Inspiring Moment: Recumbent Statue

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

What to Make of a Diminished Thing

Written by John Paul Carter on July 30, 2012

Our frequent guest columnist, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who writes for the Weatherford (Texas) Democrat, cites both Robert Frost and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as he tackles the tough subject of growing old. 

Among creatures “both great and small,” the poet Robert Frost seemed to have the greatest affection for birds. A good example is his tribute to “The Oven Bird,” a woodland warbler who builds its covered nest (which resembles a Dutch oven) on the ground. To the poet’s ear, the Ovenbird’s distinctive song heralds the waning of the seasons and makes a pertinent query:

The question that he frames in all but words

Is what to make of a diminished thing.

It’s easier to sing in the early stages of life when things are on the upswing – when life seems to stretch out endlessly before us. But it takes a special bird with a different song to sing when things are winding down and the season is changing, as in…

…the close of a bountiful peach harvest,

…the shrinking of a beloved village and congregation,

…our children leaving after a long anticipated visit,

…declining energy, endurance, and health,

…the loss of loved ones and friends,

…the evolving of a world we once knew.

What shall we make of our diminished things?

Is it possible in the midst of grief to give thanks for what is fading away and allow those “diminished things” to become a foundation for the future? As the clutter and busyness subside, might we find our heart’s delight? Could we develop long neglected gifts? Could less become more?

Could we discover that the bridge between the land of the living and the land of the dead is love? Might we become more aware of opportunities to share the blessings that have been ours? Could we find a depth in life that we were too busy to plumb before? Could we grow to trust God rather than His gifts?

For this stage of life, Alfred, Lord Tennyson gives a good answer to the Ovenbird’s probing question, “What to make of a diminished thing?”

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Inspiring Moment: Restroom Art

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson


Lost Summer Romance: This Wonderful Surprise, Part IV

Written by Barry A. Popkin on July 26, 2012

Staring off in the cold grey dawn

wondering if I was wrong.

I remember the look in your eyes

now hazed as I cry.

In the silence of a dead calm

now there is no place in our time.

The past rushes over me and I become blind.

Like the torrid waves in my mind

fades to nothing down a black hole of time

of now memory of regretful past.

But still I had love that will last.

Thinking now of the dark rain

as it always seems to happen

in a tidal wave of despair

and an ever-darkening pain.

From the shadows of the past

my sad thoughts echo in measured tones

like weights of ancient stones.

The web of gloom surrounds me

like black castle walls trying to defeat me.

But my disturbing memories

blazed into my mind’s fires

now lost without your desires.

Starry nights to silvery moons

turn now to nights in many dooms.

To wading deep in worry now

until the gentle breeze of time

pushes them back to sublime

Now I see them in a new view.

Like love and lost encased in a bubble

pops open to new potentials.

Now soft mystic winds are blowing

as my wholeness floats back to me.

I now can feel my heart trigger

as I warm to a new glow.

With a young and strong heart

I am now ready to depart.

I now walk alone

solid as a stone.

Into the abysses of loss.

But they are sucked into the past

through a wormhole in time.

Thirty years later

perhaps being the greater

I ponder where we had walked

now in the footprints to talk.

I find myself in a floating sea of maybe.

Now I am traveling alone down that highway of bird sanctuaries and sand dunes.

To the highway and island of memory and time.

I am now courting past memories piercing the heart sublime.

I feel the love for what has been.

Looking back thinking my heart can recover and win.

I am the lonely figurehead defined as some body with no real powers.

Then rain shadows my heart and eyes with showers.

Dark shadows now behind me overcoming my life’s rhythm.

Is this dark shadow my consequences catching up on me?

Or is it here to jettison me on.

I now feel its power pushing me forward.

But is this a godly trick?

To push, me back, to my chaotic mix.

Now the rain has stopped and the moonlight crown

has shown upon my head.

But now darkness consumes me and I feel dread.

But it is only the night and I now start to feel anger in red.

Yes I am sad, but I am also inflamed and stormy.

This now torrent rain is trying to defeat me;

in a never to know, potential, to consume me.

Then the sky clears from a never ending rain to one of anger and disdain.

Then suddenly I realize it is not raining it was just my tears.

On this fast road I now see a reflection shimmering in a heavenly pool.

