Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Power of Quotes and Happy Mothers' Day


  “ Like your body your mind also gets tired, so refresh it by wise sayings”…Hazrat Ali

“I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.”…Marlene Dietrich

                                            QUOTES AND MOM

Regular readers of these missives know that I frequently use a quote or quotes to introduce them. Often these are quotes that I found on the web recently, searched for, or stumbled across. More frequently, though, the quotes I use are words that have been familiar to me and used by me over a long period of time. I love quotes. They can succinctly capture an important idea in a few words that would be easy to remember. If they are easy to remember, you can use the ideas easily in your life. I also love them because you can sound relatively wise by using them (smile) But I am thinking about quotes today because thinking of them reminds me of the person who both initiated my love of quotes and provided me with some of the most important ones in my life-my mom, Ruth Edna Davis.

 Now all moms have quotes that nearly all of them say. I am sure there is somewhere a great, “Moms’ Quote Book’ that all moms have to sign out before they are allowed to become a mom.  In it are all the common quotes we remember from childhood. “Stop that look, or your face will permanently freeze like that!” “Clean your plate: there are people starving in China.”  “One day you’ll be a parent and then you will know!”   My mom read from that book like most moms do, and she used it well. But Ruth also had a lot of her own quotes, and it was from those I eventually realized I had learned some valuable life-long lessons. Mom’s quotes became templates form much of my life.
  When I would complain about having to learn something, “boring and unmercenary” for school, mom would often say, “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”  If I was being questioned about something I had done, and I shouted out, “He started it!” Mom would reply, “I didn’t ask what HE did:I asked what YOU did.” I was a mischievous kid, and I also had a great vocabulary; I could talk! But when I would go into a long explanation of why I had done something I shouldn’t have done, she would let me go on until I had finished. Then she would look me in the eye and quietly say, “It took you longer than two sentences to answer me; if it takes you longer than two sentences, you’re either lying or you’re hiding something!” WHEW! Busted! And speaking of lies, mom would sometimes say, “You know, a lie is the weakest thing there is. It can’t stand by itself-it always needs at least one other lie to support it.” What wisdom there was in those words.

  If you are an ex-student of mine, you probably recognize those quotes. For when I had gotten older I could reflect    back, realize the wisdom of some of the things my mother had been trying to teach me, and see  the infinite wisdom there was in some of those simply said sayings. So when a  student would ask me why we had to know about some long dead person or culture, I would often say, “I don’t know     why you need to know or learn this; I don’t. But it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” And when a student would go into a long, complex multi-   paragraph explanation of why he or she was doing                something they shouldn’t be doing, I would say, “It took    you longer than two sentences to answer me. If it takes    longer than two sentences then, you are either lying or you are hiding something.” These and many other quotes from mom were a staple of my teaching, and I freely gave her   credit for them. Even today when I run into an ex-student he or she is liable to say, “As Ruth Edna Davis said, …” and then quote my mom to me. It is one of the ways her           memory and legacy live on.                                              

  I do hope that as we celebrate this Mothers’ Day you have some fond memories of your mother and things she did and/or said that positively influenced you. If by some chance you don’t, I do hope you have someone who filed that role for you.  I think we all need a little “ Mother Love “from wherever we can get it. It seems a necessary ingredient in life.  Happy Mother’s Day.   

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Beauty and Surprise of April Lingers On Into May

  My last two newsletters focused on the magic of April and the wonders of the sky, and last month certainly lived up to the promises of those writings. The sky played its part, featuring a gloriously bright full moon on April 19th and 20th, and the Lyrid meteor showers from the 22nd until the 25th. The Lyrids are not as well-known as the Perseids, but they happen every April and are probably the oldest documented meteor showers. Ancient Chinese writings from some 2000 years ago mention them. Various planets were clearly visible on cloud free nights last month as well: Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus were visible for most of the month. We also had some interesting rains, including two in which it rained on one side of the street and not the other. Looking up in April proved wonderful, indeed.
   Interesting things were also taking place down here on lawns, alongside streets, and in the yards of the city and the burbs. Weeping and ornamental cherries bloomed mid-month as did saucer and lily magnolias. Their bright pink and white colors dramatically announced “spring,” as did the many tulips, crocuses, daffodils, and azaleas that all seemed to “pop” at once. And as the month went on, many of them started shedding their petals and leaves, creating glorious pink and white paths for us to walk upon. Citizens used to strew flower petals in the paths of returning war heroes and leaders in the days of the Roman Empire. Now we don’t need royalty or a war to have this happen; it was just nature doing its thing and providing us with beauty, wonder and comfort. It was amazing to see and to share that sense of wonder those petals brought forth as we traveled.
   Now we are into May and the joy of the sky and the quiet miracles of nature continue. I made a bunch of sugar water nectar, washed off the hummingbird feeders, and hung them outside; May 1st is the traditional time to set out feeders to attract hummingbirds. The Colgan-Davis household has been doing that for some 25 years, and we have always had sets of these wondrous tiny beauties flitting and zooming about in our backyard garden. My wife also planted shrubs and plants to attract a variety of birds and butterflies to the garden, and they have paid off handsomely. From mid-May on we would sit in the garden and eat dinner, and, as Penny often said, “Wait for the show to begin.” The plants, shrubs and bird feeders are still there, and I am again waiting for the show to begin. Joe Pye Weed, laurels, milkweed,  roses, hydrangeas and more are all waiting to fully develop, and I will enjoy them and the various birds and butterflies they attract over the course of mid-spring and into summer. The sense of growth and rebirth hinted at in March and confirmed in April will be full-blown then, and I will be extremely grateful yet again.
The sky in May will its wonders as well. Saturn and Jupiter will be visible the whole month, Virgo and the Centaur will be among the most visible and identifiable constellations, and there will be a full moon on May 18th. Looking up will continue to bring joy and wonder, especially in the early morning, and I look forward to being out and among these goings-ons. It is a free gift for the senses.
 The transitions and splendors of what nature presents us with continue to fascinate and amaze me. We have a chance to be reborn as we witness the continuing cycle of life taking place around us and take the opportunity to marvel and glory in what is before, around and above us. It is indeed very good to be merely human in the midst of all of this. What gifts; what gifts.