Happy Independence Day!
So grateful for this long weekend and this chance to write to you. I came across this quote:
If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet;
how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.
There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.
I felt this impact of other people this past weekend. Why? I attended my 35th college reunion. (I know! 35!) Beautiful friend (and fellow shenanigan prankster) Vicki drove up from Memphis so we could check out the reunion together. Even though the weather spit rain and threatened a downpour we shrugged off the climate and made our own atmosphere: lots of catch-up conversations, moments paging through yearbooks to peer at familiar faces, and a stroll through campus to see what’s changed, what’s the same.
It was just an afternoon but I loved the suspension in time.
(We did Facebook-message Pam (missing musketeer of our Three) who cheerfully replied from Greece: Next reunion needs to be on the Peloponnese!)
College reunions bring so many people to thought. I found myself so grateful for so many individuals, those that were present and then recalling lots of others. Our Saturday banquet found me at a table with fellow travelers of an abroad program to England I’d taken my senior year. While twisting strands of fettuccine and stabbing at shrimp, as a table we guessed and gradually recalled all 30 of us who’d been on that trip. We listed the English-major pr-ereading...Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth, a four-volume history of Britain by Winston Churchill, Shakespeare of course. Out of order we had stories from those ten weeks off-campus of cold nights in hostels, terrible breakfasts of kidney and stewed tomatoes, tea of cakes and scones with a lord — the anecdotes rushed in on us, we interrupted each other, talking over and across the table, laughing without needing to explain, “Remember when Sherwood…”
Each of these individuals left something with me. If nothing else, what characters English majors can be.
Meanwhile, this week I fell behind in writing and so finally found my way to a park for a few precious hours to write. A snippet of this writing follows.
What is it about water? I am sitting by a pond while writing this. A waterfall mutes people noise and only birds and the screech of grasshoppers or crickets puncture through the water’s regular rush. I am pausing as I write this -- and in the suspension, if I wait long enough -- more bird calls break through. I imagine the birds as pretty easygoing -- 20-30 seconds will pass without a peep -- then they all rush in at the same time, interrupting and hurrying to get a word in edgewise.
I’d like to know what they’re saying.
It makes me think of a neighbor that lived down the bottom of the hill from us when we had a house on Crescent Drive.
Their last name was Ives. I grew up vaguely aware that Mr. Ives’ professional work was in something like college campus security. Idon’t recall him making a lot of small talk; I do remember he wore an obvious hairpiece and in the summer he and his wife would invite our family down the street to cool off in their backyard fenced-in pool -- heaven! -- but it was always a little startling to see his bald head.
But what brought Mr. Ives to mind is the thought of birds. Unassuming Mr. Ives liked to lead ornithology hikes. I know this because one year I agreeably followed my parents’ suggestion that we join him one EARLY Saturday morning for a bird-watching hike. I mean early -- before the sun was up -- and it must’ve been spring or fall because I remember the morning was crisp.
Mr. Ives wore a funny fisherman’s hat (or was that my dad?), a khaki vest with many pockets and, of course, binoculars around his neck. I remember his eyes dancing with cheerfulness and being more talkative than usual. He eagerly explained the rules: walk in single-file, be as quiet as possible. He would point out the birds as he spotted them.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think I saw a lot of birds. When a bird’s identity was whispered eagerly, I’d look and look but many times faked it and nodded that I’d spotted the Black-capped Chickadee or Downy Woodpecker through the binocular-enlarged pictures in the direction Mr. Ives pointed.
But even if I couldn’t see them those birds could burst into beautiful singing in their camouflage.
After we’d trudged quietly along local trails and gradually the sun lightened the woods into full-fledged morning, Mr. Ives finally stopped. He marked the names of the birds we’d spotted on a small pad of paper in his breast pocket. And then smiled as the group broke its silence and we turned to head back to our cars.
Notwithstanding Hitchcock’s movie version, birds always seem like friends, don’t they? Except maybe those street geese that hang out in parks. They are pretty tough.
Though I haven’t asked anyone (yet!) to join me on a bird-watching hike, I do have a bird book, bird bingo game and binoculars. A guess a little bit of Mr. Ives left behind.
Onto a great week!