We hold these truths to be alternative

The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another.  The Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

“How well Your Majesty’s new clothes look. Aren’t they becoming!” He heard on all sides, “That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.

It’s been only 9 days since his coronation.  We’ve all been watching him perform self-proclaimed amazing and alarming feats of strength each day.  His opponents have been vocal, and his supporters have been oddly quiet (at least my Facebook friends who supported him, anyway).  In a way, I get it — there’s no need to stick your neck out right now in support of his impetuous actions and crazy words, because he doesn’t need you anymore. He is now the king, and he will rule. He’s going to do what he said he was going to do for as long as he can do it, and none of us can feign surprise. He’s what we thought he would be.

Many voted for him because they wanted a “strongman” — someone who would put a stop to all this compassion, fairness, and unalienable rights nonsense.  Most wanted him in power because he said he would shake up the status quo and “drain the swamp”.  But many Americans didn’t bother to vote at all.  Others chose a third candidate who had no chance of winning. Did they do that because they didn’t mind the idea of being ruled by a narcissistic bully?  Because  now we have one. We have a president that fancies himself as an emperor. To those of you who didn’t try to prevent this, aren’t his new clothes magnificent?  To those of us who see him for what he is, and find nothing but the world’s yugest ego, we need to keep calling out what we see, as loudly as we can, for as long as it takes.

And in alternative news  . . . . it’s been a quiet week here in Lake Wobegon.

Continuing my photo-a-day project, here’s week #4 . . . . . of 1984!

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(1/22/17) This is what some people on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis are doing to avoid hearing about what’s been going on in Washington this week.  But if you ask them, they claim to be trying to catch fish.

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(1/23/17) The Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul is home to one of 4 great old water towers in the Twin Cities.  Shown here is the top section of Architect Clarence “Cap” Wigington’s design, constructed in 1928. Wigington, an African American, was a renowned midwestern architect at time when there were few black architects anywhere. His tower, covered in Kasota and Bedford stone, rises 127 feet from its hilltop location. The 151-stair climb to the observation deck is only open to the public a couple of days each year.

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(1/24/17) Any day I get to spend time with these two knuckleheads, it’s going to be hard for me to think a photo of anything or anybody else could be more noteworthy. Today, Dr. Svea said, “This is a special stethoscope.  I can hear your heart AND look at it at the same time.” Meanwhile, Nurse Otto took great pleasure in giving me several injections of an unnamed substance.

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(1/25/17)  We were driving down West River Road, it was starting to get dark, and I didn’t have a photo yet.  Karen said, “look at that orange kayak”.  I whipped into the parking lot and met a young man named Cassidy who had just been out kayaking in the frigid Mississippi River.  “It’s still fun when it’s this cold”, he said, “but you have to be really careful, and let somebody know what you’re going to be doing”.  Thanks, Cassidy, I’ll try to remember to do that the next time I go kayaking in January.

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(1/26/17) One of the things I’m very grateful for in the the neighborhood where I live, is that I can walk a few minutes in one direction and go to coffee shop or restaurant, or walk a couple of blocks in another direction and be in a place as quiet and natural as this.

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(1/27/17) Joel Beck is an old friend and a great carpenter.  He built a beautiful deck for us last year.  Today he stopped over to talk with me about possibly remodeling this old side entry porch into the world smallest bathroom. It would be a dream come true to be able to take a leak without going upstairs.

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(1/28/17) We went to the Minnesota Opera’s production of “Diana’s Garden”, an almost unknown (but delightful) work by Vicente Martin y Soler. Soler was a contemporary of Mozart, and his musical style is similar to Wolfie’s.  Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s favorite collaborator, wrote the libretto.  This photo is at the preview session in the lobby an hour before the show.  I love these pre-show shows — some history, some background, some musical theme stuff, and a couple of up-close arias from the show. Out the window is Rice Park, with its trees all lit up for the St. Paul Winter Carnival’s ice sculpture competition.  What a great night in downtown St. Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the hell just happened?

So . . . . President Trump.

How does that sound to you . . . . ?

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This did not really happen.  Right?

No, I can’t do it. I can’t talk about it right now.  Everybody’s yakking about it, and for one of the few times in my adult life, I want out of the conversation instead of in. We all know where we stand, and we now pretty much know where everybody else stands.  I will say that the enormous crowds at all the marches and rallies yesterday made me feel better.  The videos and photos of all the people were truly inspirational and uplifting. I regret not going to the state capitol and being part of it all. But I’m really proud of all my friends who did.

Even with yesterday’s boost, I’ve not emerged yet out of the damp, dark, gray week we just finished. It’s going to take more than a few million people marching together and vowing to fight the good fight to shake me out of what I was hoping was just the fog of a dream. But with each day, each action, each utterance from the new guy or from the people who got him to the White House, I am going to build my strength and resolve to do my part in fighting back.  It’s time to wake up and get busy.

