Monday, March 31, 2014

Free at last


Today, I had a sense of freedom that I haven't experienced very often, if ever.  Perhaps it was just all the planets and stars aligning.  Perhaps it was the first really spring feeling day in southern Tennessee.  Perhaps I just got caught up on my sleep.  Finally.

Who knows.

Regardless, it was a good day.  A simple day but a good day.

Gorgeous ruled the farm this morning.  And I actually accomplished something on my physical "to do" list.  Burn barrel duty.  I got that baby up to 451 degrees Fahrenheit and demolished around 150 pounds of paper.  Accumulated for over ten years.  For anyone interested, the secret of burn barrel success is to vent it and stir it often.

I vented it with my .22 lever action.  Since I'm apparently not going to get another shot at the possum (his nickname is now Grey Ghost since I can't seem to ever catch him cleaning up the cats' leftovers), I thought I would fire a few rounds at the virgin burn barrel.  Caused the cats to head for cover for about thirty minutes, but the vent system worked perfectly.

Headed home smelling all smokey and gave Emerald and Baylee a nice workout on their leashes.  They have a great fenced in area, replete with pool and hot tub, but they tend to spend their free hours on the couch.  So we traversed 4.8 acres of the 5 with them, knocking some ell-bees off Baylee and off me.

After a shower, lunch.

After lunch, Walmart.  (Hey, don't act like you don't go to Walmart.)  I have to admit that I've become one of those old guys I used to simultaneously pity and snicker at...the ones that you see pushing the carts while their old lady (I'm pretty sure Geri doesn't read my blog) pulls things off the shelves.  Now here's the tie-in to the burn barrel story.  I stopped by sporting goods to replenish my .22s.  Haven't bought any in about four years. Guess I haven't been watching the news.  Not only did Walmart not have any .22 shells, they don't expect any for several weeks and only a handful at that time which they will sell in 20 minutes.  Gee whiz, when did us idiotic human being start hoarding .22 shells? He said after Sandy Hook.  Afraid the government is going to ban ammo.  Okay.  I get it.  But what the hell am I supposed to use to put vent holes in my burn barrels?  Or shoot at and miss malicious marsupials.

After Walmart, we went to a couple of cemeteries and walked around.  Saw some great-great and great relatives.  Or at least their final resting places.  Does one good to visit those silent cities every so often.

Finally, home.  With the feeling of freedom as alive as it was when I awoke.  So, for all those people who ask me how I like retirement, which is everyone all the time, the answer is I love it.  I don't think I like the word "retirement" however.  For right now, "self unemployed" will do.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Good Ole Days



The Judds did a song called "Grandpa" some time ago and it's been covered by many artists since, with the Isaacs doing a particularly good job.  The premise of the song is a familiar one:  a nostalgic look at the past and how we, as common folks, conducted ourselves in days gone by.  There's nothing wrong with nostalgia, just as there's nothing wrong with sentimentality.  Of course there's editors and critics and just ordinary citizens who give sentimentality a bad name, pronouncing it unfit for writing, reading, and just general human consumption.  I say, "Screw you," and that sentimentality has its place in literature, music, art, and, doggone it, even commerce, if you can squeeze it in.  And nostalgia is definitely a first cousin to sentimentality.

But let's get back on point and that is "the good ole days."  And Grandpa.

Unfortunately, neither of my grandfathers was real keen on sitting around and reminiscing about the past.  They likely didn't have the time or didn't want to use the time to chat with their curious grandson about how things used to be.  Might be a darn good reason for that also.  See,  I doubt that things were all that great for either of them growing up.  Lots of hard farm labor.  From the time either of them was old enough to walk, they were old enough to work.  My paternal grandfather was one of eight or nine kids - I lose track - two of whom were boys.  Probably not what his dad had in mind, given that one of the reasons you had big families back in the day was to support the labor pool.  The hard work must have "took," though, because I seldom saw Pa Gray when he wasn't working.  During my lifetime, he was a grocer, and a farmer on the side. It was up at at 'em at 5:30 every morning, come rain or shine, open the general store, sprinkle kerosene on the floor before sweeping it, take out the trash and burn it, stock groceries, wait on customers, and browse an article or two from Progressive Farmer or Readers Digest or the Grit when the store was empty.

