Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year: How About July 32nd?

Last night my wife Linda asked me, "Whose bright idea was it to add an extra day to February in Leap Year?" We decided that if we were in charge of the calendar, we'd add that day in June, July, or August. Who would mind if there were a July 32nd? Not me! I'd have an extra day to swim at Mentor Headlands beach, to sail my boat off Fairport Harbor, to watch the Indians play ball at the Jake, or just to watch the sun go down over Lake Erie at Sims Park in Euclid.

In my mind, March 1st marks the beginning of the spring season (of course, this March 1st will be greeted with one to two feet of snow on the ground!). Adding a day to February seems cruel, unusual, and perverse. This must have been the work of New Zealanders, those upside-down people who celebrate summer during the winter!

Come on, Spring! We're waiting for your arrival!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Whiskey, Water, and Irsh-Gaelic

"Uisce beatha." For the past few years, I've been studying Irish-Gaelic [what we normally just call "Irish"] at the East-Side Irish-American Club in Euclid, Ohio. The Irish word for "water" is uisce, pronounced something like /ISH-kuh/. This is the source of the English word "whiskey." The actual Irish word for whiskey is uisce beatha, pronounced /ISH-kuh BAH-hah/, which literally means "water of life."

Irish is a very interesting and difficult language for most people. It has a very foreign feel to it at first, with sounds and rhythms so different from most varieties of English. The rules and exceptions are absolutely astonishing, and I will discuss that from time to time in this blog. These rules could only have been invented by some perverse . . . well, Irishmen and Women, probably as a puzzle to befuddle the Sasanach (the English), the speakers of Bearla (the English language). Most likely a pint or two was involved in this process, maybe some uisce beatha.

In Sligo town, in the northwest of Ireland, there are circular brass covers in the sidewalks that say something like "Sligeach Uisce" (Sligo Water), and a tricky Irishman told me that it was proof that whiskey was piped to every house in town. I will try to upload a photo of one of these.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Democratic Party (my party) & the Abortion Issue

Back around 1969, when I was a student at the University of Notre Dame, Professor Charles McCarthy [now a Byzantine-rite Catholic priest] told a small group of students sitting with him in the Huddle snack bar that support for legalized abortion was going to severely undermine the American political left and the peace movement. I was there that day, along with my good friend Chris Cotter, and neither of us has ever forgotten those prophetic words.

Recently I composed a letter that I planned to send to the Cleveland Plain Dealer on the issue of abortion. I tried to submit the letter electronically and it apparently didn't go through. So I thought I would post that letter here:

Dear Editor:

“I have been a Democrat all my life, but I’ve been somewhat unhappy with my party since 1896.” That was a famous line spoken by America’s great poet, Robert Frost, around 1960, when JFK was elected. Frost was elated at Kennedy’s election and read the poem “The Gift Outright” at his Inauguration.

I too have been unhappy with my party, especially on the issue of abortion. Some party leaders act as if all Democrats were pro-choice fanatics, when in reality almost all Democrats I know are very conflicted over this issue. Almost without exception they want the party to reflect their desires to make abortion availability restricted and to make abortion extremely rare.

Especially tragic for us Democrats is the intellectual and moral twisting we see when party leaders try to justify partial-birth abortion and similar outrages. This just gives fuel to the fake pro-life stance that the current version of Republicanism displays.

The Democratic Party must listen to its grass roots members and make room for us pro-life Democrats. We are the pro-life party; we are the party of compassion. And we are the party that must change course and support human life at every stage.


Bob Coughlin

[I located on the internet the following description of Fr. Charles McCarthy:

"Fr. Charles McCarthy, a priest of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church, is acting rector of St. George Byzantine Catholic Seminary. A cofounder of Pax Christi USA, Fr. McCarthy has been a retreat director for thirty years. The healing of his daughter, Benedicta, was the official miracle in the canonization of Saint Edith Stein."]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Late-February Snowstorm

This morning began with ominous predictions about today's snowfall--possibly 12 inches in our area. The snow is very beautiful right now, coating all the trees and bushes. The opening photo on my blog features me aboard my Sea Ray with a late August sun setting over Lake Erie. My friend Micki thought that image was a bit misleading when we are in the midst of a snowstorm! She offered the photo to the right to give a more accurate impression of what's going on right now. Thanks, Micki!

Frozen Lake Erie

Lake Erie is frozen as far as the eye can see right now. Farther than the eye can see, there are open areas in the lake; it very rarely freezes over totally. There is an awesome silence out on the lake's ice; you feel as if you were in a desert or a wilderness. The snow sweeps across the silent ice and you have a sense of holiness and prayer. Years ago I wrote a poem about the frozen lake:

"Lake Erie--Frozen Solid"

the awesome sight--huge
pressure domes of ice
heaved into ridges
chaotic frozen waves
far as the eye can see
wondrous powerful lake

I could walk to Canada
if I had the imagination.

This poem began in my mind as a description of Lake Erie in winter and ended up being a poem about the power of imagination. That is the thing about the creative process--it often surprises you, takes you in unexpected directions.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lake Effect in the Lake Erie Snowbelt

110 to 150 inches of snow each season--that's what we get in the Northeast Ohio snowbelt, especially in Chardon, Hambden, Munson, Montville, Thompson, Chester, Leroy, and Madison Townships. We also get sometimes spectacular and other times dreary, endless cloudiness about 7 months of the year. The snow and the clouds are generated by Lake Erie, our local Wonder of the World, the 11th largest freshwater lake on earth. The snowbelt is a rather narrow band of territory east of Cleveland. It begins on Cleveland's far East Side and extends south and east to parts of Cuyahoga County, all of Lake County and Geauga County, and the northern half of Ashtabula County. It's possible to have no snow and sunny skies in Westlake, Avon Lake, or Bay Village, and blizzard-like conditions and two feet of snow on the ground 35 or 40 miles east in our snowbelt.

We snowbelters tend to take a perverse pride in our perverse weather (of course we complain about it at the same time!). I will talk about our "Lake Effect" in another posting.