Two Presidents, one church, no politics, no religion

1 October, 2017            Two Presidents, one church, no politics, no religion

President Carter’s non-political, non-religious message

I watched a DVD of the Sunday school class President Jimmy Carter taught at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA on August 27, 2017. President Carter spoke about President Trump and it was a Sunday in a church so it’s tempting to think both politics and religion – two subjects I avoid on this blog – would be in the conversation. They were, but they were not the most significant lesson, and they were forgettable compared with President Carter’s most important message of the day. That message is summed up in the two white words on the red background at the top of this blog post. I’ll return to that at the bottom of this post. After a handful of pictures.

I hope no one’s heart was badly broken when they read last week’s blog post (Venomous snake video, my first fox, more) and didn’t see a single Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). I won’t make up for that omission with more than one picture this week, but I will include this. The most predictable Red-tails I’ve seen recently perch on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church at 13000 Gayton Road in Henrico, VA. I took this picture on Wednesday (9/27) at 9:15 AM:

Regular Red-tail – Discovery United Methodist Church

I went to Hollywood Cemetery with a buddy a few hours later. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the cemetery is at 412 South Cherry Street in Richmond. It’s perched on a hill overlooking the falls of the James River, where it’s been since 1850. There are millions of good photographs of it, but I haven’t added any. The light was still pretty like it was in the morning and I did take this picture inside the mausoleum looking out south across the river:

Looking south across the James River through the mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery

If you walk through that bright opening, there is a flagstone terrace overlooking the CSX railroad tracks (the main attraction for my buddy) and the James River. That’s the western (upstream) edge of Belle Isle you’re looking at across the river. Hollywood Cemetery is open 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM 365 days a year and there’s no admission and it would be a bargain even if there was. Cemeteries aren’t my favorite places to visit but Hollywood is pretty and relaxing and unpretentious, even though two American Presidents are buried there. I read in Wikipedia that it got its name from the holly trees throughout the cemetery, and they’re hard to miss.

Also hard to miss is the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) popping open everywhere in the less fussed over corners of our backyard. I just read that it’s a deciduous flowering shrub of the mallow family. It’s native (I’ve recently learned) to India and Asia so decidedly non-native. Like I am. It looks pretty against the blue sky:

Try to look at that and not smile. I can hardly help myself.

Evelyn has our American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) producing extravagant clumps off the fruit that unmistakably give it its name. I took this picture on Thursday (it was still September), but it looks even prettier today:

Early autumn color. I never even knew.

Our front gardenias continue to flower and perfume our yard and home even now, on  October 1. The bush in our backyard (the one with the credit-card-sized blossoms) has a dozen buds that look like they’re going to burst open any moment. So hopefully next week you’ll be seeing them here. The sun that was above the horizon for nearly fifteen hours daily in June stays above it for less than twelve hours a day now. It takes a lot of energy to produce those gargantuan blooms, and the sun is “feeding” them for a few minutes less each day. But there will be no clouds for the next couple of days so we’ll get more blooms.

Meanwhile Evelyn has Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) gleaming in the front of the house, on the sides of the house, and in more than one spot behind the house. It’s encouraging to see this much cheerful color in October:

This flower is in our yard today. In October!

The river is low today, 3.26’ at the gauge just west of the Huguenot Bridge. You can see the web site for the gauge here: Westham Gauge. The gauge is on the north bank of the river. If you paddled across (from the south side) in a boat you could climb out and see it easily – it’s near the water. Just across the river from Huguenot Flatwater. Right now there are too many leaves to see it from Huguenot Flatwater but in January the trees will be bare and it’ll be visible. The five “low water records” there begin at the deepest (least low) record of 3.00’ on 9/17/1943. All five of the low water records fall between 9/17 and 10/21 of various years, so we’re right in the heart of dry season. The five high water records, by contrast, are scattered – one each in March, April, June, August and November. I don’t have a true obsession with meteorology, but I am more aware of it than normal. Please pardon me – spending so much time near the river heightens my awareness and interest.

