The Way We Were – the Things We Took for Granted

As I paged through some of my Flickr albums today, I began to take note of the things I had recorded in photos that seemed so common and unimportant at the the time but which, now, we miss utterly. I will share some of these over the next few days and maybe you can think of how your own life has changed since the middle of March, 2020.

It is Sunday and, once again, Chapelwood has delivered a service online as a way of reaching out to those who are not yet brave enough to venture out even for the limited in-person service they have offered for the last few weeks. But there are things you miss about the live service.

Being in the same room with a couple of hundred singing, praying, preaching Methodists offers an atmosphere – maybe more accurately an emanation – comprising the combined exhalations of the people in the room. On first noticing it, you think that maybe you are smelling your own breath. But none of the mingled scents match up with last night’s dinner or the morning breakfast. You have not had a garlic bagel. No onions, cilantro, spicy border dishes or chewing gum. It isn’t exactly halitosis, nor is it particularly unpleasant. But it is perhaps a little more intimate than you expect in a worship service.

But, on the other hand, maybe the shared breath is indicative of the very foundation of our lives and the need we have reaching out and establishing the intensity and depth of our community. It is the same breath we read that God breathed into the dust of the ground to create life.

It may seem musty, stale, unpleasant – even unhealthy – until it is gone. But you find, that for now, the virus has the upper hand and we must stand back. Methodist breath carries droplets that, in a crowded sanctuary, carry the threat of coronavirus. It is an intimacy that you miss when it is taken away.

There is still the yearning to reach out the hand of fellowship to your sisters and brothers in that experience of oneness under the rule of one who taught us to live simply, to live in community, to love, and to share.

My fellow United Methodists reach out the hand of fellowship to one another for one of the last times for the foreseeable future on December 22, 2019. We didn’t know how much that closeness would be missed in coming months. That touch and those mingled breaths strengthened all of us to live our lives more simply and morecourageously.

Day 105: A Lesson in Handling Bad News – the Inspiration of La Lydia

I glanced again today at a letter I received a few weeks ago from Dr. Socorro de Anda, president of the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso. I had made a small donation to the Institute a few years ago in honor of one of their graduates who had served a summer internship at Chapelwood. The young woman had gone on to study at Wiley College in East Texas and came to us from Wiley. At Lydia Patterson she had daily crossed the international bridge to come in from her home in Ciudad Juarez to study in the U.S.

The Institute is supported by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. It was established in 1913 as a mission of the Methodist women in El Paso to serve children from across their border, many of whom had no local schools to attend. The project is now, as the letterhead points out, into its “Second 100 Years” and serving the cross-cultural friendships that strengthen all of us. Judging by the young woman they sent to spend the summer with us at Chapelwood, I became a very big fan of the Institute and its work.

Dr. de Anda’s letter was seeking support for the Institute but it was notable to me that no development officer had called on me since I made that one gift three years ago. Hers was the first contact I received from the Institute beyond the gracious thank you I received when I made the gift. Needless to say, I appreciated that they did not fill my mailbox with so many requests that I would wonder how many more I would receive before they had spent my entire gift on postage hoping I would send another.

101 Days Into the Lockdown: LJ’s Slow Awakening

Our summer opens to the thrilling possibility that the Trump Show may be cancelled after a four-year run. The Tulsa MAGA-palooza fizzled, and the embarrassed president could only wave his arms and blame everything “democrat” for the half-filled arena and the yawning media response.

As Trump’s poll numbers plummet, I wonder if our senators will begin to behave like independent agents with the responsibility for bearing the needs and wishes of Texans into the legislative arena. As “the base” falters, Republicans slowly, ever so slowly, seem to be growing spines of their very own. It was a sad thing to see educated men like Cornyn and Cruz dragging themselves past capitol reporters, unable to stand erect, able only to shout out a quick, “I haven’t seen his tweet.”

Meanwhile, people of my age who may not be science-educated but who nevertheless have developed an appreciation for the medical profession – including the public health specialty – are staying home and stepping out only when necessary. Grandchildren have been available in Zoom and Facetime meetings. Church has lost some of its power without the warm hugs and handshakes of real Methodists. Even my pharmacy has succeeded in persuading me to have prescriptions mailed. And the HEB Curbside Pickup service has become my regular contribution to our shopping. So even grocery store and drug store outings are becoming things of the past.

