Peaceful. Scenic. Picturesque.
Those are the words that cross my mind as I gaze at this photo I took recently.
An idyllic late summer day in beautiful countryside. A stately oak shade tree to pause beneath for a bit of rest. A time-worn but lovely farmstead surrounded by rustic log fencing providing a scenic view.
All of that captured with just one click of the camera.
Viewing that photo invokes feelings of blissful peace. That all is right with the world. No turmoil. No bickering. No troubles.
A kind of peace in the valley.
No sorrow. No sadness. No headaches. No heartaches. No confusion.
But looks can be so deceiving, can’t they? And they can mask what lies beneath.
This occurs to me as I think about those I know who are experiencing difficult times. Losses beyond belief. Turmoil and confusion. Sadness and grief. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from their outward appearances.
They put on a façade. A happy face. A smile and words spoken with a lilt to hide their pain.
They assure everyone that they are ‘just fine, thanks for asking.’ But inwardly, overwhelming emotions rise up threatening to destroy them. How many of us stifle our true feelings down inside? How many of us don’t expose what lies beneath the surface of our smiles?
Recently, we spent a few days away from home. We journeyed to an area of our state where there are verdant rolling hills, farm fields, and plenty of historical places of interest.
Yet this place once was a scene of massive destruction – not so much of property, but of human lives. Over 7,000 men lost their lives in this one place. Another 33,000+ were wounded and almost 11,000 were listed as missing. All told, 51,000 casualties.
It was the scene of the bloodiest and most gruesome battle ever fought on American soil all occurring in the heat and humidity during three days in July in the Pennsylvania countryside over 150 years ago. The agony and suffering which occurred there is unimaginable.
This place is Gettysburg.
Today there is peace in that valley again. The battle scarred land is well-healed over after a century and a half. The only remnants of that fierce combat that remain are the massive monuments, which mark the spots where troops fought and fell, scattered across the 24-mile long battlefield driving tour.
And there are graves. Hundreds of graves, some marked, some only categorized by numbers.
Touring the battlefield, it’s hard to imagine the savagery that took place in this idyllic countryside. It’s difficult to imagine the bloodshed, the almost inhuman cries of war, and the moans of death when everywhere you look, you see the loveliest landscape.
And this is where I took that beautiful photo above these words. Tranquil scenery that masks what lies beneath the ground – the tragic loss of so many lives in this place. A time in history which practically tore our nation apart at the seams.
What lies beneath that hallowed ground is the horror of war. The tragedy of brother fighting brother, friend against friend, fellow countryman against fellow countryman. The American Civil War.
I’ve visited this place called Gettysburg in the past, touring the battlefield, reading the historical facts. But this time, something welled up inside of me like never before. The Battle of Gettysburg became more real, not just a story in a history book.
What lies beneath this picturesque scenery touched my heart and soul. The pain and anguish of a war among ourselves, American against American, rose from beneath the surface and gave me much pause to think.
I pray we never experience such a time ever again.
And yet, aren’t we waging a kind of civil war again today? Attempting to destroy one another, not with muskets and cannon fire, but with vitriolic rhetoric just because we don’t agree with one another’s viewpoint, or politics, or religious beliefs?
We fire vehement words to our ‘foes’ that surely pierce the soul and wound the heart. What lies beneath this modern civil war? Hatred? Anger? Fear? All powerful weapons of destruction.
It seems to me as a follower of Christ, that I should pray for those who hide their burdens deep inside – beneath the surface. The walking wounded are among us, sometimes carrying their burdens in silence, but just as often lashing out at those who don’t agree with them with vehemence.
Just as the many homes and businesses of Gettysburg became field hospitals for the casualties of the great battle fought there, our churches should be a balm for the wounded, the broken, the hurting.
“Church isn’t a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.” ~ Unknown
When we come together brother to brother, sister to sister, to help, encourage, and shoulder the load the weary and burdened carry, just as I see happening in Texas and Florida after the vicious hurricanes laid paths of destruction, instead of battling each other, that’s when we heal our land.
For me, that’s what it means to be an American.
