Driving through Indiana, I was in awe of the windmills dotting the landscape along the highways. Standing tall in rows as far as the eye could see, they were as soldiers, dutifully performing their task of harvesting wind to produce energy. I found it difficult to take my eyes off of the windmills, because their design is so elegant--tall, sleek, white, smooth towers, whose arms move in sync gracefully. Magnificent!
I noticed, as well, standing alongside the pristine windmills, the rusted-iron poles that carry the millions of miles of electric lines across our country. The contrast between these rusty poles and the sleek white windmills was striking. The physical appearance of the old electrical equipment unwittingly adds to the perception that many have of its outdated, no-longer-necessary status. Indeed, there are those who feel strongly that the old method of manufacturing power should be done away with completely, as it is not as environmentally sound as the new methods. The physical appearance of the poles and lines of the traditional system suggested they feel it, too.
Yet, it is simply not possible to maintain our current electrical grid with only the new forms of power generation. While most major power suppliers are adding renewable capacity as quickly as they are able, it is far too early to let go of our traditional methods, or their equipment, without risking loss of electricity to power our daily lives.
We are a people with great interest and desire to move forward. This is a good thing. Look at where our ideas and our values have taken us in our 200 year history. We have made significant progress on things like equality and fair treatment of all. While we are not perfect, consider that as I write this, Saudi Arabia has become the last country on Earth to allow women to drive. Our drive for more has also produced products and services that make us more connected, productive, healthy, wealthy, and wise. Where would we be without the technology of today?
So, what purpose does tradition actually serve?
Tradition is something that is carried forward from the past by people, because they believe it serves a purpose. History, on the other hand, which is studied to make sure we don't repeat past mistakes, is left in the past, because it serves no purpose going forward. Like not allowing women to drive cars.
While the finer points of tradition may change over time to serve changing times, tradition is carried forward. Electricity will continue to be carried forward by various methods, depending on which serves a population best. While midwestern United States may continue to be served by rust-colored poles and lines for years to come, other parts of the world will never see them, because they are just now getting electricity, and it will be delivered with the most up-to-date equipment available, as it should be. Likewise, our mail is not carried by horsemen today, but rather by car--in most places that is. I know of a city on a lake where the mail is delivered by boat, because cars cannot get to many of the homes effectively. Tradition carries on.
For me, tradition serves the purpose of grounding me in something certain, something I can count on to be there, no matter what. Like electricity. Tradition also takes me temporarily back into the past, allowing me to consider or experience something from a bygone era, something that may be an important part of my own past, or of history, in general. Either way, it brings perspective.
While I will continue to embrace our continued movement forward, I will also continue to embrace tradition. Like finding a jelly bean in the bottom of my cone of ice cream at Wilson's in Door County. Like the fact that Santa always tastes the cookies my children leave him to allow them to feel they give back. Like rusty poles carrying electricity to power my newfangled lifestyle.
Is Tradition a thing of the past? For me, it is definitely a thing of my present, because we all need something we can feel sure of.
'Where Does The Time Go?' is what I've been thinking as I pour over eighteen years of photos to fill a memory book I'm preparing for my daughter's graduation gift. Looking back at the photos of her as a baby, then a toddler, then a preschooler, and so on and so on, has made me wonder how eighteen years could have passed by in what seems like the blink of an eye.
My daughter was born just as digital cameras were making their debut - we didn't own one at that time, because they cost a fortune, and the photo quality was similar to that of Impressionist art. Because of this, I had to search my printed photos box for a newborn photo. I found the one I remembered. It had been carefully glued to the first page of the a paper memory book I had begun to make, shortly after my daughter's birth.
The memory book I had begun was beautiful. The text was hand-written, using stencils. There were hand-drawn embellishments adorning each page. Each photo was carefully glued in place, and a frame was drawn around it. Turning each page, I was quite pleased with my work, and wondered where I had found the time to put this together. Until I got to the end of my not-quite-finished book, which was the page showing my baby bundled into her car seat for the first time, ready to go home from the hospital. Yes, that's right! I had made it to two days old! The most amazing thing is that I had put together eight pages to document two days of life.
That's when I began to think about how when our babies are very new, we count days. And we are in awe at all that happens on any given day. As time passes, and our babies grow, we start to count things in weeks, then months, then years. Perhaps this is because meaningful change seems to occur only in those longer time frames than it does in the early days of one's life.
