December 7, 2013

Blessed to Receive

Thanksgiving is past, Christmas is coming.  I truly believe that all the glitzy ads for "Black Friday" starting on Thursday (or even earlier) distract from this season:  It is all about “giving!”  In reality it is all about getting!  This is even compounded by extending  "Cyber Monday" for the entire week.

Many words have been written about the value of giving; like selecting that special gift, only to find out that it appreciated less than it should be.  This is magnified by the plethora of gifts with which we are showered during our traditional Christmas.  How does one appreciate one gift over another?  The issue of re-gifting has come up as being inappropriate, yet a gift once given is the property of the recipient to do with as she might desire. In any other way it is not really a gift: if there are any strings attached the gift and the giver impose conditions.  This is more like a contract, than a freely given gift-item.

This opens another problem area: reciprocation!  If I give a special gift, I expect a special gift in return.  Anything less causes disappointment and even resentment.

Then there are the heart-rending appeals for donations at this time.  Many worthwhile organizations use this era of the commercialization of the Christmas season very effectively.

I am not sure how I am supposed to act at this time;  obviously not like Scrooge, but that is one extreme. Selfless giving is also fraught with difficulties.  The choice between wants and needs seems to be more obscured than ever.  Clothing and food are needs, MP3 players and I-phones maybe “necessary,” but obviously fall in the category of wants. So, we enter the era of gift cards.
The only strings attached are the amount and if selected, the store where one is supposed to use the card.  It solves most problems for the giver as well as the recipient.  It is easier to reciprocate as well, after all there is a specific monetary value to consider.

I don’t purport to know the answers, but I would like to refocus my sights on the real reason for Christmas:    

  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son...

I cannot out-give that, I can’t even reciprocate, 
          I can but accept it in humility.
                     Have a truly blessed Christmas.

November 13, 2013

Home again

We are home from Glen Eyrie.  It took awhile to get settled in again.  We had been gone for nearly three months. Previously our daughter or our son-in-law would turn on our house and put a day’s worth of groceries in the fridge.  This time we were on our own to do all this.   Needless to say it took a little longer to get back up to speed in our home.  Also because we had been very busy the month of October, we decided to take some time off from any recurring activities outside our home.  Corrie was adamant about going to choir.  She wants to sing in the cantata, and that means going to practice. It is very relaxing and fulfilling to her.  I opted out, I prefer a bit more leisurely choir activity.  I’ll probably join after the new year’s celebrations.

Last year we had just returned from our cruise in the Mediterranean. On October 13, we visited Corfu, Greece.  This was close to the Albanian border, and some travelers opted to visit there.  We stayed “in town” and did some sight seeing.  The were some old fortresses which guarded the pathway to the mainland.  We also noted a strong Venetian influence on the architecture.   This was also the place where Corrie fell in love with the Greek design tablecloth, which we bought.
It was a relaxing day, although there was some climbing from sea-level to the downtown area.  We took a bus into the old city and decided to walk back to the “new” harbor, where our ship was moored.  We enjoyed good weather and shared some local food and coffee.

October 26, 2013


We are still volunteering at Glen Eyrie and it has been extraordinary busy for the past three weeks.
After we came back from the trip to Utah, we hit the deck running with many guests visiting the Glen. We started our regular hospitality work at the Pink House on the 1st day of this month. Because it was so busy the dining room staff was nearly overworked , so we were asked to help out on numerous occasions. This was in addition to our regular duties at the Pink House. I also conducted many Castle Tours during the past three weeks. We were finally able to take day off on the 16th of October. We went out for breakfast and did some shopping and were able to be re-energized for our hospitality activities.

Nearly three weeks earlier, on Sunday, September 22 we took the shorter road trip from Cedar City to see the petroglyphs near Parowan and then continued on to Cedar Breaks national park.

It was a cold, windy day although we has a lot of sunshine as well. We could see the snow coming in from the west while we were visiting the gorgeous overlooks of Cedar Breaks. The way back to Cedar City, was via route 14, where we had encountered the lava fields on our way down, just two days previously. 

We had selected Monday to visit Zion N.P. Cars are not permitted in, so we took the shuttle. We were surprised how busy it was, even on a Monday in late September. The shuttle stopped at may locations where one could get off or on to go on side trips. Most of the day we were inside the canyon of Zion national park. 
 After leaving the park we opted to take the scnic round trip home, following highway 9. This route takes you through a 1 mile tunnel after which the scenery changes to high desert, or more a steppe landscape. 
The red rocks lie behind us and we again wind up on highway 14 to go back to Cedar City to spend another night there.

