Summer hibernation

Bears hibernate in winter; bloggers hibernate in summer.

Contrary to popular belief, I have not been:

  • competing in the Olympics as a stealth athlete
  • attending the DNC as a superdelegate
  • catching state record channel catfish with a Barbie rod & reel

I have been:

Now that the weather’s getting uncharacteristically cooler (in August!), does this mean hibernation is over?

Perhaps some posting in the days to come…

Surfacing

In case you didn’t notice — and it’s highly likely you didn’t — I more or less took the month of January off from blogging. Sure, there were a few links distributed here and there on the side, but it was a nice rest — especially for you, the erstwhile reader. Just think of all the presidential primary analysis from which you were spared (I’m sure you were able to find some somewhere).

You can thank me later, because I’m back starting tomorrow.

As they say, stay tuned…

2007 in places

With a new baby and an in-town move limiting my 2007 movements to a more local sphere, I slept in fewer cities this year than any in recent history:

Kingsport, TN
Tupelo, MS
Washington, DC
Woodbridge, VA

cf. 2005, 2006.

Periscope depth

There’s a lot going on the real world, hence the lack of goings on here on the blog. Due to my working at The Washington Briefing last weekend (and the fact that it wasn’t televised nationally) I missed commenting on the Tennessee — Alabama game. It was a good one to miss, I’m told.

I’ve got a post on tolerance in the works, and another on standing ovations, of all things. There’s still a lot going on, so I’ll be back to full speed next week: maybe sooner, maybe not. Stay tuned.

Dorothy Estes, R.I.P.

Aunt Dot and yours truly (in the football shirt)

Yesterday, in the earliest hours of the morning, another of my great aunts, Dorothy Estes, passed away. Aunt Dot, as we all called her, was the sister of my grandmother, and an integral part of my extended family in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.

Born on April 16, 1925, she was the eldest of three sisters. She married the late Johnny Estes and moved around Tennessee as she accompanied her husband to several pastorates. They settled in Maryville, TN (pronounced “Murvull” by those who know better) in the mid 1950s, where they built themselves into the community. Aunt Dot raised three sons, survived the death of her oldest child, and raised one grandchild.

My knowledge of Aunt Dot was limited to the sporadic family gatherings that occur when relatives are dispersed across distance. One thing that was made clear from the times I spent with her was that she loved to laugh. She was a kind woman whose love of Christ was evident, and whatever peace that our Lord gave her made her laugh quite a bit.

She wore large, thick glasses that often hid the care with which she listened to those she loved. Her voice was warm, distinct, and memorable. I recall one time when she was talking about a new road that allowed her a shorter drive to her sister’s house. “That Pellisippi Parkway, it’s a blessing,” she said. To this day, whenever I drive on that road, I remember Aunt Dot’s vibrant enthusiasm about a road. She was the type of woman who saw a road as a blessing from God.

Aunt Dot will be dearly missed, but the fruit of her life lives on in those of us whom she held dear.

Nancy Sharp, R.I.P.

Aunt Nancy with my son in 2005My great-aunt Nancy Sharp died today at the age of 93. On the surface she might have seemed to be just an ordinary woman, but in her ordinariness she was a woman of extraordinary grace.

My late grandfather’s oldest sister, she was born on July 31, 1914 in Knoxville, Tennessee — just as World War I was beginning in Europe. She had to quit school at age 14 during the Great Depression so her mother could go to work. Aunt Nancy took care of her siblings. At age 16, she went to work so her mother could return to caring for the children, and she worked pretty consistently until she was 85 years old. So much for early retirement.

Nancy Sharp in the Knoxville News-SentinelWhen she was 75 years old, she became one of the oldest people in Knoxville to get her G.E.D. She studied for and obtained her degree while working 40 hours a week, again, at age 75.

She was converted to Christ at age nine, and later became a member of Beaumont Ave. Baptist Church in Knoxville in 1927. Her local church membership was “upgraded” just today after 80 years as a member.

She married late in life, so she had no children of her own, but she never lacked for outlets of love. Her many nieces and nephews were the beneficiaries of Aunt Nancy’s quiet grace.

For as long as I can remember, Aunt Nancy was a fixture in my life. Several times a year as I was growing up, our family would make the 2-hour trip to Knoxville, and Aunt Nancy’s house was always a much-anticipated stop as we made the rounds visiting relatives. There are only a handful of my 33 years when I didn’t get a birthday card (for years filled with her signature $5 bills) from Aunt Nancy, and she never failed to remember Christmas.

