Winter Words Vol.5/ “Grateful” for Sunshine

The sun has shone brightly all day. The car wash was packed. People seemed a little happier and peppier today. It’s only 40 degrees now and it ‘feels like’ 35 but you would think it’s 60 degrees judging by people’s attitudes. It’s actually a little bit unseasonably cold. The average high in the ATL area for February is 57 with an average low of 38. Perception vs. reality huh? Amazing what a little sunshine can do.

One of my all-time favorite song is George Harrison’s ‘Here Comes the Sun’. “…Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces, little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here…”

And the music itself in the song. It just makes you smile. It moves you to want to dance.

Me and Paul were at a Further concert at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) in Saratoga Springs, NY back in the summer of 2011. I was working that area, along with Lake George, NY, and the opportunity availed itself. The band Further includes two core members of the Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir.

If you’ve never been to a Dead show, or one of the many incarnations that the surviving members formed, Weir’s Ratdog and Phil Lesh and Friends would be the most recognizable, then you’ve missed something special. The band members casually stroll out on stage when they’re good and ready to little or no fanfare. The they will tune their instruments for what seems like an eternity.

During the tuning process the various notes being tinkered with will eventually form what sounds to be fragments of a song. Eventually the sounds WILL develop into a song and the crowd will, usually and simultaneously, recognize the song. There will be a huge roar and then everyone will begin to dance like mad, spinning, twirling, swaying, bouncing and hopping in a free form manner.

Well, on that night back in June, four years ago, the tuning and jamming turned into ‘Here Comes The Sun’. I think the entire crowd was quite surprised, I know me and my Grateful Dead Granny were. The smiles on the faces of all in the crowd were worth the whole concert experience, and it was a very good show.

Here is an excerpt from a fitting article in Americana – The Journal Of American Popular Culture.

“The Answer To The Atom Bomb: Rhetoric, Identification, and the Grateful Dead”

“In The Hero’s Journey , mythologist Joseph Campbell claims that ‘the Grateful Dead are the best answer today to the atom bomb’ because ‘The atom bomb is separating us and this music is calling up the common humanity’. Campbell first articulated this belief about the psychedelic rock band from San Francisco after attending one of their concerts in 1986 in Oakland, CA. where he witnessed what he refers to as ‘one incredible Dionysian ritual,’ ‘a dance revelation,’ and ‘magic for the future’. As Campbell explains, ‘They hit a level of humanity that makes everybody at one with each other. It doesn’t matter about this race thing, this age thing, I mean, everything else dropped out… It was just the experience of the identity of everybody with everybody else. I was carried away in rapture. And so I am a Deadhead now.”

Amen brother Campbell. You NAILED it! There is NOTHING like a Grateful Dead show! It is a transcendent experience. Everyone is one with their fellow human beings. It is tangible. It is church. And the sacraments aren’t bad either. 😉

Music was the only church me and Paul had for many years. The joy and fellowship we have experienced is immeasurable and the friends we have made, at concerts and festivals, are priceless.

The SPIRIT is the SPIRIT wherever it manifests itself. God/Goddess is everywhere, in everything, in everyone. Where love exists, God exists. God is love.

I’ll close with a line form the Dead song, Scarlett Begonias. “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

Amen?

So tonight, why not cue up Scarlett Begonias and dance like nobody’s looking.

Peace and love.

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Winter Words Vol. 4 / Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel and the Like

“One more day, just one more day…” is a song form the Jailhouse Rock soundtrack. It’s the one that an old inmate, soon to be released from prison, sings at the talent contest that Elvis wins. Duh! That Jailhouse Rock song production that The King wins with was something for a group of prisoners to pull off.

The old dude was Elvis’ cellmate and had been in the music business as a free man. He was ready to get back out there and give music one more try, in one more day.

I really liked the song and it sticks with me to this day.

One more day. Yep! One more day that Miss LeCroy is out of school. One more day until she goes back to teaching the little darlings. One more day here at 116 Sundown Way, just one more day.

The snow here HAS been beautiful and I’ve truly relished the unexpected time me and Paul have spent together this week in Sundown West. But that is enough. Let’s move on toward spring, Palm Sunday, the end of Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.

I see it’s going to get up to a high of 69 one day next week. I look with eager anticipation to that day. It will be warm and, hopefully, sunny. Ahhhh, to be able to get my walking shoes back on again and pound the pavement!

I love my walks, and man how I’ve missed them these past two weeks. I enjoy walking without my iPod. I love the silence, which is often broken by the cackle of a crow, the bark of a dog or a rushing wind. And I, quite often, stop to chat with one of the neighbors who might be out in their yard doing something.

But ‘the sound of silence’ ($1 to Simon and Garfunkel) is what I most enjoy.

Me and Paul went to see ‘Whiplash’ today. I had already seen it by myself many weeks ago. And I picked J.K. Simmons to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He did win. He deserved it. His performance was masterful. But the kid who played Andrew, the aspiring and very talented jazz drummer, was also masterful. After all, Simmons SUPPORTED his lead. They played off each other beautifully. That was not an easy task for young Miles Teller to pull off. It has to be very demanding to hold your own in those gripping scenes with the force that Simmons was in that movie.