Regarding those river depths – recall today’s depth, 3.26’. When it gets to 5.0’, you have to wear floatation devices at Pony Pasture. At 9.0’, the river is closed unless you have a permit. 12.0’ is “flood stage.” Are you familiar with our area? When you drive over the Huguenot Bridge and look down at the CSX railroad tracks, those are at the 18.2’ mark. Now get this – on June 23 of 1972, during Hurricane Agnes, the James crested at 28.6’! So next time you look down at those tracks, imagine them under ten feet of water. That would probably go over the top of a coal car. That’s why the buildings at the Virginia Eye Institute are on stilts. Anyway, pardon my descent into nerdiness.

I was with another friend at Deep Run park Friday (9/29) – the same park where I’ve twice photographed copperheads this year – and this honeysuckle was as beautiful and fragrant a flower as you’ll ever see. When I first edited (lightly) this image I called it “poor man’s gardenia.” Because for sheer beauty, there is no improving this. And the smell is incomparable. Maybe a more precise expression would be “gardenia for the horticulturally inept.” I’ll be the first to admit that doesn’t roll right off your tongue. But feast your eyes, since you unfortunately can’t feast your nose:  

Poor Man’s Gardenia, a.k.a. “Gardenia for the Horticulturally Inept”

I’ll close the photographs with, of course, my boys at the river this morning. We usually pose in the woods behind the Wetlands but we traipsed right through today and I didn’t get a picture until we were nearly done. Just before we got to the car we went back to the river and they were very relaxed when I took this picture:

Yuki, Mackey, Turner – and the Mighty James River, this morning

Enough of this. For this week. Let me get to the part with the presidents and the church and no politics or religion. And come back next week!

All best,


PS – Almost didn’t mention – flying is going well. Possibly a bit slow to get off the ground if you’ll pardon the expression. But I had three lessons last week and three more this coming week. This is the plane I flew Thursday (before I untied it): 

My current favorite airplane, a 2003 Cessna 172S


Two Presidents, one church, no politics, no religion

President Carter’s Sunday School Class

Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA Sunday, 27 August, 2017

Mr. Carter opened up his Sunday school lesson with warm introductions and conversation in a decidedly neighborly tone. He makes no secret that he’s a deeply religious man – he revels in it. And President of the United States is as political as you can get. Fifteen minutes into his chat he said “I try not to criticize President Trump” and then “I haven’t agreed with much he’s done since he’s been in the White House.” There was a lot of laughter, and it was not kind or warm-hearted. You wouldn’t want people to laugh about you that way. I was impressed to see President Carter looked pained when he heard it, and he put his head down and said “I’m not saying that in a derogatory way.” And he meant it. The laughter stopped.

I don’t write about or discuss politics, but I have strong opinions and I vote in every election. The problem right now – and Mr. Carter knows this – is not if you like one party or dislike another. It’s not if you want higher taxes or lower taxes or more fossil fuels or less fossil fuels or more money spent on health care or less money spent on health care. The problem is, many people are choosing to speak in an unkind fashion, and they’re speaking loudly, and it’s putting the focus on the anger and incivility rather than on the taxes and fossil fuels and health care, where it’s supposed to be.

When President Carter was talking about President Trump, it wasn’t about politics or religion – it was about being kind. I need to remind myself, every day.  


An addendum to my addendum that I don’t often include. My experience of watching Mr. Carter’s Sunday school was my own. My friend went to the class and I wanted to discuss it with him, so I ordered a DVD of the class and watched it, twice. But I also did research for this and found two articles about it in the Huffington Post. Both were written by a woman named Lynn LaPlante Allaway, a woman who describes herself thus: “Writer, blogger, jazz violist, classical violinist, Mom to four young kids, married to a jock, I’m never bored.” The first was called Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School, written 12/21/2015. The second was How Jimmy Carter Soothed my Election Blues, written 11/22/2016. Ms. Allaway’s temperament is not like mine (I don’t play the violin, nor am I married to a jock) but she’s a talented writer and captured what I felt was Mr. Carter’s essence. I recommend both articles.  

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, honeysuckle, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Two Presidents, one church, no politics, no religion

  1. Gilpin Brown says:

    A rich and interesting post today, Jay. Thanks for taking the time.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Gilpin – great to see you and Bethany at the Y today. She’s an intense ping-pong player! I enjoyed putting that post together. I don’t mind opposing political viewpoints – I encourage them – but the acrimony is unnecessary. Thanks again for the note an have a great day,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s