Production

November 12, 2022

I have been complaining about the low rate of production my tomato plants have seen throughout the season.  I planted 14 plants from five different varieties and had the worst production in the three years of growing my container garden here in Arkansas.  I cannot even blame my containers as half of the plants were placed in ground.  Since misery loves company, at least I was not alone.  My gardening group all complained about the money spent and low production of their tomatoes as well.  The plants grew tall, but the lower stems all wilted, and only a few flowers took hold to produce fruit.  I finally gave up on the plants as I was preparing for our three weeks away, figuring they would die anyway.  Imagine my surprise when I found green tomatoes on two of the plants that had not had any production all summer long.  I removed the other dead plants but left these two hoping the green fruit might still ripen.

When I looked online, I found tomato woes plagued the Plains states from the start of the season.  Mid-May through early June brought a chilly and wet start to the growing season, and tomatoes are a warm-season crop.  Soil temperatures lower than 65F (18C) reduce root development and early root development gives the plants the support needed for summer growth and fruiting.  The slow start to the season was followed by a flash drought.  A flash draught is a rapid change to below-normal rainfall combined with abnormally high temperatures.  This further intensified the stress on plants.  The slow cool spring start had not allowed the plants to develop a strong root system to support the top growth, causing plants to wilt in the heat of the day, further slowing growth and reducing flower bud development.  This was a good description of what happened on my patio.

We have been back from our trip for two weeks and I kept waiting for the green tomatoes to ripen on the vine.  The vines themselves were dying from the bottom up, but the leaves and stems around the tomatoes were still green and full.  With the cold front predicted for this weekend (it is here) I knew the fruit would freeze if I left it outside.  I harvested the green tomatoes and removed the last two of my plants from the ground.  The 9 tomatoes were my biggest production of the year, and they were still not ripe.  Left on my own I would have thrown them to the birds and written this off as one last failure.  Luckily, Melissa loves fried green tomatoes.  I always thought that was just a movie.

THOUGHTS:  I found it interesting that after removing the last of the plants from my patio my thoughts immediately turned to next year’s production.  I have tried several approaches to gain more vegetables, and none has done well.  I seem to be better able to grow the flowers planted by my mother-in-law and the wheat seed scattered by the birds than to get any production from the plants I purchase.  I am nowhere near growing anything from seed even though I did buy a seed starter kit.  Regardless, I found myself checking out larger containers and contemplating building raised beds as I perused the box hardware store this last week.  Just like with my Royals baseball team, there is always next year.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Cold Front

November 10, 2022

I always find it interesting how excited weather people get about inclement weather.  They will occasionally become animated when we are in a long stretch or either cold or hot weather, but the real joy seems to shine when they expect the weather to be bad.  We are at the end of meteorological fall, and it has mostly been mild in our area.  That changed with the four tornados that touched down during last week’s storm.  Two of the forecasters teamed up to explain the nuances of the storm (with coats off and sleeves rolled up) and continued well after any threat was still apparent.  This week it got better for the forecasters as the first cold front is prepared to roll in along with predicted freezing temperatures.  They have been warning us of the impending peril all week, even though the front will not arrive until tomorrow night.  Perhaps it was a good thing to have so much time to prepare.  I need to get the greenhouse set up before the cold front moves in.

I knew the first thing I needed to check was the condition of the vinal panels.  All but one of the seven panels were still in good condition, although there were a few places where the Velcro had come unattached.  Melissa checked online and found while we could have new Velcro shipped, it would take a minimum of five days for it to arrive, even with our overnight service.  I took off to the big box hardware store since I have struggled to find Velcro in bulk locally.  “Since I was going”, Melissa suggested I pick up a few other items we needed.  I easily found most of the items but forgot the spray bottles Melissa had asked me to buy (along with sending a picture and aisle location).  This just gives me an excuse to go back this weekend.  I was not surprised to find most of the garden supplies I was looking for had been replaced with Christmas displays and rows of lights waiting to be unboxed.  The store must have heard the cold front was coming.

