Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Aroma of Fall

There is a new chill to the fall air where I live. There is also an aroma and an expectation. The air has the crispy fragrance of dried leaves coupled with a peppery component of organic sweetness. Even the gentlest of breezes send showers of leaves to the ground in a russel of clicks and crunches.

I remember the scent and sound from childhood when jumping into huge piles of raked leaves. The expectation is that it will get colder for color is the harbinger of frost and winter.


© Quiet Musings – Rolland G. Smith

I now know why we call them leaves,

too soon they fall when frosted thieves

Lure their green to red and gold

in colors soft and dazzling bold.

Leaves drop from cold and sometimes breeze

to land beside the shrubs and trees,

Drifting, pillowed to the ground

in crinkling, crackling, scrunching sound.

O leaves of branch and bush, behold!

Your service lasts despite the cold,

Quilting warmth for creatures low,

beneath the ground, before the snow.

Some leaves do sail to lawns serene

where children’s smiles can be seen

Waiting for the rake and pile

to leap upon and lie awhile.

But soon the crumpled stems and flake

are coaxed in rows for match to make

A downy flame and spire smoke,

incense of honor to the oak.

Then barren trees stand naked, strong,

to slice the wind of winter’s song,

By leaning forth from bending blow,

then snapping, weaving to and fro.

I know there is a message here,

where trees with leaves at end of year

Must molt their husk of leafy sheen

for other seasons to be seen.

Yet trees and man are oft alike:

In time each sheds their aging haik;

What's left in silhouette pristine

is life renewed in spirit green.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Lee Rolland Smith

Part of this comes from a previous post. It is important only to me to share it this time of year.

Some thoughts on an extraordinary person.

I'm going to get personal and if you have a problem relating to death and dying you might not want to embrace this.

I am going to talk about a personal sadness not because I choose to share personal grief, but because my son who died ten years ago yesterday was a great teacher and some of the things he taught by being the evidence of them may be of value to you as it still is to me.

His name is Lee. He was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was 31 when he died.

Lee lived for the moment. To complain, he felt, wasted precious time and energy that he could use for healing. He chose to enjoy and embrace every minute of life and to gracefully enthuse everyone with whom he came in contact. His humor was infectious and he always chose to be positive even when another choice would be easier.

Lee knew he was on a short life line. Cancer tends to focus one's thinking on the finiteness of life, yet he never complained, despite three brain operations, chemotherapy and radiation and the debilitation that goes with those encounters.

When he was first diagnosed, I decided, as his Father, that I would try to accelerate conversations we might have over the course of a normal life time between a Father and Son.

Every few weeks, I sent him a letter in which he might respond by questions or dialogue or any discourse he would choose. Over the course of four years of letters we had many discussions. I once asked him if I might publicly share some letters with others if it seemed appropriate. He said yes and it does now.

Here is letter number one:

Dear Lee,

Since your cancer was diagnosed nothing has the importance it used to have. You are constantly in your Mother's and my thoughts. Wonderful memories compete for mind space and attention. If the spirit centers the thought then the memory looses the competition and we are comforted by a higher awareness. If the body needs to cry then the memory wins and we work through it; learning from the emotion, until the choice comes again.

It's something parents go through when their adult child is hurting and they can't make it go away. I imagine you are going through similar emotions in your private time with this experience and the choices it forces you to make.

I do know it's all right to do and to be both; to be spiritual at times, to be emotional at times. I also know to expect miracles, but remember that holding on to preconceived expectations can bring disappointments. Letting go, with love, will bring peace. Both are important in healing.

We are both physical and spiritual beings. When we perceive, through our physical bodies, via the intellect and instinct, each moment of being is mortally precious because we tie it to time.

Our spirit, however, the true essence of what we are, sees each moment as eternity and perfect, for linear time in spirit does not exist. If you accept that premise, the expression, "Live in the Moment," takes on a different meaning. You can live in the moment Lee, all it takes is the desire to do so and when you make that choice the result is love, for fear cannot exist in the moment.

