Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Garden Video

My daughter, who knows a thing or two about making films, made this short film of my garden last week.  It's a bit corny with the clothes, and the dialogue--and was made spontaneously--but it gives one a feeling of this place in Maine.  Between the garden and my jewelry studio, I can stay absorbed for long periods of time. 

Often I wonder if I want to travel again, or find a job overseas .  But the problem is that it's hard to leave such beauty and serenity.   It must be my ruby slippers...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hot and Cold; Hot or Cold

The other day I popped into a family grocery store.  It was middle June, and we were having an unusually chilly day—temperature in the fifties.   Unlike the winter, when I resemble a walking rummage sale (albeit a color coordinated one), I was wearing summer clothes.  Feeling cold,  I blurted to the checker, “BRRRR.  What’s with this weather?”

The young man looked at me, and said, “I love it!”  Speechless, I stared at him. “I love it”, he repeated.  “My favorite temperature is between 30 and 40.  But not snow.  I don’t like snow.” 
Knowing Mainers as I do, he is probably naming the 30’s and 40s as his T-shirt weather.  “Yea,” he continued, “I can’t take it when it gets to 60.”
As I had been silent he looked at me and said,” You probably like it hot.”

How to make a long story short!  My mind flashed back to another experience I had had in Maine, about sixteen years ago.  I had just come back for the summer from Sri Lanka, and was on the tennis court. My friend on the other side of the net, suddenly exclaimed, “OH I just can’t take this weather!”  It startled me; my mind reeled.  I came up to the net and said, in all sincerity, “Keith, tell me.  What is it for you?  Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it dry, or is it humid?”  I honestly had no idea.  For me, coming from Sri Lanka, it was chilly, and dry.  But sure enough, he was wilting under the heat and humidity.  After that experience I shook my head when I learned that Mainers were being sent to the Persian Gulf.  In full military regalia they would be more trouble than help.

So weather is relative.  As are so many other things.  Adaptability flexibility, “thinking outside the box”, etc. etc.--are important qualities to cultivate.   In my travels I have been on a personal quest for universals.  In 1991 I got a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.  In the linguistics section, we learned about Transformational Grammar, which was Noam Chomsky’s attempt to find a universal grammar to relate the world languages.   It is an underlying grammar, a concept of subject and action, more than the “surface grammar” of a particular language.  That is how I approach relativism.  Though my experience tells me that manners and art and customs, and religions vary on the surface, there is an underlying universal.  For weather, and my Mainer friend, too hot is 60 degrees.  But still there is a concept of hot and a concept of cold.  It reminded me of something I had read many years ago: “Relativism has at its core one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”  

All this in an instant.  I told the young man that while I didn’t love hot weather, I could take it.  I had lived in a country which regularly registered 110F and 90 percent humidity (Oman).  For him that was hell itself. And I walked out of the store with his words ringing in my head; “I love it between 30 and 40”.

Can a string of pearls have quartz and brass and Tibetan pearls and still be a string of pearls?
Hard to find a necklace for this blog.  How’s this one?  Pearls with a twist.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A good life versus the good life

I live in a small town here in mid coast Maine.  Many of the cliches about small towns hold true.  Everybody does seem to know everybody’s business.  But the simple solution to that is to live an exemplary life.

Last week, a beloved member of our town was struck down by cancer, too early in her life.  As I sat in the packed church at her funeral I thought hard about well-lived lives.  She left a broken hearted  family, a sad husband of 39 years, grandchildren, and both parents.  She was a tireless nurse in the community, a very involved grandmother,  and a cum laude gardener and cook.  The packed church was a tribute to her character and goodness.

My children hated it when I said, every now and then that, “life is tedious”.  It’s a phrase I picked up from my parents.  I agree that it sounds negative, but I don’t mean it at all in a negative way.  What I mean is that a good life is one where you put in the day in and day out all the way through.   Little kids can be such work, and require patience; they get up early seven days a week, they have tantrums and colds and need to be disciplined and loved.  Marriages have their ebbs and flows.  Jobs aren’t always stimulating and rewarding.  But there is nobility in the perseverance.  It’s a lesson I learned in Jordan when I was teaching for the Jordanian Tennis Federation.  I was a 28 year old American female, facing off with ten middle aged Arab males.  Naturally we disagreed on some points.  But I told myself that no matter what, I would not quit.  They couldn’t drive me out.  “Winning” became simply staying in the game.

My friend passed away too early; that is for sure.  Yet, her life was celebrated by the town, and her good life made an impact.  Her family and friends will always remember her as the wonderful woman that she was.

     This necklace is made of Whitby Jet.  These are antique beads, hand carved in England.  Queen Victoria made jet famous when she wore it exclusively after her beloved Albert died.  Whitby Jet is an organic material, related to coal.  It can be carved and polished to a shiny luster.  French Jet isn’t really jet; it’s glass.  But as jet became fashionable, the black glass beads became popular as well.