Posts Tagged With: New Hampshire

A Carolina Baptist in Two Yankee Winters

For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, I’ve confused my seasons and moved North in the dead of winter. Minus seventeen degrees was the lowest temperature—on a Sunday morning! Church was not cancelled. Here are a few observations:

Calling/Vocation—I didn’t initiate either of these experiences. I’m a retired pastor/preacher/church consultant who lives in South Carolina with my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. During the last fifteen years, I’ve worked with churches in crisis or transition. My skill set is to serve as a “bridge” from their past to their future. Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut, needed help. They called. I responded. It’s a good thing to feel useful. It’s even better to be useful. I’m grateful for all my friends who encouraged and/or prayed for me. Trinity called a fine young pastor and Wilton, I believe, is close to calling someone as their pastor. I’ll keep you posted.

Family—Anyone who knows me understands that family is important. Sally and I have been married 44 years. Our daughter Jenna, son-in-law Thorne, and Grandson Lake live three blocks from Sally and me. They eat supper with us every Sunday night. On the other hand, our daughter Julie and her husband Tom live outside Boston, a long way from South Carolina. I don’t like that distance at all. By being in New England for good chunks of 2016 and 2017, Julie, Tom and I could get together about once every three weeks. I loved, loved, loved those times. Francis Bacon said something like this: “If the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed can go to the mountain.” So, off to New England, I traveled.

Adventure—What’s not to like about a Currier & Ives Winter Wonderland? For someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, New England is an attractive option. Ivy League schools, hockey games, moose, frozen ponds and rivers, all sounded intriguing. Merely sightseeing (no offense to my touristy friends) is not an adventure. Getting out of my comfort zone is. I dreaded the idea of shoveling snow, but that worked out just fine. Also, I was aware of the proximity of New Hampshire to Canada and Connecticut to New York City, so I took advantage of both. I spent a few days in Montreal and several days in Manhattan. I saw four Broadway plays. I toured West Point. I loved the picturesque town squares and greens, as well as the streams, waterfalls, hills and wildlife, the covered bridges, mansions, churches, shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments I discovered all over New England, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Walpole, New Hampshire, to Quechee, Vermont, to New Haven, Connecticut, to Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Lots of beauty, lots of history, and lots of fine food!

(Bonus points for Adventure: Dartmouth College was an intriguing part of my 2016 experience. As the Baptist Student Minister for the campus, I had access to libraries, lectures, and other aspects of campus life. I took continuing education courses.

Serendipity—Food! I’ve never taken a road trip for the sake of a culinary experience, but neither have I shied away from dietary excellence. King Arthur Flour was a highlight of my first winter away—pastries, breads, desserts. Incomparable. The farms of Vermont and New Hampshire produce some of the best cheeses you will ever taste. This year, I discovered the restaurants in the corner of Connecticut where I lived were exceptional, with a commitment to locally grown meat and vegetables. On my last trip into New York City (the train ride costs only $8.50), I determined to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I couldn’t afford most of them—over $300 for a fixed price meal. I discovered NoMad was within my price range, made a reservation, and had one of the great dinners of my life.

Being alone—Traveling by myself has, of course, pluses and minuses. I’ve blogged about that before. I’m comfortable with Quiet Time. I read a lot. I write. I walk. I think. I eat. I read. I eat. I walk. I read. I eat. I’m perfectly content to go to a baseball game, a high school musical, or a museum tour by myself. I prefer to be with someone, but that’s not always possible.

In case I sound a bit too blasé or pious about all this time unaccompanied, let me be clear: both years, I got very lonely. The adventure wore off. I’m sure I don’t want to spend a full winter in New England or apart from Sally again. Sally and I really missed each other. She came up once during each of these sojourns for about a week. Thank God for those occasions when friends or family called or visited or wrote. Sometimes, member of the Trinity and Wilton congregations reached out to me, and sometimes I reached out to them, so I also enjoyed local fellowship.

