By Arthur H. Gunther III

There was a moment when the day was better spent riding on roads through state parks or hiking trails than focusing on the timepiece that ticks away your life. Call it education.

Not all learning happens in school, though you feel guilty if responsibility nevertheless calls for hitting the books at a specified time and you are not participating. It can be confusing. When your peers are doing it according to Hoyle, you seem the time-waster.
Yet the search for creativity, for the you in yourself, must also fling you down paths that include the potholes of criticism, even shouts of irresponsibility. It’s best to keep stepping ahead, to stay the course.
As long as you are not lying on the couch, numbed by a TV soap, as long as you are soaking up what will become the tools of your trade, you are giving yourself an education.
The late famed educator Jesse Stuart, a product of Appalachia, though he obtained a traditional college degree, absorbed most of his understanding of people, particularly children, by teaching at rural schoolhouses, often walking miles to his job.
Stuart understood Kentucky, poor people, tough times, especially during the Great Depression, and what makes the individual great in this troubled and imperfect world. He was a booster of individual spirit and the can-do nature inherent in everyone.
He knew the path to education begins with footsteps in your unique environment. A famous line of his is “A farmer singing at the plow,” part of a sonnet written as Stuart was with the soil.
This once poet laureate of Kentucky listened to his muse. Whether the path is traditional or begins with a hike in the woods, schooling happens.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



“Beach,” acrylic on canvas, AHG 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Waterside — it’s an endless frontier, a blank canvas, with the sea’s waves your personal brushes. If a calm, still lake, that’s meditation.
In retirement, people move to homes near water perhaps because the turmoil of life — jobs, raising family, paying bills, etc. — is largely finished, and now, when you look out a window, no longer is it at the car warming up for the daily ride to work but at the infinity of water. It is an unknown, and in that uncertainty, there can be the certainty of some peace.
If a beach visitor just for the day, sitting on a blanket over sand, a strong, comforting sun after a cold winter, the water at a short distance, you may never put your toes in, choosing instead to immerse yourself in a novel or short story. Somehow reading is different at the beach. Imagination meets endless frontier.
Children have their own reaction to water and beaches. It’s a playground, of course, with material for castles and water for splashing and swimming. A day trip is also a family escape for them from the routine, and that can make the return to the ordinary reassuring, even reinvigorating. A sister may still bug her brother, but there might actually be warmth in that, and it, along with the water and beach, will be recalled fondly many years later.
There are always walkers near water, perhaps lost in thought, maybe de-stressing, maybe plotting the next move in life. It is an endless horizon that you look toward from water’s edge.
How many decisions have been made, how many romances left, how many lost ones recalled at waterside? And how much added strength did one bring with them as they turned from the tide and walked back into the world?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


February 13, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

Some say all Americans should declare they are Muslims, so that the re-energized prejudice, meanness and even hatred of 2017 can be nipped before there is horror. If enough Germans had stood with fellow but Jewish citizens, millions would have lived. There is a time for extra courage, and it may be now.
The first step is to address ignorance. The second is to recognize legitimate hurting.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the ordinary German who felt ignored by a post-World War I government unable to halt inflation, who could no longer see pride in rich history under the weight and judgment of over-bearing Allied reparations, was ripe for a mesmerizing huckster who promised comfort and glory. Such salesmen need a hook, and for Hitler it was the Jew and sufficient but not majority historical anti-Semitism. With that, he captured about 43 percent of the 1933 national vote. Not enough, but Hitler further inflamed through orchestrated prejudice and nationalism and worked a governing deal with a second party. After that, claiming “national security,” he quickly secured passing of an Enabling Act that gave him dictatorial powers.
So, the people, with legitimate concern about their welfare, found themselves tied in destiny to a crazy person. They got more than they bargained for.
The lesson in this for citizens of any county this is that you must beware false messiahs. The lesson for government is that you cannot ignore people’s welfare. Truly principled leaders like the Roosevelts, Eisenhower, JFK and, to an extent Reagan, knew that.
This past American election revealed the ignored hardship of unemployed coal miners and factory workers, of a declining middle class, of the ever-richer 1 percent. Americans are hurting, and they have been cast aside by both major parties. As such, they are ripe for renewed bigotry, fueled by false leaders who will redirect blame onto scapecoats.
As with the Nazified Germans, good people will do wrong, be complicit in inhumanity. Unless there is commonsense, massive opposition. But has the German lesson been learned?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


February 7, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Tea may be for reading leaves, but there is more to the brew. There are reasons why the Irish, the English, the Chinese, Indians and those of so many cultures not only enjoy their tea but are tethered to it, for it is a port in a storm, a safe harbor, a comfort zone.
Coffee is the daily energizer, the adrenalin that gets you moving. The world drinks java and builds its cities, its progress. But it comes home to a nice cup of tea — to accept that things just are, that’s all. Tea dillutes worries.
From the earliest moment, I was raised on tea. My Irish-descendant mother, daughter of an Englishman, gave my brother and me tea with milk and sugar at every supper. It might also be the chaser after very hot, delicious tomato soup on a very cold day.
Some dinner dates I had back when saw the meal end with tea for her, as if to emphasize the finery of the moment. One time the lady noted that tea calmed her enough so that she was less likely to drop the cup, a sometime thing. A nice memory.
The English have their afternoon tea, which is charming, especially if you happen to be in Betty’s Tea Room in York where the real reason for before-dinner tea is revealed: delicious cake, pastries, clotted cream.
There probably isn’t an English mystery program — and the Brits offer the best — that doesn’t have tea respite, even in the midst of a murder probe.
And there isn’t an Irish novel, short story or poem that doesn’t have a side order of tea. No cream, mind you. And no watered-down fat-free milk. It is a fine line between the door to the Irish soul and that second sip of tea.
When I was quite young and the family splurged on a very rare dinner out, it might be inexpensive Chinese. Always had the sweet tea, in a cup with no handles, a tradition after the wonderful consomme.
I am not familiar with Indian tea traditions or that of other cultures, but the certainty is that life, in whatever expression, cannot be separate from the brew wherever tea is had.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.