FLAGS AND FLOWERS BLOOMING – Marilyn Armstrong

On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

The cemetery is in the center of the town, across from the dam and just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. It’s up on a hill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers. And flooding. They picked a beautiful spot. It has a perfect view of the dam and river, but it’s dry and safe for bones and memories.

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.

Every anniversary of the end of some war we fought, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained. They bring bouquets of wildflowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.

Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. Remembering is what we do in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 19 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok. We come from tiny villages in Ireland, England,  the West Indies, and a wide variety of shtetls in eastern and northern Europe. Our people were always on the move.

Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms, and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.

Newcomers, like us, aren’t rare anymore but also not common. We have no ancestors in the cemetery, at least none about whom we know. Anything is possible in America.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in the town or in nearby villages for three, four, five generations.

“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning they have lived here as long as anyone can remember. If gently prodded, they may recall at some point, long ago, they came from somewhere else. Some can’t remember when or if it’s true.

I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if it was a long time ago. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young.

It’s hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.” We nod because it was a long time ago. We can’t remember a lot of things from our “old days” either. So many years have passed and so much stuff has happened.

In the ground – Photo: Garry Armstrong

How many wars have we fought — just in our lifetime? I can’t count them anymore. It’s endless. We honor our dead. I think we’d honor them more by ending the cause of their deaths which I doubt it will happen. Peace is not in us, or at least not in most of us. Certainly not in the people who run our countries.

So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town.

MOSES FOR WHOM THE GPS WAS INVENTED – Marilyn Armstrong

So, THE WAY THEY TELL IT, God wanted to get rid of all those who had experienced slavery. To accomplish this task, he made the twelve tribes walk around the Sinai wilderness for forty years.


Forty years? Seriously?

That area isn’t all that big. To keep walking for that many years, they had to have crossed their own paths repeatedly. Didn’t anyone shout out: “Hey, Moses. I’m pretty sure we’ve been here before. Levi, haven’t we already been here? Look, here’s where we put the tents. I think there are a few poles lying around  …”

By: Rick Baldwin

If the idea was to get rid of the “slave mentality,” why couldn’t they just make a nice camp and hang out until the time was up? Stop walking. Play guitars. Sing some songs. Play cards.

Why did they have to keep walking?

Was there a fitness or exercise requirement? Was it like a jail where you have this hour or two a day during which you have to keep moving? Why 40 years? That’s a pretty long time.

Garry says we have this same conversation every year, usually immediately following our ritual viewing of “The Ten Commandments.” But we didn’t watch it this year. It was the first time I can remember NOT watching it, but I think it’s possible I’m one viewing over the line, even for a Cecile B. DeMille classic.

This never stops making me laugh, please enjoy this short video of “Life with the Twelve Tribes.” I’m sorry I can’t embed the video, but it’s worth a few minutes of your time to give this a look. Not only is it funny, but it is oddly timely in this strange period in which we are living.


http://videocloud.aish.com/movies/Google%20Exodus.mp4

I know the holidays are over, but not by much, so forgive my tardiness. Whatever you celebrate, something or nothing, I hope the food was good and the company even better.

PEDIATRIC RELIGION – Marilyn Armstrong

When my first husband and I were getting married, he was something vaguely Protestant, though no one in his family knew what. They never attended church and while they were wild about Christmas, it was a very non-Christian version of it.

I’m not even sure they were Christian, but they weren’t anything else, either. I think it’s possible on the paternal side of the family, they might have been Jewish several generations back, then drifted into Christianity because they weren’t Jewish enough to hang with it.

Thus when my granddaughter was hitting eight or nine and Passover/Easter was approaching, I asked Kaity what Easter was about. She had never heard of Jesus or Christianity — or for that matter, Judaism.  She was sure that Easter was about baskets of sweets. She didn’t love chocolate (who doesn’t love chocolate?) — but always preferred the hard-boiled eggs. Funny kid.

In a Jewish family, religion comes through mom, but in Christianity, it devolves from dad. In theory, she could have swung either way.

Owen was Jewish because he had a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem. In Israel, it was the natural thing to do.

Here, in a very Christian valley with dozens of churches and not a single synagogue, it made more sense to find her a Protestant niche. Later, if life took her into “choices of religion,” she could make up her own mind.

I didn’t feel, without any backup, that I could raise her as a Jew. I don’t practice Judaism. I like Jewish food, Jewish people, and deeply appreciate Jewish law and how far ahead most of most kind of law it is (and was).

I studied in Yeshiva in Jerusalem because I needed to know more, but I knew I would never be Orthodox. This was a big disappointment to my teachers who thought my interest and intellectual involvement preceded a religious commitment. They didn’t “get”(most people don’t) that I love learning for its own sake, but it doesn’t presage any follow-up.

