Multitasking

female red-bellied woodpecker sunning

Multitasking.

Sunshine in northeast Ohio in November and December tends to be a rare treat. When the sun does shine, all of God’s Creation soaks it in, including this lovely female Red-bellied Woodpecker. She took a break from enjoying lunch at the peanut feeder to warm herself on a chilly late fall day.

“Multitasking” in my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under birding, birds, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, weather

Listen. Live. Lead.

Ohio's Amish Country, Holmes Co. OH

Taking the road less traveled?

By Bruce Stambaugh

The headline on the promotional, educational email I received got my attention. Listen. Live. Lead.

I had just finished reading a nationally known political commentator when the email arrived. Though written from entirely different perspectives, their messages mirrored one another.

The email’s main point perfectly meshed with that of the columnist’s. In this time of turmoil in our global society, we need to listen to one another earnestly.

rural view, farmstead

The rural view is changing.

We live in noisy, chaotic times. Even here in our rural setting, we feel the pressure of universal unrest. We can thank technology for that, for keeping us up to date with the world’s events as they happen 24/7.

At times, there appears to be no escape from the convoluted static that counters the pastoral approach to life here. From my senior years of observation, it seems that lifestyle is even wavering at times. I lament that fact as I see more and more compromising of our once calm, compassionate way of life.

The news isn’t all bad of course, but we need to be wise and use our common sense filters to sort out some of the ugliness. These are uncertain times. I think my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all could have said the same thing.

Life is full of doubt, disappointment, and dismay. That should not deter us from being civil, generous, and kind, especially at this time of year.

To avoid the appearance of casting stones, I’ll take responsibility for my own actions. It’s all any of us can ever do.

As I age, and I just had a birthday, I remember that everything I do and say has an impact on someone, someplace, somewhere. We don’t always know whom, when, and where that may be.

So it is critical, as the email stated, to listen to different perspectives, to live as global citizens, and to lead for the common good. I try to remind myself of those necessary life skills every day.

Honduras, coffee berries

Picking coffee beans.

I think about my friends in Honduras who have taught me so much over the past 16 years. I first visited that lovely Central American country with a church group just as the new century arrived.

Not knowing much Spanish, I had no choice but to listen as I worked side by side with my new friends. We picked coffee beans together, mixed cement together, and shared meals together. For a few days, we lived the lives they lived.

Those in our groups learned so much about our hosts’ lives that varied so much from ours. The children especially were eager to teach us Spanish and we, in turn, taught them English. Listening significantly enhanced our cultural interchange.

When you’re knocking on the door of 70, words like listen, live, and lead grab your attention. I’m overjoyed for each new day I’m given.

In this season of gratefulness and celebration, it’s easy to get caught up in the all the hubbub of the holidays. The glitzy commercials extolling the charms of speeding, flashy, expensive automobiles, sparkling diamonds, and the latest computer games can overshadow the real reasons for the season.

That’s why the mutual messages of the newspaper columnist and the email hit home with me. Listen, live, and lead took on deeper meanings than buy, buy, buy.

If we apply those words of advice selflessly, our world and those we touch will be a better place. That’s a birthday gift I can gladly unwrap, heartily embrace, and willingly share.

Amish farmstead, dawn's light

Dawn’s creamy reflection.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Backlit Burgundy

Amish farmstead, farm implements

Backlit Burgundy.

When I saw this scene one morning a few days ago, I had to stop and take a photo. I loved how the sun backlit the burgundy leaves and highlighted the farm implements seemingly placed haphazardly around the farmyard.

By now, the winds and rains of late have stripped the color from the tree until next year.

“Backlit Burgundy” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under Amish, architectural photography, human interest, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, weather

In the season’s darkness, let your light shine

early snow

What’s wrong with this picture?

By Bruce Stambaugh

Residents of northeast Ohio have now tasted both the Thanksgiving Day turkey and the season’s first snow. The holidays are indeed upon us.

As we prepare to head into the year’s final month, holiday lights twinkle inside and outside homes and businesses alike. Even without radiating any substantial heat, they warm hearts nevertheless.

Most holidays in December focus their celebration around the theme of light just as the daylight diminishes. The days are in fact the shortest of the year.

Advent candles

Advent candles.

I’ve always found it more than a bit ironic that in the darkest part of the year, our secular and religious holidays glow with light. In fact, these important days gather together as if they were competing for our attention as the calendar year draws to an end.

Given the state of the world today, these celebrations of light are just what the doctor ordered. Earth’s inhabitants need as much light at they can get.

It’s only fitting that the major celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah, and the winter solstice all squeeze together in late December. It’s like a hidden magnet pulling them into the light itself. I don’t mean to be too jocular about these simultaneous celebrations. Just the opposite is true.

Christians consider Advent, the weeks leading up to and just after Christmas Day, as holy, sacred, magical. My Jewish friends rightly believe the same about Hanukkah.

Those who celebrate the winter solstice as Yule have a practical reason for making merry. From that point forward, daylight increases little by little each day.

It’s all very human of us to acknowledge the importance of light in our lives just when we have the least of it. Doing so gives us hope in the midst of darkness.

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival also known as the Festival of Lights. One candle is lighted each day on the nine-candle menorah. Hanukkah means rededication and annually commemorates the Jewish struggle for religious freedom.

Chrismtas drama

Star over Bethlehem.

Christmas also is a commemoration. Lights of many kinds fill its traditions. The star in the east that hovered over Bethlehem, birthplace of the Christ child, is reflected on Christmas cards, and in displays, plays, poems, stories, and musicals.

Candle lighting services, often held on Christmas Eve, symbolize the birth of Jesus, the Christians’ declaration of the true light of life. In fact, four churches in Millersburg, Ohio will hold a Candlelight Walk on the evening of December 9 to help usher in the season.

My energetic wife had the electric candles glowing in our windows even before Thanksgiving this year. Illuminating each window with candles is a tradition we’ve had for our 45 years together.

In fact, one Christmas long ago our young daughter wouldn’t let us take down the candle in her bedroom window. When I shared in church about Carrie’s insistence, our late friend and resident poet Lorie Gooding wrote a poem about it. To my knowledge, this is the first publication of that poem.

Carrie’s Candle

I have a candle. It is mine.
I like to watch my candle shine.
It was a light for Christmas cheer.
But I’m going to keep it all the year.
Then when the darkness comes at night,
I’m going to watch my little light.
My good daddy and my pretty mother
Smile at my candle. So does my baby brother.
The light is for everyone to see.
But the little candle belongs to me.

Lorie Gooding

My wish for all of you this holiday season is that the light shines brightly in your lives wherever you may be.

sunrise, Amish farm

Morning light.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas deocrations, family, holiday decorations, holidays, human interest, poem, poetry, writing

Happy Thanksgiving!

sunrise, Holmes Co. OH

Morning Glory.

Yesterday’s sunrise was a beauty here in Ohio’s Amish country. It truly was a glorious morning.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

“Morning Glory” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under Amish, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, weather

Make any day a good day

osage orange tree

West of Winesburg.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I had driven this route many times in the past. Usually, it started in the early morning twilight and ended in the glare of the afternoon sun, if I didn’t have a meeting after school.

I served as principal at two of the nicest elementary schools anyone could hope for or conjure. I loved my job at Mt. Hope and Winesburg schools.

An emotional funk had overtaken me, and I needed a spiritual pick me up. Those former school days mentally surfaced, so I called the man who had replaced me 17 years ago. Dan was more than happy to show me around the schools where I once whistled my way down the halls. It had been years since I last graced them.

With our impending move to Virginia set for next spring, I knew I needed to start reconnecting with folks and places that had played such important roles in my life, professionally and personally. The schools were on that list.

That’s how I came to retrace the roads I took for 21 years every school day. I knew every turn, hill, and valley.

Amish buggy, autumn

Along the road.

I made Mt. Hope my first stop. Dan greeted me at the front door after I pushed the security buzzer, a necessary addition since the Nickel Mines shooting 10 years ago in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania.

Dan escorted me around the building that I knew so well. Physically, not much had changed. The staff and pupils, however, had. I soon found familiarity and links to the past.

Dan asked the students in each class how many of their parents had gone to Mt. Hope School. I was astonished at how many hands flew up. We went pupil by pupil to see if I could remember their folks.

To my amazement, and theirs as well, I remembered their parents and grandparents, where they lived, and even a few first names. When the school is full of Yoders and Millers, that’s not an easy task.

My reunions with Jerry the librarian, Jim the teacher, and Nettie the cook brought smiles to my face, stirred my soul and filled me with compassion for their career commitments to nurturing children.

My age hit me square in the face when I met the custodian of both schools, Brandon, a former student. He was too busy to talk much, but his handshake spoke volumes. The school sparkled as brightly as his eyes.

Holmes Co. OH

A view around every turn.

More memories resurfaced while driving the five miles between Mt. Hope and Winesburg. There still is no bar or golf course in between. The road was still bumpy, the views still pristine. Corn shocks stood in the same fields they had all those years ago.

At Winesburg, I found the school just as clean and hospitable as Mt. Hope. I was glad to see many of the same staff members I had worked with and hired before I retired. We hugged and shared heartfelt recollections.

The storyline with the students also repeated. The eagerness of the youngsters to name their parents buoyed me. Some I identified by family name just from their physical features. When a student said who her mother was, I said, “Oh, yes. I remember. Carie with one “r.” I’ll never forget the beam on that young face.

This uplifting experience had been a morning to remember for me. All this human interaction freed me from my gloominess. It gave me hope that any day, no matter how trying, can be a good day.

I just had to take the initiative. The children and friends did the rest.

sunrise, Ohio's Amish Country

A new dawn.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under Amish, friends, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, writing

November’s Super Full Moon

November 2016, super full moon

November’s Super Full Moon.

November’s Super Full Moon had a lot going for it. It was the biggest, closest, and brightest super full moon since January 26, 1948. I don’t remember that of course since I was a little more than a month old then. Besides, I doubt my mother bothered to take me outside to look at it on a cold, Ohio January night.

When this moon was exactly full, it was already below the horizon in Ohio. I decided to shoot the super full moon before it sank below the western horizon. I’m glad I did because as you can see in this photo, clouds and fog lingered in the west.

“November’s Super Full Moon” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under nature photography, news, Ohio's Amish country, Photo of the Week, photography, weather