I’ve reflected about people who have no choice about living alone: widows and widowers. I’m sensitive to the fact that being by yourself is not always a choice. It can be painful. I’m fortunate. I came home to a wife who loves me.

Until the wanderlust strikes again, or, until I get a phone call, whichever comes first, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Familiar

South Carolina is home. I loved my half-year in New Hampshire: new sights, new experiences and new friends. Moose. Live Free or Die. Minus seventeen degrees one Sunday. I enjoyed being close to my daughter Julie and her husband Tom for six months. I grew fond of the people at Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover.

But I’m clear, even in 102-degree heat, I love my home state and my home.

I believe in travel, and I believe in getting to know other cultures, other histories, and other ways of thinking.

But I missed the familiar. I missed my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. I missed Sunday night supper at our house with my daughter Jenna, her husband Thorne, and my grandson Lake. I missed old friends who live near enough to see frequently. I missed my church. I missed our back porch and Sally’s garden. I missed the American flag in front of our house (occasionally replaced by a Tiger Paw flag). I missed being surrounded by my books. I missed walking in our neighborhood. I missed the pictures on the wall of my study and the mementos I’ve collected from around the world. I missed our shower. I even missed our dishwasher.

The familiar is seductive. It’s tempting to stay there and never leave, never experience the unfamiliar. I’m glad I resisted the comfort of my nest and ventured out.

Even more, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

God Talk in New Hampshire

Throughout my life, religious people who have over-worded the world with pious and pompous phrases have surrounded me:

  • Praise the Lord.
  • Are you saved?
  • The Lord told me…
  • I’ll pray for you.
  • The Bible says…

Generally, I attempt to avoid the glib way many Christians bless each other’s hearts. I am a person of faith, but I’ve heard too many clichés for too many years to believe half of them. Make that a tenth of them. Even an alcoholic in the middle of a full-blown drunk can recite devout refrains. Meaningless, empty words.

So, I try to be careful when it comes to God-talk.

But it’s impossible for me to speak of my six months as an Interim Pastor in New Hampshire without resorting to spiritual language.

Of course, we could credit some of what transpired simply to good people doing good work:

  • A successful SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Discovering our niche: Trinity is a small, diverse, progressive church, in the Baptist tradition, where Black Lives Matter, where Women Matter, where all are welcome and can serve in any leadership capacity. As historic Baptists who are both evangelical and ecumenical, we believe in the individual’s freedom and the church’s freedom to explore and interpret scripture independent of any outside authority.
  • Effective networking set in motion by my predecessors, Ken and Sandy Hale
  • Selecting a pastor search committee, preparing a job description for a new pastor, and establishing a budget
  • Interviewing prospective pastors by Skype
  • Surviving a Minus Seventeen Degree (-17 F) Sunday morning
  • Surviving several setbacks in the course of six months. I don’t want anyone reading this blog to believe we experienced only successes during my tenure in New Hampshire. There were also failures. A quotation from my journal for Monday, April 10: “By human standards, the worst day in church since I’ve been here. No heat again. The kitchen and boiler room were flooded from a leak in the pipes (not the boiler). Three people in church.”
  • Discovering that a Korean Presbyterian Church needed a place to worship and Trinity needed a tenant to help us with our basic building upkeep expenses

Yet, stuff happened for which a spiritual explanation makes sense, at least to me—pure grace, nothing we deserved because of hard work or shrewd insights.

My last Sunday, June 19, is an example. A family of four strangers entered our small congregation, putting a dozen people in the pews. The young couple was looking for a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Church. The husband is beginning a Pediatric residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (meaning, they will be in Hanover for three years) and the wife attended McAfee Seminary, a CBF-affiliated school (meaning, she knows what she was looking for in a church).

Thank you, Jesus.

