This Week in Haiku

I find that I’m writing again. One haiku a day; but one is better than none. There’s been a lot of stress in my life these last few weeks, and I know it comes out in my writing. But my focus is still primarily inspirational/motivational, even if sometimes the voice is pushing from a place of frustration. Either way, the weather is beautiful today, and it’s Monday, and the week is filled with possibilities. So enjoy, thanks for reading, and I wish you a stress-free, productive week.

Namaste,

Jason

Hopes and fears and dreams,
Endlessly intertwined, each
Craving attention.

Open your heart to
Reveal compassion bursting
Forth like a rocket.

For your sanity
There have to be days when you
Say “no” and mean “no.”

Always be prepared,
For people will let you down.
So just be ready.

You need to let go
Of the bullshit in your past
And focus on NOW.

 

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You can’t fix stupid.
You can’t motivate lazy.
You can’t turn back time.

Know that there are times
When the best thing you can do
Is just walk away.

I’ve always dreamt big,
But I now find small actions
Are the way to go.

 

 

There will always be
A new battle to win and
A new hill to climb.

I am not perfect.
I strive for perfection, but
I miss the mark often.

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John Adams wishes you all a Two Thumbs Up kinda day.

New Year, New Haiku (2019 Edition)

Dear Reader,

Happy New Year, 2019. It has been over 5 months since I connected with you. So much in my, and my family’s life, has changed. We live in a new house; we’re closer to our work; I have started a new job with the Stafford Regional Choral Society; Nancy is two chapter revisions away from defending her dissertation; John Adams is in Kindergarten; and there are many smaller, subtler changes and adjustments that have altered our lives since last writing. We are still packing and unpacking. We are still finding our footing in a new home. There has been less than a little time to be creative with the move, and then  into the holidays. But I am still here; we are still here. And I am still dedicated to my blog and my writing. So with that said, please enjoy these new haiku, written over the last few days; the first new writing I’ve done in awhile, and certainly the first writing I’ve done in 2019. Until, next time, thanks for reading, thanks for noticing me, and thanks for being a part of my life, online or other, in 2019.

Blessings, Bounty, and Bacon,

Jason

The New Year’s begun.
Will it bring big surprises,
Or more of the same?

We are our actions.
Inaction is an action,
A choice of no choice.

Character matters.
Your actions and words matter.
Children are watching.

Model behavior
You wish to come back to you,
For it will return.

We have adopted
A white lump of fat some say
Used to be a cat.

Shadow set to spin

The road up is hard.
The road down all too easy.
Which road are you on?

No resolution
Can survive January
Without discipline.

I love New Year’s Day:
We resolve, renewed, hopeful;
Tabula rasa.

A cool blast of change
Blows with a wintry crispness
Across our country.

 

Pray for each other.
Listen to each other.
Love one another.

The family on Christmas Eve, 2018

Haiku – Late May Musings – All is Perfect

The school year’s ending. Life is crazy busy as we all gear up for summer. Change is in the air. Pause and appreciate the accomplishments of the last few months, and of your place in the universal whole. Take a moment to glance through my haiku below, and remind yourself that you are perfect. All is as it should be. And as changes arise they too are part of the ever-evolving and expanding perfection of the universe. And remember…breathe.

Namaste,

Jason

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Within or without,
The Source of All surrounds us.
We’re part of the Whole.

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There is only now.
Whatever you do with now
Defines the next now.

4765
Rejoice and be glad,
For God made you as you are,
Perfect and unique.

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Christians, Muslims, Jews,
Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians,
Taoists, Pagans, Love.

4767
I have a strong heart;
It beats in empathy for
Myself and others.

 

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Caledon riverscape

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When we help others
We reveal our best nature.
Service is godly.

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The mind’s eye sees all.
Though words can deceive the world,
Souls know only truth.

4773
Grasp infinity
With your warm, mortal tendrils,
Yearning to know both.

 

 

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Unclutter your soul.
Discard the broken pieces
Of the half-lived life.

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Love that which loves not.
Love that which knows only fear.
These are our burdens.

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“I can do anything!”

