29 September, 2011

{this memory} 19

You're looking at the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in March of 1881. It was reopened in late August 1997 after almost 30 years of restoration but is not yet reconsecrated or functioning as a full-tme church. I took the photo in late June of 2003 as I stood on the bridge where Nevsky Prospekt crosses over Naberezhnaia Kanala Griboedova, the canal you see in the image.

My older daughter and I were there for a few days as I completed some historical research on Ivan Pavlov. We were received most graciously by Dr. Viktor Klimenko, the director of the Pavlov Department of Physiology, the oldest department at the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine which was founded by Prince Oldenburgsky in 1890. Today it part of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Klimenko gave us a tour of the facility designed by Pavlov, Pavlov's office (untouched since he died), and one lab room of his, also kept unchanged. He also arranged for four of his scientists to explain their research programs to us. He arranged a private tour of Pavlov's apartment in Academicians' House (just as he left it in 1936). On our own we visited his grave in the Literatorskiye Mostki section of Volkovo Cemetery, an area reserved for famous writers, musicians, scientists, and other prominent public figures of Russian culture.

It was along our walk back to Hotel Astoria when I took the photo. Of course, after my work was complete, we had time to play. We enjoyed some good meals, some extended walks in a beautiful city, a Russian ballet, and the wonderful art on display in the Hermitage. Back in our decidedly upscale hotel, my daughter finished the last night of the trip with some caviar and vodka. Perhaps a tad more than she should have, in fact. I should have warned her. Bad dad.

It was a wonderful adventure - although I never fully relaxed there, product of the Cold War that I am. I shall always remember, however, those beautiful days with my daughter and the amazing white nights of late June in Russia.

28 September, 2011

On The Road Again

Seven hours of grading examinations yesterday has sapped my creative energies. Please enjoy a piece from last March.

Today I'm thinking about travel - mostly about places I've been to but a couple I haven't - yet. It'll take a while longer. We are a large country, and that scale is something many international visitors don't quite appreciate at first.

About fifteen years ago, one of my daughters was playing host to a French penpal. We had agreed to the visit with the understanding that our vacation plans would not change. We drove from central New York to my mother's home in Virginia Beach, ten hours or so. The next day we drove to Palm City in Florida to stay with cousins, fourteen hours or so. Within 48 hours of landing in the US, this unfortunate young French girl had ridden nearly 1400 miles over 24 hours. Had she driven 1400 miles from Paris, she could have been in Turkey or Russia or on the southern edge of the Sahara. All she saw here was a lot of I-95 and portions of nine states, a pretty thin slice of America.

But ... I digress. The topic is what should folks see - especially Americans - to understand who we are? I've identified about two dozen locations I think are essential or at least central to that goal. There are, of course, dozens more that could easily be added. I hope, dear reader, you will do so in your comments. Please note I'm focusing on things man created or did rather than Mother Nature.

1. Concord, MA. Sure, you could go into Boston and see Old North Church or Old Ironsides or even Plymouth Rock, but for my dollar, standing on Old North Bridge (newly rebuilt, of course) where we forced the Brits to retreat for the first time creates what I call "the feeling" - sort of an "Oh, wow. This is it." Or maybe it's a tingle. I don't know, but it happened there. Bring on the Revolution.

2. New York City, NY. So much to see here, but I mention it because of the Statue of Liberty. Melting pot. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ..." While you're there, I suppose the Empire State Building or Broadway is worth a visit. Most important after Lady Liberty, however, is to take in a game at Yankee Stadium. Our national pastime, after all. Whether you love them or hate them is irrelevant; they are our most iconic team. Unfortunately, it will have to be in the new stadium - which is beautiful, but it's not the House that Ruth Built.

3. Philadelphia, PA. Our capital from 1790-1800. Independence National Historic Park - the Liberty Bell and Carpenter's Hall, but most importantly Independence Hall where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted.

4. Gettysburg, PA. To drive or walk among the many fields that were part of this epic battle or to reflect on Lincoln's immortal address is profoundly moving. " ... take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

5. Washington, DC. Lincoln Memorial - stand atop those steps and look eastward. Wow. I'm always thankful for what others have given for my freedom when visting the World War Two Memorial - which you're looking at in the distance. John Kennedy's grave never fails to get to me, and climbing onto the huge lap of Einstein on Constitution Avenue always brings a smile. Way too much to see here. Way.

