Pretty Swell

Wow, it’s been a little while since I’ve been here, so here is a little bit of an update on what’s been running through my mind as I look out the window over my desk…

The short version is I am in the process of reading all the books pertaining to the history of Victorian Britain and the post-war South in the United States while reading about fallacies in historical writing and argument, writing papers about Native-American history and the Lost Colony in North Carolina, and skimming through footnotes and endnotes and bibliographies in the search for material that will help me find the questions I want to ask for my thesis.

I guess that’s not really a short version. The shortest version is that I began my studies as a graduate student in history last month, and I probably should not be here, writing this, because there is something else I need to be doing. However, as I was reading this morning I began to think about how I haven’t just let go and done any writing just to be writing, and in order to keep developing my writing skills, I need to find the time to do so. So, here I am.

My last post is about my thoughts and feelings concerning Harper Lee’s recently published manuscript, Go Set a Watchman. I won’t go into that more here, other than to say that the core of that book has shown me something that I very much want to investigate, and I won’t go into more of that here because my preliminary thoughts and questions are not fully hashed out, yet, but they will in time. They have to. This is what I want to study and write about, and I will get evaluated and graded on it and have to defend it, so I have to figure it out, and when I know, you’ll know…if I remember to share it with you good people in my little internet universe.

Other things that are going on?

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The hat.

The seasons and the leaves are starting to change. The air is a little more crisp in the morning and the sunrise has more of a golden hue about it. I bought a hat which my wife tried oh so diligently to talk me out of buying, but if there is a hat that is me, this is the hat. See, the hair on the top of my head is migrating to places where it should not migrate, and I needed some protection for the oh so sensitive skin. Presidential campaign politics are getting into full swing a full 14 months before the election next year, and I am trying my damnedest not to get involved. My lavender bush is really putting out some beautiful and sweet smelling flower buds. We bought some rocking chairs for our front porch which are proving to be the best items purchased since we moved into our house last October. Seinfeld is on Hulu and provides much needed levity and brain rest when I need to take a break from books and journal articles and primary sources. I am finding out just how high the stack of library books on my desk can get, and looking some of them up on Amazon and writing down prices because some of them are books that will be purchased in the future, probably near-future. I am trying desperately not to increase my coffee intake; on some days I succeed valiantly and on other days I fail miserably. I am still trying to figure out the optimal work/not work balance and figuring out that the balance moves constantly with no notice whatsoever. This is important because the first all-nighter I have to pull will probably kill me. I am looking forward to finding some time this Fall to get the camera out and take some pictures. The camera is starting to feel neglected in its bag. I am learning a lot which is really kind of the point. It is not easy or fun but I do enjoy it and so does my brain. Few things are more satisfying than when your brain gets pleasure from absorbing the things it wants to absorb and finds questions it wants to ask and finds the answers to them. I guess you could say this is my drug of choice.

I think that about sums it up as far as what’s been happening since July. Another short version is that life is pretty good; you could even say swell.

I better go. Victorian Britain is waiting for me.

Long Spoons, Bowls, Food, and Feeding: An Allegory

I came across a short video today through the perusal of my Facebook feed. In order to get the full effect of what I am going to say, you’re going to need to watch it.

Source

After watching it, I posed this:

“A pretty good illustration of what is possible, but can you see another, more self-preserving solution? Once you see it, can you see that the selfless action is just as productive as the selfish one? And that it is simply a matter of choice between the selfless and the selfish?”

Being struck by its simplicity and positive message, I began to think more deeply about it, and another nagging thought planted itself in my mind, and that led to this post.

Are you ready for the thought? Sitting on the edge of your seat with intense anticipation?

Here it is…

Where did the bowl come from and how did it come to be in that place?

I get it. I get it. That is not the point of the video. The point of the video is, that through selfless action, it is possible to meet the needs of others while having your own needs met at the same time. I respect that fact. It does, however, imply the above question.

