Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Widow's Collection of Inspirational Scenes

These are all photos I've taken since my husband died in 2009. I know that he is always with me, but I feel closest to him when I am outdoors in the Cathedral of Nature. Many places claim to be "God's Country:" here are a few I've found in Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Montana. Sometimes, it's in my own back yard, if I look close enough.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Only God Can Make A Tree

(For Mrs. Henry Mills Alden)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
~ Joyce Kilmer

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Got Your Nikon Charged? It's Time To Shoot Autumn's Stunning Color

Soft September sunlight can transform an average scene into one of enchantment. This Virginia Creeper gracefully making its way across the top of a chain-link fence illustrates my point. This is prime time to photograph nature's beauty. I like to use back-lighting to accent fall's subtle hues.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Know Why The Wild Bird Sings

One morning last week as I was sipping my first cup of tea, I noticed a pair of birds of prey putting on quite a performance just off my deck. As they danced in the wind, I was reminded of a true experience I call "My Bird Story." I'll tell it to you now, on this Mother's Day.

I had a four-decade-long crush on my late husband, Roger. The thought of losing him was unbearable to me all those years. When we were first married, I worried he would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. My big, handsome hunk was definitely a 1-A prime candidate for cannon fodder.

One evening after watching the mounting daily death toll from that sad war on the evening news, I had an inspiration. "If I die before you," I said to Roger, "I'll come back as a mourning dove, and every time you hear that bird's call, that will be me, saying I’m here and I love you."

Roger thought about that for a minute, then said, "If I go first, I'll come back as a red-tailed hawk. You'll see me most often on the wing. Every time you do, it'll be me, saying hi." As I looked at him a bit disappointed, he quickly added, "And I'm here, and I love you." We both laughed.

We never forgot that conversation. During thousands of miles I rode behind Roger on his Harley, sometimes a hawk would suddenly rise from a field and fly over our heads. Roger would always reach back, squeeze my leg and nod at the bird to make sure I saw it, too. That's the joy of being on a motorcycle; we would have missed it in a car.

Similarly through the years whenever we heard a mourning-dove call, I'd give him a hug or at least eye contact to reaffirm our everlasting love. Our "afterlife-bird promises" were a secret pact we never shared with anyone.

One horrible day in May 2009, Roger fatally crashed on his Harley. The night he died, I had left the hospital to come home, exhausted. About 9 PM, Roger’s sister called and said he was gone.

Daylight was fading as I walked out onto our deck to absorb this news. My action startled a big bird sitting in the top of the closest tree to our house, just 10 feet away from the deck railing I was leaning on. With a lot of loud flapping, a magnificent Bald Eagle arose from the tree top.

In a glorious display of graceful strength, its wings making a "whoop, whoosh" sound, the giant bird flew upriver, eventually disappearing around the bend. Rays of warm, peachy light from the setting sun reflected off billowing clouds on the horizon. The glow bounced back up from the river below to illuminate the bird's wings in a surrealistic, stunning scene.

I knew this was an all-out display of God's glory just for my benefit. I had absolutely no doubt about that.

Dazed and drained by the day’s sorrow, I stood in awe, watching this nation's symbol of freedom until it was out of sight.

I spoke to Roger, who was now free, no longer lingering between life and death in the sad hospital bed where I'd last seen him. "Wow, Hon," I said. "You really outdid yourself. That was very impressive."

I didn't bother to try to try to figure out how Roger was going to hear my words, but I knew he would as I smiled and continued to speak to the love of my life. This became a habit I continue to this day.

"I should have known you'd want to ride into Heaven on something bigger than a hawk," I told him. Turning away, waves of tears crashed through my fragile facade, falling from my face into my hands.

Hunting for my Kleenex box, I sobbed in earnest, unable to stop the growing alarm in my head that was screaming the saddest of all my unwanted thoughts: "Now I am alone." I turned the knob and stepped blindly into the rest of my life. It was suddenly dark.

Two years later as I write this on a cool but bright-green spring evening, I am comforted by the soft cooing of a mourning dove. He is right outside my window.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

People Are Often Unreasonable and Self-Centered

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.
--- Mother Theresa

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We Are Creating the Coal That Fires This Oven

David Carr is the salaried media columnist at The New York Times, but he's written about and experienced the phenomenon of unpaid content and he's here to talk to us a little bit about this deal.

Mr. DAVID CARR (Media Columnist, The New York Times): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: You titled the piece that you wrote in The New York Times yesterday "A Nation of Serfs," meaning what? Meaning people on property that's not their own?

Mr. CARR: Yeah. When you talk about people who provide platforms - be it Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Koora - they own the interface and the technology. Huffington Post is a little different deal because they are a news platform, but again, a lot of people work for them in unpaid ways.

And as we all we all Twitter away and type away and update our Facebooks, we're creating the coal that sort of fires this oven and creates these values, but they continue to own the lands.

MONTAGNE: Right. And there's somebody at the top who benefits mightily in that kind of old-fashioned, capitalistic way.

Mr. CARR: Well, let's be honest, it's always been .. it's nobody ever got rich - well, very few people ever got rich writing. What's unusual about the era that we live in is not that content comes cheaply. You know, writing beats working, so I'm going to choose it every single time.