And that seemed sad to me.
We as a people are always lamenting how little time we have. How we have so much to do, and so little time to do it, despite the fact that we always seem to be doing something. And yet, when asked what we've done, we tend to think we've done nothing much at all.
And that seems sadder to me.
This idea of the passing of time has turned my thoughts to appreciating time in smaller increments, as we do when our babies are new. To recognize things changing around us all the time - the sun rising and later setting, the moon and stars brightening the night sky, cloud patterns forming, grass growing, birds singing, flowers blooming, trees leafing, food smelling and tasting delicious, a child's song filling the air and her dance bringing a smile, a dog's gentle breathing as she sleeps at your feet, a husband's arm resting on yours as you drift off to sleep, . . .
Where does the time go? If we view life through the lens through which we view the life of a newborn, rejoicing in the beauty and joy of each moment, as if it were new, we will know that the time is always present.
Why May Baskets?
When I was a young girl, on May 1, we made May Baskets out of milk cartons and pipe cleaners, filled them with small flowers and candy, and left them on the doors of our friends. In Europe, where the traditions celebrating May Day began centuries ago, many said traditions live on today. May Baskets are an American tradition, which has not lived on, sadly.
My Garden Club recently made May Baskets (pictured above), and today it made my day to secretly leave them on the doors of my good friends. As expected, a few who caught me in the act, or suspected I was the giver, have sent messages thanking me and letting me know of the joy they brought.
Why May Baskets? They bring JOY!
'What Do You Want To Do?' is a question my oldest daughter is asked a lot right now. She's a senior, and is on the verge of choosing a college.
There is much to consider when choosing a college, as it is a time and place where young adults continue to learn and grow as individuals and members of a community, preparing them for what they ultimately will do as members of the global community that is the world. Given that the goal is to prepare young people for what they will do as adults, the question generally asked and pondered is, 'What do you want to do?' A fair question, indeed. But also a difficult one. I, for one, believe it is illogical that at 17 or 18 years of age, one would know exactly what one wants to do with the rest of one's life. Some feel quite certain they do know, and that gives them an advantage, at least in terms of where they begin. Others are quite unsure, which makes it more difficult. Or does it?
Knowing what one wants to "do" generally refers to knowing how one wants to earn a living, what one wants as a career. Finding joy in a career is a wonderful gift, as for most, it is how we spend a great deal of our time. But what if you don't know?
As I journey through life, it has become obvious to me that many don't know what they want to do--at age 17, or 30, or 50, or 70, etc. Life for many isn't lived by setting a particular goal, crossing all t's and dotting all i's toward achieving it, and then relishing the success before moving on to the next goal. I, for one, am a terrible goal setter--at least when it comes to setting specific goals for my life. I'm not lazy nor uninterested; quite the contrary, I have many interests, and I give my all to everything I undertake. And that makes it challenging to choose one specific goal or path. I'm often heading down many paths at any given moment. This gives my life meaning. It also makes my track record of achieving at a high level in any single area of my life disappointing, at times.
I have learned to prioritize channeling my best efforts at all cost into the few areas of my life where I unconditionally expect success. The best example of this is in being a good parent. I have placed advancing in my career, and often other goals which are important to me, on the back burner in order to ensure that I will give my absolute best to the goal of being the best parent I can be. It's always good to know what one's top priorities are, even if we don't know everything we wish to achieve.
The other way I live my life of wanderlust, without feeling the sadness of underachievement, is to remember that my ultimate priority is to live a life of joy. If I allow the joy in my heart to guide my daily life, seizing opportunity as it presents itself, whether or not I was seeking it, I generally find myself on the right path, even if it is twisted and winding, confident it will lead me to the ultimate goal I have of feeling my inner joy and channeling it toward making the world a better place.
My daughter, despite not knowing exactly what her job title will be one day, has already demonstrated that she is on the same path. I trust that her own inner joy will take her on a wonderful winding path toward wellbeing--for herself and the world. I may also be on the verge of being successful in the one area I insist on it. Keeping my fingers crossed.
What do you want to do?
Everywhere I go today, people are asking the same question: 'Where is Spring?' While the calendar indicates today is the first day of Spring, Mother Nature seems to have not gotten the memo about the expected delivery day. It's 32 degrees, and feels like 20 with the wind. As I write this, the northeastern states are expecting their fourth nor'easter in as many weeks. No wonder one wonders 'Where is Spring?'
