Tuesday, April 26, 2011

As Time Goes By

"Everyone is the age of their heart."  (Guatemalan Proverb)

Time's been on my mind lately.  Ironically, I found this excerpt in a Time magazine article from 1999 that fueled my interest even more.

"Sometimes it flies, sometimes it crawls, but it always passes inexorably. We mark it, save it, waste it, bide it, race against it. We measure it incessantly, with a passion for precision that borders on the obsessive."

Time is always passing - even though I don't often notice it.

April is often a slow month in a school year:  long and full, no "Spring breaks" or 3 day weekends to interrupt the march of workdays.  The divine vision of "the last day of school" and summer vacation is still a distant mirage.  The weather is maddeningly unpredictable:  sunny and blue skies one day (or even one hour!), gray, wet, and blustery the next day (or hour!).

So, sometimes April just seems to crawl along.  But in the last week or so, it's begun to fly.  My birthday is fast approaching (it's this Friday), and I've caught myself thinking about the fact that I'll be well over a half century old.  I've also been thinking about the fact that retirement for me from teaching is not so far, far away anymore.  

Holy cow!  That just doesn't seem real.  I don't think any of us ever really realize when we've "officially gotten old".  You could tell me that I've gotten "wiser", or "more experienced", or "a little grayer", but older?  Nah!  Aren't I the same old Jon that I've always been?  Isn't that the same old Jon looking back at me when I look into the mirror?

I still like to putter around in the yard.  I 'm still kind of a shy guy when you first meet me - but definitely a "ham" once I loosen up a bit.  I still have about the same amount of hair as I did in this picture from 50 years ago. (But I don't always tuck my shirts in anymore - thanks to fashion tips from my wife!).  

But the truth is I've changed a lot.  I'm not so innocent as I once was.  I know a little better what's really important to me - what my genuine passions are in life.  I'm more honest with myself about what my strengths, and my weaknesses, are.  I've learned that letting go of something is actually the first step to being given something greater.

Time has changed me.  Love has changed me.  I am a richer man because of all that time and love have brought me:  a beautiful wife and partner to share life with; a career that has allowed me to touch the lives of thousands; a comfortable home; a life filled with meaning and purpose.

I guess I'm just simply grateful for it all - grateful to God for bringing me all that he has over the last half century.

I pray my heart will always stay young.

"A person is always startled when he hears himself seriously called an old man for the first time." (Oliver W. Holmes, Sr.)

And when someone calls me an "old man" for the first time, I'll remember to smile!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Three Powerful Words (and a Tidbit too!)

 "We proceeded on." (Captain William Clark)

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are two of my most favorite heroes in American history. I have always remembered Clark's phrase above; written at the end of many of his journal entries.  No matter what his fears or the challenges he faced, he often closed by simply saying, "We proceeded on".  In those three words, can be found a great deal of hope and strength - all in remembering to do just that.  "To proceed on" whenever I feel anxious or fearful, stressed or disappointed, alone or lost.

Here's a tidbit I wrote once about these two men and their expedition.

One of the greatest adventures in American history was the 1804-06 expedition of Lewis and Clark to explore and map the American West.  These two men and their Corps of Discovery are recognized as national heroes today for their courage in travelling across 1000's of miles of uncharted wilderness and back.  How many members of the Corps of Discovery died during this journey?  What happened to Lewis and Clark at the end of this journey?

Answer:  Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the 31 other members of the Corps of Discovery traveled for over two years through the American West; navigating the Missouri and Columbia Rivers; crossing the Great Plains, meeting Indian tribes for the 1st time; suffered through bitter winters there (-45 degrees!) and a dismal, wet winter on the Oregon coast.  But due to Lewis and Clark's leadership and planning, and the discipline of the men they brought along, only 1 man died during the trip (Pretty remarkable!).  Sergeant Charles Floyd died on August 20, 1804, just two months into the trip, from a ruptured appendix.  The rest of the men stayed relatively healthy (venereal disease was the most common affliction!... usually treated with mega-doses of mercury!).  Lewis suffered the most serious injury of the trip.  In August 1806, while nearing the end of their return trip home, Lewis was shot in the buttocks by one of his own men (Pierre Cruzatte) while out deer hunting!  Lewis spent the last month of the return trip to St. Louis lying on his stomach in the bottom of a canoe; the Corps returned home on September 20, 1806.  The men were greeted as long-lost national heroes, but the fame proved fleeting.  In March 1807, Meriwether Lewis was named Governor of Upper Louisiana, the territory he explored.  But he proved to be an uninterested Administrator.  He also became an alcoholic, increasingly depressed with his life.  On the night of October 10, 1809, Lewis committed suicide, alone and penniless, in a Tennessee roadside inn.  The journals he so diligently kept during his trip were by his side, unedited and unpublished.  William Clark enjoyed a more positive life after the journey.  He enjoyed a happy marriage and was elected Governor of Missouri in 1813.  After Lewis' death, he worked to get his friend's Journals published - they finally were 30 years later.  He continued to work to map the West until his death on September 1, 1838.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Today's Tidbit - The Legend of Face Rock

This is a tidbit I wrote about one of my favorite sights on the Oregon coast.  The sunshine and blue sky today made me remember it, and how much I love the coast!

A striking natural rock formation known as "Face Rock" lies off the Oregon coast near the small town of Bandon.  The largest rock appears to be a human face, gazing up into the sky.  What is the legend/history behind this unique rock?

