Monday, September 11, 2017


The storm called Irma was more than the storm of the century. We don't know what else to call it. We have no comparisons. There are no detailed records past a hundred plus years ago. There is nobody alive to tell us what happened in the late 1880's and there are only some still pictures and limited video of what happened in the hurricane of 1938.

Years ago I used to write and record a radio feature for CBS stations around the country. It was called “Footnotes.” I wrote the following piece on the 1938 Hurricane.

This is Rolland Smith with a footnote on September 21, 1938.

After the hurricane missed Miami, there was little to worry about. The meteorologists in Washington were the best. They knew this storm would run itself down.
But they missed the obvious.

The North Atlantic was under a high-pressure plateau, and for the first time in 123 years, a hurricane was being squeezed toward New England.

By dawn, the storm was far worse than any ill wind. At two O'clock in the afternoon it demolished the Atlantic City Boardwalk, but Washington forecasters insisted the storm was rapidly blowing out to sea; a mistake that cost lives.

Later an eyewitness on Long Island said he saw a thick, high bank of fog rolling in fast from the ocean. But it wasn't fog, it was a 30-foot wall of water, and it hit the Island's south shore with such impact it registered on a seismograph in Alaska.

Thirty room mansions disappeared. Towns collapsed. Boats splintered. It was the same throughout New England. All told, 63 thousand lost their homes. Nearly 18-hundred were injured. 700 died.

The next morning communications were still down. New York and Boston Newspapers could not learn of the extent of the destruction. By the time they could put it together, it was old news.

America had suffered a disaster greater than the Chicago Fire or the San Francisco earthquake, but what most people knew was that Hitler seized Czechoslovakia that same day.

A PBS series called the American Experience has a documentary on the 1938 hurricane that is excellent. You can see it on line. Here’s the link:

But back to Irma. Mankind needs to label and name things. It helps us remember past monumental events when the first-hand experience passes and we no longer have those who lived it to refresh our memories or to invoke the empathy of living through it.

Irma. It is a gentle sounding name, but now it has a history of fatal fury, violence, and destruction. A name dichotomy once again in the contrasts of what it sounds like compared to what it did. With Irma's fury and size perhaps we should have named the hurricane Thor, the thunder god of the sky from Norse mythology.

I continue to monitor my local media for Irma aftermath information. It is a shame that our culture encourages violence as a means of getting something you want. In times of devastation shortages of gasoline, water, and food brings out the worst in people, the survival instinct dominates reason and courtesy and fights, and threats abound. It also brings out the best in people, but those stories don’t always get told.

The other misconception is that government must help or can help immediately. Victims are interviewed with a myopic view of the big picture. They demand they accuse; they bad-mouth authority because they have no food, no power, no water. I would suspect that some of the complainers are the ones who did not heed warnings to prepare for the worst or evacuate when urged to do so by governmental authorities.

In life, our choices set the conditions for living. Some people forget that and look to blame rather than accept personal responsibility.

BUT, now is not the time of "I told you so." It is a time to help, to heal and to find unconditional compassion for those in need.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Schools in session

The School year has begun. A perspective on how things have changed in the last hundred and forty-five years.


1.  Teachers each day will fill lamps; trim the wicks and clean chimneys.

2.  Each morning teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session.

3.  Make your pens carefully.  You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

4.  Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they attend church regularly.

5.  After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or any other good books.

6.  Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7.  Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

8.  Any teacher who smokes uses liquor in any form frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.

9.  The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The End of Summer

Labor Day is the unofficial passing of summer. Even though we still have a few days of hot and humid weather before the linear summer of two thousand and seventeen is over for most of us.

Pencils and books replace endless days of play for school children and us adults now have the short glories of fall to prepare for the pregnancy of winter. There’s wood to get and things to bring in and mends to make.

As the summer seemingly passes and blends into the fall, there is a graceful tranquil moment for the new to begin emerging from a place invisible in the green months and long light of summer. That moment is the Labor Day holiday.

This calendar enchantment of change to the dawning time of splendid color, is neither a first nor last, for seasons are an annual birth in their own time, recasting their unique image year after year.

So swaddle the birth of change and nurture her gifts. Let us hold the memory of a placid and peaceful summer in our hearts of hope and let us be joyfully expectant of a crisp and brilliant fall.

Friday, September 1, 2017

OMG, the Internet is Out

Early yesterday morning my internet connection went out, and it was gone for almost twelve hours. I kept checking and called the cable company, several times, but they could not give me a time as to when it would be back on.

I decided to do whatever I would do if I had no internet in the first place. I made the bed; it surprised the hell out of the bed and me. It hadn’t seen a spread in many months.

I thought about throwing stuff out, as I am trying to down-size, but that didn’t last long.

And then I grabbed a book entitled “Spiritual Ecology,” and headed to the back deck which is about five stories high overlooking a three-acre meadow, a small pond and the surrounding woods below. I read essay, after essay, from the likes of Thich Nhat Hanh, Brian Swimme, and an interview with Sister Miriam MacGillis who is carrying on the work of my old friend Father Thomas Berry.

After reading for a while, I stopped to observe what was happening around me. In the upper reaches of the tall White Pines, I noticed the cones, which were green only a week ago, had turned brown, opened, spewed their seeds to grow or to be eaten and were preparing to drop to the forest below.

The same thing with the Maple tree’s bi-winged seeds. They too had turned fall brown and were sailing as confetti in zephyred puffs.

As I contemplated the beginning autumn inwardness, I realized once again, that I am part of the whole; not just the earthly whole, but the entire universe in its vastness of change and growth. I am thankful for the reminder and glad the internet was gone for the day.

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