Who Does She Thinks She Is?

I am an old soul. It matters not my age nor my global position; my heart has made a connection with one of the literary greats and I seek to introduce a man that few bother to understand. Henry would probably see me as one of the sillies, caught up too much in the ridiculousness that is modern life, but I desire to take a page from his book and simplify, simplify, simplify!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

That's What Friends Are For

She got me through Junior High School.  There was a whole shelf in the school library devoted to Louisa May Alcott, and I read them all.  One after another, after another. I didn't stop at Little Women.  I met the whole gang. At the time, I just considered Alcott to be a clever storyteller who knew how to tug at the heartstrings of a lonesome girl. And that was enough.

I have since come to appreciate her in a whole new way. As one of Concord, Massachusetts' favorite daughters, she was a contemporary and comrade of the great Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who were establishing themselves as some of the elite American thinkers of the Nineteenth Century.
Recently, at my daughter's suggestion, I revisited Louisa May Alcott's storytelling and buzzed through Eight Cousins and its sequel, Rose in Bloom. I enjoyed my visit with Rose and the boys.  It was interesting to approach the lovely stories from a different (older) perspective.  While I no longer held my breath with each twist and turn of the storyline, I still delighted in her well-drawn characters and portrayal of happy homes and familial affection.  These are feel-good stories.  They are what they are.

What did surprise me this time around was noting Louisa's blatant promotion of her neighbors.  In Rose in Bloom, which could be considered her handbook on how to be an exceptional, gracious, kind, charitable, virtuous, and noble young lady, she doesn't fail to give her suggestions on what well-read young people ought to be reading. In response to the suggestion that Mac seems to be generally uplifted and in good spirits, he credits his time spent considering the wisdom of Thoreau and Emerson:

"'It is the good company I've been keeping, if anything.  A fellow can't spend 'A Week' with Thoreau and not be the better for it.  I'm glad I show it, because in the scramble life is to most of us, even an hour with such a sane, simple, and sagacious soul as his must help one,' said Mac, taking a much worn book out of his pocket with the air of introducing a dear and honored friend."

Rose's response (which I can't help thinking would be Louisa's as well):

"I've read bits, and like them, they are so original and fresh and sometimes droll."

Then when his little friend expressed some uncertainly in her future, Mac prescribes more of that 'best medicine' that he had encountered:

"He felt a curious desire to help in some way, and could think of none better than to offer her what he had found most helpful to himself.  Picking up another book, he opened it at a place where an oak leaf lay and, handing it to her, said, as if presenting something very excellent and precious:  'If you want to be ready to take whatever comes in a brave and noble way, read that, and the one where the page is turned down.'"

He handed her a copy of the Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"'I never dared to read these Essays, because I thought they were too wise for me,' Rose admits hesitantly.

"'The wisest things are sometimes the simplest, I think.  Everyone welcomes light and air, and cannot do without them, yet very few could explain them truly.  I don't ask you to read or understand all of that, don't myself, but I do recommend 'Self-Reliance', 'Heroism', 'Love' and 'Friendship.'"

I must echo Mac's suggestion.  And Louisa's.

The combined writings of these two men provide enough wisdom for the ages.  They are timeless and offer a bit of sanity in a world that often forgets to stop and smell the roses.  I imagine that Louisa's time spent with her great mentors contributed to her boldness in pursuing what she loved. 

How could she repay them? 

Why, a shameless plug, of course!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Standing on Tip-Toe to Read

We've all done it.  We've all put our brains into neutral, often poolside, and purely for the sake of recreational reading, we pick up the latest of society's "must-reads" and pride ourselves on being current, up-to-date, cool.

No effort was required.  This was a no-brainer.  No problem.

Unless, perhaps, this is all we ever read.

Henry David Thoreau, in his century, had a bone to pick with popular fiction and its distractions away from more academic activity.  He argues:

"Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience...but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to."

