Sunday, December 26, 2010
This poem by Howard Thurman that I saw on a Christmas card describes what needs to happen next:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
This is the week to think about how to do all, or some, or one of the above. It's that bridge week, seven days between the old year and the new, between what we promised to do and what we plan to do better.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
By Frank O’Malley
Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.
Dartle whitely under the hearth-fire,
Unwind the wind, turn the thunderer,
And never , never thinning,
Flare up smartly, fix, flex, bless, inspire,
Instar the time, sear the sorcerer,
And never, never sparing,
Save all year.
Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.
(Frank O’Malley was a beloved English Professor at the University of Notre Dame)
The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and
fears as real and as organized as the swirl
of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
seems to last forever:
I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
and the minute after that,
and the minute after that,
wonder if I can make it
until hope returns
as mysterious as winter solstice fear--
my heart standing still, turning cold,
my spirit abandoned--
until peace returns like grace like unexpected
Robert M. Coughlin
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
My brothers Denny, Kevin, and Jim, and my sister Mary Ellen, and all Mom's grandchildren, relatives, and friends cannot put into words what she meant to us. I wish my Dad were still alive so that he could express what she meant to him. Mom was not famous, her outward accomplishments were modest--but to our lives and our hearts, she was central, most important, most beloved. She gave us her unconditional love, her happy Irish spirit, her love for family, her love for life--she gave us everything important. It is my deepest wish that we can share in that vibrant, living spirit, pass it on to our children and grandchildren, our friends and acquaintances.
Thanks, Mom. We forever bless you and you forever bless us!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
One of my students is writing a short research paper on the impact of this recession. She told me that she had been laid off from a $70,000/year job--making torpedoes at a Greater Cleveland Westinghouse factory. She said to me, "I can't even find a $10.00 per hour job now!" If she could find a full-time job paying 10 bucks per hour, she would make about $20,000/year. Of course, there aren't many jobs like that because employers who pay such slave wages try to keep you under full-time so that they don't have to pay any benefits. This woman has returned to our community college to retrain. She is in her 40's and finding it very difficult.
Talk about hitting a brick wall! From a good full-time salary with benefits, vacation, and health care . . . to zilch, nada, nothing. Imagine the blow to one's family and one's self-esteem, not to mention one's mortgage, credit card bills, and just the everyday needs of living.
Another story I heard yesterday: a man in his 40's from Ashtabula, Ohio, with 3 kids (9, 7, and 5 months) was laid off from his job as a trash collector (yes, even the trash companies are laying off!). He has lost his job and now his house is being foreclosed. I know this hard-working fellow. What is he going to do?
One of my close relatives has narrowly avoided a foreclosure with a "short" sale of his home. He lost his house, but, thank God, has landed on his feet. We were not going to let him and his family be destroyed and left homeless. We will take care of our family and friends.
But what of those who are not close family or friends? What happens to them? And what happens when a problem is so big that even if we want to help we can't? I think of two of my old friends from Euclid--brilliant people with college degrees and significant skills. They both have been laid off from jobs more than once and live almost hand to mouth with gigantic chronic health problems (serious type-1 diabetes and its side-effects). They live off of multiple part-time jobs, no benefits, no health care. They work harder than most people with full-time jobs.
Our society is failing, and there will be hell to pay!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I think of this because today one of my daughters is visiting Madison, Wisconsin, location of the University of Wisconsin--one of America's great universities and one of the great college towns. People sometimes say that college life is not reality. But it is a version of reality (there are many many realities!), and the best version I know. Imagine a peaceful environment where people are devoted to learning and growth, tolerance and fun. Where all varieties of the arts flourish. Where you don't have to be embarrassed about loving ideas and books and the intellectual life. Where peace and dialogue flourish. Where people strive for a kind of communal life (or community life, if you will).
Who wouldn't want to live in this version of reality! I celebrate all the great college campuses and college towns: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin. And in my own state of Ohio, Athens; Oxford; Oberlin. And so many more!
Monday, November 22, 2010
We left school as stunned as if our Dad had died. For us Irish Catholics especially, this was the saddest, most traumatic day of our lives.
I still pray for Jack Kennedy, for ourselves, for our Country.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Unfortunately, my daughter's health insurance coverage ends in less than two weeks--because her job is ending. Luckily, one of the provisions of the health care reform passed last year allows her to be covered by my health insurance--at least until next summer when she turns 26. Then, who knows what will happen!
I know many people who do not have health insurance. They're in a precarious position, that's for sure. They have to pray that they don't ever have a serious injury or serious illness. Something as common as a broken leg would be a financial disaster for them. I sure hope that the incoming congress doesn't overturn the new health care law; this law at least begins the process of expanding health care to the uninsured. And the uninsured are our children, our friends, our family members--maybe ourselves.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I had the good luck to watch Mickey Mantle, both on television and live at Cleveland Municipal Stadium during the 1950's and 1960's. I loved the mix of power and speed, his seemingly easy grace as an athlete. I'll never forget one day watching how he dragged a bunt with two strikes on him--and beat it out for a base hit. As a reader of this biography, I'm amazed at his infantilism and his dissipation (and that of his friends and teammates, especially Billy Martin, Whitey Ford, and Hank Bauer). Their abuse of alcohol, and of women, is truly astonishing. We never had a whisper of this as we watched these boys play baseball so long ago. Mickey Mantle was one of the greatest baseball players in history. I was not much aware of him in his great year of 1956. But I was acutely aware of him in 1961, the year he and Roger Maris chased Babe Ruth's home run record; and 1962, when Mickey Mantle was MVP and Player of the Year.
Clevelanders were supposed to be Yankee haters, but I loved those great athletes: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Ryne Duren, and their great manager, Casey Stengel.
