April 27, 2007

Lite stuff; of hiking, guns and such…

Category: News — Ira @ 7:54 pm

The sun is out, the sun is out, or at least it was out before it rained today (Friday, 4/27). All things look fresh, the grass is growing, and Lancaster County’s farmers are bustling in the fields. Last week, after about the 250th consecutive sunless day, I told a guy at the gym that I’m about to go berserk if the sun doesn’t shine soon. This was a few days after the Va. Tech massacre, so my remark was perhaps a bit untimely, as reflected by the guy’s dubious look (Is he serious? Should I call the cops?). I now understand a bit better why the ancient Egyptians worshipped the Sun God Ra. Sunshine bestows life, and to the heathens, such a provider of all life was quite worthy of worship and adulation.

If the sun returns after the rains by this Saturday (if not, next Saturday), I plan to go on my first hike of the season at the Seven-Falls (Tacquon Glen) trail in southern Lancaster County. The trail is beautiful, and as the name suggests, has numerous waterfalls and many rock formations. It even has a forlorn stone chimney standing by itself in a small clearing, the remnant of a now long-forgotten dwelling (either that, or a whiskey still). Often in the summer, the trail is quite populated with many hikers, their children and lots of dogs, about which I am less than enthusiastic. The dogs, I mean. Hopefully, this early in the season it will be relatively private. The loop takes about an hour to walk and it takes me 45 minutes one way to get there, so I actually spend more time on the road than on the trail. But that’s OK.

It was a long and unusually draining week. The viewing for Merv Esh was Sunday late afternoon and evening at Spring Garden Church, and, not wanting to go alone, I asked my brother Steve to accompany me as a protector/bodyguard from unwanted solicitations and other overly aggressive expressions of sympathy/good wishes. We got there a bit before 4 PM and went through the line before the major crowds arrived. Steve didn’t have much body-guarding to do, as we spoke to very few people. It’s not that I dislike folks or crowds, it’s just that in a time such as this, most don’t know what to say (as I wouldn’t in a similar situation), and want to say something, so often the words come out, shall we say, a bit awkward. But I appreciate the thoughts and the heart behind them. And I don’t discount the sincere prayers on the behalf of all involved.

Merv’s funeral was Monday, so Graber Supply was closed for the day, the first time ever (in my memory) that it was closed on a regular business day. Merv was one of our main guys, and we all wanted to show respect in any way we could. The service was at the Pequea Baptist Church, with a large crowd attending, including a lot of builders and customers Merv had dealt with over the years at Graber. Merv was laid to rest at the grave yard at Spring Garden Church. At the office, it’s starting to sink in that he is really gone.
tribute-to-merv.jpg Tribute at Merv’s work station

We have several local celebrities to announce. First, my sister-in-law, Wilma Wagler, was featured in the “Who’s Cooking” section of last week’s Sunday News. The article detailed how she likes to cook, her favorites, and even had a full color picture of her standing in her kitchen holding a family favorite, a Pizza Casserole (here I pause to drool.). To read the article, see my Links page. Congrats to her and Ella Lapp (her daughter) for nominating her.

Then I opened Tuesday’s New Era, with nothing more on my mind than perusing my favorite section, the comics, and checking the baseball box scores, when I saw a long article entitled “Packing Heat in Plain View.” It had a full color, full length picture of one of my friends (who for now will remain anonymous), sitting at the Friendly’s Restaurant in Gap with an automatic pistol holstered in plain view on his belt. After I picked myself up off the floor, I discovered that my friend has a habit, now widely publicized, of walking around the mall and other public places fully and openly armed. After the Va. Tech tragedy, the article detailed how most states have “open carry” laws, and how most people aren’t even aware of it. To the reporter’s credit, he provided a fair and balanced (No, I am NOT Fox News.) perspective of those, like my friend, who cherish their rights to carry arms for protection. My friend even came across as a sane and normal person, which is unusual for a newspaper article on this subject.

The local reporter was certainly more respectful of gun rights than the skewed and hysterical blathering of those in the national press. The Va. Tech massacre is bringing out the usual rabble of loony anti-gun nuts, clamoring for more gun control, as if that would have kept the lunatic from carrying out his destructive and psychotic plans. Our society as a whole has deep and entrenched moral problems, as more and more disconnected and utterly soulless people commit more and more heinous crimes, each one seemingly trying to gain more notoriety than the last with a more shocking and bloody deed. It seemed to me that I remembered some Old Testament warnings about what would happen if a nation turns its back on God. After a bit of searching, I found the verses that had stirred in my memory:

Leviticus Chap. 26:
15. And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: ………
22. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.

