Wednesday, August 15, 2018

August 15, 2018

I never thought I’d see the day. But I have, and now, as I reflect upon it, I can’t help but analyze the entire situation.

I’d often heard it said that couples who stay together, over time, tend to shift and change and more resemble each other than they did at the beginning of their union. They become two peas in a pod. Sometimes, they even begin to look alike!

I’m not altogether certain I ever believed that. I did know there was a quality of being married for a number of years that seemed to possess every married couple I knew who’d been together more than a dozen years. And that was an inclination toward bickering.

Not nasty fighting, not name calling or blame throwing, just nit-picking bickering. These back and forth exchanges at times resemble an existential one-act play—or a tennis match. I’d experienced it in my own marriage, of course, but I’d also witnessed it with my parents-in-law, my brother and his wife, good friends, and even our eldest son and his wife.

In fact, that last example? I can still recall the first time I heard my son and his wife begin behaving like old married folk. I laughed.

So the bickering, yeah, that’s normal. But that other thing? That becoming like two peas in a pod thing? Nah, that couldn’t be right. In fact, a part of me even thought, “say it isn’t so!”

For those of you who’ve read these essays over the years, y’all know that my beloved has been what I called a “traveling fool”. Nothing, in his mind, was worse than having a week or two of vacation time and going nowhere. He loves traveling, going and seeing and doing. He’s not a world traveler, but he’s a continental one, and even a slightly off-continental one.

Over the last dozen years we’ve been to a number of major cities in the United States, including Puerto Rico, as well as a few resorts in Cuba, The Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas, St. Thomas. We’ve even cruised to Bermuda—twice.

You may recall, as well, that at least once a year he and our daughter would head off to Cuba, for some sun, sand and sea. And, of course, reading. Our daughter is as voracious a reader as we are, and as is our oldest son.

I was worried, as the day of my husband’s retirement loomed, that I wouldn’t have much writing time in the months and years to come. I feared that he would want to be going and seeing and doing, that he would be loath to stay home all the time. After all, being the home body, preferring to be within my own domain as opposed to going and seeing and doing, was my thing. I was the hermit in training, not he.

The operative word in that last sentence: was.

The day I never thought would come has arrived, and it did so quietly, and without fanfare. We were coming back from the city next door about a week ago, having had to run a few errands, and my beloved said, “I’ll be glad when we get home. I really don’t like going anywhere anymore.” No traveling, I asked him?

“It’s just such a bother,” he said. “Maybe now and then, at some point in the future. But for now, I just want to stay home.”

When he said that, I very nearly protested aloud that he was stealing my lines! And then, I thought about it some more. And I thought about that theory, that long-married couples tended to blend. And I realized it was true, at least for us.

Time was we spent our days apart, he at work and me here, at the keyboard. Then he’d come home, and he’d relax, eat the supper I’d cooked him, then read or watch the television while I…returned to my keyboard. He was tethered to his job, and the routine that created, and I was here, being a hermit. 

And now here we are, two long married people, at our keyboards each day, loath to go out into human society. Not really wanting to travel so much as just…stay home. Weekly grocery runs are even an ordeal at times. We’re seriously considering having them delivered.

There remains but one major difference in our days: he likes to stay up later and then get up later than I do. So, he has a couple hours after 11:30 at night to have the house to himself, and my couple of hours of solitude come before nine in the morning.

His title of “traveling fool”, while well earned, needs must now be, as he is, retired. There’ll still be the odd excursion in our future, including one to San Antonio next February for a writer’s/reader’s event. But going and seeing and doing far away from home will be more a memory than a way of life.

Times, and life, change. We both believe in embracing what is, and in seizing the day, be it long or short. Happiness, in my view, is easiest realized when you cherish the moment that is and look fondly on the past as a lovely place you used to be.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 8, 2018

So many people today are broken. Sometimes, you can see that brokenness right there in front of you. It’s not hidden, but in plain sight. Some people see it and turn away, just in case it’s contagious. And some people have become adept at dismissing the condition from their conscious thoughts.

It doesn’t affect me, so I refuse to acknowledge its existence.

But there are more people who are broken than even the most empathic eye can see. Just as some people have trained themselves not to see the brokenness of others, other people have learned how to hide their own tattered condition from the world—not only from strangers, but, and likely most especially, from family and friends as well.

When you have a loved one who goes through horrendous circumstances, sometimes all you can do is simply be there for them. Be the shoulder that supports a head, the ear that listens to a heart that’s breaking, and the arms that hold body and soul together, allowing a moment of rest. You don’t always have to have answers. Most times, even when we’re the most broken, the only place answers can be found is within ourselves. You don’t hold my answers, only I do. I don’t have your answers—I can only support you while you search for your own.