Consider how often we read material which requires us to stand on tip-toe; which motivates us to think, to ponder, to slow down and grasp the beauty of language, to jump-start our intellects, to learn a new word.  It happens all the time when we are full-time students with pending grades, and honors, and scholarships.  What about when there are no external assignments?  What are we requiring of ourselves?

In Walden, in the chapter entitled "Reading", Henry gives a brilliant description of the limited merits of popular fiction, which he refers to as gingerbread; baked daily, ever present and ever mindless. I highly recommend you seek out what Henry has to say about "the nine thousandth tale about Zebulon and Sophronia, and how they loved as none had ever loved before."

He chastises the limited attention given to classic literature. "The best books are not read even by those who are called good readers....Even the college-bred and so-called liberally educated men here and elsewhere have really little or no acquaintance with the English classics.... One who has just come from reading perhaps one of the best English books will find how many with whom he can converse about it....he will find nobody at all to speak to, but must keep silence about it."

I hope this is a rather cynical view and that in our society today, for the most part, we are stretching our minds and our intellects to read the most noble and timeless literature which comes as a gift from centuries past. I hope that gingerbread isn't our only fare and we are seeking to benefit from the great minds of the past as well as the great minds of our day.

It may occasionally require standing on tip-toe, making a little extra effort to understand, to grasp the meaning, and to lay hold upon a treasure that may be just out of reach.

Trust me, that never hurt anybody.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Let the Bells Ring and the Children Cry

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Those may be some of Henry David Thoreau's most familiar words. Like many passages fromWalden, they have become engrained in our minds, but have we let their true directive become engraved in our hearts, sending us out into our modern world with a renewed course, deliberate determination and stronger resolve?

What did Henry mean when he said he wanted to live deliberately? As I write this I cringe a little. Can you possibly imagine the millions of writing assignments given by harried teachers trying to offer a few Thoreau pearls to indifferent students? And can you imagine most of those dumbstruck students struggling to come up with the requisite paragraph about what it means to "live deliberately?"

But I digress.

Do I live deliberately, with purpose? Do I use my time and resources consciously, or do I allow myself to get carried away by the whims of society, not bothering to think much for myself?

"Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails."

That's the problem.  Every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails are what seem to trip me up and cause me to lose my deliberate focus.

Life is not perfect.  It comes with blips and bumps and challenges that threaten to throw us off the tracks of our best-laid plans. Instead of trying to learn from those challenges and carry on, I tend to view setbacks as catastrophic (when they are not), and feel defeated (when I am not).

Henry seemed to be able to keep these inconveniences in perspective.

"There was a dead horse in the hollow by the path to my house, which compelled me sometimes to go out of my way, especially in the night when the air was heavy, but the assurance it gave me of the strong appetite and inviolable health of Nature was my compensation for this....With the liability to accident, we must see how little account is to be made of it.  The impression made on a wise man is that of universal innocence.  Poison is not poisonous after all, nor are any wounds fatal."

Accidents will happen.  Inconveniences will arise. They will derail us only as we give them permission to.

"Let us rise early...; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry"—I, like Henry, am "determined to make a day of it."

Regardless of the dead horses.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Methinks We Might Elevate Ourselves a Little More

My mind goes instantly to a mouse.  In a maze.  Seeking the cheese with limited resources.  Relying upon his sense of smell, he tries and fails, tries and fails, tries and fails. From the casual observer, the solution is easy.  Climb.  Climb up and maximize your view, your perspective.  Utilize all of your senses and dramatically increase your chances of success.

How often we do the same thing.  We settle into the our small little world, our small little predictable routine, limiting ourselves to what we already know, failing to expand our perspective by elevating our position.

Henry David Thoreau perceived that we limit ourselves to familiarity and safety, and found a solution to increasing his vision.

