CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

January 7, 2017

America’s First Untethered Balloon Flight 1/9/1793

Carolyn’s Online Magazine

AMERICA’S FIRST

UNTETHERED BALLOON FLIGHT

1/9/1793

On the morning of January 9, 1793 no trades were made and no business was undertaken in Philadelphia. All the shops were closed.

Starting at sunrise two field artillery pieces inside the Walnut Street Prison courtyard fired every quarter hour, creating an atmosphere of celebration and anticipation.

As the early morning temperature rose into the 40s a 5-foot tall flamboyant Frenchman, Monsieur Jean-Pierre Blanchard, entered the courtyard. Dressed in bright-blue knee breeches, a matching waistcoat and a cocked hat with white feathers, he looked, for all intents and purposes, like a Shakespearean actor ready for his role in a great drama.

However, Blanchard was not an actor. Accompanied by the sounds of a brass band playing soul-stirring martial music he prepared to take America’s first hot air balloon flight. The famous Frenchman busied himself inflating his huge silk balloon with gaz, produced by mixing iron chips in the vitriolic acid, as a throng of spectators watched.

At 10:00, as Blanchard had promised, he was ready to start his 45th ascension, confident it would cause his name inscribed in America’s history books. His Journal of My Forty-Fifth Ascension states he came to the New World because ‘the [Western] Hemisphere had as yet only heard of the brilliant triumph of aerostation [the art or science of ballooning]; and the people who inhabit it appeared to me worthy of enjoying the sublime spectacle that it affords.’

When the United States chief executive, Gen. George Washington, arrived at 9:45 a. m. a hushed quiet descended on the crowd. As he, the French ambassador, and other dignitaries entered the courtyard fifteen cannons roared in salute and Blanchard removed his plumed hat, bowed briefly and exchanged pleasantries with his distinguished guests.

Towering over Blanchard, Gen. Washington presented the balloonist with a passport written by his own hand to be used as proof for the people Blanchard would meet after landing, proving he wasn’t an enemy of the United States, nor was he part of an advance guard of an airborne French invasion.

At the last minute a well-wisher shoved a small black dog into Blanchard’s arms. He rather dubiously accepted the dog, dropping it into the basket already laden with ballast—including meteorological instruments and some refreshments anxious friends had given him.

At 10:09 Blanchard affixed to the aerostat to the basket, thanked the president, confidently leapt into the balloon’s basket. The cannons fired a final salvo Blanchard as threw out some ballast and nodded to his assistants to release the restraining ropes. A gentle wind lifted the balloon skyward.

Thus America’s first untethered manned hot air balloon flight, carrying the first United States airmail letter, began.

 

 

Blanchard acknowledged the oohs, aahs, and cheers of the watching throng by waving his hat in one hand and a flag, ornamented on one side with the armoric bearings of the United States and on the other with the three colors so dear to the French nation.

Prior to the liftoff Blanchard had advertised the following notice in Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser: ‘If the day is calm…I will ascend perpendicularly; but if the wind blows, permit me, gentlemen, to advise you not to attempt to keep up with me, especially in a country so intersected with rivers, and so covered with woods.’

The day was calm. Blanchard’s balloon ascended perpendicularly and so easily Blanchard was able to enjoy the different impressions which agitated so many of the sensible and interesting persons observing.

The exuberance from the prison courtyard was quickly followed by yells of pleasure from a massive crowd—half the city’s population—waving their hats, lifting their hands, and shouting words of encouragement:

Bon Voyage!

God Bless you!

Blanchard looked down on the city from a height of 1200 feet, probably astonished that all of Philadelphia watched him drift above the city. He heard the everyday echoes of their life rent the air: cries of an infant, barks of a dog prowling the alleys for food, the shout of a chimney sweep seeking work.

“Accustomed as I long have been to the pompous scenes of numerous assemblies, yet I could not help being surprised and astonished when, elevated at a certain height over the city, I turned my eyes towards the immense number of people who covered the open places, the roofs of the houses, the steeples, the streets and the roads, over which my flight carried me in the free space of the air. What a sight!,” he wwould later write in his journal.