Until we’re strong enough to take up the search for those answers, we need comfort and caring and to know that we’re not alone. We need to know someone else has been through this. And we need to know, that no matter how destroyed we feel ourselves to be, we matter.

People matter. In fact, if people don’t matter to you, then everything else that does matter to you is as worthless as ten-year-old mouse defiled hay.

I believe with all my heart that the main reason we are here, on this earth, is to help others. That doesn’t mean you must live 24/7 for other people. It does mean that when those moments happen, when those people come into your life, then you need to take care of them in the way that, if you look inside yourself, you understand you’re expected to do.

You see a homeless person on the street, and you feel the urge to feed them? Feed them. It’s nearly Christmas, and you feel the need to buy food or toys and give them to someone who needs them? Buy them.

The person in your office whom you don’t really care for is having a horrible time—take them for a cup of coffee or tea, and just listen.

Most of what we’re called to do to help our neighbors, whom we are supposed to love as ourselves, doesn’t cost us anything but time and a bit of compassion. And the wonderful thing about compassion is this: the more you give away, the more your human heart manufactures for you to give away.

The side effects of this process include but are not limited to: an easing of your own sorrows, a sense of achievement, an insight that you’ve done something good and righteous, a lighter step, and a heart more filled with love.

These days in which we find ourselves are rife with anger, sadness, and a sense of being adrift, of having lost our way. We feel the very foundations of our society—honesty, decency, compassion, and fairness—being battered by the forces of pure evil.

This is nothing new in human history, though it may be new to us as individuals. And the only cure, the only way to beat back the dark is to invite in the light—to bring our better angels to the fore and follow their prodding.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

August 1, 2018

Our gardens are not doing too badly this year. The ones in the back yard are especially thriving. We even have a kind of taking-over-everything in its path vine thing happening. Judging by the leaves and the flowers, it appears to be of the morning glory family. It’s very pretty and the flowers are white with a purple center.

And it was lush and beautiful, growing out of the old barrel as it does, spreading along the side fence. I say “was” because we discovered, on this past Saturday that some critter or other had been using that growth as an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m not sure what was having a feast there—the candidates are squirrels, chippies, rabbits or caterpillars—but it damn near did all but lick the platter clean on an entire section of the vine.

The old barrel is just that—an old large, plastic barrel that we were using as a compost container. In the first few years of living in this house, my beloved used that barrel as a garbage can. And for the first few years, the collectors each week happily dumped its contents into their trucks.

Enter new regulations, and we discovered on a day when that barrel was about half full, that it no longer qualified as an acceptable receptacle. I had thought David had emptied the contents into another can that did meet regs.

Imagine rolling-eyes emoji here.

At about the same time as we discovered the unacceptability of the old barrel, I had mentioned to David that we really should have a compost container. He said, “You bet!” And since he duly took my compost deposits—all fruit and veggie rinds and coffee grains, opened tea bags and egg shells and such—each week without any comment, I assumed we had a composter.

And we did. Yes, that old gray barrel had been transformed as if by magic into a composter—and, I might add, no, it was not emptied first. Maybe I should suggest imagining another rolling-eyes emoji here?

About four years ago, after my beloved, having added some soil here and there, the compost barrel was full. It stood where it is now, in anticipation of his using the contents of that by now full of rich composted soil on the gardens, when we discovered that we had something growing in it. Weeds, I thought. Let’s just wait and see, he said.

And thus, began the takeover of the vine. We’re pretty sure it’s not necessarily a “weed”, because it has those pretty white flowers with the purple centers. The leaves and the flowers are both very similar in shape to the morning glory plants at the front of our house, as well as the moon flower plant that we put in this spring. We figure we have some birds to thank for this vine ending up in the compost barrel.

Each year, the vine comes back. We don’t cut or feed it, but it does seem kind of nice. Except not at the moment, when it’s somewhat chewed and mangled. My husband thinks it really could be chipmunks or squirrels, because seriously, it looks like something just chewed all the leaves off in one area, but the munchers left the stem part. We had the same thing happen in the very early spring to one of our cedar trees. Up overhead, several feet up, you could see a round, gnawed-away part of the tree’s foliage.

If the destruction had happened to one of my roses (which are not in this part of the yard) or to other plants that we purchased at the garden center, I’d be more than a little miffed. As it is, if it is one of nature’s little creatures availing itself of the buffet offering, how can I really complain?

