The Poems of My Life

(I am hoping that it is fine arts month, cause the topic is POETRY!  Holy Cow! Here we go . . .)

The poems of my life is a short list.

Not because I haven’t read, studied, been exposed, ran across, pondered, discussed, and/or analyzed many.  For, like most folks, my life has introduced me to a litany of great poets, young old, male, female, American, non-American . . . .  just lots.

But the poems of my life is still a short list.

My youth was filled with all types of poetry from the iambic tetrameter of “I will not eat green eggs and ham, I will not eat them sam-I-am” to the simple ditties of “hickory, dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock.”  I laughed, smiled, and repeated as my mother, god-rest-her-soul, spent countless hours sharing with me the likes of Dr. Seuss and other fan-favorite authors who created easy to read and understand poetry for children.

Moreover, I grew up during the “you will read the classics” era.  Before I even came close to reaching high school, my education had exposed me to The Raven, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Road Not Taken, and Oh Captain! My Captain.  Once in secondary school, the list grew much longer and included much more complex and perplexing selections – Daddy, Dream Deferred, Howl, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Mending Wall, Still I Rise, The Waste Land, and Who Am I.   And college offered a steady stream of poetry that was mystifying, sometimes mortifying, always mysterious, and was light years beyond my cognitive abilities – Leaves of Grass, Beowulf, and any Shakespearean Sonnet.

It would have seemed logical that as my exposure to poetry grew, so to would the poems of my life.  The more I knew, the more I would appreciate the art form.  The more I read, the more I would understand and honor.  The more I listened, the more I would value and appreciate.

But, that is not so.

The more I poetry on my plate, the more I realize the less I know.

Poetry is a tricky art.  It harnesses the power of words in a unique and indescribable way.  It becomes personal – immediately. It resonates deep within.  It moves.  It enlightens.  It changes. It lasts.  It stupefies.  It means something tomorrow that it did not mean yesterday or today. It solves.  It comforts.  It tends to the mind.

My list includes two poems that I have committed completely to memory, one with easy rhythmic stanzas and one that – at one time in my life – was set to music, which helped me to remember even the challenging lines.  Both lend me direction whenever needed. They are my fall back poems, my refuge and rescue lines.  They can find my peace within.

My list also includes the traditional, Irish/Gaelic Blessing which is written in a plethora of places for a plethora of reasons.  It may be commercially overused, but I don’t care.  It jagged edges fits into my puzzle, so it’s on my list:

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of her hand.

Please note – I take natural license with a couple of words here and there, but that’s the great thing about poetry.  It must become your own to be your own.

The end of my list includes an epic poem from Mother Teresa, a work of Shel Silverstein, a selection from Dylan Thomas, and an excerpt from Gwendolyn Brooks.  The very final piece on my list is the Peace Prayer of St. Francis – another much used poem that just seems to say it all to me.

So, there it is. Eight selections.  I hope the poems of my life grows in the future, that the respective meanings change over time, that they become more powerful and meaningful with each reading, and that “the ears of my ears awake and the eyes of my eyes are opened.”

Your list?

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Sometimes even four oranges can be just a little poetic.

The Art

I have been fairly quiet on the “share my opinion front” lately.  Not because I haven’t don’t have strong and valid opinions. But, I have been quiet.

I have been quiet mostly because I am heartbroken.

Not because of who is or is not the President of the United States, or because of Cabinet choices, or because of border walls, or because of Supreme Court nominees.

I am just heartbroken.

I have spent a good portion of my life in school. From grade school to graduate school and beyond, I attended school for a long time.  I finished classes I liked and classes I didn’t like.  I sat through courses that seemed to fit within my world and courses that – at the time – I thought did nothing but take my tuition money without giving me back anything.  I wrote papers on assigned topics that – at the time – I raced through and completed with little joy and more angry annoyance.  I participated in group projects that – at the time – seemed to be nothing more than a waste of good daylight.  I was quite sure – at the time – that I was often learning little to nothing, just moving towards that golden finish line.

