Saturday, August 30, 2014

Visiting Pickle Bill's in Grand River, with Paul and Liz, Julia and Ed, Colin and Robby

Robby and Grampa Brrr (me)

Robby and Colin, Mentor Headlands

Sailboat on the Grand River, by Pickle Bill's

Pickle Bill's is one strange place!

Got it? These are the Rules!

With Linda, Liz, and Paul

Liz by the Alligator

Paul, by one of the Mannequins

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bullets and Burgers--2 Poems

Is 9 Years Old Too Young to Shoot a Machine Gun?

(from a headline, after a young New Jersey girl killed her instructor with an Uzi at an Arizona shooting range)

Is 9 too young to be wielding a weapon of war?
Will Suzie’s  parents ever get over this senseless tragedy?
Will the instructor’s family and friends get over this?
Will it affect the little girl for the rest of her life?

When is the right age to be shooting a machine gun in America?

I hear, over and over, the refrain from Bob Dylan’s old song,

“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Bullets and Burgers at “Last Stop Gun Range”—A Great American Adventure

On your Arizona trip,
Don’t forget to come to Last Stop Gun Range!
For a measly $200 we will pick you up at your Las Vegas hotel,
Drive you over Hoover Dam, a wonder of the world,
Show you Lake Mead
And bring you to Last Stop.

There you can fire the weapons of your dreams, even if you are only 9 years old:
Machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers—your choice!

Hamburger lunch included.
Helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon optional.

Hurry, before all slots are filled,
To our gun range, Last Stop.

[Bob Coughlin / August 28, 2014]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Community Wrapped in Community Wrapped in Community

I wonder if Robin Williams, for one night about a week ago, felt completely alone, completely abandoned, as when Jesus on the cross "shouted in a loud voice, saying 'Eli Eli lama sabachthani?' which is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" We cannot know this for sure. We can not even know for sure things right in front of our face.

One thing I do know, as well as a human being is able, is that I am loved and enveloped in many communities, almost swaddled in love as a newborn baby. My first community was my family, initially my mother, father, and grandparents, Cora and Connie Coughlin. And I had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. I joke that we didn't have friends growing up--we had family, relatives. This family expanded as Denny, Mary Ellen, Kevin, and Jim were born. And it keeps expanding!

Family is still very central to me, now with Linda, Julia, Carolan, and Emily, and my two sons-in-law, Ed and Brian, and my grandchildren, Colin and Robby. We have a  big family, and it still is the bedrock of my security.

I have several other families, and these have been more "dynamic" over the years, with people flowing in and out. One of the first important ones for me was my Notre Dame classmates, especially the 35 other guys I studied abroad with in 1967-68 (in Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria). Many of these fellows remain very close friends, with some others a bit more distant.

Another fantastic warm and loving community -- the peace activists I met when I moved to Cincinnati from Euclid in the winter of 1971. These people were Peacemakers, Catholic Workers, Quakers, and other like-minded living in and around Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Some were around my age, give or take, like Chris Cotter, Kenny Przybylski, Chuck Matthei, Jack Shereda, Peggy Scherer, Anne and Clare Weinkam, Greg Haas, Joan Levy, Bonnie Tompkins, Henry Scott, Andy Meyer, Joel Stevens, Dick Crowley, Richard Gale, John Luginbill (and others), and some were "elders" like Ernest and Marion Bromley, Maurice McCrackin (Mac), Bill Wahler--and several more. Some of my Peacemaker friends have died--Chuck Matthei, Ernest, Marion, Mac, Kenny, Jack, Bill. But I remain close friends with many, despite living far away from them.

Another layer of community consists of my colleagues at Lakeland Community College. Many of these are professors and fellow members of our union, the Lakeland Faculty Association. But there are also plenty of staffers, administrators, and part-timers that I consider part of my work community.