Empowerment Haiku

I find myself wanting to share some more haiku this week…just because. It has been a very good – exceptional – week, and though I am tired on Monday (nothing new) I’m happy. John Adams was back this week after an extended visit with his grandparents. I announced two new career opportunities on social media: I have been hired by International Baccalaureate as an Examiner in Theatre, and also I have been hired as the Artistic Director/Conductor of the Stafford Regional Choral Society. Both wonderful opportunities and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Nancy paid down some debt and made progress on her dissertation. My UU Choir performed magnificently in our church Variety Show. The Christmas tree finally came down. And perhaps most importantly, John Adams had his four-year-old checkup and he is completely healthy. It’s been a long week and even the house feels fatigued, we got through it. So here’s some (mostly) empowering haiku to remind you that whatever you want or are struggling with, you can beat it, you can bear it, or you can weather it, you can do it!

Blessings to you all, and here’s wishing you peace, joy, and the resolve to make your dreams come true. Talk soon.

Namaste,

Jason

4695
Within you is the
Strength, drive, and ability
To do anything.

4696
Never celebrate
Even the worst person’s death.
They were someone’s child.

4702
Sins of the parents
Should not be held against the
Next generations.

4712
You’re The Decider
Of what you can and can’t do.
It’s your right by birth.

4713
Are you strong or weak?
Pessimism is easy,
Optimism’s hard.

4714
You can work through this.
You have the ability
To do anything.

4716
You must do your best
To surmount the obstacles
Life puts in your way.

4717
Ev’ryone has pain,
Mostly hidden from the world.
Knowing this, be kind.

4718
Breathe. Center yourself.
Acknowledge the world’s problems,
But don’t own each one.

4719
Hope can pull you through,
Even in the worst of times.
Never give it up.

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The Best of Times

On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 23, around 1:30 PM, Nancy, John Adams, and I, the car finally packed, headed north to Upper Darby, PA. We were traveling to see Nancy’s parents at their home, dubbed Vacation Cottage in honor of John Adams’s (aka Bup’s) lavish stays while he’s with his grandparents. Nancy and I had cleaned up the house, as is customary when we’re going away for a few days, and had taken a bit longer than anticipated. Bup, excited to go and getting increasingly frustrated with the delay, had strolled out to the car, climbed in, strapped himself in, and proceeded to sit there and talk to himself about his plans for his week. Toward the end of his wait as we were packing the car he told Nancy to “go feed the cats and let’s go.” The kid has a pushy character and knows what he wants, I’ll say that.

The trip north was bumper to bumper and took twice as long as is customary, but we all remained in relatively good spirits. There was a lot of aggressive driving on the road, and I was reminded of a recent conversation on the podcast I religiously listen to, The Thomas Jefferson Hour, where the hosts discussed the question of “How mean are Americans getting?”My internal response to this is, “What do you mean getting?” but I digress. We made three stops total – drinks, gas, and potty  – and made it to Home North in about six plus hours. My in-laws, Sara and Wron (aka Nanny and Pop Pop), were waiting for us (especially their grandson) and were hungry to boot, so in no short time we were whisked off to Pat’s Pizza. Once there, we dined on pizza and wings, and Bup (now Bump, his PA name) helped himself to the bowl of free lollipops on the store counter through his charisma, and the generosity and general unawareness of the teenage girls manning the store. He’s a smoothie, what can I say. We left there with leftovers and an armful of lollipops; his vacation had officially begun.

The next day, Thanksgiving, we each got up early-ish, had our separate breakfasts, watched some of the several parades on TV, and headed up the PA Turnpike to my niece and nephew, Deana and Todd’s, house for conversation and the Thanksgiving meal itself. Staying about four hours, we ate, drank, socialized, and watched Bump entangle himself in the hijinks of a family of kittens recently adopted by my family. Together they raced through the house, in and out of a pup tent, and over the furniture. He had a grand time. He also got to bond with his cousin Viviana – not quite one-year-old – who viewed him with both fascination and suspicion. A highlight for me was seeing my mom. Now nearly 87, shaky and largely deaf, there wasn’t much to do but be with her, hug her, and repeatedly answer the same questions over and over like, “When are Nancy and I getting married?” and “How old is [my grandson] now?”  But to my great happiness she knew all of us – even my in-laws – and didn’t confuse me with my father as she had on previous occasions. She was having a good, lucid day, and that ‘good’ was good for all of us.

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Bump playing with his cousin, Viviana

A little after 7 PM, we said our goodbyes, bundled back into the car, and headed to the other side of Blue Marsh Lake to see the electric light display that is Koziar’s Christmas Village.  Bump is coming to love Christmas lights and all things Christmas (especially candy and presents) and, though he was initially tired and crabby from his kitten party, he soon perked up and got in the spirit of the season.  Christmas Village is nothing more nor less than what the name suggests: a farm complex strung with thousands of outdoor lights, decorated with cheesy wooden cutouts of cartoon characters and famous Christmas stories like the Grinch and A Christmas Carol. They have a huge indoor train display, an on-site Santa, hot chocolate, popcorn, and lots of rustic and nostalgic goodwill. I grew up on the place and I’m glad it’s fast becoming a part of John Adams’s holiday traditions too. We got Bump’s photo with Santa there, had our overly hot cocoa, and headed back to Upper Darby for the night. It was a near perfect Thanksgiving all around.

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Fascinated by the lights of Christmas Village.

Friday, or Black Friday, we slept in for the early part of the day, and then bundled Bump off to another outdoor display, this one called Creamy Acres Presents ‘Night of Lights Country Christmas Hayride.’ Whew! We arrived too early for the gates to open, so we diverted back to the Swedesboro Diner for delicious sandwiches and conversation with our waitress, another woman smitten with Bump’s charisma. When we arrived back at Creamy Acres, the place had filled up and we wound up standing in two chilly lines for over an hour to get on the hayride. Another outdoor display, this one featured maybe a hundred framed and free-standing light displays of Santas, angels, toy soldiers, cats, dinosaurs – you know, the usual Christmas stuff – set to coordinated music. The promise of a living nativity at the end was a bit of a letdown due to a dearth of live animals, but that aside, the display was terrific and held Bump’s attention both with and without the 3-D glasses that created candy canes around the lights. We disembarked, got more cocoa, hit the gift shop, saw a second Santa (better than the first), and called it another night. More magic and good times with my son.

By Saturday we were all in need of a slow down so we mostly stayed around Vacation Cottage. This was our promised home-cooked second Thanksgiving courtesy of Sara, Nanny, Sare, or Ma depending on your perspective, and it never disappoints. An amazing turkey, sausage stuffing, turkey stuffing, corn casserole, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, biscuits, and wine! All over-the-top delicious. Nancy made a homemade pumpkin pie, pumpkin stuffing, and pumpkin dessert cups that contributed to the abundance of tastiness that was our meal. We were stuffed again, exhausted, and suffering from food comas en masse. We started decorating their house and tree, but only got so far, as we were just too overwhelmed by good eating. The evening concluded  – like so many lately – with Bump giving a concert on pots and pans to various Enter the Haggis songs, interspersed with bouts of alternating between watching what new silliness the Hallmark Channel’s Holiday Lineup would provide and the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special on repeat for Bump. We all, again, went to sleep stuffed and satisfied, but our trip was nearing its end.

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The feast laid out before him, Bump is ready to stuff himself.

On Sunday we got up, had breakfast, did some shopping at Shop Rite, and a bit more decorating around the house—John Adams led the charge to put ornaments on the tree, and if there are more decorations than usual on the lower branches, you know why. We ate leftovers, packed, and discussed what a wonderful few days it had been. Bump was staying with his grandparents another week while Nancy and I made the trip home to resume our regular lives of work and housework. He knew it and was only too happy to oblige, even asking toward the end if he could stay there longer. Lots of hugs and handshakes were exchanged and Nancy and I loved and lingered on our son longer than he would’ve liked until we were ready to head back to Virginia. Nancy had developed a bit of a cold during the visit so conversation was a bit intermittent and stilted as she and I journeyed home, but one thing we could both agree on was that it had been a jam-packed five days full of food, love, and adventure. Our focus stayed throughout the week very much on the moment. Counter to most media pundit’s predictions for this year’s holiday experiences, there was little drama and almost no talk of politics. It was a beautiful five-day bubble from the turmoil of the outside world and in every way it was truly the best of times.

