I roared you into life no sound of pain, but of Power as the floodgates opened and poured consciousness of only this moment, still and chaotic drawing sustenance from the very roots, mitochondrial and mythical I was the dragon I threw my head back and ROARED gush forth with the strength of a tsunami Your wail, red faced, brings forth from me milk like motherhood, I am liquid form pouring into your tiny oh-so-significant body as you demand and claim communion your lids lift and our look locksâ€” I am mesmerized by your magnet eyes the world stands still I finally learn quiet in a moment in now forever in epiphany I pull you closer to me, smudged with my blood and birth-ambrosia wonder of wonders floods my senses and the world is created anew the love of my life beside me, observing the life of our love is you. â€”Ahmie Yeung
i 2 3 5 9 10 11 12 14 14 15 16 17 23 27 28 29
First Birth – Ahmie Yeung Barbara G. Howell – 4, 8, 20, 25, 29 The Whetstone – Gary Nemes Andy Tubbesing - 3 When My Life Changed – Katherine Campbell-Gaston Anne Obrovadich – 15 Life Changes with Internment in Indonesia – John Zylstra Patty Heany Pillow – 17, 19 When Kelly Came into Our Lives – Matthew McHale Wendlyn Alter – 10, 27 Moments – Peggy French Hart The Day My Life Changed: April 11, 2010 – Cil Knutsen Facing My Fear Changed My Life – Bob Nemcek A Christmas Star for You – Chuck Homer Coming to a New Awareness – George Bliss Being a Worship Associate Opens a Door: Anne Obradovich – Barbara G. Howell Yet Another Christmas Story – Gaylene Sloane The Cats of Gordon Square: The Song of Attem – Patty Heany Pillow A Volcano Changes the World – Tom Slattery Life A.D. – Anne Osborne New Year. New Technology. Be Part of the New Art Show – Hollie Brubaker Mountaintop Moments: UUTube Art Show Preview – Barbara G. Howell
Chalice is an Independent Arts Publication of Members and Friends of West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, published by the Editorial Board. Submissions of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, artwork and photography accepted from members and friends of the church. Send all submissions, inquiries, comments, subscription or sponsorship requests to Chalice@wsuuc.org or by mail or in-person delivery to Chalice, West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, 20401 Hilliard Blvd, Rocky River, OH 44116. 440–333–2255. Submission guidelines are available via e-mail at the above address or on the West Shore website. Persons who submit work for publication will be required to sign a release form available via e-mail or in the Story Year mailbox at the church office. If submitted photographs depict living persons, a model release should also be provided. Subscriptions for Chalice during Story Year, October 2013 through May 2014, are $40. Individual copies are available by donation. A free, on-line expanded version of the publication will be available at the church website, www.wsuuc.org. Submission Pub. Sponsorships are $25 per issue with Theme Deadline Date acknowledgement included in each issue. The Editors of Chalice, Barbara G. Howell Keira Dodd Barbara Walker
Wendlyn Alter Carter Marshall Andrew Watkins
January: A Mountaintop Moment
February: Taking a Risk
March: Your Hardest Lesson
April: A Time You Grew
May: Your Greatest Teacher
On our street long ago, when it was Always summer, always home, There went a little man, encrusted In a wilted hat, greasy vest, and Rotted belt, the buckle half-unchromed, Watery eyes flecked with red. He existed only when he turned the Corner with an intermittent hobble, His distant chimes growing To the harshness of cowbells until He stopped his cart, suddenly Huge and solid, to sharpen grandma's knife. Kneading his lips, he stared silently At the worn wheelâ€”he might have been An ancient stone man, bent intently Over a piece of flint. Then he stroked the blade Across his beard, always three days old, And slapped the handle in my surprised palm, Mumbling some kind of price, Perhaps in kopecks. I gave him my crumpled bill, expecting Some kind of change, Perhaps in lire. I watched his progress down the street Until he faded around the next corner. The corner Dairy Dell is Pentecostal Now (and elves moved it closer). Mom sharpens Her knives on the back of a can opener. With the whirr of its tiny wheel in my ears, I step onto the front porch for a cigarette. I look toward the corner, wondering When I turned it, and regretting a little The change in the size of things, Their look and sound. â€”Gary Nemes
My child slipping through arms. A car’s wheels going round and round. Screams held captive deep in bones. My body has begun a deep sleep. All time has escaped to a place beyond reach. The The The The The The
clock stops ticking. church bell drops through the belfry. baby bird falls from its nest. tulip refuses to bloom. leaf on the tree forgets to bud. playground is dismantled.
Good Night Moon does not rise. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star burns out. The lullaby is silenced, The cradle fallen. The rocking chair forgets its purpose. Milk no longer flows. There is no honey. The heart of life has flat lined. Code Blue doesn’t care to respond. The nursery has disappeared, its door opens to the end of the world.
Barbara G. Howell 4
While their Japanese captors provided housing and rice rations, Dutch captives in the Bangkiang (Indonesia) Internment Camp were forced to go into the jungle to collect their own wood and fruit or vegetables to supplement their diets.
John Zylstra West Shore member John Zylstra says he has had many, many moments when his life changed. Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, John spent several years in a Japanese internment camp in Padang, Indonesia, as a child. This passage about that experience is excerpted from his book The Australian Lagoon. Anticipating an approaching war creates a gnawing nausea, a feeling of hopelessness and an indifference to future planning. People feel as if they exist in a timeless vacuum, in which past and future dissolve into a neutral present where no clocks tick, all life is quiet, and the sun doesn’t seem to rise. All adults know that, while children sense it. The north and south Sumatran landings began. British, Australian, Dutch and New Zealand troops were pushing back. Allied morale was at an alltime low. The Burmese campaigns—the farthest northwestern push Imperial Japan had in its plan— sealed off Malaya. General Yamashita, a member of Japan’s Koda-Ha, or Emperor Group, conquered the peninsula from Mandalay to the naval stronghold of Singapore. Japan suddenly controlled 38 percent of the world’s rubber and 58 percent of its tin. Aided by the northeastern monsoon, which seriously limited air attacks, the Japanese moved north without resistance. They foraged, eating what the monkeys ate. The Japanese soldiers’
metabolism required little toughening to cope with jungle conditions. Allied Forces, which advanced toward Japanese lines, were destroyed. The remainder withdrew to regroup and eventually surrender to an overwhelming Imperial Army after a bitter, useless battle. Island hopping to unheard of victories, Japan quickly adapted to what quickly became a maritime war strategy. The high command in Tokyo debated an increasing air support and attack supply development that would work well on the seas. Two schools of thought clashed over that for years. The older generation thought an air war to be unthinkable. They said it was impractical and immature. The fleet’s naval power would be the decisive factor. The younger generation, which fervently believed in air power, opposed them. They argued that tactical interaction between the navy and air forces was inevitable and desirable for Japan’s Pacific strategies, and they were right. Continued on page 6 5
Lady Mountbatten, with flowers in the center of this picture, visited the Bangkinang Internment Camp where John lived from age 8 to 12 in Indonesia. Her visit, in 1945, was to check on condition and treatment of the Dutch citizens held there by the Japanese during World War II.
