MGSD Act

This week I had an appointment in the office of The Mooresville Graded School District, which is located in the old post office at 305 North Main Street. When I  drove into the parking lot I was surprised that there were no handicapped parking spaces. However, I had faced that before and occupied two spaces in order to open my van door. I did manage to push my manual wheelchair up the incline to the front door but faced two steps leading to the entry. After managing entry through the loading ramp at the back, I mentioned to the administrator I met  with about the situation for handicapped citizens. She explained that the building had historical designation  and walked with me to my car, apologetic all the time.

Later that afternoon the administrator called me to share that she had contracted the MGSD superintendent and assured me that after the spring break the situation for handicapped access would be remedied by purchasing a portable ramp for the front entry and creating parking spaces for wheelchair uses.

Thank you Ms. McLean and Mr. Mauney for listening to my concerns and acting so quickly.

Planes, Pine Trees, Birds, and the Lake

Today’s morning ride was a cold one which is all-too common in many springs. The sun was just clearing the spit of Lake Norman we live by, and planes busily passed overhead on their way to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The landing traffic here is steady, but not heavy, and I enjoy watching the massive machines seemingly float across our part of the world as they glide into the airport southwest of us. The planes come in from the east at about 1,000 feet and some bank for their landing and others directly approach it, but I enjoy watching them all, especially the larger international planes which, at first glance, appear not to be moving but hovering above in the golden hued morning light. While my view of the air traffic is a relaxed one, I’m sure the workers in the airports and control stations must be hard at work to keep up with all the coming and going. So much technology and human work is involved in accomplishing what I leisurely watch on many morning rides.

But the man-made flights are not the only ones this morning. Across the street is a flock of crows, their rich blackness almost too large for the landscape. They fly from pine top to pine top while telling each other some morning news. Lower to the ground are the robins who, after having established territory, busily build nests made of mud and pine needles which are almost perfect circles.  Behind me the resident mocking bird, named Atticus, announces its presence from the holly tree while the smaller Carolina wren challenges with its own high and melodious volume.

But my attention is held by the bird box attached to a tree directly in front of me. In the past nesting seasons it has been the home of titmice; however, this year its tenants are brown-headed nuthatches or bluebirds. I can’t decide which because there is a dispute going on over who has rights to the bird box. I watch as I ride and note that the small nuthatch seems to have the upper hand because one of the pair occupies the box-its small brown head protrudes from the entry hole and its mate calls from a near-by tree. But the usually timid bluebirds are not giving up and one of them flies from the roof of the box to a tree and back again to scold the brown-headed nuthatch in the box. It is a back and forth with much bird communication between each pair and harsher notes aimed at the opposing pair. I ride and watch. Eventually the bluebirds leave, the one nuthatch remains in the box, and the other glides over from its perch on the tree to take dominion over the box as it sits on the roof.

And while I have watched this dispute in nature, planes continued their approach for landing  at the airport over thirty miles from where I ride. Certainly the speed, the size, the noise, and more features of the planes overshadow those of the crow, the mockingbird, the nuthatch, the blue bird, and the other birds in every way.  The planes provide a service as does the lake I live on with its shoreline of 520 miles. It provides power for citizens of this state, and most civic leaders and other people extol the lakes economic benefits. In 1959 Duke Power began the damming of the Catawba River just northwest of Charlotte and the flooding began–all the way to the 760-elevation line when the lake is at full pond. All this and more for progress we are told, and some of that argument has merit, but not all.

The 42 pine trees in our front yard prohibit us from having a manicured lawn like our neighbors. More than once we have been advised that, if we removed the trees, we could have an overly sculpted, sprayed, and un-natural shade of green grass. That may be true, but we then would be trading the birds, the shade in summer’s hot western sun, the butterflies, and all the other abundant life that, along with us, call this spit of land home.

I have ridden in planes. I enjoy seeing the piece of Lake Norman we live by. But most of all, I cherish the life under, in, and by the pine trees. All 42.

Lenhoff Money

            Since California high school football for the fall 2020 season was cancelled because of the pandemic, and the spring season looked doubtful,  Carla and Steven Lenhoff allowed their son Lucas to search for options that would allow him to play. After a thorough search, he settled on Charlotte, NC, and last year his parents moved from California to Charlotte where he enrolled in Myers Park High School, along with 10 other students from California, Texas, and Georgia who came with his family. Carla and Steven rented 3 houses in the Myers Park district to house the players, and Steven bristles at the suggestion that his wife and he brought ringers to Charlotte: “What upsets me is people say we brought a bunch of ringers out here. Well, outside of one kid—and Lucas was probably the most well-known—besides the color of their skin, how were they ringers in football? A lot of kids didn’t even play. They hadn’t played varsity.”  

