Our last day on Jersey Island was extended due to the change in the ferry schedule and ferry destination that was unfortunately imposed upon us. We took the opportunity to “make lemons into lemonade” by spending the day at Mont Orgueil, better known as Gorey Castle.
“Gorey” was built in 1204 upon a site that had featured fortifications for thousands of years dating back to Neolithic times. It remained Jersey Island’s primary defense until advances in gunpowder and cannon rendered it obsolete in the early 1600’s. Over the preceding 400 years Castle Gorey underwent many additions and improvements.
It was ideally situated for viewing the coast of (then) military rival France, only 14 miles across the water.
It again became important with the Nazi occupation in 1940. Those troops, with the use of imported slave labor, converted portions of the castle into reconnaissance and gun positions.
As currently presented, Gorey is a well preserved labyrinth of rooms, stairways, and passages. We frequently found ourselves turning a corner only to find that we had traveled in a circle.
It also has become a venue for a variety of interesting and unique art pieces that are relevant to the Castle’s place in history.
We boarded the ferry at 7pm for an 8pm departure. The terminal, and subsequently the vessel, were significantly more crowded than our previous two passages. This was due to the combined passenger loads of two ferries, the one we were on and the cancelled ferry we had intended to travel. Fortunately, we still were booked into a private en-suite cabin that allowed us a good night’s sleep and hot showers.
Not so lucky were most of the other passengers who passed on the extra cost of a cabin and instead curled up in whatever nook, cranny, or floor space was available to them.
Before bed Christine and I secured a table in the bar for a nightcap. Tables were at a premium so I held the table while Chris went for drinks. There were 4 chairs at our table, two obviously unclaimed. An attractive woman of our generation approached and asked is she and her husband might join us. This was the most fortunate question of the day as Liz and her husband Fred, who happened to be standing next in line with a Christine at the bar, were as pleasant a couple as one could hope to meet.
We spent the better part of 3 hours laughing and sharing our “stories”. They were originally from mainland England but years past had fallen in love with Jersey and made it their home. We agreed to meet for breakfast aboard ship at 6am prior to our arrival in Poole.
Before our evening ended the discussion turned to my annoyance with the change in the ferry itinerary and the challenges that this presented to us. A gentleman at the next table overheard and joined the discussion long enough to offer to drive us to our hotel in Portsmouth. This was Kevin, and his offered kindness saved us over 2 hours of travel and $150 dollars in added costs the morning of our arrival. Kevin declined our offers of compensation explaining that the detour only added a few miles to his trip home. Of course he was ignoring the fact that the rerouted ferry also impacted him. Sharing his cost would have been fair.
Liz, Fred, and Kevin are good examples of the friendliness and generosity that we have continually experienced in the UK. These good people are our “neighbors”, our Allies, our brothers and our sisters. We share the bonds of a common heritage. As a people, we should not allow those gifts to be thoughtlessly trashed by the whims of any one person or administration.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. The afternoon I typed the above (May 17th) we encountered a English gentleman who upon learning of our nationality waxed longingly of a trip he dreams of one day taking across the States traveling old Route 66 on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. His ardor had a pilgrimage quality and he specifically mentioned the “Rocket Man” statue located in Wilmington Illinois, a scant 30 minute drive from where I grew up. Pilgrimage may be defined as an intentional journey to a place of spiritual significance. Some may scoff at the notion that icons found along Route 66 are spiritual. However, spirituality is found within the pilgrim’s heart and not that of the audience. I understand how the dream of a journey feeds the soul, even if it is to stand at the foot of a 25 foot tall “Rocket Man”. I also know of two Scots from Glasgow, Sean and Garry, who understand this as well. We all need our dreams.
John Churchill was named 1st Duke of Marlborough by England’s King William III in 1702.
This was in recognition of his military service to the Crown. His career went on to amass a remarkable string of 26 military victories without defeat. Churchill’s most noted victory occurred at The Battle of Blenheim where over 100,000 troops were engaged in combat.
Churchill dealt a stunning defeat to the French army which suffered over 30,000 casualties. Churchill dispatched word of his success in a note that he personally wrote on a tavern bill.
Shortly after this victory the King granted him an indeterminate lease of the estate that came to be known as Blenheim in honor of that victory. In 1704 Parliament authorized nearly a quarter million Pounds for the construction of a palace upon the grounds.
The Duke contributed another 60 thousand Pounds. The result was the construction of the monumental Blenheim Palace, the only non-royal “country home” in England to bear the designation of “Palace”. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
England’s monarchy remains owner of the property so long as the Dukes of Marlborough continue to pay the “rent”, which consists of delivering a French battle flag to England’s monarch at Parliament each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim.
The First Duke died without a surviving male heir. Parliament acted to protect the family’s rights by passing legislation that allowed the Churchill family to pass and hold title through its females, the first and only time that such an Act has ever been granted. Twice this has preserved the family’s hold on Blenheim.
The Estate has remained in the hands of the Churchill’s and Spencer-Churchill’s for over 300 years and is currently the possession of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, James Spencer-Churchill. The Spencer line of the family included the ill fated Princess Diana. The Churchill line included the famous Sir Winston Churchill who was born on the property in 1874.