"We hug the earth, how rarely we mount!  Methinks we might elevate ourselves a little more.  We might climb a tree, at least.  I found my account in climbing a tree once.  It was a tall white pine, on top of a hill; and though I got well pitched, I was well paid for it, for I discovered new mountains in the horizon which I had never seen before--so much more of the earth and the heavens.  I might have walked about the foot of the tree for threescore years and ten, and yet I certainly should never have seen them." (from Walking)

What is it about a vista?  What is so stirring about a distant horizon that awakens something inside of us? How does our becoming smaller, in relationship to our view, draw us closer to the immensity of God? Could it be we are reminded of the miracle of His love for even something or someone as insignificant as ourselves?

Henry's neighbor and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, joined him in his appreciation for the therapeutic nature of, well, nature.

"To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone.  The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again.  In their eternal calm, he finds himself.  The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon.  We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough."

We must embrace this idea of searching for horizons.  When is the last time you climbed to the top of a mountain?  When is the last time you climbed a tree?  When is the last time you read a book that challenged your mind and your intellect, or endeavored to solve a puzzle, or a riddle, or a persistent annoyance? When is the last time you tied on your walking shoes and set out to breathe in some air not being clamored for by stifling crowds?

I am the first to admit that I spend too much time indoors, and even though I am engaged in productive pursuits, I am limiting myself to the same, the same, the same.

Perhaps it is time, once again, to climb a tree, or a mountain. 

Despite the chance of getting "well pitched," I can't bear the thought of what I might be missing.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

To Be Awake Is To Be Alive!


Wake up!

Yea, you!  Are you awake?

How adept we become at sleepwalking.  We go through our days taking care of the same old business with such frequency and repetition that tasks no longer require our full attention.  We go through the motions using as little gray matter as we can get away with.  Why think when it rarely becomes necessary to do so?

Henry David Thoreau suggested that "only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion."

Ouch.  Can this be so?  I know my college student children would contest that theory--but perhaps active students are those few living contrary to the millions that regularly sleepwalk without exerting themselves.

I know as a homemaker I am very skilled at doing laundry mindlessly.  Dishes, too.  In fact, I have gotten so expert at regular household duties that I could do them blindfolded.  And sometimes it looks as if I do.  Because I take very little interest in my day-to-day tasks, my mind shuts down and settles into power-saving "sleep" or "hibernation" mode.

My best days, then, are when I do unlock the passion and creativity that yearn to be utilized and maximized.  "Little is to be expected of that day...to which we are not awakened by our genius."

Genius is not often given the attention it deserves.  It takes a backseat to fad and fashion; it suffers from underuse as society carries us down the path of least resistence.  Why read a challenging book when mind-numbing pulp fiction floats us down the popular stream, lulling us into a stupor?  Why tap your own reservoirs of thought through meditation and study when it is so much easier to pop in a video?  Or surf the web?  Or check in on facebook?

You see, I am chastening myself.  I cannot point a finger at others without feeling my own guilt.

It is time to wake up; time for me to wake up.  Henry would have us all "learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake."

"To be awake is to be alive!"

Am I alive or merely biding my time?  "Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour."

As we contemplate our stewardships, is our full potential being realized, or are we still asleep?  Do we even bother to pinch ourselves to try and stay awake?

Do we even remember what we did yesterday?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How Near to Good is What is WILD!

Of all of Henry David Thoreau's frustrations with society, perhaps the one that makes me smile the most is his obsession with Wildness.  Our generation envisions those "born to be wild" as certainly anything but unpretentious, solitude-seeking, civilly disobedient poets and naturalists.

Henry's essay entitled "Walking" explores his fascination with and attraction to what is wild.

"Life consists with wildness.  The most alive is the wildest.  Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him."

The problem seems to lie in the subduing then.  It is all in the taming and the controlling and the corraling. In fact, he suggests that "who but the Evil One has cried 'Whoa!' to mankind?"  Do we settle for less when we gravitate towards those things that are modified, tamed, groomed and manicured to fit into our uptight, prim and proper lives? Do we go to the seashore and watch the waves from inside the safety and warmth of a beach house?  Do we observe wildlife from outside the fences and enclosures of a carefully built zoo?

