Celebrating

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 23rd, 2011 by MadDog
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Today is Eunie’s birthday. She would have been sixty-seven. That is very young according to my way of thinking and today’s standards. The significance of this day was upon our minds as we went about our tasks in Grace’s office this morning. I was playing vintage Eagles songs on Eunie’s old Toshiba laptop computer as I answered emails. Grace was cleaning out a too-full closet, surrounded by memorabilia and nearly forgotten works of art. Yesterday and this morning we had talked of making this a day to bring back sweet memories of a woman we both loved. It was to be a time of celebration.

I wanted to make this a singular day in the short, choppy history of this, my online diary. As I sat there listening to the words of Peaceful Easy Feeling Grace came to me with a small packet of greeting cards. She told me that she had been saving them until she saw Eunie again. She had sent them to Madang for Eunie’s birthday last year, but they were, for reasons known only to God and the Papua New Guinea Royal Postal Service, returned to her noted as undeliverable. One card was marked with a sticky note, “For Eunie”. Another was marked “For Arny to give to Eunie”. I did not know that my day was about to be put on hold for a while.

Grace’s message to Eunie was, “When we take time to dream we discover the many windows to our soul.” The image on the card and the message were pure Grace:

What started as a playmate relationship at the age of four grew into a friendship which was not defeated even by death. On the day after Eunie died Grace wrote on Eunie’s Facebook wall nine messages. I saw them for the first time today. I am going to write them here, because it is fitting that a lifetime of friendship be acknowledged by witnesses:

I need to say this: It took me until just before she was married to realize she was “Beautiful”. But, her incredible blue eyes could command the world. I guess I took her for granted as kids. We laughed, cried, used our imaginations and explored the truths of childhood and adolescence.

We have been woven together in Divine Sequence – in and out of experiences – loss & success, ecstasy & tragedy. She was never surprised at my worst, but knew my capacity for excellence.

She is a “woman’s woman” – nurturing, observing, listening, shaping, kind and gentle – and strong, logical, intelligent, assertive and focused.

I have always admired her ability to set a course and empower those around her to move to the task ahead, Gentle and kind, but no nonsense, with genuine appreciation for help.

She sensed which things were good for this world and those things which are not. She had the courage to act accordingly in both behavior and speech.

I share, with many, the fact that my life was and is better for knowing Eunie. I do not believe our fabric is gone, there is still more weaving to do. Just her form.

But, I will soulfully miss that form. It is not easy NOT to hear that voice and laugh and direct council.

On this earth we have lived with “Seek yea the kingdom of God” and “Love one another” as absolutes. Not a bad way to live. Maybe the only joyful way.

Let all of us who appreciate and love Eunie join hands. We can encircle this earth and encase it with much needed love.

If there is such a thing as truly unconditional love, I believe that it existed between Grace and Eunie. Each of them experienced all of the good and bad which life offers. Each of them survived and was made stronger. Neither of them allowed their friendship to succumb to the handicap of separation. Through the years I heard of Grace so often that I sometimes felt that she was a next-door neighbor. When communication became slow Eunie would worry. “I have to call Grace. Something is wrong”, she would say. I was privileged to experience a similar depth of friendship with Grace for the better part of my life. Shortly after meeting Eunie and falling in love with her I met Grace and understood why Eunie always spoke of her with affection.

Yesterday it was hotter than the hubs of Hades in Sedona. “It’s a dry heat.”, they say. Well, it is dry and HOT. I can’t say that I’m bothered by it, having lived in Madang for so long. On most days I don’t really notice it. On the way back from Cottonwood we stopped at the Javelina Leap Vineyard so that I could sample some Arizona wines. I got this lovely shot of Grace under the unusually quirky signage:

The wine was rather ordinary. The company was exceptional.

In case you’re wondering what an Arizona vineyard might look like, here is a sample:

On the way back to Grace’s house we had to contend with the pesky Sedona landscape. It’s In Your Face all the time in Sedona:

In the evening the sky lit up. Grace said that she saw an “h” up there for “heaven”. I call it a stretch, but I give her an A for imagination:

I mentioned another card in the packet. It was the one which interrupted my day. On the card marked “For Arny to give to Eunie” are these words:

You are the rhythm
In my music
You are the drumbeat
Of my heart

I came unglued. I had the healthiest cry since Eunie died.

