Archive for category Say Something Nice

Bucket List Travels with Suzanne and Michael – Part Three

After a very good brunch at Elmer’s Restaurant in Eugene we headed toward Crater Lake National Park. We stopped to explore another covered bridge and resumed our journey. We found to our astonishment an authentic A & W Root Beer Restaurant at Willamette. We had to indulge. It brought back so many memories.  This is the 100th. Anniversary of its founding. Suzanne spotted the snow on the mountains long before I did. Once we entered the park there was snow everywhere. The lake surrounded by the mountains is spectacular. You must add Crater Lake to your travel list. After our stop at the visitor’s center, we had a decision to make. Would we head back to Bend, Oregon and across to Idaho or would we head straight across the southern route? Yours truly made the decision to go the southern route.

We headed across what we learned later was the Oregon Desert. We saw horses, cows, sheep, fields of grass, and irrigation systems. We rarely saw people or other cars. The landscape is beautiful. Fierce battles were once waged here between sheep herders and cattlemen. As daylight was fading, we lost cell phone service and Suzanne said the gas was getting low. I wasn’t worried. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t see the gas gage. Finally we came upon a sign for Silver Lake. We found a service station somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Inside we found a very nice lady who told me I had chosen right to skip Bend. We pressed on to Burns where we dined at McDonald’s. We spent the night at a very well used Day’s Inn. After breakfast we headed toward Ontario, ‘where Oregon begins.”  Burns is named for Robert Burns, the Scottish poet. We visited a very interesting Native American Museum and Shop. We ate lunch at an Asian restaurant in Ontario, took pictured and were on our way to Twin Falls.

When we crossed into Idaho, I was elated. We found our hotel in Burley.  Shoshone Falls have not been commercialized and thus are not spoiled. They are actually 35ft. higher than Niagara Falls. What a sight! We headed back to the Twin Falls Visitor’s Center and were off to Boise. We visited Boise State University. Suzanne got a picture of the blue turf and we browsed the book store. We had a very good dinner at Morey’s Steak House. This was bittersweet because this was the end of our wonderful journey.

Saturday morning we relinquished our trusty steed and flew together to Denver where we parted company. Suzanne flew to Nashville and I flew to Charleston. My heart overflows with joy for these two journeys to the Baltic with Michael and to round out my 50 state Bucket List with Suzanne. I am blessed with two wonderful children.

Tags: , , ,

Bucket List Travels with Suzanne and Michael – Part Two

On September 27, I flew to Nashville on Southwest to meet Suzanne, my daughter. We had dinner in the airport. Our 9:45p.m. flight to Chicago on Southwest was cancelled due to a thunderstorm over Midway. Southwest could not get us to Chicago in time to make our Amtrak connections to the Empire Builder the next day. The first Southwest associate was less than helpful but assured us that our bags would be taken off and would be waiting for us in baggage claim. Not true. The second associate was much more helpful. She said that against policy our bags had been put on an earlier flight that did make it to Chicago. Not true. She did schedule us on a flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul where we could meet the train Saturday night. Suzanne and I made it to a Residence Inn for the night. At 1:o’clock a.m. Southwest called Suzanne’s cell phone to say they had located our bags. Not true. When we arrived at the airport our bags were not there; however we did make our flight to Minneapolis. The Southwest attendant assured us that our bags would arrive with us. Not true. We did learn that Suzanne’s bag did make it to Chicago and mine was still in Nashville. The next flight from Chicago would be at 4:30. The next flight from Nashville would be at 6:30 p.m. All we could do was wait. When we returned to baggage claim at about 5:30, Suzanne’s bag was there. Mine came in on the 6:30 flight. We were without our luggage for about 22 hours.

We boarded the Empire Builder in St. Paul and the remainder of the trip was smooth traveling. We met wonderful companions at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a horrible mistake for Amtrak to discontinue the dining cars from the trains. Meeting new people is part of the attraction. We had booked a roomette. Suzanne climbed into the upper bunk and I was below. The scenery from the train is beautiful. The landscape keeps changing before your eyes. We went through 40 inches of snow in Montana. I’m glad we were inside. After about 36 hours, we arrived in Portland, Oregon. We had already arranged for a rental car. I hated to say goodbye to the train. It was a wonderful trip although I hardly got any sleep which didn’t matter. This train trip has been a goal forever.