Some spectators galloped down the Point road hoping to overtake Blanchard. They soon returned, declaring that the balloon was out of their sight. Many others regretted not stopping at the Oeller’s Hotel to purchase a ticket, sold by Blanchard—$5.00 for the best spot, $2.00 for back seats— because his expenses exceeded his income. By not doing so, they missed best spot to observe the most interesting scene the human eye ever beheld and to join President Washington, Vice President John Adams, and Secretary of state Thomas Jefferson, in doing so. Perhaps House of Representatives leader James Madison and James Monroe were also present.

The city remained closed until the balloon was lost to sight. However, people gathered for miles around on the surrounding hills and along the Atlantic coast were alerted by the cheers and yells. They watched the sky, hoping the balloon would fly in their direction. New Yorkers prayed for a sufficiently fair wind to direct Blanchard’s flight to their city.

Blanchard soared over Philadelphia like Icarus. From this unique vantage point he could easily see the entire square mile brick and wood city beneath him, beginning at the Delaware River and running west to Eighth Street, where the countryside’s unpaved roads began. He could see where the city ended at Vine Street, three blocks north of Market—the suburb of Northern Liberties was just beyond. Just one mile south the city ended at Cedar Street at the suburb of Southwark. He probably saw west as far as the Schuylkill River.

 

He saw ‘a whitish cloud (that) withheld from my sight for several minutes a part of the city of Philadelphia….A thick fog covered the south; toward the east…a mist arose, which prevented me from reconnoitering the area.’

The wind took his balloon east across northern Philadelphia, floated past Market and Race streets, crossed Fourth, Third, then Second streets. He had a bird’s seagull’s eye view of the working-class section of the city, the most densely populated city neighborhood. He saw houses belonging to blacksmiths, cordwainers, furniture makers, and other artisans and tradesmen, who worked on the first floor and lived above their shops with their families.

How small the people on the crowded sidewalks looked, shoppers on the way to the markets, clerks heading to shops selling goods from all over the world, servants wending their way through the crowd to complete their errands. Their busyness was interrupted as they paused, looked up, pointed to, gasped, and commented to each other about this strange thing floating in the sky above them. Blanchard could hear some of their yells that alerted non-observers to the sight.

As Blanchard’s air transportation floated over Philadelphia between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers he easily spotted and identified three towering buildings that testified to Philadelphia’s status as the nation’s political, cultural and economic capital during the 1790s. The newly constructed Bank of the United States was located in south Philadelphia, the city’s political and financial sector. Two blocks westward the State House and Congress Hall stood tall. He also saw the large public library and the museum that held an almost complete collection of the minerals and animals of North America. These structures marked the city as the single great metropolis in this newly formed country, a metropolis most agreeable to foreigners. The city was a gathering place for people who cultivate literary and scientific inquiry.

The wind shifted as Blanchard floated toward the Delaware River, pushing his aircraft south towards Philadelphia’s port—the center of commercial life where leathery-handed stevedores on the dock looked skyward. He saw warehouses lining the riverside, and wooden wharves, jutting into the Delaware River, that welcomed ships from the Caribbean, Europe, and ports as distant as India and China. They came to trade goods for produce from the Atlantic breadbasket, as the fertile Delaware River valley was known.

The balloon rose, carrying Blanchard south, parallel with the Delaware River. From on high he saw the handsome new mansions along Society Hill, above the recently covered Dock Creek, where the nation’s elite held their elaborate salons and luxurious dinner parties.

A mild northwest breeze carried the balloon steadily upward to about 200 fathoms as it traveled toward the Delaware River. As the balloon finally leveled off in a state of perfect equilibrium at 5,800 feet Blanchard observed sparkling sunbeams on the water below, making the river appear like a ribbon the breadth of about four inches.

A flock of wild pigeons flew by and scattered into two groups, frightened at the sight of a human being invading their special realm. The small dog whimpered restlessly at the sound of the bird’s activity, but was reassured by a pat on the head from Blanchard.

While airborne Blanchard became an aeronautical scientist (the first test pilot in America), performing several experiments. He filled and sealed six bottles ‘with that atmospherical air wherein I was floating.’ He next used his pocket watch to time his pulse, carefully noting that airborne his pulse averaged 92, while earthbound it was no more than 84 in the same given time….’ He also weighed a lodestone that earthbound ‘raised 51Ž2 ounces avoirdupois’ but at his greatest altitude weighed only 4 ounces.’

As Blanchard floated through the sky the winds pushed him where they would. It balloon continued to drift southeasterly across the New Jersey side of the river in an increasing wind. Blanchard relaxed briefly, satisfying his appetite ‘with a morsel of biscuit and a glass of wine.’

