Beyond The Pavement, Feelin’ Right At Home

The Place Where We Belong

Central New York’s Leatherstocking Country is one of the most beautiful places to live in the world; a statement I have consistently heard from hundreds of people I know who have traveled to almost every country there is.

Within the boundaries of the five counties that make up this sublime chunk of American soil, lies a world filled with exceptional people, places, and things of great significance and deep historical value; and it’s only a stone’s throw away. (Writers aren’t supposed to use clichés, but I didn’t have the time to make up a better one).

Time has moved on, but the villages are still colored with a golden glow, shaded with elms, framed with woods, lakes, ponds, and streams, and they haven’t changed a bit. There are backcountry roads and covered bridges, which will lead you across plowed fields, battlefields, down hidden scenic paths, and hiking trails that will coax you along to places yet to be discovered. The call of Mother Nature still rings out to each and every one of us loud and clear; her voice echoes the beauty, peace, and tranquility she offers throughout all of her four marvelously distinct seasons. 

This place we call home steeped in Iroquois history, succinct fictional stories, celebrated fables, and back roadhouses with one or more gables, is where together as neighbors we can do the most good.

Get out as often as you can and make new friends, new memories, and seek out places and things you never knew existed within the boundaries you set for yourself.  Take your dog along to scare away any varmints, pocket pets, along with a menagerie of other delightful critters you find along the way. Your children will take in a pocketful of miracles and their heads will be chock full of delightful memories that they will unlock someday to share with their children when the time comes. So, rise up with the beautiful sunrise, and don’t come home until the sun sets on the horizon.

Isn’t that what home is really all about anyway? You know, that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you know you belong to someone or something? Especially when your dog and kids have a few smudges of chocolate around their mouths when you pull into the driveway when you get home.  With all of its unmatched beauty, this place is for you and your children to stay put and to call your home. Besides, there’s not one blade of grass in the whole wide world greener than the grass in our own backyard.

Love where you live. It’s the best place there is to call home.

Peace and Harmony On A Country Road

An uncommon Encounter 

After my daily walk through Eastwood last Sunday, I did some writing, then headed out with a sense of impetus to look for a roadside stand that sold a stone statue of the Blessed Mother. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so the decision was made to go the extra few miles and visit some friends in Canastota. Since no one was around, I decided it was time to head back home. My choice at that point was to stay on the main highway or to take the road less traveled. It was an easy choice for me. I turned off the highway onto a secondary road, and a little way up the road I spotted a small cemetery.

As soon as I entered, the feeling of “intent” got stronger. I drove my car to the top of the hill, then walked throughout the cemetery taking pictures of old gravestones, not paying any attention to the ground underneath me. I tripped over a gravestone, lost my balance, and fell to the ground. I got up, brushed myself off, and thought; maybe there was a reason I tripped over that particular stone. I remained a bit curious. It was a very old flat stone embedded in the dirt with a corner exposed just enough to catch someone’s foot. I was going to take a picture of it, but I don’t remember why I didn’t. Everything on it was completely faded and unreadable except for the name Issac.

It was time to leave.      

After a few miles, I came to a fork in the road. I drove onto a secondary dirt road and about a mile down, I pulled my car to the side of the road with a beautiful view of open fields leading up to what appeared to be a good-sized farm. Coming down the road was a horse-drawn carriage with an Amish couple. As they passed by the husband looked straight ahead, while his wife held an infant cradled securely in her lap, glanced at me with an expression of deep determination. I headed down the road into the quietness of the late afternoon countryside, while the serenity of the moment opened up around me with a welcoming voice. 

Now with a clear view of the farm on my left, my eyes caught sight of a small group of people heading down a tree-lined dirt road on the opposite side of the farm. It wasn’t long before I caught their attention. A few more steps ahead and I noticed two people heading back up the road. The others stayed where they were. When we caught sight of each other we shared a cordial “Hello”. They appeared to be a husband and wife and they stood in silence waiting for me to speak. I introduced myself and explained what I had just witnessed in regard to the couple in the buggy. I said that when I realized that they were Amish, it piqued my curiosity.

The husband was cordial, but a bit suspicious. We continued talking, and by then the rest of his family had come and gathered just behind them. Two teenage girls, two girls in their twenties, a boy and girl both around the age of 5. 

They were all in plain dress, very well behaved, and respectful. The father did all the talking. He and I discussed our biblical faith, living a simple life, while both of us holding onto peace as a core value; our belief in a Godly way of life. He asked a few more questions, and from the tone of his voice and facial expressions from the answers I gave, I felt that we had already established a sincere and trusting friendship. 

The more we spoke the more curious I became, and I felt comfortable enough to ask if I could share fellowship with them at another time. He agreed. I felt his gesture of friendship was sincere and genuine; from the heart. I stood wanting more of them and I would like to think they felt the same. I plan on going back next Sunday. Even if our fellowship ended on that day, I would remember the moments spent with these scriptural people and the pastoral land that God made.  

On the surface it appeared their lifestyle to be staid and inflexible, however, it reflects a genuine way of life with an abundance of modesty, obedience, equality, and simplicity. They want to be remembered by the lives they lived and the examples they leave behind, not by physical appearance. My exact thoughts. Thou shall not make unto thyself a graven image. Dressed as not to draw attention to oneself, it is unlikely not to notice.

One more thing.

When I mentioned my little “mishap” in the cemetery, the man said that his great grandfather is buried there. I asked for his name. He replied, “Issac”. I never did get the man’s name.

I guess I’ll just have to go back Sunday and find out. 

A Wave Of Unhappiness

Fretting Children 

What is wrong with today’s children? Why does one in four have experienced a probable mental illness”; which means that one in five has had anxiety, depression, or both? Many kids with horrendous anxiety and self-harm are becoming paralyzed. 

The figures are certainly shocking, but what is driving this global “wave of unhappiness” amongst children?

There is obviously something missing, but how do we address it? How can we make things better? 

We can say they’ve got everything; cell phones, this, that, and the other.. but that’s clearly not enough. The answer for parents is simple; Do something. Talk about it, learn about it, and take a close look at what your child does.

Setting boundaries with this age group is just as important as it is with toddlers. As adults we should know that they need boundaries or they’ll behave in even more dangerous ways until they discover them for themselves; then it may be too late. Look for the signs; kids who harm themselves as a result of social media exposure are saying; help me, it’s out of my control. If your kid is pale, tired, and miserable most of the time, they are asking for your help.

Young people today lack meaning; a sense of connection and belonging. The “rituals of togetherness and family life are slowly melting away. If you’ve got kids, spend “positive” time together. Stop just talking about it. Healthy brains are a result of positive and loving memories. Memories are made of “moments”. Make everyone count. 

Americas Flag, Revisited.

There seems to be an unwillingness to understand why it’s necessary to commit one’s loyalty to a flag.

To understand the importance of this homage, we must first understand its symbolism

Originally the symbol and banner of the thirteen colonies, its form, and colors, were not chosen on the basis of rational thought. Its form and colors were chosen of an intuition infused by truth and guidance, which led to the correlation between the people, and the flag that America came to call her own.

It was on the intention that the founders of this great nation, that its citizens, be ordained the watchful and guiding eye over its destiny. At the time of her birth, America’s flag was simply bands of red and white, and a circle of stars against a background of blue. Yet, in its simplicity, lay a depth of meaning and purpose. The red is emblematic of the blood, that was shed in the war that led to the establishment of our independent republic. The white stripes that accompany the red, signifies the higher realms of purpose that connect mankind. Finally, the blue background against which the stars are placed is a symbol of the eternal being of God.

It represents the Infinite, out of which both America’s identity and the earth itself have been constructed. The blue that represents America’s relationship to God, remains as the assurance that this connection will never change no matter what ideology becomes popular.

It’s why “In God, We Trust” is written on all of her currency, and why in so many other instances, the connection with the eternal has been enunciated as part of America’s most transcendent document. The stars on the blue background identify the composite image showing the many changes from thirteen original colonies, to now representing the much vaster size of fifty states. The number of stars in the original pattern was shaped in the form of a circle, a symbol of unity.

This flag of America is the hallmark of her sacred heart. Her soul is a nation whose spiritual name is love.  

The debate over who made the first American flag may go on forever, but in any case, the Stars and Stripes were finally flown for the first time in September 1777 during the Revolutionary War.

The cost of a flag today is minimal; the value of its true spiritual worth will forever remain incalculable.

