Last month I shared my trip to the Texas coast. It was a much longed for getaway scheduled after the crowds of spring break and before the crowds of summer. It was just coincidental that this visit was during the peak of the spring bird migration. Ordinarily the Texas coast is a wonderful place to look for birds, but the numbers of different birds during migration make this a special time. And we happened to visit during a fallout…this is when bad weather conditions temporarily prevent the migrating birds from traveling on to their breeding grounds. I got a good look at many wonderful birds from rose breasted grosbeaks to indigo buntings to orange colored orioles. However, most of the photos I actually got were of birds that can be seen year around.
There were large birds…
Birds flying in large groups…
Birds with long beaks…
Colorful birds with short beaks…
Delicate shore birds…
And other types of flocks…
Birders at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
Port Aransas has so many places to see birds from the beach to the ship channel to designated nature preserves. Birders can walk for a mile or so on some sturdy boardwalks at The Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture and Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. A fun and short walk is at Paradise Pond, a small wetland tucked behind the Restaurant San Juan.
Lots of beautiful birds seen and perhaps a trip during Fall migration is in my future.
*Bonus bird seen on the way home- Wild turkey flew across the highway just north of Kenedy, Texas
During the Covid lockdown I longed for a trip to the Texas coast. But, we didn’t go anywhere and I felt beach deprived. I am making up for it now. Our first post lockdown trip to the coast was described in my January blog post, where I wrote about our visit to the Rockport area and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Our second trip was this past week.
It is almost 252 miles from Austin to Port Aransas and usually takes us at least 4 -5 hours, depending on stops. We took our usual route from Austin down hi-way 183. But, instead of our usual bypassing of Gonzales, we decided to check out the Gonzales memorial Museum.
It is a small museum with stories on the early and later pioneers of this area. But, the main attraction is a small cannon. This cannon was given to the settlers of Gonzales by the Mexican government for protection in case of attack by the indigenous people of the area. A few years later, in 1835, the Mexican government wanted it back. The people of Gonzales refused to give it back and voiced one of our iconic Texas slogans, “Come and take it.” In the Fall of that year, the little cannon fired the first shot of the Texas Revolution. I had never visited this museum before and was surprised how small the cannon is.
Then we headed on down the road to our usual stop in Goliad for lunch. We picked up burgers and fries at Whataburger and headed down the road to Goliad State Park. This is always a nice break to eat, stretch our legs, and do a little nature viewing. There are also several historic sites to visit. This trip we just ate and sat in the park.
Continuing on, we arrived in Aransas pass and boarded the ferry to Port Aransas.
We picked up supplies of food and drink at the local grocery and headed a few miles down the road to our vacation rental. We spent three nights there. Here are several views from our balcony.
We walked on the beach, but the water was a bit cool. We didn’t go in past our calves.
I love the sound of the Gulf surf and the cry of the laughing gulls. I love the feel of moist, salt spray on my face, the soft grit of sand between my toes, and the rush of waves over my ankles.
We took a dolphin watching cruise of the channel on The Scarlet Lady.
Along our route was the oldest working lighthouse in Texas. It is privately owned.
I highly recommend this dolphin watching cruise. We saw lots of dolphins, birds, ships, and history.
Another highlight of our trip was visiting the various nature trails and birdwatching spots in Port Aransas. A particular favorite is the boardwalk at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. On our last visit it was closed due to being destroyed during a hurricane. They have rebuilt and it is better than ever. Besides birds, one critter we look for is a large alligator. We don’t always spot it, but we were lucky this trip.
We decided to return to Austin via a slightly different route. We headed down the island to Corpus Christi. I wanted to visit the Selena Memorial at the Corpus Christi Bayfront Seawall.
Texas Historic Plaque honoring the 1966 Farmworkers March. The farmworkers were pressing for better wages and working conditions. They left Rio Grande City, Texas on July 5th and marched 380 miles to the state capitol in Austin. They passed through Corpus Christi on the way and arrived in Austin on Labor day where possibly 10,000 people rallied for the cause.
The memorial to Selena Quintanilla-Perez is not far from the farmworker plaque. There is a statue of her that is made of bronze and a plaque with words honoring her and a sculpture of a white rose, which was her favorite flower. The words “Mirador de la Flor” (Overlook of the Flower) are on the memorial.
This was our final goal and we headed north out of Corpus Christi, exited east and went through Beeville, Kenedy* and Nixon before rejoining hi-way 183 in Luling. We got back to Austin about one hour before a major thunderstorm hit. Good timing.
