Freedom is not Free

Tomorrow Americans celebrate the birth of independence, the birth of country, the longevity of the United States of America. We’re old, by some reckonings, barely started by others.

We’ve had glory days, amazing stories that fill our history books, our movie scenes, fill our hearts with pride and nostalgia. We rightly remember the heroes, the brave ones, the  hardworking backbone of this country.

And we’ve had the other…the moments, many captured to live indefinitely online, that haunt and hurt and damage our national story. We’ve had days of sorrow, internal family feuding and fighting that’s hateful, and embarrassing.

We’re all siblings, of a sort.

National siblings. 

Lately, I’ve wondered…are we, the citizens of the United States, really worthy of the freedom we enjoy? Do we deserve the rights and privileges we’re so accustomed to having?

Do we take voting seriously? Do we know about the issues, take time to understand more than the sound bites and talking points that we’re already drawn to, by our pre-determined stances and opinions?

Do we look for candidates who will be leaders, or do we just check boxes when we vaguely recognize a familiar name?

Do we bother to learn about local issues, the unexciting realm of politics that influences school boards and community elections? Do we know what’s happening at the level of governing we can all be a part of? Do we participate in our own back yard?

Do we look for ways to help? Or are we just enjoying the show, enjoying the role of critic without the burden of involvement?

Do we look for the good of the whole? Are we focused on self-interest, or are we interested in our siblings…our national siblings?

Are we nurturing a nation, caring for our collective integrity and honor?

Sometimes it seems like we’re talking all the time, but not really saying anything worthwhile.

Is anyone even listening anymore? Or are we all talking over each other? We can all feel good that we’ve had our say. But did anyone hear anyone else?

I don’t have all the answers, nor does anyone else. Our issues are big, and getting bigger. Our debt is enormous, and our resources are limited.

But our hearts are not limited. Our imagination is not limited. Our capacity for compassion and hard work is unmatched.

Rather than hoping we can reach agreement on all our many areas of conflict, I hope we’ll look for opportunities to make actual contributions to real needs. I don’t have to agree with someone to work beside them for common good. And there so much that we can do if we choose to cooperate, instead of using our energy and time to tear one another apart.

Tomorrow we celebrate the heroes of thought and words who conceived a land built on freedom and liberty. We celebrate the heroes of action who brought the idea to reality. I hope we’ll also be celebrating the heroes of quiet deeds, the people who continue to make the United States great…the people who give, generously; who care, ferociously; who live, courageously; and who love, whole-heartedly.

We are siblings, all of us citizens. We’re national siblings, and we need to remember that. We pay a price to live in this land. Freedom isn’t free, even for civilians. There is a cost to everything, for everyone. And I’m not talking about taxes.

I’m talking about the price we owe from the heart.

Are you paying your share?

Happy 4th of July, Americans! Happy 4th, my siblings!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Memorial Day: welcoming summer, honoring memories

It’s not often my summer begins with the Memorial Day weekend, even if the end of May marks the unofficial start to the season for the rest of the US.

Most years in the past decade I’ve been in SE Alaska, and while spring is in the air by the end of May, summer is definitely not.

The past week found us in Virginia Beach, checking out a different side of the country, a different beach experience, and yet, oddly enough, with the same weather we thought we left behind us in Alaska: chilly, rainy, overcast. I understand this is unusual, just the luck of the draw. But still…I packed for different temps!

Finally, to launch the beginning of the weekend, we had a glorious day of sun, views, travel and music. A nice cap to our trip, and we also enjoyed a moving history lesson walking the length of the Virginia Beach boardwalk, reading the posters honoring events in US military history, and the beginning of the holiday now known as “Memorial Day.”

To celebrate the sun coming out, we left Virginia Beach and drove south. Sitting on top of North Carolina’s famous Outer Banks (OBX) was too tempting, so we made the easy drive south to explore another region of the Atlantic coast.

A couple of hours down the road you find yourself in the chain of communities that form the upper group of holiday / tourist coastal towns: Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head.

Where did they get those names?!

Headed down we drove through rural NC communities dotted with restaurants offering Southern food at its finest, barbecue, fresh crab and other local seafood, and fresh produce markets. Couldn’t resist stopping at a couple of these, picking up tomatoes, peaches, cantaloupe, jam, corn, and muscadine bread. (For anyone unfamiliar with muscadines, these are a type of grape which grows in the South.) You can make anything from jam and jellies to wine, eat them fresh off the vine, or, apparently, use them in baked goods. I’ve never eaten anything baked with muscadines, so this will be a first!