Thinking he saw the Atlantic Ocean in the distance Blanchard prepared to descend. He carefully stowed his delicate instruments in boxes to prevent them from breaking on landing. He cleared several decorations from the side of the basket, valved out some hydrogen, and emptied several excess ballast bags overboard.

Then he guided the balloon in a downward course by carefully manipulating the gas valve and judging the weight of remaining ballast, steering it to a safe landing in an open, plowed field near Woodbury, N.J. 46 minutes after his departure from Philadelphia the first aerial voyage in America ended successfully after traveling about 15 miles.

Upon landing his canine passenger immediately debarked and made off for the nearest tree.

Blanchard worked quickly to release the gas from the silken globe then unloaded his instruments, checking them for breakage. Only his barometer was broken.

He next had to solve a common balloonist problem: how to return to Philadelphia. He sighted his compass toward the northwest and saw a farmer staring open-mouthed at him, a strange foreigner who dropped so silently from the skies.

Knowing little English, Blanchard yelled out in French, frightening the farmer, who stepped backward several paces. Blanchard, fearing he’d run away, held up the bottle of wine and gestured to him to share a drink. The husky farmer approached warily and took a sip, but only after the stranger downed a swig first. Blanchard soon had a willing helper, thanks to the medium of ‘the exhilarating juice of the grape.’

Although they couldn’t converse and the farmer couldn’t read the passport letter Blanchard carried, the farmer recognized Washington’s name Washington when Blanchard spoke.

A second farmer arrived, armed with an ancient musket. Frightened by the huge globe lying on its side, he dropped his gun and lifted his hands skyward in prayer. The first farmer explained what he understood of the situation again, the name Washington was understood. More people appeared and saw Washington’s letter, and everyone helped this intriguing stranger. Several men neatly folded his balloon and stowed it in a wagon. Others escorted him to Cooper’s Ferry on the banks of the Delaware River, where Blanchard crossed to the Pennsylvania side.

Before he bid his new-found friends goodbye he quickly drew up a document and asked them to certify ‘that we the subscribers saw the bearer, Mr. Blanchard, settle in his balloon in Deptford Township, County of Gloucester, in the State of New Jersey, about 10 o’clock 56 minutes, a.m….on the ninth day of January, anno Domini, 1793.’

Blanchard, arriving in Philadelphia that evening, was greeted by a cheering crowd of well-wishers who formed lines to shake his hand. At 7 p.m., he fisited President Washington and presented him with the flag he had borne aloft on his epic flight.

The experiment was pronounced a complete success. All manner of uses to which the balloon might be put were suggested in jest and earnest. Money was raised to pay back the four hundred guineas the experiment had cost Blanchard.

The brief flight deeply affected all who witnessed the takeoff. Dr. Benjamin Rush, in a letter to a colleague, wrote: ‘For some time days past the conversation in our city has turned wholly upon Mr. Blanchard’s late Aerial Voyage. It was truly a sublime sight. Every faculty of the mind was seized, expanded and captivated by it, 40,000 people concentrating their eyes and thoughts at the same instant, upon the same object, and all deriving nearly the same degree of pleasure from it.’

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December 31, 2015

The Scientific Method: Advantages and Disadvantages

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD:

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Fifi, the Flea, Guest Writer

NOTE:

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS is now located at Carolyn’s Online Magazine.

I invite you to visit the new site and to subscribe to the site to receive notification of future posts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 NOTE: I found the following undated paper, titled The Scientific Method: Its Advantages and Disadvantages, in my files. It was written for a philosophy class while I was a college student. It received a P+ grade.

Hi! My name is Fifi, the Famous Flea. I’m a unique flea—because I’m a thinking flea. This seeming absurdity enables me to observe Man and come to some objective conclusions about His “way of life.” Let me begin with what Man considers His greatest asset to progress in the 20th century—namely, the scientific method.

The scientific method is particularly responsible for Man’s modern position—and His dilemma.

To apply the scientific method, there must first be DOUBT, or inquiry, either in the form of an original question or in the form of questioning another man’s truths.

Man, to find an answer to that doubt, evolved the SCIENTIFIC METHOD, in which EXPERIMENT (that is, observation and reason)) plays a prominent role. How does Man apply this procedure? Let me use examples from one Man’s diary—Dr. X.

Dr. X notices some phenomena in another man, Z. A question arises: Is Z in good health or not? There is doubt. Dr. X, using the scientific method, has universally accepted facts, proven previously by the scientific method. (Otherwise, a lifetime would be taken up repeating experiments that have already proven to be true.) This is acceptable on the basis that, should He ever have any doubt about a fact, He can set up an experiment of his own and either confirm or deny the truth in question.

Observations are made by Dr. X and his assistant: Z has extremely flushed skin, a temperature of 106 degrees F, and a white cell count of 2.5 times the norm. Dr. X reasons and concludes, on the basis of these known facts, that Z is not in good health.

A new question has arisen from the answer to the first question. What is the cause of Z’s ill health?

Dr. X makes an educated guess: Z has an infection. This raises another question—What kind of infection?

Again, reason enters and a method must be devised to attain the truth. Pathological bacteria cause infections. Test for bacteria. Tests prove there are bacteria present in Z’s throat.

Previous experiments have shown that antibiotics can kill the pathological bacteria. Treat Z with the proper antibiotic. Observation: Z’s phenomena disappear within 24 hours. Reason concludes that the diagnosis was correct and Z is on the road to recovery. However, if the phenomena had not subsided further questions would arise. For example, Was the treatment correct or could the infection have arisen elsewhere?

There is a key factor in Man’s scientific method: Man is searching for an absolute truth, which can be disproved with only one negative test result. Science is never absolutely certain of its result because it is impossible to check every infection there ever was, so the one negative case might never be found. It is impossible to universally check any fact. Thus Man never has the complete reassurance of truth. (more…)

January 11, 2015

Things Really Haven’t Changed

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

THINGS REALLY HAVEN’T CHANGED

SCRIPTURE: Haggai 1:5-6   5.  Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hoses, Consider your ways,   6.  Ye have sown much, and bring little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (KJV)

REFLECTION:  Haggai, living in pre-Christ times, describes today’s society. I watch, read and sometimes experience all the behavior he describes.

I see people who work hard and have little to show for their labor. I myself sometimes eat and drink gluttonously and yet remain hungry and thirsty.

Media ads convince us we never have enough clothing to keep warm (or at least, enough clothes reflecting the current trend). And bankruptcy is routine and acceptable, as people incur so much debt their earnings fall through holes like water through a container filled with holes.

These behaviors are not new to our society, although we somehow feel they originated with us. What caused the existence of those behaviors in Haggai’s time? What causes them today?

The root causes are probably similar: too much stress, greed, the need to have (more…)

January 8, 2015

Old Man Winter Sleeps in Until 1/7/2015

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

NOTE: Considering the trials and delays in beginning my new blog site (read Problems Creating a New WordPress Blog ) I decided to continue posting on this site until the issues are resolved. Thank you all for bearing with me.

OLD MAN WINTER SLEEPS IN

He Doesn’t Arrive Until January 7, 2015150106 IMG_5985E1 On January 7, 2015, Old Man Winter

is startled awake

as his alarm clock bbbrrriiiinnngggsss.  

“Dang,” he says surprizedly. “I slept in.”*

Not only is the weather bitter cold, It is the first big snowfall. Motorists sometimes just don’t know how to handle the first several snowfalls until they get used to driving in snow again, according to PennDOT spokeswoman Juliann Sheldon.***

As I pushed our cats out the door I admired the artwork on the frosted windows and noticed the temperature on our little protected step-in porch: 180 Fahrenheit. Brrr. I shivered as I reminded myself the cats are wore the cutest fur coats—King’s a beautiful shade of gray, Little Dog’s white with calico markings.

150106 IMG_5986E1I poured myself a hot cup of coffee and sat down to review my January 7th file folder, which contained journals of January 7ths past. The tree lights were lit for their final morning display, soft music was playing on the radio, as I reviewed the papers in the folder.

150108 IMG_6010E1On January 2, 1998,I’d flown to Bangor, Maine, where my mother was in the hospital. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive, so I’d traveled with siblings to her hometown, Presque Isle, where I spent the past few days.

Maine winters aren’t known for being gentle. Caribou, Maine, a short distance from Presque Isle, has been reported on no few occasions to be the coldest spot in the nation.

No, Maine winters aren’t gentle, and 1998 was no exception.

