A child in every one

Halloween 1986, the first of many that Matt and Drew enjoyed together.

Halloween 1986, the first of many that Matt and Drew enjoyed together.

Backward, turn backward,
O Time, in your flight
make me a child again
just for to-night!

~ Elizabeth Akers Allen

There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch.Robert Brault

Perhaps no holiday brings back more childhood memories than Halloween.  The festivities of November and December belong to people of all ages, but Halloween seems created for those who are still young enough to be excited about candy, uninhibited about parading around in costumes, and energetic enough to visit door after door in quest of just one more treat.

If you’re my age or older, you probably remember a time when candy was a relatively rare privilege, which made the prospect of Halloween goodies all the more magical.  That exciting trip to get the pumpkin(s) for carving, the fun of spending time with adults who participated in the merriment by creating jack-o-lanterns and other faintly frightful decorations, and the enjoyment of themed activities at school (perhaps with a reading of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) all combined to build the suspense until October 31.

The crisp autumn air was a perfect setting for the anticipation of choosing “what to be this year” and then creating a costume to wear on the big night.  (Store bought costumes were scorned by us, as they may have been by many of you.)  What could surpass the sheer delight of dressing up as darkness fell, then seeing creativity on parade in the costumes of friends as we ran from house to house, sometimes greeted by enthusiastic parents dressed in costumes of their own for handing out treats.  The fiery grin of a jack-o-lantern would welcome us at almost every door.

On returning home to dump the contents of our bags or pillowcases onto the floor, sorting and trading and eating until past bedtime, we would critique the evening.  Whose costumes were best? Most creative? Scariest?  Who carved the best pumpkin?  Then when bedtime finally came, the regret of knowing one more Halloween had passed was tempered by the candy stash, which would last for weeks, and the knowledge that the grandest festivities were yet to come in the holidays just ahead.

Do these memories sound familiar to you, or are yours different?  Did you celebrate Halloween, and if so, how?  I hope this season you will remember and share some of your best Halloween memories.  Feel free to tell us about them here!

This post was first published seven years ago today. As always, when I schedule these posts for re-publication, I go back and read through them. I’ve forgotten so much of what I wrote, so it’s often a process of rediscovery. If I have time, I also read the old comments, and there I find more happy than sad memories. In this particular post, I especially enjoyed the comments of my extended family members as we reminisced about Halloweens in our past. I still miss Daddy so much, but in his comments, he lives on and speaks to me again.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Stimulating loneliness

Sunset on the ocean at Captiva Island, Florida, January 2013

Sunset on the ocean at Captiva Island, Florida, January 2013

“The loneliness you get by the sea is personal and alive. It doesn’t subdue you and make you feel abject. It’s stimulating loneliness.”Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I connected immediately with Lindbergh’s words in the quote.  I’m seldom if ever at the sea all alone, but it always wraps me in a calming sense of solitude.  Maybe it’s the immensity of it, underscoring my relatively insignificant presence.  Or maybe it’s the sights, sounds, scents and sensations; the rare setting that taps into all five of our senses, leaving the faint taste of salt in our mouths.

In any case, as Lindbergh describes, the loneliness I feel by the sea is never an unpleasant experience.  In my case, I think it may be the paradox inherent in feeling, through such rich isolation, the presence of deity.  It’s as if I am experiencing the omnipresence of God in a highly personal yet universal way.  I realize that may sound like so much new-age doubletalk, but if you’ve ever had the sensation yourself, you will know what I mean.

In any case, I wish for you today the stimulating loneliness of the sea (so like that of the sky), if only in memory or imagination.  As we share the common experience of sanctified solitude, we are brought together in the unending mystery of being part of a vast sea of global humanity, each of us remaining unique, and uniquely loved by God.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

History that teaches

Jeff stands in front of the reconstructed McLean House, where Lee surrendered to Grant. Appomattox Court House, Virginia, July 2005

Jeff stands in front of the reconstructed McLean House, where Lee surrendered to Grant.
Appomattox Court House, Virginia, July 2005

“The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.” — Robert E. Lee

Perhaps no decision in history has been more analyzed and second-guessed than Lee’s decision to refuse command of the Union army in favor of leading the troops of the Confederacy.  His decision is all the more noteworthy as it was made, not only in the face of conflicting loyalties within his state and his own family, but also with a greater realization than many of his contemporaries of how long and bloody the war was likely to be.  It’s impossible to imagine the grief, disappointment and despair that Lee must have endured in the years that followed, witnessing the horrific suffering and loss of so many lives, culminating in acknowledged defeat with his surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

How, then, to explain his statement quoted above, which was penned years after the war ended?  It would be easier to understand if Lee had indulged in bitter predictions of doom, or cynical observations about the human limitations he so eloquently describes. Yet he chose to focus on the larger picture, and to believe in an ultimately favorable outcome for much that was yet unresolved.

With these words, Lee reminds us that no matter how powerful (or not) an individual might be, all of us are part of something far more immense than our immediate circumstances suggest.  While some might argue that history teaches us to be pessimistic, I like Lee’s assertion that the trajectory of human existence moves primarily in a forward direction, despite the many setbacks that seem to get more press in the archives of history.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, I hope you will find time to reflect on the blessings available to us every day that would have been ardently appreciated by past generations.  We don’t have to look very far to see much reason for hope in history.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

All gates

This must be the most purely symbolic gate I've ever seen. Captiva , Florida, January 2013

This must be the most purely symbolic gate I’ve ever seen. Captiva, Florida, January 2013

“The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the best ways to defeat despair is to see the opportunity that lies in almost every situation.  When I am able to view a difficult time as a gateway to something new, I am better able to tolerate the sadness, grief or frustration that can too easily take over my thoughts.

