Another day in the country
© Another Day in the Country
Straightening the living room, I found this note to myself on an end table, under some magazines: “I live by what I learned as Christian principals of truth, kindness, compassion and bravery.”
There are some parallel lines drawn on the paper — doodles. I’m not sure what they mean. Evidently, I was thinking about this statement. I think I heard someone say this while watching television. It resonated with me, so I grabbed a pencil and wrote it down.
The fact that the above statement is also true about myself is a compliment to my very Christian parents and the education they provided for me — that I still always strive for and value: truth, kindness, compassion and bravery. The note went on, in my even, careful cursive, “…even though’ I’m not religious…”
And there was more. “In America, religion must remember its limitations!”
This phrase, I’d concluded, was good for all of us to remember. It’s an admonition to keep separate and private (as scripture instructed the Pharisees) our religious principals, even our prayers, from the governing principals of the country we inhabit, even as we pray for those in leadership, since “we the people” have such a wide variety of belief and non-belief, as is our right.
As I read and reread the note, I asked myself if my religious beliefs had served me well. Some of them have. Others haven’t and I had to change my opinion and the resulting behavior.
This questioning, finding new information, incorporating it into my life is an unending process. We don’t march into adulthood, our full responsibility to life, knowing it all!
Some things I wish I’d learned sooner.
On the other side of this same scrap of paper was a single word, “Murmerations.”
I do remember what that note was about: Starlings. I’ve always marveled at seeing flocks of starlings whirling across the sky, dipping, swirling, in such tight formation that you’d think they’d collide on the airwaves — but they don’t.
Murmerations is the name given to this complex dance. I discovered this watching “The Sunday Morning Show” on CBS. I didn’t want to forget it, so I wrote it down. That memory jog of writing something down is a good one at any age. It helps retention.
Retention. Such an interesting word. I went to look up the meaning in an old Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary that I treasure: “to keep, to remember,” it read.
Here’s a piece of trivia I discovered paging through the Dictionary to find the word Retention. There were 50 pages of definitions beginning with RE, all the way from reaffirm to rewrite. RE is an important concept in life and in our language. Think about it. RE means we keep coming back to something to check it out, say it again, do it over — maybe even write it down.
I’m a voracious reader. For years after moving back to Ramona with its slower pace, I wrote down the author and the name of every worthwhile book that I’d read, as well as a quote from the book. Then I gave up. In this new era where a camera is always at my fingertips, on a phone also always within reach — I simply take a picture of the cover of the good books, just in case I want to tell a friend about them.
More and more, as I read, it seems there are less and less noteworthy quotes. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m jaded? Perhaps, there are so few who write in the style I appreciate. But for now, a picture is still worth a thousand words, or a shelf full of books inscribed with titles of books I’ve read, that no one will ever read and eventually throw away when I’m done.
I found another scrap of paper. I’d written a joke down because it was funny and because my cousin Gary was turning 70. I wanted to share this anecdote with him and then, wouldn’t you know it, left the note at home when we got together to celebrate.
Some comedian was talking about people dying and how we react differently to the sorrow of losing a loved one, depending on their age. (Stay with me; even though it’s a sad subject, it supposedly gets funnier.)
He said, “When someone dies in their 30s or 40s we say ‘How tragic,’ to one another. And then our sympathy begins to disintegrate. If someone dies at 50 we say, ‘Such a shame,’ and then at 60 we say, ‘They died too soon.’ By the time they get to 70, we say ‘Well, they had a good run.’ When someone dies at 80, we say ‘It was a life well lived.’ And if they die at 90 we celebrate and say, ‘They had one hell of a ride.”
My cousin laughed as I gave him the gist of the joke.
I find myself in that ‘life well lived’ stage of existence and grateful for it — even on the days when I’m restless and hanker for something more exciting than just getting up, having breakfast, surveying the next 12 hours, and wondering, What will I find to do to ‘live well’ on another day in the country?