Monday, March 14, 2011

#20:  Since the last posting I have explored a tiny bit of Texas, attended two study groups in Texas and returned to Livingston Louisiana.  I did not really get the true feel of being in Texas until I attended the study group in Conroe Texas, which was my last stop in the Lone Star State. In between the two study groups I explored Anahuac National Wildlife Reserve, which is directly east of Houston across Galveston Bay.  There I saw Brown Ibis, Egrets, American Coots (grey ducks with distinctive white bills) and Snow Geese.  I enjoyed Texas and intend to go back there next year.  I heard from my neighbor here in Louisiana that there is a good RV park east of Huntsville Texas where I could park and visit that area of the state; the park is located in Livingston Texas and is called Riverside RV Park, curiously I am now in Livingston Louisiana in an RV park called Lakeside RV Park.

“The more complex civilization becomes, the more difficult will become the art of living. The more rapid the changes in social usage, the more complicated will become the task of character development. Every ten generations mankind must learn anew the art of living if progress is to continue. And if man becomes so ingenious that he more rapidly adds to the complexities of society, the art of living will need to be remastered in less time, perhaps every single generation. If the evolution of the art of living fails to keep pace with the technique of existence, humanity will quickly revert to the simple urge of living — the attainment of the satisfaction of present desires. Thus will humanity remain immature; society will fail in growing up to full maturity.”  The Urantia Book (1772.4) (160:1.3)

Driving to David’s house in south Houston was uneventful but I worried about the return journey.  I took the path Google Maps suggested (more on them later) which took me onto the Sam Houston Parkway south.  It was OK except that there were three toll booths along the way with tolls totaling about four dollars.  Some of the booths would not be manned after 7:30 PM; you needed some electronic card to escape the Tollway after hours.  Since I had no card I was afraid that on the way back I would be trapped like Charley on the MTA (if you are not an old fogey you may need to look up the Kingston Trio Song about Charley). 

David said the number of people attending his study group varies widely and he did have several chairs set up.  We read Paper 160, Rodan of Alexandria but due to our discussions we only read through section 2, The Art of Living.  The above quote is from the portion we read and it seems that our civilization is in danger of becoming “immature,” if it is not already that way.  By the way, Alfonso was waving when the picture was taken, that is why his hand is blurry.  Alfonso also offered to guide me through the complexities of South Houston to a freeway from which I could find my way back, thank you.

I found the Anahuac National Wildlife Reserve by looking at the map and thinking that it looked interesting.  The reserve is a large (34,000 acres) flat marsh with a narrow road going through it.  The Snow Geese were difficult to photograph since everything was flat and there were no elevated platforms from which to look out.  There was one loop in the road alongside a canal where I saw five or six Alligators; the one below was on the same side of the canal as I was and I took the photograph while sitting in the Monster looking straight down on this four foot long gator.  By the way, I did my undergraduate study at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, which has the Alligator as its mascot; perhaps I should take them this one, anybody have a rope?

The journey to Conroe Texas, north of Houston was somewhat adventurous thanks to Google Maps, which suggested I take the Sam Houston (him again) Parkway north to I45.  When I got onto Sam’s Parkway the sign stated that it was a toll road and that cash was not accepted (Charley again).  To spare you a long story, I arrived at the meeting in Conroe forty minutes late.  After they squeezed the cars in the driveway together a bit so I could park the Monster, I was able to join them in their Barbeque dinner. 

It was when I saw the dining room table in Ralph and Linda’s house that I knew I was truly in Texas.  Each chair was about the size of the throne of King Henry VIII and there were seven of these thrones around the table with room to spare.  Ralph said he did not even have all the leaves in the table; I should have taken a picture of the table.  During the meeting we read from Paper 140, The Ordination of the Twelve, starting at section 8, Thursday Afternoon on the Lake.

