Sunday, June 25, 2017
Sleepy Baby, Chicago, IL
“Good Morning baby.”
The sleepy baby awakes,
knowing mother’s voice.
“Hi, were you sleeping?”
The dreamy fog clears away,
and eyes open wide.
“Hi, did you sleep well?”
He raises up on his arms,
and his whole face smiles.
“Did you sleep all night?”
He contentedly replies,
happy and secure.
Friday, June 16, 2017
Fading Memory, California Beach
The photograph of my father and me shelling in California on a Pacific Ocean beach has become about as faded as my memories of him. It’s been said that most of humanity is only remembered for about two generations until there is no consciousness left to retain their memory. Fortunately, on the eve of Father’s Day, my consciousness still retains a few dim memories.
I only vaguely remember family meals, as my father was an engineer on the railroad and worked a variety of shifts due to the rigid seniority system. He never outlived the system, since he experienced a relatively early death, partially due to that system which never enabled him to live a normal life of sleeping and waking. But I do remember good times fishing, hunting, and participating in his favorite sport, baseball.
As a young man playing baseball, my father was scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals and offered a low paying position at shortstop on their farm club. He decided to abandon the dream and stay at home to help the family. That major decision in my father’s life quite probably resulted in our family’s creation. It’s good to have goals and dreams in life, but when life throws you a curve ball, it just might not be strike three. It could be ball four and a pass to begin a new path around the bases that leads to a new home. I didn’t become a professional baseball player either, but I learned that we’ve got to work hard at something to be good at it, sportsmanship, how to be a team player, developing lasting friendships with teammates, the thrill of competition, how to be a good winner as well as a good loser, and the love of a father to impart his dream to his child so that the dream remains alive.
He died as I was only beginning to transition to adulthood in college. I remember a conversation about part-time college students that were hired to supplement the summer wheat harvest and vacations. He mentioned that many of them partied and then slept on the job to recover. When I challenged their right to do this, he just smiled and noted that many of them were superior’s sons and he would be the one in trouble. That was a rude introduction to the real world. During a blustery Kansas winter snow storm, I went to the back door late at night where my mother was looking outside and inquired about my father. She mentioned that he was outside putting chains on the rear tires of our car so he could get to work. I remarked that no one should have to go outside on a night like this, but she just smiled and suggested I get bundled up and go outside to help him. When I went outside and suggested that he call in sick so he could stay home out of the storm, he just smiled and said someone had to work so our family could live—another rude introduction to the real world.
And like the movie Field of Dreams, some of the best times growing up involved the simple act of playing catch in the backyard. It’s a very human act of I-give-to-you and you-give-back connectedness, many times discussing something about life and many times in serene silence, with just the sound of the rawhide ball hitting the leather glove. The final act of redemption in the movie unfortunately doesn’t happen all too often in real life. The prodigal son gets a second chance to say, “Hey dad, you wanna have a catch”? And his dad replies, “I’d like that”.
As I became a father, my daughter and I played catch (although I quickly learned to slow it down a bit) and now there’s always the dream of playing catch with that future Hall-of-Famer, my new grandson.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Broken Shell, Wrightsville Beach, NC
The sun awakens,
but is still not visible,
on the horizon.
as the eastern sky glows red,
and the tide recedes.
Shore birds chase the waves,
foraging in the sea foam,
as shells are exposed.
Lone footprints ahead,
leaving the tossed and broken,
gathering whole shells.
As I walk behind,
searching for imperfection,
gathering flawed shells.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Kintsukuroi, Internet Domain
Weathered Shell, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Character Lines, Jamestown, NC
Staring down at my bare knees as I rode in a golf cart this past weekend on the brink of summer, I noticed that the sunshine had once again begun to highlight the two white scars that dissected my knees. I earned that pair through some tough days and physical therapy. Those “character lines” as I like to consider them, are a bit different from each other. The left knee joint was the first to go about ten years ago and has faint staple marks where they were inserted on either side of a very straight line. The most recent of about two years ago has more character without the staples as it was repaired by sewing the incision under itself. Only recently did I discover that the ancient Japanese understood this concept centuries ago. And they have two primary terms that have evolved over those centuries, kintsukuroi and wabi-sabi.