We drove around Portland. On our way to Eugene, we had lunch at Buster’s Texas Style Barbecue. Although it was not what we expected in Oregon, it was excellent. Our next stop was off the beaten track to the Brigittine Monastery that advertised chocolates and fruit cakes made by the monks. The chocolate is excellent. The fruitcake is waiting. I am one of the few who admit to liking fruitcake. The monastery is surrounded by hazelnut trees. We finally made it to our hotel in Eugene with rooms overlooking the river and a park. We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, Sweetwater. We enjoyed a wonderful brunch the following morning at the Pump Restaurant. Not only was the service efficient and friendly, but I enjoyed the best home fries I have ever eaten. The restaurant is decorated with license plates from several states. It needs one from South Carolina. Our afternoon was taken up by either driving through or walking through seven restored covered bridges and of course a visit with the University of Oregon Duck. We were greeted warmly and had our pictures taken with the famous mascot. .

Tuesday night we enjoyed a marvelous dinner at the Kings Estate Winery Restaurant. The surroundings are beautiful and the service flawless. An-dee was friendly but not intrusive. She provided us with answers to our many questions. They grow their own vegetables and pride themselves on everything being organic. I think this is the largest winery in Oregon. Oregon is the 49th. state on my Bucket List.

Hold your breath for part three next week.

Tags: , , ,

Bucket List Travels with Suzanne and Michael

After my Uncle Jack, dad’s brother, returned from Europe following the Second World War, he told me, an eleven year old, about all the places he had seen. He did not tell me about the combat. He let me know that the world was a very different place than my small town. He lit a fire in me to see for myself that has only grown brighter through the years.

In May of this year, my son, Michael, and I fulfilled one of my major goals – to visit Russia. We took an amazing Baltic cruise. One of the major destinations was St. Petersburg. What a glorious time we had. Of course, we could have spent weeks. Michael is a wonderful, knowledgeable, inquisitive travel companion.

On October 4th. my daughter, Suzanne, steered our rental car over the border into Idaho, the remaining state to fulfill my Bucket List of seeing all 50 states. What a wonderful moment. Suzanne had driven almost 1,200 miles. What a trooper! What a great travel companion. Just as on our trip to Ireland she was thrilled with all the sheep. She tolerated her dad who knows less than nothing about wines. Oregon, the 49th. state, on my list is overflowing with wineries. She too is curious and determined. We tracked down every covered bridge and either drove through or walked through all of them.

All of my travel began with a train trip from Spartanburg, South Carolina to Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas when I was a senior in high school. Our senior class trip was to Washington, D.C. Liz and I, Suzanne and Michael’s mother, traveled to Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands when I was invited to speak to the Caribbean Speech and Hearing Association. She and I also went to San Francisco, New York, and Boston. After her untimely death, Suzanne, Michael and I went to Ireland when I spoke to the European Speech and Hearing Association. My brother-in-law, John Wallace, and I went to Australia when I spoke to the speech association there. That was a trip Liz and her father before her were supposed to make.

Nine years later, Carol and I went to England, Scotland and Wales on our honeymoon. We went to Alaska the following year. What an experience! She and I traveled even into her losing battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

What can I say other than how grateful I am to have two children who gave up their time so that their dad could complete his Bucket List? I hope they know that as much as I love travel, traveling with each of them surpasses anything I will ever see or experience. There is a great big beautiful world out there filled with people anxious to be friends. Don’t worry. I am compiling a new list.

Tags: , , ,

The Simple Gift of Attention an Antidote to Abstraction – Gregg Jarrell

On a Tuesday afternoon, Dave knocked on the door. His weathered face was covered in tears, his head held low. Dave is gruff even on his most pleasant days, always edges and elbows. This day, the sharpness was gone.

“I’ve hit bottom today,” he told me. “I’ve lived a rough 50-some years, and this day is the day I’m ready for it to come to an end.”

His head drooped lower. The dusty porch floor caught his tears. Between his sighs, he kept talking; the series of misfortunes, still piling up, had all collapsed into a single Tuesday afternoon. I just sat there, useless except to provide cool water and a snack.

