The Last Flowers of Summer


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Summer’s End


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what education?

sitting in an overstuffed chair, pontificating about one’s preferred view of reality, suggesting that we are all philosophers, strikes me as an odd way to claim that you know what you are doing, let alone know who you are. yet, every year, institutions spit out more pontificators, more myopic dreamers, and dump thousands of them on the western world to fester, rot, and decay. those who somehow rise above the intellectual wasteland, or who are the sons and daughters of privilege, succeed entering such an imperfect world. the system that once reigned before the turn of the century was less corrupted, or felt less corrupted, because some of us did make it through the maze, and did actually use our diplomas as a means of gaining access to a system that was closed without the printed paper document.

all that has changed. now, the result of a college education is sometimes like a game of Russian roulette. it does not help that so many older, but less wiser adults, as if pining for their college years, insist that “a college education” is necessary to gain any kind of economic freedom in this life. brainwashed by this lie…that one must be liberally educated, weighed down with a load of debt to achieve it… an increasing number of ill-prepared, lacking any idea of who they are, rush off to a university to work for that $150,000 (or more) document of printed paper.

not everyone can be an X-Ray Technician. or a professor. or a veterinarian. eager lemmings chasing their peers down a slippery slope and off the edge is not a recipe for success. leave it to a senseless and perverse generation to hide the truth about supply and demand  from their students. keep them  dumbed down. God forbid that one would graduate and come back and take one of THEIR jobs. it is unthinkable. let them major in Gender Studies and end up working at Family Dollar for $8.50 an hour. that’s the thinking. i would know, i heard it many times in the past.

but i am no longer a part of their world. my contact comes mainly from those i know who are entering the college world. and i find that world has so drastically evolved into a system that disables the learner, and leaves he or she so tied to debt that it does break some beyond  the point of making it in this life.

and because of this, i will no longer recommend the old school route for the majority. sure, i know there will be some who still succeed, in spite of the cost involved, and the time and effort. but it is  more important for the student, graduating high school, to have gut-level  reality experiences that educate him or her. experiences where they work, where they take the initiative, where they develop compassion and character. real education.

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young people like to commit suicide by jumping off that big bridge.

if you travel to West Virginia, or you plan to travel to West Virginia, and you pick up some brochures…or go to a website…and look….I can almost guarantee, with certainty, that a photo of that bridge will be on a cover, on an ad,  on a brochure, or on a commercial. you can’t miss it.

there’s that bridge.

you can go to a restaurant overlooking it. you can go to the edge of it on a hiking trail…on both sides. you can even jump off the bridge…on a bungee, and swing back up. in theory. but you cannot jump off the bridge without a cord, without a parachute, and expect to have a good chance of surviving the fall…from the country’s highest single span bridge.

young people like to commit suicide by jumping off that big bridge.

today I was far from that structure…but close to it in memory…as I listened to an old woman who grew up not far from the place where the bridge was built. she told me she did not like driving over the bridge. on windy days, if you are in a small vehicle, it is not particularly pleasant if road work has limited it to one lane on each side, which I have seen. it is also not particularly pleasant when you look out the window, and instead of focusing on the  vehicles and the fog that lies below you, you see someone near the edge of the bridge.

young people like to commit suicide by jumping off that big bridge.

but the planners probably never imagined that the towns nearby would become another stop on the opioid express, and the bridge itself, would become a link between the substance and the result of that substance. because when you have given up on life, and you want to end it quickly, what better spot to do it than a super-high bridge with a walkway, where people jump off on a bungee cord for a thrill?

if I ever drive across that bridge again, I will be watching. and, I hope, someone else will be watching. watching daily. watching to rescue the broken. and just like the temptation of that bridge for those who have given up on hope, those of us alive, in every sense of the word, should be watching, ready to take not just a step of compassion, or kindness, but one of rescue. 

wherever we go, wherever we are.   








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Friday, Ugh.

the wheelbarrow keeps going downhill, one day after the next. with a scratch, and a bump. a bruise here or there from the wear. Friday comes and Saturday goes. Sunday separates the weeks before they get out of order. but it is still too quick for my taste.

I had lunch for 30 minutes. then left quickly. it almost always feels like I should be going. I have to get back to work, I tell them. I am over 50 and the time for wasting another day is over. you cannot tell them that. they would not understand anyway. 

I ordered Bratwurst. when it came, it was knockwurst. one an award-winner, the other a glorified hot dog. at this restaurant at least. how can that happen when you have the county’s best chef?

in the old days I would have said something. now I shut my mouth and ate it, thankful for something more glamorous than the ubiquitous Taco Bell (which has become as exciting as discovering yet another Dollar General). in another reality, I would simply fly home and fix Lamb Curry with lemon rice, accompanied by a plate of hot butter-dripping naan.  

at my age I cannot afford to be caught in a simulated reality. especially when you find  yourself on the kind of road I found myself on later this afternoon. not a good time to daydream about anything. especially when the guardrail disappears, and half the road with it.

excuse me, but can we have a bit of fantasy with our cliffside road, please?

turning around on a steep grade takes some skill, but it is best when not accompanied by a ringing cell phone, a fallen limb in the road, or a crazy guy on a tractor trying to mow the side of a ditch along a one-lane road.

I know God does not create stupid, but that tractor operator obviously graduated with a degree in it.

suffice to say, when I failed to soil myself, trying to steer the vehicle back onto a semblance of a roadway south, I decided to celebrate the rest of the workday by ignoring the rest of my schedule, driving into Amish Country, and playing tourist.

because sometimes you just have to step back and realize that although work pays the bills, interacting with people should certainly be more eternally rewarding in the long run.



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simple thanks

two years ago, when I was in the hospital, there was a moment in my life when I actually thanked God for urine. blood came out first, then a painful squirt. 

it is a wonderful thing to have a working kidney… 

over the course of the past five years, I have spoken with people who have gone through incredible hardships. Although I have been through some trials…I have never found myself living in an 8 x 8 shed, or sleeping in a camper down by the river. I have never lost an arm, nor a leg, fighting in a senseless war. And although I have endured heartless women, I have never come home to find my wife in bed with my best friend.

but I have met people who have.

I have been protected from so much that I do not even know about.

I know this because of those close encounters with tragedy that I do know I was saved from…like when the guy who blacked out on the other side of the highway flew across the meridian, side-swiping our front fender….or the time I was attacked by a huge horde of yellowjackets when they invaded the backpack I was wearing, while I was climbing in the Cranberry Wilderness, several miles from the road, yet somehow only one bugger stung me…or the time I was hit in the back of the head with a big chunk of concrete thrown at me by some kid, and my head was completely soaked in blood, but the doctors at the hospital did not even have to give me stitches…

how much more has God protected me. how can I not be thankful?

has God protected you?

how can you not be thankful?





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just go already

i do not know if you have ever been to a school reunion…some thirty….or, forty years later, but if you ever have the opportunity…i implore you to go. there are few things more revealing than showing up in a group that once obsessed with peer pressure, only to find those remaining, dealing with some form of gravitational pull…

…and not only relocated fat globules, but also etched contour lines, and various battles on the follicle front. of course, looking in the mirror, i am astonished to find my own image so much more distinguished. a few years ago, i graduated from colored hair to “interesting hair,” more like Ron Burgundy, but sometimes like Wild Boris-on-a-never-ending-bad hair-day…

call it 50’s chic if you want. 

just not in front of everybody, please….

because we are human beings too. and some of us are sensitive and need a safe space to tie our shoes. while nobody is looking.

O sure it is fine when you are ten and your shoelaces come undone, but it is not so cool when you pass over the hump of time and head downhill with the wheel barrel to…the Middle Ages…when bending down is not so bendy anymore.