And then there is one of the most wonderful, sustaining communities I belong to, at my church, St. Mary's in Painesville, Ohio, especially the people I work with in the Karpos Ministry to feed the hungry and homeless--Linda, Kathy and Dan Philipps, Pam, Judy, Ken Fitzsimmons, Chuck Hillier, Jim, Bernice, Karen, Jeff, Kathy Flora, and many others. We have found a common focus for our interests in social justice and we have found a common and important task. It is almost exhilarating to work together with these folks every week. This is a model of the Beloved Community that Martin Luther King and Maurice McCrackin spoke of!

There are other communities I prize--my Irish-Gaelic classmates, my Irish traditional music friends, and many others.

These communities sustain me, and I hope I that I can do a small part to sustain, nourish, and love my friends in these communities. Let them never, not for an hour, feel unloved and unappreciated. This is my prayer.

Poem about the Sounds of Night in Late August

Late August Evening Concert

On late August nights I lie in bed, listening to the great
Comforting chorus of pulsing sounds,
Harmonizing chords of cricket, katydid, cicada--

Invisible musicians and choristers orchestrating the late summer concert:
The high rapid pulse of the crickets,
The percussive bass of katydids with their trills and buzzes,
Rubbing their wings, stridulating in holy ecstasy.

Cicadas with their booming voices find their place in the great song,
The concert organized by the Force of Life,
The drive to mate, to keep this song going

Forever and forever.

I think of my loneliness
And my deepest connections,
Sing my own summer night songs
Thank God for both, for
Those who love me
And those I can never fully love.

                [Bob Coughlin / August 25, 2014]

The Arc of the Moral Universe Bends Toward Justice (MLK)

I have recently been adding this line at the end of my emails, a kind of signature tag:  “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Martin Luther King Jr. I found this on Mike Rivage-Seul's latest blog entry. I thing MLK was exactly right about this--but the road to justice is a long and winding road indeed, with lots of setbacks--the old idea of 2 steps forward and one step back (and sometimes many steps back and several off to the side!). The other important thing unstated in MLK's quote is the fact that the arc toward justice is not automatic. It is the hard work, sacrifice, and focused will of flawed human beings that lead to justice--it is not automatic. Another point that has just occurred to me is that I don't always know what constitutes justice. We all have our own blind spots, selfishness, perspective, and errors. Here is an example. I am pretty sure that the great human being that I co-wrote a biography on (Building the Beloved Community: Maurice McCrackin's Life for Peace and Civil Rights--co-authored with Judith Bechtel Blackburn) . . . that this man and his parents were probably ardent advocates of Prohibition. Now in retrospect, Prohibition was a gigantic mistake, even a form of cultural imperialism. But it came out of good intentions and even a Progressive perspective. Prohibition was a mistake, a doozy!

If social justice is one of our life's goals, we are going to make many mistakes along the way. But we must not give up the struggle. For many, it is our life's work, our vocation. As for a baby learning to walk--you don't give up even when you fall down a hundred times. Get back up and get walking!

Rev. Maurice McCrackin, in his old age

Monday, August 25, 2014

Passing of Richard Attenborough--Scene from the Movie Gandhi: "I know a way out of hell"

Richard Attenborough was the producer and director of the great movie Gandhi and won two Academy Awards for that movie in 1983. There is an unforgettable scene in that movie where a Hindu man tries to force Gandhi to eat some bread and break his fast--he doesn't want Gandhi's death to be on his hands. He tells Gandhi that he is going to hell, because he murdered a little Muslim boy--a revenge killing for the murder of his own son. Gandhi tells the man, "I know a way out of hell." And then Gandhi asks him to adopt a Muslim orphan boy, and "raise him as your own." Gandhi says, "Make sure he is a Muslim, and raise him as one." It is a powerful, moving scene in a great film:

Richard Attenborough was a fine human being and a great artist.

