California Impressions

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Traveling back in time, as I seem to do when I examine the images of my younger self, has always been interesting from a philosophical viewpoint, but it also can be a little disconcerting when I consider my choices regarding headgear. In the military, there is no choice in the matter, and whatever uniform was chosen for that day at battalion headquarters determined what you looked like on any particular day. For some reason, toward the end of my duty in Massachusetts, I had taken to wearing what was then called a “safari hat,” which typically you might see on the protagonist in a movie where the action took place in a jungle. The photo on the left above shows me in my uniform of the day, shortly after arriving in California, and on the right, a photo taken right before I left Massachusetts, where I had modified the hat to position the front rim of the hat upwards, and I held it in place by a medal I received as a marksman in basic training. From going through my photo archive from those days, it seems I must have worn it just about everywhere I went when I wasn’t required to be in uniform.

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About halfway through my tour of duty in California, in the summer of 1974, I happened to attend the new Mel Brooks film, “Young Frankenstein,” at the John Steinbeck Theater on the old Cannery Row in Monterey. Much to my surprise, waiting to go in to watch the film, I ended up standing behind a very tall and very conspicuous, Clint Eastwood. He seemed to be quite relaxed and was patient with several moviegoers who asked for a snapshot with the famous film star. It took me a few minutes, but I finally found the courage to introduce myself, and I told him I had always wanted a hat like the one he wore when he appeared in “High Plains Drifter,” one of my favorites. He said the studio ordered from a well-known country outfitter in Flagstaff, Arizona, and he told me the name of the place. I thanked him for the tip, as the doors opened to enter the theater.

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As a German linguist-in-training, at the prestigious Defense Language Institute, I was subjected to a fairly rigorous schedule of language training in the service of my expected assignment, which would take place in what was then described as the “Federal Republic of Germany.” Germany was a divided country in 1974, and our mission in “West Germany,” required military linguists to monitor what was going on in “East Germany,” a satellite country under the control of the Soviet Union. It was a serious business at the time, and the wall which separated the two halves of the country, would be an ominous sight for a young and free American citizen and soldier.

Still reeling from the events in Massachusetts, I plunged myself into the training regimen with my whole being, and tried to keep myself focused on the work for the first few months, but after a time, as the opportunity came up, I would venture out and explore the area surrounding the base, and eventually was able to purchase a privately owned vehicle, or P.O.V. in military jargon, with which I could extend my range of exploration considerably. I was situated in one of the most beautiful places in all of California, just a stone’s throw from the Monterey Bay, and just down the road from Carmel, which was the location of the famous “seventeen-mile drive” along the California coast. For a time, it was absolute bliss, riding along the coastal highways, visiting Big Sur, and watching some of the most spectacular sunsets available anywhere in the world.

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Traveling along certain stretches of the coastal highway during the day, especially as the sun was preparing to sink below the horizon, hundreds of people would be parked alongside the public access areas, enjoying the beauty, and sharing with a community that always seemed to be present on the beach, but with even more people arriving in preparation for the end of the day. I quickly became one of the hundreds of others who appeared there, and attended to this ritual whenever possible. It never even occurred to me that there might be danger waiting for me. But it was waiting.

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One late and very rainy night after a double-feature at a nearby movie theater, I was on my way back to the base in my little Volkswagen Bug, and I was coming around a blind curve on the two-lane coastal highway, when I suddenly found myself staring into not one, but TWO sets of oncoming headlights. I remember how time suddenly seemed to slow down a lot, and in the few seconds I had to make a choice, it seemed to me that driving off the cliff on the left, and taking my chances trying to stop in front of two oncoming cars were the less desirable options of just turning the car into the side of the mountain on the right, and I turned the wheel sharply to the right, expecting to come to a rather abrupt end. Imagine my astonishment when that little bug suddenly had me driving sideways along the surface of the mountainside. As the seconds ticked away slowly, I remembered seeing both sets of headlights go by me on the left, and for a brief moment, actually thought I might escape injury altogether, when time suddenly sped up again as a telephone pole in the middle of the hill seemed to enter the car right before I blacked out.

