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17th-Jul-2008 10:22 pm - RAGBRAI - 2008
Riding the Ox Home

(Photo from http://s29.photobucket.com/albums/c294/quiknick311/)

The Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa starts in two days!

I'm just about to go to sleep at my old homestead in Indiana. I plan to wake up in about 5 hours and drive the rest of the way to Iowa, meeting my brother from Arizona (who is on the road, as I type) hopefully around noon tomorrow. Saturday, we go to the starting point (rear wheels of our bicycles in the Missouri River) and then, early Sunday morning, we start the actual (i.e., hard) riding from Missouri Valley with over 10,000 other cyclists. After riding for seven days (60-80 miles a day) and camping out on school football fields and town parks every night, and being hosted by towns putting on beer gardens and concerts and great company of new friends, we end (again, "hopefully?") with our front wheels in the Mississippi at Le Clair, Iowa on the following Sunday.

If I get a chance and can figure out the technology, I'll try to update this with news of our progress and (just maybe) a few pictures. Wish us luck! It should be great, great fun and my brother and I are both stoked about riding along together.

UPDATE - JULY 28, 2008

We did it! Even though there were a few really rough days when I wanted to throw my bike in a ditch, it was quite moving to actually end up with all those other people with our wheels in the Mississippi River.

I just now got back to Connecticut after driving the 1300+ miles in two days and I will post a few pictures and tell a few stories in the next day or so.

Going without the Internets and email and such for (what is it now?) about a week and a half was interesting, because I didn't miss it at all!
20th-May-2008 12:48 pm - All Souls Annual Campout
Whole Earth
I just got back home yesterday after six days of camping at Hopeville Pond in Connecticut.

My campsite at night. I've been staying at this particular campsite
(E11 - right on the water) now for, oh, about 15 years or so.

For several decades now, my Unitarian Universalist congregation has been camping on the weekend before Memorial Day. I, myself, however, have been going out earlier and earlier (Wednesday) and returning on Monday after the weekend to bookend my wonderful time with friends with a bit of solitude and peace (I also get to have the whole campground practically to myself for a couple of days).

11 more pictures of the All Souls campoutCollapse )
1st-May-2008 09:22 am - RAGBRAI!
Riding the Ox Home
We're IN!

For years now, my older brother (Arizona) and I (Connecticut) have been talking about doing a long bike ride together. Today the RAGBRAI lottery was held to select 10,000 bicyclists to ride across Iowa for seven days in July (60-100 miles a day) and we were selected.

(Photo from http://www.overlandtouring.com/)

You start with your rear wheel in the Missouri River and end with your front wheel in the Mississippi. We camp at school football fields and such (and it sounds like there is a bit of partying that goes on each night, too). You eat at food stands set up by every boy scout troop and church and civic group along the whole route. There's about 22,000 cumulative feet in climbs (Iowa is not flat ... who'd of thunk it, huh?), but I sense that Connecticut just might be a bit hillier (average distance between hills here is about 200 feet). Iowa heat and humidity in late July might be a concern, but there don't seem to be very many "serious" bikers on this; most seem to have big grins on their faces (in spite of their hangovers).

Now, I need to start some "serious" training. I did a 40-mile ride last Thursday (felt fine for first 30 miles, but couldn't walk a straight line after the last ten), but have kissed off until today (a week later). Being accepted means I need to start riding just about every day with a goal of doing two 60-mile rides on two consecutive days.

If you want to read more about this, read RAGBRAI Guide for Virgins.

We're psyched for this; it will be great to ride ... it will be great to be with my brother again!

See you on the road!
Whole Earth

This picture reminds me of the high-school girl who organized a protest in Norwich, CT three and a half months before the invasion. I was impressed by her resolve and courage, and, being retired with "nothing better to do," I drove through the snow storm as soon as I read about her plans in the morning paper. There were just a few of us there, but her youthful indignation was the catalyst that got me out of my own indulgent and slothful "retirement rocking chair" and out on to the streets.

Here's the old Norwich Bulletin article that I just now found in the detritus of my hard drive.Collapse )
Whole Earth
Our First Earth Day Maypole (40 ribbons - over 30 feet tall)

New London Earth Day is no more. Over the past several years, we did a few good things (three successful Earth Day celebrations, advocating for preservation of city parks, organizing a public forum and high-level press conference to oppose the Broadwater Liquified Natural Gas barge in Long Island Sound and proposing the creation of a New London Sustainable Community Initiative committee to the City Council. When the Council approved our proposal, we then recruited qualified New London residents to be members of this important citizen task force. The City Council has officially appointed our candidates and they are now working to make New London, CT a more environmentally sustainable community.