In fact even in her later years, she failed to remember very little indeed. She was as sharp as her last name, and while her hearing began to fail her, her wits remained strong. I remember a particular visit I made to Aunt Nancy alone back in December of 2000, a visit that was followed by a first date with my future wife. As we talked about my late grandfather and their family’s upbringing, Aunt Nancy’s eyes lit up as she recalled her childhood — a childhood that would be measured by much hardship by today’s standards. Yet in that hardship was a fondness and love that still carried her late in life.

Aunt Nancy was an extraordinary woman who displayed God’s grace at the expense of displaying herself. Would that we might all be more like her.

I’ll miss her.

Thumos in Washington

We had the privilege tonight of attending the National Endowment for the Humanities’ 2007 Jefferson Lecture, given this year by the inestimable Harvey C. Mansfield. Mansfield spoke at the historic Warner Theater in downtown D.C. on the topic, “How to Understand Politics: What the Humanities Can Say to Science.”

Mansfield did a great job of showing how the concept of thumos, ever-lacking in science, rears its head in the various disciplines of the humanities. If that sounds complicated, believe me, Mansfield makes it work.

One of the best lines of the night was, “The demand for more civility in politics today should be directed toward improving the quality of our insults, seeking civility in wit rather than blandness.”

I’ll say more on the lecture later, but if you’re in Washington next spring, I highly recommend it. Previous lecturers include Walker Percy, David McCullough, and Tom Wolfe.

UPDATE: I updated my memory of the quote from the text of the lecture, which is now online.

A voice from the past

Samuel David Cooper and Jared Bridges

My grandfather, Samuel David Cooper, died on November 13, 1997. About ten years prior — when I was in 7th grade — I took a genealogy class in middle school. One of the class projects was to interview our “oldest living relative.” Well, Granddad wasn’t my oldest relative at the time, but he was the most convenient — and the most interesting. The consummate storyteller, he could turn even the most mundane story into an adventure. I taped the interview on Granddad’s portable tape recorder and microphone. The grainy, unprofessional, 20-minute recording that resulted became a treasure.

A treasure which I unfortunately misplaced for a number of years. When my parents moved a couple of years ago, I found the tape while cleaning out my old room. The tape — an old one to begin with — still played, but was on its last legs. Thanks to my friend David Salkeld, using his unknown arts of audio wizardry the tape was cleaned up the tape and converted to CD.

The interview, which took place around 1987 (give or take a year), concerned the life of my Granddad as he grew up. Topics covered include favorite foods, memories, games, folklore, and community. If you listen to the interview, you’ll note that my voice hasn’t quite changed all the way. And yes, my East Tennessee accent is as thick as sorghum syrup (I speak with rolling Scottish brogue now, you see). My interview skills are a bit lacking, but keep in mind that this is a 12 year-old kid just wanting to finish a school assignment.

When I hear my Granddad’s voice, it’s hard to believe that this interview occurred twenty years ago. It makes me smile when I hear it.

If your browser has Flash enabled, you can press “play” on the player below to listen:

Or, if you wish, you can download an mp3 file of the interview.

Meme’s the word

The Jollyblogger has been meme-ing about, and I’ve been tagged. I hereby oblige:

Five(ish) things about me:

1. What’s the most fun work you’ve ever done, and why?

Since fun is the operative word here, I’d have to go with my one-day stint as a garbage collector. It was the the day after Christmas, I was in college, and I knew I didn’t have to go back the next day.

2. A. Name one thing you did in the past that you no longer do but wish you did?

Lift weights. (You couldn’t tell?)

B. Name one thing you’ve always wanted to do but keep putting it off?

Write a novel. (yeah, I know)

3. A. What two things would you most like to learn or be better at, and why? (two sentences max)

Thinking more clearly and creatively.
Putting the aforementioned thoughts into words.

B. If you could take a class/workshop/apprentice from anyone in the world living or dead, who would it be and what would you hope to learn? (two more sentences, max)

Dostoevsky, from whom I would like to learn the aforementioned skills.

4. (A) What three words might your best friends or family use to describe you?

Sarcastic
Goofy
Pensive

(B) Now list two more words you wish described you…

Kind
Sarcastic

5. What are your top three passions?

Learning
Teaching
Creating

6. Write–and answer–one more question that YOU would ask someone.

What moves you?

The relieving fact that I am not the end–that there is something, someone bigger than me.