About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Post Number 600


Copyright © 2016
by Ralph F. Couey

On November 3, 2006, I opened a blog account with blogger.com. My first post was about a motorcycle accident involving Steeler’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Today, a little over ten years later, I am uploading post number 600.

The title came from a moment on a motorcycle trip.  I was riding westward across Kansas, heading towards my night's stop in the town of Liberal.  As the day wound down, the sun was sinking towards the horizon.  The low angle of its light brought a host of those heart-warming tones I call "evening colors."  The wheat fields on either side of US 54, dancing and weaving in those prairie zephyrs were displaying a warm color that I now understood was the origination of the phrase, "amber waves of grain."  As the sun dipped below the horizon, a few remaining clouds turned bright gold.  It was a perfect moment in time.  I recognized that as the day was coming to a close, I was racing the sunset towards night.

I established the blog in order to exercise my growing passion for writing. I felt that by doing this, I could give some air to the thoughts and emotions which had been banging around inside of me for so long, begging for release. About that same time, I began writing a regular newspaper column in the Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat. A few months later, I added the Somerset, PA Daily American to my clients. Because those two towns were only 30 miles apart, I had to write two separate columns each week. But surprisingly, that was never a problem. All of the columns I wrote for those papers, and those I wrote as a contributor to other publications are a part of this website, the titles marked with an asterisk. As much as it was a kick to see my words, and byline, in print, I was much more gratified and humbled by the positive and touching responses. I always felt that my target audience was not the person who read my words and responded with anger and hate, but rather the person who, after reading, would sit back, sigh, and smile.

The subjects upon which I wrote were many and varied, touching just about everything except politics. I felt that as a country, we were already deeply divided, and I had no wish to add to that division. What I have written has reflected the passions in my life. As I look over the post listing, I see that I wrote a lot about motorcycling and hiking, sharing my love for the open road and the forested trail. These activities brought me a great deal of joy…and peace, and I felt it was natural to share those moments, and some of the pictures as well. Some of the images are pretty good (if I do say so myself), but they’ll never match the portrait that in that moment was painted on my heart.



Other pieces talk about 9/11 and how necessary that I feel it is for that day to never be far from our national memory. This is particularly important since those children born afterwards are now moving into adolescence. Our memories of those attacks have become history to them, and it is our duty to give to them that personal connection with a past they did not live. A veteran myself, I have the greatest respect, admiration, and empathy for those young folks who chose to embark on the sometimes difficult experience of a life in uniform. 50 years after Vietnam, we have a new generation of combat veterans, the visibly wounded, and those who will for the rest of their lives carry the invisible scar on their hearts. Many have questioned the reasons for their sacrifice, but my experience tells me that anytime an American puts themselves in harm’s way to help make, and keep, someone else free, then whatever the political rhetoric may say, that service is a worthy sacrifice. As I have noted before, no nation in the history of humankind has ever shed as much blood for the freedom of other countries, other people as has the United States. Most veterans I think would agree that it was our honor to do so.

I have written of the particular beauty of the four seasons, and the gift that our natural world is to us. In some of those essays, I have explored the wonders of weather, not commenting on climate change, but rather writing of the wonder of summer thunderstorms, winter blizzards, and the simple joy of warm sunlight on my face. I have related how the time I have spent in the wild has brought me a wonderful sense of peace, and at times, healing.

I have shared the love we’ve had for the dogs and cats that shared our lives, and the sorrow we felt at their passing. The love of family, and the humorous, mundane, and the sorrowful experiences that are always a part of any family’s story. As my journey has unwound, I have written about those events that have changed my life, and changed me. I have tried to convey to readers not only the mistakes I made, but how they could avoid making the same errors. I don’t pretend to be a wise man, but I have come to learn that true wisdom comes from the inevitable nexus of experience and pain.

I have a love, and a great respect for history. Starting in 2011, coinciding with the 150th anniversary, I began a series of monthly pieces in which I recalled the events leading up to the Civil War. And in April, I began to chronicle the events of the war itself, from the battlefield to the halls of government. Studying those events helped me to understand not only the “what’s,” but the “why’s” of that conflict; to try to give meaning to the approximately 750,000 lives lost, and the wounded who survived. I have always hoped that we as a nation would study those tragic events and understand them enough to learn and therefore prevent those mistakes from happening again. As I look across the landscape today of our deeply divided and angry population, I am sorrowful enough to realize what an ephemeral thing hope truly is.

The Universe has held my fascination, ever since this once-young boy gazed in wonder at the stars. The learning I have sought, and the education I have received has expanded my perceptions, understanding how impossibly massive our universe truly is, and also considering the mind-blowing possibility that ours may only be an anonymous member of an infinite number of universes. I still maintain that the human species has a deep desire to explore; to know the unknown, and even the unknowable. While the dream of interstellar travel remains a dream, constrained by the very real laws of physics, I still feel very strongly that we should be aggressively pursuing the exploration of our own solar system. There are millions of unanswered questions that lie in the Sun and its family of planets (major and minor). But our musing should not stop there. Beyond Pluto lie the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, a mass of primordial rocks and snowballs within which we may discover the stubbornly-held secrets to creation itself.

I believe in God, not the one that exists in the three-dimensional box, the walls of which are defined by the limits of human understanding, but rather the presence that exists on a dimensional plane infinitely removed from ours, and whose existence is therefore unprovable by human science. Linear distance is a dimension, as is time itself. I believe human consciousness is a plane all by itself. I believe that the thing we call soul or spirit is the part of us that can traverse those dimensional planes, but can only do so once it has left the human vessel behind. That state we call death is then nothing to fear, since that which is truly us continues to exist. That doesn’t mean that we should willingly cast aside our lives. We are here for distinct and individual purposes, the nature of which may take a human lifetime to become apparent. We are gifts to each other, and we should always honor that gift.

I know that there are those who insist that there is no God; that deities are the irrational invention of needy humans. I respect that point of view, and understand the…genesis, if you will…of those feelings. But if you choose to not believe in God simply because you can’t scientifically prove that existence, then I invite you to show me a handful of dark matter.

I have written much over the past decade, and I am honored that many of you have chosen to take the time to read my words. I am facing now a major change in my life, leaving my career behind and embarking on what in a very real sense is the first days of the rest of my life, to quote a piece of ‘70s mantra. In the past few years, I have not had the time I wanted to write, as the periodicity of these posts demonstrates. Now it seems that all I will have is time. I will try to use it to its fullest, to turn these final years into something much better than just waiting around for the end.

I have written in humor and whimsy. I have also written through the pain of an aching heart and a veil of tears.  There have been many times when despite hours of soul-searching, I have utterly failed to come up with the words necessary to express what I felt.  I know this is a common frustration of writers, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept the failure.  But know that whatever you see here, you can be assured that it is my life and my feelings in all their delicate fragility laid bare for you to explore and experience.

Thank you for reading, and for those who passed these links along to others, you have my gratitude. I would encourage all of you to spend some time writing yourself. Don’t worry about structure or correct grammar. Simply write from your heart. There you will find all the profound beauty you will ever need.

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