PICTURING 2014

Creating this gallery mirrored my year. There are no pictures at all taken between December 2013 and May 2014. I was either waiting for surgery, in the hospital, or recovering — too sick to go out and shoot.

And then spring came and Garry started encouraging me to go out, even if only for short periods. And then, there were photographs. This is my year from May through December. In pictures.

Although things seem to have worked out well, especially considering the challenges life threw at us, I would wish for all of us a less eventful 2015. Fewer cliffhangers. Less drama. Good health. A few more parties, concerts, sunny days, and rain in its season.

LACRIMOSE ME

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy – We cry for lots of reasons: sadness, pain, fear . . . and happiness. When was the last time you shed tears of joy?


Tears of joy? Yes, there are such things.

Because when all was lost, we had no water and I thought, finally, our bad luck demons had taken the field and we were beaten, I heard the distant bugles of the cavalry. They came — friends from far and wide — from cyberspace and land, they sent us funds so we could repair our well. And keep our home.

HumbleBeaver

In its own way, our well crisis was more terrifying than having my heart remodeled or losing both breasts to cancer. In those cases, I only had to fend off the Big Guy with the Scythe. I could put myself in the hands of doctors and hope I’d chosen them well and they would take me through the dark tunnel.

But with the well — there was no doctor. No facility to depend on. I had to find a way through when I could see no path, no road, no light. And then, not to put too fine a point on it, there was light. Like the line of Pilgrims in Disney’s Fantasia, they appeared, down from a dark mountain bearing torches. And checks. We survived and I cried. Garry cried. I still cry when I think about it because I never imagined anyone really cared what happened to us.

12-Foliage-9-30-14_005

I have to admit I’ve cried more sad tears than happy ones. The past 15 years have been one thing after another. I’ve been in and out of hospitals, had more surgery than I can remember, which may be a good thing.

Not remembering, that is. Not the actual surgeries except that they kept me alive so maybe they were good, in their own way. Just not a whole lot of fun.

A period riddled with crises. Financial, medical, personal. I don’t remember the sequence of a particular day, not even yesterday. Or this morning. It’s after two in the afternoon. I’m still answering email and trying to get this post written.

See? I’m tearing up right now?

Don’t worry about me. I cry over reruns of Lassie and keep a box of tissues handy. I seem to have a bottomless well of tears waiting to be shed.

Memories of My Life In Textile Mills

After the mills closed along the Blackstone River, the owners moved their business down south. It made sense, since cotton mills were the bulk of their business and the cotton fields were in the south.

These transported mills became a backbone industry for the American south until a series of U.S. Presidents, starting with Reagan, continuing with Bush, Clinton, then Bush again … traded away our business to countries which pay workers pennies on our dollar — and don’t have significant health and safety regulations — or child labor laws. Or unions.

In fairness, it was supposed to be a two-way street, bringing Americans less expensive products and ramping up our home economy with an infusion of new trading partners. As most of us feared, it did exactly the opposite.

It cost America millions of jobs that have never been replaced. It did not lower costs of goods now being made in India and China and Malaysia. Anyone who has tried to buy cotton fabric can attest to the dramatic increase in costs and decrease in quality that has been the real result.

What have we have to show for it? Empty hulks of the mills and factories that once buzzed with business. Reminders why it’s always unwise to sell your birthright for a pot of lentils.

I was reading a post this morning over on Marily Armstrong’s blog at: https://teepee12.com/author/teepee12. She had a great collection of photographs depicting some of the oldest factories in New England that represented the beginning of America’s Industrial Revolution. Looking at those building threw me back in time because for 13 years I worked in South Carolina & George in the cotton mills of Graniteville Company and later Avondale Mills. I was there until the bitter end when in 2006 They shut down 13 mills that represented the 3rd largest textile company in the world, Avondale Mills. I was there working for Graniteville Company that had just celebrated their 150 year tradition before Avondale Mills bought them out. I was there when a terrible train derailment broke open a chlorine tanker that was the death knoll for the entire company. So many people lost their lives at 2 a.m. on a…

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INDUSTRY OUTSIDE METROPOLIS

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Industrial

Forge House 11

It’s a matter of definition. For most of my life, I lived in or around major cities. New York, where I grew up. I don’t know if Jerusalem counts as a major city, but I was there a pretty long time.

hyannis harbor docks cape cod

Then Boston. Industrial in large cities is synonymous with “big.” Great brick factories belching smoke. Tall chimneys. Pollution. Cement. Traffic.