But life goes on in Lake Jackson. I still get out for evening walks if it cools enough by seven. There are a good many people walking. I have run into former colleagues from Brazosport College, other volunteers from the Center for the Arts and Sciences, and just pleasant people whom I have not met but share happy greetings with, nonetheless.

The World Burns with Moral Outrage: What Is a 76-Year-Old White Man to Do?

I am probably becoming all too comfortable with my coronavirus-imposed solitude. I have rather enjoyed turning my home in Lake Jackson into my own little hermitage. But how can one not get out and do something while the rest of the world rages in the streets in the call for justice. Something besides calling a U.S. Senator’s office and letting off steam to a 25-year-old aide.

It seems especially important to act because, frankly, so little is expected of someone occupying a slot in my demographic. White, Vietnam-era veteran, not rich but comfortable in retirement. A Texan living in the reddest of red districts, who has been represented in Congress by Dr. Ron Paul and Tom DeLay. Whose school district issued a diploma to Rand Paul, the close friend and colleague of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Really now, wouldn’t you expect me to be ensconced in that mass of voters popularly known as “Trump’s base”?

Well, that’s not the case. And I feel remiss for not being on the street doing more.

But there is one thing I can do that will not expose me COVID-19 and it will not encourage more of those little carcinomas I have to watch for so carefully. It won’t hurt those aging bones in my legs, hips and back. And it is something anyone, at least a white person, can do without exposure to police violence. Better yet, it does not involve posting or re-posting memes that will embarrass my family. This is so easy no one else will probably even notice your action. Yet it may be the most effective thing you can do to combat racism in the United States.

I got the idea from an opinion piece I read in the New York Times the other day. The article by Dr. Kihana Miraya Ross carried the title “Call It What It Is: Anti-Blackness.”

Now in the 73rd Day of Lockdown; Walking in Lake Jackson.

It is time to show a few scenes from walks around town leading up to 73 days in lockdown.

Only a few houses down, this family was celebrating an Aggie graduation. I enjoy seeing the yard signs and they offer a nice way to celebrate during The Year of the Plague. They will always remember 2020. And Lacie will always remember that they did this for her.

This year’s class will miss out on some of the usual joys of their college graduation. Their families are doing their best to make up for it. Congratulations, Lacie.

Just around the corner on That Way, one family has planted flowers around their mailbox to add a touch of beauty to the neighborhood. I was a couple of days late. By this time they were a little droopy but still bright in color and attitude.

They were much prettier two days earlier. I am sorry I didn’t have my camera along then.
Continue reading “Now in the 73rd Day of Lockdown; Walking in Lake Jackson.”

Our Old Water Oak Goes Down

We had to take down one of our old oaks yesterday. I took a few photos as the crew worked to bring it down. (For the time being, they show up in the right column where current Flickr postings appear.)

Mr. Hughes cuts across the trunk of an old water oak in our back yard. Note the vertical crack that runs from the base all the way up into the low branches.

The tree was alive still, but as you will see from the photos, it was dying a slow death, full of bugs and now cracked along the length of trunk and just waiting for a good wind to take it down into the power lines.

Going down! Good job Hughes crew.
No rings to count. The old tree fed a lot of bugs and woodpeckers over the years. A family of raccoons once lived on the bottom floor. We could see them with a flashlight through a hole in the root just above ground level.

There was no way to know the age of the tree since about 75% or more of the interior rings had been eaten away by insects. The remaining wood, about two inches deep under the bark, was still very dense and heavy. But with the structural break, it had to come down.

The power company came out and disconnected the power line and stayed to reconnect, so we were only out of power about thirty minutes at most. Hughes Tree Service of Lake Jackson did the job and they were totally organized and planned it well. All done by 11 a.m. Good price, too. Call Mr. Hughes if you need help with a tree.

A little bit of old Lake Jackson gone. But we will plant another one there. Thinking about one of those Meyer lemons. It’s not an oak but it’s a tree. And lemonade is going to taste good in the summer. Notice that, after the water oak goes down, there is still lots of shade under another bigger, older live oak in our back yard.

More Coronavirus Spring photos at Flickr.