Oddly, these were not the best players I ever watched. I lived in Cincinnati during the Big Red Machine years of the 1970's and saw Johnny Bench, baseball's greatest catcher, Joe Morgan, the best second baseman, and Pete Rose, the most intense competitor in baseball history. I watched the other great players on that team, including David Concepcion, Ken Griffey (Sr.), George Foster, Tony Perez, Tom Seaver--and their great manager, Sparky Anderson, who just passed away.
In my infancy and childhood in Cleveland, we had one of the greatest pitching staffs in baseball history, with Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Herb Score, and Satchel Paige. We had the great Lou Boudreau at shortstop (and as player-manager); we had Bobby Avila, Larry Doby, Minnie Minoso, Rocky Colavito, Vic Power, and so many other great players.
In the 1990's Cleveland had another great era of baseball. When did a team ever have hitters like Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, and Eddie Murray? A Murderer's Row to give the 1927 Yankees a run for their money. We had the greatest shortstop of his era, Omar Vizquel. For a while we had Dennis Martinez and Orel Hershiser on the mound, Jose Mesa as the closer. And we had a level of journeymen ballplayers hard to match. This team won their division many times and went twice to the World Series, losing to the Braves in 1995, and to the Marlins in 1997 (if I remember correctly, coming within an out of the championship that year).
Mickey Mantle was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, but I will match him up with the 1995 edition of Albert Belle any time. Belle was said to be a nasty person. Maybe true, I don't know. But he was a great great hitter. His fete of 50 homers and 50 doubles in 1995 has never been matched--not even by Barry Bonds. For a while, Albert Belle was the best hitter in baseball. Must have been like Babe Ruth of 1927 or Mickey Mantle of 1956 or 1962.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I remember that 35 years ago we had a wicked November Midwest "hurricane" that caused the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. Who can forget the hypnotic rhythm of Gordon Lightfoot's great song--a song that resonated in Cleveland--and still resonates.
Fourteen years ago, from November 10-14, 1996, while my house was being built in Hambden Township, almost 6 feet of lake-effect snow fell.
Around here, we know what's coming!
We know what's coming!
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The only two close relatives still living who were veterans of the Second World War are my Uncle Bill Coughlin, one of the greatest men I've ever known, and my second cousin (and close friend of my Dad), Tom Quinn. Uncle Bill will be 87 years old in three days; Tom Quinn must be around 88.
Many of my uncles served in World War II, including Fran (Connie) Coughlin, Jack Coughlin, Bill Brock, Dick Fitzpatrick, and his twin brother Don Fitzpatrick. Some of these men came back psychologically wounded by that terrible war.
I can't imagine how my Grampa Connie Coughlin and Gramma Cora Coughlin managed with their 4 boys at war over seas. I can't imagine the worry, the anxiety, the endless prayers. All of them came back alive; two of them were psychologically damaged, and took those wounds to their early deaths.
We honor my Dad, my Father-in-law, my uncles, and my cousin Tom Quinn for their service to our country and to world freedom.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
No, I don't doubt their existence. I have even caught fleeting glances of these enormous-headed "people," flitting from tree to tree in the deep woods along a branch of the Chagrin River. These restless souls, these creations of the evil Dr. Crowe, never at peace, wandering the woods--and scaring the bejeebers out of everyone in the area!
Be careful, my friend. Keep clear of the Melonheads of Kirtland-Chardon on this wicked holiday!
Friday, October 29, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Was wirst du tun, Gott, wenn ich sterbe?
Was wirst du tun, Gott, wenn ich sterbe?
Ich bin dein Krug (wenn ich zerscherbe?)
Ich bin dein Trank (wenn ich verderbe?)
Bin dein Gewand und dein Gewerbe,
mit mir verlierst du deinen Sinn.
Nach mir hast du kein Haus, darin
dich Worte, nah und warm, begrüßen.
Es fällt von deinen müden Füßen
die Samtsandale, die ich bin.
Dein großer Mantel lässt dich los.
Dein Blick, den ich mit meiner Wange
warm, wie mit einem Pfühl, empfange,
wird kommen, wird mich suchen, lange -
und legt beim Sonnenuntergange
sich fremden Steinen in den Schoß.
Was wirst du tun, Gott? Ich bin bange.
Here is an English translation:
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your pitcher: I will shatter.
I am your drink: I will spoil.
I am your raiment and your trade:
without me you will lose all meaning.
After my death, you will have
no house where kind words
wrap you. The velvet slippers
will fall from your tired feet.
Your long cloak will release you.
Your glance, used to the cushion
of my warm cheek, will go out looking
for me and, when the sun goes down,
will lie in the lap of strange rocks.
What will you do, God? I'm anxious.
This isn't a terrible translation, but it sure loses the powerful magic, rhyme, and pacing of the German! Who would have thought German could be so beautiful!
Then I will sing a song in Irish Gaelic, An Ghaoth Aneas, "The Southwind." I have put the approximate pronunciation of each line between slashes (/):
An Ghaoth Aneas
An ghaoth aneas na mbraon mbog glas /un GHEE uh-NAHS nah MRANE mug glahs/
A ní gach faiche féarmhar /ah NEE gakh FEKH-uh FAIR-wahr/
Beir iasc is eas is grian I dteas /bare EE-usk iss AHS iss GREE-uhn ih DYAHS/
Is líon is meas ar ghéagaibh. /iss LEEN iss MAHS er YAYE-geeve/
Más síos ar fad a bhím féin seal /mahs SHEES er FAHD ah VEEM fane shahl/
Is mianach leatsa séideadh /iss MEE-uh-nakh LAHT-suh SHAY-duh/
Cuirim Rí na bhFeart dod chaomhaint ar neart /KREEM ree na vahrt d’ KHEENCH ernahrt/
Is tabhair don tír seo blas do bhéilse./iss taur don TYEER shuh blahs d’ VALE-shuh/
An English Translation (not word-for-word)
Dear South Wind of the soft green drops
Make every pasture sweet and grassy
Bring the salmon leaping up the falls
Bring the heat of the sun
Leave every branch laden with fruit
And when at times my spirit is low
It's your breath revives me
I pray that Almighty God may keep you strong
That you may always bring to this land
The taste of your mouth.
