Friendship

I saw a video on CBS Sunday morning news last week that described studies that have recently been done on friendship, and it’s importance in our lives. Basically, they performed some tests which were done alone and then done again with a friend present. In each case, the portions of our brain that signal alarm were much more acute when performing them alone then when with a friend.
I am fortunate in that I have always been able to make friends easily. I am definitely not a solitary person, so having a circle of friends has always been important. I value them. I would not want to go through life without them. I don’t think I have ever been one to take a friend for granted. But what I never thought much about is the alternative of doing things alone versus with a friend. I mean, do I choose to be with a friend, or do I really choose not to be alone. There is a difference I think.
I do not like to go out to eat alone, drink alone, or go to movies or sporting events alone. The experiences are so enriched when shared with a friend. In fact, I would probably choose not to go at all if by myself.
I don’t know what this all means, except that I guess I agree with the conclusions of the study. Time spent with friends is preferable to time spent alone. I don’t really care if I am really trying to avoid solitude. I am much happier when I am sharing my time with a friend.
Think about all the time and money that could have been saved if, instead of doing a study, they had just asked me. Just sayin.

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Posted in Family, Friendship, Insight, Life, Neighbors, Perspective, Reflection, Relationships, Unity | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Requiem

When we moved back to  Maine several years ago, we settled in a small town not too far from the old mill towns of Lewiston and Auburn. I have visited the area often and am fascinated by the old mill buildings that still stand, mostly abandoned or converted to other uses. Even in various stages of decay, they still speak to me of a time when they were the heart of a small town. That is why I wrote Requiem.

They stand alone in stark contrast to their surroundings. Derelict, they speak of a time past, when they played a role in, no, were the heart of the community. Gone is the smoke filled air, billowing from the monolithic chimneys, spewing the acrid smell of wood and coal fired burners. Gone is the cacophonous sound of the belt driven machines, never pausing, providing the textiles, the shoes, and the lumber for a growing nation. The mill was the town. The town was the mill. Men, women, entire families, streamed in from Canada, Asia, and Europe, all in hopes of finding work in the mills. Rural New England families sent their daughters to fulfill needs, wishes, and dreams, looking to find something better then the poverty and pain they left behind.

Cultures clashed and families melded. Ethnicity’s struggled to survive, while slowly being pulled apart. Towns grew to cities. Roots were set. Standards established. Normality changed virtually overnight. It was a hard life, but one lived with pride. Workers labored through twelve and fourteen hour days, six days a week, reserving only Sunday to reflect on how lucky they were.

Through a war between the states that consumed a generation, they toiled. Those that could fight, did. Those left behind molded the fabric, leather, and iron that became the clothes and shoes and weapons that supported their efforts. Disease and infirmities squeezed the life from their bodies. The ravages of the mills took their toll. Many gave their lives to the mills. Many others took their place.

From this a nation grew and prospered on the backs of those that had a dream and chased it, and in the hearts of those that believed that there would be a better tomorrow if only they could get through today. It became their country and they strove to defend it and nurture it, cost be damned.

I gaze now upon the mills. Silent, they stand watch over today, remembering yesterday. A piece of history, now ignored. I do not see the weathered stone and hollow windows. I see instead a monument. It says to me “I am that from which this city was born. I did not abandon you as you did me. Inside, my heart still beats. I am the spark that ignited freedoms flame. I provided the mothers milk of opportunity. I am your foundation. In my halls a country was built. My empty floors now store the memories of a nation”.

Posted in History, Life, Maine, Memories, Mills, Perspective, Reflection, Tribute | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Where Were You?

johnfk

I was playing cribbage with a resident at the nursing home today, during which, as usual, we chatted about anything and everything.  During the conversation, he mentioned that years ago he worked as a short order cook in a bowling alley and then added “that’s what I was doing when I heard President Kennedy was shot.  I replied that I had been working for the Maine Air National Guard and heard it on the radio while waiting for my flight to return.  When they did, I stood on the wing of my aircraft and, when the canopy was opened, advised the flight crew.  I can see it like it was yesterday.