Kintsukuroi is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer or resin mixed with gold dust. The associated philosophy treats the breaks as part of the object’s history, making it more beautiful with its imperfection, rather than something to disguise. Originally, valuable broken pottery was repaired with metal staples. Later the craftsmen began using the golden seams which emphasized the mended imperfections that should be celebrated as a rebirth of the piece!
Wabi-sabi is a philosophy centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Wabi implies uniqueness and understated elegance while sabi refers to beauty that comes with age, such as a patina and wear or visible repairs. Wabi-sabi acknowledges three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Buddhists describe it as the wisdom and beauty of imperfection. I’ve written before about abandoning my search for perfect shells on the beach and instead began looking for uniquely imperfect specimens that have been rolled and battered by the sand and tides. The flawed beauty of these shells is sadly overlooked by many bearers of the footprints in my path.
And as we continue to circle the sun more times than we care to acknowledge, those “character lines” randomly crossing our bodies and the “crow’s feet” spreading away from our eyes are beautiful indications that we have lived and laughed, however imperfectly!
Monday, May 29, 2017
Kabobs, Greensboro, NC
This Memorial weekend will be low key, so it seemed like a good time to drive over to one of my favorite shopping centers and have my eyeglass frames adjusted. After being told that the frames were OK but my ears were off center, I left and meandered over to a nearby department store where I purchased a pair of shorts and a printed t-shirt for the beach. That shot of island happiness lasted about as long as it took me to cut off the labels.
As I was driving out of the shopping center I passed by the new Whole Foods Market. I didn’t have a grocery list with me, but I decided to park and go inside to forage for food anyway. I picked up half a blueberry pie, corn on the cob, guacamole dip, two bottles of California Chardonnay and made my way to the meat counter for something to grill. There I discovered some mystery meat with a strange red marinade. When I inquired, the butcher behind the counter informed me that it was a special red pepper sauce indigenous to the middle east which I may have recently sampled in Israel. So, not wishing to appear biased, I immediately requested not one, but two of the kabobs smothered in the special sauce. As the young lady in the deli was filling a couple of small containers of cold salad, she remarked that folks always order something if she makes eye contact with them. Based on my experience, that's because you’ve got to stare at her if you want her attention!
The checkout counters are always a navigational challenge when committing to a line that will move the fastest. A trip to Disney World years ago taught me to always choose a line to the left, since most people are right-handed and will veer right. Then there’s always second-guessing who in the lines has a handful of coupons that need to be processed with a price check and manager’s approval. I selected a young college-aged girl who was flirting with a comparably aged young guy. I overheard him asking what day she was off work next week. Of course, she took her sweet time checking him out and bagging his three items which the young man obviously used as date bait.
Finally, the line cleared to process my Memorial Day feast as the young coed glanced up at my thinning silver hair and thought “O great, I just went from a 2017 red Ford Mustang to a 1960 gray Ford Falcon”. But I’m sure she’d been trained to interact with customers and be cheerful. She appeared to be a bit flustered from the encounter with the young stock guy as she scanned the Chardonnay and asked, “Did you find everything OK?” I remarked that I had forgotten my list so I was just buying the basics. She then grabbed my middle eastern kabobs and asked, “Do you want your meat in its own bag?” I responded, “Naw, it’s not that special.” Then without obviously thinking too much about it, she asked, “Does your meat know you’re talking about it?”
Well, I believe that’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever been asked that question, so I had to pause and then just said “Sometimes.” By this time, I knew she would give anything to retract that question, but she just quickly gave me my receipt and wished me a happy Memorial weekend. And I’ve got to say, that foraging encounter even was more entertaining than shopping for the beach outfit!
Saturday, May 27, 2017
SAILING, Lake Michigan, IL
When you're sailing through a storm,
you don't bail out.
You start bailing and adjusting the sails.
(Photo my daughter took on Lake Michigan and published in USAToday)