About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hiking, Parts 19, 20, and 21

"With the coming of spring,
I am calm again."
--Gustav Mahler

Copyright © 2015
Words and images
by Ralph F. Couey

Once the holidays pass, winter is something I just endure.  Throughout those long, cold months, I yearn deeply for the days when the air turns warm, the world awakens, and color returns to the landscape.  It seems that the older I get, the more impatient I am, waiting for the return of the season of life.

I turned to hiking last year mainly for exercise and to reduce the pounding on my joints that comes with running.  But I found something unexpected.  The peace and solace of the woods.

I'm covering three hikes in this posting, mainly because Cheryl and I are in training after several months away from regular exercise.  Plus, she is breaking in a brand new set of boots.  Next month, we go to Las Vegas and will spend a day or two hiking in the mountains south and west of the city.  Looking at the trail guides, those treks will involve a completely different kind of terrain than what we have grown used to here in verdant Virginia.

The Bluebell Loop

This past Sunday, once we had discharged our responsibilities at church, we managed to squeeze a little more time out of the lengthening day for a short jaunt.  We drove down south to the Bull Run-Occoquan trailhead, an easy stretch for a couple of aging boomers.  Just off the main trail, their is a spur called the Bluebell Loop.  Aptly named, for the landscape in spring is liberally sprinkled with those bright blue beauties, as well as another lovely bloom called Wild Blue Phlox (photo at the top of this post).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

America and the Bus Ride

From Travellerspoint.com

Copyright © 2015
By Ralph F. Couey
Except cited image

There is a road.  It doesn't seem to have a beginning or an end, even though logic and reason mandate such bookends.  No one can remember the history of the road, only that it's always been there.

It's not a terribly remarkable stretch of pavement, as roads go, in that it is in some places straight and wide, and narrow and twisty in others.  It climbs hills and descends into valleys.  It passes through verdant forests, empty deserts, along shorelines and coastlines.  It bisects endless acres of stolid corn and dancing wheat, and witnessed by grazing animals in vast meadows.

The road is heavily traveled because it is a vital artery; the only way to get from where we've been to where we're going; an endless ribbon connecting departure and destination.

On this road is a bus.  It is owned by a bus line, whose owners and operators superficially acknowledge that they're providing a service.  But they are obsessed with profit; they want to always have the newest, the fanciest buses not because of the passengers, but because it makes the other bus companies look bad.  They advertise for passengers, but when their motivations are revealed, they are simply searching for the perfect way to con people into allowing the company to take them for a ride.  

Like all the other vehicles, this bus is traveling along this eternal highway.  But in looking closer, it is apparent that the bus's course is far from straight.  Inside the bus are not one, but two drivers, both fighting desperately for sole control of the bus.  As a result of this dispute, the bus is veering all over the road, first lurching to the left, and then to the right.  It's a dangerous way to drive, one that endangers the bus, it's passengers, and the other vehicles on the road.  But that doesn't matter to either driver.  The only thing that matters to them is to be the only hands on the wheel.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Forgive Others, Because He Forgave Us

Image from kevinsandlin.com

Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey
except quoted and cited passages
and sourced images.

Jeremiah 31:34
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, 
and every man his brother, saying, 
"Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, 
from the least of them unto the greatest of them," saith the Lord: 
for I will forgive their iniquity, 
and I will remember their sin no more.

I’m going to ask you to do something that may cause some of you some pain, and for that I apologize in advance. If you don't want to participate, I'll understand.

Close your eyes. But stay awake! Look into the past, through the years of your life. Find an event in which someone really hurt you. Not a momentary or passing thing, but an act of hate or even betrayal that cut deep into your heart. For a moment, try to re-experience that hurt, that pain, and that anger. Whatever that person or people did to you, it changed your life. You could almost say that your life exists in two parts, before that incident, and afterwards.

Now. Take a deep breath. And forgive that person.

Now, put yourself on the other side of that line. Think about the absolute worst thing you've ever done or said to another person. Granted, it may have felt good in the heat and anger of the moment, but it has chewed at you ever since.

How badly do you want that person to forgive you?

Now, think about God. Think about the millions of times and billions of ways humans now and in the past have done things to him, or in his name that would have destroyed any of us. What would he say to us?

Ephesians 2:1-22
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, 
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, 
the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience
—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, 
carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, 
and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 
 But God, because of the great love with which he loved us, 
 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. 
 For by grace you have been saved through faith. 
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

We take things personally. It’s part of our human nature. And we also transgress, also because we’re human. Being a husband, I am intimately familiar with that. One of my younger colleagues, recently married, asked me what the secret was to a successful marriage. I replied, “Liberal use of the words, “Honey, I’m sorry. You were right all along.” He asked, “But what if you are right?” I said, “Irrelevant and immaterial, counselor.”

Monday, April 06, 2015

A Dream, a Door, and a Decision



"Hold fast to dreams'
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly."
--Langston Hughes

Dedicated to Luke Mitchem
who answered the call of his dreams
and chose the open door.
 
Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey
except quoted and cited passages.

Dreams.

We all have them.  Some arrive with birth, born within as we enter this life.  Others we pick up as we traverse the pathway that defines our journey.  Some dreams are small; transient thoughts about what could be made better.  Others are big; transformational, yet seemingly unattainable.

They are with us every day, it seems; sitting on our shoulders, whispering in our ears.  Beckoning, seductive, causing an itch we can never quite reach to scratch.  

Most of us brush off or even ignore the dream and the accompanying temptation.  We'd rather live a safe life, one with security and predictability, and a regular paycheck to fund the car payment, the mortgage, and groceries.

But even within that bubble, we still yearn for something different, a life with some adventure, some risk, something that doesn't involve a commute, a cubicle, and a computer.  In those random, ephemeral moments, we realize that even the most opulent and comfortable cage...is still a cage.

Then one day, out of the clear blue, something happens.  Perhaps a job eliminated, a salary cut, an intolerable change in circumstances.  The path of predictability has veered.  We feel a gust of air, spin around and see that a door has magically appeared before us.  And it stands open.