I am America

I am America.
I am a man of a certain age who still believes in God, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
I am a nation whom the rest of the world must look upon to find answers,
I am picnic baskets waiting to be filled with simple foods prepared by loving hands. I sit quietly and peacefully down by the lake in anticipation of the warm and beautiful sunny days of summer. I am a glorious early spring morning awaiting those who choose to feel and smell me.
I am America.
I am a mother surrounded by many angels to ease my pain and suffering,
I am Jason, a brave heart,
I am a voice who speaks the truth and needs people to lend me their ears,
I am ears waiting to hear the truth,
I am on a distant path waiting for someone to discover me and let me lead them to a beautiful singing pond with the morning dew lighting the way,
I am a land that used to be called “promised”, and I still do promise if you will just hold my hand and together make a stand,
I am a father who understands that the love of God and family alone is worth the fight,
I sometimes long for yesterday, but look towards the end of a perfect day,
I am country music, hamburgers, corn on the cobb, and iced tea,
I am down home and I still love my hometown,
I am Mother Earth’s heartbeat, companion, and friend,
I am the land of the plenty, but also the land of the sad and suffering,
I am America.
I am a river of love seeking an ocean,
I am old, torn, and tattered car tires laying in a field in the shape of a heart with daisies growing around them,
I am children laughing and singing silly songs that are dancing in their heads,
I am a day like none other filled with hope, opportunity, and boundless love,
I am still a melting pot for all of God’s children, and the child in all of us,
I have discovered after searching for so far, that I cannot turn back,
I am a land with arms wide open waiting to embrace you,
I know we can only achieve real peace when we live inside each others’ wounds,
I have discovered that after all my searching, I have found a place of my own in the heart of a stranger passing me by,
I will not walk with my dirty feet in other peoples’ heads,
I will give inner peace a chance,
America I am.
I am a ship of leaders in the night, not a ship of fools,
I am a nation that must begin to replant the seeds of peace, and one by one we shall reap the harvest, singing and shouting the voice of victory,
I am Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, and Tom Sawyer,
I am all the countless wonderful cities, towns, and villages spread across this great land waiting to be re-discovered,
I am Autism, the door that can unlock the love in your heart,
I am Dante, the keeper of the key,
I am the land of freedom, hope, and charity,
I once was blind but now I see,
I am America.
I am home.
It’s time to wake up and be awesome.

Seabiscuit – American Horse Of The Year 1938

There is a distinct similarity between the lack of hope that existed in 1938 during the Great Depression, and the lack of hope that exists in the United States today. Back then, a horserace changed everything.

It was a match race between the undersized Thoroughbred Seabiscuit against the mighty thoroughbred War Admiral who was considered a shoo-in to win Triple Crown. by 4 gaping lengths. A great example that life sometimes seems like a horse race, where we always seem to be racing to our own finish line.

Seabiscuit didn’t look like much-small in stature, inauspicious, and the butt of stable jokes. He did however possess the heart of a champion that held the hope of the sea of humanity that watched the race that day at Pimlico from both sides of the track. Forty thousand hopeful Americans and millions all over the globe were glued to the radio.

This one event was the most electrifying and popular event in sports history in 1938, making it the most popular news story of that day ahead of FDR, Hitler, and Mussolini.

What happened at that racetrack that day was not supposed to happen. War Admiral, one of the quickest break-away horses of his day, was supposed to take the early lead and finish the race with Seabiscuit only getting a glimpse of Admiral’s hindquarters. Instead, it was Seabiscuit who took the early lead and when they were neck and neck in the home stretch, the famed jockey George Woolf took the lead knowing Seabiscuit would not yield his destiny.

He turned and looked back at the heavily War Admiral and coined the iconic phrase “so long Charlie”. Seabiscuit would not yield his destiny. It was his heart that took him across the finish line by four gaping lengths.

Seabiscuit secured the hope for all Americans that even a small person can overcome the odds and skepticism of the few, and find the heart and endurance to win the big race. Maybe today we will need another great horse race to bring us the hope we need because it seems a Presidential race will not foster the leadership that will lead us to the finish line as the immortal Seabiscuit did.

Today it seems more like a neck-and-neck “rat race”. 

Our own destiny will show if we are winners.

Light The World With Kindness – Accepting Autism

Spectrum – A condition that is not limited to a specific set of values, but one that can vary without steps across a continuum. Put another way, it’s something that keeps going, slowly changing over time, like us.. humans, and the four seasons. This month is Autism Acceptance Month.

If you have ever met one person with Autism, you’ve met Autism. Autistic people are wonderfully unique, and the challenges they face with their families are diverse.. these issues being particularly relevant during the current COVID-19 crisis. A pandemic that exposed and heightened glaring inequality around the world, at a time when our daily routine (that most of us find important) is upturned.

The world can be a scary place for everyone, but more so for those with autism. Knowing that they are accepted, they will lead fuller and more meaningful lives, as an integral part of society. We all have certain demands that need to be addressed on the other side of the spectrum. It’s time to celebrate, encourage, accept, and understand those who we assume to be “different”.

It will simply detonate any illusions, assumptions, and conclusions we’ve made about this extraordinary human condition. Let’s face it, we’re equal, we’re different, and we need one another. No one needs to be excluded. Spending time with someone with Autism will be a rare look inside the Autistic mind, and an entry into an entirely unknown world. By listening to their voice, we can understand its echoes and stretch our vision of what it means to be human.

It will astound you, ground you, and they will feel less alone.