And throughout umpteen years of classes – on subjects I enjoyed and subjects I didn’t enjoy – one of the most important lessons embedded in each course – unbeknownst to me – was a particular art, a foundational concept, a core value that I prize and value now.

School isn’t the only place where the practice of teaching of this art can be found.  In fact, school is only one of the places where it occurs.  But, for me – a person who thought college was more of an avocation than a temporary stop – it was one of my primary sources.

Looking back, I can see that I was being exposed to the art of collaboration.

I was learning how to play well and get along with others.

There were many times that I was quite unsuccessful.  I didn’t like someone in my group, or I didn’t finish my work on time and didn’t like the consequences, or I thought the method of teaching and learning was trite.

I often behaved badly and made some very basic mistakes.  With each new class and each new professor, I was offered the opportunity to try again and again.  And gradually as I practiced the art of collaboration, I learned how to navigate different types of circumstances more successfully than when I started.

My heart is broken because I think I am witnessing the denigration of the art of collaboration.

Each and every day, there are countless opportunities for people all over this nation and any nation to come together, open their minds and their hearts, and work together for the greater good.

The United States has resources available to create the best collaboration activities we have ever experienced.   We have great minds.  We have the ways and means to collect those great minds.  We have communication tools that can bring in top-notch research.  We have technology to beat the band.

We have both opportunity and need.  We have problems looming.  We must find solutions and find them soon.

Instead, I have witnessed too many attempts to spoil and squash the art of collaboration.  I listen to heavy duty name-calling. I watch grown-up pouting. I see stubborn streaks.  There is bullying occurring from every direction.  No one is listening and everyone is talking too much!  There are language violations, research violations, manner violations, and decorum violations. Instead of fighting for what’s right, good, and just, we are fighting each other.

And then there is violence.  I am brought to tears by the wave of violence happening in my country.

I have promised myself that my job is to participate.  I will not sit on the sideline.  I will not wait and see.  I will be a person who is a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

But I am asking myself to utlize all that was taught to me by those who walked before me.

I will listen to understand the best parts of the viewpoints of others.

I will research and read to fully acquaint myself with the topic at hand.

I will speak politely, professionally, and honestly.

I won’t hide my thoughts and ideas, but I will present them with the highest level of civility and manners possible.

I will recognize that there is more than one right answer and that sometimes, my way will not be selected as the current path.

I will acknowledge that there are individuals who are way more intelligent than me.

I will seek to find the goodness in others, for it is there.

I will remain hopeful, even when my heart is breaking.

I will not support violence.  Ever.

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Thank you to my young daughter who created this sign.

The Bounce Pass

“Ladies, never ever underestimate the power of the bounce pass.”

How often I have recalled the ten words that Coach stressed to our team moments before we took the court on that snowy December day.

We played in a rag-tag grade school athletic league. Me and six of my closest fifth grade school mates – with all seven of our young fathers standing right behind us – dreamed of becoming the Catholic Youth Council City/County Basketball champs – which at the time was the equivalent of earning a gold medal for the USA Olympic Team, playing in the NCAA March Madness Final Four, and winning the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes all in one.

This was the 1960s.  Sporting activities for women – basketball and/or otherwise – were just starting to come into their own.  The powers to be had been forced to organize a league for us girls, with games played at any time the boys weren’t using a nearby gym.  The good news is that we had gym time for games, but we were out of luck in terms of using an indoor facility for practice.

But being young, budding athletes, who, by-the-way, had little to no basketball experience whatsoever, we cared little about what we lacked (gym time, experience, or otherwise) and more about what we were going to be learning.  So our pops did a little organizing for us, found a suitable outdoor court, identified the one dad who had more than just a little hoop experience, and set us on the course towards the City/County Championship.