Come winter we purchase peanuts and sunflower seeds to feed the squirrels and chippies, even going so far as to have a separate feeder for those rodents. We have a bird feeder too, and purchase bird seed for it. How can we complain if those same creatures then avail themselves of whatever they find here the rest of the year? Likely as far as they’re concerned, this isn’t a house where humans live.

It’s a twenty-four-hour restaurant, an all-you-can-eat salad bar. I’m okay with that. Just as long as they continue to leave my roses alone.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

July 25, 2018

I have to say, they sure aren’t making it easy, these days, to stay positive, are they? Between the weather which we’ve been getting lately, and newscasts with all the hair-on-fire headlines, doom and gloom and gloom and doom abound.

My beloved tells me he thinks we’ve passed the tipping point for the climate—that we’ve now crossed the threshold with Mother Nature, and the best we can do is to slow it down by the tiny increments available to us and then watch the consequences in the weather of failing to respond adequately to the crisis of global warming.

As for the headlines? Well, thanks to the constant barrage of news headlines, hand wringing, along with name calling and blame hurling have become the new national past times, in both our countries. Staying upbeat is becoming passé, as is using common sense and practicing the golden rule.

There are times when I am wondering if it’s the gold-plated rule, and if that gold plate wasn’t maybe fool’s gold, based on how many people seem to be ignoring it anymore. There was a time in life when I heard that golden rule spoken every single day—by a well-known radio personality in our neck of the woods.

Paul Hanover was with a radio station in Hamilton, Ontario and was so well known for his morning show, he was dubbed the “Mayor of the Morning”. Hanover ended every one of his broadcasts this way: “And remember, do as you would be did by.”

That simple, common, and yes, Biblical principle doesn’t seem to be a lot to set as a daily goal, does it? You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to accomplish, would you?

And yet, sadly, it is becoming out of date. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you has truly, and for the most part, turned into “do unto others before they do it unto you”, which is not the same thing at all.

We seem to be having an emotional crisis lately, and I am beginning to believe it’s a natural outgrowth of the twenty-four-hour news cycle. No, I am not blaming the media—or rather, not only the media. As it turns out there is plenty of blame to go around.

You could blame the media in that originally the “news” on television began as the evening news, and was, yes, in the evening, a half-hour presentation which was commercial free—a public service offered by the major networks. “Breaking News” used to be a banner you saw rarely—primarily when something truly newsworthy, or truly horrible happened. Today, it’s a banner seen almost daily.

When newscasts became just another way for the networks to make money, well, I guess we could say we should have known it would all go to hell.

You can blame those who seek to make news—those who have an almost atavistic need to draw attention to themselves on a constant, continuous basis. Anyone who seeks fame and notoriety by getting their name out there, by dominating the news cycle, anyone with a cause, can go ahead and do the outrageous or the unseemly, and be certain that someone somewhere will have a cellphone with a camera, and bam—instant news headline and hair-on-fire moment.

And you can blame us, the consumer of that twenty-four-hour news cycle. In fact, I believe you can blame us the most. They’ve taken advantage of one of the worst aspects human nature, that same instinct that has us slowing on the highway to get a good look at a horrific accident or stopping on a hill to watch an oncoming train wreck. Before we know it, we’re addicted to the news, wanting to see what happens next. The problem is—and maybe the purpose is—it can wear us out so we become desensitized to current events. To make us feel so awful, that we don’t care who does what to whom, we just want peace. Those are real consequences to living in these times, and they are dangerous. Very dangerous. That kind of horrible feeling/desensitization is the purpose of disinformation campaigns, to prevent people from keeping vigil on whatever it is the instigator of the “newsworthy” events is aiming to accomplish. The good old misdirection of the snake oil salesmen of the world…and they’re making headway, damn it.

Maybe we should form moderate sized mental/emotional, virtual “settlements”, just like in pioneer times. Folks congregated together then for protection and survival, and maybe we need to revisit that strategy. We could form groups, make a duty roster, and take turns keeping an eye on “breaking news”, and if it’s really bad, if it involves getting ready to duck and cover, then the one on duty could alert the rest of us. Other wise, the one on duty would monitor and the rest of us could just forget there is anything to monitor. And if it does get that bad, and we do get that notification?

Well, then we can put away our coloring books and our pencil crayons, and brace for impact.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 18, 2018

Y’all might find this hard to believe, but I have the darnedest time keeping friends. I really don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I sure wish someone would tell me. If I knew what it was, I might actually stop doing it. Then again, I might not. I suppose it depends on what the truth is.

