Friday, December 3, 2021

Hello, world!

 Hello everyone!  


  I'm hanging out with my buddies over at Woodbine right now on Zoom, and we're talking about meaning and purpose.  I thought it would be fun to show them how to blog.  Man, I'd sure love to read some life advice - and boy could I use it!  Here's to hoping that this inspires a few new bloggers.  Let me know if you need help setting up your own!


- Josh 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Splinters instead


  Hey folks!  


  I was about to write a "review" of some incredible music I just saw.  The criticism was going to be wrapped in theological nuance, a fishhook in a bible, Cain's murder weapon a virtuous pillow.  Instead, I'm going to spend ten minutes writing a song.  It'll be terrible - I haven't written seriously in a few years.  But better to start rough framing a humble shack then to lob those easy stones towards another man's castle.  

  Those same stones don't give one splinters like the beams of real progress can - but man, they're awfully cold.  

  


Monday, November 29, 2021

Looking West

 Letters from Josh

Looking West                                                                Letter 66 11/30/21


  Howdy, folks, and a happy belated Thanksgiving!  I’m jotting this from high atop Long Mountain, aka “the backyard” of my folks at their new place.  Here’s the scene and some fresh country air for you:  The sky is wintry azure to the north, but cold gray clouds provide cover right above me.  A November wind stirs the grasses and rustles a few remaining chestnut oak leaves on it’s way up the mountainside.  There’s something bracing in it - a Sunday preacher demanding of the observer as it does the pine trees it sings in: let go of anything that needs to be blown away.  And these trees do, keeping only what is absolutely necessary.  Grizzled, bent, and some would say stunted, they keep watch over the valley below as a train whistle echoes up from unseen rails.  Although the environment is harsh, perhaps the trees are the lucky ones, getting to spend their days watching the sun arc from ridge to ridge, and nights gazing into infinity.  Countless winter snows and summer storms have worn these rocks, and there’s something ruggedly wise about this quiet spot I sit, with just Brother Wind as company.  Casting my eyes to the blue distance, I look west 60 odd miles towards the hulking ranges of West Virginia.  A quiet road loops at the nearer feet of the mountain, and some part of me I can’t even describe stirs, longing to follow the endless double yellow line towards lands imagined.  Have you ever felt that way, too?  It’s hard to say exactly what it is, but it’s similar to the wish of flying.  What an excellent vista to make a heart glad on a Thanksgiving holiday!  I sure am grateful for a lot this year, and especially for these Letters and the opportunity to chat with you.  The cold makes it feel extra festive.  I hope your “turkey day” was meaningful and festive, and here’s a mountain toast to the past year.  We sure have been through a lot, and an extra toast to handling it with grace and tenacity.  Now, it’s time to lumber on down the mountain like a plaid bear (forget about grace there!), crunching the dry oak leaves, peering carefully at the steep slope to find sure footing, duck through the mountain laurel groves, slide on some more leaves, jump the stream, and head back inside to warm up.  It’s a long walk, but a delightful one.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our hike.  Until next time… - Josh

Monday, September 20, 2021

Letters From Josh, Vol 63

Letters from Josh

Falling Curtains                                                         Letter 63   9/20/21


  Howdy, folks!  There’s a delicious cool in the air this evening.  I took a quick stroll, looking comically relaxed and seasonal in plaid shorts and funky socks.  It was time to bid farewell to Summer.  The last light was in the sky as the sun set on this second to last day of the season.  The Equinox is Wednesday, and with the approaching autumn, pumpkin spice everything will be in style.  (I’d grumble, but I’m “basic”, and love the flavor.)  Ambling along, I listened to the bugs singing in the gathering dusk.  The cicadas reminded me of summers long ago, getting a sweet treat on Connecticut avenue as a little boy.  I’d revel in the experience, playing with my brothers in a timeless evening, and looking back, I wonder if I knew how fleeting seasons are.  A wood thrush flitted and called deep in the woods, ready to turn in for the evening.  Mother Nature seemed to be beckoning all her children:  “Time to come home and get some dinner.”  A ripping, plopping sound: an acorn tore through the leaves and hit the ground. The White Oaks are putting out a bumper crop this year, and near the forest pond, the deer rustled away from this twilight walker. They’ll be feasting on the bounty soon.  Along the road, a patch of yellow wildflowers bloomed with the faintest perfume of a season finale. The crickets have changed their tune, too.  They sing a beautiful, quiet song, ushering in the Change.  And all around, the air was the bittersweet temperature of a pool about to close.  “But mom, just a few more minutes in the water!”  “No, no, it’s time to come in for dinner.”  Soon, the Harvest Moon will rise, and I must be off to find her.  It seems important to say hello.  Enjoy the little things!  

Until next time...