If that wasn't enough, when he went home in the spring and summer days for his hot, fresh lunch, he would eat between garden work, having not one, but two, gardens going at the same time.  And at least four or five days a week, he would jump into his old '52 GMC and go "across the river" to the farm and check on the cattle.  We're talking seven days a week.  Fifty-two weeks a year.

My maternal grandfather ran a milk route.  Getting milk to your refrigerator in his days was a little more involved than it is today.  His job was to run his country route in his rattly stake body truck and visit all the farms that had milked any number of cows that day, pick up the heavy milk cans, and deliver them to the local milk plant for processing.  Bordens, in this case.  As his sons grew up and were able to help they did.  Hard, back-breaking labor, weather be damned.

I say all of this not because I don't think that either of them viewed their lives as something less than the good ole days but rather because I don't personally see it that way.  I'm sure that my hindsight isn't that acute however.  It's just when I think of my labors, mostly behind a desk, in front of a computer, or out of an air-conditioned vehicle, what they did appears to be much tougher, and for much less compensation.  Looking at it another way, which sounds harder?  Hoeing 20 sixty foot rows of vegetables under the hot noon sun or walking thirty feet to retrieve something from the printer?  Heaving a hundred pound milk can onto the back or pulling data for a report?

 I'm not saying that we're soft.  Wait.  Yes I am.  We're soft.  And it's easy for us to romanticize the "good ole days," make a point of being nostalgic, and just generally reeking with sentiment over the past.  What I think is truly valid here is that any day is a good ole day.  Any day that we're blessed with the ability to enjoy life and our surroundings and other people is a good ole day.  Any day when we have the ability to equal or surpass our potential as homo sapiens is a good ole day.

I'm not a grandpa, won't ever be a grandpa, but I can certainly hope to have as full of a life as my grandfathers did.  Pa Shug, my maternal grandfather, passed early.  However, looking at all the pictures of him grinning and holding up 40 and 50 pound catfish, I'm pretty sure he squeezed life for all it was worth.  It wasn't all milk cans and dusty country roads.  Pa Gray lived into his early 90s and was a grocer and gentleman farmer between 60 and 70 years.  I never heard a complaint fall from his mouth.  He wasn't sick a day in his life and his worst habit was chewing the end of a Roi Tan or Prince Edward cigar and maybe having a snort or two on holidays.

So Grandpa - either of them -  didn't feel compelled to tell their curious grandson about the good ole days but I was at least smart enough to take note of what was going on at the time.  And possessing enough kiddie wisdom to file it away in my brain for further consideration down the road.

  Now, Grandma...that was a different story.




Thursday, March 13, 2014

All Spaced Out



Shakespeare might have written:

Alas, poor Pluto, we knew him Horatio; when he was a planet full; though tiny icy sphere he had pedigree in the Heavens.  Though flung furtherest afar, a simple dot, a flea on Neptune's knee, nonetheless we paid homage to him and his five moons.  Now, Horatio, he dons the dress of the dwarf, a cuckolded planet, a plutoid if you dare, while us poor mortals who once claimed nine, must now make do with eight.

Sorry, Will.  I know you could have done a much better job giving notice of Pluto's ignominious delegation to a dwarf planet.  I'm not certain why we felt it necessary to strip Pluto of planet status.  You'd think the guy would have been grandfathered in after all these years.  Let's face it, he'd been around since 1930 and we were all quite content as fifth graders to triumphantly name him last as we recited the nine planets in our solar system.  Maybe it's just me, but there was something magic about nine.  (I've always been partial to anything divisible by three.)  Eight planets and the sun just doesn't do it for me.  And honestly, he was one of the easiest to remember in order of distance from the sun.  I always got hung up around Neptune and Saturn.

But I digress.

What we did to Pluto would be akin to removing Doc from Dwarf status just because he was the only dwarf who had a name that didn't describe a disposition or mood.  The original Snow White movie was released in 1938, so Pluto had seniority on Doc.  I happen to think that Walt Disney had better judgement and a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than the International Astronomical Union.  He knew that "Snow White and the Six Dwarfs" would be a day late and a dwarf short.  (Oooooh...that was bad...real bad.)

