Sunday, March 30, 2014

 Coming Storms

Headlines pile up announcing harsh cataclysmic Earth upheavals on a far too frequent occurrence. Saturday  it's California, a 5.1 earthquake, the first big multiple rumblings there for a while.  Above ground, California's been in the news this year : drought in the lower half triggering forest fires then came super rains which caused land slides. Extra heavy rains in Washington State last week caused a huge slide there which could top out with over 50 casualties. 

Coming east, it's hard to forget the last few summers of tornadoes up and down Tornado Alley. Weekly, if not daily, we all saw the televised news of human desolation resulting from these terrible twisters. Often wrapped in rain these twisters still didn't, to any degree, eliminate the harsh drought ruining anything growing green in the great plains of the west. The northern tier of states experienced one of the coldest, harshest winters in memory.

Sandy dominated weather events in eastern USA these past few years with visible destruction still apparent to the public. The Gulf and the Atlantic are still the giant generators of hurricanes both those weak and manageable and those devastating. 

The Earth, irregardless of public opinion, evolves climate from the elements she has to work with above the ground. While under the Earth's surface results of pushing and shoving by magma and mantel rock cause earthquakes and volcanoes to occur on a regular schedule. 

We, Homo Sapiens, have little chance to shape our Earth under its surface, but above, in the Earth's climate scientists feel Man's involvement with spewing pollutants skyward, most likely, are making huge negative impacts on the World's climate. Storms -snow, wind, rain - seem in the past decade to have intensified in severity proportionate to the accumulated detrimental effects of all particulates Man continues to release to the atmosphere. 

Up there in the atmosphere a crucial day will arrive, that day will be the day of no return. Beyond that day, no matter what we Homo Sapiens do, the climate will react to the accumulated elements which shapes it. All the prayers or sacrifices some zealots could conjure up will only give hollow hope to those who base all life on our Planet thinking Man deemed paramount.

I join with the scientist community in believing that the Earth has been a sphere circling our sun for billions of years evolving both land masses and climate on a continuous basis. For how many years has man walked this Earth leaving nothing but his footprints to show he existed ? Not until he harnessed the use of stored carbon to power an industrial revolution did his existence matter. As I understand, almost all of the impurities sent skyward which has affected our weather since 1900, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, are still floating in our atmosphere, still effecting our climate. What pollution we send up today just adds to all that has accumulated over the last hundred years. 

Blinded as we are with the past, unable to accept what we actually see, unwilling to peer into the future; Man, accumulatively or singularly, is a preservationist. He wants to preserve what he has, wants to preserve the status quo, and wants to, as the monkey does, "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". But, the hand writing's on the wall and all of those living today are in for a rough ride in future years, I suggest, which is tough to swallow.

Ronald C. Downie


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lone Voice

Am I an aged lone voice speaking for retired home owners still living in Pottstown ? We wonder where our tax dollars have gone, where has all the money gone, money which we believed was invested in an improving school system ? Some time ago we learned the Pottstown School District had been put on notice that the High School is one of four Montgomery County Schools in Pennsylvania listed as a low-achieving school.
We oldsters have over the years made huge investments in our school district by paying property taxes yearly on our homes which continue to lose value. The value lost is caused by the market which reflects a buyer's desire not to purchase a home in Pottstown. If you were a buyer would you come to Pottstown and bid up the price of a house so you could bring your kids to a underachieving school system ? 

Our local school system is broken. Taxing of property for education is broken. Out of every five dollars of a Pottstown resident's annual taxation, four of those dollars go to the school district. The Pottstown District has been singled out by the state as a poor administrator for the money's invested by "we the people".

My wife and I are caught, as many other old couples are caught, in a home lived in for scores of years as the value of our house, once our largest investment, continues to plummet in value. This is like being caught in a "catch 22" : damned if you stay;  damned if you move away. 

Being taxed out of your home is a stark reality for many retirees who can no longer work and must rely on social security and their savings until that runs out to pay ever rising school taxes which seems to be wasted by the administration. Just look at the debacle over renovating our elementary schools : overruns in budgeting, under planning in design, but these seem commonplace to administrators since they can tax us, tax us out of our homes. They seem unable to feel our pain. By far, the majority don't live here so they pay their taxes to other school districts.

