Monday, May 22, 2023

Closing a circle

 Forty-some years ago I was lucky enough to stumble my way into a lifetime adventure born in a graduate studies literature workshop that has, not to overstate the case, taught me some important truths that, well, changed my life.

Truth is, I have a hard time imagining what my life would even be now without having made a couple risky decisions when I was pushing thirty.  By then I figured Life’s tail was there for the grabbing, and if I played it safe and didn’t, as usual for the seventh grade English teacher with a wife & two kids at home that I was, I would come to not like myself as much as the result.  

Saying yes to Life then put me on the first steps of a learning & writing journey that has Emily Dickinson’s beating heart at the center of it all. 

What started in a Dickinson graduate workshop at Wright State back then morphed into a full blown research project that continued innocently enough at the Audubon Ecology Workshop in Maine. Little did I know at the time how Ms. Dickinson and Hog Island would combine to set the stage for that life change.

So much of that story is told in the introduction to my book, Nature’s People: The Hog Island story from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon. I do hope you’ll take some time with that amazing story.  About $10 at Apple Books and Kindle, about $20 at Amazon, other on-line book sellers, and your local bookstore after ordering. 

Thinking back on the personal journey, I have to say the most prescient thing I learned is that “things take time.”  Sure, I’ve heard that expression lots and I assumed it true.  But in my case, getting things researched and organized in a pace all my own, there were many days I bitched at myself for not getting more done. Though one delay ran into another, through it all I never doubted the journey.

After starting this narrative blog a couple days ago, I came to think maybe it would be best to put how things feel right now into verse.  With book published, here you go:  

Nature’s People 


closes a circle

opened decades ago

in the time of pursuit

of the Belle of Amherst

where an island in Maine

confirmed occult connections

spanning generations

not yet understanding

the dynamic of self-imposed solitude

with heartfelt affiliation with flowers, 

Sunday morning choristers, 

little children below her window,

and snakes that scared her

to the bone as a little boy in verse, 

communicating the Truth

of the connection of Beings.

Tom Schaefer

on Hog Island

20 May 2023

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Writing therapy

 I suppose I should thank my mother for coming to love writing.  As little ones she read us Golden Books regularly and when we learned to ride bikes encouraged us to get library cards.  She prized her mornings with a cup of hot tea, a slice of Roman Meal cracked wheat, and the new copy of Reader’s Digest.  The woman loved language and her kids knew it.  Me?  Some, I guess, but I had more fun throwing baseballs.  

In high school when career consideration came into vogue, after I dismissed a call to the seminary, I figured becoming an engineer was my best option.  There were lots of GM plants in my home town and after all, wasn’t that what all the guys were going to do?  

But sometime senior year my head and heart turned.  As much as I hated to admit a lack of personal gifts, I was lousy at math.  Flat out.  Still am.  

In English class, however, I was gobsmacked by two short stories I have credited often for my getting into teaching:  Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” and Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”  For the first time I thought I could actually feel what the characters were going through.  Maybe it was just compassion, but engaging deeply in those human stories left a mark on me.

And then, of course, was Mr. Hemmert, my English teacher both sophomore and senior years.  One of my first male teachers, too, having come from a Catholic elementary where most every person of authority wore a habit.  The man made an impression on me.  Plus, he was a poet and the baseball coach.  By graduation I was beginning to think teaching English might be a cool thing to do for a career. 

As that junior high English teacher that I morphed into, I ran my kids through the rigors of the Five Sentence Creative Outline like I had been.  Basic organization is so important for writers, and this one page exercise was just big enough for most students to grok from start to finish without a lot of writing angst.  By the time I taught high school, my young ‘uns were writing journal entries twice a week, even in my World History class.  

Somewhere amidst all that language immersion I realized I pretty much liked to write.  In fact, as I’ve heard the same from other writers of late, I can’t really stop.  Some think of writing as an affliction, and maybe it is.  