I am so grateful for a wonderful trip to my beloved Texas coast and for a wonderful traveling companion.
Photos taken by B. McCreary
*We stopped for lunch on the way back at a wonderful city park in Kenedy, Texas. Picnic tables, shade, playscape, clean restrooms. Saw an Eastern Bluebird there, mirroring my happiness.
My part of Texas is awash in wildflowers right now. In the past month I have taken numerous trips to Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to walk and to marvel at the bounty of Spring. So much beauty to ooh and aah over, especially our Texas Blue Bonnets.
On some of the outer trails my eyes are drawn to the large patches of blue. I am reminded of our ubiquitous Blue Bonnet paintings.
Go to an art gallery showcasing Texas landscape art and you will find paintings of Blue Bonnets…Longhorn cattle in Blue Bonnets…barbed wire fences and Blue Bonnets…old trucks and Blue Bonnets. These have been popular for years and they sell well. People ooh and aah over them. Somewhere there is probably a painting of a T-Rex in a field of Blue Bonnets.
And then there are the photos. People trample swaths of these flowers to pose their children and dogs next to them. The Wildflower Center does have a couple of designated areas where visitors can pose with the Blue Bonnets without destroying them. I have done this myself with family and friends. They are pretty, but this kind of gets boring after a while. I seek out the other flowers sprinkled among and near the blue ones. The real Texas landscape has many kinds and colors of flowers. Every color you can imagine.
Variety is the spice of life. Each living creature adds to the beauty of the world. I like to think of each human as an individual flower with a unique beauty. What if, in our urban and suburban landscapes, we celebrated the diversity of the people we see as we walk through our towns and shop in our stores? What if we oohed and aahed at the beauty of each person? It might be a bit weird if we did this out loud, but we can do this inside ourselves. And maybe we would greet them with a smile and the world would be a better, more loving place…at least for that one day for those people…the admired and the one admiring.
(I was going to subtitle this month’s blog “Pollyanna on her soapbox with pretty pictures”…I do believe each of us who model this sort of love for our fellow creatures can influence others. )
*(All photos taken by the author at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center except for the last photo which was taken at McKinney Falls State Park)
I love trees and love to write about trees, but I have not written about one tree that I have spent years learning about…my Family Tree. My ancestors lives were filled with triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow. They were products of genetics and of the times they were born into. I take no pride in their accomplishments nor do I apologize for their faults.
Trees (oil on cardboard by Barbara Block Downes, my mother)
My paternal grandmother, Mary, loved me and I loved her. She was born into a large family and had lots of funny stories about her siblings and other relations. Sometimes a story would be told about her grandfather and others that related to Civil War days. My brother and I would ask her if her family had owned slaves back then. My memory is that she would change the subject, that she didn’t want to discuss this. But, I just took it for granted that these landowning farmers in rural Louisiana were slave owners.
Relatives on both sides of my family have researched our genealogical lines and I have lots of information. My tree is full of names and dates, with a few short sketchy details of their lives. But, I wanted to learn more about who all these names were as people. This became especially important to me after my parents died. The more I researched my family history, the more I felt connected to all those that came before.
My grandmother Mary and some of her other female relatives documented the ancestors back to Revolutionary War times. She was a proud DAR member and gave my brother and I copies of her DAR documents and brief histories of her family. There were gaps in the information about some of the people and I set about filling in the gaps. Besides a few trips to places my ancestors lived, I have mostly done online research. I have learned much from old newspapers and other documents. The census records are interesting and easily accessible online. They have given me a clearer picture of the people I came from.
In the 1860 U. S. Census for Franklin County, Louisiana (taken in August 1860), her grandfather (my great great grandfather), William Buie, is shown to be 39 years old and living with his wife and 3 children and 3 unrelated people. One of his children was 7 year old Henry H. Buie, my great grandfather. William’s occupation is farmer. His real estate was listed as worth $15,400 and his personal property being worth $1,715.
This led to me checking the U. S. Slave Schedules of 1850 and 1860. My people were well represented in these records and were not hard to find. This validated my suspicions that many on my grandmother Mary’s side were slave owners. But, I also was unprepared for my emotional reaction as I read through the records for the first time. It is one thing to have an abstract idea that “Yes, my ancestors probably owned slaves.” I did the search in the records for William Buie and a record popped up on my computer screen…Yay! I found him! Then I read on…a long list of humans with no names, only sex and age listed. I cried. There were 17 souls listed as enslaved ranging in age from 35 years down to a 1 year old (including twin 6 year old boys).