Does the answer to the implied question matter? Will answering the question solve the problem portrayed in the video and get the food into the people’s mouths?

No. No, it will not.

You might even ask me, “if it does not matter, then why bring it up to begin with?”

I am glad you asked, because, as always, I have an answer, and that answer speaks to a larger issue beyond the video, just as the video speaks to a larger issue than just getting the food from the bowl to the spoon to the mouth.

I don’t know about you and all of your friends, but I am friends with folks from wildly varied walks of life. I have male friends and female friends. I have gay friends and straight friends. I have white friends, black friends, latino friends, and Asian friends. I have friends that were born in the United States and friends that were born elsewhere. I have friends who are cat lovers and friends who are dog lovers and friends who love both. I have friends who drink alcohol and friends who don’t drink alcohol. I have friends who believe marijuana should be legal and friends who believe it should not be. I have friends who are pro-choice or pro-life or have no opinion whatsoever. I have friends who believe the Confederate battle flag should not be flown by the state and friends who believe it should be and friends who do not care one way or the other. I have friends who own guns and friends who don’t. I have friends who believe guns should be regulated and friends who believe they should not be. I have friends who believe that marriage should be only between a man and a woman and friends who believe any two people can marry regardless of gender. I have friends who believe government is based on secularism and should remain true to that basis, and I have friends who believe government is based on the word of God and should remain true to that basis. I have friends who believe in the veracity of science, and I have friends who believe in the veracity of the word of God. I have friends who are atheists and friends who are Christians and friends who have other faiths and friends who believe there to be a higher power but cannot, or do not, give that power a name.

This is not a comprehensive list of differences that my group of friends have, but I think you get my point.

I want to focus on the last division of friends, those who are atheists, Christians or of another faith in a divine being or force, or believe in a higher power but cannot, or do not, give that power a name. I want to take this varied group of friends, some of whom are quite loud in professing the absolute truth in what they believe to be true and mix this debate into the context of the video, focusing on the bowl of soup itself.

The characters in the video do not ask how the bowl got to where it did. Their only concern is getting what is in the bowl into their bodies, and how to do it. One of the characters uses the spoon to feed another, but requires help to do so, which the other characters figure out. Then the other characters see that by sharing and helping, everyone gets fed. See? Simple.

Let’s talk hypotheticals for a moment.

Suppose one of the characters, instead of working to solve the problem of getting what is in the bowl into the body, decides to proclaim, through either divine inspiration or rational thought, that they know how the bowl got to the place where it sits. Then another character challenges that proclamation, and, before we know it, the original problem is forgotten because the characters find it more fulfilling to proclaim what they know to be true and work harder to convince others that their idea is the truth. Then, let’s say that one of the characters succeeds, after a lengthy amount of time, to convince all of the other characters that their truth is the right truth and they all agree on it. Already hungry and malnourished, they are even more so and more weak than they were before. They are so weak they cannot find the collective strength to pick up even one spoon together, but the original problem still remains, even though they found the truth.

Or…

Suppose we have the same instance as just above, one character proclaims an idea concerning how the bowl came to be where it is and another challenges their assertion. While the two are arguing over their ideas and the other characters get distracted by the debate, one of them figures out a way to get the contents of the bowl into their mouth and eats the contents as the others’ concerns remain distracted, and leaves nothing for them.

Or…

The same instance occurs. An argument ensues, taking attention away from the original problem. One of the characters figures out how to get the contents of the bowl into the body, tries to get the others’ attention, but fails to do so because they cannot overcome the zeal of the arguing parties. So the character waits passively until the parties come to a conclusion so the solution to the original problem can be shared, and by that time, all of them are too weak to utilize the spoon, even collectively.

Or…

The same instance occurs with the same argument, taking attention away from the original problem. The same character figures out a solution to the problem of getting the contents of the bowl into the body and jumps into the middle of the argument, and points out that they all can be fed. They all see the solution and that it works, but they are so zealous in their need to be correct concerning the bowl, they refuse to care about the contents anymore.

Or… (I know you are probably losing patience, but bear with me)

The same instance occurs with the same argument. Attention turns to the bowl itself rather than getting the contents from the bowl into the body. The same character figures out how to get the contents from the bowl into the body, jumps into the middle of the argument, points out the solution to the others, and the others reconcile their differences so that they can learn the solution to the original problem and take in the contents of the bowl and be nourished.

Or…

Well, these scenes can vary any number of ways, an infinite number of ways, to be sure. However, with all of those infinite possibilities, not a single one of them addresses the original and most pressing problem. They all focus on the bowl and its place rather than the contents of the bowl and how to get the contents from the bowl into the body. The problem is lost in a sea of disarray and all because of a disagreement that cannot, in all likelihood, be definitively proven one way or the other.

By focusing on the contents of the bowl and the need to get those contents into the body, a solution was found and shared. The solution took not only deliberate thought but also deliberate action in order for it be achieved.

Do not let loud voices that proclaim in one way or another how something came to be distract us from the central problem. Be deliberate. See the problem clearly as it originally presents itself and work toward a constructive solution that brings a benefit to all of the parties that are affected by the problem at hand.

With each constructive solution to a problem that provides a benefit to all involved, a little more peace finds its way into what can be a peaceful world. Pray or meditate to find guidance or seek answers to larger questions through rationality. However, do not let those practices distract us from seeing the problem and finding a constructive solution.

That’s kind of the whole idea anyway, right?

There is no doubt that there are plenty of questions that are implied by the video or assumptions made by the viewer and vice-versa. Anyway, that’s what I see when I watch this video. What do you see?

Getting Prepared…

I totally forgot to write about this when it happened a couple of weeks ago. My wife and I were out to dinner with friends, and I was frustrated because it had been nearly a week after the early review deadline for my graduate school application. I asked one of those eating with us, whom I knew to be a graduate student at Appalachian, how long it took for her to hear back from the graduate school. She said she heard back rather quickly, but it probably depended on the program to which I was applying and how many early applicants they had to screen. She just suggested contacting the graduate school at the beginning of the week and seeing if any headway had been made.

Being my rather impatient self, I was not completely satisfied with that answer, but did not press anymore, knowing that there was little I could do. So I dropped it.

Later that night, after my wife and I got home from dinner and the movies, I felt an overwhelming need to check my email (since for some reason, even though I have my email set up on my phone for push notifications, my email never sends me notification of incoming messages unless I open the app). The previous conversation took place at about 5:00pm or so. According to my email, I received a notice from ASU to check on the status of my application on the website portal, because a decision had been made concerning it, at 5:36pm.

Talk about vague and heartstopping! What kind of decision was made? Why not just send me the rejection notice or acceptance letter through that email? Do these people not understand what an email like this does to someone like me?

So with my hands shaking and my heart beating out of my chest, I opened my application account on the website portal (have you ever tried to input passwords and such on your phone with your hands shaking? It does not work too well.), clicked a link here and a link there to get to the link to a letter from the university. Three words popped out immediately.

Congratulations.

Unconditional admission.

I finally heard back from the program director this morning, and registered for a class this Summer and three for the Fall. I contacted health services at the university and will, unfortunately, need to get a tetanus booster, which is only slightly mortifying.

The rows are setting up and the ducks are figuring it all out slowly.

With registering for these classes, my reading list has been updated to twelve texts, so far. For one class I have not found the reading list, yet, but I have a feeling that will change once I get in touch with the professor.

Needless to say, I foresee a few trips to the library in the not-to-distant future.

In homage to Chief Brody, We’re gonna need a bigger coffee cup.

Hurry Up and Wait!

Waiting. This is something I am not good at doing. Ask anyone who knows me. I do not do well when it comes to waiting, though, a lot of times I do it to myself. I hate waiting so much that I am obsessive about people waiting on me. Doesn’t make sense? Well, I will get to an arranged meeting spot 10 to 15 minutes early and wait on others just so they do not have to wait on me. No, now that I think about it, that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Regardless of this nonsense, I hate waiting, and, once again, I have done it to myself.

