Cover Photo by Mark R. Day

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Poem: Where "Grace" Begins


"Grace"  is found in many acts

a handshake

a greeting

a smile

an embrace

However it always begins in the heart

for the heart is the home of "Grace"

the heart filled with love creates it

to share with the whole wide world.

 

Written by Mark R. Day 2-7-16.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 2-7-16, all rights reserved.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Journal Entry: Notes made during the observance of the 150th anniversary of Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House Part 1


Early Thursday morning April 9th, 2015 (150 years)
Between 2:45 am and 3:30 am there was a terrible storm. At times there appeared to be a yellow glow outside of the tent, as the lightning flashed and thunder roared in the pitch black sky. The rain came as alternating sheets of water and then simple droplets, which tapped on the sides of the tent like fingers slowly tapping on a drum. The experience was both exhilarating and frightening simultaneously. I thought throughout the event of those men who, 150 years ago, experienced such wicked storms and spent many dark nights in a field or a forest under circumstances similar to those occurring about me. They had often borne the brunt of nature without tent or blankets. What a hearty breed of men they were, so much braver than myself to take on such conditions and simply continue to soldier on.
What an amazing day 4/9/15 will be. Indeed it began very early, for most everyone was up and about by 4:30 am. Last night's storm had awakened them and few were able to return to slumber. We have eaten breakfast in darkness and are preparing to report to the Battalion Commander by 5:30 am. The First Sergeant and the Captain had us fall in along the narrow dirt road which passes before our camp of dog tents, shebang's, and other assorted forms of cover. I can see that the glowing embers of our campfire are receding from my sight as we march eastward along the road and our mornings work. Arriving at the Brigade Headquarters we joined with several other companies in practicing the stacking of arms and other drill. Soon the order was given to fall in for inspection of our weapons and then we were on the march again by 6:30 am. This time we were going to the rendezvous location to meet the North Carolina Regiments. As we reached the outer edge of the village of Appomattox Court House a halt was called and we once again stacked arms and rested beside a split rail fence that ran along the road. Soon the North Carolina men appeared, we took up arms, and began the march to the breakout reenactment. We marched into the village of Appomattox Court House, past the Court House itself, and onto the Lynchburg Stage Road. Near the McLean House the Brigade was ordered off the road and into a field, on the right of the Stage Road, were we formed into lines of battle. There was a soft haze covering the field and occasionally the shapes of horses and men could be seen in the mist, but they did not move toward our position. Our Colonel ordered our company, the 11th Virginia, to form skirmish lines and move out to probe the field ahead of the main body. A battery of artillery was positioned on the right of my company to ensure that our flank was protected. As we moved out in good order a single line of skirmishers about twenty-five feet apart was established. We moved slowly through the haze covered field and at one point a line of small bushes suddenly appeared ahead of us just feet away. The Captain passed down the command to march obliquely toward a line of trees that began to appear ahead. The trees would offer some cover and allow us to re-align ourselves after the trek through the mist. Suddenly we observed the movement of men and horses about 250 yards ahead on a small hill and we engaged them. The tree line was a perfect place for us and we drove the Calvary off. Shortly after this we were ordered to rejoin the Battalion and later discovered that the Cavalry we fired on was actually Confederate Cavalry who were screening our Battalions movements from a line of Union dismounted Cavalry on a second hilltop a quarter mile away. On our right the Battery of Cannon, which protected our flank began to fire. I assumed they were firing at the Union soldiers hidden on that ridge further ahead of us. The smoke from the Canons mixed with the morning haze to create an impenetrable grey cloud, which obscured all the features of the land and blinded us to the movements of the Union Soldiers. An order came down from the Colonel, "Move Forward". My company was again ordered to form a skirmish line ahead of the Brigade. I could see two other Battalions of Grey Clad men on our left, they were the 44th Virginia and the 26th North Carolina. Slowly we moved forward up the ridge we had seen the Confederate Cavalry upon; earlier that morning. Topping the hill we could see that the Union Army was about three hundred yards away on top of a ridge higher than that we had just climbed. The Captain ordered our skirmish line to halt and prepare to fire and advance against the Union line . Behind and to the left the Three regiments of our Brigade fired a volley in unison and the Rebel Yell could be heard rolling like thunder over the field. Moving on the command of the Captain we began to advance toward the second hill. Our company performed the maneuver perfectly each man waiting on the other to load before firing and moving forward ten yards at a time. We fought our way toward the enemy but soon Union Canon began to fire from behind the hill. Our forward movement was halted by the Canon fire, the enemy soon brought up infantry support, and we were forced to fall back over the ground we had just won. Soon we were back in the tree line we had started from. Once again the Confederate Army would not breakout from Appomattox. Reflecting now upon the engagement, which mirrored the one 150 years before. I could not help but share the anguish and disapointment, which they most surely felt, as we made that long march back to camp.
Epilogue
Re-enacting is truly theater of the real. When you can find yourself able to experience the emotion and find a bond with the men who fought upon the ground of Appomattox Court House; then history can come alive and real knowledge is obtained.

