September 30, 2008

Beating A Dead Horse

I am done with all the bridge photos but this one seemed especially intriguing.

September 29, 2008

Bifröst - The Tremulous Way

These photos were taken near, or of, a bridge a few blocks from work. Even in the mundane everydayness the beauty is out there.

In Norse mythology Bifröst is the name of the rainbow bridge linking Midgard (our world) to Asgard (realm of the gods). To my Orthodox brothers and sisters, fear not. I am not a neo-pagan but I have long been a student of mythology (especially Norse). I find the stories, the images, the culture to be endlessly fascinating.

September 28, 2008

Rough Road To Nowhere

One night last week a burglar struck in my neighborhood and made off with a large number of items including a riding mower on a trailer that belongs to the mayor. By midmorning the next day we had a suspect. When we arrived at where we believed he was living to serve a search warrant he fled into the nearby woods. After about an hour he was in custody and most of the stolen items recovered.

The mower was still on the trailer and sitting in plain view. The other stolen items were in a wooden shed on the property. Our quick response gave him no time to pawn or sell any of the loot. The home where the items were found is in an unincorporated area of the county largely populated by folks close living at or near the poverty line. We have responded many times to domestic disturbances, loud music, riding four wheelers, public drunkenness etc. I do not want to cast aspersions on the fine law abiding folks who call this neighborhood home. As is so often the case the whole neighborhood is identified by the actions of a few.
Searching the residence for stolen property brought back a lot of memories. There were piles of dirty clothes and dirty dishes everywhere. The child’s bedroom floor was littered with toys, clothes, blankets and the streamers from a set of pom-poms. We found a small amount of marijuana and a lot of drug related items including a box containing rolling papers and a syringe. The irony is that the box full of dangerous items sat on a sink with childproof locks on the cabinet. Childcare seemed to be just a series of empty gestures.

Despite the poor living conditions there were two large screen televisions (one of which was most likely stolen). I am not passing judgment on anyone but I do know what being raised in these conditions can do to a child. With little positive interaction between child and parent the child suffers. I have been very poor in my life and twice was saved from living on the street by a sister who loved me more than I deserved. Learning to make right decisions took a long, long time. Caring for your children should be at the top of the list and not something you do haphazardly. And I know that there is a big difference between being poor and being dirty. Being poor may be beyond your control but being clean and keeping a clean house is most certainly not.
I pray that the children in this household will grow to be healthy and happy but I know from experience the odds are stacked against them.

A Death Most Abrupt

I was stunned again today by the abruptness of death. At about 10:00 this morning I received a page stating there had been an accident involving a motorcycle and that the air ambulance was en route from Jacksonville. Before I could get to the scene the air ambulance was cancelled which meant the patient perished. The ground ambulance carried him to the local hospital where the formal process of pronouncing him was done.

On a flat straight stretch of road in clear weather a woman driving a minivan pulled out in front of a man riding a motorcycle. The man on the motorcycle tried his best to stop (as evident by the skid marks) but to no avail. No one in the van was physically injured (the passenger side of the van was smashed and the windshield broken) but the driver was inconsolable. She was on her way from her home in a subdivision to a yard sale in the south side of the same subdivision. Her failure to yield will forever haunt her. She and this stranger/victim and his family are now inextricably tied together. As I stood there and tried to gather information and take photographs the husband of the van driver was trying to make sense of it all and find out what possible outcomes faced his wife. Some of the outcomes would not be good but there wasn't much I could tell him until the investigation was complete.

I don’t know the story of the man riding the motorcycle other than he was only 34-years-old. Helmets are mandatory in Georgia and it looked like his took a pretty good hit.

This particular stretch of road holds a number of bad memories including several other automobile related deaths. In one case the victim was my nineteen year old neighbor. He had no ID but I knew who he was. I went to tell his sister at work at Wal-Mart. As I was telling her she called his cell phone repeatedly and left messages, messages he would never receive. I was certain death had arrived but she needed time to take it all in. It was one of the most emotional moments in my life and I hope to never again have to make a death notification. This road also reminds me of the death of an 11-year-old girl on an ATV, three suicides from self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head (one of which we listened to live on the radio, another was the conclusion of a chase as the driver killed himself with at least 15 cops looking on) and two young brothers who died in a house fire.

I guess the moral is that we should remain vigilant and pray as the angel of death can manifest himself anytime anywhere. Don’t carry grudges or hatred in your heart. Be the first to say you’re sorry, the first to offer the olive branch. Tell those you love how much they mean to you. Don’t assume they know. And lookout for motorcycles, they’re everywhere.

September 25, 2008

Icarus Too Young

Icarus my son in a box inside a box lowered slowly into a hole
neatly trimmed. His broken body once supple now cold,
no blood, no warmth, no hope.

Too young, too young he soared from my hand
which shaped the wings of his escape. A man
he was not ready when the push became shove.

Now trapped in my mind’s labyrinth
the great artificer cannot free himself.

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island is the southern most of Georgia’s barrier islands. They only way there is by boat so it is largely free from the effects of tourism and development. The undeveloped beach is a wonderful place. It’s like stepping back in time. On this recent trip we never made it to the beach but still brought back a large stash of good photos. And you can never get enough Spanish moss photos. The photo above was taken at the pier as we waited to go aboard for the trip over.