My application for graduate school is due for early review on March 15th. What did I do? I submitted it a little over a week ago. Three weeks early. I submitted my application three weeks before the early review date. What have I done every day since I submitted my application? I have checked the status. I have checked on the status of my application every day. Every. Single. Day.

Like I said, I do not do well when it comes to waiting.

I know exactly where I get that from. A short story…

When my brother and I were growing up, school started at 8, well middle and high school started at 8:15, but the home room call was at 8. Take a guess at what time we got to school every day. Between 7:30 and 7:40/45. See, my dad has to get everywhere early and when he had to be at work by 8, he had to get there well before 8, so that means we got to school early…way early. Did that stop once I got my driver’s license and became responsible for getting my brother and me to school? No. I moved the heavens and earth to get my brother out of the bed and showered so we could leave the house by 7:30 for the 10 minute drive to school.

Did that stop once I moved out of the house? No. With every job I have had, I have shown up at least 10 to 15 minutes early for the shift, well, except for those pesky times of over-sleeping. When I know that I am not going to be at least 10 minutes early, my mind begins to panic. Yes. Panic. My heart rate rises and the dread and fear of being late overcomes any rational thought that could pass through my head. I am always in competition with the clock. When we go on a trip and use the GPS and the GPS tells us that we will arrive by 3:15, I do everything in my power to arrive by 3:00. I guess you could call it an obsession or a compulsion or an obsessive compulsion.

When I went back to school to finish my undergrad, I was the student that was either at the door first, waiting for the previous class to end so I could sit at my desk, or I was the first one in the door of the empty classroom waiting for my other classmates and professor to show up. I was that guy, not because I wanted to impress the professor with my punctuality, but because I needed to do it. I needed to do it. If I was going to be tardy, I would not even go to class. That is how much I hate being late. I would rather chalk up an absence than be late to class.

This drives my need to always be early and adds to my frustration of hating to have to wait, because what happens when I get to class early? I have to wait for it to start. It is a vicious cycle that never, ever ends. It’s like the bad joke that never goes away, or the shitty song that stays in your head and plays over and over and over and over again.

So, I have already checked on the status of my application once today. I will probably do so again after lunch, and at least one more time before I go to bed. Why? Because I am a glutton for punishment, and I cannot wait to see what happens. Now that I think about it, that saying makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Clearly, I can wait, and I hate it.

Normally Acceptable

The other night, I kept thinking and thinking about what I read before going to sleep and that prompted this post. I’m still thinking about it; wondering if there is a way to answer the questions I left at the end. I want to try to answer those questions and investigate this idea of normal, because, well, we all try so hard to individualize ourselves and separate from the herd. In small ways, we are successful. We differentiate ourselves and we give ourselves labels that provide some division, some distance, from others’ identities. However, most of us still remain within the realm of normal.

Why is that?

Why do we seek to be different, even in the most innocuous ways, but, at the same time, we voluntarily stay within the bounds of unwritten rules?

Is it a comfort thing? Is it an issue of stability and security? How do we set the boundaries on what is normal and acceptable when it comes to living out our individuality within a social group? How do we balance the scales between the consistency of normal and the variability of individuality? How do we measure and compare being different with being too different? Where do these unseen boundaries, unwritten rules, and unspoken measures come from?

Those are a lot questions, so maybe you can see why I am so jumbled up. Most of these are issues I think about, and have thought about, for a long time. Even for a group of professed nonconformists to normal rules of greater society, that group has rules that are unwritten and unseen boundaries that are not to be crossed if one wishes to remain a nonconformist. So, even in their nonconformity, there is conformity; there is a standard.

There are some that say screw the rules, let’s all live our own lives, but I believe that to be too simplistic. I do, however, believe that if one tries hard enough, one can find a niche within which to socialize and find a level of comfort, really, in essence, to feel, dare I say, normal, or would it be better to replace normal with accepted?

