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Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.

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photography

i killed sally’s lover

So here we have a provocative headline. And also a dramatic photo that has nothing to do with the headline. Except it does.

I haven’t killed anyone. Don’t even know a Sally.

It’s an Avett Brothers song. Yes, I do listen to other music but the Avetts just keep drawing me in. This song is a cautionary tale about getting caught up in a crime of passion.

Now all you ramblin' fellas
You listen close to me
That woman gonna bring you pain
Your heart is gonna bleed
But it ain't worth the trouble
The sufferin' or the grief
A bleeding heart is better than the penitentiary

So, yeah, don’t do it.

But it’s a heck of a fun song. Just watch this live version.

Ok, so maybe this is just backwoods hillbilly music. But it looks like so much fun, especially when played at the frenetic pace of their live version. Naturally I want to learn to play it like that.

I’ve been playing guitar for most of my life but it’s only been in the last six months or so that I’ve really begun to learn songs from beginning to end. I’ve even learned to sing while I play. That may not sound like a big deal, but try patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. That’s playing and singing. It doesn’t come easy.

I’ll never be a star. But there’s a great deal of personal satisfaction in trying and learning and getting better and reaching your goal. I’ve got a play list of 12 songs now.

Sally’s Lover will be one of the harder songs I’ve learned. The chords are easy – G-C-D – but there’s some fast picking I have to learn that’s really going to be difficult. But I’ll get there.

The photograph?

A relatively simply structure I built on the back of my deck. It’s a result of my experience over the years with even simpler projects.

I’ll never be a contractor. But there’s a great deal of personal satisfaction in trying and learning and getting better and reaching your goal.

Now all you ramblin’ fellas
You listen close to me
This life is gonna bring you pain
Your heart is gonna bleed.
But it’s surely worth the trouble
The sufferin’ and the grief
To do that thing you want to do, don’t quit till you succeed.

give me leave to do my utmost

“I am going away forever – and I shall never, never see you again. For I have learned here that life is hard and cruel and that in this world there are things that are – impossible.” — Lt. Lorens Lowenhielm, from the short story and film, Babbette’s Feast, by Isak Dinesen.

“And, I shall be with you every day that is left to me. Every evening I shall sit down, if not in flesh, which means nothing, in spirit, which is all, to dine with you, just like tonight. For tonight I have learned that in this world anything is possible.” — General Lorens Lowenhielm Dinesen, from the short story and film, Babette’s Feast, by Isak Dinesen.

I’m not a fan of subtitled movies. I have a hard enough time following stories without trying to read the subtitles instead of watching the scene. Babette’s Feast is a 1987 Danish film (and a short story by Isak Dinesen) about two sisters who live in a small village in Denmark. It’s without dramatic action, crazy plot twists, or wildly eccentric characters. It’s subtitled for English speakers.

And it’s terrific.

The quotes above are from the same character, the first when he was young and impetuous. The second when he was older and wiser.

And then there’s Babette, a secondary character without whom there would be no story. Her motives are pure.

“Through all the world there goes on long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost.”

If you can find it, give it a chance. You won’t be sorry.

the good father

A couple of years ago Larry Ellis made a comment about his father and my father, two men of the same generation, quiet heroes, who without fanfare or drama worked to provide for their families. Larry’s father has since passed; I’m fortunate that my father will join us for a father’s day pizza later today. There will be the Father’s Day card and yes, yet another shirt (sorry to spoil the surprise, but after 90 years, I think the chance of surprise is pretty slim). I wrote the following tribute shortly after Larry’s comment. I’ve published it before, and probably will again.


Most are not leaders of nations.
Most are not creators of wealth.
Most are not icons of sports or entertainment.
Their names will not be written in the annals of history.

But without them, we would be nothing.

Their fathers worked with pride as pipe-fitters and welders and electricians.
Their fathers mined coal and dug ditches and toiled with dignity.
They did what was necessary to provide food and shelter and clothes.
They did what was necessary to provide hope for a better tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and it was better,
and the sons and daughters of the fathers went to school
and became teachers and writers and lawyers and engineers.
They became fathers and mothers themselves
and likewise provided for their families.

They did all of this
without the need for attention,
without the need for adulation,
without the need for self-aggrandizement.

Fathers persevere and sacrifice.
They do what needs to be done.
They are good and honorable.

No, not all fathers.
Some abandon.
Some abuse.
Some give up.

It’s not about gender roles.
Sometimes the mother is the father.
Sometimes she is both.

It’s not about being the breadwinner.
It’s about being strong for the family.
It’s about providing direction to those who wander
and encouragement to those who strive.

Now they rest,
their work less strenuous,
their lives less demanding,
and they sit quietly,
content to let others lead.

They have lived simply.
They have lived nobly.
They have given their all.
They are fathers.


copyright 2019, joseph e bird

dreams of the past

The photo is a basement shoebox relic.  It’s old.  It’s bent and cracked. No Photoshop effects, here. Just a snapshot.