He is buried in a modest family plot in nearby St. Martin’s Church, at Blandon.
The Palace is incredible in its size, design, and contents. Upon visiting the estate one of England’s kings was heard to say, “We have nothing to equal this!”
The various reception rooms display remarkable art, priceless tapestries, and artisan created furnishings of incredible rarity.
There are 22 clocks in the palace, the oldest dating to 1690. They all are in operation and are maintained by a staff clockmaker.
The library is the second longest room in the entire United Kingdom.
Apart from the Palace’s historic interest, this was the birthplace and home of Sir Winston Churchill. A portion of the tour was dedicated to his memory and considerable accomplishments. Aside from his role as Great Britain’s Prime Minister during the 2nd World War, his oratory stirred the soul of the United Kingdom during it’s “darkest hours”. He was a polymath, accomplished as an artist who’s works (submitted anonymously) were accepted for exhibition at London’s Royal Academy.
He was also a Noble Laureate in Literature for his “…mastery of historical and biographical description, and brilliant oratory in defense of human values”. His life works include writing 42 books in 60 volumes, plus 5,000 speeches and articles… in all over 30 million words!
Sir Winston died January 24, 1965. He is only the 4th former Prime Minister in Great Britain’s history to have been afforded a full State funeral. 110 world leaders were in attendance and the ceremony was watched by over 350 million television viewers around the world.
Our evening and this chapter of our journey concluded with dinner at a Portuguese restaurant in Portsmouth England with our Welch friends Huw and Nina. My thoughts turned to a 15 minute encounter in Porto Portugal with Mafalda and Rita, 2 young ladies who extended us a favor. We consider them friends for life even if our paths never again cross. Our life has become punctuate by many of these friendships. Far flung places take on the faces of these people and become personal to us.
Just today these posts have been read by scores of people in at least 15 countries. In 1869 Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” 2000 years ago Christ compressed his entire philosophy into a single admonition that directed us to love our neighbors as we love ourself. (Matthew 22:35-40)
“Neighbor” is not defined by race, creed, gender, or geography. A neighbor is any person who celebrates the birth of a child, or mourns a child’s death. A neighbor is one who’s empty belly craves a meal, or who rejoices at the breaking of bread with those who are held dear. A neighbor knows the sweetness of first love or the bitterness of first love lost. A neighbor is anyone who sings with the wind, smells the flowers, or smiles at seeing what is whimsical in the clouds.
Travel and seek your neighbor. Travel in your heart, travel with your mind, and travel to any place where a common language may be spoken with just a smile.
How many “Big Things” can one really expect to see and experience in the course of travel? Big Things are the major sites and attractions that are featured in tourist brochures, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia… They are the things that friends and family ask about upon our return home. 2 or 3 in a day? 7 or 8 in a week? Certainly not more.
The remainder of time on the road must then be occupied by something, and it occurs to me that they must then be the “Little Things”.
Little Things give context to be big ones. They provide texture and depth… they are the Kodachrome of daily reality that give the color of life to the otherwise black & white starkness of Big Things. They are also the overlooked joys that mindfulness reveals.
A warm shower is something taken for granted at home, but aboard a narrowboat where water conservation is required that shower becomes a celebration that sparks a 10 minute conversation.
A sunrise, a formation of clouds, a sunset. These are the ever changing “art” that hangs upon the endless horizon of our experience.
In the weeks of extended travel we compress a closet full of clothing into a small backpack. A change of socks or a fresh t-shirt bring an appreciative sigh to one’s spirit, not to mention the olfactory senses of self and others!
There are countless things that are taken for granted at home but become little moments of happiness on a journey. They are inadequate if measured against their home equivalents but become huge in the context of travel. Gratitude springs from the Little Things as awareness brings appreciation.
Relationships also come into sharper focus. At home we suffer the distraction and background “noise” of daily life, media, bills, house and myriad other duties. Appreciation for those we love often suffers accordingly. However, in the compressed spaces that we inhabit on the road attention is forced into a refreshed appreciation for the qualities of our life partner and for the absent loved ones who we miss.
The friendships that we share with our travel companions are not an occasional evening out, but are minute by minute experiences.
In 2001 a chance encounter at a restaurant in southern France brought our daughter Alexis into acquaintance with Huw and Nina Thomas of Wales. From that 20 minute conversation sprang a friendship that continues to this day. They have are like family to us.
In 2013 while Christine and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain we were passed afoot by another “pilgrim”. Peeking out from a recess on her backpack was a small stuffed bunny. That sight brought a smile to my face and sparked my greeting to the pilgrim. She was from Denver Colorado and the “bunny’s” name was Marshmallow. Conversation ensued, she offered to take a picture of Christine and I together, and what sprang from that insignificant moment was our enduring friendship with Kris Ashton.
In 2018 while we walked the Portuguese Camino a gentleman commented upon the hat that I was wearing. It was a “Tilly Hat”, made by a small firm in Canada and well regarded for sailing and travel. He commented, “Nice hat!”. I turned to see that he too was wearing a “Tilly”. Pleasant banter ensued which quickly included our spouses. They were from Ottawa Canada and the friendship that sprang from those hats brought Tom and Nanci to share this week with us aboard Salten-Fjord. How different life became because of a stuffed bunny and a couple of wide-brimmed hats.