I hope your Thanksgiving was equally magical, love-filled, and stress free.

If not, keep believing. It’ll happen.

Namaste,

Jason

Onward and Upward (My 100th Blog Post)

I can’t believe this milestone has arrived. 100 posts! Back in April of 2015, I decided to revitalize my blog with the announcement “I’m Still Here.” I had been inactive for months, what with the care and maintenance of John Adams plus life, and I hadn’t done much writing. But after months of inactivity, I decided to jump back in the saddle and try to kick start my blog. There have been fits and starts of creativity and exhaustion, but after months of sticking it out, here it is: 100.

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“What’s that you said? 100 Blog posts! You have got to be kidding me!!!”

Over the last year I’ve renewed my passion for writing, for poetry, for blogging, and for reaching out. I love to write things that make people think , that informs them of the good in the world, that shares something of my life in a way that might illuminate something in someone else’s. To that end, I’m re-branding my blog as of today. No longer “An introspective journal for spiritual growth,” but rather “A Journal of Joy, the Arts, Wellness, Parenting, and Personal Growth.” I want to inspire people, raise them up, and give them hope. I want to be a light in the dark, not the latest rant on Facebook. I want to make people laugh, cry, and think. I want to help people lead better lives, not remind them of the problems we all face. We already know.

Going forward I will continue to write about my personal experiences, my son John Adams, and my family. It’s what I know. I will include poetry, especially haiku of course, and I want to start including recipes, guest blogs, and other pieces of wisdom that promote better living. No extensive change here, just expansion. I want to stress that this will be the same Reflections from Shangri-La that you have read. I just want to expand the scope, hopefully net wider readership, and in turn, help more people any way that I can.

This last year has been one of some wonderful successes and milestones for my life and my family. My wife did a one-month teacher training fellowship in Kalamazoo on Beowulf through the National Endowment of the Humanities. My son has just turned three. I was a guest blogger for the first time on www.businessinrhyme.com . I just learned that one of my favorite poems, “My Greatest Treasure,” will be included in the Fall issue of Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review (more on this as it develops). I’m participating in the First Annual Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival this weekend, and reading both Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway)and our forthcoming book Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway) in their Kid’s Corner. And my arrangement, “God Rest Ye Jazzy Gentlemen” is being premiered by the area choral ensemble The Spotsylvanians. Much to be proud of, much to blog about, and much to inspire with, and bring hope to others. My life is far from perfect, with many struggles and woes, but there is also much to be thankful for. And that it what I wish to focus on here and share with you. This year alone, Reflections has had over 1,000 views from some 750 people. Two posts—“The Boy Who Lived” and “Still Wild About Hank”—have had over 100 views each. If you are still reading this, you are among those numbers and I can’t thank you enough for supporting my efforts, reading my thoughts, liking my posts, and being a part of my online life.

So here’s looking ahead to 2017, to post 200, and to all of the good things we can share and accomplish together.

Thank you again and see you next post.

Namaste,

Jason

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My son, father-in-law, and I celebrating 100 Blog posts…Not!

My Son, the Birthday Train

It’s a unique and wonderful experience raising a train: The constant coupling up and getting dragged around the house by your shirt (because you have to be the caboose); the “Woo wooing” that goes on till way past midnight from the bedroom, to say nothing of the ‘saying goodnight to every train in the bed/shed routine’ of which there are easily over forty (FORTY!); the ‘train farts’ that sound like a loud “chush,” need to be announced proudly, and always come with a giggle. It’s unique, wonderful, noisy, and exhausting. These days my cow-catcher is always sagging a bit if you know what I mean. Don’t know? Don’t worry. He’ll tell you. It’s a train thing.