A reflection of a memory suddenly I realize is cool.

Now I see only sunshine as I realize she was a great love.

But as my second oldest brother’s wisdom said,

“It is better to love and lost than not loved at all.”

Thirty years later,

perhaps being the greater,

Linda has found me.

She tells me she loved me and always will.

Sorry you left suddenly as we never talked about how we parted.

But now gives me a kiss.

As now nothing is amiss.

The past had merged with the future and although we are worlds apart;

It is good to know in closure that we pierced each other’s hearts.

Editor’s Note: Barry A. Popkin is the Delaware-based author of four books in multiple genres including military history and family biography. They include: “My Year in Vietnam,” “The Savior The Prophet The War,” “Worlds Collide,” and “The Death of God in New York City.” All the books are available on his website or on

Inspiring Moment: Tulalip Tribe Native Artwork

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Inspiring Moment: Signs with Words to Live By

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Lost Summer Romance: This Wonderful Surprise, Part III

Written by Barry A. Popkin on July 23, 2012

Like all dangerous things that happen to us, first we get frightened, then excited, and now there is nothing in the room except excitement and chemistry between us.

Her scent and fragile state makes me most loving and protective, and soon excitement and chemistry totally takes over.

Her delicate hands were holding me tightly, as I lightly hold and kiss her.

She follows my lead from a soft waltz as the soft music plays in our heads and emotions to whirling care for each other, to loving swelling exotic need, to hot love and desire.

The incident had frightened her but now that has turned to out-of-control excitement, and she rushed to be consumed by my embrace. The coupling is intense and long as we merge into one harmonious union.

We are now in perfect harmony with each other’s existence and with loving each other.

The loving entity of love brought to blissful flowing joy.

Then she burst out loud laughing saying, “You are so crazy, but I love you so much.”

We fall asleep peacefully spent on the couch like two dead people.

Ten days later I had to appear in court. They took my license away for the next 18 months. But I bought a new low-profile steel, gray, ordinary-looking sedan, and snuck out when I absolutely had too.

Soon I started coming home to my Queens Village place that I hadn’t seen much of during the summer, as I was always some other place.

This apartment was close by my parent’s apartment that they were now living in.

It was almost weekly I found Linda at my mother’s place. This should have been a signal to me that something was on Linda’s mind.

But I was distracted by other things. I’m not necessarily religious, but I have always felt spiritual.

And looking back, I feel perhaps that God had given me bad timing, or bad judgment.

I was distant that week when she needed me the most.

Soon when I was over her house she started getting calls from some man. I know Linda, and something was amiss.

I now could see her manner and demeanor were different towards me.

Furthermore, I could tell as she talked on the phone I was no longer her special someone.

I pondered this moment, and, in a flash, I knew my special time with her was over.

But I walked away totally in love with her and with loving pride. I only wanted the best for her, and knew I wasn’t quite ready to say, “I do.”

This was my loss, and my forever absolutely wonderful memories of her.

It’s strange the times you find love in your life. It is actually real and does exist.

Thank god in that memory amiss, there is bliss.

Editor’s Note: Barry A. Popkin is the Delaware-based author of four books in multiple genres including military history and family biography. They include: “My Year in Vietnam,” “The Savior The Prophet The War,” “Worlds Collide,” and “The Death of God in New York City.” All the books are available on his website or on

Read the Final Installment of Lost Summer Romance: This Wonderful Surprise, on Thursday, July 26.


Inspiring Moment: Blueacre Seafood Dining Room

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson


Lost Summer Romance: This Wonderful Surprise, Part II

Written by Barry A. Popkin on July 19, 2012

It was a beautiful, extremely hot summer night and Linda and I were riding my 765cc Shadow Phantom Magna motorcycle semi-naked down Robert Moses Causeway, way out on the tip of Long Island.

It is around 10:30 at night, with a full moon. It’s still 80 degrees out, even at night.

The ocean dunes are on one side and the bay dunes and bird sanctuaries are on the other side.

It’s quiet, peaceful, and nobody is around as we ride (now fully naked), into the wondrous night except for a police car hiding between two dunes in the bushes waiting for speeders to go by.