6. Colonial Williamsburg, VA. What a wonderful space and experience. If you're a history glutton, Jamestown and Yorktown are close by.

7. Kitty Hawk, NC. Ah, the Outer Banks and the Wright Brothers. The birthplace of aviation. Head a little farther south also and see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest in the US.

8. Savannah, GA. A wonderful city for walking and pausing in the many squares. Drink in that southern experience; life is like that. Box of chocolates, anyone?

9. St. Augustine, FL. 1565 - oldest city in the continental US. Forget Ponce and the Fountain of Youth, it's the Slave Market you need to see.

10. Orlando, FL. Of course, Walt Disney World. For this list, it's the Magic Kingdom, but it's not my favorite park. Pure America.

11. Atlanta, GA. Speaking of pure America, you're here to visit the World of Coca-Cola. It's a walk through American history - at least our history since 1886.

12. Nashville, TN. Find your spot on a bench and experience the Grand Ole Opry. It's no longer at the Ryman Auditorium, but it's still a good show - whether you like country or not.

13. St. Louis, MO. The Gateway Arch. Awesome even though the ride to the top is like getting into your dryer. Just incredible.

14. New Orleans, LA. Revel in the French Quarter and take a walk down Bourbon Street - but not during Mardi Gras. I suppose a look at Jackson Square or the Saint Louis Cathedral wouldn't hurt a bit. Maybe even ride a streetcar out to Garden District. Sorry though, the streetcar line to Desire Street is now a bus line.

15. St. Francisville, LA. Rosedown Plantation. The Old South. It's beautiful but troubling at the same time. While you're here, think of that Slave Market you saw earlier.

16. San Antonio, TX. The Alamo. 1836. Davy Crockett. Jim Bowie. Lt. Col. William "I shall never surrender or retreat" Travis. Shouldn't need to say any more.

17. Keystone, SD. On your way to Mt. Rushmore from Texas, be sure to notice the prairies your traveling through with their amber waves of grain. Deer and antelope playing. Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Lincoln - all larger than life.

18. Crow Agency, MT. Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer's Last Stand, yet somehow I feel bad for the Indians.

19. Santa Fe, NM. Visit Bandelier National Monument. Evidence of human occupation from about 10,000 years ago. View pueblo homesites, kivas, rock paintings, petroglyphs, and most impressively the cliff dwellings carved into the stone walls of the canyon about 900 years ago. There is powerful spirit in this place.

20. Tucson, AR. Why not? Visit the movie sets at Old Tucson where so many westerns were filmed. OK Pilgrims, you can almost see John Wayne everywhere you look. Get those wagons in a circle.

21. Boulder City, NV. Hoover Dam.

22. Las Vegas, NV. For no other reason than to drive down the strip at night. All glitz, little substance. Fun though.

23. Pasadena, CA. Could you manage to be there for the Rose Bowl Parade? You'll have to time it just right. And stay for the football game - it's the granddaddy of them all.

24. Hollywood, CA. The sign, the stars on the Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chineses Theater with all of those hand- and footprints in cement. Got some time? Drive right on to the Pacific and the Santa Monica Pier.

25. San Francisco, CA. It is such a thrill to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. And back too - unless you want to see those giant redwoods or Napa Valley.

If you've made it this far, then you have seen about every iconic symbol there is for America. Now start over but this time check out all the museums and regional foods. Take your time. Oh, and don't forget "the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth. It's only four hours from here."

Fill 'er up.

27 September, 2011

The Bird Is Singing

We are edging ever closer to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I've been thinking a lot about scars lately - usually my own, which are significant but mostly hidden.

I cannot, however, think about scars without thinking of Deena Metzger who describes herself as "a poet, novelist, essayist, storyteller, teacher, healer and medicine woman who has taught and counseled ... [and] developed therapies (Healing Stories) which creatively address life threatening diseases, spiritual and emotional crises ... ."

She is a truly remarkable woman, and this verse resulted from her tattooed effort to deal with one consequence of her battle with breast cancer.
I am no longer afraid of mirrors where I see the sign of the amazon,
          the one who shoots arrows.
There was a fine red line across my chest where a knife entered,
          but now a branch winds about the scar
          and travels from arm to heart.
Green leaves cover the branch, grapes hang there and a bird appears.
What grows in me now is vital and does not cause me harm.
          I think the bird is singing.
I have relinquished some of the scars.
I have designed my chest with the care
          given to an illuminated manuscript.
I am no longer ashamed to make love. Love is a battle I can win.
I have the body of a warrior who does not kill or wound.
On the book of my body, I have permanently inscribed a tree.

