Monthly Archives: March 2013

It’s All About Heart…

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“We live in a time when we have less and less personal contact,” she sighs. “With text messages and e-mails…even from my grandchildren I get fewer hugs these days.”

It’s true, isn’t it? In this electronic age, it’s far easier to reach for the smart phone and tap out a text than to phone a friend, never mind to sit down and write a letter.  Time is compressed during the busy week, and quiet talks, walks, a moment shared over a cup of tea—once easily slipped into our day—have become difficult.  When we do have time for a phone call or a visit, we surreptitiously glance at our watches. Time is running… and so are we.

Perhaps it’s true that this century, so different from its slower-paced predecessors, leaves little time for the things that used to matter. Not that all changes are bad—far from it. The lives of women have become enriched by possibilities that did not even exist when I was younger. One friend’s daughter will soon begin her internship and become a pediatrician. Another’s is a fine psychologist, and a third’s grand daughter is studying law. Our daughters in law have fine, rewarding careers. And men’s lives, too, have been made more meaningful as the genders reach across to each other in equality and with even more respect.

So, change is good. But some things do not change. Though the times around us move to a faster beat, the rhythm of our own hearts has not altered. The need for contact, the reach for support, the yearning for love and acceptance is within us all, as much a part of us as blood and DNA.

There’s a story here, of course. I have a dear quilting friend who was given a collection of old-fashioned fabrics by an elderly lady. After much thought and discussion, she cut and pieced these fabrics together into a bright and happy quilt for the giver’s birthday. “She cried,” she told us later. “She said that she had only owned one quilt, a quilt made by her grandmother, and that one was lost in a fire.”

Which was more special? The gift, the memory, or the caring that went into the making of that quilt? Probably all three, the last being at least  as important as the others.  For no matter how much the times changes, our world is still turning, and it will always turn better for friendship and love.

For in this moment

I hold not only your gift

But something of you.

"Flowers For Mom" 

 

 

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Water, Water, Everywhere…

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Walking on the beach for the first time this year, I’m thinking of water. Not just about the waves that are cresting toward the shore or about the rain that fell all last night but about water in general… life giving, indispensable, wonderful water.

What would we do without water? What could we do without water? It’s around us, it’s inside us (it’s said that about 6o% of our bodies is made up of water and I’ve heard that our brains are made up of about 70% of the same substance!). Water is in the air, on and in the ground, and a good thing, too, since life on earth wouldn’t have had a chance without it.

Barren desert sand…

Here was once a great ocean,

And life was teeming.

So many poets have written about water. “Roll on, thou deep, dark ocean, roll,” exhorted Byron, while Langston Hughes spoke of rivers dusky and ancient. Then there is that much quoted Basho poem about the frog at an ancient pond and the sound he makes as he dives in, and a less known but elegant haiku by another master:

The pond and the river

Have become one

In the spring rain.

Buson

Legends have grown up around water, too… mermaids and nixes and water goblins and sprites inhabit folktales and in real life Ponce de Leon really did try to find the fountain of youth. Books have been written around water: David MacPhail’s Water Boy, and Judith Andersen’s Once There Was a Raindrop, Tauk Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and the many passages in Tolkien’s Ring trilogy (who could forget old Tom Bombadil?)  to name a very few.

Some scientists have theorized that water came to our earth by way of a comet made of ice, and astrophysics are now studying the other inhabitants in our solar system for signs of water—and the possibility of life. Even our moon is said to have deep-buried pockets of water! Mars, that now-dead planet, was once thought to have had some as well, while Jupiter’s moon, Europa, has a very thick aqueous outer layer. And further on? It stands to reason that some intergalactic neighbor harbors this precious substance. Think of it…

This drop of water

 may have traveled for light years

to touch my dry lips!

So I think about water as I walk along the beach—stopping for a moment to return a stranded starfish to the life-giving sea.

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The Essence Of Timing

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I admit it– I’ve been talking to trees again, specifically to the apricot tree in our back yard which is in full bud and ready to  flower. “But this is March,” I plead with it. “Don’t you know that the weather is uncertain? If there is a freeze, you’ve had it!”  But I plead in vain. As usual, the tree doesn’t listen to anything but its internal clock. Each year it blooms early and is blighted.

“There is a time and a tide in the affairs of man,” Shakespeare said, “when taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”  Copernicus might have benefited from the Bard’s advice—after all, he was nearly burned at the stake for intimating, that the earth revolved around the sun. On the other side of the scale, Columbus, who believed that the earth was round, timed it so that Isabella would listen to him—Spain was greedy for the riches of the East.

Timing really is everything, isn’t it?  The natural world relies on it so that Monarch butterflies, migrant birds, and the small sandpipers who brave ocean waves can live and prosper. We humans cope as best we can: the timing for the soufflé must be just right—or it falls flat; our drive home is hopefully timed exactly right, or gridlock results. In a business meeting an idea must be presented at the right moment and in the right context—or it will be ignored; the athlete knows full well that good or bad timing can win or lose the game; and who is better at timing than politicians who realize the importance of producing the right speech, projecting the right image, releasing the right soundbite?

In the writing or artistic world, timing is key, too. I once wrote a story that was thought to be too controversial and therefore taboo. I sold it a year later when the worldview had changed.  And what about the artist whose ideas and vision need rely not only on talent and luck but on timing? Rejected one day, art can be lionized the next depending on the mood or need of the moment.

Most important, though, is that sense of timing in our lives. How often have we heard of troubled young people who meet the right teacher or the right role model, or the kindest of adults at a critical moment? How many lives could succeed or fail because of that pivotal moment! Our son, a high school teacher, has had dozens of students return year after year to tell him what his teaching meant to them at an important  juncture in their lives.

Perhaps most importantly, there are the simple things. A letter written to a grieving friend, quiet support given at a difficult time, a sincere and unlooked for compliment… offered at the right time these can make all the difference. “I really needed that, it means so much,” I have often said when a thoughtful gesture helped to brighten a gloomy day, and haven’t we all been the recipient of some unlooked for  kindness that changed the tilt of our world?

Such small things… but today in this high-speed, technological world they may be more important than ever. Even though it is often construed to mean that we must seize the right moment for success, there are other, even more important victories. Isn’t our sensitivity and our thoughtful reaching out at just the right moment the very essence of Timing?

In that small gesture

Is confirmed the true meaning

Of being human.

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Nightmare Flying

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I had a horrible nightmare last night in which I stood in a line that  seemed to  extend forever. Naturally, I was at the end of this snakelike queue which shuffled forward in a morose silence. Each of us carried baggage strapped to our backs and each of us pushed a suitcase.

Slowly, slowly, the line inched forward until there appeared before us a single conveyor belt. On it we were instructed to place our luggage, our shoes, our coats, our socks, and our hats. We were then given paper robes to wear while we  placed our clothes on the conveyor belt.

No one objected, and at last, clothed and shoed once more, we were ushered into a brightly lit room which reverberated with blared announcements. “Flight 9876 has been cancelled. All the passengers booked on this flight should proceed to Gate 98A,” and “Flight 09873 has been delayed for three hours due to a missing pilot,” and “There has been a slight error.All the luggage from Flight 48720 to Madrid has been rerouted to Greenland National airport…”

This being a nightmare, no sooner had these announcements pealed through the waiting room but we were boarding a plane. As we boarded, we were instructed to pay for our suitcases, our carry-ons, and for each item of clothes we were wearing (including socks).We were then directed to our seats by an officious robot which sported a large computer in its torso. “Mrs. Feversome, you are booked on Economy6-,” it burbled. “Please go to the end of the plane where you will be strapped into your upper hammock for the journey. Miss Haggard, you are in Economy2+. Please be aware that you will be sharing half of your seat during this flight with Mr. Fleasworthy. During half of the flight you will be strapped into a lower hammock at the end of the aircraft.”

The robot then turned to me. “You are listed as Economy+4. You will be sharing your seat with Mrs. Tillihammer…”

My seat was triangular in shape and wedged into a long row of triangular seats. When I attempted to sit, my knees stuck up to the chin.

The robot proceeded to instruct us further. “Please be advised that using the facilities will incur the cost of $1 per visit. Washing hands will cost $.50. Your credit cards will be charged accordingly.” A pause. “Refreshments during this flight are as follows: The sandwich pill is $18, the roast beef and salad pill is $35, and the vegetarian pill is $25.”

“Pills?” I wondered. The lady wedged next to me sighed.

“Honey, where have you been? They only serve those awful food pills these days. How could we possibly eat anything else… like this?”

She had a point.

The plane began its ascent. I thought longingly of the days when cheerful stewards offered us drinks, pillows and blankets. I thought of in-flight movies. I thought of magazines, and electronic games, and the days when sailing above the clouds had been fun.

Perhaps I slept (one can actually sleep in a nightmare). When I awoke, I realized that I would need to incur the cost of a dollar. Peeling out of my seat and negotiating the foot-wide aisle was difficult, and for some unforeseen reason I found myself in another part of the aircraft.

I blinked.

For behold, I stood in a large, airy room lined with couches on which passengers sprawled or slept or were entertained by holographic movies. Robots trundled around pushing carts laden with filet mignon, Atlantic salmon, caviar, truffles, wine, spirits, and champagne. One robot mixed salad for a client. Another was giving someone a body massage. Music wafted softly through the compartment.

First class… of course, first class!  As an irate robot approached to order me back to my shared seat in Economy+4,  I woke up muttering, “Plus si change…”

The more things change, the more they remain depressingly the same!
Flying above clouds

Should be a true adventure…

As it used to be.         343