The spirit is powerful. It controls the mind if we let it and we empower the mind by thought and visualization and then the mind controls the body. The meditation exercise I taught you using light will be very helpful if you practice it regularly. Remember that life is the illusion and the spirit is reality and we are co-creators of both.

Understanding the dichotomy of letting go, to always have, is the constant struggle of being of life. Implicit in this Truth is the understanding that we are not our bodies. Our bodies only house what we really are -- spirit!

The body is a beautiful mechanism brought into form that allows the spirit to exist in this environment. When the spirit is finished with what it came here to do, it discards the body and returns to the Source and the body returns to the earth.

The human heart embraces both the spirit and the body. It is, by design, the most important organ in the body, without it no other organ can exist. It's pith, however is more ethereal for it is attuned to the Divine and acknowledges that what is, is the Divine will and we joyfully participate in it. We too are Divine. It was a willing choice, prior to our birth, when omniscience was part of our being and we chose the experiences we call life with angelic guidance and without the ego's intervention.

When you go deep within your being Lee, you will remember this truth and much more. Awareness is an equal gift from God to all. It is the choice of remembering that is selective by each of us.

There are only two emotions available to humankind. Love and fear. All other emotions, are derivatives. You will remember more, love more, if you let go of fear. It may seem hard for you to comprehend this as you fight the cancer in your head, but it is very important.

I am going to end this for now. There are more letters to come as I share with you the beliefs of my soul as we both move toward Truth through the magnificent companionship of family.

I love you very much and send you healing light, use it as you will.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Travelers Disgrace

Good Morning,

I’m back from delightful travels and working events with favorite friends. This retirement thing for me has some drawbacks and it was plain ol’ fun to get back before the camera once again and see if the old skills were still around.

I’ll leave that assessment to the producers and directors of my professional events, but in my mind I had a great time no matter what.

Traveling does hone the observational senses and that is the subject of today’s blog.

Here is what I noticed at the various airports that connected my travels.

Elegance, decorum, and courtesy in America’s travelers are missing.

I cannot believe what some people chose to ware while traveling. In fact, I am disgusted with the social graces of America’s youth and young families.

To wit:

The predominance of flip-flops as the foot ware of choice is abhorrent. There was one case of smelly sneakers with no socks that even sickened the security people and they see distasteful agglutinations, ignorance and stupidity all day long. One TSA inspector told me that one woman tried to smuggle her tiny dog on board in a carry on and was willing to put the mutt through the x-ray scanner.

Short shorts is another obnoxious trend in warm climate travel attire, so is the airline’s greed to sell cheap food at high prices. People are not buying it, so on board they come, flip flopping, with too many carry-ons and balancing conflicting boxed aroma’s from pizzas and other odorous fast-foods to ruin the stale air we are already breathing.

Carry-ons? It’s supposed to one reasonable size bag and one personal item. Yeah, right! With the airlines now charging twenty dollars per checked bag, America’s itinerants are bringing more bags on board.

I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon, but these are real observations from a trained eye. OK, OK, I am a curmudgeon, but some people are really stupid, discourteous and lacking in grace.

If you are one of them, please send me your travel schedule, so I can alter mine.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Global interconnections come to mind today what with the G-20 summit meeting in New York.

China and the United States are getting along. Uncle Sam and Mother Russia smile at each other. With a few glaring exceptions from bandits, rebels, separatists and jihadists there are encouraging signs of an emerging global village. I wish there was more sanity, but that’s the way it is.

Al Qaeda the West’s belligerent nemesis continues to shake the Islamic sword threatening by innuendo, rumor and arrogance the tender stability of a global penchant for peace. Two deadly wars don’t help the situation.

The world needs to remember that true leadership is a gift from below and is never held by force at least not for very long. An inspired leader does not forsake people to stay in control. A benevolent leader does not attack the innocent or the weak with the excuse that history makes it right.

All seekers of a lasting peace have learned it will never be found if they stand at idle and let new sabers and old sayings cut down the growing global vision of cooperation, compassion, and tolerance.

The world needs leaders that respect the greatness of its diverse people.

The world needs leaders who embrace the philosophy that the miracle of life is not in its oneness, but the diversity within the oneness.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


What is it about personal proximity that engenders both silence and conversation?

I’m traveling for a few days and my travels began with a train ride and a shared seat with nice lady who was at first buried in her book and then mesmerized by the panoramic views out the window.

She was on the train first. When I entered the car the only vacant seat was the one next to her. I said, “May I sit down?”

Silently she moved her purse and sweater and magazine and that was it. Not another word was exchanged for ninety minutes. I did say a few words that could have started a conversation, like, “nice view” and “ Is this your pen,” as I picked it up off the floor, but nothing started a dialogue.

Now I get to the airport and arrive at my gate for a cross-country flight. I ask the guy next to me waiting at the gate, “Are they boarding yet?” He says, “Not yet, but soon. It's always soon isn't it?”

He spoke in a friendly tone and punctuated his words with a smile. A conversation began and then continued on board for we happened to be seatmates.

I don’t know if I ever will meet, see or even talk to this gentlemen again, but I am the better for the experience. Proximity brought us together and for a brief moment, in this illusion of time, two strangers shared lives, experiences, hopes, expectations, wishes, concepts, stories of children and a meal.

There must be meaning in all this? Could it be the choice that “oneness” is either acknowledged or ignored, but it’s always there? The former brings enlightening conversation, the latter an opportunity missed.

I wonder.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Misnomer and Fear

I subscribe to a wonderful blog called "". The following post is from them. I'd like to share it with you. Its efficacy is self explanatory.

To wit:

As Muslims in the United States celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the celebration which marks the end of Ramadan, a pernicious chain e-mail is making its rounds. The e-mail falsely claims that President Obama has issued a new postage stamp commemorating the two Eid celebrations and urges readers to boycott it, naming several terrorist attacks on the U.S. over the past twenty years.

The full text of the e-mail can be seen in this post by Missives from Marx, who expresses frustration at the letter, saying:

I received the following email forward today from a family member. It is because of stuff like this that I’m going to have to spend four weeks of my Western Religions course deconstructing Muslim stereotypes. This is why critical thinking has to be an essential component of all my courses.

As it turns out, there's nothing new about the letter, or the stamp. explains that the letter has been around since at least 2002, while the stamp itself was issued on September 1, 2001.

Aziz Poonwalla, on the BeliefNet blog City of Brass, explains the history of the e-mail:

Versions of the email, which has been making the rounds for years, have been repeatedly debunked before, but it still persists. I've blogged extensively about the history of the Eid stamp, the controversy that accompanied it when it was introduced (mostly from conservative Republicans), and the defense of the stamp by President Bush and Speaker Hastert. In a nutshell, the stamp was introduced on September 1st 2001, ten days before the 9-11 attacks, during the Bush Administration.

Mayor Piper joins a long list of conservative politicians who have no objection to stamps commemorating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, even teh Chinese New year - but a stamp devoted to the muslim holiday of Eid is singled out as a threat, requiring response from “patriotic” Americans?

A post on the Clarksville Online, a blog for the town of Clarksville, Tennessee, explains why the e-mail has made major headlines this year:

Clarksville Tennessee’s Mayor, Johnny Piper has sent an inflammatory anti-Islamic email to employees of the city, encouraging them to boycott a stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service…

…Mayor Piper has since attempted to defend his actions, but they are simply indefensible. Muslims are a integral part of this country. They serve honorably in our armed forces, defending our nation, and our freedoms. No one should be treated like a second class citizens based on their religious beliefs, or the actions of a radical fringe. This incident created by our Mayor has been an embarrassment for our City, our State, and our Country.

Sheila Musaji has been tracking chain e-mails about the stamp for The American Muslim (TAM) since 2005, and in an update, remarks on Mayor Piper's abhorrent actions:

I’m certain the good mayor was just as surprised about President Obama’s White House Iftar.

And, of course the final recourse of all bigots: “I have some good Muslim friends,” he immediately added.”

Perhaps those good Muslim friends might enlighten him as to why THIS (PDF) is offensive.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Perhaps it's time to talk again about perseverance. Sometimes we persevere because of a challenge, sometimes because of an inward vision, and sometimes because we are stubborn and we follow a prompting that says we must go on. I think that's probably what happened to Elias Howe.

It all started during an argument in 1839 in Boston. The owner of a small machine shop and a fellow mechanic were arguing about the need for a device to sew things together. The heated discussion ended with the words of one of the men. "Do it and I'll assure you an independent fortune".

Working in the shop and listening to the argument was a lame, shy, curly-haired mechanic by the name of Elias Howe. He was tired of working 60 hours a week and earning three dollars. When he heard that a fortune could be made by making a machine that would sew, he decided he would do it.

It is a testimony to his courage that he succeeded, for what followed were many years of little money, family illnesses, experimentation, and design failure until he got the idea of using two threads to make a stitch with the aid of a shuttle and the sewing machine was invented.

A year later Howe was granted a patent, but poverty continued. No one wanted to manufacture the contraption. He went to London and tried, a few were made, but he made no money. When he returned penniless to America, he discovered several mechanics were making a sewing machine under his patent, but none paid him royalties, including Issac Merritt Singer.

It took a lawsuit against the pioneer manufacturer and finally 10-years after his patent, Howe received 15-thousand dollars from Singer for a license to manufacture.

When Howe died 18 years later, he left an estate appraised at 13-million dollars.

After writing this post, I'm wondering: do you think with perseverance against the daily demise of legitimate broadcast and cable journalism we could find a news organization willing to cover news the old way - based on facts, not conjecture. While we are at it, how about a fair, non-opinionated presentation and a balanced, not hyped, sane dissemination of information?


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Hudson River

2009 is almost over and I have yet to write that this year is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River.

To be factual he didn’t really discover it. Native people had been living near it since about 4000 BC, so old Henry only uncovered the river for the Dutch East India Company in Europe. He returned to his benefactors with beaver pelts, and praise for a vast land with rich resources.

I have lived in or near the Hudson Valley for over forty years and I’ve learned a few things about it I’d like to share in this post.

Three presidents have come from the Hudson Valley. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Van Buren and six Vice Presidents.

The paragons of industry: Vanderbilt, Eastman, Vassar, made part of their fortunes on and off the Hudson River.

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first declared American Saint did some of her early charity in West Park.

James Fennimore Cooper, William Cullen Bryant and Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote about the river.

John Burroughs studied the region's natural history and attended conferences at Mohonk Mountain House.

Landscape painters Weir, Innes and Cole were artistic evangelists for the river and leaders in the Hudson River school, the only school of painting produced by American Artists.

I once did a documentary on the Hudson River. It took a year to film for we started at Lake Tear of the Clouds in the lee of Mount Marcy where the Hudson begins and told the story of the river through its people and commerce down to Manhattan.

Some facts I remember.

From Manhattan to Troy, there is no drop at all in the surface elevation of the Hudson. The ocean tides run all the way to the Federal Lock and Dam at Troy.

A log dropped into the river at Troy would take months to float down to Manhattan. In some areas for every 8-miles the current and ebb tide carry the log down river, the flood tide could shove it back upriver as much as 7 1/2 miles.

The upriver penetration of salt water, or the salt wedge as it is called, varies with rainfall, but normally it stops near Newburgh, 60-miles from the Battery. It's been as far south as the Battery when in 1968 five inches of rain was dumped into the Hudson drainage system.

Dr. Alistair McCrone, a geologist at New York University has delineated a number of elements found in the bottom mud of the Hudson. Some are: Aluminum, antimony, beryllium, boron, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, gallium, lead, magnesium, nickel, scandium, silicon, titanium, vanadium, Yttrium, and zirconium.

The rocking action of the tides keeps the lower Hudson stirred up like thick soup. Mixing is thorough, and the temperature at the bottom of the river, 100-feet from the surface, may not vary one degree.

The area known as the Tappan Zee, which gives its name to the bridge, has a depth of about 500 feet. This section is nine miles long, two miles wide.

When the bridge was built in the early 1950’s, the bedrock was too deep to anchor the pilings. The Bridge was built on floating caissons settled in the muck of shells and mud and rubble. The “S” shape of the bridge was done to ease the strain of the river's flow.

The Hudson River's 13-thousand 370 square mile watershed reaches into five states. Minor tributaries also rise in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. New Jersey claims 20 miles of shore.

And now you know. Have a great Monday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Phillies Fan and Love

I saw the All That Is, The Source, and The Supreme Being on a video clip yesterday and it was wonderful.

I hope you saw it or at least heard about it for it was a vision of unconditional love at its most profound.

Steve Monforto, a solid, long-time Philadelphia Phillies fan was at the ballpark with his wife, his sixteen months old daughter and his three-year-old daughter, Emily.

He caught a foul ball for the first time in years going to a Phillies game. He was excited, delighted, and fist-pumped his buddies. He then handed the ball to Emily and she promptly threw it away to the lower stands.

Steve had a momentary look of shock and surprise and then quickly smiled and gave Emily the most loving embrace that a Father could give a daughter and it was captured on live television.

He hugged, cuddled, cradled and embraced his daughter in unconditional Fatherly love that most of us believe God would do for us if and when we toss the prize away within the innocence of play or even in our actions of life.

Steve said later, "I think she was startled by the reaction of the fans around us; there was a collective gasp. Emily was also startled by the look on my face. I just wanted to let her know it was OK — that she didn't do anything wrong."

Montforto did go home with a few baseballs. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and three team employees saw what happened and each grabbed a ball and took it to him in the stands.

Isn't it amazing what the Loving Presence of Life will teach us in our play if we but pay attention?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Words, as we all know, are our way of communicating and sometimes of hiding what we want to communicate.

One example might be the dish known as Welch Rarebit. Once known as Welch Rabbit, the culinary concoction dates back to Shakespeare's time. It seems, back then, only the rich in Wales could afford game from the royal forests, so rabbit was scarce. The Welch dish of melted cheese and bread jokingly became known as Rabbit.

The meal became popular and menu writers wanting to give it a more sophisticated sound, called in Welsh rarebit. A euphemism. The replacing of an unsavory word with a more pleasant one.

There is one thing we have, for which we really don't have a constant word. We sometimes call it the toilet. That word comes from French, and means a cloth on a dressing table.

In the Navy it's called the head, so named from its location, in the bulkhead of the ship. In polite circles, it's called the powder room, or the bathroom, though many times there is no bath there.

Sometimes we call it the John. The use of that word may have come from an old Harvard regulation. A 1735 rule said freshmen couldn't use the upperclassmen's privy. Only they called it "Cousin John.

In Europe it’s called the W.C. or Water Closet. In England, the loo, but perhaps the best name for the place might be from one of writer Edward Albee's plays. He called it: The Euphemism.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Slow News Day

I just spent some time in Colorado and as I waited at Denver’s magnificent airport I remembered a story about a slow news day.

Back in 1899 the four major Denver Colorado newspapers sent reporters to cover a story in South Denver. The newsmen decided it was a dull story; they would like to make up a more interesting event.

It would be harmless, a little fun with the city editor. They discussed several possible stories and angles as they traveled to their assigned story.

Finally they decided to fake a foreign affairs story, figuring that would be the hardest for their editors to check.

The next day all the Denver papers had a page one fictitious story saying that a team of American Engineers traveled through Denver from New York on their way to China.

The Hoax story said the Chinese wanted an estimate of how much it would cost to demolish the Great Wall of China.

The copy claimed the Chinese were taking down the wall as a sign to Wall Street that China was open to greater foreign investment.

East coast papers picked up the story.

One New York reporter even quoted Chinese confirmation of the hoax.

The story was cabled to Europe and it quickly reached China where it helped touch off the famous Boxer Rebellion.

Many Chinese, already upset with the western influences in their country, were shocked at the story to destroy the Great Wall.

Even though the Chinese government denied the story, rioting broke out, foreigners were attacked, and it took a month to restore order. An order that vanished on a slow news day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Sadness of Suicide

I was saddened by an email I received yesterday morning. It was from somebody I'd met nearly fifty years ago. I don't remember the person and I scarcely remember the event, but I profoundly acknowledge the shared pain of a life lost. The life of an adult child.

It matters not that the child was an adult and successful and filled with abundant choices. When a child dies before the parent, the natural order of things is altered forever and the parent must deal with the reality of losing a birth creation as best they can. It's not easy. It's painful. It is what it is.

I know, I lost a son to brain cancer and there is not a single day that passes that I don't think of him, miss him or wonder what he is doing in the angelic realms of being.

The email I received was about a suicide. A Mother lost her adult son to suicide and was questioning.

She wrote:

"I have encountered many well meaning professionals, family and friends who's "advice" has been, "it's not your fault," professionals telling me "people who commit suicide are angry and bitter"..therefore "not OUR fault."

How convenient, a neatly wrapped package that relieves us of any responsibility.
To a degree, this might be true. My frustration and question is, shouldn't we wonder why they were angry? Aren't we as a society at least in some small way responsible?"

My answer is this:

We, as a spiritual society, are all ONE, and therefore responsible for the "other," for growth is not singular, but we are responsible only in the breath of Divine love. We are not responsible for another's choice of action. We can counsel. We can encourage. We can plead, but the choice of finite action belongs to the individual. It is their Divine right of Being.

We all acknowledge that survival is a very strong instinct. Having said that, I don't believe that the energy of suicide is an act of an angry or bitter person. I believe it is a deep act of letting go by a person who finished what he or she came here to do and decided not to stay in this density anymore. The act itself, abhorrent as it is to most souls, leaves a spiritual gift behind if we choose to see it.

It is the gift of choice. It offers to those who remain in physical form choices for growth they never would have encountered otherwise. This is how we all grow in the experience of unconditional love as evidenced from the Source, The All That Is that does not judge.

To my email have my sympathy for your loss and as you work through your sorrow know a profound truth; there is much more to life than living in the body. You may mourn the loss of your son's form, but he still lives in the embrace of Divine love.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nine Eleven

Today is an anniversary. Not a pleasant one. It is a tragic memory now known forever as NINE ELEVEN.

I was a practicing journalist in New York City in 2001. I had just rented a small pied-a-terre along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. I was standing on a balcony overlooking the river and I watched the explosion as the first plane struck the World Trade Center tower.

I knew that day that this was a time of dying and time of heroes. It is the hero I want to acknowledge on this anniversary.

Heroes alive and heroes fallen. There are so many to count, so many noble deeds and selfless actions came from the World Trade Center tragedy.

There are men heroes and woman heroes. Plain people and professional people, many who gave their lives that others might live and still so many others who gave their time and sweat, all choosing service over self.

They were average people doing extraordinary things. These are the actions of greatness.

Over the past few years a few of the stories have come out of those men and women who were willing to give their lives in exchange for the simple, but profound gift of helping another.

That act is a choice of the heart and it inextricably binds the human spirit together.

We need heroes. Each generation needs them. Heroes help us tell our children and each other that we are good at heart and it is part of our nature to be Samaritans and to acknowledge we are all part of each other and all a part of All That Is.

Maybe if we tell it often enough, we’ll begin to think it and what people think, they become.

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