Another example: We raised $15,000 for a new furnace (Thanks to many of you reading this!) The God-part of that equation, and I’ve seen this happen dozens of times in my career, is how close that number is to our actual need. The new furnace costs $18,000. We might have raised $1000 or $5000, but people gave 83% of what we needed. As a Christian, I love those kinds of coincidences. You can call it Karma, or Dumb Luck, and that won’t bother me a bit. But, I hope you’ve forgive me if I say,

Thank you, Jesus!

Final example: Within six months of the Hale’s retirement, we called Andy Sutton to be our next pastor.

Praise the Lord!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Turkey Strut (or is it a Turkey Dance?) in New Hampshire

Once winter subsided, the wildlife in New England went, well, wild!

Outside the window that takes up half a wall at the back of the house where I live is a huge field, several acres, surrounded on three sides by New Hampshire woods. I looked all winter for deer or moose back there and saw nothing. Except snow. Lots and lots of snow. Pretty snow. Deep snow.

This morning I saw three deer in the meadow. A couple of days ago, I watched a fox teasing a snake for a half hour.

The best treat this spring was a big ol’ Tom Turkey strutting around for half a day, on Tuesday, May 24, trying to entice his lady love in the direction of romance. I had my journal in front of me. Here are my notes, begun at 7:15 a.m.:

The hen is one-third the size of the tom, and is being shy. My iPhone camera’s not good enough to capture this. His feathers are at full mast, flamboyant. She walked right past him, ignoring him. His plumage wilted. Twenty yards away, she turned, so he strutted some more. She acts as if she’s looking for food, but I’m not sure what food would be in this field of grass and dandelions. Back and forth she goes. His plumage erection goes up when she’s looking, then down. He’s not moving much, but she’s pacing past him, back and forth. Now he’s approaching her and she’s scooting away. Now she moves toward him, now away. This is a dance. Nothing on my schedule today. I can sit here. I was thinking of going to a wildlife center today. I have it in my own backyard.

 Courtship. Now she’s fifty yards from him. They’ve swapped sides of the field. Hopkins wrote of the Hound of Heaven. Maybe sometimes God’s pursuit is more of a dance than a relentless chase. Maybe some people need the hound and some the dance. God gives us space. We move away. God lets us go farther and farther.

 The tom is still there, steadfast, and she’s strutting past him. As an observer, I’m thinking, “Get on with it. Quit this teasing. Do it.”

 Now they appear to be nuzzling each other, but again she backs away. I’ve been watching about thirty minutes, but how long have they been at this? When I first saw them outside this huge window, I went out the front door and tried to sneak around closer for a better look, but even 200-300 yards away, they saw me and retreated into the woods. This was none of my business. This is about them, not about me. Get out of the way, you meddling moron. This is their business, their dance, not yours.

 Tom turkey is patient, more so than I. Is this the turkey trot? I don’t think so, but maybe. The hen’s moved back across the field from him—thirty yards distant. She’s not forgotten he’s there and he’s not forgotten her. He’s mostly still. Sometimes his plumage goes down. When it’s up, he’s tall, the size of a deer or a small man. When she turns in his direction, he puts on the complete show. His tail feathers fashion a sunrise, a massive display of his might: “I’m here when you’re ready.” Now she returns to him. She doesn’t look as small as she did. Has she fluffed out? Now she’s walked past him in the other direction to the edge of the woods. This is a big field. She’s off the grid. Is he concerned? He’s holding his ground. He rotates, watching her.

 I’m watching them, curious. Life is not always, as Tennyson says, “red in tooth and claw.” Sometimes it’s majestic, brown and pink, white and black. Ah, here she comes again. Patience. No hurry. Now, he’s fully erect and struts a few steps toward her, then backs off. She ambles past him again.

 I’ve been here an hour, drinking coffee. How long, O Lord?

 She’s now 150 yards in the other direction, west, my left. They are north of me. The temperature outside is a mild 55 degrees. Now Tom’s moved to the center of the field. I believe she’s ruffled out, enlarged over the course of this courtship. But he’s Big when he displays at full capacity.