The young man who killed 32 people at Va. Tech was a wild beast, and no, we should waste no energy or effort in trying to “understand” his motives. I would not say that he was sent by God, but he certainly was permitted by God to do what he did. This may seem simplistic to some, but I believe that after all the courts have done in this country during the last four decades to wipe out every reference to God from our schools and in the public square, our nation now stands naked before and unprotected by the God it scorned. My conclusion is not rocket science, which is probably why so many people discount out of hand such a black-and -white analysis of cause and effect.

What happened to Don Imus several weeks ago is the result of another great boil in the psyche of our society, the power trips of the “cry racist” hustlers. I’m no fan of Imus, but the public lynching triggered by his gaffe was despicable. My hero Fred Reed addressed the issue of Imus and others who suffered the same fate in his latest column, and I can add absolutely nothing to what he wrote. Please check out the April 21st column on his site on my Links page. It speaks for itself.

Ellen and I have been communicating regularly, mostly via email, and she recently informed me that she has been offered employment at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. Ellen is one of the most natural, caring and highly-skilled nurses in the world, and with this position, she has reached one of the pinnacles of the Nursing profession. I’m very proud of her, and she will be the most outstanding nurse at the Mayo Clinic, of that I have no doubt whatsoever.

After I bashed the Phillies in my last blog, they have pretty much done nothing but win. This is a disturbing and distasteful turn of events. Next thing you know, they’ll go on a prolonged tear and win their division. The gloating from the local hooligans would be intolerable. Oh, well, at least the Yankees are still having serious bullpen problems. May their woes continue (Save it, Thorne). Now that I’ve said that, they will probably do nothing but win for the next few weeks.

I have been taking my drugs as needed to sleep. With them, I sleep soundly, but feel tired and unrested the next day. For several nights this week, I decided to go without. On those nights, I had vivid and irrational nightmares. Usually I remember them as I wake up, but they fade into oblivion during the day. So I’m between the proverbial rock and hard place. Sleep well with drugs and be tired, or sleep without and be tired with nightmares. This only reinforces my deep suspicion of all pharmaceuticals.

Thanks to Thorne Warner of New Hampshire for emailing me several links to Monastery retreats in the New England area. I am in contact with two such and hopefully will be able to make a trip this fall for a week of quiet reflection, writing and worship.

Finally, the windows of Heaven, at least those located directly above my house, opened up a crack this week and poured out such a blessing of food that I was barely able to receive it all. Well, perhaps that is a bit dramatic, but many thanks from my heart to those who shared, most notably Dave and Darlene Flaud, who were the first to give a large box of delicious goodies that provided several meals. Lancaster County rocks!


April 20, 2007

“Silence receive us, and the field of peace…”

Category: News — Ira @ 5:43 pm

Title quote by Thomas Wolfe

…………………………………………………..MERV ESH, R.I.P……………………………………………………..

merv.jpg Merv and Ruth Anne Esh

I open my blog today with a heavy heart of deep and painful sadness. Merv Esh, one of our main guys at the office at Graber, succumbed last night (Thurs., 4/19 at 7 PM Eastern time) after a valiant 2-1/2 year battle with cancer. A mainstay at Graber since the early 90s, Merv was always positive and upbeat during his long and arduous “cancer journey,” fighting to the last, exploring every option, striving for the life most of us take for granted every day. But the vile and deadly disease would not be denied and finally overwhelmed him. He died in Mexico, where they had gone for last-resort, non-conventional treatment.

Our hearts and prayers are with his wife, Ruth Anne, and his family. To us, his life was tragically cut short way too early, a month before his 31st birthday, and almost exactly two years after his wedding day. But we see as through a glass, darkly, although we shall one day know even as Merv now fully knows as he enters the glory of God’s kingdom. We will greatly miss him, first as a colleague, but more importantly, as a dear friend. Our office will never be quite the same without him.

As for Ruth Anne, after her admirable and unflagging strength in the long, bitter struggle against unfathomable odds, may the silent depths of God’s immeasurable grace receive and envelop her especially now, and may she ever walk quietly, with her memories of Merv, in His fields of peace……

At around 1 PM, on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007, on a clear sunny day, in the parking lot of a Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Sarasota, Florida, a powerful thunderclap exploded around me. It was the kind that detonates abruptly, with a great crack and roar from seemingly above, but all around, threatening to implode the house. The windows shake and rattle, the whole structure, be it made of wood, brick or concrete, shudders to the core of its foundation. The kind that scares the wits out of you, your hair stands on end, and your heart, when it resumes beating, fights to jump right out of your chest. Only I was not inside a house and the thunderclap was not real. It erupted inside my head. With varying degrees of intensity, it has reverberated there since that awful day.