But I digress. ‘The sound of silence’. The movie moved me to ponder about jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Monk was such a genius on the piano. But it wasn’t just how technically proficient he was. It wasn’t just his tone. It wasn’t just his songwriting. It was often what he DID NOT PLAY as much as what he did play. It was the silences between notes that really set him apart as a brilliant pianist.

Yes, it’s the silence that makes my walk. It’s the spaces in between that you really hear. Where mother nature gets your attention. Where the universe summons you. Where God speaks.

“Eckhart Tolle says that silence can be seen as either the absence of noise, or as the space in which sound exists, just as inner stillness can be seen as the absence of thought, or the space in which thoughts are perceived.” Wikipedia

“In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.”

Selah

Winter Words Vol. 3/New York

It’s snowing! REALLY snowing! (2/25/15 3:50 PM). Me and Paul at home again. School was out today and will be again tomorrow. Unfortunately, they also had to cancel the first gathering of our Lenten Luncheons. I hate that as I really enjoyed them last year. It is a series of six with a different church hosting each week. The first was to be held at Heritage Baptist Cartersville, which is our home church. One of the Methodist pastors was to speak tomorrow as the host church’s pastor does not do the honors. Oh well, we’ll just hope that the remaining ones hold up.

So, back to Winter Words. This is our third in an open-ended series. We’ll see how it goes from here.

Forgive me if I got a little preachy yesterday, but hey, preacher gonna preach. It’s what we were born to do.

All this weather, snow, etc. got me thinking about our three years in Albany, NY. It was a novelty for us Southerners to spend three winters up there, but I don’t see how those folks spend a lifetime doing it.

Oh, we got our car ‘Ziebart(ed)'(rust-proofed) and purchased the requisite down jackets, moon boots, snow shovels and the like. It was fun when it snowed and it snowed quite a bit, but it was nothing like they got in that snow belt that included Buffalo, Syracuse and points north. But we had around 70 days of snow cover each winter, give or take a little.

All neighborhoods had a snow plow too and it was rare, if ever, that school was out.

I loved driving on a snowy day in Upstate New York. Obviously Luke and Leah loved the days it snowed, as did Mel. They would go out and play in it for quite awhile. You’d have to force them to come in or they’d freeze to death.

We would have hot chocolate and fluff ‘n nutter sandwiches (peanut butter and marshmallow cream on white bread). The grocery stores we shopped at were Grand Union and Price Chopper.That was a whole new deal to people who were accustomed to the Red and White, the Yellow Front, Greer’s and Piggly Wiggly. Oh yeah, Winn-Dixie as well.

Luke was five and Leah was 7 months old when we moved up there to the beautiful Hudson Valley. Melodye taught at Pineview Christian Academy and I was a campus minister/chaplain at three colleges (the State University of New York at Albany or SUNY, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute or RPI, and Union College). RPI was located in Troy, NY and Union was in Schenectady. I finally figured out I was stretched too thin and focused entirely SUNYA.

My SUNY ‘kids’ and colleagues remain very near and dear to my heart as does our church family, Trinity Baptist Church in Schenectady.

You can read a previous blog of mine (New York, New York) right here on birdlecroy.com if you would like to know a little more about this time in our lives. It was magical and we were blessed beyond our wildest imaginations.

We became Mets fans when we were there also. I said I would pick a team and we were going to go with them. I didn’t choose the Yankees, I grew up a Yankee fan as Mickey Mantle was my hero in a BIG way, as they were winning and that would be too easy and predictable. We settled on the Mets.

This was late summer 1983 and the Mets struggled to a 68-94 record that season. They finished LAST in the NL East. But, they did have a promising rookie on that team who had all-star potential. His name was Darryl Strawberry.

In 1984 the Mets had a teenage rookie pitcher, by the name of Dwight Gooden, join the big league club. You know the rest of the story if you follow baseball at all.

We made many trips down to Shea Stadium, and one to Yankee Stadium, during those three years. A baseball game in the Big Apple is a special thing. We also got over to Fenway Park for a game in 1986 before we left New York. Roger Clemens was a rookie and having a great season. The Red Sox beat the Orioles that day. Me and Luke and Gus Riberio sat in the center field bleachers at the venerable old gal. Now THAT is truly a special experience. Let’s just say the Red Sox fans are VERY passionate about their team.

The snow continues to fall, heavily, here in Acworth, GA. My eyes are misty as my thoughts waft through my mind, like the frozen flakes in the cold Georgia air.

Number 7, Mickey Mantle, Straw, Doc, life long friends, the Bronx, Queens and 24 Windmill Drive in Glenmont, NY, where me and my most treasured memories lived during the mid 80’s.
Melodye, Luke and Leah. Our chocolate poodle, Fudge, and the great neighbors that loved that family of wide-eyed country folks from Lower Alabama.

I love New York and I miss her deeply, especially on days like this.

Let it snow!

Winter Words Vol. 2 / Lenten Love

Just when we thought it was safe to venture back outside…Yep! You guessed it! More ‘wintry mix’ today. The upside? It kept my beloved home with me. That is ALWAYS good. So, we’ve been vegging out and watching some TV. Productive aren’t we?

