Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On The Wind

Scent affects my consciousness more lately than it ever did, perhaps because my other senses are getting less acute to the point where I need tri-focals and I say “What?” a lot. Smells affect my mood and I’m allowing them to. They resurrect old feelings, vaguely pleasant ones mostly, and when there’s been time to indulge them, I do. They’re taking me places, like daydreams do, places in my memory when I’m a boy and the world is new. They remind me that each day is new at every stage in our lives. Anything can happen.
Sometimes images come with the scents in which I’m walking or riding along on a bicycle or in a car with the window open. Or, I’m standing, tilting my head up to smell something in the breeze as I’ve seen animals do. I’m a child who has just stepped out and closed the door behind me and I’m smelling what’s in the wind, looking for a clue about what the day may bring.
My wife offered good advice when I decided to retire from my primary profession - teaching. “Don’t take on anything new for a year,” she suggested. “Try to relax and see what happens. Then decide what you want to do.” There were two other jobs I continued with: one is writing this column each week. The other is managing property. Schedules for both are flexible. Each day unfolds as I design it, or allow it. Not everything is subject to my control, of course, but many days a lot of things are. If I want to smell what’s on the wind, I usually take the time. Often I’m alone in beautiful settings, especially this time of year. Autumn in New England has its own fragrances and they take me back to many dozens of previous falls I’ve walked through and smelled. Thoughts and feelings come and go as I stroll through crispy leaves under skeletal ashes and maples. Life is good.
One never knows what the day will present, however. We may encounter something or hear bits of news that augur profound changes ahead. Some days are spent absorbing the news and adapting to it. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not, but always interesting. I simply cannot remember the last day I was bored.
Claire, Lila, Henry, Luke
Every Tuesday but one since last July I’ve spent with grandchildren - helping daughter Ann deal with new twin boys, Luke and Henry. Mostly, I’m with their sisters: Claire, who is four now, and Lila, who will be three on New Year’s Eve. Ann takes care of the twins, now almost eight months old and growing fast. Tuesdays, I’m a grandfather all day.
Claire is deep. She watches me arrive each week, but doesn’t interact until she’s ready. She observes. Sometimes, later on, she’ll tell me her thoughts. Her little sister, Lila, lights up immediately - always spontaneous, always in the moment. One afternoon Lila walked over to me, put her arms up and said, “I want to give you a hug and a kiss.” Those are always welcome, of course, but her timing was a little out of the ordinary. Picking her up, I asked her why she got that urge.
“Because you don’t have a Mommy,” she said.

I savored the hug and kiss, put her down and said, “Thanks, but I do have a Mommy, you know.”

“No you don’t,” said Lila.

“Yes, I do, and her name is Ma,” I said and then paused. “You know Ma, right? She comes over and helps your Mommy sometimes.” My mother is a spritely, eighty-nine-year-old who drives over and still gets down on the floor to play with her great-grandchildren.

“Ma’s not your mommy,” said Lila.

“She is my mommy,” I said, “and she gives me hugs and kisses. But I like to get them from you too.”

Claire was observing and listening to all this in her typical, quiet way, and it seemed a good time to teach about family relationships. “Ma is my mother and I’m her son,” I began.

Lila still looked skeptical.

“I’m your Mommy’s father,” I continued, going over to Ann and hugging her.

 “Grampy is my Dada,” Ann said.

“Ann is my daughter,” I said with my arm around her. “You are my granddaughter.”
Lila and Claire

“I’m not your granddaughter,” said Lila.

“Okay,” I said. “What are you then?”

She paused for a second, looked at me and and said: “I’m your Barnabas.”

“My Barnabas?” I said, wondering where in the world that came from. “I never had a Barnabas before. Hmm.” A few months before she told me she had a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus in her little pink backpack - real ones.

“Okay. Enough lessons for today,” I said. We went outside to roll over logs and look for salamanders in the woods.

Those scents, too, took me back to my own childhood.


Anonymous said...

Nice column. I too enjoy looking for salamanders with my little girl. What a shame if these young ones can't grow up and do the same with future generations....

...because you see, grandpa supported fracking, and all other dirty energy sources.


Tom McLaughlin said...

You think fracking will kill salamanders?

Come on.

Yes, I support it. I'd like my grandchildren to access affordable energy right here in the USA. I don't want to picture them shivering as they wait for the sun to come out or the wind to blow. I want them to be able to have a car and not have to ride a bicycle in the winter time.

Rhonda said...

I support fracking, just don't build a pipeline over the Ogallala aquifer!

Be glad that you can still smell. I am 63 years old and can only smell if it is right under my nose. :(

Anonymous said...

Do I think Fracking will kill salamanders?

It already has.

Did you bother to read the link? Of course not. The facts might get in the way of what you already "know".

Do a little research. You will find many things like this:

"Seepage from fracking wastewater that was improperly dumped has been
responsible for massive wildlife killings. In September 2009, chemicals that are
known components of fracking fluid leaked into Dunkard Creek in nearly PA,
and were responsible for the killing of 161 species of fish, mussels, salamanders,
crayfish and aquatic insects."

Or this:

"The wastewater from fracking installations is another potential
threat to salamanders. After well fracking is completed,
30%–70% of the water injected into the well returns
to the surface with contaminants from the shales and the
fracking chemicals...Salamanders,
especially those with aquatic larvae, are sensitive to
water quality."

Oh, but wait. That's just a lot of scientific evidence and facts, right? And we know what your view is on science.

Do you really think that without fracking then children will shiver and have to ride bikes in the winter? Really?!?

Are you are truely uncapable of thinking about the alternatives that great minds can come up with?

Broaden your mind.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't have 4 generations to share it with, but....
It's things like mopeing that I'm mowing the field AGAIN, then running over a patch of wild mint.

A couple of days ago it was moping about having to drain the outside water lines, hoses, sprinklers, etc. for winter. And out of nowhere I got a big whiff of the groundfall apples.

Both just kinda' made me stop and, you know...look around, AND "back". Made the relatively less amount of forward I have... OK.

Ryan said...

Can Tom really be this obtuse about the harmful effects of fracking?

He will swallow any ol' horse crap
fed to him by his bubble buddies, but completely ignore science and facts.

No doubt in my mind he would be one of the people in the past scoffing about those who thought DDT was harmful, and claiming doctors who said cigarettes were dangerous were bought off.

Anonymous said...

Hey, if it is done in the name of Capitalism it must be good....right? Why doubt them? What possible reason do they have to mislead us about the effects of their money making ventures? Why would they want us to believe we are not causing global warming? Why would they want us to believe Fracking is clean, harmless, and wonderful? Shut up and bow down to the Money Making Gods of Free Enterprise.... say the mindless sheep sucking on the teats of Big Business.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I like business. Lots of good things come from business that make my life easier.

It's big government that worries me.

Aaron said...

I know you like business. You like it unconditionally and blindly, ignoring the bad aspects of it. So what if the top dogs reap in millions in benefits as their peon workers struggle to make a living. Let them eat cake. So what if they destroy the planet for future generations with their pollution because the effects aren't bothering you personally, yet.

Hey, if it makes things easier for YOU, the hell with any other consequence, right?

Business made YOUR life easier. The hell with all those that got screwed over by the banking industry, the hell with those that have to breath smog, and have had their land ruined by pollution.

But it is futile talking to you. You see things in black and white only. You make up your mind despite any facts to the contrary.

Thank god those that think like you, although annoying shrill and feisty, are a small minority.

I don't make such blanket statements as "I like business". I like GOOD business. I like GOOD government.

Now go listen to Hannity so you know what to think.