I had been surprised how easily the greenhouse panels had gone up last year.  The panels had stored well, and the Velcro was in good shape.  Melissa helped guide the panels into place and the entire job took about an hour.  Melissa was trapped in Zoom conversations for work this year, but I figured I could do it myself.  I had been wise enough to mark the panels when I originally took them down to know how to put them up.  Some of the Velcro had come loose and had stuck the panels together and it was much slower work than it had been last year, but I was able to complete most of the job.  I still have the door panel and need to recut one of the larger panels that had torn.  I also decided to sweep out the porch and refasten several of the screens that had come loose.  Last year’s hour managed to drag into most of the afternoon.  Melissa will be able to help tomorrow, which should make finishing quick.  It should be done well before the predicted cold front.  The succulents will be happy.

THOUGHTS:  Deciding when to set up and take down the greenhouse panels is predicated both on the first cold front, and on finding time to accomplish the task.  The panels had gone up quickly with Melissa’s help, but I had struggled to set the oversized panels in place by myself.  As I slowly went about rehanging the panels, I thought about how hard jobs can often be made easier when we work with others.  This is one of the advantages still displayed in hunter-gatherer societies.  Everyone has a role and works together to ensure the various tasks are completed.  This is also true for more complex societies but is often ignored.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Midterm

November 09, 2022

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

Last night Melissa and I set up in front of the TV to watch the results of the midterm elections.  Melissa prefers one of the news channels so this was the venue chosen to view the returns.  While the in depth coverage provides insights, the main information comes as the various polls close (mostly on the hour) across the nation.  We started watching at 6 pm CST, which is after the first polls closed in two states but as all the polls closed in seven states.  Three more states closed at 6:30 pm CST and by 7:00 pm CST, two states had initial closes and 17 more had their final close.  Our own state polls closed at 7:30 pm CST and 15 others had their final close by 8:00 pm CST.  By 9:00 pm CST three more states had closed, and another had an initial closing.  After three hours of listening to pundits (mostly repeating the same thing), Melissa had enough and went to bed.  That left the last 5 states to close their polls, with Alaska being the last to close at 12:00 am CST.  I switched to a rival news channel to get another perspective and then to our local news at 10 pm CST to hear local results.

When I looked online, I found the midterm election refers to a type of election where the people can elect their representatives and other subnational officeholders (i.e., governor, state congress, and members of local councils) in the middle of the term of the presidential executive.  In the US, the president and vice president are elected every four years in indirect (electoral college) presidential elections.  National races in the US are for the Senate (six-year terms) and House of Representatives (two year-terms).  The Senate has one third of its members up for election every two years while the House has all its members elected every two years.  For elections to the Congress, the midterm is a reference is the president’s term.  There are three classes of US senators, and each election replaces one class.  A “midterm election” appears as one third through the term of one class and two thirds through the other, while still midway the term of a president.  In addition to federal legislative bodies, governors of 36 states and three territories are also up for election during a midterm.

Democrats were facing historic headwinds entering the midterm elections, as the party that wins the White House traditionally suffers major setbacks in the ensuing election.  This was compounded by a rough political climate fueled by record inflation, soaring crime, and a crisis at the nation’s southern border, and heightened by the President’s low approval ratings and a Republican jump in opinion polls heading into the midterm.  The expected Red Wave failed to materialize.  Initial reports indicate Democrats defied expectations, and potentially defended enough seats to maintain control of the Senate, although likely not enough to keep Republicans from taking the House.  As is also often the case, the battle for power in Congress stood too close to call this morning.  We may not know who won the Senate for some time, as Georgia’s contest appears headed to a runoff election to be held in December.  Nothing like Democracy to build expectation.

