Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A little aside

Okay, it finally stopped snowing here and the iris were so kind and gracious to bloom for my birthday last week. Here's a photo from my little side garden of the birthday irises.
It actually got really warm, but it is chilly again today. We needed the rain yesterday, so I'm trying not to be too crabby about it. In fact, I'm even lighting a candle tonight for the hope I have in God--and the hope that life will indeed turn out alright--with all its good and all its bad. It's about being in it together for the long haul, the slow progress, and the tiny differences we can make as we join up with God's loving purposes and kingdom values.
candlemy candle of hope

Chaotic visit

Hard stuff

Lots of illness and tragedy has touched my mom's circle of friends. Part of it comes with aging, but it seems like so much extra hard stuff right now. My first day in town we helped one woman create 12 table flower arrangements for a church women's meeting. She was about to leave town to be with her daughter who has found out she has a tumor. Another close friend and neighbor is slowly recovering from knee surgery. I just found out our dear friend, Dr. J., has leukemia and is not doing well. And sadly, Mom's longtime friend's grandson (about to graduate from Auburn) went missing after spring break. There was a wide network of people praying he would return home safely. All this was part of our conversation and thoughts. As soon as we finished and cleaned up the mess we made creating beauty, we packed food and clothes for the lake and headed out. We had to make a couple of stops on the way out of town. Thankfully the lakehouse is only a 45 minute drive.

A Good Samaritan

Before dark I wanted to spend time fishing and relaxing by the water. It is one of my favorite places to be. The first step is baiting up several cane poles and getting them into holders around the dock railing. So far, so good, though the wind was steadily picking up. I tried out some lures on the rod and reel. As usual nothing hit them. About 8 p.m. we discovered we had no water! After a leaky pipe was fixed recently (long other story) the water must have been turned off. I had fears of not being able to have my lake time after all. I was so glad the repairman returned our call and offered to come right over to get the water going again. This is the southern courtesy of a local man who also lives at the lake. I did not hear him arrive. I was down on the dock wrestling a catfish. I did not see him restore the water flow. I did not hear or see Mother and him running around trying to capture a tree frog inside the house before I yelled up toward the back porch for help. So our good 'ol boy Samaritan (I cannot call him just a septic tank guy-plumber-handyman) came down to the dock and had no qualms about grabbing an ugly, scary, sharp-finned creature and wiggle-jerking the hook out of it and tossing it back into the lake for me. My friend, Amy, thinks this might be the same catfish that floated up near my neighbor's dock, but I think it swam happily away. Catch and release and such.

A strange wind

The wind was fiercer than ever the next morning and didn't let up all day. Against all ancient and popular wisdom of fish not biting when it's so windy, the catfish would not stay off my line. Never before had I experienced wanting to fish, but not wanting to catch anything! My new system for dealing with this ridiculous situation was to pull the fish up with the net, take its picture and let it go.

Carrying it out was difficult because catfish are determined to swallow the hook. One made eerie crying, whining chatter as I was trying to "release" it. After a few more and a couple of bream, I spent the rest of the day on things that needed to be done in the yard (kind of a full-time job here.) By evening we were so tired we decided to go out to dinner rather than use any more energy to prepare a meal.

Just about then Mother got bad news on her cell phone. Her friend's grandson's body was found. 22 years old, smart, great guy, in a fraternity at college, on football and baseball teams in high school, not seemingly at risk or at all fringey, which made it more surprising that he would take his own life. So troubling. So tragic. It sounded like they really didn't know what he was upset about or what had happened. How sad for this family. I could barely think of how his mom could deal with this. There would be a funeral service on Monday. I felt so bad for them. I have a 22-yr old son, too. The news was haunting.

