Category Archives: Ralph Waldo Emerson

What We Leave Behind

(Pictures taken at Rolling Hills Zoo by Marylin Warner.)

(All pictures are by Marylin Warner unless otherwise identified.)

 

 

African message stick

house on the plains

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1937, the term “time capsules” became popular. The purpose was to bury and preserve items that would be a future communication, to be opened at a specific date.

There are numerous time capsules around the world that wait to be opened. For instance, the National Millennium Time Capsule in Washington, DC, will be opened in 2100. It holds assorted objects from history, including a piece of the Berlin Wall, a Hostess Twinkie, a helmet from WWII, a cell phone, and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet.

But what about the things we leave behind without burying them to be found later?

During this year’s Labor Day Art Festival in Colorado, a rock balancing display—with no support of any kind for the rocks—was held in Fountain Creek. The artists knew this would not be permanent art; they did it for the challenge and the joy of creating.

Rock Balancing in Fountain Creek.  Photo by Jerilee Bennet.

(Rock Balancing in Fountain Creek. Photo by Jerilee Bennet.)

More lasting things we leave behind are memorials to those who have gone on ahead: cemeteries, monuments, statues and dedications of poetry, music and art. In Oklahoma City, at the site of the 1995 bombing, artists created 168 chairs as a beautiful and lasting memorial for those killed, including the 19 young children who died in the day care center.

Some of the chairs at the Oklahoma City  memorial.

On the Kansas plains, lonely cabins hold the spaces where settlers once made their homes.   At the Rolling Hills Zoo near Salina, KS, two African message sticks are preserved along one the paths. We don’t have to know who created any of these things, or exactly when or where, to appreciate the work and beauty that someone left behind.  (pictures above)

Other things left behind are rules, laws and warnings.  In towns wherever brick streets were popular, we can still find bricks with reminders like “Don’t spit on sidewalk”

advice, rules, instructions

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for my grandmother and all she left behind. She was a hardworking, kind, faithful and remarkable woman who, after her husband died, continued to run the farm and raise five children, including my mother. Neither woman would have assembled and buried a time capsule to be opened in the future. All my grandmother’s life, and until my mother’s dementia, they were too busy living in the present, doing what had to be done, facing challenges and embracing joys, and making a difference in the lives of others. Those are their legacies.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” With all that is happening in the world, may we be wise and grateful enough to appreciate the miraculous in common acts of kindness, goodness, love and hope.

My grandmother's five children; my mother is in the middle.

(My grandmother’s five children; my mother is in the middle.)

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Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, memories for great-grandchildren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual connections

A NEAR MISS

Be grateful for calm skies. "Forever is composed of nows." ~ Emily Dickinson

Be grateful for calm skies.
“Forever is composed of nows.” ~ Emily Dickinson

There are many days to celebrate in March.  Birthdays of family and friends, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of Spring, and depending on our country of residence, some of us celebrate Mother’s Day this month, while others celebrate in May.

Regardless of where we live, we all should celebrate March 23rd.   BIG TIME, with grateful hearts, and champagne toasts made in joy.   March 23rd is “NEAR MISS DAY.”

On March 23, 1989, a mountain-sized asteroid passed through the exact position of the earth six hours earlier.   Had it collided, it would have released energy comparable to the explosion of a 600 megaton atom bomb and caused the largest explosion in recorded history.

But it didn’t.  “Near Miss Day” acknowledges and celebrates exactly that, a near miss.

We all know of many “near misses” in our lives and the lives of those we love. Every day is precious. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year,” and my favorite appreciation for each day is by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. “What day is it?” ~ “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ~ “My favorite day,” said Pooh.

This Monday, March 23rd, and every day, may we be grateful for the near misses in our lives, and doubly aware of and grateful for the many blessings we receive.  Take nothing for granted.

 

"Winnipeg"--or Winnie--the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

“Winnipeg”–or Winnie–the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

Maya Angelou:  "Be present in all things and thankful for all things."