It’s funny, or perhaps more correctly odd,  how that moment in time seems to stick with anyone that lived it.  The Recreation Director at the home heard us talking and related how she had been in the second grade when a teacher entered her room and whispered to her teacher.  She remembered her teacher crying.  We then asked one of the residents if he remembered where he was or what he was doing when he heard the news, and he did, relating that he was in New York that day and went on to tell us what he was doing.  

I have to say that in my many years, other then my wedding and perhaps the loss of a loved one, I cannot remember any event that was so graphically etched on my memory.  And apparently, it is not just me.  I would guess that most people that are old enough to remember the occasion would also remember what they were doing that day.  How about you?  Do you remember?

 

 

 

Posted in assassination, History, Life, Memories, Politics, Reflection | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Strolling

HPIM0073

I live in a secluded subdivision of about 70 homes tucked into a wooded area with meandering streets.  Each morning, I take my dogs, one at a time, for a walk around part of it.  It is quiet save for the cars carrying occupants leaving for work.  I am also frequently greeted by a few morning strollers that happen by and give the obligatory pats and sometimes cookies to the dogs.

The seasons are irrelevant since there is always something to see.  Nothing excites my cocker more then to happen upon a flock of wild turkeys, grazing on the sides of the road, or the commotion they make while escaping.  The terrier, on the other hand is enamored by the squirrels and chipmunks. We also have an abundance of deer that nightly cross the road down behind my house, after making a midnight snack of my hostas.  Some mornings there are so many hoof prints on the soft shoulder that it looks like a herd has passed through.  Lately, on several occasions, I have run up on a gray fox.  This is the first one I have seen in 16 years of living here.  One morning she (I’m assuming “she”) was accompanied by her kit.  That encounter made me nervous as they can become aggressive in protecting their young.  I always keep my dogs on leash as they would chase anything, to their folly, I’m afraid.

Until recently, I would walk the subdivision later in the day as a way of getting a little exercise. As such, I became very familiar with many other residents, but more specifically, their dogs.  It was often embarrassing when I would come upon a neighbor and know the dogs name and not theirs.  Bummer.  I took to carrying dog cookies in my pocket and it didn’t take long before the local canine contingent identified me as the candy man.  As I would approach you could see them straining on their leads to reach me.  One particular full sized poodle even knew where I carried them in an inside pocket of my jacket.  He was not above putting his paws on my chest and sticking his nose inside the jacket.  Others would walk up to me and sit down and wait patiently for their treat.  And of all the little friends I have made, there was not a mean one among them.  I am talking of course about the dogs.

Posted in Pets, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Anniversary

Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I sure hope old Henry is right.  I just got a Happy Anniversary message from WordPress today commemorating my five years of blogging.  It doesn’t seem that long or that the time could possibly have passed that rapidly, but apparently it did.

The remembrance couldn’t have been more timely as, of late, I was contemplating packing it in.  Oh, I still like to write, don’t get me wrong.  No, actually I was feeling a little sorry for myself.  It seems that my efforts have been anything but an overnight success.  I knew going in that without posting to Facebook and Twitter, it would be a long haul to build a following, but it has been tougher then I thought it would be.  It has taken five years to accumulate 411 followers and they are apparently following at a great distance, because I never see most of them.  A good day of “like” activity for me is between 2 and 5.

I gave some thought to starting over and creating a new blogsite.  I even set one up and put out a few test entries to see what happened.  Let’s just say it was every bit as popular as this one is.  The silence was deafening.  I can’t say I was surprised.  By design, I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it.  I was really just curious to see if a random reader or two might trip over it and decide that, since they were there anyway, they might as well read it and, heaven forbid, follow it. Now I know.

So, here I go again, turning another page so to speak.  Embarking on another year.  Redoubling my efforts.  I hate to admit that maybe the problem could be, well, you know, me.   But if so, I will just have to live with it as I don’t see that changing.  I gain a lot of pleasure from writing.  But, I must admit, I gain even more when I am not the only one that reads it. 