I am sure there will be more to come concerning this strand of thought. If you have all the answers, or even just one or two, feel free to share them with me and with the few readers that grace these posts with their presence.

Getting Interested…

I’ve been busy.  I met with a professor within the department to which I am applying for graduate school last week.  I’ve also been speaking a little with a friend that is wrapping up her graduate studies.  Between the two, I have a pretty good reading list worked out and have buried myself in books, pen, and paper.

A consensus between the two, the point driven especially hard by my friend, is to develop a background on the theories set forth by Foucault and other postmodernist thinkers (I disagreed with this kind of labelling before I began to read Foucault, but now that I have read a little of him, I disagree with it even more).  So, I’ve begun reading, beginning with Discipline & Punish.  At first I was intimidated by the thought of reading modern philosophy, because, well, I have had a difficult time reading philosophy in the past, but (and maybe I am not reading quite deeply enough into it) I think I have at least a layman’s understanding of what is being said.

See, I have this fascination with motives.  I enjoy exploring unspoken motives, especially those motives that drive people who occupy positions of power.  As I wrote in a post a couple of weeks ago before even thinking of reading Foucault:

“As much as we respect what we believe to be pure motivations behind political decisions such as whether or not to propose and promote a bill like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we must accept that there is usually more than one story, more than one motive, when it comes to the people in the story. If we don’t, we fail to see the whole story, and we fail to fully grasp the humanity within it.”

Maybe that’s why some of what Foucault has to say, especially concerning power, institutions, and knowledge, makes at least some sense to me, and drives me to want to know more and come to a better understanding. As I said in the referred to post,”the self-serving motive is probably the purest motive there can be,”  and what can be more motivating, or self-serving, than coming into a position of power or sustaining the favorable power dynamics within a relationship that one may already have?

In order to see the basic humanity within a story, which is really all history is, this cannot be ignored.  Even those historical, or even contemporary, figures which we admire have to be scrutinized to some degree, for they were, or are, human, and like all humans they did, or do, have flaws.  On a more positive note, such scrutinization may uncover more positive and wholesome motivations.  To be fair that cannot be ruled out.

Anyway, this interests me a lot.  There will be more to come.

Remembrance and Celebration

I wrote this tonight as I was thinking of those that have gone on to greener pastures…

We each have our own remembrances
and stories to share and to tell.
We have our reasons to weep
and those to laugh.
We have our reasons to mourn
and those to dance.
We have these because those we loved have gone away,
but through these memories, reasons, and times,
we have them with us every day.

Inspired by:

Ecclesiasties 3: 1, 3, 4

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and time to die…
a time to weep and time to laugh…
a time to mourn and a time to dance…

A Thought on Love, Empathy, and Faith

This started out as a post on Facebook, but I’m going to try to expand on it and see what happens…

If we spent more time seeing people as people rather than as the labels we put on them, then a path to real empathy and understanding shows itself. The problem with labels is that we all wear more than one. Yet, when we see a label on someone that we do not agree with, that is the label we give them. Never mind the other labels one might wear that we would approve of or wear ourselves. It is the label that promotes some kind of disagreement or conflict that we freely choose to accept as the one that most aptly describes or define the individual.

Surely we are smarter and more compassionate than that. Surely we all have the ability to see people for who they are rather that what they are. Why would we willingly take such an ability and simplify it? Does it make life easier? Does it help us sleep better at night? Does it bring us closer to our faith, regardless of what that faith may be?

I’m going to address the last question first and see if they will help answer the other three.

Does it bring us closer to our faith, regardless of what that faith may be?

I’m going to place a label on myself just to show how I view the answer I have for this question. I identify as a Christian, and the answer that follows is according to my understanding of Christian faith.