“What we see often is only a fractional part of what it really is.” ~ Unknown
From the doctor’s office to sitting in traffic, we’ve all done our fair share of it. Waiting, that is. Depending on your level of patience, waiting can either be just a little blip in the road or a major interruption.
Waiting just happens to be the theme for this week’s photo challenge and I’ve found that I just don’t have the time right now to wait for an idea of inspiration to come to me nor do I have a few spare moments to think about a photo to accompany my words.
So, to keep you, my readers, from waiting any longer, I’m recycling a photo (above) and a post I wrote seven years ago not long after I began my blogging journey here on Word Press. Way back then, I shared my thoughts about waiting and you can read them by clicking here.
“You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.”~ Craig Bruce
Some people are born with an adventurous spirit, some have to have it coaxed out of them.
I wasn’t one of those born with a sense of adventure, nor was I taught to embrace a quest for exploration. My folks kept pretty close to home when I was a youngster.
Growing up, I can remember only three real vacations with my parents. As a child, I traveled with them down south to visit my oldest sister and brother-in-law when he was serving in the military and we stopped at interesting points along the way. As a teenager, my parents took me on one trip to Williamsburg, VA, and one trip to New York state and points in our own home state. That’s it.
On top of our lack of interesting journeys, I tended to be a fairly shy little girl who didn’t seek out risk-taking or exciting escapades. It wasn’t until I married my husband and he whisked me off to places I’d never been before that I started to enjoy new adventures.
When we were raising our children, I wanted them to have more opportunities than I did to experience new places and different sights, not just the same old, same old of everyday life.
We managed to do some traveling and exposing them to new activities while we lived in the Midwest, but upon moving to the Pacific Northwest, my desire to do that really kicked into high gear. We endeavored to provide for our children as many adventurous excursions, sight-seeing trips, and vacations as we could on the West Coast of our great country.
Somewhere along the line, our oldest daughter embraced an adventurous lifestyle with gusto. On her own, with friends, and with her like-minded husband, she’s traveled more places than I can even imagine.
Those two are the thrill-seekers who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago. You can read about that by clicking here.
Right now as I write this, they are traveling throughout Peru visiting the Amazon Rainforest and hiking and camping in the Andes Mountains.
Since Papa and I have semi-retired, we’re hoping to fill up our own travel itinerary from time to time. One of my goals has always been to visit each of the 50 states here in America, and so far, I’ve checked off 35 states with 15 more to go. So we’ve got some adventure planning to do of our own.
Our oldest grandchild, who is only 2 ½ spends a great deal of time with Nana and Papa, and we try to take her on little excursions here and there so she too will develop a bit of adventure.
Yesterday, I posted a photo I took back in July when we did just that. We traveled just a couple of hours away from our home with Little One in tow for a sightseeing day trip.
One of the places we visited was actually somewhere that even Nana and Papa had never been before – Kinzua Sky Walk in Kinzua Bridge State Park.
Once the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world, the viaduct spanned the Kinzua Gorge. But a tornado ripped through the area almost 15 years ago and shredded a good portion of the bridge into twisted metal.
Using six steel towers that remained, a skywalk, which extends 624 feet into the gorge, was constructed. Walking along the skywalk 225 feet above the valley provided some amazing views, which I believe would be even more breathtaking in the fall when all the leaves are brilliantly colored. For a more complete view of the bridge/skywalk, watch a youtube video here.
Our Little One enjoyed the adventure of something new and different to behold. She loved playing with the wooden toy train and blocks building a replica of the original railroad bridge in the visitor’s center. Even at her young age, she got a kick out of some of the exhibits there as well.
And walking on the skywalk was grand fun for her. She was even more mesmerized by the glass blocks near the end of the structure that enable you to look out below down those 224 feet. Not a great place for someone afraid of heights, but our Little One loved it!
After a picnic lunch at the park grounds, we traveled on to a couple more spots. Needless to say, Little One tuckered out and slept most of the way home. But what a fun little voyage we experienced and hopefully, we’re teaching her to embrace exploration with gusto.
And wishing her a lifetime of adventures.
“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” ~ Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland
I’m not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. Nope, I like to have my ducks all in a row and I will count them to make sure they are all there too.
Willy-nilly, I am not. I’m happiest when all around me is in order. This thing put away where it belongs. That thing relegated to the recycling or trash.
