All posts by DanCooksey

Betty and I live in Corrales, New Mexico with our Golden Retriever Jessie.

Jemez Picnic

This past Monday was a beautiful day and, wonder of wonders, we didn’t have anything scheduled on our calendars.

So, we packed up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips, put Jessie into the Highlander and headed for the Jemez Mountains. Jemez is pronounced “hay-mous” and is the home of the Jemez Pueblo.

We drove through the beautiful Jemez valley where the Pueblo Indians live and through Jemez Springs, the home of some hot springs. We stopped at the ‘Soda Dam’ above Jemez Springs.

The Soda Dam is a large, dam caused by hot springs in the area that deposited minerals over thousands of years and created a large dam over Jemez Creek. There is one area where the creek broke through and is now a cascade that has created a neat swimming pool during the summer.

We arrived at our picnic site – Battleship Rock Picnic Area. The name comes from a prominent rock which looks like a battleship.

The picnic site is along the Jemez Creek. We walked Jessie along the creek so she could get into the water. Later, on our way out of the valley, we stopped at the creek at a lower level. The water at the picnic site is at a higher elevation and is very clear. At the lower level, you’ll notice the water is red. That comes from the creek running through the Jemez Pueblo that is in the middle of a red rock area.

Here’a short video of our very good day.

C. S. Lewis

If I could read only one Christian source other than the Bible, I would choose the works by C. S. Lewis.

Here are 10 little known facts about Lewis… plus a bonus fact at the end.

1. Lewis was not English. He was Irish. Because of his long association with Oxford University, and later with Cambridge, many people assume he was English. When he first went to school in England as a boy, he had a strong Irish accent. Both the students and the headmaster made fun of young Lewis, and he hated the English in turn. It would be many years before he overcame his prejudice against the English.

2. Lewis could not play team sports. Perhaps it would be better to say that he could not succeed at team sports. One of the features of human anatomy that separates us from the lower primates is the two-jointed thumb, which helped us enormously in the development of technology and civilization. Lewis and his brother Warnie had only one joint in their thumbs which left them hopeless at throwing, catching, or hitting balls. As a result of his failure on the playing field, young Lewis was subjected to ridicule and abuse from the other students at school and made to feel unworthy to draw breath.

3. Lewis was a shy man. In spite of his great skill at debate and his mastery of the platform in holding an audience of hundreds in the palm of his hand, Lewis was shy in everyday encounters with other people he did not know. His enormous publishing success came in spite of his inability to put himself forward instead of from any effort on his part to market himself.

4. Lewis gave away the royalties from his books. Though he had only a modest salary as a tutor at Magdalen College, Lewis set up a charitable trust to give away whatever money he received from his books. Having given away his royalties when he first began this practice, he was startled to learn that the government still expected him to pay taxes on the money he had earned!

5. Lewis never expected to make any money from his books. He was sure they would all be out of print by the time he died. He advised one of his innumerable correspondents that a first edition of The Screwtape Letters would not be worth anything since it would be a used book. He advised not paying more than half the original price. They now sell for over $1200.

6. Lewis was instrumental in Tolkien’s writing of The Lord of the Rings. Soon after they became friends in the 1920s, J. R. R. Tolkien began showing Lewis snatches of a massive myth he was creating about Middle Earth. When he finally began writing his “new Hobbit” that became The Lord of the Rings, he suffered from bouts of writer’s block that could last for several years at a time. Lewis provided the encouragement and the prodding that Tolkien needed to get through these dry spells.

7. Lewis had a favorite kind of story. Lewis loved Norse mythology and science fiction, but his favorite kind of story was the journey to the world’s end on a great quest to gain that most valuable prize, the great unattainable thing. He found this story as a teenager in the medieval story of the quest for the Holy Grail. It is the plot of Spenser’s The Fairie Queene and of George MacDonald’s Phantastes. It would be a plot he incorporated into The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Pilgrim’s Regress.

8. Lewis earned two degrees at Oxford. Lewis had planned to have a career as a philosopher, teaching at Oxford University. When he could not get a job upon graduation, he remained at Oxford an additional year and did a second degree in English literature. He could complete the degree in only one year because he had read the books in the English syllabus for his pleasure reading when he was a teenager. In the end, he taught English literature instead of philosophy.