Partial list of the 17 enslaved people listed as owned by my great great grandfather
Now, imagine you are a descendant of these nameless people and you want to know who they were. This is an almost impossible task. However, some documents (wills, bills of sale, runaway slave ads) contain the names of the enslaved. There is a collaborative project called Beyond Kin, where family historians can upload and share documents. So, if I find a document about my White ancestors that has the names of the enslaved, I can share this with Black and Mixed race people doing their own genealogical research.
Soapbox: The more I hear people putting down “Woke” culture, the angrier I get. The opposite of woke is asleep. Being asleep can be a great escape from the nastiness that humans inflict on one another…but, living in a dream world does not make the world better and it doesn’t make us better as people.
I am a bit more awake after seeing these records of my family and I see with different eyes. I don’t feel guilty coming from these people. I do not apologize for them. I have gotten more interested in History.
Some people are upset about our children learning some parts of our history. I say we should let kids look at these records (and other documents) and then challenge them to think about what they are reading. The way history was taught to me in school was boring. Names of presidents and dates of battles and yada, yada, yada…If I had been taught in a different way…learning about the people as real people I could relate to, I would have learned so much more. White kids looking at Slave Schedules does not have to lead to them feeling guilt because they are White. But, perhaps it could lead them to a better understanding of why their Black peers can not “Just get over it.”
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”- William Faulkner
“No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.”- Martha Beck
*According to one historical source William was against secession because he did not think the South would win. He did not serve as a soldier. (From “Boeuf Prairie Methodist Church- A History -The Church- The People- The Community-1833-2008”)
Back in August 2021 I wrote some free flowing words to describe a trip to the Texas coast in 2013. In August of 2021 Covid was keeping us home and one of my travel fantasies was going to the beach. And it was not just Covid. Our aging, ill dogs kept us home. We finally headed out a few weeks ago, January 10th, for a 2 night stay away. This time our destination was Rockport and further. Our goal was to enjoy nature and see the wintering Whooping Cranes and scatter some of the ashes of both our dogs.
Rockport is only 200 miles from Austin (about a 3 and 1/2 hour drive), but in my pre-trip brain it seemed far, far away. I get anxious before any trip, but once on the road most of my anxiety dissolves. I like to head out the door and get out of town. But, first, we had some delays. I had a dirty windshield and no wiper fluid…trip to store to get that. Had to pull over on the outskirts of Austin to deal by cell phone with a company in another city about being guarantors for my daughter’s first apartment. This took a long 20 minutes of my husband giving them lots of information. Finally, we were headed south on highway 183. Then road work south of Cuero…one lane only with pilot cars guiding us through.
Picked up Whataburger burgers for lunch and ate those in Goliad State park, our mid point break. Got to stretch here and start the birding portion of our trip. Meadowlarks, phoebes, vultures, warblers and little sparrows.
Made it to the Holiday Inn in Rockport where we would spend 2 nights.
The next morning we headed out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is 48 miles from Rockport and much of the trip is a drive around plowed, barren winter fields. It was windy that day, not ideal for birding. But, we saw quite a few interesting critters, some from the car and some from walking the numerous trails. Here is the first one I took a photo of:
At Jones Lake we saw these beauties:
Further away, we spotted a few more White Tails amongst quite a lot of feral hogs. The two species of mammals seemed to be getting along just fine. I had never seen deer and hogs together and thought the hogs would be too aggressive.
We saw a variety of birds: lots of Black vultures; some Turkey vultures; Great blue herons; Snowy egrets; Great egrets; Little egrets; Osprey; Red tailed hawk; Grebes; Moorhen; Pelican; Terns; Kestrels; Ducks; Caracara. We checked out the observation decks searching the marshes for Whooping Cranes, but only spotted one, a tall white dot far in the distance. Several other visitors told us they had seen Whooping Cranes at Goose Island State Park in Rockport and we pondered checking it out.
On the 9 mile Auto Loop in the Refuge (one way only), we saw something new for both of us. There were a handful of Black vultures bathing in a marsh. Who would ever think seeing vultures bathe would be a treat?
As we prepared to leave the park, we stopped and walked out onto a pier over San Antonio Bay. Here we let go of our beloved dog’s ashes, mindful of the wind.
Leaving the park we saw more deer:
We had a hearty meal that evening at The Boiling Pot. The waiters cover your table with butcher paper and dump your dinner in a pile in front of you. Shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, and usually crab, which they were out of that night. We took the offered plastic bibs and made a mess eating with our fingers.