Clutter removed from the counters, the shelves, my desk, wherever I can see in plain sight. I want a clean slate when I look around.
A place for everything and everything in its place. That makes me feel calm and secure. And in control. Because when my surroundings get out of control – and despite my intentions of having a spit-spot clean house, it gets pretty messy here – I feel out of control.
When my own little world isn’t in order, I can sense stress just surging inside of me, intensifying and ascending up my back and neck finally settling in my head like a ticking time bomb ready for a full-blown explosion.
When I was a young mom with three active children, trying to keep my home orderly darn near drove me crazy. Seriously, how do you do so with toys, games, backpacks full of school papers, books, clothes dirty and clean, shoes galore, sporting equipment (and some of it smelled atrocious!), and all the accoutrements that come along with kids?
So to keep my sanity, I learned to just let some things go. Stop striving for perfection when it came to the orderliness of our home. And as I’ve
aged… ahem…matured…I’ve even lightened up a good deal more. Well, as much as I can with a 2½- year-old grandchild in my home.
But what I realize I need, what truly floats my boat, calms my inner perfectionist, and keeps me feeling in control is structure, this week’s photo challenge theme.
My handy desk dictionary –yes, I still use a real paper-paged bound book called a dictionary – defines structure as a noun this way: 1. A complex entity. 2a Organization; arrangement. b. Constitution; make-up. 3. Something constructed esp. a building or part.
Words spoken to me over 40 years ago have remained lodged in my brain and rise to the surface when I think about that word – structure. At the time I was a starry-eyed, idealistic college senior finishing a semester of student teaching in a junior high school classroom.
My supervising teacher – the 7th grade English teacher at this city school in whose classes I tried out my lesson plans – offered advice to me, which I’ve never forgotten, about launching my teaching career.
He advised me to start out tough, running a tight ship in the classroom with a lot of structure.
“You can always lighten up, but you can never tighten up,” were the words Mr. D told me. He was right.
Without structure, where would we be? Our bodies certainly have structure in the form of all the bones that comprise our skeletal system. Without that formation, we’d just be big blobs rolling around.
We take shelter and live in some type of building whether it be our homes made of cement, wood, or brick or even a tent. Without structure, nothing would stand to protect us from the environment.
Our modes of transportation all have structure from cars to buses to planes, trains, and ships. Without their forms, we’d all have to travel only by our own feet.
I’m no scientist, but I do know that there is structure in our DNA as well. If you’ve ever seen a drawing of a DNA molecule, you’ll note that there are two strands, a double helix, that wind around each other and resemble a sort of twisted ladder. Structure.
Our very lives here on earth revolve around structure. Twenty-four hours in a day. Seven days in a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year. Our planet revolves around the sun in an orderly way. All of it based on structure.
And every structure that exists also must have some sort of foundation. For me, the foundation of my structure is my faith. When I feel out of control and structure seems to be totally out of order, I pray. I turn to my guidebook for life, my Bible.
It’s the structure I build my life upon.
“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” ~ Saint Augustine
Autumn hasn’t flaunted its pretty self yet. My wall calendar only turns over its leaf to September tomorrow, but there’s something in the air that conjures up the feeling of fall. And as always, I am so ready for the change of season.
Stepping outside my door, I can sense it. I can feel it. I can smell it. Fall is on its way. The days have cooled down and the nights are cooler yet. Thankfully, a crispness in the fresh air shoved summer’s heat and humidity out of the way.
That crispness reminds me of one thing – it’s time to go back to school. Many years have passed by since I sent my last child off to his final year of college classrooms. School shopping for supplies and college dorm rooms are a thing of the past for me, and I can honestly say I don’t miss that one bit.
For over a decade, I experienced that back-to-school feeling myself when I worked for a non-profit as an education program coordinator and visited public and private school classrooms. For the last four years, I headed back to school as a private school substitute teacher.
But for the first time in oh, so many years, there won’t be that back to school feeling for me. My subbing days are limited because I’ve traded that job in for an even more important one – taking care of my granddaughter while my daughter works. And I’ve decided to join the ranks of the semi-retired.
