I’ve often wondered if I was a throw-back, a soul that came before, and if so, how did that affect me? Even now, as I look into the eyes of my grand-kids, I sense times of long ago, and hold onto old-fashioned ways. I followed in the footsteps of my Bubbie in her world of baking from scratch. Each recipe held a story: matzo balls, gefilte-fish, strudel, mandel bread and chicken soup told of her history. Her essence was tradition. I clung to the old ways with a sensibility that pulled me inward.
Now a days they have labels for this behavior—traditionalist, conservationist, hippy, sustainable living, back to the basics. I call it prudent with understanding.
The idea of “old soul” has been reinforced since I was a child. I remember my first blanket. It captivated me with a story, I never understood. I carried it with me until the quilted figure and rhyme of Old King Cole, a merry auld soul, disintegrated. I don’t know who gave the blanket to me, but I do remember the struggle that followed as my parents tired to coax it away when I went to school. I associated it with giving up thumb sucking and maturing. Neither of which made sense to me or my Bubbie. Her answer was more pragmatic. She thought my mother should rework the quilt into a coat and save my thumb for a prize on my return home.
An old soul connects to the earth and beyond. Although I didn’t garden when I lived in Baltimore, I chased dandelion dust. The flower was like the sun, the white puffs, like the moon, and the dust like the bright stars of nighttime magic. I even placed buttercups under my chin, to see if there was a yellow reflection. None appeared. I believe the old wise tale, that it if you had a yellow reflection, you liked butter. I’ve always eaten my toast dry, enjoying the yeasty crunch on its own.
When my grandkids visit, we take walks and search out the dandelions—yellow suns and then blow the white-moon puffs apart so the stars reach the sky. I love when Paige says, “Bubbie remember when we took a walk, where did the dandelions go?” So far neither Paige nor Lane have the yellow reflection of the buttercup, but we’ll see as time goes by.
My old-soul inklings toward flowering weeds extends to wild roses, with their sweet smell and unpretentious petals and to the monstrous Gunnera plant. Commercial roses are too tight, too pushy in their beauty. It’s the soft open pedals that cause me pause.
I first saw the Gunnera at a garden in British Columbia. Since then, I’ve always included one in my home garden. I imagine the plant in prehistoric times, when dinosaurs roamed, and ate the prickly leaves that rose from four to eight feet high. They remind me of giant rhubarb, but Gunnera isn’t edible and they prefer boggy soil. I’m impressed that each year the leaves die back to their crown, only to rise again, larger and stronger.
Some say that old souls have wisdom beyond their years. Others say that the soulful, listen and observe before they speak. Old souls are intuitive and draw out what is already there.
I think of Einstein who was wiser and more brilliant than the technology of his age. He discovered quantum physics and talked about gravity waves that dealt with measuring time and space. His thoughts challenged Newton and the dropping of the apple, and the basic ideas I grew up with concerning gravity’s pull on the earth. Jim and I had the enlightening and most confusing pleasure of visiting LIGO at the Hanford Reserve. (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). Einstein’s theory was finally proven true in 2015 when the two national facilities, one in Washington and the other in Louisiana, detected the gravitational waves generated by a pair of colliding black holes, 1.3 billion light years away. Measuring the minute ripples in space-time proved what the sage, scientist already knew.
I never met my grandfather, my namesake, Abraham. But as time goes by, I get inklings of his soul. He was a mechanic and an inventor. I have no talent in this area, but as Jim and I put together a cabinet, I noticed a special female part called a “cam lock”. Something about its shape reminded me of my grandfather’s repurposed car part inventions. Downsized from piston proportions to that of a nickel, I imagine my grandfather years ahead of himself with an oversized fastener mechanism. The one used in our cabinet to lay flush and catch the male screw, was invented in 1985, thirty-three years after he died.
My adult children used to and may still believe I know everything about life. Not the specifics, but manners of the heart and business. I on the other hand, realize they have technological knowledge still foreign to me and can maneuver in a more complex world. I see reflected in their eyes, the souls of my parents. My three children are exactly as I wish them to be. New souls with the souls of those that went before.
The Magic of Words
Thanks to Wordsmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: Noun: makeup, Verb: To apply makeup, to embellish or gloss over.
ETYMOLOGY: From Old French fard (makeup), from farden (to apply makeup), of Germanic origin. Earliest documented use: 1450.
MEANING: Noun: Overcome with emotion; choked up
ETYMOLOGY: From Yiddish farklempt (overcome with emotion), from German verklemmt (inhibited). Earliest documented use: 1991.
Overwhelmed at the wedding of her daughter, her words caught in her throat, verklempt by the emotion. Her tears ruined the fard, carefully applied by the beautician to accent her eyes.
The Rule Book
How do you know what to do?
It’s in the book.
The one that everyone reads.
Oh, but I don’t know how to read.
Hmm, then you must improvise.
You mean explore?
Try different ways
Oh, then I don’t need the book.
No, you don’t.
Good, because I can read but I like to explore.
Over the years, I’ve distilled my giving down to two main causes: Health and education. Without either a person doesn’t thrive.
This month I’m once again encouraging you to extend your time, efforts, and money where you believe it is most needed. I’m concerned for the welfare of those caught in the tornadoes and floods. Closer to home, there are friends experiencing mental health issues as well as prolonged illnesses.
Let me know your concerns, your recommendations. I’ll be working on my commitments and communications.
A great thank you to all those that filled the room at Central Skagit Library for my talk on Writing to Become an Author: The Art of Story Telling. More to follow next month.
I’ll be manning a table at the Chuckanut Writers Conference representing the Independent Book Publishers Association and Sedro Publishing on June 21-22. You can find out more at whatcom.edu/academics/community-continuing-education/chuckanut–writers–conference
Writing and Reading World
This month I’ve been focusing on research. Much of what comes to me as a story is stimulated by an article, an event, or hearing something on the radio. Random research is like the old encyclopedias—opening a page and diving in. I miss the smell of those pages, the thick, slick paper, and the sense that information didn’t change.
Sally and I are still working on the cover design of Founding Stones. I realize that the vision of an author and a graphic designer translates differently. It takes time to translate artistically the emotional component of design. After a great conversation I found that I viewed the stones from the outside moving upward. Sally had been designing from the inside moving outward. Visions are perspectives.
I just read David Brooks’ newest book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. David Brooks writes for the New York Times and is a Friday night commentator for PBS. I’ve listened to him with interest as his views are insightful and not always predictable. Because of this, I read the book with a writer’s and reader’s anticipation. I advise getting the book from the library and reading between the lines. It’s part philosophy, part memoir, and part commentary on society. He relies on quotes to validate his premises. I knew most of the philosophers and authors David quoted and wished that I had the same level of “aha” that impressed David through his rise to the “second mountain”. More important than his distilled formula, was the rawness of himself exposed, realizing that the “first mountain” he summitted was superficial.
Each of us travel through life with various pulls and influence. Recently I found an old favorite book, that I read to my children. I couldn’t remember the title, just that the cover was yellow and that it was a transformative book about flowers. My best friend, Teri came to my rescue. Here it is, Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus. It’s a… tale partly about life, partly about revolution and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read). ~Tina Paulus. The story involves a caterpillar climbing a mountain with no purpose until it discovers the butterfly within. Short and sweet it is an allegory that speaks to David Brooks voluminous treatise.
Inspiring thoughts from others, that move me to action. Here are two thoughts that caught my eye.
The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. ~
~ Carlos Santana, musician. (b. 1947-)
Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.
~ Pearl S. Buck, Nobelist novelist. (1892-1973)
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