The next day we decided to check out Goose Island State Park before we headed home. We got out of the car and walked around The Big Tree. Experts think it is 1,100 years old and huge (my photos didn’t do it justice). We drove around the park and saw deer, numerous birds, and people fishing, but no whoopers. We drove back to the park entrance and my husband went in and asked the ranger where the whoopers might be seen. She told him exactly where to see them, just outside of the park. And find them we did. The closest I have ever been to them (but not close enough for good photos with my little camera). And they weren’t just standing and walking like I had seen from afar in the past. Some would fly to a different area of this private property. There were at least 3 juveniles among them. Sandhill cranes, Egrets, and Herons were nearby. It turns out that they love this property because of the deer corn feeder.
And a Kestrel on a wire nearby:
So, a good get away for us. We came home refreshed and renewed. Two weeks later we are sick…my husband has Covid and my head feels stuffy and I am tired (my Covid test was negative). And, Yes, we have been fully vaxed and boosted.
I spent the week before Christmas crying over the death of our dog Millie. She was sixteen and had a number of health problems. I knew she would pass at some point, but it still hit me hard. When I feel great loss and / or depression is when I work on my gratitude. Oh, I still grieve …and I am tearing up as I write this, but I am counting my blessings at the same time.
Millie, thank you for letting me be part of your life. Thank you looking for me in the house when you awoke from your naps. Thank you for going on walks with us and letting us see you enjoy life. As a youngster running loop de loop patterns in the backyard. Rolling in the grass. I am left with many memories of your happiness.
There were other deaths. Another old dog passed a few months before. He was our little proud man Dash who enjoyed barking at the t.v. (usually at animals or cops on Live P.D., but once at Lady Gaga).
My cousin Steve lost his long struggle with cancer in October. I am sorry we both let years pass without contact. I am grateful for your later attempts to keep us 15 first cousins in touch with each other.
My gratitude to loved ones near and far….A goal for 2023 is to let people in my life know how much they mean to me.
I am thankful for the flamboyant…
And The Subtle…
I am thankful for a cat in my lap while I watch t.v.
Thank you to the cold…
A cold weather snap in Central Texas forced our family gift exchange into a more traditional holiday home visit instead of the usual covid protocol parking lot gift exchange of the past few years. Masks were worn and we had the best visit in a long time.
And the cold weather kept another family member from bringing our presents until after Christmas, giving us a wonderful post holiday visit.
Thank you to the mighty
And the meek
Thank you to books and of course, authors
Thank you to my writing group members for the laughter and love and for sharing your expressive gifts
Thank you to my sister and fellow bloggers out there. I love the support you give me and I love that you are sharing creative selves and your interesting lives.
Thank you to C. R. X. for your independent spirit and your smiles.
Thank you to D. Mc. for putting up with me and loving me despite my eccentricities.
Thank you A. B. for being my long haul and long distance friend.
Thank you to a.m. radio for playing the oldies with good beats and with lyrics I can sing along to…”I love rock and roll…put another dime in the juke box baby!”
I am thankful to the longer days and the songs of birds.
Estoy tan agradecida!
(I am so grateful! from my Spanish phrase a day calendar for Dec. 29th)
(All photos taken by the author in December of 2022)
If you read my October post, you saw photos of my beautiful Bur Oak tree and the nuts it was producing. Now, only a month later, there is not a nut to be found except on the ground. I gave about 2 dozen nuts to a friend for craft projects. And I picked up another 171 and donated them to Tree Folks to propagate. So, maybe my wonderful tree will live on.
The leaves are mostly gone now, mulched into the ground by my husband’s mower. I want to put them back on the tree. I am not ready for winter. Time is moving too fast for me.
We have been working quite a few jigsaw puzzles lately. They take time, but they make me feel as if time is standing still. Searching for shapes and colors. Looking for patterns. This is quite meditative. I get into the puzzle zone. And this zone is carrying over a bit into the rest of my day. Sometimes, now, when I look at a house on the street or the trees in their brilliant fall colors, I think the scene before me would make a nice jigsaw puzzle.
I think of my life as a puzzle. Mostly complete, but with some missing pieces yet to be fitted in their proper place. But, the puzzle of my life is not determined by fate. I believe I can still change the picture if I make the right choices each day. But, figuring out these “choices” is not easy. I get into a rut of a routine and anxiety often interferes with changing up my daily activities.
The contrasts and comparisons of life are calling to me these days. How does it all fit together?