So I am going to take Henry at his word.  I will keep knocking loudly and persistently and I will  also bear in mind something else he said.  It was “The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do without thought of fame. If it comes at all it will come because it is deserved, not because it is sought after.” 

Good point Henry, but I don’t really need fame.  I’d settle for some readers.

 

Posted in Reflection | 5 Comments

When Those “From Away” Aren’t

I had someone ask me if I went south for the winters. I said “no, I’m a lifer”. I’m here year round, watching the seasons and the tourists come and go. If you watch it long enough, you begin to realize there is a pattern. For instance, one day while you are shopping at the supermarket, you suddenly realize that all the cars have Massachusetts plates, and you know that summer has arrived. This is the season when snowmobiles are placed on the lawn with for sale signs on them and when the thing that blossoms even more prolifically then daffodils are yard sales. It is our way of getting rid of all the stuff we accumulated over the winter. Just stick it out there next to the snowmobile and call it an antique. Someone will decide that they can’t live without this rustic artifact from way up here in the woods. And, if you run out, you can just go down to the “give and take” shack at the Transfer Station (spelled dump) and get some more.
The harbingers of summer, mosquitoes and motorcycles, arrive early, populating the landscape by late spring. Next come the campers and boats. The laid back atmosphere of my town becomes charged with activity in the summer. The Village, as the center of town is known, is the point of demarcation to most points leading North, West, or East, with visitors pausing only long enough to sample our attractions which are gas stations, convenience stores , and fast food restaurants. We are not by any stretch of the imagination, a “destination”. Our main claims to fame are that the first woolen mill in the United States was built here, now just a clearing in the woods, a wildlife park with a real moose, and a cemetery that boasts the grave of a confederate soldier. Not sure where he came from. I suspect e-bay.
I guess the best thing about summer in Maine is that it doesn’t last very long. Pretty soon, the trees begin to turn and as if on cue, the boats and campers beat a retreat down I95, passing all the leaf peepers heading north with their cameras to capture a piece of Maine without getting shot by the legions of hunters trying to bag a deer, cow, or whatever else moves. It is beautiful here in the fall and the cruise ships entering the port of Portland are full of tourists arriving to sample the picturesque towns that dot the coast and inland’s.
When the trees finally disrobe, and the snow starts to fly, we are treated to the next wave of “those from away”, the skiers and snowmobilers. Again, the Village becomes a hotbed of activity as we welcome them to our fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and gas stations. Unfortunately, the wildlife park and the cemetery are closed for the season. But you can pick up a brochure.

Posted in Reflection | 1 Comment

Cycles

Bill was on an emotional high.  One of the few he had experienced in a long time.  Working in the city had it’s advantages, but it also had it’s drawbacks.  He always felt crowded, like his life was being compacted.  Pressure that left him feeling drained by the end of most days.  But not today.  He had decided to toss it all for a week and head up into Maine for a little R and R.  He had departed Boston about eight this morning, taking the coastal route and stopping in Bar Harbor for a leisurely lunch.  Bill had intentionally chosen not to have a schedule, or an itinerary, or even a destination.  Those were all the things that he was trying to escape.  He had even locked his cell phone in the glove compartment in case the temptation became too great.

Ultimately, he chose to drive northwest into the heart of the state, which is where he currently found himself.  He enjoyed exploring the network of secondary roads so common to rural Maine.  Meandering, shady strips of asphalt cutting a path through the heavily forested  landscape, occasionally yielding to neatly kept farms, their fields pregnant with corn.  And then there were the mountains, punctuating the horizon, demanding his attention. This was exactly what he had wanted.  He could physically feel himself starting to relax, letting go of yesterday.

As he drove, he entered an area with a view worthy of a postcard.  He could not just let it pass, so he slowed and pulled to a stop.  Walking around the car he stepped up to an old split rail fence guarding a field of wildflowers.  Shades of pink and gold and white swaying freely to the persuasion of a gentle breeze.  He breathed deeply of the clean fresh air, reveling in the beauty before him.