  On Tuesday we went into the left edge of Zion NP, to go to Kolob reservoir. This time we traversed the ancient lava field. The road was not busy and the scenery was breath-taking. We had to come back the same way. The road continues as a gravel and dirt road back to Kolob canyon, where we visited Saturday, but we thought it would better to take the hard-top back. 

We were very glad that we had made an extended stay in Cedar City. It would have been impossible to see and do as much as we did in any less time. One could easily spend more that a week here. On Wednesday we left here to visit Brice Canyon, but that is for another “blog,” – to come.

October 11, 2013

Kolob Canyon

I promised to write a bit more about our trip to SW Utah. During our trip to this area, we found so many scenic sights on the way, that we decided to take three days on the way back to experience these sights in more detail. We arrived in Cedar City just before supper time and checked into our Bed & Breakfast. The owners told us about the ongoing Shakespeare festival, which was ongoing about a block away from where we were staying; however, we were not really interested in that, since we wanted to see the natural beauty of the area. Moreover, being Dutch, we really don't have (the proper) appreciation for old English. One of the benefits we did get to experience; though, was meeting artistic folks at the breakfast table. We actually met a professor and his actress wife from England and we had some lively discussions! 

Our first excursion was to the North-west corner of Zion national park, called Kolob Canyon. It was not very busy when we got there, the weather was sunny, the view breathtaking. It was very clear and the surroundings were astonishing. 

 We took the Taylor Creek trail. There had been some flash-flooding about three weeks before and some of the trail had washed away. None the less we could find our way with relative ease, partly because of our experience here at Glen Eyrie, where we have been on many hikes over the years we have been volunteering here. 

 After a few hours hiking. We went to an overlook area. One of the pictures in the previous blog was taken there. It shows the steep, deep V of the “deepening” canyon, - with me in the foreground. We came home “on time” so we could relax from all the sights and activities of the last three days. Tomorrow would be Sunday, and we had plans to rest and take a shorter trip with some more relaxed activities. It proved to be another extraordinary trip, more later.

October 3, 2013

After the flood

We were able to return to the Glen on the 16th of September. The flood fortunately did not cause any major damage to the property. We moved back in to pack, because we already had made plans for an extended road trip starting on September 19 to go to South-west Utah.

 There are a number of National Parks in this region and although we had visited Monument Valley, Lake Powell, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and the southern part of the Escalante National Park, we had never visited Zion, Brice Canyon, Cedar Breaks or some of the other parks in this region.
We opted to take the scenic route, rather than traveling on the express way, which would get us to Cedar City, Utah, at the end of a two day trip. 

We thought that Cedar City would be a good stopping point because of easy access to most of the sites in SW Utah from there. We spent five nights here at a Bed and Breakfast and were able to make day visits to Zion, Kolob, Cedar Breaks, and do some special sight seeing on the way to these special spots.

During our trip to SW Utah, we found so many scenic sights on the way, that we decided to take three days on the way back to experience these sights in more detail. The last 2 days we would take to get home from the Moab area, after seeing the Arches National Park again.
We took way to many pictures, which is a bane as well as a benefit of digital photography, but I'll refrain from sharing too many, – even one a day would be 11 pictures. How can one share the beauty of creation in such a limited way? I did not even finish our Mediterranean Cruise travel blogs yet...

Maybe I'll spend a blog on each of the special places we visited, it would give me data for about 10 more blog posts. I'll plan to finish last year's cruise as well.

September 14, 2013

Flooding at Glen Eyrie


We are visiting with our children in Colorado Springs this weekend.  Record-setting rainfall in Colorado resulted in localized flash flooding in the overnight hours of September 12-13. 

Camp Creek, the creek that runs through Glen Eyrie overflowed its banks in spots, flooding some areas near the main entrance.

Because the flooding jeopardized the normal flow of vehicle traffic, guests and volunteer staff were evacuated by an alternate route.  No guest or employee was ever in any physical danger. The evacuations were completed because normal traffic patterns were blocked. At its peak, water overflowed the bridge just past the main gate.