Maya Angelou: “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

March is also "Deaf History Month" -- here is the chart for American Sign Language.

March is also “Deaf History Month” — here is the chart for American Sign Language.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Special Days in March, Spiritual connections

DOLLARS AND SENSE

Fire-destroyed landmark building  Round Wall Clock Baby Headstone IMG_2806

In Marvin Williams’ devotional about the price of getting what we think we want, he begins by giving examples of some unbelievable things.  Here are two: ~ for $90 a night, a person can buy a cell upgrade in some prisons; ~ or for $250,000.00, if you know the people to pay, you can buy the right to shoot an endangered black rhino.

There is a flip side to every coin, however. If money CAN buy those things, what things CAN’T money buy? Here are a few things I thought of:   respect, common sense, world peace, true love, lost memories, and the cure for Alzheimer’s, though this is one place where additional funding would help the research…and it would also be a much better investment than bagging an endangered black rhino.

Look at the pictures above for three more things money can’t buy: extra hours in the day; the ability to turn back time and prevent a fire or other tragedy; and this one, especially ~ ask any woman who has lost a baby how much money it would take to fill the void in her heart.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Money often costs too much.” Fill in the “prices” you’ve paid to have money and see if you agree.

On a lighter note, February 8 begins “Love Makes the World Go Round, But Laughter Keeps Us From Getting Dizzy” week. To jump-start the week, the day of February 8 is “Laugh and Get Rich” day. Interpret this as you will, but poet E.E. Cummings can get you started: “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

On February 8, find something that makes you so happy that you laugh out loud, from deep in your belly. Better yet, find someone to laugh with. Not AT, but WITH. This is just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure it will make you happier than shooting an endangered rhino, or paying $90 a night to upgrade your prison cell when you get caught.

And if you do get caught shooting a rhino or doing anything illegal, look on the bright side; you can always make the most of February 13’s “Blame It On Someone Else” day.

"Earth laughs in flowers." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson   My mother carried Lillies of the Valley at her wedding to celebrate the happiness of the day.

“Earth laughs in flowers.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.       My mother carried Lillies of the Valley at her wedding to celebrate the happiness of the day.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are every where."  ~Dr. Seuss

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” ~Dr. Seuss

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, life questions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual connections

HANDED DOWN TO US

My mother's parents, first row, far left.

My mother’s parents, front row, far left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their five children: (l to r) Wanda, Sam, Ruth, Mary (my mother) and Ira.

Their five children: (l to r) Wanda, Sam, Ruth, Mary (my mother) and Ira.

Of the thirteen grandchildren, these are the five girl cousins: (l to r) Beth, Karen, Marylin, Sandee, Glee.

Of the thirteen grandchildren, these are the five girl cousins:  (l to r) Beth, Karen, Marylin, Sandee, Glee.

 

This week when I visited my mother in Kansas, I learned three things. First, when she leans back in her recliner and closes her eyes, she is often still listening, so I can’t assume she’s taking a nap. Second, she’s still a very pretty lady at 96, even with half of one eyebrow accidentally shaved off. (From now on, when I use an electric razor to trim away whiskers and curling eyebrow hairs, I will not assume Mom will sit still…I will hold the razor with a steady hand, prepared to stop if she turns her head quickly. Lesson learned.)

The third thing I learned is this: with dementia, the dominant remaining sensory details are not just taste and smell. Touch is still a significant sense. Mom did recognize the little metal wagon she left between tree branches as a child. When I put the little wagon-in-the-wood in Mom’s lap, she didn’t open her eyes, but her fingers touched the metal wheels and traced the lines of the wood. When I asked if she knew what this was, she nodded, yes. Still with her eyes closed, when I asked if she remembered the toy…and did she remember putting it in the tree, both times she smiled faintly and again nodded, yes. She held it for a while, nodding, and then she folded her hands and fell asleep.

