I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Whatever comes

I took this picture last Thursday while we Trailblazers were on our hike up Welcome Pass, which I wrote about on my other blog here. It was a beautiful day and a very hard hike; my legs have still not recovered and it's Sunday morning already. But it was totally worth it for the views and the wildflowers.

Last night I tossed and turned and wondered what I would write about this morning. The past few posts have been on the painful side, and the only thing I really hope turns out from this stream of consciousness attempt (hence the title "whatever comes") is that is be uplifting. I'm weary of looking at the past and wondering how I got here. Where is "here," anyway?

I'm reading an interesting book by Henry Alford, "How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People." The inside cover has teasers like "Part family memoir, part Studs Terkel, How to Live is more than just a compendium of sage advice; it is a celebration of living well." So far (I'm on page 61), I'd say that is pretty accurate. Lots of food for thought. Maybe that's one reason why I'm feeling introspective without old memories crowding into my brain.

Alford peered into the philosophies of some old sages: Confucius (551 B.C.—479 B.C.), Buddha (563 B.C.—483 B.C.), and Socrates (470 B.C.—399 B.C.). For some reason I noticed that all three of these sages were right around 70 years old when they died, and I'm getting right up there with what has for so long been considered a full, complete life. What wisdom have I come up with? Not that I put myself into the same category as these old sages, but heck, who's to say I can't come up with some modern equivalent? For one thing, we in the modern age have unprecedented access to so much information, not to mention a new paradigm for communication: the blogosphere, which allows me to ruminate and share my thoughts, with instant feedback and unlimited possibilities. I have at this moment 78 followers, which means, if we were in a room together, it would have to be a big one. I picture the virtual classroom where we are gathered, with ideas and warm sentiments being shared. Lots of virtual hugs, too. This scene makes me smile just to think of it.

Last night I went to see "The Help," a movie adapted from a novel I read recently. Scenes from that movie kept coming up to me during my nighttime tossing. Viola Davis is magnificent as Aibileen, one of the main characters. The film adaptation is every bit as good as the book, to me, but something about the movie kept nagging at me. The theater was crowded, and people laughed and applauded at parts they liked, which always changes my experience, causing me to get caught up in the shared experience. After reading the reviews, I was able to put my finger on the same nagging discomfort that I felt from the book as well: somehow the interpretation of black maids in 1960s-era Jackson, Mississippi, flattened the historical era into larger-than-life villains and heroines. I lived through that time, too; it was a time like no other, but it was very complex. This is not to say I didn't like the book or the movie. Both were very worthwhile, and I wonder what other people think.

After all, I'm here in this new era: the crowded room where we share with one another gives me access to the wisdom and insight of all of you. I'm sitting here in the still-dark morning, laptop and cup of tea at hand, thinking large thoughts and smiling to myself. Today I'll get up and head down to Snohomish to jump out of airplanes with my friends (hopefully), come home tired and renewed, and check my email to find out how this stream of consciousness blog went over with you.


Gigi said...

As always, I enjoyed your "stream of consciousness." I love the idea of all of us being in one room.

As for The Help, I haven't read it or seen it; but it is high on my list of To Read/See.

Have good (and safe)jumps today!

Mel said...

Your photo is so beautiful, I'm trying to imagine smelling the clean thin air and seeing it in person. I need to climb up some mountain trails while my legs still work. Living in flatland is visually stifling sometimes.

The thought of all of us in one room made me smile too! That would be a very interesting gathering. There would be lots of hugs.

I think you can offer some sage advice about how to live, because reading your blog has been such an inspiration to me and many others. You provide a very hopeful example of carrying on and living the fullest life you can in the face of loss and sadness. I don't let myself wallow much anymore, because all I have to do is think about you so fearlessly jumping out of planes or climbing tough trails, and your graceful words of acceptance and encouragement. I don't have many mentors of role models in my real life anymore, but I have my online friends who teach me everyday.