Perhaps he is right.  We imagine ourselves as adventurous when we travel in packs as tourists, being led around by the nose by tour guides, keeping us within the safety of the tame.

Ah, tameness.  The antithesis of wild.  Henry sought to find where the wild things are in every facet of life.

"In literature it is only the wild that attracts us.  Dullness is but another name for tameness.  It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and the Iliad, in all the scriptures and mythologies, not learned in schools, that delights us....A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wildflower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East." 

Perhaps that is what has drawn me to this unique, eccentric freethinker.  He isn't willing to be confined within the limits of society-imposed manners and acceptable behavior.  He isn't afraid to offend with his outrageousness.  He isn't content to settle for the safety of observatories.

He spent his life getting his feet wet, searching for the Wild.  "I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expresses this yearning for the Wild.  Approached from this side, the best poetry is tame.  I do not know where to find in any literature, ancient or modern, any account which contents me of that Nature with which even I am acquainted."

We all should crave a little outside-the-box wildness.  Conformity and passivity and coloring within the lines are stifling. Let the wind blow our hair.  Roll up our pantlegs.  The Wild won't come to us; we need to seek after it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Art of Living Well

He was a strange little man.  At least by the world's standard, that is what Henry David Thoreau came across as. I struggle with the self-appointed task of introducing a friend that I have never met.  Why is it possible that I feel like I know him though he died a hundred years before I was born?  Perhaps this gives us a glimpse of the power of journal keeping, of writing, of recording one's thoughts and observations.  One can become immortal in the sense that generations to come can grow to feel as strong a connection as friendship and even kinship.

All I have with which to know Henry by are his own writings, and the observations of those that knew him well.  I have an obituary; I have a comprehensive eulogy written by the gracious Ralph Waldo Emerson, a long-time friend; I have the expert and irrefutable resource of our own modern-day Wikipedia.

Here is what Henry could have been:  He could have followed his father into the family business of making pencils. Indeed he did apply himself for a time to the craft of manufacturing lead pencils with all the energy and focus that he gave toward everything he did.  Always up for a challenge, rather than content himself with merely learning the craft, he determined that he could make a better pencil! "After completing his experiments, he exhibited his work to chemists and artists in Boston, and having obtained their certificates to its excellence and to its equality with the best London manufacture, he returned home contented." (RWE, Eulogy, 1862)

That was enough.  The challenge having been met, he commented to friends that he should never make another pencil.  "Why should I? I would not do again what I have done once."  That was obviously not the life that Henry had imagined for himself and he knew that the easy way would be to assume a role and a life that was expected.  "...it required rare decision to refuse all the accustomed paths and keep his solitary freedom at the cost of disappointing the natural expectations of his family and friends." (RWE)

He was not slothful.  He never expected to live off of the generosity of others that he might spend his life tromping around in the woods.  He took seriously the task of living independently and held every man to the same duty.  He simply chose to be rich by making his wants few.  What followed was a life of a handyman, doing odd jobs long enough to buy himself the time to do what he really wanted.  He was an expert surveyor, and thus found that he could earn what little he needed by tromping around in the woods that he loved.

As Emerson eloquently describes:  "He declined to give up his large ambition of knowledge and action for any narrow craft or profession, aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living well."

It was a gamble, but Henry believed in himself and in his dreams and left us with the timeless challenge:

"...if one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpect."

He knew there would be sacrifices in following his dreams, but he also knew that it could surely bring glorious rewards. He stepped to the beat of the music that he heard, and he didn't expect others to join his parade; he wanted them to make their own kind of music too.

Henry David Thoreau found that by passing the invisible boundary between the expected and the unexpected he was able to "live with the license of a higher order of beings". 