On Sunday, September 11, my son John Adams, the train, turned three years old. There were vestiges of speeches, red, white, and blue bunting, fireworks, and “Never forget” signs everywhere. He’s quite sure these were reminders about his birthday. After all, Thomas is blue and James is red, and it all must connect back to him somehow. His day started bright and early at the church where Nancy and I work. My choir was singing, and his grandparents decided to attend so we could be together. In the midpoint of the service is a congregational offering called Joys and Concerns, where parishioners can get up and share their…well, you get the idea. Nanny decided to bring John Adams up to announce his birthday into the microphone. Instead, he squawked loudly into it, got an enthusiastic reaction from the crowd, beamed like an idiot, and smacked the mike on its boom stand till it spun in a circle. He was then led away in amusement and mock horror by Nanny. He had his center stage spotlight, his public birthday moment of glory, and he relished it like a fiend.

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A boy and his train carpet. Photo Credit: Mary Anne Furey

His afternoon visit to the indoor play area at the Spotsylvania Towne Center Mall was surprisingly festive and uneventful, and wiped him out for the late afternoon/early evening, but by 6 PM the ‘little engine that could and will’ was raring for presents and playtime at home with his extended family. A full-size train table from sitter Miss Susan, a train carpet from his “Uncle” Mary Anne, a 40-piece Thomas puzzle, more train minis (some of which glowed), plus other puzzles, matching games, Play-doh play sets, and train spirals were a huge hit with the candied-up toddler-train. And then the cake and cupcakes piled in courtesy of Nanny, and decorated by both Nanny and John Adams himself, to look just like (mostly) Thomas. In his words, “It smells delicious.”    We blew out our candles several times, sang Happy ‘Bursday’ more than once, ate messily, and ran around uncontrollably as only a sugared up three-year old can.

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Thomas Cake and Cupcakes, as decorated by Nanny and “The Bup.” Photo Credit: Mary Anne Furey

When the party was over and bed was upon him, John Adams placed more than a dozen trains into his Clifford backpack, carried it into his room, and dumped his new and old friends onto his bed to settle into an hour’s worth of regaling them with adventures from his big day. Nancy and I, in bed and amused, listened quietly as he spoke to each of his trains – Old Ninety, 475, 89, “Sugar Day”, and many others. There was “woo wooing” and coupling up, dumping trains out of the Charlie Brown lunchbox and replacing others back in the same. About forty-five minutes after crawling into bed the sugar train started to crash, the shed-bed started to get quiet for the night, and each little steamie settled itself down to dream of new adventures, candy, bacon, Play-doh, puzzles, and what it’s like to be a big diesel versus a little steamie.

Such is the life of my three-year old who fancies himself a train.

Happy Birthday, my boy, my train, my John Adams.

Here’s to many, many more days hitting the tracks and riding the rails.

Love,

Daddy

P.S. In case you missed it, my first ever Guest Blog Post, “The Healing Power of Haiku,” was published on September 12 on www.businessinrhyme.com. I’m deeply grateful to Maja Todorovic for this wonderful new opportunity. Please check it out, and check out all the other wonderful content and guest posts on her site.

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Third Birthday Selfie. Photo Credit: Nancy Michael

When the Dead Awaken…and Teach! (The Continuing Legacy of Dr. Wayne Dyer)

Today, August 29, 2016, marks the one year anniversary of the passing of Dr. Wayne Dyer, the “Father of Motivation,” and my self-appointed guru for fourteen years. One year ago today, Wayne succumbed to a heart attack and crossed over. He was seventy-five years old, and the author of more than forty books in the fields of self-help, positive thinking, and spirituality. Though he had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, an autopsy completed shortly after his death revealed the impossible: no trace of leukemia found anywhere in his body. Wayne had claimed without supportive medical evidence for several years prior to his death that he was in “perfect health,” and that through his lifestyle and positive outlook he was clean of disease. The autopsy validated his oft-claimed assertion that “our thoughts create our reality.” In death he was still teaching, and those of us willing to listen were still hearing. It seems in the year since his death, his voice has still not gone silent.