IMG_7324

I didn’t buy asparagus, but these were so tiny and beautiful I couldn’t resist making a photo.

IMG_5341

In the midst of our rambling, we visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial, honoring their historic and life-changing first flight, back in 1903. Though Kitty Hawk often gets credit for the location of the first flight, it actually happened in Kill Devil Hills. There’s an impressive monument to their feat, which continues to impact life…and I doubt it’s an exaggeration to say every life…on the planet.

IMG_7049

IMG_6632

The Atlantic was a heavenly blue with brilliant sunshine out to herald the arrival of summer. Honestly, I could have been happy just driving the coast, taking in the views, soaking up the warmth, and appreciating the mix of kitsch and beauty.

IMG_6466

But we were only out for the day, and by late afternoon made our way back to Virginia Beach.

At the end of the day, we wandered down to find multiple outdoor concerts, restaurants, visitors biking, walking, eating, playing on the beach…a mix of ages, styles, cultures, languages…a melting pot, all around us.

IMG_3449

It was a nice reminder of the meaning behind the holiday, and how everyone living in this country in peace and freedom owes a debt of gratitude to those who’ve made it possible.

We’ve explored the Boardwalk a few times during our stay, but the other times we’ve been out have been more a fight against the wind and rain. This walk was leisurely, strolling and reading posters highlighting critical points in US history. I learned a few things about the various wars and conflicts that dot our history…these are just a couple of examples:

IMG_1123

IMG_2028

Thank you, people of the past who made a difference, and gave your all doing it! Looking back at the past, the eras of bygone sacrifice, fears, victories and losses is sobering, but also reassuring.

It’s our responsibility to honor the past, but also to safeguard the future. And we do that by living with courage, respect, and thoughtfulness. How are we caring for the legacy of freedom today? That’s a question everyone has to answer for themselves, and the answers will vary, depending on the lens you use to filter. I think the best we can do is to live with personal integrity, value life, and understand that differences don’t have to divide. They can actually make us stronger, if we allow for that.

And guess what? Summer has begun!

Happy 4th of July! The Star Spangled Banner

 

The 4th of July is here again, a day to remember and celebrate heritage, and a day to remember that freedom comes at a cost. The national anthem of the United States was born during battle, and reminds us that freedom requires courage…we must be brave if we want to be free. Bravery comes in many forms, some more visible than others. How are you being brave in your life?

Here’s a treat:

The Star Spangled Banner at the Lincoln Memorial

And a little history of this song…

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Thank you 

I know some individuals who mark this day with memories, not as a day off. For those who are gone, and to their families, thank you. There’s nothing political about remembering men and women who did their best, gave their all, and honored their commitments.

Thank you.

The Good Lives On

I recently found this poignant story of a woman whose talent for photography was discovered after her death. You can scroll through the linked slide show to see some of her beautiful work.

Discovering Vivian Maier

What’s striking, beyond the technical beauty of the photos, is the theme that comes through in so many of them: glimpses of every day scenes from city streets, a look into the lives of people who must have been strangers to Vivian, but were captured in a flash of time and old fashioned black and white film. And now these people have their moment of fame, because Vivian Maier is finally being celebrated as an artist.

Vivian Maier was a nanny for 40 years, and I’m sure that the impact of her life on the children she cared for is still being felt, because what we do matters, whether we are “discovered” or not, famous or not.

Her photography was discovered because her possessions were auctioned off before she died.

Today her work would make her rich.

Well, perhaps it did make her rich in her lifetime. It’s possible we just can’t recognize the currency of that wealth to her.

I rarely watch the Oscars. Usually I haven’t seen many of the movies up for awards, and that’s certainly the case this year.

But tonight I’ll be watching, and hoping that the film that celebrates this woman’s work, and life, wins the award for best documentary. It will be a good thing to see a life marked and honored, the work of a woman who saw a lot more than anyone guessed.

This story makes me think: what am I doing that will live on? What do I do that may seem insignificant to me, but still matters, touches lives, leaves a mark?

We all leave marks.

Some lives burn brighter and seem bigger than others. That’s part of the draw of an event like the Oscars…a peek into the world of celebrity. It’s a world most people only know from the outside, looking in.