We should all be so courageous and so blessed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Man Who Goes Alone Can Start Today

My tendency is toward perfection. Well, at least my own narrow, naive perception of perfection.  I like to have things "just so" before I venture forth to put them before the world and its scrutiny.  When this happens, however, dreams are delayed, plans are put on hold, and sadly, many projects never get off the ground.

I have been mulling over an idea for the past little while of beginning a blog devoted thoroughly to Thoreau; thoroughly to the man, his genius, his pithy satire, and mostly, his humble heart. As I have taken an interest in Henry David Thoreau, I have had a desire to share what I have learned.  I have become so excited to discover much more than the perfunctory facts necessary to get a passing grade on a literature assignment.

I'm way past learning for the sake of passing a class. I no longer read from any assigned reading list.  I study for the love of learning and growing and expanding and discovering.

So even though my blog is still wet behind the ears, lacking any finesse, suffering for want of many posts, I have decided to jump in with both feet.

As Henry reminds me:  "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off."

Not going to happen. I am going to start today. Alone. Apprehensive. Ill-prepared.

But also full of vigor and enthusiasm and up for the challenge. I am not afraid to come across as a neophyte scholar. I have my books. I have my computer. I have a love and respect for a man that doesn't get the attention he deserves.

And I am going to do something about that.

I Left the Woods for as Good a Reason as I Went There

Why do we let ourselves forget?  Why do we become so focussed on distractions that sidetrack us from our ultimate goals?  We have so much potential to think and to do and to explore and to find and to wonder.  Why do get muddled down in the quagmires of mediocrity?

Life is not meant to be static, nor stagnant.  And yet, once again, I often find myself wearing footpaths into the soft and impressible earth that used to seem fresh and new.  Some daily habits are good; many are tired and exhausting and worn out, and their repetition puts us on a treadmill that goes nowhere.

"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there." 

I return to Thoreau.  I find refuge in Thoreau's thinking outside the box.  I identify with his impatience with the status quo and his desire for freshness and new challenges.

"Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one."

"...how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity."

"...if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpect in common hours."

The common hours.  The expected.  The ordinary; the run of the mill; the unremarkable.  THAT is not good enough.  I want more.  I believe the seed was planted in me to expect more.  And hopefully to achieve more.

"He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary."

What am I ready to leave behind?  What lies beyond that self-imposed invisible boundary? What is preventing me from expanding my capacities?

"He will live with the license of a higher order...."

I think I am ready to move out of the "little shack in the woods".  It has been an important place.  I have learned much and reconnected with my past.  I have felt validated and cared about.  But it has become stifling and monotonous. It threatens to be consuming and common and commercial.  I cannot spare any more time for that.

I am reclaiming my time and my dream.

To Go Before the Mast and on the Deck of the World

It may come as a surprise; it may seem out of character. For many years I have had a love affair with historic tall ships; those that depend on the power of the wind to fill their expansive sails, those that were manned by accomplished sailors who navigated their courses by the nighttime skies. These ships, with their undisputed beauty, speak to me of adventure, of romance of times gone by, of courage, of stout-hearted men.

While certain that I am not hearty nor courageous enough to have sailed the seven seas in this manner, in my dreams I do long to take my spot next to the great captains which I read about in books. Indeed, I have already outed my obsession with Horatio Hornblower.
Last Tuesday, I had the unique opportunity to "go before the mast and on the deck of the world", to test out my sea legs and to feel the exhilaration of the wind in my sails. It fulfilled a lifelong dream, and despite the debilitating cold of our evening cruise, I will always treasure the experience.
We sailed out of the bay in Newport, Oregon, on the Lady Washington, an historically accurate wooden replica of the original Lady Washington, one of the first U.S.-flagged vessels to visit the west coast of North America. This beautiful movie-star ship has appeared in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" and "Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World."
I appreciate my family and their patience with me as I pursue the things I love.  They are very supportive and adventurous as well, and I love them.  Together, we could sail to the ends of the earth, or wherever we decide to go.
"I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now."
~Henry David Thoreau~

Sitting on Pumpkins

I am fascinated with the apparent fascination that Henry David Thoreau had with sitting on pumpkins.  During his time spent at Walden Pond, this issue came up on a number of occasions.  And his opinion on the sitting on of pumpkins seemed to vary on a whim.  For example:

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion."

