Wilderness Yoga

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

New Years Day dawned gratefully sunny, dry and outdoors workable comfortable. I took that as an omen to get some overgrown briars, weeds, leaning trees and low hanging branches manicured in the wilderness.
I sit on a newly formed county-wide committee to educate the public to deal with from a farm perspective noxious and potentially toxic weeds for livestock and (from my perspective) invasive woodland plants.
Since the best kind of leadership is an active hands-on style which instills real world knowledge, I put on my old work clothes, got the pruners, clippers and chainsaw and went to work reclaiming the lane and trails.
I have written frequently about blackberries and raspberries. But they can become weeds when they grow where they shouldn’t. Forsythia planted along the creek years ago provides pretty yellow early spring flowers. But left to their own, like multiflora roses, greenbriar, and autumn olive, they can take over.
So to take back the area, I engage in wilderness yoga. Yoga is a form of exercise which employs stretching, interesting and sometime provocative positions, breathing and meditation. And I employ all of those as I duck, crouch, wiggle and meander, stretch and contort under and above overhanging sometime briar filled branches.
After the cutting there is the pulling, detangling, and dragging the newly pruned vegetation to the stick pile for composting.
And throughout all of that is breathing. Heavy breathing… but not the kind you may think. The kind brought on my sitting in front of a computer too much. They kind where walking Emma the Great Pyrenees causes some gasping for air as I try to keep up with the now 1 year old and 90-pound puppy wannabe guard dog as she romps about the wilderness.
When we go inside she has bunches of woodland burrs in her fur and loves the attention she receives as I gently work them out of her long white coat. She considers it a sign of affection and enjoys standing or lying while I prospect for weed seeds.
I soon am reminded that too much time in front of a computer results is tired muscles and aching joints way before the work is done.
But, tomorrow or the next day more work can be addressed. Right now a nap in the recliner in front of the fireplace seems to be a good culmination of my wilderness yoga sessions.

Quotes On Christmas

Curt-linecompiled by Curt Kovener
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
~ Dr. Seuss
“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”
~George Carlin
“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!”
~Benjamin Franklin
“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
~Steve Maraboli
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”
~Laura Ingalls Wilder
“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
~Bob Hope
“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ”
~Mary Ellen Chase
“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!”
~Dave Barry
“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?”
~Bill Watterson, cartoonist for Calvin and Hobbes
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
~Hamilton Wright Mabie
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.”
~Jay Leno
“If my Valentine you won’t be, I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree.”
~Ernest Hemingway
“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”
~Andy Rooney
“What kind of Christmas present would Jesus ask Santa for?”
~Salman Rushdie
“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ”
~Washington Irving
“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”
~G.K. Chesterton
“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.”
~Eric Sevareid
“Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white’.”
~Bing Crosby
“I think commercialism helps Christmas and I think that the more capitalism we can inject into the Christmas holiday the more spiritual I feel about it ”
~Craig Ferguson
“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!”
~Francis Pharcellus Church
“Next to a circus there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out any quicker than the Christmas spirit”
~Kin Hubbard
“A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; It makes no noise at all, But softly gives itself away; While quite unselfish, it grows small.”
~Eva K. Logue
“It’s not about presents but it is about your presence. Therein lies the spirit of the holiday season.”
~Julieanne O’Connor
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Theologian
“Christmas makes me schmaltzy. I’m proud to be level-headed, even a little tough most of the time. But once a year I like to believe that peace on earth may be possible and calories don’t count.”
~Sue Merrell
“…freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin – inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night…”
~John Geddes
“Instead of protesting and cursing others because they write “X-Mas” instead of “Christmas”; try being Christmas. Live Christmas. Breathe Christmas. Act Christmas. Speak Christmas. Reflect Christmas. Listen and feel Christmas. Christ doesn’t care how you write Christmas; He cares how you live Christmas all year long.”
~Sandra Chami Kassis
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
~Norman Vincent Peale
Don’t boil yourself in the Christmas jam
Of unwise spending and social cram.
Preserve your fruit with the spiritual things,
And the lasting joy the holiday brings.
“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.”
~Oren Arnold
“There are some people who want to throw their arms round you simply because it is Christmas; there are other people who want to strangle you simply because it is Christmas.”
~Robert Lynd
“I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas
with a note on it saying, toys not included.”
~Bernard Manning
“You know you’re getting old, when Santa starts looking younger.”
~Robert Paul
“The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.”
~Joan Rivers
“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.”
~Shirley Temple