I love the idea of “strings of tension waiting to be struck.” It made me ponder how stringed instruments can only make beautiful music if the strings are tense.  It’s the action of contacting the tension that creates the sound. Too much tension, of course, will snap the strings and damage the instrument.  But it takes just the right amount to enable the instrument to do what it was designed to do.

Perhaps there’s a symbolic lesson for us here.  While we all love the times of relaxation, we usually need a bit of tension or urgency to kick us into a productive, energetic mode.  Next time your day is fraught with tension and frustration, think of the beautiful music that can be produced when strings are tensed.  Think of the gates that are open to you, inviting you to walk forward into new opportunities.

Today, I wish you eyes that are opened to the gates in your world, and the opportunities to make beautiful music with your tension.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Any tea

Too bad Kipling didn't have a nearby tea shop like this one in Bar Harbor, Maine, June 2012.

Too bad Kipling didn’t have a nearby tea shop like this one in Bar Harbor, Maine, June 2012.

We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week…
The bottom is out of the Universe.

Rudyard Kipling

…and speaking of reasons I love to be in England, I think the top three would be tea, tea and tea.  Of course, one can get delicious tea pretty much anywhere, but my love of tea is most connected to Great Britain.  I was just beginning to have a real taste for it in May 2001, when I had tea at the home of my longtime British pen pal in Essex.  We had been out touring on a cold drizzly day, and our coming in to sit by her fire and drink tea is one of my happiest memories.  I’ve forgotten how many cups I drank (some with cream and sugar, and some without) but I think I was hooked from that point on.

And “hooked” is not too strong a word for it.  I can hardly get through a day without tea, much less a week, so Kipling’s verse made me smile.  I know coffee drinkers who feel the same way about their morning cup, and while I don’t share the same enthusiasm for coffee, it’s beginning to grow on me.  But I doubt that it will ever replace tea in my affections.

What simple pleasure does Kipling’s verse remind you of? What seemingly trivial loss would cause you to declare “the bottom is out of the Universe?”  It’s easy to take the commonplace for granted, until we are without it.  Today, let’s remind each other of all the small blessings woven so tightly into our days that losing them would make us feel everything was unraveling!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

The maxim of the British

One of many tourists who pose with the Queen's Guard. Windsor Castle, August 2005

One of many tourists who pose with the Queen’s Guard. Windsor Castle, August 2005

“The maxim of the British people is ‘Business as usual.'” — Winston Churchill

This quote, and the photo posted above, capture one reason why I love being in England.  I must not be the only one, because the now-ubiquitous, quintessentially British wartime quote “Keep Calm and Carry On” has been revived and printed on all sorts of items.  It’s now also cleverly parodied by more than one producer of novelties.  The legendary “stiff upper lip” is admirable to many of us, it seems.

Contrary to what some believe, the Queen’s Guard (one of whom is involuntarily posing with a tourist in the photo above) are not just a ceremonial detail, but are fully operational soldiers.  When I saw the tourists taking turns posing beside the guards, I thought it was funny and decided to give it a try.  I thought better when I got a bit closer and saw the razor edge of the bayonet and the barely noticeable tightening of the soldier’s hand on his rifle as I approached.  I felt a bit disrespectful, and more than a little edgy.  So the only photo we have of me with this same solder shows me standing a few feet off, looking ready to run, with a sheepishly undecided grin on my face.

Can you imagine what it must be like to stand silently and endure the constant stream of tourists for hours on end?  These men are fully armed and responsible for the safety of a castle full of people (to say nothing of being a potential target for some deranged attacker), yet they are expected never to move and supposedly never to crack a smile.  What if that huge hat gets unbearably itchy underneath?  What if he had too much tea and needs to go to the loo?  What if he has to sneeze?  Business as usual, which for the Queen’s Guard, means keeping a poker face and standing firm in all sorts of irritating circumstances.

I over-react far too often, so this trait is something I need to cultivate, and I have had a great example in the past year. It’s been amazing to see how Jeff has taken the “business as usual” maxim as his approach to life with stage IV cancer.  Almost every day that he has not been in the hospital or at a treatment appointment, he’s been busy working at the clinic by day and at home by night, going about his routines as if none of this nightmare had ever hit us.  He manages to restrict how much we discuss it or even mention it, far from the obsessive worrying that I tend to do.  It must be his British ancestry coming out.

In any case, the next time you are dealing with unforeseen and unpleasant surprises, or maybe just the annoying presence of distracting people, remember the stony endurance of the Queen’s Guard.  Business as usual.  Keep calm and carry on!

ADDENDUM 10-23-13:

OK, by popular demand (meaning at the requests of people who are popular with me), here is the photo of me with the sheepish grin.  In posting this photo I am breaking two blog standards: 1. use only photos that are focused and attractive; and 2. if I am in the photo, it has to make me look better than I actually look in real life.