For me, though, it seems writing starts soon after some engaging concept dawns on me. Often these days writing takes form of an email, but I usually have a seasonal journal going where I ponder Life as a septuagenarian. And, of course, there’s the poetry.  The other day I tallied up my portfolio to find I had over 600 original pieces.  

Daughter Jennifer has confided that she wants my poetry when my time on this plane of existence is over.  I appreciate that.  She’ll get journals and travel diaries, too, the whole collection, the earliest in my handwritten scrawl.  

And as usual, I wonder what all of that language is worth. I will not be the one to judge.  I trust there’s a great grandchild to come one day who might want to know a bit more about that old guy she knew as a baby but now only sees in pictures.  

I trust in the process of digging through great grandpa’s canon of writing, she’ll get a taste of who the old man was and what he valued. I hope some of that will encourage her to tell her own story.  It’s good therapy.

Today’s elder idea:  From Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way

If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.

Friday, April 21, 2023

A new era

 I certainly don’t want to be too presumptuous about presenting readers with nuanced concepts of anything in particular in this new era of blog authorship. Still, to paraphrase the words of disembodied spirit Dave Bowman to HAL the computer in the movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact, “Something wonderful is going to happen.”

That wonderfulness is rooted in the fact that the era of writing my book Nature’s People: The Hog Island story from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon has come to a celebratory conclusion.  I am currently patiently waiting for a single print proof copy from Canoe Tree Press to check over with the finest tooth comb Cindy & I can conjure.  Then it’s final approval, and voila, Nature’s People will be available everywhere print books and e-books are sold.  

Trust me, when that finally happens within the next month, I’ll make as much noise as I can so you’ll know its time to secure your copy however you prefer.  I’ve always been a fan of local bookstores.  When the time comes, just have your favorite bookseller search for the title and you should be good.  

I feel a tribute to both earthspeaks and The back porch is in order.  The back porch blog began in 2009 about the time Cindy & I headed out to Colorado to stay at the Nada Carmelite Hermitage in Crestone. I was thinking it was time for the retired guy I am to pick up my writing pace.  I had been writing poetry and collecting whatever resources I could for my Hog Island history project, but a regular outlet to put thoughts & words together for an unseen and unknown audience seemed like decent therapy.  Nada was a great place to get in the blogging groove.  In the first five years, The back porch posted nearly 200 entries.

Entries really slowed down over the years following for a few reasons.  I like to say it was about the time my high school geometry teacher reached out in an email, wondering how I was and curious if I wanted to continue correspondence we had that lasted even after I graduated and she left for Chicago to work on a graduate degree.  

Well, I was ecstatic to reply, and before all was done, I had written tons of pages of biographical and philosophical stuff, finding the former Sister Mary Harold just as eager to respond with how her life and her thoughts about the Universe evolved. Our correspondence connected kindred spirits to my way of thinking.  

So I’ll blame Phyllis for my lack of blog production.  I trust she’s smiling in heaven at the thought.  But now, once again looking for an audience for my writing, I figure it’s time to point myself back to my blog.  Seems like a good time to assess process and determine if changes are in order. 

With the publication of Nature’s People imminent and the advent of as the website that will house book promotion and everything else me online, a few changes were in order. I still value back porch sitting at home, but with our snowbirding on Hilton Head Island these years, I wanted a blog name that represented important geographical changes for home in my life.  Best thing about Hilton Head for me, maybe even better than the beach, is the gift of sitting outside on our third floor deck all winter long where mindful reflection is delightfully in order.  

If you’ve ever visited, my twenty-plus year old project, you would find the most recent update over a decade old. Updating the site whenever for an audience I was not aware of dropped to the bottom of the writing ‘to-do’ list, too. I am good at this point to let go in order for to take its place as my address on the interwebs.  

I’ll still keep my email address, though, and, but that’s it.  No new email by way of the new website. 