That said, Pluto will soon have a visitor.  The space probe New Horizons will reach Pluto in 2015.  July 14, 2015 if all goes as planned.  Interestingly, New Horizons was launched in 2006, just before the IAU decided to embarrass Pluto, and has zipped along at the pace of just over 36,000 miles per hour since launch.  Sort of a long way and a short time to get there, at least from the perspective of our 13.2 billion year old galaxy. I wonder if NASA had waited a few months to when Pluto was canned as a planet if they would have spent those billions of dollars to visit a plutoid.  I wonder if maybe they might have had New Horizons dip and weave through the belt of Saturn, do a quick flyover of Neptune, and then pull a u-ey and head back home?

We will never know.  I think it would be great if the probe got to Pluto and discovered that though it was small, the dwarf formally known as a planet had more character than Venus and more spunk than Mercury, hidden attributes to the point that it deserved to be reinstated to full planet status.  A formal apology would be issued by the IAU guys and NASA would be exonerated in its decision to send a probe about three billion miles to inspect a chunk of dirty ice.

I think that would be neat, don't you?  Exactly what the Doc ordered.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Disappearing act


                                                                    Image may be subject to copyright                    

I was reading an article in the "New Yorker" yesterday that set me thinking once again on the subject of aging.  Not that I'm obsessed with it or anything...wait...maybe I am...just a little.  Though obsession might be too strong a word.  Let's just say that aging crosses my mind more often that it has in the past.  Perhaps taking that big step called Retirement has a lot to do with it.  Also, anything crossing my mind these days is a good thing.

For several years now, I've suspected that we become more invisible as we grow older.  I'm sure I'm not the first, or the last, to make that observation, but it is a really intriguing phenomenon.  If you are a person of age, the next time to go to an especially robust public place or event, notice who's not noticing you.  It's as if you don't really exist.  Your existence is marginal at best.  Or attempt a conversation with a stranger.  They will look at you, well, strangely.  Or be in a group of younger people discussing any topic -  politics, sex, fly fishing - and make a comment and take note of the level of credibility your statement rises to.  It's as if they hear a stray, somewhat annoying sound...like the buzzing of a mosquito.  They pause a moment, look toward the ceiling, and then resume their conversation.

I suspect that eventually, if we live long enough, we will disappear altogether.  And that might not be all bad.  When I was a kid - Mount Rushmore only had two presidents - there was a popular TV show called "Topper."  God bless you if you remember it.  The premise was this:  Cosmo Topper, played by Leo G. Carroll, was a banker with a wife named Henrietta and they lived in a mansion once owned by a couple, George and Marion Kirby.  George and Marion had met early and untimely deaths in an avalanche.  A Saint Bernard by the name of Neil had tried to rescue them but had expired as well.  Now the couple and the Saint Bernard haunted the mansion, though in a very friendly way.  Topper was the only one able to see the ghosts and that was the core of the premise of the sitcom.  George and Marion really made life interesting for Topper's otherwise dull life.  With their antics and pranks, they attempted to get the old boy to loosen up, if you will.  (And a side note, Marion was a looker!  Google Anne Jeffreys.  Lots of adolescent fantasies there.)

Anyway, being invisible definitely has its advantages.  You can get away with things that  visible people cannot.  You can come and go more freely than visible people.  Like if you get bored at a party you can leave and not only will people not realize you've left, they tend to forget you were ever there in the first place.

You can pass gas and blame it on the dog, though I know folks who don't think you have to be invisible to do that.  I highly suspect you can shoplift at random and never get caught.  You can move to the front of the line without anyone taking offense because obviously you're either invisible or senile.  Endless, endless possibilities.


So I'm not sad about becoming less visible and more invisible.  I'm not happy about it.  I'm nothing about it.  It's an invisible entity to me.  It's just happens to be the culmination of a suspicion that I've had for many years now.  I think it began in my early 50s.  Maybe it bugged me then; I don't remember.  (I remember the early 1950s much better than I remember my early 50s.)  This is where I am with it:  It's sort of like we all have our time in the sun.  Our time to be visible.  Our time to reap.  Our time to make a mark and be noticed.  Hopefully in a positive vein.  

I'm okay with entering the diaphanous dimension.  The pellucid plain.  The land of limpid.  I intend to do it with flash, class, and aplomb.  I'm going to take my invisibility and embrace it.  I'm going to run with it.  Or at least limp along at a decent pace.