Fun Day at Put-in-Bay

We have been going to the Lake Erie Islands area for a long time now. When I was a little kid my family came to the Marblehead Peninsula--that was probably in 1958 or so. At that time we might have swum at East Harbor, which is on the mainland, in view of Kelleys Island and South Bass Island. It wasn't until about 1972 or '73 that I returned to the area. I was at Bowling Green State University visiting some friends when I decided to walk to East Harbor State Park. Now that is a healthy walk of about 50 miles! Turned out I hitchhiked part of the way, but I did walk at least 25-30 miles. I then camped out on a little island in West Harbor (within East Harbor State Park), in a one-person tent. Only the birds knew I was there, and they made an incredible squawk for hours at the person invading their territory. My first impression of the Park was very favorable; I hoped to come back! And I did come back, around 1977, with Linda. She loved the place, and we would come back again and again from then until now.

The Miller Ferry from Catawba Point to South Bass Island

Me with my coffee on the ferry
Linda at Put-in-Bay; behind her, "The Boardwalk"
Put-in-Bay docks, with the gigantic Perry Monument in the background
A fine band playing in "The Boardwalk"
What the hell were these people doing? De Rivera Park, Put-in-Bay
Linda swimming at the State Park Beach
Saunders Cottages--where we stayed with our family back around 1992. South Bass Island, near the State Park

The beautiful Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Put-in-Bay

Our supper on Saturday, August 23rd: fresh peach and strawberry sundaes at Brown's Dairy Dock, Marblehead
When we got off the Miller Ferry at South Bass Islands Lime Kiln Dock, we got on a bus that took us the 2 miles to downtown Put-in-Bay. When we first came here with our girls, we'd walk the 2 miles (having almost no money!). When we got downtown, we walked through De Rivera Park over to the The Boardwalk, where we had a perch lunch. Even a perch sandwich is expensive there, but we got it anyway. And it was good. While at The Boardwalk, we marveled at the wealth all around--beautiful, huge new boats, by the hundreds. One guy was fueling an 80-foot yacht. That boat must have cost a million dollars or so!

After lunch we rented bicycles, and slowly rode to the other end of the island, to the State Park. We were among the few who rented bikes; almost everyone else rode in golf carts. Seemed so sad, such a waste, such a missed opportunity.

Linda and I swam at the rock beach at the State Park, in view of the campgrounds up above the limestone cliff. Out about about a mile from the beach was Green Island. It was wonderful.

After swimming, we headed back to downtown Put-in-Bay, and made a brief visit at the beautiful Catholic church, built from local limestone, known as Our Lady of Sorrows. We stop there on every visit to the island.

As we rode back to the bike rental place, we noticed how happy everyone seemed to be on the island. And we also noticed that many people were drinking heavily. I thought this place could get crazy by night, with the rowdy crowds and all the drinking. I was glad I was going back home. But there was one last thing to do.

When we got back to our car, we traveled slowly down the peninsula that is Catawba Island (it's not a real island), and then headed east toward Marblehead. We saw so many old "friends" on the way--the beautiful and ugly sights of the Marblehead Peninsula. We passed the Lakeside Community, one of Ohio's great places, home to our own version of Chautauqua. We weren't going to get to it this year--but we will be back next year for sure. We finally came to Brown's Dairy Dock, the great ice cream place in Marblehead, where we each ordered our favorite--me, a fresh peach sundae; Linda, a fresh strawberry sundae. We sat at a picnic table, in sight of the big Lake. The end of a wonderful day.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Definition of Solidarity: Lakeland Faculty Association

This is what Solidarity looks like in a crisis:

Support from one of our adjunct professors

LFA President Micki Long

The signs show strong support from part-time (adjunct) professors

More of my Lakeland colleagues

My brilliant colleagues

Unanimous, enthusiastic support from full-time faculty members

I have never in my life been this close to striking. Luckily, I'm in the same boat as about 130 of my colleagues. And if there is a strike, everyone will be affected, the adjunct profs, the students, and other Lakeland employees. At Lakeland Community College we have the most brilliant collection of professionals in the area. We have the most democratic union I have ever seen, the LFA, Lakeland Faculty Association. I am so privileged to know these folks and to work with them. There is perfect unity here, perfect solidarity, incredible organization. We are ready for whatever happens.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

¡Ola! Means "Happy"--New Poem

“Ola!” Means “Happy”
                                                --for Colin Jude Kleppel

My four-year-old grandson often says “Ola!” to me,
With a perfect and beautiful Spanish “L.”