But Vivian’s story hits home. I’m making photos every day…not like the ones she captured, but snapshots of my life, my touch on the lives around me. And my work has an imprint.

What would that look like if it was suddenly viewable, put on the screen for the world to see?

I hope it would be as beautiful as these photos, and capture the right moments.

I click through the images in the slide show, and I think to myself: give us eyes to see the real, and the important.

 

Happy Fourth!

We’re having a lovely 4th of July, beautiful weather and lots of activity out our front window. Ribs are smoking for dinner, and we’re planning a front row seat for tonight’s fireworks. We aren’t always so fortunate. A couple of years ago the weather was so rainy that the fireworks display was postponed for several days. But this summer is golden…so far…don’t want to risk jinxing it by saying too much! You can never take sunshine for granted in SE Alaska!

We planned to go fishing today…got up bright and early at 4:30 to be ready in time for an early start. But the friends we planned to go with called while we were en route to say that the wind was a little too rough for their small boat..or maybe too rough for good fishing…not sure, not being a boat person myself. So we headed home, unpacked the lunch and extra gear we’d collected and settled in to a second cup of coffee and a leisurely day.

It’s not often we get an extra Saturday in the week, and this one seems particularly sweet and long. Starting so early has paid off. I’ve rearranged the furniture in a couple of rooms, tried a new recipe for baked beans (thank you Alton Brown!), made a yummy banana pudding for dessert, had a few calls with family, planned some fun for next week with little Riley. She’s coming to visit Saturday and bringing baby Jack and mommy Stephanie along.

Before the day is done, I plan to pull out my DVD of 1776 (also available via Amazon Instant Video) and travel back in movie time to the events that created this holiday. The movie, made in 1972, has its’ corny moments, and if you’ve never seen it, be warned that it is a musical. Not that I mind that, no! The music hardly competes with classic movie musicals, but the story is a wonderful reminder of the challenges overcome by the people who carved this nation from their values, hopes, and amazing vision of freedom. And though there is a vein of comedy through many scenes, there is also a sober reminder that from the beginning, freedom was not free.

Rob and I had the opportunity to visit several historic sites in Virginia in May, and I was impressed, as I always am, with the wealth of important history compacted into such a relatively small region. We spent a few days immersed in Williamsburg and Jamestown, which I love. I’m never really satisfied with my trips there, and always leave wanting to know more. But the more significant stops this trip were visits to Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, and Jefferson’s mountain estate, Monticello.

It was humbling to see the surroundings of these great men of our history and to learn more about them as people. Yes, they both served as president. But after their terms, both chose to return to a private life, to the homes and land they loved. In an era far removed from our day of life-long security and celebrity for national political figures, these men slipped back into the role of private citizens. They stepped back from public view, from fame and power. And reading about them, I got the feeling that each felt it was a step up that they stepped back into privacy. Clearly, they did not view political power as something to wield as long as they lived.

All this soaking in history made me thoughtful. We often speak of “founding fathers” in reverent terms, and rightly so. That group of leaders gave a gift that is still giving. And it is a rare gift, one to be cherished. But though I am sometimes saddened by the lack of leadership that seems the norm today, there are still people among us who know what it is to step out, stand up, and do right. Our trip in May, back to the heart of this country’s past, is in my thoughts today, reminding me that we have to do our part. They started it, it is up to all of us to carry on.

Freedom isn’t free, and it never was. Thank you to those who have served, to those who make a difference, to those who stand up. Happy 4th of July! Long may we celebrate this date and its meaning, and between the fun and the fireworks, may we remember why we come together, and that in spite of our differences, the task is to continue to come together; to step out, stand up, and do right.

Happy Memorial Day!

To American friends and family, may your celebrations today recall the service and sacrifice of fallen heroes, present soldiers, and the veterans who have given so much for freedom. As a mom of a US veteran, I am so grateful today that I can speak to him in person rather than visit a cemetery. Blessings and heart-felt compassion for those parents who are not so fortunate.

I am visiting Williamsburg, VA, this week, and there is no more powerful reminder of the struggle to begin this country than experiencing that era in this place. May we always be free, and may we always appreciate and honor those who gave us that gift with their blood, sweat, and tears. And may we always deserve this heritage of freedom and liberty.

