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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Under the Stars

I had been invited for a night of stargazing. To my left and right, a half dozen amateur astronomers, each armed with a bucket list of nebulae, double stars, and globular clusters pointed their telescopes at the sky. I sat back in the old catskill style chair, looking straight up at the dome of stars. An occasional car rumbled by on Ridge Road, hidden by the big stand of pines behind the house. Other than that, there were only muffled voices discussing the next celestial object in someone’s crosshairs. A voice rang out from the dark. “Anyone want to see M-9 in the big telescope?” M-9 was a globular cluster in the constellation Ophiuchus. You need a small telescope to see it at all. I climbed five steps up a ladder to reach the eyepiece of this thirty inch scope, and put my eye gently to the glass. M-9, normally a cottony blob of light through smaller instruments, became a riot of individual stars held together in a cluster by its own gravity. I had come to be in this back yard courtesy of the Culpeper Astronomy Club. The club meets once a month at the library, but maintains a relationship with a gentleman who has a superb observatory in his backyard. The observatory’s thirty inch dobsonian telescope is likely the largest telescope in private hands in Virginia. It was longer than my car. Looking through that telescope at M-9, twenty-six thousand light years distant, took me back in time. The light carrying M-9’s image to my eye began its journey when the earth was at the height of the last ice age, twenty-six thousand years ago. I felt sadly nostalgic for a past I could never recapture. This sky would never be as clear and as striking as the sky had been when I was at sea. Back then the stars would twinkle against a pitch dark sky, untouched by city lights. On a few calm nights, when the wind had died to nothing, the sea would sit flat like glass. The stars would twinkle off the water as if it were a mirror, just as they were twinkling in the sky. As the ship slipped through the water with a gentle hiss, the stars on the water would surround it in a magic display as if it were gliding through space. Those few special nights made memories that only sailors can have. They are memories that sailors have had and held for thousands of years - as long as we have gone to sea. No one who hasn’t gone to sea can have that experience. It’s something we can store away, remembering that excitement at sea wasn’t limited to hurricanes, and emergencies. Some of them are just moments of peaceful beauty.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Review of Hue: 1968 by Mark Bowden

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in VietnamHue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Hue: 1968" is a first class account of one of the pivotal battles of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Mark Bowden dissects the battle beautifully, interviewing combatants and civilians from all sides, where they were available, to reconstruct the battle, from the period before hostilities, when the North Vietnamese prepared to enter the city, through the final recapture. He spends an appropriate amount of time on General William Westmoreland's inept handling of the situation, and his misinterpretation of North Vietnamese intentions. The General was so convinced that the North's major target was Khe Sanh that he refused to belief that the Hue attack was anything other than a minor feint. As a result, he discounted reports of heavy enemy strength in Hue, feeding Marine strength in piecemeal. This self delusion ran down the chain of command through the brigade commander level. The result was hundreds more Marine dead than necessary.

Hue was one of THE major battles of the war, fought under the radar of the the American command in Vietnam, and the American public. This book covers the personal stories of over 100 participants, and gives the reader a clear view from ground level.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bachelor Buttons

Roadside Bachelor Buttons
Line my route,
I chat with them through the day,
Pedaling a blue path through summer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentines Day – 2017

For My Rose

Wear a smile,
That I can’t see
In the moonless dark.
Do not tell me you love me,
Just wear a white sweater,
While Orion rains stars
Down upon us.
No need to tell me of love,
Just hold my hand,
And help me gaze,
Until we kiss,
By the Rose garden,
Under a crystalline sky,
Hand in hand,
Cheek to cheek,

‘Til the end.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Riding Through A Dead Place

On 10 May 16

Homage to the remains of Connecticut

Racing south
Through an aged land,
On a train that can't tell time,
Crumbled rocks that once were foundries,
Skeletons that once were mills,
Now tagged and painted
Bright as clowns,
Mock my childhood memories.
Memories of hosts of men,
And women too,
Who once punched clocks.
They fashioned things,
They loaded trucks,
That now are still,
Rusted out,
Or shipped where they were useful,
To China or Brazil.

A lonely stack
Stands by itself,
In a field of trash,
And crumbs of brick.
On its side a long dead name,
Spelled with care in a long dead time,
Laid into it,
Brick by brick,
By long dead hands,
As if to last
Its work has now gone far away,
Its peoples' hearts are stilled,
And now it rests forever cold,
A sentinel to vanished toil.
The pride that built that stack of bricks,
And laid that name so proudly in,
Has vanished with its kiln.

We don't know why the stack was spared,
While the mill was turned to dust,
The stack,
A man made fossil,
Bears witness to another time,
A Proof that once real things were made,
Right here,
Where now they don't make much,
And each day less and less.
God bless the Nutmeg State
That used to be.
Free trade?
It isn't really free.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Mourn me not
Avenge me.
Their children bear their stain
Even yet.
My soul will not sleep,
Until the last knot
Is untied.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

14 February 2016

Of all the places you can never touch,
My heart is not one of them,
For it is yours.
I love you,
For who you are.
May our hearts entwine,
‘Til the end of time,
In that special place,
Where lovers kiss,
And no one bothers,
Or notices.
Have you noticed,
Our kisses fill the air,
With smiles?
I seldom notice;
I am too busy kissing you.
Happy Valentine’s Day
To my Favorite Rose,

Your Misch.