De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


In Memorium

If anyone knows of a more accurate version of this quote, I'd love to know about it.

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."



There's A Place Where I Go...

One of my Linkster buddies started a thread about places to "get away from it all". There weren't all that many replies; some people named some pretty good vacation spots. On the other hand, I took a decidedly metaphysical approach:

"There's a place that I travel
When I want to roam
And nobody knows it but me."

The Earth is green with spring. Flowers bloom, the trees are budding, and robins search for material for their nest while a magpie tries to play real estate agent. A family of beavers does their spring cleaning in their lodge.

"Wo die Tannen steh'n auf den Bergen
wild vom Sturmwind umbraußt in der Nacht
Hält der Rübezahl mit seinen Zwergen
alle Zeiten für uns treue Wacht."

The summer sun is gentle and the rains come softly and only at night. The scent of jasmine, wisteria and honeysuckle waft on the breeze. In the evening, fireflies signal to each other, hoping to find a response.

"In spring, the buds open
without hesitation;
in autumn, the leaves fall
without regret."

Autumn brings a blaze of color from the aspen and maple. Dry leaves rustle underfoot as squirrels gather provisions for the coming winter.

"It's far, far away
And way, way afar
It's over the moon and the sea."

The winter snow falls in tiny, sparkling flakes the crunch under my boots. The tang of woodsmoke hangs in the air as I sit in front of the fire, sipping hot cider and listening to Enya sing "Only Time". The world sleeps.

"And whenever you're going
that's wherever you are
but there's no one who lives here but me."



The Book Quiz

Bonfire's Dad tagged me to answer some more questions; this time on books.

1. Total number of books I've owned.
If I had 'em all in one city, it'd take me a week to count 'em all. I have enough to start my own branch library.

2. The last book I bought.
"Off With Their Heads" by Dick Morris

3. The last book I read.
Still trying to read "The Two Hands of God" by Alan Watts, another Zen Master who does an excellent job of explaining the Eastern mind to the Western mind.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me.
A. OK, I ugess I have to lead off with the Scriptures, even tho that sounds like a corny "Sunday School" answer.

B. "The Federalist Papers"; the background on the writing of the Constitution.

C. "Zen Combat" by Jay Glick; was my introduction to Zen.

D. "Atlas Shrugged"; a great story and a great introcuction to libertarianism.

E. "Die Wende in Plauen" ("The Change in Plauen"); documents the events leading up to the "Peaceful Revolution" in the DDR.

5. I'm supposed to tag five victims now.
Hmm.... Five victims. I think I'll cross-post this on my own blog and tag five of my Linkster buddies. Probably TheFish, Kevorkian, Dora, Dirtius Maximus, and Buddha Bear.

Who Are Your Heroes, And Why?

Sometime back, one of my Linkster buddies posted this question, which drew a fair number of responses. I didn't "shoot from the hip" with my answer; in fact, I said I'd take my time and post the next day. That night, I came up with my list, to wit:

1. Diogenes: He refused to "go along to get along" and because of that, he was a bit of a social pariah. He spoke his own mind, not what others wanted to hear. One evening, as he squatted in the doorway of his hut, washing lentils for his dinner, one of his nemeses -- Aristippus -- happened by. Aristippus made a very comfortable living hanging around the court and flattering the king. Kings like that, so he was always invited to dinner and given lavish presents. Seeing what Diogenes was doing, Aristippus said rather disdainfully "You know, if you could just learn to flatter the king, you wouldn't have to eat lentils."

Diogenes looked up and smiled. "You know", he said, "if you could just learn to eat lentils, you wouldn't have to flatter the king."

2. Saul of Tarsis: We all know who he became, but what of the whole man? As a Pharisee and a citizen of Rome, Saul saw the early Christian Church as a threat to both Judaism and the Roman Empire. Because of this sincere belief, he set about to eradicate the problem. On the road to Damascus, however, he "saw the light". His encounter with the Savior caused him to completely re-evaluate everything he believed in. And he was strong enough to change when he learned the truth.

3. Martin Luther: He was a very devote Catholic monk who became aware of the abuses that had crept into the church. By posting his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he literally put his life in jeopardy. But he never backed down. Facing his accusers, he declared "Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nichts anders." (Here I stand. I can do nothing different.) His three accomplishments -- translating the Bible into the language of the people, standardizing the German language, and planting the seed of religious freedom -- have had worldwide consequences. Without him, there might not have been a Restoration.

4. Erwin Rommel: There is nothing great about war, but it does bring out the greatness in people. Here was a military leader -- he didn't sit in a tent behind the lines and issue orders. He drove his staff officers nuts by actually leading the troops. He was so well respected and admired by the men under his command that when he lay sick in his tent, they took up a collection among themselves to buy decent food to nurse him back to health. When the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler was uncovered, he was implicated, even though he had told the conspirators that he would have nothing to do with it. Given the choice between suicide and a public trial that would humiliate him and leave his family in the direst of straits, he chose to sacrifice himself.



My Little Garden

Sometimes, as I sit in our chapel, my mind begins to wander. I take notice of the style of the building -- how everything is open and well-lighted, how one's attention is naturally funneled toward the front. I notice the colors in the sandstone wall in the front and the grain of the wood in the pews. The building was constructed in the '60s and it is a beautiful building in its own way. But something seems to be missing. And in my mind, I've slowly added it as I've sat waiting for a meeting to begin (or end!).

In the northeast corner of the chapel area is a door, covered by a curtain. Beyond that is the lawn and beyond that, the street. The first time I was in this particular chapel was in the spring and everything was already in bloom. My mental meanderings have led me to wonder how the chapel area would look with the addition of a small garden beyond that door.

