Archive for November, 2008

A beginning… an end

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Monday marked an important day for many people here at TAMU. At 2:42 A.M. there was a candelight vigil at the bonfire memorial to remember those who died and those who were injured when the stack collapsed. I spent sunrise monday at the memorial, trying to capture the sentiments of those who left flowers, notes, and momentos. Hoping to communicate with those who passed? Seeking to honor those who were injured? I couldn’t help but think of those who were uninjured, who were struck numb at the sights and sounds that night, who scrambled, clawing through the stack trying to reach those trapped under tons of trees. I worry about those people. They survived, but couldn’t save their friends. The hours that followed must have been filled with desperation, fear, then resignation. The worst had happened.

This is all to clear to me as I stand on the site of the memorial. Our family, my daughter is doing something very similar today. Standing in a courtroom, alone at a podium, being shouted at by the family of the accused. Yet, like those who survived the collapse of the stack, she stood firm, fighting off the feeling to flee, needing to honor a friend by standing fast, speaking with conviction, deliberation, while searching for a truth. She did this for Tyler, his family, his friends. It would have been possible to pass this cup to the police to find a conviction, a just sentence, but she stood firm, for him.

As i stood in the memorial, I was wishing I was in Richmond but knew she had said to stay, that this was hers to complete. I couldn’t protect her from it that night in the park, who knows why the gun jammed and the second shot was never fired her way. Fate? Luck? Karma? God? I thank them all. But cannot even write about the loss of Tyler without coming apart.

I’ve written about heroes among us before. I believe it is true. As I walked from the memorial Monday, the groundskeepers were trimming, the parking enforcement women were looking carefully at cars in the lot, commuters were walking by, students riding along. I couldn’t help but see a Mom who didn’t eat so her children had breakfast, a man who swallows his pride to keep a job to pay tuition, a daughter going to class to honor a parent in the hospital. All heroes really, its a world filled with selfless people who routinely get overshadowed by the selfish and what i’m hoping is that you’ll see that we need to be kind to them all, because at first glance, you can’t tell who the person is that will run from the fire around you, and who will run into the fire to save you. You really can’t tell, and if you ask them, they won’t know until they do it that they had it in them.

When you get the honor of meeting them, acknowledge their gift, honor their act, even if they can’t accept it. Say your thanks and move on.

So the family ordeal is half over. One more trial, two more hearings and my daughter will be…not free, not moving on, but she’ll be able to make her loss a more integral part of life. I’m hoping for the same. To be able to walk through a memorial without tears, to be able to thank a hero without my voice breaking.

It could happen.

Anyway, Monday is passed, the problems of the week are upon us all. We all struggle to be civil to people who’s passions have eroded their own civility, but do what you can to return frustration with kindness, you never know who you’re talking to.

Take Care,
Be good to each other.

Where in the world?

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

It hit me the other day that having a web page in 2008 is a little like having an shortwave radio was in 1964. Back then, Dad had bought a heathcraft kit, and with my brother and i carefully sorting resistors and diodes, Dad soldered up the board, we plugged in the tubes strung a copper wire out of our second floor bedroom and spent most nights that summer listening to morse sent on speed keys, exotic languages (Spanish I recall), and oddly accented English newscasts discussing prime ministerial shortcomings.

We had a notebook that I can’t find now. In it John and I scribbled call signs from the amateur Ham operators, guessed at what the morse meant (..– ship-at-sea-..—.send-kelp…) we weren’t very good with morse and did much better with clear station radio channels. It was entertaining though, every night it was like there was a surprise at our doorstep, almost like someone was thinking of us and sending their thoughts.

The mjobrien.com website is turning into something like that. I can track IP addresses and using IPligence.com can find out the city and country where the website hit came from. Tonight was very interesting, The Isle of Man, Waterford Ireland, Mount Laurel, New Jersey, Buenos Aires, Tyler, Houston, Beaumont, and College Station, Texas, Blacksburg, Virginia, Herndon, Virginia, Washington D.C., Seattle, Washington, some “null” town in Missouri, and Atlanta, Georgia.

