Friday, February 24, 2012


Today, February 22, would have been Steve Jobs' birthday.

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. He opted for a variety of alternative treatments, but eventually — in 2004 — he underwent surgery to remove the tumor. His health began to decline in 2009, and the disease claimed him last October (2011). He was 56.

Jobs once said, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


In war there is no time for compassion. No time for mercy. To save a thousand lives, one had to be sacrificed. Rutledge gave Hamish an ultimatum. Be ready in an hour’s time for the next attempt to rush the cannon, or be shot for cowardice.

Hardly cowardice. But that was the name the Army gave it when men broke under fire.

Charles Todd. Legacy of the Dead.

A survivor of World War I, Ian Rutledge is a man walking on the edge of insanity, finding both relief and more madness in his work as a Scotland Yard investigator. In Legacy of the Dead, Rutledge must travel to Scotland.

Scotland was the homeland of many of the young soldiers Rutledge led into battle—and, for far too many of them, to their deaths. And of Corporal Hamish MacLeod, whose voice, caustic and accusing, haunts his waking moments and assesses his every action.

The distant war in France reverberates in those who survived to return home to families who also suffer. Their bodies and minds are stretched like snare wires over drum heads. Memories, dreams, words and actions of community around them set the cords buzzing in and out of control.

Our WWI combatants have finally died. We lose a thousand WWII veterans every day. Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq veterans and their families live with the harmonics of danger, death and harm. As much as some of us would like to silence terrorism in the courtroom, the sympathetic vibrations of a plane flying overhead back beats shadowy threats in our subconscious. Warning that another generation will not grow old unbroken under fire.

The question echoes beneath the surface of our lives: where were you on 9/11?

Drummond had “forgotten the man in the chair. Looking up, he realized that Rutledge wasn’t dead, must have spoken. But not to him.

Hardly words, more of a murmur. “The pipes have stopped—"

Thursday, February 16, 2012


“Is anything funny going on here? There’s an odd atmosphere and then you’ve all been at the kirk and it isn’t even Sunday.”
M.C. Beaton, Death of a Village
Hamish Macbeth is a fictional policeman in the Scottish Highlands who seeks tranquility. He is content with little crime, the hours he can spend gazing at the water of a sea loch, caring for his few sheep and hiking with his strange looking dog.
His superiors attempt to promote him out of his backwater village along the Atlantic to the mouldering city of Strathbane with its abandoned factories, unemployment, grim concrete apartment blocks, and growing drug trade. The lights, traffic, theaters and clubs havenae attraction. He prefers the folk who quietly move about their own business and behave in predictable fashion.
In Death of a Village Hamish reads his neighboring boroughs and their citizens as he would a well-loved book. He describes his disquiet to a neighbor.
“There was a strange atmosphere when I was there."
"Well, ye cannae be arresting an atmosphere,” and with that she closed the door firmly.
Hamish investigates through observation. He questions any change in behavior and habitual activity. The normal ebb and flow of village life serves as the sostenuto pedal held down by tradition. Out-of-the-ordinary occurrences disrupt the typical resonation and signal Hamish of danger. Conflict results in undesirable vibrations from his citizens and informs him of aberrant behavior afoot.
Anxiety passes through a group of people like cancer cells with no boundaries invade a body, unwelcome and indefinable. When mechanical imbalance sets one member of a wind chime to vibrating, it causes movement in each related piece. If the cause is not identified and calmly isolated, the group sparks like a tangle of electrical wire arcing in a storm. Even when fair weather returns, the lines of communication are snarled and harmony is impossible. Chaos takes on a life of its own.
“Do you have nay idea why Major Jenning’s cottage got blown up?” Hamish asked.
“It’s something to do with the villagers. I’m sure of that. There’s a sort of religious mania emanating from them.”
“You mean God told them to do it?” He shook his head.
“Something like that,” said Elspeth vaguely. “Oh, look, I can see a little patch of blue sky ahead.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Group dynamics reverberate regardless of the stated position.

As families and social groups we experience emotional climates. Anyone walking into our home can feel whether it is a place of needs met or a constant state of flinch. As a child I preferred to play at Betty’s house rather than Phoebe’s. I lacked the vocabulary to explain, but I felt the difference.

I interviewed at a company whose office cast off tension and anxiety. I declined the job until the manager prevailed. 18 months later when I was financially able to quit, I could identify the players in the quivering cacophony. I had become one of them.

I described the office situation to a friend who traveled most of his working life. He recognized the situation immediately. Then with a wry smile he said, “As an auditor I was often the cause of their upset. But I remember a few companies where the people didn’t seem to be happy.”

We have experienced churches that gave off negative vibes as soon as we walked in the front door. There may have been a smiling greeter, but tension between the members muted any welcoming words. The sympathetic sounds we heard grated like fingernails down a chalk board.

Dr. Peter Steinke in his book, Healthy Congregations, writes “A healthy (congregation) is one that actively and responsibly addresses or heals its disturbances, not one with an absence of troubles.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012


When considering the theme of my blog, Transitions, I looked for a mobile that was personable. I wanted movement that imitated life. I found it in the work of Sue Rena Curtis:  Dancing Glass Gallery.

Irene, the mobile used as my avatar, is Sue’s rendering of a curly haired, female character. She dangles in our living room where walkers and heavy stepping caregivers vibrate up the walls to cause her movement. Be the mood of the room harmonious or discordant, Irene never loses her agreeable disposition.

Life’s transitions oscillate around us. Changes like sickness, aging, displacement may be expected of others. But when the symptoms rattle our bones, we are surprised.

Still, who buys a wind chime expecting it to hang silent and static?