About Me

My photo

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Building Something New From the Rubble of the Past

Ultra Deep Field Image from the Hubble Space Telescope
NASA/JPL 2014

Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey

I often find myself in idle contemplation of the universe.  Looking up on a clear night, I can see about 10,000 stars, each one demonstrating to me the finite and the infinite that lies beyond our tiny planet.  I think this is one of the common experiences of all humans, to look and wonder.

My interest has inspired an ongoing quest for knowledge about what lies Out There, and that knowledge has continually fed my imagination.  But in the contemplation of that universe, I have also been able to frame answers to some of my more earth-bound concerns.

The universe has no fixed reference point.  Everything is in motion, and the only accurate thing we can measure is how far we are from a certain object, and how fast we are approaching or receding.  For people whose life is a constant measure of movement to or from a point in space or time, this is truly a difficult thing to understand.  For example, in the time it takes for earth to complete one orbit of the sun, the solar system, which is also in motion, has traveled about 24 billion miles through space.  When we take two weeks off from work and do the "stay-cation," we actually have traveled some 910 million miles.  Too bad we can't get frequent flyer credits for that.

But the universe, and all the objects within, is not in a static condition.  It's not just that stars and galaxies are in motion, they are constantly changing.  With an inexpensive telescope, one can point it at the constellation of Orion the Hunter and see in the "sword" portion of that group a place that glows in molecular gases.  


Within the dark cloud of the well-known Horsehead Nebula, gas and dust is being compressed and heated.  Eventually, stars will form here.  If you had the patience, and the lifespan, to watch this cloud, you would be witness to stellar creation.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hiking, Part 43




Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Words and pictures

Today, in our fifth week as Coloradans, we took to the trails to take our first hike since moving here in January.  For the last three weeks, I had been industriously walking the concrete paths (I won't call it a trail unless it consists of dirt, rocks, and roots) around the southern part of Aurora.  I have been working my way up in distance, and am now doing 8 miles at a stretch.  The point of that being to get my lungs and legs ready to tackle the trails that course through the front range foothills, and eventually, the Rockies themselves.

The biggest challenge has been adjusting to the altitude.  I have to keep reminding myself that the tallest peaks I climbed in Virginia are still 2,000 feet lower than the feet of the mountains we see here.  We have been asking people how long it takes to get acclimated, and get answers ranging from three months to three years.  And I believe that.  Even the simple act of climbing stairs still leaves us a bit breathless.  Where the strain shows is in tackling inclines.  Walking on flat ground is not terribly taxing, but let that path start to ascend, and immediately the lungs begin to work desperately hard to pull what little breathable oxygen exists in this huge sky.

Today was Cheryl's day off, and we decided to attempt our first dirt hike.  Our daughter recommended the William F. Hayden Green Mountain Park, a 2,400 acre expanse on the western edge of the Denver 'burb of Lakewood.  When you get out of the car, you're standing at about 6,050 feet altitude.  The summit at the top of the park is 6,800 feet.  On the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, a 750-foot ascent is just part of the hike.  The highest peak I attempted there was Hogback Mountain at just under 3,500 feet.  I remember that day, and how tired and sore I was at the end of that particular trek.  So, by that measure, a mere 750 feet should pose no problems, right?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Mess of Role Reversal

Chicken Parmesan....

...and Italian-Style Meat Loaf
Picture credits?  Not sure, but 
they're all better at cooking than I am.
Why is it mine never look this good?

Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.

It's called "role reversal," that part of human interaction where two people (usually married) at some point trade jobs.  In our case, my retirement freed up a lot of time that normally would have spent working productively at a job.  Cheryl, because of the economics of her retirement, still works, something she reminds of each and every day.  Because of that, it became necessary for me to undertake a new set of expectational chores.

I'm not a Neanderthal, by the way.  I do laundry, fold n' iron, make the bed, and attend to various other household chores, and have been doing this for most of my adult life.  Most of the time, without being told...er...reminded.  Now I have been asked to undertake the task of providing sustenance for the evening meal.

Cooking, for me, has always been a mystery.  When the kids were smaller, I did my duty on the nights when Cheryl was stuck at the hospital, which usually involved some form of hamburger helper, or something frozen from Sam's Club.  Attempting creativity was, shall we say, not greeted with anything approaching enthusiasm.  In fact, once our oldest got his driver's license, Chef Dad nights became for them Chez McDonald's.

As the years rolled on, it became apparent that cooking was just something beyond my ken.  I stuck to those things I knew I could execute, french toast, eggs over easy, omelettes, and anything microwavable.  Some of the manufacturers, in a stroke of genius, came out with those "meal in a bag" items.  I loved this.  Didn't have to add, mix, measure, or guess.  Just unbag it, put it in the oven or pot of boiling water, and within 20 minutes -- Voila! -- a tasty, (mostly) nutritious meal.  More importantly, the end product actually looked like the picture on the bag.  As long as you didn't look to closely.  

Saturday, February 04, 2017

They STILL Say the Darndest Things

Ian Couey
Photo © 2017 by Yukyung Couey

Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.

"We can waste a lifetime 
of study and contemplation
 pursuing the truth of life, 
when all we really ever had to do 
was ask our five-year-old."
--R. F. Couey

Last month, in my farewell address to my colleagues, I encouraged them that while they were navigating the maelstrom that spins through their lives, to be alert for those marvelous moments of the now.  It can be too easy that while we are fully focused on the "have-to-do's" and "gotta-be-there's" that crowd our schedules that we can become unaware of those moments when they occur.  Those magical snippets can become golden memories.

Art Linkletter had a television show in the 1960's called, "Kids Say the Darndest Things."  The format was delightfully simple.  Art sat down with some kids, what today would be called a panel, and asked them questions.  The wonderful attraction to the program was the delightful and incredible things that came out of the mouths of those babes.  Young children are very prone to saying what is exactly on their mind, lacking, or perhaps ignoring, the social filters that keep such utterances from adults locked firmly inside.  As they grow older, they become, in a way, more cynical and less frank, and of course, much less entertaining.

Our grandson Ian just turned six years old, and has always been a reliably hilarious source of such gems.  He is very intelligent (yeah, yeah, I know.  ALL grandparents say that.), but in the last couple years has revealed a real sense of humor.  And a very contagious laugh.

Ian's Mom and Dad began writing these things down for posterity, something we have come to call "Ian-isms."  While this is the kind of thing parents normally save for when they meet the boy's first girlfriend, they are truly amazing, and reflect his active mind.