September 19, 2008

Words To Live By

“It is requisite for the ideal artist to possess a force of character that seems hardly compatible with its delicacy; he must keep his faith in himself while the incredulous world assails him with its utter disbelief; he must stand up against mankind and be his own sole disciple, both as respects his genius and the objects to which it is directed.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Artist of the Beautiful”

September 15, 2008

Honor And Old Glory

I took the top photo at about 8:15 this morning. The river is the St. Marys River and the green horizon beyond that is Florida. It was one of those moments that held me transfixed as I was overcome by pride/joy/sorrow. I stood offering silent thanks to our Creator, to all those who have come before who held fast to the dream of a place where freedom reigns. The sight of our flag waving in the cool morning breeze reminded me once again that freedom is not free.

I don’t consider myself a super patriot. On probably too many occasions I criticize the Federal Government in general and the Bush administration in particular. But I understand just how blessed I am to live in America, to have the right to vote, to enjoy the freedom to live my life as I see fit, to worship free of government's grasp. And today I was once again struck by the simple beauty of our national flag. I think too many times it becomes ornamentation in our lives, just the backdrop to some group function. In our daily grind we forget just how important our Old Glory truly is.

Simple symbolism. Seven red stripes and six white represent the thirteen colonies at the beginning of our journey to nationhood. Fifty stars in a blue field for the fifty states, each separate yet integral to the inviolate whole. Our flag demonstrates our unity as a nation, as a people. It reminds us of who we are and from where we come. It is a symbol of our might and our commitment to right, of our compassion and of our steadfastness in the face of adversity. It is the reminder of the blood spilled, of the lives lost in our defense.

As a proud American and a former Marine the Iwo Jima image is for me and for many of us particularly potent. The Greatest Generation's fight on two disparate and but equally deadly fronts. We were still a nation in the making until the slumbering giant awoke to the sound of guns, the scream of battle, the looming threat.

Despite ourselves, despite the shoddy treatment we have too many times given our veterans we are blessed beyond all measure.

To ALL the veterans out there, thank you.

September 13, 2008

Friends In Deed

A motorcycle run was held here today to raise money for two very ill children in our community. Both are on a long road to the ultimate goal of being disease free. I won’t post any names because I don’t know how the boy’s family would feel about it and I don’t want to cause them any additional stress. I ask that you lift these two precious children and their families up in your prayers. As you can see by the photos the entire community is doing everything they can to support the families.

September 11, 2008

She Is The God-bearer

On Sept. 8, The Church celebrated The Feast of The Nativity of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary. I’m not sure why but I found myself deeply contemplating (not easy with my shallow mind) this feast day in general and the Theotokos in particular.

As a good (sometimes) God-fearing (almost always) Protestant I never gave much thought to Mary other than at Easter and Christmas, those days when she intruded into the celebration and could not be ignored, diminished certainly, but not ignored. At that time anything to do with Mary smelled suspiciously of the Romans with their statuary and their candles and their incense (or Popery?). We were taught that the Romans (we never even knew the Holy Orthodox Church existed) did their best to elevate Mary to a full share in the Godhead and sought to change the Holy Trinity to the (un)Holy Quadripartite (I’m sure that’s not exactly the right word so please correct me Fr. Frank). I apologize for all the (excessive) parentheses.

My church experience prior to coming home to Orthodoxy was that we were in theory Trinitarian but in practice unitarian (not those Unitarians of the watered down gospel) in that the focus is almost solely on Christ to the exclusion of God the Father and The Holy Spirit.

In broadening my views on Mary I came to understand in a much deeper way how through Christ’s humanity and our shared humanity we need not fear death. The concept of sharing is His humanity for some reason just never seemed significant. I know this sounds a bit preposterous and points out quite clearly my cranial density but I eventually began to grasp that we are the beneficiaries of Christ’s full humanity (He having sprung from Mary’s womb).

As for venerating and lifting up the Theotokos, who better in the history of humanity to lift up? She is the God-bearer. Her unhesitant acceptance, her embrace of what God the Father through the Holy Spirit would make manifest through her is the model for us all.

I no longer flinch at, “Most holy Theotokos, save us.” I am comforted by:

“Remembering our all-holy, immaculate, most blessed, and glorious Lady, Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God.”

“It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God:
more honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim —
without corruption you gave birth to God, the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!”

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

September 5, 2008

God Is Good

I want to share an interesting blog I stumbled on the other day. The blog’s author is Fr. John Moses and can be found at Ramblings of a Redneck Priest. He is the priest at All Saints of North America in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley (where I was born and raised). Many years ago I dated his youngest sister. She and one of her other sisters are also now Orthodox. I was reacquainted with her while on a trip to Virginia and looking for the nearest Orthodox parish. While standing in the parking lot I heard someone yell my name. It was the sister of my old girlfriend. They are both parishioners at All Saints (imagine having your brother as your priest). It is also the church where my younger brother was baptized. He is the one on the far right in the first row.