March 20 is the first day of Spring, or the Vernal Equinox, the day when night and day are nearly equal. 'Vernal' comes from the Latin word 'Spring' and Equinox literally means 'equal night.' The two Equinox days (Vernal and Autumnal) occur when the sun shines directly at the equator, and are the only days of the year the tilt of the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s rays, making the time of day and night equal.
The Vernal Equinox is considered the beginning of the season of Spring in the northern hemisphere. It is anxiously awaited by we hearty souls who endure the cold temperatures, blustery winds, freezing precipitation, and long darkness of Winter. The coming warmer and sunnier days of Spring are the prize we covet.
The Spring Equinox is celebrated across time and cultures:
These Equinox traditions all celebrate new life. Generally, the season of Spring is considered the season of new life. It is the time for greening grass, leafing trees, sprouting bulbs, flowering trees, birthing animals, and so on. All of these new life miracles begin during this season of Spring, even if the temperatures feel cold, the precipitation is icy, and the days are not yet long. Year in and year out it occurs. The plants and animals trust in Mother Nature and begin their new birth rituals, knowing she will ensure that warmth and sunshine will again be plentiful.
We will do well to live as our fellow creatures in nature, and embrace the new life of Spring. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, Spring temperatures and warm sunshine will arrive in earnest, and we will all be saying, 'Happy Spring!' In the meantime, let us trust in Mother Nature that it will be so.
Trusting in something greater than ourselves helps bring lasting Joy. Where is Spring? It's almost here . . . I am sure of it.
During my recent vision screening, I was told I have an astigmatism. "What is an astigmatism?" I asked, sheepishly. The doctor replied that it is a condition in which the curvature of the cornea of the eye is uneven, causing a blurring of vision. Very scary!
My doctor then told me that I actually have two astigmatisms in my eyes - one is a positive 125 and the other a negative 125, and that they, in essence, cancel each other out, allowing me to see clearly. He seemed as surprised as I was.
Relieved that my eyes are healthy and my vision is clear, I started to think about the unique way my eyes seem to be functioning - "seeing" things from two perspectives and bringing them into focus to see clearly. It occurred to me that perhaps if we viewed things with two astigmatisms, we might also see clearly.
One way we "see" is through our heads, through how our brains process what our senses take in. The second way we "see" is through our hearts, as emotion comes from the heart. It's important that we consider both "visions" as we navigate life.
Sometimes our heads "see" first, and then our hearts react with appropriate emotion--a new baby brings happiness; the death of a loved one brings sadness; a kind gesture brings delight; an affront brings anger; receiving something brings gratitude; having less brings envy. Other times, our hearts "see" first, and then our heads react--being gloomy causes one to become bitter at the death of a loved one; being content allows one to see the death of a loved one as cause for celebration of a life well-lived; being cross causes one to become revengeful with an affront; being compassionate allows one to want to help the offender, recognizing the affront as perhaps the offender's way of dealing with their own unfortunate situation; being envious may cause one to wish ill on one who seemingly has more; being grateful allows one to recognize that while we may not have as much as others, we have what we need.
It is important to "see" things with both the head and the heart, for each can offer perspective the other cannot. The mind's fear of the unknown can be overcome by the heart's sense of trust to allow us to move forward. The mind's sense of danger can overcome the heart's sense of adventure to save us from hurting ourselves. The anger felt in one's heart, which may lead one to want to harm others, can be overcome by the head's knowing it isn't right to harm others. The pain of losing a loved one to death can be overcome by a heart's joy.
As I contemplate the events of the Florida school shooting, I feel, along with the friends and families of the victims, the intense sorrow resulting from what we have "seen," with our heads and our hearts. I sincerely hope we all will be able to focus our "vision" on the good in it all--the fond memories of those lost; the admiration for those who put their lives at risk to save others; the gratitude for what we have; the hope that we will take action to prevent this from ever happening again. It will not be easy. It will take time.
I know nothing of the shooter's life, but it seems clear that his head and heart were not able to conjure the focus to know this was not the way to deal with whatever they were "seeing." Sadly, we see this more than ever. It is my sincere hope that we may all work to help those who "see" only the negative, and to help them focus on the positive.
"Seeing" with both our minds and our hearts--living with an astigmatism--may be a key to a joyful existence.
author of "JOY"