Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Ride

Almost a week has passed since I started this post. Sometimes it takes awhile to arrest the thoughts on paper.

The following was written on the morning of May 28, 2007.

Cool Morning. Fog. At Whipple Dam State Park, birdsong and the sound of water pouring over the spillway fills the air. Aside from an old man chasing geese off the beach on the other side of the lake I have the place to myself.

The road to the park winds over Tussey Mountain, through the woods and along Standing Stone Creek. The first hint of sunlight pushes through the fog causing some of the trees to glow.

I've been reading "A Sense of the World" by Jason Roberts. It's the story of James Holman, British Royal Navy officer, Knight of Windsor, and adventurer. What makes his story unique is that he undertook a circumnavigation of the world by land and sea in the early 1800's after becoming blind and fighting debilitating pain. Whenever I find myself concerned with the minor extremes I face while riding I will recall Holman's winter trip across Siberia in a horse drawn sledge.

A breakfast of cheese and Melba toast, nuts, raisins, and a fresh orange seems a perfect counter to the familiar hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs I usually eat on a ride. A bullfrog croaks agreement just a few yards away. A family of geese visit hoping for a handout. I politely decline not wanting to reinforce bad behavior --- theirs or mine.

The man chasing geese arrives on my side of the lake to continue his geese chasing and other activities to ready the park for the day. We talk for a while and he tells me he has recently retired from park service at age 86. Looking at him I would have guessed 75 tops. His secret is a daily glass of vinegar.

The conversation turns briefly to Memorial Day and he tells me his son was a Marine and died in 1968. We both are quiet for a while.

I feel grateful. Not just to have the opportunity to sit here but for the life and opportunity I have. On Memorial Day I need to remember is comes with a cost.

End of Entry.

A cost. That's where I stopped writing. I kept thinking about the cost for the rest of the week.

Later that day I walked through the Pennsylvania Military Museum grounds and looked at the monuments signifying places like Antietam, Gettysburg, Meuse-Argonne, Normandy, and Ardennes-Alsace. Names carved in granite, row after row, memories of lives lost far from home, reminders of the solemn cost of my own gratitude.

I'm not sure what I think of the celebrations wrapped around Memorial Day. In town we have carnivals, car shows, craft festivals, music and food. Perhaps a fitting memorial is the existence of celebrations.

Pie contest on Main Street.


Old firetruck at Car Show


Another Memorial Day has passed but the reminders linger.

7 comments:

CodyandMichelle said...

nice thoughts, nice shots. Memorial Day's significance is lost on todays youth :(

Dear God,
Give us Peace!

chewy said...

Steve;

I know what you mean. IN the '60's, I was in the Guard. Then it was an escape from 'nam,, not the terror it is today.
Everytime I see a uniform, I thank the soldier, and God, for the freedom that my family has today.

Nice writing.

American Scooterist Blog said...

I think my generation is very aware of the price of freedom. I also think they've become cynical of the reasons they're given as to why this price is being paid again, moreso in the way of what they percieve it to be buying and for whom.

In today's world its a hard thing for a conservative to navigate the intellectual mores of what is being bought and how it will last over the long term. For what that cost bought us in the past I have to say the product was much more clearly defined. Freedom in its convoluted and oft misunderstood purpose sometiems seems to belong more with you who have come before than it does with many my age and younger. It seems we just haven't got the understanding of what real freedom is and how to nurture it to grow for our future.
I think life was sometimes more clear in the overall goals of the USA as a society and unique culture probably even before the seventies. So much has changed. The value of life seems to have changed.

Roadbum

Steve Williams said...

cody: I've not talked much with kids about this kind of stuff. Not sure what they make of the world. I would like to think it means something to them...

chewy: I agree. Lots to say thank you for.

Roadbum: Now which generation are you? *grin*

When Cody referred to youth I was thinking teenagers. I sort of divide people into youth and not youth. Don't ask me to delineate the divide...

You raise a lot of ideas that merit thought by everyone individually. I have thought a lot myself about whether it is more difficult to navigate life today than it was 40 years ago or if that is just an illusion. I am leaning towards illusion in that our communications culture generates so much fear and hysteria about practically everything from weather to war.

I do believe the value of life has changed. The world has become more efficient at looking away from the lives of others. We still guard our own but the circle of concern doesn't appear to be what it once was.

I hope I'm wrong.

Vince Stevens said...

Hi steve,

I think I've read nearly every page of your blog. I enjoy your writing, photography, and reflective approach to life. In fact, you've inspired me to start a spin-off, Scooter in the Surf. I've never written a blog before, so am just learning all the ins and outs... how to post pictures, change the colors and fonts, etc. Frankly, I still haven't figured out how the blog is located while doing a google search. Anyway, I hoped that you might visit the site, http://vespaet4.blogspot.com, and leave some constructive criticism.
Thanks
Vince Stevens

Vince Stevens said...

Steve,

I appreciate your commemoration of Memorial Day. In spite of being a Navy veteran nearly always stationed with Marines, I get lost in the day to day and forget to slow down and remember.

My father is buried at the Santa Nella National Cemetary south east of San Francisco about 80 miles or so. He was drafted and fought in the Korean War. After the war he couldn't find work enough to support a new wife and daughter so returned to the Army. Some years later, the Army sent him as an "advisor" to Vietnam, and for another tour in 1968. He saw plenty, and was awarded a medal of valor for some of the conflict he endured.

He retired from the Army and worked as a truck driver until he really retired. He enjoyed the long reflective hours at the wheel, listening to his favorite radio programs, music (sons of the pioneers), and books on tape. He especially loved having breakfast with his buddys. They would talk all morning, solving all the worlds problems in a few hours.

After having a stroke, his last years were spent in a hospital bed, with people who didn't really care for him. He could no longer eat or talk, the two things he loved most. He held on long enough to see his children, and battle the VA for the medical coverage he couldn't afford and they never seemed to give without a fight. He died in his sleep.

I made damn sure he received a proper send off, befitting a hero. The Army provided a chaplain, the Navy provided an honor guard. It was a beautiful service and a beautiful day in the rolling hills bordering the eastern San Juaquin Valley.

Every summer, I travel the 500 miles north to visit him. California is a big state, 1000 miles long from north to south, with diverse geographic regions.

He loved the Big Valley. Born to teenaged migrant workers from Mexico and Oklahoma, he was adopted by an old cowboy who worked as a seasonal wrangler, and his much younger wife. It was a classic "Grapes of Wrath" story. During the picking season, they all picked fruit, almonds, vegetable, anything that needed to be picked. When cattle needed tending to, that was done as well. They got by.

Dad told me that every Christmas he got a new pair of boots; on his birthday a new pair of jeans. His mom made his shirts. He spoke glowingly about his dad and mom, the sacrifices they made, the fun they created from nothing. No computers, no cell phones, no video games, just a creative imagination and an appreciation for what the good Lord provided.

I'll post this on Scooter in the Surf
vince

Robert said...

Fantastic pics.. fantastic writing as always.

Cheers!