Our “stories” abound with moments that seemed small and meaningless, but in the rear view mirror of time they loom large as the major crossroads in our life journey. One such moment brought Christine and I together. That “Little Thing” became the biggest thing in my life.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Sometimes the “little things” come as sample sized glasses of really excellent British cask ales!
Solitary pilots plying the canals of England are a rarity. The locks and drawbridges typically command the attention and efforts of at least two who are able bodied. We have observed that cruising couples seem to fall into a routine of cooperation, one manning the narrowboat and the other the onshore equipment. They are not gender specific roles. The mold set very early for us. Christine deferred the vessel to my skills even though the physical requirements of the lock gates and paddle gears are not insignificant. Her emotional comfort superseded her physical comfort.
In matters of seamanship it is customary for one person to be designated the skipper. This is not just mindless autocracy, but rather is a matter of safety that can even be lifesaving in an emergency. Committees may be well suited for contemplative decisions, but urgency requires immediacy. For on-shore relationships to survive off-shore protocols there must be respect and cooperation that flows in both directions. I can not imagine a dysfunctional partnership surviving long aboard any vessel.
The most successful relationships are not driven by gender stereotyping but rather by frank acknowledgment of the strengths that each partner brings to the union. If the husband has the patience and energy to manage home and children while the wife has the marketable skills to better command financial security, then logic should determine their roles. The partners and the children are the beneficiaries. Sadly, that runs contrary to long established social norms.
27 years ago Christine approached me with the idea of starting her own business. It required a significant financial investment, she would be giving up her regular paycheck, and we had 3 children ages 10 through 13 at home. She asked for my trust and confidence in her ability. She received both along with a good measure of encouragement and support. There were challenges through the years, but her’s was the hand on that tiller. Success followed her as it often does with capable and resilient people. Perhaps my most valuable contributions were not getting in her way and suppressing any tendency that I might have had toward being misdirected by ego. We, our children, and our grandchildren became the beneficiaries of those choices that we made.
Undertaking a “Canal Boat Holiday” has presented me with a metaphor for marriage. Canal boating is not for every couple, and neither is marriage. Ironically, I doubt that many people undertake the purchase or charter of a narrowboat without first critically examining their suitability for the venture. I have learned over my decades as a lawyer and mediator that folks often leap into marriage without giving the consequences a second thought. If canal boating doesn’t work out all one needs to do is exit the vessel. It is not so simple with a marriage.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. This bit of irreverent wisdom came to me recently from a friend: A man takes a wife believing she will never change, which she does. A woman takes a husband In the belief that he will change, but of course he doesn’t.
We arrived in Nantwich today on the Shropshire Union Canal. The plan is to remain in this port until Thursday, and then return to Middlewich Friday where we will be joined by our Canadian friends, Tom and Nanci. The weather is predicted to take an unfortunate turn for the week that they will spend with us, colder temps and rain. It is what it is. A bad day on the canal is still glorious.
The “wich” in Nantwich and Middlewich harken from the time of the Roman occupation and signifies a place of salt production. Salt had been produced here over the millennia not only as a condiment, but for the tanning of leather, as a food preservative, and for the production of world renowned Cheshire cheeses. At one time there were over 400 salt houses (16th Century), the last one closing in the mid-1800’s.
Nantwich is a larger community with a population of over 17,000. It is believed to have once been the location of a sacred pre-Roman forest grove worshiped by the Celts. It was listed as an urban area in the Domesday Book at the time of the Norman Conquest (AD 1066), though the Normans burned and sacked the town leaving only one building standing.
Disaster again visited Nantwich’s resurrected community in 1583. A massive conflagration again leveled the town, sparing only a few buildings. Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) personally contributed to the restoration of the community. From the ashes of that disaster arose a beautiful market center that, second only to Chester, boasts the highest concentrations of historically listed buildings in England. The town center is littered with buildings dating to the late 1500’s.
As we wandered the serpentine streets we beheld a beautiful church and green space. The green displayed a stone announcing that it was a sacred burial ground that had been “closed to new burials” for the last 200 years. Anglican St. Mary’s Church is the oldest listed building in Nantwich, and is stunning!
Construction began in 1286, was suspended from 1349 to 1369 by the Black Death, and then completed in 1390. The church twice served as a prison, once in 1644 following the Battle of Nantwich and again in 1648 during the 1st Jacobite uprising.
The church features scores of remarkable gargoyles, and a beautiful red sandstone exterior.
The interior is breathtaking, with colorful stained glass windows, and a choir comprised of 20 “misericords” which are 600 year old intricately carved wood choirstalls.
The St. Nicholas’ side-chapel features funerary effigies of a church founder, Sir David Cradock (d. 1390), and Sir Thomas Smith and his wife Dame Anne (dedicated 1614).
Another intriguing feature are the score of hand needlepoint kneeling cushions, they are in daily use and courtesy of the local guild.