After our small committee (at last count we numbered only six) did all the hard work of getting this initiative off the ground, somehow our sails were left luffing in the wind and we all eventually moved on to other things. The wake for this organization will be joyously celebrated at some local pub in the near future for all past members of New London Earth Day.
19th-Mar-2008 07:36 pm - Five Years of War
Whole Earth
Today, in Hartford, CT, there were a few rallies to protest the war in Iraq. All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation (of which I am a member) bussed about 60 members to this event to join a total of about 200 from all across Connecticut. Here (and behind the cut) are a few pictures that I took.

It rained. Here is my waterlogged poster.

and here are 19 more photos:Collapse )

Click here to see a morph of my face into Robert Duvall's
He's always been one of my favorite actors, but this is SCARY!
(At least I finally get rid of the glasses that I've worn all my life)
21st-Feb-2008 12:05 am - Music of the Spheres
Moon Cycle
Wednesday night's lunar eclipse (lousy photo, but, well, it was beautiful ... you should have been there)

Tomorrow (today? Thursday!) night, I get to substitute for a flutist in a concert given by a small (about 30 players) local orchestra. I'm really looking forward to it!
25th-Jan-2008 07:56 pm - Passages
Well, this could be just as good a Bible as any other book.

But, any of the hundred or so books listed to the left
as My Ten Favorite Books could serve just as well!

Click here for long diatribe on WHAT I BELIEVE (well, today, at least)Collapse )
11th-Jan-2008 09:48 am - Yet Another Memory - Fantazma Gordo
Whole Earth
Honestly, this is a true story!

It's an understatement to say that I like kites. The walls of my home are covered with all kinds, from antique, hand-painted Japanese fighter kites and bamboo/tissue Indian fighter kites, to various large cloth mandalas and old stick/paper dime-store kites (remember dime stores?).

I have bunches of discontinued mylar and aluminum rod Vic's fighter kites, along with some very cool, two-string acrobatic kites that (I swear) can break the speed of sound just before they auger into the ground at the end of a not-so-successful power-dive (one of which is affectionately called "The Killer" ... it actually broke a friend's arm about a hundred years ago).

But, you know(?), in a way, my favorite kite of all time has been the Fantazma Gordo made by Gayla. You could buy these at any grocery/drug/gasoline/toy/department store back in the seventies (and maybe into the nineties ... I don't recall seeing them anywhere recently). They were all plastic, very cheap, ready-to-fly (string included) and they were just great if you wanted to just fly your hopes high on the spur of a moment.

They would launch from your hand in the slightest of breezes (you wouldn't even need to get out of your lawn chair) and they would fly almost straight up above your head. You could reel them in right back into your hand (again, never needing to leave your lawn chair).

click here for my Unbelievable, but True Fantazma Gordo StoryCollapse )
Moon Cycle
It's been two years since the last Winter Solstice celebration and this one was very windy and rainy, but, still, more than sixty people came together to share food, company, singing and yet another bonfire (though only about twenty people came outside into the tempest to stand around the fire).

The drums and other instruments stayed inside (though the bagpiper played under a distant porch and one (of two) basoonist(s) joined me in several pennywhistle duets at the fire).

The Fire Starts

More pictures behind the cutCollapse )
Riding the Ox Home

(Photo from http://www.scultura-italiana.com)
Click on picture to hear just one of Beethoven's most beautiful pieces
(If you're on modem, you may want to skip this)

Lately, for some reason, I haven't been listening to much classical music. Instead, I've been grooving alot on the Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, the Stones (particularly Exile on Main St.) and Lynyrd Skynyrd. All of them are wonderful and make me feel good, driving down the road, singing along and grinnin' like a frog eating onions.

But, here it is, December 16th and I started my annual Beethoven marathon yesterday, listening to the first seventeen of his thirty-two piano sonatas, and today I've finally worked my way through his symphonies and am just now listening to his final ninth symphony. Tomorrow, I'll finish the piano sonatas and wrap it up with his Missa Solemnis.

Guess what? As great as Lynyrd Skynyrd is, none of that rock stuff comes close to Beethoven. Who'da thunk it, anyhow?