The sequence of events that followed made no sense to me at all, and awhile after I had sufficiently recovered, the doctors who attended to me explained that they had not expected me to recover initially. All of the normal procedures for determining the extent of damage in a head injury case produced no results. I was alive, but I was unresponsive. Unknown to me at the time, I was in a comatose state for nearly 48 hours. I had been wearing a seat belt, which saved my life, and because I was so tall, my head missed the windshield and instead struck the top frame of the windshield. They estimated, based on the time the movie was over, and the time I arrived in the emergency room, that I had been inside the car for nearly forty-five minutes after the accident. The people who caused the accident did not stop. An emergency medical technician on his way home from a date had stumbled upon my car, upside down on the side of the road, and somehow managed to get me out of the car and to call for help. No one at the hospital had asked his name, and I never found out who it was.

I never fully recovered my memory of what happened, and the bits and pieces I did remember combined with what people told me, helped me to put together most of what happened. Those forty-eight hours were like a Fellini film. Images moving in front of my eyes, faces appearing and disappearing, and what I thought was my first clear memory, did not actually take place in temporal reality. I thought I was awake, but apparently I wasn’t. I was laying in bed, in a room with white walls, underneath white sheets, and could see a window painted white, and the sky was white. The only color was the green tip of a pine tree. I felt no pain and could not speak or move. I lay there for what seemed like days in that state, seeing no one.

When I finally saw someone, it was a police officer, asking me what my name was. I heard what he was asking, but I couldn’t answer. I wasn’t sure what to say, and my mouth didn’t seem to be working. The nurse told him he would have to come back, and then turned toward me and smiled. Then the lights went out again. I had been sedated. The next morning, I knew I was really awake finally, because every muscle in my whole body ached with pain, and the same nurse was talking to me again. Her cheerful greeting barely registered. She said, “Welcome back, honey, how you feelin’ today?” “Not so good,” I reported, surprised at being able to speak. “You gave us quite a scare,” she continued. “Doctor says you hit your head pretty bad.” I couldn’t remember anything at all. It was a complete mystery to me what had happened. I looked around the room and there were paintings on the walls, buildings outside of the window, and a blue blanket on the bed. It took me awhile, but I started to remember a little more every day.

I had missed several weeks of school, and there would be other consequences from that night on the highway…

Only God Knows

Science and Religion

Only God Knows by jjhiii24

You must have sensed it.
I’ve been talking to you since
The moment you pulled away.
Even though you could not hear
The voice in my head,
Your heart has been listening–
Through our mutually open channels
Of thought and feeling.

I know you have been there with me;
The opening is wide on this side–
The welcome mat is brightly colored–
Luminous in a way that only you know.

You’ve been peeking through the keyhole
In the door on your side;
I have heard your gentle sighs;
I have listened as your heart
Whispered in response–You suppose
I do not hear–But I do.

When I turn to see you peeking,
You retreat behind the door;
You put your back against it and wait
To see if there is a sound–
Listening intently for footsteps approaching–
But they do not come.

When you think it safe
You slowly bring your mind’s eye
Back to the keyhole, as I resume
My vigilant stance.
Prepared to answer, but
Bound by a loving promise,
I can only stand and wait.

Love will always remain true in this way,
No matter what the cost–
No matter how much time passes in between.

Only God knows if it will resolve itself eventually–
Or if the silence will deepen,
Or if the light will dim,
Or if the channels will grow fallow,
And empty into eternity.

Only God knows if love will endure,
And perhaps, for now,
That is enough.

Reflections on Chaos

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“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” — Buddha

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” — Deepok Chopra

Recent developments in my personal life, which have affected me deeply, have clearly resulted in a degree of chaos for me, and have also pointed to some key distinctions, which I had been creating out of my own mind, and which I believed to be true. It would seem that the Buddha was on to something when he pointed this out. Even now, as I contemplate the events of my life recently, I am beginning to see how this chaos may be a necessary part of the path forward, and how it relates to the unfolding story here in these pages. We sometimes fail to consider how even heartache and emotional turmoil may, in fact, be the only way to discern what is most important in our lives. I am feeling better about these recent changes now, in spite of how difficult it has been to endure them, and I am beginning to see the wisdom in accepting them, rather than fighting against them.