My true disgust can not be set in printable words for public display. As a graduate of Pottstown's schools, a school board member for four years, a member of Pottstown's Alumni Honor Roll,  and in Pottstown's inner circle of governance many years, I am ashamed of my inability to change the direction our hometown has taken. We need elected officials much better then I was able to be. We need to get rid of property taxation paying for education above all else.

Ronald C. Downie

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Our Favorite Destination - Circa 1947

Too far, it took too long to go thirty four miles east to Philadelphia and still not be in center city. Reading Pa., just named as America's poorest city, was our destination of choice twenty miles west when I was a young teenager. Then, Reading was a prosperous city drawing like a magnet not only the young but adults of all ages. Whether action or entertainment was desired Reading had it all : two or more bars on every corner, seven or eight movie theaters, and the Fire Tower and the Pagoda looking down on center city drawing all visitors to take the winding drive up to get there. Restaurants were galore championed by the Crystal on The Square or, if wanting a lighter fare, the White Towers served hot dogs and burgers by the hundreds. 

A couple of times when I was about twelve or thirteen years of age, I was an unwitting passenger in timed races to Reading. Raymond, son of my family's pastor, drove his 1936 Buick four door sedan in these races against the clock. Those bragging rights were based on honor, verifiable honor, and it needed passengers to take the time back to the gang hanging out at O'Dell's gas station on west High Street in Stowe. 

I was the youngest passenger squeezed in the back seat between two older guys closer to Raymond's age of about eighteen. The clock started as we dug out going west from the light at Hanover and High about ten o'clock in the evening. This timing was planned so we avoided township cops who usually returned to their buildings at that time to write up their reports before eleven o'clock quitting time. There was also little traffic on 422 at that time of night. Raymond spared no horsepower on the double lane highway knowing he had to make up time there because who knew what traffic we'd hit in Reifton, Mount Penn, and Reading. 

The clock stopped when we crossed Fifth Street on Penn street. No, I don't remember the exact time but below a mile a minute has stuck in my mind these many years. Frequently over the intervening years I driven to Reading to take in a movie, eat a good meal, attend a show, or to work at my profession as a landscape nurseryman. No matter when I took the trip, I never forgot those harrowing races against the clock which had often left me with shaking knees and a sour feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

Reading, Pa. once home of Joe's and Stanley's, the Reading Phillies, a brewery, Pomeroy's, the Peanut Bar, The Reading Eagle, and The Outlets is now of some prominence as the poorest city in America. What went wrong ? A bypass does wonders for an urban area, it keeps traffic out of the downtown. But it also concentrates social service agencies downtown bringing to them all the indigent needing help. These clients stay close even though they have little or no disposable income to support stores in the area. Sadly their presence deters former customers from shopping where they once did. The downward spiral builds upon itself setting a low point and only after a short time setting another low until now, the poorest city in the good old USA. Harrisburg, Scranton, Reading, so who's next ? Watch out Pottstown, a college town, beware !

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ian Jacob -Accumulating Years- Kurtz

"A Bridge Too Far", just how far off, is it ?
When is a tall mountain, too high, to climb ?
Does an equation, need others, solve it ?

When age activates a young Man's wonder, 
Difficulty fades, possibles surface,
Animation awakes in the stoic.

Like money, effort stacks up, gains value;
Years accumulating, lifetime spending,
Banks shrink dollars, effort, pays dividends.

Paying self first, accumulates treasures :
Comfort in words, stressless with raw numbers,
Discovery's doggedness, facts captive.

Into the vast realm of the probable :
You step, a young man poised for destiny,
Personally self groomed, journey begun.

Slim waters need few bridges to traverse,
It's a lovely view atop tall mountains,
Within great minds numbers crunch calculus.

Off you are, soon to challenge a desire
You have prepared for all of your young years.
May effort, remain, your essence of life.

With Love,
Happy Birthday!
Nanny & Pop Pop

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Twitter Postings

Full moon or, should I say, a too full moon last night spilled its extra light Earthward so much that I had trouble nodding off to sleep.

It's Spring cause so many plants are breaking through the surface of the ground like they have springs in their roots with sunshine in their hopes.