Internment, continued The army went its own way. The Japanese managed to turn weather hazards to their advantage inland as they timed the monsoon rains. With surprising endurance and adaptability, they marched through the jungle with such brilliant tactical maneuvering that the stunned, powerless Allies could only study their methods in retrospect. On Feb. 25, 1942, Field Marshall Sir Archibald Wavelli, who was in charge of the combined British, United States and Dutch forces, dissolved his command as hopeless and withdrew to India. The Dutch, who contributed several ships and airplanes to Singapore’s defense, fought on, embittered and alone. Even Australia, whose troop movements helped defend key Commonwealth positions, couldn’t fight the Japanese and win. Japan sealed and locked the final link of its strategic chain in the Burma/Malaya/Sumatra theater. There was no hope for the Allies. The Japanese Imperial Navy consisted of a formidable fleet and combined naval and air forces with which they blanketed the entire southwest Pacific. Under the command of Admiral I Yamamoto on the Nagato, they struck with the First Fleet, the baffled force. There was also the Second Fleet, the scouting force; the Third Fleet, the blockade and transport force; the Fourth Fleet, the mandates; the Fifth, Northern Fleet; the Sixth, Submarine Fleet; and the First Air Carrier Fleet. They landed successfully in Singapore from the
South China Sea. That was the starting point of their Malay Peninsula campaign, which eventually ended with their victory in Singapore. They attacked Borneo in Brunei and Sarawak, then went on to Tarakan and Balikpapan. They invaded Celebes in Menado, then Kendari and Makassar. All those were springboards to Timor, Flores, Sumbawa, Lombo, Bali, Java and Sumatra. The strategic attack forces, once bitterly divided over method, began to see that the combination of air and sea forces worked. The amphibious landing forces proved that in Singora and Kota Bharu. Tomoyuki Yamashita took Malay and bluffed 100,000 British troops out of Singapore with only 30,000 men. He went on to use island hopping tactics and faced the virtually defenseless Dutch east Indies, poorly protected by a meager Allied Command. Conversion, adaptability and tough troops quickly adjusted to new geographic areas. Padang [my city] looked raped. Dentist’s operating rooms were destroyed, office ransacked, shops and stores demolished. Goods and papers lay strewn about. Tokos and vendors’ stalls were overturned and robbed. Sporadic fire burned, sending smoke into an eerie afternoon sky. Some city services still functioned. Occasional taxis still ran., while utilities ceased unexpectedly, only to return for a few hours. News details, always for the worst, came in from many areas. Distant bombings continued.
The young boy felt strangely off balance. He took his shoes to Han Li Won, the shoemaker, but the store wasn’t there anymore. When he got home, he found Vera almost hysterical with nausea and fright. Vera ran to him with her arms outstretched. “My God! Where have you been? Don’t you know…? Of course you don’t. We’ve never had to… You should never leave the house alone, darling.” “But Mommy I always….” “I know, Sweetheart, but things are different now.” She set his shoes aside and hugged him while she tried not to cry. “You must never go out alone again. The streets are dangerous. The war’s getting closer and we don’t know what’ll happen.” “Those are the only red shoes I have,” the boy said wistfully. Vera knelt and looked into his eyes. “Promise Mommy you won’t leave the house alone again.” “Okay Mommy…” She laughed nervously and kissed him. “That’s a good boy. Why don’t you and I get us a big glass of orange juice?” “Is there candy in the bottom of my glass?” Vera frowned. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” “I can’t drink it any other way!” She playfully patted his bottom, As she walked to the kitchen, she inhaled the scent of frangipani blossoms in the still air and white and pink mimosa flowers. “Tabeh Tuan.” The velvet-black beo bird spoke while cocking its head sideways. Vera knew their days of peace were numbered. She thought of the Australians, those tawny men wearing wide-brimmed bush hats. Their presence shocked her into the reality of war as it crept closer. It was April 5, and the Japanese were on Sumatra. She wondered what would happen to them. “You’re taking all this away, God,” she muttered. “We want to live. May we rely on Your Divine protection? We want to live!” She sliced oranges and pressed them to make juice. Her son played with a caterpillar he found. Vera knew their waiting would end soon— perhaps as early as the next day. It was a pretty, cloudless February afternoon. The Padang Civil Defense Organization suddenly sounded the alarm. A squadron of low-flying Mitsubishi bombers was fast approaching the
south Sumatra shore. Using fragmentary bombs and light-caliber, wind-mounted projectiles released by a simple linkage system, the bombers flew toward Emmahaven to attack Australian troop carriers and sortie over the city’s strategic points. The bombers flew so low; people on the ground could see the pilots in their cockpits. Rising suns and Japanese script were written on the fuselages. There was no flak resistance. First came a high-pitched whistle, then there was a shaking in the ground. The bombers accelerated as they left Padang, but they didn’t fly across the Bukit Barisan. They came back. They blew up cranes and sank three Australian ships. They also blasted almost everything in the harbor area. Bombed warehouses and freight sheds, and the stopping of the hydroelectric plant, kept Padang isolated for two days. Dams, bridges, roads, factories burned. The railroads became a twisted, crippled mass of bent steel. Storage silos and dock facilities burned with thick, billowing clouds of smoke. Industrial complexes were charred disaster areas, sending up enough smoke to darken the sun. Ghastly desolation reigned in Emmahaven, where the tips of ships’ masts stuck out above the scum-filled harbor water. Dockside cargo houses burned with a strange, foul stench. Scorched foodstuffs, supplies and the smell of dead animals and men filled the air for days. Ash rained from the clouds—all that was left of people and things in the city. When the bombers finished, they flew back to the first island base, just a few miles offshore in the Indian Ocean. They came back the next day, bombing ocean terminals, warehouses, port authority buildings, railroad tracks, blockhouses, supply stations, freight yards, shipping berths, cargo cranes and pier and dock offices. They completely devastated the riches of BPM and Dutch Shell, Esso and Caltex. Like angry hornets attacking a sleeping giant, the bombers zoomed toward the mountain ranges, flying low across the sea, their shadows skimming the surface. They gained altitude just as they neared Emmahaven, and then they released incendiary bombs. Imperial Japan had Southeast Asia, from Freemantle to Foochow, from Brisbane to Bombay. Padang was completely paralyzed when the Continued on page 8 7
Internment, continued conquerors arrived. They entered the city in long lines of armored trucks, military ensigns waving from bamboo poles. The lettering on the flags and the pictures portrayed the deeds of the Samurai, the warrior class, which controlled feudal Japan. Clad in jodhpurs and wearing yellow-starred caps with sunshade ribbons, the soldiers stood at intersections and waved on the convoys with white-gloved hands. The Dutch bicycles seemed to fascinate them. Fred and Vera volunteered for duty as interpreters. A group of six officers came to their house. They crouched and laughed at the shy, young boy shaking his hand and commenting about him to each other. Vera was nervous and anxiously polite. The Japanese replied to her questions in clipped, textbook English. They were fond of children. The officers went on to explain the temporary procedures the citizens must follow. Contrary to colonials living on Java, who were interned within their homes, those on Sumatra would be imprisoned in large, municipal prison complexes until concentration camps could be built. Using native labor, it would take up to eight months. Japan’s primary objective was obtaining the islands’ natural resources—crude ore and oil. The Dutch colonials were of secondary importance.
very little when Korean troops relieved them From the Padang prison days there lingered only the clanging and crunching of chain-driven steam rollers, black smoke, soot and the asphalt smell of roadwork done by native crews, along with the luxurious sound of an American automobile horn echoing down a residential street. Soon the city was suspiciously quiet. The sing-song talk of the Chinese shopkeepers was gone, as was the scratchy Victrola music and the evening market sounds. The young boy once saw Padang’s police chief—whose vast, leathery bulk always seemed to creak—now wearing a swastika armband. He seemed to have lost his friendly attitude. The boy looked at his strange surroundings. Native children walking past the barbed wire stuck out their tongues and threw rocks at him. He didn’t know what to make of it all. A fifty-something-acre concentration camp was built in the heart of equatorial Sumatra. It had a twelve-foot wooden fence topped by barbed wire, with sentry posts at regular intervals and in the corners.
…To be continued in our next issue. Excerpted from The Australian Lagoon by John Zylstra, Athena Press, London, 2006. Photos taken at Bangkiang Internment Camp by a British Army officer in 1945.
