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Maine Rocks

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We live near a rocky beach where I like to walk.  Walking on rocks uses the leg muscles differently from a flat surface, so it takes me a few trips to get my “rock legs” back.

low tide

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to tides on my visits to the coast as a child, but at this latitude they are significant.  The vertical difference between high and low tide is about ten feet.  On the sloping beach that covers a wide stretch; all of the rocks in these two photos will be under water at high tide.

seaweed

The highest tides leave little walking space.  The best time to walk is mid-tide or lower, when the rocks have had time to dry out.  (Slipping on a wet rock is definitely dangerous.)  So I am very much aware of the fact that the tides shift by up to an hour each day.  And I wonder what the world would be like if the moon did not take longer or less than 24 hours to go around the earth.  The tides would always be at the same time.  And would the moon look the same to us too, always rising at the same time and in approximately the same shape?  How dull!  The phases of the moon not there to help early humans begin to make calendars!

I was pleased to see that my “tree lizard” had survived the winter.   (See “The Giant Lizard of Lounsberry Beach” posted June 28, 2012.)  While a large log rolled up on the beach by storms often stays there, it is usually tossed around quite a bit, and acquires some new seaweed dressing.

tree withh rock

I’ll be checking in with him to see if there’s a sequel to his story.

 

 

 

Maine Weather

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There’s lots of variety to the weather in Maine.  Not usually tornadoes, which we have escaped coming across the country.  It’s also not usually sunny and warm when we arrive about the first of June.  This year it was.  We know it had been raining, because the stream is running strong. (No, you can’t see the motion in a photograph.)

stream

And we know it has been a cold spring, because the lilacs are in their glory.  Most years they are past or fading when we arrive.

lilacs

So many lilacs that the poem by Alfred Noyes starts running through my mind:

Go down to Kew in lilac time, in lilac time, in lilac time
Go down to Kew in lilac time.  It isn’t far from London.
And you shall wander hand in hand . . .

It’s from Noyes’s most quoted poem, “The Barrel Organ.”  I remember more fondly “The Highway Man” who came riding, riding, “When the moon is a ghostly galleon.”  Neither is great poetry, yet they’ve lasted.  They stick in the brain.  I’ve never been to Kew, and as I look at the moon I sometimes wonder which shape Noyes thought looked like a galleon, but how the words stick!

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On The Road: Hot Springs, AR

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park sign

Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas has a network of trails up its small mountains, but in other ways it is unlike most national parks.  There is no entrance gate and no fee.  There is and has always been a public/private partnership.

hot spring

We stopped here because it is a park we’ve never visited, and because it was on the way from our home base to where we needed to be two days later.  The park began as a federal preserve to protect the source of the spring water from developers before there was a park system.  A row of bath houses right downtown are fed by these springs, grand buildings, two of which are working bath houses; others are in disrepair, one is the national park office/store.  The buildings and the preserve were established as pleasure places for the elite in the late nineteenth century.  These days the clientele is more varied; the woman who served breakfast at our hotel said she gets “the works” (soak, massage, etc.) once a year.

The water is also available at several open spigots.  People come to fill jugs with the water, which has been extensively analyzed and tastes very good.

mountain road

I was hoping for more wildflowers on the drive up the mountain.  We saw mostly straggly buttercups along the road.  And we came upon one resting place which must have been there a long time.  They don’t build them like this anymore.

rest stop

Marks of Spring

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Two signs that we are really into spring have appeared in my yard this week. primrose.1

One is the Mexican Primrose.  I planted this early in my gardening efforts and thought it had died, so I planted a chamisa bush in the “empty” space.  The Primrose evidently appreciated the cover and came back to life.  It blooms in spring and then is covered over by the chamisa.  In late summer or fall, thin tendrils push through the bush to produce a few more of the lovely pink flowers.  I don’t dare transplant it.  It likes its present location.

