fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

a large collective sigh…..

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein

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(my giddy, degree holding, son)

Did you hear that?

That sound of exhaling?

That whooshing sound Saturday morning…
the sound of a large collective, slow released, heavy sigh?

The sound of years and years of the breath held by two parents, their son…
and now a young wife…
along with a myriad number of friends and family…

A sigh that has actually been held for….
A lifetime.

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See this young boy?
This picture was taken on a balmy Friday night in May of 2007.
It’s the image of young man who had just graduated high school…
standing on the edge of a well anticipated future…

Yet what he, in his delirium of conquering the one mountain failed to realize that carefree night,
was that he was not yet finished climbing…
For looming in the distance, just beyond the horizon of his youthful exuberance,
lay a mountain range far more challenging than what he had just conquered….

That exciting evening, so long ago, indeed marked a successful passing….
The passing of a 12 year long struggle…

Yet the magnitude of the struggle to which I speak is most likely lost on those who have never
experienced or lived through a child who has had to struggle academically.

And whereas I have written about this struggle before…
That of his particular struggle and of our particular struggle as a family…
The massive weight and enormity of it all came rushing back to the forefront of my heart and soul
this past Saturday morning while sitting in a crowded gym of a southern university.

From that fateful day his first grade teacher called me, a fellow educator, telling me she had a concern…a concern that something just wasn’t right…
to finally sitting in a college gym waiting for a commencement ceremony to begin…
our road has been painfully long and arduous.

From the hard diagnosis of a crippling learning disability…(most likely inherited…)
later compounded by a diagnosis of ADD…
It was double indemnity that was sadly to be our unfortunate lot.

There were many hurdles, impossible hurdles…
And there was testing..lots and lots of testing.

There were the years of refusal to take the medications that were promised to help make things easier…
to finally relenting…
Then only to live with the ill effects of those medications on ones body…
Eventually going back to life without medical help.

There were disappointments…
and failures,
and lapses,
and anger,
and frustration…

There were tears…
lots and lots of tears…
from both child and parents.

There were tutors, reading camps, repeated courses, more tutors…
There was working, studying, studying longer and harder then others
There was the staying after, long after others were gone…
There were sacrifices…

And…
There were a few rare triumphs…
The acceptance letters…
Along with the…
changing of schools…
The changing of majors…
The sitting out…
The waiting…
The continued waiting…
The nos,
The not yets,
The not nows…
The too bads…

Yet there were hopes and dreams.
Always hopes and dreams…
Hopes and dreams that would never fade or go away…

And there was a determination to realize those very hopes and dreams…
just like anyone else who has hopes and dreams…
anyone else who was “normal”….
because wasn’t that what so much of this was all about…
just wanting to be normal like everyone else…

Knowing that you were not stupid…that you were not slow or dumb…
as they would whisper behind your back…
Knowing all the while that you were smart and that you could learn…
that you could excel…
that you could be like everyone else…by God!!!
And by God it would be….

You wanted to prove that you were normal…
Normal like those who didn’t have to struggle, didn’t have to work so very hard…
You wanted to be like those who made the good grades, who didn’t have to expend the energies…
You wanted to be like those who just made school seem… easy…

However today is not that day…
It is not to be that day for the retelling of the very long and hard fought journey of ours…
It is not the day for rehashing and re-living the difficulties nor for the recounting of all the struggles…
And it is not a day to expound upon our seemingly misfortunate poor dumb luck…

No…

Today is not that day…

Rather…

Today is THE day to rejoice…
It is a day to soak it all in.
It is a day to exhale.
It is a day to smile.
It is a day for tears.
It is a day of HOPE.
It is a day of DREAMS.
And it is a day of Thanksgiving and Gratitude….

DSCN3836

The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 6:9

Coming and going

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
Maya Angelou

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(a threesome of gulls, Henderson State Park, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I don’t know whether it’s like this in other professions nor do I know if others feel as deeply about such issues as say as educators do. . .

One of the most difficult things I discovered early on in my teaching career was how difficult the transition of moves, transfers and retirements of colleagues could all be on one’s heart. Add to that the teaching of high school kids. Those young wards one would receive into one’s class as 9th graders–those awkward young folks perched somewhere between childhood and adulthood. The mission was to teach and nurture these ever-changing individuals for 4 years–watching them grow, learn and then, as life would have it, they would graduate, moving to the next stage of life—most of which would take a huge emotional toll on their teachers as one would have grown quite accustomed to their presence..

Coming and Going.

In teaching, especially working in a specific school, the staff and personnel become much like an extended family—just as such held true in my own community and in the school system in which I spent the majority of my life.
My colleagues becoming my extended family.

We shared the teaching, instructing and guiding of other’s children. We shared the joys, the sorrows, the nurturing of our own children, the comings and goings of spouses, the trials and obstacles of life, crises in health, births of children, losses of parents. . . just like any big family who would live life together day in and day out.

Yet oddly such transitions of life, those of the moves, the graduations and the retirements, no longer seemed to carry the same sense of permeant loss—as we now find ourselves living in an age of vast technology. It seems as if we now have 24/7 access to one another–much more so than ever before. We now have e-mail which can be delivered, read and responded to almost immediately. We can text at any given time, day or night, and we have grown to expect an instantaneous response— growing rather anxious if such does not occur within a reasonable amount of time, say 2 minutes. We have Twitter which allows others to peer into our psyche at any given moment, we have FaceBook which shares the glimpses of our daily lives with the entire world. We are morphing into the transparent while being constantly connected.

And so as it is time, once again, to say good-by to yet another colleague, friend and extended family member—hearts are once again filled with that familiar sense of angst.
No longer will there be the physical and tangible interactions. Different individuals will now fill the roles we all once filled. Life experiences will no longer overlap–as being from the same community will no longer exist. Teams cheered on to victory will no longer be the same. Life’s daily living will now be different.

Yet communication will remain instant and quick. A quick text of “hi, how’s it going?” A quick e-mail or Facebook view will immediately catch one another up to speed as to the big and small events taking place in life.
The distance seemingly not so vast.
A comfort of heart. . .

And yet the physical touch, a hand on a shoulder, a glimpse of eye contact captured when two similar minds and thoughts collide during a conference, a quick Saturday lunch to play catch up all coupled by that beautiful smile will all be deeply felt and now sorely missed.

Whereas we seem so much more connected than ever before with unlimited and instant access, it is still, and will always be, the physical contact which makes all the difference in the world–the other stuff, the technology and instant this and that merely softens the blow. Technology may unite us quickly but it can never replace the physical face to face interactions of daily life. One may see tears when Skyping, but no hand my reach out to wipe them away.

I will miss you Beth.