 She’s now entered the far left of the field and, for the first time, he’s followed her in that direction.

 I took and made some phone calls. I did some work on my computer.

At an hour and a half, the turkeys are off the field and into the woods to the east, my right. I guess they’re in God’s hands, as if they weren’t all along.

 Back at 1 p.m. after walking. Two toms and one hen now in the field. It’s raining. Nobody is shaking his tail-feathers. What happened in the woods?

 Back at 2:30 p.m. after my nap. Two toms and a hen are still out there.

 4 p.m. A fox came out of the woods and stalked the hen, but he didn’t pounce when he should have, and she flew away. What a day of watching wildlife, and it’s not over.

 5 p.m. The three turkeys are back in the field.

 6:20 p.m. The hen is in the field alone.

 She’s returned to this field almost every day since, and I’ve returned to this window every day since. Maybe it’s enough that this story about turkeys strutting and dancing ends in mystery. What happens next?

What a wonderful world!

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

A New Hampshire Transplant Reflects on Spring in New England

Spring does not startle in New Hampshire the way it does in the Carolinas.

In March and April, my South Carolina home is set ablaze with the yellows of jasmine (and pine tree pollen) and the pinks and reds of dogwoods and azaleas across the landscape.

If you’re walking, the sweet aroma of honey suckle may cause you to stop in your tracks. If you step aside to sniff it up close, you’re likely to swoon. Spring in South Carolina is sensory overload—wisteria, dogwoods, magnolias, blackberries, cornflowers, sweet peas, irises, daisies and day lilies. Sunflowers! Morning Glory!

Glory!

You’d better not stand too long in any one place or the flowers in your garden may shoot up so suddenly they slap you for getting in their way. Sometimes we forget we reside in a tropical rain forest. There is nothing slow or subtle about Spring near my home.

The bluebirds, goldfinch, cardinals, woodpeckers, bumblebees, and butterflies put on a dazzling light show that makes Disney jealous.

New Hampshire’s Spring is slower to arrive. No surprise there. The colors are muted. The landscape stays brown and grey through the April mud season, then beige begins to appear, then a soft golden color. Persevere. Be patient. Spring does not hurry here. After the gold comes pale green which contrasts handsomely on the hillsides with the dark emerald of the evergreens.

Flowers appear, but they are tiny, blue, purple and pink treasures to be relished for their rarity. I don’t know their names yet. Gradually, the greens turn darker. Lawns appear where there was mud. I passed a bush two days ago burdened with heavy purple flowers. I stopped to smell it. Heavenly. I was told it was Lilac. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen or smelled Lilac before.

The past two days outside the back window of the house where I’m living, I’ve seen tom turkeys and hens doing their courtship dance. I’ve watched a fox unsuccessfully chasing the turkeys. Any day now, I’m waiting for a fawn to step out of the woods to check out this new, lovely world.

Welcome to Spring, wherever you are.

Categories: South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thank You!

Recently, I sent out a public appeal for contributions to help Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover to move forward to their next chapter, including their next pastor. Many of you responded with a generous check. As I write this, we have collected at least $13,000 (out of $18,000) toward a new furnace to replace our 30-year-old “I think I can” heating system. Or, our sorta sometimes hit-and-miss heating system.

As I have tried to indicate in my various blogs and Facebook posts, this is a tiny congregation with a superior history as a mission point for Baptists in the Dartmouth College community. College kids simply can’t pay the freight for this ministry any more than teenagers in churches can pay the salary of their youth minister.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia provided a huge boost to this effort with a large gift from their “Trinity Fund,” established for just such circumstances as this. That contribution is in memory of Sam and Betty Penn and John and Julia Palmer, and in honor of David Mount, the last pastor of Trinity Baptist in Macon, Georgia. When Macon’s Trinity congregation sold its property, the proceeds were placed in a designated fund. The Trustees of the fund felt that Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover, New Hampshire, provided a proper memorial in keeping with the wishes of the congregation that donated the funds. Thank you to Frank Broome, Coordinator of CBF of Georgia, for his help in providing this gift.

