The past is past except when it isn’t

August 15, 2020

I’ve been asking myself lately, why, oh why, do I keeping thinking about things from my past–specifically from the 1960s and 70s? Especially, when I can’t remember what I ate for lunch or my neighbor’s last name?

I questioned does this happen to others and why? I Googled: why do older folks dream of the past?

Dreaming of the past and the world beyond

An article by Katy Waldman calls it the ‘reminiscence bump’. “The basic finding is this: We remember more events from late adolescence and early adulthood than from any other stage of our lives. This phenomenon is called the reminiscence bump.” A robust line of research shows that there really is something deeply, weirdly meaningful about this period. It plays an outsize role in how we structure our expectations, stories, and memories.”  Voile! That makes sense to me.

Kate Morton, a truly resplendent author, says this about memories in her book The Clockmaker’s Daughter. “Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and buffed for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.”

I reached a moment of clarity when reading her comparison of sentimentality to nostalgia to “Sentimentality is mawkish and cloying, where nostalgia is acute and aching. It describes yearning of the most profound kind: an awareness that time’s passage could not be stopped and there was no going back to reclaim a moment or a person or to do things differently.” However, as I have previously stated, I have no deep regrets and I hardly ever say “if I had only…”

So out of my head and on to the stars for a moment as I embraced the cosmos with one of my favorite persons on twitter Sarafina Nance, who goes by the handle @starstrickenSF she is an Astrophysics PhD, a stargazer and an eternal optimist.  She greeted today with an out-of-this-world observation about the universe

…some stars explode, their light as bright as entire galaxies, while others collapse in on themselves, stuffing all their mass into a tiny yet supermassive blip in space-time. Some stars are so massive, and their photons so many, that the stellar surface simply floats away, forcing the star to disintegrate others are so small, barely larger than Jupiter, that they live on for trillions of years, bearing witness to the cosmos in a way nothing else can. 

She has also said all of us will be stardust someday, how cool is that?

 

 


You can’t take it with you

October 6, 2019

Lately, I’ve been reading articles about why and how to simplify your life.  Simply Magazine is one of the sources I was introduced to by a friend. “Even better, removing the physical clutter from our home lays a foundation that makes significant life changes possible. It encourages us to question assumptions and invites thoughtful consideration of all aspects of our lives.”  There’s also Becoming a Minimalist which states “Becoming Minimalist is designed to inspire others to pursue their greatest passions by owning fewer possessions.”

Because y’all know you or your parents have so much stuff that nobody wants I once wrote this vignette.

I always knew my son and his family would have no use for my precious mementos after I am gone. Bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, stuff! The furniture I inherited from my grandparents–a phone table with a little seat for comfortable chatting, the antique mantle. The beautiful set of china on which my mother served holiday dinners that shaped generations of family gatherings. I cherished these and many other family pieces passed down to me. But, who wants a framed, handmade baby christening gown?

My books are all going for a dollar. People are rummaging through my clothes, handbags and jewelry. A bowl full of sea shells or a scorched set of kitchen pans–not treasures for sure. The estate sellers are doing their job of clearing the house for sale. But, there’s no one there to tell the stories.

Many times I tried to tell the story behind the porcelain figurines. The ones in the glass cabinet that I stared at my whole life. My parents bought those beautiful little ballerinas, with their tutus of Dresden lace, in 1947 from a German family who had to sell their precious keepsakes to feed themselves.

But, how could that matter now? Surely someone will see their value and give them a good home, where they can be admired everyday as the beautiful works of art they are. After the good things go, it looks like the sad remnants of an inconsequential life. I hover over this scene, on my last pass through this world, the memories fade along with the disbursement of my possessions. And, now I surely know the truth of ‘you can’t take it with you.’


First Love

August 20, 2019

Let me tell you about George Smith. This innocuously named young man was my first true love.  We had beginning that could have been in a romance movie screenplay. I was a freshman at Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos in 1965, living in a dorm directly across from the student union. Many of the 500 students were from rural or smaller towns all over the State. The girls came to earn a teaching or nursing degree. Most of the dudes were ‘shit-kickers’ studying agriculture. There were some theater people and a few others, like me, studying sociology, the sciences or liberal arts.

During the first week of class, I was sitting in the student union with a group of girls when someone handed me a folded note. It read “Can you meet me tomorrow at 4pm by Old Main?” I looked up to see who might have passed that note to me. I locked eyes with a most appealing young man. He had shaggy brown hair, a mustache and goatee, and was dressed beatnik-like with a tan corduroy jacket and ‘desert boots’. Love at first sight! He was out of character with 99% of the student body at good ole SWTSU and that intrigued me.

We met the next afternoon and for many afternoons and evenings after that. George told me I was intelligent and set about giving me ‘lessons’ on the world’s best books to read, science and political theories, music, movies… We drank coffee in the evenings at the truck stop where we talked until I had to be back in the dorm at 9pm. He took me to Austin to meet his SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) friends and for a weekend at his grandparents abandoned farm house. I was mesmerized and in love.

I spent the summer break reading Kafka, Camus, Dostoevsky, and letters of love and devotion from George. When the next college year finally began, George met me to say he was not returning. He had met someone in Austin. He asked me to marry him and have children hinting that if I didn’t, he would with this girl.  I never regretted saying ‘no.’ After all, hadn’t he told me I should learn and experience everything I could?

I believe your first true love is your best love. I’ll never forget him though we lost touch, or the way he encouraged me to think and explore my capabilities. That was not a thing women got from men back then. I’m sure my life has been much richer because of his influence.


Holidays, Tangerines and Politics

November 25, 2018
I hope y’all had a swell Thanksgiving with your respective families. From what I’ve been seeing Christmas season began in October now, with decorations going up in the shopping centers and streets right before Halloween.

 

The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion, the National Retail Federation estimates. I’m no fan of all the commercialization. However, I realize what I think matters not a whit.  More on Christmas economic facts if you are interested.

The hubby and I were on our own for Turkey Day but were in touch with all our relatives via the wonders of modern technology. We watched the Minnesota daughter and family put up their Christmas tree via live chat. I’m wondering if it will survive the two small boys and very large puppy until the 25th.

 

The kitchen was sticky for a week as Richard worked on juicing 6 gallons of tangerines from our two trees in our back courtyard. We also ate plenty and had multiple bags of gift fruit. (there were a few grapefruit and oranges as well)

 

Still busy with work both paid and unpaid. But, always make time for reading and live streaming on the telly.

 

I save quotes from books via my Kindle. Here’s one from Varina, by Charles Frazier. She was the wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States. V had a very adventurous and long life. This quote seems to explain not only our history but our present politics as well.

 

“Take a king or a president or anybody. Put a heavy sack of gold in one hand and a feather-light declaration about freedom in the other. And then an outlaw sticks a pistol in his face and says give me one or the other. Every time —ten out of ten—he’ll hug the sack and throw away the ideals. Because the sack’s what’s behind the ideals, like the foundation under a building. And that’s how freedom and chains and a whipping post can live alongside each other comfortably.”

 

I leave you with a quote from The Oregon Trail by Buck Rinker for whatever path you are on, whatever your passion is.

“Crazyass passion is the staple of life and persistence its nourishing force. Without them, you cannot cross the trail.”


Smokey vignettes from bygone days

October 12, 2018

Not sure what prompted me to dig into the old box of letters at the top of the closet. Yes, Virginia, people used to use pen and paper to write letters and mail them to their friends across the country, or the world for that matter.

Funny thing is–I found some of my short poems and musings which were written in the college and beyond–during the years of my life when I was still young and smokin’

As I read those fading penciled scribbles, I could still see quite clearly when and where, who and why I had taken the time to put pen to paper.

“My truly honest man-child. Your wild eyes read the dreams on my eyelids. Your lips take my breath away and your hand rent my soul from my body and caresses it.” That sounds sexy, doesn’t it? Yes, it was!

This one must have been a really intense trip. “I’m a grandmother trying to knit a bootie for my grandchild with knotted, tired fingers. The needles miss and stick the cat on the hearth and the blood seeps out of his body. It drips off his fur to stain the cement floor forever.” Interesting that I am now a grandmother of six and have never even attempted to knit a damn bootie.

I remember lying on the bed at my friend David’s house so stoned I couldn’t make it home.

“It was so hot, I gladly welcomed the small, cool breeze that tiptoed into the room. I softly asked it to stay, but it didn’t hear me, turned around and left to continue its journey down the street. Dogs were barking, calling to the dog in the yard. As he ran to meet them I could hear his paws click-clacking over the warm gravel in the driveway. The street light softly poured into the room like the moon. I feel the warmth from his body seeping from his pores and floating secretly to me. It meets with my bare skin in pulsating waves like breath.”

Sigh, I remember this like it was yesterday.

Have we lost that art of prose where we just take whatever piece of paper is handy and write down our observations or feelings? I say mostly. But if you are someone who has not lost that art, don’t throw those papers away.

Peace and love y’all.

 


Going to Church in my Mind

May 4, 2018

One of my favorite and very early posts–slightly updated.

Last night I dreamed I went to church–an all African American church.  I was dressed in a red coat and sang with the choir.  Now, I have been to a church with a predominantly African American congregation, but it is only in Dreamville that I would be singing in the choir.

I don’t physically attend church anymore.  No excuses.  But, I do go to church in my mind as the spirit calls.

This is how it works for me.

I said a prayer of concern for the homeless person sleeping in a downtown doorway.

I prayed to keep a civil tongue and not complain at work this week. (This probably requires some human effort as well)

I expressed appreciation for my wonderful, little house as the sun streamed in the living room and the birds were singing in the courtyard.

I sat still in my car for a few minutes, my heart bursting with joy for the ministries of Sister Odilia and her staff at Blessed Sacrament Academy and Por Vida high school.

This week, I’m making preemptive prayers for a safe trip to Minnesota to visit our daughter and her family–which includes two precious grandsons.

In my opinion, going to church in your mind is no less church, or mosque, or synagogue, or…  I try to be more thankful than whining. And, I try to live my life like church is right there with me all the time.


Letter to my blog

November 2, 2017

Dear ‘A Small Blog’,

I’m sorry I have neglected you lately. We’ve been together for so long, and I miss our little conversations. I have been reading, watching Netflix, working, going to the gym, sometimes to a museum. I have a lot of work to do as President of Friends of Spare Parts Board of Directors–a job I am so proud of.

I know you think I have abandoned you for Facebook and Twitter. I promise to think some pithy thoughts to share very soon.

Much love and affection,

Laura

 

 

 

 

 


Ah sweet, and not so sweet, mystery of life

April 7, 2017

What exactly is life anyway?

“We don’t have a very good definition of life,” said researcher Christopher Voigt of the University of California, San Francisco, who works on synthetic biology. “It’s a very abstract thing, what we call life, and at what point we say something doesn’t have the necessary components versus it does, it just becomes way too murky.”

The other day a friend and I were talking about life, including a dear friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. “But, she’s only 33, and a beautiful, generous person, an elementary school teacher, and breast cancer doesn’t even run in her family,” my friend exclaimed. I’m sitting there shaking my head. What do we say? Shit happens? What is God thinking when he lets bad things happen–like to our young friend with cancer; to the children gassed to death two days ago in Syria; to the 13 people from New Braunfels church killed in a bus crash, 12 of them older women, grandmas like me?

I think life is one big fat mystery. We hate the bad stuff, but love the synergy when good things happen. Like another friend who found the right alternative school for her son, recently expelled for what we all think is a bum rap. Perhaps, this is opening another door. Or the wonderfulness of all the new babies showing up in my Facebook feed. One new parent asked if she was posting too many baby pics, and I said “never.” Of course, someone else might have thought differently. Good things happen every day, even amid the chaos of our current government.

Trying really hard, Lord, to remember that in this mysterious life you have given us, we are all your children and you love us unconditionally. We don’t have to earn your love and you don’t reward our devotion to you with ‘prosperity’ like some faux pastors preach. Do all Christians act like Christians? Another pithy question (don’t get me started on that).


Thawing out

December 24, 2016

So here it is.  ‘tis the “season to be jolly” has come ‘round again. I’ve been stuck these past few weeks in the post-election blues and my brain felt frozen. But today I did my “Merry Christmas” phone calls to grandsons and a couple of old friends. It worked somewhat to elevate the spirits without actual spirits, but that will surely come later.

I decided to make a Christmas wish list/New Year’s resolutions:

I wish the next Congress will not slash and burn Medicare and Social Security.

I wish my grandkids won’t end up glowing in the dark.

I wish for the cream of humanity to rise to the top and leave the sour milk behind.

I wish for us to be kind to one another.

Next year:

I will try to experience something new at least once a week.

I will spend less on food and eat healthier.

I will not let social media freak me out and stoke fear.

I will hate the cat a little less, maybe…

This a beautiful Christmas picture I saw today on my daughter-in-law’s Facebook page. I think it came from Realm of the Faerie Garden

christmas-picture

So, Merry Christmas, dammit!

 

 


May you stay forever young

June 1, 2016
Me at 6 months

Me at 6 months

This is me with my mother at about six months of age, 68 1/2 years ago. We were living in Germany where my dad was posted for three years. I really don’t remember anything about Germany.  I used to think I’d had this dream about looking down and seeing all these tiny houses, people and trees. But, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was what I had seen through the airplane window as we were landing back in the good ole USA.

This is a picture of me almost 42 years ago. It’s my son Jack’s, first birthday party and we are at the Besson family’s house in Austin, Texas. As my 69th birthday is Me at 28 years old, Jack at oneright around the corner, I’ve been reflecting, once again, on what an awesome life I’m living. Nah, I’m not rich or famous, but I am for the most part healthy and happy.

I am grateful for the many times in my wilder years God pulled my butt out of a metaphorical fire so that I can continue to enjoy life. I am grateful He gives me the energy to keep on learning. I am blessed to continue to meet and make friends with some smart, creative people—young and old. I’m glad I’m still around to grow older together with my hubby and kids and grandkids.

I know 69 years is not that old in these times.

But, it does feel like it’s down the road a piece.

I extend to you Bob Dylan’s words sung by Joan Baez “May you stay forever young”

May your heart always be joyful

May your song be always sung

May you stay forever young