Memorial Day in Oakland Cemetery

The scraggly oak trees intertwine their branches in a tall ceiling that shades the entire drive. Here, the appropriate view of the eternal isn’t blue and bright, but sheltered and close to the ground.  The rows of marble and granite dazzled by bright flowers have their own quiet redemption as the slow speed limit and a gentle wave from each passerby gives the setting grace.

This is Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul’s municipal cemetery, founded in 1853.

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Cast in Bronze

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
John 20:29 (NRSV)

We live in a time of great turmoil and change. Economically, socially, spiritually, and even biologically our nation is different every day. Our growing diversity should be a strength, not a weakness, if we can find ways to hold ourselves together by emphasizing the principles forged into traditions that made this nation great. But somehow, even simple decency and respect for each other often eludes us.

Why is this? I have come to believe that we have made our great principles far too intellectual, that the beliefs that should hold us together are exercises for the brain when they should be felt with every beat of our hearts. To change this we need more solid physical reminders in our every day life of who we are, as one people – because in the end we are all made as much in the image of the doubting Thomas as much as anyone.

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Riverview Corridor

How is a successful transit project designed and implemented? In the past I’ve complained bitterly about a St Paul project that went badly and praised one that seemed to be going well. The difference? Primarily, it’s about engaging the public and making sure that everything is accounted for.

Today I am a representative of the Fort Road Federation on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for the Riverview Corridor. In the interest of practicing what I preach, here is a full disclosure of what we will do and how I am approaching it. I value your comments, regardless of whether you live in St Paul or somewhere else – everyone has something to add to big, expensive projects like this.

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Memorial Day at Oakland Cemetery

The scraggly oak trees intertwine their branches in a tall ceiling that shades the entire drive. Here, the appropriate view of the eternal isn’t blue and bright, but sheltered and close to the ground.  The rows of marble and granite dazzled by bright flowers have their own quiet redemption as the slow speed limit and a gentle wave from each passerby gives the setting grace.

This is Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul’s municipal cemetery, founded in 1853.

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A St Paul Moment

I believe that I am due a few vacation daze in the summer, especially when I’ve had a long, bad day.  Here is a piece on my city from 2010, in part to commemorate National Night Out.

I came home from a meeting with a client and there they were.  A whole team of guys with buzzing and growling equipment filling Irvine Park with motion and clouds of dirt.  It wasn’t an unusual scene, since the Parks Department does their share to mow regularly – but these guys were different.  It was some private company out trimming and mowing and generally making our li’l park look better than it has in a long time.

What makes this a Saint Paul Moment wasn’t clear until I asked one of them what happened.  Did the city contract out the maintenance?  No.  “The owner of our company’s son is getting married here this weekend, and he wanted it to look nice.”  So he just set his crew loose on our public park and made it look great. That is a Saint Paul Moment.  You just do it. Continue reading

A Cold Humility

(The Sage) knows he makes no fine display,
and wears rough clothes, not finery.
It is not in his expectancy of men
that they should understand his ways,
for he carries his jade within his heart.
– Tao Te Ching 70 (Rosenthal)

The short, hunched figure marched with purpose.  The weather bent us both down, compelled our gaze towards cautious feet and the treacherous lack of grip underneath them.  It was only a casual glance that saw the short red coat and hood approaching as I wondered who else might be out making their own time down the sidewalk.  A child? A friend?  Anyone I knew?

When the figure was close I could see it was an older woman.  It wasn’t until she was close that I could make out anything at all about her even as we both concentrated on our chilling task, the path from here to there.  I smiled a quick “Hello!” and she said as much back as we passed, still a stranger if also a comrade in purpose. But we were both anonymous in our shields against the cold that might catch up if we had stopped for any more than a word.   The weather itself had rendered us equal, distant, and humble.

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Catch a Break

It’s been the kind of week you swim through.  The thick languid air drags back as if yesterday was a long time ago and tomorrow might never come.  It’s not a day to get much work done, but we all slog through.

Daze like this I admit I go back through the Barataria archives to see if there’s anything that needs updating.  Starting from July of 2011, however, it’s positively depressing.  Employment is still lagging and the economy has not done anything new.  At least funding is being secured to restore the old Rathskeller at the Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh – we locals are moving forward with heart and arm and brain.  But at the big level, things are simply languishing as if summer never ended.

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