Thursday, July 20, 2017

No Reverence for Earwigs

There was an earwig in my kitchen sink this morning. 

I turned the faucet on full blast and swooshed the insect down the garbage disposal (which was turned on). As I saw it disappear, I wondered, What would Albert Schweitzer have done? 

I remembered hearing a story about Dr. Schweitzer moving his place setting rather than disturbing the ants parading across the table somewhere in Africa where he was doing great humanitarian things.

I don’t know if that story is true or just an illustration of his philosophy of “Reverence for Life” (for which he was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize). He wrote: “The laying down of the commandment to not kill and to not damage is one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of mankind.” 

The Wikipedia entry calls him a French-German theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician. 

Whatever else he was, he considered his work as a medical missionary his personal atonement for European colonizers. He wrote: “Oh, this 'noble' culture of ours! It speaks so piously of human dignity and human rights and then disregards this dignity and these rights of countless millions and treads them underfoot, only because they live overseas or because their skins are of different color.” 

I agree with so much of what Dr. Schweitzer wrote and did. 

And yet. 

It was an earwig!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Indelible Memory

It was time for it to come down. A decade ago I taped an odd collage onto the pantry entrance wall. On a piece of black construction paper, now faded, was an obituary for Jean K. Brabandt … and a little prose/poem I had written in response to her death. 

Jean was one of my first buddies in Loveland. We’d get together for lunch or just a cup of tea. Her sense of humor, or rather, her sense of delight, was what drew me to her. Tiny and spunky, she was full of surprises. I visited her little senior living apartment which she had somehow made habitable. When I commented on a lovely watercolor on one wall, she offered to show me others and promptly pulled another half dozen out from under her bed. 

The fact that she was more than 20 years older than I was irrelevant. We both had personal histories in the Chicago area. We both had traveled abroad. We went to the same church. And we loved to laugh together. 

The little prose/poem I wrote was sort of an apology. She had said that her doctor advised her to eat low-salt soup. I found some and was going to call to deliver the cans but time slipped away. Then she slipped away. 

For 10 years, I kept the faded obituary and prose poem as a reminder. The time to reach out to friends is always sooner than later. 

Always.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Solstice Significance

There is a story about a June family gathering to celebrate my father’s birthday. Someone remarked that the date, June 21, was the longest day of the year. 

My paternal grandmother groaned, “Believe me. I know. It was the longest day of my life.” 


Charles Thacker McClure was born June 21, 1915 – 102 years ago. The only photo of him on my computer is when he was a baby on his mother’s lap. 

I have a million images of him in my mind and memory. He was good looking and smart and funny. [All my friends in my college residence would magically appear whenever he happened to visit.] 

However, his humor, often sarcastic, left emotional scars on my psyche and especially, on my brother’s. 

Writing my new book, Family Time, I came to understand where that sarcasm came from. And to forgive it. He filed for divorce from my mother, Roberta Anne Walker McClure (Bobbie) the same year I filed for my divorce. Not a good year. It took me a long time to forgive that. But I did. And that forgiveness enriched both our lives. Forgiveness works that way. 

So. For better and for worse, here’s to you, Dad. Happy Birthday.

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017

Today would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. She was born June 16, 1917 in Pittsburgh, PA just before the Summer Solstice. She died in Aurora, CO, Dec. 17, 1995 -- about 22 ½ years ago -- just before the Winter Solstice. 

All of the seasons in-between she was her own unique being – giving, loving, laughing, crying. Doing great things. Doing stupid things. Occasionally doing cruel things. Often doing kind things. She was my mom. I have some photos of her.




                   Here she is on her father's knee surrounded by her mom, her older brother Bill, and little sister, Lou.



A few years later -- older and more glamorous.


And later, still glamorous, with children of her own:
Bill and me (Mim)

What a great and wonderful life. A great and wonderful mom.
Happy Birthday, Mom,
wherever you are.
Mim   

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Revising the Past

Last week there was an article in the New York Times (and other newspapers) about 300,000 year old human fossils found in Morocco. 

In my novel/fantasy memoir, Family Time, the protagonist recounts the orthodox version of our species’ evolution. According to her, humans developed in east Africa (Omo River region, Ethiopia) then migrated around the globe. Evidently she was wrong (I was wrong, I wrote it). Evidently our species emerged from its antecedents in many African sites. 

I can understand differing views of the future. After all, who truly knows? But it boggles my mind a bit when we change our shared understanding of our own origins. And we are doing it all the time. 

Every year it seems, we are surprised to discover that one ancient tribe created great art and another practiced some form of religion and yet another evidently had a sophisticated language. 

Why are we surprised? We are all the same species, floating along in the continuum of time. We may know different things now – maybe even more things -- but we are definitely not getting smarter. 

Many religions – past and present – advocate honoring our ancestors. I concur. Even better, let’s keep digging. I’m willing to bet they have a lot to teach us.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SLAMMED BY JOY

There are so many things that give me quiet joy:
           My garden in springtime, 
           The way my cat Herbie comes running to greet me when I come home, 
           Sunlight through the glass stuff on my windowsills and the rainbows that hanging prisms make dance in my rooms.
But every once in a great while, I get slammed by joy. 
It happened often between May 20 and May 30 when my grandson, Harlan, and his parents visited. They didn’t stay with me the whole time but when they were here, a lot of wonderful things happened. 
    My daughter-in-law laughed at my jokes and complimented my cooking and we spontaneously gave each other half hugs every once in a while. My feelings toward her transformed from respect and admiration to genuine fondness (while retaining respect and admiration).
    My son, without a sign of protest, helped me fix the overly complicated dish I had decided to serve and was authentically friendly and supportive the entire visit.
    Harlan and Herbie enjoyed each other -- Herbie tolerating the undisciplined love of a 19-month old boy and Harlan delighting in (and petting) the 16.75-year-old cat. And Harlan and I played with a toy truck, pushing it toward each other in a game we spontaneously created.
     And my brother spent some significant time with me and then joined in the Denver family celebration of my grand niece’s 21st birthday (the first time all of us had been together for a decade or two).
     And a hundred other little moments that, cumulatively, were seismic emotional treasures. Perhaps none more so than little Harlan—the ultimate joy slammer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

What Price Technology?

I just saw a stunning, original play performed with consummate artistry. It was the last performance of “The Blue Kitchen” written by Eric Prince and brought to life by Wendy Ishii (and Barbara Clark).
    It was far too easy to get a great seat in the middle of the second row. And there were far too many empty seats in the Bas Bleu Theater in north Fort Collins.
    Why?
    Talking to Wendy after the performance, she attributed the sparse attendance to sparse (nearly non-existent) newspaper coverage. Newspapers are in jeopardy because people rely on their computers – email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – instead of reading off-screen.
    What a shame. If our understanding of our world must be shrink-wrapped into sound-bites and 140-word messages, the scope of our lives and understanding are correspondingly diminished.
    Amazingly, the Bas Bleu Theater is celebrating its 25th anniversary. . . in spite of an information vacuum.
    What can I do if I wish to help Bas Bleu thrive for another 25 years? Well, I can continue to subscribe to my local paper (delivered to my front door).
    And I can use technology – post a blog and share it on Facebook.
    And tell my friends (and an occasional stranger) that there is an amazing pocket of real culture in our area which deserves our support.