Editor’s Note: This is a post from last year that I’ve transferred from dad’s previous blog. Enjoy!
June 8, 2014
It is Sunday morning and I have been sitting on the patio surveying my miniscule portion of the universe. It is a beautiful balmy summer morning. I am surrounded and engulfed in the sounds and sights of life. Birds seem to be especially vocal, Charley the chipmunk who has outsmarted me at every turn in my attempt to capture him brazenly runs past my feet chasing a new found friend, which probably means I will soon have an entire family with whom to contend. Lilly runs off to add her voice to the chorus of dogs probably in objection to someone’s use of the street without their permission. I notice that the Christmas tree which I planted a short time ago (it seems like a short time) is only a couple of feet shorter than the electric pole which stands beside it. The hibiscus plants which I had given up for dead due to my neglect have made a remarkable comeback and are about to shower us with more beauty. A sprout has suddenly appeared at the side of the stump of a tree which had cut down nearly two years ago, but it has performed its Lazarus like miracle and refuses to stay dead.
As I focus more intently on my environment, I suddenly become aware that within my view is every shade of green imaginable. There is a cloud moving toward me, and it will soon be dropping more of the blood of all this life. That huge ball of fire so powerful that we dare not gaze directly at it provides the energy to keep it all moving. What an awesomely miraculous thing, this phenomenon we call life. I have spent most of my life studying life as it exists in my own species, but rarely have I taken the time to appreciate the ways that it surrounds, engulfs and nurtures me. I do recall lying on the grass, and staring in wonder at cloud formations as a child, with a feeling of reverence almost spiritual in its intensity. Many of the questions from those days still remain without answers, but as I recently told Carter (one of my exceptional grandsons) I believe there is more wisdom in questions than in answers.
Surely as I see my own personal supply of it dwindle, life becomes more precious, and I suspect that is not unusual for we old buggers. I hear much about “finding the meaning of life”, and such similar claptrap, and I suppose I have also engaged in such fool’s errands, when it would have served me well to spend more time simply enjoying and appreciating it, much as I did this morning. I have in the past made the cynical remark that I would rather go to a funeral than to a wedding. But as with most cynical statements there was a grain of truth in that with funerals I was forced to confront my mortality, and come away vowing to make the most of my time. Those promises to myself however were short lived and I soon returned to my charge through the trees while losing sight of the forest.
Take it from a guy who has been there “the good old days” were not all good, but in my opinion one of the traditions worth saving was the Biblical admonition to use the Sabbath as a day of rest, and as a time to reflect on things beyond our control and understanding much as I did this morning. In other words there was more to Sunday than just going to church. There were the “blue laws” which actually made certain activities illegal when carried out on Sunday. Since all religions did not use Sunday as their Sabbath, these laws were obviously discriminatory; however they did serve to promote time for reflection, and family cohesiveness. But, it was not only the blue laws that limited activities. In those days my soliloquy would not have been interrupted as it was this morning by the sound of a neighbor mowing his lawn. It was considered very poor taste bordering on sacrilege for one to engage in any kind of work on Sunday. There were exceptions of course for positions vital to the community functions such as medicine, law enforcement, firemen etc.
There was an oft quoted saying that one should “make hay while the sun shines’; however if the sun was shining on Sunday the hay would have to wait until Monday. No farmer “worth his salt” would want to be seen working his fields on the Sabbath. Some women were so extreme in their views that they even refused to cook on Sunday; consequently would spend much of Saturday preparing food for the Sunday after church meal which was usually the grandest of the week. Even though the industrial age was in full swing, factories were expected to shut down unless there were compelling reasons not to do so. Business transactions were to be avoided on Sunday and almost all businesses were closed. It was a day for family activities such as picnics and visiting, though often the afternoons consisted of sitting on the front porch watching what could be seen of one’s own part of the world.
If I sound nostalgic, it is because I am, but I suspect most octogenarians suffer from some degree of that malady. Sundays now seem to be a time to catch up on all the work not finished during the week. It has become the favorite time for shopping. The only thing restful about the “day of rest” is that some may get to sleep in a little longer, that is if they don’t have a job which requires them to work on Sunday. I miss front porches which seem to no longer to be necessary, and if present rarely used. I miss seeing children playing out in their yards on Sunday. I would like to see them abandon their electronic toys occasionally to lie on the grass and look at the clouds, maybe even play hop scotch or hide and seek. I have no desire to go back to those days of my youth, for undoubtedly this is the best time to be alive in the history of man at least in this part of the earth, but I do believe we have much to learn from what has gone before. During my brief time on the planet, I have seen many so called innovations which were actually recycled from the past, and I believe there is still much to be learned from our ancestors. One such lesson could be regarding the value of a weekly day of rest and contemplation. If readopted, such a tradition might even result in some reconciliation of the tree huggers and money grubbers which would undoubtedly help us to become better stewards of our planet.
Those who know me will undoubtedly note a bit of hypocrisy in this essay for I have been a chronic violator of this biblical injunction since my teen years. I too felt that I could not “waste a day”, but now am convinced that a regularly scheduled goof off day would have served me well.