By simplifying an individual that we may not agree with to the label with which we disagree, faith eludes us. We are not told to love the neighbor with whom we most identify. We are told to love our neighbor. It does not matter who that neighbor is. It does not matter what that neighbor does. It does not matter what we think of that neighbor.

One of the most important aspects of love is empathy. In order to love someone, empathy, and the practice of empathy, within the relationship is absolutely paramount. With empathy, one must understand or want to understand the object of their love. With empathy, there may not always be agreement, but there is always an attempt to understand. Without empathy, one cannot find the commonalities one might have with another in order to build a meaningful relationship. Without empathy, it is easier to cast judgment on those with whom we disagree, paste a label on them, and toss their basic humanity aside. Without empathy, we fail to see the person behind the label. We fail to see the person’s wants. We fail to see their needs. We fail to understand them as people, and choose to see them as enemies, if even in the loosest sense of the word. Without empathy, there cannot be trust. Without trust, there cannot be love.

Empathy takes a lot of practice. It can be difficult, but isn’t that the point? Are we not supposed to practice our respective faiths? Are we not supposed to work in order to build a stronger character and make our faiths stronger?

We have an ability to understand. We have an ability to empathize. Some say it is God given. Some say it is an evolution of the mind. Some say it is a combination of the two.

We can also practice apathy. We can choose not to care. We can choose not to understand. In essence, we can choose not to love. Apathy takes no practice, builds no character, and is a weak foundation upon which to build faith.

Which brings us closer to our faith? Which makes life easier? Which helps us sleep better at night? For me, a better understanding makes me more comfortable and helps me trust that I will be okay. That trust helps me sleep at night. That understanding makes my life just a little bit easier.

There is a debate, has been for a long time. Does faith alone provide for salvation, or are good works necessary? Faith, in and of itself, requires work. Faith requires practice, because we, in and of ourselves, will never be perfect. Through practice, we can come closer to perfection, but cannot attain it but through the continued practice of love and of faith.

Getting Excited…

Wow…Two months since my last post.  Let’s look at where I am now…

We’ve moved and gotten settled into our new house.  I studied for, and took, the GRE.  I have a few finishing touches to put on my application for graduate school for the Summer term.  I have met with professors to discuss my plans concerning graduate school and what I am going to do with more education.  I started another trip around the sun.

Yes, I took the GRE.  I took it last week.  I didn’t want to, but I had to.  I had to take it in order to apply to graduate school.  Let me just tell you about that experience.  It was painful.  The months leading up to it were painful.  The days leading up to it were painful.  The whole experience was painful.

See, I get anxious before taking a test…any test, really.  This test, however, was different.  As I read the preparation materials and reviewed math skills that I have not used in nearly twenty years, I realized that there is really no way to fully prepare or study for the GRE.  Sure, time management is key to successfully completing the test, but what it really comes down to is that you either know it, or you don’t, and that does not work too well for me.  If I don’t know it and need to know it, then I NEED to know it.  It’s kind of like an obsession, really.

I remember feeling pretty much the same way when I took the SAT in high school for my college application.  I either knew the material, or I didn’t.  I did a lot more preparation for the GRE.  I bought a prep manual, reviewed math…yes math.  I honed my skills of analyzing arguments and presenting opinions on issues.  I attempted to learn every million dollar word in the English Language.  I did reasonably well, and I don’t really have any complaints, save one…

Standardized testing sucks.

It just…well…sucks.

And here is why…

The education I’m wanting and the kind of work that I want to do requires doing research on a given topic, analyzing and interpreting the research, formulating a thesis based on the analysis, and supporting that thesis with an argument based on the research performed along with knowledge of the topic being argued.  Sure, some mathematic skills may be required when doing research such as knowing percentages or analyzing data and statistics…hell, maybe even dealing with some fractions or long division.  Though when it comes to calculating the circumference of a triangle given only the radius of the square root and knowing that pi equals cake plus milk, there is absolutely no point in the future when I am going to need to know how to do that.

I know, I know…never say never.