After the circle of Japanese island occupation effectively closed, the Dutch would be interned in concentration camps to be built in strategic locations (with the distinct difference that these would be civilian camps); and useful work to benefit the Imperial Army would be performed by the colonials after The priority of their selfsustenance had been taken care of.1 Under the Imperial plan regarding civilian camps, brutalities and mistreatment were officially excluded in order to conform to the Geneva Convention and World Red Cross Charter. Gross violations still occurred. The Japanese equivalent to the Gestapo, the elite Kem-Pe-Tai, was composed of sadists. They ran cruel caps in Java, and the cruelty changed 1
Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy by David Bergamini.
Barbara G. Howell
Matthew McHale, Intern Minister I was a couple months shy of my second birthday when my life (and my parents’ lives) changed: my sister, Kelly, was born. The birth of sibling (or a child) is always a big event which changes the family dynamics. With Kelly’s birth, I was no longer an only child; I was now a big brother. For a while, things proceeded about as you might expect. But a few months before Kelly’s second birthday, my parents started to realize that her language was developing slower than usual. After some evaluation, Kelly was diagnosed as mildly developmentally delayed. She went to speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and motor skills therapists, and after about a year, as her development lagged even further behind, she was diagnosed as moderately developmentally delayed. Over the next few years, Kelly would be diagnosed as “mentally retarded” and later as autistic. I was too young to have a real grasp on most of this, although I knew that my sister was not learning as fast as other kids, and I regularly got to tag along for her various therapy sessions. (One place had a zip line that I always asked to use.) It also meant that I did not get as much attention—of course, this is true with the birth of any new sibling, but in my case my sister required significantly more time from my parents: in helping nurture her development, as well as the demands of supervising a child who is physically capable but developmentally disabled, and hyper and impulsive. As far as my relationship with my sister, it was a challenging one; there were definite feelings of brotherly love on my part, but she was not one to express emotions, or communicate much else. And I cannot possibly tell the number of times my sister pulled my hair, hit me, threw things at me, or grabbed the toys I was playing with or the food I was eating. (None of this, I knew, was I allowed to retaliate for.) And I too had to keep an eye on her, more than most siblings two years older would. Having a developmentally disabled sister, in some ways, required me to be mature beyond my years.
But it also left a hole in my life. As Kelly grew older, her developmental progress turned to regression and she became increasingly difficult to care for. And right around her seventh birthday, my parents made the impossibly difficult decision to put her in a group home. They realized they were not able to provide the high level of care that Kelly demanded and deserved. Nor were the complicated feelings— resentment (over the challenge of caring for Kelly) and guilt (for feeling resentful, or feeling they
weren’t doing enough)—healthy for my parents, or Kelly, or my brother or I. My parents soon told me about their decision. My dad chronicled it in the journal that he had been keeping about/for Kelly: Maureen [my mom] and I were both stunned by the depth of Matthew’s grief. He cried for five minutes. We all talked and cried for the next hour. Matthew was sad for himself and for Kelly. He knew he would miss Kelly and that she would miss us. My sister, who I had lived with for seven and a half years—as long as I could remember—who I had played with in the bath tub, who had pulled my hair countless times, who I had to be an extraprotective older brother to, would no longer be living with me. She would be living in a home an hour away. Although we would still see her every other weekend, Kelly ceased to be part of my daily life. And something was lost. Kelly’s move out of the house, coupled with her now complete lack of verbal communication, Continued on page 10 9
When Kelly Came into Our Lives, continued and inability to relate or express anything more than the most basic emotions, left me feeling disconnected from her. What connection we had, faded over time. More than twenty years later, I still love her. But it is not the same way that I love my brother or my parents. It’s hard for me to find a deep love, when any love I express is not understood or reciprocated (at least not in any way that I am aware of). I wish it were different, I wish I could feel a stronger connection. I mourn
the relationship we didn’t have. But I haven’t cried for my sister in over two decades. As much as there is a deep sense of loss there, I wouldn’t be who I am without having Kelly as my sister… the experience has made me more compassionate and empathetic, not only for people with disabilities, but also for those who care for them. Knowing what my parents went through, it is hard not feel compassion and understanding for anyone who has been given more than they can handle. And for that, at least, I am grateful.
Another beginning, No prelude. One instant you’re not. Then you are. Like opening a door Lets in the light. One instant it’s dark. Then it’s not. And then there’s the ending. No postscript. One instant you are. Then you’re not. And another beginning… —Peggy French Hart (1952-2011) daughter of Bob French
Cil Knutsen Delivered from the pulpit in February 2011 for the Annual WSUUC Stewardship Campaign.. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in early April, sunny, warm and dry. The spring bulbs were starting their annual color riot on our front bank, and I was catching up on e-mails, waiting for my husband, Gary, to come home. I’d been out all afternoon and knew that he was either A) at the Rocky River fly-fishing for steelhead or B) at Westwood Country Club playing golf or hitting a few balls on the practice range. I heard a knock on the back door, and our dog, Tasha, let out her usual fierce barks as she ran to the door. Before I could get to the door, she had returned to her spot under the kitchen table with her head on her paws watching cautiously. Something was up—she’d NEVER done THAT before—weird dog. Two Lakewood policemen were at the door. My immediate thought was that it probably had something to do with a neighbor or something, but then I noticed their hats in hand and heard them asking if I was Drucilla Knutsen, wife of Gary Forest Knutsen. While I had been right in knowing that he was at Westwood, I was wrong in thinking that he would ever come home again. In the next few minutes, it felt like the earth’s tectonic plates had lumbered apart and a giant earthquake shook the world. Why was the house still standing? Why hadn’t the trees toppled over? Where was that loud roaring noise coming from? I had to get over there to see what had happened. I started making phone calls—to have a friend drive me to Westwood; the policemen advised against me getting behind the wheel of my car—something I was about to do in my surge of adrenaline. Other calls were to friends to meet me there. As I left the house I took the Church Directory. The coffee stained, tattered, dog-eared Church Directory. When we got to the crash site, walking arm-in-arm to where Gary had died on impact when hitting a tree, at 60 miles an hour— unconscious most probably from what is known as a “widow-maker”—four of the five people with me
were from this church, our church. In the next few hours, I was on auto-pilot. I went through the well-worn directory and made the awful, gut-wrenching calls. The first New Orleans mission trip team was pulling into the church parking lot just as word spread. Extended Family members took up the yoke and made calls on my behalf. I later realized that I had to call my brother, sisters and mother, then Gary’s family, and hardest of all, daughter Dorothy. I had called my Church Family first! I called my Church Family first. I called my Church Family first and you guided and carried me through those harrowing hours.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, this church community eased the agony. Extraordinary people with everyday names reached without hesitation to lift me up and carry me along. Everyday names like Alice, Dorothy, Julie, Kathleen, Lesley, Joyce, Mary Jane, Marie, Shirley, Margie, Nancy, Debbie, Susan, Margot; names like Chris, John, Bill, Phil, Chuck, Wayne, Mark, Steve, David, Jerry, Karl, Floyd, Dolph, Ren and Soren. Not once did I hear banal remarks like, “It was God’s will” or “He’s in a better place,” or “He’s with his parents now.” I felt supported and soothed. Twelve step programs often pass the basket for the 7th tradition with the words, “Give as if Your Life Depends on it!” After carefully reviewing my finances, I am increasing my Stewardship pledge to this wonderful church community, because I learned that my life DOES depend on it. My life depends on all of you before me. On this community. The worst day of my life, without even thinking, I took the West Shore phone directory. Because I knew. I knew I needed you. We all need each other. 11
Bob Nemcek I was born into a Catholic family on Cleveland's East Side. I was baptized and confirmed. This is my first Holy Communion picture. I was an altar boy. I went to Catholic school for nine years. I saw nuns using yardsticks to smack knuckles on hands, different nuns—different hands over the years. I have a very vivid memory of Sister Timothy taking Ed Kukla by his hair and slamming his head against a blackboard and even a desk. This happened repeatedly that particular year. It was like professional wrestling except real. Ed was a smartass. You could see how he made Sister Timothy mad, and you knew what not to do. I knew what not to do. It never happened to me. I was well-behaved, but I was scared. I was the youngest of 4 boys. My brothers were 10, 9, and 7 years older than me. I was the happy accident. My father died on Memorial Day 1968. He was 56 years old. He died of natural causes. His funeral was on my 10th birthday. I didn't go to my father’s funeral. I stayed home with my mom. Mom was a shut-in. Her weight was so out of control, she couldn't go anywhere. I remember being in the living room with her, just the two of us watching the funeral car and procession driving past the house. Mom was a hitter. When she thought I had done something to warrant punishment. She would say "come here". I would inch over to where she was sitting, crying buckets of tears. She would grab me by the hair, put me over her lap and would punctuate each hit with a word: "Don't you ever do that again." I remember those words well. On Cleveland's East Side in the late 1960's, there was racial tension. My 3 brothers belonged to a gang called the Bisbee Boys, named after a local playground. My friends were moving out. I had some black friends, but there was tension with others I didn't know. Long time Clevelanders would remember the Hough riots of those years. My Mom always said I was born in this house and I'll die in this house. Mom developed some internal bleeding in early March 1972; she was coughing up bright red globs of blood. My brothers finally convinced her that day to go the hospital. An ambulance was called. It took 13 guys: my brothers, the ambulance attendants and some people in the neighborhood to carry the gurney down the four steps of our front porch to the ambulance that had backed up to the steps. I held the door open as they carried her out. She died the next day. I was 13 years old. Fast forward, 10 years later after my 24th birthday. I was working full time in a factory, in a nuts and bolts place, that I hated. I had just dropped out of nursing school. I felt like a failure. On June 8th, I walked into a Navy recruiter’s office. Seventeen days later, I was in boot camp. In my mid 30's I got diagnosed with cancer. I had a tumor in my chest. One of the visualization exercises I 12
did to battle my cancer was to imagine a safe space. I tried to find a space, a real space and I couldn't. There was this giant rock in Garfield Park which I loved. I didn't particularly think that Garfield Park was safe for me, so in my visualization, I moved the rock to nowhere to do the exercise. Eventually through conventional treatments and alternative treatments, my cancer became undetectable.