I take that statement back. It was an exception. I flew into Maine during a massive ice storm that covered the northeast from Pennsylvania north. Although the storm had passed the ice remained, creating cold and hazardous conditions.

Landing in Boston en route to Maine---tien ice storm had arrived

Landing in Boston en route to Maine—tien ice storm had arrived

On January 6, after spending several days in Presque Isle, I drove south to Bangor in the backseat of my niece’s sports car, which I could barely squeeze my body into. Down the icy highway we went, and I stayed in a room at the hospital’s inn.

On January 7 I took a cab to the airport. There was ice everywhere. Old man winter was still wreaking havoc. My flight was delayed and delayed until it was cancelled and the airline put the passengers up in a hotel for the night. The next day I was able to fly to Boston, then to Buffalo, New York, where my husband met me and we visited with family.1998-0103-14E1

(more…)

December 16, 2014

Eight Maids-a-Milking from the Twelve Days of Christmas

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

EIGHT MAIDS-A-MILKING

(Eighth Day of the Twelve Days of Christmas)

Family Tradition

Beatitudes

Tradition.

With various and frequent moves and the ordinary changes life brings I’ve found it difficult to maintain holiday traditions. However, one Christmas tradition started more than 40 years ago is our Christmas card tradition. Each year we—usually me—designs and makes an ornament which serves as our “card.”

Through the years I’ve taken ideas from the song the Twelve Days of Christmas, in which each gift has a secret Christian message.

Realizing I am one of 8 sisters I decided to do the 8th day, the maids-a-milking, in 2014. My one older sister, Nancy Lee, nudged me on, concerned serious health problems might reduce the number in future years.

Nancy Lee, Sister 1

Nancy Lee, Sister 1

The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of fifteenth and sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays – food and romance.

Typically, the work of milking cows (and goats) was a woman’s job. Although milk was not a common beverage during this pre-refrigeration time (it spoiled too quickly), milk based products did not spoil so rapidly. Cheese, sour milk, and custards—which were prized treats for celebrations.

And the word maid? It’s a shortened form of maiden, a young, unmarried woman.

This combination of milking and maid lends itself to the idea that a gift of eight maids-a-milking might have more to do with romance than with cows.

During this time period the term go a-milking did have strong romantic connotations. Men used the term when they wanted to propose marriage (or a sexual encounter) with a woman. It was a kind of a code word to test a woman’s response—if she reacts negatively, he can always say he thought she might like to help him with the cows, and they could laugh.

Remember, the gifts in the popular Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas each signify a Christian message.

So what do the maids-a-milking signify in the popular Christmas song?

Interestingly enough, it is a code word for the eight Beatitudes that introduce the greatest sermon ever preached: the Sermon on the Mount—Matthew 5:1-12. I could find no information on why maids-a-milking was chosen to represent the Beatitudes. So I still wonder…

Jane: sister 6

Jane: sister 6

In designing the ornament I wanted to incorporated the 8 sisters (including myself), and so connected them, in age and Beatitude order, as follows:

  1. Nancy Lee Cornell Chase:   v. 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit
  2. Carolyn Cornell Holland:   v. 4 Blessed are those who mourn
  3. Pam:   v. 5 Blessed are the meek
  4. Kitty Cornell Duda:   v. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
  5. Darlene Aslam:   v. 7 Blessed are the merciful
  6. Jane Lipsius Driver:   v. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart
  7. Cynthia Lipsius:   v. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers
  8. Sally Lipsius Kilgore:   v.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

While making the ornaments I thought about the Norman Rockwell family picture: loving parents seated around a holiday table with their offspring, laughing in a close-knit camaraderie. This scene was truer of (more…)

December 9, 2014

International Friends Share Our Life Journey — Part 2

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDS SHARE OUR LIFE JOURNEY

Part 2

The following piece was written between July 1985 and summer 1988. It has been updated from then to include relationships to the present date.