It’s been fun for me to open the incoming envelopes and see the notes (and the checks) from friends of mine, old and new, and from friends of Trinity.

Trinity is in the interviewing process with individuals now, looking for next person called to serve as our pastor. My last Sunday here will be June 19. My term as an interim will be complete. Sally is flying up, and then we are driving home together. I’m not done here yet—another five weeks to go. My friends have encouraged me, by phone calls, emails, Facebook and blog comments. My support system is awesome. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Marion D. Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

PS: This sounds a bit like a goodbye-to-New Hampshire blog, but it’s not. I’ve still got a way to go, but I wanted to report and to say Thanks to those of you who have made a donation to Trinity. For others who have had good intentions but haven’t yet sent a contribution, here is the address:

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover

PO Box 5079

Hanover, NH 03755

 

 

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Missing Fuzzy

Seven years ago today, May 3, 2009, my best friend died. Fuzzy Thompson and I were roommates at Clemson. We were roommates after Clemson. After Sally and I were married, he ate more meals at our house than I can count. He was in our wedding. I spoke at his funeral.

Fuzzy spent Christmases with my family and went on vacation with us. We lived on the same side of town in Columbia, South Carolina, where his Orange Volkswagen Beetle with the “Fuzzy” license plate was ubiquitous. He threw at least three Big Parties annually—one during the Christmas season, one for the Super Bowl, and an end-of-school outdoor extravaganza known as the Porch Party. We had our last Porch Party after Fuzzy’s funeral. Actually, it was an important aspect of Fuzzy’s funeral.

I keep thinking I will write something longer, something funnier, something more substantial about Fuzzy sooner or later, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m not sure why.

I’ve missed him even in New Hampshire. Memories there, too. He and I took a trip to New England one year at the peak of the fall leaf season. Sally taught school and didn’t take time off for all the destinations I wanted to see. So Fuzzy and I traveled together. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the beauty of the colorful mountainsides, then we’d argue about directions—turn right or left?

Fuzzy would have enjoyed many of my New England experiences this winter—especially the fine dining. Of course, he would have complained endlessly about other things. That, too, was part of his charm.

We traveled lots of miles together, literally and figuratively. Fuzzy went with my family to England, Scotland, and Wales one summer. We stayed six weeks, driving from London to Yorkshire to the Isle of Mull in Scotland and back again. When I wasn’t getting on Fuzzy’s nerves, my daughters were. Once, we stopped at a small museum in Wales and Fuzzy didn’t come inside with us. When we got back to the car, we realized we had locked him in. Apparently you can do that in English vehicles.

Sally and I celebrated her 40th birthday in Paris. Fuzzy was, of course, with us.

Fuzzy spent Christmases at the Aldridge’s for over thirty years. As a bachelor, he felt the need to cut some of the apron strings from his mother in Manning, South Carolina, so he started coming to our home in Batesburg on Christmas Eve. He helped me assemble play kitchens and bicycles and a hundred other toys for Jenna and Julie.

Together, Fuzzy and I went to the Holy Land, to the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and a whole bundle of Clemson football games. We went to a John D. MacDonald/Travis McGee conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We chaperoned teenagers at a Young Life Camp in Colorado. Different events had different configurations. Ted Godfrey, Marty Kearse, Fuzzy and I shared season tickets to Clemson football games for over thirty years. The Wrights, the Shepherds, the Snellings, and other regulars tailgated with us in Tiger Town. Larry Abernathy, Fuzzy, and I took a baseball trip to the Northeast, seeing games in Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, and Camden Yards.

Not enough experiences. Not enough memories. Fuzzy died too young—at age 60. I still miss him, even in New Hampshire.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Comfort Zone

A little more than halfway through my New Hampshire adventure, and during a two-week visit home, now seems like a good time to reflect on what I’ve been doing for the past three and a half months.