In the mean time, here is a photo from each day last week — week #3 of 2017.  Did I mention we had a damp, dark, gray, foggy week?

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(1/15/17)  The week started out great, thanks to Mary Livingston agreeing to stop over and belatedly celebrate her birthday with us.  Later in the week, she took off for a warm beach and left those of us back here in the US of A to sit and stare at our TVs in disbelief.

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(1/16/17)  This guy stopped over, lookin’ all handsome and healthy and happy.

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(1/17/17) You either have to be tough or dumb  — or maybe unable to fly(?) to be a Minnesota duck. A big  group of Mallards is hanging out in the stream that flows from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek. Wikipedia tells me that a group of ducks on the water can be called a “flock”, a “brace”, a “raft” or a “paddling”.  When they take to the air en masse, they are a “skein”, a “string”, or a “team”. (Note: This will be the most educational picture this week.)

 

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(1/18/18) What a great surprise.  Old friend (and now neighbor) Bob Jansen asked me out on a date. Lots of laughs, a little wisdom, tons of bullshit.

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(1/19/17) Tis not the season any more, but I’ll take some bright colors (and maybe a little bit of peace on Earth) wherever I can find them.

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(1/20/17) I shot this just at the moment in the speech when I realized that our new POTUS was ripping the crap out of President Obama, everything he did as President, and everything he stands for. I love the way Mr. Obama looks like he has just shed a YUGE weight and is in a happier place somewhere far away .

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(1/21/17) As millions of people around the globe were marching in support of women, this guy was attempting to win our local Stupidest Male competition. A week or so ago, Minnehaha Falls was all over the local TV news when a DIFFERENT idiot was very seriously injured by a gigantic chunk of falling ice (see the big hole on the upper left?) Everyone was strongly warned to stay away from and off the falls. So after a few days of thawing temperatures and weakening ice, this new genius decides to climb about halfway up the 53-foot waterfall, right next to the cascading water, so that his very proud girlfriend can take his picture.  I didn’t stay around long enough to see if he survived, but he didn’t deserve to.

 

 

 

More than just Survival

The second week of January is alway pretty quiet in this part of the country. Everyone is solidly back in the daily grind after the holiday season.Version 3

The bulk and the brunt of winter are still ahead, which can be a daunting thought.  A small percentage of  Minnesotans actually enjoy going outdoors in the bitter January air. We all like to brag about being hearty souls, but honestly, most of us merely survive the winter — relatively few embrace it.                                 .
If you venture out in single-digit “high” temps, you might see a runner on Minnehaha Parkway, a cross-country skier on Hiawatha Golf Course, and increasingly over the past few years, grown, intelligent-looking men and women riding bicycles with big fat tires on the snow and ice.

 

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These guys are riding ON the creek.

Seemingly every time I shovel the front sidewalk, the ever-chipper neighbor walking her dog with its little boots comes by and says something about what a nice day it is. Not to be argumentative, I find my self mumbling a semi-agreement. It works for a moment, long enough anyway to remember the bigger picture, that life really is pretty darn good right now.  One day, I even found myself thinking (for a split second), “I’m thankful I can still shovel snow”.

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One of us is better at the embracing- thing than the other.

Being retired brings other, more predictable, moments of gratefulness.  We had a mild snow storm earlier this week and a voice on the radio said the usual, “There have been hundreds of accidents on Twin Cities roads already this morning. If you don’t have to go anywhere today, stay home”.  I did, and I liked it a lot.

I’ve managed to keep my photo-a-day resolution going for two weeks.  According to a survey by a site called StatisticBrain.com, 68.4% of those who make a new year’s resolution keep it going for the first two weeks.  I thought that percentage would be lower, but I’ll take it.  I’m already ahead of 31.6% of the resolution-makers!

With my back still stinging from that self-pat, here is one photo from each day of week two. You’ll that see I did manage to get my butt outside a few times. And OK. . . .yes, it was a good thing.

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(1/8/17) We dropped in to see my friend Graydon Royce do his a radio show / podcast called “The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour” (More about this in the coming days.)

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(1/9/17) Svea

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(1/10/17) Karen doing all the work, as usual. (Hey, SOMEBODY has to take the picture.)

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(1/11/17) Catching some rays at Minnehaha Creek

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(1/12/17) 4:40 PM – Stained glass (made by Karen) holds onto the last sunlight of the day.

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(1/13/17) Walking on water . . . a stroll across Lake Nokomis at sundown.

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(1/14/17) The rocks in Minnehaha Creek somehow remember their summer colors.

A photo a day keeps the cold weather away. (No it doesn’t.)

