Ceremonial Time!

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Conventional wisdom suggests “don’t live in the past.” A Google search will bring up a variety of sites, quotes, and testimonials that warn against dwelling on the past or the future. Live in the present they scream. However it seems they always paint the past in dark colors, problems and worries — put them behind us. Similarly the future is filled with concern and worry — don’t do it it. Live and enjoy the present.

From my perspective focusing solely, even primarily, on the present is a mistake. It’s like cutting off, forgetting a major portion of our life and it’s experiences (the past) and ignoring our plans and dreams (the future). I want to live in the past, the present and the future. John Mitchell Hanson writes of “ceremonial time” when past, present and future merges into one experience, a sacred moment. He describes ceremkonial time in the context of New England Native American culture. I loved the concept and have blogged about it before.

My present (for the past ten years) have had a number of setbacks — three floods, my grandson Eli’s neuroblastoma, my mother’s death by a hit and run driver, my prostrate cancer, related fistula, and now heart surgery. I think if I’d been dwelling solely on the present I’d be depressed, angry, at least not very happy with present.

So I enjoy the past. I enjoy thinking about my childhood growing up in Bristol Borough, with loving parents and four very different sisters, a strong extended, supportative family, attendance at Holy Goost Prep. I recall my years at Boston College, academic and social life, working in the Harcourt Bindery, exploring the city, cinema , music, and political activism. Meeting Diane, dating and our wedding in my Sophomore year, honeymoon in Canada. Then there was our Peace Corp training in Arizona and Mexico and months on the road traveling cross country with Peace Corps friends.

I remember years of teaching in elementary school, high school and college. I enjoyed (ok, there were some rough spots) 40 years of teaching at Holy Ghost Prep — 10 years in administration, many years as a librarian. I particularly enjoyed my local studies and film course. But American History, Political Science, and Economics had bright spots. Can’t say I always enjoyed dragging myself to Temple night classes but once I got researching and writing my dissertation, it was rewarding. I spent months in Harrisburg observing, interviewing and getting to know state legislators. The doctoral degree lead to decades as an adjunct at LaSalle and Holy Family University. I totally enjoyed teaching teachers; most graduate students are open and interested in learning.

At home Diane and I spent four fascinating, synergic, years in the early 1970s living in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione. John and I had summers of Bucks County farm work, a large garden, exposure to the new Hope art culture. Our breakup was difficult but the good life (check out Helen and Scott Nearing) continued. Diane and I spent a fantastic summer living with Melody and Garrett Bonnema in Bethel, Maine. They are potters and introduced up to the craft movement and the Maine life style. I also went to several weeklong programs at the Maine Photographic Workshops — with National Georgaphic Photographers, one with Ernst Haas.

The late 1970s brought our only daughter, Jenny and a small house in Yardley Borough. I became involved in Borough politics, serving on Council for 8 years and was active in various non profit groups including Friends of the Delaware Canal, the Yardley Historical Association, Sierra Club.

It seems Jenny grew up so quickly. Elementary, passed into high school, art classes, boyfriends, dance and violin lessons, college. Annually we vacationed in Nantucket. There were family trips to Ireland and Scandanavia. One or two weekends many years in New York City. There were other trips to New England skiing and summer explores. Diane I traveled in Great Britian, France, and Switzerland ; Germany and Italy several times.

One of my best teaching experiences was The Greater Philadelphia Partnership. One of my high school classes would partner with a class from a City school — urban and suburban. The classes got to know each other and then engaged in a service project. For several years my HGP class partnered with a class from CAPA (Philadelphia’s HS for the the Creative and Performing Arts). Another real teaching experience was the ten years of Ayudanica — a service project to Nicaragua that I ran with Rob Buscaglia. We trained kids (Peace Corps style) during the school year and took about 15 kids in country for about 10 days in the summer. Over the years we established a library and computer center for young kids. It was a great experience.

Several years ago I looked at the thousands of books in my personal library. Why was I keeping them? I decided to begin a re-read program. Since then I have returned to several dozen books. Not only have I enjoyed the re-reads but usually see the book through a changed lens. Similarly I enjoy re-watching classic movies that I have seen before. As with books I always see something a bit different. I’ve even been organizing photographs, prints, slides and digital. I enjoy seeing these frames from the past. Overall, my past experience merges with new experience, creating the present.

I don’t want to forget my past, I enjoy thinking about it. Revisiting the past adds and merges with the present. Another example. I like return visits or vacations in places we’ve been before. For ten years we rented the same house in Nantucket. As the years passed we developed our Nantucket favorites — restaurants, beaches, shops, walks, bike rides, kayak explores. At the same time each year we added new experiences. Our vacation was a mix of the familiar and the new. The present included the past.

Live in the present advocates usually disparage the future as well as the past. Don’t worry about the future they counsel. Live each moment now. Again I disagree. I don’t need to “worry” about the future but I like to plan, to dream. And thoughts on the future helps to shape the present.

Since retirement I’ve been thinking about things I want to do. I want to spend some days reading in the library of Congress (got a card last year). I would like to travel in an Asian country — not sure if it’s China, Japan, Viet Nam or ? Diane and I thought we would take a Spring trip to the Caribbean (postponed but not forgotten). I’ve never been to Paris. Back to Great Britain, Ireland, Italy. Now in the present we have been planning for the future. Maybe we look at a map, read books about a place or watch a movie.

We have been making other plans, more time and trips with our grand children. Continue to explore Philadelphia and day trips from Yardley. We both have plans for new photographic equipment and a renewed experience with photography. We planned and have begun to expand our garden and cooking experiences. Want to take more classes in cooking, maybe audit some college courses. I’ve thought being a docent or volunteer at a historic site. Medical issues have deferred some of our dreams but those dreams still help to inform our present.

Rather than advocating a limited focus on the present, a live in the moment philosophy, I believe the past, present and future are connected. The past explains and informs the present; the future guides and focuses the present. Ideally we experience the connection, the relationship and maybe occasionally sense a unification, a ceremonial time.

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Specialization, Connections, Complications

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Conventional wisdom suggests “don’t live in the past.” A Google search will bring up a variety of sites, quotes, and testimonials that warn against dwelling on the past or the future. Live in the present they scream. However it seems they always paint the past in dark colors, problems and worries — put them behind us. Similarly the future is filled with concern and worry — don’t do it it. Live and enjoy the present.

From my perspective focusing solely, even primarily, on the present is a mistake. It’s like cutting off, forgetting a major portion of our life and it’s experiences (the past) and ignoring our plans and dreams (the future). I want to live in the past, the present and the future. John Mitchell Hanson writes of “ceremonial time” when past, present and future merges into one experience, a sacred moment. He describes ceremonial time in the context of New England Native American culture. I loved the concept and have blogged about it before.

My present (for the past ten years) have had a number of setbacks — three floods, my grandson Eli’s neuroblastoma, my mother’s death by a hit and run driver, my prostrate cancer, related fistula, and now heart surgery. I think if I’d been dwelling solely on the present I’d be depressed, angry, at least not very happy with present.

So I enjoy the past. I enjoy thinking about my childhood growing up in Bristol Borough, with loving parents and four very different sisters, a strong extended, supportative family, attendance at Holy Goost Prep. I recall my years at Boston College, academic and social life, working in the Harcourt Bindery, exploring the city, cinema , music, and political activism. Meeting Diane, dating and our wedding in my Sophomore year, honeymoon in Canada. Then there was our Peace Corp training in Arizona and Mexico and months on the road traveling cross country with Peace Corps friends.

I remember years of teaching in elementary school, high school and college. I enjoyed (ok, there were some rough spots) 40 years of teaching at Holy Ghost Prep — 10 years in administration, many years as a librarian. I particularly enjoyed my local studies and film course. But American History, Political Science, and Economics had bright spots. Can’t say I always enjoyed dragging myself to Temple night classes but once I got researching and writing my dissertation, it was rewarding. I spent months in Harrisburg observing, interviewing and getting to know state legislators. The doctoral degree lead to decades as an adjunct at LaSalle and Holy Family University. I totally enjoyed teaching teachers; most graduate students are open and interested in learning.