With the proper permission and resources, I would enlarge that doorway so that it's as wide as it is high. Beyond that, I would build a wall approximately six feet high -- high enough to keep out the distractions of the outside world, but not high enough to block out the light. In the space I've created, I would plant a small garden and fill it with indigenous plants. Some wisteria or goldenrod would go in the far corner. Perhaps an apricot or cherry tree in the other corner. Some marigolds, maybe, or daffodils. Possibly a few roses. And, naturally, some grass.

Aside from adding a crowning touch of beauty to our chapel, I believe there are some lessons we could learn as we meet there week after week:

-- God's course is an eternal circle. In spring, we see the buds begin to nudge their way toward the sunlight and slowly turn into leaves and flowers. In summer, the foliage is full and the plants cast forth their seed to perpetuate the cycle of life. As autumn arrives, the leaves fall and flowers and trees withdraw into themselves in preparation for winter, when they lie dormant, waiting for the arrival of spring and the start of a new cycle. So it has been for centuries and so it continues; the sequence is always the same. Our Heavenly Father's way of doing things is constant. Winter never follows spring; summer does not follow autumn.

-- Everything happens in its own time. When conditions are right, the grass will grow, the wisteria will bloom, and apricots will appear on the apricot tree. We can wait patiently, or we can wait impatiently. But wait we will.

-- The world fulfills the measure of its creation. If we plant wisteria, roses will not bloom.

-- Things have a way of happening on their own, even when we are not aware of it. There is an old Zen poem from China:

Sitting quietly,
doing no thing;
Spring comes
and the grass grows of itself.

If we take care of the small things, the large things take care of themselves.



The Wild Blue Wander, Part I

In addition to the 925th's deployments, there were a lot of personal "deployments" for me. On quite a number of occasions, I got to go out to our headquarters at Travis AFB, CA. On my first trip there, I had probably the only set of orders ever written that authorized me to rent a bicycle(!) at my duty location. (I wound up not doing it, because everywhere I needed to go on base was within walking distance. For me, at least.)

I don't remember much of that trip (sometime in late '88), but I do remember the characters I met. And I do mean "characters". They might be weird, but they were enjoyable to work with. If memory serves, I was only there for two weeks, which would explain part of why I don't remember it.

In 1989 came the big trip to Ramstein AB, and then nothing until the summer of 1990. Seven of us took part in a medical training exercise (called Exercise Patriot Spirit, but known to us as Patriot Bedpan) at Fort Hunter-Ligget, in the Los Padres National Forest in California. We flew to Oakland or San Francisco and then were picked up and driven to the base. Along the way, our driver suggested we stop at Little Caeser's for pizza. That was the last real meal we had for 2½ weeks. We speculated later that he knew that and that was why he made the stop. The least he could have done was tell us what we were in for.

The advance info said "field conditions", which means we lived in tents. Not bad for just a couple of weeks, but some of the California sissies couldn't hack even that. Of course, those were the medical types, and the rest of the military doesn't have a whole lot of regard for them. The literature we had all gotten specifically said not to bring such things as hair dryers and curling irons.

They were still putting up the tents when we arrived, so the first thing we did was help finish that, as well as put up two shower tents and a field water distribution kit. The water kit consisted of a huge black rubber bladder and a pump. The black bladder captured the sunlight and did a good job of heating the water. The pump gave it just enough pressure to take a decent shower. Being in the desert, it was not hard to dry off. Ten steps outside the shower tent, and you were dry -- hair and all.

One afternoon, as I was coming out of the shower tent, I noticed a woman talking to one of our guys, who was monitoring the pump. Noting the curious look on Ron's face, I waited until after the woman left and then walked over and asked what that was all about. Turns out, she had been asking him if there was any way we could set up another generator so she and the others could run their hair dryers. (Not just "No", but "Hell no!".)

The coolest day we had there was 96, and that was on the one day I had off and went into Santa Cruz, where it never broke 60. One huge problem for us was that people were dropping like flies from the heat. Once it gets past 100, the difference is hardly noticeable, but when it hits 110, you have to take certain precautions. Drinking lots of water is one of them. For those of us who lived in the desert, it was no real problem. But even the tough guys from Michigan and northern Illinois were having trouble -- especially the cooks.

The one bit of relief we had from the heat came one evening after a scorching hot day when we had all been working hard. We generally took our meals under a huge dining canopy that kept the sun off of us but allowed the air to circulate. This one particular evening, even that was not enough. Come the firefighters to the rescue. They brought up a pumper truck, set the nozzle on "mist" and shot a blast of water upwind from us, across the wind. The light breeze that was blowing brought the mist right thru the tent and as it evaporated in the hot dry air, it cooled all of us. They got a standing ovation.

During one morning's staff meeting, the subject came up of what to do about those who suffering heat exhaustion of one form or another. The decision was made to put up a tent where it would always be in the shade of some of the huge trees that grew there. To the guy next to me, I suggested we build a "swamp cooler". He didn't know what a swamp cooler was, so I drew a diagram. It turns out, he worked in Supply, and said he could get me all the materials for it. After the meeting, we went up to the Major, who was "mayor" of our "tent city" and explained the proposal. The Major gave us the go-ahead, so we spent the rest of the day scrounging lumber, a metal trash barrel, some burlap, and some surgical tubing, and building a make-shift swamp cooler. By evening, it was in operation.

The next morning, after the staff meeting, I stood up to go and almost passed out. Guess who hadn't drunk enough water while building the swamp cooler? So, the very first patient in the new tent was Yours Truly.

One of the curious things we learned during the exercise was how to tell the serious engineers from the wannabes. The serious ones carried either a GI folding pocket knife or a Leatherman tool. The rest carried "Rambo knives". They might as well have been wearing signs saying "I don't know what I'm doing", because none of the rest of us took them seriously.