And to save earthspeaks from the digital scrap heap, I figured renaming my blog in its honor the right thing to do.  Not sure how often I’ll post.  I’m sure that will depend on how distracted I get by Life, but I’ll aim for something a big more regular.  

If you found this entry via the Nature’s People website, welcome to earthspeaks blog.  Dive in.  There’s plenty here to chew on.  

I'll be back before too long.  Promise. 


Monday, October 10, 2022


 On a short walk this morning through the neighborhood, I couldn’t help but notice a guy in a robe walking around his house after conferring with folks from a plumbing company truck parked in his driveway.  He stopped & called out to me, “If you’re a homeowner, it’s always something!”  I called back my agreement and we both had a little chuckle.  Not a bad way to start the day, even if you have a plumbing headache. 

Which, of course, Cindy & I do here at Wild Grace.  While on a two week summer break at our condo on Hilton Head Island, daughter Jennifer, the designated house checker in our absence, called in a panic demanding, “DAD! HOW DO YOU TURN THE WATER OFF AT YOUR HOUSE?!” 

Oh, my.  It was the cold water supply line in an upstairs bathroom that burst.  We figured at least thirty hours of water poured through the house, taking the basement bathroom ceiling with it.  As you can imagine, things were a mess.  Water dripped down through my office ceiling, too, causing all of it plus lots of wall board, to be deemed too wet to save.  Books made it okay, though everything felt damp.  Fans and dehumidifiers dried things out while a clean-up crew hauled away everything we couldn’t save.  

And that’s where we are right now: Dried out with junk hauled away but no rebuild started yet.  It’s been longer than we thought, having the toilet the only receptacle left in a bathroom void of all drywall.  Sitting there is a rather unique experience, I might add.

But truth is what the flood took away from the basement living spaces has in an odd way enhanced my living experience.  Water didn’t soak into my television watching area, so when I still sit there in my easy chair, the carpet that didn’t get wet looks just like it always did, as does the tv.  

When I get up for a potty break, however, I am reminded how things are still so different.  I walk on cold concrete floors with patterns of old tile long ago removed; wall board missing half-way up from the floor in a few places; shower stall gone along with wall and ceiling insulation; lighting fixtures hanging by electrical wires waiting for wall board to set them properly again.  Yes, it’s a mess, but

I have found that in my office stripped of all books with only my desk & computer re-set, I have space around me like I haven’t felt before.  It feels open and uncluttered, which is a good thing.  But most important, unquestionably, are the new windows.  

Long before this flood, Cindy & I replaced decades-old windows upstairs.  Pretty expensive, so we opted not to replace those on the lower.  Even though the basement casements were lovely wood in their day, over time they have either been painted or warped shut.  In the twenty-plus years I’ve worked in my office I’ve wrestled with them, never able to open them easily.  So we figured as a real treat to me, with my book finally ready for publication, it was time to replace those seven troublesome windows.  Ordered months before the flood, they were, in fact, scheduled to be installed the same week wet stuff was getting hauled out of the basement.  

So here I am this morning plugging away at my computer looking out a window space I’ve never spent all that much time looking out of.  The old windows had wood blinds that were pretty cumbersome, so they never got raised.  Now, however, no blinds.  No nothin’.  Just three amazing windows looking out into our backyard arboretum.  Yellow leaves dominate in the sunshine this season with the occasional bird flying by.

It is a window into a world I so love, that has been there for as long as I have been, that I somehow missed.  

Now the view beyond these computer words is filled with new and life-affirming light to complement the stuff I so want to ponder and write about.  It is good to be aware of change and seeking ways to find change meaningful.  

Today’s elder idea:   From Kentucky poet Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey. 

The mind that is not baffled is not employed. 

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Monday, August 15, 2022

A village elder moment

 When I looked over what books & mags I thought I ought to take to Hilton Head for our summer beach vacation, among other stuff I picked up a collection of essays & poems from Orion solely about trees.  Everything had run in the magazine over its forty-year history, which made this an anniversary collection of a favorite topic. 