Happy birthday, Eunie. Thank you, Grace, for a lifetime of friendship.

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Sunset – Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on September 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Man, this is hard. I don’t know how to write this. I just have to put one word in front of another. Eunie was one of those people who you feel like will be around forever. We know it’s not true, but we don’t want to think about not having her.

Yesterday morning, after only a couple of hours of discomfort, she asked for some stronger pain relief. Shortly afterwards she fell asleep and her breathing calmed and she was peaceful. Not long after that, her spirit departed her body.

It has been only a few weeks that we have known that Eunie was seriously ill. Eunie feared few things in life. She was one the most fiercely brave people I have ever known. She did not, however, want to have anything at all to do with pain. The fact that she left us so peacefully and without pain was a blessing to us all.

So, Eunie’s sunset in now complete. The lightning in the image above represents her amazing spirit.

After every sunset, there is another sunrise. This is the way the world turns. So it is with the spirit, as I believe. If I did not believe so, I would not be able to carry on. I carry on now because of this promise and because to falter and waste away would be a dishonour to Eunie.

Eunie’s sunrise must be truly glorious.

I have no more words for now. I don’t know what the next few days will bring. Hans is going back to his family in Canada tomorrow morning. I have my remaining support team here with me – Marg and Mick Horwood tonight at their house and Val Jerram, Rich Jones and Carol Dover who will be travelling to Gympie with me to Val’s home.

Sometime next week I will return to Madang. I both long for and dread it. I’ve never felt such conflicting emotions. To those in Madang:  you are getting back a shell of a man, but I have no fear that all will be well after a while. Life for me will never be “normal” – as it seemed before. I have to hang onto the hope that there will be a new sunrise for me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was stunned to see that there were 28 comments waiting for me this morning. I can’t possibly answer each one, but I do read every one.

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The Niagara Escarpment

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on May 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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We went up on the “mountain” today, as it is known in Hamilton. It’s not really a mountain at all, but an escarpment, not that it makes much difference. It’s part of the Niagara Escarpment, a very interesting geologic formation. Here’s a nice panorama shot that I got with the Olympus SP-590UZ. It has two modes of stitching together a panorama automatically in the camera. Both work a treat:

The Olympus SP-590UZ does a great job of stitching together a panorama in the camera.

The above is a much better panorama than my first attempt a year ago. However, it does have a couple of imperfections in the sky. I’ll probably stick to individual exposures and merging them in Photoshop for serious panoramas.

You can’t miss the fact that Hamilton is a steel town:A steel town at 26x optical zoomThough some say it was once hell on earth, today the air is much cleaner. I bet that most of the clean up was not the idea of the steel producers. Ah, well, that’s life:

Locals say that the air is much cleaner today than it was twenty years ago.Some people won’t change their habits unless politely asked to do so.

Hamilton is about 70 kilometres from Toronto. Here’s a beautiful example of the treasures built into the Olympus SP-590UZ 26x optical zoom lens. It’s not the sharpest lens in the world, but it lets an amateur with a good eye take some mind-blowing shots:

Hamilton steel mills, the skyline bridge, and Toronto in the distanceThat’s the steel mills of Hamilton from the escarpment with Toronto in the far distance.

Here’s another similar shot with a foreground frame that is just pleasantly out of focus:Another view of steel mills, the bridge, and Toronto miles awayAnd, here is Eunie practising with her new Canon Powershot A100IS:

Eunie practicing with her new Canon Powershot A100ISShe’s having fun with that camera. It’s not overpowering for someone who just wants to take superb snaps for her journal. Check out her latest post here.

Walking through the neighbourhoods of Hamilton is a beautiful experience. The yards are full of flowers and thoughtful landscaping. Here we see the strong Dutch influence in these beautiful tuilps:

Cheery tulips contarst with industrial drabness - Hamilton, OntarioIf fact, this time of year you would think that you are in Tuliptown.