The quaint little keepsake has become a tangible reminder of my connection to other generations. My grandchildren have traced the wagon with their fingers, just as my daughter did, and as I did. When my mother was younger than her great-grandchildren are now, she put the wagon in the tree branch, where it was later rescued by my grandfather when he cut down the tree.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The ancestor of every action is a thought.”   As a six-year-old, my mother had her reasons for hiding the wagon in the tree; my grandfather had his reasons for preserving it when he cut down the tree; and as the heir of these thoughts and actions, I will pass the keepsake on to the next generations…along with the stories.

Wilbur Wright (of the Wright Brothers) wrote, “The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who…looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space…”   Possibly my desire to create came from the same ancestors who passed on to my aunts and uncles and cousins the desire to sing, to teach, to play musical instruments, to heal, to cherish and care for children, and numerous other talents and desires.

Native American writer Linda Hogan wrote this: “Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

During this month’s visit with my mother, I’m not sure that for even a moment she actually recognized me as her daughter. But still, she reminded me of who I am, and how we’re both connected to those who made it possible for us to be here.

The little metal wagon left in the tree branch.  (full story in the July 26 post, "A Mistake?")

The little metal wagon left in the tree branch. (full story in the July 26 post, “A Mistake?”)

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Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, special quotations

WHAT’S YOUR 10% PLAN?

Non nobis solum nati sumus.  ~Cicero    (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)   Pictures by Marylin Warner.

Non nobis solum nati sumus. ~Cicero (Not for ourselves alone are we born.) Pictures by Marylin Warner.

10% HAPPIER

 

Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once. ~ Robert Browning

Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once.
~ Robert Browning

The Earth Laughs in Flowers.  ~ Emerson (Especially when the flowers fill the little boots worn by your grandchildren.)

The Earth Laughs in Flowers. ~ Emerson
(Especially when the flowers fill the little boots worn by your grandchildren.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those of you who watch Good Morning America may have seen it when Dan Harris, Nightline anchor, had a panic attack on camera and couldn’t continue.  Instead of ruining him, the crisis set him on a new path.  10% HAPPIER is his touching, hilarious, skeptical and profound book that shares his journey to rewire his thinking.

Harris’ book helped him deal with stress and have at least 10% more happiness in his life, and that’s nothing to scoff at, if you think about it. What would be your plan for 10% more happiness?

Before her dementia, I know how my mother would have answered. I once overheard her in the kitchen trying to encourage an unhappy friend. Mom was baking, and as they drank tea and talked, Mom asked the woman what things made her happy. I’ll never forget the cynical reply: “Do you think I’d be sad if I knew how to make myself happy? How do I know what might make me happy?”

Things got quiet. Mom was kneading bread dough. I heard her pound on the dough and say, “Well, at least try doing things and see if you stumble on something that makes you happy.” I peeked around the corner to see Mom move the dough bowl over in front of her friend and say, “Punch around on the dough for awhile and see if you feel better.” It didn’t take long until I heard them both pounding away and laughing.

Any time I want to feel/think/be happier, I go for laughter. I agree with writer Anne Lamott: “Laughter is carbonated happiness.”   And I know for sure that in church, in meetings and other ‘serious’ situations, whenever I try to suppress laughter, the worse it becomes. I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen, but he and I agree on one thing: “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

So I take my cues from my mother: I try doing things to see what makes me happy. Even with the dementia, when a caregiver put a straw in Mom’s chocolate milk to help her drink it, Mom did something…she blew bubbles.   When I was growing up and got moody and mopey, I soon found myself doing something:  helping Mom in the garden, taking the dog on a walk, hanging up laundry in the sunshine, or going to the library to find a good book.

Or baking bread. Pounding the hell out of bread dough didn’t always make for the best loaf, but it got me pushing, pulling, breathing deep, and working out my feelings.

My happiest suggestion to add laughter to your life is this: become a snake charmer. Miss Harper Lee (not the author, but a darling, funny golden retriever) teaches you how in just a few pictures. Do yourself a favor and click on her link: http://thek9harperlee.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/its-official-im-a-snake-charmer/

If you have personal helpful hints for 10% more happiness—or any degree of increased happiness–please share them. Life is hard, and we’re all trying to do the best we can! And don’t misunderstand; there are times when we need more help than pounding bread or blowing bubbles in our milk. When that happens, we should support and applaud each other for getting the help we need.