I was pleased to see an essay by one of my metaphysical heroes, Scott Russell Sanders, included.  I got into Sanders’ writing years ago before learning he has deep Ohio roots which, of course, sweetened the feel for me.  His essay “Buckeye” is primarily about his learning about trees from his father, a government worker at the Ravenna Arsenal in northeast Ohio.  The two took long walks in the woods down by the Mahoning River where Scott remembers learning about Nature’s shapes and textures and smells from his dad.  

The heart of the essay is more contemporary, following Scott walking the long-left family property doing his best to see anything of theirs he still might recognize.  He came upon a pair of weeping willows he and his dad planted as “slips” so many years ago that now were taller than the utility poles.  

When I touched them last, their trunks were smooth and supple, as thin as my wrist, and now they were furrowed and stout.  I took off my gloves and laid my hands against the rough bark.  Immediately I felt the wince of tears.  “Hello, father,” I said, quietly at first, then louder and louder, as if only shouts could reach him through the bark and miles and years.

No doubt it was a powerful emotional experience for a boy coming home.  I certainly can appreciate that when I drive down old Fauver Avenue.  I know we are all gone from 2019, but somehow we still remain.  So much of me was formed in that house on that little yard in Belmont.  It’s easy to feel heartstrings. 

The reason for this essay of mine today is to recount the next part of Sanders’ “Buckeye” story.  As he ambled along, making note of a dead and dying landscape that was product of an ill-advised dam project, a most extraordinary thing happened.  

Then a cry broke out overhead and I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk launching out from the top of an oak — a band of dark feathers across the creamy breast and the tail splayed like rosy fingers against the sun.  It was a red-tailed hawk for sure; and it was also my father.  Not a symbol of my father, not a reminder, not a ghost, but the man, himself, right there, circling above me.  I knew this as clearly as I knew the sun burning in the sky….

The voice of my education told me then and tells me now that I did not meet my father, that I merely projected my longing onto a bird.  My education may well be right; yet nothing I heard in school, nothing I ever read, no lesson reached by logic has ever convinced me utterly or stirred me as deeply as did that red-tailed hawk.  Nothing in my education prepared me to love a piece of the earth, least of all a humble, battered country like northeastern Ohio; 

I learned from the land itself.

And so, I am left to ponder Sanders’s revelation at this time in my life.  As a fellow Ohio kid, I want to do my best to understand and appreciate what our landscape has become and likewise love it best I can.  I so enjoy the stately maples and walnut at our home in Shiloh, along with the flower and veggie beds.  I’m rather fond of walks through the woods at Englewood Metropark and Aullwood. 

But I have this sense that it’s time for me to do more.  Not sure exactly what that is, but I feel like it means more time spent within a quiet stand of mature trees, or quietly walking the shore paying more attention to sand dollars, brown pelicans, and laughing gulls.  I have this sense there’s more for an old man to grok.  

Today’s elder idea:   From Wikipedia:  

Nature therapy, sometimes referred to as ecotherapy, forest therapy, forest bathing, grounding, earthing, Shinrin-Yoku or Sami Lok, is a practice that describes a broad group of techniques or treatments to use nature to improve mental or physical health.

“Spending time in nature has various physiological benefits such as relaxation and stress reduction.”

From me:  For my new adventures:  Healing Trees:  A Pocket Guide to Forest Bathing by Ben Page (Mandala Publishing, 2021).

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


 Looking back as a village elder, I can’t help but ponder on significant times that shaped the life I have come to know and understand.  

Today the fickle finger of fate has lead me to this place to deliberate on what islands have meant in my life.  This is an important topic, don’t you see, because at this mellow time in my life, turning 72 on Wednesday this week, I consider myself to be, in fact, an islander.  In my way of thinking, considering oneself an islander recognizes a very special relationship to place & spirit worthy of a closer look.