  • Josh


  

 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

On Rivers and Crossings

 "I've got to cross that River Jordan

       Lord, I've got to cross that for myself

Say nobody here can cross it for me

I've got to cross it by myself."  


  Sunday evening arrived with the stillness of a held breath.  The rough-hewn path beckoned me down the hill and through the meadow , where even the whine of the occasional mosquito was startlingly loud in the soupy air.  

  There's something about Sunday evening which stands up to remind me that there's a week ahead.  My generation shrinks from this, calling it "The Sunday Scaries".  Whatever.  This feeling was illustrated by nature, as the path led directly to the Potomac shore, terminating in a river to cross.

  Thoughts crowded around my ears like the gnats above the fragrant grasses.  I'll be moving across that river (eventually), and perhaps this will be one of the few remaining summer Sundays to spend on the gravely banks.  A good friend of mine has just crossed another sort of river.  He was like one of the old oaks that stretch their arms out over these meadows.  He had seen much lighting in his life, and laughed with an oaky mirth.  His eyes would gleam out of his weathered face, waiting for me to get his joke.  He lived at the retirement home.  I'm not sad that he gets to rest.  He's earned it. I sure will miss him, though.  A forest ought to have oak trees in it.  

  I plopped down on a washed-up railroad tie, the perfect seat for a wandering spirit.  An enormous yacht plied the bathwater-still river.  Observing from my humble chair, my first instinct was to write it off as a major headache that I wouldn't really want if I were rich.  How Cain of me to scoff at this nautical Abel enjoying a lovely Sunday on the water.  

  The damselflies flitted through the still air, and finally it was time to go.  A walking stick presented itself to me from a pile of driftwood.  STEP-STEP-CLOMP through the packed shells and sand, winding back to the path through the meadow.  Somehow, the stick was more than a bleached twig - it seemed to have the spirit of adventure in it.  It fit perfectly.  

  The gray evening sky let some light through, illuminating that stern Sunday feeling:  Some are gone, some are to be helped tomorrow, some challenges will rear up like sharks from the water.  Perhaps I can poke 'em in the eye with the walking stick...

  Friends will be missed.  Storms will come, and so will the rays of hope.  A man stands alone, and the path winds forward into the unknown.   There are rivers to cross.  


What a blessing.


 

 

  

  


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Letters from Josh, Vol. 59

(After a two-month hiatus, I've resumed writing to my senior buddies in assisted living homes across the area.  It's neat to connect with words.  I thought you all might enjoy, too.) 



Letters from Josh

Endless Summer                                                                           Letter 59    8/9/21


  Howdy, folks!  It’s been a little while.  Josh Urban here...DJ and science lecturer who occasionally plays at your community.  Perhaps we’ve never met, and maybe this is your first Letters from Josh.  Created over a year ago, this was my way to bring a little joy during the lockdown, and has turned into a fun project.  If you’re reading this for the first time, welcome.  If you’re an old friend, welcome back. I like to bring my buddies with me through words, so buckle up!  I’ve hiked down to the local park, and am sitting on the back porch of historic Mt. Aventine, with it’s lovely Potomac river valley view.   Nathaniel Chapman, best friend and business partner of George Mason, had this plantation house built directly across the river from Gunston Cove, Mr. Mason’s estate.  A descendent of his, Percy Chapman, would bolt from the property when Union Soldiers showed up to arrest and execute him for spying.  (He escaped.)  Today, bloodshed and misery have been gently and gratefully replaced by lush nature, peaceful and quiet.  (As I write this, the A/C unit kicked on with a clatter as if on cue.  D’oh!)  The thick summer air hangs hazy and humid over the river.  I feel like a fish, swimming in an endless summer. And, if a fish had ever pondered the immensity of the ocean, so too must he have felt like I do now, immersed in the hazy nostalgia of an August afternoon. Have you ever felt this spirit of Summer, for lack of a better word?  Christmas has it, spring does, too.  The aching melancholy of an autumn rain is not to be overlooked.  But summer, man...The timeless singing in the trees, the too-short loves, and the Sun, the Sun.  Brash at midday making colors pop, and lazy in the afternoon, a mellow baker, kneading the dough of thunderstorms in a mighty kitchen of an immense sky.  He’s even felt at night, the city concrete radiating noontime memories to the sweating pedestrians.  The goldfinches, flitting through the meadow below the porch like little pieces of this light, chatter gleefully about how good it is to have the gift of an endless summer afternoon.  The A/C unit shuts off, as a breeze toussels the leaves of the wise old poplar tree.  I gaze across the Potomac river, and wave.  Happy August, everyone!


  • Josh 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Another one

 "Hey Lois, ya home?"


  "Come in!"  


We sit and chat.  She's written for years, weaving stories of the past in with humor for her nephews.  "Have you ever tried a blog?"  

"What's that?"


So I'm showing her.  Hello, world!


- Josh