This past week readers lost an inspiring and wonderful writer, Maya Angelou.   Her legacy will be celebrated for generations to come.

Many times I taught I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS in my high school English classes.  Each time it became obvious which students felt caged in their lives, and there were many who felt that way.  Angelou’s words made a profound difference in their growth.

She’ll be remembered for many things she said and wrote, but this quote by Maya Angelou is one of my favorites: “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”

Maya Angelou  (photo by Gerald Herbert/ AP photo)

Maya Angelou
(photo by Gerald Herbert/ AP photo)

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, special quotations, Uncategorized

STAYING LONGER

Frisbee Golf, waiting for players. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Frisbee Golf, waiting for players. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Maggie: This is Spring? Wow! Cool.

Maggie: This is Spring? Wow! Cool.

Pikes Peak~ Springtime in the Rockies.

Pikes Peak~ Springtime in the Rockies.

Dear Mom,

In the last two weeks, Spring burst out in Kansas with greening lawns  accented with bright yellow, purple and white crocus blossoms.  Spring also brought tornado warnings to Ft. Scott, along with hail the size of golf balls. During that same time, in Colorado winter stayed longer and lived up to its reputation of “Springtime in the Rockies,” which means bursts of snowstorms and bitter winds.

Remember when David and I were in elementary school and everyone in southeast Kansas woke up to a late winter storm of nearly two feet of snow?  Our cousins George and Glee had come from Missouri to spend the night and were supposed to go home that day. Because of the blizzard they stayed four extra days, and we kids were in heaven.  Markus Zusak could have been writing about us in his novel, The Book Thief, when he said, “A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.” The four of us built snow forts and tunnels in the back yard, launched snowball wars, and peeled out of wet boots, hats, mittens and coats at the back door so we could come inside and warm up with hot chocolate and oatmeal cookies.

On the last day, when the roads were cleared and we learned our cousins would leave the next morning, I sneaked into the laundry room to take Glee’s clean socks that waited to be packed. I planned to hide them behind the piano, certain that she couldn’t go home if she didn’t have her socks. (I admit it was a dumb plan, but I was 8 and doing the best I could, okay?)  You caught me hiding her socks.

While the others got to watch “Superman” on TV, you and I had a sit-down talk in my bedroom. I remember sobbing that it wasn’t fair that my big-girl cousin (Glee was 3 years older) couldn’t stay longer.  You didn’t hug me or console me. You sighed and said that I could either enjoy every hour I had left with my cousins and be grateful for that time…or I could feel sorry for myself, sit and cry, and miss out on all the good things that might happen.

That was more than five decades ago, Mom, but I still remember those options. Even now, when I come to visit you in Kansas, if you’re napping or unresponsive or confused about who I am or why I’m there, I just keep moving. I take out bottles of fingernail polish and ask you to choose the color you like, or I hold up a book and start reading to you, or I open the sack of treats I’ve brought and ask you what looks good. After a while, we’re oohing and aahing as I paint your nails a bright pink, or we’re smiling as I wipe cupcake icing off your mouth. You don’t always realize who I am, but I always love it when you pat my hands and say, “You’re just the nicest girl.”

I don’t try to guess how much longer it will stay like this for our visits each month, but while we are together, we’ll make the most of the time we do have instead of crying because it can’t be longer.  That’s all any of us can do, at any age.

 ________________________________________________

“The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many names for love.”  ~ Margaret Atwood 

“A lot of people like snow. I find it an unnecessary freezing of water.” ~Carl Reiner

“Let every man shovel his own snow, and the whole city will be passable.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hoping for Spring!

Hoping for Spring!

Fountain at Cliff House frozen in snow storm.

Fountain at Cliff House frozen in snow storm.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, special quotations, Things to be thankful for