I can’t help but think the root of my thing for islands is their mythical quality steeped in the life of a Boomer kid from southwest Ohio.  Only island I really knew as a kid  was Island Park, a family picnic and summer Sunday concert destination nestled between the Great Miami River and the narrow lagoon that served as one of the few ice skating destinations in town come winter cold snaps.  

Coastal islands, so far from my landlocked home in the Midwest, were places only observed in the printed pages of National Geographic and Life magazines. 

At that time in my life when, in retrospect, I should have expected hitting my professional and personal stride — my early 30s — I was learning more about life and relationships as a junior high school teacher and thinking it was time to get working on the next pay raise by getting a graduate degree.  That’s when this islander thing got ahold of me.  

I am unsure how a master’s degree impacts the lives of most recipients, but I have to say, my Master of Humanities from good old Wright State University was a life changer for me.  Knew it early on, too, in that first year of grad study when I stumbled into an Emily Dickinson workshop recommended by my undergrad guru, Dr. Jim Hughes.  By the time that twice-a-week evening class concluded that spring, I was registered to attend the Audubon Ecology Camp in Maine that summer, and in a not so complicated process, fell in love with Ms. Emily.  

So much happened from that point on, a guy could write a book about all of it.  Just so happens, I did just that.  Should be out later this year: 

Nature’s People: The Hog Island story 

from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon

Not doubt it was Hog Island that got me hooked by whatever magic spell islands cast.  I mean, sitting on a rocky shore at dawn watching lobster buoys glisten in the morning sun was not something I was raised to appreciate back in the Birthplace of Aviation.  But in my early 30s I surely did.  

And then that seemingly flippant comment one of the instructors made that kept echoing in my head: something like, “Once you’ve slept on an island, you’ll never be the same.”  

Let me just say in no uncertain terms, by the time my two weeks were done on Hog Island forty years ago, my life would, in fact, never be the same.  By the time the academic dust settled, I had written a long paper on the founding of the Audubon Camp and when Friends of Hog Island organized some years later, I was a regular at their annual on-island summer meetings.  Ended up editing the organization’s newsletter for a few years.  No doubt, Hog Island inoculated me into an islander.  

And now there is Hilton Head Island front & center in my life.  Watching Cindy Lou blossom on the beach during spring breaks in Florida when we first got together got me to thinking I needed to get that girl to the beach way more often.  

Not many springs after, we found ourselves on Hilton Head the first time, and by the next vernal equinox, we had purchased timeshare points to guarantee us the perfect nest for a week on the beach. That was ten years ago this spring.  

We’ve never regretted our timeshare purchase since it brought us to another island of beauty and wonder.  Liked it so much, in fact, we bought a cozy two bedroom condo a year ago, just a short walk from the beach.  Spent the whole winter here, in fact.  

No doubt Hilton Head is very different from Hog Island.  Gotta’ take a boat to Hog, but my Outback makes it quite comfortably to HHI. Like comparing apples to oranges, really.  Both islands are very different, just considering the beaches, let alone the traffic & the Kroger superstore.

Still, these two coastal island destinations pull on things inside of me that make me want to sit, listen, be mindful, and try to tune in to whatever Natural message is present.  

Such is, after all, what village elders are supposed to do.  Being an islander just makes it a touch easier. 

Today’s elder idea:   

Exultation is the going

Of an inland soul to sea -

Past the Houses - 

Past the Headlands - 

Into deep Eternity - 

Bred as we, among the mountains, 

Can the sailor understand 

The divine intoxication

Of the first league out from land? 

Emily Dickinson

Monday, November 8, 2021


 The photograph above was taken just a few weeks ago, back on the evening of the first Saturday in October.  Pictured, if you are not familiar with the Schaefer clan, is yours truly, the bearded one, and his much younger & better-looking brother, Joe.  