This is a fitting place for a linger day on the canal. We look forward to visiting the many shops, taking a coffee and later a pint, and perhaps returning to the church for moment of contemplation and gratitude.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Lest I have given conflicted messages regarding the current state of my spirituality, I offer the following: I believe in the philosophy and teachings of Jesus Christ, but not to the exclusion or rejection of all other faith traditions. I have long had difficulty with the “rules of religion”, but at two important times in my life I encountered priests who admonished me not to concern myself with the rules, but to listen to my conscience. The first of those meetings occurred when I was 20, the second when I was 60. Each priest was German and each “meeting” occurred in Europe during a rare visit by me to a Confessional. Each priest asked if I considered myself a “good person”, and then expressed confirmation that they believed that I was. As an act of penance, the second priest commissioned me to always listen to my conscious and be so guided the remainder of my life.
My difficulties with the state of many religions today are manifold: Many (not all) create god in man’s image and likeness. Many (not all) mispronounce “dogma” as “faith”. Many (not all) mispronounce “exclusion” as “inclusion”. And many (not all) adherents profess to follow the teachings of Christ but never stop to ask, “What would he have done”…
The end of living and the end of life are not the same. This last week I enjoyed an afternoon with my father-in-law, Bill Nichols at a St. Patrick’s Day “Happy Hour” and music event hosted at his assisted living community. Bill is closing in on his 101st birthday. As one might expect, his abilities are a shadow of those he held as a younger man. For him and his fellow residents, physical beauty and vitality fled them years ago. However, beauty may yet be found within the eyes that reflect the youthfulness of their spirits.
Bill was animated, sang, clapped, enjoyed a glass of wine, shared embraces with the musician and staff, and of course wore a ridiculous Irish themed party hat.
I found his joy to be infectious. Actually, this one afternoon was not really exceptional. Bill’s days are filled with activities such as “Chair exercises”, Bingo, “Balloon Volleyball”, and group sing-a-longs, not to mention the social exchanges that occur with his fellow residents at meals and throughout the day. Bill’s days are a joy that serves as an analgesic to the ills of his advanced years.
Being around Bill has left me to reflect upon the contrast of my visits with my father during the final years of his life. Dad died in 2009, 87 years old. He had suffered the intensifying effects of Multiple Sclerosis for over 30 years yet in his final years his abilities and challenges were not very different than those imposed upon Bill Nichols by virtue of his advanced years. Dad’s last years were in a nursing home community. I could usually find my father alone within his darkened room, shades drawn, television off, a faint antiseptic odor in the air. My father’s view of life in his final years may best be summed up by his own words. I would open visits with him by asking, “How are you Dad?”, and he would invariably respond from his bed, “Just waiting…”. Sadly, there was never any question what he was “just waiting” for.
As Christine and I entered our 60’s we have been continuously bombarded with ads, solicitations, and messages encouraging us to prepare for the end of life. Have we secured our final resting places? Living Trusts? Explore the benefits of Insurance Annuities! Beneficiary Designations in place? What about Charitable Giving? There is little about continuing to live and much about the end of life.
My father’s life ended in his 87th year, but I believe that 30 years earlier he retired from living at the same time that he retired from work. Dad had been a college coach, Director of Athletics, and a teacher. He was highly regarded in those roles; they were his passions. When he retired a cavernous vacuum formed in his life. Dad never sought other interests that might have carry the joy of living into the years beyond his working life.
Another contrast: My mother will be 94 this year. She is as busy today as she was 40 years ago. She has her Bridge Club, Woman’s Club, Church activities and myriad other social and community engagements. I see in her eyes the same joie de vivre that I see in Bill Nichols.
There is a lesson in these observations: We have more influence and control over delaying the end of living than we have on the end of life. When age or infirmity deny us the pursuit of one passion, find another to replace it… Always have a next thing and Pursue Good Stuff!!!
Peace everyone. Pete
PS. Dad, my calendar just reminded me that tomorrow is your birthday and you would have turned 97. Although you have been gone 10 years it seems that I am still learning from you.
Most days of our lives present a relatively narrow range of experiences. The most memorable may be those that expand that spectrum and allow us to appreciate a fuller range of the human condition. Today was such a day.
Morning sprang with the chill of near freezing temperatures in a lush Louisiana State Park. In less than 3 hours we were entering the environs of “The Big Easy”… New Orleans. As we approached our destination we beheld hundreds of tents pitched beneath the overpasses of I-10. These were not recreational campers, but those whose circumstances have reduced them to the struggle of seeking food, warmth, and the next day of life. We passed them and turned right into our “campground”, The French Quarter RV Resort.
The “Resort” is located in gated environs, protected by an 8 foot concrete wall that is topped by inconspicuous razor-wire. It looks like a Soviet era gulag from the outside, but within it is an elegant $100 dollar per night RV park that is only 2 blocks from the French Quarter and 4 blocks from Bourbon Street. Passing through the gate I felt like Dorothy did as she awoke to the technicolor experience of OZ.
The Resort provides a swimming pool, hot tub, rec-hall, fitness room, plus the usual amenities of bathrooms, showers, and laundry. Full hookups are a given. Most of the “campers” are in large “sun blocker” motor coaches that cost more than the average home. We count ourselves among the few micro-campers. We are not envious… au contraire, we pity them the burden of their mass.