COLD

A week ago, I made resolution to revive this blog and post observations from time to time. So far, my most profound thought is that it’s been very cold here in the Twin Cities.  Of course, I’m not surprised by this, nor am I freaked out by it.  It hasn’t even been an especially bad cold snap for January in Minnesota.  But a couple of days this week when I decided to go out for a walk, even at the “warmest” part of the day it was downright uncomfortable. The sun just mocks you when it’s 7 degrees and windy at 1:00 in the afternoon. I’ve lived here all my life.  I’m “used to it”.  I don’t want to move to Florida or Arizona or California.  But this morning, I find myself tempted to throw my golf clubs in the car and just start driving south.  I know nothing is more boring to read than a Minnesota native complaining about cold weather in January, but I’m not really writing this for you, I’m writing it for me. Thanks, I’m done now.

 

PHOTOS

My second New Years resolution was to bring back another idea that I’ve tried a couple of times before — to shoot and post one photo each day.  One thing I learned the first time I did this is that I need to keep in mind the reason for doing it. That is, to help me remember one thing from each day by saving a visual representation.  Photos-of-the-day don’t have to be works of art, but they do spur a memory of something or someone. It’s actually a pretty cool assignment, because I’m always searching for a photo.  Occasionally I have a pretty good idea ahead of time, like last night’s picture of friends I knew we’d be visiting.  Other times something just catches my eye, like Thursday’s picture of the little snowman lights hanging in front of the stained glass window that Karen made. Sometimes I take a different route while driving, hoping I’ll notice something interesting, like the wild turkeys near the old Veterans Home on Monday. Other times, I’m motivated to get out of the house just to go get a photo, like on Friday, when I braved the cold to walk to Minnehaha Creek and saw big sheets of ice tilting up out of the water.

This projects reminds me to notice interesting and the beautiful things that are all around in our every day lives.  And . . . it reminds be to be thankful for good friends, family, and neighbors.

Here are my 7 photos for the first week of 2017.

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(Sunday, 1/1/17)  What a great way to start the year!  Otto and Svea — the two best kids ever.

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(1/2/17) Here are those turkeys I told you about.  They didn’t seem the least bit afraid of me.

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(1/3/17)  One of the best things about our new neighborhood is Hakan Sezer and his coffee shop called “Sovereign Grounds”.  Originally from Turkey, Hakan has been roasting beans and serving up excellent coffee and food at 48th and Chicago in Minneapolis for 22 years.  Plus, he has a playroom full of toys for my grandkids!  Hakan is a a neighborhood treasure.

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(1/4/17) January in the kitchen

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(1/5/17) These started appearing around our neighborhood a few months ago. I like them and I want one.

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(1/6/17) Minnehaha Creek near the 12th Ave bridge in Minneapolis.

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(1/7/17) Our good friends Craig and Judy Jensen had us over for a nice evening.

A gift from Pastor Patrick

I haven’t written a blog post in nearly four years. I have reasons and excuses for the that, but the only audience that cares about them is me, so I’ll spare you. Today is the only day I can do anything about.

Over the past few months, I’d been thinking about trying to write again.  I considered starting a new blog or maybe changing the name of it. Then yesterday,  (New Years Eve) while scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed, a post by a man I’ve only met a few times, Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis caught my eye.  What I know of Patrick is that he is a humble, gentle, generous guy, with a deep spirit and a fire in his heart to make the world a better place. He’s an author,  a community leader, a social justice and human rights activist, an artist and promoter of the arts, and the co-pastor (along with his wife, Luisa) of a vibrant, multicultural, multilingual, urban congregation.

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Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel – St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

But last night, it was his quiet, elegant poem that grabbed me, and reminded me why, about seven years ago, I named my blog “Trying to Pay Attention”.

I haven’t made many New Year’s resolutions in the past, but Patrick’s poem feels like a (big) nudge for me to restart something that I used to enjoy — and the timing of it makes it impossible for me to ignore.  I’m not going to make the mistake of setting arbitrary goals for posting things that I will undoubtedly either stress about or give up on, but I am going to give this blog thing another shot.

So here’s Pastor Patrick’s poem. In it, this line repeats, “I try to pay attention”.  I take it as a reminder for me to start trying harder — to pay attention to myself and to the world around me.

Thank you for this gift, Patrick.  Many of us are entering 2017 with feelings of dismay, apprehension and trepidation. Let’s hope the new year will be a happy one. We all know it’s going to be a memorable one. Let’s all light a candle each day . . . and try to pay attention.

My last poem written in 2016 (unless something pops into my head before midnight!)

– Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel

On winter mornings
I light a candle
I carry my tea
To the old chair
I sit
I breathe
I try to pay attention
Sometimes I fall asleep
Sometimes the light flickers
And something raw and ugly
Arises from my soul
I try to pay attention
And hear its voice
I sit
I wonder
I breathe the loneliness
And glory we were born into
I await the rising
The first day
The last day
The day that is to come