Some thoughts and reflections during the Jewish New Year

“God gave us the gift of life.  We don’t need any more.”–Allan Sherman from The Rape of APE

Another year has passed.  To the Jews, the coming of the harvest during the closest new moon marks the beginning of another year.  It is not surprising that the festival, Rosh Hashanah(literally, the head of the year) is one of the most sacred to the Jews, and, indeed, has implications for all.  The Jewish New Year is more than the turning of the calendar, it is a time to reflect on what has been, and to recognize one’s actions.  For me the previous year was truly “laden with happiness and tears”.  I lost my Mom on June 21, one week after her 90th birthday.  But in the loss, my Dad and I formed a stronger bond.  “We will get through this together”.  Nevertheless, I was forced to face a new emptiness:   For the first time, I went to Oregon without either of my parents, surrounded by family portraits.  It wasn’t easy.  Towards the end of summer, I lost my dear friend, Don Donegan, who had been Chair of the Board of Directors of Medford Education International, and had taught me much of what I know about business.  His home was Black Oaks, located on a beautiful stretch of the Rogue River.  I made many a trip to visit him on Pine Gate Way amid a crowd of llamas.  Those visits are over.  However, there were also joys.   I made new friends through the Eagle Point Writer’s Critique Group.  I saw Warm Springs Falls for the first time, and walked down to the re-named T’lomikh Falls on the Rogue River.  Another year.

What follows are some miscellaneous and scattered thoughts that came from a troubled mind:

The term “religious” fanaticism is a strange one.  When we think about a Lewis Carroll fanatic, do we mean someone that takes joy in ripping up editions of Alice in Wonderland?  Hardly.  Does a Beethoven fanatic spend time recklessly destroying CDs of Beethoven’s symphonies?  Absolutely not.  Yet, the people we often call “religious” fanatics, go about gleefully destroying God’s creations.  Does that make any sense?  Wouldn’t a religious fanatic weep when a new child was born,  kiss the trees,  or bless the stars, rejoicing in God’s creations, not destroying them?  I think so.  My belief is that there is a fanatically-oriented personality that grasps “religion”, which is often a dark mask for the groping hands of power.  By calling such charlatans “religious'” fanatics, we are often elevating criminals to a higher level.  We are, in some sense, giving validation to their nefarious deeds.  We know the power of words.  Human history has choked on them.  “Words are no shoddier than what they peddle.”  Beckett.  But when I witness the current atrocities in the Middle East, I am reminded of lines from Waiting from Godot:

Pozzo:  I am Pozzo!  Pozzo!  Does that name mean nothing to you?  I said does that name mean nothing to you?

Estragon:  I once knew a family called Gozzo.  The mother had “the clap”.

I will finish this post with lines from my dear friend, Sarah Seff Rolfe, taken from her poem, Quasars at Dacca:  “Earth, a tiny bead spinning in space, and still learning.”

May all of you enjoy a year of discovery, peace, understanding, and joy.

2014 Inner Tubing Season Ends

Cooler afternoons with lower river temps. ended the tubing season of 2014.  It was a season that saw few accidents;  I can’t recall any rescues.  And it was the first summer that no drownings occurred in many years.  The river was playful, but not dangerous.  Currents ranged from 1500-2000 cfs.  The latter, made for some large waves and swift water.  It was one of the best times I’ve enjoyed on the river in many a year, and  I’m quite grateful.  Lisa Burkett, my tubing partner, and I were able to squeeze in a last trip on Labor Day, thanks to temps. in the 80s.

The summer of 2014 was exceptionally warm, with almost two weeks of 100-100+ weather, and countless days in the 90s.  Sunscreen and hats were a must.  August had many days of threatening clouds, but little rain.  At 61, I can no longer endure direct extreme heat on subsequent days, so I often tubed every other day, and sometimes only once a week.  But feeling the river currents as they swirl around you, taking in the magnificent scenery that beckons, is an experience of a lifetime.  This was my 50th year of inner tubing the Rogue River, so it was a special time for me.  I hope it was a special time for you.  I can’t wait until the next season begins!

Lower water means more rocks and time to maneuver in an inner tube.

The Rogue River continues to drop, and more rocks are appearing, especially in bars.  There is one spot right above Dodge Bridge where any lower water might mean getting out on the left side of the right channel and walking.  The deepest water in the right channel is on the right, and heads into a tree.  The safe way to take this rapid is to pass to the left of a green tuft of island at the top of the right channel, and then make a sharp right turn, catching the eddy of the ensuing bar.  The eddy should hold you, so that you can float down the center, and avoid the bush at the bottom right.  This means going over a rock bar, so lift yourself up in your tube.  What follows are a series of playful, splashy waves, and one more bar before you reach the Dodge Bridge on ramp.  Always wear a flotation device.  Look out for trees and rocks.  And have fun on the river!

2014 Inner Tubing Season Begins Early

The 2014 inner tubing season began in the middle of June, then paused for some cooler weather, resurfacing towards the end of the month.  It is hard to believe that this will mark my 50th summer of inner tubing.  I have been fortunate to enjoy the waters of the Rogue River, an excellent river for inner tubing.  The flow now is about twice what it was before Lost Creek Dam(2200 cfs at TouVelle State Park), and somewhat warmer(53-54 at Casey State Park, instead of 51).  The test for low 50 temps. is to put your hand in the water.  If it begins to burn from cold, temp. is low 50s.  You can do the same thing with your feet.  I usually test the water at TouVelle State Park, and if it’s warm enough, and the outside temp. is in the 70s, time to float.  Incidentally,   when I was a kid, I usually encountered low 50 water, but now, at 61, I’d just as soon avoid it!

