Making Retirement—the Eclipse

Restaurant worker watches the eclipse.

Should we stay home to see the eclipse, where we’d see 99.1% of the sun covered, or should we head north to the zone of totality, which was only 40 or so miles away?  We ordered glasses from Amazon, which arrived in two days—a package of five pairs. I had my eye on a special lens filter for the camera, but by the time I decided to order it, none were available at reasonable prices. Continue reading

The American West: Traditional and Trendy, with Photos

A dramatic comparison of federal land ownership in the West versus other regions.

A dramatic comparison of federal land ownership in the West versus other regions.

The Atlantic magazine recently published a piece about the West entitled  The Graying of Rural America, which argues that, “As cities attract young people, rural America has become older, whiter, and less populated.”

The authors focus on Fossil, Oregon, the county seat of Wheeler County, which they describe as slowly dying. According to The Atlantic, the town began “bleeding jobs” after a lumber mill closed in 1978. Young people leave for educations and jobs in larger cities, and old people become trapped. They exist mostly on investment earnings or government checks like Social Security. Continue reading

Nature’s Drama: Photos Along the Pacific Coast

Sea lions lounge on rocks along the Oregon coast

Sea lions lounge on rocks along the Oregon coast

If the interior West exudes space, solitude, and silence, the Pacific Coast offers drama: isolated beaches, quaint towns, high cliffs, shifting mist and rain, and a coastline littered with large rock formations. We visited the Pacific Coast in early June, before the travel season peaked and, luckily, when the weather was good. Continue reading

Harsh, Open, and Compelling: Photos of the West

Front range of the Rockies, south of Denver. Residential and commercial property crowd into the front range.

Front Range of the Rockies, south of Denver. Residential and commercial property crowd into the Front Range.

On the pages of many outdoor or hunting magazines, photos of the West show mostly places in the Rocky Mountains. As a boy in western New York, I spent hours reading those magazines and came to believe that the West and the Rockies were one in the same. I was 24 years old when I made my first trip west. At that time, I taught high school math, and when school ended in June, I packed some essentials on a motorcycle and headed out. Among other things, I learned that the West was more than the Rockies. Continue reading

A Vermont Nature Story on the Lamoille River

Barbara and I are in Vermont for some weeks this winter, and last week we witnessed how an ice jam causes flooding during late winter rains, which then created a remarkable winter scene. The story occurred in north central Vermont on the Lamoille River, which is about 85 miles long and drains a watershed of roughly 700 square miles. The river begins in eastern Vermont and flows generally west into Lake Champlain.

Here’s a short version of the story: Continue reading

Nature Is a State of Mind

Wide open landscapes in the West

Wide open landscapes in the West

In 2003, a year after I retired but when my wife was still working, I took Anna, our dog, and headed west to see some of the country I’d visited in times past. Anna and I camped most of the time, and one particular night I remember finding a small Bureau of Land Management campground on Antelope Reservoir in eastern Oregon. We could see a long way across the reservoir and surrounding desert landscape. I remember preparing dinner while Anna, sitting at the edge of the campsite, watched the landscape for signs of life. Continue reading

Images of the High Plains: a Forgotten Part of America

Ranch in eastern Wyoming

Ranch in eastern Wyoming

The West of American myths is the High Plains. The early explorers and settlers had to cross it on their way to better-known destinations. Many tried to settle there and failed. The bison massacre occurred largely on the High Plains, and Indian wars spanned decades in the 1800s. Continue reading

Prayer Threatens Our Turmoil: Monasticism—Part II

Some of the Monastery staff

Some of the Monastery staff at lunch

Visitors are welcome at most monasteries. After my first day, new people arrived and the three men, who had been there a week, headed home.

We had all come to Our Lady with different stories. P. (I’ll use only first initials) recently left a ministry in upstate New York and was spending a year in discernment. She lived mostly in a retreat house in Arizona, and came to Our Lady for one week. D. lived locally, helping care for her aging parents and managing a store owned by her brother. She needed a break and wanted prayer. Continue reading

One Thing at a Time Quiets a Mind

Carlsbad Cavern

Carlsbad Cavern

Maybe incongruities in daily life give rise to neurotic tendencies. A woman must earn a living but doesn’t like her job; a man loves his children but fears responsibility. Or this one: people want time alone but don’t leave their cities or suburbs. Continue reading