Deena Metzger, 1982     

Photograph by Hella Hammid     

26 September, 2011

{this moment} 19

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple, special moment in time. A moment over which I wish to linger so that I can savor each treasured aspect. If you are moved by my {this moment} too, please leave a comment below. On Thursday in another ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story behind this moment.
{this moment}
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for all to find and see.

25 September, 2011

Balance? What's Balance?

or six days God could not be found. Finally, on the seventh day, Michael, the archangel, found him. "Where have You been?" Michael asked. God amiled deeply and proudly and pointed down through the clouds. "Look," He said. "Look what I've created."

Michael looked down, but was puzzled. "What is it?" he asked.

"It's a planet. And I've put life on it. I'm going to call it Earth, and it's going to be a place to test balance."

"Balance? What's balance? What do you mean?" asked Michael.

Pointing to the different parts of the Earth, God explained. "Over there I've placed a continent of black people, and there I've placed a continent of white people. Europe will have wealth and opportunity while Africa will be poor." God continued pointing to different countries. "This one will be extremely hot while this one will be cold and covered in ice. Everything is in balance."

The Archangel was impressed. He pointed out another land area and said, "What is that?"

"That is Washington State," said God, "the most glorious place on Earth. It has beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers and streams, hills, forests, and plains. The people there will be handsome, intelligent, modest, and humorous. They will be hardworking, high achieving, sociable, and producers of software."

Michael was in awe and filled with admiration. He asked, "But what about balance, God? You said there will be balance." God smiled. "Yes," He said. "There's another Washington. Wait till you see the idiots I put in that place!"

Author Unknown

22 September, 2011

{this memory} 18

So sweet.
My older daughter.
And tomorrow she turns 30.

I'm not completely sure of the year this was taken but probably 1986. She was about five and sitting on the hearth of the fireplace located in our family room. That's all I can tell you about the image, but what I can tell you about the little girl is that she was loved by her father. No child has ever been loved more, and no young woman can claim to have a father who is more proud of her than I of my daughter.

When I see this image, I am reminded of that love and pride but also of how quickly childhood passes. It seems like only yesterday that she was this little girl, and of course, I want to dwell and savor each moment of that memory.

Walk with me.

 She never did want to sleep when we wanted her to sleep.

 I bought her a bear - the largest one I could find.

 I do believe she has turned one year old.

 Do these come in any other size?

 Christmas morning - her third.

 With younger sister (equally loved) - let's dance.

Stepping out - recital #1826. 

She-Ra - Princess of Power.

Today She-Ra has become a physician - a Fellow in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and in a few months she will have her own young child to nurture and watch grow into a fine young person.

What a wonderful world!

19 September, 2011

{this moment} 18

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple, special moment in time. A moment over which I wish to linger so that I can savor each treasured aspect. If you are moved by my {this moment} too, please leave a comment below. On Thursday in another ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story behind this moment.
{this moment}
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for all to find and see.

18 September, 2011

Two Men At The Pearly Gates

wo men waiting at the Pearly Gates struck up a conversation. "How'd you die?" the first man asked the second. "I froze to death," was the response. "That's awful, how does it feel to freeze to death?" shivered the first.

"Well, it's very uncomfortable at first. You get the shakes, and you get pains in all your fingers and toes. Eventually though, it's a very calm way to go. You get numb, and you kind of drift off as if you're sleeping. How did you die?" inquired the second man.

"I had a heart attack," said the first guy. "You see, I knew my wife was cheating on me. So one day I showed up at home unexpectedly. I ran up to the bedroom and found her alone, knitting. I ran down to the basement, but no one was hiding there. I ran up to the second floor, but no one was hiding there either. Finally, I ran as fast as I could to the attic, and just as I got there, I had a massive heart attack and died."

The second man shook his head and said, "That's so ironic." "What do you mean?" asked the first man. "If you had only stopped to look in the freezer, we'd both still be alive."
Author Unknown   

16 September, 2011

Are You A Leg Man?