 Answer:  The origins of the name "Face Rock" come from an old Pacific Northwest Coast Indian legend. The tribes living in the Bandon area were known as either the Coosans or the Athapaskans.  Here is the legend. 

Many, many years ago, Chief Necomah invited Indians far and near to come to the coast and join him in trade and a great feast.  Chief Siskiyou from the far mountains came, bringing along his beautiful daughter, Princess Ewauna.  The feast was truly splendid: the people roasted bear, salmon, elk; huge quantities of clams, mussels were steamed;  honey and huckleberries were the dessert.  

But Necomah warned his visitors from faraway to stay away from the ocean.  An evil spirit, Seatka, lived in the sea, and might cause trouble for the people and their guests. So Necomah placed armed warriors on guard over the high bluffs above the beach, and discouraged the people from going into the water. But Princess Ewauna was enchanted by the sea, never having seen it before.  

One night, while the people were sleeping, Ewauna slipped out of camp and went down to the water, carrying her cat and kittens in a basket and followed by her faithful dog, Komax.  The moon was full and the water glistened in the light.  Ewauna was not afraid of Seatka and began to swim, going farther and farther from shore.  Seatka saw the beautiful princess and rose up to capture her.  

Komax barked a warning - but it was too late. Seatka tried to force Ewauna to look into his eyes, for if she did she would fall under his spell and be his forever.  But she refused to look – staring only at the great, round moon above.  Komax swam bravely out to help his mistress, biting the hand of Seatka.  Enraged, Seatka swung his mighty arm, knocking the dog back to the beach.  He then flung Ewauna's basket of kittens out into the dark waters.  But still she would not look at him.  

The next morning, Chief Siskiyou saw his daughter was missing and sounded the alarm.  The people rushed to the ocean shore.  There they saw the lovely face of Princess Ewauna gazing up to the sky.  On the beach sat Komax, sadly howling at his mistress.  Ewauna's basket, cat, and kittens floated in front of her.  But alas, the evil Seatka had turned them all to stone – his revenge for Ewauna's refusal to love him.  Chief Siskiyou was heart-broken.  He left and never returned.

You can still see Princess Ewauna, Komax, et. al., at the "Face Rock" Viewpoint off Beach Loop Drive in Bandon, Oregon. (it's worth the trip!)

Remembering To Open My Eyes

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit, and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?" (Albert Einstein)

Here I sit on an April Sunday afternoon:  comfy at my desk; enjoying the soft breeze coming in through my window and all the beauty that spring brings along.  When Deborah and I came back from class today, we took Izzy for a long walk around our neighborhood - up into the hills where the "rich people live".  The sun was warm and bright (though it's spring "playmate" is usually a mischievous little breeze that likes to hide in the shadows, and then jump out and pinch my cheeks just when I'm thinking it's warm!).  Izzy loves these walks!  She is the picture of "happiness" - kind of like below!

Though this picture isn't of Izzy (she's a little chihuahua, who runs too fast for me to take a snapshot of!), it captures perfectly the complete joy and sense of happiness she seems to have whenever we go for a walk.  Always something new to see, to do, to sniff, never in a hurry to get back home - looking over her shoulder at Deborah and I as if to say, "Come on!  This is so cool!", while flashing a doggy grin.

And this afternoon, I feel just as happy, so that's what I thought I'd write about.  I wrote 3 months ago about "What Made Me Happy", so I thought I'd return to that topic and see what was new that I could "dig up".  What makes me happy today?
  • Seeing the first brave red tulip pop up underneath my office window makes me happy.  I love its courage (the mornings are still a bit frosty!), and its willingness to be a "pioneer posey".
  • Just spotted some new "hired help"!  Two scrub blue jays, my new gardeners, are hopping around our front yard, picking and pecking, doing some spring cleaning.  They make me smile as they hop around the yard: one doing most of the work, the other "supervising" from the top of the crabapple tree.  Oops!  One of the jays just dove into the birdbath for a drink and a dip - must be "Quitting Time!"  Funny!
  • The smell of freshly mown grass.  Why do I enjoy that so?  What memories does it evoke?  Boyhood chores from a time past?  Or perhaps something more primal?  Proof that I've "carved my home out of the wilderness" like a settler of old?  I don't know.  But I do know that if a color could smell, "green" would smell like my yard after I've mowed it, and I love to breathe it in.
  • Our beautiful home makes me happy.  We've worked hard for the last month, cleaning, painting, organizing, and re-doing.  Soft new carpet in the front room that begs for bare feet to snuggle into it; new counter tops and sink in the kitchen, a shiny new stove on its way.  But what makes me smile is not the objects, but the love that they represent.  Love born of shared efforts and shared joys.  Our home is beautiful to me because it is filled with love.
  • Hearing my wife laugh!  A couple of days ago a friend of hers sent her a link to this video, called "Back To Work after 30 Years" (click on the link below).  Deborah's laugh is like a bell, infectious and full.  It always makes me happy to hear her happiness, spilling out of her!

These things, and so much more, are the music that make my soul smile and sing this afternoon.  It's good to remember these things, and to be grateful for them.  I know that Spring will also bring its clouds and showers; its muddy puddles and chill winds.  But that's all part of Life's great cycles.

I loved something that Guy said in class today.

"Love is always changing its form.  It's always there.  When you think it's gone, it's still there.  You just don't have the eyes to see it".

I want to keep remembering to keep my eyes open.  After all, what else does a man need in order to be happy?