Leaving The Earthly Orb One Final Time

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

As naïve students at Crothersville Elementary School in the early 1960’s, we were in awe, inspired, and filled with pride at the fledgling space program which sent humans into the black void of the cosmos.
It was a time when new words came to be a part of our vocabulary. On the playground we were impressing one another about our knowledge of the Mercury Seven, Redstone rockets, launch pad, space capsule, boost and thrust, yaw & pitch, re-entry, splashdown.
One of those early space pioneers died last week. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth on Feb. 20, 1962. He was 95 when he passed.
Glenn was the real Capt. Kirk before Star Trek hit the TV airwaves.
Even though I was not yet 10 years old then, we all knew of the initial Mercury 7 astronauts. Alan Shepard was the first American in space. Nearby Mitchell, Indiana native Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom was the second man in space and that gave we Hoosiers a little more pride and interest in space exploration.
All of the seven Mercury astronauts were test pilots because engineers didn’t really know how the Redstone rockets would perform. There had been some explosions on the launch pad and disintegrations shortly after launch. Both Shepard and Grissom went up r-e-a-l high, made an arc, came down, and safely landed in the ocean.
But it was John Glenn who first orbited the earth in space.
I remember on those historic early rocket launches, a black & white TV was brought into the classroom so we could watch, witness history, and maybe learn.
A couple of years after his historic space orbit, Glenn retired from NASA. In 1974 he was elected to the U.S. Senate from neighboring Ohio. He served in the senate through January 1999.
While a sitting Senator, on Oct. 29, 1998, at age 77, he became the oldest man to fly in space, this time on the Space Shuttle Discovery. His mission on the flight was a medical one to be studied to see what effect space flight had on the aged.
I got to shake John Glenn’s hand in 1983 when he visited the Indiana Democratic Editorial Association’s convention in French Lick. He was seeking the Democratic nomination for President. His candidacy did not take off like the rockets he piloted. Walter Mondale was the Dems nominee who got clobbered by Ronald Reagan in the election of 1984.
Glenn and the six other early astronauts were portrayed in the movie “The Right Stuff”. If you don’t have that in your DVD collection, borrow it from the library. It is a fitting reflection and memoriam of the courageous space pioneer.
He rocketed into that history setting first obit in 1962 and as the rocket cleared with launch tower, he was wished “God’s speed, John Glenn.” It’s a fitting final salute today.