And if the invisible world contains the like of ladies that look like Anne Jeffreys, sign me up for overtime.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Shirley



I began my annual office clean-up today, a chore fortunately and unfortunately created by the need to gather all my tax information, and, as usual, I spent way too much time browsing through what I call "fresh finds."  Fresh finds is just another way of saying that I have once again run across something I forgot I had.

Today, it turns out, is the 20th anniversary of the passing of Shirley, a wonderful little black and white Shitzu that Geri and I had.  I selfishly include myself in the relationship, although I only had around a quarter of the time with Shirley that Geri did.  It was tough when she passed.  I'm sure many, if not most, of you have been there.

Two days later - we were living in Nashville at the time - we picked Shirley's remains up from the vet.   She was in the little wooden box Geri had picked for her years before, and she was with "her man."  (That's a story Geri can tell.)  We drove to the farm in Kelso - Mom and Dad were still alive and farming away - and laid Shirley to rest.

It's hard to believe it was twenty years ago.  The fresh find I stumbled upon today was a tribute I wrote to her.  It was published in the "Milan Leader" since Shirley was a Michigan girl by birth, like her Momma Geri.  But she was also a solid Tennessee transplant.  Like her Momma Geri.  Shirley was "The Dog of Your Lifetime" for Geri.  And for me too.  Memories of her still bring a simultaneous smile and tear.

 I wouldn't mind bringing a simultaneous smile and tear when people think of me one day.  I think that would be one heck of a heritage, doggone it.  Here's to you, Shirley.

************************************************************************

She sleeps now beneath the sheltering branches of a gnarled and aging cedar.  With a shovel we chopped away at roots that ran for yards, roots that the cedar did not need as much as we needed the spot they occupied.  We dug with care, each scoop taken as gentle preparation for our loved one's final place of rest.  And we lifted the small wooden box that held her tiny, still body and lowered it kindly and carefully in her now special place.  On the lid of the box we placed a rose we each had kissed, then blanket after blanket of clay and loam.  And then it was complete.  The trip that had begun almost 119 years ago, in doggie math, seventeen years ago for Geri, and four years ago for me, had reached an end.  But now, our time with Shirley, our "Momma Dirl," seemed as brief as a lightning flash.

Shirley left this life on March 10, 1994 in the kind and knowing hands of Dr. Charles Beauchamp, who understood what it meant to give up a wonderful pet.  We chose the serenity of my parents' farm in Lincoln County as our place of and for tribute.  And on March 12, under God's blue skies and sunshine, to the rushing of light breezes in high cedar boughs, we stood heart-deep in grief and memory.  To the north, along the creek, a mourning dove lent her song to our sadness.  To the south and the river, a crow protested some sudden annoyance.  A cow searching for her stray calf bellowed, waited for a familiar bleat, and cried out again.  The sweetness of hay from the century old barn caught the breeze and mixed with the richness of the countryside coming to life beneath our feet and above our heads.

The newness of life without Shirley is very difficult to bear.  Instead of the weight of the loss, we try to concentrate on the seventeen years of a Shitzu's brand of joy.  Now it is important to remember and realize the things Shirley taught us - especially the grace with which she accepted her burdens and how she bore the infirmities of old age, still giving joy and lending comfort to us, her caretakers.  How she accepted what each day presented her, some better, some worse, the last several wavering somewhere between continuing or stopping.

Shirley taught us patience in the way she waited for us to wait on her, passing long days in the house, moving from room to room, marking time until companionship and supper. She taught us courage as she dealt with the aches and pains of canine senior citizenry, eyesight and hearing going slowly, arthritis claiming her little bones.  She gave us an appreciation of simplicity, showing contentment in her plain, slow lifestyle, finding pleasure in an occasional taste of "table food," a nice long afternoon nap, or a short walk in the outdoors.

Today we seek for time to go backwards to when Shirley was with us.  We mourn with hearts made heavy with the molten lead of grief.  Tomorrow we will still miss her soft paw-steps; her sneezes; her lifted-tail, rolling prance.  Next week we will think we hear her bark or see her in a shadow that flashes across a room.  In a month, we will still hold our breath in the dark and listen for her quiet breathing or whistling snores.