During our children’s growing up years they met special people from foreign countries, people who joined their life journey to ours. This is Part 2 of their stories. Read Part 1 at

germany-map-travel_2

David, an 18-year-old exchange student from Germany. We co-hosted him with our then neighbors Rhonda and Tom—we had the sleeping space, they did the high school activities with their children and they cooked dinner regularly. David learned a lot during his stay with us—how to do his laundry, how to iron, how to tie a tie. He was great at skateboarding. But most of all, he held a baby, my great-niece Haleigh, for the first time. He returned to Germany at the end of the school year.

sw-150

Another good friend came from my paternal grandmother’s country, Sweden. We met Roy through a fellow writer, the late Diane Potter. On each of his visits we hung the Swedish flag, which delighted him. He often told the story about dynamite being invented in Sweden, and went with us to a St. Lucia program at the Church of the Savior in Cleveland Heights, Ohio (my son’s church). Read about it at  Sancta Lucia: Swedish Christmas Tradition with Italian Roots

DSCN0612E

In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Holocaust survivors Bob Mendler and Janet Singer, perhaps the only two child survivors of (more…)

December 6, 2014

Gone Off My Christmas Card List—But Not Forgotten

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

“GONE” OFF MY CHRISTMAS CARD LIST“BUT NOT FORGOTTEN”

Note: This article is a cheat, as it combines two 2014 WordPress challenges:

listing, and gone but not forgotten.

‘Tis the season for suspense-building lists, the December 2 daily challenge began. Everybody loves (or at least loves to hate) a list…I invite you to breathe new life into the established genre of the end-of-year countdown list.

Then on December 5, before I tackled the above challenge, the WordPress weekly photo challenge asked writers to show us what “gone, but not forgotten” means to you.

Hmmm, I thought. I’m just about to tackle my Christmas card list. Over the years many persons have been “gone” off this list—persons who have died, but are not forgotten. I decided to make a list of these persons, with some photographs, and to write one sentence about them. The first ones will include photographs: gone but not forgotten.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Albert and May Isabelle Briskay, my grandparents, who cared for my older sister and I until we were about 7 and 9 years old; I recall his sitting in a chair smoking cigars and her making me stand on a stool while she pinned the hem of a dress she was making me.

BRISKAY, MAE ISABELLE WALKER

Albert Adam Briskay (Borinsky)

Albert Adam Briskay (Borinsky)

Nancy Lipsius, my mother, died too early, since she was just beginning to share her life stories with me—it had been a slow journey getting her to talk about her life.

My mother, Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

My mother, Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

Robert Cornell, Chief Photographer in the Navy, my father—whom I only met twice and not until I passed age 30—is remembered for his tremendous photography.

Chief Navy Photographer Robert William Cornell

Chief Navy Photographer Robert William Cornell

Photo by Chief Navy Photographer Robert W. Cornell

Photo by Chief Navy Photographer Robert W. Cornell

(more…)

November 25, 2014

Give Thanks for the Ordinary

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

GIVE THANKS FOR THE ORDINARY

When the extraordinary becomes ordinary and the ordinary evolves into entitlement the need for giving thanks dissipates.

When I first visited Kentuck Knob I wondered why Frank Lloyd Wright located the structure a distance back from the knob, denying residents the opportunity to view the knob’s spectacular sunrises over the rolling Laurel Highlands hills, the Youghiogheny River gorge and nearby farmland.w of the .

I learned that Wright chose the location away from the peak to enable the house to become part of the landscape. It’s also my understanding that he also chose that location so that persons who wanted to experience the view had to make an effort, had to walk from the house to the knob—because he understood that a scene of beauty readily available would soon become commonplace, making it ordinary, and therefore less miraculous, less profound.

When we first visited our community of Laurel Mountain Borough it was magical. The one-lane gravel roads, the forested atmosphere, the almost eccentric aura contrasted with the cookie-cutter world we were accustomed to. We felt like we were being transported back in time to an era reputed to be less stressful, to a back-to-earth time. It was magical.

Gradually this profound, magical, feeling dissipated. The sense of uniqueness and magic evolved into the commonplace, the ordinary.

This evolution from the miraculous, the profound, to the commonplace, the ordinary, is a part of the human condition. Once a situation becomes ordinary it evolves into entitlement.

Which brings me to a statement I read in the November 23, 2014, newspaper column, Giving thanks can be a challenge. The quote is somewhat altered: That which was a pleasant and gracious (experience) year quickly becomes an expected entitlement. That for which I was thankful in the past, I now assume to be my right.

The author, Gary Welton, professor of psychology at Grove City College (Pennsylvania), noted that he’s been blessed with incredible health, yet I have never appreciated it. I have only taken it for granted. Only when I am ill do I recognize the incredible gift I have been given.

That for which we feel entitled we don’t feel thankful for. It it belongs to us so there is no need to give thanks.

