The skies were overcast with gloom and mortar fire. The sounds were sometimes deafening. But Father Hemmick had come, not to complain, but to help. Men and boys were out there defending their homes, their families, their country. It wasn't Father Hemmick's country, but he had spent years living in Europe. “We are one people,” he said. "We believe in individual rights. It is not a question of nationality, ethnicity, not even of race, education or religious beliefs. It is a question of each person having the right to live in peace." So the young priest, who had only been ordained a few years, came across the ocean from the United States where peace persisted to Paris, France, where war dictated the daily routine of everyone. The year was 1917 ...

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When my parents included me in their annual trip abroad, Mr. Myron T. Herrick was the United States Ambassador to France. They had been invited to an intimate cocktail reception at the Embassy and, with a new Chanel dress my mother had ordered tailored for me when we first arrived in Paris, I was included.

When we were together, my mother and I spoke French, but not in front of Father who barely understood the language. At the embassy, I was delighted to be introduced as the young lady with a perfect accent and fluent in both languages. Mr. Herrick shook my hand and then decided to test me. I passed with flying colors and was presented to an attractive older French couple who graciously helped me understand the appreciation the French had for American soldiers. “They came and risked their lives to help us defeat the Germans.” Acknowledging my age, they were careful not to be too graphic. I could sense, however, just looking at the furrows in their faces and the way they clenched their hands, they had been subjected to such nightmarish things as I could not begin to understand.

Meanwhile, Mr. Herrick was describing an event that had made a lasting impression on him. His audience was in rapt silence so we walked over to listen.

“A great harvest moon was rising over the city near Notre Dame. It seemed to rest on the corner of the façade of the Cathedral. The French flag was blowing steadily across the face of the moon. In the fleeting moments while this spectacle lasted, people knelt on the quay in prayer.” “An extremely powerful image,” my father said. He paused and then asked, “Why were the people praying?

“I was wondering myself,” the Ambassador replied. “There is an ancient prophecy that says the fate of France will finally be settled upon the fields where Attila’s horde was halted and driven back and where many battles in defense of France have been won. It was explained to me that the people were pointing to the French flag outlined across the moon because it was the sign in heaven. It meant the victory of French arms. The prophecy of old, they believed, had come true and France would once again be saved on those chalky fields.”

I could feel chills run down my spine and, looking at others in the room, I was not the only one to react that way. As Mr. Herrick walked away to welcome new guests, the gentle old Frenchman I had been conversing with whispered, “Who would live, my child, if the future were revealed to him? When a single anticipated misfortune would give us so much uneasiness? When the foreknowledge of one certain calamity would be enough to embitter every day that precedes it? I think,” he continued wistfully, “it is better not to pry, even into the things which surround us. Heaven, which has given us the power to foresee our necessities, has also given us those very necessities to set limits to exercise that power.” His words were confusing, but the way he spoke belied pain and anguish.

His wife put her arm around the dear man. A tear fell down her cheek. “Libby, my child, I don’t think you know. We lost our son in the war. He would have been your age when he died.”

These people had been through such misery. Listening to their stories brought to mind the images of war I had seen while walking the streets of Paris. Sights like the remnants of buildings, once private homes, now reduced to pieces and parts that had been blown up. Or the holes from bullets wedged into cement walls that lined the boulevards.

I began to recognize that my life in Washington was almost too perfect. We had never run from bombs flying through the air or listened to breaking glass as bullets riddled windows with holes just above our heads. No one in our family had been lost or injured from battle. Exposure to these calamities and their influence in people’s lives made me realize how much I needed to learn about life.

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Recently, I overheard someone comparing dogs to people. Their methodology of comparison used intelligence as the factor. My question then is how do you measure or define intelligence? Does compassion or empathy fit into this equation?

The other day, I heard a poignant tale. An older man was in the hospital and dying. His family received permission to have his companion dog allowed in the room for a last visit. The dog was ushered in and the door was closed. Fifteen minutes later, the family came back, opened the door expecting to escort the dog out. The patient was still in his bed. His arm was around his dog who had jumped onto the bed. The man was dead and his faithful dog had died beside him.