We will go to her place in the country and set a white fence and a smooth stone.  We will plant grass and flowers and sit in the shade of the big cedar and talk with her, tell her we miss her, and relate our recent life changes and challenges.  Hopefully, we will mostly rejoice in the knowing of Shirley.  We will remember the lessons we know now and revel in those that will come.

Though we will wonder at what price the joy, we will come to learn that the answer is that joy costs us only when we mark it with the price of grief.  That's not what Shirley would have done.  She would have just rejoiced in the moment.

Thank you, Shirley.  We love you so much.
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Demolition Squad



If there's one thing that makes you appreciate a good, ole possum, it's a raucous gang of raccoons.  You talk about about wreaking total havoc!  A couple of days ago, I left the top off the chest in Mamma Kitty's shed, and a raccoon(s) had methodically opened every pop-top can of cat food and devoured it.  Licked the cans shiny clean.  Yesterday, a gang of raccoons had managed to undo the clasp on the chest where we keep the food for the "restaurant cats," aka the cats we rescued from the restaurant on the highway in Kelso, and squeeze through the opening they had attained.  They took the top off the bucket that holds the dry food but opted to escape to the woods with a super size bag of kitty treats instead of eating the dry food in the bucket.  After cleaning up the mess, I thought I had solved the issue by removing the dry food and double-clasping the latch.

Today...well you can see the photo and get the picture.  Total destruction.  It looked like the remnants of an angry mob scene.  How do I know it's raccoons?  A few reasons.  I've seen the results of their raids before.  They are the only animal smart enough to undo a clasp that I have trouble getting off and on.  And they left their guilty little footprints in the water bowl.

Both chests were thrown around like in a tornado.  One chest was carried a good twenty feet.  The two or three cans of wet food were opened with surgical precision and, again, eaten to the shiny bottom of the cans.  They tore a few paper towels to shreds (I'm sure they weren't trying to clean their grimy faces) and, inexplicably, stole the rest of the roll. I have no idea where they took it.  Or why.

They are nasty.  I mean not just nasty acting, but NASTY.  Dirty.  Stinky.  And they will poop a pound for every ounce of food they ingest.  And they'll poop it anywhere, everywhere, anytime.

Yeah, you can say all you want about how cute the little masked devils can be, but once you've experienced their nuclear reactor explosion, you definitely will put a possum lower on the list of critters to find a better home for (a euphemism for those of you who believe that death by high powered rifle or shotgun is not an option).

So, here's to Mr. O, the pudgy little slow-moving, dainty eating, leave-no-mess critter.  You, my friend, are off the hook.  At least for the time being.

For you fast-moving, voracious, filthy, dynamite-in-fur gangsters, the war is on!  And I'm bringing the heavy artillery.  So lie up in my barn loft this evening and giggle the night away, high five your little paws all you want, plan your next raid and food fight, because, starting tomorrow, you are Public Enemy Number One.

It's on, folks.  It's on.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

R.I.P. O'possum



Nah...not really...R.I.P. in this case means Really Innovative Possum.   I'm beginning to think that possums have humongous IQs.  I mean they may be among the smartest animals on the planet.  Maybe the top of the smart chain among marsupials.  How else could you explain this possum's ability to outwit me for the past several days?

Take this morning for example.  We had barely finished the farm chores when Geri said, "It's probably about time for the possum to show up."  Of course, I'm the one who decides when it's about time for the possum to show up, so I took my time and sipped my coffee when all of a sudden...the possum shows up.  I can see him from the kitchen window as he saunters out of one barn and heads to the barn with the cat food buffet all laid out.

I moved quickly.  I had my .22 on the back porch so I grabbed it, slipped out the screen door (the possum at this point had paused and was catching sight of me out of the corner of his left eye), laid my coffee on the ground so it could get ice cold as I possum-stalked, and prepared to dispatch Mr. O to possum heaven post haste.

Well, he had other ideas.  He saw that big, dumb human heading his way, so he did a ninety-degree right hand turn and headed for the woods, the one place where he could be swallowed up and I wouldn't have a chance to get a good shot off.  But little did he know how quick I was with the .22, so I had it to my shoulder in a flash, froze him in my rear and front sights, and slowly squeezed the trigger.