After making “camp”, we walked 10 minutes to Alice’s Wonderland, here known as Bourbon Street.
Sex and Alcohol are the prominent neon lit themes that adorn the antebellum buildings and illuminate the street. The effect is intoxicating, even for the sober pedestrian.
Liberally mixed among the tourists are those whose hands are reaching out for spare change. There is sadness to be found in some, and larceny in the intentions of others… not easy for the uninitiated to discern.
We were approached by a friendly 50ish woman who represented that she was seeking donations for “Meals for Wheels”. Christine donated and we then received the gifts of a Hare Krishna Cookbook and Bhagavad-Gita. It was not the “Meals on Wheels” that we assumed she represented. Were her intentions honorable? We will never really know… I choose to presume the best of intentions until proven otherwise. I believe that she holds as firmly to the dedication of Diety as any Christian, Jew, or Muslim. Had I the presence of mind I would have liked to have engaged her in a serious discussion.
A few days ago we walked the beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast. I happened to look down upon an ocean clam and suddenly wondered at the chasm of intellect that separated it from me. How could it ever fathom my intentions as a superior being. If the Universe is the creation of an omniscient and omnipotent Being, how much greater is the separation of it’s intellect from mine. Is it not presumptive for humans to claim to know the mind of that Being, and yet as a species we have been driven to do so for nearly a hundred thousand of years (human and Neanderthal ritual burial has been documented for that long). It seems to me that The Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, and the Bhagavad-Gita, among others, are human expressions of an inadequate effort to understand the Infinite.
Back to Earth… We enjoyed some music and the 2 for 1 beer specials that abound up and down Bourbon Street.
The spectacle allows one to turn a blind eye to the well worn establishments, street hawkers, and less than sanitary bathrooms.
Hunger drove us to first find Chicory coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde, a New Orleans tradition since the mid-19th Century.
We then adjourned to the very upscale Restaurant GW Fins. Less than a block from the helter-skelter of Bourbon Street we found the calm opulence of white linen table cloths, a well ordered bar, and a dignified professional staff.
This was another expansion of the spectrum of the day’s experiences. Christine, a “slightly dirty” Martini, me a Rye Manhattan (served up, but in a rocks glass). We then settled into a review of the last 41 years.
Dinner followed. Christine, a succulent Filet Mignon, and me a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth Halibut-Scallop combination. As spectacular as the meal was it was overshadowed by the attentive staff. We were graced with the exceptional services of Rod, Benjamin, and Moose.
It is common for a patron to ask directions to the restroom, but entirely uncommon for the waiter (Benjamin) to then take the arm of the lady (Christine) and accompany her to that destination much as one would be ushered in a wedding. Totally endearing!
We count today memorable and leave tomorrow for consideration on another day.
Over a span of 48 hours I have had 2 vastly different experiences that were courtesy of both The Great and The Forgotten.
In 1938 a collaboration between the University of Texas and the University of Chicago established the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of Texas.
Named after its benefactor, William J. McDonald, who donated $800,000.00, the Observatory quickly became a preeminent research facility. The 82” Otto Struve Telescope was dedicated on May 5, 1939, and at that time was the second largest telescope in the world. The 107” Harlan J. Smith Telescope became operational in 1968 and at that time tanked as the third largest in the world. It now ranks 41st.
The Harlan telescope weighs 160 tons and is housed under a 220 ton dome. Both the scope and dome rotate to track celestial objects, remarkably power by only half horsepower motors. The most recent addition to the large telescopes at McDonald is the 390” Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), dedicated in late 1997.
It is composed of 91 separate 1 meter hexagonal mirrors. It currently ranks as the second largest optical telescope in the world and was constructed at the bargain basement price of 40 million dollars by using common construction materials available on the open market.
The Observatory is located atop 6,780 foot high Mount Locke and is in a prime “Dark Sky” region with little rain and predominantly clear skies. The Observatory includes dozens of smaller telescopes. We enjoyed both a daytime tour with solar observations and a nighttime “Star-Party” with observations of the moon, star clusters, and a the Orion Nebula.
The Observatory, its largest telescopes, and other noteworthy parts of the facility display the names of The Famous who have expanded our understanding of the cosmos. Perhaps among The Forgotten are the thousands of workers and technicians who built the facility and keep it running each day. The current on-site housing for the staff makes the Observatory the second largest “town” in Davis County.
Between 1933 and 1942 over 3 million economically destitute unmarried men between 17 and 28 years old enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was a huge government funded public works/relief program that was born of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Nearly 90 years after its inception the hand of the CCC can be seen in forests and parks across America.
Construction of Davis Mountains State Park was begun by the CCC in 1933. The workers constructed roads, trails, pavilions, and the magnificent adobe Indian Lodge and restaurant which remain in operation today.
I hiked the trails and abandoned roads that These Forgotten built with their grit, sinews, and sweat.
There were no Famous among them to warrant the naming of these artifacts that remain, yet on this day I was the direct beneficiary of their efforts. I have no one person to whom I can direct my gratitude for a day well spent, so I give my thanks to The Forgotten.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. I have often heard the rhetorical question, “Why isn’t there a CCC today?”, followed by the questioner’s own answer that is a criticism of “the Younger Generation”. Here is my thought: The CCC was first and foremost a government funded relief program. There was little thought given to profit or benefit other than for the unemployed workers. The current political climate does not favor public relief or social welfare. Additionally, the workers were driven to enlist in the CCC (and WPA) out of their own economic necessity.