Meanwhile we had another work day ahead at the lake and then it was home to repack for the weekend in Atlanta.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Green it was

I was just hoping for green, some nice weather, a chance to relax and to leave some stress behind as I flew to GA recently. Well, at least I got the green. I was enveloped in lush surroundings of verdant foliage. Add the serene location of Lake Blackshear and the automatic result should be zero stress. Right?

state park
veterans memorial state park at lake blackshear

I went to be with my mom at Mother's Day and offer her some support. Our previous conversations led me to believe she was kind of overwhelmed with the responsibilities of maintaining 2 houses and 2 yards by herself since my dad died. She has hired a wonderful neighbor to do the mowing chores at home, but there is still tons of weeding, grasshopper abatement, pond and pump upkeep (even though it's a tiny one), and watering--not to mention the daily litter of limbs and pine cones to pick up. The lakehouse and yard around it offer a repeat scenario and then some. I can see why Mother is overwhelmed. She is ultra-responsible, adding more tasks to what she was already handling (including volunteer work at the hospital, helping friends get to doctor's appointments, arranging flowers at church, carrying meals to the sick, etc.) And now it seems like she's committed to keeping the yard up to my dad's standard out of loyalty to him. He, by the way, put almost full time into his landscaping at the main house and the lake. Of course there is no way she can keep this up. I'm having to weigh my responsibilities here and my guilt of not being there to pitch in or get more help for her. At some point big decisions will have to be made about moving, selling, etc., but I've heard that older people do better when they stay in their own home as long as possible. I'm not pushing her to move, but I did push a little about getting more help with the yard.

The whole visit was chaotic. Besides the yard work at both places, we had to go up to Atlanta for a family wedding and a few other things happened. I'll share more.

Monday, May 12, 2008

On to Selma

pettus bridge
We were on our way to Newbern, AL, where we wanted to check out the work of the Rural Studio. From Albany we headed up Hwy 82 to Montgomery, AL. Selma wasn't an intentional choice for a stop on our return trip from GA to CO, but Selma holds a significant place in civil rights history from the '60s. I first started looking for the bridge when we reached Montgomery. The highway is marked as a historic trail for the march from Selma to Montgomery that took place in March of 1965. The bridge is actually on the Selma side, where the march began. As we neared the city limits of Selma, we noticed a sign for a memorial park and stopped to read the brass markers and see what was there.
city entrance

leaders12 stones
The markers honor leaders including Hosea Williams, John Lewis, Amelia Boynton and Marie Foster. Near these formal markers is an impressive pile of rock. These 12 stones reflect the message from Josh. 4:21-22: "When your children shall ask you in time to come saying what mean these 12 stones then you shall tell them how you made it over." The martyrs stone is inscribed to remember the nine (from north and south, both black and white) who lost their lives in the violent time of struggle to obtain equal rights for all citizens. A mural is painted on the side of a dilapidated night club next to the park. The faces are of martyrs for the cause, white and black. It is garish, primitive, and unsettling. After crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge (kind of creepy) we began to look at the downtown buildings of Selma. The town doesn't show much change from how it must have looked 40 years ago. If there is affluence it's not evident. On an old paint-peeling storefront there is a sign for the voting rights museum. We pulled into a parking place across the street from it. Only a few people were inside the dark cramped entrance where a desk took up one side. A small number of framed items on the wall, a stack of Foot Soldier newspapers and narrow hallway were what greeted us, in addition to the young woman sitting at the desk. We decided not to tour the rest of the museum since she told us it would take 30-45 minutes, but we did talk with her a few minutes and I took a newspaper since there were no brochures or other information available. We had arrived 2 days too late. The festival commemorating Bloody Sunday and the march to Montgomery had happened over the weekend. There were some famous names scheduled to speak, but no presidential candidates came this year. I hope to join in the symbolic memorial march when I can.
civil rights mural
voting rights museum

An interesting thing we found out about is a museum connected to the man who was mayor when police beat civil rights demonstrators at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March 1965. Joe Smitherman was a segregationist, but now says he was "on the wrong side of history". Amazingly, he was in office for 36 years! In 2000, James Perkins, Selma's first black mayor was elected. Smitherman was hoping to be re-elected so that whites would be represented in this majority black town. He believed there needed to be diversity. As far as I know the segregationist museum is still in operation even though Mayor Smitherman is not.