For a nice Youtube performance, go to
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Last night, around 11:30 PM, I watched as the first miner, Florencio Ávalos, emerged from the San Jose mine, about 45 kilometers from the Chilean city of Copiapó, the middle of the Atacama Desert (the driest desert on earth). This miner had been underground 69 days, and it took about 16 minutes riding in the rescue capsule, Fénix (Phoenix), to go the 2000 feet or so from the mine to the surface.
Then this morning, maybe around 7 AM Cleveland time, I saw the 9th miner, Mario Gómez, age 63, emerge from the capsule onto the surface of the earth (photo above). He embraced his wife and some of the rescuers, then knelt on the ground and prayed. I couldn't hear his prayer and probably would have understood only part of it. In my imagination, I heard him say the words of the Magnificat, in Spanish, his mother tongue:
ALEGRÍA DEL ALMA EN EL SEÑOR
Proclama mi alma la grandeza del Señor,
se alegra mi espíritu en Dios, mi salvador;
porque ha mirado la humillación de su esclava.
Desde ahora me felicitarán todas las generaciones,
porque el Poderoso ha hecho obras grandes por mí:
su nombre es santo,
y su misericordia llega a sus fieles
de generación en generación.
El hace proezas con su brazo:
dispersa a los soberbios de corazón,
derriba del trono a los poderosos
y enaltece a los humildes,
a los hambrientos los colma de bienes
y a los ricos los despide vacíos.
Auxilia a Israel, su siervo,
acordándose de la misericordia
-como lo había prometido a nuestros padres-
en favor de Abrahán y su descendencia por siempre.
(Lucas 1, 46-55)
This rescue is one of the greatest, most astonishing things I have witnessed in my lifetime. Praise the Lord! Deo Gratias!
Friday, October 8, 2010
Many soldiers are still in immanent danger in Iraq and Afghanistan. And thousands of others continue to suffer the aftereffects of the war via PTSD, nightmares, addictions, and other physical and psychic injuries. Our prayers are with them!
Here is a link to John Delaney's obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bucyrustelegraphforum/obituary.aspx?n=john-delaney&pid=145853119
It seems he was not the co-driver when Michelle Zarfemba was wounded; he drove with Michelle after that incident.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Mike was a proud Croation-American, from the Painesville, Ohio area (Leroy Township, to be exact). He grew up about 20-25 miles from my home in Euclid, Ohio. If you visit Leroy, you will pass Celizic Road, named for his family, and Capp's Tavern, formerly owned by his family. About five miles north is St. Mary's School, where Mike got his grade school education, and Riverside High School, where he played football and got a solid base for his education at the University of Notre Dame (that's where I met him). Not far from St. Mary's and Riverside were the offices of the Painesville Telegraph, Mike's first job after college, where the stage was set for his illustrious career in journalism. I'm guessing there are many friends and relatives in the Painseville/Greater Cleveland area in mourning today with the news of Mike's passing.
Mike wrote some seven books (how he did this in addition to his regular journalism activities I don't know). My daughters all read "Rudy's Rules," co-authored by Mike and Rudy Ruettiger, the famous Notre Dame walk-on football player (and now motivational speaker). My favorite book of Mike's was "The Biggest Game of Them All: Notre Dame, Michigan State, and the Fall of 1966."
Mike is in the Painseville/Riverside Hall of Fame (I nominated him and helped induct him).
There is a beautiful obituary of him at the following site:
Rest in Peace, Mike.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
As a Dad, I glory in the stories and photos that have come back our way to Northeast Ohio. I love that her food and mail come via mule train. I love the way these seven young people have learned to live and work together. They have done such good work in the Wilderness, a service to the state of Montana, the United States of America, and even Planet Earth itself. Presuming to speak for all these entities, I'll say, "Thank You!"
In the beginning of my daughter's MCC adventure, I worried about grizzly bears, mountain lions, black bears, grey wolves, and all the wild things that can potentially harm a person living in the wilderness. Turns out that they haven't had many encounters with dangerous wild animals, and when they see one they feel lucky, blessed. Carolan and her companions won't forget that rare glimpse of a grizzly browsing along Strawberry Creek. So I have stopped worrying so much about bears and mountain lions (still worry a little, I admit).
I've also worried a bit about their health. Say they broke a leg two days from help; or someone suffered a burst appendix or a thousand other health emergencies, big and little. So far they have escaped major medical problems. But I'm sure they've lived with a lot of minor problems, colds, headaches, sore throats, stomach aches, etc. These guys are tough hombres, who can't run to the medicine cabinet or doctor for every complaint.
Every day I check the weather in Carolan's vicinity, using the Weather Underground website. Of course there usually isn't a weather station right nearby, so I end up researching the weather in Hungry Horse or East Glacier Park or Choteau or someplace like that. I've noticed that fall is approaching in the Montana mountains and that night temperatures are often in the 30's (and these guys are usually in tents!). I guess the next hitch they will be sleeping at Spotted Bear, in cabins. On actual mattresses, for God's sake!