But the fact that it seems to be dropping to a price of zero - if you look even beyond the social networks and The Huffington Post - content farms like Demand Media, where they're employing professional journalists, but they're being paid at the rate of $10 or $15 or $20 a story. As content doubles every year - becomes more and more ubiquitous - the price of it is bound to go down, as is the compensation.

MONTAGNE: Well, the way you describe though, the charm of being able to write for free, it's very much an opportunity to use your wit with an audience.

Mr. CARR: Oh, it's a great place for showoffs, there's no doubt about it. Those of us who write for a living, we're among the first and early adapters of Twitter, along with technical people. And it's not as if we get nothing in return. We're able to promote our work, much of what I Twitter about.

Sometimes I, you know, write about my commute home to New Jersey on the bus, but other times I'm promoting my work or the work of others. I've been rewarded with almost 300,000 followers, and those people are a kind of social and business asset. I can't really put a number on them, but there's some value in that.

MONTAGNE: And just one other thing about this sale. I wonder even though it doesn't change what the agreement was with the Huffington Post, that is, we get an audience and you get our talent for nothing. It's maybe one thing to write for the Huffington Post and another to write for this, you know, gigantic entity, AOL.

Mr. CARR: Yeah, you're talking a big corporate blob that's worth $2.2 billion in terms of market capitalization. And while I'm sure people are interested in accessing an audience, you'd have to think that a lot of people at the Huffington Post were somewhat politically motivated to contribute to the civic common and what they felt were progressive and additive ways. It feels a little different when you're sending that copy to a big gigantic media conglomerate, at least I think so.

MONTAGNE: David, thanks very much for joining us.
Mr. CARR: Oh, an absolute pleasure, Renee.

Copyright © 2011 National Public Radio®. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Finding My Look After 60 Years of Searching

"To grow old and wise, you first must be young and stupid."

Following 40 years of marriage, I lost my husband in the spring of 2009 on the same day my mother died. As the fallout of that emotional nuclear blast continues to settle, the full impact of the result -- an unexpected and unprecedented personal freedom -- is beginning to dawn on me.

My reactions -- enormous grief, shock, despair, worry, regret, faith, hope and at times, even joy -- have given me much to think about. It's all got to come out somewhere, so I figure it might as well be on my blog.

I'm aware that the one glaring attribute lacking from my posts has been humor. I do have a sense of one somewhere, but it's been hard to find in the last couple of years. I was going to say it's been buried, but thought better of using that term. (See? It's in there somewhere. Maybe it's "black humor," but it's funny, no?)

When one of my readers commented on a recent particularly poignant post, "I should know better than to read you at work," it gave me pause. "Jeeze," I thought. "I am going to totally bum out and lose my entire audience if I don't get a grip on this grief thing."

So I vowed to try to find my funny bone again. Truth is, I'm tired of being sad all the time, too -- and that's an understatement, believe me.

Perhaps I've reached the point of Maximum Grief Endurance (MGE). I've noticed on TV shows about treating people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), that therapy includes completely bombarding them with exposure to the very fear that's driving them crazy. The theory is that the human mind simply cannot sustain an extreme level of terror for an infinite period of time. What seems like a cruel treatment actually appears to work.

This always makes me wonder if I rode, let's say, Cedar Point Park's Magnum XL-200 ("the extreme coaster ride by which all others are measured") 200 times, by my 199th trip, I'd just be sitting there expressionlessly, bored. Maybe that's why it's called the XL-200. (In my youth I lived near Cedar Point, and it's a blast, by the way.)

The faithful among my so-called followers will notice this is my first post of 2011. That's because it's not easy for me to come up with an upbeat idea. I doubt if I'll ever be as wildly crazy-funny as Murr Brewster, whose "Murrmurrs" blog is one of my favorites, -- at least not if I continue to maintain sobriety. (However, when one is "under the influence," as they say, one is inclined to think one is funnier than one actually is, isn't one?)

So to start off with, I thought I'd entertain you with the above evidence of my life-long search for "my look." This staggering display of my failure to feel comfortable with my hairstyle rivals Hilary Clinton's obviously similar misgivings about her appearance as First Lady. For years I tried to blame this on my DNA. Here's a picture of my grandma in her youth, which seemed to explain everything about my hair. I only knew her to have fairly straight, gray hair, so I was shocked when I saw this picture. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to ask her how she felt about her unruly locks when she was young. I've been told her hair was a deep auburn color that was very pretty, but I'll bet she had her moments when she wished for "normal," straight hair. I've definitely had mine, especially back when everyone wanted to look like Cher, including me.

Now that I'm not trying to please anyone with my looks anymore, I simply don't do anything with my hair, except keep it very short so I don't have to mess with it. I love getting up in the morning and not even having to look at it. To quote one of my heroes, Joan Rivers, "Age is freedom."

Right on, Joanie.

Maybe next time, we can discuss my weight or my unpopular smoking habit. Or maybe not. Let's just not get too hasty, here, shall we? Oh, and MGE is a made-up diagnosis, but it's pretty real to me.