Wayne Dyer, Photo Credit: www.hayhouse.com

Wayne Dyer, Photo Credit: http://www.hayhouse.com

In June of this year, in Elevated Existence magazine, Tammy Mastroberte interviewed two of Wayne’s daughters – Saje and Serena – focusing on the family’s life since Wayne’s passing, their claim that he continues to speak through medium Karen Noe, and that his teaching is ongoing, if from the other side. Numerous anecdotes are recounted through the article, including the possibility of Wayne bi-locating while alive and in Australia, and a postmortem visit to daughter Saje in New York, to name just two. The article also reveals that he uncharacteristically insisted on paying in full daughter Saje’s last year of graduate school (ahead of his normal schedule), and that he felt driven to complete his autobiographical I Can See Clearly Now (his last published book while alive), indicating that he may have had some sense that his time on Earth was drawing to a close. In fact, the family now sees his last published book, Memories of Heaven – about children’s recollections of the other side – as something of a prescient extension of his sense of humor, given that it was published after he would have arrived there to verify the recollections. The family claims (in part through Noe) that Wayne has shifted his teaching of “I Am” to “We Are,” that he is available to anyone that calls upon him for guidance, and that he has summed up to them his philosophy of living somewhat simplistically as “always come from a place of love.”

Whatever the truth of the claims, the article is more than a welcome reminder of the profound teachings that this man offered the world starting with his landmark bestseller Your Erroneous Zones in 1975, and ending with the aforementioned Memories of Heaven. For myself, I know that I owe Wayne a debt that can never be repaid. I have written of my personal journey through Wayne’s work before in the posts “Dr. Wayne Dyer – In Memoriam,” and “Dr. Wayne Dyer – An Addendum,” as well as in an upcoming guest blog post for www.businessinrhyme.com to be released on September 12th called “The Healing Power of Haiku,” so there’s no need for me to dwell here on that debt; suffice it to say, without Dr. Wayne Dyer I don’t know if I would still be around to love my wife, my son, and the new outlook on life he gifted me by his beautiful words and timeless wisdom. Thanks are more than a little in order.

So to that end I want to close this post by recounting some of my favorite Wayne Wisdom, his 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace; enumerated in the book of the same name, and used as the template for Wayne’s third to last book, the co-written Don’t Die With Your Music Still in You, in which daughter Serena recounts what it was like to be a child growing up under the influence of such an “enlightened” father. The Second Secret holds deep significance for me as a musician, child of musicians, and artist in general, but I have tried to live by all of them in turn with varying degrees of success. For a life plan one could hardly do better.

 Dr. Wayne Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace

  1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.
  2. Don’t die with your music still in you.
  3. You can’t give away what you don’t have.
  4. Embrace silence.
  5. Give up your personal history.
  6. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.
  7. There are no justified resentments.
  8. Treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to be.
  9. Treasure your divinity.
  10. Wisdom is avoiding all thoughts which weaken you.

Thank you, Dr. Dyer, Wayne, for the last fifteen years; for the love, wisdom, outlook, and mentor-ship. You are neither gone nor forgotten.  Keep it coming. We’re listening. Namaste.

Love,

Jason

P.S. For those of you who want to explore Elevated Existence magazine, here is a link to their website: Elevated Existence

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Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (1940 – 2015) Photo credit:: http://www.awaken.com

 

Happy 100th Birthday National Park Service!

Tomorrow, August 25, 2016, is the one hundredth birthday of the U.S. National Park Service. Founded on August 25, 1916, the United States has had national parks since 1872. But the NPS as we know it, as an agency within the Department of the Interior, only came fully into being and modern legitimacy in 1916. The history of the NPS is beautifully, if slowly, recounted in Ken Burns’s six-part 2009 sweeping documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. It is a fascinating look at the history of the idea and evolution of national parks, starting with Yellowstone, Yosemite, John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, and other less familiar names, and ending with present-day concerns and speculations as to the future of the NPS. It is one of my favorite long-form documentaries and I highly recommend it.

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A view of Bar Harbor from within Acadia NP, 2009

National Parks have held an important place in my life and well-being for as long as I can remember. The NPS is vast and spans military battlefields, seashores, parkways, homes, and, of course, areas of natural beauty that are earmarked (more or less) to be left in their original state. Over the course of my life and travels I’ve visited the battlefields of Gettysburg and Valley Forge, the homes of Edgar Allan Poe and FDR, the National Mall, Lake Mead, and the Statue of Liberty, to name a few. I’ve spent more than a little time in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore, birding, swimming, watching wild ponies, and testing salinity, temperature, and cyclic changes to the salt marsh ecosystem. Living in King George, VA, my wife and I have had the privilege of being within easy striking distance of four major battlefields of the Civil War, to say nothing of the countless historic homes of Presidents of the US, their families, and Signers of the Declaration of Independence, many of which are managed by the NPS.