Flooding conditions surrounding Glen Eyrie were aggravated by soil damage created by wildfires in the area in the summer of 2012. Since those fires, Glen Eyrie engaged in serious flood control measures, including the installation of two debris catching fences, widening and reinforcing of creek banks near the castle.

 See my April 26 (Spring 2) post about these projects.  

An alternate route that enabled the safe evacuation of guests and staff was used. The debris nets located in Queen’s Canyon, kept trees and boulders from moving onto the property while allowing water to continue flowing. Structural damage would have been much greater without these mitigating measures. The debris nets are holding back much of the debris from flowing through Camp Creek.  We hope to return to the Glen on Monday, September 16.

August 29, 2013

Back at Glen Eyrie

The week after my birthday we celebrated the birthday of my spouse. She is one week younger than I.  Believe it or not, it has been that way our entire life.  The next day we left for Colorado Springs, to attend a Marriage Get-Away at Glen Eyrie.  Our Marriage Get-Away was very good, breakfast in bed on Friday morning; lots of one on one time for each couple in the afternoons.  We were warned that we were not allowed to do any work, or anything that even looked like work, while attending the MGA. (I guess they know us here) Our sessions were excellent and focused on relationships, particularly couple interaction and understanding each others' love language. All our meals were spectacular!  The cooks outdid themselves. 

On Sunday (8-18) we moved into the lower apartment in the Châlet from the Castle Room, where we had been staying for the MGA.

It is warm here during the day, the nights are cool - mid 60s  but afternoon temperatures hit upper 80s and even  a few low 90s. But fortunately we don't have the humidity, which is so prevalent in the Heartland, so it is OK to be, and even work outside. 

We went for a walk (small hike) last Sunday (8-25) during the early afternoon and we appreciated the shade, when we could find it.

The work has been sporadic the first week, but we are really busy this week.  Right now there are but a few guests.  We have had some senior (High School) retreats, so lots of activity and energy.  Corrie has been doing dining room attendant work, and Joh is working for Facilities.  Some other tasks are in the works.  We still love working here!!  Surrounded by the rocks which hide this valley form the business of the city, we get to enjoy the peaceful quiet of Glen Eyrie.  Even in the midst of work, we can greet the turkeys, the big horn sheep, and chase the squirrels.

August 5, 2013

Happy Birthday to me

Because nearly two weeks have past since my last update and because I celebrate my 68th birthday today (Aug 5), I thought I would do a quick update.

We have had absolutely fabulous weather during the past two weeks and have gone out on both our motorcycle and on our bicycles.  

The previous week we pointed our motorcycle west and visited the Löss Hills in western Iowa.  After stopping off to see a Danish windmill and a picture with (a replica) of the statue to “The Little Mermaid.”  The original is in Kopenhagen, Denmark.

This statue is to commemorate the fairy tale by Hans Christiaan Anderson, who was of Danish descent, and whose story was brought to fame by Walt Disney. 
We went on to Bronson, in NW Iowa.  
There we spent the night with dear friends.  The next day we went back to our home in Johnston, but we had to stop at the (non-continental but none-the-less important) Missouri - Mississippi divide in central Iowa.  

Then last week we rode around the central Des Moines area.  The trip took us around Gray’s Lake and into waterworks park.  Waterworks park reminds my of my home area in the Netherlands.  Flat, rustic, and lots of water!  Just a few pictures to feast your eyes.

July 17, 2013

Mediterranean cruise, continued.

October 12,  2012 – Katakolon, gateway to Olympia; the sight of the old games. 

We opted out of the optional tour to the ruins of Olympia and decided to explore the small harbor town of Katakolon.  – After visiting the ruins of  Ephesus, many other ruins of antiquity were bit much for us.  Ours was the only cruise ship in the harbor there, so the town was not crowded at all.  Like all ports of call, there were a plethora of souvenir shops.  We were able to browse at our hearts content and enjoyed some local coffee as well.  We visited a small museum of ancient musical instruments and also a kind of science museum showing the use of ancient inventions for leverage and moving heavy items.  The Greeks claim a lot of scientific inventions to be their own.  I guess the Romans used many of these inventions and may even have improved on them to advance their empire.

During our exploration we chatted with one of the local shop owners.  His English was very articulate.  He had been a merchant to American soldiers who came to the area for missile training during the cold war; he had been cleared to go onto US bases.  Also, he told us, he had run in the Olympics in 1984.  He then went into a back room and re appeared with the torch, which he had carried at that time.  He let Corrie hold it for a priceless picture.  This was as close as we came to Olympia, or the games for that matter.  We had seen the grand stadium in Athens, and Corrie got to hold the torch., near old Olympia.  Not too bad at all.