If I get his complete string quartets in the next year, my marathon will have to start a week or so earlier.
23rd-Nov-2007 10:18 am - Mary Ruth Gunn
Lately, for some reason, I've been thinking alot about Mary Ruth Gunn.

I'm only guessing, but, I think this picture was taken sometime around 1992 (my beard was alot fuller and a whole lot browner back then).

Mary Ruth was one of my first real friends. She was much older than I and I got to know her when she started to accompany my flute solos in high school. We would practice at her house and then go down into the basement and shoot pool and talk and talk and laugh and tease each other and so on. But, in hindsight, I realized that Mary Ruth was being my first real mentor in Life. She would engage my mind by steering conversations into areas of philosophy or life situations; she would lend me books, saying "You really should read this, Douglas!" (I still have a never-returned copy of G.K. Chesterton that she lent to me).

Long, long memories of Mary Ruth and a very important letter from her (1965)Collapse )
22nd-Nov-2007 03:01 pm - Thanksgiving
Whole Earth

(Photo from http://www.dreamstime.com/)

Happy Bird Day, everyone (all two or three of you). Whoever you are, I wish you all the best!

It is above 60 degrees F. today, but I couldn't ride my bike because I caught a really bad cold somewhere (couldn't even talk this morning ... a blessing?).

Regardless, I'm off for my annual feast at my friends', Barb and Suzanne, home where I will try my best to carry on a tradition of rowdiness.

Tomorrow? Supposed to be in the 30's (F.) ... WTFO?!
16th-Nov-2007 07:11 pm - Oh Happy Day
Riding the Ox Home

Just got my new Surly Long Haul Trucker and, after somewhat of a struggle,
I finally got it together and went our for our first 10-mile ride.

I should have had my iPod Wannabe (Philips) ear-buds stuck in my ears
with Willie singing "On the Road Again."
13th-Nov-2007 12:07 pm - Two and a Half Weeks of Life
Riding the Ox Home

Two weeks ago at a wine-tasting fundraiser for New London Adult Education.
(I really love playing with this group ... they're my friends!)

One week ago at a Pfizer art exhibit.
(I really love playing with this group ... they're my friends!)

Two days ago at the "John Harvard" statue in Harvard Yard.
(Local superstition is that it's good luck to touch his shiny toe)
I love this bunch of Hooligans, but since I was their chaperone ... I hope I'm still their friend!
6th-Nov-2007 07:45 am - Lost Images
Moon Cycle
I just found out that one (actually, it was my first ever) of the on-line collections of my photos ("Juggling at Heaven's Gate" link above) got deleted because of inactivity. So, I ask you for patience, please, while I try to find the images and upload them elsewhere to make the red exes throughout this journal go away.

In the meantime, did anyone see the moon and Venus yesterday morning? Here's my (overexposed) attempt to photograph it:
22nd-Oct-2007 08:05 am - Monhegan Island - 2007
Riding the Ox Home

(All photos for this entry: Copyright © 2007 by Douglas Wray)

five more recent photos - might take some time if you're on dial-upCollapse )
4th-Oct-2007 07:14 pm - Monhegan Island
Riding the Ox Home

Sarah Orne Jewitt wrote:

. . . the first salt wind from the east, the first sight of a lighthouse set boldly on its outer rock, the flash of a gull, the waiting processing of seaward-bound firs on an island, made me feel solid and definite again, instead of a poor, incoherent being. Life was resumed, and anxious living blew away as if it had not been. I could not breathe deep enough or long enough. It was a return to happiness.

Tomorrow morning, I return to Monhegan Island for the twelfth year. I never could improve on Sarah's words for what these two weeks mean to me.
24th-Sep-2007 07:55 am - Tempus Fugit (YAM #10)

I am (was?) the kid in the back row, third from right (i.e., including the teacher) wearing the geeky white shirt and suspenders (of course!)

I'm not sure, but our class just might have been the only class to go all the way from Kindergarten (Kinder Garden!) to graduating from High School at this one school in Gary, Indiana.

At any rate (dv/dt?), a lot of water has certainly gone under the bridge and over the dam since then, right?
1st-Sep-2007 11:36 pm - So, when do I win?
Riding the Ox Home
I was writing an email to an old friend tonight and, while I was babbling on and on, I realized that I retired from my job of 31 years (at one place) exactly seven years ago, today.

One coincidence is that this is the same friend who sat in my office the last afternoon of my career and we drank a bottle of wine (New Leaf, appropriately, that she had given to me earlier in the day) and we just talked and talked, reliving old memories and laughing about so many things. This went on while I should have been packing up my van with the 31 years of detritus from my office.

After she left, I (by then, it was night and I really didn't care all that much, at that point, about what I took home and what I left (having consumed my New Leaf)) finally just tossed whatever would fit in the van and was about to leave when I noticed that the Base Security folks had left me a parting present of a parking ticket. Well well well .... a nice fair winds and following seas, indeed. I chuckled and I hope that I still have that unanswered summons somewhere in all my memorablia of those years.

Well, tonight, not having a pitcher of Margaritas to celebrate my seven years of retirement, I've had a few glasses of (probably) my all-time favorite, Myer's Rum (on the rocks) and I remembered (over those 31 years) all the folks who retired and then were dead within a year or two after retirement, and all the folks who could have retired, but were dead before they ever got out the doors and a few others dear souls who just couldn't take it any more and ended their own lives before they were even eligible for retirement.

One benchmark of "winning" in this screwy game is that point when the govenment has paid back to you all the money that you contributed (over those 31 years) towards your own retirement. For me, that happened many years ago.

Still, I think of all those dear friends, and coworkers and also the countless people who (for me) are (at this time) only vague memories (there must have been about a thousand people, over those 31 years, that were part of the "family" at the place I worked), all of whom are no longer alive.

Who really is the "winner" here?

What in the HELL is it all about (, Alfie)?

Maybe I should just pour myself another Myers and say "Goodnight."

Damn! I missed the Jimmie Buffet concert at the casino last night!

As my bro always (used to) say: "Boogie on in Peace!"

Methinks that just might be the only way to "Win!"

What do you think?

Oh, I just remembered ... my last gesture was to tape to my office door a copy of the last page from the kid's book, Ferdinand, where the bull is sitting peacefully under a tree with the caption "and he was very happy!"

(Drawing from The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf)

Hmmm ... Methinks just maybe I was a winner seven years ago.
Am I right, or am I not wrong?
25th-Aug-2007 08:55 am - Pas de Deux (Norman McLaren)
Whole Earth

Pas de Deux (Norman McLaren)

Pas de Deux by Norman McLaren

A movie (13 minutes 20 seconds) made by Norman McLaren in 1968 using an optical printer (no digital effects here ... it must have taken just short of forever to do). I first saw it during a photography class that I was taking in the '70s and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things ... ever (and I've never forgotten about it)!

Now, through the wonders of the Internets, I have once again found yet another old friend (who has stood up pretty well to the ravages of time and advancing technology).
14th-Aug-2007 01:54 pm - One of my All-Time Heros
Whole Earth

(Photo from http://www.senate.gov/)

For years and years, I've hung a quote on my refrigerator by Jeannette Rankin (two-time Congresswoman from Montana and the only person to vote against both World Wars, let alone the only person in all of congress to vote against WWII):

"There can be no compromise in war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined with decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible."

That just about says it all, right?
26th-Jul-2007 05:51 am - Dick Goodwin
Moon Cycle
Another friend has died. Richard Goodwin, 1910 - 2007. Noted environmentalist, botanist and philanthroper. His obituary and picture were published in the New York Times, the LA Times, the Boston Globe and many, many others.

(Photo from Connecticut College)

I remember his kindness, his thoughtfulness, his carefully chosen words, his passion and his generosity. For several summers, a friend and I organized an annual poetry reading, where folks just came together and read their favorite poems. Dick was always there, enthusiastically reading, not only some of the classics, but a few of his own poems from years ago.

His book, A Botanist's Window on the Twentieth Century is a jewel and a delight to read.

As is said too infrequently, "they threw away the mold when Dick was born."

Memorial service is this Saturday, July 28th, at All Souls Unitarian Universalist in New London, CT. Some of us in the choir will be singing John Rutter's For the Beauty of the Earth.
16th-Jul-2007 10:55 am - Saving the World
Whole Earth
Well, our small, but very active environmental action group (New London Earth Day) has been working very hard for some time on a proposal aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions for New London County (Connecticut, USA). Tonight, we finally make our formal presentation to the New London City Council (though we have already been trying to grease the skids by meeting one-on-one with most of the Council members and the City Manager).

(among other things, I created and maintain the New London Earth Day website)

This morning, the New London Day printed a good article about our efforts. We're pretty psyched about the Council meeting tonight. Stay tuned for details at 11!

text of article is here (behind the cut)Collapse )
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