Another thing I do is study maps and handbooks about trails in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. I also use Google to find images near where her crew works. I've even located some videos on Youtube that help me picture their work and living environment (there are several videos of small planes landing at the Schafer Meadows airstrip). I do other things, like check in with the MCC Krew blog, http://mcckrew.blogpost.com/ (which I think is so interesting and wonderful that it should be published as a book), and go to the Glacier National Park website and look at their many webcams. These images are not exactly what Carolan is experiencing, but she is not far away from these places.
My wife and I have discovered two mystery novels set in The Bob, near Schafer Meadows. One story, by Beth Hodder, is called The Ghost of Schafer Meadows; the other, just out, is called Stealing the Wild. Beth and her husband worked for the Forest Service for many years, living at Schafer Meadows and working throughout The Bob and know this landscape intimately. These books have also helped us understand my daughter and her crew's working and living environment. In a strange coincidence, we have discovered that Beth Hodder and I both grew up in Euclid, Ohio, and graduated from high school the same year. The website for her books is: http://www.grizzlyridgepublishing.com/.
So I have vicariously followed the adventures of Carolan and Adam's wilderness crew. And once this summer my wife Linda and I were able to visit the MCC office in Kalispell and then actually meet up with Carolan for a day at Glacier National Park.
All in all it has been great fun, a wonderful trip!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
A joyous celebration took place yesterday at my cousin Jackie Coughlin's house in Mentor, Ohio. We celebrated Aunt Kay Coughlin's birthday (LXXXIII) and Uncle Bill's restored health.
Friday, August 27, 2010
(for Colin Jude, born August 18, 2010,
and for Ed and Julia)
Enjoy these first slow days and weeks
With this precious new baby. Rock him
In the waning days of summer out on the deck,
Down by the lake. No other tasks as important
As holding this baby to your heart,
Talking to him, cooing in his ear,
Watching him breathe, watching him sleep.
These days won’t come again, won’t last long.
Sing a song to him, a lullaby, enjoy these sacred
Slow days with the new baby.
“Grampa” Bob Coughlin, August 27, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
We really got to know each other in the summer of 1967 as students in the Salzburg Sommerschule, 5 or 6 weeks of immersion in German language and Austrian life; and then in the intense year that followed at the University of Innsbruck. We shared this experience with 35 other guys--wonderful guys who became life-long friends. We know enough about each other to qualify for sainthood or waterboarding. It's not a stretch to say that the Notre Dame Innsbruckers grew to love each other in Salzburg and Innsbruck.
So my heart broke with this news from Mike.
Mike is a renowned and honored journalist, who began his career in 1970 with the Painesville Telegraph. At the Telegraph he did everything! I think he probably even cleaned up in the evening. One of his more important gigs was as a sports writer for the Bergen Record, a major paper out of the Hackensack, New Jersey area. He will end his career as a writer for msnbc.com, an author of about 7 books on sports, and a blogger of some stunning articles documenting his own illness and facing his own mortality. . . . .[more coming very soon]
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Meanwhile, as we await the birth, we pray for Julia, Ed, and the new baby:
Keep them, Lord, like the apple of your eye.
Shelter them under the shadow of your wings!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
An tSeanmóir ar an Sliabh: Na Biáide
Nuair a chonaic sé na sluaite, chuaigh sé an sliabh suas. Shuigh sé síos agus tháinig a
dheisceabail chuige. 2Thosaigh sé ag caint leo á dteagasc agus dúirt:
3 “Is méanar dóibh seo atá bocht ó spiorad, óir is leo ríocht na bhflaitheas.
4 “Is méanar do lucht an dobróin, óir sólásófar iad.
5 “Is méanar dóibh seo atá ceansa, óir gheobhaidh siad an talamh mar oidhreacht.
6 “Is méanar dóibh seo a bhfuil ocras agus tart chun na fíréantachta orthu, óir sásófar
7 “Is méanar do lucht na trócaire, óir déanfar trócaire orthu.
8 “Is méanar dóibh seo atá glan ó chroí, óir feicfidh siad Dia.
9 “Is méanar do lucht síochána a dhéanamh, óir glaofar clann Dé orthu.
10 “Is méanar dóibh seo a d’fhulaing géarleanúint mar gheall ar an bhfíréantacht, óir is
leo ríocht na bhflaitheas.
11 “Is méanar daoibh féin nuair a thabharfar aithis daoibh agus a ghéarleanfar sibh, agus
nuair a chuirfear gach sórt drochrud in bhur leith go bréagach mar gheall ormsa.
12 “Bíodh áthas oraibh agus gairdeas, mar is mór é bhur dtuarastal ar neamh; óir is mar
sin a rinneadh géarleanúint ar na fáithe a chuaigh romhaibh.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I think you can also click on the title of this blog entry to get to the Irish language site.
Friday, July 30, 2010
I have read estimates that there are about 1000 to 1500 grizzly bears in the contiguous lower 48 United States and they can be found in the wild in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington (some claim they exist in Colorado, too). Maybe 750 of these bear are in the Northern Continental Divide area (which would include Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex). I believe Glacier is about a million acres in size and the Bob Complex about 1.5 million acres. So maybe there are 750 grizzlies in those 2.5 million acres; that would be about 4000 square miles. If my rough calculations are anywhere in the ballpark, that sounds like about 5 square miles per grizzly bear. In other words, your chances of encountering a grizzly in Glacier or the Bob Marshall are slim indeed--but not impossible. My daughter saw a grizzly near Strawberry Creek in the Bob Marshall, where she and her crew were doing trail maintenance for the Montana Conservation Corps. She viewed the sighting of this bear as a privilege indeed.