Without further ado, see the following three photos:

Sheepish

Do I appear to be gritting my teeth here?  Well, this couple seemed to share my hesitation:

Wary Couple

But this guy in the yellow shirt seemed to have the best idea:

he's outta there

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Let us love

One of countless love notes from God, this one at the Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009

One of countless love notes from God, this one at the Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”John, apostle of Jesus (I John 4:7-8, NIV)

In a chapter that opens with ominous warnings about false teachers, John gives us these beautiful words, along with many others that describe love as the way to know God.  For all the beauty of these words, though, they set the bar quite high.  Love is not an easy task, particularly when it is commanded without conditions.  We are not told to love only those who are worthy of love, nor even to love only those we know.  “One another,” “everyone” and “whoever” are fairly all-encompassing terms.

Taken in the context of the entire Bible, this description becomes all the more daunting.  It becomes quite clear that love is not seen as a limited or qualified thing.  How could it be limited, if the surpassingly infinite being of God is love?  When we read the command to love our enemies, we tend to come up with internal, possibly unconscious parameters: “Yes, but that doesn’t mean…” or “I can love someone and still…” or even “Well, that sounds good, but nobody I know can really pull it off.”

The words themselves are simple, but not easy.  We are the ones who turn it into something complex, mostly as a way of dodging the frightful implications of putting the needs of others before our own desires.  Some people say “all love begins with loving oneself,” and while this may be true, John pointedly says nothing here about self love.  I can’t think of a time when Jesus did, either.

What’s ultimately comforting about this passage is the confident declaration that God is love.   When we focus on that, we tap into the energy and power to do what seems impossible.  Every day, in countless ways, the love of God is poured out through the beauty of creation and the blessings that come from the hands of creative, competent and compassionate people.  When we immerse ourselves in all the manifestations of what is true, just and lovely, we naturally want to become part of that loving force.

It’s a pretty safe bet that this very day, as all others, you will be called upon to love someone else, through some big or small task, or perhaps only through patience and kind words.  In fact, chances are you will be in a position to show love to more than one person, through more than one opportunity.  If it seems hard, just look around you for examples.  God sends us love notes on a continual basis, and if we look closely, we can learn from them.  How will we be asked to love one another today?  How will we respond?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Drinking in the surroundings

I snapped this photo just behind our townhome in our Alexandria neighborhood, November 2011.

I snapped this photo just behind our townhome in Alexandria, November 2011.

“I was drinking in the surroundings: air so crisp you could snap it with your fingers and greens in every lush shade imaginable offset by autumnal flashes of red and yellow.”
Wendy Delsol

I had never heard of Wendy Delsol until I came across this quote, but she described exactly what I was doing the day I took this photo.  I’ve written a lot about our York home and our beloved little patch of woods there, but our Alexandria townhome also has a lovely view from the back deck, or the patio below it, of the woods you see in this picture.

With surroundings like these, along with unlimited digital recorded books from my local library to keep me company, how could I NOT love to walk?  Some of the best things in life really are free. It’s often hard to carve out the time to put in my two or three daily miles, but I’ve learned to make it a priority.  I hope this photo may inspire you to do the same, even if your walks are much shorter.  You might not have fall foliage where you are, but you surely have something else beautiful, interesting or stimulating to enjoy.  Go out and drink in the surroundings — and then come back and tell us about it here!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

So many stupid remarks

As usual, Jeff and Matt heard more than they said. At the Louvre, Paris, September 2005

As usual, Jeff and Matt heard more than they said. At the Louvre, Paris, September 2005

“Surely nothing has to listen to so many stupid remarks as a painting in a museum.”
Edmond & Jules de Goncourt

When I read this quote, I laughed.  Then I wanted to talk back to it.  “Oh yeah? Try being a parent at an IEP meeting.”  But I realize that’s a fairly esoteric thing to say.  So I thought of other examples.  What about:

  • a gorilla at the zoo?
  • a judge at traffic court?
  • a middle school vice principal in charge of student conduct?
  • a mother with a screaming toddler?
  • anyone listening to a sports event’s “color commentator?” (You know, the ones who make immortal observations such as “this is a situation where they really need a hit” with the score tied and bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.)

Admittedly, the Goncourt brothers came up with an interesting angle here, but let’s have fun with it.  We all have to put up with stupid remarks occasionally, and sometimes we make them ourselves.  Who (or what) do you suppose draws the most stupid comments?  What are some classics you’ve heard (or said)?  Sometimes, the best way to defeat despair is to shrug your shoulders, shake your head and laugh!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Not just a noun

This beautiful shrub almost leaped out at us. Corolla, North Carolina, September 2013

This beautiful shrub almost leaped out at us. Corolla, North Carolina, September 2013

“All the other colors are just colors, but purple seems to have a soul. Purple is not just a noun and an adjective but also a verb – when you look at it, it’s looking back at you.” Uniek Swain*

I’m tempted to begin with Alice Walker’s well known quote about the color purple, but let us just say that I agree with those who think purple a remarkable color. I feel the same about most colors (I would never classify the others as “just colors”), but this never detracts from the singular beauty of the hue that happens to be in front of my eyes at the moment.

We came upon this enormous, lovely shrub in the historic village of Corolla, North Carolina, near Currituck Lighthouse. I could not remember ever seeing anything like it before, nor could Jeff. Can someone tell us what it is? Mike, perhaps you know?  I asked the other visitors around us if any of them knew what it was, and none did, though all agreed it was remarkable.  I’ve seen smaller versions of it before, but this one was taller than we are.

In any case, this plant stood out among many other varieties in a very lovely setting. As with some irises, the vivid purple and arresting form set it apart. It may not literally have been looking back at us, but its size and color did give it an animated feeling, as if it was there to greet us.  I wouldn’t exactly say that the color purple seems to have a soul, but I confess to being something of a synesthete who experiences a kind of character or personality to colors, and purple seems active rather than passive; almost a verb.