A Life of Love for One Another: The Secret to Ending Human Grief


How can one life is more important than another's

On what basis is such a decision made

Are not all of equal importance regardless of their wealth.

 

How can one man see himself the better of another

On what basis is such a decision made

Are not all of equal value regardless of their religion.

 

How can one people see themselves better than another

On what basis is such a decision made

Are not of equal status regardless of their race.

 

How can we learn to love one another

On what basis is such a decision made

Are not all loved by someone regardless of themselves.

 

How can one think themselves loved but love not another

On what basis is such a decision made

Are not all of worthy to be loved regardless of difference.

 

Love!

Love!

Love!

All we need is Love! says the song.

So let Love be our purpose

So let Love heal our World

 

 

Written by Mark R. Day 6 February 2016, Copyright by Mark R. Day 6 February 2016, all rights reserved.






Sunday, July 5, 2015

Speech: “Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address and its relevance to current times”.


Address given on the 4th of July 2015, at the graveside of Thomas Jefferson 3rd President of the United States, Writer of the Declaration of Independence, Author of the Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom, and Founder of the University of Virginia.

Comments made prior to speech:   I asked how many of those present at this ceremony, had also attended the naturalization ceremony, held earlier that morning.  Every hand in the audience went up.   I then explained the reason for my asking the question by saying that, if they had attended the earlier ceremony they had heard Judge Stevens talk on Jefferson's political conundrum over  the issue of free speech vs. the actions of Constitutionally elected or appointed  officers and the laws / policies  they enacted.  I further stated that, the judge's comments were the perfect prelude to my intended address because he had shown how political divisions had arose from the actions of Jefferson.  Divisions which could have potentially destroyed the young American Constitutional Republic .

Text of the Address titled: “Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address and its relevance to current times”.

Past VASSAR Presidents Taylor and Williams, Regent Inman, fellow Compatriots, Daughters, friends, and guest,

Good morning to each of you as we once again gather at this hallowed place where lies Thomas Jefferson, who was perhaps the loudest voice for civil liberties and civil rights among our founding fathers.

I must confess that as the days rapidly passed by during June, I struggled to grasp an appropriate message for today's ceremony honoring the birth of our nation 239 years ago.  In past years, I have spoken on topics ranging from Thomas Jefferson's legacy in public education to Jefferson's thoughts on the celebration of our independence, and I wanted this year's  message to continue in a tradition of being useful and instructional to our current times and lives.  Many idea's floated through my mind as, I researched the documents and personal correspondence of Mr. Jefferson, however nothing grabbed my full attention until, I read Jefferson's First Inaugural Address.

You see Mr. Jefferson was becoming President at a critical moment in our history.  The address was given on march 4th 1801, about four months after the November General Election and following an extended period of voting by the House of Representatives, which was required to break an Electoral College tie between himself and Aaron Burr.  To say the least Jefferson's campaign and election had been far from harmonious or unifying.   The Campaign was one of the ugliest and vicious in American history and had stirred the passions of many. 