This is near the beginning of the book when he is still feeling the need for isolation; seems to be craving some "alone time".

Further in the book as he is furnishing his shack and trying to remain within his limited budget, he ponders:

"None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin.  That is shiftlessness.  There is a plenty of such chairs as I like best in the village garrets to be had for taking them away."

Although I may not always agree with Thoroeau and his philosophies on acquiring home furnishings, I do agree with the following:

"Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind."

Thanks, Henry.

And Miranda, How do you feel about sitting on pumpkins? ;-)

Hearing a Different Drummer

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
 Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Individuality.  There has never been a greater need for it.  Why do we wrestle to keep step with the common cadence, when our souls long to be free?

I have come to understand more and more as I increase in age and wisdom (well, at least in age....), that our missions here on earth are varied and unique.  What a blessing.  I was sent here to accomplish my own set of achievements, and so were you!  And in the grand scheme of things, it then becomes necessary for us to have our own unique set of abilities, passions, and talents. WE ARE MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT.  Let us then rejoice in that.  Let us then not squelch who we really are. 

Let us then accomplish our special purposes and not try to hide them.  What does the Lord need from you to help build up His Kingdom here on earth?  Are you filling the measure of your own personal, matchless creation?

Elder John A. Widtsoe spoke of the importance of our divine callings:  "We need...a group of men and women in their individual lives who shall be as a light to the nations, and standards for the world to follow.  Such a people must be different from the world as it now is....We are here to build Zion to Almighty God, for the blessing of all the world.  In that aim we are unique and different ....  We must respect that obligation, and not be afraid of it.  We cannot walk as other men, or talk as other men, or do as other men, for we have a different destiny, obligation, and responsibility placed upon us, and we must fit ourselves for that great destiny and obligation."  (Conference Report, April 1940)

I am trying to evaluate my skill sets; trying to understand why I am different from you; trying to fulfill my unique purpose.  It is humbling.  It is enlightening.  It is liberating. 

I am trying to drown out the deafening beat of this worldly world, trying to align my step with my own drummer.  So if I seem to be losing pace with what is popular or trendy or current, well, it is because maybe that just isn't the beat I am stepping to, nor the music I am hearing.  I always knew I was a little odd.

Let Me Have a Draught of Undiluted Morning Air

My kindred spirit, Henry David Thoreau, would have gotten up early to walk with me this morning.  He understood the unparalleled virtue of that time of day, and the fleeting nature of its benefits:  "Morning air! If men will not drink of this at the fountainhead of the day, why, then, we must even bottle up some and sell it in the shops, for the benefit of those who have lost their subscription ticket to morning time in this world.  But remember, it will not keep quite till noonday even in the coolest cellar..."
One of the best habits I have acquired over my lifetime is being an early riser (and a subsequent early-to-bed-er).  And a brisk walk on a beautiful morning does more for the soul than just a little physical exercise.  I love the smell of the fresh flowers.  I love that I can sing along with my iPod and not worry if folks will think I am a little crazy, for I am nearly the only one out taking advantage of this recurring gift.

Another benefit of enjoying the dawn alone is that tears go unnoticed, as well.  This morning my "shuffle" gave me a great gift, two songs in a row from my favorite recording artist.  Her name is Erica Haws and she has the voice of an angel.  She has been on my mind a lot lately, as I am in full gear planning her wedding.  So when her lovely voice began to accompany my walk, I could not hold back the emotion I felt.  What a gift she has been her whole sweet life.  To see the lovely, compassionate woman she has become makes my cup runneth over with gratitude.  Having her in our family has been one of our greatest blessings. 
Have you "lost" your subscription ticket to the morning?  I recommend you look for it.  You may have to go to bed a little earlier to find it.  It's worth it. 