THOUGHTS:  It was suggested the true winner in the 2022 midterm election is democracy itself.  Despite early claims (and lawsuits) of fraud and miscounts, more than 40.7 million people voted early in the 2022 general election.  Turnout on election day is likely to be on par with 2018 midterm turnout, which broke records previously set more than a century earlier.  Even as 345 candidates across the US are asserting the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” and that American elections are deeply flawed; voters still decided to cast votes.  Now we need to wait for the inevitable delays to make sure those votes are being counted.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Bite

November 08, 2022

I was working in my office this morning when Melissa called me to come and take care of Zena.  Melissa has the habit of letting Zena out on the back patio in the mornings to play.  The dogs next door often come out during this time and usually bark at Zena (especially the small one).  While Zena will respond at times, she generally just sits at the fence quietly watching them.  Her dog buddies were not out this morning and Zena was forced to find her own fun.  Like small children, puppies are inquisitive and tend to get into mischief when left to their own devices.  A good rule of thumb for both is, “If it suddenly gets quiet, you had better go check on them.”  I have mentioned how Zena likes to haul and throw the split wood kept on the patio for our fire pit.  Apparently, today that was not enough.  Melissa watched as Zena put a bite on the wooden planter I was repairing (it could happen) and literally ripped a wood slat off the frame and threw it across the yard.

When I looked online, I found the bite force of the Great Pyrenees (Zena) is from 500 to 650 PSI, putting it on par with members of the Mastiff family and a few livestock guardian dogs.  Bite force or pressure is expressed in pounds of force per square inch (PSI).  Since experts measure pressure in Newtons, it is interesting that canine experts convert these numbers into PSI for their lists of strong bite forces.  While it is more accurate to measure an animal’s bite force through pound-force in Newtons, PSI conversions put the numbers in a format that people better understand.  A Newton is only a fifth of a pound, and problems arise when laypeople make uninformed calculations or assume Newtons and PSI are the same, leading to gross exaggerations of the bite force for breeds of dogs already struggling with bad publicity.  A dog’s bite force is determined by body mass, jaw muscles, and head structure.  However, at 100-plus pounds (45-plus kg) the Great Pyrenees is strong beyond its jaws.  Its wedge-shaped head and relatively long jawline give it the leverage it needs to bite with incredible pressure.  Or apparently, to also rip slats of wood off my planter.

Several statistics put the Great Pyrenees’ bite force into perspective.  Humans have an average bite force of 120 to 150 PSI.  Toy dogs have bite forces from 90 PSI to 170 PSI.  It takes over 1400 Newtons (about 285 PSI) to fracture your finger.  The largest bone in your leg, the femur, requires about 800 PSI to fracture.  When strong dogs attack, the most punishing damage is a crushing injury to soft tissues.  Dogs that attack often grip and shake whatever they bite, causing tearing as well as bruising.  Fatalities do not occur from broken bones but from the dog’s attacking the face, head, and neck.  These areas are much more vulnerable to the bite ranges of large dogs, which are between 200 and 300 PSI.  A dog intent on causing bodily harm (rare) bites people on the lower limbs to bring them to the ground.  They also attack other dogs in this manner if they cannot readily access the throat.  Luckily, Great Pyrenees are usually gentle with young kids, even if the same cannot be said for planters.

THOUGHTS:  Years ago, I was bitten by a cat.  I thought it was nothing and ignored the bite until several days later when the bite became infected.  Sitting in the emergency room, I noticed signs on the walls declaring a dog bite must be reported to the police.  The irony was not lost.  When I thought about this, I realized dogs tend to bite other people.  Cats tend to bite their owners (as mine did) and will not allow perceived threats near them.  An old maxim tells us, “Their bark is worse than their bite,” and often refers to a cantankerous older person.  It seems lately people are allowing their social media “bark” (words) to serve as a precursor to an eventual “bite” (action).  We need to reign in both to find any unity.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

DST

November 05, 2022

Tomorrow morning, we will witness (if you are awake) the progress of another piece of legislation.  Daylight Saving Time (DST) 2022 ends this Sunday, November 6, at 2 am.  While I bemoan the loss of an hour’s sleep in March (I could go to bed earlier, but why?), I never seem to make up that hour in November.  By November the memory is long gone and all I can think of is how to fritter away the extra hour I have been given.  I must not be the only one, as I generally find someone arriving an hour late to Sunday morning appointments, but rarely have anyone arrive an hour early.  Somehow, gaining an extra hour is easier to remember than losing one.