The soft and the rough.
The light and the dark.
The living and the dead.
The pointed and the rounded.
The same and different.
Not sure how my life will look when I finish as I am still a work in progress.
Plop! The sound of a Burr oak nut hitting the ground.
Plop! Klunk! The sound of another Burr oak nut hitting the ground and bouncing three feet in the air and then landing on our wooden deck. I imagine getting bonked in the head by one of these nuts. It would hurt. That is why I am sitting on our porch and not under the tree the way I often did during the summer heat. We have a bumper crop of the nuts this year, probably several hundred from just this one tree. I can’t even walk barefoot in our yard because every few inches I step on a big nut.
Leaves, nut case, and nut of Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
And more nuts….
The tree is either the life giving Mother Tree or a cause of concern, depending on my mood. I love looking at it, which is good because it is too large to ignore. The tree has been speaking to me a lot lately. It speaks with the loud klunk! of it’s seeds dropping and it speaks to me as it’s leaves rustle in the wind. It speaks to me by just dominating the back yard. It is about 40 feet tall and the crown is about 30 feet wide (covering at least half of our yard). Whenever I turn into our driveway out front, I see it over our roof top. It was just a couple of years old when we planted it 24 years ago. Now, I sometimes worry about it falling on our house…or falling on our neighbor’s house.
When I was about 7, I remember collecting acorns from Live oak trees and storing them in a secret cubby in my bedroom closet. They were to be ammunition in some future imagined “war” with neighborhood kids. I think about gathering all the burr oak nuts for a similar stash. These are so big, that they would be quite the deterrent to some attacker. Instead, I gather a few dozen and give them to a friend who will use them in some decorative craft work.
Trees. Trees were here first and have witnessed so much of our history. A Tree of Life is a part of more than one religion and trees as symbols are imbedded in so many cultures world wide. Where would the story of Noah and the Ark be without trees? Or the Buddha and the bodhi tree? Or the angry apple trees throwing apples at Dorothy and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz?
A woman walks on a forest path with a wooden walking stick…perhaps whittled from the same kind of trees she walks through.
A judge brings a court to order with a wooden gavel.
We have destroyed trees for things that benefit humans: firewood for warmth or cooking or just enjoying a campfire; boats; houses and fences to go around the houses; picture frames; toys; wagons; furniture; cradles; coffins; tools; guitars and drums; We eat their nuts and fruit and make medicine from their bark. We climb them and attach swings to them for fun. We carve our names in them and tie yellow ribbons around their trunks. And Christmas Trees! Their smell and color adorn our homes.
And trees have witnessed and unwittingly been used for the bad things humans do. They have been made into weapons like battering rams, guns, arrows and spears, and catapults. We have used their limbs to lynch in fear and hate. They have seen us destroy our own kind. Maybe they are trying to get our attention. Maybe the oak is wanting to warn us that destroying them destroys us?
I write this first as a rough draft on paper made from trees with a wooden pencil while leaning on a wooden desk in a partly wooden house. I notice so many things in my life made from wood and I see many trees as individuals now. I sort of took them for granted before, unless they had pretty leaves or were hosting the birds I love to watch.
They give us life by purifying the air and enrich our soil and on and on…I should probably have written this for Arbor day, but the giant Burr oak is speaking to me now. I don’t know all she is saying, but I will continue to listen.
Websites to check out:
For information on some famous Texas trees: tfsweb.tamu.edu/Websites/FamoustreesofTexas/Explore_our_Trees/
Visit new trees propagated from famous Texas trees at the Ladybird Johnson Research Center arboreteum. Info at: Wildflower.org
To paraphrase Carson McCullers from her novel “Reflections In A Golden Eye”: There is a backyard in the South where a few days ago a murder was committed…
Yes, a week ago today, Tuesday September 20th, a crime was committed. I murdered some beautiful little creatures. It was negligent homicide. Our little backyard pond needed some water added, so I set the hose running and meant to check on the water level after a few minutes. It was a nice, evening and three of us in conversation on the back porch was a distraction. At some point I realized that I had not monitored the water level. It was overflowing into the yard! I pulled the hose out. I did not see any goldfish flopping around in the grass, so I figured all was okay. The next morning (Wednesday) I fished out seven pretty, little, golden corpses, which I netted and dumped into the compost bin. Yuck! Not because of the decaying bodies, but because of my guilt. I had poisoned them. I started to think that maybe we should just get rid of the pond.