What’s The Difference?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

My high school English teacher Mrs. Lewis was a stickler for increasing her students’ vocabulary. We would have weekly tests on a list of words she would supply. At the end of the week she would say the word and we were to spell it correctly and give its definition.
Today many people use words that are close but not entirely accurate.
Like the guy last week who said I was part of the liberal media. I guess this guy thinks a one-man newspaper operation in a one-stoplight town fits his definition of liberal media.
But maybe, like my name calling mentally challenged friend, what some words mean confuses you.
So, what it the difference between the following:
Canyon vs. Gorge: Both are deep ravines with a stream or river cutting through the bottom. Canyons have wider sloping walls while gorges are narrower and steeper walls.
Lake vs. Pond: Although there is no set size for either, geographers agree that a body of fresh water over 12 acres in size is a lake. Less than that, it is a pond.
Stalactites vs. Stalagmites: Formed by water and minerals, generally in caves, a stalactite hangs “tight from the cave ceiling”. Remember the c means hanging from the ceiling and g is for up from the ground.
Swamp vs. Bog vs. Marsh: All are types of wetlands. A bog is on high ground so water drains away from it and replenished by rainfall. Bogs are covered in peat moss, which makes it difficult for aquatic animals to breathe or survive there. Swamps are low, flat area where slow moving water collets. Swamps are muddy and home to trees, fish, and horror movies. A marsh borders a body of water. It has grasses and reeds (but not trees or peat) and lots of underwater life and birds.
Elevation vs. Altitude: Altitude is used to describe a point above sea level in the air, which is why pilots say altitude. Elevation is a point above sea level on land.
Hail vs. Sleet: Both are irregularly shaped ice chunks. Hail, which can occur anytime of the year, is larger and formed by updrafts in the clouds that push the frozen water high into the atmosphere—sometime several times. Sleet isn’t associated with updrafts so it doesn’t take as much ice forming around a water droplet before gravity takes over.
Weather vs. Climate: Weather is a combination of atmospheric events that determine temperature, precipitation and humidity and can be tracked daily. Climate is a much more wide-ranging system tracked over long periods of time. In other words, climate is a long-term trend; weather is the variation around this trend.
City vs. Town vs. Village: A city is an incorporated human settlement governed by a mayor and city council. A town is smaller than a city governed by a council (but there are historic exceptions). A village is an unincorporated human settlement with no governing body.
Twilight vs. Dusk: Dusk happened once a day after sunset. It’s the darkest stage of twilight which occurs when the sun in below the horizon but still showers the landscape with indirect light. Twilight happens twice every day—before sunrise and after sunset.
Hurricane vs. Typhoon vs. Cyclone: All three describe the same kind of storm with sustained winds reaching higher than 74 mph. The difference is their location. If it strikes North America from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico it is a hurricane (named for Hurikan, the Mayan god of evil). If the same wind occurrence strikes China, Japan or Southeast Asia it’s a typhoon. A cyclone is the same circular wind occurrence but in the Indian Ocean… or in Kansas if your name is Dorothy and you live with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em.
Oh…and Toto too.
Mrs. Lewis also taught literature. But that is a column for another time.

Why Do We Like The Bogeyman So Much?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

We claim to want to live in peace, but we really like scaring one another. There is the preacher from the pulpit warning of Armageddon and hellfire & brimstone. There are news reports of latest insect or animal spread virus, disease or illness. There are threats (real and imagined) of financial doom, another depression, crop failure and food shortage, bubonic or black plague or Ebola or Zika or (insert your favorite scary disease).
Do you remember all of the foolishness written in 1999 about the coming Y2K problems when our calendars flipped over to 2000? And do you remember how worried we all were? Did devastation occur? Did the power go out? Did computers quit working?
Nope. The sun even came up the next morning shining brightly on the new millennium.
Then a few years back we were warned that the ancient and wise (and extinct) Mayans had a calendar that only went to 2012. What did they know that we didn’t? Was the world going to end in 2012?
Nope. I rather think the reason their ancient calendar, carved in stone ended with 2012 was because they ran out of rock.
But we just like to scare ourselves…even when there is nothing to be scared about.
Of course the biggest conjurers of the boogieman are our politicians and elected officials.
Some who warned about the ‘war on coal’ was killing jobs, now that they are elected are saying that it was natural gas that was the enemy of coal causing it to lose market share and that market conditions will probably continue to drive down the use of coal and jobs won’t be coming back. That’s not such a big deal here because there’s not many coal mines or natural gas wells in Jackson or Scott County.
Then there is the Evangelical inspired ‘war on Christmas’ where it is claimed the godless are trying to remove all religious references from the holiday. Of course, those who study history know it was the church which took over the pagan Winter Solstice holiday and re-branded it as their own original idea…even though no one is sure when Christ was born…and there is no Scriptural directive for celebrating Christmas. The same believers who want to lighten up Halloween and make it not so scary don’t mind trying to scare others that “them non-believers” are trying to abolish the Reason for the Season.
And we are warned of the latest threat from the extremist (insert your favorite scary group) that could come to America to a city near you to do harm.
It is really easy to scare us when the perceived bogeyman doesn’t look like us, doesn’t dress like us. It’s easier to be afraid of a foreign threat when it is our domestic neighbors that pose just as great a threat.
I find it a typically human response that we are quick to label those of foreign extraction who do harm as Muslim extremists while we excuse a white bread American man who is mentally or emotionally deranged, has the same access to guns as you and I do who shoots up a mall, church or school (not hypothetical as it all has happened) as just an unfortunate, regrettable situation.
WARNING READERS: As we approach the season of “tidings of comfort and joy” we should all be on the look out for the next bogeyman around the corner.
Have you heard the latest forecast for the coming winter?