I am in my late 40's. I am dating Jeanette for about 3 years. Her daughter invites us to her seminar for Landmark Education. The Landmark people try to sign us up for a seminar. I am very leery and there is no way in hell I am signing up during this seminar. Afterward, I use Google to find Landmark. I read the criticisms and praises on the internet. I buy a video about the history of Landmark. In the 1970's and 80's, it was known as “est.” I become interested. Jeanette and I sign up, and we go to Columbus for a weekend Seminar. During the seminar, there is an exercise (very similar to the exercise that Matthew McHale did during a service about 6 weeks ago). During this exercise, eyes closed, you imagine being afraid. First you are afraid of those in the room, then the city, then the state, then the country, eventually you are afraid of everything in the world. I fall to the floor from my chair. I curl up in a fetal position. The exercise feels very real to me. The second part of the exercise: You are no longer are afraid. As a matter of fact, those in the room around are afraid of you. Then those in the city, then those in the state then the country, then everyone in the world is afraid of you. This reframing exercise was very powerful for me.
Oh—Weihnachtsstern, so hell leuchten Sie Stimmen Sie Ihre Liebe auf ihn heute Abend.
Light up his smile toward me tonight. Light up his smile and hold him tight. Light up his smile this Christmas Eve And make him know you'll never leave.
Oh, Christmas star, You shine so bright. Cast down your love On him tonight.
I’d cross the world if I could fly To hold you, child, until the light. But I can’t fly, a wish must do My wish: A Christmas Star for you.
Wrap your arms of gilded light Around this child and hold him tight. Hold him tight and make him know That he will never be alone.
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh. —Chuck Homer
George Bliss In 1957, I entered into a marriage for all the wrong reasons! After three plus years and three babies later (the second was born with a blocked kidney and only survived for a few days after birth), something was boiling deep in my brain—that all was not right with me in this relationship. After a period of melancholy, I broke down emotionally, sobbing uncontrollably. I came downstairs and told her quietly, “It is all over!” and after only a few more quiet words, I gathered up enough to move into a room on the fifth floor of the Elyria YMCA (no elevators) to think and collect my thoughts. I had contacted an attorney to start divorce proceedings. He suggested, probably for obvious reasons, that I start working with a mental health professional. This was the smartest advice he could have recommended for me. My experience under their care is a whole story in itself. As days and weeks passed, I became more and more affected by symptoms accompanying depression: loss of weight, colitis, diarrhea, etc. I was lying in my bed at the Y, generally feeling very miserable, when, all at once, my body felt very bright and well lit as these words swelled in my consciousness. “One person’s happiness does not depend on another person’s misery!” If, for any reason, these magic words started to fade in my consciousness, the darkness and misery would start to return! I was talking with a United Church of Christ minister from Avon Lake about this and his response was simple: “You have found God.” I simply replied, “Yeah, right!” I had already explained to him my discomfort with anything supernatural!
Barbara G. Howell “It was a big leap of faith,” says West Shore’s Anne Obradovich. “You would think that being a Worship Associate [a trained member of the congregation who works with the ministers to develop and deliver worship services throughout the church year] is like teaching, but it’s not.” When Anne reflects on times when her life changed, she lists important events like the death of her mother and her decision to be a college philosophy professor, but emphasizes that being a Worship Associate was just as significant and dramatic. “It helped me realize that there was a door I could walk through, though I didn’t even know there was a door there.” The first door that opened at West Shore was in 2010. Anne’s mother had been dead for three years when she decided to reach out for other life opportunities. Even though Anne is an atheist, and, until recently, saw little point in church, at that time she missed connection with her mother who had been the center of her world. “When she died, there was big hole in my heart. I wanted to ‘get out there’ more.” She began church shopping on the internet. “I remembered passing that green church on Hillard many times, so I took a look at its website. I liked HAFA (Humanists, Atheists, Free Thinkers and Agnostics), and the Buddhist group and the Social Action Committee activities. So, I came one September morning and everyone was so nice,” Anne says with a bright smile. “I had been withdrawing into myself. I needed to get out of myself. That’s my bipolar. I came to West Shore looking to find new things for myself to do, for solace, for friendship and even, if it ever came, looking for love. I went to Coffee Hour that September Sunday and met George and Liane Bliss and fell in love with both of them,” Anne recalls. Anne started joining groups and, by 2010, decided to apply as a Worship Associate (WA). When she accepted that position in January 2011, a
This painting of irises was one of the pieces Anne Obradovich created as she worked through her losses and gained new contacts and confidence in life. lot changed. “Being a Worship Associate brought home that I could interact with people in the congregation in a way I had not realized was possible. I could be a person of responsibility. I could be a ‘miniminister,’ and I could be knowledgeable. “People in the congregation would come up to me and say ‘Hey, Anne, you did a really good job today. Let’s go and talk.’ Sometimes it was just that direct or sometimes it just happened that way. They had been strangers. Now, they expanded my horizons. I became more open to others. I have made a lot of good friends at West Shore that way.” Not only did her social horizons expand as a Worship Associate, Anne saw her spirituality expand as well. “Being a Worship Associate made me more receptive to other people’s positions and needs. It made me realize what their eternal and spiritual Continued on page 16
Being a Worship Associate, continued beliefs were. Their stories always amazed me. Before that, I would have NEVER done prayers and stuff. “I was not the typical Worship Associate,” Anne admits. “But I saw that I could share with people things that I knew about like Taoism or Spinoza and help bring them to ‘enlightenment’ about some topics.” It was during her tenure as WA that Anne realized what she wanted to do with her life. With a master’s degree in philosophy, she had taught at the university level before, starting as a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia, “but I always got derailed.” Anne explains. “I would leave teaching for some years to get another degree or to go work with computer databases or fixing computer hardware. In fall of 2012, it finally came to me. “I was sitting in the quad at Notre Dame College after lunch one nice day. There were
students walking by when I suddenly had this epiphany. ‘Hey! College teaching is me! It’s what I do best. I had a moment of self-awareness, a realization of who I am.” Anne can’t say for sure if her work as a Worship Associate helped to create that epiphany although she does admit that she had considered becoming a UU minister at one point and that concentrating on helping others learn and understand allowed her focus to become more clear. A year after her stint as a WA, Anne busies herself with journaling, art work, gardening and care of her cats after her university classes, but her heart is where she found it again. “I still feel like I am a Worship Associate in spirit. I want to sneak into their meetings and, maybe one day, I’ll want to do that again. “Being a Worship Associate was a time that changed my life. It was one of the most important parts that meant so much to me and to others.”
Anne Obradovich, back right, enjoys food and friendship at a Third Saturday Supper with Roy Prentiss, Nora Brazilles, Jacquie Davis, Paula Mealy, Roy and Luretta Holanda and Janet French.
Gaylene Sloane I overheard my father say we couldn't afford a Christmas tree. I couldn't imagine Christmas without a tree, so I gathered my savings—probably about twenty-five cents—and a small friend. Together we visited a lot where they sold trees. I picked out what was, to me, the most beautiful tree on the lot and asked how much it cost. The man asked me how much I had, so I showed him. Why, that's just what this tree costs, he said. My small friend, Kathy, and I carried that tree to my house—about a three-quarter mile trip. That year we had a tree! Looking back on that event I realize the man who sold me the tree was being kind, perhaps in the spirit of the season. In hindsight, I wish I had asked him his name. As a child, I was too naive to appreciate what he had done. As an adult, I find myself smiling whenever I think about it. 16
Story and photos by Patty Heany Pillow
Mira always liked the human girl. She was small, much smaller than the other humans that lived on her block, and she frequently put out little saucers of milk or yogurt for Mira to eat. The girl had always been sick, coughing in her abrupt and frightening way, but lately she seemed worse. Alas, the day came when the girl did not come out to talk to Mira, and there were no little saucers set out. Mira hopped up to the girl's window, which sat behind a vine-covered fence, and peered inside to see what was happening. There she saw the girl in the dark—pale and unmoving—with a human woman weeping in the corner. The room was filled with many strange machines that beeped and twitched, with lines and tubes reaching out to the girl's mouth and nose and body. Mira jumped down from the fence and went under her favorite porch to ponder all of this. She knew the little girl liked to be outside, and could not understand why her family would keep her away from sunlight, covered in strange machines. She decided to ask old Cylias. Cylias was the undisputed master of the Square. He was an old tom, scarred with many battles, and even missing part of one ear from a great war. He had fathered more kittens than anyone could remember, and was very wise in the way of humans. Mira found him sitting fearlessly on top of a porch, staring disdainfully through a door at one of the cats that never went outside. “Cylias, my little girl is trapped within her house, and has not come out to talk to me. Her
family keeps her covered in machines, and all the humans seem very sad.” Cylias peered at her for a long time before speaking. “Mira, child, your little human is very sick, and is likely not long in this life. She stays inside with those machines because she needs them to keep her alive.” “No!” cried Mira, desperately, “I do not want her to die! She is very young, and has always been kind to cats. Surely there is something we can do!” Cylias sighed, in the patient manner that age often brings. “Sweet little one, death is yet another phase of life. It is often hard on the ones left alive, but we must learn to accept it, even when it comes very soon.” Mira glowered for several minutes, miserable at these words. Cylias had said this to her before, when her brothers and sisters had died—but this was different. This girl was a tiny kitten in human years, but showed far more love and compassion than any other human Mira had met. Then, Mira thought of something. “Cylias, can't I at least go ask the mystic Crystal? Perhaps there is a way to help the child through the old magics.” Cylias closed his eyes and lowered his head. “If it will satisfy you, my Mira, you may do so. I will go with you to see that she answers your query.” The two began trotting down the street, moving in and out of shadows and bushes in the manner of cats. Halfway to Crystal's porch, great big Matthew jumped out alongside them and asked, “Where are you going?” Continued on page 18 17
The Song of Attem, continued “We are going to the mystic Crystal, to see if there is a way to save the little girl that gives me good things to eat,” answered Mira. “Oh little kitten,” laughed Matthew. Matthew was a great black and gray tabby, so huge that many humans mistook him for the great bobcat Attem. He had a great, broad voice and wide claws, but was too young to claim the fierceness or wisdom of one like Cylias. “Why would you want to let another human grow up to torment us? Surely we have lost enough of our kind to cars, traps and poisons.” “This little girl is different,” insisted Mira. “She is kind and gentle and good, and has always treated me well.” “We go to the mystic, young Matthew,” purred Cylias with a slight hint of warning. “Come or go as you wish, but do not torment poor Mira with your jeers.” Matthew bowed his great head in apology, and fell into step behind the other two. He was nearly three times the size of Cylias: but not so foolish as to think he was the better of the old tom. The three arrived at the porch of Crystal soon after. It was a sunny place, filled with good things to eat and pretty flowers to lounge by. The great mystic was lying in a sunbeam beside an offering of food left her by the humans who lived within the house. She was a magnificent golden tabby with long, perfect fur that spread around her like a sacred robe. Hers was a life of utter luxury, tended to by obedient humans and free to wander in and out of a comfortable house as she chose. “Oh Crystal, beautiful and wise,” called Mira, “my favorite little girl lies in her house, and Cylias tells me she is near death. Can you, with your great magics, see any way that she might be saved?” Crystal regarded the smaller cat coolly for a moment, then glanced at Cylias. Cylias nodded ever so slightly, and the mystic sighed. She glanced towards the sun, letting her eyes go small and out of focus. Mira held her breath, terrified and hopeful all at once. Finally, Crystal looked back at her with a queer expression. “Well, little one, it seems that you are favored. The little girl is indeed near death—her lungs have long been ravaged, and now grow infinitesimally small flowers that spell death for her kind.” “But how does this make me favored?” cried 18
Mira in despair. Crystal once again regarded her with a cool expression, now tinged with annoyance. Cylias gently nuzzled Mira’s ear. “Be patient, child. Mystics will take their own time in explaining things. You must learn to hold your tongue.” Mira bowed her head, “I'm sorry, oh resplendent mystic. Please continue.” Crystal took in a long and tortured sigh then went on. “As I was saying, the little girl is ill beyond the healing of the human's medicine. Her ka is tired, and longs to move on to an existence that is not so hard. “But therein lies your chance. “As her ka—her 'soul,' as the primitive humans know it—seeks to move on, it gains greater and greater understanding of the world and magics of cats. There is a chance—a very, very, very, slim chance, mind you—that the sacred song of our people will be enough to call it back to her body, and allow her to heal.” Mira was confused. When she was certain Crystal had finished, she tentatively asked, “But, haven't humans always hated our songs?”
Crystal laughed, and much to Mira's surprise old Cylias laughed with her. “No, little one, no,” Crystal said as her laughter subsided, “It is only the foolishness of modern times, the short memory of man that causes them to dislike our song.” “They think now that we sing only to disturb them,” added Cylias. “They cannot recall the days when they yearned for that song.” “It is the magic of the song, little Mira, that will save your little girl,” said Crystal, now grown serious. “But it must be a strong song, and one of old memory, or it will never work.” Crystal turned to go within her house. “But I don't understand what that means!” cried Mira to her retreating back.