When I looked online, I found Daylight Saving Time (DST), begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday of November.  Clocks are on “standard time” the rest of the year.  This time change, also referred to as daylight savings time or simply daylight time (US, Canada, and Australia), and summer time (United Kingdom, European Union, and others), is the practice of advancing clocks (typically by one hour) during warmer months so that darkness falls at a later clock time.  The typical implementation of DST is to set clocks forward by one hour in the spring (“spring forward”), and to set clocks back by one hour in autumn (“fall back”) to return to standard time.  As a result, there is one 23-hour day in late winter or early spring and one 25-hour day in autumn. 

The idea of aligning waking hours to daylight hours to conserve candles was first proposed in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin.  In a satirical letter to the editor of The Journal of Paris, Franklin suggested waking up earlier in the summer would economize on candle usage, and he even calculated the considerable savings.  In 1895, New Zealand entomologist and astronomer George Hudson proposed the idea of changing clocks by two hours every spring to the Wellington Philosophical Society.  In 1907, British resident William Willett presented the idea to save energy.  After serious consideration, it was not implemented.  In 1908, Port Arthur in Ontario, Canada, started using DST.  Starting on April 30, 1916, the German Empire and Austria-Hungary each organized the first nationwide implementation of DST and many countries have used DST at various times since.  DST is generally not observed near the Equator, where sunrise and sunset times do not vary enough to justify it.  The US observes DST, except for the states of Hawaii and Arizona (within the latter, however, the Navajo Nation does observe it, conforming to federal practice).  Only a minority of the world’s population uses DST, and Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the Caribbean generally do not.

THOUGHTS:  In March, the US Senate approved a bill known as the Sunshine Protection Act to make DST permanent nationwide.  The legislation stalled in the House, which has not yet scheduled a debate.  “I can’t say it’s a priority,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill earlier this year. “We have so many other priorities, but it doesn’t mean because it’s not a priority that we’re not trying to work on it.  We are.”  The end of daylight saving time is not the most pressing problem in the US.  Still, it is something to talk about, complain about, and must generally deal with.  Scott Prunty of Clyde, Ohio, provided the most sensible advice, “Accept that it’s out of your control and move along.”  This could be said for many of life’s “thorny problems”.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Jade

November 04, 2022

Prior to taking our trip Melissa had taken painstaking care to lightly water the succulents that were coming out of dormancy as they prepared for winter.  She has been cultivating many of these plants for the last two years and there has been little activity from most of them.  When we returned after three weeks, Melissa was surprised to see how many of these succulents had begun to flower while we were away.  This once more proved the adage, “The best thing you can do for your succulents is to leave them alone.”  The plant I found most interesting was the ripple jade.  A tiny (1/3 inch/0.85 cm) white flower had sprouted on what I thought was a dead leaf.

When I looked online, I found ripple jade (Crassula arborescens ssp. undulatifolia), also known as curly jade or silver jade, is a perennial evergreen succulent native to South Africa.  This shrub has rippled or twisted blue-green leaves that are fleshy in texture, sprouting from woody stems emerging from a central trunk.  The species has a compact growth habit and can reach up to four feet tall.  The plant prefers full sun and can bloom pink, star-shaped flowers in warm outdoor conditions.  When grown indoors they thrive in dry, warm climates and are not frost-tender.  They thrive best in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 12.  We are zone 8 and the ripple jade is kept on our greenhouse porch.  Like other jade plants, the ripple is somewhat toxic and can cause digestive issues in humans and pets if consumed.  Melissa has placed it on a higher shelf to keep it away from Zena.

Jade plants are often called the “friendship plant” or the “money tree” and is a staple in many Asian households.  The meaning of the jade plant is prosperity.  Jade plants are used in the practice of Feng Shui to attract the flow of money.  Feng Shui is the Chinese art of creating balance and harmony of energies within a space.  Practitioners believe that the “money tree” brings balance to the southeast corner of a home, and the jade plant is one of the plants used in this way.  A jade plant is often placed near a cash register in Chinese tradition to attract prosperity.  While I have often seen jade plants next to cash registers in restaurants, I never knew the cultural significance.