There were three marches in Selma, essentially about voting rights. Within five months of the third march, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

My civil rights tour will continue to be interspersed with other blog posts until I feel it is done...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More about the turmoil

This post follows up on a previous post about Albany, GA, the turmoil of race relations in the 60s and the struggle toward civil rights.

In the racially segregated caste system of the south, blacks felt isolated from the mainstream. A separate African American culture complete with its own schools, churches, and fraternal organizations co-existed with white society. Three young civil rights workers who were members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)came to Southwest Georgia to conduct a voter registration drive, raise the consciousness of its black community and encourage them to challenge the established policies of segregation. They met with resistance from not only the white community, but also from conservative blacks. At times division in the black community lessened and organizations worked together under the banner of the "Albany Movement." Some of the mass meetings that were called took place at Mt. Zion Baptist in the room we are touring. As I look around I imagine the faces and voices that were raised in unity in speech and music. In an effort to gain national publicity for the protests, Dr. King was asked to come and speak. There is a large black and white photo of him behind the pulpit, standing with other movement leaders in front of the painted white lattice work on the back wall. It echoes the reality of the events that took place here over 46 years ago. It is moving for me to look at the picture and see that I am standing only a few feet away from that stage and the white lattice still on the wall. The quiet of this day strikingly contrasts with the packed house I see in other photos and the energy and noise that would have been part of those gatherings.

King ended up not just speaking here, but marching and getting arrested. After King had accepted bail, he discovered that the white establishment really hadn't conceded to any of the movement's demands. He returned to Albany and chose a jail sentence of 45 days rather than pay a fine on charges from the previous incident. Against their will, he and Ralph Abernathy were released - fines paid anonymously. King brought in the Southern Christian Leadership Council staff to coordinate efforts in the city. Their opponent, Police Chief Laurie Pritchett had read King's writings and used non-violence against the marchers. He forbade his officers to be brutal as they dealt with and arrested protesters. He filled the jails of all the out-lying areas until King ran out of willing marchers. King again was arrested and again let go.

Though these efforts failed to desegregate the Albany area, King learned valuable lessons which would help in Birmingham. Local workers continued with black voter registration, had success with an African American businessman getting enough votes to be in a run-off election, and within a year the city commission removed segregationist statutes from its books. Change rippled through other counties at different rates, depending on leadership present as well as numbers of middle class blacks involved in boycotts, marches and sit-ins.

Part of our museum experience is to watch the Albany segment in the Eyes on the Prize series (PBS.) It is a little eerie to watch it in this now-quiet room where some of the events actually took place. The large TV screen stands on the front of the stage instead of fiery orators. My heart is too full to chat with this stranger, this young African American woman with braids, who is our tour guide. She notices that something is wrong and asks me about it, but I don't know how to tell her exactly what I am feeling. I reply that I would like to just look around and read the rest of the exhibits.

Before we left we did find out more about her and how she got involved with the museum. She got a brief version of why I came to see it. She seemed to warm to us finally and wished us a good visit and trip back.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It won't stop snowing

chair tree may 1st
Welcome to Denver where it's always winter (see photo left.) Yesterday was beautiful and warm. In the late afternoon T. and I were at Waneka Lake. Families were picnicking. There were walkers and joggers. Kids were playing and watching mother geese with their fuzzy babies. I was untangling my line while watching the fish jumping. Today - totally different. It has been snowing all morning. Took a few shots this morning to compare to my April snow pictures.

Tuesday, May 6th, I head back to GA to be there for Mother's Day the following weekend. Will not break my heart to touch down on green grass not covered with white stuff.

back corner april

back corner may 1st

patio chair april

patio chair may 1st

robin april

robin may 1st