9. Lewis’s first book was a collection of poetry he wrote as a teenager. Before he planned to be a philosopher, the teenage Lewis hoped to become a great poet. He wrote poetry with the hope of publishing his work and gaining fame. He returned to England after being injured in France during World War I and published his collection as Spirits in Bondage under the pen name of Clive Hamilton.

10. Lewis was very athletic. Even though he hated team sports throughout his life, Lewis was addicted to vigorous exercise. He loved to take ten, fifteen, and twenty mile rapid tromps across countryside, but especially over rugged hills and mountains. He loved to ride a bicycle all over Oxfordshire. He loved to swim in cold streams and ponds. He loved to row a boat. He kept up a vigorous regimen until World War II interrupted his life with all of the new duties and obligations he accepted to do his bit for the war effort.

Bonus fact: C. S. Lewis died on November 22, 1963… the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

An Interesting Find

Awhile back, I found this small black pebble in our back yard. I didn’t think too much about it as this black stone is fairly common in our yard.

However, when I looked closely at it, I saw that it had these lines on it.

The lines are in a triangular, diamond shape and are evenly spaced. They radiate out from the center of the depression on the pebble.

Are these man-made or a quirk of natural processes? I have no idea, but it’s really interesting to me.

Veterans Day, 2019 – The Full Measure of Devotion

Today, I want to specifically remember and honor my shipmates from THE USS WILLIAM H. STANDLEY (DLG-32). I served on that fine ship from June, 1969 to March, 1972.

During that time we spent over two plus years at sea so our call sign, STEAMER, was appropriate. Also, both of my sons were born while I was gone. Veterans sacrificed in many ways, but so did their families.

I also want to recognize veterans from all services. The greatest symbol of their honor, duty and sacrifice is the Honor Guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, Cemetery in Washington, DC. That tomb symbolizes all the veterans who gave their lives in service to their brothers (and now sisters) in arms and to their country.

24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they march before the tomb in all kinds of weather. Only a select few are selected for this duty and they consider it the high point of their military career.

Years ago we took a troop of Boy Scouts to Washington, DC. We took them to watch the changing of the guard at the tomb. These rambunctious boys recognized that this place and this event was something special and they were quiet and respectful the whole time we were there.

Places where people have died in duty to their country and devotion to their brothers are special, sacred places. You can sense that when you visit. Some were the result of poor judgement by their leaders, but that doesn’t distract from the sacrifice of each individual soldier, sailor or airman.

Here are some of those places we have visited where you can sense the sacredness of those who died there.

The Arizona Memorial… where 1,177 died…

Shiloh National Military Park,,, where approximately 3,500 died…

Little Bighorn National Park… where 368 died, soldiers and Indians…

Arlington National Cemetery… as an aside, the house in the background is the Custis-Lee Mansion. It was Robert E. Lee’s home before the Civil War. General Lee is a distant relative of Betty. More than 400,000 are buried there with an average of 25 added each day…

Finally, Gettysburg National Military Park… where about 11,000 died…

Perhaps the best words for Veterans Day are those spoken by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863…

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Experience Vs. Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
James 1:5

As I’ve aged, I often hear that ‘so and so is very wise because he or she has lived for so long.’ Now that I have ‘lived for so long,’ I wonder if I’m wise.

We attribute wisdom to age, I think, because an older person has experienced more of life. So, I have been thinking is there a difference between experience and wisdom. Or are they related?

When I was a kid, I learned that if you touch a hot stove, you get burnt. Needless to say, that experience was ‘seared,’ literally, into my conscious. From that time until today, I no longer touch a hot stove.

Is that wisdom or just learning from experience?

Here are some quotes that, for me, begin to delve into the essence of wisdom versus experience…

“Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to say it.” Anonymous

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” Oliver Wendall Holmes

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

Those have helped, but a quote from one of the lesser Muppets, Beaker, gave me the most insight into the difference between experience and wisdom…

“There is a wisdom of the head and a wisdom of the heart.”

As Beaker says, I believe that the worldly wisdom that comes from our experience is a wisdom of the head. My head tells me to not touch hot stoves.

Whereas the wisdom that God tells us to ask for in the book of James is a wisdom of the heart. God’s wisdom in my heart tells me to listen rather than speak, to be patient rather than act, and to see the miraculous in my life that comes solely from him.