THOUGHTS:  Jade (the gem) is highly valued in Chinese culture and Confucius described it as a metaphor for Heaven and Earth.  Jade is believed to possess the power to avert evil and bad luck while fostering health and good fortune.  Jade (the plant) is called a money tree because it brings good fortune and luck.  Feng shui says the plant brings positive chi (energy) which is good for you and your family, encourages you to achieve your goals, and brings great health and good partner relationships.  Jade plants will die from overwatering and the leaves will burn from overexposure to light, which can cause death in jade plants.  This seems to be another metaphor.  The “good luck” we find in life is best achieved through work, not by our expectations it will “just happen”.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Fast Furniture

November 02, 2022

When Melissa and I moved to Arkansas we were coming from one fully furnished house to another fully furnished house.  While I had enjoyed our Mission Style furniture in Kansas it was nearly 15 years old.  While still in good shape, the camp was considering using the house as another rental outlet for small conferences (four bedrooms and two meeting areas), so we donated most of our furniture for that purpose.  Arriving in Arkansas, we knew the furniture there was also over 15 years old and while not worn, it was not in really good shape either.  We waited several years and finally decided to purchase new living room furniture last year.  After looking at several local outlets, we found an online source that was purported to be like the Mission Style I enjoyed, and at a cost we felt we could afford.  We purchased a sofa, loveseat, and chair/ottoman combo we hoped would fit our space.  Imagine my surprise when today’s NY Times feed mentioned the growing trend to purchase fast furniture, especially during the shutdown of the pandemic.

When I looked online, I found fast furniture is a cultural phenomenon born of ease and our increased mobility.  With so many people relocating, downsizing, upgrading, or just shifting their homes and home design preferences each year based on the latest trends, fast furniture aims to create cheap, stylish, and easy-to-breakdown furniture.  Fast furniture is produced quickly, sold cheaply, and not expected to last more than a few years.  According to the EPA, Americans throw out over 12 million tons of furnishings and furniture each year.  Because of the complexity and varying materials in the items over nine million tons of glass, fabric, metal, leather, and other materials end up in a landfill.  Trends in furniture waste have increased almost five times since the 1960’s and many problems are directly tied to the growth of fast furniture.

When we purchased our furniture, it was touted as “mostly assembled”.  What that meant was it came like the bicycle your father ended up working on all night on Christmas Eve to have it ready for “Santa’s” arrival.  The ottoman was simple enough as I just attached the legs and screwed the top onto the frame.  The chair was more complex, requiring all the different parts to be assembled prior to attaching it together.  The “handy wrench” that accompanied the kit was not handy, and the angles made it almost impossible to turn.  After 1½ hours of toil it finally looked like a chair.  I waited two months before tackling the couch, and then only after Melissa’s assurance she would help by holding the larger pieces and with some of the screws.  This piece was larger and took us another two hours.  I confess, the love seat is still packaged waiting for us to put it together. 

THOUGHTS:  Candice Batista, an Environmental Journalist, says, “Fast furniture, like fast fashion, exploits natural resources, precious minerals, forestry products, and metal.”  Fast furniture contains toxins in the furniture fabrics and finishes which the EPA says is worse than outdoor air pollution.  While this is true for all furniture, fast furniture is designed as disposable.  This has prompted some waste management companies to offer options to donate, resale, and recycle old items with the hopes of lessening the environmental impact on a global scale.  Other new-age furniture companies give consumers the option to rent preferred items on a monthly or contract basis.  As companies and brands create alternative options the hope is to lessen the environmental impact, starting with awareness.  Still, in our neighborhood the preferred method is to place the ratty chair or sofa on the curb and attach a “free” sign to it.  The trends around fast furniture change as preferences shift to conscious consumerism.  We need to be aware of the long term impacts.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Home

October 31, 2022

Now that we have arrived home we have been dealing with the aftermath.  Yesterday was spent in a combination of winding down from travel (readjusting for the seven hour time difference) and preparing to work today.  Europe had been a crush of people (ships, buses, trains, cafes, and airports) and it was good to sit with just the two of us.  We began our prep with unpacking our luggage.  We had opted for carry-on and backpacks to ease transfers and had been washing each of the three sets of clothes we had brought in the sink at night.  Melissa put everything in the washer for a good clean.  Those two loads were washed, dried, and set out to be folded, but I never got around to that part until after waking up early this morning.  I was able to return to a normal Sunday afternoon, watching football and even the news, but fell asleep during both.  I was tired, but it was good to be home.    

