"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Just Life

It’s still spring, but rolling quickly into summer! Life is busy, so I haven’t had much time to write lately. There have been lots of times I thought about writing, but I just couldn’t seem to get pen to paper; or rather, fingers to keyboard. I love to write. It’s one thing that relaxes me, so I have missed it the last few weeks. There have been many times, I have thought of things I wanted to write about, and in my "minds eye" I even played out how I would word what I wanted to say. I don’t know; I suppose only someone that really likes to write does something like that.

So what has been taking my time? Big Fat Sigh! I have had appointments and errands in town, too many to count. I am mow, mow, mowing again; working outside the home; and gardening. I have been up at sunrise (There have been some amazing ones!) and to bed long past my normal hour. The list of tasks seems endless, and it is far from over. I simply haven't had time to write. Because of that I decided I would do a blog of “snippets” before I forget the things that I had been hoping to blog.

Snippet 1Uninterrupted
For me, when I’m in town, “time to kill” often means “coffee break”. So it was, on this day. I had about an hour to kill while waiting for my son to finish a task, thus I decided I would waste the hour with a newspaper and a coffee (16 oz; triple shot, breve; no flavor; lots of foam) at a new coffee shop I had been meaning to try. Once I placed my order, I realized they also had cinnamon rolls. It was early, and I hadn’t had breakfast so I decided that I would like to try one. I immediately liked this place. The owner greeted me as a first time customer with an outstretched hand and cordially introduced himself. He wore a warm smile and offered a genuine welcome. I knew immediately I would be comfortable here. It is now one of my favorite coffee shops.

As I sat reading the paper and enjoying my coffee and roll, I barely noticed a man sitting at the counter behind me. I only noticed him as he rose to leave. The movement caught my eye and I looked up instinctively. I was pretty sure I recognized him. I said his name. He kept going. Either he didn’t hear me, or it wasn’t him. I kept watching, curious now as to whether it was my cousin’s son. I don’t know him well. I know him mostly only from pictures. It seems as our family has aged and had families and even grand kids of their own, we have barely kept in touch. I have probably only talked to this young man – now in his thirties – once or twice, in all those years.  

I didn’t want to stop him at this point by saying his name again. What I viewed at this particular moment was better, I think. I watched him as he stood with a stance so familiar, I knew without a doubt he was who I thought he was. It was as if I was watching his grandpa - who was my uncle. He reached his hand to his back pocket with nothing more than a skim, as if by habit to see if his wallet was there. The action was also so familiar that it felt like a family trait passed down. His demeanor seemed, kind, polite, and thoughtful. He asked the shop owner, where he should put his plate – he could have left it on the counter; obviously, he had been raised better. He thanked the owner and headed out the door. His walk could have been his great-grandpa’s walk…it was, indeed, his own grandpa’s gate. I smiled and wondered to myself. How does that happen?

They were obvious traits; generations apart; family lines; much the same, even in anonymity - there was something recognizable, far beyond doubt. I treasured the moment and left the wonder of it all, uninterrupted. I will say hi, next time.

Snippet 2 – The Old Man's Heart
“I knew your grandpa!” the gentleman exclaimed when I told him who I was. “Used to work with him on the railroad! He was my foreman.”

With that, I knew which grandpa he was talking about. “Did you?” I responded excitedly.

I knew I was going to like this amicable 89 year old, and I wanted to listen carefully to see what I could learn.

“Oh yes,” he answered. “He sure had a good eye. Straight as a plum line. And boy, you needed it for the position he was in. Oh he was our boss, alright; but he still jumped in and did the labor, too.  Let me tell you a story about him.  He was quite a ‘religious' man, you know. He always made sure he prayed at lunch time before his meal. But that always kinda bothered some of the men on the crew, you know. They didn’t like that. And your grandpa knew it. Well, he came to me one day, and he sat down beside me at meal time, and asked me if I minded if he prayed before his meal. I said, ‘Why, of course not! You just go right ahead and pray. I don’t mind a bit.' And so he did, and from then on we were lunch buddies…we sat together every day.

