Monday, August 18, 2014

The Fours

Corp of Discovery route

4:00 p.m., May 14 1804.  The most momentous undertaking in American exploration began at that very moment in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Corps of Discovery departed westward along the Missouri River, bound for the Pacific Ocean, charged by President Jefferson to explore and map the formerly French territory, engage in botany, zoology, geography, and establish trade with the current inhabitants.

The beginning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is only one notable event that has occurred during a year ending in the number 4.

Two hundred years ago this month, America's first Executive Mansion in Washington D.C. was burned by the British on August 23 1814.  On the night of September 7 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that set to song, has become our distinguished, stirring National Anthem.  I have been twice to Fort McHenry where the Star Spangled Banner flew during the battle for Baltimore, and now comprehend the pivotal victory that occurred there against all odds.

Fort McHenry, 1814

1824--I could not think of anything significant about 1824 but when I googled it, what came up was the establishment of Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River by the Hudsons Bay Company.  The lovely, Lincoln-Loggy, spiky-timbered fort has been reconstructed as a National Historic Site.  I've spent numerous happy hours here where Indians and trappers once gathered to barter for food, blankets, furs, tools and the skills of the blacksmith.

Fort Vancouver, Washington

1834--same problem as the above.  On August 1, 1834 slavery was forever abolished in the British Empire.  Should have remembered that one; my senior thesis at BYU was about the demise of black slavery.

June 27 1844, a day of historic shame for the US of A.  Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was murdered by a mob in Carthage Illnois.  Yes, that happened in a land whose Bill of Rights guarantees free exercise of religion, yet the government permitted persecution of this particular religion.  And when the Mormons fled the US to live without oppression, the government pursued them and imposed restrictions on them.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territory of those future states, opened the land to settlement, and authorized the settlers to determine: slavery or no slavery.  What a rat's nest of savagery that opened up--you've heard of "Bleeding Kansas"--the territory was flooded with single-minded devotees of one side or the other, and all hell broke loose.  7 years later America was wound tight as a spring over the slavery issue and the Civil War erupted.

The American Civil War was in its 4th year in 1864.  Grant was appointed commander of the Union Army and lots of well-known battles occurred.  Also significant, Arlington National Cemetery was established.   It occupies the grounds of Robert E. Lee's estate--well, it actually belonged to his wife, a descendant of Martha Washington.  If R.E. Lee was going to continue killing Union soldiers, then by golly, those dead were going to be buried in his own front yard.

Arlington National Cemetery

Levi Strauss got rich by selling his sturdy denim pants to California gold miners.  In 1874 his pants with copper rivets were patented.

1884--Not a banner year for major milestones.  Oh, except that Grover Cleveland was elected, a first-term president.  He's the only one who has served non-consecutive presidential terms.

The Dreyfus affair broke in 1894.  It was also the year of one of those horrendous forest fires that occurred periodically in the northern US, this one in Minnesota.  I recall that even those who jumped into ponds and creeks were consumed by the firestorm.

Something major occurred in 1894, 120 years ago, that has led to a momentous legacy in our day.   The Genealogical Society of Utah was founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For over a century it directed the gathering of records created by people around the world, microfilmed them, protected them in a granite vault hewn out of a mountain, and then transferred them to digital format so that anyone, anywhere, anytime could peruse billions of records in their own home.  See FamilySearch.

T.R. Roosevelt was elected to the presidency in his own right in 1904.  He had become president after the assassination of McKinley in 1901.  And an event of huge consequence: the opening of the first underground portion of the NYC subway.  I recently rode the subway and love love love how one can get from one end of NY to the other in a fraction of the time it would take to drive the same route.

The War to End All Wars began on July 28 1914, and became the most ghastly war of the 20th century.  Most of a generation of young men (of various nationalities) was wiped out.

Marching to Their Deaths

On Christmas Eve 1924 my Uncle Jim came into the world.  More well-known is the adventure of George Mallory.  I recently read a book about George, whose ice-bound body was finally located on Mt. Everest in 1999.  He had never returned from his 1924 attempt at the summit.   In 1924 Joseph Stalin forged dictatorship of the Soviet Union.  Stalin's rise gives thought to one of those historic "what ifs?"   How would the world have been different if he had died in the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic, or been killed in the Russian Revolution?

In November 1934 my Mom's youngest brother, adorable little Bobby, died of appendicitis at age 6.  The shockwave and accompanying devastation from that event permeated the family until the death of the last person who had known Bobby.  And in 1934 Germany forged ahead on its march toward attempted world domination.