I ask him what that means,
And he responds, without hesitation,
“Ola!” means “Happy.”

Not the definition dictionaries give,
But when you think about it,
Exactly right!

So, to my friends and family,
I say,

And “I love you!”

                [Bob Coughlin / August 21, 2014]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two Poems for Walt Whitman

I. Walt Whitman's Birthplace--Town of Huntington, West Hills, Long Island

There, just south of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin & Robbins,
Just west of Bed, Bath & Beyond and Five Guys Burger and Fries . . .
The farmhouse where Walt Whitman was born May 31, 1819.

This is America's Bethlehem,
Birthplace of her greatest poet,
This farmstead, swimming in an ocean of parking lots and store franchises,
On Old Walt Whitman Road.

What would young Walt,
Full of love, sympathy, and lust,
(and when justified, prophetic anger),
What would young WW, great lover of the natural world,
Think of this place,
As it now stands?

II. Walt Whitman's Death House--Camden, New Jersey

Stone's throw from the Delaware River,
Across the water from historic Philadelphia,
Camden, America’s poorest big city, most desperate,
Third World failure of America and Democracy—

What would the great optimistic poet, the great poet of Democracy
Think of Camden now? He loved this city,
This little house, his shanty as he called it, right there on Mickle Street,
Now called Martin Luther King Boulevard,
In sight of Camden County Jail.
This is America’s Golgotha, place of the skull,
City where the great poet died,

The city not yet redeemed. What would Walt think?

                                    [Robert M. Coughlin / August 20, 2014]

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Boat Ride on Lake Erie--Off Mentor Lagoons

In Mentor Lagoons--getting ready to go out.
Carolan on the bow of the boat

Colin--maybe a bit nervous about the boat ride

Ed, Carolan, Colin

Carolan, Colin, me

Colin and me

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chalet Debonne Celebration

Linda's Retirement Dinner--Chalet Debonne Winery, Madison Township, Ohio

Carolan, back from Montana, and Linda

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Aunt Carolan, Back from Montana, Sees Her Nephews

Colin and Aunt Carolan Pick Blueberries in Hambden

Robby Shows Aunt Carolan How Everything Goes into His Mouth

Good Harvest--Colin Ate Most of These in about a Half Hour

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lamentation for Robin Williams--the Irish Uillean Pipes Tune, "Port na bPucai"

When Seamus Heaney's funeral was held last year, a famous Irish uillean piper, Liam O'Flynn, played a wailing lament called "Port na bPucai" ("Tune of the Fairies"). I thought that the tune might be an appropriate lament for Robin Williams, who died this week. These pipes, played here by Cillian Vallely, can have the effect of keening and wailing, an appropriate response to the death of the great actor and comedian.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, the Great Actor and Comedian, Joins the Dead Poets Society

I was so deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Robin Williams yesterday. He was the greatest comedian (the word seems too puny for his talent) of our generation, and a terrific actor. Of all the work he did, the one role that moved me the most was his portrayal of John Keating in the move The Dead Poets Society. Robin Williams made you believe in the humanity of this man, his love for his students, and his belief in art as a redeeming force, a humanizing force.

Robin Williams' death seems to have been caused by the combined terrible forces of depression and addiction. Like so many geniuses before him, he walked the friable edge of sanity, and lost that battle as so many do. But he gave the world so much goodness, joy, deep humanity, love. To be a great artist is to be a great lover. That is his redemption. His likes will never be seen again.