Crystal paused just at her door. “I hope you learn,” she said simply, then vanished. Cylias and Matthew walked with her to the house of the little girl, but Mira barely noticed. Her mother had sung to her as a kitten, and she remembered many of those songs. But which ones would help her little girl? “Are you going to try to sing to her now?” asked Matthew. “No,” answered Mira slowly. “I will wait for the moon to come. Magic has always seemed stronger in the moonlight, somehow.” “You speak wisely, young one,” said Cylias approvingly. “Magic is indeed stronger when the moon lights our way. Sing your songs—Matthew and I will be in the shadows, watching over you.” The three crept under the porch of the house and slept the rest of the day away. At dusk, Mira awoke to find Cylias bringing them a great rat that was almost as large as he was. The three ate, and there was more than enough to feed all of them. A few hours later, Mira watched from the side of the porch as the moon rose, nearly full and the color of a newborn's teeth. All of them crept from the porch, and Cylias and Matthew took up positions in the shadows near the window as Mira climbed to the top of the fence opposite. Then, she sang. She sang of kindness, of the love of a mother cat for her kitten. She sang the great songs of battle that Cylias had taught her. She sang of warm places and soft fabrics and laughter and joy. She sang of the moon and its power. She sang of everything she could think of. “What is that racket?” snarled the father of the girl. He strode angrily to the window with a great
stick, ready to rip out the screen and pummel the raggedy looking animal that sat yowling outside the window of his dying child's room. “Wait!” cried the mother. I cannot tell you if she remembered, deep within her soul, the magics of cats. I cannot say if she loved cats as much as her daughter, and did not want to see Mira harmed. But I can say that she told her husband this: “Look! Our daughter almost looks contented, and a little less pale when the cat makes noise. Leave it be, it can't wake her, now.” And her husband listened. And Mira continued her song. Finally the moon set, and a sky almost without stars pulled itself over the Square and all the houses in it. Mira jumped down from the fence and, exhausted by her singing, slept beneath the porch. Late in the afternoon Mira awoke, exhausted and starving. She found Cylias watching her, a small bird lying dead between them. “Eat, child,” he said, and she pounced upon the bird without a thought. When she had finished, she realized that Matthew was still with them, standing guard at the edge of the porch. Cylias called to him, and the three sat in a circle to talk. “You sang well, Mira,” began Cylias. “I could hear the memory of older magics in your voice. I could sense the child's soul listening to you even as the night waned.” He paused. “But?” asked Mira. There both he and Matthew sighed. “But it is not yet enough,” answered Cylias. “You are still very small, and the task you take up is very great. I think perhaps you need more moon; or even, more voices in your song.” Mira was confused. “But I have only one voice to offer!” she cried. “How am I to give more, or to sway the waxing of the moon?” Matthew chuckled. “You have one voice, little sister—but together we have three. Cylias has the age of a great master, and I have the volume of a great beast. It still may not be enough, but tonight we both want to help you sing to the girl. Perhaps she is as good as you say, and our saving her will prove worthwhile.” Cylias half-swatted at him for the last comment, then turned to Mira. “You will choose the songs we sing, then we will join you in Continued on page 21 19
Barbara G. Howell
The Song of Attem, continued harmony. I think you should sing songs of how much you will miss her, to remind her of why she should stay.” Mira stood in shocked amazement. Then, she got up and nuzzled both of them fondly. “Oh thank you, thank you both! Together, I'm sure her ka will be swayed to stay.” That night three cats sat and sang where one had been before. The moon shone a little brighter, and the father sat patiently, watching his daughter breathe just a little easier. But soon the moon set, and the three cats crawled under the porch to sleep once again. Imagine their shock the next day when all three awoke to the sight of a dead groundhog lying between them and the edge of the porch. Cylias, with his old battle training, was the first to rise and sniff at it. Then his ears went back, and a slow, angry growl filled his chest. The hair on Mira and Matthew's neck and back stood stark upright, filled with alarm from the old battle-master's warning. “Peace,” rumbled an impossibly deep, scratchy voice from a hidden shadow. “If it was your death I desired, your kas would have long ago left this world.” Then, a figure uncurled and rose from the darkness. A human or prey would have seen a cat— a large cat, but only a cat. They would not have noticed the broad face or tufted ears. They would not have seen the power of the body that silently moved beneath the porch. They would not have known that they beheld Attem, the bobcat. But a cat, and sometimes even a dog, knows the difference. Housecats are creatures of an old desert. Their stories are written in ancient temples filled with incense and the spirits of Old Gods. They stay near humans as a ka stays with its body. But bobcats are creatures of forest. Their stories are screamed into raging fires, and remembered only slightly by the very wise. They are beings of the wild who hide in shadow, and hold little congress with the civilized creatures of the world. Yet here was Attem, the bobcat of the Square, not only allowing them to sleep like kittens but speaking to them! “What is your intention, Lord of the Square?” asked Cylias with perfect manners. “I bring you food, so that we may parlay in peace and contentment,” answered Attem.
Cylias stared at him long and hard. “It is not the normal custom for us to meet so.” “Truth,” answered Attem. “But it is how I think we should meet now. I beg you, eat—so that we may speak in comfort.” Cylias considered this for several minutes, then leaned forward and began to eat. Once he had his fill, Matthew and then Mira feasted on the massive carcass until their bellies felt like they would burst. The groundhog was a great creature, more than enough for three cats to eat their fill and still have meat to spare. Soon the three of them sat facing Attem, who had not spoken or moved since they began. “Your gift is most generous, Lord,” began Cylias, “but I am interested to know why you chose to give it to us.” Attem smiled, his great eyes disconcertingly large and almost menacing. “You three have called out great magics these past two nights. First the little one, then all three of you. I hear you sing with great passion for as long as the moon hangs in the sky, but I wonder why you only sing for the single ka of a little human. Is she sacred to your kind? I had thought she would not be long for this world, but it seems that she is of some great importance to you.” A small silence hung in the air as all three thought of what might be said. Finally, Mira spoke, “She is not sacred, nor is she of great importance to all cats—just me, really. She has long been kind to me, and I wish her to stay in this world for as long as her kind can do so.” Attem closed his eyes and pondered this for a long time. Bobcats did not form lasting bonds with anyone—let alone humans. Their kind was widely scattered, and shunned those who would seek to keep them contained. But they were still creatures of great heart, and Attem's heart was particularly kind for a bobcat. Finally, he opened his eyes and spoke, “You are young and naïve, little one—but sincere. But what makes you think our magics can persuade her ka to stay?” “We have been to a cat who is versed in the ways of magics,” answered Cylias, “and she told us that our song could persuade her ka—if it were strong enough. Tonight the moon is at its fullest, and we shall try again to sing the girl back to this world.” Attem considered these words carefully before Continued on page 22 21
The Song of Attem, continued asking, “You know my kind have been on these lands far longer than yours?” Cylias nodded, as did the others. “Then hear me, for my words are true. We bobcats remember the names that have been forgotten, and the spirits that still roam these parts in sullen longing. I tell you now that one kind little girl may not be enough to make the world better—but it will make life better for all those who encounter her, and that is no small thing. You say your magic may yet sing her back to this world, and that may be true. “But the magics of bobcats are still wild and clear, and perhaps just strong enough to call her ka back to this world. “I have decided that I will join your song tonight, and see if we can yet return this ka fully to its little girl. I may have little patience for humans, but somehow I feel that this action is right, and worthy for one of my kind.” The three cats stood stunned by Attem's speech. The great bobcat had never shown them any impolite or petty attitudes—indeed, he only ate housecat when one of them was deliberately rude to him. But no one had ever heard of a bobcat actively helping any cat in any matter, let alone a quest like this. It was Mira who recovered first, possibly because she noticed how low the sun was getting on the horizon. “Oh Attem, you are by far the most generous of the bobcat Lords. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times and more!” Attem smiled. “You are welcome, little pet. Now, mark me—for tonight, you sing bobcat songs!” That night, when the moon rose, three cats and one great bobcat sat before the window. The father saw them again, and this time he was quite
alarmed by the sight of a wild bobcat sitting so obviously before him. The father knew of bobcats and their secrecy, and worried that Attem might be mad, showing himself so plainly as he did. But then, Attem raised his voice in song, and the other three joined him—and the father realized that something wonderful was happening. Attem sang of the meaning of home. More than comfort or of safety, but of the sense of arrival and togetherness that a home gives you. He sang of love—love of a mother, love of a mate, and love for the whole world. Then, as the moon rose to its zenith, his songs changed and became more powerful. He sang of old, old mountains. He sang out each of their names, and the hills that guarded them. He sang of the great sea to the North, and of the spirit that glided a sinuous path in the depths. He sang of stars and worlds not yet discovered. He sang of birds and beasts long since dead. Finally, he sang of the moon. Wordlessly and soulfully, the three cats joined him as they remembered the part of a cat's soul that is made only of magic, and reflects only in moonlight. They sang of the joy of life, and the need for kindness. They sang of the little girl, and her worthiness. And then, just as the moon was about to set: the little girl woke with a smile. Attem was rarely seen by the other three for a long time after that. Cylias made a few offerings of mice and birds, but they were always returned on unseen paws. Matthew continued to be Matthew— large and slightly clumsy, but with his heart in the right place. Mira visited the little girl every day, even as she grew to a woman and Mira into a senior cat. And every day, there was a small dish of yogurt waiting just for her.
