Already — so quickly — we are nearing the end of March. St. Patrick’s Day with its shamrocks and corned beef is past; Easter and Passover approach with hot cross buns and unleavened bread respectively. Birds are singing with great enthusiasm. The cooing of the mourning doves is growing more persistent. They haven’t much to say while winter is here, but a few sunny days have warmed up their vocal cords. Their call has become an integral part of the daylight hours. My snow drops are blooming; delicate little white bells that barely wait for the actual snow to be gone.
We had two really good experiences in the past two weeks. Spencer Singers, the sextet with which I sing, brought a musical program to a nearby long-term care facility, Seneca View. We did some performance numbers and also some sing-a-long selections. People obviously enjoyed the music and often sang along even when it wasn’t a sing-along. The visible enjoyment emanating from people in wheel chairs made it a rewarding way to spend a morning!! Spencer Singers has done a wide variety of performances, beginning in the Spokane Opera House way back in 1981 with the National Grange Talent Contest. We’ve sung at many different venues since then, but carrying music to nursing home facilities is a genuine pleasure, for no one is critical and we all have a great time.
Then a week or so later, Kerm and I attended a dinner honoring the Seneca County Women’s Coalition’s “Woman of the Year”. One distinct pleasure of growing older is watching younger people, whether one’s very own, or those with whom one has worked, blossom into caring, productive, outstanding adults. The recipient of this particular honor was a woman who, as a teenager, babysat our toddlers and was in 4-H. She was also active in our church youth activities and eventually attended Mansfield University. She then taught the Life Skills (Home Economics) classes in Seneca Falls for her entire career. She has provided guidance and assistance in so many ways in her community that she is being thus honored. The phrase most often used about Janet was “kind of heart”, which is probably even more important than her hours accrued as a volunteer. It always brings a rush of good feeling to see how a person develops and blossoms into a life that generously impacts so many others. We were delighted to be able to participate in this event.
This leads me to mention the concept of moderation. Even while I’m promoting and encouraging activities — Scouts, music, church, 4-H, volunteering —- I think that some parents tend to overload kids with too much of a good thing. I’ve known very young children to be so “signed up” after school, for everything from pee-wee football to gymnastics to step dancing to Scouts that they have no time to be bored and certainly no time to ponder their humanity. I don’t recommend boredom as a constant companion for kids, and I do support developing skills and relationships, but it doesn’t hurt young ones to be at occasional loose ends. A side effect may occasionally be mischief, but more often it is creativity and deep thinking.
As a kid, I was in many of the usual activities, though most were held during the school day; orchestra, band, chorus, basketball and Yearbook. My only outside activities were 4-H, Jr. Grange, and the church Youth Group. But even with those, I had plenty of time to roam our acres of woods and hills. I learned to put together bouquets of wild flowers and “weeds”**, to appreciate the variety of rocks available in our drumlins, to admire a hillside full of trilliums, to ride a neighbor’s horse, to make acorn dolls and to simply sit and dream. These relaxed pursuits are necessary for every kid’s whole being. I’ve read several books/articles that speak of how much youngsters need outdoor activities and leisure time. We just mustn’t let children grow up with polished dancing or debating skills but with no appreciation of the world around and no thought for their inner selves. Moderation!!
I also try to pass this on to the kiddies in Sunday school. I emphasize quiet time and space for appreciating creation. Those innocent, open faces looking up at me are so touching; I hope they develop better life skills, early on, than some of the adults around them. I would like them, in their busy days, to find a quiet space where they can collect themselves, notice the beauty in bird song, find four-leaf clovers, and let peace and gratitude fill them to the brim. If they find this possible at age 5 or 7 or 10, perhaps it will be easier for them, as adults, to feed their spirits as well as their bodies.
Part of my world this week happened to be a couple of cleaning projects. Oh the dust!! My groping along a high shelf in the living room, trying to clean away the accumulated dust and cobwebs, quickly brought on sneezing. The downside of any kind of treasures on display is that daily accumulation of grime. But when all is polished and the sneezing has stopped, how lovely things look. My elephant from India appears ready to step out with that log he’s carrying and the pastel of a Great Dane done by son #1 is looking much more alive without its coating of silt. The puppets Kerm and I made a long while ago, constructed of surgical tape and plaster, are harder to keep clean and are, at this point in time, a bit fragile for actual use. But they appear sort of like an aging Bert and Ernie — and seeing them brings up great memories of the class in Pennsylvania where they were created.
Now if only I could as easily remove the accumulated cobwebs and grime from my mind and soul. Cleaning would be really useful if we could apply it to our bad habits, ingrown thoughts and unwise choices. I’d like to not allow my irritation with the world to break through quite so readily; words sometimes seem to spill out before I can grab them. And worrying —- while I know it to be futile —- still clutters and leaves residue on my hours and days. If only spring resolutions would address those the way microfiber cloths take care of dust. But even while I stew over my failings, I’ve learned that it’s probably most useful to just move slowly ahead, doing the best I can, and enjoying the scenery on the way.
Our spirits (those of us in the NE) need some spring scenery right now, and in spite of our yoyo weather, there are small but persistent signs of seasonal change. The birds sound light-hearted as they warble away. And the turkeys are really laughable as the toms fan their tails out and strut around looking like ego-driven politicians. The three days of spring that peeked into our region have made us all want more. The beginning of this essay comes from a poem by Robert Browning; “The year’s at the spring, the day’s at the morn; Morning’s at seven, the hillside’s dew-pearled. The lark’s on the wing, the snail’s on the thorn. God’s in His Heaven; all’s right with the world. ” This poem is an ode to spring —- and many of us learned it in grade school (fourth grade with Mrs. Powers). So refresh yourself with “Pippa’s Song” and be assured that spring is on its way.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Robert Browning — English poet whose dramatic monologs made him one of the best-known of the Victorian poets. 1812-1889
**Incidentally, today (March 28th) is “Weed Appreciation Day” according to a newsletter I receive. It is also Hot Tub Day and Black Forest Cake Day. I’ve no idea where the composer of this newsletter gets these things. “Monday Morning E-Pistle” from Burdett Presbyterian Church and Richard Evans.