Nothing.  Nada.  No trigger reaction.

I didn't have a shell in the chamber.  Now this is really a good thing in one way in that with a shell in the chamber, a trigger pull means a bullet is going to come out of the barrel with great velocity.  Which also means that it would be really easy to shoot yourself or someone else accidentally.  It's a bad thing to not have a bullet in the chamber if you've got one shot to hit what you're aiming at because by the time you pump the lever to get a shell in the chamber, your target, even if it's a fat, old, lumbering possum, moves.

He headed into the woods with me hot on his trail.  Determined to keep him in sight, me and my bad knee hobbled in his direction, climbed a fence, entered the woods, jumped a creek...

...and lost sight of him.

Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe not.  What's started to bug me is it's getting a little like Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny.  If the occasion eventually arises that I have a good clean shot at Mr. Possum, I may be too invested in his character to pull the trigger.  I may have anthropomorphized him to the point that I can't do in that rascally creature. I may find that I enjoy the pace of the chase more than the thrill of the kill.

We can hope that doesn't happen, can't we?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Weather complainers...ugh!



What is it with all these people who have nothing better to do than complain about the weather?  I was thinking about that this morning when I opened the blinds on yet another gunmetal grey sky with some form of precipitation urinating from it...ice, sleet, snow, rain...who the hail knows.  Yeah, I was thinking about the "weather complainers."  I mean, why not spend time complaining about something you actually have control over...like your income taxes, or the price of gasoline, or the condition of health care in this country?  As I was bundling up once again against the 20 mph north wind that dropped the 28 degree temperature to 12 degrees, so I could deal with yet another freezing day that absolutely saps any modicum of drive from me,  I couldn't get the weather complainers off my mind.

When I walked to the truck to head to the farm, I was amused at how the soles of my shoes failed to grip the pavement of my driveway, causing me to slip and slide in a really awkward but funny way, and I wondered aloud if we were going to continue to experience these crappy conditions for the whole month of March, just like we had in November, December, January, and February.  And that brought to mind a lady I heard on television yesterday being all down in the mouth and depressed about the foot of snow she was trying to shovel from her driveway and how this had been the worst winter she could remember.  Come on, lady...give it a rest.  It's weather!  It's outside of your realm of control!  Find something else to whine about!

Arriving at the farm, the first thing I noticed was the need to break up all the ice in the outside water containers.  Good thing we leave the faucets dripping inside the farmhouse,  because it doesn't look like this winter is going to let the hell up anytime soon.  Oh, sure, we'll get fooled with a day or two or three of sixty degree temperatures, but all we're doing is waiting for the next fricking blob of polar air to swoop down from Canada or wherever the hell all these intolerable conditions are coming from.

But back to the weather complainers.  Let me give you some advice.  Not only can you not change it, but when it does change on its own, you'll find something to gripe about then too.  It's too windy in March.  April is the cruelest month.  It sure got hot fast in May.  Gee, looks like June is going to be a drought month.  My gosh, I thought July was hot until we got into August.  And on and on it goes.

I really need to get off this blog and go out and drain some water from the pool again.  We've had so much darn rain lately, I can't seem to keep the pool level where it should be.  Rain, rain, rain!  Every time you turn around!  Well, at least it's not ice and snow.

So, anyway, take my advice on this, all you weather complainers.  Give it a rest.  Tackle something of substance that you can sink your teeth into and have some impact around.  Devote some time to prescription drug costs or the partisan deadlock we have in our House and Senate or the slow destruction of the rain forests by big industry.

You know, the rain forests have a huge impact on the weather.  Maybe that's why it's been so unpredictable and crappy.

Well, till next time, folks, chill.  As if you had any other choice.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A nice surprise



Sometimes it's the small surprises that mean the most, especially when the timing is nearly immaculate.  A west wind is blowing through this monochromatic day.  Outside, I couldn't decide if the world was brown or grey.  All I knew was that I was on poop patrol in the little fenced area behind the pool where Baylee and Emerald perform "number two" with amazing frequency.  (It appears that this activity was wordlessly and unceremoniously vested to me upon retirement.)