I think you pegged the problem with the Help perfectly. I loved reading the book, because the story was very good, but so many of the characters seemed one dimensional. I intend to see the movie, though. I hear the performances are stunning.
But you're right, real life is more complicated than simple good and evil.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts again. Hope your jumps were awesome. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

As you probably know, I am an Asian-American (Korean), married to a Caucasian and living in Hawaii. What strikes me about blogging in general is that there is no racism.

Love your photo of the wildflowers. If Kay had traveled to the national parks in mid-August instead of early June, I think she would have seen more wildflowers.

Have fun skydiving today. I know you will.

Rubye Jack said...

If we all were to come together in one room, I'm afraid much would be lost since groups in general tend to have their leaders and we play more specific roles in live groups. Even in Blogland we tend to follow the lead of others too often, but in spite of this most people will tell you what they think here but might not in an alive group. I like the independence I find here and the freedom to be whoever I choose, which is essentially me. However, in live groups I often tend to be someone other than myself.

Happy jumping out of planes day!

Dee said...

Your blogging always catapults me into thought, DJan. I'm grateful for that. Thank you. One of the many thoughts you left me with today is that of cardboard characters--either all light or all shade.

For myself, I try to keep my blog writing short so as to not weary the readers. (And yet they seem so long to me on the webpage.) I fear that by doing this I often present the "good" me and the others in my life come off as being "bad."

That's simply because, I think, I'm presenting one unkind word they said or one untoward action. And so readers may see these people as the dark element in my life.

Yet there is so much more to us than one word or one action or even one year. We are such complex, mysterious entities.

Humanity is messy. I so wish that in my blog I could show that better.

Thank you for nudging me into thinking about this. Peace, Dee

Ed Pilolla said...

enjoying your contribution to the crowded room this morning. beautiful, magical photograph:)

Sally Wessely said...

You gave your classroom of fellow followers much to chew on today, as always.

I agree with you. I too grow weary of my own looking at the past. I'm learning balance in all things. One must march forward into the future with eyes focused on what is ahead. I try only to learn from the past. That takes me living each day of the present with balance and a perspective that leans toward the future.

Your thoughts on The Help resonate with me. I think it is a perfect example of a movie giving a broad brushstroke to a theme, and a time in history. The book also does a bit of that. In that broad brushstroke approach, the narrative is more easily developed, but much is lost.

Shrinky said...

I guess you have 79 in your classroom now. What a breathtaking photograph, you certainly live in a beautiful place. I used to sky-dive (decades ago), and miss those jumping out of planes days - I hope you had a good one!

Stella Jones said...

I loved the book 'The Help' but have yet to see the film. I don't suppose it will be out over here for a while yet. We are Region 2 in England and there is often a delay. Sometimes we get the films first, sometimes you do. I'll certainly look out for it.
Loved the picture of the beautiful alpine flowers.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine had a similar experience when she went to see the movie, but she thought people were laughing at the wrong places. She wondered if younger people got the racism. I enjoyed the film, perhaps more than the book. The characters were brought to life on screen that I didn't feel reading the book. The book felt contrived to me.

Let me know what room we're meeting in...I'll be there!

Linda Myers said...

I took a friend to Snohomish yesterday. She wants to do a tandem jump the next time she comes to visit. She's 77! I saw a small group of your friends practicing their moves in the courtyard.

I loved the book, may even spring for the movie ticket.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Every once in a while I wonder what wisdom I've developed over the years. In the work world I gave lots of advice... pick your battles, under-promise and over-deliver, be generous to the gate-keepers, etc. But in life... how about love the one(s) you're with, and let go of the small stuff. You are living the life you want (I assume) and it's a great one. I wonder whether I could have found my current mellowness while I was working. I didn't, so I can't tell anyone else how to do it! (Sorry for the essay here; you got me thinking!)

Sandi said...

I will be echoing many others, but I too am pushed to think more deeply after reading this post.