The once wizardry of - who, what, when, where, why, and how - now cringes behind its cloak of letters in an austere sterilization of live news.

Why do Philadelphia sports announcers become so blatantly apologetic for poor athletic performances from Philly players and coaches ?

Masterful, an impression of my writings when I'm dreaming ; gibberish, when I think of my words compared to Facebook photo posters.

Born on this Planet, exist in this World, live in this Country, breath in this State, eat in this Town, drink in this Street, sleep in this House, sleep,...,die. 

Ronald C. Downie..

Friday, March 21, 2014

Reading's More Than A Pleasure

The pleasure to read, put off way too long, becomes like a drag on a boat, slowing it down while making it less manageable to steer, as it puts in jeopardy a person's desire to better find themselves. The inability to read is more like hitting an iceberg and sinking the boat rather than just putting a drag on it.

Where in the World could America get a better return on her investment then if our country would make education a top priority by pouring investments into it. It's not like a brand new program, we've had an universal education agenda in place for most of a Century here in America which now needs a shot of financing to make education truly a 21st Century accomplishment.

Americans pride ourselves in the excellence of our higher education institutions which serves those whose parents can afford their exorbitant costs or are youths willing to mortgage their future by borrowing to attend. Many slots are taken up by foreign students of financially able parents. 

To more and more, a belief surfaces that a higher education is but a "right of passage" of all young inhabitants of our Earth as they pass from youthful adolescence into adulthood, and, as their aptitude and attitude allows them. This passage is evermore controlled by a young person's ability to be served by money instead of by raw mental ability. 

Why in the World does America eat its seed corn or eat her children or eat the future away? Because, we as a country, are awfully short sighted thinking only for today or, at best, no longer than this week. The rich are really dumb thinking this way. Their own best interest is in having buyers of products their industries produce.

These buyers have to be nurtured, growing into consumers which is the backbone of America's economy. They need disposable income to purchase goods and services. Expanding the poor is the last thing providers of good and services need unless these providers are bent on a short time run. Too often, it seems the well to do need little time to make their vast wealth, so they're only in for the short run, and those younger financiers replace them in a same short amount of time.

It once took a generation to accumulate an old time fortune, but now, ten years is a long time for a fortune to be realized. Get mine now and be gone is the moneyed's song when their interest should be in a rising tides lift all ships. 

A rising tide is needed in education to bring it along in a way that truly raises the pursuit of knowledge to a level our World needs. The ability to read is the golden rule for all living beings. The increased ability to write well boarders on the true pursuit of capturing wisdom. 

Ronald C. Downie

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Winter Weary 

In bleakest winter, drably
The latch of my garden gate
Rusts, its hinge stiffens badly 
And creaks as if to break.

Hidden flowers peek 
Out from time to time ;
From underground they seek
The awakening eyes of mine.

All across the World, gardens'
Restless engine trips the switch
Far too early to make amends
For frosted tips of growing's itch.

Waiting in angst, as if a gate
Set for use, though groaning.
Grumbling is an Earth man's fate,
Too early this, too late's his moaning.

Tempered, is a gardener of merit
Honed in roots sprouting greens.
Knowledge trumps his lustful spirit
Driving him beyond his dreams.

Suddenly, snow withdraws its blanket,
Unlocks the frost of white winter's chill.
In apron, muddy handles the bucket
Of garden tools, testing trimming's thrill.

Spring's equinox equals day with night,
Balancing an instant, then lightening up.
Moaning's gone, the garden gate's alright,
The stiffened hinge freed, tea fills the cup.

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Claussens of Pine Forge

Betty With Images - Bill, Printed Words

Soft strokes flow pigments on a canvas traced :
By eye with brush, stilling time, framing's placed.

When works of art are hung, walls disappear,
Rooms fill with pleasant, familiar warm air.

Beyond walls flows the Manatawny Creek.
Hung on walls are painted scenes which speak

Of a time in Pine Forge, just north upstream,
Where things happened thought only a dream.

This stream thru hills erodes for eons past.
Soft moccasin footprints allowed forests to last

Until Europeans arrived here in America by boat,
Pushed upstream beyond where canoes could float

To mine black iron ore for peace but also for war.
Clear cut Hemlock, Pine making charcoal fires roar.