Empathy and compassion.

Sweet William was my wonderful, faithful companion. An English black and white cocker, he was my shadow. One day, I noticed his stool was white. I made an appointment with the vet but, at the last minute, was not able to take him. My daughter took William to the doctor instead. They took a sample of the stool and sent it to a laboratory. This was on Friday. By the end of the following week, I had not heard from the vet so I called. They had forgotten to send the sample they said. Besides, the lab was closed for the weekend but no worry. William seemed fine now, didn’t he? At that point he did. However, we had a trip to take. I had rented a U-Haul truck to deliver some furniture to my father’s house in North Carolina. It was a long drive from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Of course, Sweet William was coming, but I also took along my daughter’s Doberman. The whole drive down, William cuddled next to me on the seat. The Dobie stayed on the floor. We stopped twice at rest stops. Both times, William drank an entire bowl of water and seemed unwilling to saunter around the dog parks.

We arrived late, leaving the unloading until morning. William normally slept at the foot of my bed. That night, he chose not to and let the Dobie take his spot. In the morning, I woke up with a start. Something was wrong. I looked across the room and there was Sweet William leaning strangely against the wall. His eyes looked dazed so I approached him very quietly and slowly, afraid of frightening him. He was postured as if being tied against the wall, almost rigid. Not a comfortable position. When I reached out to pat his side, he cringed. Immediately I knew he was in pain. I called the vet and got his emergency number. He would meet us at the clinic.

The Doberman was left at the house while I ran across the street to borrow the neighbor’s car to take William. Taking the U-Haul would have been impossible since it was still unpacked and the cab was far too high for a pup in pain. Coming down the neighbor’s walkway, there was William walking very slowly up the hill just to be with me. It was painful to watch. He would not let me carry him. It was difficult getting him into the car, but somehow I did as the tears welled up in my eyes. Fortunately, the veterinary hospital was close. We arrived in minutes. William was immediately placed on the operating table and a tube was put in his side. He was dehydrated and in severe pain. The doctor said he could not determine the cause of his problem until the pain was under control. He had more to say but I did not hear him. I was focused on my brave little man lying on the cold steel table. He asked that William be left with him for the day and possibly the night so that he could do some tests. I had no choice. I went home to the Dobie and made myself busy unpacking the truck. In the afternoon, I made a visit to the vet. William was in a cage with an IV attached to his side. I spent about an hour on my knees talking to him through the bars. His sweet eyes focused on me and almost shifted back and forth as if to say, “I’m all right. Please don’t worry.” The other dogs in the clinic were respectfully silent. That evening, my son and a friend came from college to help unload the truck. We had no food in the house so we stopped to have pizza and then went to the hospital. It was locked. No visits possible with William until morning.

The boys chose sleeping bags to sleep by the fire in the living room. I retired to the bedroom with Jessie, the Dobie. The vet was supposed to call if there was any change when he went that night to check the animals. Nevertheless, even with Jessie at the foot of my bed, I found it very hard to go to sleep. The lights were off leaving only flickers from the fire reflecting on the walls leading to the living room. Just as I was dozing off, Jessie leaped off the bed. She dashed into the living room and raced from one end to the other waking up the boys and terrifying me. Then, just as sudden, she came back to my room, jumped on the foot of the bed, curled up, and immediately fell fast asleep! Within seconds, the telephone rang. It was the veterinarian. William had just passed away.

When I told the doctor about Jesse’s performance, he replied that he had heard of this kind of thing happening before. “You see,” he said, “William just passed over to say goodbye.”

The autopsy revealed that indeed the white stool had been a warning, though probably too late to do anything. The liver and kidney were practically non-existent. It was amazing he had lasted this long. We suspect he had raided a trash can in our Charlottesville neighborhood and a poison had been part of its contents. This poison had slowly eaten away his insides.

With the boys’ help, we dug a grave on the hillside below the house. It was a lovely setting with overhanging trees and flowering bushes all around and a vista of the mountain peaks in the distance.

