November: The contemplative month

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The fall election is over. Daylight Savings Time has come and gone, and so have most of this fall’s colorful leaves. It must be November.

We can thank the pelting rains and wicked winds of a raucous cold front for dislodging most of the leaves. We can thank Congress for the time change.

I never adjust well to this convoluted toying of time. I wake up early and am ready for bed before dark that Sunday afternoon.

When we lived in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, I always chuckled at the various reactions to this contrived notion of messing with clocks to supposedly save energy. The Amish had that down to a science.

Some Amish complied with the change to stay connected with the rest of society. Others compromised and moved the time back a half an hour. Some never changed time in the first place.

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I miss that kind of contrariness. I haven’t checked with local buggy-driving Old Order Mennonite farmers here in Virginia to know if they mess with time in the same manner.

With the time changed and the leaves disappearing, our attention turns to Thanksgiving preparations. At least it should if we aren’t too distracted by all the Christmas gift-giving commercials already on television.

It can be for that very reason alone that I become contemplative in November. I think it’s the colder weather though. I do appreciate the cleaner, clearer air. Thanks to a couple of killing frosts, I can breathe again.

Then, too, the early darkness readies me for bed way before bedtime. These are the days of the earliest sunsets of the year until we get to the winter solstice.

I do appreciate the clear evening skies, too. I love to watch the moon creep across the darkened sky surrounded by sparkling jewels and winking planets.

The month of November ushers in the dormant season. By month’s end, the deciduous trees will be bare. We’ll see things in the landscape we had totally forgotten about, like houses we didn’t remember were there.

cropped-dsc_0555.jpgThe longer evenings give me time to reflect on the activities of the day. I do miss my fireplace, though. There is truly nothing like warming your backside sitting on the hearth in front of a roaring, crackling fire.

I used those evenings to think and reflect on our past, present, and future. With that, we recognize November’s other holiday, Veterans Day.

November is like recess at school. It’s the needed break between all of the action of October and December.

Soon Black Friday advertisements will blitz our mailboxes, newspapers, TV commercials, and annoying social media ads. Thanksgiving will be no more than a prelude to that glorious commercial day. Too bad there’s not an app to eliminate that.

As you might have surmised by now, I’m well into my contemplative shtick. I have a brain. I try to use it every now and then. November’s dark days seem like a good time to do that.

Come to think of it, whatever happened to Indian summer? With nine of the last 10 years the warmest on record globally, maybe the weather gods decided we don’t need it anymore. It’s just a thought.

Everything seems to slow down in November. From my point of view, that’s one of the eleventh month’s purposes. Let’s all take a little time to sit back, relax, talk with your spouse, listen to your children, play with your grandchildren, and be kind to one another.

Christmas is only a few weeks away.

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© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Happy Halloween!


Sorry to creep you out, but this photo is not what it appears. This is not a corpse. It is a photo that my wife took of me as I was wheeled into my hospital room only three housrs after knee replacement surgery.

The reason I am all bundled up in blankets was that the room was freezing. Apparently, housekeeping had turned down the air conditioning temperature to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and forgot to reset the thermostat when they left. The kind nurses gathered pre-heated blankets to warm me up. Since the anesthesia still had its effect on me, I was mostly out of it when Neva snapped this photo.

“Happy Halloween!” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Old glory at Ft. Ticonderoga


Located on a small peninsula at the southern end of Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga played a significant role in the formation of both countries of North America. With that in mind, I chose the American Flag flying over the old fort in honor of Memorial Day and as my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

My mother’s gifts were her legacy

Rural road.

My mother was a very talented woman. If she were still living, Mom would likely deny the obvious. She was modest, too.

My siblings and I would have plenty of evidence to support our case. Our mother was multi-talented. She had to be to raise five children while Dad was off working or fishing or hunting or going to meetings.

Many others would also affirm Mom’s gifts, especially her artistic talents. Mom would likely shake her head in dismay about all of the fuss about her beautiful paintings.

Our father was an outdoorsman. Mom, on the other hand, brought the outdoors indoors through her lovely creations. She painted most often in watercolors and preferred doing landscapes. She created hundreds of them.

Mom seldom seemed happy with the results, however. She sold many paintings in her life, much too cheaply in my biased opinion. Mom even won several awards in local art shows around northeast Ohio.

Marian Stambaugh.
It wasn’t that Mom was a perfectionist. She lacked self-confidence even though encouraged by our doting father and her artist friends and mentors.

If Mom wasn’t satisfied with a painting, she at times painted another scene on the reverse side of the watercolor paper. If such a painting sold, the buyer got a two for one deal.

I suppose other artists derogated their own works, too, whether painters, sculptors, or even writers for that matter. Mom wasn’t overt about her discouragement. She would just toss a nearly finished painting in what she called “the junk pile” and began again.

After Mom died seven years ago, my brothers and sisters and our spouses discovered the treasure trove of incomplete watercolors. As we sorted through them, we agreed that “junk pile” definitely was a misnomer.

We pulled some real gems from that stockpile of rejected paintings. We made sure grandchildren and other relatives and friends could choose the pieces they liked for posterity.

As we delved deeper into her things, we discovered drawings and etchings and paintings from her high school years. Mom showed much promise even as a teenager.

One of Mom’s many watercolors.
After high school, Mom wanted to attend art school. But in those days, that seemed an extravagance to her parents. They insisted business school a better fit for a young woman who eventually would marry and have children.

That’s pretty much what happened, too. However, with our father’s encouragement, Mom began art lessons with some noted local professional artists. Our mother blossomed as an accomplished artist.

Those classes taught her a lot and created lifetime friendships. Mom and Dad even attended weeklong workshops out of state. Mom would paint while Dad scoured local farm fields for Indian artifacts with the farmers’ permission of course.

Though they had their moments, our parents made a good team. Dad passed on to us the love of all things nature, and Mom imprinted that love in colorful works of art.

Our mother was a very gifted woman far beyond being an artist. Marian Stambaugh was a devoted wife to a fault, a fair, loving mother, a proud grandmother, and a friend to many.

Her legacy, however, will be her inspiring paintings. Landscapes, still life, and renderings of old barns and vehicles adorn the walls of family, friends, and her art connoisseur customers.

Our mother captured life as she saw it, and she saw it well. The rest of us are the beneficiaries of her most ardent talent. Her many paintings will display her skills, and proclaim the glory of nature for decades to come.

Old truck, one of Mom’s unfinished gems.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

A different approach to Easter

Maybe after all of these years, I’m finally getting the point of Easter.

The holiest of holy days in the Christian tradition, Easter’s resurrection coincides with spring’s rejuvenating renewal. That I always understood, even as a child.

Of course, as a youngster, that spiritual message became overshadowed by other Easter traditions. Hunting for our Easter baskets loaded with chocolaty treats and boiled eggs we had previously colored was a priority.

After all the baskets and colored eggs were found, we enjoyed a breakfast with hot crossed buns. That, too, was always an Easter treat obtained from the neighborhood bakery where our grandmother worked.

Buying an Easter lily for our loving mother was also deemed a must. Of course, we all gussied up in our Sunday best and headed off to church with scores of other baby boomer families.

My wife and I continued some of those traditions as we, too, had children of our own. Helen, our children’s adopted Killbuck, Ohio grandmother, often hosted us after church. I would hide the eggs outside while Helen and Neva prepared their typical delicious meal.

We have continued that tradition with our grandchildren, although that varies according to their busy schedules. We’ll hold our own egg and Easter basket hunt, all the while recording the unfolding events with my camera. Nana usually fixes a scrumptious dinner to complete the secular celebrating.

Church, of course, is still a central element in our Easter celebration. It has to be. Without Easter, there would be no church, as we now know it. Perhaps therein lies my senior moment with this holiday.

As much as I enjoy the candy and the children’s excitement, I can’t shake loose the days that led up to this most consecrated day. In retrospect, they occur in logical succession that actually creates Easter’s real significance.

Triumphant Palm Sunday followed by the solemnity of Maundy Thursday, and the stark realization of Good Friday mirror my own ambivalence of the season. I am too much aware of personal grieving, death of loved ones and friends, injuries and unexpected illnesses of innocent little ones, the bigoted injustices of society toward the least, the last, and the lost.

Altogether, it seems too much to tolerate, too much to absorb, too much to accept amid the social and global daily inequities by those in power who twist the truth to their advantage. Bullies become victims and victims made the bullies, no matter the facts.

I struggle to reconcile a glorious day like Easter with the reality of the daily dynamics of a troubled world, of people in pain and mourning.

It is then that I remember that is the way of the world and the very reason for Easter itself. Christians are to model that self-sacrifice in their daily lives, not take advantage of those who have less or nothing at all.

Easter isn’t only a holiday. For those who believe, renewal is to be a daily way of life. That is a tall measure to live up to, but it is the only measure that matters.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.” That is the greatest commandment to follow, and the hardest.

That precept, that lifestyle can only be achieved if we acknowledge our own imperfections, our Creator, and our responsibility to help others moment by moment, breath by breath.

That Easter hunt doesn’t come in colored eggs or decorated baskets. It must be resurrected daily, individually, unselfishly, and unconditionally. If not, there is no Easter morning.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Maunday Thursday Sunset


Maunday Thursday is a solumn, sacred holy day in the Christian tradition. It is the Thursday before Easter, believed to be the day Christ shared His last Passover meal with the disciples.

The blood-orange tint of these clouds coupled with the dark, foreboding color of the foreground seemed an appropriate scene to set the stage for the historical trauma of Good Friday.

“Maunday Thursday Sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019