If circumstances were to repeat (and I pray that they don’t), I have every reason to believe that “the Younger Generation” would roll up its sleeves just like “the Greatest Generation” did.
We had stopped to gas-up, a frequent occurrence on the road. I stood at one side of pump #4 and a very large man, football player large, was filling his 4Runner up on the other side of the pump. I would soon learn he had played a year of college ball when he said, “There are better ways to pursue an education… that stuff hurts!”. In the breezy 40 temps he stood unaffected in shorts and sandals. “I’m a Florida beach bum at heart.” he would explain.
Most folks at the pumps seem to avoid human contact, preferring to focus on the task at hand and then be on their way. This big man had searching eyes, eyes that soaked up the details of his surroundings, seeking to know his environment and those who he shared it with. He drew eye contact like a magnet and once the attraction was established, “Hi, nice trailer… how does it pull with your SUV?”. My reply was barely past my lips as I found my hand engulfed by his firm, friendly, and warm handshake. “Marty, Marty Leake, I’m retired, a traveler and a writer”. (See: https://007pandas.com)
Thus it began. In the time that it took to fill up our cars I had learned he was single, had two sons, had enjoyed a long and successful career in law enforcement in Virginia, was college educated, was a compulsive traveler and blogger, was very well read… I learned more of this man in those few minutes than I know of some folks who have been coworkers and neighbors. I suspect that Marty’s take from his side of the gas pump mirrored mine. We capped our gas tanks and moved our vehicles to the parking area, continuing our fast friendship for another twenty minutes. We were looking at each other across the salad bar of life experiences, sampling from each other’s side but denied a full meal because the plates that time allowed were too small. A picture, exchanged contact information, invitations, “If you pass through Kansas City/Sanibel Island…”, a longer handshake, regret that travel called us in opposite directions, and the chance encounter ended.
Encounters such as this are unexpected treasures. I can plan my destinations, I can plan what we will see, but I can’t plan such a rewarding exchange between kindred souls.
This is the antithesis of the tribalism that divides us. We need more Marty Leakes in this world… we need to take the time to appreciate what we hold in common during the brief lifespans that mortality grants to each of us.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. We are camped in Davis Mountains State Park and are in a cell phone “dead zone”. Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. I look forward to sharing the experience and images in a future post. Also, the weather and continuing Federal shutdown that is effecting National Parks has caused us to change our plans. We will be heading further south in Texas.
We are continuing our journey southwest through Oklahoma with plans to overnight at Great Plains State Park. A weather event is predicted for Friday, rain to the south, a snowy mix to the north. We are choosing rain. (The pictures interspersed below are from our drive through Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge and our camp this evening.)
During long drives my mind wanders like a rat in a maze. But where a rat seeks its reward at one destination, I find rewarding thoughts at each turn… even at the dead ends. At one such “end” I recalled a phrase from ancient history, “Know Yourself”. It was attributed to Socrates who was said to admonish his students nearly 2,500 years ago to seek to know themselves before seeking knowledge of other things. The maxim actually predates Socrates and is found as one of 147 Delphic aphorisms (kind of an expanded 10 Commandments). There are also equivalents found in Egyptian temple hieroglyphics.
Know Yourself… There is what I know, a product of education and life experiences. The “physical me” is pretty straightforward. A genetic role of the dice where my parents were each a die largely determined many of my obvious and hidden physical characteristics. Except for the intervention of fate (as in an accident or outside agency) my life expectancy is even influenced by my genes. But what about WHO I am, the personality that is me.
We are products of natural selection (recent events in China may herald a change is coming). However, it may be instructive to examine what can be accomplished through “intentional selection”, as in the controlled breeding of animals. Selection can focus not only on physical characteristics but also behavioral ones. Great Danes are big and tall, Dachshunds are small and short. Similarly, Dobermans and Rottweilers stand at one end of a behavioral spectrum while Labradors and Cocker Spaniels inhabit the other.
What behavioral and personality characteristics within each of us may have a genetically influenced predisposition? I seem driven to travel. I derive deep satisfaction in bringing people together. I am a ponderously slow reader with abysmal spelling skills. These are just 3 of the traits that I have made a directed self examination.
If there is a “travel gene” I probably inherited it. My mother’s parents were immigrants from Lebanon, leaving everything known and familiar for adventure and the speculation of opportunity in America. My father’s parent were Germans from Russia, part of two mass migrations. The first occurred in the early 1800’s where hundreds of German families moved to the Ukraine at the invitation of Catherine the Great, and then again in the early 20th Century to America seeking escape from the oppression of the Bolshevik Revolution. Most of my ancestors remained in Lebanon, Germany, and the Ukraine. Not my grandparents. My mother and father each left their homes and families in pursuit of higher education, meeting at the University of Wisconsin and establishing their home in Illinois, far from their West Virginia and North Dakota roots. When I was offered my first job out of college the placement options were St. Louis and Kansas City. I chose Kansas City solely because I had never been there before. Genetic predisposition?
