Today is a day of rememberance in both pride and respect for the men and women who serve, fight for, and protect our country. Known as Veteran's Day, Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, you can Google any of these terms to learn the origin and history of this patriotic observance each November 11th. What you cannot necessarily find in a Google search however is the story behind the salute, the life outside that uniform, and the lives touched by that brave soul.
My grandfather is one such story. Born in 1921, his was a difficult life, one he seldom spoke of. I know he spent much of his younger years in his mother's brothel. I know he left school in the 8th grade to hop trains with his father chasing after little work. I know he literally worked himself to the bone carrying red-hot rivets in buckets draped over his shoulders like an ox. I know at the end of the day he was pleased as pie and oh so grateful for a can of sardines. A slice of bread to lay them on was a delicious treat. I know the contorted feet of his elder years from too small shoes for far too long.
Yes, my grandfather's story seems like a page from the Grapes of Wrath. It could have been. His formative years were lived during the Great Depression in Kansas, where he was born and raised. But life did improve with hard work and tenacity. He met my grandmother and they had their first son. Still, Grandpa believed in "doing the right thing", and this meant service to his country.
Grandpa joined the United States Navy and served 2 1/2 years as a Naval Ordnanceman, Second Class during World War II.
Fortunately he did not see battle, much to Grandma's relief. (These are just a few of the tinkets he sent her during his time away.) Grandpa eventually returned to her and they had their second son, my father.
What I also know about Grandpa is that he valued the self respect of a hard day's work. He appreciated "yes sirs" and "no thank you, ma'ams" and standing as a lady entered the room. He had little tolerance for "shenanigans" or "hoodlums", but deep respect for a man who shook his hand while he looked him straight in the eye. He believed in honesty, respect, and the value of a man's word. More than anything, Grandpa valued the simple things in life: a sunny day, his fishing line in the water, and the company of family and friends.
When my mother and father could and would not care for me, it was never a question to be asked where I would go. My grandparents became my parents. Grandma taught me to sew and bake and how to help violets thrive. Grandpa instilled in me the character he felt he'd failed in his youngest son, and I took it willingly. It was easy to please this man who had hotcakes and syrup waiting every morning, pushed me in the swing, let me run the lawnmower, and rocked me night after sleepless night. I loved my grandmother, but Grandpa was the one who stole my heart while making me mind my "Ps and Qs". He had the quiet strength that calmed my troubled world and that security still lives inside me today.
That is the same way I view our veterans; with a quiet strength that calms our troubled world. On this day I value every single person who leaves their family and friends to protect my freedom... our freedom. I value even more the strength of character they build upon and bring back home to instill in their children... our children. My grandfather's life was built on a foundation of struggle, enforced by a belief, and walled in by love. He was the grandest of father's, and I couldn't have asked for anything better.
Peace to you and yours,
This year has been one of new discoveries and new ventures; braving avenues I once feared to explore. The fear is still there to some degree, and I assume it always will be for me. But I've become tired of being that shy little girl watching from the window as the neighborhood kids giggle in play. It's an awful lonely view. As I gather years like postcards I find myself hurrying to "catch-up" with a world I've let play out in front of me. I no longer care to be the audience of my own life. I chose instead to play the leading role. So now, when opportunities light right on the tip of my nose, I sieze them and relish in the discovery of this new world, and in turn, myself.
I became familiar with Chrysti Hydeck last year when I became interested in mixed media arts and saw her feature on ART-ography in an issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. Wow, the things this girl could do with pictues. I have an interest in beautiful photography as well, though I can tell you nothing of f-stops and exposure. Reading on, I learned Chrysti aslo lives with BiPolar Disorder. Well, heck, I just had to know a little more about this person who shared similar interests (and maladies) as I. I began seeing her on various social networks and in turn, began learning not only about her, but various artists, photographers, art techniques, and all kinds of wonderfully inspiring things. (And she can can place a quote- another trait I enjoy- like no body's business.)
Recently, Chrysti and her friend Susan Tuttle began one of the most insightful projects I've come across in a long while. They call it Echo. You can read more about it here, but the gist of the project is to interpret a bi-weekly prompt through photography. As I said, I'm not the slightest bit knowledgeable in the art of photography, but I do "see" things (not in the spooky sense, mind you) that move me in one way or another and I enjoy the act of capturing them to the best of my ability. So, when I received an invite through Flickr to join this group, I was very tempted and even more excited. Just as quickly, however, that same little girl began whispering in my ear, "Oh no. You can't. You're NO photographer!" My new self... the one who is poking for footing and grasping for handholds is becoming quite stubborn and selfish. I clicked "accept" and started walking the path, taking my scared and insecure self along for the journey.
The first prompt was "Emerge". Immediately I recalled a picture I'd taken this past spring of my daylillies struggling to survive an early growth and late season frost.
Now I am not at all a winter person. In fact, it is a time of deep heaviness for me. So when buds and blooms poke thru the dead of the previous year's growth, my heart quickens and my pluse follows. I emerge from my winter cocoon right along side Spring's green. I snapped this picture and kept it on my desktop as a reminder that this was just a quirky season. The buds, and I, would survive.
The second prompt was "Decorate". I had many ideas of this, from the typical fall and halloween do-dads propped on lawns and porches, to a few folks I know covered in tatoos and studded with piercings. But, this just didn't feel right, so I pondered a while. Yesterday as I was out and about, I glanced at a local graveyard that has been catching my eye. I've been wanting to photograph some of the old headstones, but for what I wasn't quite sure. As I sat there looking, it came into my mind how we "decorate" our hillsides in memory of those who walked before us, those we've loved and lost. We also tend to decorate these sacred sites with colorful blooms and yes, even holiday decorations, but as I looked I watched the wind carry these things away one gust at a time. It occured to me then that decorations are not always bold and fanciful and themed, but often times so subtle and unobtrusive we hardly notice them. Not until they are gone.
I wandered the rows of stones and found that most are now unreadable, and I wondered if those who decorated this hillside still remember the place of their loved ones. In the end, does it really matter?
I've always told my family and friends that I want no burial, no grave, no headstone. My time is what it is: here then gone. Rather than decorate hillsides or meadows, I prefer instead to decorate my own life, and if I'm lucky, the lives of others, with every experience I'm lucky enough (and brave enough) to explore. For me, those things don't weather or blow away, but become instead the little subtleties that make life so wonderfully lived.
Peace to you and yours,
I woke this morning with a bit of dread in my heart. November 1st. Winter is on my heels and nipping at my back side. I am not a winter person. I prefer the high summer sun, shorts and tank tops, grass between my toes. And, with the fall back in time, the sun seemed to droop even lower in the sky as twilight snuck in earlier that I'm accustomed to. That slight heaviness stuck in the back of my mind and tip-toed on my heart throughout my day. But, I'm learning (well forcing myself is more like it) to busy myself with art, reading, writing, home and family, and new bonds of comraderie and friendship to help ease my typical winter blues. I'm learning to channel this energy from foul to good, from negative to something postitive and productive. This is a new path for me, and one I'm finding quite soothing yet very invigorating.
As I write this (in yet another positive venue of blogging and sharing), amber light of evening flows through my window and dances on my screen. I look up to see beauty, warmth and even comfort fill my window frame. It washes over me and drains that dread away just like the shadows spill and spread across the late autum sky.
Peace to you and yours,