At home Diane and I spent four fascinating, synergic, years in the early 1970s living in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione. John and I had summers of Bucks County farm work, a large garden, exposure to the new Hope art culture. Our breakup was difficult but the good life (check out Helen and Scott Nearing) continued. Diane and I spent a fantastic summer living with Melody and Garrett Bonnema in Bethel, Maine. They are potters and introduced up to the craft movement and the Maine life style. I also went to several weeklong programs at the Maine Photographic Workshops — with National Georgaphic Photographers, one with Ernst Haas.

The late 1970s brought our only daughter, Jenny and a small house in Yardley Borough. I became involved in Borough politics, serving on Council for 8 years and was active in various non profit groups including Friends of the Delaware Canal, the Yardley Historical Association, Sierra Club.

It seems Jenny grew up so quickly. Elementary, passed into high school, art classes, boyfriends, dance and violin lessons, college. Annually we vacationed in Nantucket. There were family trips to Ireland and Scandanavia. One or two weekends many years in New York City. There were other trips to New England skiing and summer explores. Diane I traveled in Great Britian, France, and Switzerland ; Germany and Italy several times.

One of my best teaching experiences was The Greater Philadelphia Partnership. One of my high school classes would partner with a class from a City school — urban and suburban. The classes got to know each other and then engaged in a service project. For several years my HGP class partnered with a class from CAPA (Philadelphia’s HS for the the Creative and Performing Arts). Another real teaching experience was the ten years of Ayudanica — a service project to Nicaragua that I ran with Rob Buscaglia. We trained kids (Peace Corps style) during the school year and took about 15 kids in country for about 10 days in the summer. Over the years we established a library and computer center for young kids. It was a great experience.

Several years ago I looked at the thousands of books in my personal library. Why was I keeping them? I decided to begin a re-read program. Since then I have returned to several dozen books. Not only have I enjoyed the re-reads but usually see the book through a changed lens. Similarly I enjoy re-watching classic movies that I have seen before. As with books I always see something a bit different. I’ve even been organizing photographs, prints, slides and digital. I enjoy seeing these frames from the past. Overall, my past experience merges with new experience, creating the present.

I don’t want to forget my past, I enjoy thinking about it. Revisiting the past adds and merges with the present. Another example. I like return visits or vacations in places we’ve been before. For ten years we rented the same house in Nantucket. As the years passed we developed our Nantucket favorites — restaurants, beaches, shops, walks, bike rides, kayak explores. At the same time each year we added new experiences. Our vacation was a mix of the familiar and the new. The present included the past.

Live in the present advocates usually disparage the future as well as the past. Don’t worry about the future they counsel. Live each moment now. Again I disagree. I don’t need to “worry” about the future but I like to plan, to dream. And thoughts on the future helps to shape the present.

Since retirement I’ve been thinking about things I want to do. I want to spend some days reading in the library of Congress (got a card last year). I would like to travel in an Asian country — not sure if it’s China, Japan, Viet Nam or ? Diane and I thought we would take a Spring trip to the Caribbean (postponed but not forgotten). I’ve never been to Paris. Back to Great Britain, Ireland, Italy. Now in the present we have been planning for the future. Maybe we look at a map, read books about a place or watch a movie.

We have been making other plans, more time and trips with our grand children. Continue to explore Philadelphia and day trips from Yardley. We both have plans for new photographic equipment and a renewed experience with photography. We planned and have begun to expand our garden and cooking experiences. Want to take more classes in cooking, maybe audit some college courses. I’ve thought being a docent or volunteer at a historic site. Medical issues have deferred some of our dreams but those dreams still help to inform our present.

Rather than advocating a limited focus on the present, a live in the moment philosophy, I believe the past, present and future are connected. The past explains and informs the present; the future guides and focuses the present. Ideally we experience the connection, the relationship and maybe occasionally sense a unification, a ceremonial time.

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Listen to your heart

image“I have cardiovascular  disease.”  I feel like I’m  at an AA meeting, “I am an alcoholic.”  But I’m admitting “I have heart disease.”  I’ve never paid a lot of attention to medical issues.  Until my prostrate cancer three years ago, I thought I was in good health. Heart disease ever crossed my mind.   My father had a pace maker and I know a few people that have had heart attacks or heart surgery but I never got too involved in the details.  Sure there were the articles and TV spots, warning that heart disease was a leading cause of death.  But it didn’t seem to apply to me.