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All I Want to Do is Party

Posted in Humor on November 28th, 2008 by MadDog
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Imagine this. You live in a place where there are no movie theatres, no restaurants that you haven’t been to 1,000 times already, no jazz or blues clubs, no interesting hang-outs . . .

So, do you sit at home and read or watch The Tube? Some do.

We don’t.

Nonsensical socialization (i. e. partying) is the primary entertainment in Madang. By custom, it takes a minimum of three people to make a party. (Otherwise people will talk!)

Here’s three slightly demented women partying – just to demonstrate the principle:

Party girls on Melbourne Cup Day a few years ago

Okay, that’s not true. It’s Lorraine, Karen, and Eunie (my woman) at Melbourne Cup Day.

All parties don’t need to have a reason, but Melbourne Cup Day has two. The first (and by far the least important) is to watch the race. The primary reason for the Melbourne Cup party is to dress in such a way as to attract the greatest possible attention, which is what (I think) women like to do, but will never admit. The traditional focus is HATS!

Other parties have entirely different purposes:

Insanity rules at the Red Cross Fashion Show

No, no, this is not what it seems. The Red Cross held a fashion show to raise money. I don’t commonly remove so much clothing in front of so many people, but this was for a good cause. I suppose you can notice that I am on the left looking very improbable. Fedor is in the middle doing “Extreme Ironing”. Rich is at the right doing . . . something.

Here’s the cooking detail at a randomly chosen party at Blueblood:

The Three Stooges - Madang Style

I am as close to the barbie as I am allowed to go. This is an Australian thing. Yanks are not allowed to approach closer than two metres to the barbie. I have, in fact, encroached upon the limit. That is why I am surreptitiously displaying the victory gesture. As soon as Tony and Trevor notice, they will shout obscenities at me until I am once again outside the forbidden zone.

This has nothing to do with Madang, but I should mention that not all nationalities treat Yanks in such a shoddy fashion. Here I am happily, if a bit groggily, tending the barbie in the Vienna Woods. It was okay with the Austrians. In fact, they ignored me completely except to bring me an occasional yummy beer:

Tending the barbie in the Vienna Woods - a thirsty job

And, what would life be without TOGA? Yes, kiddies, we actually do have the occasional toga party in Madang, as this photo will attest:

The "Centurion" style toga

I don’t know what Eunie’s outfit had to do with toga, but I approved anyway. Mine was based on the “Centurion” design and it made me feel quite manly, considering it’s the next thing to a dress. I once wore a kilt for a wedding and it too gave me a strange sense of freedom. Maybe it is the lack of undergarments – who knows?

Here’s two of a group of partiers on board Moonlighting for a little fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but I guess, from previous experience, that catching fish is not really the point of fishing. I’m still not clear on that:

The great 'sport' of Fishing - similar to the great 'sport' of Watching Paint Dry

And, sometimes, on a rare Saturday morning, I find that only the ladies show up at the dock and I’m forced to endure an entire day out on the boat with a mob of noisy, wonderful females:

A Dog's Life on Faded Glory - Photo by Rich Jones

It’s a Dog’s Life, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad. ( I should mention that the photo above – so close to my heart – was taken by Richard Jones, who was pretending not to be aboard so that I might enjoy my day to the fullest. A true mate!)

As I check this before posting it seems even more egocentric than usual. I’m in every photo except one. I’ll throw in the Faded Glory* logo to help restore the balance a little:

The Faded Glory (out of Madang) logoParty on!

* “Faded Glory” is a registered trademark of Wal*Mart. They stole it from me. Is it a political statement about the ultimate demise of all empires? Or is it just because my boat is cheap and junky like most of the stuff at Wal*Mart?  I’ll never tell.

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My Crazy Woman

Posted in Humor on May 5th, 2008 by MadDog
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What sort of kid was my wife? It seems not much different than she is now, in many ways. Cute, adventurous, mischievous – all that, certainly. Daring? Sometimes.

It seems that Eunie was the virtual forerunner of the Mythbusters. She told me the story of how, at about eight years old, she wondered if it were true that one’s tongue might stick to a freezing object. The bright but bored little girl simply had to test the validity of the thesis. The obvious method was by experimentation. If you lived in a cold climate as a child, you probably tried it also.