Do you need to be afraid of grizzlies? Hell yea! Grizzlies are huge bears (those in Alaska who feed on salmon become gigantic). But even in Montana, they are big enough, with females around 300 pounds and males much larger. They have very long claws and powerful legs; they can outrun any human; they can outswim humans; and they can climb trees (though probably not with the facility of black bears). If you want to read about how unstoppable grizzlies are, read the journals of Lewis and Clark (see Stephen Ambrose's book Undaunted Courage). As Meriwether Lewis found out, a gun is no guarantee for your safety in the face of an angry grizzly.
The scientific name for a grizzly bear is ursus arctos horribilis. The term "grizzly" actually means "grey-colored." The grizzly is actually a subspecies of brown bear that often has a grey tinge to the thick fur. I, with my grey beard, could actually be called "Grizzly Bob."
I have translated the term "Grizzly Bear" into Irish-Gaelic as Béar Mór Uafásach (you could also call it something like Béar Bricliath—the second word here implies half-grizzled, gray-colored). The other Irish expression means bear + big + terrible, that is, "big terrible bear." The big terrible bear is a big wonderful bear, and a characteristic sign of a healthy wilderness. It is good luck to spot a grizzly--at least most of the time!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Our journey back from Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness was a rather odd one--it took us to Spokane, Washington, where we boarded a plane for Seattle, where we boarded a plane for Minneapolis, and then on to Cleveland. Seattle was covered with clouds and we didn't see much at first. But as we rose above the clouds, the most incredible sight appeared to us--the great Cascade Mountains, and the miraculous Mt. Rainier. At 14, 411 feet it towers above the world, and on a clear day, is easily seen from Seattle, some 50 miles away.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Carolan sent me a disposable camera filled with photos taken during her work for the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) and AmeriCorps. I don't know exactly what I'm looking at in all these photos, but I will make my guesses:
Kyrie ("Lord Have Mercy"):
A Thiarna, déan trócaire
A Críost, déan trócaire
A Thiarna, déan trócaire
Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God"):
A Uan Dé, a thógas peacaí an domhain, déan trócaire 'rainn*
A Uan Dé, a thógas peacaí an domhain, déan trócaire 'rainn*
A Uan Dé, a thógas peacaí an domhain, tabhair duinn siocháin
Sanctus et Benedictus ("Holy, Holy, Holy"):
Is naofa, naofa, naofa thú, a Thiarna, Dia na Slua. Tá neamh agus talamh lán de do ghlóir. Hósanna sna harda. Is beannaithe 'n té 'tá ag teacht in ainm an Tiarna. Hósanna sna harda.
* this is "orainn," but it gets elided into the final vowel sound of "trócaire."
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The peaks in the background are probably on the Continental Divide and are about 9000 feet in altitude. There are still some small glaciers on these peaks (though the weather in recent years has caused them to shrink). We took the park's shuttle bus up Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass, which is at 6600 feet, and there was still considerable snow at that elevation. I'm glad I left the driving to professionals on this famous road. I found the drive scary indeed, with no guardrails and drops of hundreds or thousands of feet if you went over the edge. Heck, in Ohio there would be flashing caution lights and guardrails if there was even the slightest chance you could slip off the road into an Ohio-sized creek or ravine. Here they say "Good Luck" as you drive unguarded by 2000 foot cliffs!
Friday, July 23, 2010
The clip above stars Carolan Coughlin, on a short break from her job with the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC), and Linda Coughlin, on hiatus from St. Mary's School, Chardon. Videographer and narrator, Bob Coughlin. This is the "Sacred Dancing Cascade," on McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park. The namer of the cascade was a poet indeed!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I hope Carolan is not hiking alone--but she might be. Whatever, she's probably chanting a song to warn bears of her approach: "Hey, Bear! O Bear!"--over and over along the trail. Last week Carolan saw here first Grizzly Bear--in the Strawberry Creek area, not far from the Continental Divide. Luckily the bear heard her coming and went the other way! In this great wilderness, the grizzly bears are not alone; there are black bears, lynx, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, deer, elk, and many other smaller species of mammals and birds. This is their kingdom, one of the few places in the lower 48 states where all the original predators are present. The Bob Marshall Wilderness, and adjacent Glacier National Park, are the great treasures of the United States, North America, and indeed the world.
This evening Carolan will be back with her co-leader, Adam, and her 5-person crew, Carolan is coming laden with "civilized" goodies bought in Kalispell, items the crew members begged for.
Today I read a wonderful blog entry by one of Carolan's crew, Lemmy, that can be viewed at this site: http://mcckrew.blogspot.com/. The entry is dated Friday, July 16, 2010 and is entitled "It's called an 'Immersion Crew'"--by Lemmy Breault. Lemmy captures the feel of the work in the wilderness and the personalities of the crew. The blog entry also has photos of Sabido Cabin near Strawberry Creek and Buffalo Rock, as well as pictures of the crew members.
Carolan has mentioned a common phrase used by workers and visitors to the Bob Marshall Wilderness: "Respect the Bob." Of course I love this phrase because of my own first name. Still, it's worth saying again: Respect the Bob, Love the Bob, Thank God for the Bob!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
After the mass I introduced myself to Sally. I asked about her sister Pat, and found out that she had died around 2003, when my own Mother died. She also told me her sister Marge Moore had died. Sally and her sibling are related to my Mom in this way: their mother was a Sullivan (from Brownhelm Township in Lorain County); and my Mom's mother, Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick, was her sister. The Sullivan girls all died fairly young. My grandmother died in 1940 at the age of 55, probably of blood pressure-related illnesses (easily treated in our day). I was born 8 years after her death.
When Sally looked at me and talked to me, she said that I had my grandfather John Fitzpatrick's "gene" (as she put it). I'm guessing that she was talking about some aspect of physical appearance. I had never ever heard anyone mention this connection to my grandfather. Alas, I don't remember John Fitzpatrick--he died in 1949 when I was a baby. My Mom did tell me that John had held me. So I have this tenuous connection to my maternal grandfather--and, in the eyes of Sally Kearns, I have his "gene." I hope I also have a little bit of the Sullivan sweetness, so clearly seen in my Mom and her siblings. Sally said that I do have that--but of course she can't know that for sure.