A couple of “studies” have evolved from “learning” to hobbies. Photography. History. Literature. Ecology. Music. Some kinds of art. Technology. Other stuff.

Thus I knew a lot ABOUT Judaism, but not much about how to actually “be” a Jew. I also know a lot about Christianity, because I studied that too and even converted to it, though I practice it to the exact same degree that I practice Judaism — which is to say, I don’t.

Happy birthday at 15!

I am religiously non-dogmatic. I am pretty sure I believe in something, but I don’t know what. Not nothing, though.

Meanwhile, Garry and I felt some pediatric religion was necessary. I didn’t expect Kaitlin to make religion her life, but I thought she needed to know that Christ was not a chocolate bunny and Judaism is a religion, not a bad word you call someone.

You can’t make a choice if you don’t know anything.

To my great relief, she is happily practicing nothing, considers herself vaguely protestant — and prefers eggs to chocolate.

PIETY, PRANKS, AND PARTIES: EASTER MEDIEVAL STYLE – Reblog – Alli Templeton

Easter in the very olden days of yore.
Plus, there were eggs.

In medieval times, life revolved around the church, and the year was marked out by a series of religious festivals, customs and holidays of which Christmas and Easter were the main events. But contrary to many a modern perception, people in the Middle Ages had more time off than we do today. And although there was a good deal of attending church and religious rituals and processions, these did bring the community together, and they also knew how to kick back and have fun.

The Easter period would start with Shrove Tuesday, a secular holiday involving boisterous games and sports. After this, the fun gave way to the fasting period of Lent, when churches were hung with veils and crosses shrouded. Little observed today, if anything we brace ourselves to give up chocolate or booze for the requisite 40 days, but they took it much more seriously in the Middle…

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ON THE TRACK OF “THE QUIET MAN” – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Track

In 1990 in Ireland, Garry and I decided to find where they had filmed John Ford’s “The Quiet Man.” We were in the right location and it turned out that we were not the only seekers of that location.

There were little maps that showed you where to go, where to walk. You couldn’t get there by car alone. You had to park, then trek through a field where sheep roamed — which is not good for your shoes.

Garry in Cong

Maureen O’Hara had to do one scene in a field like that barefoot and she said it was absolutely disgusting. I’d probably have to wash my feet at least 100 times before I thought they might be clean enough to go to bed with me.

Cong, September 1990

Anyway, we got maps and we got moving and then, we saw it. We didn’t see the cottage because except for a bit of rubble, the cottage was completely gone. It wasn’t even the remnants of the cottage. A few rocks and that was it. But the setting was the same. The stream across which they drove the carriage and the long field.

Ireland

We followed the track, explored, and then went back to town. Many scenes for the film were actually shot in and around the village of Cong, County Mayo, on the grounds of Cong’s Ashford Castle. Cong is now a wealthy small town and the castle a 5-star luxury hotel, but when we were there, it was another small, struggling town who were trying to keep the remnants of the movie’s fame because that was the only notable thing which had ever happened there.

Now that we live in an equally small town, we get it. If anyone made a major motion picture here, you can bet it would be the feature of everything.

Somewhere in Ireland

That was our “track following.” It was a lot of fun. I have followed a few other tracks. I followed a mountain path up Mount Gilboa to see the wild irises in bloom and climbed down Land’s End. So there have been a few tracks, here and there.

But no fast tracks. I seem to have missed them.

THE FOOL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Fool

RDP Monday: FOOL


Back in ye olden days, I used to read horoscopes and Tarot cards. I was a very good astrologer and a deeply nervous Tarot reader. My problem with Tarot was that I saw things and they had a nasty habit of coming true exactly as I saw them. I saw death — and people died. I saw calamity and voilà! Chaos and collapse.

Not for myself, mind you. You can’t read for yourself and you really should not read for family and friends. Too much of your own baggage gets wrapped into the reading. You tend to see what you want to see or are afraid might happen.

From the Mystic Tarot – Magician and Fool

Of course, the people for whom you inevitably read most often are exactly the people for whom you should not read because who else can nudge you into a Tarot reading at 2 in the morning when you’ve been smoking weed all night and listening to the Doors? Your best friends, of course.

My best — and most horrifying — readings were done for total strangers I had never met. That was what I preferred, too. I didn’t want any live input from someone. I wanted a cold reading without any subconscious or conscious input. You’d be amazed at how much information you can glean from the blink of an eye or the tightening of a cheek muscle.