May perpetual Light shine upon him!

Looking at the world from a different perspective.

Boys,the powerful play goes on. What will your verse be?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Did the Geauga Park Board Learn a Lesson Today?

The Geauga Park Board held an unusual 9 AM meeting today at the Donald W. Meyer Center at Big Creek Park. The room was absolutely packed with angry environmentalists, horse lovers, birders, and lovers of the park system--all there to challenge the park's board of directors, who had just changed their by-laws. Did the board members think they slipped this by the park's constituents unnoticed? Lots of things they did, including the strange scheduling of meetings, seemed to indicate they were trying to pull something. Or was it just carelessness, political incompetence? Whatever it was, it didn't work.

Below is the astonishing Article XXI of the by-laws they passed. I will highlight with bold print the ones that are most astonishing to me:

Subject to limitations and revisions by the Park Board, persons may partake of any activity within the Park which is expressly allowed by the Park District in its Constitution and Bylaws and/or Rules and Regulations.
Recreational activities may be permitted at present or in the future by the Board in designated areas and subject to any restrictions and limitations imposed by the Board for use as further defined within.
Recreational activities include but are not limited to:

All Terrain Vehicle Permits (Regulated ATV’s, Dirt Bikes, UTV’s)
Animal Propagation
Archery Range
Bird Watching
Bocce Ball Courts
Community Gardening
Construction (Carpentry, Earthwork, Excavating, Electrical, Masonry, Plumbing)
Cross-Country Skiing
Field Hockey
Fishing (Pond and Stream)
Fish Stocking
Firearms Range
Firewood Operations
Forestry Practices (Timber Stand Improvement, Logging)
Frisbee Golf
Gas and Oil Drilling
Excavation & Earthwork
Herbicide Applications
Invasive Specie Control (Plant and Animal)
Horseback Riding
Ice Fishing
Ice Skating
Maple Sugaring Operations
Metal Detecting
Mountain Biking
Naturalist Programs
Nuisance Wildlife Trapping
Outdoor Cooking and Grilling
Plant Propagation
Pond Exploration
Prescribed Fire (Controlled Burns)
Rock Climbing
Ropes Course (High Ropes, Low Ropes, Zip Line)
Shelter Reservations (Birthdays, Weddings, Family Reunions, Special Occasions)
Skate Parks
Special Events (Camps, Scouting Events)
Splash Parks
Sporting Clays
Stream Exploration
Swimming Pools
Tether Ball
Tennis Courts
Trap Shooting
Veterans’ Activities
Walking, Dog Walking, Walking an Accessible Trail with a Stroller or Wheelchair
Wildlife Watching

You may notice that many of these are not "recreational activities." A very sloppy use of language! Some of the items in the list probably could be explained and justified (but all we have above is a list). And some of the items listed seem really out of bounds with the longtime goals of the park, expressed in their mission statement:

"The Geauga County Park District (Geauga Park District) was established in accordance with Section 1545 of the Ohio Revised Code. Geauga Park District was created to conserve, preserve and protect the natural resources of the State, including forests, fields, streams, lakes and wetlands, and the plants and animals which live in these habitats. The Mission of the Geauga Park District is to preserve, conserve, and protect the natural features of Geauga County and to provide outdoor recreational experiences to our residents . . . ." 

The one that concerned me the most was "oil and gas drilling." My mind immediately translated that as "fracking." Think about the danger this would present to the Geauga aquifer that everyone in the county uses for drinking water! Think of the three important rivers that find their headwaters in Geauga County (Chagrin, Grand, and Cuyahoga) and the impact of fracking pollution on the drainages and on Lake Erie!

I was also worried about "firearms range," and "logging." Not to mention ATV trails in the park! These activities really contradicted their mission statement (and possibly the Ohio Revised Code). This was something to vigorously oppose, fight against. Many others saw it this way. Some brilliant, well-prepared people spoke out at the board meeting. In one case there was a loud, long standing ovation for the speaker. I hope the board heard and felt that!