Coach quickly recognized that some of us – well nearly all of us – needed to learn a little more – well a lot more – about the artful game of basketball before we ever played a real game.   We would form a circle around him, and he would toss the ball to each of us.  Regardless of whether we tossed it back correctly, incorrectly, or not at all, he would compliment us on our action.  “Great job” were two words that seemed to flow out of his mouth easily.

And because we were basketball newbies, hearing those words helped.  Coach taught us to dribble, to shoot, to rebound, to block out, to dish, to pivot, and to play zone.  We were proud of what we were learning even if it looked like we knew more about double dribbling, fouling, traveling, palming, over-and-back, and violating the key than the afore mentioned list.

Coach didn’t pay too much attention to what we did wrong.  In fact, I can’t remember a time I really did much right, but he gave me the feeling that every pass I made put me closer to becoming Nera White – the most famous basketball player of my time, a 15 year AAU All American and an athletic role model for all young ladies growing up in the 60s.

This new basketball activity seemed to be not just the thrill of the year for me and my BFFs, but also for our dads.  They figured out how to get us matching uniforms, made sure we had enough and the right equipment, created intricate and complex plays for us – in case we ever got to the point of using them, and in general bonded with each other as we, young ladies, were doing.

It was Coach, however, who had us all mesmerized. Though I didn’t know it at the time, he was a little more involved in the world of basketball than the rest of our dads.  He had not only played high school and college basketball, but he had played it well, a member of the 1948 NIT Championship Team.  He knew the rules and the lingo.  He was versed in successful models for offensive and defensive play. He rubbed elbows with local athletic greats.  And he was our coach.

More importantly to me at that time, he was the nice dad who seemed to know how to lead seven sport novices towards the ability to play hoops with pride.  His focus was always on the fundamentals of basketball – and I learned them, one by one.  But, somehow, in some unexplainable way, I seemed to be learning more about honesty, critical thinking, problem solving, and collegiality without Coach ever saying one word about any of those topics- ever.

So on that snowy day in December, we suited up for our very first game.  Moments before the buzzer blasted to start the game, Coach huddled us up for his very last pep talk before we were on our own to make the dream reality.  He leaned in told us that we would be great, and gave us his final instructional mojo.  His eyes wide.  His hands on his hips.  It just rolled off his lips.

“Ladies, never ever underestimate the power of the bounce pass!”

I am sad to say, that I can’t remember if we won or lost the game.  I have no idea whether I played more than a minute or the entire time. I don’t think we made it anywhere near the Catholic Youth Council City/County Championship that year. Maybe we did, and I have forgotten.  It was, however, a most memorable year in a totally different way.

I learned to never ever underestimate the power of the bounce pass.

In this world, it is the two hand push pass that is most commonly used and universally expected.  We receive the ball and hand it off more often than not without a single bounce. We repeat this action over and over, often times routinely and mindlessly. Generally, because it works but not always. Sometimes because it is comfortable.  It’s what we always did before.   That method, however, isn’t always the most powerful, most effective path towards success.

A coach a long time ago told me to consider thinking outside the box.   He told me to act with authority and to think about my ability to control my destiny.  He told me to look up and see the possibilities, think about my options, and choose the path less traveled.  Coach told me to bounce the ball, surprise others, and add a healthy level of wonder into my world.

Ten words to live by.

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I am sure they have never under estimated the power of anything.

How Could I Not

How could I not write about it.  It has been on my mind since it happened.

June 12th, 2016 –  forty-nine people lost their lives.  Fifty-three individuals were injured, are certainly still injured.  Hundreds of parents, spouses, children, and family members are still distraught, in shock, mourning, grappling with loss and change. Thousands of friends and acquaintances are reaching out, hoping that they can in some small ways be helpful.  And I, along with the rest of the United States, am wondering what is my role. . . what should I do.