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The second sign of spring is the leafing out of the mesquite tree.  I planted this tree as a wee thing out of a seven inch pot about six years ago.  I worried for two years whether it would ever tree; all it took was patience.  I have been told by more experienced gardeners that the mesquite is the best marker of spring.  Unlike the decorative fruit trees and some others, when the mesquite begins to leaf, one can be confident that the danger of serious frost is past.

What have these signs of spring to do with either freethought or metaphor?  Both freethinkers and poets are aware, though in different ways, that humans are connected to the rest of nature.  The wisdom of these plants appeals to both sides of my mind.

Dr. Roberts Reaches a Wider Audience: From the Biography

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94933_CoverFrontIn November 1900, Roberts was one of several featured speakers at the Twenty-fourth Annual Congress of the American Secular Union and Freethought Federation held in Cincinnati, Ohio. This group, supported by The Truth Seeker, and by Ingersoll, who regularly spoke at its meetings during his life, was a coalition of local societies and interested persons. It supported secular interests such as keeping World’s Fairs open on Sundays. . . .

Roberts chose for his topic “This Natural World of Ours.”  As reported the following month in The Truth Seeker, this speech shows that Roberts is still as reverent as any minister. He has transferred his reverence to nature, the “sublime” discoveries of astronomy, and the gradual revelation of the universe as an “ordered whole.” As he has done before, Roberts faults Christianity for condemning the world as evil. If God lost the world to the devil, he argues, this makes God the creator a failure. He speaks harshly of medieval piety:

Within the cloister, the sanctuary and the cell, with bleeding knees on floors of stone, crouched and cowed the saints in terror. With aching bones, exhausted bodies, tortured nerves and disordered brains, they were visited by visions of horror. Those hideous dreams were called revelations from God, and have come down to us as theology.

The true secularists among the audience would have enjoyed this immensely. It is not clear whether all would have agreed with where Roberts goes next. He makes a general argument that the world is divine. He sees only two possibilities: either the world was created, in which case it must reflect its creator and that creator’s divinity, or it was not. If it was not created, then the natural world “is eternal, self-existent, intelligent and self-sufficient. Can God be more than that?” Either way, he asserts, the world is divine. The Christian theologians, he claims, “turned into a cell” and refused to see the light in which this divinity should be obvious.

After offering the lessons of astronomy as evidence that the world is wonderful and not evil, Roberts goes on to personify the natural world as mother:

The faithful world pays the strictest and most minute attention to the least and humblest thing, and treats it with the same dignity that she does the largest and greatest things, the worm, the bird, is as much provided for in the intelligent plan of nature as is any rational being . . . Moreover the laws of nature are moral. They exist in the interest of the health and well-being of man.

He affirms that the origin of life is unknown, adding, “It may be that the vital forces were somehow in the earth; we can only guess, but we do know that being here the great mother-world nourishes, cherishes and sustains all.”

Having praised the world that is, Roberts turns to the question of the world to come. We can have no knowledge of this, he says. Why, then, have Christians assumed it would be perfect? “Can it be that the dream of the beautiful world beyond was the gambler’s dream of something for nothing, or the visionary’s dream of sudden wealth?” A world that was not earned would be immoral. Rather, this is the world we have, and moral action will make it right:

There is an eternal law of exactness and compensation whereby the great world gives back to every one in equal measure and undiminished what each one gives to the world. If we knew this world and kept its laws we should find that sickness and disease, deformity, weakness of will, and poverty were unnecessary, and we should look upon them as disgraceful just as we look upon crime. If we knew this world and kept faith with it we should make our heaven here and ask for none here or anywhere that we did not make.

Roberts was paid $25 for giving this speech. Another speaker at the Cincinnati gathering was Clarence Darrow, who also received payment of $25.

More on Clarence Darrow to come.  All of the above is from the biography, John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date” Freethought Preacher. For more information and a link, go to the Books page.

First Anniversary

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Today, February 8, this blog is one year old.  A year ago I thought it would be quite a challenge to keep going so long.  This is my 102nd post.  Perhaps I am hitting my stride.