So even though school days have become a thing of the past, I can still recall that back to school feeling quite vividly. Thinking back over my own first days of school, excitement and a bit of nervousness always was the norm.
In elementary school, I already knew who my teachers would be and who the other students were in my class, unless there was a new kid. Walking to the bus stop in the dewy morning with a nip of cold in the air, I remember shivering slightly, a little from the briskness of the morning and the topsy-turvy nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
By the time I reached junior and senior high school, the excitement and nervousness accelerated. There were so many things to worry about!
Awakening a good bit earlier than those leisurely summer days, I know I carefully dressed in one of my new outfits hoping to fit in with the latest styles everyone else would certainly be wearing. Hair and a smidge of makeup had to be just right as well.
Back to school then meant new class schedules, new locker assignments, new teachers, and not knowing who would be in your classes or who would have the same lunch period as you.
It meant Friday night football games cheering your school team on in the chilly night air while scoping out cute boys that you just never noticed before. It meant reuniting with friends and classmates that you may have not seen all summer.
After a hot, sluggish summer season, back to school meant the start of something new. And maybe that’s why the thought of back to school always invokes the allure of fall for me.
When there’s a little bite of chilliness in the air, I experience renewed vigor. Somehow fall days feel cleaner, fresher, and way more invigorating than summer did.
And even though it smells like the beginning of school outside, the big yellow buses are traveling down the roadways, and social media is plastered with all of those first day of school children’s photos, my back to school thoughts are just memories now…well, at least until little sweetie gets old enough to attend school.
But I’m more than ready to meet my beloved autumn season head on. I can’t wait.
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Years ago, okay….many years ago when I was a child, I watched a musical version of Cinderella on television with real, live actors instead of animated ones.
The well-known fairy tale was set to lovely music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I can still remember the actress Lesley Ann Warren, who played Cinderella, singing a song called, In My Own Little Corner.
Previously here in my blog, I’ve shared a quirky little characteristic I possess, but just in case you missed that, I’ll let you in on it.
More often than not, just the utterance of a mere word causes my brain to flip through all the information stored in it (after 60+ years, there’s a lot up there!) and produce musical lyrics from the past with that particular word in the song.
I don’t know why I remember song lyrics (and the music that accompanies them) so well, but I do. And as soon as I read that this week’s photo challenge theme was ‘corner,’ this song from that TV version of Cinderella came to life once more in my head.
“In my own little corner
In my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be
On the wing of my fancy
I can fly anywhere
And the world will open its arms to me.”
As melancholy as the thought is of poor, abused, lovely Cinderella forced to labor for a vengeful step-mother and mean step-sisters and sit in her little corner of her dingy world, aren’t the song lyrics encouraging?
Despite her terrible condition and place in life, Cinderella rises above it. How? By using her imagination. I love that.
As someone who captures words and photographs attempting to carve them into something creative and inspiring, where would I be without some imagination? Without thoughts that ignite a spark of inspiration? Without a sense of optimism and purpose?
Because in my own little corner (right here in our home office),
In my own little chair (the comfy, swivel desk chair facing the computer screen),
I can be whatever I want to be (I can write whatever I want; I can turn my thoughts into sentences; I can post those words online for you to read).
On the wing of my fancy (inspired by words or photographs),
I can fly anywhere (my posts fly around cyberspace via the internet),
And the world will open its arms to me. (You, my readers, from all over the world, have opened your arms to me by clicking on my posts to read my thoughts.)
Sometimes, I wonder if putting myself ‘out there’ in cyberspace is worth the time and effort I put into writing this blog. Obviously, I don’t write it to make money because I earn absolutely no amount of dollars doing so.
I don’t even write to make a name for myself, or to broaden my ‘brand,’ or whatever the hype is now to publicize your writing because I write this without using my given name attached to it.
So why emerge from my own little corner and hit publish every week? The reason might just be found in yet another set of song lyrics:
“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar;
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.
Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!
Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.
Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ lyrics by Ina D. Ogdon
I write because maybe, just maybe, from my own little corner I shed a little light into your little corner.
It takes perseverance, it takes discipline, and maybe even a little courage, but I’ll continue to brighten as many corners as I can for as long as I can.
“Courage can’t see around corners but goes around them anyway.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin