Watershed Moment

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Our 15′ Montauk, Boston Whaler, Finn anchored @ the mouth of the Narrow River JAL

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Hurricane Sandy ripped the roots from the ground and fed the trees to the Narrow River. JAL

Sheriff Brody hated the water. We never knew why then he took the job as Amity Island’s Sheriff, other than his view that “it’s only an island if you look at it from the water.” Oceans, like rivers, unite and divide the land and people. The two most important rivers in my life, one narrow, the other the mightiest, have many stories to tell, and some speak to my heart. The wisdom gleaned from river stories depends on the point of view that I take to make them meaningful.

The Narrow (aka, Pettaquamscutt) River is a seven-mile long tidal inlet created by a receding glacier 20,000 years ago and that dried out after a couple thousand years. The melting glacier raised the sea levels that in turn sullied the basin’s pristine lakes with brackish waters. The river began to pulsate to the rhythm of tides. This tiny river is fed and abused by its 14 square mile watershed – lands drenched by rain, sewage and springs that drain into the river. During times past, the Narragansett and Niantic Tribes heard and understood the Pettaquamscutt watershed’s voice. Watersheds are untrustworthy confidants – they leak secrets downstream about who you are and how well you care for the land and water. Water sustains all – water destroys as easily as it creates. When life as we know it changes suddenly – for better or for worse – it’s a watershed moment.

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Deb & George shedding their kayaks. JAL

A watershed moment is a critical point that marks a division. It is triggered by an experience or crisis that profoundly alters the future. Just as heavy rains on California’s mountains later flood the valleys below or bury homes in mudslides, watershed moments are epochal. Some life changes are created by a single choice or mistake so powerful that one’s course is diverted from hope to despair. Our sights are abruptly severed from envisioning what might be to a full frontal view of great loss.

Voltaire observed that it is the privilege of a real genius, especially one who opens a new path, to make mistakes with absolute freedom from facing consequences. There are few Einsteins aboard most boats. The things we do and say aren’t always that smart, and like the steady trickle of a tiny stream, little things can create great changes over time that rival the work of cataclysmic deluges.

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My sunfish, Solstice – oblivious to watershed moments ahead. JAL

We are watersheds fed by pure springs and rain, while also somewhat tainted by our own piss and vinegar that drains into relationships flowing through the lives of those we love. Regardless of our age, income, gender and education, chances are there is at least one watershed moment ahead. This moment will divide us from some things and unite us with others – like a river does to land. Somewhere down the channel is a milestone that is going to have profound effects later on. It might be a situation where doing the right thing is the most painful moment of your life.

We tend to recognize watershed moments after we’ve sailed pass them rather when they lie ahead. Find a quiet space and listen to the memories of stories whispered by ripples and waves. If you listen long enough the stories will merge into one great understanding. If you look hard enough at a river you’ll see things you never knew existed and possibilities never imagined. Be aware of and protect your own watershed and river. It’s an optimal way to invest in a healthy, vibrant life.

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Kathy’s day lilies survived Hurricane Sandy and bloom every summer. JAL

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Lagan

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Box o’ Flotsam. Camden, Maine Photo by JAL

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Knot a good way to start the year. Photo by JAL

Americans celebrate New Years Day with a variety of customs. Some young children are perplexed that their parents who ushered in the New Year with frothy toasts and fireworks a scant half dozen hours earlier spend the day tired, cranky and apathetic about the potential for a wonder-filled year. Some observe New Years Day as a time set aside for televised football marathons and quiet reflection. The most common secular tradition in the western world is to begin the year with a resolution – a promise to do better and become a better person. It’s a banner moment for fitness centers, weight loss programs, AA, educational programs, shrinks, and travel sites.

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Photo Robert De Jong, Flotsam on a Beach at Terschelling, Wadden Sea. Permission granted for use via Wikimedia Commons.

New Years Day is when many long to eliminate flotsam and jetsam from their lives. These are parts of the shipwrecks we captain, crew or come upon during any given year. Flotsam is floating wreckage – stuff aboard during a crisis that was washed into the sea and goes adrift. It can do great harm to other boats that accidently ram it. Flotsam is often toxic and does serious damage to the water and shore. It’s nasty stuff to encounter.

Jetsam is a form of prayer in action. Sailors shuck it. Beachcombers seek it. Jetsam consists of parts of a ship or its cargo that we purposely throw overboard (regardless of its monetary or sentimental value) in a last ditch attempt to lighten the load and Save Our Ship. Eventually it’s washed ashore and depending on what it is becomes either a hazard or a treasure.

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Courtesy RMS Titanic

Jetsam and flotsam are surface things. Not everything flung overboard floats. Some of the lost goods and boat parts sink to the bottom. Among the wreckage is Lagan. These are things once lost that can be recovered and saved. A certain degree of foresight and knowing where you are during the crisis are key to savaging parts of the wreck. Whether it’s marked by a GPS positioning from a May Day distress call or by a buoy what’s important is that Lagan can come up from the deep to the surface and be reclaimed. Lagan keeps its worth and meaning.

New Years Day is a good time to express gratitude for surviving the past year’s storms. It is a day when hope springs for prosperity, health, and serenity across the days ahead. Springs support life. We know them by what we see not from where they came. Springs are bodies of fresh water come from deep underground, far below the surface. Springs and lagans are not tainted by the flotsam and jetsam of old wrecks. Springs are clean. Fresh water is essential for life. Lagans can be re-used in good ways. Lagans remind us that all is not always lost – sometimes it just seems that way from the surface. Seize this day and greet 2015 with a fresh water toast– a token to the belief that hope for safe passage and salvaging lagans springs eternal.

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Round Spring, Missouri Ozarks Riverways near Eminence. Photo by JAL

Watching Time

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Watch me, Now.

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It’s later if you think.

The endless loop of classic and current holiday carols keeps reminding us that it’s the most wonderful, hap hap happiest time of the year. That depends. Adults bemoan feeling that the year went by much too fast and there isn’t enough time to get ready for the holidays. Kids find these days dragging on way too long before it’s time to unwrap presents. As the good Dr. Suess noted, “How did it get so late so soon?”

My grand daughter is learning to tell time. She finds decoding clocks and watches to be very exciting. She also can’t wait for Christmas and can’t understand why it’s time to go to bed when she isn’t tired – just cranky – not tired. Only Peter Pan beat the clock – at the tender age of two he did not understand that children grow up. So he never grew up. Watching Elle telling time makes me feel like Wendy’s mother who cried, “Why can’t you remain like this forever!” Rather than feel sad, I’m passing on to her some things to learn about time.

images-3#1: You can’t turn back time. We can hold fast to memories of finestkind moments but to live is to leave the past behind what’s now and what will be. So let go of hurts, misgivings and anger because to be alive is to be where we are right now. We don’t need to share now with then.

#2: Spend time doing things that will have a hearty return on investment. Our favorite things don’t cost money – they take our time. Like, learning to read,  playing just for the fun of it,  messing with boars, loving others and ourselves.

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If you’ve been nice – a wake up call is good. If naughty – it’s not.

#3: If you’re really happy when you’re wasting time – you’re not wasting time. The opposite is also true – if you’re miserable wasting time – you are wasting time – and none of us are given an unlimited amount of time to begin with – time doesn’t recycle and you can’t reuse it. Use it or lose it –  lost time is a shame.

#4: Wearing a watch doesn’t mean you’ll be on time. I should know – I collect watches and am chronically late. Sometimes it’s not better to be late than never.

#5: Jingle bell time is a swell time. Go ahead – rock around the clock – seize the day – it’s time. Take time to make time.

Check the time? Peter Pan was right, it’s like a ticking crocodile isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us. I guess this means – we are all ahead of our time.

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Drifting and Dreaming

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The basic recipe for making sugarplums takes 13 hours and 45 minutes. That pretty much knocks out any visions of sugarplums dancing in this sailor’s head. We are planning on a Green Christmas beachside in southern California with most but not all of our kids. Travel plans have severely impeded any motivation to swim against the current of Christmas shoppers. Tubs of Christmas decorations are nestled all snug in the basement storage room. I’ve settled into a Sunday afternoon winter stupor just drifting and dreaming December away.

IMGP0437 A quarter of a century after the bread bowl incident, brother Barrett sends his first born down the same hill – with a helmet, knee pads and his doctors’ bag close by.
IMGP0427 On that same day, survivor sister stands a protective guard to make sure her niece lands safely – interesting that she became a lawyer isn’t it?

The Ghost of Christmas Past is amusing me with memories of some of our family’s finestkind holidays. I remember Amberley as a toddler in her bright pink snow suit sledding down our backyard hill with her two big brothers. The gales of laughter and thuds of snowballs pitched at my post near the kitchen window were suddenly punctuated by high-pitched screams. Seems the boys had procured my 10 quart bread making stainless steel bowl, carried their baby sister up to the summit, plopped her in it, provided a quick shove and propelled the vessel down the hill. Bread bowls are very fast. She landed terrified but basically unharmed and like Moses was found submerged in snow, hidden beneath a shrub called a burning bush.

IMGP2611 Pop should’ve posted this in his front lawn – but he didn’t. But we still play in places like this every year.

The Ghost reminded me of other family ventures into snow sailing. We had driven the family, including the dog, all the way from St. Louis to my parents’ log cabin home in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. My recently retired (56 year old) father built my mother a log home in the middle of the mountains. The homestead appeared as idyllic as a Currier and Ives print. It was as far away from anywhere as Shakelton’s Endurance was from Tahiti. George took Amberley out into the thigh high powdery snow for a sledding expedition upon a bright pink flying saucer. Being a good Dad, he went first thinking he’s blaze a trail and show her his best Clark Griswold moves.

IMG_2790 Even the old basket ball hoop couldn’t withstand the weight of this snow. It cracked like George’s ribs.

He learned three things that snowy Christmas afternoon. First, flying saucer snow disks do not steer well. Second, ash trees do not flex when hit directly by flying saucers carrying a 250 pound payload. And third, driving to an ER when mountain roads are not plowed is simply not an option. He later learned that broken ribs heal very slowly.

Then there was the year the dog knocked down the Christmas tree while George and I were at my grandmother’s funeral and the kids were staying next door. Grandma died in balmy Florida, but being creatures of habit, the family buried her beneath a think bed of snow about 30 miles from my parents’ log home on the 23 rd of December. We returned home early on Christmas eve to find that exactly where our six foot fresh pine Christmas tree had been, stood a puny foot-high fake tree with a couple of busted ornaments. The little train set we had left under the big tree now looked huge on a circle of track around the tree. All I could whisper was, “Honey, They Shrunk the Tree.” Not really. When our neighbor and a friend had come to check on the house, they saw that the dog must’ve been very thirsty and tried the minty water of the tree stand. The tree was sprawled it on its side, it’s dish empty, and sappy pine needles covered the carpet. They graciously watered the dog and pitched the tree out the back door. It was a great Christmas as the train still went ‘round the Christmas tree.

Go with the flow. Drift away. Dream on. The holly daze is not complete without a bit of drama, a touch of humor and warmth that comes from simply believing.

IMGP1778 Randy also opted for a law career – but is okay with pink sleds and his girls flying down the Bread Bowl hill. We of course carry extra liability insurance.

Ice Bearing Ducks

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The SS Edmond Fitzgerald Photo courtesy National Geographic

Common sense has it that TV weather people are clueless about accurately predicting rain or sleet or sunshine. The manufacturers of bread, milk and toilet paper count on their ineptness when forecasting winter sales revenue. Last night half of the United States endured record breaking cold (AKA, ‘freeze your butt off”) and snow blankets many homes in the lower forty-eight. The witch of November has come stealing. Nature has dealt a serious blow to residents around the Great Lakes that called forth a State of Emergency not associated with protesters in a Mississippi River port of call. The gales of November have arrived in a fury reminiscent of the one that sank the Edmond Fitzgerald.

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Polar Bears’ Pop Tart. Image from Wikipedia

Was this predicted? Champions of Global Warming – or as I prefer to call it, Global Chaos – say, Yes. A bad storm off the Sea of Japan blew into the Bering Sea with enough clout to cold cock the Polar Vortex and send it spiraling south with a full boat load of frigid polar air. Labrador retrievers in Ohio are sensing polar bear farts in every other sniff of icy wind. Polar bears at the Omaha zoo point their nostrils northward while drooling at the faint scent of Eau de Baby Harp Seal.

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WC’s Jim Cantore

What’s next? Rather than consult weather pin up Jim Cantore we should pull on some cold weather gear and check out the neighborhood beavers and ponds. Beavers were once prized for their hides that were turned into really warm coats and stove pipe hats (made the PETA hatters stark raving mad). Beavers aren’t smart enough to escape many a trap – but they are great predictors of the upcoming winter weather. Like the brick-building-third -little-pig they build their homes to last. Beavers intuitively understand just how hard they need to work to protect them from the cold long before the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee freezes. When beavers sense an especially heavy snow laden long winter they build sturdy, thick lodges that block a lot of the water mass. If you see a McDamansion – count on a rough winter. If the dam looks like it would fit right into a Tornado Alley trailer park – plan on a mild winter.

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Dam harbinger of winter weather

Don’t see a dam? Check out a nearby pond, “ice in November to bear a duck, the rest of the winter’ll be slush and muck.” It was 10ºF last night but the ducks in our lake are swimming merrily about today. So much for a balmy forecast of warm breezes melting off the snow that leave us with muddy boots most of the season.

Given that most of the oak trees in town still wore their leaves well past October and there are all kinds of berries hanging off tree branches in the yard – I’m predicting this winter is going to be colder than a well digger’s arse. Last July, Lake Michigan steamed like a young man’s dream and flipped her deep cold waters to the surface. Right on cue beavers started adding insulation to their dam homes and the firewood sales people made reservations for luxury spring vacations. Dean Martin swooned it best, “Baby, it’s cold outside.”

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Beavers, Ducks and Bears, Oh My! Polar Express Arrives Way Before Christmas Eve

Homage to Gordon Lightfoot who wrote the lyrics of The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald after reading an article about the tragedy in Newsweek Magazine.

On, Comet!

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Moby Dick Being Followed by Nantucket Sleigh Ride Much Like Rosetta Chasing Comet 67P

Comet 67P orbits the sun at 85,000 mph. It is more rapid than eagles. Ever since I graduated high school in the summer of ’69 (mid 20th century) when 67P caught some astronomers’ eyes – a bunch of scientists have wanted to sail aboard this chunk of icy rock. They built a ship for sailing 310 million miles across space that “as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky.”[1] They christened the space vessel Rosetta and for a decade its been following Comet 67P like Cat Steven’s Moon Shadow. Rosetta stayed its course to a new port of call. Because of this bold voyage, as Major Tom said while floating in his tin can, “The stars look very different today.”[2]

207152main_vonbraun-kennedy-516JFK, himself an avid sailor, declared space the “final frontier” long before William Shatner’s opening line of Star Trek. Over half a century ago he credited the true grit of pioneers who sacrificed their safety, comfort and sometimes their lives to build our new West. Kennedy praised those who slipped past the boundaries of the now standing St. Louis Arch as people who were not “captives of their own doubts, nor prisoners of their own price tags.”[3]

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Star Ship Enterprise Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Why bother with an expensive rodeo ride on a chunk of star dust? Easy answer; because there are so many unanswered questions about our world. Are we alone? Is any body out there? Buehler?

And there’s another thing earthlings don’t know. What one sees of our planet from space is mostly water, and what physicians know makes up a human being is, mostly water. JFK was at the 1962 America Cup Race when he explained, “All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.” Where does all that salt and water come from? Scientists think that just maybe water came to Planet Earth from space – riding a comet just like 67P.

Naming space ships is as sacred an honor as naming any boat on earth. Yesterday, Rosetta sent its dinghy, Philae to set its harpoons into 67P’s rocky surface and begin the ultimate Nantucket sleigh ride, “On, Comet!” Rosetta was named for an inscribed piece of volcanic rock – that’s a stone that once flowed like water from a fiery hell – that allowed scientists to crack a language code and read Egypt’s past. Philae was named for the island on the Nile River where the obliesk was found. Today it’s anchored on an island in the sky. What code will it crack? Who could we come to know? What has flowed into our lives via comets just like 67P?

It’s good to know that there are still pioneers on earth willing explore the New Frontier because it’s here whether we chase moon shadows, play space cowboys, or cower in the dark. It is comforting to know that science still probes the mysteries of the heavens despite the hefty price tags only Richard Branson can afford. A better understanding of a single virgin comet may help humankind better understand why it is that “when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”[4]

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From sea to shining sea

[1] David Bowie, 1969, Space Oddity

[2] Clement Moore, 1882, A Visit From St. Nicholas

[3] John F. Kennedy, 1960

[4] John F. Kennedy, 1962

Gone with the Flow

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Anchor Yankers Island Island Closing. JAL

Imagine doing something just for the sake of doing it. You’re in the zone. You are going with the flow. Time fades and your entire being gets into whatever it is you are doing. The moment is prized and you hardly notice that your body and mind are stretched to their limits. The flow is you.

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DW’s idea of a river dance. Port Charles to AYI.

Saturday I hitched a ride up river on our friend DW’s power boat. I arrived at the harbor and found him on the dock, relaxed as he savored a hot tumbler of coffee. When I apologized for being a couple of minutes late he grinned, “We’re on River Time.”

His 24’ Cobia stirred up a mess of Chinese carp before pointing upstream, getting down on plane and ripping through the current. The shoreline was ablaze with orange, crimson, and golden foliage. The channel shined beneath the low-slung sun as a purloined trove of Cartier’s finest diamonds.

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Pavillion @ Anchor Yankers End of a Season. JAL

Time like a river flows. Boats allow us to flow with time in ways that can’t be measured by Rolexes. Watching a bald eagle soar above the river for just a few moments is a vision that can endure in memory over a lifetime. Being with the flow resets our heads to moments in life when age is irrelevant. Age is trumped by the joyful sensation of being alive. The past is left in our wake the future lies at the bow. We float with Now. Regardless of the number of candles on the last cake – being on the water resets our internal sense of time. We are forever young.

Our cruise back to port was brief as the boat bit into the groove and sped down the channel. My mind absorbed the crisp fall air, glare of the sun, and brilliant foliage reflected off the calmer waters. My knees flexed to absorb the shock of crossing over wakes. Crows dug their feet into the creases of my eyes and lips as I squinted and grinned into the wind. Water, land, wind, and sun were transformed into a memory that will last longer then the time yet to pass between laying up for winter and next year’s boating season.

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Ralph, Jeri, Big G Last Sail of 2014 on Ex Libris

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Bottoms Up Jamestown, RI (Connanicutt Island)

Summer has come of age and does not look, smell or feel as fresh as late spring in early June. August might feel more “thirtysomething” if the Romans hadn’t decided to switch over the calendar because it was originally called Sextilis. Personally, the name change probably had something to do with aging Roman power brokers deciding it was too hot for sex during these blistering nights. Caesar Augustus decided that the eighth calendar month was to be his namesake so he stole a day from February and extended August to 31 insipid days.

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Point Judith Lighthouse JAL

Like the rule of Emperor Augustus, things that happen in August have far-reaching influence. Caesar Augustus gave the world an era of peace, a solid economy, great writers, and better harbors. The harbors make me question his fear of unknown currents just beyond the breakwater. Maybe he wasn’t a sailor because we sailor know boats aren’t built to stay docked in safe harbors. The beauty of sailing lies beyond the shore.

I can relate to Caesar during these dog days of August living by the seashore. It is time to cut to the chase, savor waning UV rays, scrunch sand between toes, and float without a boat downstream.

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Connie Paddling = go with the flow.

Warm water also brings forth jellyfish and crowds to the beach. Locals don’t embrace either – especially the jellies. Imagine swimming with clear umbrellas of snot floating along. Jellies are safe because as Augustus believed, this month is a time for peace not war. Nobody fishes the jellyfish; they’re neither edible nor useful as bait, and they make lousy pets.

The sun is more lenient about clouds than in July and allows tall puffy mountains to build in the afternoon sky. The sun is taking his time rising and seems eager to give way to dusk. When he lazily reclines on his Barcalounger on the horizon the seawater turns liquid silver and gives up its color to the stars well before eight o’clock. This week’s super moon is looms large and clear, it’s craters unmarred by ozone haze in an ebony sky encrusted with sparkling stars.

Augustus must’ve had some hormonal imbalance to relate to this month. Many nights in early August are sticky, still and stifling. Sweat drips, sheets cling, towels must. Within the week along comes a polar blast to chill the evenings. We dig out sweats and extra blankets. We savor these nights of dreamless sleep that void memories of steamy pillow-tossed nights.

The season is turning like the tide. I sense changes in the taste of the wind, the sounds of the bugs and the smells of the night. Taking hints from the geese, I know the time to migrate west is nearing. Summer is losing ground and it’s getting to be time to greet Autumn.

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Pettaquamscutt River Hobie Island Adventure

Sky Light

 

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Noon Sun IRB JAL

Two recent stellar phenomena have enriched my sense of wonder. My vantage point for the Full Blood Moon eclipse was a patch of sand on a darkened beach. The pulse of the throbbing surf was behind, placid sand below. I was the only wallflower during the dance of shadows. The moon crept mutely above the narrow Intercostal Waterway casting long shadows over sleeping souls in concrete condos that dominate the westward horizon of this barrier island.

The moon was ice bright – it illuminated and hardened the boundaries between land, sea and sky. As the moon slipped behind the earth – it’s secrets were hidden in the murky umbra. For a brief time the sun, earth, and moon were in perfect celestial alignment. Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, shone brightly a hair’s breadth to the west of the moon. I remembered myths about Spica being the spring sentinel of virgins – promising new life as women learned lunar secrets. Earth’s shadow lost its grip leaving in its veil a muted orb the color of diluted wine held up in sunlight.  Spica’s twinkle remained free of the shadow – it has as much power as the sun and will not be dimmed by force.

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Although to the naked eye the moon was nearly half eclipsed – the camera was not fooled by the shadow. JAL

Things don’t stay in perfect lines forever. Watching the moon slip away from the earth’s shadow reminded me of how the present slips to the past in order to allow space for the future ahead. Past, present, and future are never really in alignment – the subtle variances in time create change – predicted and unexpected events and feelings.

I was reading a book the next day sitting in the same spot – a bit tired from my late date with the cosmos. The light reflected off my Kindle seems to fuzz abit. The sky above just nine hours earlier had held the moon captive in darkness. Now the noon day sun was encircled with a shadow that was embraced by a rainbow. I slowly rose and wondered aloud – what is happening to the sun? What about our line up last night? Is this circle around the sun an omen? And if so, of what?

I saw tiny slivers of clouds high in the stratosphere that cast no shadows on the land. A cold front had come through hours earlier – strong winds chilled the sand and roused the surf. Global warming or sun cooling – either way – for as long as it took the earth to move out of the way for the sun to illuminate the moon – white light was broken into a spectrum of color. The circle held for minutes and then simply vanished as the sun began it’s daily descent.

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Shhhhh – red skies at night @ IRB JAL

Spring is a time of warming to new life. Life and death dance with shadows – they are never quite in alignment or keep a clear and steady rhythm. The first full moon after our spring equinox was bloodied by earth’s shadow. Of course it didn’t die – but was it changed by it’s brief time in utter darkness? Did it feel for a moment that the sun had forsaken it or the earth had broken its covenant to keep it in a close and predictable orbit? Did the sun boast of its power by breaking light into colors? No. It did what it was created to do – blaze on. Just as the light of the moon is a reflection of the sun and could again be seen when it was freed by the shadow of a rock that was moved by eternal forces of nature  – the night died and the next day rose again.

The world we live in can’t be explained with just science because life itself is a mystery nobody has solved. Happy Easter.

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Amberley & Nick Celebrate her 29th Circle ‘Round the Sun

Wise Up

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A bubble of time with 2 generations. Singapore. 2012

Midway through a stack of vinyl is a vintage Byrds’ album with one of my favorite adolescent anthems, “I was so much older then, I’m younger then than now”.  I hummed the refrain a few times yesterday and couldn’t remember a single verse. Why in the heck had it been a favorite song beyond the catchy tune?  And what was Bob Dylan thinking when he wrote this refrain? Was I smart enough back then to get his message? And since I’m clearly confused by it today, am I getting dumber or losing my smarts as I gain wrinkles and stray grays?

Maybe. Like many teens, I was dumb enough  to believe that I was smarter than old people – that’s anyone over, say, 20. Take reading for example, let’s think of it as a capstone on the Smarts Scale. All I had to do to confirm my smarts was look at my immediate family’s reading habits. Pop did crossword puzzles. Grandma consumed mystery novels. Grandpa checked the racing forms. Mom got a daily humor fix by reading Erma Bombeck’s column. My younger brother didn’t even read the articles in Paul Frisco’s Dad’s stolen Playboy magazines hidden beneath the fake floor of their tree house so my BFF, Cecilia and I found them, read the articles, and subsequently burned them.

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Covert Book Binders

I just knew I was so much smarter than everyone in the house. Yet here I was, my parent’s first born who got suspended in 8th grade for being caught in the school library reading a banned copy of Catcher in the Rye. It was hidden behind the tattered book cover of a copy of the Bridge Over the River Kwai – which for some weird reason was required reading. I was too dumb to realize that any librarian worth her sequined reading glasses could clearly see that a girl totally engrossed in a required book was hiding something. I’m pretty sure this is true because she ignored Pete Nickerson who was sitting right next to me with Ann Landers Talks to Teenagers About Sex carefully concealed behind a Bridge book cover with Muchilage glue dripping off the binding.

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IRB & a Good Book Be.

The difference between being smart and being wise is pretty close to the difference between the planets Mercury and Jupiter. A lot of smart people simply don’t have a clue about the value of a vowel. They don’t see the difference between being human and acting humane. Researchers, most of them twelve year olds with a vast collection of white rats and lab coats, tell us that as we age we lose some smarts. They use fancy terms (to impress lab rats) such as diminished cognition, declining short-term memory loss, and weak cognitive flexibility to describe old brains. Other researchers soothe their anxious grandparents (who joke about walking into a room and being clueless as to why they are there) by using more gentle terms (Senior Moments) to dismiss anxiety that’s associated with losing one’s smarts.

Getting old ain’t for sissies. At a certain age people develop a higher degree of self-insight. They get a pretty accurate read of how others view them by gauging the quality of their relationships with others. They know good and bad are inside and outside of their minds and bodies. They connect with a period of time by embracing the quirks and nuances of their generation. I can see mental images of Woodstock (the vinyl album) when anybody greets me with “Peace Out”. Until a moment ago when I googled, I swore I remembered hearing the Byrds on that album, but now I know they thought it was just another ordinary gig and skipped the show.

Aging has some other challenges – like finally understanding that like it or not, our priorities and values are not absolute. We accept ambiguity as nature’s way. This understanding is known as wisdom. It doesn’t replace smarts – it’s a value added aspect of growing – older, and up.

It takes a great deal of quiet reflection to learn enough about life to accept that your feet don’t move faster but what you know seems to be getting vaster, and what you’ve forgotten doesn’t necessarily slow you down. Wisdom helps us to get a handle on our emotions in ways tune us into other people’s feelings. Wisdom enables us to give of ourselves and experience joy from simple acts of contributing to the whole.

I remember more positive things in my past, don’t think much about the bad times, and am very hopeful that the rest of my life is going to be mostly wonderful. I’m pretty sure if I work and play nice with others they’ll reciprocate. Besides, I’m younger then than now.

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Wake Up, Maggie’s Got Something to Read to You Photo BGL