr. Bono sings, “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
Sometimes what you are looking for is right under your nose.
A place with out any sort of insecurity about it would check a lot of boxes on anyone’s search form.
My motto, As I live and learn, is: Dig And Be Dug In Return.