What are your favorite colors? Do any of them seem to you to have personalities? Or do you scratch your head and wonder about the sanity of those who think that numerals, letters, automobiles and other abstract or inanimate objects have qualities that connect to animate traits in our minds?  Either way, I hope these purple blooms brighten your day!

    1. (*This quote is widely attributed to Uniek Swain throughout cyberspace, but I have been unable to find anything about this person other than quote attributions. Readers are invited to enlighten me on this, too.)

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

We must free ourselves

A sailboat off the coast of Barbados, March 2010

A sailboat off the coast of Barbados, March 2010

“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest.  We must learn to sail in high winds.” Aristotle Onassis

Whatever else might be said of Aristotle Onassis, he certainly learned to make the most of adverse circumstances.  His family’s experiences could have led him into poverty.  Instead he became one of the world’s wealthiest men, though the details of his biography suggest his ethics were not equal to his determination.

Ethical questions aside, I appreciate his words quoted above, because I have found them to be true again and again.  It might seem strange that a blog called “Defeat Despair” would highlight a quote about freeing ourselves from hope.  But freedom from false hope can actually be an important part of overcoming setbacks. It allows us to adjust to misfortune or grief rather than denying it with wishful thinking.

When Jeff was first diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma, we read up and immediately came face to face with the bluntly unfavorable prognosis that was confirmed by his doctors.  A blessing we did not expect was the upbeat attitude of those who have provided his treatments.  They are candid in discussing the battle he faces, but many of them have encouraged us to look at cancer as a chronic condition rather than a death sentence; to resolve to live with cancer rather than focusing on dying from it.  To the extent that we have done this, we have been more able to weather the many difficult days, and cherish the relatively easy or peaceful ones, no matter how few and far between.

The next time you find yourself using the words “if only” or “I can’t wait until” or “when things calm down a bit,” remember the words of the Greek shipping magnate who harnessed the power of the unruly seas to bring himself legendary fortune.  Don’t wish for easier circumstances that may never arrive.  Learn to sail in the high winds.  It will be good experience — and perhaps it will be unexpectedly invigorating.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The ideas expressed herein among those most relevant to how the past four years have unfolded in my life. I’ve been freed from whatever hopes I had left for my life, and I’m learning to focus (at least for now) on harnessing the winds, or in some cases, simply staying afloat. 

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Eyes turned skyward

A US Airways jet approaches DCA in FAA-choreographed precision. Taken from the Arlington Memorial Bridge, April 2013

A US Airways jet approaches DCA in FAA-choreographed precision.
Taken from the Arlington Memorial Bridge, April 2013

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written here before about having grown up in an airline family, surrounded by relatives and friends who were pilots, and hearing endless talk of flight from my earliest memory.  In those days, few of my friends had flown (except for the many who, like me, grew up with airline employees in their families, of which there were plenty in Atlanta).  But I can remember flying before the days of jet engines, when even the major airlines flew propeller planes.  In just my lifetime, aviation has changed tremendously, and not all of the changes have been for the better.

I don’t know how Leonardo da Vinci nailed it so well without having tasted flight himself, but he’s right.  My experiences growing up with airplanes, and later my years working for US Airways, have meant that I pretty much walk with my eyes turned skyward, figuratively if not literally.

If you had told me when I was a child that there would come a day when flying was almost as common as riding a bus, and people would talk of it with contempt and even disgust,  I would never have believed you.  When airline deregulation passed, my father predicted just such a scenario, but even then I could not imagine it.  And still, when I’m flying on a sunny day and happen to be near enough to a window to glimpse the brightly-lit clouds below, all the magic comes back.  I just don’t understand how we came to take such a phenomenal experience for granted.

On a recent trip into DC, I decided to get off at the Arlington Cemetery metro stop and walk into the city across the Arlington Memorial Bridge.  There were several sights I planned to take in, but my timing was such that when I crossed the bridge it was a very busy time for air traffic, and I ended up spending much of my time there with eyes literally turned skyward.  I watched in fascination, snapping away with my camera as plane after plane shot staggered approaches into Reagan National Airport, just seconds apart.  The risk and precision of it amazed me, although it was nothing I had not heard of hundreds of times before.

A few weeks later my brother, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot, accompanied us into DC for Matt’s arm surgery.  As we came into the city, he remarked that he couldn’t cross those bridges over the Potomac without feeling an anxiety-related adrenaline rush conditioned by years of shooting harrowing approaches to the short runways of DCA.  Again I thought of how much we take for granted about flying, and how ungrateful we usually are for the relative safety and convenience of modern air travel.

I stay so busy that I don’t have much time to miss my years at USAir and the wonderful flying privileges I grew up with and later enjoyed as an airline employee.  But just as Leonardo said, there I have been, and there some part of me  will always long to return.

Do you like to fly?  Or has the negative press related to delays and fare increases, scary (though relatively rare) fatalities, and hassles of security searches ruined it for you?  Notwithstanding all of the aforementioned drawbacks, can you at least enjoy the occasional glimpse out the window that shows you a different view of our world, one Leonardo would have given so much to experience even one time?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

All the beasts

I photographed this elephant at Disney's Animal Kingdom, August 2003.

I photographed this elephant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, August 2003.