October is nearing, and October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year is the 25th anniversary of the campaign. You can feel the mood building as ribbons, slogans, bumper stickers, PSAs, and all manner of FaceBook Interest pages, Status Updates, and Comments become increasingly difficult to avoid. I hope all this awareness raising continues to save lives - just as I am certain it has saved many so far.

It also means that it is time for The Question. It’s a simple question usually posed in jest by women, and I hear it in late September or October – sometimes directed to me, more often to others. “Are you a leg man or are you a breast man?” And if it’s October, we’re not talking about chicken.

If you think you must answer, I think it's important to have chosen wisely.

I generally try to evade tactfully by suggesting that I’m not really either - a leg man or a breast man - and that I like both equally well. It is Woman – the whole package – that I like. Yet this year, and for reasons unknown to me, I'm going to offer an answer.

So … leg or breast? If indeed I must choose, there is, of course, an answer, but first I need to emphasize that what I care most about is that someone is alive. I want to be clear that breasts and legs are not what makes a woman a woman, not what makes a woman beautiful, not what creates a woman's allure. At the same time, I don’t want to suggest I’m not capable of savoring the remarkable aspects of either body part. In my mind, both are examples of God’s work at its finest, but the choice for me is a matter of proximity and a matter of language.

The Leg has the advantage of being able to work its magic at quite a distance, but too many times have I heard a leg described as well-turned. Really? Like a table leg or a bedpost just coming out of a lathe?! Or one hears it’s long or muscular or straight or toned – none of which are particularly inspiring adjectives to me. The Breast, however, is an entirely different matter.

The Breast is most inspiring when near, and for me close always trumps distance. And the language! Breasts are soft or warm or nurturing or inviting or any of a host of adjectives that make one want to touch. Finally, since our society seems to prefer it remain hidden, the breast commands the full attention of my imagination. Not so for the lowly leg.

So if inquiring minds want to know and it remains a forced choice, then I’m going to have to say I’m a breast man. I will always, however, take instant notice when a leg of distinction reveals itself to me.

Although it’s fun to play with the question, in answering I have probably offended or disappointed some. The reality is there are other traits much more important to me - foremost among them, eyes and intellect. These are and always will be where the real magic begins.

But first ... we need to be alive.
And it's almost October.


15 September, 2011

{this memory} 17

Every photo has a story behind it, and this one, of course, is no exception. The photo was taken in Roanoke, Virginia in the spring of 1971, and I have no idea why I was sticking out my tongue at the photographer.

The building behind the car is the science building at Hollins College, and I was just completing a master's degree in general experimental psychology. It was an interesting year. Hollins is a small independent women's college that happened to have two co-ed master's programs, and we young bucks were warned very early on not to prey on the undergraduates. What I remember most, however - southern gentleman that I am - is that it was a mistake to hold the door for these young women, especially if the auditorium was just letting out. You could stand there a long time.

Note that I have on desert boots, bell bottom corduroy jeans, a nifty belt woven in an Indian design, and sideburns. Of course. We weren't far out of the 60s, after all. Those were some good times, and except for that war thing, we members of the flower generation were a happy lot.

What I treasure most in this photo, however, is the car I'm in front of. A 1970 Mustang Mach I - dark metallic green with white racing stripes and a tan interior. 8 cylinders, 4 barrel carburetor, 351 cid (5.8 liters), ram air scoop, 300 bhp @ 5400 rpm. Unfortunately it drank premium gasoline at about 11 mpg, but ... 0-60 in 8.3 seconds with a top speed estimated at 125 mph (I never tried). And, it made all the right noises. Oh, it had an 8-track tape stereo system. Remember those?

I purchased it with my father's help (to be repaid) in the fall of 1969, my last year of college. I was due to be commissioned in the navy in June, and this was a hot car for the soon-to-be bachelor officer. It didn't happen that way, of course. My Hodgkin's Lymphoma diagnosis in January made me physically ineligible for service.

Nevertheless, I loved this car.
I wish only that I had more photos of it.

14 September, 2011


Yesterday was an anniversary of sorts for me although I'm writing this on the actual anniversary date. On September 13, 1992 I had a heart attack, a very large heart attack. What should I do? Is this an anniversary to celebrate, simply because I'm alive and can? Or is it an anniversary to be repressed because it might remind my family of a difficult time?

