Monday, June 29, 2020

Korach's Rebellion

Parashat Korah tells of the rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  With 250 respected leaders of the community, they accuse Moses and Aaron of acting “holier” than the other Israelites.
When Moses asks the leaders to meet with him and Aaron, the leaders refuse saying, “We will not come.” Stunned, Moses asks God to , “Pay no regard to their words.  I have never taken anything from them nor wronged them.”
The next morning God speaks to Moses and Aaron and tells them to “Withdraw from Korah and the community because they are about to be destroyed.”  Moses and Aaron ask God on behalf of the Israelites to not destroy Korach and the leaders.
The next day the earth opens up and swallows Korah and their 250 followers, their families and everything they owned.
Rabbi Leslie and I both lived in Southern California and before that Rabbi Leslie lived in the San Francisco area where she survived the World Series Earthquake and we both lived through the Northridge Earthquake and several other less significant quakes.
Earthquakes are terrifying and sometimes it feels like the ground will open up and swallow us all.
I think we all have our own personal pits which are likely to swallow us.  For some it might be work.  For others it might be a hobby.  For others it might be acquiring wealth.
Our task, I believe, is to avoid the pits which may likely swallow us and consume us.  Unlike Korah and his followers, we can choose whether to live or die.  I urge us all to choose life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

How I Learned To Use A Coal Oil Lamp

I grew up without power so it was a big deal when I was old enough to be trusted with a coal oil lamp.  I was almost in high school before this happened.  Ira sometimes used gas powered lamps which made frightening hissing noises when in use and those terrified me.  I couldn't stand the hissing sound.
So when I was trusted to lift the cover and blow out the lamp I was honored and proud.
So that is a little bit about when I was a child that I find interesting.  I hope yyu do too.

Friday, February 28, 2020

What I Learned From Losing Big Mama

What I Learned From Losing Big Mama
M. Walker Baron

My grandmother died when I was just five.  Her name was Berda Butler Latham but Tom and I called her Big Mama.  Tom and I were not her first grandchildren but we both knew we were her favorite grandchildren.
I never met my maternal grandfather.  He died in the heart of the Great Depression.  My mother was fourteen years old when her father died.  Big Mama lived in a tiny house in Wickenburg.  Every day she walked to the cemetery to visit her husband’s grave.  That was no easy task.  The cemetery in Wickenburg is up a fairly steep hill.  Nevertheless, she made the daily hike to his grave.  About once a year Big Mama got on a bus to visit my aunt and uncle in Santa Ana, California.  She always brought back presents for Tommy and me.  Once present was seashells for us both.
Big Mama collected Indian Head nickels.  I used to sit on her lap, unzip the leather purse in which she kept them and spend hours just sitting there looking at the nickels.
Big Mama knew I liked jello.  She made me jello in Mason jars.  I would sit on her lap eating my jello out of the Mason jar.
When she died I tried to make a deal with God.  If God would give me back Big Mama, I would give God my seashells. Not surprisingly, God did not go for the deal.
Often Big Mama took Tommy and me to an afternoon matinee at the Saguaro Theater but after she listened to The Lone Ranger on her radio.
One film I remember seeing was West Point.  Tom and I liked that movie and for quite some time after we ate lifting our forks in squares.  Big Mama and Tom and I got a kick out of that one.
Someone I didn't know once told me that I was going to be just like my Grandma Latham.  I was thrilled.  I assumed the person meant people would really like me.  The person’s reply was shocking when the person told me I was going to be really fat.
I never thought of Big Mama as being at all overweight.  She was just Big Mama.
A close friend of Big Mama’s (Anna P.) wept when she remembered her.
When Big Mama was in the hospital there were strict rules about who could visit and when.  I wasn’t old enough to visit so my mother held me up to the window and Big Mama and I would visit that way.
Here’s what I learned from losing Big Mama.  Never try to outsmart God.  I can survive just about any loss no matter the size of the loss.
I’m a writer and I learned a lot about living and writing from losing Big Mama.  Loss is part of living and no matter how huge or traumatic the loss is, it is survivable and I can write about loss.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Learning From Alortha




            I lived with Alortha Aston during my sophomore year in high school.  My parents correctly reasoned that, since her husband, Lomax had recently died, she could use the extra income.
            Alortha was born in Missouri.  One of her favorite expressions was, “I’m from Missouri.  Prove it to me.”
            For the entire year I lived with her, Alortha worked at Upton’s CafĂ© in Globe, Arizona. 
She visited her husband’s grave every day.  Often, sometimes after dark, I would go with her.
            Every Friday after school I rode with another ranching family to the little town of Young (population 200).  The trip took well over three hours, often on dirt roads.  Then either my father or mother would pick me up at the Young Post Office for the more than an hour and a half ride to our home on the Flying W.
            Alortha was a member of the Church of Christ in Globe.  The Church of Christ is not famous for its liberal view of life.  Alortha’s brother-in-law, Loathar Hamilton, was the song leader.  He used a pitch pipe. This created such a schism that the church dissolved and moved elsewhere outside of Globe.  Ultimately Alortha bought the building on Deveraux.  My brother and I once visited her there.  She was doing all of the remodeling on her own.  Alortha Aston was truly an independent and remarkable woman.
            I learned a lot from her during that sophomore year.  She insisted that I hung up my clothes with the hangers all pointing in the same direction.  Her reasoning was that in case of fire one could easily remove all one’s clothing.  To this day I still hang my clothes with the hangers all pointing the same direction.  My reasoning differs significantly from Alortha’s.  If my house were on fire I would not feel an urgent need to get my clothes out of the burning house.  I probably wouldn’t even worry about my clothes.  My goal would be to get all the living creatures, human or otherwise, to safety.
            Sad to say, Alortha wasn’t much of a cook.  We generally ate dinner at Upton’s.  I ate breakfast and lunch at her house—lunch alone because Alortha was working as a waitress at Upton’s.  Alortha taught me to eat what I didn’t like first because then I would always save the best for last.
            I’m a writer.  I didn’t learn much about writing from Alortha but I did learn a lot about living from her.  I believe that good writers must necessarily know a lot about living.
            During the year I lived with Alortha Aston I learned a lot about living and I thank her for that.