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit…”
— attributed to Chief Seattle

The oft-quoted words above were purportedly from a letter written by Chief Seattle to President Franklin Pierce. At least one historian has researched and dismissed the authenticity of this claim, and his arguments against its supposed provenance are rather convincing.

However, the quote lives on because the beauty of the words have the ring of truth to many of us.  Animals are not only an adornment to our world; they are essential for its survival.  With photo and video technology, we have a front-row seat for viewing the diversity of the animal kingdom.  The stunning variety of their appearance, behaviors and habits are a never-ending source of fascination for those of us who enjoy watching creatures who share this planet with us.

Just as the fictional wizard Merlin taught the young Arthur about life by turning him into various animals, so we too have much to learn from the beasts.  I’m thankful I’ve been able to watch all sorts of animals wherever I’ve lived and traveled, and while films will never replace the thrill of seeing them face to face, I’m grateful for digital glimpses of the inhabitants of regions all over the world.   Cheers for the marvelous photography and painstaking research of humans who dedicate their lives to learning more about our animal friends.

A link to the video below was sent to me by one of the readers in this online community.  When I watched it, I thought of the quote above, because I did feel less lonely in spirit as I watched the movements and expressions of the video’s stars.  Many of them are not the first animals we think of when we talk about the delights of “critters,” but this clip captures the amazingly wide array of life on earth by focusing in closely on just a few examples, and each is beautiful in its unique way.

Today, I hope this video will spark fond memories of animals you’ve seen or loved, and gratitude for their presence with us here on earth, sharing and dispelling the loneliness of existence.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

A daybreak that’s wondrously clear

Just enough clouds to break the monotonous blue. The Yukon Territory, June 2000

Just enough clouds to break the monotonous blue. The Yukon Territory, June 2000

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

I join millions in saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Maya Angelou, for these ever-inspiring words, that light up the darkness for so many of us!” I’ve often said that Angelou’s writing does for my spirit what spinach did for Popeye. She has a gift for empowering others through what she writes.

To be extra-candid here, I’ve always had the feeling that some of my friends don’t understand my abiding interest in black history.  It’s not that they say so in words; they don’t have to. And I’ve never felt the need to explain.

Still, it’s like the elephant in the living room.  Sooner or later, anyone who knows me well, knows that I feel a deep unspoken connection with the African-American details of U.S. history.  It’s partly that I’m from the South, where both transracial unity and lingering racism continue to flourish.  Jeff often remarks, in some northern places we visit, how strange it seems to see that there are so few black people around.  Both of us feel more at home when we’re not in an all-Caucasian crowd.  Both of us have been most happy in churches where everyone belongs, regardless of age, ethnicity, disability or good old-fashioned eccentricity.  It might seem odd or pretentious to admit that, but that’s just how it is.

But I can’t pretend to have the slightest idea what it’s like to be an African American today, much less twenty or fifty or two hundred years ago.  I have, however, learned a few things I never wanted to know.

I’ve learned that invisible chains can be almost as restrictive and damaging as literal ones, and far more insidious.

I’ve learned that prejudice is something one can often sense and pick up on inner radar…and that such radar is sometimes inaccurate, skewed unfairly by past outrageous injustices.

I’ve learned that many cruelties and hurts are perpetrated by people who mean well, and have not the slightest intention of hurting someone else…and who sometimes are unwilling to see their own guilt in the matter, even if it is pointed out.

Most importantly, though, I have been blessed to know so many African American people who have lived out before my eyes the daily tasks I find so difficult: forgiveness, patience, fortitude, courage, humor, humility and never, ever giving up.

All of us struggle, of course.  African-Americans have no corner on the suffering market; indeed, as Angelou herself points out in the clip below, no minority or majority does.  Life is mostly a tremendous struggle, and ultimately, none of us gets out of this world alive.

Which brings me to another reason I love black history: its unmistakable link between faith and endurance; hope in God and trust in people, no matter how many times people may fail us and disappoint us, and no matter how hard it may be to see God pulling for us, working for our good in the harshest circumstances.

The gift Angelou refers to, the one her ancestors gave, is not just for black people or other minorities.  It’s for all of us.  The dream of the slave is the dream of us all: freedom from the pain and suffering and injustice of this world.  Her final words in this poem, meaningful to all of humanity, have a special resonance for those of us who are Christians, because intentionally or not, they echo for us the theme that is at the heart of our faith, the greatest story ever told: that the victory of Jesus is our victory as well. We rise!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Bright and intense and beautiful

Taken on my daily walk in our York neighborhood, November 2008

Taken on my daily walk in our York neighborhood, November 2008

“Fall colors are funny. They’re so bright and intense and beautiful. It’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary.”Siobhan Vivian

That’s what I do on my walks; stockpile the colors and images and cool, smoke-scented air.  No matter how often I see the autumn foliage, it always dazzles me.  No matter how many photos I take, I always want to take more.  I keep all these lovely digital and mental photos and sounds and scents in my mind as a sort of second line of defense against the sad and scary thoughts that keep getting past my psychological fortress.  I can’t use the coming winter as an excuse for stockpiling, though, because I do the same with spring flowers.  I replenish and tap into my stockpiles of cheer, serenity and joy all year long.

Still, I think the fall holidays have grown ever more festive because they ease us into the coming months of cold weather and short, gloomy daylight.  I love the way the winter solstice sneaks in there right before Christmas, when merriment and frantic busyness are at a fever pitch.  By the time the celebrations of the season have passed, we can perk ourselves up with the thought that the darkest day has come and gone, and every day that passes brings a longer time between sunup and sundown.

