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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trying To Understand

I can’t tell you how the heavens and our Earth were formed. I have read, of course, about several theories scientists agree on at present, one which is known as the Big Bang. I hesitate to argue with anyone about it. Why? Because I simply don’t understand it. I do find it hard though to believe that something comes from nothing. To me, that’s like saying there can be an effect without a cause, ideas without a mind. 

Things like that are interesting to consider, ponder, discuss and wonder about, but I doubt that the absolute truth of the universe will be secured by a number of human minds and brains any more than a colony of ants could hope to define the Eiffel Tower by the consensus of their tiny brains, if they even have brains.

As long as we mortals think we have our own little minds we’ll come up with our own little answers. If, however, there is one infinite Mind and we’re able to lock into it, think what we may have a chance to understand! 

So, what triggered this post? I’ll tell you what. It was Facebook. The virtues and vices of Facebook can be argued. I got on it with the recommendation of my kids and can say I enjoy it up to a point. Keeping in touch with friends and family that way is good. Pictures are good too, if all of that time can’t be put to better use. 

What I find offensive, however, is the use of Facebook for initiating arguments over politics, religion, (or the denial of religion) and personal conflicting opinions. Not that there shouldn’t be a place for these. I’m not one to forbid certain subjects such as the old warning to avoid discussing politics, religion and women. The cardinal rules in pursuing these subjects, however, should, in my book, be respect, courtesy, charity and humility. Maybe someone should start a companion to Facebook for more serious discussion. Could it be called “Thinkbook?” It could even help to end wars and bring about world peace if used to understand, if not agree with, beliefs different from our own. 

In the meantime wouldn’t it be refreshing if there were no put-downs or shout-outs? The simple fact is that what is true will survive and what is false will not. That is inevitable. Nothing we say or believe will alter that. The more understanding of one another’s views and less judgmental arguments against them could use a formula we find as plain as the nose on our faces: 
two eyes, two ears and one mouth

Oh, and an honest and loving heart big enough to embrace everyone’s better self. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Morning Lost?

Not often do I admit to a stomach ache. One reason is I hardly ever have one, but this morning I had to call my friend and say I couldn’t go with her to shop and have lunch as we’d planned. “I’m not feeling well,” I said. It was OK. She had others to keep her company and I could stay home and get over whatever was bothering me.

I don’t look for causes like “Was it something I ate?” I’ve learned to give physical problems as little thought as possible and focus on mental solutions. So I made myself a place with pillows on the sofa and let my canary sing and play in his cage in the window. I would be amused by his songs and antics. That should help to free my thought.

The gardeners were busy keeping the grounds lovely and the noise of their mowers and trimmers came in through the open windows. I sometimes wish they still used old fashioned lawn mowers. You know, the kind they’d push and the blades would make an almost musical sound. Music. Yes, I would turn on the I-Tunes on my computer. Some old romantic songs like “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places...” 

Why is it so many of those old songs make you cry? They got me to thinking again of a young couple I know who are breaking up. I love them both and hoped so much for their happiness but it just isn’t working out for them. I thought of that scenario going on all over the world. Over and over. The music made me blue. It gave me a heartache. I switched it off.

As I sank back into the sofa I remembered a childhood experience of mine. It was puppy love, that’s true, but even at the age of seven I was smitten.  The boy was a handsome high school fellow who noticed me and smiled as he walked past me in the downstairs hall. The upstairs classes were for junior high and high school kids but they had to pass our lower school class rooms to enter or leave the school.

I’d see this fellow now and then and he always had a word to say, a smile. For me! I got to looking for him, even following him around as he walked with his friends downtown past the old courthouse and the grandstand in the park. His friends started teasing him about me but that only made me feel more special. “She’s cute!” they’d say, poking him in the ribs, “but aren’t you robbing the cradle?”

One day I waited, sitting on the bottom step during lunch hour, for him to come back. When he did I started to follow him upstairs. That was against the rules and his friends teased him more. “Look, she’s tagging behind you!” Then he turned suddenly and with glaring eyes and loud voice he called out, “Stop! Why don’t you get lost?”