I was nearly finished with the dirty little job when I caught a flash of color out of the corner of my eye.  My first thought was that it was a paper wrapper or some other piece of trash that had blown into the yard outside the fenced area I was working in.  But when I focused in on it, I was surprised to see four pretty little purple flowers.  I have no idea what kind they are or why they decided to bless me with their presence today, but the experience had the feeling of one of those later day attempts at film noir that intentionally places an object of bright color in the middle of the bleak and dreary scene.  A "Schindler's List" kind of moment.

I'm grateful for the moment and I'm grateful for those four little purple flowers.  I don't think they're worried that the weather is going to turn ugly soon and that the temperatures will drop.  They couldn't care less about things like snow and sleet or celsius and fahrenheit.  They won't have to rush out for a cartload of milk and bread to munch on while they wait for the latest word on the school and courthouse closings.

I get the feeling that they don't get hung up on things like that, temporal things, and that they're here for their own sake and for whatever pleasure I or anyone else can derive from their visit.  They're here now, they may or may not be here later, and they certainly can return another day, if they so choose.

Spunky little flowers, they are, that seem to be comfortable in their skins and in control of their lives.  I like their attitude.

Plus I can't get over the fact that if I hadn't decided to venture out to a yard full of dead brown grass beneath gathering dark clouds being shoved around by a bullying wind... to pick up dog poop no less... I would have totally missed them.

A very nice surprise, indeed!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Coincidence



Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamperini
UNIVERSAL PICTURES


The phrase "coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous" has been attributed to many people, and I surmise the reason is that people like to quote things that resonate.  Things that strike a chord.  Supposedly its genesis was Albert Einstein, so I'm going with the belief that he may have been the first.  It lends some gravity to it.  I think in an earlier blog I may have said that coincidence is God's way of getting our attention.  Many people say that there's no such thing as coincidence.  I think I've said it.  I get it.  But, better said would be that coincidence is a convenient way to convey what we can't see, what lurks behind the curtain.  The invisible cords and cables and connectors.  The God-works so to speak.

But even that's confusing.

There is a recent story about Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamparini that I find, for lack of a better word, satisfying.  I also find great comfort in it for it is yet another example of the interconnectedness of everything and everyone.  The six degrees of separation theory has been around awhile.  The following is extracted from the People magazine website.

"I can show you my roof from the window," Jolie, who is directing the film, told Tom Brokaw from Zamperini's home during a Today show interview that aired Tuesday. "I imagine that for the last 10-something years, he's been sitting there having a coffee in the morning and wondering, 'Who's going to make this movie?' And I've been sitting in my room laying there thinking, 'What am I supposed to be doing with my life? I want to do something important … Where is it?' And it was right outside my window." 

For those of you who haven't read "Unbroken," in a nutshell, Zamparini was a former Olympic runner who entered WWII, was shot down, survived seven weeks on a raft in the Pacific, only to be taken prisoner by the Japanese, requiring him to endure months of sadistic punishment.  He was rescued, but in ways, his attempt to return to life in the States was as much of a challenge as his wartime experiences.  It is a fascinating and compelling book written by Laura Hillenbrand.  Now Jolie is making a movie.

And it's not the book or the making of the movie that I find most exhilarating.  It's the fact that two souls sat within eyesight, within shouting distance,  of one another awaiting the inevitable - yes, I said inevitable - connection that would keep their worlds spinning in a most satisfying way.  Zamperini has received all, or more, of the recognition that he ever dreamed possible.  His story lay dormant for decades before Hillenbrand decided to research it and write it.  Angelina Jolie could have stopped doing absolutely anything creative or challenging years ago and still have made an indelible mark on this globe.  Any of them, including Hillebrand, could have declared they were "done."

But we're never done.  Coincidence comes flashing into and out of our lives like electrons around the nucleus of an atom.  Woe be to those of us who fail to notice coincidence.  How unsatisfying it would have to be to go through life without at some point in time looking back and seeing how intricate the woven fabric of our existence is.  How random points connect and disperse and connect again.  How many people have been in sight or shouting distance of you during your life?  How many did you connect with?  And do you dare to wonder how many you ignored, either intentionally or accidentally?  And perhaps, in the end, that's what a coincidence is.  An intentional accident.  Or an accidental intention.

It doesn't matter to me.  I've had a fitful love affair with coincidence most of my conscious life.  And I continue to look forward to the next tryst.