As I said, national parks have played a very important role in my life, both for education and entertainment. But it wasn’t until this anniversary came around that I realized that, while I’ve visited many sites managed by the National Park Service, I’ve really only visited two of the fifty-nine “crown jewel” National Parks, set exclusively aside for their beauty: Acadia and Shenandoah. Acadia, in and about Bar Harbor, Maine, I’ve visited twice: once alone and once with Nancy several years ago. Oh, that blueberry ice cream! Shenandoah I’ve visited more frequently; dined, slept, and most importantly, introduced my son John Adams to the wonders of nature there. Together we’ve seen bears, hiked down to Dark Hollows Falls, been on a piece of the Appalachian Trail, and witnessed all manner of natural wonders. Oh, that black raspberry ice cream! I look forward to many more visits to Shenandoah in the coming years, and I can’t wait to see how he takes to the Great Outdoors as he grows and matures, or what outside activities strike his fancy. Nancy and I envision family camping trips!

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Nancy and John Adams posing on the bridge by Dark Hollow Falls, Shenandoah NP, 2016

But that said about Shenandoah, I now realize how many other national parks there are to explore, and I can’t wait to see some new ones. Great Smoky Mountains NP, for instance, spans both North Carolina and Tennessee and is the most visited national park of them all. We’ve had friends visit there, but maybe someday soon we can see the park for ourselves. Mammoth Cave NP in Kentucky is reportedly the largest cavern system in the world. That might scare the little guy right now, but someday…someday. There’s Pinnacles NP, the most recent park added to the system by President Obama in 2013 in California. Of course the biggies – Mount Rainier, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Crater Lake – are bucket list favorites. Or how about Congaree NP, fairly close to us in South Carolina, and a park I’d never even heard of?

There are so many wonderful places to visit throughout the United States, and now I have a new list of misadventures to plan with my family. And of course, there are always those politicians who see no value in preserving such places of beauty; that would rather make a buck, grease a palm, or line a pocket, than preserve for posterity. Ken Burns’s epic is replete with such types, and they’re still with us today. I can only hope that those men and women never achieve high office, or get put in a position to make policy, so that my son can travel off road and see America’s pristine beauty without it being cannibalized for resources and needless profit. I’m watching you D.C. But for now, the National Park Service is alive and thriving, if underfunded, and I have big dreams of sharing as many of them with my family as anyone can pack into a lifetime.

For all the memories past and all the new one’s yet to come I say “Thank You National Park Service” and, on behalf of my family,

“Happy 100th Birthday!!!”

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My little boy says it all!!!

Here’s to many, many more.

Peace,

Jason

What’s your favorite National Park or National Park memory? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Three Samaritans?

On Friday, July 29th, my car died a painful and ignoble death. While driving on a quiet stretch of road outside King George, intersecting Rt. 3 and the road we live on, my 2009 white Hyundai Accent gave a slight jolt as I applied the accelerator and then started to coast out of control. I felt the jolt in my foot, knew immediately that the foot pedal had lost all tension and, after voicing my concern to Nancy that “something had just gone wrong with the car,” guided my car gently to the periphery of the shoulder. I turned off the engine and tried to restart it. I had battery but no turnover. Something was definitely wrong. We found out the next day that my timing belt had snapped, and on its unrestricted way through the mechanisms of the car, had destroyed the engine. A $3,500 repair on a car with 230,000 miles; it was time to say goodbye to an old friend.