I’m saying it, though.  NEVER.  So why did I have to waste energy studying, reviewing, and obsessing over that when I could have used that energy reviewing and obsessing over skills and knowledge that will pertain directly to my chosen educational endeavor?

All in all, I did alright.  I made it through without having an aneurysm.  I finished the sections within the allotted amount of time. I don’t think my pulse rate went above 180 bpm.  So, we’ll chalk up a mark in the success column.

My scores, once they are official, will be submitted to the graduate school’s admissions office and the program to which I am applying.  Two more essays to write and one last recommendation to get, and my application will be done.  That’s pretty exciting.

What’s even more exciting is that, once the new year begins, one of the professors under whom I will be studying is going to start meeting with me weekly to discuss what I am reading and helping me fine-tune a particular topic and/or period of study .  I’m pretty jazzed about that.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve already got my library card and everything.

It’s an exciting time, and I’m looking forward to it.

Almost Heaven

Going back and looking at my blog, I notice that I have not written anything here since mid-July. There is a reason for that…probably multiple reasons, but the biggest thing is that life has just been pretty busy lately. There are big changes coming my way in the near future; some of which have already occurred, and others that will be occurring soon. More on all of that later…

What I want to write here is about a little something called a well needed vacation…

Back at the beginning of August, it seems like forever ago now…like something from the distant past and memory, but back at the beginning of August, we took our vacation. We returned to Siesta Key, where we spent our honeymoon last year, and spent a week basking in the warmth and glow of the Florida sunshine and the soft powder of the gulf coast. It was everything, absolutely everything, that I needed in order to unplug and just be. I mean, seriously, the week was ripe with rainbows and beaches. What more could anyone ask for??

The evening we pulled into the condo and unpacked greeted us with a rainbow arching through the sky out of our bedroom window while we were getting settled. It just does not get any better than that!

We spent that first evening sitting out on the beach and watching a thunderstorm grow as it stayed inland, refusing to move over the beach. The light show that commenced was above and beyond any fireworks display. The flashes of light in the clouds and the tentacles of lightning stretching across the sky were an incredible sight to behold, and behold it we did. In a word, it seemed, well, magical. There is a magnificence and awe that strikes me when seeing a thunderstorm unleash the power that grows within it…from a safe distance or under safe cover of course. One realizes just how small we are when witnessing such power and beauty.

If nature showed us her power in the first night, then she showed us something altogether different the next morning. We made our way out to the beach pretty early, around 9am or so. See, when I go to the beach, all I want to do is go to the beach. I want to feel the white powder in my toes and around my feet. I want to feel the warmth of the sun mix with the blowing breeze coming off the water. I want to feel the refreshing water on my skin. It is a cruel joke because I am blessed with red hair and fair skin. Some things in life just are not fair!! Anyway, we went out to the beach, set up our chairs and umbrella, and I headed for the water.

Now, I don’t know if all beaches are this way, but as I walked out into the water that morning to a depth just to my shoulders and neck, I noticed the water. The water was placid and smooth. Looking at it from my vantage point, the water was much like a mirror, reflecting the soft hues of the morning sky as the sun rose behind us in the east. Lake water is not calm in the way that the water was that morning. Little more than a ripple made its way through to the sandy beach. The fish could be seen swimming around our legs and feet. The sea birds were about looking for their breakfast. The world before us seemed calm and peaceful, as if there was nothing to worry about. This set the tone for the entire week for me, and that was something I needed. We all do, from time to time.

After a long day out on the beach, we made our way back inside where one certain reality hit me. Fair skin plus the first day out on the beach. You know where I’m going with this. Sunburn. All in all, I was pretty lucky, just my shoulders got torched and I managed to keep it under control for the rest of the week. I guess that is a small price to pay to experience a taste of heaven before dying.

The remainder of the week followed much in the same way. Perfect weather in a perfect place. There were more rainbows and more storms. There was more sun and more sand and more water.

There was more heaven to experience, and experience it, I did.