And like the rest of the world, I agonize over this type of senseless violence.  Orlando, Brussels, Paris, Boston, and now I add Istanbul – and these are just the ones that readily come to mind – not all of them.  Gun violence, and bomb violence, and terrorism, and death and more death. It just seems endless.

In this particular area, I feel like I am falling into a great, giant abyss – tumbling downward, with nothing to latch onto to help me stop.  It just seems so far beyond my control, I have no tangible, workable, magical solutions to offer.  I believe myself to be a learned person with the desire to end the violence, and the willingness to put in the effort to do so, but I have no clue as to what I can do –  that will be effective.

As is an American tradition, there are folks out in the big world who are suggesting that we more emphatically implement the old policies, or create new and improved policies, or throw out all existing policies and start again. I watched the federally elected in our country hold a sit-in as they fought to figure out what to do.  I have heard calls for more, as well as for less, gun legislation, for more, as well as for less, immigration policy, for more conservative as well as more liberal solutions.

My heart is fine with any of those choices.  Whatever works best, just do it.  I don’t care how we approach this issue; I just want it solved to the best of our ability.  I want a solution that reduces violence and injury and death.  I am for every solution that does and against anything that does not.

My head, however, is telling me that there might not be a solution.  My head is telling me that while we solve the criminal challenges that are in front of us, there are new groups that are part of the evil empire that are waiting in the wings with more giant, terrible acts.  My head hurts just thinking about the absolute quandary that exists.  Who are these people and how do we abate the evil that they create?

Over this year’s July 4th holiday, which this year in the Midwest can only be described as time off to watch it rain like no other, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary on the history of the United States – the American Revolution, the Westward Expansion, the Civil War, and on and on and on, all the way to present time.

I think I learned something interesting, something that may be able to shed some light for me as I tumble down in that dark abyss.  What I learned may not be the great solution to this problem.  And what I learned isn’t some extraordinary AHA type moment. It is small and rather inconsequential, but for me it was a bit powerful.  I am not sure if it will be helpful to anyone else other than me, but I am willing to share it none-the-less.  It is something universal and something that I hadn’t thought about in quite some time – and certainly not to the extent that I have pondered about it right now.  It is positive and it is a great fallback position to consider when everything else is failing.

We Americans . . . we are a resilient bunch.

Centuries ago, folks fought and gave their lives for independence.  Whatever truths we held to be self-evident, they came with a price.  Great people, good people died.  Innocent people, unsuspecting people died.

Centuries ago, the United States fought the United States, not for independence, but for unity, and human rights, and people died.  In fact, more people died in the Civil War than any other US moment in time. It was a time of great loss with battle after battle after battle.

Before my time, folks fought in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.  My experience includes the Vietnam War and everything that has transpired since, including September 11th – a day of infamy for me. Whether a war or a random act of violence, people have died.

Yet our country survives.

We are an amazing and stunningly resilient bunch. We could close up shop, give up, and become a lawless, crime-ridden society. Some countries have.  We could stop our quest for goodness and justice, and opt for something with less effort.  We could choose to walk on the wrong side.

But, we don’t.

We carry on.  We battle each other on who should be in charge of our country.  We fight over which solution has the most potential – even if all of the solutions are on the weak side.  We are emphatic about our teams and dig in when considering compromising with each other.  We chastise each other’s philosophies and spend too much time and money duking out who is best fit to lead.

And it finally has dawned on me that there is something that I should be doing, that is expected of me, that does help when facing tragedies like Orlando, a daily part for me.  Though that circumstance occurred miles and miles away from me and I lost no relative, friend, or acquaintance, it is imperative for me to carry-on, to support the idea of a shared American identity, to remain faithful to the elimination of evil at all turns, and to dedicate my time and energy to those issues, ideas, and paths that generate the growth of all that is good, even if I am just sitting in the bleachers seats, watching the action from far, far away.

Resiliency is my heritage.  It is what has preceded me, what needs to follow me, and as an American, what is expected of me.