The life span of blogs is more like that of cats than humans.  At one year old this blog is past its infancy (It has learned to walk and talk) and adolescence (I’ve learned a variety of techniques and made some long term connections) and is into the stage of young adulthood, finding its on-going role in the world.

Much of this blogging world is still a mystery to me.  I’ve seen some blogs disappear, others go dormant.  Some have thousands of followers, and I can’t figure out how they got there.  My numbers are small in comparison, but I appreciate all who follow, and all who comment.  You have been a wonderful audience.

Sotol on Baylor Canyon Trail

Sotol on Baylor Canyon Trail

 

I’m moving into my second year of blogging with the expectation of new and better things to come: guest blogging perhaps, and more recommendations, and links with other like-minded blogs.  But I’ll continue to pretend that my mix of freethinking and metaphor is unique, special.  Aren’t we all?  Plants may be fine examples of their species, like this sotol I noticed on a hike in January, but every human being is different.  Thank goodness!  Keep visiting to see what comes next.

What is Nature? (From the Biography)

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In November 1900, John Emerson Roberts had begun his fourth year as an independent freethought preacher, speaking on Sunday mornings in theaters.  He was beginning to be noticed beyond Kansas City.  A nationwide network, the American Secular Union and Freethought Federation, invited him to speak at their conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This was a great opportunity to make his views widely known.

            Roberts chose for his topic “This Natural World of Ours.” As reported the following month in The Truth Seeker, this speech shows that Roberts is still as reverent as any minister. He has transferred his reverence to nature, the “sublime” discoveries of astronomy, and the gradual revelation of the universe as an “ordered whole.” As he has done before, Roberts faults Christianity for condemning the world as evil. If God lost the world to the devil, he argues, this makes God the creator a failure. He speaks harshly of medieval piety:

“Within the cloister, the sanctuary and the cell, with bleeding knees on floors of stone, crouched and cowed the saints in terror. With aching bones, exhausted bodies, tortured nerves and disordered brains, they were visited by visions of horror. Those hideous dreams were called revelations from God, and have come down to us as theology.”

The true secularists among the audience would have enjoyed this immensely. It is not clear whether all would have agreed with where Roberts goes next. He makes a general argument that the world is divine. He sees only two possibilities: either the world was created, in which case it must reflect its creator and that creator’s divinity, or it was not. If it was not created, then the natural world “is eternal, self-existent, intelligent and self-sufficient. Can God be more than that?” Either way, he asserts, the world is divine.

After some additional arguments against old Christian views, Roberts personifies the natural world as mother:

“The faithful world pays the strictest and most minute attention to the least and humblest thing, and treats it with the same dignity that she does the largest and greatest things, the worm, the bird, is as much provided for in the intelligent plan of nature as is any rational being . . . Moreover the laws of nature are moral. They exist in the interest of the health and well-being of man.”

Having lifted up nature, Roberts goes on to challenge the Christian view of heaven.   He asks, “Can it be that the dream of the beautiful world beyond was the gambler’s dream of something for nothing, or the visionary’s dream of sudden wealth?” A world that was not earned would be immoral. He concludes:

“There is an eternal law of exactness and compensation whereby the great world gives back to every one in equal measure and undiminished what each one gives to the world. If we knew this world and kept its laws we should find that sickness and disease, deformity, weakness of will, and poverty were unnecessary, and we should look upon them as disgraceful just as we look upon crime. If we knew this world and kept faith with it we should make our heaven here and ask for none here or anywhere that we did not make.”

Another speaker at this conference was Clarence Darrow.  Both men were paid $25 for their efforts.  Roberts and Darrow began an acquaintance that lasted for decades.  That is another part of the story told in the biography.

Excerpts are from John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date’ Freethought Preacher, which is available from Amazon, through ERYBooks.  Or use the contact page to order directly from the author.

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