I was instantly stunned, shot right in my heart, but as I retreated to my classroom I would not let myself cry. I sat there alone before the bell rang and I made a choice. I would never follow him again. I would never look for him or even at him again. I would put him out of my mind altogether. It was a wise decision for one so young but it was also cold and calculating. And I kept true to my word. Soon it was easy.

That little episode as a child may have robbed me of some element of romance throughout my life. I never was tempted to give in to a needy kind of love. My idea of super romantic love I enjoyed in movies but not in real life. Mine was a careful kind of love. I used my head as well as my heart and that worked for me. That’s why I worried about those two young lovers I spoke of. They needed each other, and I wanted so much to see them happy. That hasn’t happened and probably won’t.

As I rested on the sofa with thoughts like this running through my head I made another decision. The problems of those young people had made me sad for a long time and I needed to stop worrying about them. They will get their answers, whether they stay together or part, and I should mind my own business! I fell asleep and woke up around lunch time.The stomach ache?  It was gone. I got up and fixed myself a lunch of avocado on crackers and orange juice. I felt fine. 

Sometimes I think that we’re here on earth to learn all about love. I’ve learned quite a few lessons along the way and today I learned another. Let divine Love work out our love for others and theirs for each other. I can guarantee the one divine Love doesn’t even know heartache or indifference. But Love cares, and our love for others is nourished by this one all-embracing Love that meets all needs. By knowing this I lost a heartache and a stomach ache. And my morning was not lost after all. But tonight my favorite old movie channel is not featuring a romantic movie. Oh well, I'll get along. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Better Than Fiction?

I said something in a recent blog that now haunts me. I said that reality must be better than fiction, that the true life stories of my ancestors would move me more than any made-up story. But I just finished watching a movie that makes me wonder. I am still wiping away tears. Not because it ended sadly but because it ended perfectly, the way you would have hoped it would.  

One all time favorite of mine is Maytime with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. Another is Waterloo Bridge with Vivian Leigh and Robert Taylor. There’s also Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. I could name a few others. These films I could see over and over, and I have. Each time they work on my emotions as deeply as when I first saw them. Not many movies can do that to me. Real life can too but in real life the tears cannot so easily be wiped away.

I remember when I was seventeen or so I got a job as an usherette in the Laguna Beach movie theater. That old theater is still there but I haven’t been in it for years and I wonder if it still has a balcony inside. I wore a uniform then and the balcony was my spot. Before the doors opened they used to play music and one piece would send me into the ether. It was Holiday For Strings by David Rose. Alone in the darkened movie house I’d turn off my little flashlight and stand next to the railing while violins played their magic and sent me soaring out into my future. As if I were on a rocket ship launched into the unknown space toward my future life, I could only see the stars. I couldn’t know where I was going or what I’d come across in life, but it was wonderful beyond words to be going there accompanied by such music! 

Oh, you ask the name of the movie I watched today, the one that prompted this blog? It was Random Harvest. I can’t imagine any actors other than Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman who could have made it more real or brought me to real tears. 

And here is another question: Who’s to say what is really real anyway? In some dimension, if it lasts, I suppose even fiction is real.

Getting Better? Count The Ways

Happy memories don’t need to fade. They can even make today more pleasant by counting the ways we’ve carried with us their joys and been relieved of their burdens. I thought of this when I glanced at a picture hanging in my kitchen this morning. A young woman pausing in the chicken coop to gaze out the window. Her apron, her egg basket, the hens on their perches or in the nests. I had to buy that picture because it looked exactly like me when we lived on our ranch in Oregon. Even the basket looks identical to the one I had and still have. 

Those were happy times and I thought they would continue the rest of my life. After many years of pulling up stakes and moving on to make a home in another place every two years or less the ranch was to be our final move, our Shangri-la. And it was, for me, those seven and a half years. Then I had to let go and say goodbye to the little house sitting on field stones, the big barn sitting on horizontal poles, the wide fields, the creek that spilled into the Upper Applegate River, the swings, and my chicken coop with its precious occupants.