Although William’s body is buried in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge, we know his soul has moved on. Perhaps he’ll come live with me again, but as another dog.

So, how do we measure intelligence? Empathy, compassion, endurance, and loyalty. With such standards, do you think people can measure up to dogs?

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Rome 1962

The hot, dry Roman sun beats down upon the rooftops of the oldest residential section of Rome. It melts the asphalt of the highways and glistens among the cobblestones of the narrow streets of St. Francis' time. It scoops out the shadows from the piazzas that appear scattered about the masses of chipped walls and faded paint of the old palaces, hospitals, apartment buildings. It glows upon the silver toned plates dedicating the old buildings. Most every large building is itself a monument to history.

At 7:30, the bells begin to toll announcing the mass about to begin. Where we are living, here in Trastevere, some seven churches surround us and quite often, in the evening, their bells clang together. The noise drowns out polite conversation; it causes men to stop work; it makes the shopper hesitate and remember the churches hidden in the side streets.

It is best to see Rome in the early morning when it is still cool from the nigh breeze. Most Romans rise at six. The streets are crowded by seven. any new day in Rome is a pleasure, but the stillness of Rome at dawn affords more that pleasure. Only then can a visitor enjoy peace on the streets and piazzas of Rome

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In post 9/11 and all the wars and battles we have experienced since then, let us not loose sight of one fact. We are all, despite race, creed, tradition, or location, human. And as human beings, we share this planet, a small ball spinning around within a gigantic universe (which may be but one of many universes). The scope of our environment, going to the stars and beyond, is immeasurable and yet, within each one of us lurks a bright light waiting to be released. The light has no limits. It has no structure. It is called creativity.

I call creativity the muse who lies in wait within us all. She wants us to recognize her, to free her so she might express herself. She is a gift that binds us as mortals to something much bigger. Organization, rules, limits of all sorts are taking over our psyches and the idea of no rules and the ambiguity of intuition are frightening concepts to so many of us today. But there is new word that is catching on and communicating to us on many levels. The word is ‘globalization’ and it implies extensive opportunities for truly worldwide development. Globalization is the result of a historical process and it reflects both human innovations and technological progress. But the good news is that globalization also begs for creativity. There is dynamism to creativity; an enthusiasm that is generated deep within the individual. Creativity empowers a release of tension. For this reason alone, it is essential.

This book was originally written with the encouragement of Richard Lederer in 1999. So much has changed since then. In this little tome, I encourage an interdisciplinary approach to weed out the creative muse. The readers’ recognition of their own creativity can be expressed in many disciplines from the creative arts to science, but my main focus is writing. Each of us has a story. We relate to the world in as many billions of ways as there are humans on the planet. Whether you are a scientist, a technician, a doctor, a housewife or an artist, you have something unique to say. So let the words flow. Allow them to topple, trip, and stumble. Play. Enjoy. Explore. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel in real life) said, “Adults are obsolete children.” Let the child come out; he is in there just waiting to be released again. As a child, remember how you tumbled through life. No condemning. No judgments. Free.

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In 1887, La Jolla could barely be defined as a colony and she wasn't alone -- all of California was undeveloped and to easterners, too remote and uncivilized to consider. All that changed when transportation and technology opened up the West. In 1903, the first cross-country trip was made by car and a direct railroad link from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City was established. 1911 was the year of the first transcontinental flight and, in 1914, the Panama Canal was opened. By 1920, California was transformed into a full fledged part of the United States and La Jolla had grown from a small colony to the status of a village. With America's entrance in the Great War, military camps were set up in the vicinity of La Jolla. Many soldiers fell in love with the area and after the war, stayed and settled. Soon La Jolla developed into a veritable town. Following World War II, her boundaries expanded as her population increased to the point that today, La Jolla has become a mini-city within a city.

However, despite the many changes, may we never forget the La Jolla that once was: a sunset land of bright solace and simple, anonymous living alongside brown mountain slopes and a serene blue sea.

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