I have always tested well, except in spelling. I hated spelling bees because I would always be the last person chosen for a team… for good reason. No amount of tutoring seemed to help. Spellcheck and a wife who “spells for me” have been my salvation. I have to occasionally force my memory to recall the directions that b, d, z, and s face. I learned to read at a very early age, hearing the words as if spoken in my mind. I still read that way for pleasure, but not when reading was required in my professional work. Learned behavior? Genetic? Perhaps a combination.
Finally is there a social gene. A dear friend brought this to my attention saying that the “social gene” was strong in me. This caused me to reflect upon my past… childhood, gathering neighborhood children for group play… College, starting the Undergraduate Administration of Justice Association… Our return from the 2013 Camino, founding the Kansas City chapter of The American Pilgrims on the Camino… 2015, starting the Kansas City Metro Casita Owners group. And of course the delight in sharing our travels and “seeing” you cross-talk with one another in the comments to my posts. Genetic? Socrates would likely have castigated me for focusing on the irrelevant. What is important is that we can all be part of a larger family when we embrace what binds us rather than what divides us.
Peace Everyone! Pete
PS. We are in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, among the oldest mountains in North America. Driving through the National Wildlife refuge we were surprised to see that the campground was open and fully functional! We continued on to Oklahoma’s Great Plains State Park with intentions to proceed tomorrow to northern Texas and then on to El Paso. We are the parks sole occupants… except for the coyotes.
PPS. If you would like to read the remaining 146 Delphic Maxims, here they are. #66 is especially profound! (from Wikipedia):
1 Follow God (Επου θεω)
2 Obey the law (Νομω πειθου)
3 Worship the Gods (Θεους σεβου)
4 Respect your parents (Γονεις αιδου)
5 Be overcome by justice (Ηττω υπο δικαιου)
6 Know what you have learned (Γνωθι μαθων)
7 Perceive what you have heard (Ακουσας νοει)
8 Be/Know Yourself (Σαυτον ισθι)
9 Intend to get married (Γαμειν μελλε)
10 Know your opportunity (Καιρον γνωθι)
11 Think as a mortal (Φρονει θνητα)
12 “If you are a stranger act like one” or “When you are a stranger be aware” (Ξepsilon;νος ων ισθι)
13 Honor the hearth/Hestia (Εστιαν τιμα)
14 Control yourself (Αρχε σεαυτου)
15 Help your friends (Φιλοις βοηθει)
16 Control anger (Θυμου κρατει)
17 Exercise prudence (Φρονησιν ασκει)
18 Honor providence (Προνοιαν τιμα)
19 Do not use an oath (Ορκω μη χρω)
20 Love friendship (Φιλιαν αγαπα)
21 Cling to discipline (Παιδειας αντεχου)
22 Pursue honor (Δοξαν διωκε)
23 Long for wisdom (Σοφιαν ζηλου)
24 Speak well of the beautiful good (sometimes translated as “Praise the Good” but “kalon” is primarily “beautiful” but a Greek synonym for good – so it’s a nuanced translation) (Καλον ευ λεγε)
25 Find fault with no one (Ψεγε μηδενα)
26 Praise those having arête. (Επαινει αρετην)
27 Practice what is just (Πραττε δικαια)
28 Be kind to friends (Θιλοις ευνοει)
29 Watch out for your enemies (Εχθρους αμυνου)
30 Exercise nobility of character (Ευγενειαν ασκει)
31 Shun evil (Κακιας απεχου)
32 Be impartial (Κοινος γινου)
33 Guard what is yours (Ιδια φυλαττε)
34 Shun what belongs to others (Αλλοτριων απεχου)
35 Listen to everyone (Ακουε παντα)
36 Be (religiously) silent (Ευφημος ιοθι)
37 Do a favor for a friend (Φιλω χαριζου)
38 Nothing to excess (Μηδεν αγαν)
39 Use time sparingly (Χρονου φειδου)
40 Foresee the future (Ορα το μελλον)
41 Despise insolence (Υβριν μισει)
42 Have respect for suppliants (Ικετας αιδου)
43 Be accommodating in everything (Παςιν αρμοζου)
44 Educate your sons (Υιους παιδευε)
45 Give what you have (Εχων χαριζου)
46 Fear deceit (Δολον φοβου)
47 Speak well of everyone (Ευλογει παντας)
48 Be a seeker of wisdom (Φιλοσοφος γινου)
49 Choose what is divine (Οσια κρινε)
50 Act when you know (Γνους πραττε)
51 Shun murder (Φονου απεχου)