When a Myers Park parent notified the school, Dr. Robert Folk investigated the possibility of ineligible players being on the football team, and after the inquiry he self-reported one of the oldest and largest high schools in NC. The school forfeited all of its games for the 2021 season and since their arrival, some of the students who arrived with the Lenhoffs have left Charlotte which causes Carla Lenhoff to observe, “What happened with all the kids is the most disappointing part off this because I feel like I failed. I would’ve loved to watch all of them graduate together. Its’s disappointing and this is not about football, and I think people don’t’ get that. These kids have been together a long time.”  

Words matter because they reveal how the speaker thinks. If we examine the above quotation of Steven Lenhoff, we hear a white man defending his bringing of 10 Black youngsters  to Myers Park by explaining that “besides (italics mine) the color of their skin” how else would we see them as ringers. Thus, Steven Lenhoff wants us to think that only Black players can be ringers or exceptional players, but he apologizes for the ones who did not play or make the varsity team.  Is there subtle racism being expressed in his words or is he speaking for us?

Carla Lenhoff wants us to believe that her family move across the United States is not about football, but her son, husband, and she move so that Lucas can play a season of football and be recruited by a college. It seems that the Lenhoffs brought other players at the family’s expense to join the team. But, Carla Lenhoff tells us …this is not about football.”

The Lenhoffs have the means to help children, and they seem to have done so in a fashion. However, to move across the country so that even one child can play football is mis-guided. It teaches horrible lessons such as football is most important; if one is wealthy enough he or she can buy anything; and that rules are inconveniences that can be circumvented. Those lessons, and others, the Lenhoffs have willingly taught their son and other children. That is shameful.

If the Lenhoffs want to help, there are many charities that will accept their monies without harming children.

A Lake Norman Day

            This last day of March 2022 arrives clothed in a delightful mix of warm, wet wrappings of flowering trees, grasses, and flowers. The dogwood trees in the back garden hold not yet fully opened blooms of their soft white petals as if not wanting to release them to onlookers. Cardinals, nuthatches, doves, Carolina Chickadees, and many more birds take residence as they build nests or hunt for food in the azaleas and grass. A small gathering of the boat-tailed grackles visit the ground beneath one of the feeders which encourages a grey squirrel to move away, but only for a moment because the grackles find the offerings lacking, so they flew away in a flush of black purple sheen towards the lake and the tall pine trees. Next to the white fence the gardenia spreads its deep green leaves which, in its time, will grace the garden with a sweetness of scent unlike any other save the Ligustrum. Next to it are the three Lyda roses which will bloom in concert with each other to add a blush of pink to all the color.

So much life in such a small space. Yes, more birds, flowers, bushes, trees, and grasses would be found in a larger space. But here, in this small back garden, a visitor can hear the wind travel through the tall pine trees near the lake and feel the brush of air as a bird flies by. The fragrance of gardenia is captured here in this air as if held for ransom, and even the scent of freshly cut grass lingers long after the mower has finished his work.

Hours later another day has passed, and the rain travels to other lands. A bright spring-blue sky hovers above and Nick the beagle puppy sleeps on one bed of pine needles. To paraphrase the town crier, “Late afternoon and all is well.”

Ginni Thomas’ Attack on America

In my career as a teacher of literature and composition, I taught students to parse sentences to better understand a text. When I read the string of texts between Ginni Thomas and  Mark Meadows, as reported in the Washington Post, I parsed two of them to fuller comprehend the thinking of Thomas and Meadows and their intent. The italics are mine, but here are the two as reported by Woodward and Costa :  Meadows writes, “ …This is a fight of good versus evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.”

Thomas replies,  “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now… I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”

As pointed out in the Post reporting, Meadows makes two Biblical references in his text and Thomas responds with a thank you. In her text the indefinite pronouns that and This refer to Meadows’ text, which she tells him are a comfort to her and encourage her. The This [referring to Meadows’ text] is also combined with a reference to “a conversation with my best friend just now,” that like Meadows’ text encourages her. We don’t know who her “best friend” is, but we know that her immediately past conversation with him or her is as important as Meadows’ text in helping her “to keep holding on.” Thomas tells us in her own words that she is conversing about the potential overthrow of our democracy with her friend as she texts with Meadows.

It can be debated if Meadows is pandering to Thomas in his text to her; after all, we watched him to that repeatedly. However, by parsing Thomas’ text we gain a better understanding of her thoughts and hear her say that the conversation “just now” with that “best friend” encourages her to continue her support of the attack against America.

This simple grammatical exercise shows the need to know who her best friend is because along with Meadows’ text, her best friend is encouraging her to overthrow our democracy.  If it is an ordinary citizen that is unfortunate, but if it is the person she has often  referred to as her best friend, it is a national issue and must be dealt with. Ginni Thomas needs to identify her best friend who encourages her to keep holding on in her assault against America.