Surprisingly, the schoolhouse is still standing. Today it is a video production studio. I asked her to show me the staircase where she performed her research. We found it. She said that, except for some minor details, it looks the same as it did when she was in the third grade. I was, of course, compelled to snap a photo:

Eunie’s staircase

When I look at this picture, I can see my wife as precocious child, her little pink tongue stuck fast to the cold iron railing, frantically calculating her next move. She said her tongue was sore for days afterward.

I love my crazy woman.

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USS Peleliu Visits Madang

Posted in At Sea, Madang Happenings on September 10th, 2007 by MadDog
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This FROM: MadDog

As a relief from choking on the daily news of the hideous, unending war in Iraq, the visit of the USS Peleliu to Madang on a humanitarian mission was like a long, deep breath of fresh highlands air. The giant ship was here for about ten days. According to reports, they did a lot of good work.

Here are some links:
USS Peleliu LINK
Pacific Partnership 2007 LINK
Local News from The National LINK
For pet lovers LINK (got a security certificate warning – didn’t hurt my computer)
Beats getting shot at or having to shoot somebody LINK

The ship is huge. She is the final example of the Tarawa class Amphibious Assault Ship. She carries helicopters, Harrier jets, hovercraft, big landing craft, and great mobs of Marines, if needed.

She cruised off Madang a few miles because our harbor is too small for her. (Probably some security reasons, also.). We got on a big landing craft at the main wharf in Madang, chugged out to sea for about a half-hour, and sneaked up behind her. Here we are sneaking up behind:

Meeting the USS Peleliu at sea

The ship squats down in back to accommodate the comings and goings of the various boats that fit inside. The whole back end fills up with water and floods the lower deck until it is a few feet under the water. It takes about twenty minutes to do this. It is a startling experience to float up behind and be literally swallowed up. Here’s the ship getting ready to gobble us: (I wondered if Jonah was as amazed?)

Being swallowed up by the USS Peleliu

Once inside, it is an astounding maze of beams, pipes, sailors, and what-have-you. It is all so big, it takes a few minutes (while waiting for the boat to ‘unsquat’ so that the landing craft can sit securely on the deck) to get a sense of the scale. Here we are, being mesmerized:

Inside the ‘garage’ of the USS Peleliu

Once off the landing craft, we were herded along through a maze of corridors to our meeting room for some classy refreshments (including the biggest, juiciest black cherries I have ever seen) and a welcome by the Executive officer, Peter J. Sciabarra. Here we are being herded: (That’s Eunice in the white top and Val in the African print.)

Down a passageway inside the USS Peleliu on our way to our ‘briefing”

After our ‘briefing’, we went out on deck just in time to see the arrival of one of their big helicopters (a Sikorsky Sea Stallion, I think.) Here she is coming in for a landing:

Huge helicopter landing on the USS Peleliu

Our last stop was the bridge. I was surprised at how small the area was. It was not much bigger than a generous two-car garage. It was, however, Eunice’s favorite spot. Observe her, gazing raptly at Captain Ed Rhoades, as he graciously, and with good humor, answered any question we might ask. I was mightily impressed by all the crew with which we were privileged to come into contact. I have to say, though, that the Captain seemed to me to be spot-on the kind of guy needed to handle such a gargantuan job. Here’s Eunice paying particular attention to Captain Rhoades:

Captain Ed Rhoades with Eunice Messersmith

I say thanks to the Captain, the crew of the USS Peleliu, and the US Embassy for making it possible for many local people (including some of us very few Americans in Madang) to enjoy this amazing opportunity. This is not to mention all the good work they did in Madang (visit the links above) and many other places on this deployment.

Good fortune to the USS Peleliu and all who sail upon her. My personal wish for you is that you never get shot at by anybody and you never have to fire a shot in anger. That’s my idea of the meaning of the ship’s motto, Pax per potens (“Peace by means of [being] powerful”, if I remember my high-school Latin correctly). At least that’s the concept, given that you’re big-and-bad enough (the USS Peleliu is) and your country has sane leadership. One can only wish . . .

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