Homecoming

Recognition

How the calm of evening simmers,

As a mist engulfs the lake…

Stars flick on, the city glimmers…

Walking, I am wide-awake…

In my heart, there leaps the knowing

Recognition, as I roam,

That this scintillating, glowing

Place is welcoming me home.

I have wandered many places,

Lived and loved in many lands

Where a hundred thousand faces,

Hospitable, gracious hands,

Generous, inspiring people’s

Invitations, and the rest,

Filled the land, from vales to steeples,

With the joys that please me best…

Yet, for all the sweet emotions

I have known in every spot,

I’d traverse the widest oceans

To return to where I’ve got

Such connection, deep and healing,

Such belonging, in my soul,

Recognition so revealing

That it’s Home that makes me whole.Photomontage: Recognition/Brotherly Love

Stockholm, 21 November 2015

Lesser Lights

digital illustration

The major stars are always more visible than those around them. It’s demonstrably true not only in the galaxies but in the more modest constellations of humanity. Our attentions are naturally drawn toward those who shine most impressively and dramatically—for good or ill; those more modestly gifted or less showy mostly find their own lights muddled or even eclipsed by the intensity nearby, and as a result we seldom spot and take note of them.

Even those of us who are not only accustomed to, but also aware of, being humbled and diminished by comparison to others’ flashier character can easily forget how this applies to others. Just because I might feel neglected doesn’t necessarily mean I notice others being equally shortchanged; indeed, it’s more likely that if I’m feeling under-appreciated I get too preoccupied with my longing to be Special and resentful navel-gazing to think that I’m probably in the majority rather than otherwise.

Still, there’s hope. Just as a supernova will someday burn to nothingness, human stars tend mostly to flash into the general notice, burn however brightly for however long, and be dimmed by eventual inattention or death. They, too, will eventually be outshone and/or replaced by other stars whose time has come.

And if I, or any other, should in the meantime feel unreasonably hidden from sight, we are still free to seek our own bit of gleam. For some folk, that seeking comes in ambitions for accomplishment and fame. For the rest of us, the surest way to kindle the blazing fire that gives off sufficient heat and light to be noted by anyone else is to turn our focus outward. Devoting energy, attention and love to causes and works outside of our petty selves, and especially to other persons, is the spark that, when kindled in their spirits, creates the steadiest, most lasting kind of light. Even the smallest and weakest among us shines brightly in this tiny act of selfless will.digital illustration

Heroes & Icons

What if we memorialized every great person who ever existed with a monument? Would there be a spectacular array, an endless crowd of museums and statues, or would it be a pitifully paltry showing?

We are accustomed, most of us nowadays, to thinking of people celebrated for simple excellence as entertainers of various kinds as being iconic or heroic. Does this last? Of course it does–in some small few out of the thousands. Mostly, though, at some point it becomes easier to see through the facade of greatness to recognize natural, ordinary  mortality, albeit often tinged with real excellence. photoAnd what recognition and reverence do we afford the true human treasures among us? The teachers and nursing home attendants, the hard-working janitors and the patient and nurturing parents who all work without expectation of worthwhile recompense for the true betterment of the world? Imagine the world decorated with art and architecture honoring the dedicated fireman who didn’t die in a dramatic explosive fire while saving orphans but instead served faithfully as a firefighter in his town for twenty-six years before quietly retiring to a modest split-level where he keeps his two young grandkids under his loving, watchful eye after school until their mother gets home from work. Picture statues commemorating the great deeds of the quiet lady who owned the small neighborhood grocery and after a hundred-year storm opened it and gave away everything on the shelves to the neighbors so they could survive until the needed services could be reestablished.photoThe collection of dedicatory art might be a lot less flashy and showy. But if every real great among us were recognized in this way, there would surely be a whole lot bigger and more meaningful museum of marvels among us, wouldn’t there.

Wonder

 

photoThose things that I can see even with my eyes quite tightly closed are objects of reverence and awe. No matter how much I admire the visible world for its quirks and art and prettiness, I cannot always navigate it with precision. I often can’t recognize faces out of their expected contexts. I miss obvious details that people around me have noted with nonchalance. I fail to see the marvel in many a beautiful everyday thing.photoSo when the attractions of anything are so intense that they live, beyond existing in the visible world, within the depths of my mind’s eye, I accord them special significance. They become icons of a sort, or waking dreams. I can carry with me those images that hold their places in my soul with something stronger than mere physical presence can ever begin to attain.

Under the Influence

mixed media drawingWhen I hear that phrase, of course I’m immediately reminded of its use to describe those persons, so much dimmer witted than a barnyard fowl, who drive or operate heavy machinery or otherwise behave inappropriately (and most likely, quite dangerously) because they are under the influence [UTI] of drink or drugs. Personally, I would go further, with my concept of UTI encompassing other, equally dangerous things like ignorant social, political, religious or philosophical views that give their disciples delusions of superiority, imperviousness, entitlement, and so forth.

But it behooves all of us to remember that the phrase isn’t inherently negative, for one can be under positive influences as well. Even better if one can manage to be a positive influence. It’s notable enough in a long and active life if one succeeds in generally doing no serious harm (intentional or otherwise, and to be in fact benevolent and able to enact good and fine things, why, that’s remarkable and admirable stuff indeed. I know people who can do so right here in the blogiverse, teaching and leading us all to do and be better versions of ourselves, and doing so not only by sharing their stories but by being living examples of what they teach. My years of classroom teaching proved to me that I was better suited to being a student than a leader, yet tutorial and mentoring settings gave me a much greater level of comfort in that they allowed me to operate as a fellow learner and thus engage more deeply and without as great a fear of steering anyone (myself included) astray.

The bloggers I most admire, immensely entertaining and humorous and dramatic and artistic in ever so many ways, are always, at heart, teaching, whether it’s overtly and with carefully designed pedagogy and prescriptions or it is so inherent in their natures that it comes fully interwoven in the fabric of their posts. These favorites include, but are not limited to, logophilic, ecological, travel-oriented, cuisinal, community-building, arts-centric, historical, and in many cases, wildly multitasking blogs. Some bloggers are small fry like me, known only to a cozy circle of great friends who come by to read and sometimes comment, and some of those I greatly admire are large-scale bloggers, people with lots of published work elsewhere or major accomplishments in their fields (whether related to their blogging topics or not!); a few have multiple blogs and the amount, whether on one blog or many, of posts published varies from one every few weeks to daily. There may, in fact–given electronic media of all kinds nowadays–be people putting up posts every few minutes, but I haven’t the time and energy to keep visiting such volcanic sources and tend to keep to my group of favorites with an occasional foray outward.

So who are my influences among bloggers? Friends who give us invitations to visit them at places like The Bard on the Hill, Spanish-English Word Connections, and Year-Struck, Just a Smidgen, The Valentine 4, David Reid Art, and The Complete Cookbook, like Bardess DM Denton, The Kitchens Garden; like the blogs Cooking-Spree, O’Canada, Nitzus, Peach Farm Studio, and  Bishop’s Backyard Farm, like Blue Jelly Beans, One Good Thing by Jillee, Road Tripping Europe, My Little Corner of Rhode Island, Promenade Plantings, L Scott Poetry, Poetic Licensee, and Gingerfightback, and blogs like From the Bartolini Kitchens, Rumpydog and The Human Picture. There are many more I enjoy and admire, but each of these, whether longtime blogging friends or a site new to me, have proven to be influential and inspirational for me in many ways, both as bloggers themselves and often as encouraging and educational commenters here at my own place. We don’t always agree, which is part of what’s so powerful: the diversity of the world and its ideas and passions and hopes and loves, this potent brew is what makes the fellowship of bloggers such a joy.

That we can share it with so many, most of whom we know only in and through this forum, is a great gift indeed. Also shared among fellow bloggers: awards and recognitions. Some accept them and participate with great alacrity in sharing them, and others are happy to be complimented thus but have no interest in or simply no time for such things. All quite acceptable responses. This post, in fact, is in response to my having been ‘tapped’ by the gracious and yes, influential blogger Samina Iqbal, whose Forum for police support is a notable effort by one passionate blogger to garner greater recognition and appreciation for those who serve and protect the populace as members of the police force–indeed, a job few of us would dare or relish, yet most have great reason to be grateful that there are the admirable folk who do so on our behalf. She was named a Most Influential Blogger and has passed the torch here.

While I think she is over-generous in her estimation of what happens here at my blog, I am happy to carry out the task of sharing the aforementioned blogs and their authors with you, because they really do deserve the attention and I hope you’ll visit as many of their sites as you’re able; you, too, will find many things to influence you: ideas and passions, skills and arts, love and human drama and many a good belly laugh in the mix. Best of all, under the influence of these luminaries you will likely pose no additional danger to the general public if you should, say, get behind the wheel of a car. With the possible exception of the belly laughs, which could cause you to steer right into the ditch. But at least you’d be guffawing all the way to the emergency room, possibly accompanied by some helpful police officers. And don’t blame me!mixed media drawing

Super Chicken

mixed media artworkMy superpower, if I could be said to have any, is being supremely ordinary. Yeah, I’m really, really good at that. Now, you may think it’s not impressive that I’m good at being so-so, and you could be forgiven for thinking it. And yet . . .

Besides that it requires massive numbers of us mid-range sorts to keep nature in a sort of balance with the various human outliers at the top (and bottom) of the spectrum, there’s also the comfort and safety of being able to travel under the radar of scrutiny and pressure to which both kinds of exceptional people are exposed.