 

Perhaps we need to step back from the commonplace, the ordinary, in our lives and revisit it with new eyes. So today (and every day) I will be thankful for (in no particular order):

  • my morning coffee, and the persons who planted the seeds, grew it to maturity, picked the beans, prepared them for market, and transported them, all so I can enjoy my morning wake-up time
  • my morning newspaper, and the journalists (who sometimes risk their lives) to research, interview subjects, and write the copy; and for the delivery person who brings it to my newspaper box in the wee hours of the morning so I can relax reading it while partaking of my morning coffee
  • my gray cat King and his former owner, who abandoned two cats in our community, one of which adopted our family. King offers us companionship, adulation, and conversation
  • my family, without whom I would not be who I am today
  • the dishes that clutter my kitchen counter, waiting to be washed and put away. I am no more entitled to this luxury than is the person living in a hut eating out of pie tin
  • water that flows freely from  my household taps, water I am no more entitled to than the woman who must walk a mile to find water to fill the jugs she carries back to her home.

I could continue, but I think you have the idea.

Do you agree with the items on this list? For what do you feel entitled, so thoughtlessly leave off your list of things to be thankful for? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

May you and your yours have a blessed Thanksgiving.

November 18, 2014

International Friends Share Our Life Journey — Part 1

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDS SHARE OUR LIFE JOURNEY

Part 1

The following piece was written between July 1985 and summer 1988. It has been updated from then to include relationships to the present date.

During our children’s growing up years they met special people from foreign countries, people who joined their life journey to ours. Below are some of their stories.

singapore_sm_2014

One such person was Hung Pheng Tan, a graduate student at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where my husband Monte taught. We were his American host family, and when we relocated from SUNY@Buffalo to Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania, he visited our new community. He was the first international person our daughter Sandy met—although I’m certain she doesn’t recall knowing him back then, as she was only a few months old. Hung Pheng was present at her baptism. She remet him (and his wife) when the couple visited us in 1988, and my son Nolan met him for the first time.

Whether from Singapore or America, we all feel joy

Whether from Singapore or America, we all feel joy

When they visited us in July 2014 Sandy could introduce him, his wife, and his college-age son to her daughter, a sweet sixteen.

map-of-cameroon

Joseph, a Cameroon (Africa) native, lodged with us for a short time while studying at Slippery Rock University. He needed work and we needed help in our country-style life—especially with planting trees. When he moved on he left behind a young boy—our son—who, for almost two years, rejected the use of silverware in favor of fingers.  This was the result of the effects of an African dish meant to be eaten with the fingers, a technique Nolan applied to almost all foods.

When Joseph’s wife Susanne came to the United States to join him and to study here, she left their son in their native country. While here she also became a special friend. Susanne became pregnant just before we left for Atlanta, Georgia, where my husband Monte studied for the ministry. Understandably they lacked many needed items. Our family prepared a pond-side baby shower for Susanne, complete with a warm-weather swim to cool off. In attendance were several elderly neighbors as well as younger folk, all of whom were exposed to her Cameroon culture. Her son arrived a month later while we were in Atlanta.

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During our three-year sojourn in Atlanta Samir and Farial, from Egypt, joined our life journey. We met through a program that connected foreign visitors with (more…)

November 13, 2014

My Sister & I: Like Oil and Water

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS is now located at Carolyn’s Online Magazine.

After reading about the sisters I invite you to visit the new site.

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

MY SISTER AND I:

LIKE OIL AND WATER

Lee

Lee

 Carolyn

Carolyn

If we had met as teenagers or later in life I doubt we’d have the strong relationship we have today. After all, my older sister Lee and I are very different—we’re like oil meeting water. Perhaps it can be said we are polar opposites.

The few outsiders who have been guests in our respective homes observe one polar difference between us. You enter her home and it is so neat and orderly. You enter my home and…well, I must remove the clutter from the chairs so you have a place to sit…I have to pile up the papers etc. on my table in order to serve you tea. You can read a more detailed comparison between a near neatnik and an almost hoarder by clicking on My Sister and I: Cluttered Versus Neat Home .

Then there is our workplace demeanor. My sister would never walk into her workplace office wearing a fuzzy maroon bathrobe, matching fuzzy maroon sneakers, no makeup, and unkempt hair—looking for all the world like she just rolled out of bed. And yes, I did just that. It was justified, if I say so myself. It was in retaliation for my boss challenging me to (more…)

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