Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

I like the beach. I like the mountains better. I like change of pace, newness, different, interesting. It is the beach this summer since I have to go there four times this summer for training. I don’t really get to spend large amounts of time at the beach (which is OK (See sentences 1 and 2.)), but it has been enough mostly because it has been varied and beautiful.


Sunset at Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FL


Almost looks like smoke coming out of chimneys


Small craft upon the main


The sunset years?


A moment of quiet contentment


Real crusin’


Practicing or Protecting or Both


The warm glow and cool breeze


This scene reminds me of a William Cowper hymn (see below)


Taking it all in






The Airbnb where we stayed


Eyeing each other


Florida Softshell Turtle (A. ferox)


Shade is good


House of William Horton


Ready to make a stand


Hiding out in the shade


It’s alive


Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GA


Old Plantation Live Oak


Sidney Lanier Bridge

Following is the hymn by William Cowper that I referred to in the picture caption above. When all you see is the rain pelting down, remember both that it waters the soul and bespeaks of God’s kind and bright mercy:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

The glow of the sunset high up in the clouds is exhilarating. You most usually can’t see thunderstorms from a distance and entirely in the wooded mountains where I live. The beach affords a wide view. You can watch the rain and lightning and billowing heights and still get to your car before it hits. Frequently in the woods a thunderstorm is on top of you before you know it. Reflection upon God is similar; it requires distance from all that obscures reflection on Him. We need to find perspectives from Scripture, in meditation, surrounded by quiet, reflecting on God’s providence in our circumstances in order to again absorb His beauty and peace in our hearts.

William Horton came to Jekyll Island in 1736 with a land grant of 500 acres, 50 of which was supposed to be in cultivation within 10 years for him to retain the deed. This ‘big house’ was, no doubt, built years after first arriving. There are many more big houses of the rich who owned most of the island in the late 1800’s until WWII when it was evacuated. In 1947, Georgia acquired the whole island and administers it as a state park with natural, historic, and commercial areas. It seems to have a good balance. We may have much to learn by this experiment about how to administer other parts of the planet sustainably. We are, afterall, stewards on God’s behalf, and not owners of this Earth.

There was an old plaque under the ‘Old Plantation’ Live Oak that must have been at least 50 years old. It said the tree was estimated to be 350 years old. That means it was a fair-sized tree when William Horton arrived, very possibly a young tree when the settlers came to Jamestown, and definitely a maturing tree when the Declaration was signed. It helps to withstand the hurricanes that must have hit over time that the branches grow back to the ground to support the whole tree and that the tree grows on the inland side of the island. I want to be an oak firmly planted by the waters of His grace (Psalm 1).

The Sidney Lanier Bridge that spans the Brunswick River was named after the former bridge, which was named after the Georgian musician and poet of the Civil War era. The bridge is cable-stayed where all deck supporting cables come straight from the towers as opposed to a suspension bridge where the cables hang vertically from larger cables hanging in a catenary between towers. More frequently the cable-stayed design is used now because it is lowered cost initially and maintenance than a suspension bridge and now possible for long spans with new, large equipment to set it up. Man loves to design and order things, a characteristic that points to God’s image in him.

All of creation from thundercloud to beach to ancient tree to crab to the designs of mankind give glory to the Great Designer-Beautifier God, Our Creator. We may take great joy in enjoying and working in His grand terrarium/aquarium (Earth). He has put us here to acknowledge Him in doing so.


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…there’s a Gecko in your bathtub!


…Spanish Moss is in every Live Oak tree.


…there is sand and only sand, and it’s everywhere, in your clothes, in your car, in your house, in the breeze.


…the rocks were once alive- coral or shells.


…everything grows on everything else. (Pop Quiz: What is the difference in an epiphyte and a parasite?)


…there are a numerous variety of birds, many of which have long legs and long beaks.


…you can see thunderstorms coming hours and multiple dozens of miles in advance.


…the power company provides places for raptors to nest.


…most of the housing developments have walls and many gates and more than a few screened in swimming pools behind every house (a car in every garage?).

I like different for a change, but it is good to be home where   

   1) the tub don’t have no critters hangin’ out in it. (hope ya ain’t offended by my grammar).
2) the only thing hangin’ in a tree is branches and squirrels.
3) the dirt is orange clay and the rocks are hard with crystals.

   4) the birds are small and sing songs in the morning.
   5) thunderstorms pop up of a sudden.
   6) you have 1/2 million dollar homes and trailers on the same street.
I like traveling and exploring and I like coming home, too. God has created a big, varied world with so much to fill the senses and point us to Him.

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Many of the Thanksgiving traditions of my family are over 30 years old: the meal with the brothers at the oldest’s house, the flag football game, the day after hike, guests from near and far. Many of the children who are now parents don’t really remember Thanksgiving any other way. But as spouses have been added, which means extended families, the traditions have had to flex and bend to traditions and schedules of other families. The day after hike used to be on “Black Friday”, sort of a rejection of the shopping madness for a stroll in the mountains and conversation with family. But this year and last the big meal was on Friday, and this year the hike was on Thursday. Rather than brothers and spouses and children and cousins, it was trimmed down to my oldest brother and me.

We explored a few ruins and cemetery in the Sugarlands of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There was once a thriving community on this gentle slope below Bulls Head of the Mt. LeConte. The sugar maples upslope were a source of sugar and the name of the community. There was Pi Beta Phi settlement school begun there in 1920 with a stone house for the teachers and later a CCC Camp for workers in the young National Park.


Catching rays in the leafless Autumn before the dim winter days


The main school house? The boarding quarters or dining room?


Rest under the plush carpet




Creek crossing


Teacher’s House




Living Room


Beech and Sourwood juxtaposed


Bedload scouring


Both lively and peaceful


Double Duty- cleared land and separated

After the hike I went to visit my 3rd born. Arriving just before dark, we went down to Kingston to see the sunset. Having already set, we walked the concrete “boardwalk” enjoying the fading colors and good conversation.


Too late and just in time


On Saturday I went bouldering at Lilly Boulders at the Obed Scenic River climbing area. I was by myself at first but met up with another climber with whom I enjoyed the day. I was climbing exceptionally well, and truth be told, the grading of climbs seems easy here than at home. The day was perfect for climbing: crisp, dry, sunny.


One wall at Lilly Boulders


Lots of good climbing


Approach Pose

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I am very thankful for a weekend at home. I have been out of town six times in the last six weeks. I am also thankful that I am not a long distance truck driver or regional salesman. My back and mind would die a quick death in a vehicle seat. Last weekend I drove 32 hours in 4 1/2 days to see my fourth-born graduate from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas. Not only was the graduation worth the trip but the Christian fellowship I experienced while there seemed like a spiritual retreat.

The couple whose house my son has lived at the last two semester was where my fourth son and I also stayed. They opened their home and their hearts. The man is an emergency transport helicopter pilot who once flew in Papua New Guinea for Wycliffe Bible Translators. He uses his technical expertise as a witness to how believers in Jesus serve people. His wife homeschooled their eight children. She explained how inadequate and fretful about teaching she felt at first until she remembered her Christian college president’s saying,”Walk with the King, and be a blessing.” That is what she wanted to teach her children and that was all that was required of her. She could relax and live the life of grace before them.

I met my son’s Senior Design Project Professor. He has an encouraging testimony of how God saved a wild red-neck and put him into service to teacher young men and women to make good use of God’s gifts while giving God the glory. 

