Stay grateful, my friends.

Here it is, Thanksgiving Eve, and I’d like to say that I’ve written an insightful, well-thought-out, finely-crafted post on gratitude.

However… an outdoor fire and a margarita called my name. I’m weak, human, and subject to temptation. Instead of writing, I sat around said fire with the margarita, family and friends, and a Sonic hamburger (and mosquitoes).

We’ve much to be grateful for in the simple things.  So instead of writing, I thought I’d just share some photos of just a few of the many everyday things I’m grateful for.

canal

An evening walk with my dog.

2016-flood-la

The August flooding didn’t get bad at all here.

planting-cane

Planting cane.

turtle

This little guy by my office. Fortunately, he’s not far from home.

avery-island-birds

Bird sanctuary at Avery Island, Louisiana.  Yep, I’m 15 minutes away from where they make Tabasco.

cane1

Sugar cane, by home.

hauling-cane1

Harvest time, hauling cane to the mill.

ribbit

This little fella by my kitchen door. He sings, too.

pecan-island

A route in Pecan Island, Louisiana.

stormy-weather

Rain for the cane. (Sugar cane fields)

sunset-1

Sunset seen from my front porch.

morning-walk-in-south-la

The view on my morning walk to work.

Life is filled with challenges, trials, fearful things, obstacles and broken dreams.  There will always be an unsoothed ache, a hidden hurt, a lost chance.

Thankfully, there will also be more beauty, chances, hope and love in life, in plain sight, waiting for us to grab it, share it, celebrate it.  The choice of where to look is up to us, and I prefer to see the beauty and hope in the world.

Stay grateful, my friends.

Live Steam!

For some years my brother Greg has been after me to attend the Soule’ Live Steam Festival in Meridian, MS.  Now, you’d have to know my brother (and some of you do). Like my husband has the “guys at the camp,” with Greg it’s “the guys at the shop.”  The guys at the shop, however, have an affinity for steam engines and just about anything that’s large, heavy, made of iron and runs on steam.  (Or gasoline. Or diesel.)

The Soule Live Steam Festival is an annual event held at the historic Soule Steam Feed Works / Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum the first weekend in November each year. It’s a delightful, educational, family-oriented event, and visitors will see many steam engines at work.

soule-sign

Greg and his friend Eddie brought several of Eddie’s steam engines, and they weren’t the only exhibitors.  But the heart of the event is the Soule Steam Feed Works itself.  The company manufactured machinery and steam engines for the lumber industry from the late 1800s through the first part of the 20th century.  At that time, steam was king – and it was portable.  Soule’ built a rotary steam engine that was portable.  A visit to the factory/museum is a step back in time, but not quite so far back as one might think.  Steam is still used in manufacturing – in south Louisiana, steam runs the sugar mills that grind cane and product syrup and raw sugar.

At Soule, steam fans come together, along with railroad afficionados.  The railroad station is close by the steam works, and the weekend also hosts Railfest, a short walk away from Soule Steam Feed Works.

some-steam

Some of the more portable engines on exhibit at Soule’.

I attended on Saturday, and in addition to steam engines and a look into a not-so-distant  manufacturing past, the event hosted several attendees and exhibits from the Carousel Organ Association of America.  THESE INSTRUMENTS ARE COOL.  I’ll admit, this was a deciding factor for me.

Greg: “lots of steam engines!”

Me: “more than you and your friends have?”

Greg: “Yes.”

Me:  “ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

Greg: “They also have carousel organs. They’re neat.”

Me: “I’M IN!!!!”

carousel-organ

Yes, it’s a functioning baby pipe organ.
There was nonstop carousel organ music in one of the large workshops.  At one point, two organs played a duet – which was fairly excruciating, because one was tuned to C and the other to Eb.  Ouch. Somewhere Over the Rainbow sounded more like Somewhere under the Stormy Weather.

I can also say that I’ve now heard Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance on carousel organ. I couldn’t stop laughing. (You can find out more about the carousel organs here: http://steamfest.weebly.com/ ) A gifted bagpipe player also provided wonderful musical entertainment on the grounds. (I love bagpipes, so this was a real treat!) The museum had historic printing demonstrations, a spinning and weaving display, and a broommaking machine. I even brought home some freshly ground cornmeal, ground on site by one of the exhibitors.

steam-engines

Two of the many engines on display in the museum.

Right before sunset, Alabama Art Casting held a demonstration of melting, pouring and casting iron.  “Industrial heritage”is a term you don’t hear everyday, but think about it.  Progress is made by industry, and industry is born out of humanity’s desire to make life better and easier.  The “Industrial Revolution” isn’t just something taught in school; this is how our country – and others – were built.

iron-pour

Molten iron, poured from furnace into a heated crucible.

Later in the evening, we attended the volunteers’ dinner at the Temple Theater.  This is an historic theater, built in the 1920s in “Moorish Revival Style” by Shriners.  The barbeque was delicious, and just being in this beautiful place was a treat. Visit their website at https://templetheater.wordpress.com/

But it got better. After dinner, we were treated to an organ recital and silent movie – with live organ accompaniment.  The theater has its original Robert Morton organ, and we sat back to watch a Buster Keaton classic – with a live organist providing the soundtrack.  What a treat!  Greg, Eddie and I agreed that it was an outstanding weekend, with the guys pronouncing this the “best ever” of the numerous Live Steam Festivals they have attended there. Visit their website here: http://www.soulelivesteam.com/home.html – if you can’t make it for their festival, they offer tours throughout the year.  It’s well worth a visit.

