Saturday, June 18, 2011

I call him Dad

Les and Myrick Huntley
My earliest memory is one of waking up in the back of the car.  It was a round, dry space, smelling of heater and motor oil.  The seats were dark and dry and crackly and I remember waking curled up with my sister, as a square yellow shaft of light from the car port entered the window just above my head and penetrated the furry blackness.  I recall lying very still and pretending to be asleep so I would not have to walk through the cold outside.  I remember the firm safety of my dad’s shoulder and the way the smell of his pipe was always curled around his neck invitingly like a scarf.  I can still feel the cool slumbering house as we passed through and I am conscious that my mother was nearby but I have no memory of my brother; perhaps he was a babe in arms, likewise sleepy and mute.  I am guessing I was around 3 years old at this time, if that.

I was born the second child -- second daughter -- of Dawn Neil Huntley and Donna Mae (Leeper) Huntley, but I grew up the child of Les (L. E.) Huntley and Donna, Dawn and my mother having divorced while I was an infant.  So I guess most folks would say Les is my step-dad, but to me, he's "Dad."

When my (bio) parents divorced, Dad wisely realized my mother would one day remarry and our ties to the Huntley's would gradually fade away.  He wanted to keep us in the family and so he married my mother.  I think as well, he felt responsible for us as Dawn was one of his younger brothers.  Taking on the lifelong responsibility to care for us seemed to him the right thing to do.  You see, this is how Dad was raised;  from a young age, one of his baby brothers (my Uncle Myke) was placed in his care and he took that responsibility seriously. 

So he married my mom and got  my sister (who was then and is now nearly perfect) and I in the bargain.  What a deal!  I was not an easy baby or an easy toddler; nor was I an easy child, an easy adolescent nor an easy young adult.  Nonetheless he took us on to raise and he did a great job.  My parents may have had their disagreements, but rarely did they have them in front of us and where it came to child rearing, they presented a united front.  My brothers came along in their time; the first when I was 2 and the second when I was 11.  Though the boys are his own offspring and my sister and I were "steps," this difference was invisible to us.  We were one family and were all raised the same.

You do not read stories like this today;  men do not often (if every) marry for honor or responsibility. My parents have been married 51 years now and are still going strong;  you do not often read stories like that, either!  The four of us kids have pretty much put them through the mill, but they are still here for us.    Thanks, Dad, I love you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All is not Lost

Most of my friends these days are parents of teens.  Suffice it to say, I hear a lot of complaining, fretting and worrying. One of the things I hear -- which cracks me up -- is essentially "Kids these days . . . "  Many worry that we are losing our literacy, that today's youngsters do not know how to write, that they speak slang and little else.  Inwardly, I chuckle when I hear this because I clearly remember the parents in my youth saying the same thing.

For months I have had a snippet of a Facebook conversation pasted on my desktop.  The thread was about philosophy and the author of this piece is one Julieus Young.  I do not know this young man personally.  I only present his thoughtful and poetic bit of spontaneous writing as evidence that all is not lost. (I added the paragraph breaks for readability)

"In that it is only the people who call themselves philosophers who don't have use for philosophy. It is often completely lost on them. 

That's why I've always disliked the word "philosophy." Maybe it's just me being too Romantic, but I'd say that the greatest wealth of philosophy is that which never escapes the fleeting thoughts of everyday life. That which is solidified in books and self-help pamphlets is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg, because philosophy is nothing without humanity. That's why it's confusing: because we're confusing. 

War is nothing without passion. Nations are nothing without friendship. Revolution is nothing without love. And it seems that whenever people forget that, then the dictators take over. But the people will still wonder and wander, and nothing can stop that. I'm not talking about some arcane alchemy of human advancement... but the very opposite. All these oft-conflated things like peace, justice, liberty, and fraternity are really just dirt, water, and blood. And that's why they run so strong, for they are the greatest riches we'll ever have, no matter where we end up. 

To deny that a human deed is done in the name of humanity (or ultimately the divine if you believe in it) is to make oblivion of it. If we forget the dirt beneath our feet, where will we stand? Oh great, now I'm being philosophical."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More on the Nature of Fire

According to The Nature Conservancy, 
More than half of the terrestrial world, including almost all of North America, depends on the existence of fire to maintain healthy plants and animals and natural resources upon which people depend, such as clean water." 

Further, the National Park System says,   
Fires are a natural part of the Northern Rockies ecosystem [italics mine]. Fire promotes habitat diversity by removing the forest overstory, allowing different plant communities to become established, and preventing trees from becoming established in grassland. Fire makes minerals more available to plants by releasing these nutrients from wood and forest litter and by hastening the weathering of soil minerals.

This is simply amazing!  In general, we fear fire and do everything in our power to prevent it, which is reasonable.  Of course we are speaking here of actual fire, not the metaphorical kind I spoke of in "The Nature of Fire."  Yet there are certainly parallels, aren't there?

5 years ago yesterday, my best friend and sister-in-law, Sharon Parish, died.  She had a "cardiac accident" two weeks prior that had left her brain-dead and unresponsive.  This was the biggest "fire" of my life.  In the days I sat at her bedside, the cleansing fire raged through and removed all the trash and underbrush.  In the weeks and months following her death, that fire cleared off the over-story and mis-planted seedlings.  In the years since, the forest minerals have created a healthy ecosystem for what is new that is emerging in me. 

At times after her death, I fought "the fire" with all my might.  At times, I fed it.  In the end, the nature of fire prevailed and all that was not essential fell away and what remained was the true essence of who I am; I have re-prioritized my life to place my loved ones first.  I have recognized the value of pursuing my calling, something Sharon did very well. 

I have been reminded -- in the most graphic way -- that I am actually not in charge on this earth and I do not know how many more minutes or hours or days I have to make a difference in another's life or to tell my friends and family how much they matter to me.   I have a big and messy home but I always have time to read a story to my little ones. I have time for softball games and track meets.  I have time to foster parent.  I make time to exercise and sleep so I can have what I need to do it all again tomorrow.  I have time to call my parents and send thank you notes to my grade school teachers.   And if it turns out I have 50 years, I will be able to look back with satisfaction and know they were years well-lived.  This is the nature of fire.

"There remains for us only the very narrow way, often extremely difficult to find, of living every day as though it were our last, and yet living in faith and responsibility as though there were to be a great future.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer