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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Redbud Trail

I know the drive from Louisville to St. Louis well.  Due west on highway 64, about 280 miles, depending on exact departure and arrival spots. With current speed limits and few stops you can make it in four and a half to five hours.

Born and raised in St. Louis and living in Louisville for over twenty years I've had many occasions to make the trip over the years. Trips to spend holidays with family.  Trips for a wedding, short visit or other occasion. In my parents' later years, many trips were to check on them during illnesses, go to doctors' appointments, or visit them in hospitals. 

I never will forget Sunday, May 8, 2005.  My Mother called to tell me my Father had died. I was soon on the road, driving to St. Louis. 

The drive is boring.  Flat, smooth interstate the whole way. with Evansville, IN about half way. Mount Vernon, IL about an hour before you get into downtown St. Louis. The iconic Arch standing out in the St. Louis skyline.  My Father had an interest in photography and he took photos of the Arch in all stages of its construction. 

On May 8, 2005, I saw the sun set behind the Arch in a spectacular sunset. In all the years of driving to St. Louis I had never before been on I-64 heading into St. Louis just at sunset. Before that time I had always planned the trips to arrive before rush hour and thus before sunset.

I drove I-64 again yesterday. My brother had been in a bike accident and I had gotten a call from the emergency room in St. Louis. In his concussed state, my name and number was the only contact that had come to him. 

This time the most remarkable part of the trip were the purple filigrees of Redbud trees decorating the interstate. Some of the Redbuds looked to have been recently planted, as they lined up in perfectly straight rows.  Others were interspersed amongst the taller trees, those wearing only the soft green of early spring. But throughout the drive, Redbuds were my constant companion, as if showing me the way from my present home to that of my childhood. 

My brother's injuries are of the kind that should heal well. Stitches in two rows at the eyebrow, scrapes across his face, hands, arms, and legs.  A dermabrasion, courtesy of the St. Louis streets.  We are hoping he has no long-term repercussions from the concussion, other than a firm commitment to never again get on his bike without a helmet.

Now that both of our parents have passed on, I don't make the trip nearly as often. Sometimes my brother comes to Louisville; sometimes we meet in other locations. But the Redbud blooms along I-64, just like a sunset over the Arch will always remind me of a particular drive along that route.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Breakfast with a Cardinal

Our yard is small.  But the view this time of year is beyond belief.  As if it were a giant bouquet, pink fluff envelops the weeping cherry tree just outside my kitchen window.   A short distance beyond the cherry tree the fence is a riot of golden forsythia.  Springtime parades in the Ohio River Valley with flowers, shrubs and trees in dazzling colors and scents, some sweet, some stinky.  But all a welcome relief from the dreariness of winter. 

By the meteorological calendar it is not yet the beginning of spring.  But the term spring hardly does justice to what is happening.  That season also is denoted for the religious holidays, Holy Week or Passover to name two.  I like to think of it as the week  daffodils are in bloom and a few tulips brave the evening dips in temperature to begin their opening dance.   The pear, tulip and cherry trees are in serious bloom. The redbuds hinting at the purple splendor soon to come.

As I sit at my kitchen table eating my regular oatmeal and fruit breakfast unexpectedly I am joined by a Cardinal.  Not the kind wearing an ornate red hat and officiating at church ceremonies.  Or even the kind wearing a team jersey and carrying sports paraphernalia.  No, this is the bird from which all the others take their inspiration. 

The Cardinal perches atop the recently-trimmed junipers nestled beneath my bay windows.  As I eat I watch him snack leisurely at the shrub insects, stirred, no doubt, by the trimming.  He is bright red and smallish.  Certainly smaller than the robins who splash in the birdbath, but larger than the finches who delicately sip a drink.  The Cardinal is less than five feet from where I sit, separated from me by a window.  He occasionally hops forward on the bush, watching me as I eat.  I wonder what thoughts go through his head on this glorious morning. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

God, the Tornado Maker?

Being in the path of a tornado must be like looking into the fury of the devil. And, unfortunately, there have been a lot of tornadoes around in Kentucky and Indiana in the last few weeks.  So it’s not all that surprising that many tornado survivors praised God for sparing them.  Attributing their survival to God’s blessing or His hearing their prayers. 

People crushed in their homes; tossed around and thrown out like debris.  Some solidly-built brick homes, along with a lot of mobile homes, prefab homes, schools, roofs, trees, and pavement, were ripped up, tossed and later deposited as rubble at least a hundred miles away.  An EF4 tornado, or even a smaller one, must be an awesome, using the word literally, thing to behold.

After the storm one toddler, named Angel, was scooped up by rescue workers from the field near her mobile home.  The rest of her family had died in the tornado.  Angel died a couple of days later from the massive head injuries she had sustained.

If we believe God saved some people does that mean God chose to destroy Angel’s family, leaving her to suffer for a few days, and then die?  Or is the rational explanation that Angel and her family lived in a mobile home, were without a shelter from the storm, and were in the path of a powerful tornado? 

Do we want to ignore reason and facts, instead believing, as the ancient Greeks and Romans, that humans are the play things of a higher being?  God chooses whom to wound, and whom to protect?  The Greeks believed when ships were lost at sea the gods had not protected the sailors.  Or the god of the sea had been angered.  As did the Romans and many other ancient peoples.  When the crops failed or storms came, another god had been displeased.

Today we know storms are caused by cold and warm air masses colliding.  A natural event in this part of the country.  However, in 2012 Kentucky already has experienced 22 tornadoes in the first three months of the year.  When seven is the average for the entire year.  Perhaps we should consider whether we have done something to anger the gods.

On the other hand, we could consider that virtually all repeatable scientists agree human activities are contributing to climate change.  Resulting in more severe and unpredictable storms.

I don’t think it is fair to blame God for making us want to drive gas-burning vehicles.  Or eat out-of-season fruit shipped from South America.  Nor can He really be held accountable for the many other human activities contributing to a warming planet. 

No more can God be blamed for the destruction of natural or human-caused events than God can be credited with the survival of some.  In most cases, the survivors’ prayers could substitute the word “basement” or “storm shelter” for “God.”  As in, “If not for God (or the basement/ storm shelter) I’d be dead.” 

While I don’t believe the tornadoes were sent or their destructive path personally dictated by any god, I don’t discount we saw a glimpse of divinity during and after the storms.  The mother, who took her young children into their basement, covered them with her own body, thus sacrificing both of her legs, as she reassured them during the storm that they all would survive.  The many volunteers who helped with the clean-up after the storms.  Those who donated food, money or their time and effort.

If there is a God He may expect us to engage in a little self help.  Perhaps mobile home parks and communities where most homes do not have basements need to get together and build storm shelters.  If you believe government serves a purpose for the collective good, you might even say that is something government could do: help with building storm shelters in areas prone to tornadoes.  And maybe we should insist our government do more to reverse the effects of climate change while that is still possible.  Surely that would please whatever god watches over this Earth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm Back

Sorry, it's been more than a couple weeks since my last post.  Oops, this starts off like a confession: "Bless me, Father, it's been over forty years since my last confession."

But no, this is not a confession. Just a note to say I'm back on the mainland and ready to get back to blogging again regularly. It's been too long since my last post.

There are lots of tasks to get in the way of writing.  Paying bills, getting records together to pay taxes, the usual household chores.  Then there's fun stuff.  Re-connecting with friends, going to events, getting back to exercise class, trying some new exercise routines, enjoying the beautiful, prematurely spring-like weather.  And then there is the unexpected.  Destructive tornadoes, catching bronchitis, coping with jet lag, visiting friends who've lost loved ones. Well, those aren't really unexpected.  Just unpredictable and undesirable.  And some much worse than others.

The paragraph above starts to sound like a bunch of excuses.  But they're not.  They're musings that just haven't been written yet. And I promise to get back to posting those musings regularly again.  So please stay tuned.