I still have all those memories and when I stop to really look at the picture on my kitchen wall, they come alive for a few moments. But now I don’t need to clean out the coop, (a stinky job!), wash that dingy window or gather the warm eggs and feed the hens and roosters. I didn’t mind doing all that, even enjoyed it. Then. Would I want to be doing that now? I think not. I have it here in a picture while I enjoy my new circumstances and conveniences to their fullest. 

It’s always been that way with me. Letting go of one form of good clears the way for something even better. I can’t count the places I’ve lived where I’ve said to myself, Now I am really home; I’ll never move again. The last place I lived in, my cozy condo beside the little creek and waterfall where wild ducks swam and played was my heaven then. But I was suddenly yanked out and given this, my present Shangri-la.  I feel so much at home here I doubt I could feel more so if it had been my home since birth.

I’ve discovered all through life that there’s something good and refreshing about leaving a home while it’s still the most pleasant place on earth. Why? Because there’s something better out ahead. There’s a new NOW, a wonderful new life awaiting. 

It’s been my observation that when people don’t or won’t let go of the past, when they still cling to past places, thinking them better than present, they languish under circumstances that could be delightful if not strangled by remorse. I think, in a way, that hanging onto the past and its pleasantries is like making a graven image of them and bowing down before them with eyes closed to the beauty and promise right at hand.

Can pictures bring back loved ones too? I think they help to remind us of the way we were, but not the way we are. I look at the smiling face of my young Marine pilot husband and suspect he’s smiling the same way now somewhere. Maybe even right here. Perhaps we’re not separated at all but merely tuned into different frequencies. I believe that progress is a law of God and both of us are progressing. For the time, however, we are in different classrooms. Shall we meet again and compare notes? I’ll leave that to divine Providence.

Today Robin and I are taking our friend, Suzy, out to lunch at her favorite fast food place, Kentucky Colonel Chicken. It’s a once a month outing. Those extra crispy pieces won’t hurt us once a month and they do taste so good! I don’t hear the waterfall anymore but oh, the sound of the rustling of these tall stately trees around me! I can hear wild bird songs too and they keep Tommy company as he contributes to their melodies.

It’s a good day, a beautiful day, and I have a carton of eggs in the fridge that were laid by free range chickens. I know what those eggs felt like when they were still warm. I know the sweet odors of hay and stinky chicken coop. I know what it’s like to move on. It’s not easy to move, it’s even a pain, but when you’re settled in and at home again? It’s today’s Heaven. Until there’s a better one.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tracing Ancestry on Fathers' Day

Today is Fathers’ Day, worth blogging about and an appropriate way to celebrate since I’m at home alone. So, are you one of them, those ancestor hunters who can’t leave it alone? I am not. Yet, I’ve heard it is easier these days and I am tempted, but frankly, I’m afraid it might become a sinkhole for the mind and a terrible drain on my time. Dates and statistics don’t interest me much. They are like dry bones. I want to see them, those real people who came before me, understand them. I want to get acquainted with them, even in little bits and pieces of human interest. How much more fascinating than reading fiction would that be! 

Common sense tells me this is impossible. It also tells me to spend my time better in getting to know the ones who are with me in the present. Even that can be a task too great, but it’s worth a try. Ever try to get a teen-ager to tell you what he or she is thinking? Even harder when they're older. So, for the moment I'll tell them. (Some really do read my blogs.)