“The apostles never ceased to be shocked by Jesus’ willingness to talk with women, women of questionable character, even immoral women. It was very difficult for Jesus to teach his apostles that women, even so-called immoral women, have souls which can choose God as their Father, thereby becoming daughters of God and candidates for life everlasting. Even nineteen centuries later many show the same unwillingness to grasp the Master’s teachings. Even the Christian religion has been persistently built up around the fact of the death of Christ instead of around the truth of his life. The world should be more concerned with his happy and God-revealing life than with his tragic and sorrowful death.” The Urantia Book (1614.5) (143:5.11)

Monday, March 7, 2011

#19:  I am now in Highlands Texas, which is a tad east of Houston.  The journey from Dade City to DeFuniak Springs, Florida to Livingston, Louisiana to Highlands has been excellent.  In DeFuniak Springs I had no meetings but in Louisiana I had dinner with Virginia and Charles and watched the movie “Inception” on their big screen TV.  While in Louisiana I did a bit of exploring and went to two Study Group meetings, more on them later.  In the last posting I threatened to include a picture of me with a Sea Gull perched on my head as I walked the beach at Lake Worth Florida with the Bird Lady, well this time I carry out the threat.

All true love is from God, and man receives the divine affection as he himself bestows this love upon his fellows. Love is dynamic. It can never be captured; it is alive, free, thrilling, and always moving. Man can never take the love of the Father and imprison it within his heart. The Father’s love can become real to mortal man only by passing through that man’s personality as he in turn bestows this love upon his fellows.”  The Urantia Book (1289.3) (117:6.10)

The first Louisiana Study Group I went to met at Vianne’s Tea Shop in Mandeville Louisiana; I met with the group last year at Vianne’s house but since then she has graduated to the Mansion Worlds and her daughter allows the group to meet at the Tea Shop.  As usual I had some difficulty navigating the narrow streets; I spotted the place just as I passed it but I could not see the driveway and the traffic would not allow me to stop.  It was several blocks before I could turn the Monster (Ford F350) around and get back.  When I got there Peter was there and said he heard me coming and waved but I did not see him.  The Tea Shop is a quaint little shop with a few tables and dozens of kinds of tea; Peter was kind enough to make me a pot of Irish Breakfast Tea.  He also brought some King Cake in honor of Mardi Gras; this is a kind of cinnamon bun decorated with Mardi Gras colors.  We read Paper 56, Universal Unity, which is a heavy paper.  After we finished reading Peter, Ed and I sat around talking for at least an hour.

The next day I drove back to Mandeville, then went a few miles further on US 190 and explored the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Reserve where I took the above photograph.  The buildings of New Orleans are in the distance through the haze and that is as close as I cared to get to the city during Mardi Gras, although Peter did offer to take me to a night parade.  I took 255 pictures that day as I explored, I was in such a photographing groove that I even took pictures of a fresh thistle plant!  I found Boy Scout Road; I walked along it through open Pinewoods and towards the marsh for about two miles. At the end of the road was a bench overlooking Bayou Lacombe.  In the waterway there was what appeared to be the upturned root system of a tree that had blown over many years ago.  It had such character that I couldn’t help but take a few dozen photographs of it.  It was a most enjoyable day.

The other Meeting was at the lovely home of Virginia and Charles, but the above photograph cannot do justice to the tranquil space they have created (yes, that is the Monster in the background through the trees).  Charles is a Master Gardener and it shows in the grounds.  The meeting was supposed to be broadcast live on the web but they had software problems that were solved only when we were nearly finished.  We read Paper 167, The Visit to Philadelphia, which was just before the resurrection of Lazarus.  I will visit them again on my way back from Texas, hopefully the software will cooperate and the next meeting will be broadcast.

By the way, after the meeting Koto (I hope I have his name right) even sang for us; in the photograph he is sitting on Charles’s lap.

It is now time to get ready to go to a Study Group meeting in South Houston.

“Is unselfishness — the spirit of self-forgetfulness — desirable?  Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor.  Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake.  Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.”  The Urantia Book (51.12) (3:5.13)