Tom Slattery Nothing happens out of context, and our human context began in Africa with un-evolved proto-human creatures. A lot that changed what we are happened before we were born, way before we were born. And it happened far over the ocean in Africa where scientists have been scratching around African rock and soil for ancient bones of our animal-like distant ancestors for over a century. Let's begin near the beginning of what we now call human. One of the striking changes that changed all of our lives back about 4.4 million years ago was our singular capability of walking upright, unlike other mammals. Bones have been dug up of a 4.4-million-yearold creature that if not a direct ancestor was similar to our direct ancestors living at that time. Our direct ancestors also would also have walked upright or they would have lost out in the competition with other anthropoid creatures. The earthly remains of this 4.4-million-year-old creature were cataloged in with an imposing name, Ardipithecus ramidus. Our animal ancestors walked around African plains, hills, and valleys for another 1.2 million years while evolving into the creature we know as Lucy or a creature similar to the famous Lucy. The big improvement that Lucy and her cousins brought was that Lucy's feet had arches for easier and more sustained walking. Her bones are logged in as Australopithecus afarensis and estimated to be 3.2 million years old. These two creatures, and the ones like them that were our direct ancestors, were less than borderline human. We would have to call them animals. They did not use fire and clothes would not be invented for a very long time. They lived like dogs and cats. But they kept improving. By 2.6 million years ago our very distant ancestors were beginning to use chipped stones as tools, and by 1.7 million years ago had mastered the art and technique of chipping and manufacturing useful stone tools. Then something notable changed our ancient ancestors' lives. The moment celebrated in
Prometheus myths happened. About a million years ago proto-humans living in a cave in what is now South Africa became the first known living creatures to have used fire. Using fire was a definite improvement in itself and in addition would have nurtured improved mental capacity. Our ancestral fire-using creatures had to do what other animals are generally incapable of: resist eating food until it was cooked. Moreover, they had to have social organization to collect and store firewood. Their community had to have a social ordering to keep a fire burning and had to cultivate learning and communication about culinary techniques and arts. The payoff was better nutrition and higher energy extraction from available food to fuel all of this increased mental energy. Great gobs of time went by. Word-of-mouth hand-me-down knowledge accumulated. Social interactions grew more complex. Language, manipulation of verbal and visual symbols, and communication skills improved. The brains of our ancestors had no choice but to evolve and grow bigger or head to extinction. Around 170,000 to 200,000 years ago, when our ancestors had been walking upright without clothes and evolving for about 4.4 million years, there may have been a few final finishing touches to our physical evolution. But around that time the genes of our physical evolution became stabilized. We have not significantly changed physically since then. On the other hand, a mental-social evolution based on "memes" continues to this day. Wikipedia, quoting the Mirriam Webster Dictionary, defines a meme thus: "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." Around 200,000 years ago or so our ancestors had evolved into beings that looked and probably behaved much like us modern humans. And shortly thereafter one of the bigger and better brains among them invented clothes, and the idea, behavior, and style of clothes caught on big. A time frame for this inventionâ€”this comparatively recent Adam and Eve moment in our long evolutionâ€”has been pinpointed by measuring rates of DNA changes in human body lice, which in spite of the name are in actuality human clothing lice. The invention of clothes took place about 170,000 years ago. Among other things, Continued on page 24 23
Volcano, continued this invention allowed these beings to leave Africa to live in cooler climates. Nowadays there is hardly any scientific or popular argument against our newly clothed ancestors coming out of Africa. But there is something interesting about it. DNA shows that we now fully human humans walked out of Africa in two different waves, one roughly 120,000 years ago to 100,000 years ago, the other roughly 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Why were there two waves? A powerful event that changed all of our ancestors' livesâ€”and thus changed our own livesâ€”with repercussions to this dayâ€”took place about halfway between these two waves. Here's what may have happened, and it could explain why we have our present slight physicalappearance variations that we erroneously call "race." On the northern half of the island of Sumatra in present-day Indonesia there is a pretty little lake named Toba. It is a remainder a "megacolossal category 8" explosion of a super-volcano. A super-volcano eruption is thousands of times greater than that of an average volcano. The colossal cataclysmic explosion of the Toba supervolcano occurred roughly 75,000 years ago, midway between these two waves, and created a sulfur and dust cloud that would have blocked sunlight from the planet, possibly for years. Global temperatures would have dropped catastrophically, but possibly unevenly and therefore leaving scattered opportunities for plant and animal life to continue. Over most of our planet, however, vegetation could hardly grow if it could grow at all. The result seems to have been a massive loss of plant and animal life, including human life. The whole human population of the planet Earth dwindled to only a few thousand surviving individuals. Since the first wave out of Africa had begun around 120,000 to 100,000 years ago it would have taken place and reached completion many millennia before Toba exploded. Among other early humans, these first-wave ancestors have been shown to have been the ancestors the present Australian aborigines. They had to have had boats to reach Australia, unless, of course, you want to believe they had flying saucers. Let me offer some reasonable but unsupported conjecture. By the fact that these ancestors of 24
Australian aborigines were able to cross considerable water from the Asian landmass, one must infer that they had gradually developed a whole range of adequate nautical competence. And prior to crossing from Asia to Australia they probably would have crossed the Red Sea from Africa into the southern Arabian Peninsula to begin their journey as the first wave. There were probably powerful Neanderthals threatening migrations toward the north. A hypothesis of primitive seaworthy boats offers a possible way for the first wave to first cross the Red Sea and then the vastly greater distance from Asia to Australia. Large dugout canoes from gigantic rain-forest logs made by using stone tools and burn-out techniques would not seem impossible. These primitive but fully evolved humans were not unlike ourselves in body and brain and could have manufactured seaworthy boats. Primitive outrigger setups could have been devised. Rudimentary navigation using sun and stars and primitive sails would not seem impossible for them to have used. The recent ancestors of modern Pacific Islanders crossed vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean in small outrigger boats and populated virtually all of the islands of that enormous body of water. Similar ancient minds with like motivations surely could have accomplished similar but less adventurous feats. But the complex knowledge and technology would have been lost in the colossal cataclysm and near extinction of humans. Scattered desperate survivors would have been unable to organize large labor pools to continue the work and traditions and they would have forgotten it. Others in this first wave of functional humans out of Africa may have tried to walk north into Europe and central Asia. But they would have encountered one big problem. The physically larger and stronger Neanderthals were already there and still numerous and powerful across Europe and the western and southern Eurasian continent. These first wave human ancestors would have been poor match for Neanderthals in terms of combat or numbers. Whether traveling by sea or by land or both, this first wave of human migration out of Africa would have hugged the coast of south Asia. Beaches make fine natural routes for travel, both for ease of physical travel itself and for not getting lost while traveling. Eventually by land and by sea the first Continued on page 26
Barbara G. Howell
