Saturday, August 19, 2017

Grand Consolation

After I signed all the papers required to buy a home, I discovered that there was a raspberry patch in my new backyard. I’ve always told people that had I known, I would have paid more for the house. 

Every year the patch, now the size of a pickup truck bed and four feet high, produces blooms then berries, which every year I eat before I can harvest enough to make something wonderful with them. 

Not this year. 

Ah, the bushes flourish. And bloom. And produce hundreds of green berries. I monitor their progress, awaiting scarlet fruition. That never comes. What blushes in the morning, disappears by the afternoon. 

One day, entering my yard from the alley garage, I discovered why. As I stepped onto the path, a dozen birds flew out of the raspberries. 

It’s my own fault. I hang birdfeeders and fill bird baths. You would think that would be enough. But when I walk out my back door, as many as six squirrels scurry away. They take the bird seed. The birds take the berries. 

I now buy raspberries at the grocery store and take consolation in the giant blooms of my hibiscus (which neither birds nor squirrels consume). 

Although I am a little worried about the small bunny I saw the other day.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Old Hair

Other than senior discounts and Medicare, one enormous perk of aging is the lack of hairy legs. 

Oh I do occasionally – about once every three or four months – have to harvest the meager crop, scattered sparsely on legs whose veins tend to make them look like maps of the London subway system. 

Still. It’s a perk. 

Hair is a contrary mammalian trait. It seems to grow where we don’t want it and disappear from places where it is fervently desired. 

This is true for both men and women but I will deal only with the aging female here. [And I will not deal with all of the capillary ramifications – like moustaches (which is another dilemma altogether).] 

When I was younger and more smug (smugness seems to be characteristic of youth) I would smirk disparagingly at men who had attempted to disguise a balding pate by combing longer locks over barren skulls. 

No longer. 

My once glorious tresses still exist but, like the earth’s aquifer, are diminished. 

My hair is thinning. 

From the front and the sides, I still look adequately ‘haired’. Not so much from the back. 

Now I too must fluff the remains and try to guide them over my pink, pink scalp. 

I even have some powder I can sprinkle over the too obvious hair barrenness. It helps. 

So beware, oh youth. Avoid smugness and smirks. All too soon, that which you deride will be that with which you must contend.

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. 


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.

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.