And two ears.

Dave laughed at one point. He was holding the children’s book that was on the table next to him, which he had been reading while I was in the kitchen. Johnny Appleseed. He read me a page that tickled him. “That’s the first time I’ve laughed in weeks,” he said.

Concerned for him, and knowing my own limitations – I’m a pastor, not a mental health professional – I offered to take Dave to a crisis center where they could help him get reconnected with himself and treat any physiological or chemical issues before he returned home on his own. When we arrived, we walked in together and exchanged a hug. I watched as he shuffled behind a nurse, down the hallway and into a treatment room.

“Our attention is especially rich when lavished on those whom the world ignores.”

None of my actions was remarkable in any way. I just sat down and paid attention. And yet I’m aware of how rare attention is in this wired world. Attention is a gift, but I often withhold it, usually for reasons I cannot explain. That afternoon on my porch was an exception to the way I usually move about on my block.

I know I am not alone in this. The world constantly trains us into distraction. Buzzing, noise, notifications. “How’s that book?” my wife asks sarcastically, seeing the book lying open, face-down on the table as I stare at my mobile phone. Reading for a few minutes is not simple. It requires conscious effort – silencing gadgets, quieting children, hiding from the basket of clean laundry that needs folding. It is easier to drown in the distractions.

Sustained, uninterrupted attention is an unusual gift, both to ourselves and to others. It may be the thing that saves us. The moment of pure attention contains within it the possibility of a future worth having.

”Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer,” Simone Weil writes in Gravity and Grace. It is the seed of a revolution, a break from the fantasies of distraction and the alienations of rumination. Our attention is especially rich when lavished on those whom the world ignores. It makes us active creators of the world we want to live in, the one of justice and equity and beauty.

“An antidote – maybe the antidote – to abstraction and alienation is to return to the tangible: neighbor, porch, story; park bench, stranger, song; table, bread, wine.”

The future we long for begins in the present – often on a porch, or maybe a park bench or perhaps around a kitchen table. Along the way, true attention touches every place. It especially touches those places where the concentration of wealth and power have isolated people from themselves and one another. In those places, neighbors are an abstraction at best, and enemies at worst.

Culture and policy begin to reflect the impulse against neighborliness as the powerful exert their will through political and economic institutions and willful blindness. The current trajectory of the United States, moving headlong toward human rights atrocities, is fueled by the abstraction of neighbors. In the soul deadened by excess, there are no stories worth hearing, no life that matters but your own. There is no porch, no park, no commons.

The only place that matters is the balance sheet. Nothing is sacred but money, nothing worth sustained attention but the making of it.

An antidote – maybe the antidote – to abstraction and alienation is to return to the tangible: neighbor, porch, story; park bench, stranger, song; table, bread, wine. Paying attention to the details of the person nearby does not fix everything, but we won’t fix anything without that sort of careful attention.

Dave came back a few days later. He is better for now, but he is still alone. In a crisis, a trained professional will help. But for the mundane days, the ones where discontent simmers without boiling over, where folks stumble from one distraction to the next, what Dave needs is not a professional but a neighbor.

I suspect that is what we all need. The best neighborhoods are the ones that help us to tell good stories about ourselves. They are the spaces where we pay close attention to the details – where the birds nest, how long the pothole repair took, when we last saw Miss Evelyn on her porch. Our lives get caught up in those places. We get rooted in them, and they sustain us.

Neighbors know you with a casual intimacy. They know your schedule, how you greet your kids when they get off the bus, what music you blast while cleaning the house, what color flowers you tend to plant. Those daily acts of noticing – of attention – make the world a bit more gentle. They help us to tell better stories about ourselves.

“The best neighborhoods are the ones that help us to tell good stories about ourselves.”

A good neighborhood makes it easier to find someone who can tell you about the goodness of your story on the days you cannot see it for yourself.

Without neighbors, and without the careful attention that a good neighborhood encourages, people don’t know how to tell their stories well. A human needs to be seen, to be heard, to have a voice to sing in harmony with. For that, we have stories, and we have porches.

We have the choice to listen, and to live in the way of peace.


OPINION: VIEWS EXPRESSED IN BAPTIST N

Tags: , ,