My own father, Reuben Hahn, came from sturdy pioneer people. His grandfather, Christian Hahn, the great grandfather who died before I was born, was a carriage driver for a wealthy landowner and left Germany to get away from his employer who forced him to abuse the horses by driving them too hard. He loved the horses too much and...well, you see, if only I could tell you how he left! Was it in the middle of the night? Did he steal away secretly or stand up to his employer boldly? Had he saved money for the passage on some ship or did he become a stowaway? Where did he land in America, and what inspired him to go west as far as Minnesota? The Homestead Act, I think. Through it he gained a large tract of land. How could he work it all? Had his sons grown up enough to help? How interesting that story would be, not to mention the love story of how he met and married Catherine who also came from Germany. I used to visit their grave-sites occasionally on the hill opposite the house I built after going back to attend my 50th high school class reunion. Their secrets were obviously buried with them.

Years later when we moved from Minneapolis my father built a home of his own on a five acre patch of that homestead land. Great Grandpa Hahn never lived to know that. He did know how his sons also worked the land, lived in the stone house he built from stones on the land, carried on what he had started. 

My other great grandfather, Thomas Pulford, I actually knew when I was around seven and eight. I took time out from cousins’ play on family gatherings to visit with him. He was my Grandma Hattie Hahn’s father. Always dressed for the occasion with best suit, bow tie, stiff-collared shirt and high buttoned shoes. He wore a mustache, had a healthy head of white hair and smoked White Owl cigars. After everyone had paid their respects he’d be sitting alone in his rocking chair, looking out behind dimly darkened glasses. He’d become totally blind. I’d always take a footstool and sit beside him for a long while asking him questions about his own childhood and he liked to hold my hand as if hoping I would not go away.

“Well, Joycie, I was born in England and my father was a ship’s seaman. I was about your age when Father came home from an ocean voyage one day and announced that he was taking us all to the New World. He wanted a better life for us.” Then Grandpa would puff on his cigar and pause a moment before he’d continue. No doubt he was really seeing in those moments! 

Little did I know the whole story though. My Great Aunt Matie told me later how Grandpa Pulford’s father, the seaman, had fallen in love aboard ship with the owner of the ship’s daughter. She had been with her mother (that would have been my great, great, great grandmother) on a voyage recommended by her doctor to help cure her from a respiratory disease. The young couple fell in love and persuaded the captain of the ship to marry them without telling the mother. When they arrived home and her parents found out and insisted on an annulment the lovers would not agree, and so the young bride’s father disinherited her. She chose love over everything but in her role as the wife of her young seaman-become-homesteader in the New World, she always bore an aristocratic air. Aunt Matie couldn’t remember her in anything but dark dresses with white lace collars and cuffs. 

I never knew my great grandparents on my mother’s side of the family and I think they’d passed on before Mother knew them, but I’d love to learn more because Grandfather Darling’s father came from Scotland and I've always been glad to be part Scottish. How he met and married my great grandmother, a French woman, I’ll never know. So far as Grandmother Darling knew, Grandpa Darling hadn’t told her either. I wonder why? The one picture I have of his mother is in an old album. It shows a proud stately woman in a long flowing elegant gown. I have a replica of the Darling coat of arms hanging in my home however, and someday I’ll try to learn more about that side of the family. Would it have something to do with the Darling River in Scotland?

The other day at a luncheon in the Garden Room a few of us at the table began telling about our parents and grandparents. I won’t reveal what was said, but I can tell you that every one of us has a goldmine of stories to tell and they are truly amazing! 

P.S There’s another story about my Great Grandfather, Jothum Turner, who fought in the Civil War and how he saw on his deathbed his baby daughter who had died when he was gone. “Why, Lottie!” he cried out with open arms and shining eyes, “I’ve never seen you before!” Then he fell back in bed and died. That story I got straight from my Grandmother Darling. When I told it to my young grandson, Jordan, some years ago he said, “Grandma, you ought to write that down for all your grandchildren!” So, I’m beginning now to get the bug. But I won’t burden my blogger friends with any more ancestor stories than today’s entry. 

If I can help it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Other Worlds - So Near, Yet So Far

Who has not wondered about all the worlds within our own? We share this world with so many other creatures but we see it differently as human beings. Can we even begin to see it as animals, fowl and marine creatures do? Maybe with our pets we come closer.