I had worried that Zena may have felt we abandoned her, or even not remember us after a three week absence, but it was a far different response.  When we arrived to pick her up, we had agreed that she should come outside rather than meeting her in the house.  That was a good thing as she got excited and peed on the lawn (better than in the house).  Arriving home, she rushed inside to look through her haunts to make sure nothing had changed, but she seemed sad that Cousin Eddy was not there to greet her.  The next day Zena became very clingy, constantly coming over to lay her chin on my leg while staring at me.  I kept thinking she wanted something and would ask if she wanted to go outside.  Instead, she just wanted to know we were still there for her.  Zena turned nine months old this weekend.  Melissa had read this was her “teenage time”, and she was entering into her protective phase.  She stayed close all day and actively growled whenever she heard a “threatening” noise.  That night she jumped up on the bed and squeezed between my leg and the edge.  It was good to be home.

This morning Zena decided we need to do the Dr. Pepper to wake, but rather than 10-2-4, it was 2-4-6.  I got up the first time, Melissa the second, then I gave up and roused myself the last.  A three week absence meant Melissa had her access turned off from her work computer.  When she tried to reset the connection, it explained she needed to contact customer service, who would not be available until eight.  Having become used to eating breakfast (free!) for the last three weeks meant rather than my usual fast I made a bagel.  This may have become the new norm, to wake up earlier and to eat breakfast (we will see how long that lasts).  We were forced to abandon many of our old habits (not a bad thing) while traveling, and we had picked up new ones.  Now we can choose which to restore and what to make new.  It was good to be home.

THOUGHTS:  I enjoy travel and seeing the new sights and events that come with it but have found that I can only be away for so long before I begin to miss being at home.  I spent three months in Jordan and Egypt years ago and loved the time I was there.  However, one day I was overcome and longed for the familiar.  I went to an American branded hotel and sat in the lobby for several hours.  The sights were familiar, and the people all spoke English as they passed.  As I sat soaking up my home fix, I wondered about those who came to a foreign country and never experienced the change.  Unless we experience the differences, we will struggle to appreciate what each holds dear.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Numbers

October 29, 2022

Yesterday marked the end of Melissa’s and my “time on the continent”, and we prepared for another long travel day.  This began as the 4 of us caught an early shuttle for the airport in Paris.  The driver dropped us off at the terminal, but nowhere either of our 2 groups had to check in.  Since we were on our way home, Melissa and I opted to check our carryon bags thinking it would be less hassle.  While we waited for an assist to the gate, my sister approached.  Their airline had canceled their flight and it would be 6 hours before they could catch another.  We sat talking waiting for our assist as the time for boarding drew near.  When he finally arrived, we said our goodbyes and headed for the gates.  It seemed the more I took off at security the more they wanted me to remove.  Then we were through the checks on off to the gate, arriving just prior to boarding.  It was a good thing we had allotted 4 hours to get on the plane.

The 7 hour flight to Europe looked like a breeze when we boarded for the 10 hour return flight.  As we settled in on the plane, I recall thinking at least we were on board.  Somehow the return seemed shorter (2 hours longer).  Perhaps it was the cows to the barn syndrome, as milk cows always move toward the barn for milking faster than out of the barn toward the field (grain waits inside).  We only had a 1½ hour turnaround in Dallas and needed to get through customs and to change terminals.  It was a good thing we had opted for the assist, or we would have never made it.  Even the assist required 4 transfers to get to the gate.  Again, we arrived just prior to the scheduled boarding.  The short hop to Northwest Arkansas marked the end of our flight, but still left another 2 hours of driving.  We picked up Zena from our friends on the way home and slid into the driveway after a mere 20 hours of travel.  We were exhausted, but I was happy to finally be able to watch the news.