Old Mill No. 4

Yet, ironically, out here in the Blackstone Valley is where the American industrial revolution began. We are the home of the first factories.

Crown and Eagle mill transformed into elderly housing
Crown and Eagle mill transformed into elderly housing

The mills, built along the Blackstone River were where it all began. We are still cleaning up the pollution and the mills are either gone or converted to some other use.

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First they moved down south, where they could find cheaper land, labor, favorable tax laws … and they would be near the cotton fields.

path machines dirt hartford st

But industry remains. It’s not the way it was, yet it is industry. Small factories, cottage industry by comparison. And just as interesting as photographic subject.

96-Gloucestermen-NK-1

And finally, not forgetting our New England coastline, the docks and ships of our historic fishing fleets. Our first American industry!

2014 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Note that Serendipity has not missed a day of blogging this entire year. WordPress ran the statistics on the 29th of December, so it appears two days short — but it’s not, really.

It’s been an insanely busy year. I want to give a big thank you to Garry and Rich who carried this blog without me for several months when I was too sick to do it myself.

Rich organized months of posts working from my archives. Garry posted daily updates while I was in the hospital and for several weeks after I came home — even though he was worried, exhausted, and driving back and forth to the hospital — 70 miles each way — every day.

The success of this blog is not mine alone.

Rich Paschall’s ANGEL COMES OUT and DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE were the two big posts in 2014. Congratulations, Rich!

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

BEING HERE AND NOW

Oedipus defeats the Sphinx by correctly guessing the answer to the following riddle:

Sphinx-riddle

As babies, we crawl on hands and feet, using four legs. When we grow up, we stand. Thus, as adults, we stride through life upright, on two legs.  In old age, we are bent over, so in the evening of our lives, we walk with the help of a cane, on three legs.

This was how human life was summed up a couple of thousand years ago and even today, there’s truth in it. But not Truth. Because the riddle’s narrow perspective focuses on the physical changes we experience though life. It leaves out the emotional and intellectual changes … the most important stuff.

As kids, we want to grow up. Children are in a terrible hurry. We race full-tilt towards a future in which anything is possible. We want it all. We want it now. When we get there, we run even faster towards the next goal.

We slow down a bit as we get to the middle of life. We accept responsibility. We load ourselves down with possessions and obligations. We simultaneously discover life doesn’t work as we expected. We see our best plans and fondest hopes dashed on the shoals of random chance, a bad marriage, a boss who doesn’t like us. Or sheer accident derails us. A bad economy makes the profession for which we prepared irrelevant. We discover, in a personal way, that people die. For no good reason. In war, in traffic. Of disease, suicide, stupidity. Unlike Hollywood, real death is usually inglorious and sad.

By the time we reach our forties, we’ve lost a few rounds and are the worse for wear. We’re slower to judge, less sure of the future. The answers of youth are replaced by more questions and the wariness of people who’ve seen a few things. We begin to pay attention to security, realize we are “peaking” professionally and should make the most of whatever opportunities are available.

And then, flash! You are not young. Seventy is not the new forty. Holy shit! Who is that old person in the mirror?

You look around the office. You’re the guy kids come to for advice. Maybe you find no one interested in your experience because “the company is going in a different direction.” People in their forties seem awfully young. Ouch. How did this happen?

We all know, on some level, we will get old. After all, if you don’t get old, you get dead. Alive is the preferred state of being at every age and stage. But no one expects to be really old. We plan to be like we’ve always been. Maybe a few gray hairs. A wiser, more mature version of the person we think we know so well.

Times changes us more than we thought possible. We quit running towards the future and start looking around to see what’s going. Here. Now. This is the future. We made it. The rainy day for which we were saving? We look up to see clouds. Rain is falling.

No more “we’ll do that someday.” Buy the camera you always wanted. Get the car of your dreams. See Paris. It’s your turn. Finally.

None of us plans to die, but we know we could. Time to shift our focus to enjoying what we are, what we have, who we have. While we can. Life is fragile and we are transitory, just passing through. It’s a very different perspective from younger years.

Will the good old days come again? Doubt it. How good were those old days? Do we want them back?

The only time we own is today. Use it well.


Ice, Water, Steam: Weekly Writing Challenge