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Just the other day, jouncing along on our old tractor trying to fill the gullies along the side of our driveway where the rain had eroded the gravel, I caught sight of something yellow and, in a heartbeat, found myself transported back across the decades by the memory of a similar moment, one I¹d been moved to write about at the time. Later, back in the house, I paged through old journals and found the sentences I¹d scribbled 32 years earlier, which are what follow. ***** We were walking, my 10-year-old daughter Kia and I, up the path to the raspberry patch when we saw it. Straight ahead,
At a wedding my wife and I attended recently in Fargo, North Dakota, one of the guests was a white-haired woman in a wheelchair who, we found out, was 107 years old. Though we didn't have a chance to talk with her, her presence nearby prompted dozens of peculiar thoughts to rise, unbidden, in my head. I list a few of them in no particular order of importance. • What makes some folks live twice as long as others? I know the easy answer is genetic inheritance, followed by diet and exercise.
Admit it. We humans, along with all other life forms, are creatures of the earth. We take our sustenance from the soil, either directly from plants once rooted in the dirt or from animals that have earlier eaten such plants. Without dirt, we cease to exist. Of the many gifts we tend to take for granted, none ranks higher than the lowly ground beneath our feet. Sadly, our culture fails to help us understand this central fact.
At a recent family get-together, talk turned to memories of Dad. As usual, the memories proved refreshing and made us measure our own lives against the long arc of his. Pops made it to the age of 91 and died in the spring of 2002. Had he lived until August of that year, he and Mom would have celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. Born in Chicago in 1910, Dad lived through many changes.
By definition, a philosopher is a person who loves wisdom. The Greek words philo (love) and sophos (wisdom, learning) combine to portray a person whose heart quickens at the prospect of coming to understand something that previously seemed unclear or out of focus. There are two fundamentally distinct kinds of philosophers. The first tells you what to think; the second, how to think. Socrates (469-399 B.C.) belongs to the second group. Because of this, his insights have never gone out of style and remain as valuable today as they were when he voiced them some 2,500 years ago.
A recent search for bales of unspoiled straw took me to a small farm a few miles south of Brainerd, on the road to Pierz. Nearing the place, I was struck by the serenity of the day and the beauty of the season. A late afternoon scatter of dumpling clouds floated in a sky of pale blue, migrating ducks and geese arrowed about from pond to pond, and through the open window of the truck came the springtime symphony of peeping frogs and courting red-winged blackbirds.
One of the joys of being a writer is to visit places that link you to the work of other scribblers. Over the years I’ve met and conversed with several well-known Midwestern authors, and toured the homes of a few who are no longer with us. But for me, the twin high points of such visitations include standing in the study in Key West, Fla., where Ernest Hemingway wrote a couple of his most important novels, and, just recently, walking through the house in Oak Park, Ill., in which he was born.
I know what you’re thinking. Having read the title of this column, your mind has turned to thoughts of physical pleasure. The joy of sex, perhaps, or eating a delicious meal, or buying something you’ve been craving for months and months. Or possibly something as fundamental as slipping into a comfortable shirt, or taking a nice warm bath, or sipping a really good wine, or hearing the call of returning geese.
The little town where I grew up had no library, and, though I blush to admit it, most of the time none of my boyhood buddies felt the poorer for its absence. During the school year we had access to plenty of books, and during summer vacation we spent almost all of our time outdoors. But there were occasional rainy days when playing outside was impossible, and we had to resort to reading.
Just because we’re able to do something doesn’t automatically mean we should. Some choices the human family has made along the way were wrong ones. If a path leads us toward ill health or diminished compassion or increasing inequality, common sense suggests we ought to stop proceeding and change direction. But some of those missteps take a long time coming to light.