What on earth does this mean I am good at doing, at being? Why, I do what’s expected. I go to sleep; I wake up. I eat and I walk and I get dressed and undressed, and the world carries right on around me. And though I don’t at the moment have employment outside of our home, my current occupation being Homemaker, I spend myself and my efforts, rather, on doing the small and yet significant things that might not be essential to keeping the world operational but grease the gears, instead. And keeping the cogs working relatively smoothly is as useful in its own way as being the driver, the engineer or a cog myself. I go to meetings and do Projects, too, to be sure, but mostly what I do nowadays is fix a meal, repair a door-jamb, ferry my spouse and a student to a rehearsal. I do laundry; I prune the plantings near the window. Glamorous? Just exactly enough.

Because the luster of the day comes not from being admired and lauded but from being appreciated, even if it’s hardly necessary to hear that announced constantly–after all, the proof of its value is in plain view if the needful things get done. Any reward lies in the belief that I make life that one tiny iota smoother and pleasanter for that one brief instant, even if only for this one other person. It’s borne on the smile of relief worn by him whose sheaf of office paperwork got filed at last when he couldn’t get to it himself, or whose old slippers have been mended by the time he gets home from the office at the end of the day. It’s in the neighbor being glad to have the excess garden supplies or box of art materials I’ve collected to send to school with her. It’s with me when I arrange the chairs alongside the singers before a rehearsal when I come by to listen to their work. It’s mostly in knowing that the stuff needed to keep quotidian action on course is being looked after, bit by little bit. And that I’m the person for the job.

I don’t do this selflessly, of course, because I would hardly keep it up for long if it weren’t so simply and inherently rewarding. And it certainly bespeaks no genius or courage on my part that I do it, for clearly it takes greater skill and ingenuity and bravery to do all of the shiny, showy things for which I provide my atoms of encouragement from the periphery. Maybe a jot of courage only to admit to being a homemaker and loving it. So many who haven’t the privilege of the life seem to disdain it and misconstrue its meaning, especially if it doesn’t have either children or wealth as part of the equation. I am far more fearful of having no sense of purpose than of being thought unimportant by anyone else; I care more about feeling my own worth than having it validated by any outside agents.

So if I seem to anyone to be afraid of taking a larger role in the Real World as they see it, I suppose I ought to admit that in one sense I am. I know that having this Job for a few years has given me new strength and the ability to go out in the wider world for a so-called Real one again when the time comes, yet I do dread leaving this role that has given me a feeling of vocation more than anything else I’ve ever done and risking the dimming of any of the self-worth I’ve garnered or the value I’ve learned to impute to the tasks of being normal and simple and everyday, which I’ve learned to see as so much deeper and richer than they’d seemed until I tried on the role of their custodian myself. I do, at the end of it, think that if I’m a dull, bland or unimportant grease-monkey to the cogs of the world, I’m a damn good one, and if I’m scared of giving up that high honor, then I at least credit myself with being a superior variety of chicken.

Were My Eyes Red!

I think I had a deer-in-the-headlights moment on a recent morning. When I went to wash my hands and looked up into the mirror, a bizarre monster was looking back at me and I froze. I stared uncomprehendingly, quite unable to make sense of the world for a moment, what glared back at me from the looking-glass was a creature with the strangest pair of burgundy wine-colored eyes I’d ever seen.

digital image from a photo

BOO! [artist’s rendition of conjunctival googly eye]

A quick assessment–possibly including a bit of arm-waving to see if the monster waved back at me in perfect sync or, rather, in reply to my advances–convinced me that I was looking at myself after all. An inexplicably unrecognizable self, but mine all the same.

I wasn’t in pain. There was no horrible itching, no creepy gunk running down my face. None of my limbs seemed to have detached themselves from my torso. I could feel no symptoms of anything untoward at all, and had awakened feeling perfectly dandy, with no sense of impending doom whatsoever.

As it transpired, the red-eyed madness was evidently a friendly reminder that I’d slept the night on a hotel pillow unlike mine. Perhaps the pillow’s stuffing or even, I suppose, the detergent with which the bed linens were laundered, bestowed upon my freakish new beauty by the agency of an allergic spasm of hyper-chromatic hilarity.

The really surprising thing about this whole episode is the series of alarms it set off in recognition that I often, well, don’t recognize the perfectly obvious in front of me until its moment has already passed. Ah yes, those many times when I’ve sat talking with a person and not realized until later just whose presence I’d taken for granted–whether an acquaintance I’d not recognized thanks to my prosopagnosia, a celebrity I’d not recognized by failing to connect name or title or other clues, or any other person I’d not fully appreciated in the moment. It’s a pity we are sometimes so blind to who or what is right in front of us that we don’t recognize how fantastic our lives really are, and how much richer for the company we keep.

If I need further periodic reminders, I hope the great people who are around me will kindly give me the needed nudge. So very much kinder and cheerier a nudge than, say, the appearance of an alien in the mirror. And lest I have failed to make it clear to you, this is also my time to say Thank You and express my appreciation to all of you good people who do give me the time of day, regardless of my thick-headedness or my bleary red eyes.

graphite drawing

Oh deer, what can the matter be?