Cindy & I had spent the day driving over from Dayton to Joe & MaryAnn’s place outside Charlottesville, Virginia.  I like to tell folks “my brother lives in Tom Jefferson’s neighborhood.”  And, indeed, ’tis true.  Monticello is just a few miles down the very road they take regularly to get home.  

I snapped that “selfie” after dinner, though it wasn’t the first photo I took. The primary image would be a photo of my little brother, all by himself.  I had every expectation it would be the last photo I would ever take of him alive.  

I posted the image of both of us to Facebook on Sunday, just saying how good it was to visit family.  Lots of loving comments, not least of which was, “sure can tell they’re brothers!  Look at that hair!”  True enough indeed.  Best we can tell that DNA came from the Zimmer side of the genetic pool. 

What I did not post on Facebook was that Joe was dying.  Cancer.  Don’t know which one, but it got one of his kidneys three years ago, and recently made a raging return.  All the medical staff at the University of Virginia Hospital could do was prolong the inevitable.  Joe was very grateful for their care. 

After dinner Joe talked about what his body was up against, none of it sounded good, but he also talked about looking forward to doing some surf fishing.  Over breakfast the next morning, things continued to go well.  Joe was actually eating a little bit, something that had been a real problem of late.  

He stepped away from the table for a minute and came back wearing a heavy sweater.  Then the chills set in.  He said he thought it was “a fever,” and figured the best place for him was sitting in front of a burning gas fireplace.  MaryAnn encouraged him to take some Tylenol, but his last six-hour dose hadn’t expired yet, and Joe didn’t want to take meds before he should.  He’d wait out the chills.  This wasn’t the first time.  

In the midst of all that, with the reality we had a long drive yet that day, our visit expired and Cindy & I took our leave, giving Joe hugs and a kiss, wishing him the best.  On the way out, MaryAnn said she was determined to get some meds into Joe to calm his shivering.  She texted an hour or so later that she was successful.  

By day’s end, Cindy & I found ourselves at our Hilton Head villa, eager to get started on our two-week fall beach vacation.  By Monday morning, though, as I sat on the deck in a warming sun, I felt some words coming together for something about Joe.  I got the Mac word processor up and running, and out popped this tribute to a “flawed but really good man.”


I have found the older I get the less I really know about the siblings I grew up with.  What I know about them — who I think they are — is primarily product of the years spent growing up with them on Fauver Avenue.  I am surely aware of the professional accomplishments of each and celebrate them for it:   Patty as an office professional for the City of Kettering, Mike as a guy supervising IT that kept natural gas flowing through the Midwest, Marty as the heart & muscle of the art department at San Diego Public Schools, Ted as a vice president at Kroger who spent time with employees in Memphis recently after the mass shooting in a store there, baby Susan as human relations chief for Bobcat heavy equipment sales & service for over half the state of Ohio. 

But there’s so much more I just don’t know about them.  What do they prize most in life?  What comes up in bed talk with their partner?  Who is the number one person in history they’d like to have a long conversation with over dinner, a cup of coffee, or a beer?  What horrors did they experience in their lives they never wanted to share with the rest of us, whether for not wanting to burden us with their pain or calculating their silence as a product of their own shame?  Or who or what do they think God really is, expressed in detail from their heart of hearts? 

One of those six siblings, brother Joseph William Schaefer, is especially in my heart today.  It’s easy for me to think of him as Joey, but he gave up that moniker long ago and reserves it for his own son today.  But for the younger brother who came into my reality when I was seven, a part of me will always know him as Joey, the kid who came up with the name Flufflo for one of our pet Easter rabbits.  I have this image etched in my mind of a smiling little Joey, who must have been about three, kneeling on the kitchen floor under a chair offering a leaf of lettuce to an animal who had absolutely no idea what in the heck was going on.  