Castles in the Air

One of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau talks about castles in the air.  I love it.  I can identify with it.  It seems to describe my life.  Part of it is as follows:
     "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them."

I have spent my life as a dreamer.  As a child I always imagined what I could do; as a youth I spent more time within the safety of my imagination than in the starkness of reality.  As an adult, I think I woke up to the demands of real life; well, kind of.  I have taken my responsibilities seriously and tried to accomplish the things that were asked of me.  But I have always held onto dreams.  I have always imagined what could be.  I fear, though, it has often been without setting the goals necessary to achieve them.

I used to envision myself in cap and gown, surrounded by my family overflowing with pride in their mother.  I never graduated from college.  I chose to work full time to enable my husband to complete his degree.  I don't regret that decision.  It gave us full health insurance benefits to start a family, and the security of beginning our lives without student loans.

Several years back I decided to chase this castle in the air and I went back to school.  I loved it.  I have always loved learning.  That is the real joy of school for me.  I took several classes for a couple of semesters.  When it came time to register for the upcoming semester, I somehow didn't feel like it was the right choice.  I didn't know why.  I just didn't. I received my answer a short time later.  I received a phone call from the Stake President.  He asked what I had going on in my life.  I explained that my days were mostly free as my children were all in school then.  What was I thinking?!  He then extended a request for me to teach full time seminary at one of the local high schools.

It took me years to return to the goal of a college degree.  When I did, I found that my credits were too "old" to account for anything, and that I would have to start from scratch.  Somehow that didn't appeal to me.  So I decided to become as self-educated as I could.  I love to travel, so I have accompanied travel with learning as much as I can about the places I wish to go.  I have begun watching lectures by college professors on DVD.  I have not been afraid to try my hand at new skills.  All of these things are putting the foundation underneath the dream of being well-educated.  The dream may have received a little tweaking, but it is becoming a reality.

Legends of Sleepy Hollow

Last year I took a step backwards in time.  At least that is what it felt like.  And I found a circle of friends which I would have wanted to be apart of.  I would have hung around their perimeter until they would have had to invite me to join them.  I saw where they lived; where they read, studied, and wrote.  I saw where they pondered and communed with nature.  And finally, I saw where they were laid to rest; all within yards of each other, in a peaceful spot on one of the hills of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

You see, I was in Transcendental Central, to borrow a term coined by my daughter, Miranda.  I was in Concord, Massachusetts, the lovely little tranquil spot outside the bustle of Boston; the place where the Revolutionary War began, where first rang the shot heard round the world.  Historians delight in the significance of this important place.  Literaries delight in its significance as the birthplace of the Trancendentalist Movement.

I went to Walden Pond.  I really did.  And it was as peaceful and beautiful and inspiring as Thoreau said it was.  I walked the pathway he regularly took from the pond to his little shack.  I saw the replica shack that has been built in the spot of the original.  I sat on his doorstep, and looked out to see the things he saw.

I'm pretty sure he would not have looked favorably upon the extensive parking lot, the gift shop, or the bikini-clad swimmers in his pond.  But they didn't really detract too much from the spirit of the place.

The real monuments to their greatness don't reside on the shady hill of Sleepy Hollow.  They rest on the bookshelves of homes and libraries all over the world.  Their lasting impact can be felt as one explores their revolutionary thought.  They believed religion can be a personal thing, with spirit touching spirit.  They were missing a few critical pieces of truth which their contemporary, Joseph Smith, just a state away in New York, was restoring to the world.  I believe they were ready to hear and would have been receptive to the restored Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and would have welcomed Joseph into their circle too.