As battles raged around the planet in the 5th year of the World War and German death camps ramped up their activities, the Allies invaded Normandy on June 6 1944.  My Dad was transferred from office duty in New York's Navy Office at 90 Church St., to the spankin' new USS Missouri.  Bound for action against Japan, the ship shoehorned through the Panama Canal and arrived at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve on the way to join the Pacific fleet.  Dad dined on a hot dog for his Christmas dinner at Pearl.

USS Missouri

1954--Brown vs. Board of Education, and Rock Around the Clock, it is my birth year!

1964 is the year of American Civil Rights, with the passage of the act and MLK being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  The debut of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show was 50 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  Our whole family watched on our black and white TV.  My parents couldn't get into their music but my Grandma Ashe humored me by paying attention to the antics of the group.

The Fab Four

December 19 1974.  Provo Utah.  Our family came into being!  Inflation in America was over 12% that month, not an auspicious time to marry and create a new family.  The oil crisis sort of ended so the helter-skelter lines at the gas stations disappeared.  And Hank Aaron hit number 714.

1984 was a year of upheaval for our family.  We pulled up stakes in Idaho and came to Portland Oregon for the risky proposition of my husband working for a small start-up company.  Los Angeles staged a wildly successful summer Olympic games (sans USSR).   Four words: Bhopal India Union Carbide.  Our lovable President Reagan uttered this immortal phrase into an open mike: "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes."  

My oldest graduated from high school in 1994.  Mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  Other than those events, I remember little from that year; not surprising, when you're raising 5 kids, three of them teenagers.  Wait, the Northridge Earthquake occurred that January.  We were awakened by a 5:00 a.m. phone call, which we ignored, until we heard my sister saying there had been a major quake in Southern California.  Their house was littered with broken glass, fires blazed in the streets, and they could not reach Mom and Dad to see how they had fared.

Earthquake Damage in Weldon Canyon

2004:  There wasn't much of note that happened that year until the end, when the world was horrified by the enormous Indian Ocean quake and tsunamis on Christmas Day.  Which brings me to my Dad's death that year.  I always think of him dying in 2005, not 2004.  He died on December 30 but his funeral was on January 3 2005.  While he was in the hospital after Christmas every single TV in the building was tuned into earthquake/tsunami coverage.  The death totals were first at a few hundred, then a few thousand, then 10, 20, 30, 40, 100 thousand, and up from there.  What a grim memory.

2014: Putin, Putin and more Putin.   Multiple major airline crashes.  Isis and Boko Haram.  Israel and Palestine.  And Syria:  unceasing carnage in a wonderful land full of good people.

It's a tough time all over the world.  No matter what challenges and strife go on around us, we can strive to be a little better, make our neighborhood a finer place to live, support positive causes, serve those in need, and hope for sunnier times.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Bird-Man of Bethany Pond

a fledgling bald eagle (not my photo)

Not long ago I noticed a gray-bearded outdoorsy-looking man staked out by the north parking lot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Bethany Pond, about three miles from my house. He was there every time I passed and I took him for a photographer. He uses a tripod and has a camp chair to sit in when needed.

But no, he's not a photographer but a bird-watcher with a powerful scope, and his focus is a bald eagle nest containing a 115- day-old fledgling. Probably 99% of people (including me) would not know it is there, except you can't miss this wizened bird-watcher sharing his scope with others who have stopped by to see what he's looking at. He points out various interesting facts. For instance, I did not know that bald eagles don't get their white head until they are five years old.

This morning I watched "baby" bald eagle through the scope. He was relaxing part way down in a tree about 1/3 a mile away. Suddenly, his wings flew out and he took off. I stepped away from the scope and saw the fledgling being playfully pursued by 2 red-tailed hawks. The eagle alighted in a tree not very far away from us, near his nest.  

The bird-man told Craig that the mother eagle flies over to the St. Johns area (over the mountains) to bring back fish from the Willamette River. Presumably that's where she was this morning as we didn't see her.  

I love lots of things about this "event." First, bald eagles are alive and well. Wasn't it about 40 years ago they were nearly wiped out by pesticides? It has become close to routine to see bald eagles around our metro area. Second, they are living a short distance from my house! Third, bird-man cares enough to study them. Fourth--others take time to see and learn about these magnificent birds.

You can't see the nest in these photos, but it is barely left of center and just a little below horizontal center in this photo. The fledgling is sitting about 10 feet below the nest. Next time I stop by I'll ask bird-man how he discovered the nest in the first place. Inquiring minds seriously want to know.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Church the Way it Used to Be (pre-1980)

If you belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are older than say, 40, you may remember the good ol' days when we spent a lot more time at our church buildings than we do now.  Even if you think that's not humanly possible, it's the truth.  Read carefully, and you will appreciate our current system!

Before the miraculous "pruning of meetings" in March 1980, our meeting schedule went this way:

Sunday--Priesthood meeting about 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m.  Dad attends, then returns home to pick up family for: Sunday School and Junior Sunday School, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.  (There was no nursery so you managed your children under the age of 3 while you attempted to get 30 seconds of Sunday School instruction).  Family returns home after Sunday School to eat/sleep/eat/eat again, then returns for Sacrament Mtg @ 5:30-7 p.m.  Family returns home hungry and cross and kids get to bed too late to wake up for school the next day.

exhausted LDS family pre-1980

Never resent or complain about the 3-hour block of Sabbath meetings!

Tuesday or Wednesday--Relief Society 9:30 a.m.--11 a.m. except first week of the month was homemaking meeting where a major project was completed from 9:00--1:00 and lunch was served.  Children were watched over in the nursery staffed by me.  By myself.

Also on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon was Primary, about 3:00--4:30.  Children usually came straight from school.  As they trickled into the ward building, they were watched over by an unlucky person (me again) until Primary began.  If you've ever tried to manage 30 children between the ages of 3--11, you'll know how much "fun" I had and how much "non-quality time" they had.  My job was to keep them from being kidnapped or run over by a car while they waited for classes to begin.  They would have had a better experience locked in a padded cell until Primary time.

Mutual Improvement Association for teenagers met on one of those week nights, 7:00--8:30, for children age 12-18.

In addition to the above, there were presidency meetings, frequent socials, firesides, budget dinners, Scout auctions, and Relief Society bazaars.  I'll explain the unfamiliar and archaic of the above.

At budget dinners an inexpensive dinner was served (as in meatless soggy spaghetti--anemic iceberg lettuce salad--buttered Wonder Bread), the Bishop gave an inspirational talk, and people felt moved to commit an amount of money toward the operation of the ward.   Members now no longer pay into a ward budget; the Church supplies the money needed by local units, and bases the amount on Sacrament Meeting attendance.  Yay!

Similar to budget dinners was one I attended that was held to raise money to build the Boise Temple.  In the early 1980s the Boise Temple was announced--what a thrill!  At that time we traveled 5 hours one-way to attend the temple in Idaho Falls.  Each ward and stake was assessed a given amount of money to raise toward construction.  We were happy to give our part which was a big hunk of money we didn't have.  But then we had it.  I'm glad we sacrificed.

interior of Boise Temple

Scout auctions were held once a year to raise money for the local Boy Scouts of America program and camp fees.  People in the ward donated stuff or services, then bid for them.  We came home with some good stuff for not  a lot of money.  Flusher families willingly paid inflated prices for stuff, in the name of supporting the Scout program.  This practice was discontinued over 20 years ago, but I notice it has crept back in this year.  Our youth held an auction last month to raise money for summer camp.  It started out slow and then folks seemed to catch on that it was a money-raising affair, and bid generously and the youth came away with enough cash to pay for all their summer camp fees.

LDS Scouting compliments the priesthood--I love Scouting!

Relief Society bazaars were discontinued about the time I joined the Church 1972.  Apparently the sisters needed money but I don't know what for.  Women used to talk about the bazaars but I never personally attended one.  Methinks that purple glass grapes were popular items for sale at the bazaars.  You know, the ones you see at Deseret Industries for 25 cents.

faithful Relief Society leaders back in the day

Meetings: Stake and Ward meetings were much more frequent  back in the day.  If you worked in a teaching organization such as Primary--Young Women--Relief Society--Sunday School, you had monthly (yes, monthly!) inservice meetings to learn how to be better teachers.  That was pared down to quarterly later, and organizations eventually combined their inservice meetings to minimize multiple people having to prepare a quarterly lesson.  Inservice was done away with a decade back.  As were prayer meetings that were held before sacrament meeting.

General Conference lasted 3 days instead of the current two, until the early 70s, and Stake Conferences were held quarterly rather than semi-annually as now.  If your stake was as spread out as our Mt. Whitney/Ridgecrest California Stake was, members from the far reaches travelled 3 or 4 hours to attend Stake meetings.  One-way.

Not covered above are important practices such as Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching, which we still faithfully perform today.  Most of us live in more compact wards now so travel is minimized;   there is no longer a physical barrier to completing our Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching!  There was a time (outside of Utah) that members traveled for hours every month to meet with their assigned families.

Ahhh, those were the days.

NOTE: Someone reminded me that I neglected to mention Seminary!   Outside of Utah, Seminary (religious instruction for high-schoolers) was held from 6:00-7:00 a.m. on school days.  That meant a lot of parents were getting out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to drive their teenagers to the ward building.  I'm sure those lucky enough to be close to a ward building praised the Lord daily for that sweet blessing.