Today I find that amazing.  What wasn’t I thinking?  I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a former smoker, heavy drinker, limited light exerciser.  Environment – heredity?  I didn’t have a family history of heart disease. But environmental factors?    The  picture becomes much clearer when we look backwards?

Prior to my September “fistula” surgery, I walked almost every morning.  At least a mile; many days two or three.  Several times a week, Diane and I might take an afternoon walk.  Thinking back, I may have had a shortage of breath if it was a steep climb but no problem on flat or gentle walks up.  Don’t remember any chest pain, dizziness, or other symptoms of cardiovascular disease.  Last February, John Paglione and I worked for a week freezing cold, on James Madison’s Montpelier, helping to reconstruct a slave cabin, using hand tools.  It was a challenge, I got tired but felt great. Nothing that suggested heart disease.   I had a EKG and met with a Penn cardiologist prior to the September surgery. No problem detected.

After the September surgery as I began to walk, climb steps, return to normal, I frequently had shortage of breath, sometimes major, and ocassionally chest pain.  I attributed it to weakness due to the surgery and low blood pressure intensified by the high blood pressure meds the nursing home continued to force on me.  No one on the hospital staff or Manor Care staff ever brought up the issue of heart disease.

At home in October, I was disappointed at what seemed like a very slow recovery.  I tried to walk daily, climb up and down steps, but felt weak, would become short of breath, and if strained (carrying fire wood upstairs) had some chest pain.  It went away once I stopped pushing myself.   Lengthy surgery, slow recovery, slow recovery, I thought.

When I went for heart clearance related to additional surgery related to the fistula, the cardiologist on hearing about my symptoms recommended a stress test.  I’d never had one.  Heart disease, not me.  But this time I sensed it was going to be different.  How right I was.

Results from the stress test and I was scheduled for a cardiac catherization  to determine if there was any blockage in my arteries.  I went in expecting I would probably need stents. Instead I hit the jackpot, three severely blocked arteries, a leaking mitral valve and blockage in a carotid artery.  No stents; bypass surgery is needed.   Several tests have looked at the mitral valve, each showing differing amounts of leakage.  So it’s not 100% clear whether it needs repair.  Seems that decisions related to the actual number of bypasses and whether to repair the valve may happen after I am opened up.  Amazing.

So the heart surgery has taken precedence — the fistula related surgery is postponed.  And in a Catch 22, the heart people are very concerned with potential infection.  They have concerns about any possible infections related to the fistula surgery.  So I have been seeing an infections doctor.  There is an abscess that they want to drain.  Everything is interconnected.

I am wondering about screening for heart disease.  Sure seems a stress test would have been a good idea for me several years ago.  I want to read a bit about what type of screening is recommended for what profiles.  For now I just suggest listen to your heart.

 

 

 

 

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Joseph Bonaparte, Trenton Marsh, Abbott Farm

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Did you know that Thomas Paine lived in Bordentown?  Did you know that Clara Barton had a school in Bordentown?  Did you know the town’s name is from Joseph Borden, who in the early 1700s, settled along the Delaware River between Philadelphia and New York.  I grew up in Bristol, across the river from Bordentown.  I don’t remember ever visiting.  Burlington, yes; Bordentown, no.  But  I clearly remember a story that Joseph Boneparte, brother of Napoleon, who was an exile in the U.S., bought an estate in Bordentown, and frequently took his barge across the river to visit a  Misss Keene on Radcliffe street in Bristol.  It was said he had tea and played cards, I always wondered if there was more to the relationship.

This past weekend Diane and I went to the Trent House (William Trent, father of Trenton), for a lecture about Joseph Boneparte’s estate, Point Breeze, in Bordertown. The speaker, Richard Viet, from Monmouth  University was excellent — informed and funny.  Joseph, former King of Spain and Naples, fled to the U.S. after his brother’s defeat at Waterloo. He lived in Philadelphia for a while but established a grand estate on the river on the edge of Bordentown.  His house (the first one burned) was magnificent.  It was filled with art work; he enjoyed entertaining.   He lived a lavish life;  had two children with his mistress.  His two daughters from his wife (who wasn’t interested in coming to the U.S.) visited so Joseph rented the mistress a house near his property. Joseph seemed to enjoy his life in the U.S.  His original purchase continued to grow as he bought up land, much of it adjacent with the original purchase. He may have even flipped some property.

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We might wonder how a deposed King, paid for all of this.  One story describes how he sent a trusted assistant back to Europe — I believe Switzerland where he had a grand house — to recover a buried chest.  His orders were to recover the cheast and bring it immediately to Joseph.  The Spanish Crown Jewels were in the chest.  When he needed cash he sold a few gems.

Some of Joseph’s property was the area around the Trenton Marsh and the Abbott Farm site which is a National Historic Landmark.  The area, about 2,000 acres, much of it freshwater tidal marsh, is a famous Native American archaeological site   It may have been occupied 10,000 years ago up through the 18th century. The tract is named for Charles Conrad Abbott, born in Trenton in 1843 but spent much of his life living near the marshland, collecting Native American artifacts and studying the natural environment. Abbott believed the native population occupied the area much earlier that was commonly accepted.  Although his dating theory was wrong, he put New Jersey on the archaeological map.

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Diane and I “discovered” Bordentown about two years ago.  We found the Point Breeze property — now owned by a Catholic order.  Joseph’s house was too grand for a later owner and was torn down.  We walked around Bordentown’s commercial streets — several interesting restaurants, a fantastic bookstore, with shelves and shelves devoted to NJ history.  We found Crosswicks Creek, the Delaware and Raritan Canal, and the local train station.  Most surprising was the statue of Thomas Paine  and the small Clara Barton School.  We liked Bordentown and planned on returning to find access to the marsh and the Abbott Farm site.  Before we got to return for our explore, the Trenton Museum in Cadwalader  Park had a interpretative display and photography show on Abbott Marsh.  Got to find the Trenton Marsh!

It finally happened this past weekend.  Google and the State of New Jersey were no help.  We could find nothing around Bordentown.  We explored Lamberton Road and Duck Island, an exit off of Route 29,  along the river.  The Marsh was all round us but the only signage we saw was related to the Delaware and Raritan Canal trail. We did find a sewage treatment plant and other riverside industrial buildings.  The area is reminiscent of the river corner of Falls Township with GROWS landfill, an incinerator, old U.S. Steel buildings, and a host of other out of sight industries.  But Pennsylvania at least some erects signs letting you know how to find William Penn’s Pennsbury Manor.  Not New Jersey.  Someone wrote that Abbotts Farm was NJ’s best kept secret.

There are many relevant documents online. I finally found some clues.  There were access points in John Roebling Memorial Park.  Even an interpretative center.  Several streets were mentioned — Google  maps kicked in and we were led along 206 in Trenton.  There were several places to turn off 206.  Our first find was Bow Hill — now a Ukranian Cultural Center — the house Joseph Bonaparte rented for his mistress (and mother of two daughters), Annette Savage.  But no access to the marsh.

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Furthur up 206 we turned off again.  No sign directed us until we were on a side street, just several blocks from Roebling Park. There was access to Trenton Marsh or Abbott Marsh as its sometimes called and the Abbott Historical site.  We drove past the colonial era Watson house — sometimes opened to the public.  Finally a short road with views of the marsh, not very attractive at low tide, black ducks to match the black sludge of marsh earth.  In the distance we saw Interstare highways, the Sewage plant along the river.  There were a few walking paths, very muddy  due to the snow.  And two interpretative signs — one devoted to water trails, the other to the Abbot archaeological historic site.

imageThere is an interpretative center, archaeologists have led tours, we found several other colonial era buildings, owned by the state but in disrepair and probably not yet opened to the public. We will return, now that we know at least one actress point.  A canoe explore would be interesting; try walking a trail.  I believe there are programs offered, maybe through the Interpretative center when it is open.  I’d also like to read more about Joseph Banaparte, Professor Veit mentioned a new biography, “The Man Who Had Been King: the American exile of Napoleon’s brother Joseph” by Patricia Tyson Stroud. So many connection to explore.  Why did we never visit the Bordentown area when we lived in Bristol?

 

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