Also on the upside, it provides some more valuable time to immerse oneself in Lent. If you read yesterday’s blog, Winter Words, you’ll remember that this is only my second foray into the liturgical calendar and the practice of Lent.

People often think of Lent as a time of giving up something. It should also be a time of introspection and reflection, a time to look, first within oneself, and then to take that time of self-examination and turn it into using our unique gifts to love our neighbor as ourself.

Lent should also be a time to look outward and see the world as it is. It is a place where millions of our brothers and sisters are mourning and suffering.

Buddhist scripture puts it this way, “Now this bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering…”

It’s easy for me, today, to sit on my couch, stuff my face and insulate myself to the pain that exists all around me. And it’s not just the nameless and faceless that are suffering. My next door neighbors are suffering as are the people in my subdivision, my community, my church and all throughout my world, our world.

We are all interconnected. When one person suffers, we all do. And it makes no difference what race, creed, color or religion a person is identified with. We categorize, classify and stereotype everyone. And then we use those categories, classifications and stereotypes to to accentuate our differences, whereas we should be looking to highlight our similarities.

The great majority of us consider ourselves Christian, therefore we should see the world through the eyes of Christ and his teachings. The world should be viewed through that lens. He taught us how to live and, most importantly, he SHOWED us how to live. He talked the talk but, primarily, HE WALKED THE WALK. He was a living example of how to respond to any given situation in a redemptive manner.

Christian scripture says this, “… For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me…I tell you the truth, when you did it to ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

We are all familiar with these admonitions and we take them to heart, but giving them legs is the issue. The opportunities to do so are abundant. It is up to us, collectively and individually, to open our spiritual eyes and identify who our suffering neighbors are and make every effort to assist in alleviating their suffering.

So, as ‘Old Man Winter’ keeps pounding away, stay warm, look within, and try to help make sure that others do also.

We can’t save the world but we can make a difference.

Hey folks! I didn’t mean to go completely in that direction today but that is what happened when the fingers hit the keys. God bless!!!

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, moves on…” Omar Khayyam

Winter Words Vol. 1 / Lent, Football, etc.

Winter continues to firmly grip north Georgia. Last week was tough with low temperatures and strong winds. This week we won’t get any higher than 45 and lows will be in the 20’s for the most part. I didn’t even get to walk at ALL last week for I’m not as determined as the days continue to roll by like movie credits at a pace too swift to follow. Like it or not, I’m getting old and I feel it in my bones, joints and muscles.

Lent began with Ash Wednesday last week. I love Lent. This is only my second year of participation in following the liturgical calendar and I find it inspiring and educational. Growing up Southern Baptist, we had absolutely no idea what any of this was, and, quite frankly, we were a little suspicious of such matters. Catholics observed these traditions and we were also a bit suspicious of them. Heck, even Methodists made us a somewhat nervous. Sprinkling babies? Hmmmm…

Even in this day and time not everybody is overly familiar with Lent and such. I went to get a soup and salad at a wonderful little spot in downtown Cartersville, GA last Wednesday, after being “crossed” at the local Starbucks by the associate pastor of the Presbyterian church in that county seat of Bartow. I was asked, by the owner, if I had been working on cars. If you know me at all then you understand that such a notion is preposterous. Then I remembered the ashes that had been smeared on my forehead by the gracious Calvinist. We all laughed, there was also a Methodist present behind the counter, as the significance of the day after Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, occurred to the three of us simultaneously.

Football Spring Practice, yes I’m capitalizing the first letter of all three words because it’s quite important to we SEC fans, will begin in Auburn on March 10th. This is another day we highly anticipate. It’s been oft stated that there are three distinct seasons in the Deep South…Football Season, Recruiting and Spring Practice. National Signing Day was the culmination of Recruiting on February 4th. NSD was covered, all day, on ESPNU and pored over, ad nauseum, for weeks prior to that hallowed day.

According to scout.com, the SEC had five teams in the top ten recruiting classes in the country, and ten teams in the top 25. There you go!!!

After the SEC West took such a whupping in bowl games, many “experts” were declaring the SEC was on its way down. No sir! That ain’t happening! The Big 10, PAC 12, Big 12 and ACC might be catching up, to a degree, but the SEC remains as strong as ever. You can bank that!

And guess what? The end of Lent will be on Maundy Thursday, April 2nd. This week also marks the beginning of Major League Baseball season!

The wheel keeps turning and the cycle of life continues.

The temperature is now 43 degrees and it “feels like” 37. It appears that I will probably miss my walk, yet again. I am feeling it in my old bones and these weary muscles are aching a bit. And Lent reminds us that “it is from dust that we have come and it is to dust that we will return”. But that’s okay. Life is good. It won’t be long before we, once again, hear the thud of leather and the crack of the bat.

Life, death and resurrection. I am in the middle of my 63rd round. In some ways I can truly feel it, but in other ways I feel like a fresh-scrubbed, bright-eyed kid.

“Put me in coach! I’m ready to play…”