Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter, and what we remember

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Today we celebrate Easter with Easter Bunnies and eggs, which originate from the pagan cultures which began their conversion to Christianity over a thousand years ago. On the day Christ rose from the dead his followers numbered less than 3,000.

By the beginning of the reign of Constantine, they would number 40% of the Roman Empire.

Delving back into the origins of the date and the events surrounding Holy Week, the last week of Lent, bring to our celebrations today a deeper understanding. Focusing on the resurrection, we may forget the history and significance of the day which is the most sacred for Christianity.

By 300 early Christianity was becoming removed from its identification as a sect of Judaism. Most Christians then were not, and never had been, Jewish.

Early Christians, nearly all Jewish, celebrated the day in conjunction with their continuing traditions, linking the day to the Passover and Exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament through the Last Supper and crucifixion, which preceded the resurrection. Seder, with its themes of Slavery and Freedom, Four Cups of wine to be drunk, the Seder Plate, and its focus on Children, would have been very present for those early Easter celebrations, ending with their remembering of the death and resurrection of Christ.

According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning for his own purposes, which included humanity becoming one in Him.

He prepared himself and the disciples he had gathered for his death in the upper room during the Last Supper, telling those assembled there to remember him, and identifying the matzah and wine as his body, which would soon be sacrificed as his blood was shed. Jesus was referred to as the Passover lamb because his death occurred at about the same time as the Passover lambs were being slain in the temple. Lambs marked for the feast were to be slain, "between the two evenings," that is, at twilight.

His words, reported by the disciples show he understood very clearly what was going to happen, and he embraced it for purposes which went beyond the understanding of his disciples.

When Jesus died Israel was a people whose king was more Roman than Hebrew. It was a small nation, controlled by the most powerful empire on earth. 300 years later Christians, following his example to love one another had conquered the Roman Empire.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saving the History of Ashtabula

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

The goal on their website is to save the history of Ashtabula. By preserving one building at a time they are determined to maintain Ashtabula’s original character and architecture, bringing the city into the 21st century with modern amenities.

Kris E Hamrick, who was born and raised here, remembers these buildings when the town was vibrant with life and has studied Ashtabula's history intensely. These, he says, hold our past and must endure. Given the new technologies now available, these can be used for generations to come in, bringing the past and future together.

Working out of a store front on Main Street he shared his vision with me as we talked about the history of the town and the downward slide which has put so many families on the edge over the last three generations.

Kris's father, a police officer in Rock Creek, died when he was only two and a half. Kris has only a few memories of him but grew up with an enduring sense of loss because nothing about the death makes sense. A segment for Unexplained Mysteries was produced on the story.

Raised by his grandparents in a huge, historic home at 3610 Station Avenue, Kris learned about the Underground Railroad from his grandmother, Gladys Perkins, who showed him the secret room built into the wall behind a dresser, which had to be manipulated for the room to open into a small 6 x 8 foot space. He imagined what it must have been like to hide in there, waiting for it to be safe to come out.

Grandfather John was a minister who routinely took in those in need.

These and other memories fired his imagination and fueled his determination the history of Ashtabula would not disappear. Now a father of five himself, his vision for our town begins with the restoration of Main Street, anchoring the four remaining blocks with a park on each end and archways.

In the parks he can see walking tours beginning, audio available through your cell phone. And on one of the vacant lots, where cars now park, he sees the famous Flying Saucer, which once made Ashtabula famous.

The vision goes beyond Main Street, however, including steam boats anchored in the Harbor for tourists and small cafes, their tables inviting people to enjoy delicious food as they learn to love the Ashtabula which endures in our minds.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St. Patrick's Day will be Sunny!