I drove home Sunday in a car scented with cedar – one of the exhibitors had a large lumber saw set up (powered by a steam engine) and was milling lumber.  Leftover cedar shavings were there for the taking, and they’ll provide great garden mulch. All because of the power of steam! sawmill

During our regular weekly prayer group the other day at the Sacred Center, we had a guided meditation that brought up the image of fire.  My recent steam adventure came to mind. Nearly everything I’d seen last weekend had been powered by steam and fire.  During our subsequent discussion, I mentioned my trip to Meridian and the Soule Steam Festival.  These are massive machines, all run on steam power. We can think of fire as being consuming, cleansing…but also transformative, an agent of change, and a source of power and energy.  Just as fire can provide incredible energy, a spiritual fire can refine us, and it can also magnify our strength to do what may seem impossible.

– – – –

See some sights and sounds of the event, including Bad Romance on a carousel organ:  https://youtu.be/RS2Xl_tGB1Y  (you may have to copy and paste)

 

The Quagmire

I told myself months ago that I wasn’t going to get into political musings on this blog. So this isn’t intended as a political discussion, but rather my own musings on trying to “remain untainted” by the dirty business of politics in our flawed world.

I often hear comments like “I avoid politics” and “I vote, but that’s it.” Sometimes I think that may mean “I vote, but don’t actively engage in supporting specific candidates.”  Fair enough.  Or perhaps it means “I don’t want to talk about it.”  I can understand that, too.

happy-dog

To ease the pain of a political post, here’s a photo of a happy dog. You’re welcome.

But what if it means “I’m going to vote the way I always do because I don’t want to be exposed to the negative energy of the election?” Therein lies the spiritual challenge to each of us.

In writing this blog, I try to apply spiritual principles to everyday life.  I subscribe to the idea that I am what I think about most – and who wants to think about politics?  It never ceases to amaze me how we can wind up with so many candidates for so many offices that disgust us so much. “I avoid all that! I don’t want to go there!”

Neither do I, but I do. It is one of the challenges of living as a part of a community, one of the lessons we as humans must learn. To say one is disengaged from the political process “but vote, and that’s it” is to abdicate power and participation in the process.  It’s irresponsible.

We hear much in the media about “uninformed voters,” which can mean “someone who doesn’t vote the way I do.”  Unfortunately, most major news outlets are extremely biased, and even closely following major news outlets does not necessarily result in being informed.

Personal disclaimer: I did not vote for either presidential nominee in the primary. So, I am one of those who may be tempted to not vote, or to write in the name of my initial choice.  But I won’t. (Didn’t. I voted early.)

blue-dog-vote

Louisiana’s “I Voted” sticker. Not necessarily a political commentary…

WikiLeaks.org and projectveritas.com have released (and continue to release) bombshells.  I won’t use this space to dig into the findings of either of those websites – why deny you the fun of doing it yourself?

Here’s where our challenge comes in.  United States citizens have a right to vote.  It is also a responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  Don’t give up the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the candidates presented because it’s depressing and you really don’t like either one of them.  If we took that attitude towards all distasteful tasks, the human race would have died out long ago because dealing with babies means dealing with a lot of merde.

whew

I also urge you to avoid the easy way out.  “_______ is a ________!”  Ask yourself truly: am I just repeating a soundbite?

No candidate is perfect.  We are all flawed human beings, and most of us do NOT live our lives planning a run for political office.  Somewhere along the line, we’ve pissed some people off with careless comments.  We may have mismanaged our own affairs – which provides one with great lessons.  Some of the “regular” questions are easy to ask: What has A achieved?  What is B’s stance on C?  

The big questions facing us about our candidates are ones we never thought we’d ask, and hate the idea of having to address them: Has X seriously endangered national security?  Can Y be bought?  Did Z commit treason?

Am I making the right decision?  Is there a right decision in this election?

Yes, I do believe there is. There is no perfect candidate, so each must voter choose an imperfect one. I am reminded of Louisiana’s 1991 gubernatorial election: “Vote for the crook, it’s important.”  A choice between Edwin Edwards (who was later convicted for racketeering and served 10 years in a federal penitentiary) and former KKK wizard David Duke taught me to never say never.  I didn’t like Edwards, but I held my nose and voted for him anyway.

Jesus hung out with sinners, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and took on the establishment of his day.  He didn’t let the “bad energy” dissuade him from bringing light into the world.  King David was a pretty flawed guy, but did great things for God anyway.

I’ve always said you couldn’t pay me enough to run for political office – I wouldn’t even run for dogcatcher, as the saying goes.  (I’d want to take all the dogs home!) Politics challenges us as individuals, and as spiritual beings.  We want a world with peace, equality, hope, opportunity, love, religious freedom.  We don’t want to have to go “slumming” in the stinking gutter of the political quagmire and would just rather steer clear of it all. We don’t want to have those discussions with friends that vote differently from us. We say why can’t we just all get along?

This is the human condition, so participate. Pray for the process, our country, and the candidates. Don’t sink low. Realize that you can dive into the yuckiness of politics and still be a light in the world.  In spite of her flaws, America is still an example of freedom in the world.  Exercise your free will and vote.

reagan-quote-spiritual

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.
–Ronald Reagan