I have been commenting on our travel itinerary over the last 3 weeks.  The highlight of the trip was the opportunity to bring together 5 different pairs (10 people) of our extended family for the Rhine Cruise.  I previously commented on the 3 celebrations that marked 2022, my sister and brother-in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary, Melissa’s 60th birthday, and my brother’s 70th birthday.  That was coupled with my sister’s birthday (no number) just as our events ended.  While that may not have been the intent for the trip, it did become a good focus.  The cruise brought family from different areas of North America.  1 pair came from eastern Canada, 2 from New England, and 2 from the lower Midwest.  The cruise was augmented by 1 pair’s pre-cruise extension, 3 pair’s post-cruise extensions, and then 5 days in Paris for 2 pairs.  As we prepared to separate and make our ways home, the 10 of us (then later 4) took time to reflect on our favorite memories as well as our time together.  We all agreed we had played the numbers and won.

THOUGHTS:  I find travel and the memories it creates add adventure to life.  I had forgotten how much joy this brought during my last trip overseas 40 years ago and vowed it would not be another 40 years again.  Much has changed since that time, but the apprehension (and excitement) of the unknown that waits remained the same.  I have found the extent of travel is not as important as filling the days with others.  These can be family or new friends encountered on the journey.  Life really is a game of numbers: 52 weeks a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour, 60 seconds a minute.  We need to spend as many of those 31,449,600 seconds enjoying the wonders of the world, whether near and far.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Vincent

October 27, 2022

We declared today an official “slug day”.  After another leisurely start for breakfast, we decided to go our separate ways and then meet back for a picnic lunch in a park.  That gave me an opportunity to tour the Church of Saint Vincent du Paul which is very near our hotel.  I plugged the location into my phone and took off on what was to be a seven minute walk.  For whatever reason, I kept losing the app, but would then bring it up and would be off again.  I was pleased the directions were coming through my earpieces.  It seemed the route was convoluted, but I confidently went on.  When I finally arrived at my destination, the app had reselected to the bring me to St. Vincent High School, located on a residential street nowhere near the church.  I reentered the location and took off again, and again found myself getting lost (is there a pattern here?).  Exasperated, I looked up and saw the back of the church I sought.  This was the same building I had wondered about as we ate dinner in a street café two nights ago.  My thirty minute walk had taken me two minutes from our hotel.

When I looked online, I found The Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul is in the 10th arrondissement (administrative division) of Paris and gives its name to the Quartier Saint-Vincent-de-Paul around it.  The church is in the Neo-classical style, and the architect who completed the building was Jacques-Ignace Hittorff, whose other major works included the Gare du Nord railway station where we had arrived in Paris.  In the 12th century, the site was originally a Leper Colony, located in a marshy area on the road between Paris and the Basilica of Saint-Denis.  It became the home and workplace of Saint Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), who devoted his life to aiding the poor.  In 1625 he founded the Congregation of the Priests of the Mission, whose members became known as Lazarists.  He also created a congregation known as the Daughters of Charity and in 1638, began a project for aiding abandoned infants.  He was beatified in 1729 and canonized as a saint in 1737.  The site was occupied by the Congregation of the Mission he had founded until the French Revolution.

During the afternoon we were on our way again, deciding to take lunch to the Jardin Villemin (garden of domestic life).  This park was not too far away and sported a children’s playground and one of the few green spaces we had found in Paris. Although the walk was farther than indicated, the trip was well worthwhile.  We were able to while our day away with a picnic and conversation.  This is what we had wanted, and expected, from our last day in Paris.

THOUGHTS:  As we sat in the garden, conversation turned to what part of the trip each of us enjoyed the most.  Without a question, we all agreed on the Black Forest.  This forest had reminded us of all of places familiar, while providing an aspect of the unknown.  One of the things that had struck me about my earlier stay in Petra, Jordan, had been the slickrock canyons that reminded me of my explorations in southeastern Utah.  We seem to want to find the familiar to help us relate to the unknown.  We do this with people as well, often making fast friends of strangers because they remind us of home.  We need to strive to find this aspect of the familiar in everyone we meet.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.