I'm not sure, but I'm pretty much the only one who notes its occurrence anyway. It would be my preference to celebrate the additional years of life I have been given, but I know how much worry and stress the event caused those I love. I don't want to remind them of that.

I had not felt 100% when I went to bed on the 12th, perhaps some very mild chest discomfort. It can't have been very much pain though because I easily fell asleep. Upon waking, however, things had changed dramatically, and it may have been the pain that awakened me. It was intense, and there was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I was having a heart attack.

I woke my wife and told her I had to get to hospital - no time to wait for EMTs when she can immediately drive me the two miles to the Emergency Room. While she called relatives to come over to sit with our daughters, I had to go to the bathroom. Talk about adding insult to injury. Here I am having a heart attack, and I have to sit on the toilet. I had no choice though. Arrgghh!!

Finally I was lying in the backseat of the car. I have no idea how fast my wife drove. She pulled up and ran in the ER, and just like that they were wheeling me in.

As it turns out, I had not yet had the heart attack. There was obviously a blockage though, and my heart wasn't happy. They reviewed my record as they prepared to give me a "clot buster" which would open the artery again. Oops. "He had surgery in June?" "Yes." "Oh no, medication guidelines say not to administer within six months of surgery." While they were calling my surgeon (who said give him the damn medicine now!), I had my attack as the artery closed completely. If untreated for five minutes, my kind of blockage is known as the Widow Maker.

All I really recall of that moment was actually a bit later. I got the clot buster, and blood rushed back into that part of my heart. What I recall is my internist hitting me hard in the chest with his fist. My heart had stopped, and he was starting it back up. It worked, thank goodness.

Too late though - the damage was done. The blockage, high in the coronary artery known as LAD (for those of you who know the lingo), had killed a lot of muscle and ultimately left a lot of scar tissue. In the diagram above, the blockage would be above the red spot. Although I feel pretty good today, my heart pumps only about a third of what a healthy heart pumps, and I take a few medications to rein my heart in from trying to compensate for its inefficiency.

I'm lucky. Only 36 hours earlier, I had returned from a two-day board meeting in New York City where I was staying in Syracuse University's townhouse on E 81st Street, just off Fifth Avenue. If the heart attack had occurred in my room there, I would not have survived it.

The real weirdness is that I was warned. I had dinner at the Union League Club my first night in town, and when we got to dessert, I asked for and ate something really decadent but sooooo delicious. As we finished dinner, my host joked that everyone says that dessert will probably give someone a heart attack someday!

Am I celebrating? Yeah - but I'm kind of keeping it to myself, except to share it with you.

12 September, 2011

{this moment} 17

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple, special moment in time. A moment over which I wish to linger so that I can savor each treasured aspect. If you are moved by my {this moment} too, please leave a comment below. On Thursday in another ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story behind this moment.
{this moment}

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for all to find and see.

11 September, 2011

Say Yes To Life

"Is any force greater than human cruelty? For our survival, we must believe that the answer is yes.

We gather here today in terrible sorrow, but also in abiding hope. We mourn on this day the unbearably many dear lives – Americans, Bangladeshis, citizens of this nation and of other nations around the globe lost on the morning of September 11 – not while engaged in hostile activity, but instead while engaged in the first hours of what began as a normal working day.

We may mourn America's innocence in the face of terrorism and perhaps our lost or damaged sense of security within our own boundaries and our newfound awareness of invulnerability lost in those attacks. We feel common agony in this week when evil might seem to overwhelm goodness.

But under this sadness, which is the sadness of death, lies a determined "yes" within all of our hearts and minds, whatever our personal loss, whatever our home town or native land — an affirmation that is an expression of faith in human goodness — a vote for life.

This has been the message ... when we have together felt the agony of those whose lives are now extinguished and their surviving families and colleagues and friends and neighbors. What more resounding vote for life might there be than today's gatherings ... across the land and in nations around the globe where these agonies are shared as a common human agony?

We gather to affirm that love is greater than hate; that friendship is stronger than enmity; good is stronger than evil; that tolerance for difference is the way to peace; and that working together to build rather than to destroy is our maker's purpose for our lives.

We see on television the ash that now buries the streets of lower Manhattan, and we know that we see a graveyard. Yet the sky above is blue, life uptown goes on, and people continue to work, to build, to love – babies are born, healing (physical and spiritual) continues, assertions of compassion and human kindness and the continuity of life itself draw us back together.