June 14, 2013

Memorial Day and beyond

My last blog was written at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, but on the 27th of May, the actual Memorial Day we went for a hike.  
We revisited “the scar” and went to an overlook of Queen’s Canyon.  On the way and at our destination we could really see some of the fire damage reslting from last year’s Waldo Canyon fire.  
A lot of mitigation work to prevent severe flash flooding and debris flow has been done in the area.  Monique and Rick were with us and they went right up to the edge of this overlook.

This was scary to me, because I don’t like to get close to any edge, even more so, if it is very high.  With proper encouragement, however, I did make it to the edge as well.  The Monique only picture shows Palmer’s dam in Camp Creek, which runs through Queen’s Canyon.  At this dam the water is diverted to a collection and pipe transportation system, which replenishes some of the reservoirs, now in Colorado Springs.  Also this picture shows the fire damage on the other side of Queen’s Canyon. 
 In a previous blog I published a picture in this area where a flood mitigation fence was built. 

 This time I included a picture of the new castle lawn as seen from this overlook area; it is beautifully green.  We all pray that there won’t be any flash flooding in the area.  Not only to preserve the beauty of Glen Eyrie, but also the area in the city where Camp Creek is canalized.

Meanwhile there is a large fire in the NE area of Colorado Springs, known as Black Forest.  Again the resources of those who fight fires are being stretched.  Many people have lost their homes and possessions.  Today, June 14, there is some rain in the area. 

 In Iowa the drought is over.  There is actually some minor flooding and the rivers run at flood-stage. We took a long motorcycle trip on June 13.  The weather was beautiful; no wind to speak of, sun-shine, and about 80 degrees.

May 25, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

On April 26 I blogged about the flood mitigation work ongoing at Glen Eyrie.  The work was hampered some by snow and rain, but I am happy to share some new pictures of the green green grass of (this) home.

We are starting Memorial Day weekend, and the weather is just gorgeous.
There are weddings, graduations, and memories of those who have gone before us.  It is good to be in this place of quiet memory of a man with a vision, namely William Jackson Palmer, who built this place for his home.  

For the protection of the Almighty, to preserve this place for its current function.  
For the insight of the Navigators, who share this place with the public; for retreats, contemplation, rest, and restoration.   

A quiet place in a busy world.  Even the animals know this and some come here to graze and rest. 


Our tenure here will end on June 2, after which we shall return to our home in Johnston, Iowa for most of the summer.  

On our past day off, we went to Pueblo.  Here we enjoyed great day of relaxing as well.  

Walking the river walk, enjoying the down town area and relaxing for a cup of coffee. The river walk also commemorated Medal of Honor recipients, as well as service members of all branches of the military.  
 A nice prelude to this Memorial Day weekend.

May 8, 2013


 Although we are still at Glen Eyrie, in Colorado Springs, and although we still experience many
adventures here, I would like to write something Ephesus, Turkey, at this time.

On October 10 we visited this ancient city.   
Our first stop was at the shrine of the house of Mary, mother of Jesus, who is thought to have lived and died here after the crucifiction of her Son. This is based on the command of Jesus to the apostle John to take of His mother as recorded in the gospel of St. John 19: 26,27.
This was a very busy place with only on bathroom facility for women and there was usually a waiting line, hence the humorous picture.

 This is in contrast to one of the ancient bathroom facilities in Ephesus, where you could sit cheek to cheek. No privacy, though!  The local guides refer to this affectionately as “the chat room.” 

While we were there, we happened to catch a re-enactment performance of Roman times, with a dance and a mock gladiator fight. 

 This city has a great history, which is know to most of us because of the record in the book of Acts, when the apostle Paul visited this city.  Most of this can be read in Acts 18 & 19.  Also there is an interesting quote by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:38.  Many of the now ruins of Ephesus must have been seen by him as well.  Most obviously the large amphitheater, where the riot was quelled (Acts 19: 23+) and where he might have fought the wild beasts, mentioned in 1 Corinthian 15.

I included an (obligatory) picture of the remains of the great library.  The whole experience begs the question, “What will be remaining of our civilization?  What will be remembered about us?”