So standing there on that March day, Thomas Jefferson on the occasion of his elevation to the Presidency had to show evidence of real leadership not partisanship.  He would have to stress the need for unity and union between all factions and parties and to convince Americans that, every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.  To underscore his point Jefferson said "the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions, and exertions has sometimes worn an aspect, which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and write what they think, but this [the election] being now decided by the voice of the nation and announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good."  Jefferson wants the people to understand that while Americans can be passionate in pursuit of their political goals and the freedom of debate, which is not found in all nations, allows the expression of opinions; there will come a time when the votes will be counted and a decision made.   Jefferson's purpose is to set the ground rules for the peaceful transition of power between differing political parties by saying the Constitutional process has been followed, the people have spoken, and the decision is made; so now we must follow the law  Jefferson is very concerned with American unity, for he doubts that liberty can last without unity.    The Greatness of Jefferson is clearly shown by his exceptional ability to grasp the key factor required for governing a pluralistic and economically diversified nation like America.  Political religious, social, and economic positions will always be debated but they should never become obstacles to unity once our Constitutional principles and rules have lead to a decision.  American stability and success can only be secured by observing the law.

Jefferson, the great radical voice, is setting limits.  He is fearful that if political and religious intolerance was countenanced; it would infuriate the people, promote hate, breed violence, and extinguish liberty.  In answer to political intolerance he says "We are all Federalist we are all Republicans," what Jefferson means is that, now as Americans we must unify under the law.  Jefferson was concerned with the destructive force negative perceptions  of the government would provoke.   Yes free speech must be secured but in answer to those who would use that right to create disunity he says "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or change its Republican form, let them stand as monuments of safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."  Then again later in the address Jefferson adds this "would an honest patriot, in full tide of successful experiment abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm . . . I believe this . . . the strongest government on the face of the earth.  I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law.   Jefferson understands, that there will always be some who would rather destroy the nation rather than observe the legitimate decisions  made by the government through the Constitutional process.  For human nature being what it is men will be determined to have things their way and according to their principles.  However such imposition is not always going to secure the common good of all citizens.  Mr. Jefferson, while confident in Americans, still reminds us that we must abide by a, in his words, sacred principle, that though the majority is in all cases to prevail, that which is rightful must also be reasonable.  Laws must protect the equal rights of minorities, doing otherwise would be oppression.

The second un-unifying intolerance Mr. Jefferson was concerned with is religious intolerance.  In a letter to Jeremiah Moor in 1800 Jefferson wrote, "The clergy by getting themselves by law into the machine of government have been a very formidable engine against civil and religious rights."  Jefferson, having written the Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom which created separation of church and state, was aware that the imposition of religion and its tenets on government could severely limit civil and religious rights.

 Jefferson was also aware that civic virtue required training in morality and values, which the church provided.  Going forward to his Inaugural address in 1801 Jefferson says the following "enlightened by a benign religion, professed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating truth, honesty, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence, which by it dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter."  In truth  Jefferson sees religion as both a divisive and unifying force.  His letter to Mr. Moor shows his concern for combining religion and government along with his belief that such a marriage would inevitably result in a loss of civil liberties, but in his Inaugural address he tempers his rhetoric while still maintaining his underlying message by using the word benign to describe religion and leaving all mention of governance out of the list of tasks the church, in his opinion, should accomplish.

Yes Jefferson found himself at the center of a rising storm at a moment in which Americans would have to accept changes in Governance and policy.  That many would have strong feelings and diverging opinions was clearly understood.   However Jefferson was ready to take on the challenges and Americans followed his lead, even while holding onto strong opinions.  This was accomplished through Jefferson's firm stand for freedom of speech, without interference from the government, while reminding Americans that reason, unity and stability were required to maintain our freedoms.

To this point we have discovered how Jefferson dealt with the issues of diverse opinion, as he came to office in 1801.   But what does that mean today.