Where the muscles of water drive wheels of a mill
To grind grain for a Nation with empty bellies to fill.

Betty chose paint pigments, husband Bill, black ink.
Betty created canvas images, Bill words that think.

She drew the 20th Century, he the long past away.
They lived on Creek Road, in Pine Forge, that's in Pa.

Where once ran a railroad, though only at night,
No whistle, no smoke, its passengers in life's flight,

No rails, only hidden trails across river and creek,
North Star showed the way to freedom they seek.

From Titlow to Ives then to Rutter at The Pines,
Its mansion a beacon during these troubled times.

Below on the Manatawny sat Bailey's Roller Mill
Banging away at boiler plate with orders to fill

For locomotives' fire boxes on railroads you all know.
Abolition's in their hearts which men of iron grow :

Thomas, Rutter and Potts ; Samuel, Savage and Nutt 
Forges, the muscle of wars; Revolution and Civil, but,

Are grand paintings like a secret heirloom recipe,
Both needing appreciation for memory's chemistry ?

Or, are paintings, as described by Andrew Wyeth 
Heard to say, "I was merely illustrating my life."

Soft strokes flow pigments on a canvas traced :
By eye with brush, stilling time, framing's placed.

When works of Art are hung, walls disappear,
Rooms fill with familiar, pleasant warm air.

Ronald C. Downie

Written and read on the occasion of a showing of Betty J. Claussen's Art, May 11, 2006. 
Husband, William Edmund Claussen wrote "Pioneers Along The Manatawny".
The Underground Railroad took a path through Pottstown with a layover in Pine Forge.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Living Longer

The scientific community must be crazy thinking a guy like me should live decades longer just because they've isolated a gene or two that will give me replacement organs for those I've worn out. Hell, I've already out lived many of my buddies that I grew up with. 

We were from that generation just post depression, pre- WW2. That generation that was too young for a big war- too old for the next, some undeclared conflict. We were big on butter and lard, on hotdogs and bacon, on cigarettes and booze, on drive-in-movies and drag racing; yea, we rarely took care of ourselves.

Maybe, I've outlasted my friends because of my ancestral genes. Genes that were nurtured in the rugged upslopes of Scottish Highlands covered in heather and free range game. Did genes gain their grit from tossing of the caber or wielding a broad sword ?
Or could it be from eating oatmeal and haggis a diet my ancestors cut their teeth on, that produced these genes I possess.

No, most likely it is by chance that I'm here instead of them. Probably it is because of my wife, Constance, who is my caregiver, the mother of our two daughters and a son, the keeper of the homestead, and she remains today the earner in the family. She keeps stresses to a minimum as those who know her will attest to. Please, I'm no candidate for longevity, neither by chance nor choice, so I'm here until I expire from normal causes.

Ronald C. Downie

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not Your Normal Sewing Circle

*The saga of working women in sewing factories a century ago depicting their trials and tribulations :*

Women trudge to work before the dawn
Wakening slips of eastern peeking light .
They'll work to dark for which they're born
Only on Sundays will they daylight sight .

Clutching a meager lunch while dreaming sweets,
Shoulders hunched forward, black shawl draped,
Their children left home must fend for themselves .
Through cold snow, they walk icy sidewalks caked .

Windowed high walls stand five stories tall ,
This building's the tallest towering the town .
It draws them as ants to sweet nectar dew,
They'll squint at dawn by dark they'll frown .

Zig zagging up a stairwell all must climb to
Their sewing machines waiting them in the gloom ,
Settling in, as a tiring long day looms ahead,
Their bodily functions they need hold to noon .

Their rate a must six days each week .
Is there a song their hearts would sing 
Above the din of machine needle strike ?
It's family needs their wages must bring .

Bosses want window's low cost light .
Dust and lint encrusted, dirty they'll be
Worry not that sewers loose their sight,
Cause seekers, a job is really all they see .

A forgotten era, a time so long ago,
These windowed old buildings quiet, silent,
Echoes muted, walls still stand starkly tall,
To the wrecking ball, they remain resilient .

Is there a new tune that we hear being sung
By people who want to live in an apartment
That could be built behind these old high walls ?
Hope ! Please choose a date for your settlement .