And we understand that we were made in the image of a creator, not a destroyer. Today we affirm that together we will rebuild what hate has destroyed, and that what we build anew, we will build better. Today we raise our voices to say yes to life.

One person alone is weak. Together, let us be strong. Today is our national day of prayer and remembrance. I ask you to stand now and either pray with me or remember in your own way those who have died so horribly, those who survive and merit our compassion and human kindness, and all those who share our conviction that human virtue, civilization, goodness, and the values that accompany these signs of our common value endure, and to attest the triumph of good over evil."

John T. Casteen III, Ph.D.
President Emeritus
University of Virginia
September 14, 2001

09 September, 2011

I'm Versatile, Part I


I have won the "Versatile Blogger Award" thanks to Hajra at Hajra Kvetches! According to the rules, I have to regift this award to seven others, and I need to say seven things about myself.

This is my second Versatile Blogger Award. The first was bestowed last March, and for Part I of this acceptance post, I'm repeating some what I revealed then.

About self:
1. I have two amazing daughters. One is a fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology. The other is just finishing a doctorate in clinical psychology and is currently working as a psychometrician.
2. I can't swim in spite of years of lessons, private and group. Well, that's not quite right. I can swim but only as far as I can hold my breath - which isn't very helpful. I could never get the rhythm of the breathing/stroking thing, but it never stopped me from boating or surfing though.
3. If I could live on cheese, olives, bread, and wine only, I would. I mean, c'mon, who wouldn't?!
4. I did well in my university ROTC courses in Naval Science - especially celestial navigation. In fact, I still have the text - Dutton's Navigation and Piloting. I'm pretty sure that's why I have never been lost at sea at night.
5. I cannot live without books, and I want to live long enough to see whirled peas. (I guess that's two things - bonus!)
6. Although I have been a professor of psychology for almost 37 years, I probably should have been an architect or an Egyptologist. Growing up, I always wanted to be an architect, but somehow I'd forgotten that by the time I was old enough to decide on a university and a major.
7. I never allow a day to pass without laughing and being thankful for life, especially the female portion of it.

Now I have to award this to seven other people. I'm not ready to do that now; that will be Part II. For those I do recognize, however, there are rules for the award. Just two. One, say seven things about yourself. Two, share the award with seven other people.

In the meantime, if you're looking for some really versatile bloggers who daily share wonderful musings, just stop by PBAU for a linked list of general interest sites.

08 September, 2011

And The Award Goes To ...

Somebody loves me. Well, that may be hyperbole, but Muriel, my French Londoner bogging friend at 40blogSpot gave me an award - the Liebster, to be precise.

Who doesn't loved an award or the recognition it connotes. Large or small - it doesn't matter. Awards immediately remind you of camera-popping walks down the red carpet, unbridled fame, and all the little people who made it possible.

Whoa - got a little carried away there. It is nice though, and I thank Muriel for passing it on to me with a kind comment. She did note, however, that I can't have it unless I follow The Rules, and The Rules are:

The Liebster Blog Award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers, all in the spirit of fostering new connections.

        1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award
            by linking back to them.
        2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a
            comment on their blog.
        3. Post the award on your blog.
        4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on
            the Internet—other writers.
        5. And best of all – have fun and spread the karma.

Whom have I chosen to receive this most special recognition, you ask. Well, here we go but in no particular order.

1. DAY TO DAY WITH PARKINSON'S DISEASE Claire writes with beauty and power as she describes her journey caring for her husband who was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's Disease in 1994. All who stop here are moved.

2. BLissed-Out Grandma Nancy paints wonderful vignettes of everyday life - life’s little moments, moments she says her grandchildren taught her to savor.

3. A Novel Review: My Writings and Military Life and Diet Daze and other unimportant musings Christina describes herself as a writer, proud war bride, and military "dependent." She says learning the ropes is tough but she has help. She writes about all manner of things, mostly non-military.

4. Altered Sensorium Amy is an amazing writer with fabulous experiences to share, but she needs encouragement to write. Maybe this will do it. Check back every so often to see if she has begun.

5. Strained Consciousness Megan is an architect who has gone back to school. Her observations of everyday life always bring a smile.

So there you have it. Five blogs - each of which deserves wider readership. As Lalia says, "Enjoy, read, comment and write."