I am fascinated with any creature that wears feathers and has wings. Apart from small singing birds I find chickens most appealing. When we lived on a ranch in southern Oregon in the late 70’s and early 80’s we inherited a chicken coop with a variety of chickens. “They’re all laying hens except for a couple of roosters,” explained the wife of the caretaker, but the hens haven’t had the brooding instinct bred out of them.”  Those hens not only provided delicious eggs, but increased our flock yearly. When one went “broody” she’d find a hiding place for her eggs, usually somewhere in the barn in the sweet smelling haystack. We had ducks too and a few noisy Guinea hens. We didn’t kill the hens. I had them all named. When we got too many roosters we gave them (alive) to any of our neighbors who would take them.

A friend gave us a Border Collie puppy we named Lady and the ranch already had a tabby cat named Barney. The two of them were outdoor pets and in winter their coats doubled in thickness. At first the lively little dog and patron cat kept their distance but I knew they had bonded when I saw Lady sharing her porch bed with Barney one wintry night. No doubt each of them found the other to be a good bed warmer. 

I loved those eight years we lived on the ranch. I raised a Guernsey calf into a milk cow and she gave birth to four calves while we lived there. At birthing times each one just appeared beside her all wobbly legs, wide-eyed and already bathed by Mom when I showed up in the morning.

Of all my pets and farm animals I’ve felt closest to the hens and their adorable little broods of chicks. I’d take a camp stool and follow them around in an attempt to experience their “other world” so close to  mine, yet so far. Sometimes I wonder if the fact that my maiden name was Hahn, (which means “rooster” in German,) had anything to do with that. Probably not. I seldom saw the rooster helping the hen take care of her chicks, although I do tend to be an early riser. 

Apart from the world I now see and inhabit I often sense a larger world embracing mine. It’s the one called “heaven.” Now that world is one really worth studying and I sometimes wonder, is anyone there studying me? I’d better be on my best behavior!

Note: In this blog I have failed to remember what an early writing teacher told me: “Don’t pick too wide a subject. You’ve got to focus in on something manageable. When you get off track or wander too far you need to edit and be ruthless. You’ve got to delete, no, I mean you’ve got to murder your little darlings!" I probably shouldn’t post this one but I've already murdered so many and I hate to murder them all!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mornings Are For Musing

Oh, the luxury of a morning clear and bright when you’re sitting in the shade of your patio! Sun and sky, stillness and bird song outshine all worries and nothing but bliss can permeate your thoughts. I feel I can call to my “melancholy baby” within and sing that old song, “Come to me, my melancholy baby, ...all your fears are foolish fancies maybe...” 

The older I get the more I see the folly of living in fear. What will be, will be, but I can make that prediction a good one when I cast out the daily trash of fear and smile as the dump truck carries it away. If not today, soon it will be gone and in time the county dump will be covered with greenery. Why should I keep hanging onto fear? Fears are foolish fancies, and there’s no “maybe” about that! But they can make good fertilizer.

Some may call me a “cockeyed optimist.” Maybe I am but I don’t consider being a pessimist so nifty! As long as I can choose I’ll stick to my convictions that all things will come out in the wash. 

All my life, wherever I lived I’ve found a patch of heaven there. Bad memories I might have taken with me soon fade away and I remember the good. Why? Because I have faith that only good is real. The bad can, and eventually will, go to the dump. Why should I let it pile up in my mental house?

So, what if I’m wrong? What if some may see me go off to the mortuary and say, “She believed in eternal Life, but she died!” Well, I expect I’ll be out of earshot then but, if not, I’ll just send down my Cheshire cat smile that says, “I don’t think so!”

I suppose it’s natural when getting older to think about “passing on.”  As I see it, my demise will be like a long night’s restful sleep and then waking up to a new day. I hope it will be a day just like today. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Like, Cool, Awesome, and Rad"

One of the hardest things for me in dealing with the generation gap with my grandchildren used to be keeping up with the latest verbal expressions. I’m not talking about bad four letter words. My own grandchildren are respectful enough to not use those around me if they use them at all but I remember when the word “cool” was popular. Erin, my granddaughter, visited us for a week. After she left I asked her step-granddad what he thought of her. Without hesitation he replied, “Cool!”

