Friday, July 27, 2012

Imagination on a Magic Moonlight Night

As a young lad, I grew up on a farm in rural southern Michigan. Our farmhouse stood on the north side of a country road. We lived in that house from the time I was five years old until the summer I turned fifteen. During those childhood and early teen years, my brother and I shared a bedroom in the southwest part of the upstairs of that house. I still remember the Davy Crockett wallpaper that was on the walls of that room.

Our bedroom had a window which faced south, and out of which we could look across the road to the neighbor's fields. The general geographic nature of those fields was the long ridge of a hill about 100 yards or so off of the road, and running more or less parallel to the road. Along the top of that ridge was a fence row. It was the fence row that provided the stage for the magic that I saw there, and of which I now share with you.

The other necessary ingredient of the magic I wish to speak of, was those clear nights, preferably during the time from late spring to early fall when the window would be open, when the moon was full or nearly so; those nights when the moonlight shines so bright that things stand out quite clearly, especially in open spaces such as our neighbor's fields.

On those magical nights I would lay in my bed and look out the window across to the ridge where I would see the magic happen. It was on those nights when a low solitary tree in the fence row on the ridge of that hill would magically come alive; the moonlight bringing it alive as its outline could be clearly seen against the backdrop of the night sky behind it.

I would look out the window and gaze at the image of the outline of that low tree up on the far hill. In its shape I saw an Arab riding over the crest of the hill on his magnificent Arabian horse; Lawrence of Arabia riding across the desert sands.

Another image that would sometimes come to mind is that of the tragic highwayman riding across the English countryside.

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

In the course of life's changes, we moved from that house. Though the hill with its ridge is still where it always has been, the fence row and that solitary low tree are long gone. Those nights when I looked out that window and watched the magic of the moonlight on the ridge are a lifetime ago, but still cherished and not forgotten.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A House Divided - Lincoln's Concern

"—I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the States, north as well as south."

Lincoln, Abraham (2011-03-24). The Writings of Abraham Lincoln — Volume 3 The Lincoln-Douglas debates (Kindle Locations 248-251). . Kindle Edition.

The above quote from Abraham Lincoln sets forth a concern in pre-Civil War America that doesn't get much play in popular history. As you read Lincoln's statements from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, the concern being expressed is that the Nebraska=Kansas Act of 1854 in conjunction with the Dred Scott decision of 1857 had created a legal-political climate where free states would be eventually forced to accept slavery within their respective borders.

In the words of Lincoln:

"We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free, and we shall awake to the reality instead that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State."

Lincoln, Abraham (2011-03-24). The Writings of Abraham Lincoln — Volume 3 The Lincoln-Douglas debates (Kindle Locations 113-115). . Kindle Edition.

All of this illustrates the complexity of the issues leading up to the American Civil War; that things were not as black and white as either the "lost cause" crowd, or others wants to make it.

Consider for example the hollowness of the "states rights" mantra in relation to the Civil War. The "states rights" mantra is oft opined in relation to the rights of the slave states, but where in the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and in the Dred Scott decision was the respect for the "states rights" of the free states to indeed truly be free states?

I believe one of the reasons for the current lack of popular understanding and knowledge of those six critical years before the Civil War has much to do with how the country choose to popularly remember the Civil War in the immediate aftermath of its ending in 1865; that selective remembering driven by the desire to foster an understanding of the war that would encourage national reconciliation. But sadly, that lack of understanding fails to bring to light some of the real concerns and issues leading up to the outbreak of hostilities in 1861.

We may be unable to fully avoid selective historical memory. But as much as we are able, we need to tell the full story. Concern for truth and accuracy will not allow us to do otherwise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Of This and That

It has been very hot and dry in our part of Michigan. We have not seen a good rain since back in June somewhere. Lawns are brown. My water bill will be going through the roof from watering all the flower gardens. We have had several stretches where temperatures have been in the 90 - 100 plus F range.

Farmers are being hit hard by the drought. Over half the country is experiencing drought, and in more then a few places there will be no crop to harvest. I know some people that farm, and my prayers go out for them. It is going to be a rough year.


"The little town behind them had vanished as if it had never been, had fallen behind the swell of the prairie, and the stern frozen country received them into its bosom. The homesteads were few and far apart; here and there a windmill gaunt against the sky, a sod house crouching in a hollow. But the great fact was the land itself, which seemed to overwhelm the little beginnings of human society that struggled in its sombre wastes. " ~ Willa Cather "Oh Pioneers!"

I am reading "Oh Pioneers". Willa Cather was a great writer. I am in awe of how she makes the land an integral part of the story. There is a sense in which "Oh Pioneers" is as much about the land as it is about the people. A Number of years ago I read "My Antonia" and when done with "Oh Pioneers", I have "The Song of the Lark" on my "to read" list.

Note to the Detroit Tigers: With this year's All Star game in the history books, we are now in the second part of the season, and it is time for you guys to put it all together and take this division. You may also want to think about winning enough games to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. Just say'n...

Regarding the SBC and Lifeway Bookstores and the movie "Blindside": Way to much has already been said by both sides, so I choose to mind my own business and avoid adding to the pontifical pronouncements profusely proliferating pompously over cyber-space.