My beloved gets annoyed with me, because, he says, I don’t put up even the simplest of barriers to protect myself. He’s right, of course. I meet new people, and I am completely open to them, taking them at face value unless, of course, I see direct evidence that I shouldn’t.

It never occurs to me that some people may only be interested in me for what I can do for them because, well, I don’t behave that way myself.

I suppose in a way I represent the flip side of a coin we’ve all become way too familiar with. We all know people who are liars. And liars, more often than not, truly believe that everybody lies because they do. The same with people who will cheat the system, trying to grab a little something more for themselves they maybe shouldn’t have. “Everybody does it,” they haplessly proclaim, as they stuff their pockets with their ill-gotten gains.

So I guess I’m one of the folks on the opposite end of that spectrum. Despite having been figuratively kicked in the teeth by those I’ve believed in and believed, in the past, to be my friends, I go ahead and eagerly take on new friends. I don’t even consider that these new friends might do me dirt, because I wouldn’t do that to anyone and—more truth—I choose to not even consider it.

That’s right, I choose not to believe that the people I befriend are anything but what they appear to be. Because if I acted suspicious, if I narrowed my gaze on them, looking and waiting for the first sign they’re insincere, that would make me a cynical person.

Given the choice between being naïve and hurt or being cynical and pain free, I will choose naïve every time.

One of the things I have trouble doing in life is asking other people for anything. Seriously, I’m the first one to offer to help, if I can. If you’re my friend, and I see you have a need, if that’s something I can help with, hey, I’m there. Why? I guess because I believe that’s what friends are for, especially if it’s me doing the giving.

I have on occasion been met with suspicion myself. That always confuses me, and if that suspicion is nasty in nature, hell, I don’t even get mad. I just get hurt. Hurt is a lot more difficult to cope with than anger. Anger by it’s very nature burns off the chaff of the experience—the right amount of anger and it’s a one-time cleansing, without a refueling stop.

Hurt? About the only thing I know to do in response to feeling hurt is to batten down the emotional hatches for a while and let the pain slowly work its way through, and hopefully out.

Anger would be a healthier response. But just like that thick skin everyone has always been after me to grow, I don’t really believe changing my response from hurt to anger is in my DNA.

Friends have always meant more to me than they really should. I know that. I’ve often quoted that wise saw: people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I believe that with all my heart. I’ve experienced it time and again. I can look back over my life and see the people who’ve touched me who, I thought at the time, I touched in return and would be forever friends—but who are now at this point long gone.

I just wish people wore signs. Then I would know, if they’re here for a reason, or a season, or a lifetime.

The most likely truth is that they do wear those signs—I just don’t know how to see them.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

July 11, 2018

What an amazing, miraculous, happy-ending story!

We became alerted to the drama taking place on the other side of the world, in Thailand more than two weeks ago. Twelve boys and their soccer coach had gone exploring in a cave complex in the northern part of that country. A flash flood from seasonal monsoon rains had hit the area, trapping them, and even while rescuers were being assembled, fears ran high that the missing team had drowned.

As I watched this emergency unfolding on our television screen, I was taken back to the Copiapó mining accident in Chile in 2010. That emergency involved grown men, not boys. Thirty-three, in fact, who were rescued after an astounding sixty-nine days trapped underground. Despite the differences, at their core, that accident eight years ago and this emergency just past, are similar.

In both instances not only were the attention, the hearts and prayers of the entire world engaged, but so too were the resources, experts and rescue personnel. For a time, in both instances, the world was united in hope.

The effort to affect a rescue once the children were found to be alive—and oh, what a moment that was!—was an international endeavor. People came together, worked together, prayed together with little in common except for one major thing: these were children at risk of dying.

As we’ve recently learned, nothing draws the involvement and cooperation of complete strangers like a threat to children, any children, all children, can do. I believe that’s because in a very real sense children in dire need belong to us all—whether they’re trapped in caves underground or trapped in a heartless bureaucracy.

As the days passed we all watched and prayed and hoped for the best but feared the worst. These were young boys, whose entire time in the dank and the dark spanned eighteen days and nights.

From June 23rd, when the team was discovered to have entered the caves, until July 2nd when British divers found them to be alive, we tuned in, and hoped, and prayed despite our fear. The parents of these boys gathered at the site, camping out, joining together to support one another, share stories and pictures of their sons, and to await their return.

Anyone who is a parent identified with those moms and dads, clinging to each other and to hope, as the days passed. Their hope was first rewarded when their sons were found to be alive. They had images then, and a few words from their boys, and the chance to send a few words back, a down payment for the time, the certain-to-come time, when they would be able to actually hold and hug their babies again. It would happen, I imagine they said to themselves, and to anyone who could hear them, over and over again. They will be saved. It will happen.