Thanksgiving: A History & Reflection

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener
Americans don’t know it and children aren’t taught it, but George Washington is responsible for our Thanksgiving holiday. It was our first president who led the charge to make this day of thanks a truly national event—not the Pilgrims and not Abraham Lincoln.
On October 3, 1789, (the same year our constitution was enacted as you constitutional scholars already know) George Washington issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation, designating for “the People of the United States a day of public thanks giving” to be held on “Thursday the 26th day of November,” 1789, marking the first national celebration of a holiday that has become commonplace in today’s households.
The proclamation was printed in newspapers, including the October 9, 1789 issue of the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser.
While subsequent presidents failed to maintain this tradition, it was Washington’s original Proclamation that guided Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. In fact, Lincoln issued his proclamation on the same day, October 3, and marked the same Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26, as Washington, setting Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of November after our first president’s example.
George Washington first mentioned the possibility of a national Thanksgiving Day in a confidential letter to James Madison in August 1789 (just months after taking office), asking for his advice on approaching the Senate for their opinion on “a day of thanksgiving.” By the end of September 1789, a resolution had been introduced to the House of Representatives requesting that “a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving.” The committee put the resolution before the president and George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving Proclamation within days.
Washington knew the value of a thanksgiving day long before becoming our first president. During the Revolutionary War, he would order special thanksgiving services for his troops after successful battles, as well as publicly endorse efforts by the Continental Congress to proclaim days of thanks, usually in recognition of military victories and alliances. The concept of thanksgiving was not new to the citizens of the new United States. Colonists even before the Pilgrims often established Thank Days to mark certain occasions. These one-time events could occur at any time of the year and were usually more solemn than the Thanksgiving we observe today, emphasizing prayer and spiritual reflection.
Thanksgiving was not made a legal holiday until 1941 when Congress named the fourth Thursday in November as our national day of thanks in answer to public outcry over President Roosevelt’s attempt to prolong the Christmas shopping season by moving Thanksgiving from the traditional last Thursday to the third Thursday of November.
– – – – – –
We received an uplifting note from a subscriber which is passed along for your encouragement.
The day following Thanksgiving is known in the business sector as “Black Friday”—the heavy shopping day that many retail outlets finally get into the black on their financial statement.
The note we received read:
“It was Nov. 29, 1963, the day after Thanksgiving in Youngstown, Ohio where I was managing the Santa Photo Shop at our biggest department store. Soon after opening that morning, we had a long line of harried parents—their faces touched with sadness over President Kennedy’s assassination a week earlier—and their young children, who couldn’t wait for their turn with Santa. The line stretched from Santa’s chair through the toy department and to the elevator doors. The parents were impatient to get on with their shopping, Santa was doing his best, without shortchanging any child.
At one point the elevator doors opened, and a young boy in a wheelchair exited, pushed by his elderly grandfather. The man looked at the long line and asked, “Should we come back another day, Johnny?”
The boy’s disappointment was obvious, but before he could respond, a young girl at the end of the line spoke up, “You can get in front of me,”
The grandfather was touched by the child’s generosity, thanked her and wheeled Johnny in front of her.
Then the next child in line spoke up, “Here, get in front of me.” This happened again and again as one child after another gave up a place in line. I heard no complaints from the parents as their children chose to wait a bit longer for their turn.
I sincerely hope those children got an extra gift from Santa that year. I’m certain they each earned a smile from their God.
Shopping the day after Thanksgiving, you just might run smack up against the Spirit of the Season.”
A simple act of kindness, and yet those are the most memorable.