As I drove the streets of this alien and powerless world I was impressed by how responsible and courteous everyone was behaving. At four way intersections, the stop lights hung lifeless, lightless, and useless. Drivers, no longer able to depend on an outside authority to determine safe passage, began to acknowledge one another. As I stopped at an intersection I noticed that people made eye contact with one another, communicating with strangers through nods, waves, and smiles. There was a courtesy born of necessity that was very refreshing. People were taking responsibility for not only their own safe passage but also the safety of others. The absence of the working stop-lights did not create anarchy but something resembling grace. An acknowledgement of the rights of the other and an acceptance that we are all in this world together. As St. Paul wrote, ...we're all connected to one another after all. (Ephesians 4:25)
In it she interviews centenarain Harry Shapiro and his wife, Celia, at their home in Washington Heights. I found his words about life and death very thought provoking.
"I'd like another lifetime in the arts. I'd like to plead to the old man. Give me another chance. I still believe in God."
"Do you think about what will happen after you die?"
"I'll be around in some shape or manner. I may be a flash of light, a luminosity. Sometimes, when I watch television, a luminous something comes from my eyes, something comes out of me. I don't know what that is. A light will bulge out of my eyes. Maybe that's the soul, I don't know. We all have a soul, there's no doubt about it. Where He is, what He's made of, I don't know. He might be electricity, a force of nature. I know there is something that holds this mystery together. I pray before I start painting and while I'm working on it. That's why I want another lifetime." Then the author describes this beautiful scene. Sometimes in the afternoon Harry and Celia take a nap together, lie together in bed and listen to music, holding hands. Isn't that a beautiful image of contentment and peace.?
At the end of the story, Harry passes on this advice. "You know what I think prolongs life? Art and music. Beyond that, it is to have a heart full of love. That is the most important thing." If you are planning to make the century mark I don't think you can go wrong by adopting Harry's priorities. What do you think, are you going for 100 years? I think I'll give it a try.
We received a lovely hand-made Valentines greeting with a hand painted heart on the cover from my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson in Vermont. In it they write, "Something extra wonderful happens in our area on Valentines day, something that truly amazes us in its simple yet effective message. In the early hours of Valentines Day, some secret person decorates the City of Montpelier with thousands of paper hearts-so as one walks down the streets on Valentines morning, love is truly in the air." What a beautiful image that is. Might we so "love one another" today and everyday that love would be truly "in the air". You can find out more about this unique tradition by clicking on the link to the Lat. 42N blog here.
Oh, be still my heart. I yearn for the snow storms of my chilhood. School canceled, schedules out the window, road blocked by drifts that looked like sand dunes in the Sahara. Snow piled so high that my friends and I would leap off the roof of the chicken house with wild abandon and plunge so deep in the snow that others would have to pull us out so that we could do it all again. We would have sledding races that began up on the hill next to the barn, then sweep down through the gate, around the old barn foundation, past the out buildings, between the house and garage, and finally out onto the snow covered road. There would be five, six, maybe seven of us; all speeding down the hill at the same time, imagining we were future olympians. Exhausted and exhilarated we would come into the kitchen, our snow covered and dripping boots, jackets, and hats left on the porch; Mom would pour the hot chocolate into the big white mugs that were usually reserved for the adults coffee. Our frost bitten fingers would throb with a delicious pain as the heat penetrated our frozen exteriors. Now, our faces a ruddy red, we would take the Monopoly game down from the shelf and begin a competition that would last for hours. We would listen to WPTR on the radio. They would be broadcasting from a remote live location down at the four corners in the village. It was only a mile from us but might have well been on the other side of the word because we were most assuredly "snowed in". The radio station would promote crazy contests like inviting young women to show up in a bikini in the midst of the blizzard. We would laugh and fantasize about older girls from school in such apparel. Once the sun went down we would go outside again, the storm over, moonlight glistening off the snow. Dad would warm up maple syrup and we would pour it on the fresh fallen snow and have instant candy.
Oh, how I long for a snow like the one imagined in Robert Frost's famous poem. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
One of the simple joys in life is to be introduced to a new author or musician that really connects with your values. The musings and music of Jack Johnson have become that kind of gift for me. I first read about him in an article in the January issue of Men's Journal which I received as a Christmas gift. I discovered that he has released three albums-Brushfire Fairytales, On and On, and In Between Dreams-that have sold seven million copies worldwide. Most recently, he has been writing songs for the upcoming Ron Howard animated film, Curious George. His success aside, Jack seems to have remained grounded in his life and values. The article reported that "After nearly five years of solid work, Jack plans to spend the next couple of years recharging, devoting his time to his wife and their young boy, who's nearly two. Fifty years from now he'd rather be treated like his Dad is treated, as a pillar of this community, rather than as a former superstar. "This is the center of my universe," he says. "Everyone has that spot, the spot where you feel most comfortable. Like sitting under this tree, or hanging out on my parents' front porch." It was so refreshing to read about an artist who is not driven by popularity and adoration of fans.
My favorite songs of the moment are "Breakdown" which compares life to a crosscountry train ride and he sings, "I need this here old train to breakdown, oh please just let me please breakdown" and "I want to break on down but I can't stop now, And I got no time that I got to get to where I don't need to be." I am also enjoying "Good People" as he sings, "Where'd all the good people go? I've been changing channels, I don't see them on the tv shows." Both of these songs are on the "In Between Dreams" cd. Here is a link to a music video of his song, "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing".
I took this photograph about a month ago in Collins Park, Saratoga Springs, NY just before this winter decided to go on hiatus. Since then we have had many days in the 50's. Very strange weather for January. Notice how confused these ducks appear to be. Maybe they had some inkling of what was to come? It appears that they are looking in all four directions. What are they searching for? A leader? A purpose? A safe haven? Now this fella made a different choice. He is striking out on his own. No mass confusion for him. Maybe he's the leader in search of the flock? Or maybe he just prefers to search on his own without the distraction of others. Which do you prefer? To be with the community even when the community is feeling lost? Or to be alone in your searching? I hope these ramblings about ducks don't drive you "quackers". I find direction in Leslie F. Brandt's reimagining of Psalm 121.
Where should I look for help in my need?
To majestic mountain peaks that probe our skies
or to giants of industry that clog our land?
To satellites that circle our world
or to computers that store our knowledge?
The answer to my problems
and the fulfillment of my needs
must come from God Himself,
from Him who created skies and mountains
and men and women (and ducks) to dwell in their midst.