Monday, July 31, 2017

The Nagging Question

Passing through the Library to see what goodies they were giving away this week I noted three sets of books waiting to be adopted. I get excited when I see sets. Especially free ones. Well, one set particularly grabbed my attention: "The History of Civilization" by Will and Ariel Durant (Simon and Schuster, 1954).

I've touched these books before and have always appreciated the comprehensiveness of these works. Ahhhhh, life before Google.

Ok, it's dated material. So what? Such a set has it's own kind of value to me. I'd love to have these books . . .

How many volumes make up the entire set? I picked up one volume, and found the list of titles by the author. Eleven Volumes in the set. So I counted: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 . . . 8? Missing three. Where could three volumes of a withdrawn set of books be?

Approaching the student working at the desk I inquired if said person knew the whereabouts of the missing volumes. The worker did not know, but (I was told) the set did sit in the Research Librarian's office for a while--maybe he'll know. While waiting for him to get off the phone, we searched the stacks to see if the three volumes were inadvertently left on the shelf. Nothing. Then the worker said what I was already thinking . . . and hoped that what I was thinking had not happened.

"We put these out yesterday. Maybe someone took the books." I swallowed hard. I tried not to say it. But it came out anyway.

"Who breaks up a set?"

I'm sure my voice was raised with incredulity. Maybe a little. The worker just looked at me. Who knows what thoughts just occurred there.

The Librarian finished the phone call then did some behind-the-scenes checking for me. Nothing.

"Maybe we never had the entire set in the Library." I was stunned, refusing to accept or believe what I just heard. Do libraries do that? Acquire and provide partial sets?

Maybe, just maybe, the three books are being used at another campus or checked out by students . . . they'll keep an eye out for me and will direct the volumes my way should they present.

Maybe they got lost.

The nagging questions haunts me: how was the set broken up? "Who breaks up a set?" I need medication.

In case you're wondering, I took the set as it remained. That way I can keep my eye on it. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Waving Man

Every morning the route to work takes me winding through back-roads (mostly), rolling through the dense South Carolina landscape. Inescapable changes to the woods and farmlands are becoming evident as groups of somebodies with very deep pockets decided we’ve had enough of the trees and meadows and are chewing up the landscape with grinding machines, making way for hundreds and hundreds of new homes. People with nice cars will be moving into nice houses where once the cows ruminated.

Years ago there once sat a house near what became to be a bustling intersection and as we waited for the light to change, noticed the old man sitting on the front porch of his peeling house, watching the cars go by. Businesses and restaurants popped up around him but were not encroaching. He lived his life quietly, I assume. Then one day, his house was gone. And the man went with the house. To this day the lot remains empty while folks argue over where to eat, impatiently waiting for the light to change, never giving thought to the fact that a house once stood there and somebody once lived. 

"Wilfred Mott"--Doctor Who World
Along the route I drive each morning there lives another old man and I wonder what will become of him as the tree-chewers grind their way along. Every morning he’s out there, walking against the traffic, waving to each and every car as if it were the only one. Car approaches, right hand goes up, wave, and keeps right on walking. Car after car. For some reason, that hand look larger than life--perhaps from years and years of waving.

I’ve caught him walking up the drive toward the road. He doesn’t wave then. But once he gets his stride going, walking along the road to wherever he’s going, then it’s car, wave, car, wave, car, wave. The County finally found their way to paving this road and as the traffic backed up and the lines of cars formed, the man served each and every driver with his signature wave, wave, wave.

There’s a friendliness there. A courtesy, perhaps. I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me or the hundreds of others that pass him every day, but every day he says to me, “hello” and “thank you” and “have a nice day” and maybe even an “I’m praying for you” with each and every wave. Some of my jogging or hiking routes take me through the winding back-roads and my wave means, “Hey. I’m here. Please don’t hit me with your car.” But his wave doesn’t say that.

One wonders what will happen when the tree chewers finish their job and the builders come? Hundreds of people will make their move into new fancy houses, living in was once the country. Will they be greeted daily by the old waving man? Who will take his place with a smile, a wave, a smile, a wave . . . 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Rediscovered Jewel In "Matronya’s House" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

When I was in High School, three books on my father’s bookshelf vied for attention each time I passed. These three books had been around for as long as I remember, but these demanded a teenager's attention. Don’t you think that that three volumes bearing the strange words, “The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn” would make one curious? I was curious, so I read them. And Solzhenitsyn got into me.