I also went to see The Help last week with my book group. I really liked it, and thought it was well cast, but it was a little too "pat", like some of the really nasty stuff from those times was glossed over. We read the book a few months ago, and I thought I got a fuller story in the reading, yet, it also left me wanting a deeper story.

One of our members actually grew up in the South in the 50-60's, with a maid/nanny, and she was struck about how little she thought about the maid's perspective as a child growing up. She felt ashamed, even though her experience was the norm for her community. She didn't think her family treated their maid badly, yet now she wonders what the maid thought.

Wisdom . . . it's a whole other story!

red said...

I'm sorry I can't help you with comments on your book. However, it is a book I will look for and read. I like to share books with other people who have read them. My daughter was super to share a book with. She would get much more out of a book than I would.

Linda Reeder said...

I thought of you yesterday as we were driving toward Molalla, OR, past the Sky diving school there, watching three divers circling to their landing zone. I imagined you were probably doing the same thing.
I read "The Help" and loved it, but saw a problem with the young white writer character. It was too much about her and her not considering the risk the maids were taking to "help" her with her story.

Grandmother Mary said...

I just finished "The Help". I liked it and thought a lot about my interracial experiences growing up in that turbulent era. Now my daughter is married to a Trinidadian and my two grandchildren are bi-racial which puts a whole more immediate, personal experience to this issue. I'm wondering how the movie will develop the complexity of relationships from the book. But most complex of all is the deep down automatic responses we have as humans until we challenge our perceptions, biases, prejudices and connect with one another. I see that as our responsibility as humans. I pray that others do too for my grandchildren's sake. Your posts always get me thinking. Thanks.

Friko said...

Sorry, it's already Monday. I never get to you in time.

I hope it's ok with you that I enjoy your ramblings a day late, but enjoy them I do. At that time of morning I'm still deep in the land of nod, thoughts do not come at all. My thoughts come late at night.

My thoughts are often along the same lines as yours, looking for wisdom within, but, sadly, I rarely find anything.

All we can do is follow our chosen path, with the odd little detour, as and when the wind blows, and make do with what there is.

Have a happy week.

Robert the Skeptic said...

There is some level of security that comes with age, I am finding. Yes, the wisdom. The conference I attended, the Skeptic's Toolbox, was overwhelmingly people my age and older. I am not sure what that says about humanity, though I can recall in my youth I didn't really have much interest in social issues.

But if I knew then what I know now... well, that was never possible. We have to pay our dues on yearly installments.

CiCi said...

As of now, I have decided not to read the book or see the movie. The hatred I witnessed during the sixties was and still is so far from what I believe in that it is not what I want to relive at this time in my life. As a child I did not know about prejudice. I grew up in poverty and with all races. When I moved to Berkeley CA in 1963 I was frightened to death of the the race riots. I did not know where I belonged. I was white but I was ashamed to be with the white people who thought they were given some almighty right to be the only race worthwile and all others were only here to serve them. You can tell I have very strong feelings about this issue. Nice post though. And I for one enjoy that you encourage people to think and respond in comments.

Jo said...

I haven't had time to blog lately, and whenever I read your blog, it is always thought provokng. And beautiful...! The other day I was sitting quietly thinking, "What have I done with my life?" Morever, what have I learned, and what have I been able to teach other people? We always underestimate ourselves.

I want to see "The Helo". I love Viola Davis, and I do remember those times as well. We've come a long way, baby...

Jo said...

I meant "The Help". typo...

Donna B. said...

What a wonderful visual...all of us in the same room! I wanted to see THE HELP...but have not seen it yet. Just got the book, THE TRAVELER'S GIFT by Andy Andrews. Have you read it?

Kalyan said...

simply beautifully captured shot...lovely!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I have not seen the movie..I shall wait until it is on the TV..I have heard it is a good book.
Whatever comes..yup..I am all for that! :)