{this memory} 16

Every photo has a story behind it, and this one is no exception. The catch is I don't know the story, only the characters. Even then, there is no one here I ever met because the image was taken on Independence Day in 1909 - almost four decades before I was born.

My goodness, this was even a few months before my father was born, but what a line-up!

Seated is my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Gamron Brown (1834-1909). She died just two months after this photo was taken. Standing behind her left to right, we have her five sons: Arthur M. Brown (1879-1954); George Henry Brown (1872-1938); Jasper Brown (1868-1957); Jeremiah Brown (1864-1930); and Archibald Brown (1859-1937).

Her sons, of course, are my great-great-uncles with the exception of Jeremiah who is my great-grandfather.

So what do I think about when I look at this? I think of family, of course, but more directly I think of family traditions - all of those holidays when the family reconvenes from distances near and far to celebrate their connectedness.

That is surely what we have here - a family gathering on Independence Day, a gathering just like the ones we have all experienced so many times. The only difference is that this one happened over century ago.

It's those memories of family togetherness that I cherish, and this image reminds me to rejoice in my own family's traditions.

07 September, 2011

The Man Who Would Be Patient

A spiritual master - one of many gifted Teachers in my life - has suggested that patience asks us to live each moment to the fullest, to be completely present, to taste the here and now, and to be where we are.

This is harmony. This is beautiful music. It is a simple wisdom - an essential truth that is easily ignored and far too successfully by most of my fellow travelers on the River.

My hope is that I have accepted this euphonism from my Teachers and that by listening to them practice its melody, I have embraced it. What remains to be seen, however, is how well I have learned the notes and whether the nagging noises of a tumultuous world can muddle what has so effectively and effortlessly been composed for me.

06 September, 2011

Would You Like To Ride?

August 12 was a great day. I was in the midst of my birthday week, and my girls (wife, two daughters) took me on a balloon flight over the horse, hunt, and wine country of Albemarle County in Virginia, something I had always wanted to do.

Enter Mandy Rossano, owner and chief pilot of Monticello Country Ballooning. She made this dream come true for me. So join me on this photo odyssey, not your typical Thom Brown post.

Dave's the energizer bunny of balloonists.
He's a pilot himself but today was Mandy's assistant -
helping get the basket out of the trailer,
mounting the suspension hardware and burners,
and ultimately driving the chase car.

My older daughter helps Dave prepare the balloon for inflation.

Mandy and Dave attaching the balloon and getting the fan ready.

Fill 'er up, and my wife begins to lend a hand.

In this case, we want swelling, and swell she does.
Why do I keep thinking of Woody Allen and
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex
But Were Afraid To Ask?

There were two other flights going up that day.
We're the middle balloon.
A couple was married in the right one shortly after lift-off.

Time to heat 'er up. Light the fires, big daddy.

All that hot air makes her stand up straight but still tethered to the ground.

We are the first to slip the surly bonds of Earth.
That's me looking back down at Dave who took the photo.

We're in the lead, but the newlyweds are close behind.

Up into a beautiful sky just at sunrise.

Chris Greene Lake. Charlottesville, VA.
If we leaned out, we could see our own reflection.

We drifted over farms of all sorts.

We were headed westerly toward the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Just beautiful.

We could see our own shadow as we blocked the early morning sun.

We crossed the South Fork of the Rivanna River
quite a bit higher than balloon three.
Note its reflection in the water.

Ever looked down into an abandoned silo?

We're coming in.

Mandy wants to land on that road, Ingleside Drive.

Taken from the road we're aiming for.

She's good - very, very good.
Over the water, over the trees and fence, down on the road.

We're down and out of the basket.
Now to deflate.

And stuff it all back in its bag.

Traditional post-flight champagne toast - in this case, Mimosa.

So check off one experience from my bucket list - if I had a bucket list, that is. If I did though, this would have surely been on it. Of course, that had me thinking about what might be on such a list. I have always wanted to go into space. That would have been on it.

That is not currently a possibility because of the high g-forces and my heart condition. Then a couple of weeks ago I read about a company planning to offer commercial balloon flights to the edge of space - certainly high enough to see the curvature of earth. That's what it's all about anyway, and I can easily tolerate those g-forces. Time to start a list.

Ahh. Hope springs eternal.