Eventually, I stowed a couple of decks in the back of a bookcase, carefully wrapped in a silk scarf … and I am sure they are still there. I also won’t do horoscopes anymore, either. Too much information and too easy to read the information just slightly incorrectly. You see travels, but you may not see why — and the why is the important part of the “truth.”

Why do these readings work? I have no idea and I never did. I do know that they did work. Often frighteningly well. It was the deaths that finally got me. I could not bear to see the death of a friend. It wasn’t just any old death. It was dated, often by month and year. I did not want to know that information about anyone.

Garry was smart. He never let me read for him.


The Fool or Jester is one of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck. In occult tarot, it is the first (or last) of the 22 Major Arcana numbered either from zero to 21 or from 1 to 22.

Many artists through the ages have painted the Tarot deck. The “major Arcana” are the “power” cards in the deck, but there are other cards not part of the Major Arcana that are dangerous and powerful as well. Anyone can memorize the cards, but not everyone has a gift (should you wish to call it that) for interpreting what they mean.

Arrangements of the cards vary from very simple to extremely complex and the format you choose to use has to do with your way of interpreting the meaning of the cards. I do not recommend this as a fun hobby for people who think there’s no meaning in it and it is just a game.

It’s not a game.


VisualizationThe Fool is a beggar or a vagabond — or a Court Jester.  He wears ragged clothes without shoes and carries a stick on his back. He is joyfully strolling to the edge of a cliff, his eyes upward to the sky. The fool is likely to fall off the mountain, but as the magician, he could rise to meet the stars. I never met a fool who rose to meet the stars, no matter what books say on the matter.

MeaningThe Fool represents new beginnings, faith in the future, inexperience, beginner’s luck, improvisation, and faith in the universe.

UprightBeginnings, spontaneity, originality, innocence, a leap of faith.

Reversed: Naivety, poor judgment, folly, lack of direction, stupidity, chaos. Personally, I never thought the Fool was a positive omen, upright or reversed.

Our Own Fool:

SO, HOW ABOUT NEW YEAR’S EVE? – Rich Paschall

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly, your friends have been asking and you must have something interesting to say. Unless you are under 18 or over 80, you do not get a pass on this one. So, what’s it going to be? Party? Dinner and dancing? Will you be outside watching fireworks or in where it is warm? If you are in Florida or Arizona, I guess you could be outside watching fireworks where it is warm.

Happy New Year!

Since there seem to be so many different things to do, the question might actually be more or less logical. Restaurants, bars, and hotel ballrooms all have some sort of package deal. There are shows and concerts of every type. Whether you are in a big city or a small town, plans for the celebration abound.

For some strange reason, everyone is expected to have a plan.

One year, when downtown Chicago still had a glut of movie theaters, I was on a double date at a late showing of a movie that finished up just before midnight. I do remember which movie, but not the date. We had just enough time to empty out into the intersection of State Street (that great street) and Randolph where Chicago used to conduct a poor man’s version of the final countdown. Since it was quite cold and we were not loaded with anti-freeze, we stayed for the countdown and ran off for warmer places. It was an experience I do not need again. If I watch the ball drop in Times Square, it will be on television from another locale.

Since then I have ventured to house parties, bar parties, restaurants, and shows, but I am not sure any of these supposed grand events were particularly memorable. They certainly did not ring out like many of the grand events we see in the movies. If you missed all of them, then I will suggest that you put “movies with new year’s eve scenes” in your internet search so you can find a lot of them. Maybe you will get some cool ideas.

Since the death of one year and the dawn of another seem to evoke feelings of nostalgia, then you may know that “When Harry Met Sally” contains one of the most memorable and nostalgic New Year’s scenes of all. Indeed it is the climax of the “will he or won’t he?” scenario. It has all led up to one fateful New Year’s Eve moment.  The typical New Year’s Eve hoopla only adds to the drama of the moment.  (SPOILER ALERT). I love making dramatic “spoiler” pronouncements, and here is that great scene from one of our favorite movies.

The director of the movie needed no special music as “Auld Lang Syne” made the perfect background song. And what does this sentimental tune actually mean? We don’t know, something about goodbye and hello. It doesn’t matter, our sentimental feeling just associates with it and that is all that counts. So will you have a sentimental moment?

For some gentlemen, the coming of New Year’s is met with all the anxiety of asking someone to the high school prom. You know you are supposed to do something. You know it is supposed to be really good. You know it is going to cost you money, which you are not supposed to care about. You also know, just like the high school prom, you might get shot down when you ask the “jackpot question.” Unless you want to get teased by family and friends, you may just have to ask the question anyway.

Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Did you ask yet? What was the answer? If you haven’t asked, what are you waiting for?

Seth MacFarlane is the creator of Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show and stars in “The Orville.”