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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hiking, Part 38




"I go to the woods to be soothed and healed
and have my senses put in order."
--John Burroughs

Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey

My heart is still heavy after the death of our beloved dog.  Everywhere I look, I see reminders of his life, and his presence in our lives.  I had to get away for a time.  As I do often when life becomes too much, I went to the woods.

The day was forecasted to be warm -- meaning above freezing -- so having a free day, I packed up my gear and headed out.  I chose a piece of the AT I had yet to trek, the section between Virginia Route 7 and US 50 called "The Roller Coaster."  In this 13-mile stretch, there lie 8 hills, ranging from 400 to 1,100 feet in height and the whole section you're either going up a new hill or going down an old one.  I only had a few hours, so I planned a 3-mile out-and-back.




I parked in the dirt lot thoughtfully provided by VDOT, and after gearing up I hit the trail.  The first section was a subtrail that led from the lot to the AT.  It was only 0.2 miles, but it felt longer.  The trail was at first very boggy from the melting snow and the rain from the previous day, but soon became slick.  The snow, still on the ground, had been pounded into slush that had frozen into ice.  It was slow going through this section.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Love, Loss, and Emptiness


"Dogs lives are too short.
Their only fault, really."
--Agnes Sligh Turnbull



Copyright © 2016
by Ralph F. Couey

He came to us by way of that process somewhat cynically referred to as "reverse inheritance." Our oldest daughter had adopted him out of a litter borne by the dog of a friend of hers in July 1999. No one will ever know what passed between them that made this tiny puppy stand out from the rest. But whatever it was, it was special. She named him after a football player from a movie, Tweeder. But soon it became "Tweeter."


Nikki took him to where she was living, a kind of cooperative Haight-Ashbury kind of set-up where they lived for a short period of time. But some of the other humans residing there were angry and cruel in ways that put his safety in jeopardy. So one evening, she came home and asked us to take care of him until her living situation improved. His sweet spirit won our hearts, and what started out as temporary foster care turned into a permanent home.


He was tiny at first. He could fit inside your palm where he would promptly curl up and sleep. As time went on, he grew from a puppy into a dog. He was smart, and Nikki trained him. He knew immediately to go outside when he had to "go." He had infinite patience, it seemed, only wanting to be loved. He shared the house with a parade of four cats and two other dogs, two very large (in comparison) Samoyeds who, more than any, taught him how to be a dog.


He was fun to play with. He loved balls, loved walks, he could from a standing start leap four feet into the air. Loved to ride in the car. And he was funny. Once we visited some friends, taking him with us (at their invitation). Their dog had been partially hit by a car and was still healing from an injured leg. The dog limped around the room garnering all sorts of human attention and sympathy.

Tweeter was watching.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Loving Our Political Neighbor*

*Saint's Herald 12/2006

Copyright © 2006 by Ralph Couey

As I write this, the political season is upon us in full bloom. On street corners and in front yards, signs touting candidates and issues have sprung from the ground like toadstools after a heavy rain. Every article reporting news items in newspapers and magazines seems to have attached a political spin, turning seemingly minor incidents into major events. Political ads on television and radio assault our senses with accusatory and conspiratorial voices spewing vitriol and, more often than not, benign facts twisted into inflammatory allegations. From every direction and every side we are bombarded with these hailstones of hate. Voters complain every year about negative campaigning, but innumerable studies have shown that of all the messages of politics assailing our senses, it is the negative ones that stick with us.

In the days before cable news channels and the internet, politics occupied our consciousness only during the 6 months between the primary and general elections. And once the elections were over and the races decided, everyone went back to business as usual. We laughed at Gomer Pyle, The Beverly Hillbillies, Get Smart, and Green Acres, enjoying family-oriented humor completely free of the often pointed political undertones of today. Mission: Impossible, Ironside, and Mannix, returned uninterrupted to one of the three television channels we received and weather and the health of Our Quarterback returned to the primacy of news coverage. The evolution of the electronic media has expanded the time scale of these debates. Now, the so-called “election cycle” is continuous, as issues, some so minor as to be laughable, are now inflated beyond their relative importance and lifted to the level of the “national debate.”

This has even invaded the formerly pristine space of our personal relationships. Nowadays, two people can be having an otherwise cordial, even warm conversation until the revelation that they stand on opposite political sides cools the conversation, and the space between them becomes brittle and cold.

Our world has changed, and we have changed with it. Even things as mundane as a trip to the grocery store has become infused with politics, as shoppers read labels looking for “dolphin safe tuna” and perhaps conducting our own personal boycott against brand names that are connected to support for, or stances against any number of issues.