The commencement speaker was Edmund C. Moy, one time Director of the US Mint in Washington, D.C. With stories from his own experience he urged graduates to be competent and caring Christians. Following are my quick notes on the seven pieces of advice he gave: 

  1. Seek a Mentor.

  2. Find or form a like-minded group with whom to pray and fellowship and witness.

  3. Be trustworthy with the small things; integrity matters.

  4. Do good work; it praises God.

  5. Make a “to be list” to become spiritually mature.

  6. Consider public service.

  7.  Many resumes have a zig-zag path. That’s OK: God is behind it.

Both at the dinner on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon the hosts, other parents, and graduates talked freely of spiritual matters. Several of the graduates led singing of spiritual songs. Another father and I were grateful for the friendship forged between our sons and the hosts’ son-in-law over the last four years, encouraging each other to live godly lives and be good students imparted life-long lessons and habits in all three of these young men. On this Mother’s Day, several mothers told stories of God’s work in their children’s lives and the graduates responded with other stories and thanks for godly mothers and fun times with Christian brothers.

In the Sunday School my son has attended the last 3 1/2 years the teacher reminded us by a survey of examples that the stories of the Bible they had been learning are examples of God’s grace and sovereign plan worked without fail in believers’ lives. The sermon following was given as a series of five sermonettes by the five elders on aspects of God’s love:

1. God is love because He is a Father in a triune relationship.

2. God’s love is expressed in the Old Testament as ‘hesed’, steadfast love.

3. God’s love is best expressed in the gift of Jesus.

4. God’s love never fails.

5. It is difficult for us to comprehend how much God loves us.

I had abundant time to think about all of these lessons as I drove 5 hours on Sunday and 10 1/2 hours on Monday by myself back to North Carolina. My back ached by the time I arrived home and my mind was dull and exhausted but my spirit was refreshed, ready to begin again at the mundane and stressful job of teaching high school science with excellence and care.

Paraphrase of the Great and Secondary Commandments

Paraphrase of the Great and Secondary Commandments

One Time "Richest Acre in the World", Kilgore, TX

One Time “Richest Acre in the World”, Kilgore, TX








Senior Design Project and Senior Designer

Senior Design Project and Senior Designer

An Inventor, Entrepreneur, Industrialist, Philanthropist, Evangelist Christian

An Inventor, Entrepreneur, Industrialist, Philanthropist,
Evangelist Christian













Dad, Grad, and Sib

Dad, Grad, and Sib








Good Aim Matters

Good Aim Matters on The Big Muddy

Waiting in Line for the upstream passage

Waiting in Line for the upstream passage

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I having been blogging since July of 2007. Until the past year I have been very regular, blogging between 1 and 4 times a month with the most being 12 times in one month (need to go back and see what that was about). I have missed a month or two now and then. For 8 years and 2 months I missed blogging 8 months, more than I realized. September is my most missed month; I’m a teacher and life gets busy about then. Since last September I have missed 4 more months. I do not desire to slow down or quit but opportunities and responsibilities seem to keep increasing. So I find myself in a quandry. I don’t want to be so busy naval gazing that I don’t live life, but neither do I want to rush through all of the events of life without reflecting on them which allows me to live more deeply. 

Here I am with a few moments only to record part of a privileged event from April. I went to a seminar in Clearwater, Florida. It was very worthwhile and may open more opportunity and I may comment on it later. But in the midst of 10 1/2 hours of driving there and 12 hours back (There is something surrealistic about miles of stopped traffic for construction in the middle of the night on what would otherwise be a lonely stretch of interstate.), 20 hours of class in 2 1/2 days, and a 45 minute commute before and after each day of seminar, 2 hours on a beach just before sunset was glorious. I ran 3 1/2 miles barefoot to the north end of Honeymoon Island and walked through surf, collected shells, and took pictures on the way back. Such mini-vacations are what I find to be the balm for frenetic schedules. Many people I am around seem to take their comfort in interacting with people and food. As a teacher who happily interacts with people every day (OK, some people are annoying but I like to converse and teach and help.) and sits or stands far too much, I prefer to go “away” when break time comes. I hope that you may enjoy the thought of the break I took in these pictures and find ways to take breaks yourself.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

Honeymoon Island State Park Beach facing south toward Clearwater

Honeymoon Island State Park Beach facing south toward Clearwater

Tide coming in

Tide coming in

Plover or Least Sandpiper in its Winter Plumage?