Meanwhile, though, we still have a few weeks to go before December.  Grab every clear day you can, and make some mental and digital photos of the way the sunlight electrifies the vivid fall palette.  Which colors are your favorite mood-booster?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Thy medicine

Even in December, this produce shop in rue Cler, Paris, had abundant healthy choices. December 2005

Even in December (2005), this shop in rue Cler, Paris, had abundant healthy choices.

“Let food be thy medicine…”Hippocrates

You really don’t want to get me started on this topic, so I’ll try to keep it relatively brief.  I think one of the best ways to keep our minds and bodies fit and healthy is to take care what we feed them.  This applies to thoughts and images, of course, which is why I started this blog.  But it also applies to food — and mental and physical health are inextricably linked.

I’m lucky that my mother taught me years ago not to believe everything I hear from the FDA about what is safe or healthy.  Some of what she was saying 30 years ago was scorned and laughed at (such as “margarine is worse for you than butter” and “refined carbohydrates are empty calories” and “artificial sweeteners are harmful”).  Now, of course, she has the last laugh, as do many of the nutritionists who were once dismissed as kooks.

Pharmaceuticals have their place, of course, but as Dr. Santos Rodriguez told me recently, “a great many diseases are basically the result of malnutrition.” As a remarkably fit physician in his 90’s, he has a lot of credibility in my book.  No matter what may ail your spirit or your body, a good diet can be the start of your journey toward wellness and peace of mind.

As winter approaches, I hope you will enjoy the benefit of fruits and vegetables, now available year round thanks to the advances in shipping that allow us to enjoy produce from other regions when we are unable to access food that is grown locally.  Years of experience have taught me that eating lots of fruit and vegetables in fall and winter translates to fewer colds and viruses.  If you’ve never tested this idea, give it a try this year.  Indulge in your favorites, even if they cost a bit more in the off-season.  It will be an investment in your health and enjoyment that will pay dividends!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

The inspiring force

This monument honors Martin Luther and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation. Worms, Germany, August 2005

This monument honors Martin Luther and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation.
Worms, Germany, August 2005

“I was carried beyond myself by the inspiring force of urgent necessity.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If you’ve been through anything especially difficult, harrowing or protracted and exhausting, chances are you’ve heard well-meaning people say “I don’t know how you do it” or “I could never do what you are doing.” It’s natural for them to feel that way, but of course, those of us who are enduring great trials or facing seemingly impossible tasks usually do so because we feel we have no other choice.

Sometimes, great and monumental changes are started by people who have no idea where their acts of courage or resistance will lead.  Martin Luther wasn’t planning to leave, let alone divide, the Roman Catholic Church when he penned his 95 Theses.  Rosa Parks may have simply been too tired and fed up with unequal treatment to move to the back of the bus.  I think it’s safe to say that neither of them imagined what would come of their defiance. Nevertheless, their individual actions sparked events that changed the course of human history.

Yet far more often– every day, in fact– people all over the world are similarly carried beyond themselves in ways that are largely unknown and unheeded.  Millions of humans struggling with countless challenges somehow manage to keep going beyond what they might have believed they could endure. Some manage tasks that seem almost impossible under stress. Others quietly bear up under years of chronic pain, or take care of loved ones for years on end, or live with the limitations of physical or mental illness, or press on through repeated failures until success is achieved.  A few of these stories make the news, and inspire us.  But the vast majority of heroes will never be known to us.

What is it that gives us the strength to survive, or even prevail?  Based on what I’ve seen, experienced and observed, I think usually it’s simply that we have no other choice.  No matter how tired or inadequate we may feel, we carry within us the ability to rise above far more challenges than we dream ourselves capable of overcoming.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

The simplest toy

Our first grandchild, Grady, figured out how to work this toy right away. I snapped his photo on my lap in September, 2013

Our first grandchild, Grady, figured out how to work this toy right away.
I snapped this photo of him on my lap in September, 2013

“The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent.” Sam Levenson

There are colorful toys, singing toys, funny toys, educational toys, old-fashioned toys, and toys that wear out quickly.  Grandparents are all of the above.  Every child should have at least one or two – hopefully more!  If your child doesn’t have any, don’t fret – as with all well-loved toys, you can borrow someone else’s.

Today I wish you many happy thoughts of your grandparents, grandchildren, or both!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Let us begin

Fall is the time to plant bulbs and prepare for a beautiful spring lawn! Keukenhof, the Netherlands, April 2007

Fall is the time to plant bulbs and prepare for a beautiful spring lawn!
Keukenhof, the Netherlands, April 2007

“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”
John F. Kennedy

One thing that bothers me most about contemporary culture is our collective impatience to see everything done quickly.  There are quite a few things we can mass-produce rather than lovingly craft, and “that takes too much time” is a common indictment of all sorts of bygone skills and nearly forgotten ways of life.

But some things cannot be rushed, and some things require advance planning and organization.  An elaborate holiday feast for family, a handmade gift for a special friend, the training of a new puppy or kitten; all take time that yields a rich return for our patience.

Don’t you love colorful spring flowers?  Now is the time to plant some bulbs!  I remember the first year I ever bought a lot of daffodil bulbs. During the hard work of planting them, I became irritated with myself for having bought so many bulbs in my enthusiasm.  In the chilly fall I dug and dug until my hands were sore, but now, nearly ten years later, I still enjoy seeing my favorite flowers in the very early spring.  Some of them have spread beyond the initial planting.  It took time, but it was worth it.