This little pond has attracted so many interesting creatures: frogs, toads, dragonflies, wasps, snakes, opossums, raccoons, and an occasional bird. Colorful waterlilies add beauty and the sound of the trickling, pump fueled, waterfall is relaxing. And I enjoyed seeing the goldfish moving about in the water. But, I was not a good caretaker of this little oasis and these critters would have to find somewhere else to hang out.
One more corpse floated up on Thursday morning, the first day of Fall. I pulled some water plants out and tossed them in the garden. I wanted to see if any goldfish had survived. But, I didn’t see any. Maybe they were hiding after seeing their family members die. No more little bodies showed up Friday, and I began to let go of my self-criticism. I am human. Humans make mistakes.
Saturday morning I brought my notebook and pen out to the back porch and attempted to write a poem about the falling leaves in the yard behind ours. I wrote:
As each leaf descends
And says goodbye
Sun reflects gold
A little while later, my husband and I were enjoying our morning coffee. My binoculars and camera were nearby. I like to take pictures of lizards and whatever else catches my attention. The binoculars are for checking the trees and sky for birds. This was the peak of migration and I was hoping to spot something different than our resident birds.
And then they came!
Warblers! Lots of them and more than one species. They came to bathe in our pond! Golden treasures from above.
This lovely parade of migrants lasted about 20 minutes, when our dog Millie wandered out and scared them off. I feel so blessed to have witnessed these visiting birds reveling in the same water that I had been contemplating getting rid of just a few days earlier. I guess the Universe has forgiven me. Or at least I have forgiven me. I will be a better caretaker of this small environment. I promise.
(please let me know if my warbler i.d.s are not correct)
Lately I hear media pundits talk about a possible time of civil unrest or even civil war in the United States. I try to put this idea aside as an exaggeration…because this is almost too scary to contemplate. But, my anxiety for the future of our country lingers…it resides at the back of my thoughts and no matter how hard I try to ignore it, it creeps in and colors my life. Are our people so divided and fearful of each other that we would destroy one another?
Walk in another man’s shoes for awhile if you want to understand where they are coming from…I have heard variations on this quote for most of my life and have tried to put myself in the shoes of others to try and learn about them…the “other.” I don’t think we can ever truly understand another person, but this exercise, the trying on of shoes and walking their path, is a start. It helps to have imagination and compassion.
I am really struggling with this concept. I keep coming back to the penny. If you look at one side of the penny you see the profile of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln:
No matter how different we are, we can agree that this is the image on the face of the penny. * This is our reality. But, what if I am looking at Lincoln’s face and you are looking at the other side of the penny. You will see:
You will be seeing the Lincoln Memorial. We can both be looking at the same penny and we can see totally different images. And we can argue about this and both be right.
What if we put the coin on it’s edge. Then we would both see the same image of the penny and could agree. But, are we willing to look closely at the other side of things, the differing opinions of others. This is hard to do and I think most people don’t even try. It is easier to hold fast to our own perceptions. We so want to be right. Lately, I often feel like I am looking at a spinning penny…I can’t make out any images and so don’t know what to think.
When I thought about exploring this penny metaphor, I dug into my meager coin purse (I don’t use coins these days) and dug out some pennies. I was surprised to find a new back to the penny:
In my mind I had been so sure of the Lincoln Memorial being on the back side of the penny! How did this new back not get my attention before this? Why get rid of the old image? What does the shield mean?
So, a little online research tells me that the face of Lincoln first appeared on a penny in 1909 to celebrate 100 years since Lincoln’s birth. The wheat on the back represented prosperity. In 1959 the wheat image was taken off and the Lincoln Memorial appeared on the back to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Then starting in 2009 there were 4 other designs to appear on the back of the Lincoln penny:
Log cabin- to represent his early years
Lincoln reading a book
Lincoln in front of Illinois statehouse to celebrate his time as a lawyer and statesman
Unfinished Capitol Dome – to symbolize our struggle during the civil war
Then in 2010 they minted the image of the shield on the back in honor of the sesquicentennial of his election win. The shield symbolizes our national unity. Learning what the designs represent gives me a bit of hope that we will not come apart, but will come out of this current strife a stronger country.
I am told that there is talk of doing away with pennies altogether. Maybe we can use the old pennies as part of our school children’s education…?
The image that has not changed all these years are the words “E Pluribus Unum”, Out of Many, One…we can have different ideas and listen and learn from each other and work with each other…Let this be our future.
Photos by B. McCreary
*The words “In God We Trust” and “Liberty” on the face of the penny speak for themselves