And America, count me in!

July 4th IBK

July 4th, 2016 Fireworks

Magic Journeys

She asked me if I would like to play tea with such an earnest voice, I had to just say yes. I watched her run quickly to the next room and carefully removed the teapot from the shelf.  Once back in the kitchen, she climbed up to the sink and filled it with water.  My instructions were to sit on the floor.  In her mind – and then in  my mind – the room transformed into some other unknown place where she and I were drinking lemon flavored tea and eating biscuits (which looked suspiciously like water and jelly beans).  But to us – at that time – it was truly tea and biscuits.

Several hours later, after she and I had left that moment, and after she had left my home, I  took off for my daily run.  Tennis shoes – check.  Hair tie – check.  IPod and headphones – check, check.  My body was ready to go, but my mind was telling me that I was tired, that I didn’t have time, that the weather wasn’t the greatest, that I should just forget it and call it a day.  I was ready to turn around, give up on the exercise idea, head back into my house for a little “R & R” or maybe a lot of “R & R”.

Mindlessly, I flipped on my music and began listening to the Sherman Brothers tell me about a magical world . . . the world between awake and asleep, between real and pretend. Magic Journeys.   I watched a bird skim the sky overhead and fly beyond the treeline.  Slowly but steadily,  I was again transformed to another time and another place.  This time, however, it wasn’t sitting in a castle drinking tea and eating biscuits.

With my imagination at work – I began to picture myself as a quick and speedy.  I could see myself many moons prior, running as if nothing could stop me.  The more the music played, the more I imagined myself, not being tired, or unmotivated, but having that trail-blazing, never say stop exercising attitude.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my mind was rewriting the moment.  I spent the next hour running what I thought was like the wind!  Not because I was, for I assure you that my speed right now is generally the same – somewhere between slow and slower, but it felt different.  And I finished.  And I smiled.

I have spend a great deal of time thinking about those two moments.  The focus, however, isn’t on the tea party or the run, rather it is on my imagination.

As a child, I recall using my imagination all of the time.  Cardboard boxes became castles.  The backyard soccer game became the Women’s World Cup.  I was Peggy Fleming when I put on ice-skates, and Carole King when I played the piano.  I directed orchestras, danced on American Bandstand, flew, had the best presidential acceptance speech, and walked down those fashion runways like a pro.

Children use imagination all the time.  The world encourages it.  But somewhere within my childhood, I packed up that imagination and headed for adulthood.

I admit that it might look crazy-funny for me to sit in a cardboard box, with my soccer ball, ice-skates, piano, baton, ballet shoes, wings, type-written speech, and platform shoes  – all day long.  And I am thankful that adulthood has taught me that I need to be a little more realistic that my five-year old self.

I suppose what I am trying to learn is which parts of imagination are behind me and which parts are still in front of me. Mark Twain tells me that I can’t depend on my eyes when my imagination is out of focus.  And Albert Einstein tells me that imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire work, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution; and strictly speaking, it is a real factor in scientific research.

For the remainder of 2016, I am going to dust off my imagination.  I am going to look at it like one of the most versatile tools in my box and use it every change I get.  My approach isn’t going to be via the tea party model (however, I am not ruling anything out), but more towards the running/transformation model.

I want to look more at what can be than what is.  I want to see the potential rather than seeing the status.  I want to practice imagining all that can be – in all facets of my life – just to see what might happen.  I want to learn more about what happens when imagination is let loose.  What happens when I just unleash it and give it a go at all turns. I want to wonder more about everything, just to see the results.

I have no idea where this idea may take me.  I can only imagine.

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A recent imagination moment.

 

The Fine Wine Dine

I can’t explain why.  I really can’t.  All I can say is that the evening stood out.  It was a first among equals night. It was one of those moments . . . a moment that as it happens everyone knows that it is destined to become a memory.