Oh, It bothered him that some didn’t like it…I will never forget! It bothered him a bit that he made people uncomfortable, but he still knew he had to pray.”

I was pleased to hear the story. That is exactly the grandpa I knew. It was so nice to know, even long before I knew my grandpa, that he was a man of no compromise, and nothing came before his convictions. At the same time, he knew not to offend, and he put others’ feelings first, without conceding his beliefs. I like that. He had found a way not to offend. I am so thankful for his lunch buddy; thinking of my grandpa eating alone is not a memory I want to keep.

The elderly gentleman could see that I was really enjoying talking to him. He had a lot more to say, and we covered quite a few topics. I thanked him for what he had done that happened to bring us together that day. I told him how nice it all seemed to be. He beamed at that. When my mom joined us, he gave her a hug.

“Ha!’ he said with a sparkle, “She wouldn’t let me do that in high school!” And he had a good chuckle at Mom's expense. She only laughed good naturedly.

With that, the two said good-bye and thanked one another.

“Thank- you, B.” he said, “And also, thank you for her!” as he pointed his thumb at me.

I smiled inside and out - the only thing I had done was stop to listen to things I really wanted to hear, but apparently in doing that, I had also warmed an old man's heart, who only wanted someone to listen.

Snippet 3 – No More Guilt
I had been feeling a bit guilty, after seeing a friend I work with walk several miles a day, every day, without fail…for years! Ugh! I just couldn’t bring myself to do it when she had invited me to walk with her.

“Can’t do it!” I had emphatically told her, but in all honesty, to myself I wondered why.

Recently, in conversation with another friend she told me that she also walked – two hours a day! Yikes!

“Every day?!” I exclaimed.

“Well, most days,” she replied.

Enter – guilt.

How in the world can these two find time to do that, I thought to myself.  Double ugh! Double guilt.

Well I do mow lawns, I comforted myself. So it isn’t like I am not getting any exercise. And then there are the stalls that I clean, and the gardening. I was still trying to convince myself that I at least get some exercise.

We all know how I love to mow lawns! (Please note sarcasm.) And I mow about two acres a week. Let me think...that ends up taking about 12 hours a week; at least in the spring time when the lawn is growing so quickly due to all the rain and sunshine. 

Hey!  Wait a minute!  The light bulb finally came on! That is almost equivalent to walking two hours a day! I am not doing it all at once; it is broken up throughout the week, almost like a daily walk would be. It takes me sometimes 3 days to get my own lawn done, and the other I get done in one setting, but twice a week!  So hey!  That’s exercise! Besides all that pushing with a mower is much more difficult than simply walking…Turning those corners, and getting in tight, takes effort! And I won’t even mention lifting and emptying the heavy grass catcher.

Ha! Now I know why I said "no" when my friend asked me to walk. No more guilt!  I mow lawns!

Snippet 4 – Full Circle Connections
So a few years ago, I attended my high school class reunion. I won’t say how many years. Let’s just say, it has been a few.

It was out of character for me to attend. But I am glad I went. I reconnected with some really nice people...caught up on lives, caught up on deaths. Sadly, there have been more than a few of those.

Facebook has allowed the connection we made at the reunion to continue. Even more so, than in days gone by, I believe. It is really easy to stay in touch via Facebook – and dare I say it – with little commitment to people that one hasn’t seen in forty years, but for which one still very much cares! Facebook is simply a good way to stay in touch in a non-committal kind of way. Difficult to explain, but it feels right. One doesn’t have to delve into every aspect of another’s life in order to care about that person. That is how it is with some people that one hasn’t seen in a number of years.

Anyway, what I have really noticed the last year or so through Facebook, is the deep and genuine concern my classmates have for one another. It has simply been amazing to me. We share one another’s joys, feel their pain; we offer support and congratulations. we pray for one another, and ask about each other’s interests. We joke and remember, and mourn the loss of another one gone too soon.  It has really been quite an amazing thing for me to see. I have seen the comfort this connection has brought to so many of my classmates. I love these classmates at 60, even more than I did when we were kids…And the amazing thing is – there is a part of us that is just simply still those same kids…with a whole lot of living smushed in-between. I think what they have gone through in life, coming out well on the other side, is the thing that makes me love them most. I like what I see.