Noise. Black noise, harsh noise, loud noise, soft noise. Incessant, unending noise, from so many sources, from all directions. Sometimes it recedes a bit, then returns from some other point, more ferociously then before, threatening my bearings and causing me to question the very framework of my sanity. Noise from questions, noise from doubt, noise from pain and fear, noise from work, noise from bad news about Merv’s battle with cancer, noise from launching this site, noise from others second-guessing my decisions, noise from old friends, noise from busybodies and gossips, noise from people I haven’t heard from in ten years who suddenly and strangely are deeply interested in every detail of the tragedy in my life, noisy clamor from jangling phones and garbled messages (call me back! I care!) – (I bet you do.), noise in the morning, commotion at noon, clamor in the evening, and disquiet at night when I sleep. A special roar of noise that rose to a crescendo until the day that Ellen left, then abruptly faded, the dreaded imminence of the moment confronted and conquered. And now, of course, the vacant noise of an empty house, the result of a life in shambles.

What I need is silence. Not noisy silence, just deep, calm stillness. Such genuine silence, even for a moment, in any life is rare, and in mine is a nebulous dream. I have read of Monasteries that offer week-long retreats where guests reside in complete silence. I would go to such a place if I could locate one in the eastern U.S. If any of you readers out there have had such an experience or know of anyone who has, please post the information or email me. I am serious about this and would like to embark on such a pilgrimage this summer or early fall. In such a setting, the incessant noise would have to cease, and one could recover from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and commune with God at leisure and in peace. And one could write.

When I was a child, a majestic pine tree in a neighbor’s field, half a mile to the west, came to symbolize a deep, forceful yearning for another world, spiritual perhaps, beyond my own. Dubbed the “freedom tree,” a secret shared, I think, only by my little sister, who seemed to understand, this pine was often the focus of my rapt attention. Especially at sunset, it stood silhouetted against the fiery hues of the western sky, an emblem of longing undefined, intangible strains of mysterious, haunting music wafting in and out of consciousness, now clear, now distant, describing a future, also misty and obscure, of inconceivable delights; broad lush meadows rippling in the wind, sparkling brooks and clear, shaded streams winding through hills and woods, mountains and valleys, and the infinite world beyond. I would return to the hunger and the yearning of that child. Silence receive me…….
On Tuesday, Apr. 17, I awoke dizzy and unbalanced. I went to work, but each time I got up from my chair, I had to hold onto something for a second until the dizziness abated. At 9, I called my doctor’s office and said I was exhausted and stressed and needed to see someone. By 11:45, kindly Dr. Sammitt was listening sympathetically to my story. He checked me out and had me fill out a couple of questionnaires. After reviewing them, he solemnly informed me that I was mildly depressed and had moderate anxiety. Well, duuuhhh. He strongly recommended anti-depressants, but I declined. All I need, I said, is the ability to get a good night’s sleep. All else would fall in line if that could happen. The world belongs to those who sleep soundly. So, after a bit of grumbling about how some people come to him for help, then refuse his expertise, he gave me a prescription for Ambien, a sleeping potion. I went to bed early that night and knocked myself out and slept like a log for the first time in weeks. Although I have strong reservations about all pharmaceuticals, there are times you just have to take what gets you through the short term and run with it.

I am rejuvenated by the opening of baseball season, despite very un-Spring-like weather. Of an evening, while sitting at the computer, I always keep my eye on whatever game is on. I’m delighted, as always, that the Phillies are starting out the year in their normal disastrous fashion, trying in vain to emerge out of their abysmal basement spot from day one. Take that, Phillies fans. My Braves, on the other hand, are doing quite well, thank you. Now, if the hated Yankees go down the same primrose path as the Phillies, my baseball cup of joy will be full.

LEFTOVERS UPDATE: As of the time of this post, my much-anticipated harvest of leftovers from the groaning, well stocked larders of Lancaster County has been less than spectacular (Let the gasps of horror from the balcony subside, please. I’m as shocked as you are. Perhaps the economy is worse than we realized.). Dave and Ruth Hurst did give me a very delicious chicken-and-rice casserole (definitely NOT a leftover, and very much appreciated). And there has been no dearth of comments, but, alas, one cannot dine on comments. One friend emailed me the astute observation that I could not hope to retain my new, hard-won 199-lb. figure if I stuffed myself with leftovers. Though appreciative of such concern and insight, I replied that such a problem would be welcomed as a challenge. She then suggested a drop box, a very astute suggestion indeed. So here goes. First, you are welcome to drop off at my office at Graber Supply. At home, I have a garage with a large overhead door facing Voganville Road. To the immediate right of the overhead door, directly around the inset corner, is a wooden entry door. Go through that door; on the table in the garage will be a blue cooler. Place your leftovers in it, along with a note stating who it’s from. If no food shows up after this appeal, I shall revert to grim looks and sulking. I may even starve (THEN they’ll be sorry.). I know there’s Superfood, but, although it has almost unlimited positive qualities, until now, at least, man has not been able to live on Superfood alone. I don’t want to be the first to try.

Special thanks to Alvin and Naomi (my sister) Yutzy for their thoughtful package.