I was amazed at how many people I recognized at the meeting. It made me feel a little better about Geauga County. There was Kathleen O'Neill Webb, Kathy Flora, Kathy Hanratty, the Whitright's, Bill Lestock, Michelle Rossman, Micki Long, and others. Extraordinary people, ready to fight for this park system.

I hope the Geauga Park Board heard them. And I hope they respond appropriately, first by changing their by-laws. And then living up to their longtime mission of protecting and preserving this extraordinary natural world we've been given in Geauga County.

Full August Moon Over Geauga--Haiku Poem

Full August Moon Over Geauga (Haiku)

Yes, You are the Moon,
And I am a Lunatic--

This sweet summer night.

[Bob Coughlin / August 10, 2014]

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Another Video of Robby Crawling

Robby has quickly moved from crawling a few feet to crawling to wherever he wants to go. And go he does! When he gets there, he puts it into his mouth. He experiences and learns the world with his mouth, as much as with his eyes, ears, and nose.

Robby will not be discouraged, will not give up, will not accept failure. Mistakes are part of the process; they are very important--crucial, really.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Shame on Ohio for the Poisonous Algae on Lake Erie! "Just Thoughts" Essay

Algae Bloom (this one from 2009 by Pelee Island)
Nice Glass of Lake Erie Water [Tom Bridgeman,]

Just Thoughts: Stewardship of Our Precious Water Resource

We woke this past week to news that nearly a half million people in the Toledo area have been warned not to drink or even bathe in their water. Toledo water, which comes from Lake Erie, has been poisoned by an algae bloom, caused by run off of fertilizers and sewage system failures. The toxin, microcystin, is extremely dangerous, causing nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, with the danger of liver failure and death to people and animals. Babies are at considerable risk. The National Guard has had to bring emergency water tankers and bottled water to the people of Toledo. And this in the part of the world most blessed by abundant fresh water!

The same day this disaster was reported in the Plain Dealer and Toledo Blade, the first reading at mass was Isaiah singing, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water . . . .” Water is a major theme in Judeo-Christian scripture and liturgies, partially because it was so scarce in Palestine, and so crucial for life. We in Ohio seem to have wasted and abused this precious resource. We are wasting it in myriad other ways, with pollution being dumped into our rivers and lakes (the Ohio River at times is full of dangerous chemicals). And we are increasingly allowing nearly unfettered hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of oil and gas wells, using up 3 million gallons (some sources say 6 million gallons) of water per frack (and each well can be fracked over and over again, up to 12-18 times!).

This abuse of a resource necessary for our lives, given to us abundantly by God, is the result of bad state policies and shameful political lack of will. Pope Francis and American Bishops have made clear the call to conserve our precious land and water resources. Bishop Jaime Soto has offered this prayer: “May God open the heavens and let His mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains.  Let us especially pray for those most impacted by water shortages and for the wisdom and charity to be good stewards of this precious gift.  May our political leaders seek the common good as we learn to care and share God's gift of water for the good of all.”

Shame on Ohio! Let's fix this!

The Miraculous Energy, Will, Drive of a 7-Month Old

Can you imagine if you had this energy, drive, will? If no number of failures could stop you or defeat you? Here is my 7-month-old grandson, Robby. You go, boy!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cerulean Lake in Glacier National Park

Almost no one has seen Cerulean Lake first hand (much less swam in it!). The reason is that there is no trail to this beautiful blue lake in Glacier National Park--you have to bushwhack there. Jeremy and Carolan did just that last week. They hiked from Bowman Lake to Quartz Lake, paddled up Quartz, hiked to Cerulean Lake, then floated on that lake. Then they both dove into this lake, fed by glaciers.

Diving into chilly Cerulean Lake
Carolan and Jeremy on Quartz Lake

Cutthroat Trout in the hand!

On the Bear Creek Trail, Bob Marshall Wilderness