Note:  River has pushed to the right at TouVelle State Park, which means less water along the left bank.  The river took out part of the “children’s dam”, and cut a new channel over soft rock to drop into main rapid on the right.  Unfortunately, the two rocky channels below the bridge are still there, forcing tubers to the left, and then requiring them to cross two swift currents to get to shore.  Chances are strong that tubers will be pushed downstream to second put-out among some thick under brush.  My advice would be to get out just before the “children’s dam”.  The wave on the right isn’t worth the ensuing hassle.

Greetings to inner tubers everywhere!  It looks to be a wonderful season on the Rogue River.  People generally tube from Casey State Park to TouVelle State Park.  The run is exciting, but not dangerous, if you avoid strainers.  Mostly Class 1 and 2.  You could tube to below Gold Ray, but there is no easy put-out.  Below that, waves become too large and irregular for inner tubers, and there are a few falls.  However, you can tube from Gold Hill to Hog Creek(watch out for Twin Bridges Rapid Class 3, just before Valley of the Rogue State Park), if you have the desire, but much of the water from Grants Pass to Hog Creek is placid, and without action.  Happy tubing!

A Sad and Brief Note

I learned that Mom is in critical condition, and that it’s only a matter of days.  I have much to reflect on in the coming week, but I try to stay positive.  She has been ailing for some time, so the news is not unexpected.  However, it’s difficult to lose a family member.  I wish my family the best.

The History of the Upper Rogue Schools

In the late 1980s, Thomasine(Tommy) Smith and her husband, Stan, decided to make a video showing the history of the Upper Rogue Schools from 1879-1988.  Tommy had been owner of Central Point restaurant, Mon Desir(which burned to the ground several years ago), and a Shady Cove restaurant, Bel Dis on the Rogue River.  For the project, she and Stan enlisted the help of many citizens, who supplied them with personal photos and memories of the schools.  In keeping with the project, she used music which reflected the times considered.  Tommy deserves our thanks for creating a video that gives an in-depth look at the lives of schoolchildren and their teachers.  Two things become apparent:  a true community spirit permeated all gatherings, and a genuine pride in the schools themselves.  Thanks again, Tommy, for preserving this special part of the history of the Upper Rogue.

“How can Mothers Give Birth to Such Monsters?

It was late at night.  Most of the patients were sleeping, but one was not.  He was tossing and turning, hovering between sanity and insanity.  The pain from the shrapnel wound he had received fighting for the Ukrainian resistance had not subsided, but that was not what was troubling him.  Only a few hours ago, he had learned of the death of his new wife and child.  His wife had been the prettiest girl in the village, and they had looked forward to a long life together.  She, too, had been a fighter for Ukrainian independence, but had been captured by the Germans.  In a narrow prison with grimy walls, she had been tortured, and finally hanged, but not before she saw her baby’s skull shattered at the hands of the Nazis.  One thought tormented Vasya:  “How can mothers give birth to such monsters?”   He continued to moan from pain and despair.  Where was his future happiness now?  He thought back to his first date, and the sparkle in his bride’s eyes.  The Ukrainian steppe, which once seemed a boundless reach of possibilities, was now shrouded in gloom and uncertainty.  The more he thought, the angrier he got, and gripped the bedsheets, clenching his teeth.  Yet those actions assuaged some of his anger, and he thought of his dead child and the many helpless children that are subjected to man’s inhumanity.  A new look shone in his eyes.  This was a confident look, a look of determination.  Vasya had made a decision:  “I will give my heart to children.”

Suddenly, his mind spun out a series of ideas.  He thought of his mentors:  Anton Makarenko and Janusz Korczak.  Makarenko had transformed would-be delinquents into future lawyers, doctors, architects, builders, teachers.  He had written his Pedagogical Poem in three parts after Dante, showing the progression from student hell to student heaven.  However, to achieve his aims, he had to make use of corporal punishment, and sheer intimidation.  Vasya would have none of that.  He would build the pride and confidence of his pupils, but he would do so from trust and love, not from coercion.  Korczak had been a hero to Vasya.  He had marched with his students to the gas chambers at Treblinka,  accompanying them as their teacher and friend to the very end.  The “Old Doctor”  had placed great emphasis on the health of his students.  This was a concept Vasya could embrace, because he believed in beautiful, healthy children.  He could not know that on the other side of the globe, in the despised imperialist U.S., another writer, the children’s writer, L. Frank Baum, had said the same thing many years before:  ” In all this world there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child.”  Vasya would see to it that the children had ample time for exercise, and he would expose them to the elements to strengthen their bodies.

The mind that had been immersed in gloomy thoughts, now spun out more and more positive, expansive thoughts.  Vasya turned once again to his Ukrainian homeland with fruit trees, winding meadows, and the ripening fields of grain.  Yes, he wanted children to experience nature in all its grandeur.  He wanted children to experience the awe and mystery of their natural surroundings.  And the thought came to him:  “I will build a school of joy.  I want students to feel beauty in all its manifestations.  Nature will be a wellspring for reading, writing, and counting.  Already he could see parts of future compositions floating about, lighting up the dreary hospital room:  “The Little Sun has arisen.  The little birds have wakened.  A lark ascends into the sky.  The sunflower has also awakened.”  And I will teach the children fairy tales, and we will listen to the music of the streams…

Vasya had exhausted himself with his thoughts, and he fell asleep.  However, he never lost his concentrated look, and his determination.  From dawn until the evening he would work with students, teachers, parents, and other staff, to create his special school in Pavlysh.  Despite attacks of angina and weakness, he would persevere, and fight for the dignity of children to the end.  When the doctors opened him up at the last, they could not believe he had lived as long as he had, so damaged was his body.  But Vasya had triumphed to become Vasilij Sukhomlinskij, one of the greatest educators of the twentieth century.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 80 other followers