Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Train Wreck

I went to see my Aunt Martha in December last year. I didn’t know it would be our last Christmas with her. I asked her about Christmas and her childhood memories.
“Daddy was real good to all the neighbors at Christmas,” she said, “He would go out and buy groceries for families if they didn’t have any money. He would even buy Christmas gifts for the kids and we didn’t even have no Christmas gifts. He was real good to us and mama unless he was drinkin’ and he was bad to drink around Christmas.”
I never got to meet my grandfather, Charlie Coker, but I have recorded countless stories about him. Some of the stories are sad. I think Christmas was especially difficult for my grandfather. It brought back an unpleasant memory.
My dad was only seven years old, and walking down the tracks near his home in Rockmart on a warm and overcast December day in 1935, he heard a train in the distance and caught a glimpse of what seemed to be a man lying across the tracks. His father had passed out in the path of an oncoming train.
Charlie, my grandfather, was five feet and ten inches tall, just like his father. He weighed one hundred forty pounds and it was all muscle. He wore a straw hat when he was out in the fields, and he wore a nice hat with a brim when he went to town. With the money he made at Georgia Power and the cash he made on the side, Charlie was one of the first young men in Rockmart to have a brand new car. In his teens, he was known for his good looks and for wearing stylish clothes. Before he had a car, they say he always had the fanciest buggy in town.
“Charlie was the best carpenter there ever was.” Said his nephew, Sammie King. “Anytime anybody needed anything built, they went and got Charlie. He could build you a barn, a house, a fence or anything. He was a first class brick mason and he’d work with rocks and concrete. He used to work with Georgia Power, back when they was building them substations and he’d pour the concrete pads for them. He was generous too. Uncle Charlie would give you the shirt off his back. He’d give everything he had to other people.”
 As soon as my dad realized Charlie was still alive, he ran to where he had seen a couple of men cutting down a tree a hundred yards back. “My daddy’s on the tracks and there’s a train coming.” His heart was pounding and he couldn’t get his breath but the men understood  and ran to meet him. They helped my dad pull my grandfather off the tracks just before the train came.
Nine years earlier, almost to the day, before my daddy was born, Charlie was thirty six years old and at that same place, on the same tracks. On Friday, December 23, 1926, Charlie stepped off the Southern Train and into the depot in Rockmart. It was and he was coming in from Covington, Georgia where he was working for Georgia Power. He was home for Christmas. There was a lot of commotion in the depot and people were saying something about a train wreck. From where Charlie got off the train it was only a few hundred yards to the sight of the accident.
At about that same time, some neighbors told my grandmother, Della, that there had been a train wreck in Rockmart. Was Charlie on that train? It was pouring down rain and she was expecting him at any moment. Martha, the youngest of two girls, was 18 months old. Ed was three and a half. Tom was five, Charles was eight, Mable was eleven and JP was thirteen.
“Where’s daddy?” asked Charles.
“I’m sure his train is just running late.” Said Della.
“Can I go see the wreck?” asked JP
“No,” said Della, “Y’all just need to ask the good Lord to be with them”
They waited for Charlie by the fire in the living room.
The Royal Palm had stopped on the side track to wait for the Ponce De Leon to pass. The Ponce Deleon took the wrong track running forty miles an hour. When the trains collided, the tender box detached and went rolling down the embankment. Cries for help were mostly coming from the dining car and Charlie worked well into the night helping to free people from the tangled steel. Seventeen people perished that night.
Della paced the floor all night. Surely she would get word soon. Charlie finally got home just before sunrise. He didn’t say a word.
The next day, they heard that a little girl who had been taken to the hospital in Cedartown didn’t make it. Charlie was devastated by the tragedy and he was forever a changed man. Charlie didn’t like to talk about that night. That morning He just went out to check on the animals. The rain had stopped and it was a cloudy Christmas Eve.
A sad country song was written about the scene. It was called The Wreck of The Royal Palm. One verse may help you to understand what Charlie may have been dealing with for all those years.

It was an awful sight
Beneath the pouring rain
The dead and dying lying there
Beneath that mighty train
No tongue can ever tell
No pen will ever write
No one will ever know but those who saw
The horrors of that night
The Wreck of The Royal Palm. Written by American songwriter, the Reverend Andrew (Blind Andy) Jenkins

Charlie began to stir when his son and the two men pulled him from the track. Still dazed, he looked and the train and smiled as it passed. Daddy looked at the train and then looked at his daddy. “What on earth was he thinking?” He wondered. Daddy waited there with him for an hour. Charlie finally got up and began staggering home. He looked at some rusting debris at the bottom of the embankment.
Following the train wreck, my grandfather would spend the next twenty Christmas Eves taking food to neighbors and gifts for some of the children. He seldom spoke of that awful night. My dad inherited some of my grandfather’s quaint old sayings and pleasant ways. Although I never met Charlie, I am sure I heard him speaking through my dad when we would ask him what he wanted for Christmas.
“I just want everybody to be happy and well.” He would always say.
85 years have passed since that night. The old song is hard to find. Almost all of the witnesses are gone. Aunt Martha passed away in February of this year.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Path

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.   Hebrews 13:2

I admire people who are fighting for their lives. In some respects, I was not necessarily among their ranks at any time. There was always a very good chance that my situation would improve. For some, that hope cannot be found. As far as physical battles go, however, I have never fought harder than these past few days.
It all began in 1994 and as far as I can tell, it may have began sooner. I was complaining of some unusual pain. I would develop chills followed by a low grade fever that would last for a day or so. Wanda Sparks was an RN and a good friend of mine. Wanda’s father-in-law had recently passed away with prostate cancer. I mentioned the symptoms to her and with the combination of her profession and her personal experience, she insisted that I see one of her doctor friends, a specialist in urology. That year, I was diagnosed with a fairly common condition present in older men. But I was only 30. Still, I was going to be dealing with BPH for years to come.
Very few men have prostate enlargement under the age of forty, but 90% of men over the age of 80 are dealing with it today.
Over the next few years, the treatments led my doctors to test for even less likely causes for the recurring problems. It was obviously chronic by definition and I had the symptoms of prostatitis. I got my first PSA at 40 and my doctor explained that the elevated number was likely caused by the recurring infection. But with all the treatments, the numbers would not remain at a safe level. We managed to bring them down for short periods of time, but the side effects from months of antibiotics were beginning to trump the side effects of the actual problem.
I was determined to get more opinions. I went to several specialists until I found Dr. Kenneth Rutledge in 2006. He understood my frustration better than any doctor had before. He has a let’s-get-to-the-bottom-of-this attitude. He wrote a book on my situation and we discussed the effects of the various treatments. He seemed to be as dissatisfied with all of the results as I was.
In July of 2010, Dr. Rutledge shocked me by recommending a biopsy. “What will that do?” I asked.
“It will rule out cancer.” He said.
“Mark,” he said, “Don’t worry. I don’t think you have cancer. It’s very unlikely and you are otherwise young and healthy, but your situation has not been following any normal pattern and we need to get as much information as possible.”
I thought about it. I prayed about it. I reasoned that it would indeed be unlikely. There hasn’t been a sign of prostate cancer in my family. But I watched my doctors as they read my charts. Dr. Rutledge would just sit there with me in silence while he would read over the results again and again. “Let’s get to the bottom of this.” He said.
I had the biopsy and went in for the follow-up to discuss the results. Jennifer was determined to be there. I told her to go to work and I would call her in a little while. I was almost sure that we’d continue trying one antibiotic after another until I was 80 and, just like my peers, dealing with a condition older men deal with. They’d never have to know I had been dealing with it since I was 30. Jennifer wouldn’t hear it. As with every visit over the 2 ½ year history of our relationship, she was there.
The nurse sort of gave it away. I could see it in her caring eyes. When she opened the door and said, “Mr. Coker.” She looked at Jennifer as if they knew each other well and said, “You come too.”
That was when the reality began moving through me like a sedative. Instead of freaking out like I always thought I would, there was some sort of calm. It was unreasonable to feel so calm. I can’t tell you where that came from, but being a man of faith, I think God must have programmed us to deal with life in times like this.
We sat down in Dr. Rutledge’s office and he didn’t keep us waiting. He came in and smiled as always, but this time, I could tell he was making a little effort to do so. The first thing I noticed was a shiny new book in his hand. He sort of put it out of sight as he walked in and I didn’t catch the title.
“Mark,” He said, “You know I would love to give you and Jennifer some good news but today, the news isn’t all good. It’s the best bad news I can give you, but the biopsy did reveal the tiniest trace of cancer. Out of ten areas, we found nine of them to be benign. Where we did find a trace, it is thankfully still Gleason 6.”
The Gleason Score was named after pathologist Donald Gleason. Of course I can’t completely understand the scoring system, but Dr. Rutledge put it this way:
“Typically, we don’t see the cancer spreading until the Gleason reaches 7. It is not impossible, but less likely. And since your situation has always been a little unusual, I want to rule out that possibility as well. I will say this: the symptoms you’ve always had have nothing to do with this small trace of cancer. The other problems are in no way related. Thankfully, those symptoms led us to this biopsy and we’ve found this problem early and almost by accident.”
It wasn’t by accident. The most unusual thing happened after the biopsy: my PSA began dropping well into the normal range and my symptoms began to subside. I was feeling great and I didn’t even need antibiotics anymore.
I am not sure why I would need to get this early warning in such a round-about way, but once I had been properly alerted, the warnings all but stopped. Now Dr. Rutledge was reading my charts and saying things like, “This is odd, your prostate is shrinking and your PSA is getting better.”
He recommended watchful waiting. I was good with it in a way. Jennifer didn’t like it at all. This idea is based on the theory that we should be able to detect the jump from Gleason 6 to Gleason 7 in time to react. Prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer and this idea is new, but not entirely crazy. Clark Howard has been watching and waiting since 2007. But even Clarke Howard says, “75% of people diagnosed with prostate cancer need treatment of some form within weeks or months.”
I watched for a year and continued to get better PSA scores. My symptoms were just about all gone and I was feeling better than ever when it was time for my second annual biopsy this year. Jennifer had been doing some research and she wanted me to try Dr. Wong. “He has experience with every option.” She said.
I wanted to hear about the latest technology. I wanted someone to explain all of the new treatments. Dr. Wong, for instance, was the first urologist in North America to perform the Nanoknife procedure for prostate cancer.
The second biopsy revealed three areas of concern and those areas were not together. Dr. Wong carefully explained that I was still likely to survive and the scores were still Gleason 6. When I asked him about the danger in waiting at this point he said, “It could move from a 6 to a 7 within a year and there is a small chance that it could even metastasize.”
I knew what that meant and waiting was not going to be an option anymore. I had to prepare for treatment. Older men often take the “seeds” route and that’s a very effective treatment. In those cases, the men are sometimes right back at work and living a normal life with no more worries. Dr. Wong said something I haven’t heard since I tried to buy beer when I was 18: “You are too young.”
The treatment options – all of them – have side effects of their own. One of the side effects from the seeds could be delayed 20 or 30 years. In some cases, they are very mild even then. Dr. Wong explained that he wanted to look at my overall health and predict how long I should otherwise live. He said that he could see me making it into my 90’s. “The problem with any kind of radiation,” He explained, “Is the fact that it may begin to give you some problems in 20, 30 or even 40 years. If you were 70, we probably wouldn’t want to do anything. If you were 60, we might try the seeds. But you are 47 and you have had problems with your prostate that aren’t connected with this problem. Unfortunately, those problems could get worse when we introduce the seeds and then, we could not operate.”
The other options are extremely promising but Dr. Wong thought I was too young for those treatments as well. Some of them are so new that the research only goes back two years. If I was 80, and surgery was necessary, I would try the Nanoknife; we know it works for a few years but there is no research older than that.
I went home with the new information and eventually made the decision to have the procedure in November. This fast-forwards the story to the second of November, 6 days ago. I worked all day on Tuesday and never felt better in my life. I knew that this would not be the case within 24 hours. After work, I went home and began to prepare for the next day or so at Piedmont. I went to bed early and Jennifer came and woke me up around 4:30 AM. We were at the hospital a little after 6:30 AM.
I was nervous. Although I had been mentally preparing myself for this day, I was still not quite ready. I met briefly with Dr. Wong and other doctors and I was rolled back to the operating room. They must have given me something to calm me at this point. I can only remember bits and pieces of the next few minutes. The next thing I remember is a recovery nurse standing over me telling me that it was over.
It must have been around 1:30 PM when Jennifer told everyone that they should head to my room. My mom said, “Jennifer just stood up and said, ‘I am not waiting anymore. I am sure he is there by now.’ And she was right. Even though nobody called us, they had just brought you up when we got there.”
I started waking up a little at a time. When they told me what time it was, I remember wondering what had taken so long. I started demanding answers. I was afraid there had been complications. “Jennifer, you would tell me. What did the Dr. say?”
Then I would pose the same question to my mom and my brother, Bill. They all told me that it had gone well, but I still worried for a while. Dr. Wong came in and I asked him how it went. “Perfect.” He said.
Myra was there. Jackie was there. My pastor had been there too.
I was in some pain but it was being monitored and managed by a great staff at Piedmont. The pain and the management thereof kept in the hospital until Saturday morning.