Thanks to all who have been following and encouraging me in this venture, an undertaking unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Your comments on my blog and Facebook page have been a hoot. My life has not been in danger in the great frozen Northland. Some people actually live in New England and survive. However, Monday, April 25, when I flew home for two weddings and a two-week break was a study in contrasts. It was 27 degrees and snowing in Hanover, New Hampshire. It was a beautiful 63 degrees in Columbia, South Carolina. Color has not yet arrived in New Hampshire, but our South Carolina garden was an explosion of flamboyant fertility—greens, reds, yellows and purples. On the front porch was a Clemson flag which rounded out the color spectrum with a bright orange. I haven’t seen that in New Hampshire.

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover called me to serve as an Interim Pastor and Baptist Campus Minister to Dartmouth after the retirement of Ken (Pastor) and Sandy (Campus Minister) Hale. Our goal is to have a new Pastor/Campus Minister in place when I leave in late June, after six months. We have made strides, receiving excellent resumes, and having a few fine interviews, in spite of being able to offer only a part-time salary of $25,000 per year.

The furnace at the church is on its last leg, and I’m trying to raise $18,000 to replace an over thirty-year old antique before I leave. Otherwise, the church facility is in good shape. If you want to participate in this fund-raising effort, send your check to

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover

Box 5079

Hanover, New Hampshire 03755

 

Any help will be appreciated. And tax-deductible.

The church, being small (an average of ten people in worship every Sunday), has not required my full-time attention. As those who’ve read my Facebook and blog posts know, I’ve had fun.

  • I’ve been able to see my Boston-based daughter Julie and her husband Tom about ever other week. That has been a great gift for me.
  • I’ve taken two writing classes Dartmouth provides for senior adults in the area. As surprising as it may be, I qualify as old enough.
  • I’ve taken walks throughout Vermont and New Hampshire in some beautiful villages. My favorites are Walpole and Orford, NH, and Woodstock and Norwich, VT.
  • I drove up to Montreal, Canada, for two days and two nights, a lot of walking (ten miles each day) and some world-class meals. I might as well admit that I’ve eaten a lot of amazing food on this adventure (including local cheeses) and gained some weight.
  • My cousin Yvonne, who lives in Vermont, along with her husband Hal and daughter Stormie, picked me up and drove us to Portland, Maine, for a two-day and two-night mini-vacation there. I ate lobster.
  • Gerald and Kari Aldridge and Frank and Susan Broome came to visit on occasions when it was important to see familiar faces. Speaking of friends and family, I am grateful for the phone calls of folks who checked up on me. Sally and I talked almost every day.
  • I haven’t watched much TV, but I’ve read a lot. I’ve written less than I’ve read.
  • I’m enjoying preaching every Sunday and doing the tasks necessary to help this congregation move to its next chapter. That is why I went to New England. It has been fulfilling to watch the church transition after the Hale’s leadership there for 32 years.

After two weeks in my South Carolina comfort zone, which I’m loving (though it is also filled with doctor, dentist, and other appointments), I’ll head back to Trinity and New Hampshire for my final two months there.

In June, Sally will fly up to visit Julie and Tom in Boston, then come over and see where I’ve been living, preaching, walking, and eating. She will meet the good folks at Trinity. Then, we’ll drive back to South Carolina.

That’s the plan. Keep the church and me in your prayers. Thanks again for your interest. If you’ve read this through to this last paragraph, you are a friend indeed.

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Sunday at the Masters

Marooned in New Hampshire this spring, I’m watching the Masters by myself—on television.

The Augusta National, to those of us who grew up nearby, is a sacred place—not in the same way as Iona or Stonehenge maybe, but holy ground, in its own way. Time there with family and friends, enjoying one of the most beautiful pieces of real estate on God’s magnificent planet, prayers uttered, disappointments suffered, joy and celebration, maybe even a little communion.

In absentia this year, I’m fascinated by the story lines. A broadcaster’s job is to keep the viewer interested, as if we need their commentary to keep us glued to our television sets for this annual spring ritual. Here are a few narratives I’ve noticed:

  • An older golfer being honored
  • An amateur impressing us, a surprise contender
  • A dominant golfer making mincemeat of the course
  • The unique perspective of international players
  • A golfer with some aspect of his life claiming our sympathy, e.g., a wife with cancer
  • A golfer approaching some sort of record (back to back wins?)
  • Real competition on the golf course—Remember Arnie’s charges?

Stories we never know anything about are also part of the Masters every year.

  • A happy couple naming their baby after the winning golfer.
  • A player or a fan battling alcoholism.
  • The unexpected illness of a patron who hasn’t missed a tournament in forty years.
  • Two teenagers falling in love on the sixteenth green.
  • A wife finding out her husband went to the Masters with his girlfriend.
  • A patron suffering a heart attack on the golf course.
  • Someone in New Hampshire enjoying Ben and Jerry’s ice cream while he watches the match on TV. Cherry Garcia,

We all have stories. They’re not all on television.

Categories: Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mud in New Hampshire? Mud in South Carolina? Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder…

Dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, and minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck.

In New Hampshire, during March and April, that grayish brownish wettish combination culminates in what is affectionately known as Mud season. The affection may be mixed with hostility depending on the exact composition of the miry bog as well as its relative location to your feet or your vehicle.

In South Carolina, we are proud of the pluff mud in our marshes, and we want to keep it there. A low country brewery produces a Pluff Mud Porter, but they market their beer based on lovely images of the Carolina coastal marsh, not because the beverage contains mud.

Scooped up in a clear glass container, mud is not pretty. It could have been named Yuk because the mixture of these common materials into a muddy consistency is a mess.

Winter snow is beautiful. Spring flowers are lovely.

Mud season is a different matter. Houses in New England are constructed with mudrooms to keep the grime out of the living areas of the house. Mud mats are required. Automobiles are made filthy by the accumulated grunge. Muck is the enemy. Pets that get caught in the quagmire are disgusting.

Mud, however, may be highly valued in health and beauty spas as a type of therapy for skin problems. Some mud formulas are used to soothe aches and pains deeper within the human body. Minerals in some soils, containing ash, for instance, are said to provide healing for various physical maladies. You can buy a Borghese Mud Mask “sourced from Tuscany’s volcanic hills.” You can purchase Dead Sea Facial Mud or Seaweed Mud. These products are not cheap. They are also not for the sane.

Mud can also be redeemed as a structural aid. Malleable when wet, mud, when dried, can seal cracks in the joints of construction projects, or make bricks for building huts.

Children spontaneously make art with mud. If the dirt contains kaolinite, it’s called clay. Potters use sophisticated formulas of mud and/or clay to produce magnificent pots, plates, chalices, and sculptures.

If the proportions of the primary ingredients within the recipe are altered, our experience can be transformed. Dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck, may still surround me, but it doesn’t always result in unsightly mud. Instead, I can enjoy a flowing river and marvel at the deep gorges as I raft with my grandson on the whitewater of the Chattooga River. The same materials as mud, but comprised by different percentages of each ingredient, make for outdoor beauty that has little to do with ugly and unpleasant muck. Instead, the landscape bursts with color, a Garden of Eden.

As a hiker, my favorite destinations are waterfalls. Water is even in the name. A stream of mud and water flows over miles of rocks as it searches for lower ground and, ultimately, the sea. Lots of muck is stirred in the process, as creek banks cave in, but the water continues its meandering journey, pulled by gravity down, down, and farther down the riverbed. Photographers flock to these picturesque sites to capture images of beauty. International tourists travel to mammoth cascades listed among the natural wonders of the world—Angel Falls in Venezuela and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Yet what is a waterfall but dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, and minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck?

“God saw everything he had made and, behold, it was very good.”

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