I'm Oliver Webber, here with my research assistant, Kaydence Ribetnauer. You may not be able to see us because we're tucked in between these blades of grass, waiting for our next meal to fly in and land on one of them. To nourish our bodies and souls, we ponder leaves. We encourage contemplation... especially in regard to issues that will have to be handled when we become worm grub. We hope to motivate others to thoughtfully cultivate preferences and decisions while still vigorously leaping around. We recommend croaking... using voices to broadcast wishes before it's too late to have a voice in this matter. Other than a sumptuous supply of insects, this is assuredly the most "toad-ally" considerate gift we could leave for our life companions! Don't you agree? We invite you to get your feet wet by joining our pond of pondering pre-planners. Let's make croaking meaningful!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Journey Journal, Sarasota, Florida


“I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot.” 
                                                                                                                                     ~ Gary Hart

To the visionary who conceived the idea, the culmination of the Patriot Plaza must have been a dream come true.  Perhaps it was like the parental witnessing of a milestone marking a child’s passage into adulthood… complete with the sense of accomplishment, pride, and awe.  The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” certainly was true under these circumstances, though it was an amphitheater rather than a child that was raised.  

This multi-million-dollar venture that began in 2010 propagated a model of private and public partnership whereby a philanthropic organization, The Patterson Foundation, collaborated with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to achieve a goal.  Teamwork was the underlying strategy, as construction and art advisory groups, architects, construction personnel, artists, legal advisors, and others coordinated their efforts.  A dedication ceremony in June, 2014 signaled its introduction to the public.

Towering above the amphitheater pavilion, a twelve- by eighteen-foot American flag tethered to a stainless steel, eighty-foot-high pole waves in the breezes.  As a gesture of respect for all interred in the cemetery, it is lowered to half staff thirty minutes before the first committal service each day and remains in that position until thirty minutes after the last service of the day.  Typically, the number of daily burials is about eight.

Occupying a 1.83-acre area that’s larger than a football field, the plaza features dual, fifty-foot-high half ceilings in arched configurations.  

With 792 pieces of aquamarine glass comprising this 20,800-square-foot awning, the vibrant roof is a commanding feature of the burial grounds.  Each panel of glass blocks the ultra-violet rays by way of embedded translucent film, reducing the impact of the sun by fifteen to twenty degrees.  Underneath this canopy there is shade, yet the breezes are still felt, as if shrouded by the leaves of a tree.

Though fundamentally encompassing a stage that accommodates a fifty-five-piece orchestra, with seating space for twenty-eight hundred people, this attraction is far more than a performance arena.  Punctuated by a gallery of artwork, it is readily regarded also as an outdoor museum.  

Unseen, yet essential in the Florida environment, there are concrete and rebar support columns fifty-five feet below the ground to assure structural integrity sufficient to withstand Category Five hurricane-force winds.  

The northern portal serves as the main entrance.  Atop a pentagon-shaped surface of brick pavers stand four eye-catching tablets bearing  photos depicting happy moments.  

Although the section designated for an audience is behind the entrance, one could readily construe an impression that this theater of tribute actually faces the graves of those it honors.  Inspired imagery within one’s mind prompts a perception that the headstones are “standing at attention” in rapt acknowledgment of its connotation.

Two seven-foot American bald eagles representing the national emblem of the United States flank the west entrance walkway.  

Symbolic significance has been ascribed to the epic birds with conspicuously menacing eyes, conferring status as guardians – vigilant sentinels to protect people who visit Patriot Plaza along with the veterans buried in the cemetery’s sea of graves. 

At the east entry point, less formidable eagles hover over two nests – one with a parent and fledging... the other empty.  Real branches were collected, molded, and cast for this piece of art.  The birds had been sculpted in wax to create molds before being cast in bronze.  

Source:  Patterson Foundation Dedication Video

Ubiquitous hallmarks of soldiers, such as endurance and courage, are singularly defined on sixteen upright slabs of Georgia marble and glass, which feature photographs amplified by relevant text and drawings.  The eight on the east side of the pavilion encapsulate the military family experience; on the west side the focus is on military service in general.      

Photos of individuals who served in one of the Armed Forces become all the more riveting upon reading quoted commentary coupled with meditations etched on these “Testimonies” pillars.   

Single photos are also mounted on a colonnade of forty-four upright rectangular tablets aligned in military-like formation and situated around the plaza.  

Source:  Patterson Foundation Dedication Video

The pictures illustrate aspects of military life from the era of the Civil War to 2013, including campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.    

A handmade fifty- by three-foot glass mosaic spans a horizontal swath at the base of the stage.  

The colorful image depicts a landscape of earth, air, and water – in or on which all branches of the Armed Forces carry out their missions.

Source:  Patterson Foundation Dedication Video

Within the configuration of a star dominating the granite floor in front of the stage, a five-sided projection map flattened into inlaid stone depicts all seven continents, as viewed from above the North Pole.  It alludes to the wide-reaching influence of American military forces around the world.  

Twenty-foot tapered cones define both the north/south and east/west intersections of pathways.  Dubbed, “Night to Day, Here and Away,” these are covered in hand-tiled mosaics that embody displays of service ribbons amid the sky, sea, and geological imagery.  

Over 7500 plants were planted around the plaza, adding color and a suggestion of ongoing life on premises for the dead.  Young oak trees, Italian cypress, and palms mingle with magnolias, roses, lilies, myrtles, and more.  

Whether or not someone has served in a military capacity, this magnificent showpiece is breathtaking.  Besides its functionality and artistic permeation, it is a remarkable example of an accomplishment that came to fruition as a result of unified efforts among human beings.  It speaks to our ongoing quest for harmonious co-existence with no need for war.  Long ago, Abraham Lincoln implored Americans to come together in a spirit of cooperative camaraderie to “achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”  

In spite of that aspiration, human confrontations persist.  Military forces continue to serve.  A Vietnam-era veteran has metaphorically connected a design element configured in stone pieces at the plaza with the roughness of adversarial human interactions.  Referring to the deliberately course and ragged edges of the photo-story tablets and marble benches, he has noted that they are unfinished and will never be finished.  Such is the presumably inevitable state of affairs relative to human efforts for peace on earth.  

"Honoring the Fallen," Sarasota Herald Tribune Special Section,
June 28, 2014 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

FUNERAL HOME ANTIQUES... Stationary and Mobile

Journey Journal... Venice, Florida


At a funeral home, certainly it’s fairly routine to find antique people, or at least their vestigial shells that carried them through a long life.  But one doesn’t ordinarily walk into such an establishment and immediately sense the likeness of an antique shop.   

The owners of Farley Funeral Home have capitalized on an opportunity to share treasured relics with the ongoing stream of individuals passing through their facilities.  Upon entering the Venice site, one immediately sees insignias of the past in an area akin to a living room decorated with antique furnishings.  

A collection of canes in a corner of the room sets the stage for a walk through time.

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

But artifacts of yore are not confined only to that part of the building.  Rather, such curios of antiquity dot the domain throughout the premises, both here and at their other location in North Port.  

Source:  Farley Funeral Homes Website

An old ice box with a lift lid is conveniently situated near offices, serving a utilitarian purpose as a depot for storage of pamphlets.  Above it is a small wooden unit of shelving where an assortment of “remember when?” thimbles is on display.  Sewing machines are focal points in visitation areas amid pieces of furniture upholstered in old-world, flowery fabric.  Just in case people waiting to sign a guest book need some exercise, a butter churn is on the floor next to it.  A record player stands ready for action, probably less in terms of generating music and more in the way of evoking memories.  

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

Recollections may be further enhanced by the presence of musical instruments, such as an old piano and an organ.  

Source:  Farley Funeral Homes Website

Of course, it’s not surprising that there would be burial containment here that meshes with the motif.

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

A visitor can readily discern that the abundance of antiques is indicative of their value to the owners beyond monetary assignations.  It’s fortunate for them, as well as the community, that they own places apart from their home where conquests of their zealous passion can be consummated and appreciated.   

Information about each dated item is maintained in a loose-leaf binder chock full of pages documenting descriptive details.  All of the relics are  categorized according to the rooms in which they are located.  

Even the personnel have donned representative garb resurrected from a previous era. 

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

A presentation pertaining to Abraham Lincoln’s years offered a suitable opportunity for representative attire to bring it to life. 

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

Though epoch leftovers from bygone days are aplenty here, they are not limited to interior rooms.  Perhaps the most widely noticeable evidence of the antique concentration can be found in the garage.  There, two remnants of an earlier mode of transport are momentarily at rest, but not in peace.  

Vehicles denoting a previous generation, resplendent as earmarks of history, are maintained and ready for purposeful missions.  Use of these atypical conveyances for bodily remains is offered as an alternative to conventional means.  

A 1937 Ford hearse is one of the unusual offerings. 

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

For veterans, folks may opt for a World War II-era, 1941 Dodge military truck to pull a caisson bearing the casket.  

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

Source:  Fox News Video

A coordinating 1943 Willy’s Army jeep leads the funeral processions and may be used in the context of other commemorative tributes, particularly, placement by the graveside of a veteran following burial.  

Source:  Fox News Video

Source:  Farley Funeral Homes Website

Military processions employing these vehicles are limited to trips between the funeral home and either its own burial grounds – Venice Memorial Gardens – or the nearby Sarasota National Cemetery.  

Source:  Fox News Video

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

However, at times these alternative transporters have been diverted from their usual routes, for the sake of broadcasting to local residents their availability.  In fact, a “Spot the Farley” contest motivated people to snap a picture upon encountering one of the roving novelties and then post it on Facebook.  That rendered the folks eligible to be selected from a pool of participants who correctly answered questions about the vehicles.  

Source:  Farley Facebook Page

It’s readily apparent that the owners of this funeral home go out of their way to provide meaningful experiences, particularly in tribute to veterans.  The usual sorts of provisions through the United States Veterans Administration are complemented by the embellishments of relevant transportation.  Behind-the-scenes proceedings that traditionally take place at burial sites are preceded by a military sendoff on wheels.  The captivating sight of it is apt to draw the attention of people in the vicinity.  Some of them are veterans themselves who, upon seeing the “ruffles and flourishes” and sensing the pomp of the occasion, feel a surge of connection with their military brethren.  Often they stop, salute, and lay their hands on their hearts.  

Whether out on the road or contained within the facility’s buildings, the vintage attractions on display bespeak not only a theme, but especially a legacy of compelling regard for the lineage of our past.  While reflecting the charm of yesteryears, they engender associations that set the wheels of remembering in motion… an important step toward healing from the wounds of loss.  

Probably aged visitors who at some point in their lives have lived among such furnishings feel right at home here.  Perhaps the “home” aspect of the nomenclature, funeral home, resonates authentically for them because of Farley’s signature milieu.  It can be comforting to wallow in vestiges of embedded familiarity when immersed in the unaccustomed territory of death.