A lovely lawn or garden; a well-behaved child; a uniquely hand-crafted furnishing or decoration — all these and more will make the world more beautiful for all of us.  It’s hard work, and we won’t see the results immediately…but let us begin!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

If you look

A medieval illuminated manuscript at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, July 2007

A medieval illuminated manuscript at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, July 2007

“If you look at an illuminated manuscript, even today, it just blows your mind.  For them, without all the clutter and inputs that we have, it must have been even more extraordinary.” Geraldine Brooks

I started reading aloud to our sons when they were babies, and kept it up nightly until they were in middle school.  Over the years I marveled at the multitude of gorgeous picture books that were available in full, vibrant colors.  When I was a child, picture books were fewer in number, and many of them had only two or three colors.  In fact, some of the Caldecott Medal winners such as Make Way for Ducklings were muted in appearance compared to the bright hues that decorated even the least expensive picture books our sons enjoyed.  I wondered if they had any idea how lucky they were, having hundreds of visually appealing titles available at any public library or bookstore.

Of course, our children could say something similar about the greater benefits available to young readers today, who have animated eBooks with motion, sound, and interactive features available at the click of a key.  For all the talk about reading being an endangered pastime, the various formats of literary offerings seem to become ever more plentiful, accessible and diverse. Imagine, then, how a medieval reader (or nonreader, as the vast majority were) would react to the literary wealth of our era.

But even centuries ago, there were picture books.  Before the printing press ushered in a renaissance that was as far-reaching as our digital revolution of today, books had to be copied by hand.  Countless monks and scribes literally gave their entire lives (and sometimes their eyesight) carefully duplicating texts that had slim chances of surviving the ravages of uncontrolled climate, hungry insects and pillaging or censoring conquerors.  It’s a bit amazing that any of these treasures survived.

Some did, though, and among the most amazing are the illuminated manuscripts, with elaborate border decorations and richly detailed illustrations.  The intricate patterns and calligraphy tell an unwritten story that goes beyond the diligently copied text, reminding us that books have been vital to humanity for as long as history has been recorded.  The countless hours spent preparing, recording and preserving the written word testify to the respect, even reverence, that books have always commanded from those who appreciate them.

It’s fun to wonder whether much of the deluge of writing now available online will live through as many centuries as the handwritten texts have survived.  Does the ease of writing (and deleting), the abundance of lovely photos and artwork so easily viewed on any computer, and the common expectation of widespread literacy, cause us to devalue one of the greatest blessings people have ever been granted?  Are we treating words and illustrations carelessly, flinging them about with the contempt that often accompanies any easily available, seemingly boundless resource?

Perhaps some of us are, at least now and then. But I’d like to think that a great many of us — particularly those who are reading and writing words right now, rather than passively taking in television re-runs — comprehend the surpassing importance and responsibility attached to literacy.  There’s a popular bumper sticker that says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”  Perhaps there should be one that says, “If you can read this, BE a teacher — and a learner!”

Whatever you are doing today, you’ll be in contact with written words more often than you’re even aware of them.  I hope you’ll take a moment to be thankful for this gift of literacy, which binds us to people centuries removed from us. They’ve left us richly illustrated reminders that words can be, and often are, extraordinarily beautiful.

For a look at picture books of bygone days, see Elephant’s Picture Book, a fun and interesting blog!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Your message

Even when it's very, very dark, there's a light shining somewhere. Dam Neck, Virginia, September 2013

Even when it’s very, very dark, there’s a light shining somewhere.
Here’s the full moon, shining on Dam Neck, Virginia, September 2013

“If you want to get your message across, shut up.”Mardy Grothe

I don’t take this advice nearly as often as I ought to, but today, I get it.  I schedule these posts about two weeks in advance, so I have no idea how I’ll be feeling when this post is published.  But right now, as I am writing it, I am just treading water.  Maybe my wonderful and funny and highly intelligent readers can help write this post for me.  Got any sunny, happy or at least wise thoughts to share?  Today, I am attempting to Defeat Despair by keeping my mouth shut!

Wish me luck.

This post was first published seven years ago today. How ironic that it should re-post on the fourth anniversary of Jeff’s death. Appropriate, I guess, because for all of my writing and talking, there are still no words to communicate the unsurpassed loss.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Wild with leaves

Autumn leaves at Colonial Williamsburg remind me of all that I love about the season. November, 2004

Autumn leaves at Colonial Williamsburg remind me of all that I love about the season. November, 2004

“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
― Humbert Wolfe

The photo above was taken just a few months after we moved to Virginia, having lived in northern California for the past five years.  I was almost unbearably homesick for the west coast.  The heat, humidity, unpredictable thunderstorms and hungry mosquitoes had been a real adjustment. But when fall rolled around, it brought back distant memories that refocused my perceptions.

For the first several years here in Virginia, we had season passes to nearby Colonial Williamsburg.  After the crowds of tourists thinned out in the autumn, it was magical to walk the dirt roads there at dusk.  Fire torches and flickering candles provided light as the darkness fell, and the colors of autumn seemed a fitting complement to the carefully re-created historic atmosphere.  My rediscovery of the joys of the season was the beginning of my love for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In our other homes far west of here, we had seemingly endless warm days and mild evenings, year round (or nearly so) and dearly loved. Yet four distinct seasons provide a different kind of enjoyment, and I feel grateful to be back in the climate I loved in childhood.

