Gentle Reader: Here in North Dakota we have the privilege of four distinct seasons which clearly helps her citizens mark time and the passage of years. Still the days drip, drip, drip through that hourglass and evaporate at an alarming speed. While we attempt to pack our lives full of dreams and aspirations, too often we find ourselves living for some future mystery like, “once I get ____, I’ll be happy/successful/fulfilled.”
Consider the reverse. Living in the past is nothing more than rewinding the DVR and wastes today while watching the re-play. “If only I could do _____ over again.” Mourning the loss of time in squandered lives is also about as productive as shoveling smoke.
Being a 9-year survivor of breast cancer, my concept of time has simplified. The notion that “every day is a gift” is one of the more profound realizations one can absorb and has become my mantra. The recent news about a friend’s serious illness has her cohorts reeling from the shock. I, among them, find myself reflecting again on the intrinsic value of each day as more than just a commodity or something to be managed and plugged into my Outlook program.
In the current issue’s editorial Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, wrote,
“My guess is that whatever we think we’ve lost we never had, that waiting to find it again is as stupid as expecting trout to rise to the same dry fly two days in a row, and that life is best lived between the lost and the found, just this side of hope and on the other side of nostalgia.”
Distilled to its essence, all we have is today.
Gentle Reader: I was just about to toss the last two fading, pistachio-green, spider mums plucked from wedding bouquets when I recalled the entire wedding panorama as a whirlwind of activity and vignettes of poignant moments. While I have many mementos to recapture those moments, these mums rewound time– past that week –back to her going off to college, recovering from a brain tumor, getting her driver’s license, school projects, brownie scouts, tricycles, first steps, and a first tooth.
She was married in that same prairie place where I discovered her first tooth, where I carried her through my pregnancy while taking care of the trees and the land. Now she and her husband plant a Wedding Tree and take care of that North Dakota land . . . and their marriage.
During cool days in June we ask if summer will ever arrive. During cool days in July we are thankful for a respite from the heat. During cool days in August, we feel fall in the air.
Gentle Reader: Last week’s sad news has turned partly sunny. Feeling the need to take my own words to heart, I reaffirmed the challenge to find Kathy, my next door neighbor and childhood friend from age 6. I had tried to find her 5 years ago and failed. But with more advanced internet White Pages and a fifteen-year-old phone number, I found her.
We spent a good 25 minutes on the phone getting caught up on our headlines from the past 15 years and a few classmates and family. Her recent headline: just 3 weeks ago she donated one of her kidneys to her husband, Bill. Guess that eliminates any doubt in my mind whether they were still together.
Kathy wanted to know if I was still writing poetry and to let me know that she is not able to part with the blue lace brush-roller bag I gave her (probably in junior high). Our mothers were also very close. They had tea every afternoon–alternating kitchens. Every Friday they went grocery shopping together–followed by tea, of course. Meanwhile in the summertime, Kathy and I were swimming at Hillside Pool. Yes, every afternoon. Mornings too.
Gentle Reader: The past few days I’ve been sad into my bones at the loss of a high school friend. Seems so trite and clichéd to remind you to stay in touch occasionally with old friends. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss this by saying, “I have nothing in common with those people.” But think about it. We spent seven, maybe ten, of our formative years growing up with them. At the very least we have many memories in common and a probably a small town somewhere. Our memories are part of who we are.
So, here’s to Sandee . . . and throwing coins for gas money in the little box taped to the dashboard of your dad’s Nash Rambler station wagon . . . oh yeah, and laughing ‘til we nearly peed our pants.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac says the traditional Dog Days are the 40 days from July 3 until August 11, coinciding with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. These are the days of the year when rainfall is at its lowest levels. According to The Book of Common Prayer (1552), the “Dog Daies” begin on July 6 and end on August 17. Regardless the source, western North Dakota has arrived.
We sure don’t need a thermometer to know the Dog Days have begun. When it is particularly humid, I’m known to say it’s a “Minnesota kind of day” and everyone within earshot laughs knowingly because our climate borders on semi-arid.
This is the “hot earth, hot wind” time of year I wrote about in my poem titled, “A Passion for the Prairie.” Haying has begun in earnest and grains are taking on that famous amber color. Mother Nature may cut our summers short on the calendar but she rewards us with the bonus of 16 hours of sunshine every day and every North Dakotan takes full advantage of those daylight hours. It is the time we pine for when winter bears down hard on the high plains.
For now, there’s no resting until October and there will be no complaining.
Gentle Reader: This category of postings is called “Weather Reports.” In her book titled, ‘Dakota: a Spiritual Geography,’ I think Kathleen Norris was the first to use Weather Report as a metaphor for taking one’s temperature in the broadest sense; emotional, spiritual, observing surroundings, the human condition, etc. My posts may have little or nothing to do with the weather but then around here, it figures large in our everyday life. So you will likely see it woven into the installments. No radar needed here.