After stripping out of the car everything that made it Home on the road

After stripping out of the car everything that made it Home on the road

A financial tragedy to be sure, and one that we’re wrestling with to rectify, there is another part of the story that deserves more attention. My car’s ultimately final voyage was to be a special one. Friday, when I left the house, I was accompanied by both Nancy and our son, John Adams. We were heading into Fredericksburg for a few quick errands and then up to Washington D.C. to visit the National Zoo, and then further still up I-95 to the Maryland House rest area, where John Adams was to be handed off to his grandparents for a 5-day vacation with them. Nancy and I would then return home. My point being that most of the day was to be spent traveling up and down one of the busiest and most dangerously driven interstates in the country. When the timing belt snapped, the car lost all acceleration; all I could do was steer and coast. Had that belt snapped on I-95 at 65+ mph with us in a center lane, or passing, or on an exit ramp, given the nature of I-95 traffic and the average quality of driving on daily dangerous display, I don’t know what my car’s condition would be today, or whether myself, my wife, and son would be here to talk about it after the fact. What I do know is that the belt snapped a little over a mile from my home, on a quiet two-lane artery with limited controlled traffic behind me, and I had ample time to react, hit my hazards, and signal my intentions to get my car and my family to safety. For that alone I am grateful, but the story doesn’t end there.

No fewer than three people came to our aid almost immediately after the incident occurred. Nancy determined to walk back to our house – more than 1.5 miles – to retrieve her car while John Adams and I stayed with the vehicle and called AAA. The sooner she started the walk, the sooner we could get John Adams out of his car seat, off the periphery of the shoulder, out of danger, into air conditioning, and out of the midday Virginia summer sun. Moments after she departed, a friend of mine – we’ll call her V – pulled up and offered her assistance. I told her there was nothing that she could do, that we had the situation under control, and that we had already called for a tow. She wished us well and departed. However, I felt better knowing that, despite no overt help from her, we were not alone; we had a Samaritan watching over us.

Moments after V’s departure, Nancy returned much sooner than expected with her car. We got John Adams immediately out of my car, re-strapped him into Mommy’s air-conditioned car, and all immediate danger to him was ended.  With my mind preoccupied with John Adams’s safety and the impending tow, I didn’t think to ask Nancy how she got back to us so quickly. And, in any case, there was little time for chatter as who I thought was our second Samaritan was about to show up.

A local sheriff’s car pulled up behind me with its lights on. It was our friend – this one I’ll call T – from Animal Control. She indicated that my car was not far enough onto the shoulder for safety and, together, we proceeded to push and steer my Hyundai far enough onto the shoulder that it was out of all potential danger. I thanked her, told her the tow was on its way, and she headed off to work wishing us well. Two people, Two Samaritans, both of whom I knew, had shown up when we needed them to provide support, emotional or other, to keep my family safe. But there had been three, and the third was a total surprise.

After T left and we had a moment to ourselves, Nancy looked at me and said, “You may be wondering how it is I got home and back so fast.” An elderly veteran (whose air-conditioning in his house had fritzed out) had seen her while he was riding about in his own air-conditioned car to stay cool for the afternoon. He pulled over and offered her a ride back to our place, sensing her need, and perhaps just because he was a good person with time on his hands. He dropped Nancy at our door. On their short trip together he volunteered to her that he had had a series of strokes and couldn’t remember names. As a result they never bothered to exchange names. Our third surprise Samaritan embodied bitter sweetness, beauty, and anonymity.

The day worked out as you might expect: we shadowed the car to the repair shop, went into D.C but arrived too late to get our son to the zoo, met with Nancy’s parents at Maryland House on I-95, said good-bye to our son for a few days, and headed home. The financial burden on our family – incurring a new car payment months from being free from one – is troublesome in the extreme. But that notwithstanding, what keeps occupying my mind is how much worse the day could have gone. Had we been on I-95 or some other major highway when the belt snapped what could have happened to us? Would the surrounding traffic have reacted to our emergency situation safely and responsibly, or would our outcome have been grimmer and statistical? I just don’t or can’t know.  What I do know is that three Samaritans – V, T, and Unnamed Warm Veteran – stopped and offered my family assistance when it needed it the most, and for that we are forever grateful. But I also suspect – in fact I’m pretty sure – that a Fourth Samaritan was watching over my family that day, and snapped the timing belt at just the right time, so that I could coast my family to safety on a quiet stretch of road, and that we would be in view of more conventional assistance.

To that Power, Force, Karmic Debt, God, Goddess, or What-Have-You, I can only say:

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

Namaste,

Jason

A rare double rainbow over the driver's side mirror.

A rare double rainbow over the driver’s side mirror.