With Sally at the funeral mass was her niece, Mike Moore ( I think her given name is Mary Michelle, but she goes by Mike). Mike is the daughter of Marge Kearns Moore. Amazingly, she lives about a block from where I lived the first three years of my life--near Lake Shore Boulevard and Lost Nation Boulevard in Willoughby, Ohio.
There was one other Sullivan who lived in that neighborhood--Uncle Ed Sullivan (and his wife Helen Sullivan, and children Mary Ellen, Sally, John, and Mike). Ed was actually my maternal grandmother's baby brother, and was my great uncle. Sally Sullivan Silvaroli lives in Willoughby, Ohio; I had her son Joe in class some years ago. My sister Mary Ellen was named after Mary Ellen Sullivan. I've heard that John and Mike own the Mrs. Weiss' noodle soup company, located in Lorain County.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I located Lois Cherry Goldy's obituary online, at this address: http://www.news-herald.com/articles/2009/08/26/obituaries/nh1347976.txt
The obit mentioned that Lois' funeral was held August 28, 2009 at St. Mary's in Painesville; that she was born January 31, 1927, in Cleveland to Earl Cherry and Sara Sullivan Cherry. Sara Sullivan was my Mom's aunt and my Grandmother Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick's sister.
Lois went to Villa Angela Academy in Cleveland (my Mom went there briefly before transferring to Notre Dame Academy on Ansel Road in Cleveland. Lois was married 3 years after my Mom and Dad were married--to Carl T. Goldy. They were married in Cleveland then moved to Painesville. They were married 50 years before Carl passed away. The obit states that she enjoyed playing bocce, and was "an avid seamstress, making more than 100 afghans for family and friends." Also--"she enjoyed the Cleveland Indians, bowling, cats, and especially adored her grandchildren."
Lois is survived by her sons Tim and Tom; daughter Jane; five grandchildren; her brother Richard; and many nieces, nephews, and other relatives.
So this link to my Mom is gone, and the opportunity to talk to Lois and ask her about growing up in the Euclid Beach area of Cleveland is gone. Requiescat in Pace, Lois.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
My daughter Carolan, her co-leader Adam, and their crew are now in the Strawberry Creek area of the Flathead National Forest (Great Bear Wilderness/Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex). She is there working for the Montana Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps. This is one of the wildest places in the continental United States. Carolan, Adam, and her crew will be doing trail building and maintenance--I think on the Continental Divide Trail, which runs near Strawberry Creek in this part of Montana.
Last year or the year before, a local fellow, Shane Wohlken of Burton, Ohio (Geauga County), walked the trail from Canada to Mexico--an astonishing accomplishment. He has given me permission to post some of the photos taken by him or his hiking companion. The three photos above were taken near this Strawberry Creek/Continental Divide Trail. Thanks Shane!
Monday, June 21, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I've cut and pasted the link below:
Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2010 - 08:50 am:
Videos of the poems on the Leaving Cert course. Read either by the poet or another poet (if the poet is deceased).
Well it was Sunday bloody Sunday
When they shot the people there
The cries of thirteen martyrs
Filled the Free Derry air
Is there any one amongst you
Dare to blame it on the kids?
Not a soldier boy was bleeding
When they nailed the coffin lids!—John Lennon and Yoko Ono "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
And lines from a U-2 song:
And the battle's just begun
There's many lost, but tell me who has won?
The trenches dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Sunday, bloody Sunday.
Sunday, bloody Sunday.
—U2 "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
Brian Freel, the great Irish playwright, wrote The Freedom of the City; and Paul McCartney (like John Lennon, also of Irish heritage), wrote the song "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." Many other artists memorialized this tragedy in their work.
The truth will out, and slowly but surely, justice will be done.
Níor bhain úsaid astu.
This is Ernest Hemingway’s short-short story: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.” --Translated by Paul Curran, my friend and Irish language teacher. We have an Irish language study group at the Irish-American Club East Side--in Euclid, Ohio, every Wednesday evening, 7-9 PM. We meet in the basement of the Club.
Paul uses a rather uncommon word for "baby" here. More common might be "leanbh," which is pronounced something like /LAHN-uv/. The entire story is pronounced approximately: BROH-guh nah BUN-oak ah YEE-ull. NEER whahn OO-sahj AH-stoo.
I guess Paul Curran would own the copyright on this translation. And the blame for it if it's incorrect!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Very soon, Carolan will move on to the Schafer Meadows Ranger Station, which is a day's walk (a long, hard day's walk!) from a road. But even that's not her final destination. From there, she goes even further into the wild--a 20-mile hike to the Strawberry Creek area, where a segment of the Continental Divide Trail is located. CC will be building and maintaining that trail, along with her fellow crew leader Adam and her crew (3 guys and a girl).
I greatly admire CC and her colleagues--so brave, adventurous. So full of strength, energy, and hope. Hurray for the Montana Conservation Corps! Hurray for AmeriCorps!
Friday, June 11, 2010
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and Holy is His Name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, His servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as He spoke to our fathers -
to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
I prefer this older translation of the Magnificat. I hope I can maintain "the attitude of gratitude" present in this beautiful prayer--something my mother was able to do right up to her death. Many of the lines above apply only to Mary, Jesus' mother. But many of the lines speak to me--and to all of us.
St. Robert, pray for us.
St. Michael, pray for us.
St. Patrick, pray for us.
Lieber Gott, erbarme Dich unser!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
"One Spirit, One Church"
(by Kevin Keil and Maryanne Quinlivan, OSU)
We are a pilgrim people,
we are the Church of God.
A family of believers,
disciples of the Lord.
United in one spirit,
ignited by the fire.
Still burning through the ages,
still present in our lives.
1. Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up thy rest;
come with thy grace and heav’nly aid
to fill the hearts which thou hast made.
2. O Comforter, to thee we cry,
thou gift of God sent from on high.
Thou font of life and fire of love,
the soul’s anointing from above."
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland on February 2, 1882, and died in Zurich, Switzerland on January 13, 1941. Joyce is often acclaimed as one of the greatest writers of his era, but his two most famous books, Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake, are rarely read. A collection of short stories, The Dubliners, might be more accessible and more widely read than his two monumental works.
I've been reading a biography of James Joyce by Richard Ellman; it could have been titled "More Than You Wanted to Know about James Joyce." I have written a biography (co-authored with Judy Bechtel Blackburn, Building the Beloved Community: Maurice McCrackin's Life for Peace and Civil Rights), so I have some sense of the work involved. Ellman's work is a quantum leap beyond our book in the detail of Joyce's life and writings. I can't imagine how Ellman found out so much! Let's just say that this is a brilliant and fascinating work, and has increased my understanding of James Joyce tremendously. [more coming]
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I heard her sing at noon today on Dee Perry's show on 90.3 FM. I wept while driving my car as she sang a traditional Irish tune. One of the greatest gifts on earth is a beautiful voice singing a beautiful song--and that's what you get from the great Karan Casey!
I have Casey's latest CD, Ships in the Forest. On that CD she sings an old Joni Mitchell song, "The Fiddle and the Drum." How could this song ever be sung more poignantly, more beautifully?
Sunday, May 16, 2010
I clearly remember Frank and his father in our Euclid neighborhood. The family lived on Gary Avenue, between E. 266th Street and E. 272nd in the little bungalow homes built by Marvin Helf. These homes were constructed beginning around 1951 and first sold for around $11,900, give or take.
This was an amazingly mixed neighborhood. I would guess that mostly there were young families there--many of the dads were former GI's, back from World War II. A lot of the moms were stay-at-home housewives, with lots and lots of children. Probably 60 % of the residents of our neighborhood were Catholic (and as I think about it, all were white). There were some Jews in the neighbborhood, including 2 of our nextdoor neighbors, Abe and Ray Packer and their children, and the Eismann family. "Ner Tamid" temple was about a mile away, at E. 250th and Lake Shore Boulevard. The Catholics belonged to St. William's Parish, with a number of Byzantine Catholics near Lloyd Road belonging to St. Stephen's Byzantine Catholic Church.
The Catholics were an interesting ethnic mix of Irish, German, Slovenian, Polish, Italians, and many other heritages. The local Protestants, like the local Jews, must have felt somewhat marginalized in this heavily Catholic neighborhood.
There were some white-collar workers in the area, but most of the dads were blue-collar, unionized workers at the gigantic factories in Euclid and the northeastern neighborhoods of Cleveland (especially Collinwood and Glenville). This area of Euclid and Cleveland was one of the great industrial belts of the world, with Fisher Body, TRW, Addressograph-Multigraph, Chase Brass & Copper Company, Eaton Axle, the New York Central Railroad yards, and many many others.
Our neighborhood had a small park, which everyone called "Mudville," but the City of Euclid eventually called "Willow Playground." In the summer, tremendous softball games were played on Mudville's baseball field. Each street had its own team, and my Dad (and later I myself) played for Farringdon's team, while Frank Calabro Sr. and Frank Jr. played for the great Gary Avenue team. As a kid I loved sports, especially baseball, and these guys played a ferocious brand of ball. I remember the names of some of the Gary Avenue players. There were the Lynch brothers, the George brothers (John and Fred, I believe), and the Calabro's. I remember fierce games between Farringdon and Gary Avenue, with some personal clashes between my Dad and Frank Calabro Sr. One time it even came close to blows. We didn't hate the Calabro's by any means--we admired their baseball skill and their tremendous competitive spirits.
I played CYO baseball for a year or two with Frank Jr. We had a good team, and I looked up to the likes of Frank Calabro and John George and the Lynch brothers (Danny and ??). Frank seemed all grown up at age 12 or 13. He was about 5'6" and built like a tank, and I think he had to shave early on. The funny thing is that Frank never got much bigger, and I imagine that inhibited his football play for Bill Gutbrod's squad at St. Joe's (Frank would have been on the squad with the like of Tommy Schoen, Dick Moore, Tim Mullaney, Brian Stenger, and other great athletes, who probably towered over him).
After Frank's graduation from St. Joe's, I lost track of him. I guess he went into the army, and served during the Vietnam War. I was at the University of Notre Dame for 9 months of the year and had little contact with Euclid-St. William's-St. Joe's friends and acquaintances.
It was sad reading about Frank Calabro's passing, and I say a prayer for his wonderful mother and father, for his sister, children, grandchildren, and friends.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
I only met my Coughlin cousin, Jack Pendergast, once--at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, around 2005. I also met Vicki at that time, and saw her again last fall when Jack's funeral was held at Arlington National Cemetery. As the Irish say, "the likes of Jack will not be seen again!" Jack was the champion family genealogist, an important figure in international Irish music with his work with Comhaltas Cheoltoiri Eireann, and a high ranking retired military man.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
[I have no idea why I originally wrote that sentence above in German. It simply means," Our Wedding, My 5th 1978. Saint George Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. Left-right: . . . ."]
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Neil Young’s song still dances around my brain
Forty years after that fateful Monday, May 4th, 1970:
“Four dead in O-hi-o. Four dead in O-hi-o.”