Since “rad” I haven’t even tried to keep up. But did I say words were one of the hardest things? I take that back. There are harder things by far! For instance drug addiction. I was just talking yesterday with a young man about my “then” and his “now.” Specifically, we spoke of the drug culture that seems to be sweeping over the country, especially with youth. We concluded that growing up with all the privileges of affluence, proper schooling, etc. does not always promise success. Kids get off track for any number of reasons. Escape by yielding to temptations which are clandestine has become so widespread that it has reached proportions of an epidemic.

When I was in most of my growing up years in Minnesota I lived in the country two and a half miles from town. Those were years of the great depression when everyone felt the pain. World War II brought out our best efforts. It also brought inflation, but took us out of the depression. (Note, I don’t dignify that word by capitalizing it.) Young people in our school, like myself, didn’t have the rich kid privileges then but often they struggled with temptations like night clubs, beer, and cigarettes. (And, of course, sex, as in all ages.) I don’t know why these did not tempt me beyond restraint but I suspect having to take my mother’s place at the age of fourteen after her death plus my dad’s ground rules and the responsibility of self discipline spared me. In town I might have had peer pressure. Still, I think my two grandmothers can take most of the credit. I wouldn't have disappointed them for the world.

The young man I mentioned above grew up in relative affluence and with a good family. Where acres of orange groves blanketed Southern California in my junior high school days now in his day vast crops of tall sleek buildings sprout skyward, wide freeways and neatly planned suburban homes with double and triple garages have taken over. Now when some kids find school too restrictive they become fun lovers, beach bums, and free souls until mom and pop won’t put up with it any longer. Then this new depression begins to teach them the meaning of poverty. The scarcity of jobs and lack of purpose has driven too many to theft, alcohol, drugs, hospitals and even jail. 

A day or so ago one of my granddaughter’s friends died of an overdose of heroin. He was not the first. This set me to wondering how I can help more than a few donations. I don’t anticipate joining one of the homeless shelters or drug recovery organizations. At my age I don’t feel up to that but there’s one thing I can do and I am beginning to engage in it more heartily. I pray.

Not by trying to lure them into my church, although I know if they came of their own volition and understood its teachings they could be not only helped by my church but healed. Some of those youngsters are, indeed, turning to churches and other organizations that recognize a “higher power.” A lot of good is going on in this way. I know there’s a power in prayer that can turn the tables of despair into hope and healing.

In my own prayers I start with solutions rather than problems. I call that scientific prayer. In mathematics we study what is fact. We don’t start with 22+22=30 or any other mistake to work our way up to the right answer, 44. We could spend a lifetime trying to learn truth through mistakes and not get very far. The better way must be to learn the facts, the laws, and simply stick to them. So, with moral and physical problems I start with declaration of the truth right where problems claim to hold sway and I stick to the truth until it becomes evident and problems are seen simply as lies. Believe me, it is not easy! But I know no other way to build our lives on truth. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” So said the greatest teacher who ever lived, Christ Jesus. He got the truth through prayer.

In the case of our children struggling with addiction, dishonesty, recklessness, I endeavor to see them as never having lost their innocency, purity and loveliness which were so evident in their baby smiles. That is the scientific truth about them and it has never been, could never be, taken from them any more than 22+22=44 could suffer loss through all the lies about it. Times may change but the truth never. This kind of prayer has healed me countless times and I know it can help to heal our children.  

“I am an addict. I always will be one.” This may work for some, but why not say, “I am not an addict. I never was one. And I’ll never be one?” Then add, "I'll always be what God made me to be." When we say the truth often enough we come to believe it and prove it.

I like that. What’s more, I find it awesome, cool, and radical!  I can say it for myself and I’ll say it today for all the kids who think they are addicts. Especially the ones who live where orange trees used to grow.