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, February 4, 2024

Halfway to spring

Lake Padden on a winter's day

We here in the US have finally visited the rodent who predicts the weather,  Punxsutawney Phil, on February 2, to see if he will be predicting that we'll have an early spring or not. It's the day when we have reached the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Apparently he doesn't have a very good track record, since he's only been right 39% of the time. Maybe we should be considering that, since he's predicts an early spring this year, it will be late.

Whatever. It's fun to speculate and spend some time with such antics, but one thing I know for sure: the days are getting longer, there's a bit of light in the sky when I walk to the bus in the early mornings, and that soon I'll be seeing sprouts of emerging daffodils and primroses beginning to show the change of the season. It's been a confusing winter so far, with extreme cold and snow, followed by extreme warmth and rain. At one point last week, we had a warm front come through where the day's heat just kept on rising, long after sunset. We reached a record of 68°F (20°C) at 7:00pm on the 29th! And I saw on TV that Seattle had three nights of record-breaking high low temperatures during that same period. Very strange weather indeed, and it seems like just a few days ago we were buried in more than a foot of snow and extreme cold. Now we're almost back to a normal weather pattern, but there's no question that things are definitely not following the usual norms.

I really didn't know what I wanted to write about today, so I went over to my favorite quote library, brainyquote.com, and I got interested in reading about Helen Keller once I found this quote by her:

Once I knew only darkness and stillness... my life was without past or future... but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living. —Helen Keller

 Many years ago I saw The Miracle Worker (1962) movie and enjoyed it very much. I actually might have seen it a time or two later, but I don't remember much from it except Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in two memorable performances. What I didn't relate to at the time was what it must have been like to be both deaf and blind and unable to understand the world around me. Not only did Helen overcome her handicaps, with help from her teacher and others, she ended up attending Radcliffe College and graduating cum laude in 1904. She wrote 14 books and her biography is still in print.

Helen on her 80th birthday

It's almost impossible for me to imagine how Helen became so proficient in everything she attempted. To only know the world around you by the tapping of someone's fingers into your palm, and having that be enough to open the doors of perception so wide that you could become a world-renowned author. She traveled to dozens of countries and gave interviews with many world leaders. She was acquainted with many famous people, including Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, and so many more. She helped to create the American Foundation for the Blind, which offers an archive of her works, which is available here

And I was pleased to learn that she lived a good long life, dying at the age of 87, a few days short of her 88th birthday. Until she suffered a stroke in her 80th year, she continued to be active and engaged in many pursuits. Afterwards, she lived a quiet life and probably spent her time reading, but I don't know for sure. She died in 1968.

To each one of us is given in some degree the power to create and distribute happiness, and that is about the best thing any one of us can do. There is no surer way to keep the fire of happiness burning in our own hearts than by sharing its brightness with others. —Helen Keller, 1924 speech

When I think about all the wonderful people who are alive today, carrying on the work that Helen started, to reach those who were not given the abilities we take for granted, I am truly humbled. But she is right: we are all given to "some degree the power to create and distribute happiness," which is what I attempt to create every Sunday morning with these posts. Helen came alive for me today and has reached through the mists of time to inspire me, a fellow traveler. And I will purchase a copy of her biography to read on my Kindle.

Are there people who inspire you to become a better version of who you already are? I know that now that I am old, I am impressed with others my own age who have found ways to do that. We are at a crossroads in our lives today, with so many of us becoming frail and aged, just when we are getting ready for more upheaval and strife all around the world. But I refuse to give up my pursuit of happiness and will try to keep Helen's words uppermost in my thoughts: that there "is no surer way to keep the fire of happiness burning in our own hearts than by sharing its brightness with others."

As I sit here with my laptop, typing these words into a device that can carry them to the farthest reaches of the globe, it's important for me to realize the gifts that I already have, and take advantage of them in the moment. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, and I know that John will be coming to take me to breakfast soon. It is quiet and serene in my world, as I prepare to wind this post up and send it out into the world. For you, my dear virtual family, I am hoping that you will find some way to share the brightness of happiness with others. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well, dear friends.


Marie Smith said...

Helen is an inspiration indeed. Thank you for the reminder of her and what I can do in my own life.

Linda Reeder said...

"the power to create and distribute happiness". Yes, I think that's my mission too, in my blogging, and in my friendly exchanges with the grocery clerks and friends and strangers I meet. When I first read this quote, I put a comma after create, because I believe my happiness depends on being able in simple ways to create, whether it's a flower arrangement or a delicious meal or a garden bed or just the right words in a post or comment.
Thank you for this post this morning. It encourages me.

Rita said...

Helen Keller's story has always blown me away! Someone born in silent darkness brought so much light into the world. What better goal could one have! Hope you have a wonderful day!

Far Side of Fifty said...

She was a remarkable woman, the movie with Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft still sticks with me today. I hope you have a wonderful week, we made it safely to visit my Mother she is not well, we will visit her again on Monday and head back up North.

Anvilcloud said...

She was a marvel and gifted. Her teacher is to be commended. Keep sending your thoughts out, but I wonder if dear partner will ever wake up and demand that you cease that infernal tapping. 😊

Rian said...

It is a mission... to create and distribute happiness... and fortunately it can be done in so many tiny ways that anyone can do it - if they chose to do so.

Linda Myers said...

I can't imagine how she did it.

gigi-hawaii said...

Helen Keller was bright and talented and wise. So sorry I never met her in person.