He heard it before he saw it.  The sound of a child singing as they do, with no particular words or tune, controlled only by the whim of the singer.  Bill followed the sound with his eyes until he saw the movement of a young girl , sitting in the field, picking flowers. She had not seen him yet, but when she did, she stopped singing and stared at him before smiling and waving.  Bill waved back just as the girl motioned for him to come join her.  Vaulting the fence, Bill slowly approached the girl.  She could not have been much more then seven, dressed in a tee shirt and an old pair of overalls with the cuffs rolled up, exposing her bare feet.

“Hi” he said as he approached her.

“Hello” she replied.  “What’s your name”?

“I’m Bill.  What’s yours “

“I’m Samantha, but you can call me Sam.  Everybody does”.

“Pleased to meet you Sam.  Those sure are some pretty flowers you have there”

Ignoring his comment, Sam flatly stated “You don’t live around here”.

“I don’t” he replied.  “I’m just passing through.  But I’ll bet you do”.

Without looking up from the flowers she said “I live right over there”, pointing in the direction of a break in the trees.  “My daddy owns all this land.  He says I am the princess of his kingdom”.

“And I am sure he is exactly right” Bill replied.  “I can’t help admiring your flowers.  What kind are they”.

“Magic” she said.

“Magic huh” Bill said, chuckling to himself.  “And what makes them magic”.

‘They let you be anyone you want to be.  That’s why I like them.  They let me be me”.

” Well” Bill said.  “I guess that would make them pretty special”.

“Are you who you want to be” Sam asked unabashedly.

“Well sure.  I mean, um, yeah I guess so. Most of the time anyway”.

“How about the times you aren’t” she pressed.  “Who would you like to be then”?

“Well Sam, you know, I haven’t really thought about it.  I like myself.  I just liked myself better before life became more complicated.”

“When did that happen” she asked?

“I’m not sure” Bill replied, captured by her questions.  “But it’s been a while”.

“When did you like yourself the best” Sam continued, now looking directly at him.

Bill pondered the question for a while before answering. ” If I had to pick a time, it would probably be when I was about your age” he said.  “I spent a lot of time playing with my friends, riding my bike, fishing, playing ball. Those were good times, carefree times.  I can’t remember worrying any.  I’d have to say I was pretty happy back then”

“Then you need some of my magic flowers” Sam said, proffering the small bouquet of flowers she had been gathering.  Bill took the flowers and stared at them.  “Thank you Sam” he said.

“Smell them” She said.  “Go on.  Smell them”

Bill looked down at the little bundle of flowers in his hand.  “Go on” she urged.  You will like the way they smell”.

Bill glanced once more at Sam and raised the bouquet to his nose while inhaling deeply. The scent was intoxicating.  He could not remember having  ever smelled another flower as fragrant.  He felt all the stress begin to leave his body.  Everything seemed so, so simple.
…….

Carla set her beach bag down in the sand and looked around.  The beach was virtually empty and that suited her fine.  She had come here to relax and the less people running around the better.  She carefully spread her blanket and grabbed her bottle of sun lotion.  Sitting down she began to rub the lotion over her body while occasionally glancing out at the waves making vanilla ripples on the shore.  She saw a young couple, holding hands, walking in the surf, totally absorbed in each other.  And there was a little boy with a small pail walking the beach stopping every so often to pick something up.

Carla decided to take a quick dip and come back and work on her tan.  She only had a couple of days before returning to her “mundane existence” as she called it.  This was the end of a brief vacation that was ending too quickly.  She was determined to make the most of it.  Walking toward the water, she came upon the little boy with the pail and saw that he was collecting sea shells.

“You sure have a lot of shells there young man” she ventured.

“Yup” he said.

“Can I see them” she asked?

The boy hesitantly held the pail out for her to look into.  “What’s you name” he asked.

I’m Carla.  Who are you”?

“My name is William, but you can call me Bill. Everybody does”.

“Well Bill” Carla said.  What kind of shells do you have in there”.

“Magic” he said.

 

 

 

Posted in Children, Fantasy, Fiction, Life, Maine, Reflection, Short Story, Whimsey | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment