Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oíche Shamhna--Halloween

The Irish called it Oíche Shamhna and we call it Halloween. The pronunciation of Oíche Shamhna is incredible, though it follows Irish orthographic and pronunciation rules. An approximation might be /EE-huh HOW-nuh/. Literally it means "the night or eve of Samhain." Samhain can mean the feast of November 1 (All Saints Day in the Christian calendar) and the word can also just mean "November."

We know it as the day the sharp line between the living and the dead is blurred. It's the day the Melonheads of Kirtland are out an about (and boy are they peeved--all the local teenagers driving down the road-that-I-shall-not-name, past the ruins of Dr. Crowe's burned-out mansion; and days of incredible weather, cold, ferocious winds and driving rain--no wonder the Melonheads are in a bad mood!). I'd just let them be. Don't take the risk!

I've had a few minor encounters with the Melonheads. Years ago I had one who was a student in one of my classes. And I've caught fleeting glimpses of them in the woods on the Chardon-Kirtland border. It's like seeing a deer running in the deep woods; you just aren't exactly sure what you are seeing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Irish Music Session at Hiram College

Yesterday we had a rather small but wonderful Irish music session at Hiram College (located in the small college town of Hiram, about 30 miles southeast of Cleveland). We have these sessions about three or four times a year, organized by Professor of Music Tina Dreisbach and her husband Paul Dreisbach. Tina plays several instruments, from whistle to Irish flute to concertina; Paul plays whistle and uilleann pipes (he is also a fine oboist, but doesn't bring out the oboe in the Irish session). Yesterday, to our surprise, another uilleann pipe player came--a fellow named David from Cuyahoga Falls (possibly David Daye). There were also two harp players, Ellen Eckhouse from Garretsville, where she owns the Village Bookstore, and one of her students. So two harpers and two uilleann pipers at the same place and same time--incredible!

We also had a piano player (his name doesn't come to mind--but he is very good; he must know hundreds of tunes) and the premier bodhran player, Sheldon Firem. Sheldon also brought his guitar and his bag of whistles. He can play the whistle as sweet as anyone and I can't imagine a better bodhran player. I was there with my homemade guitar and my Susato whistles. Another man, Denny (from the Akron area, I think) had a button box accordion. And a young woman was there with her fiddle. She is an excellent player and also seems to know many many tunes (she loved playing polkas).

So it was a small group, but well-balanced with the mix of instruments. And we had a wonderful two hours at this historic little college.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Most Beautiful Fall Day in the History of the World

It was today, October 25, 2012. In Northeast Ohio. Mark it down.

I am the witness. I was there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Tribute to Senator Paul Wellstone, dead 10 years now

Glacier National Park: Big Early Snowfall!

Here's a view from Glacier Park's "Two Medicine" webcam. Winter has arrived in Glacier!

On Top of the World--Jewel Basin Area in Montana

Carolan and her friend were hiking in the Jewel Basin area of the Flathead National Forest, west of Bigfork, Montana. This area is filled with beautiful mountains and lakes. They were near the peak of Mount Aeneas (7477 feet) when it started to get dark and they had to head back down. From the mountain top they could see many small lakes as well as the huge Flathead Lake.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can Outsiders Buy Josh Mandel's Election?

Sherrod Brown has been under a brutal attack in his run for re-election to the US Senate. So far, outsider organizations have spent some 25 million dollars trying to defeat him. The tv commercials are absolutely disgusting, filled with lies. They are sponsored by organizations like Carl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the US Chamber of Commerce, and so-called dark money groups who can keep their donors secret.

I don't think this will work for Mandel. He comes across as a real immature guy. He has said he would have voted against the American auto industry. He neglected his duties as state treasurer. Worst of all to me is that he wants to claim the senate seat of a great American senator, Howard Metzenbaum. What a terrible contrast to Howard Metzenbaum, who is still revered as a hero in Ohio.

Here's another thing. Sherrod Brown is beloved in Ohio. He has served his constituents so faithfully and personally. When he learned that my niece Michelle Zaremba was fighting in Iraq without adequate body armor and truck armor, he intervened--and it wasn't long before the armor arrived for Michelle's company. Sherrod spent a half hour on the telephone with me talking about this situation. He comes through for his constituents, on a very personal level.

Sherrod Brown is a champion, and I think the voters of Ohio will re-elect him even in the face of the monetary onslaught.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chagrin River Review: Call for Submissions of Poetry and Short Fiction

Chagrin River Review (I am one of the editors) is currently accepting submissions of poetry and short fiction for its second issue, due out Spring 2013. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2012. To view full submission guidelines, to read our first issue, and to submit your work via "Submittable," visit us at
Below is an image of our first cover, a photo of a sculpture by Paula Blackman:

American Beech tree by the Chagrin River and Mitchell Mills Road
The spectacular tree above is near the Holden Arboretum, one of the treasures of Northeast Ohio. In this photo you can see the Mitchell Mills bridge going over the Chagrin River.

This area is very close to the home of the Melonheads, and I think I glimpsed one of them as I drove over the bridge. Halloween is, of course, the time of the year for the Melonheads!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Most Beautiful Lake?