  Ronald C . Downie

The shirt factory at South Charlotte and Cherry St.
was most recently part of the Smith Pie Complex. It remains empty today waiting for a positive economic climate before retrofitting can begin.        

Friday, March 7, 2014

"The Man with a Hoe"

"The Man with a Hoe" a poem by Edwin Markham, 1899, was written as a verbal response to an earlier scene by a French painter, Jean-Francois Millet, in 1863. Both painting and poem have been "moving testimonies" to what the too prevalent - Inhumanity of Man - can cause.

Ever since first reading Markham's poem, fifty/sixty years ago, I've frequently conjured up the image of modern man caught in his current escapades of being inhuman to his fellow persons. I think of war, of slavery, oppression, and hunger. I see the sophistication of methods to kill, to oppress, to enslave. Markham saw these too a hundred years ago and wrote his compelling commentary about what inhumanity of humanity can cause. 

I urge everyone interested to pull up on your devise "The Man with a Hoe" and determine for yourself the image Markham leaves with you. During these trying times in Crimea the World fears a return to the warped images long ago displayed in both painting and verse. 

"The World is too much with us; late and soon, ..." are words of another poet, William Wordsworth, who through words a hundred years prior to Markham's expressed similar concern. Those who incessantly rattle sabers inject a fear in me of a life ending, all life ending nuclear winter. It's a given, that my expected lifespan is minimal at best, but I feel for my grandkids and great grandkids who have tasted life and have been told the future is out there alive for them. What do I tell them ?

Ronald C. Downie

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Depends Upon

It all depends upon, Henny Penny's sky falling,
And Jacques Cousteau's blue oceans swelling ;

Depends upon, The Rolling Stones' songs playing,
Guardian Angles' protection finds safety amazing ;

Upon, John Updike past his Endpoint, again rising,
Evan Brandt penning each story his Dad's not writing;

The Mercury attending to the poor's needs unending,
And leaders in Washington their ignorance extending;

It all depends upon, the morning sun clearly rising
In a dedicated arc across our sky its energy giving;

Depends upon, grandsons picking up batons dropping,
Left over from attempts to keep live music rocking;

Upon, the fingers at their instruments still plucking,
Viewing the World from a lens in need of adjusting;

Within you, trees feel at ease, grasslands swaying,
Gardens seek pleasure, in soils rich for playing.

Ronald C. Downie

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sonnet 25

Winter Whiles Away 

When weather's left to its white winter's gate,
It's long strides and quick steps in uniform
Cadence, are bent on whiting at a rate
Which brings Mother Earth under a ghost storm :

Then, all agencies of government spring 
Into action : hooking up plows, loading
Salt and calcium chloride on spreading
Trucks. Wonder how long they'll be deicing :

And when roads are clear of treacherous ice,
Which relieves drivers to breath more freely, 
Relaxed about today's drive, going's nice, 
But, watch out for potholes, they're not to choosy !

"A job worth doing is - job worth doing well."
Weather does its thing ; stories, poems will tell.

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sonnet 5

Long Night's Activity

When, in the wake of dreams unfulfilled,
Looking back, reaching for past memories,
Stirring hidden hollows, hiding strong willed
Thoughts left for a long night sleep pleasantries :

Then, with tossing and turning, sweat arrives
From body heat captured by layers of covers,
Deepened sleep slacks as the mind's eye drives
Piercing nerve endings toward thoughts of others :

And then, over and over we relive day's events,
Real or are they derived of fiction or of facts ? 
A deep night's sleep would have provided vents
For the escape from rewind or rewrite of acts.

Into this netherworld of super active long days
Take deep breaths, relax, quiet, chilling out plays.

Ronald C. Downie

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sonnet 4

Lashed Together

When rolling swells from humanity's wake
Rocks life's boats, tethered safely at ready.
Sailors seek rising tides for sailing's sake
As Moon mass draws up sea waters steady:

They look to stars and charts to map the way
Off shoals, between buoys marking channels.
Seeking guidance demands society's say 
About normal living, choosing panels:

Panels represent will of the people
Who, when lashed together, become stronger,
As bricks and mortar raise up a steeple
To tower cities with shadows longer.

Bundling sticks together will give them strength,
But, bundling thoughts takes wisdom its full length.

Ronald C. Downie