Working Fools?

In the beginning, the word we used was “helping”.  Helping wasn’t a burden, a demand or an imposition. It wasn’t a curse or a condemnation, something to be avoided at all cost or valued beyond all reason.  Helping was something people did naturally, and it was the best way for a child to enter the mysterious and utterly appealing world of grown-ups.

Helpers garnered smiles of approval as they trailed behind Mother with a dust cloth or ventured into the yard to carry bundles of sticks for Daddy. Helpers cut flowers that made the house pretty and picked up their toys.  Helpers collected windfall apples in a bucket or pulled low-hanging cherries from the trees. Helpers set the table and dried the silverware, folded the wash cloths and put newspapers in their box. If a neighbor who’d been called away was worried about her thirsty geraniums, a good helper knew to borrow a bucket and carry water to the flowers.

Helping, I thought, was fun. Continue reading

The Bluebird of Perception


Each of us has our favorites in life.  Unlike the casual “favorites” overflowing our browsers, personal favorites often are life-affirming and life-changing preferences embedded  into our hearts by a process as subtle as it is mysterious.  Asked to reflect on a best-loved moment or reveal which cherished bit of beauty we’ve pulled from the world’s storeroom to decorate our lives, we may pretend to ponder, to anguish just a bit, but in truth we know the answers.  We’re just trying to ignore the world’s judgement on their merits.   

Perhaps because these favorites are so personal, so idiosyncratic, we seem to find them fascinating.  Yet another version of the old “choices” game was sent to me recently, a sign of that fascination.  Designed to invite self-revelation, this one banished us to the proverbial deserted island, allowing only one book, one song, one memory and one vision to sustain us in our solitude.  Responding wasn’t hard, as two of my choices have been fixed for years.  Lawrence Durrell gets the nod for his exquisite, four-volume  Alexandria Quartet, a palimpsest of the heart.  Enya’s Orinoco Flow may be as much memory as song, but years ago its melody and rhythms carried me across the Pacific, repetitive and comforting as the sea.  Hearing it today, I feel again the rise and falling of the deck. Leaning back against the insistent pull of imaginary sails I suffer the illusion, common after long passages, of once more being underway as earth herself begins to pitch and yaw like a green and verdant vessel.    

Books and music are easy choices, but choosing one special memory is harder.  There are as many memories as moments in life, but my final choice transports me to a room on Madrid’s Plaza Major, stretching out across the rough cotton spread and listening to the curtains breathe in the late afternoon silence.  Time contracts, then expands with the rising heat, reverberating with the great bells of the city.  I peel an orange, and watch a single bee hover near its sun-warmed skin.  Blown forward in time, the curtains billow into my vision from Andrew Wyeth’s Wind from the Sea. The painting carries salt and substance as lightly as a breeze, and if the vision recalls Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea, if it somehow bends the rules by giving me yet another book and many more memories than the game allows, then I have chosen well. 

Andrew Wyeth ~ Wind From the Sea

Eventually, one of these little games will stipulate an island with a broadband connection and ask for a favorite blog.  How I would choose then, I can’t say. In the midst of the verbal clutter we call the blogosphere, there are writers serving up words that drip with the intensity and flavor of sun-ripened fruit.  Some blogs breathe as softly as a faltering Spanish breeze while others, layered and impenetrable as Cavafy’s City, trace the labyrinthine longings of the human heart with passion and persistence. Continue reading