…and so being not so bendy anymore, one is more likely to be blatantly open about one’s lactose intolerance, Parasitic leg, or big time life failures. the latter can be quite cathartic, especially if your classmate is suddenly free from an unholy marriage to an idiot, and has not spoken with anybody in two weeks and cannot stop talking. life was not as exciting before coming to the reunion….

unless your reunion is at the worst truck-food restaurant in the county, the kind of place where the canned green beans are the big ticket on the menu. that would indicate there are few survivors remaining from the class of …. and there will be fewer following the dinner.

suffice to say, i have caught myself pondering the past, remembering precious moments after missing my classmates these so many years…usually during random invading daydreams while being tortured driving down some monotonous line of highway…

so, after all these years, to see my old classmates was a particular treat. so many questions were answered. so many tales were told. and so many unpleasant things disappeared with closure and the passing of time.








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never had a box of rocks…

when I was a little boy, I liked to dig in the dirt. looking for buried history. looking for pottery, or bones- some kind of artifact.

I remember one day digging up a thin shiny looking rock that broke apart easily, like a bad hunk of Baklava. but kind of like glass…and kind of like something from one of those Star Trek planets back in the day. not like the spore plants, or the cardboard boulders on the set, but like a real rock with real worth. like something you might find in Danny’s rock box.

Danny had the most precious set of mineral rocks you could buy at the science-type store, or wherever they sold fancy rocks…just about anything that had a fantastic science name, like feldspar, whatever that was, or quartz. or iron pie-right. but he didn’t have a piece of my crumbly rock I found. so we made a deal. I got some shiny money and he got the crumbly rock. Now, you could say he was dumber than a box of rocks, but I was sure that set was full of priceless gems…because my father said he could not afford to purchase one.

so while the other guys were all getting rich digging up fancy rocks, I had to stay inside and practice on my piano. I could whip through “Song of the Volga Boat Men,” but hadn’t a clue what geological adventures I was missing just beyond the wall.

until last week…when I stumbled upon this monstrous beauty that reminded me of the green Kool-Aid Danny’s mother produced from her dark kitchen on rather sunny, warm days in the summertime.


and being a particular sunny day, I lost track of time and wandered off into the woods nearby where I found these lovely looking rocks sitting all by themselves…sunbathing…


but, unlike my childhood friend Danny, I never had a box of rocks to study, so these seem to be a bit of a mystery…although I did see something like quartz…and is that flint?


I don’t know. I may be trilingual, creative, and be able to read upside down and sideways, but I could never get the hang of rocks…

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abandoned, but not forgotten

early in the morning, while dogs barked and children played in the back yard, a deer jumped over the fence and ran off into the nearby worlds, leaving a little fawn alone, to curl up into a fetal position up against the chain link fence.

and looking down at that little fawn, I could not help but want to pick her up  and take care of her, even though she was in a state of shock, unable to move. but not even a slight nudge would awaken the poor creature.

some of you will recognize how I felt looking down on the poor little creature. but some of you will not. some of you may have little feeling left. the world has left you feeling cold inside, and you see nothing out there comforting. you may even be like the mommy deer who abandoned her child when she ran away from what she thought was danger.

deer don’t have the ability to judge morally, or settle on a life philosophy, or act in a calculated and rational manner. many times I have observed the mother guide her children away from the road, or lead them through the forest away from the sound of gunshots. and we may be more likely to forgive their senseless lack of interest in one another when terrified by what they perceive to be dangerous, if they do run away never to return.

what I do not understand is when one of our own does this to her children. inside or outside the house. inside or outside the womb. especially if that one feels sorry for the little fawn, but not for the little child that God has entrusted her with.

watching the poor little fawn, scared and unwilling to move, reminded me of children…and adults…who are abandoned, and suddenly unable to move. terrified. the world around cold. the moment so overwhelming. you must breathe. you must survive. you must stay warm in the storm around you.

for those abandoned, there is hope, because you are not forgotten. for those of you called in this world to follow the footsteps of the Messiah, you understand what I am sharing. you understand that faith and action are necessary. it is paramount, in these days when more lose all sense of their moral and rational thinking, that we move in compassion to lead the abandoned to a place where they are freed from that terror. from that scar. and from that hopelessness.


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still life


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