Look at this astonishing webcam photo of Lake McDonald, in Glacier National Park (right close to where my daughter works). The photo was taken around 8:40 AM (US Mountain Time) on October 17, 2012:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Color in Chardon, Ohio

Penniman Drive, Hambden Township, near Chardon, Ohio

Pin Oak

Burning Bush

Sweet gum

Sweet Gum

Penniman Drive, Hambden Township, near Chardon, Ohio

Lourdes Shrine in Euclid

Colin and Julia--one of the last Sundays at Lourdes Shrine in Euclid

Ed, Colin, Julia--Lourdes Shrine, Euclid

Linda, Colin, Julia, Bob

Fall Color in Hambden/Chardon

Ed with Colin (the kid is very interested in the geese)

Carolan's Poem about Autumn in Northeast Ohio

The other day I found an old poem Carolan wrote (some 9 years ago, when she was a Freshman at Ohio University) about autumn in Northeast Ohio. Our area, especially parts of Lake, Geuaga, and Cuyahoga Counties, have unsurpassed color in mid to lake October. I can't imagine that New England is even more beautiful. It's because of our climate, our soils, and the mix of trees (sugar maple, red maple, tulip poplar, tupelo, sassafras, etc.). Anyway, here is Carolan's beautiful poem:

in northeast ohio

                        the buckle of the snowbelt
                        does not rust slowly into
                        the freeze and gloom and white permanent winter.
                        it Explodes.
                        crimson orange flames bursting from the branches
                        fireworks, a sunset, a campfire
                        the glory and celebration and excitement

                        sustain the hidden embers of Warmth
                                                                                of Color

                                                            of Life.

                        when the snow doesn’t stop falling
                                                and the sun forgets to visit
                        we will grasp tightly to the fire of fall
                        and the eternal glow will keep us strong.

Carolan Coughlin
October 27, 2003


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Big Dog, The Boss, and President Obama in Parma Thursday!

My cousin Maggie Brock sent me an email the other day telling me The Big Dog (Bill Clinton), The Boss (Bruce Springsteen), and President Obama will be at a rally in Parma, Ohio this Thursday, October 18th.

I attended a rally on the Cleveland Mall shortly before the 2008 election featuring Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama. It was an unforgettable experience. I was right there in front of the stage. Behind me were a hundred thousand people (give or take). It was the second most exciting time I ever had in Cleveland (second only to game 5 of the 1995 World Series, which I got to attend with my wife and two of my daughters).

I will be there to hear the greatest politician of our era, Bill Clinton, the greatest musician of our era, Bruce Springsteen, and the unique intelligence, leadership, and charism of Barack Obama.

"Colin Happy"

My two-year-old grandson Colin told Linda this morning,"Colin Happy." He has said this beautiful two-word sentence a few times before, and it is really true and you can see it in everything he does. Colin is a happy kid. He has what what it takes to grow into a secure, productive, and loving adult. He has the love and care of a mother and a father. He has the love and care of his grandparents, who get to see him often. He has the basic medical attention he needs, good nutrition, and lots of human contact. We read to him, talk to him, play with him--and we pray for him.

Colin is blessed and happy. And we pray for children who do not have the love of their mother (or someone like their mother, a loving grandmother, an older sibling, someone). Such children will have a tough road. And sometimes our society and our world pay dearly for this lack of love and care.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First Snow at Glacier National Park

The photo above is from the Glacier National Park webcam near the St. Mary entrance (the eastern side of the park and the Continental Divide). The image was taken this morning, shortly after sunrise.

My daughter Carolan is working fairly close by, near the Jewel Basin, just outside of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. She might be cutting trees in the snow today!

Welcome to the snow!

 Above, the first snows on the mountains around Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Monday, October 1, 2012

National Public Lands Day--Hope You Celebrated!

This past Saturday, September 29th, was National Public Lands Day in America.I hope you celebrated.

Our country is in part full of fences and gates that you and I cannot cross. The city where I grew up, Euclid, Ohio, had almost no public access to Lake Erie (Of course, as kids, my brother Denny and I made our own access, going everywhere we damned pleased, swimming wherever we liked). Our home had such a tiny yard (about one tenth of an acre) that we went on family picnics all the time to  the Cleveland Metroparks--that was my first encounter with public lands, the common good, the common wealth of America. This is where we could play baseball, enjoy the woods, breathe the fresh air.

A New York Times opinion piece ("The Geography of Nope," by Timothy Egan, published September 27, 2012) says America has thousands of square miles of national park, national forest, and Bureau of Land Management lands--about the size of Italy. Add to that our beloved state and local parks, and we have something more precious than gold. Politicians, industrialists, and businessmen--keep your hands off these shared national treasures!

Egan makes a point that these public lands are not guaranteed safe. These lands could be bought, sold, or industrialized. And he mentions certain immediate threats to these lands (locate the article here: New York Times article on public lands in the USA).

I am very grateful for these public lands. For those near me: Cleveland Metroparks, Lake County Metroparks, Geauga  County Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park; and those far away (like Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, which I visited this past summer). These lands are our common wealth.

Catholicism: A Big, Wide-Open Heart?

I attended mass at St. John Vianney's parish in Mentor, Ohio yesterday and the celebrant was a Jesuit missionary from Nepal (with the co-celebrant his Jesuit Nepalese superior).

During the homily the priest mentioned encountering a man in Nepal who asked him what his religion was. When Father responded, "I am a Catholic," the man put his hands near his heart, then extended them out as wide as possible, as if to say, "Your Church is the Church of the big, wide-open heart." I felt my eyes suddenly well up with tears--grateful that this Nepalese man had encountered Catholics who made him think so highly of our Church; and saddened that that so many bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes of late have made our church seem quite the opposite--a small-hearted, mean-spirited church, full of angry rules and boundaries.

I remembered Pope John XXIII and the great Catholic parish priests and even some bishops of my lifetime who believed in the big, wide-open-heart Church. And I wept thinking this Church seems to be disappearing.