Taking umbrage at an umbrella

Umbrellas existed in many ancient societies, including those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India, where they served to protect important people from the sun, serving also as a sign of prestige and power. From these societies, the umbrella spread to the Greek and Roman worlds, and into Western Europe. But as Europe slowly descended into the Dark Ages, eventually recovering, umbrellas seem to have disappeared from European use for about 1,000 years. It seems the difficult times threw some shade on the popularity and use of what we now think of as a common device. Which is ironic in that umbrella was borrowed from the Italian word ombrella, a modification of the Latin umbella, which came from umbra meaning “shade, shadow.” Continue reading

A trip to the Library

I have lived in the Washington DC area several times before and had taken advantage of the great museums and public buildings in our nation’s capital on the National Mall, near the Mall, and not so near the Mall. But, I had never been to the Library of Congress.  Until yesterday.

It was a remarkable day for several reasons: long-time friends from Tampa were in town and we spent the day together and Washington DC was on vacation – there were few people and no traffic. With an afternoon available, we chose the Library of Congress with its iconic Reading Room and the Thomas Jefferson Library (shown below in panoramic view)

At the end of the day, we visited the gift shop, and while chatting with the young man at the register, one of my friends mentioned that we were returning to their hotel with by walking, the Metro, or “by hitchhiking” as the classic “thumb” demonstrated the technique to petition passing drivers for a lift. The young man said something akin to “No way. That’s only in movies, right? You don’t really do that?”

In yesteryear we had all availed ourselves of the generosity of strangers as we occasionally hitched a ride. As we regaled the young man with stories of the road… it occurred to me that we were now living exhibits in a history museum with stories of a bygone era. Times were indeed different.

Image credit: Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress, Public Domain
Image credit: George Corrigan, CC-BY-NC-SA

Carry One’s Own Cross

This coming Sunday is the 23rd Sunday and we are considering the reading from Luke 14. In yesterday’s post we considered the ominous passage: If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother…”  It is an expression, while shocking in English, when used hyperbolically in first-century Israel was a means of teaching by making the choices stark and clear. Today we will look more deeply at other instances when one mettle will be tested and choices made. Continue reading