I have another image in my head of him grinning while holding a hockey stick on the frozen waters of a pond at Eastwood Park, a site the city of Dayton monitored & kept a warming fire burning.  Not sure what other sports he enjoyed, but I know he sang in the choir at Belmont High School and somehow got himself and our youngest brother involved in the school’s performances of Oliver Twist.  Back then that seemed like a pretty big deal to an older brother.  

For some painful reason it was Joe who was identified, even by himself, as the “black sheep” of the family.  The oldest brother went to the seminary for high school, but all the others of us were proud to call ourselves tuition-paying Carroll Patriots.  All except Joe.  I was old enough not to be too interested in the development of the younger sibs, but scuttlebutt was Joey wasn’t much of a student.  And if his grades weren’t going to be that good, why pay tuition?  So off he went to a public high school where, I guess, he could either sink or swim. 

When all was said and done, he surfaced just fine.  Couldn’t tell you his grade point, but what the Air Force recruiter saw was good enough for the military, which did, indeed, morph into quite a respectable career in radios.  Personally, I never understood exactly what Joe did with tubes & transistors while stationed in Germany, but by the end of his career, he served on an Executive Branch team that assured President George H. W. Bush and later Vice President Al Gore would be in good communication with the powers-that-be back in the nation’s capital regardless of where in the world they landed.   Just last week Joe told a story of some shenanigans in Kennebunkport, Maine, when then-President Bush & Barbara were vacationing at the compound their family made famous.  

Let me just say that as I assess the life paths the Magnificent Seven all settled into, I have to conclude the black sheep of the family surpasses all of the rest of us in some pretty cool categories.  First off, he’s seen parts of the world the rest of us will only dream about. It may have been hot and our nation at war, but as the forward ops for the Executive Branch, he’s napped and had dinner in countless mess halls and restaurants not just across the country, but around the world.  And as that government radio guy, he’s been in proximity to consequential human beings the other six of us will only read about in the paper.  But Joe was there

You might wonder where the title of this essay comes from:  Boatdiver.  Well, that would be Joe’s internet handle, drawn from his love of donning scuba gear and descending into another world the rest of his sibs can only conjure by watching the  National Geographic channel.  Sure, he is a fisherman, like so many of us (somehow I missed that gene), but he’s seen water worlds that other family fisher folk only experience from the surface.  I think that is not only notable but freaking amazing.  Plus he’s driven over every covered bridge in the state of Virginia on his Harley Davidson, probably having been the organizer of the weekend event for regional bike aficionados.  

When our Mother passed away back in January 2018, Cindy Lou & I were on a Hawaiian cruise celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and her sixtieth birthday.  You’d think we’d be the ones the most miles from home.  Not so.  Joe was volunteering as a Knight of Columbus in the African bush trying to solve a serious problem for the locals:  providing them with a reliable source of drinking water.  On another trip, he & his buddies worked to create a building that would serve as a health center for folks who had to travel miles to see a doctor for a sick kid.  Fair to say young master Joey undoubtedly found his heart in very righteous places.  

No doubt Mom & Dad were proud of all their kids when we were young, and celebrated our accomplishments as we trod our individual paths.  I am amazed at the uniquely different roads we all took, connected yet independent of all the others.  As a brother, I am so proud of all of us, yet I’ve got to say, that Boatdiver guy is truly something special. 

I love you, Joe.  

Big T       

Joe’s pet nickname for me

Tom Schaefer

      October 2021

* * *

By the end of our second week, we got word from the family that Joe would be admitted to hospice. Medical staff could do no more. It didn’t take long for Cindy & me to know our drive home would include a return visit to central Virginia. 

So much more to say, but let me save those reflections for another day.  Let me close with these realities: 

Joe’s 64th birthday was 23 September 2021. 

All Joe’s sibs made it to his hospice bedside.

Joe was released from this worldly dominion 

on 23 October 2021.

Today’s elder idea:   Take care of each other.

A mantra Joe would be proud to own

                                                    Fauver Avenue, Easter 1964.  

                                                            Joe lower left in grey jacket.