Jennifer was there every time my eyes opened. She slept on a hard piece of furniture with a crude cushion. If I had pain every hour, every hour, she was there telling me to squeeze her hand. If I got up, she lifted me. She helped the nurses and did more than all of them put together. There were some of those humiliating moments and Jennifer just ignored them and smiled as if to say we’d joke about this later.
The nurses were all great. Dr. Wong would come in and sit by my bed and talk to me like an old friend.
I was still in the hospital when the pathology report came in on Friday. Dr. Wong didn’t call; he came straight to my room and said, “Good news Mark. Something will take your life one day, but according to your pristine pathology report, it won’t be prostate cancer.”
One of our favorite nurses, Joel, had already seen the report and even alluded to it. He was in my room for his routine pep talk and he said, “I’ve seen your path and you are going to live a long time.”
At that time, I didn’t know that path was short for pathology report. I thought he was talking about the path of my life. Joel and I had become friends in a hurry and I figured he was assuming that I was a good guy. He was still in there when Dr. Wong broke the news and he put his hand over his mouth and said, “I nearly gave it away.”
But I will take it either way. There are no mistakes. I’d like to think of Joel as a messenger. There is a path. I’ve been on this one a while. Wanda was there. Dr. Rutledge was there. My family has been there. Jennifer is there. My friends have been there. Aren’t we supposed to believe in angels? Couldn’t Joel be one?
The next day, Joel came to say goodbye. He said, “I don’t normally work on this floor. I’m back upstairs today. I just wanted to say goodbye.”
As another angel once said, “Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives.” Clarence Oddbody, It’s A Wonderful Life.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Well, it has been 60 years now. It was an old house then. If we really pressed the issue, we could probably buy the place. But we’ve let it go. I’ve watched it turn itself back to nature. Weeds overtake the front porch where we sat and talked with Mable, Grandma, Roy, Lloyd, Daddy, JP, Martha and so many other loved ones. It sits there on that hill all alone.
I suppose I have been waiting on the resting souls to move in the hearts of the living. But life is not as easy as that. God does not seem to be a respecter of my fantasies. Any time I try to move one of those mountains, I am put in my place by those who don’t have a lot of faith in me.
Lately, I’ve been dreaming. I wish that I had the old home place. I can imagine cleaning up the old yard and getting rid of overgrown bushes so I can plant new things. I think of – no – I dream of a time when the kids can all come over and play the way I played. They can expect – fully expect – the rest of the family to appear there.
I don’t know why we cannot have it. I know my daddy would have wanted it that way. You have to think about it all from his point of view. As my daddy lay dying, he worried about the old home place. Why? You would think that he had enough to worry about. He knew his life was winding down, but when I promised him we would try to see after the old home place, he was grateful. He put his hands together like he was saying a prayer to me and he said, “Thank you. Thank you.”
Every time I see Howard, the first thing he asks me is, “How is everybody back home?” and then he asks, “Is the old house still there?”
It is very important to Daddy and Howard. Whatever it held for them, it holds for me. The thought of a bulldozer pushing that house down is more than I can bear to imagine. But it has been suggested more than once. There are those who have never known the magic of a home. Had it not been for that place, I would be among them.
The old house is an entity to me. It holds the spirits of the ones who felt the security of its shelter. After 60 years of struggle, Grandma found a safe place in this world. She took the only money that she received from the army that took her son, and she bought a home.
The monument stands to Roy, Mable, Grandma, Daddy, Tom, Charles and even Howard.
When we were little children, we made tiny ripples up there. From there, the ripples became waves that carried us all over the world. Now I am getting old too. I have ridden on some waves until they crashed and I have looked back to where my adventure began. There is a hush where my life started. There is a stillness where rocking chairs once rocked. No floor fan hums, no TV plays, no coffee perks and no dishes clink. No phone rings and no jokes are told. There is no garden. There are no apples. The gravel doesn’t let me know that an old, heavy car is slowly pulling in.
In a few windows, curtains still hang and an occasional breeze animates them and I can see ghosts. We’ve tried to have the power turned off for over a year. Georgia Power tells us that the power isn’t in our name and we can’t turn it off. They tell us that it is in the name of Charles W. Coker and he is the only one who can authorize this. I think Charlie is trying to tell us something. We don’t have the authority to end the life of that home.

Saturday, July 9, 2011



I’ve actually noticed a change in events as a result of my thinking. OR… I have had a premonition of how things were about to unfold. I am not sure which. Somehow, I lean toward the idea that I actually manipulate future events with my thoughts. I’ve often considered a school of fish and a flock of birds and if you watch either, you will notice a principle which makes no sense unless there is actually an extra sense.
If you dislike someone, they know it. You never have to tell them. You never have to avoid them. You are conscious of your lack of affection and so are they. Being emotional in nature, the feeling you posses possesses them as well. If, by the same rule, you are interested in someone, you cannot manage to keep it secret. This rule breaks all other rules. It travels any distance in space or time.
Anything you feel for another person moves freely within your life’s experience. It is not the same if you think they are pretty or unattractive. Observations can be local and remain thus. Emotions are different from observations; you cannot contain them.
The easiest test can be done by anyone while driving in the city. In this situation, it is easy to find yourself angry, thankful or even charitable. Even if you make every effort not to let it show, other drivers know what you are thinking. Hiding your emotions will do nothing for your commute, but changing them will. If you can keep your mind on charitable thoughts, you will experience more good opportunities to merge when necessary.
This is easy for anyone to try. If you find yourself angry, you will end up in the slowest lane and blocked. The higher the degree of your displeasure, the slower and more difficult your commute. I’ve never witnessed a more obvious and instant reward than when I am having happy thoughts while driving.
Why is this? I honestly believe that the fact that travel is involved intensifies the effect of the quantum ripple. Think about a school of fish or a flock of birds or a herd of buffalo.
If we are waiting on random events, we can still measure the effect of this unseen ripple, but some highly emotional event will be necessary in order to chart a significant change in various places at once. On a road where we are trying to travel, we can see it from point A to point B. Our ancient device creates a much stronger signal when we need to move through an area where there are others who will need to cooperate with us in order for our travel to go as planned.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Looking For God

I went to the “Bodies” exhibit. It could be a little disturbing in a way. I’ll tell you how it affected me: I realized as much as I have suspected all along: I will not live in this body forever. There is no way. I looked at a large collection of deceased humans who have donated their bodies to the exhibit. At first, I found myself considering the display as an art exhibit, and then I began looking at the bodies on display and thinking about their contributions. There they were, still as a statue and just as lifeless. But I thought about the person who may have lived in that frame at one time. Some of the bodies looked like they died in the prime of their lives. I began to wonder how each of them died. Some lungs were on display; a few healthy ones and a couple of smoker lungs. You do not want to be a smoker.
Of course I began to wonder about the afterlife. That subject is my life’s quest. To consider dead bodies is to completely accept the inevitable. When I go to a graveyard, I still find myself considering the person resting peacefully in a satin-lined bedroom down under the soil. These bodies on display, however, are not resting. They’ve been plasticized somehow. I didn’t read all about the procedure. But the curators have placed the perfectly still bodies with almost natural looking poses throughout the exhibit. The display creators carefully installed fake eyes in some of the bodies so that you’d get the feeling they were watching you as carefully as you were watching them. I felt like a dog carefully walking into a strange room filled with stuffed animals, wondering if they might be alive, yet very still. After being in there for a while, I realized that the creatures were lifeless. I knew that whatever life they once held had vanished.
You know me, I began wondering mostly about their soul. I looked at first one and then another body and wondered how they must have, at some point in time, bound up one soul each. Here was the body; where was the person who used to live there? I couldn’t answer that question.
This question is not new. Throughout our time here on earth, men and women have wondered about such things. Many have offered religion as a possibility. Religion is really just a novel that is part fact and part fiction. By mixing historical characters with imaginary ones, the stories seem a little more reliable than something entirely made up. In many cases, when someone is religious, they accept the findings or philosophy put forth by someone else. If we are completely gullible, we can simply follow any religious concept regardless of how abstract it may be. Our own principles can be based entirely on theoretical ideas; even if the theories are not tested. This may be the healthiest attitude toward religion. If you can accept anything offered up, you can conclude any matter without dwelling on it for years as I have.
I don’t consider myself to be struggling with these questions. I consider myself a scientist with a passion for a completely unchartered realm. Of course you could consider any ancient text to be a map. I don’t mind unrolling these old maps and setting off the way Columbus did; using Erikson’s general directions to a new world. When we only had Erikson’s maps, very few people believed in what we now know as America. I am sure that not everyone cared about finding this new world the way Columbus did. But for him, it was the most important thing there was.
Some people are happy to feel that Heaven must be real. They are happy to feel the presence of God in their hearts. I, for one, cannot be convinced of something based entirely on feelings. I’ve felt many emotions in my lifetime. Regardless of what I discover, I am completely convinced that there is one emotion that we refer to as love; it is a pleasant feeling and it regards the subject of our affection to be more important than self. Love, therefore, is an out-of-body emotion. With each religious discovery, I become more convinced that love offers the best proof. Love is the best reason to believe that there could be more to life than our in-body experience.
It’s almost worn out. We use the term for everything. We say that we love chocolate. Is that true? Do we really regard chocolate to be more important than our own being? Probably not, but that would be the correct interpretation if taken literally. So that’s not the kind of love we need to consider if we are planning on using it as a navigation tool. If you want to use love in order to find God, you would want to consider the person you actually love the most. That love is the force that points the needle toward God.
Finding God is like finding a small island in a vast ocean. It is not likely that you can simply float aimlessly and hope to accidently run into Him. Early voyagers might have used quadrants, astrolabes or cross-staffs to explore the world. These methods may not have been completely accurate, but they gave explorers some idea of where they were on an ocean and, if they had some idea of where they hoped to end up, they might use instruments like these to get close.
In the same way, I use many ideas about God while on my own journey. I’ve found many methods to be helpful, but not completely accurate as far as longitude and latitude is concerned. With many of our most religious methods, the sun has to be shining incredibly bright in order for the instruments to work. The water has to be incredibly calm as well. The obvious problem is the same problem early mariners had: waters are seldom perfectly calm and the sun is not always shining.
It may sound crazy and it may even sound religious – in spite of my determination not to be religious – to suggest that LOVE is what we need. If our goal is to discover God, I believe that Love is the magnetic force. If The North Pole has a natural, magnetic pull, I suspect God has one too. I’ve considered many devices, but only Love continually points in only one direction. Allowing Love to point freely, without any friction to resist its pull, a “loaded” needle will always point in the same direction. If this force is real, then there is a North and there is a South. This field of natural energy is what all religions are built upon.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Jennifer and I are headed to her family reunion here in Illinois. I was surprised by how much farmland there is. I walked outside this morning and looked at all of the corn planted right up to where the hotel is located. This was not what I expected. The only impression I've had of Illinois was the images I've seen of Chicago. This is not a city. Illinois is vast, flat farms. We are in Bloomington. There are a few older homes here and a very old courthouse and downtown area. There isn't a lot of traffic. It's a quiet town. In the old downtown area, there are tons of clubs. I think we are very close to Illinois State Univeristy. I like it here. The air is clean and the people seem friendly. So here are the states I've visited as of today, 8/26/2011

visited 17 states (34%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Leaving My Mark

I tend to worry about events that are unlikely. Jennifer has labeled this as “Borrowing Trouble.” Why would anyone borrow trouble if trouble is not desirable?
Faith is said to be the substance of things hoped for. It is more than hope or belief. With belief, there is no guarantee, it has no substance and there is no real evidence to support it. 600 years ago, a few people believed that the earth was round and that there was probably a large continent beyond Europe. 100 years later, some people were still skeptical but many others had complete confidence in the reported discovery of America. 500 years after that, there is hardly anyone on earth who doesn’t have faith that America exists. Imagine trying to tell someone about America 600 years ago. They would probably say something equivalent to “yeah, right.”
Borrowing trouble would be like an explorer looking for the new world and wondering how silly he was going to look if he couldn’t prove that the earth is round. He would doubt his findings and he would shelf the plans to sail. His friends would say, “Columbus, dude, you have been studying this thing for decades. Why would you doubt it now?”
Imagine how different history would be if Columbus had listened to his critics and gave up. He would have rolled up his drawings and put them in the attic. America may have been discovered by a more hostile government and they may have made it much more exclusive and impossible to immigrate. Europeans may have been unwelcome and my ancestors may not have gotten on a big boat to come over. My Irish, Cherokee and English mix would have been unlikely and I would not exist.
How did Columbus hear about this place? He had read about Leif Eriksson’s expeditions which dated back almost 500 years at that time. Ironically, Eriksson called one of his first North American discoveries by the name Markland. Markland was Norse for Forestland. It also meant Borderland. “Mark” meant that the land had a defining characteristic.  We still use that term the same way. When we survey property, we “mark” various points to describe the property. When something leaves a mark, it means that it leaves something you can see. In 1964, a Minnesota congressman pushed to have a day set aside to remember Eriksson. I was born that year and named Mark.
Jennifer is right. I can either borrow trouble or leave a mark. I can’t do both.