Over the years as I moved on, those three books kept coming to mind. "Remember? Remember?" So at one point (forgive me, I don’t recall when), I found all three copies for myself. I’ve thumbed through them and intend to read them again some day, but Solzhenitsyn’s writing was captivating enough to drive me to other Russian writers, over the years many of whom (other than the great Sholem Aleichem, or Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy or Turgenev) I don’t recall.

Solzhenitsyn stayed with me and I picked up a tidbit here and there in short stories and poems. Then I started collecting his writing and I am confident my shelves are populated with everything he’s written. My secret hope is that one day the kids and/or grand kids will fall in love with books as I have--fall in love with the contents, that is.

Recently, I’ve re-read Solzhenitsyn’s short story “Matryona's House” (1963, also translated “Matryona's Place”) and am struck with how different it reads now after reading it once so long ago. Does good writing impact you that way, seeming like an altogether different story on a re-read? What is most fascinating is that the subject matter does not seem to be story worth telling--but the way the story is told--now that’s art. That’s the reason Solzhenitsyn has me going back.
Scene from "Fiddler On The Roof"

It is common knowledge that “Matronya’s House” is perhaps Solzhenitsyn’s greatest work. In 30 pages, Solzhenitsyn tells the story of an old lady who, living in a trash-heap of a house keeps no livestock for food, works for free, does not keep herself very clean, yet is the very glue that holds the community together and nobody knows it. Rats and roaches have free reign in the house where she sleeps on the stove for warmth. She steals peat to heat her house and does not cook. The man she loved and wanted to marry years ago disappeared in war, so thinking him dead, she married his brother--only to have her lover reappear . . . her story is tragic. Solzhenitsyn finds a beauty in this woman that can only be seen, not with the eyes, but with a tender heart.

It is argued that “Matronya’s House” is an allegory describing the changes in the nation (this particular setting is the 1950’s) and like a biblical parable, is only understood for those who have an ear to hear. Solzhenitsyn is a masterful story-teller, for he couches this fiction in his own history--a man recently released from prison and seeking to start his life over again as a math teacher--and this town needed a math teacher. Which is why it's difficult to separate fact from fiction.

It’s a dirty, smelly, hungry story but from the outset you want to know why the train slows almost to a standstill at a level and barren crossing nearly 100 miles outside Moscow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Day Trip

Made a day-trip to Atlanta to pick up our niece. While waiting for her to arrive, I hung out with this guy for a while. He's nobody special. Just a PLANE guy.

The rest of our visit was purely spontaneous. You might say we were just WINGING it.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Backyard Battle Birds

Don't let these little guys fool ya. They are either very playful or very territorial. 

So far we've been able to identify three distinct hummingbirds. Two are male (one Ruby Throat Hummingbird and one White Throat) and one female--can't tell which variety. There may be four: one juvenile. One is always guarding the feeder, chasing off another while a third swoops in for a drink. Fun to watch, especially when they buzz your head and chirp as they whiz by. They remind of tiny T.I.E Fighters from Star Wars. Playtime increases when it rains. These little guys (and gals) love the rain!
Here's one standing guard, making certain nobody's partaking of the precious nectar.

Here's some of the T.I.E. Fighter action: 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

"It Makes Me Wonder"

What follows are a set of photos taken of one cloud changing over the course of just a few short minutes, catching the light of the setting sun. Fascinating procession tonight. We just stand out and "ooh" and "ahhh" at the parade of changing colors.

Makes me think of those lines in "Stairway to Heaven":

"In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
It makes me wonder." 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Independence Day

" . . . Brave, gotta call it brave
To chase that dream across the sea
Names, and they signed their names
For something they believed

Red, how the blood ran red
And we laid our dead in sacred ground
Just think, wonder what they think
If they could see us now

It’s been a long hard ride
Got a ways to go . . ."

Monday, July 03, 2017

Burgers Burned So Far

I've been using (though not consistently) the Endomondo Sports tracker since 2014. Here's an interesting report I found for all the training completed to date.

To be clear, I've missed a number of entries so it's not a complete report but still, the results are amazing. Like the fact that I've burned 611 burgers as demonstrated in the graphic below.

One feature of this app that I like is how it not only maps my runs when I'm out, but also shows my pace, altitude and other useful information. Rarely it glitches (like the time it showed a 45 mph sprint--like I'm the 6 Million Dollar Man or something) but it's a great app. It tracks more than runs of course, but does not display the same kind of information as shown from a run. 

Enjoy the nice early mornings! Get out and have fun!
And if you're doing the Burpee Challenge (see side bar), make sure you get those in!

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