The police have their lights off and are way back in the bushes and Linda and I didn’t notice them as we flew by. One cop was drinking his iced Dunkin Donut coffee and says to the other, “Did you see that?”

“Yeah,” the other cop says with a smile. “I think they were naked.”

Linda and I are having a really great time as we ride wildly into the glorious night, until we get to the tip of Long Island, right before the water to Fire Island where you can go no further unless you have a boat.

In the sand dune deadend we make a merry-go-round, wild sliding turn, and started to go back. As we turn around and start back, Linda stands up on her foot pegs, topless, dancing slowly and lovingly around my neck.

She starts giggling and singing, and soon I join in now, as both of us are standing on our foot pegs somewhat naked and wonderfully out of our minds with “moonlight madness” singing down the road.

Robert Moses Causeway is a considerably long, pleasant ride about 10 miles long. Us wild ones are flying down the road as the warm, scented beach wilds are softly blowing maddening fragrances that caress our nakedness.

Flying by we pass the cops in the bushes going back the other way. It’s night, but the full moon reflected off the water gives the cops a pretty good picture.

Now one cop turns to the other and says, “Did you see that? Those crazies went by again.”

“Well, I am almost finished with dinner. And if they come back again, let’s get those naked love birds!”

Sure enough, we are having such a good time, we turn around and go back for one more exotic, loony ride.

The police are now done eating, and they start to pull out of the bushes slowly. Just when they are about to hit the road, they put on their headlights just as us nutty, naked riders go by again!

The police hit the siren and lights, and immediately give chase, shooting sand and smoking rubber.

I hit the throttle and we take off like a rocket! I am gaining distance on the police car, but know I will soon run out of road.

I know we are naked, have been seen by the police naked, are now speeding. And if we get caught, they will probably throw the book at us.

Furthermore, we certainly will get a ticket for speeding and they will take away my license, as I already have 12 points on my license and possibly get locked up for the night for dangerous driving and indecent exposure.

I am doing 117 miles an hour now, and remember a bend in the road with a big sand dune blind spot.

I downshift from fifth to first gear smoothly, and slide behind the dune, completely covering us and the bike.

Ten seconds later the cops go shooting by! I now have three choices–hide, run, or give up.

But the cops are not dumb, and shortly back up and find us hiding behind the sand dune.

They took my license number and other ID as they look at Linda, what a sight!

Then they started to laugh at us. They said, “We saw you go by the first time. Then you went by the second time, and we could tell you probably were naked. But, stupid! When you went by the third time speeding, that was too much. Listen, I know a lot of lovers come by down this road on their motorcycles and we get to see some awesome sights, but you two tonight take the cake.”

He hands me my ticket and says, “Get lost!”

We ride back to my place I had in Lido Beach during the summer, and when we get there Linda is in shock! She is stunned.

One hour ago we are on Robert Moses Causeway being chased by the cops. The next hour we were lucky to get back home.

It’s not amazing to Linda. It’s frightening. She says, “What is going to happen when my parents find out about this?”

She grabs my arm tightly, sinking her fingernails into my arm in frantic confusion. Her heart is pounding, but it slows to rushing as I start to calm her down while holding her tightly as I plead, “It is okay. Calm down please, I love you so much. Calm down. It is alright. It’s alright baby.”

I looked concerned for her. I implore, “Please forgive me for being so stupid. Let’s go inside out of this naked exposure and try to calm down.”

“Stupid,” she says!

We run up the stairs and I sit her down on the couch while holding her tightly.

She is still breathing heavily and I start to whisper in her ear, “I love you. It’s ok. Let me explain.”

I look into her frightened eyes as she looks at me in trust and belief. We talk in the night-darkened room in soft whispers as the moon reflects off the floor and beams off her trusting eyes.

She doesn’t exactly understand or want to understand what I am saying. But she is safe in my arms now and that is enough for this moment.

Editor’s Note: Barry A. Popkin is the Delaware-based author of four books in multiple genres including military history and family biography. They include: “My Year in Vietnam,” “The Savior The Prophet The War,” “Worlds Collide,” and “The Death of God in New York City.” All the books are available on his website or on

Read Part III of Lost Summer Romance: This Wonderful Surprise, on Monday, July 23.

Inspiring Moment: Pink and Yellow Roses

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson


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