The subjects are familiar faces, but the photo was taken probably more than sixty years ago, before I really knew them. Maybe before I was born. Even in the older women there is youth I never saw in later years. From left to right, my Aunt Shirley; my grandmother Bettie Pearl, who I knew as Mom; my great-grandmother Tida, who we called Tidy; and my mother, Gloria, who looks to be with child.

The place, I believe, is my great-grandmother’s kitchen. If I had to guess, I would say it was breakfast.  There’s the coffee pot and toaster.  But I can’t imagine them gathering so early just for breakfast. Maybe lunch, which they called dinner.  Dinner would have included fried potatoes and tomatoes from the garden. Supper was the evening meal.  There would have been men in the picture by then.

There’s tension evident in the photograph.  Not a one could manage a smile, which is very unusual for my mother and Aunt Shirley, especially in front of a camera.  There’s a weariness, too.  Maybe they had been working.  Maybe canning tomatoes or beans.

They were all different.

My mother was the free spirit, enjoying every moment.

My aunt was sophistication personified, full of grace and elegance.

My grandmother, hardworking and kind, ready to share with everyone.

My great-grandmother, the strong, independent woman living by herself.

Maybe that was the source of the tension. Around the table love and respect, yet each one not quite understanding the other.  One dreams of this, another of that. And dreams, what are they for, anyway? another may think.  And Tidy, who has already seen enough heartbreak for all of them, keeps it to herself.

I’ll never know. They’re all gone now.  Not that any of them would give me a straight answer anyway.

I think that’ s the wonder of old photographs.  They tell a story, but never the entire story. A moment frozen in time that forces us to think about those who have gone on, to see if we can fill in the blanks. It forces us to remember them as they were, beyond the smiles and laughter. It forces us to remember who they really were.

56 Miles in Andes, NY

I’d like to share a story one of my New York running friends wrote. Sadly, it’s all too true, but Ari tells it with strength and grace and a perspective that is shaped by those long, lonely miles on the road.

The photo above is mine from the West Virginia highlands, which is not that different from upstate New York. Click on the link below and you’ll see what I mean.

https://ariruns.wordpress.com/2020/05/05/56-miles-in-andes-ny/

ever been to myanmar?

Neither have I.

But after another visit to Lignum Draco’s travel blog, I feel like I have.

Draco beautifully captures the everyday life of the places he visits. Like NatGeo in the old days when it was a thick magazine delivered to your home.

Let’s go to Myanmar.

you must watch this

mercy.

i can’t begin to describe this video.

if you are a runner, you must watch this.

if you are an introspective person, you must watch this.

if you are awed by the forces of our natural world, you must watch this.

and if you watch this, you must watch until the very end.

fathers

Most are not leaders of nations.
Most are not creators of wealth.
Most are not icons of sports or entertainment.
Their names will not be written in the annals of history.

But without them, we would be nothing.

Their fathers worked with pride as pipe-fitters and welders and electricians.
Their fathers mined coal and dug ditches and toiled with dignity.
They did what was necessary to provide food and shelter and clothes.
They did what was necessary to provide hope for a better tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and it was better,
and the sons and daughters of the fathers went to school
and became teachers and writers and lawyers and engineers.
They became fathers and mothers themselves
and likewise provided for their families.

They did all of this
without the need for attention,
without the need for adulation,
without the need for self-aggrandizement.

Fathers persevere and sacrifice.
They do what needs to be done.
They are good and honorable.

No, not all fathers.
Some abandon.
Some abuse.
Some give up.

It’s not about gender roles.
Sometimes the mother is the father.
Sometimes she is both.

It’s not about being the breadwinner.
It’s about being strong for the family.
It’s about providing direction to those who wander
and encouragement to those who strive.

Now they rest,
their work less strenuous,
their lives less demanding,
and they sit quietly,
content to let others lead.

They have lived simply.
They have lived nobly.
They have given their all.
They are fathers.


copyright 2019, joseph e bird

gone

IN THE LATE 1860s, a tradition of decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers began. In 1868, General John Logan formalized the tradition by declaring May 30 as Decoration Day.  Decoration Day gradually become known as Memorial Day, and after World War I, Memorial Day began to commemorate soldiers who had died in any war. In 1968, the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, and in 1971, Memorial Day was established as the last Monday in May. 

Although the emphasis of Memorial Day is still to honor those who died in service to their country, graves of all loved ones are now traditionally decorated on Memorial Day.

It’s an old man’s game. You seldom see anyone under 50 in the cemetery cleaning the headstones, replacing old, faded flowers with fresh ones. Our loved ones aren’t there anyway. We know that. But we’ll honor them as long as we can, until strangers come along and take photographs and wonder who they were.

Alfred J. Snyder. He was 90.
Lundy Harless Widner. Served in three wars. Died at 54, three years after the war in Vietnam ended.
You can imagine the heartbreak.
To boldly go…
“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
Helen Keller

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