Ten of us had gathered.  All of us were friends.  Each of us had a strong connection to one or more of us. Yet none of us were childhood friends with all of us.  Our interests were diverse – nature, health, the spirit, the spirits, enterprise, numbers, learning, teaching – with a lot of some and a little of others.   We met at twilight – the time of magic between daylight and darkness on a cool crisp mid-winter evening.

Those hosting had planned and prepared and welcomed the rest upon arrival.  Though all of us had seen each other over the past couple of months, our greetings were as if we had not. Handshakes, hugs, kisses, pats-on-the-back, smiles – it was a tete-a-tete for ten that started the evening out perfectly. Again, I can’t explain why, but from the moment our feet crossed the threshold of the door, the aura of the making of a memory began.

Our intent was simple – food and wine and conversation followed by more food and more wine and more conversation.  The emphasis here should be, in particular, on the conversation about the wine, of which there was a great deal, for nine of us were learning from the one of us who was a master in that area.

For this year’s fine wine dine, the table setting included numerous wine glasses which to me looked like birds on a wire – straight, dainty, orderly and whimsical.  In addition, each setting included two black goblets, mysterious in both color and shape.  The first four wine flights to be served at the table had been pre-poured.  So all was ready.

However, like most gatherings, our first moments were spent in the kitchen.  We stood, and mingled, and chatted.  We listened and learned about recent trials and tribulations that occurred in our lives.  We watched as those cooking finalized the meal with brief finishing touches.  We were served our first wine flight coupled with a much appreciated antipasto.  Most importantly, we were pausing our busy lives for something beyond the ordinary. Worked stopped.  Fun ensued.

As we moved out of the kitchen, we soon learned much more about the mysterious black goblets.  Regardless of our viticulture ability – (me, a mere novice) – we were to identify each of the goblet’s contents without the ability to see it.  A better name for this portion of the evening might be the fine blind wine dine, a puzzling, curious challenge that had nine of us laughing on edge.

And laughter kept coming, from beginning to end.  We laughed at our ability or inability as hopeful wine connoisseurs.  We laughed at ourselves, at each other, at our futures, at our days gone by, at everything and anything.  At times, we laughed until we cried. We just laughed.  For hours.  For fun.  With friends.

Hours later, as we all departed, we seemed reluctant to cross over that threshold and head in the opposite direction.  If I had thought about my thoughts at that time, I probably was thinking about my luck – to be with a group of friends for a moment of fun on that mid-winter’s night.

I can’t explain why.  I really can’t, but I am going to try.

Like everyone else, there are twenty-four hours in my day and seven days in my week.  Of those twenty-four hours and seven days, the moments that I can recall are few and far between.  I remember the spectacular – the weddings, the graduations, the holidays, the birthdays, the anniversaries.  I remember the somber – the deaths, the funerals, the illnesses.  Most of my memories revolve around my family who are the individuals with whom I share hours upon hours upon hours of my time.   My mother, God rest her soul, has been gone for many years; yet, I can still hear her calling my name from the days of my childhood.

And somewhere in those memories now sits something a little bit different . . . unusual . . . unique.  It doesn’t involve the spectacular or the somber or my family.  It isn’t something of tradition or tragedy.  It isn’t marked by a date on the calendar or tied to a sibling, an aunt, an uncle or my parents.

It is a moment in my life that I spent with friends, good friends, doing something rather ordinary in an extraordinary way – eating, drinking, laughing, talking – personified.  The exact stories we told and why we laughed . . . I am not sure of it now.  I think it was all funny, but . . . then . . . it could have been the wine speaking.

What I am a little more sure about is the value of good friends.  I may not know my wines (to even the basest level of knowing the difference between red or white wine when placed in a black goblet), but I do know that friends are treasures beyond words.

Lesson learned. Enough said.

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The Mysterious Black Goblets

Don’t Hurry Life

August by birth, Gus in life, my grandfather was an interesting man.  He was only alive and in my life for what seems to me now as a brief pause, a short stay;  but that time period was definitely a most impactful one.

He often described his childhood/boyhood as a time of hardship, a time of great challenge, where he had to use both his brain and his braun to make it through each and every day.  With jobs before and after school, and school not the focused priority that is seen in students and parents of today, I listened to his stories and imagined the life of a youth with more responsibilities than I could ever imagine.

Conversely, he described his manhood as nothing shy of glorious, as a time of great adventure, still using his brain and braun to make it through each and every day, but in a different more creative, fun-filled, devil-may-care way.  I listened intently as he regaled stories of danger, pride, cleverness, handwork, risk, and exciting uncertainty in a world of change. He was fetching in looks and ingenious in nature. And he was unusual . . . in ways difficult to pinpoint, best described by me as a grandfather of many mysteries.  He seemed to often times walk the fence and teeter between that which was pure and good and that which was in a more gray area.

His unwritten biography of today contains a plethora of stories detailing escapades with individuals from shady backgrounds, from moments of both average and dangerous shenanigans, from times of walking on the ethical border and times of not. There were moments told when he escaped death, found fortunes, relied on lopsided handshake agreements, bet against the house and lost, and settled a variety of scores.  With decades having passed since his death, and even more decades having passed since the origin of the most exciting of adventures, I find it difficult to decipher between the actual truth and the fond folklore nature of the memories we share about Grandpa Gus.

Throughout all these cloudy, misty, and foggy memories that now make up the ever-so-exciting version of his life story, however, there is one that is crystal clear for me. It was a quick moment that he and I shared with little fanfare at the time. There was no particular detailed or dramatic buildup before it and very little following. It was a granddad/granddaughter moment that happened on a sunny autumn day following a quiet, uneventful visit between the two of us. I never expected to create a memory at that time, but . . . we did.

From his hospital bed near the end of his time with me, he leaned towards me and told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”

At that time, I was starting my own adventures and was clearly in a rush to be whoever I was going to be and do whatever I was going to do.  I must have been on a visible mission to get to wherever I was going as quickly as possible, as it was so very obvious to him.  I wanted to work, to play, to find love, raise a family, create my own fortune, and figure out how to walk my own ethical line. I wanted shenanigans and escapades, and excitement and crazy-funny moments  that would eventually create folklore for me.

I had stopped by to see him as I was coming and going from one activity to another.  He, on the other hand, was unable to come and go any longer.  His movements were limited to those of a man reaching the end of his time  – a man who knew he had reached that moment – a man who was no longer rushing, but rather waiting.

And he told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”

I often think of that moment, the time he uttered such a short and simple phrase – that left me with oh-so-very-much to consider.

Am I always in a hurry?  Do I stop and appreciate the ‘now’ as much as I should?  What life pace is the best?  Who determines the speed and how is it determined? Is there something intrinsically better about the slow over the quick?  And for goodness sakes, how in the heck do I slow life down?

It wasn’t until recently that I think – and I am still not sure, just sayin’ – that I understand a little about what he was trying to tell me.  It is not that I haven’t pondered those words over and over and over for a very long time.  I have.  It is more that I have finally reached a point in my life that they make much more sense to me.

From his hospital bed near the end of his time with me, I held his hand and he mine. His was dark and wrinkled, mine not so.  His grasp was faint and slight, mine not so. I looked at face and he gazed at me with tears wallowing in his eyes. His life was near its end . . . in the home stretch, and I knew he wanted so much to tell me that I needed to enjoy every moment I possibly could throughout my life, that I needed to work to be all that I could be while appreciating everything that would occur in my story, and that I needed to stop and smell the flowers along the way for each step of life is more fabulous than the last.  Finally, he needed to know that I understood him perfectly and permanently.

And in a whispery voice that signaled both age and wisdom, in a barely audible tone, he told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”

And I understand.

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The Flowers Along The Way