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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Getting in Rythm


Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Words and Pictures

We humans are creatures of habit.  A regular routine helps keep us sane, giving each day a slightly different cast, but still managing to help us march through the calendar.  We look at our weeks and know that certain things happen on certain days and times.  For most of us, our jobs and those related activities occupy Mondays through Fridays.  Weekends, for parents, are driven by the schedules of the kids, i.e. baseball, football, basketball, gymnastics, and the seemingly never-ending soccer season.  For some, Sunday means church followed by an afternoon either watching or playing sports, or just taking a snooze on the couch.  This makes our days fairly predictable, if frenetic.  As I have discovered, there is safety in that routine.

Schedules, whether we like them or not, run our lives, and when there is a major change to that routine, we are left adrift; confused and gasping for air.

One of the things I have had to get used to, now in my third week of retirement, is learning how to live a life mostly bereft of scheduled obligations.  I used to work Wednesdays through Saturdays, and upon waking up on these three Wednesdays, my first thought was if I had ironed a shirt for work. Then realizing that was no longer necessary.  For decades, I lived my live in suits, ties, and slacks.  Now, it's mainly jeans.  We're still sorting out boxes here in my daughter's house, so I guess you could say I still have a job, albeit a different one.

The really fun thing we've discovered is the freedom we have to go do things without consulting our smartphone calendars.  This week, on a whim, we drove up to Breckenridge, Colorado for a day...just because.  We walked around town, did some shopping, some eating, spent the night and drove home the next day through a driving snowstorm.  Today, we were passing a theater, and decided to go see a movie.  Just like that.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Birds, Brains, and Beauty

From Crafthub.com

Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F, Couey
Written content only

Nature is many things from the violent to the visually stunning.  In some of those things, there is a stunning complexity to the design and execution that would challenge the ablest human artist or engineer.  If we only take the time to slow down, stop, and look closer, we can be amazed.

A couple of autumns ago, I was hiking on a section of the Appalachian Trail near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.  This section has a very steep ascent called Weverton Cliffs.  The trail zigzags up 600 feet to a hiker's treat, a long, level stretch.  As I was struggling up the hillside, I came across a bird's nest lying just off trail under a good-size sycamore tree.  I picked it up and continued on.  When I finally go to the top, I stopped and sat on a convenient rock to catch my breath.  As I sat there, I began to look at the nest.  This was not the first nest I had seen, but it was the first one I had actually looked at.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

From the Other Side

From Pinterest.com

©2017
by Ralph F. Couey

There are times in life when something huge is looming in our path, a life-changing moment the outcome of which is utterly unclear.  In those moments of shaky anticipation, one can't spend too much time worrying about what may or may not happen. Such breathless foreboding only guarantees the sleepless nights and hollow eyes that pave the road to a nervous breakdown.  

I have adopted the hiker's philosophy implemented at the foot of every long, steep ascent.  One step at a time.  Don't look up, don't look down. Have faith that, even on the Appalachian Trail, hills do eventually end.  To others, this can be translated as "This too shall pass."

Retirement can be viewed in one of two ways. "I'm ready, it's time, let's do this." Or, "I have to do this because the alternative is even worse."  I detailed in previous posts my struggles in recent months which led to that decision.  That my bosses could not have been more compassionate and accommodating made things easier, but in the end, I still found myself on a cold, cloudy Virginia afternoon standing on the outside, looking in.

I'd rather put hot needles in my eyes than re-live the past two months.  But now that I'm on the other side of those events, I can look at them with a bit more pragmatism.  And understanding.

Every change in life involves some kind of personal trauma.  I hated to leave behind...what I left behind.  The exciting, challenging work, the wonderful and awesomely intelligent people I was privileged to work with.  There was cachet in the organization and the mission which lent an air of the extraordinary to my days. As one of my friends put it, "After all this, it's hard to be ordinary again."  There's a tinge of pain to that statement.  Let me hasten to say that this was not about ego, but rather about the personal fulfillment engendered in not just doing work, but performing a mission. We were defending our country, a calling by any definition.

On my last day, there was a ceremony.  People said some really nice things about me, and I gave a perhaps too lengthy speech out of the need to get those thoughts off my chest.  My family was there and got a chance to meet some of those singular individuals.  But after the ceremony, the pizza, and some final goodbyes, I went down to the security office.  There, I sat across the table from a man who had me sign some non-disclosure forms written in very stiff language.  I was read out of my clearances and programs.  I surrendered my badges, and in the final moments, in the friendliest way, I was shown the door.  Several of them in fact, as befits the multiple barriers of one of those undisclosed locations.