In the past weeks, I’ve seen Jakarta, Indonesia, Mumbai, India, Tel Aviv, Israel, Tokyo, Japan, Mulhouse, Germany, Dhaka, Pakistan, Baraqisimeto, Venezuela, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Switzerland (thanks Frank), and friends in Minnesota, (thanks Deaner) and North Dakota, (thanks Steve, thanks Milt)

How this all happens is hard to understand. I haven’t advertised the site, and the search engine rankings have me decidedly out of the top of all the keyword searches. But something is going on.

I’d really like to hear from any of you who have found my site useful, send me a note to mjobrien@mjobrien.com if you have a moment. Tell me what you were looking for, if you found it, and if I should put up more content like that. I’d started to keep a notebook with the city and country names, but can’t find it now. Its probably next to the amateur radio.

Take Care, let me hear from you!

Ending or Beginning

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost

leaves.jpg

I’ve been observing the changing seasons here in Brook Hollow, trying to adjust to not having the brilliant colors of the Blue Ridge, and enjoying not having to scrape frost off the windshield in the morning.

Fall comes slowly in Texas it seems. Green lawns turn a kind of grey, then brown, green leaves fall before changing color, so trees go from fully clothed to skeletons in short periods of time. Some people are closely connected to the seasons too I think. Before daylight savings time, I found it difficult to wake and dress before it was light. Now in the early weeks after daylight savings, I’m up, have cleaned the house (!) and am early on the job. We are at some level connected to the rhythm of the sun and seasons….(so why is it 1 AM and I’m up typing this?)

Many people view Fall as an ending. The termination of the growing season, the time to hibernate, dig in, store up for a long winter, which many don’t look forward to. I’d admit that there have been Winters I haven’t look forward to, but this one that’s on the way is different. I do have the profound sense that something is coming to a close, but the events of this past week make it clear to me that something profound is beginning.

A fellow named Peter Levine has a blog on civic renewal I happened upon today with some comments on Fall. One that I especially appreciated was a counterpoint to the view that Fall is the ending of growth, Winter is the seasonal death, and Spring the time of renewal and beginning. This comment refers to Autumn as a time for inner clarity and renewal in the traditional Jewish cycle of the seasons. I think that’s what I’m experiencing, a clarity and renewal that I see more of each day this Fall.

Another comment is more to the point of current events, Autumn is the time when careers begin. Think about that in the context of the elections, hundreds of well-intentioned citizens were elected to office this past week in all kinds of posts from local councils to governors to the President-elect. The comment also refers to the beginning of scholarly careers. This is a little harder to see now that most school calendars are divorced from the needs of the harvest. In the past school would begin when the harvest was completed. Having a store of food meant it was time to learn. It connected the university with the land. Being at an Agriculture and Mechanics school now, I like that, it has a nice resonance I think.

A friend pointed out that Fall is also the time when nature prepares for Spring. The buds that will blossom are being prepared now, safe within the frost-protected confines of dry twigs and branches. Outwardly, the natural world goes dormant over the Winter, inside, inside, life goes on. I’m seeing that in myself now. Inside some things are ending, there is a period of dormancy ahead, reflection, but I can tell that next years life is forming.

I’ve been listening to Norah Jones tonight as I write to you all. These lines come from “Shoot the Moon”

“Now the Fall is here again
You can’t begin to give in
It’s all over”

It sounds sad, and proposes we not accept the coming of Winter, but I believe its true that in every ending, however sad, there is a beginning. And that after each ending, we need the time for reflection that Winter affords us. How else can we know how to bloom in the Spring?

So I don’t know what to expect for Winter here in Texas. Will it snow? Will there be ice? Should I stock up now? Unlike some of the winters I’ve known, I’m hoping to invite this one into Brook Hollow, to let the 40 degree air inside while I’m warm under the blanket. Perfect weather for sleeping, which is where I’m heading now.

Take Care you-all, be good to each other, add some sparkle to the life of a person you don’t know this week. Say hello with a smile, open a door, carry a burden…it’ll make the Winter warmer for us all.