Volcano, continued wave reached all the way from Africa into Australia. It is not impossible to visualize small settlements growing up over hundreds of thousands of years along the first wave's migration route. But sadly all of these settlements hugging the waterline along the South Asian coast would have been obliterated by a giant tsunami resulting from the Toba explosion and mega-earthquake. Prior to the Toba cataclysm but after reaching central or eastern Asia, humans of the first wave probably migrated north while bypassing the Neanderthals and expanded into east Asia. Their competition in East Asia may have been Homo erectus. Like the Neanderthals, parallel-evolving Homo erectus would probably not have been terribly dissimilar-looking nor dissimilar thinking and selfaware beings. And they would probably have been fearful and resentful of the new intruders. But there is a lot of land in Asia. Newly arriving humans could literally disappear into it. Whether welcome or not, some of the first-wave people seem to have established themselves there. The first wave may have continued on with some amount of two-way traffic back to Africa and growing in population and proficiency for perhaps 20,000 to 25,000 years. That is a long time. In the modern world civilizations have come and gone in mere hundreds of years. Moreover, just consider what we present civilized humans were only 5000 years ago at the dawn of civilization in the Middle East and Egypt. Twenty thousand years went by after the first wave began. Then the Toba super-volcano exploded. Very few of these first-wave humans or their stay-behind relatives in Africa survived. There were probably patches in the uneven dispersal of volcanic material and blocking of sunlight. This and local sources of warmth and food could have allowed small groups of clever or lucky humans to survive. But both mitochrondrial and Ychromosome DNA tracing—that is to say, both female and male—indicate that only a very small number survived. In an article in the July 2007 Vanity Fair, former Stanford postdoctoral fellow and Oxford research fellow Spencer Wells, now head of the Genographic Project, says DNA studies suggest that human population may have dwindled to as few as 2,000 individuals. Inbreeding in extremely small 26
and very isolated surviving clans might explain our present so-called "racial" appearances. The minimal population of humans that survived the Toba cataclysm survived isolated for millennia—some in Australia, some in China, and some in Africa, where the second wave had already begun to migrate. But over tens of millennia population grew. When population had rebounded, a second wave of humans migrated north, into where the physically powerful Neanderthals once had lived in great numbers. The Neanderthals too would have been almost annihilated by the Toba explosion, although one might speculate less so due to their ability to survive in colder climates. The second wave began heading up into Europe roughly 50,000 years ago. That was maybe 25,000 years after the Toba super-explosion and a long enough time to allow human population to grow to previous levels or more. They genetically mixed with the Neanderthals to the extent that many of us modern humans are two to five percent Neanderthal. But memes had long before taken over our evolutionary changes. What early humans learned from Neanderthals may never be known. But the second-wave of humans lived among or in proximity with Neanderthals for thousands of years, and there surely would have been some exchanges of knowledge, beliefs, skills, and relationships. It would seem that from three remnant isolated clans of survivors of the Toba catastrophe numbering as few as 2000 individuals, a whole new global human population grew into our present overpopulation of six-and-a-half billion individuals—with three distinct so-called "racial" appearances that keep raving radio talk-show hosts employed. There may have been an isolated clan of a few individuals in east Asia, the present, to use nineteenth-century racist terminology of anthropology, so-called "Mongoloid race". There may have been an isolated clan in Australia, the present Australian aborigines who are close to African blacks. And there may have been a small clan of individuals isolated in central or western Asia or Europe. And some of these may have mixed with the second wave out Africa after it had grown from a few surviving individuals there. It should Continued on page 28
The day before he died He saw balloons But there were no balloons. He did not hear the music. My mother did. My father too. But Dick, my husband, Only saw balloons. I did not know that he was going to die next day, that I would find him cold and quiet when I returned from work. It happened to be Halloween.
I knew of course he was not well But one day suddenly became Today And all my world was changed. Relief and grief and lostness. So many years since I Had lived alone And I was never good at it But, oh, such opportunity If I could only find the key. â€”Anne Osborne 27
Volcano, continued come as no surprise that we present-day humans offer superficial appearance differences as blacks, whites, and Asians. And while the first or second wave into Europe and Western Asia mixed with the Neanderthals and possibly others like the Denisovans, black people in Africa did not have the opportunity. African black people have no Neanderthal or other
non-human DNA. Still, the cataclysmic explosion of the Toba super-volcano on the island of Sumatra seems to have made that time 75,000 years ago a time that changed all of our lives to this day. Among other things, now we have to deal with "racism." That may not have been the case if Toba had stayed dormant. Or would our big brains just have found something else?
Hollie Brubaker When the Aesthetics Committee decided we wanted to do an art show that used digital technology, I embraced the idea. It was an exciting challenge! We wanted to have a gallery for videos, and digital slideshows, and online photo albums. But how could we show several videos at the same time? How could we play the congregation’s media without a pile of TV screens and computer monitors crowding the Fireside Room? Simple. With another new technology—the QR Code! We will be hanging these codes on the walls. They are like unique next generation barcodes that have an interesting visual appeal. The way a QR code works is that you scan this code with an app on your smart phone or tablet. It is linked to a web address where the digital media is located. Once scanned, that media plays on your handheld device. Maybe you have a slideshow of vacation pictures or an animation you made on the Vine app. I know one person who is sharing a video of the moment he proposed to his wife. Someone else is submitting a series of photography from her blog. Have you made a video that you hoped would go “viral”? Even if you’ve just taken a quick video on your phone to share the moment your son took his first steps, or your daughter said something silly. Special moments in time are beautiful works of art. I hope you consider sharing a piece of your digital art with the congregation. We intend to have some digital media that continues the themes for Story Year. Themes are: January—Mountaintop Moment, February—Taking a Risk, March—Your Hardest Lesson, April—A Time You Grew and May—Your Greatest Teacher. If your work fits these themes, we will add the QR Codes in the digital Chalice that month! This is also a great opportunity for young people to showcase their talent. There are so many creative ways that the youth are using social media and art. I know some of you have taken classes in video and photography. It is time to show it off! So, what if you don’t have a smart phone? Well, each week during the uuTuube Art Show, one of the artists will showcase media in person in the Fireside Room (much like the Live Art of the summer 2013). Also, we are accepting framed prints from Instagram or other photo sharing sites to display as well. Everyone can enjoy the art, whether you have a smart phone or not. We encourage anyone who is interested in sharing online videos and pictures to submit them for uuTuube: Share Your Story Show & Exhibit by January 5! The show will run through January and February. 28
Barbara G. Howell Before I went to Mozambique, I knew nothing of karsts. For the five months I was working at what was only the country’s second medical school (yes, in 2011!) in the northern part of the country, these mountains dominated the landscape of both my view and my spirit. Karst landforms are caused by acidic water acting on weakly soluble rock such as limestone. The acidic water dissolves the
surface along fractures or bedding planes. Over time, these fractures enlarge. Openings in the rock increase in size, and an underground drainage system begins to develop, allowing more water to pass through the area and accelerating the formation of underground karst features. For me, the formations were much like the nature of the country—highlighted by heights which were undermined by dissolving bedrock of morality or spirit. The mountaintops were full of life and full of holes. Use your SMARTphone or tablet with a QR Reader to view my “Mountaintop Moments” show by scanning the QR Code on this page. Consider making your own contributions to the Aesthetics Committee Art Show. Submissions are due January 5, 2014. Contact Hollie Brubaker at Holliewood801@gmail.com for more information. 29
Published on Dec 29, 2013
A Independent Magazine based on the monthly worship themes at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church of Rocky River, OH. A collection...