We lost another classmate the other day, though. I didn’t know him well. I think we went to the same church. But we were both shy growing up, and I don’t really remember either of us talking much. I am sure I haven’t seen him in over 40 years. But the photo in the local paper caught my eye immediately. It was his senior class photo, and it was as if I had just seen it a day or two ago. As I read his obituary, I learned in one small article all that he had done with his life since high school. He married his high school sweetheart, drove truck with one of the same outfits my husband drove; he had kids; and grand kids and love was vividly apparent there in black and white. Tears began to fall as I read. The emotion kind of surprised me; I didn’t really know him, but the connection was very, very strong, just the same. So hard to understand, in some ways. What wouldn’t have troubled me a few years earlier in the busy-ness of middle-age life, now brought tears. Reading about all he had accomplished revealed a life well-lived. Seeing his photo from high school seemed to bring everything full circle. That was the beginning, and now we see the end. It was one of those thought provoking moments that makes one pause to reflect on the elusiveness of time.

Yep, I like what I see in my classmates. I see the best of humanity, and care for connections. I see understanding and respect of that which unites us – it is really quite a special thing. It gives pure understanding to the old cliche “ties that bind”.

Snippet 5  – Doing Things Right
I don't think there is anything that makes me feel better than doing things right. If I am going to take it on, I want it done right. It is the way I have always been. And I don't want to procrastinate, I want to "make hay while the sun shines!" In our case, this is a literal statement. Our hay fields have been one of our top priorities since moving out here.

It has been absolutely heartbreaking for me this year to look out at our pastures and see dead grass. The last couple of years we had acquired a nuisance grass in our pasture. It isn't harmful to the horses, but it is a bother. It is a new "cheat grass" that has come into our area, also known as "wire grass". It is very thin and hard on the equipment, easily clogging it up. It is a very aggressive grass, and has easily taken over the fields in just a couple of years. Since it is a grass, the sprays won't kill it. Burning it out, won't work as burns aid grasses in growth which is why we burn fields. (duh ;-) ) So this year, we had to take the massive and undesired step of getting a kill spray. We killed everything! And I flat out don't like that! But it was a necessary step. It was the right thing to do. It is kind of like enduring the bad, in order to enjoy the good...you know, just like life. This fall we will plow it all under and reseed everything. We didn't want to plow until fall or otherwise we would have very dusty property this summer.

So I cringe this year, whenever I look outside my window. I worry about my meadowlarks and killdeer, though I still have seen and heard plenty. They are next door, I suspect, in the neighbors' pastures.

I am thankful for my neighbors, who graciously offered the use of their pasture to allow our horses to graze. I am thankful we have had the funds to take care of our horses properly. Their teeth have been floated, they have had their shots, their coats are soft and smooth, and Jake came yesterday and said their feet are in excellent condition. That really makes me feel good....I love the feeling of taking care of my animals properly. I want them to have the best of care. I love my babies and it feels good.

My dogs also have had their recent yearly vet check. Bubby is finally losing weight and Bella still acts like a pup. They are now protected against the things that would hurt them. I like that. And I know for a fact Bullet knows and loves it when his toe nails get clipped. He is a vain Beagle, after all...hails from Texas, and likes to look his best. ;-)

Matt told me something interesting the other day when he said to me, "Mom, Bullet is your dog!"

"Whaaaat? What do you mean?" I responded.

"He sits and looks out the window, the whole time you are gone, whining the whole time. One time he went back and laid on his bed, the whole time crying."

This surprised me. I always thought he liked the boys best. It warmed my heart, but also made me a bit sad for him...yeah, kind of like life.

But all-in-all, it is so nice to know he loves me like that. I must be doing something right.

Well, this ended up being a long post after all. There was much I wanted to capture; writing it down encapsulates things nicely for me. There have been disappointments, scares, joys, a few laughs (I think); politics/voting; creations; hard work; and out of the normal plans. I have been doing what I feel the Lord wants me to do at this time, though sometimes with complaint. Being a Martha and praying for a Mary. Whatever! I’ve been busy. It’s all simply been life. In the fast lane for awhile…the ebbs and flows; ups and downs…simply life…not always fun, not always complete…not all bad, not all good…not all momentous, just life.

Certainly there has been some play time; some relaxation, for sure. I rejoiced at God’s Not Dead (already knew that) and laughed hysterically at Mom’s Night Out (guess I needed that, after all). I try to make myself remember that "these are the good old days". Meaning - these days now - will one day be what I call the good old days...so I had better enjoy them!

And what is more, there are a few highlights coming. Selfishly, I am going to see the guy in the black hat Sundown Heaven Town Tour! That seems about right. I’ll be ready for sundown, as long as there is another sunrise!  ;-)  Just life! Not absolutely certain what the cowboy means with the title of his tour, but in reality, it is "Sundown" and "Heaven Town" that are the things right now, that encourage me to keep going. :-)

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
       Psalm 30:5 KJV         
1 Peter 1:3-12 KJV


Saturday, May 3, 2014

I See A Light

Yesterday was the 42nd Anniversary of the “Sunshine Mine Disaster”. I have written about it before, so I didn’t really intend to write about it again. 

Actually, “Holocaust Remembrance Day” has also been on my heart and mind for the last few days, and I had been thinking I wanted to write down my thoughts regarding that. The 70th anniversary of that dreadful time was commemorated earlier this week, and with so much going on in the world I have been meaning to write about the increasing numbers and news stories we hear in regard to Holocaust Deniers – those that say the holocaust never took place. That was what I planned to write about after returning home from the Sunshine Memorial.

But after attending the service yesterday at Big Creek, I couldn’t help but see an important lesson that is invaluable to both memorials. It is the call of the Jew, “Never again!” The message at Sunshine, was the same; we must never let this happen again.

I could not have been more moved by the ceremony as we sat in the warm sun listening to the heart-felt message. I was so thankful to be among those gathered to honor the 91 that died that horrible spring day, 42 years ago.

I was captivated immediately by the speaker this year. He was probably not the most eloquent speaker I have ever heard; but I don’t think I have ever heard a more sincere and beautiful message than what we heard yesterday. His tone, and passion and easy way of speaking pulled me in instantly.

He was just 22 years old at the time, he told us - Just an inexperienced kid, with no thoughts about much of anything, especially life and all that it might bring. I listened intently, but getting the facts correct now, as the hours have passed, seems difficult. I don’t want to give incorrect information, but I will try to present the general idea of what he told us as accurately as I can.

Due to his chosen profession, someone had asked him to make an educational video about mining. Wanting to be as accurate as possible, in order to make this video, he decided he needed to take some mining classes to better inform himself of procedures and other particulars of mining.

Having finished the classes on mining, at some point, he was in a meeting with someone who held a very high position in the mining industry. He informed us that at 22 years of age, he never thought for a moment that he would meet someone of such importance and success. As it turned out, this was at the same time the Sunshine Mine disaster took place, making national news. The call had gone out across the United States mining industry for help. The important executive asked all those present at this meeting if there were any there who had taken the mining classes. They needed people with some knowledge of the ins and outs of mining. He wanted to know how many would be willing to go to Idaho to help with the disaster. The young 22 year old knew immediately what he would do.  He calmly, but emotionally asked us, “How could I say no?” There were about 20 of them from the meeting who had taken the classes and were willing to go to do whatever they could in search of lost miners.

This man, now 64 years old, is Mark Savit, and he is known for the incredible photos that were taken there at the mine during that search.

He went on to tell us, that when he arrived at the mine, someone had asked him if he could wire a phone that could be sent down the shaft to allow for communication.

“Keep in mind this was 1972”, he reminded us, “and technology was very limited by today’s standards.” They were successful in the wire, however, and that phone connection was a very important part of the search.

He told us how, days later, from his position at the top of the bore hole, he finally heard the words that they had all been longing to hear, over the wire he had created.

“I see a light!” the voice exclaimed over the phone, and Mark’s voice broke with emotion even 42 years later as he repeated those significant words.

That was all it took to cause the tears welling in my eyes to fall. Who would think that 42 years later there could still be such raw emotion? Who would believe, that the heart could still break out of sharing and reliving those moments of so long ago. Clearly, this man held something deep. He had no relative, friend or loved one there; he had no local connection. But he holds something within himself still to this day as deep and dark as that old silver mine was when she took the lives of 91 men that tragic day. He understood the loss of life. He lived through the sadness of those who were connected. He felt the intensity of their pain. And then suddenly, and randomly that vicious old mine, graciously spit out two.

“I see a light!” It was the words they were longing to hear. It meant life. Mark was there the day the two surviving minors Tom Wilkerson and Ron Flory were pulled to safety. Mark is the one that took the well-known photo that spread from newspaper to newspaper of the only two men who came out alive after seven long days.

Mark Sevit was not from our area. He came only to help, because one simply shouldn’t say no to a request like that. He said he was never sorry. It made him who he was, he passionately told us. And that fact could not be more apparent. I believe it is the same connection that those who serve together in war, experience. It is the same link that never, ever leaves them, no matter how many years have passed. It is, I believe, because it has become a part of them…and not only a part, but a completion of who they have become. It is them. They experienced something that changed them; something that formed them into just exactly who they are. I can’t explain it well, but I could see it; and I could feel it in Mark Savit. And for some reason, I know it is true and somehow I understand it.

I don’t believe I have ever been more impacted by any speech, anywhere as I was this one. As I said, it wasn’t eloquent; it wasn’t of some superior intelligence; or even the most articulate speech I have ever heard. It was simply heartfelt, passionate and true. I think I was so impacted by this man’s words because I believe so strongly in what he was trying to tell us. I believe the message he gave us is imperative to know in any difficult situation one might confront. His belief has long been my belief. The simple truth he presented to us was: “If we don’t remember this tragedy, these lives, we risk the chance of it happening again. If we don’t commemorate this day, we risk loosing the message.” If we don’t honor life, we diminish life.

He shared with us what he does personally to assure he never forgets the lesson of Sunshine. “Leave a light on”, he said. Always leave a light on for your loved ones, so when they come home there will always be light. That was especially meaningful for me to hear, as those were the same words my grandma told me many, many years ago. Light says "welcome home, I’m glad you are here". Light reveals life.

He encouraged us to use one of the mining lights mining families might still have around. He suggested we all get a minor’s safety light and turn it on in remembrance of those lost, on days like Christmas, or birthdays and anniversaries – and especially on this anniversary. “Remembering” enables us to keep our faith; remembering preserves our love; remembering will cause us to want to be sure not one will ever be lost like that again.

He is right you know. It is why the Jew says “Never again!” It’s why they hold onto their “Holocaust Remembrance Day”. It is why they are so offended when one tries to deny what took place ever took place, and why it can never be allowed to be forgotten. We must hold onto history, we must never forget what the world would have us forget.

And so it turned out, today, that what I had been holding in my heart the past several days in regard to one of the worst tragedies in world history – the holocaust – and being discouraged by such carelessness from the world of that nation’s protection was confirmed as an important concern. All that I was feeling was revealed and realized in our own local tragedy, by a man that was forever changed by four words. With death all around, he heard, “I see a light.”

I don’t mean to detract from our own local tragedy, by bringing up the holocaust. I don’t mean to compare the two in any way at all. Other than the fact, that we must never ever, let the hardness of the world remove the facts of what actually took place in any situation. Our history is imperative to keep accurate and alive. Honoring those lost isn’t “wallowing in death”. It is the celebration of life.

We must shine our lights. With light, darkness dies. In light, there is hope. In light, there is life. May we always be able to say, “I see a light!” It is also why we must be keepers of the light. It simply ensures “Never again.”

That’s what I learned at the Sunshine, today. And I couldn’t have been more moved by that message - the message of one man who really shouldn't have been connected to this area at all - but was somehow grafted in to families, locale, and community who reallly, realllly needed him then, but also appreciated his powerful message, 42 years later.