What are your favorite memories of this season? Wherever you live, I wish you October eves rich with autumn’s unique enchantment!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Do not wait

Matt with "Ms. Darla," who has opened so many doors for him. February 2012

Matt with “Ms. Darla,” who has opened so many doors for him. February 2012

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” — Mother Teresa

If I’ve learned anything at all since Matt was born, I’ve learned this: no government or agency can match the power of one dedicated and compassionate person to improve the life of another.

Agencies, laws and governments are necessary, but to the extent that we come to rely on them for needs that can never be answered except by the presence of another human, they can work against us.  Indeed, we can excuse ourselves from difficult or uncomfortable work by telling ourselves that “agencies” or “the state” or “the church” can take care of the problem.  This is an illusion, and a dangerous one.

When I look back on Matt’s life, it’s always the individuals who made a difference for our family.  The perceptive fourth grade teacher who saw past the disabilities to the intelligence that was not always obvious.  The occupational therapist who patiently helped me understand what Matt’s challenges are, and how we can do little things daily to help him overcome them.  Above all, the friends who simply loved us, letting their hearts lead the way and doing naturally the things that others, afraid of making mistakes, were too hesitant to do.

The remarkable lady pictured above with Matt has helped him, and many others with or without disabilities, in countless ways during the years — almost a decade now — that we have had the gift of her friendship.  Her considerable skills and experience make her a candidate for more lucrative and prestigious careers, but she chooses to dedicate herself to her community and its people, volunteering in various ways that bring her into contact with those who need her.

Most importantly, she does all these things with a joy and enthusiasm that could never be matched by a salaried person sitting behind a counter or desk.  In serving others face to face, person to person, she changes many lives.  While she is one of the few people who have ever been willing to join me in my political activism (we spent a marvelous day in Richmond at the capital, meeting with our elected representatives and their staff), she never waits for leaders to do things that need to be done.  How different our world would be if there were more people with her energy and dedication!

You may not see yourself as having abilities unavailable to powerful or well-known leaders, but in reality, you have opportunities that they will never know about.  In your own family, church, community, school — really anywhere you go — big and little doors are open to you, chances to act in small ways that cumulatively bring about great change.  It starts with a smile, a kind word, a human touch that no organization or legislature can produce.  When you step out as one person to make a change in your world, you really aren’t alone; you’ll become part of an unknown army of others like you, who make the world a better place every day.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Not a child

Amy's dog is one hundred percent adorable. Manassas, Virginia, July 2013

Amy’s dog is one hundred percent adorable. Manassas, Virginia, July 2013

“My dog is not a child substitute, according to its pediatrician.”Rita Rudner

On a recent weekend visit, Drew and Megan were laughing about their having unintentionally referred to Grady as “Pasha” a couple of times.  I laughed too, but before the weekend was over, I had done it myself.  It’s an easy mistake to make.  They’re about the same size, not too much difference in the weight, same sort of addictive cuteness that elicits an irresistible urge to talk in silly voices.

Most of us who have animals in our homes probably never realized that adopting a pet would bring out behaviors to which we once thought ourselves immune.  You may have even said at some point (as I did, more than once) “I would never, ever act as foolish over a dog (or cat or bird or whatever) as they do — you would think that was a child.”

The interesting thing is, once you lose that particular illusion, you’re in.  You get it.  And you will usually find yourself much more enamored of animals in general.  Some of my best friends are my best friends’ dogs.  Take the sweetheart pictured above.  He (yes, it’s a HE, and no sexist remarks about the doll please) is one of the most loveable cuties I’ve ever seen.  Good thing he’s too big for me to hold on my lap.

If you are lucky enough to have an animal in your household, take it from one parent to another:  Enjoy these years.  They go by much too fast!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Alterations

Early American style displayed at the dressmaker's shop, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, November 2004

Early American style displayed at the dressmaker’s shop, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, November 2004

“Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.”  —  Faith Baldwin

I imagine most of you remember Scarlett O’Hara’s reinvention of her parlor curtains, as well as Carol Burnett’s hilarious parody of it.  I admired Scarlett’s ability to work with whatever she had, which often wasn’t very much.   In our era, when new clothing is relatively easy to obtain, we scarcely ever re-fit or repurpose garments, but time’s alterations continue unabated.

As Jeff and I have aged, I have reached the conclusion that no trait is more necessary for thriving in late life as the ability to adapt to change.  For some of us, change is exciting in certain situations, but the types of changes that go along with getting older are not all of the stimulating, desirable kind.  Research tells us that even positive change is stressful.  How to cope, then?

Perhaps Baldwin’s analogy is helpful.  Start with a lovely, flattering dress that has gone out of style, or no longer fits.  A clever seamstress can refashion the cut and details to accommodate the new circumstances, keeping the classic features of the original while adding touches here and there that disguise and decorate.  And a really talented seamstress can do this more than once with the same gown.  Maybe we can do something similar with our daily lives.

I’ve grudgingly made some adjustments to what I expect my body to do now.  I cannot tolerate the same amount of eating, exercise or excitement I relished when I was younger.  I’ve added some interesting details, though, that weren’t part of my life thirty years ago.  Focusing on the wealth of experiences, memories and relationships that have deepened over time keeps me from wallowing in regret over what now belongs to the past, or what never was.

Have you been busy with time’s alterations?  Have you a new lace collar, some eye-catching buttons or different hemline to share with us?  Give us some hints on re-inventing!  And enjoy your new look – on you it’s fabulous!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

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