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The images directly above were taken just before I departed Massachusetts for my next assignment, and they still evoke a powerful sense of those days in my mind. Certain images, even ones I have received recently, can stir my heart and mind beyond the mere beauty they might reveal. It seems that whether they are from the past I remember, or simply so striking in their resonance within my heart-of-hearts, deeply touching my inner world, what lingers is the sense of familiarity and the emotions they evoke.

In the course of my research into the nature of consciousness, which began in earnest after the traumatic encounter with what Carl Jung called, “unconscious contents,” I began to see how the events of my youth were starting to fit into a kind of pattern in the way in which the contents of my unconscious mind were being revealed to me. The sensations and emotions and experiences in Massachusetts felt familiar in a way that didn’t make sense at first, but slowly, subtly, I began to understand that they were all somehow part of the same experience. It would generally begin with a spontaneous eruption of some sort, a flash of insight, a sudden sense of recognition, an unexpected turn in the routines of daily life, a remarkable confluence of deeply personal longing which would suddenly be accompanied by a feeling of fulfillment, all of which seemed to be guiding me toward an avenue of thought or action that I otherwise would never have thought to pursue. The truth is, throughout the many years that have passed since my journey began, as I reflect on the many missed opportunities of my youth, I have found that I no longer wish to miss a single possible moment of fulfillment of these longings. I trust enough in my heart and in my soul to be true to their inclinations, even when they lead me to something painful, or which I don’t fully understand at first.

James Redfield, author of “The Celestine Prophecy,” suggests that what we often consider “coincidences,” are in fact meaningful and essential events in our evolution as an individual:

“It begins with a heightened perception of the way our lives move forward. We notice those chance events that occur at just the right moment, and bring forth just the right individuals, to suddenly send our lives in a new and important direction. Perhaps more than any other people in any other time, we intuit higher meaning in these mysterious happenings.”

Redfield also asserts that the introduction of certain individuals into our lives, at particular moments in our lives, frequently seem to occur at just the right time to help us move forward or to solve some particular problem. In this regard, I have had many remarkable experiences, the significance of which was not always evident to me until long after the influence had occurred. A very small group of significant individuals stand out. Although it would be difficult to quantify their value precisely, it seems clear that my life would have been quite different without the intercession of a few of these “significant others.”

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Many times, the arrival of certain individuals has had a compensatory effect for some other significant influence, helping me to maintain balance at a particularly precarious moment. Some of these individuals have been mentors and teachers. Some have been irritants who have compelled me away from certain situations or ideas. Some have been beautiful angels who lifted me up and made it possible for me to continue when it seemed like there was nowhere to go. Some have been adversaries, whose challenges have brought aspects of my personality to the forefront, broadening my self-awareness. Some have been lovers who renewed my faith in life and all its possibilities. In most every case, in retrospect, I have been profoundly grateful for whatever time I was privileged to be in their company.

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The initial revelation of the Jonas story found me mostly baffled and confused as to the nature of its significance in my life at the time it occurred. While I knew it was important, I was unprepared to assimilate the information it contained into anything even resembling a coherent response. Over the span of years in my life as a self-aware and conscious being, I have gradually come to feel a powerful sense of having been born to some vital purpose, and have been reminded often of the feeling that what was unfolding within me was somehow remarkably different than what I observed to be happening in those around me.

The image above is a photo of the very place where, after months of chaos and confusion and a series of astonishing changes within me and as a young soldier, I realized that all I had endured, suffered, and learned prior to that day had created a foundation for all that was to come. As I sat beneath that tree on the square in front of my barracks some forty years ago, I knew that the journey had only just begun for me. At some point, we all encounter experiences and important events that change us in this way. If we arrive at such a moment reasonably intact, where we finally abandon our naive notions of the world, leaving behind our childhood, we may then hopefully embark upon a truly original individual human life.

….still to come… California impressions…

Continental Army

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Once I had completed Morse code training, it was time to select my permanent company assignment. Generally, if you you had no preference, you would just be assigned to a random platoon in whatever company had slots available. I was informed shortly after my arrival that there were a variety of different “special assignments” available, should I be interested.

Without even the slightest hesitation, I selected the first platoon in Company “D” which was described as housing the 14th Continental Army Regiment… an active duty U.S.Army unit…supported and sustained by the Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. I honestly can’t say I knew what I was doing. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It turned out to be the beginning of a journey that would alter the course of my life. But let’s begin at the beginning.

I had no idea what had happened to me, and even less of an idea of what to do about it. It was almost like I was sleepwalking through the first few weeks of my “indoctrination” into the Continental Army. I had to appear before a board of the senior members of the group in order to “pass muster.” I was brought summarily to the meeting, almost like a prisoner facing a tribunal. They questioned me for almost an hour. Why had it taken me so long to make application to join? What were my aspirations? What made me select this particular platoon? Do I even know anything about the organization?

After nearly an hour of questions and attempts to dissuade me, I was asked to step out of the room. It seemed like an hour in the hallway, but it was probably only about five minutes. The sergeant-at-arms escorted me back into the room, and I was told, after careful consideration, I would be accepted as a candidate in training for the 14th Continental Army, and that I should report in the morning for duty as expected. I saluted smartly and properly and left the room when I was dismissed by the Colonel. As I walked down the hallway, with one voice, all of those assembled in that room hollered after me….”NEWG!” I had no idea what it meant, but I would soon find out.

A “Newg” was a “new guy,” and I was subjected to some of the most unappealing harassment and “hazing” for a number of weeks afterwards. It seemed like it was in the spirit of good will for the most part, and once I had accumulated a sufficient amount of it, I was informed that I had successfully been granted membership in the group.

Along the way, I began to get a keen sense of what the organization was all about. These were men of good character. They were patriots and fellow soldiers, dedicated to the values we all hold so dear here in America. It turns out, that the original 14th regiment in the American Revolutionary War, was the very same one that had squired George Washington across the Delaware River on Christmas Eve almost two hundred years ago. As the details of the history of the unit unfolded for me, it became clear that this was no ordinary military unit. By an act of Congress in 1967, the unit was officially reinstated as an active duty unit, and assigned to the Army Security Agency School at the base where I landed in 1973. As an active member of this unit, I became part of history.

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Throughout my training and indoctrination, I learned all about the history of the unit, and of the individuals who were associated with it during the Revolutionary War. It didn’t take long to understand that as a member of this unit, I was upholding the finest traditions of the American people, and I embraced the experience with my whole being. Eventually, I became a senior member of the organization and achieved the rank of Lieutenant of the 2nd Infantry Division, which was the training company. I marched in the regional parades throughout New England, participated in re-enactments of Revolutionary War battles, attended large gatherings of other continental units called “musters,” and spent many hours outside of my regular Army training, training the new recruits to the organization. I spent nearly two years engaged in numerous Continental Army activities, as a member of an active duty Continental Regiment.

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Throughout this experience, there were periods of time where my identity seemed to fluctuate depending on where I was and what I was doing. I remember specific moments, where I would find myself in Continental Army uniform, completely decked out in the tricon, or three-cornered hat, spats and boots, sword and black powder pistol of the times, fully immersed in full regalia of the continental soldier, and felt totally lost in the role. In the photo above, I was put in charge of the regiment for the day, during a battle re-enactment, and when I was preparing to bring the unit to attention, someone called out to me, not by my name, but used instead, the title–Commander–and I instantly turned toward the voice–almost in disbelief–and someone snapped the photo of me, with a fairly confused or startled look on my face. The photographer swore he had said nothing.

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These were men of exceptional character and dedication to the traditions of our American heritage. Not everyone who applied was granted membership. There had to be something about you that could “pass muster.” Throughout my service in this unit, I was never able to fully shake the idea that I was being guided or directed to continue for some purpose. At the time, I was a very young man, out on his own for the very first time, and knew so little of the world that, in retrospect, it seemed there was no way I could truly comprehend what was transpiring. I continued to study and to investigate and to allow the experience to take me wherever it took me. It was an extraordinary time.

After my traumatic episode in the early months of my assignment, the only part of my life that kept me grounded was my military training. Had I not been forced by circumstances to adhere to a fairly strict regimen of duty and responsibility, I might not have been able to sustain the level of continuity that followed. There were moments when I absolutely did not recognize myself during these years in New England, and the story that began to form, became an obsession with me at nearly every moment I wasn’t otherwise occupied.

Jonas Eve

The historical person of Jonas Rice lived in the mid-to-late 1700’s in colonial America, and many of the elements of the story that seemed to be unfolding within me to explain it all, came into my consciousness during my tenure as a member of the 14th Continental Army Regiment in Massachusetts. One of the central characters in the evolving story, was a young female companion, Eve, to whom Jonas writes in a journal entry that he has promised to keep while he is on his journey of discovery. Once underway, he discovers a note left in his pocket by Eve, and in response he wrote the following:

“Your words, like minute drops of rain in a summer sprinkle, touch my heart with a tender softness, and cool my heated loneliness in your absence. For truly, every moment without you beside me, is as empty as it is seemingly endless, and my only caress is in the crystal clarity of my memory of your sweet face. These words should not be unfamiliar to you, for they come straight from my heart, where you reside eternally with me.”

Next time: Off to California…

Hope In Winter Storms

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With all of the recent emotional turmoil in my life, I felt compelled to share something I wrote for our family Christmas gathering. We have had the most awful, bitter cold weather of late, and on the news we see people enduring terrible snow storms, and struggling to get through it all.

Not all the storms of Winter are blizzards. Sometimes they are within us. But we can’t lose hope.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me that life can be joyful even when hope seems distant. The conversation gave me good cause to think so. This poem is for everyone struggling with Winter Storms…wherever they are…

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Hope in Winter Storms
By JJH

Even though winter storms bring the cold and much snow,
There’s something much more hidden in them to know.
To be fearful or saddened just isn’t quite right,
When the winds start to howl on a cold winter’s night.

In winter we often look out and we cringe,
Our plans for the day it will somehow impinge,
And all that we hope to accomplish this day,
Will somehow be halted, but here’s what I say:

Much greater for certain are God’s hidden plans,
In spite of the difference between His and man’s.
The strength of His love can resist every storm,
No matter how mighty, no matter what form.

Within us is all that we need and can use,
Our need for His grace, He will never refuse.
So as we now gather and share in our love,
Let’s remember that heaven is not just above.

It settles in snow banks, and falls as the rain,
It lives in the moments of joy and of pain.
In winter our troubles may seem so much more,
Our skin may feel lacking in warmth in each pore.

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And bitter cold feelings may cut to the quick,
In spite of the goodness we see in St. Nick.
The spirit of life can be healing and strong,
It can conquer our sadness; it can fill us with song.

We don’t need to see astrological charts,
All we need do is to open our hearts;
Remember that winter, only lasts until spring,
And once it gets warmer, all nature will sing.

Our lives are brief stops on the pathway of time,
Our words can be simple, or written to rhyme,
But the spirit of life is the purpose and reason,
To look with much hope to the holiday season.

© December 2011 by JJHIII

Making Sense of Chaos

Optical-Illusion-101

“The psyche (mind) is not of today; its ancestry goes back many millions of years. Individual consciousness is only the flower and the fruit of a season, sprung from the perennial rhizome (root) beneath the earth; and it would find itself in better accord with the truth if it took the existence of the rhizome into its calculations. For the root matter is the mother of all things.” – C.G. Jung from “Symbols of Transformation”

From the very first moments of cognizance in my life, I have had the relentless, nagging suspicion that I have been born into this world, not purely as an innocent, and perhaps more importantly, not in the fullest sense, strictly and only who I am in this life. As a child, I was constantly confronted with puzzling looks from my peers, as well as from some adults, which gave me the sense of being somehow peculiar in a way that no one else seemed to be. As an emerging young conscious child, I often experienced moments when I suddenly felt a curious “otherness” about myself, and I spent a great deal of time alone just thinking, or wondering what could possibly be wrong with me. Whenever I questioned an adult about these feelings, they would inevitably suggest that I was talking nonsense, or that I should forget about those thoughts.

As I grew older, and began to comprehend the world as an emerging adult, the feelings never left me, prompting me to fear that I would never understand the source of these inexplicable sensations of alienation and despair. In my twenty-first year of life, as a young soldier in the Armed Forces stationed just outside of Boston, the experience I described in the previous post shook me to my very roots. I could no longer ignore the feelings and memories of my inner turmoil as I had my entire life. In order to unravel the mystery, I began a research project at the main library facility in Worcester.

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My research led me to the discovery that there had been a man named Jonas Rice who was a soldier in the Continental Army during the revolutionary war. His father, Jonas Rice, Sr. was one of the founders of the city of Worcester, and was buried in the city commons. The story of Jonas became an obsession with me, and from the pages written at the time of the original incident, I began to piece together the journey revealed in those writings, and launched an investigation that would last more than thirty years. Although there was a great deal of turmoil within me, and many other urgent matters to attend to as a military man, it seemed to me that I was on a very important path and yielded to the flow of events without prejudice. I wanted to see where it would take me. I didn’t have to wait long.

Periodically, similar sensations would occur like the one I experienced previously, and at some of the most inconvenient moments. As I reported in my posting, “Belief and Reason:”

” It was so disturbing, that I took the extraordinary risk of seeking out a mental health professional at the military base where I was stationed. It was a risk because I was training as a military intelligence specialist with a security clearance, and any demonstration of unusual or reckless behavior or any report of such behavior, could lead to dismissal and reassignment. Much to my surprise, my sessions with this professional person, while not particularly helpful in resolving the explanation of this event, did point me in a helpful direction, and I began my own research into a variety of disciplines in my quest for understanding.”

Training as an intelligence specialist at that time required that I learn Morse code, which was done by listening to the Morse code signals over a headset and typing the characters and numbers being broadcast on a manual typewriter. The signal would come across in groups of five characters of numbers and letters separated by a space, and there would be ten lines of fifty characters to make a block. It was a daunting undertaking at first, but as my competence grew, the speed would be increased, until as a practical matter, you couldn’t type as fast as the characters were coming, so you needed to remember what they were in order to keep up. I found myself almost in a trance-like “zone” as I would type away, and several times a week, I would look up at the page and notice that the normal grouping of five characters across the page were intermittently spelling out words, and sometimes I ended up abandoning the code altogether and start to write sentences on the code forms.

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Right about in the middle of the course, just weeks after the abrupt psychic occurrence that started everything, I was seriously injured in a fall, plunging my left arm through a window. My recollection of the incident borders on an “out-of-the-body” experience. I initially stood up, thinking that someone behind me had broken the window, only to discover a large gaping wound on my left arm, now seriously leaking and exposing the bone. I immediately went limp and next remember waking up on the floor in excruciating pain. In order to stop the bleeding, a young man in my unit, recently returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam as a medic, was applying serious pressure to my arm, without realizing that there was a half-dollar sized piece of glass still in my arm.

I was quickly transported to the base hospital and was essentially told that in all likelihood, I would not be able to use the arm again. In the ensuing weeks, as I lay recovering from surgery in the hospital, much to my surprise, I slowly regained the use of my arm with only a slight loss of strength. I was eventually able to recover sufficiently to return to the Morse code class, where the periodic episodes of writing instead of coding became less and less frequent.

Next time….training as a continental soldier….