52 Pray for things possible (Ευχου δυνατα)
53 Consult the wise (Σοφοις χρω)
54 Test the character (Ηθος δοκιμαζε)
55 Give back what you have received (Λαβων αποδος)
56 Down-look no one (Υφορω μηδενα)
57 Use your skill (Τεχνη χρω)
58 Do what you mean to do (Ο μελλεις, δος)
59 Honor a benefaction (Ευεργεςιας τιμα)
60 Be jealous of no one (Φθονει μηδενι)
61 Be on your guard (Φυλακη προσεχε)
62 Praise hope (Ελπιδα αινει)
63 Despise a slanderer (Διαβολην μισει)
64 Gain possessions justly (Δικαιως κτω)
65 Honor good men (Αγαθους τιμα)
66 Know the judge (Κριτην γνωθι)
67 Master wedding-feasts (Γαμους κρατει)
68 Recognize fortune (Τυχην νομιζε)
69 Flee a pledge (Εγγυην φευγε)
70 Speak plainly (Αμλως διαλεγου)
71 Associate with your peers (Ομοιοις χρω)
72 Govern your expenses (Δαπανων αρχου)
73 Be happy with what you have (Κτωμενος ηδου)
74 Rever a sense of shame (Αισχυνην σεβου)
75 Fulfill a favor (Χαριν εκτελει)
76 Pray for happiness (Ευτυχιαν ευχου)
77 Be fond of fortune (Τυχην στεργε)
78 Observe what you have heard (Ακουων ορα)
79 Work for what you can own (Εργαζου κτητα)
80 Despise strife (Εριν μισει)
81 Detest disgrace (Ονειδς εχθαιρε)
82 Restrain the tongue (Γλωτταν ισχε)
83 Keep yourself from insolence (Υβριν αμυνου)
84 Make just judgements (Κρινε δικαια)
85 Use what you have (Χρω χρημασιν)
86 Judge incorruptibly (Αδωροδοκητος δικαζε)
87 Accuse one who is present (Αιτιω παροντα)
88 Tell when you know (Λεγε ειδως)
89 Do not depend on strength (Βιας μη εχου)
90 Live without sorrow (Αλυπως βιου)
91 Live together meekly (Ομιλει πραως)
92 Finish the race without shrinking back (Περας επιτελει μη αποδειλιων))
93 Deal kindly with everyone (Φιλοφρονει πασιν)
94 Do not curse your sons (Υιοις μη καταρω)
95 Rule your wife (Γυναικος αρχε)
96 Benefit yourself (Σεαυτον ευ ποιει)
97 Be courteous (Ευπροσηγορος γινου)
98 Give a timely response (Αποκρινου εν καιρω)
99 Struggle with glory (Πονει μετ ευκλειας)
100 Act without repenting (Πραττε αμετανοητως)
101 Regret falling short of the mark (or goal) (Αμαρτανων μετανοει)
102 Control the eye (Οφθαλμοθ κρατει)
103 Give a timely counsel (Βουλευου χρονω)
104 Act quickly (Πραττε συντομως)
105 Guard friendship (Φιλιαν φυλαττε)
106 Be grateful (Ευγνωμων γινου)
107 Pursue harmony (Ομονοιαν διωκε)
108 Keep deeply the top secret (Αρρητον κρυπτε)
109 Fear ruling (Το κρατουν φοβου)
110 Pursue what is profitable (Το συμφερον θηρω)
111 Accept due measure (Καιρον προσδεχου)
112 Do away with enmities (Εχθρας διαλυε)
113 Accept old age (Γηρας προσδεχου)
114 Do not boast in might (Επι ρωμη μη καυχω)
115 Exercise (religious) silence (Ευφημιαν ασκει)
116 Flee enmity (Απεχθειαν φευγε)
117 Acquire wealth justly (Πλουτει δικιως)
118 Do not abandon honor (Δοξαν μη λειπε)
119 Despise evil (Κακιαν μισει)
120 Venture into danger prudently (Κινδυνευε φρονιμως)
121 Do not tire of learning (Μανθανων μη καμνε)
122 Do not stop to be thrifty (Φειδομενος μη λειπε)
123 Admire oracles (Χρησμους θαυμαζε)
124 Love whom you rear (Ους τρεφεις αγαπα)
125 Do not oppose someone absent (Αποντι μη μαχου)
126 Respect the elder (Πρεσβυτερον αιδου)
127 Teach a youngster (Νεωτερον διδασκε)
128 Do not trust wealth (Πλουτω απιστει)
129 Respect yourself (Σεαυτον αιδου)
130 Do not begin to be insolent (Μη αρχε υβριζειν)
131 Crown your ancestors (Προγονους στεφανου)
132 Die for your country (Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος)
133 Do not be discontented by life (Τω βιω μη αχθου)
134 Do not make fun of the dead (Επι νεκρω μη γελα)
135 Share the load of the unfortunate (Ατυχουντι συναχθου)
136 Gratify without harming (Χαριζου αβλαβως)
137 Greave for no one (Μη επι παντι λυπου)
138 Beget rom noble routes (Εξ ευγενων γεννα)
139 Make promises to no one (Επαγγελου μηδενι)
140 Do not wrong the dead (Φθιμενους μη αδικει)
141 Be well off as a mortal (Ευ πασχε ως θνητος)
142 Do not trust fortune (Τυχη μη πιστευε)
143 As a child be well-behaved (Παις ων κοσμιος ισθι)
144 as a youth – self-disciplined (ηβων εγκρατης)
145 as of middle-age – just (μεσος δικαιος)
146 as an old man – sensible (πρεσβυτης ευλογος)
147 on reaching the end – without sorrow (τελευτων αλυπος