Today as them America is a nation of diverse opinions and beliefs.  There are deep divisions in our politics, culture, and understanding of religion.  We as a people are in the midst of a great debate about the direction our nation will take in the Twenty-first Century.  In 1801 Thomas Jefferson chose to be open to the opinions of all Americans, while working to limit the temptations of political and religious intolerance, allow the Constitutional process, upon which our great republic is founded to unfold, and affirm his faith in Americans to abide by the elections and laws that resulted

This week while working on this address, I had a conversation with a longtime friend who, I noticed had failed to give honor to the national flag during a meeting we were attending.  He explained to me, that he was having trouble honoring the flag as he no longer felt it represented his beliefs.  In that moment, my mind turned to the words of Jefferson's Inaugural and his message of American unity.  My friend no longer felt unity with his nation and my heart sank.  My friend had put his beliefs and opinions  ahead of his nation and I was at a loss for words.

Jefferson was concerned for his nation and he believed that freedom would be lost and if Americans were not unified under the Constitutional process and obedient to the law, while working for change through the proper channels.  Jefferson felt the resulting disunity would destroy the nation.  An example of such disunion can be found in four year blood-bath of the American Civil War, during which time 750,000 Americans were killed by Americans.

In America we all have the right to disagree on policies, laws, and to express our opinions about the government.   In his Inaugural address President Jefferson is instructing us to have patience and to respect the Great Nation and Government we have created here. 

We the people must support the rule of law and the Constitutional process or risk the failure of our democratic experiment in self government.  Are we up to the challenge?  I hope so, for after all the Constitution is our charter of liberties and the law is a reflection of our collective not individual will.

Thank you

 Written and presented by Mark R. Day 7-4-15.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 7-4-15, all rights reserved

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Poem: The Lives of Ants and Men


The smallest creatures, ants and such, work intently as they go about their business

Observing them, as they move through the blades of green and patches of brown soil, they seem to instinctively know their purpose.

They take no notice of my presence; except to repair the damage done to their world by my clumsy stride.

They do not look up but rather proceed on with their lives undistracted and unconcerned with mankind.

What then is man to the natural world other than an inconvenience.

A natural disaster to be dealt with, overcome, and forgotten
 
Written by Mark R. Day 6/8/15.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 6/8/15, all rights reserved.
This is the final poem written at the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg on June 8th 2015.  It was inspired by the little black ants, which were busily working away beneath my legs as, I sat on the hilside in the bright sunshine.

Poem: Lessons Taught by a Blue Bloom


Small and insignificant a lone blue flower sways atop its long stem.

The wind gently rocks the bloom its long stem moving like a metronome.

The wind blows stiffly at times causing the petals of the plant to puff and twist.

Occasionally the stem seemingly bends to the earth like a child reaching for its mother.

In this small and insignificant plant there is a metaphor and  an example for us.

Strength comes in flexibility

Beauty is often revealed under pressure

Comfort is always near


Written by Mark R. Day 6/8/15.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 6/8/15, all rights reserved.

This is a the second of three poems written while relaxing on a sunny hillside in Lynchburg VA. at the Old City Cemetery

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Poem: Journey on the Rails of Life


Railroad tracks, rusty brown and unending; they stretch silently and motionless before my eyes.

On and on toward the horizon going nowhere and everywhere as they disappear into the distance.

Railroad tracks are as mysterious and unknown as life itself; stretching onward seemingly without end.

Life, like railroad tracks; has its way-points, emergency stops and final destinations.
Some are just intermediate stops which may offer rest; while others signal a journeys end.

Ultimately we all book passage and our choices create the route that is taken.

Some routes are slow and scenic and others are quick and wrought with woes.

However, the choice may or may not be our own volition;  as fate is a cruel villain who waits beyond each bend.
 
 
Written by Mark R. Day 6/8/15.  Copyright by Mark. R. Day 6/8/15, all rights reserved.
"One of a number of poems that was written in Old City Cemetery on 5/8/15.  This one was inspired as I sat on  a hill looking at the Norfolk Southern Railroad track, which runs behind the cemetery."