Plover or Least Sandpiper in its Winter Plumage?

Got one!

Got one!

Working Late

Working Late

Wind in you hair; sand between your toes

Wind in you hair; sand between your toes

Evening Glint

Evening Glint

Day's End

Day’s End

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Culture is an odd and interesting phenomenon. Though the word has now been co-opted to refer to interaction in a business office, the more traditional definition looks more like the http://www.merriam-webster.com first entry: “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time”. Therein is the oddity and interest. That is a very broad definition trying to capture all that goes into a culture. You can mix and match the first three terms (and the “etc’s” for that matter) with any combination of the “particular” last four terms. Try for instances this combination that helps to explore a situation our tour explored in Peru: ‘art of a particular society in transition through time‘.

Pressing out the air bubbles

Pressing out the air bubbles

Painted, glazed, kiln dried, sun drying

Glazed and painted and drying in the sun in readiness for the second firing








We toured the Seminario Ceramicas in Urubamba of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The head potter, Pablo Seminario, along with his wife the head painter, Merilu Behar, developed a style of glazed and decorated pottery that has elements of ancient Peruvian cultures and modern stylistic exploration. The style was further developed by the isolation necessary for survival during the Shining Path insurgence of the 1980’s. One motif that the potter declared to me that he finds ever new is the shape of the arrowhead. As he said, “It was a tool for gathering food…is similar to the water drop or a leaf”. So Pablo continues to explore splashes of modern creativity mixed with hints of ancient continuity.

Moderno-ancient mix

Moderno-paleo creations

   I was temporarily separated from my tour    group because I was taking some pictures in this gallery of creations of the artist. When I exited the room outdoors I didn’t see anyone. I assumed a whole group could not have gone far in a minute so I went to the nearest doorway. When I entered, there was Pablo wielding a small carving tool on a large arrowhead. Realizing I had entered his private studio, I began to back out but he waved me forward, not even slowing the pace of his work. 

Pablo manifesting a new vision of the arrowhead

Pablo manifesting a new vision of the arrowhead


  For the next 10-12 minutes we amicably discussed the creative process. He seemed to be quite interested in talking with me because I had brought students to tour Peru and because I talked intelligently about art and science. I asked several questions about how he begins a concept and carries it out. One question involved the arrowhead, “You obviously like to make arrowheads. Why did you start with it and why do you continue with it now?” He related the request from an art exhibit many years ago that he combine modern and ancient elements of design. This request caused him to reflect on the usefulness and ubiquitousness of the arrowhead shape he noticed in nature as quoted above. He continues to see new things in the shape and strives to continue to grow and so pursues more content in the arrowhead. This discussion led to me commenting on how one should be thankful to the Creator for instilling the gift of creativity. He retorted that it was far more work than creativity. I countered that the work is necessary but without merit if the person lacks the creative ability; each of us should work to develop the gift we have. The waste of potential that he sees as an artist and I see as a science teacher consumed some of our interaction. We also interacted over the similarities in science and art, how each involves elements of the other, and how both center around the abilities to think and work hard. It was one of those moments when we both knew that we had connected in a meaningful way even though before that moment we had been total strangers from different cultures pursuing different vocations and avocations, separated by different worldviews. Our connection was musing on life, its processes, and its meaning.

His life had been one sufficiently isolated from the insanity of the violent culture around him in order to survive and thrive, and yet not isolated from creative interaction, as his collaboration with his wife and 50 potters and painters in training attests. 