Bright lights, big city

The first stop of our trip was Seattle. That’s required when you leave Ketchikan. Alaska Airlines is the only carrier that flies from Ketchikan to the lower 48, and all flights stop in Seattle…sort of like all roads lead to Rome.

In our case, it works out nicely since our daughter lives there, and it gives us an automatic opportunity to connect with her family. Well, ok, the star of the show is Riley, but that’s just the way it is…no offense to the adults in the world. Give me a two year old any day!

20120722-111336.jpg

While we were there, we took in a ball game…Seattle Mariners vs the Texas Rangers, at Safeco Field.

20120722-111446.jpg Guess who won? I hear the Mariners are having a bad year, and this game didn’t help. Didn’t score one run! Lucky for us we were there more for the ambience and experience. There’s just something about a baseball game on a nice summer afternoon…always makes me hungry for a brat! We haven’t gone to a professional game since we lived in Colorado, and occasionally made it to see the Rockies play. Weather cooperated, Riley cooperated, and we got to enjoy the whole show. Did the 7th inning stretch, got popcorn, chocolate dipped fruit, and ice cream, and enjoyed a little people watching.

20120722-111611.jpg

Our other big event was a trip to the Space Needle for dinner. But this wasn’t just a dinnner…it was a 30th birthday celebration for our son-in-law, Matt, along with his parents.

20120722-111840.jpg It was a perfect place for the celebration. The views are amazing…the outer ring of the restaurant revolves, so you get a view of the city and the Puget Sound as you eat, and the mechanism is so smooth, you don’t even feel the movement. You just watch the views change. And the food was pretty good too.

20120722-112621.jpg

After dinner we went up to the observation deck and got a few more photos. This is the 50th anniversary of the building of the Space Needle. It was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair that was held that year in Seattle. It is the city’s iconic landmark, and it’s fun to experience the retro feel of the structure itself…sort of a step back in time/step into the future thing.

20120722-111940.jpg

Seattle is a fun place to visit, and I feel fortunate to have a connection there. I’ve learned that as a parent of adult children, where your children live, a piece of you lives. It’s not about owning a home there…it’s about a part of your heart belonging there.

There’s only one thing that I don’t like, and that’s the traffic. I’m reminded that there is a price to pay for all the lovely attractions and shopping opportunities so conveniently clustered together. Thank goodness, we don’t have to drive when we visit. We’re along for the ride, and our daughter or son-in-law does the heavy lifting with regard to navigating the big city bustle.

Well, on to the next!

20120722-112643.jpg

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Birthday, America! Land of the free, because of the brave, and land that I love…amazing, feisty, diverse, mythical, broad and wide, beautiful, breath-taking…a country like no other. Of course, all countries can make that claim. Each is like no other. Each is unique, and each has positives and negatives. America is no different. But it is an amazing land, physically, and still a wonderful experiment in freedom and the exercise of self-governance.

I’m a bit of a history buff, albeit very selective in my interests. One of the periods that I especially love is the era of colonial America. That is a fascinating time in history, not only because of the events that occurred that most Americans are familiar with…the Revolutionary War, the political struggle for freedom, the establishment of a new nation…but also because as you learn about the everyday lives of people, you realize…they were really very much like us, in many ways. Except in all the ways they were so different. There’s a line in the movie “National Treasure,” when Nicolas Cage is quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and he concludes by saying that “people don’t talk that way any more.” Read the writings of the founding fathers, or other authors of that time, and you have to agree. People don’t talk that way any more. Those were serious men and women, and they lived through serious and perilous times. They used language in a way that most modern Americans could not even follow, and somehow, with all the odds in the world against them, claimed their independence and birthed a new age. Quite a feat.

One of my favorite movies is the musical 1776. Some of the music is a little hokey, but beyond the comic moments is a moving story of vision, division, loyalty, achievement and heroism. And watching it, I’m reminded that something we take for granted was really a miracle, on every level.

Happy parades, fireworks, hotdogs, apple pie! I’ll be enjoying a small town parade today, and seeing fireworks. And maybe sometime in the next few hours, on this middle-of-the-week holiday, I’ll pull out my dvd and remember how it all started. I’ll remember that the Declaration is more than just a historical document, that the Founding Fathers were real people with real disagreements and lives in the balance. And I’ll appreciate something that I rarely stop to think of: that I am free, and my freedom was inherited from people who lived centuries ago. But their gift is still giving, and Americans today are still the fortunate recipients of their gift.