Experts debated on the best way to execute a rescue. All sorts of ideas were floated, from bringing them out in scuba gear, to leaving them for a few more weeks, until the monsoon season passed.

But oxygen was running low, and the threat of more rain was running high. One brave Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, who had volunteered to help, died during the operation.

Though it was a very dangerous plan—most of the boys could not even swim—the decision was finally made to bring them out, one by one, through the dark and chilled waters flooding the narrow nearly two-mile-long path.

They didn’t announce that the method of rescue had been decided, or that a team of divers had been dispatched to begin. They only announced, on July 8th, that the first four boys had been brought safely out of the danger zone after an eleven-hour long effort.

 Amid the cheers and jubilation, organizers announced the teams would rest and return for more in a day or so. Speculation was this rescue could take up to five days. But in truth, they worked much faster than that. The next day, four more boys emerged. And yesterday, the remaining boys and their coach were led to safety.

Other divers re-entered the cave, intending to retrieve their equipment; they had to abandon that effort when the caves began to take in more water after the main pump they’d been using to keep the water level as low as possible, quit. As it turned out, there hadn’t been a moment to spare.

With so much negative news lately, this event drew us together, and drew us in. Our hearts ached for the parents waiting, waiting, to be reunited with their children. And we were inspired by the bravery of those children. They weren’t seen to be crying, or unruly. They were smiling and calm, proving that sometimes you don’t need to be the biggest or the strongest or the best.

You just need to be pure of heart, and to have faith.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4, 2018

On Sunday we celebrated Canada Day, and today is the Fourth of July! We celebrate our national birthday here in Canada in much the same way as you Americans celebrate Independence Day. There are picnics and parades, a lot of flags waving in the breeze, and there are fireworks at night.

We here in Canada, just like you in the United States, began existence as colonies of Great Britain. However, our two countries came into being in vastly different ways, and in different centuries, and those earliest of roots have set the course for our disparate destinies and unique national personalities. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve boiled our main differences down to a few sentences. This was not done to try and ridicule or denigrate, but only to understand.

Canada became a nation through an act of British Parliament (The British North America Act of 1867). The United States became a nation through the American Revolution, which began in 1775 with “the shot heard round the world” and reinforced a year later when patriots created and enacted the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States, and fought a war for the right to be one nation, under God.

As a result, Americans hold fast to the second amendment of their Constitution, and we Canadians hold fast to being polite and diplomatic.

I think that main difference is why, as a student in both high school and later, university, it was the study of American history I was drawn to pursue. Seizing the moment and making something happen was so much more exciting to me than talking something into existence.

For those of you who’ve been kind enough to read these essays over the years you know I hold the United States in high esteem, and many of my best friends are in fact Americans. This will never change, and because this is so, I keep abreast of current events below the 49th parallel.

Ronald Reagan, the great American president, referred to the United States as a “shining city on the hill”. In his farewell address to the nation, he said in part, “I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.”

It is still all of that, your nation, even if a bit of smog at the moment is making our view of that shine a little less than it was. The United States was molded by the framers of the Constitution to be a country that would endure. In their time, these brave patriots had broken away from a ruler they deemed a despot; therefore, protecting against having a despot within their newly minted borders anytime in the future clearly was a central focus for them as they crafted that most amazing of documents, the Constitution of the United States. The checks and balances built into that document’s structure guarantees that yours is a nation of laws, and not of men, and that the nation itself is greater than any one person or group of persons, and that it will endure long after all who are alive now have turned to dust—provided, of course, that the majority of America’s citizens work together and work hard to keep it so.

Freedom is a gem more precious than diamonds or rubies. People who are free represent the most cherished and sought after state of being in human existence. How could personal freedom not be one of the highest human ideals? God Himself created us with free will—the right to choose our own destiny—the right to choose between good and evil, and the ability to do so.

There are many nations whose citizenry do not have personal freedom, or who’ve had it but traded it away, either wittingly or unwittingly, for a gilded cage. That makes us—the citizens of Canada and the United States—two very special peoples. But this freedom we have isn’t free.

It has never been free.

Men and women have died, first seizing and then protecting this right of ours. They’ve fought wars, and some have paid the ultimate price, to guard our blessed heritage of freedom.

As we celebrate our nations birthdays let us remember the purpose to which we were originally called, the sacrifices made on our behalves, and the responsibility we have to guard not only our own rights and freedoms, but to work to establish and then to guard the rights and freedoms of all our fellow citizens, not just here in North America, but all over the world.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury