St. Patrick’s Day Sunset

Could there have been a more generous sunset,
and on St. Patrick’s Day yet?

The perfectly clear, but not empty sky
silhouetted the naked tree line at the top
of the neighbor’s pasture field.
To the right, three does grazed
unaware of my distant spying.

Above them, as if it mattered, Venus shown
bright and true, and still higher above her
the first sliver of March’s eventual full moon
cradled the amazing earthshine tenderly, boldly,
for all who cared to see to see.

I saw. I cared, glad for St. Paddy’s celestial gift.
I don’t know about the deer though.

Bruce Stambaugh
March 17, 2010

Competing in the winter Olympics, Texas style

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have had a long infatuation with the winter Olympics. This year was no exception. In fact, instead of just watching on television, I actually got to compete.

Coupled with the fatigue of the seemingly endless Ohio winter and the desire to visit our Texan grandchildren, my wife and I scheduled a trip to the Lone Star State right in the middle of the winter Olympic games. We were especially eager to see our four-month-old granddaughter, Maren. She was just a week old when I last saw her.

Just what does this have to do with competing in the winter Olympics? Plenty. Given the crazy weather of this weird winter, it didn’t snow in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the Olympics were hosted. But it did snow deep in the heart of Texas.

Of course, like everything else in Texas, it snowed big. At times, the snowflakes were huge. In a location where snow is seldom seen, the accumulation reached up to four inches.

The school kids were ecstatic. When they arrived home from classes, the Texas Winter Olympics were on. The entire neighborhood joined in one event after the other. The only qualifying necessities were to dress warm and have as much fun as possible. The rarity needed to be enjoyed while it lasted, since the snow likely wouldn’t linger in the south central Texas clime.

And have fun we did, including Maren. However, she wisely chose to serve as the beautiful, babbling, blue-eyed commentator from the warmth and safety of her parent’s home.

I felt like a kid again. Often, when the grandkids visited Nana and Poppy in Ohio’s Amish country in the winter, we seldom had snow. Now we were in their southern home territory, and the snow was perfect for any and every kind of wintry game.

The gathered Olympians participated in sledding, snowball throwing, snowman building, and of course the ever popular snow tasting contest. The results, which required no sophisticated judging, were measured in enjoyment rather than technical point calculation.

The lead sledding team, kindergartner Nola and her energetic father, Michael, won that event hands down. They were the only ones on the block with a sled. Even then, they had a rather short slope to navigate, another neighbor’s diminutive front yard.

To no one’s surprise, the snowball throwing drew the most participants and thus was gauged a Texas-sized success. The awards were meted in smiles and laughter rather than shiny medals. Evan, our nearly six-year-old grandson, won the artistic award for creating the most symmetrical snowballs. They were perfectly round and hand-packed hard.

The ever-daring three-and-a-half year old grandson, Davis, ate more snow than he threw. He said it tasted better than ice cream. You never know what those lefties will say.

As for the snowman contest, Poppy was in the lead for most of the way until he realized that the large rolled up snowball was more of a load than he should be pushing. His back disqualified him, and he had to call in reinforcements to complete the job.

Not surprisingly, Davis was a good helper. However, true to form, he wanted to eat the carrot rather than use it for the snowman’s nose.

Next day, when the snow quickly disappeared with Vancouver-like temperatures, the Texas Winter Olympics were declared closed, at least temporarily. With this strange winter weather, it could snow again in Texas. Vancouver could only hope.

Davis and Evan
My grandsons with their Texas snowman. Davis and Evan are on the left.

From Haiti to Millersburg, Ohio, a harrowing journey

Fritz Jeanty family
Fritz Jeanty hold two and a half year old son, Samuel, while his wife, Mamie, cuddles five month old son, Benjamin.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Shortly before 5 p.m. on January 12, Fritz Jeanty of Port-au-Prince, Haiti was on his way home when his car lurched from the force of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. He didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until he saw people running and heard people praying and praising God for being saved.

Fritz headed for home via the main road, but quickly came upon even more devastating scenes. People carried injured victims. Debris and clouds of dust were everywhere.

People were screaming, crying and praying all at the same time. While attempting to get home, Fritz met his pastor, who had his car full of injured victims, on the way to a hospital. The pastor told Fritz that the church had been leveled.

In his tireless effort to reach his family, Fritz drove as fast as he could until the road was completely blocked with collapsed buildings and dead bodies. Fritz parked his car, and ran towards home, fearful of what he would find. Before he could arrive, however, a neighbor intercepted him with good news. Fritz’s family was safe.

“I started crying right away,” Fritz said. They were tears of joy and sadness. “I was happy my family was alive, but I was sad for all the dead and injured, too.”

When he arrived home, his wife, Mamie, and two young sons, Samuel, two-and-a half, and Benjamin, five months, were unhurt but scared. Their home was rendered uninhabitable. The grocery store Fritz owned and operated five miles away had been completely destroyed, too.

“You could hear crying everywhere,” Fritz said. “I was overwhelmed.”

With darkness arriving, Fritz had to wait until early the next morning to turn his attention to extended family members who lived nearby. At dawn, he went to look for his brother, who he discovered was all right. However, Mamie’s two sisters were both crushed in the rubble of their home. But her mother was alive.

The Jeanty family lived on the street outside their destroyed home for a week. Fritz said they could hardly sleep, with frequent aftershocks, mosquitoes, nothing but rubble to lie on and potential looters roaming. The only provisions they had were some rice and cooking oil Fritz had stored in an old car in his yard. They had some water in a drum container, and Fritz had to walk two miles to refill it.

With precious commodities running low, Fritz went into survival mode. He reentered their badly damaged home, and carefully retrieved important personal papers, including the boys’ passports.

Fritz went to the American embassy in Port-au-Prince and was disheartened to find a long, long line. But because both of his sons had been born in the United States, Fritz was told to go to the airport to be airlifted out of Haiti.

Early the next morning they found themselves on a transport plane, unsure of where they were going. When they landed, they were in Orlando, Florida, which was providential. Just the previous day, Fritz had obtained a key for his father-in-law’s home in Orlando in case they somehow ended up there.

But Fritz knew they could not stay there long without money. He had kept some phone numbers of persons with whom he had worked in Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, with missions in Haiti. A friend of a former CAM worker helped the Jenaty family make contacts in Ohio.

Arrangements were made for Fritz and his family to ride the Pioneer Trails bus back to Holmes County. In addition, contacts with Save and Serve Thrift Store in Millersburg were established, an apartment found, and by the time Fritz and his family arrived in Berlin the next day, they had a place to stay amid the largest Amish population in the world.

Fritz and his family are permitted to stay for six months. He is filling in his time by volunteering at Save and Serve, which is taking donations to help buy food and living necessities for the family. Donations to assist Fritz and his family may be sent or delivered to Save and Serve, marked Haitian Relief, P.O. Box 128, Millersburg, OH  44654.

Knotting comforters for Haiti

comforters for Haiti
An Raber (L), Peggy Roth and Linda Yoder knot a comforter for people in Haiti. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Akron, PA had asked congregations to knot 10,000 comforters for people in Haiti to match the 10,000 donated by a Canadian business.
working on comforters
Caroll Roth (L), Paul Thomas and Sandy Miler ready a comforter to be knotted at Millersburg (OH) Mennonite Church.

Rushing home for the big snow

Our back porch
A foot of snow covered the bird feeders by our back porch.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I think I am just going to quit going to Florida in the winter. I know it sounds selfish of me. But I really think it’s the right thing to do.

First of all, I am not a big fan of the Sunshine State. When I have visited in the summer, it’s always been way too hot and sticky for my liking. My experiences in the winter haven’t been much better. Both times that I have sought a sunny, warm reprieve from the sting of winter in rural Ohio, I got burned, and I don’t mean sunburned.

In 2008, my wife and I flew to Florida in March, mainly to see a few Cleveland Indians baseball spring training games before they moved to Arizona. Near the end of our brief stay, a rare blizzard hit the mid-west, including our home area. The magnitude of the storm was so vast, so consequential that no commercial airlines were flying to Ohio. Our stay in Florida was extended for three days. But it wasn’t much of a reward because the weather turned cool and damp, keeping us inside.

Instead of being able to take advantage of walking a pristine beach or go birding, we spent a lot of time watching The Weather Channel. Their meteorologist reported live from downtown Cleveland, showing firsthand the effects of the blizzard. As strange as this may seem, I really wanted to be at home, not in Sarasota. Part of that desire was guilt. I am a township trustee and I felt duty bound to be home to help dig out.

But more than that, I love storms. Weather is one of my major hobbies. In addition to being a severe weather spotter, I also measure the snowfall for our area for the National Weather Service. And here we were getting more snow that we had had in a long time and I wasn’t there to experience it, much less send in my snow reports.

Last month, we had another chance to visit Florida. Good friends invited us to stay a week with them in a house they had rented in Sarasota. Neva and I needed a break since 2009 had been such a draining year for us with all the family health issues we had had, most notably my father’s illness and subsequent death. This trip, though, we decided to drive instead of fly. When we arrived, the weather was very nice, our friends even nicer. We settled in and began planning our week’s activities.

We did the beach thing, which allowed me to both walk and take pictures, yet two more hobbies. We visited a lovely state park where I learned a lot about Florida floral, fauna and local history. Here, again, I was able to photograph several species of birds and some rather large alligators.

The last part of our trip was to be spent in Savannah, Georgia, a city I had long wanted to visit. We managed a trolley tour of the lovely historic city before our plans changed. Once again, a major winter storm was brewing in the mid-west, and once again my wife and I were glued to The Weather Channel. I saw the track of the storm and its expected arrival time. I knew we had two choices. We could cut our stay short and drive straight home or stay an extra few days until the roads were cleared. You can guess what we decided.

We returned in time for me to have the distinct honor of sending in my mundane but necessary snow reports. We were home, and I was happy to be measuring this big snow.