The Red Maple

Death is all around us, but the death happening as I type these lowly words this early spring morning is unnecessary. It is happening because a neighbor is inconvenienced and has the power to create a patio with fire pit and grill less troubled by the roots and seed pods and leaves of a magnificent red maple tree. The man high in the bucket cuts with his chain saw and drops limbs that have taken perhaps thirty or more years to grow, and the modern machine grinds them into a mulch that will leave no history of their shade and vibrant fall colors. As Hopkins wrote of the Binsey Poplars-“Felled, all felled….” The crew of men will be gone in a few hours after removing what took years to become, but no matter-the tree, as my neighbor said, was messy and in the way. In our modern Lake Norman manner, we remove any in our way because we have the resources.

I understand that there are times that trees must be removed because, for instance, they pose a danger to a house foundation or septic system. However, it seems to me that on Isle of Pines Road, many owners are willing to cut any bush or tree that is, in their eyes, a hinderance of some sort. And, the reader may say, the tree belongs to the homeowner, and that is true, but in some way, if we are community, each tree belongs to all of us. In a community, what I do on my little postage stamp of land affects the community, and since that is true, I have an obligation to honor that commitment.

But for me, there is another commitment besides the one to my community on Isle of Pines Road. In my favorite story of creation, it is written: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.” No words such as cut, remove, destroy are here, but words that imply stewardship are.

In 1879 Hopkins wrote these words in his poem Binsey Poplars,  “ O if we but knew what we do/ When we delve or hew —/Hack and rack the growing green!”

To answer Hopkins, yes we think we know what we are doing because in our short sighted decisions, we are believing in the myth that man is in and can control.

Values and Wrestling

Just read the following words. I’ll explain below:

“I remember thinking before the season even started, ‘If I don’t start, if I don’t ever win a match, I’m just lucky to be here,’ because their [the coaches and team] perspective on life. I think that’s why they are so successful. In situations when it’s uncomfortable out here, we’re competing, it’s 1-1, your dreams are on the line, but you’re so focused because you have values. That’s Cael Sanderson.”

The NCAA D-1 Wrestling Championships (male division) concluded last night in Detroit. Of the ten weight classes in collegiate wrestling, Penn State brought 9 wrestlers to the tournament and 6 of them stood on the podium becoming All-Americans with 5 of those All-Americans winning their weight class. The Nittany Lions scored 131.5 team points and Michigan was a distant second with 95.

That is quite remarkable, even stunning, when one team has half  the championships. But if you re-read the words above, quoted from the 197-pound champion Max Dean, any coach, athlete, or fan can see that Coach Sanderson, himself a 4-time D-1 wrestling champion, does more with his young charges than teach moves and physical conditioning.

It seems that Coach Sanderson and his staff teach that folkstyle wrestling is a means to something bigger. Let us hope that all coaches teach and require values.

Mr. John T. Hazel

It takes a visionary to see that a deep ravine can be transformed into what is now, over forty years later, a soccer/lacrosse field for an Alexandria private school. It takes the same type of visionary to see that the vacant building of a defunct department store in Arlington County will be a perfect home for a new law school. This type of visionary not only sees the potential in such things, he or she sees it in people. So far in front of the rest of us, this type of visionary often appears small; but don’t be fooled by that appearance. Such people are not small, and they get larger when we catch up to them as they patiently wait for us. Mr. John Tilghman “Til” Hazel, Jr., who died this week, was such a person.

Mr. Hazel saw where we were, but more importantly he saw where we could be. He led us to achieve what we never imagined was possible, and to places we did not know existed. He always was thinking and seeing and doing and going. Most of all he believed in us. One of the many, many people Mr. Hazel believed in was me, and while he and I went separate paths in the late 1980’s I never forgot his lessons and generosity. I still benefit from both.

In reading the tributes flooding in about Mr. Hazel, I read him described as “a developer,” a force in the expansion of Northern Virginia. That side of Mr. Hazel I only knew of or read about. But the Mr. Hazel I remember is the one that helped so many of us by leading and aiding our schools—everything from small, independent ones to a large, state university. So, yes, Mr. Hazel was a developer of real estate, but he was also an educator who helped develop teachers, coaches, and administrators by sharing with everyone- from presidents of an expanding college to youth wrestling coaches- his wisdom and his time and his other resources.

In the fall of 1976 I encountered Mr. Hazel when I began teaching and coaching in an independent school in Alexandria, Virginia. I stayed one year and made a poor decision to leave to  try my hand in business in North Carolina. Fortunately, the school re-hired me, and my wife, two daughters, and just-born son returned in December to begin again. When we arrived at our home, we discovered a well-stocked kitchen. The cabinets bulged with food as did the refrigerator. Later I found out that Mrs. “Jinx” Hazel and two other mothers at the school had given my family that gift.  But, as I was to discover across the years at the school, Mr. Hazel’s hands were certainly part of that kindness, and more.

Many words are used to try and describe Mr. Hazel, and I am sure most are sincerely correct. However, when I think of Mr. Hazel I am reminded of the settlers of our frontier. Each party of settlers asked one of its members to go out alone, into the unchartered territory, and blaze a trail for them to follow. That is Mr. Hazel, the person who blazed trails for many of us, and for that I am grateful.

One Small Event

Late last week in that delicious time of waning sun light when complete calm had descended over the garden, Nick the beagle and I went out to savor the moment. We were not disappointed.

Sitting in the far eastern reaches of the garden, I found descending sun beams to warm my face and Nick recovered one of his discarded sticks. Looking about the garden I noticed some Creeping Charlie growing next to the walkway. It is identified as a weed, but so is the lovely Sunflower—so much for that designation. However, the Creeping Charlie was growing next to another “weed” that I don’t know, but amongst its low growing, magenta-colored blooms were small, flying insects that hovered in the sunbeams as they fluttered from bloom to bloom. This was not a hatch of mayflies that every trout fisherman relishes, but it was quite a bit of life, here low to the ground, in the back garden. Awed by what I was seeing; I settled into in the lowering sun light and watched this postage stamp of earth’s abundant life.

Nick lay next to me chewing his stick. I warmed in the fading day’s sunlight watching the unknown insects on the Creeping Charlie and the unknown plant. If the insect’s lifecycle is like that of the mayfly, they will live for a day, perhaps two, and the Creeping Charlie will be mowed when Shawn mows the quick growing grass. But that was of no matter, because next to the sidewalk in our back garden overlooking the lake, all this life was going about its business unaware of its significance.

                                                Withdrawn

Having recently re-read the autobiography of Loren Eiseley, I decided to read a biography of the 20th century eminent writer and scientist. Soon a copy of Gale Christianson’s Fox at the Wood’s Edge arrived, and I eagerly opened the package only to find an ex-library copy that the seller had not advised, so I requested a refund. Now, I own several copies of ex-library books and have no issue with them. In fact, I have read of collectors and book readers who prefer them for several reasons. However, I requested a refund because the particular copy I received had not been so advertised. The dealer refunded the money and instructed me to keep or donate the book to a charity, which is standard practice.

The book had been in the collection of the large public library system of Fresno, California, and it  had the usual stamps of all public libraries. All ex-library copies that I know of have a prominent stamp in them stating in some way that the particular book has been withdrawn or discarded. The Christianson was a bit different for on its front flyleaf page was stamped in the usual, large, black letters:   WITHDRAWN, Worn, Soiled, Obsolete.

If a librarian wishes to determine that a book is too worn and soiled to remain in the collection, I will not argue with that evaluation. Being worn and soiled is in the eyes of the observer, after all, and to make such assessments is, I think, one of the duties of a librarian. I also understand that a public library collection needs culling of its holdings and some books that are not checked out by readers occupy space that could be used for new acquisitions. So, without knowing the use history of Christianson’s biography, I must assume (ouch) that the book was seldom checked out, thus making it “Obsolete”.

This reflection is being written on a lap top, but I learned the keyboard in a high school typing class during the early 1960’s, using an Underwood typewriter. The first telephone I used was a rotary dial one that had finger holes corresponding to a particular number; it was dull black, plugged into a telephone line outlet, and had a receiver for talking and listening that rested in it cradle, There was a time when the television had only three channels and to change from one to another, I had to get out of my chair and turn a dial. To raise or lower a car window, I had to turn a hand crank. As a beginning teacher in 1968 I learned to make multiple copies of handouts for my students by hand-cranking a Mimeograph machine in which I had placed the master copy. In order to conduct academic research, I had to go into a library and sit at a large table to read because the “Reserved Books” could not be checked out. All of this is a short list of things in my lifetime that have, thank goodness, become obsolete because a better way or better product was thought of or invented. Innovation is a great thing, and one that I benefit from and appreciate.

However, there was a time that in any row of stores in an American town could be found a repair shop. The one I favored long ago was Appliance Fix-It, and the owner and “fixer” ,whose name I wish I could recall, would and did fix, it seemed, anything. There were also shoe repair shops where a favorite pair of shoes or other leather item, whether out of adoration or to save money, could be repaired, granting new life to a worn favorite. These fixtures of a past America have, sadly, become obsolete because it is now easier and cheaper to just discard an iron or lawn mower or lamp or any other commonly found items in and around our homes and buy a new one.

 Products and items become obsolete. I understand that, but what I can’t comprehend is the idea that a well-regarded biography of such a writer and thinker as Eiseley can and was determined to be obsolete. Worn and soiled is possible. But like the fixer and the shoe repairman such books should never be thought of as obsolete.