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Last year at this time it was 64º and a touch humid. Today it is 27º , we have snow flurries and yesterday the bulbs, which are beginning to come up in the garden, were clearly outraged. Really, I thought they were going to write letters of protest or even start a petition online. But, naturally, this would be a fruitless endeavor. There is nothing you can do about the weather and I am assured by life-long Ashtabulans this has been an amazingly mild winter. 
Stories of snow, covering homes, which brought all commerce to a stop have been shared with me. Ashtabulans are proud of their hearty ancestors, with good reason. 
Despite the weather last night sixteen of us met at St. Peter's Church for a Lenten Pot Luck, sharing home-made dishes, which included my own Taco Casserole, the scrumptious Devilish Eggs contributed by Margaret Burnham and Sue Port, who also brought Potato Salad. Clara Saturday brought her Chocolate Cherry Cake. Umm. 
City Councilman for the Ist Ward, Rick Balog and Anne Balog, brought their special sausage from Columbus, served hot and savory, with sauerkraut.

Clara. sitting next to me, shared her memories of the Ashtabula Mall, when she was working there at J. C. Penny's Clara ate lunch with her fellow employees at one of many restaurants in the Food Court. Jim Heath, on my other side, recalled when the town night club, Sardi's, burned down. Before then Jim's dad, now deceased, had managed to fall off the back patio there. Jim laughed, his Dad's antics clearly amusing him. 
A whole lot of remembering was going on. 
This morning on the way home from the YMCA the emptied buildings reminded me of the comments from Margaret Burnham on what Ashtabula was like, 'back in the day.' As one memory sparked the next, the past lit up. I mostly listened, seeing this town through eyes which remembered a community where all things seemed possible and kids did not leave to find jobs elsewhere. 
Buildings marked with stark Xs, targeted for demolition in the near future, where business was growing are common now. Someone mentioned to me the night before Sardi's, opposite St. Peter's across Main Street, is also marked for demolition.

A bell will ring on March 20th, at St. Peter's Church, at precisely 7:02am. Peace, Justice, and Care of the Earth begins at home, here in Ashtabula.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Earth Day How We Measure our GNP, Bhutan did.

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

In Lithuania the celebration for Earth Day on March 20th will go on for three days. In Paris, children will celebrate at school. 
In Bhutan, the tiny country between Indian and Nepal, they will celebrate Earth day with the International Day of Happiness. 
Bhutan changed how they measure their national production this year. Instead of yearly announcing their Gross National Product they will instead announce their Gross National Happiness, measuring the satisfaction of the people. Are they happy, enjoying well-being, and are they, the people prospering? 
In Burma, now called, Myanmar, the bell will be rung by AyeAye Thant, daughter of U Thant, the first Secretary General to ring the bell in NY in 1971, on this, Earth Day's 43rd anniversary.

A moment of silence will mark the death of John McConnell, founder of Earth Day, who left us October 20 in Denver at the age of 97. 
In New York, on March 20th, at precisely 7:02am,the sound of the Peace Bell will ring out. Around the world, at exactly the same moment other bells will sing out their varied tones.
Two days later, March 22nd, has been declared by UNESCO, the United National International Year of Water Cooperation. 
Water is an issue of increasing importance in the world now, with supplies of fresh potable water growing less and less available to people in third world countries and as a resource now being acquired through 'privatization' here in the United States. March 22nd is International Day of Water. 
Mary Carlin, a member of the Earth Society Board, commenting this morning, said it is sad the problems the Earth Society hoped to alleviate seem so much worse today. Everyone gathering understands mistakes have been made. 
In the parks in California they quote René Dubos as saying, Think Global, but act Local.”
Helen Garland, Earth Society CEO, says Rene never said this. He knew you must understand the Earth as a whole to understand its complexities and avoid doing harm. Would a finger survive if cut off from flow of blood from the heart? Never. 
Helen went on to say, We understand today we must be careful to check the facts. We were too trusting. Now, we understand what went wrong and will begin again to ensure these goals are met.” Our mission was, and remains, Peace, Justice and Care of Earth. 
At 7:02am, Wednesday, March 20th, listen, bells will be ringing.