Decorating the forms

Decorating the forms with Inca symbols

Main Gallery

Main Gallery








I think that in this discussion and on this trip I discovered a more complete reason for why I like to travel. It extends my musing on life through observation of diversity in nature, culture, thinking, history, distance, science, people, God’s work in the world, and a host of other providential allowances given by a good Creator. We want to see beauty and substance and understand its meaning and purpose. But many are not willing to wade through the meaning of ugliness and triviality to reach the beauty and substance that does not lend to their preconceived ideas of what it should mean. I agree with Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Don’t be afraid to examine yours and others and risk having to change what you hold dear for what is true and good and beautiful and full of substance.

Contrasts of Hues and Properties

Contrasts of Hues and Properties

Courtyard Beauty

Courtyard Beauty of Seminario









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Peru 4

From Ollantaytamba the train winds down the ever narrowing and deepening gorge toward Machu Picchu. The trip takes 1:45 including a few short pauses on siding for passing trains. The gorge only has room for the river and the cut for the train in many places where an extended arm would literally touch the jagged rocks of the cut. Some of the rapids are intense looking and the vegetation slowly increases in density, height, and variety from semi-desert to cloudland rainforest. Students in their uniforms and farmers in their work clothes were headed to school and field. Terraces still hold corn and grazing animals.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Narrowing Urabamba River Gorge

The Narrowing Urubamba River Gorge

Terraces still used

Terraces still used


The village of Machu Picchu is not more than 100 m wide and is cut in two by the Urubamba River and the railroad. Densely vegetated cliffs rise easily 1500 feet on either side. I find the topography the most amazing characteristic of the village and the ancient site. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by over one million people each year. Many details about the construction, location, and history of the site are amazing. Being in a rainforest, the Inca engineers provided it with a subterranean drainage system without which it would have long since eroded away. The temple and Inca rulers’ structures are built of the smooth, fitted stones that are earthquake resistant and yet the Temple of the Sun is slowly splitting apart due to a minor fault line that extends across the concave city green. A wire stretched across the green from one side to the other and made taut by a weight and measured by an instrument indicates that the green is expanding by a few millimeters per year. A quarry on the brow of the ridge was the source of the building stone.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail (25 miles to the Capitol Cusco)

Main Gate to the City

Main Gate to the City

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Living and Working Spaces

Living and Working Spaces

Llamas wander throughout the site

Llamas wander throughout the site

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)









Chinchilla Chillin'

Chinchilla Chillin’

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Hiram Bingham, the Yale historian who revealed Machu Picchu to the world in 1911, was not the first person of European descent to explore the terraces and temples. It was not the Spanish who saw it though, for they never found it. Why? It had been abandoned before they came and conquered the Inca. The actual reason for its abandonment is unknown but the well worn theories about religious, political, or military causes are not very convincing. Our trained Peruvian guide seemed to think that the evidence of syphilis in the bones of some buried at the Temple of the Condor suggests that an epidemic caused the inhabitants and would be inhabitants to forsake the city. It seems most plausible to me since the Spanish never seemed to have even heard about it. Their writings make no mention of its existence. Also, syphilis was a new world endemic disease before Europeans arrived. Epidemic levels of syphilis result from a sexually debased society. A mere 10 years of abandonment would have been sufficient for the jungle to cover all evidence of its existence. Hiram Bingham would not have found it if farmers had not shown him exactly where it was and had several terraces cleared for farming. The Europeans who discovered it before the American were treasure hunters who did not want Peruvians or anyone else to know they had come and gone.


Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Farmers were in good shape

Farmers were in good shape








Built in about 1450 and abandoned before 1520, the 140 stone buildings of a construction project in progress testify to both the semi-permanence and futility of all that we do apart from God. Syphilis, war, superstition, drought, or whatever caused the peoples of Machu Picchu to leave give testimony to the ultimate powerlessness of an empire to perpetuate control and forego God’s judgment on evil practices. If we assume that empires and culture are simply short-lived because that is the way it must be, then we fail to remember that this world is fallen and it did not have to be that way. God did not create life for death; man chose death. The enemy is not outside the gate but inside the heart.


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