The math is both hard and simple:
4th day of the fifth month of the 1970th year of the Lord.
77 Guardsmen with fixed bayonets advance toward the crowd.
67 shots fired, many into the ground or into the air;
4 dead in Ohio: Jeffrey Miller. Allison Krause. Sandy Scheuer. Bill Schroeder.
Their ages: 20, 19, 20, and 19.
9 wounded in O-hi-o: John Lewis, Thomas Grace, John Cleary,
Alan Canfora, Douglas Wrentmore, James Russell, Robert Stamps.
Dean Kahler permanently paralyzed.
Donald MacKenzie wounded from a distance of 750 feet.
Branded into memory, the image of Mary Ann Vecchio,
Horror on her face, arms extended over the lifeless body of Jeffrey Miller,
Shot through the mouth:
John Filo’s Pulitzer winning photo
Developed inside every young American’s brain.
58,000 Americans dead in the Vietnam War;
10 times that many wounded; how many with deep psychic injury?
Uncountable millions of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.
A couple hundred million Americans torn up in anguish,
Conflicted, confused—a confusion that can never be resolved.
The old chant continues:
“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own,
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.”
(Robert M. Coughlin, Kirtland, Ohio. May 4, 2010)
[This poem is copyrighted 2010 by Robert M. Coughlin]
Monday, May 3, 2010
Ich danke dem Herrn Gott fuer Linda, meine Ehefrau, und unser Zusammenleben, our life together!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
After the concert, there was a group of percussionists, Samba Joia, who played Brazilian rhythms in the Grand Foyer of Severance Hall. The ecstatic drumming brought 6 folks out of the audience to spontaneously dance! I felt like we were in the Carnaval of Rio de Janiero (except no one was without clothes)! Following the drum session, we went back into the Concert Hall for a performance of flamenco music and dancing. The flamenco guitarist, Juanito Pascual, was unbelievable, spectacular. And he was surrounded by 4 percussionists, including the great Jamey Haddad. Equally as spectacular was the flamenco dancing by Nino De Los Reyes. What a night of music! I felt so proud to be a Clevelander Friday night.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Here in late April
Under a full moon, my secret neighbors the coyotes howl
From the Chardon woods and fields—
I head up to bed and hear the great chorus--
Spring Peepers singing their arias of love.
And then early in the morning,
Cardinals call and call and call
Their sweet song, luring, seductive.
Are they celebrating early spring?
Are they crying from loneliness?
Are they calling to a mate?
Are they aching for love?
I understand the plaintive calls—indeed
I call myself at midnight under the tide
Of the early spring moon!
April 29, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
The four bodies of those we hope survived
Are carried out one-by-one.
Twenty-nine ambulances make the slow, winding drive
To coroners and funeral homes.
Sorrows transforms into anger; then visceral hatred
For the murderers, the owners and operators
Who so eagerly exchanged lives for riches.
“I’ll cut his f-ing throat ear to ear,” the wife of a dead miner screamed,
Brandishing a paring knife.
But the words didn’t reach the offices of Massey Energy.
“If he sets foot in Raleigh County again, his head’s gonna get blowed off,”
Shouted the fifteen-year old son of a dead miner—
Blown to smithereens, smashed like eggshells, smothered and burned,
Like the 29 dead of Upper Big Branch mine.
The above poem is partly fictional, based on how I imagined the families of the victims would feel. I do not advocate violence--but it would be understandable. I believe we can change an unjust situation through active nonviolent techniques. The great models in this regard are Jesus, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I'll list some of the tunes played at the Hiram session:
The Ash Plant
Cooley's Reel (one of my favorite)
The Bucks of Oranmore
Drowsy Maggie (a favorite)
The Frost Is All Over
The Geese in the Bog
Haste to the Wedding (a good one)
Fanny Power (O'Carolan)
Eleanor Plunkett (O'Carolan)
Sheebeg and Sheemore [Sí Beag, Sí Mór] (O'Carolan)
The Bride's Favorite
The Cliffs of Moher
Lorfd Inchiquin (O'Carolan)
Rights of Man
Rising of the Moon
Wow, what a wonderful afternoon of music at Hiram College!
Friday, April 9, 2010
Five miles inside this mountain
Rescue teams feel their way through the dark and poisoned mine.
Above, in the hollows of Raleigh County,
On the steep hillsides along Upper Big Branch,
The sarvis trees bloom
As the weather turns dark and much colder:
“Sarvis Winter” the old-timers call it.
Vigils are held, lives in deep freeze,
Suspended animation. Incoherent prayers
Reach to the mountain tops
And from there to the ears of God.
Bless the Dead, O Lord!
Save the Living!
Help the Suffering Families!
April 8, 2010 )
Poem copyright 2010 by Robert M. Coughlin. All rights reserved.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
At first I can‘t tell what I’m seeing—
Blurs of black and white, shapes and shadows.
Then it emerges—
A baby, my first grandchild.
I see the head and torso.
I can count the bones of the spine.
He or she is beautiful beyond belief!
Oddly, the left arm is raised up
As if to throw a tight-breaking slider,
About 88 miles an hour.
Of course I could be mistaken—
But right now this looks like a left-handed pitcher!
(April 7, 2010)
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Following mass we processed to the old school building, where the parishioners of St. Patrick's provided hundreds of people with a free breakfast. After breakfast, Kev, Em, and I went to the Harp Restaurant in the Edgewater neighborhood of Cleveland, overlooking Lake Erie (still full of floating ice). There I ran into a former student, a Cleveland diocese seminarian, drinking a Guinness with his 2 buddies (also seminarians!). I run into students everywhere, including places I'm not supposed to be at.
After the Harp, we headed downtown, stopping first in the Arcade, a world-class building . . .[more soon!]