This year, for the two of us, has been a very interesting year. As we see it out in the next bit of time, we will enjoy the process of contemplating the blessings we have enjoyed. For all of you who have been part of our lives and have added to our warm memories, we are so grateful to you for being part of the mosaic. I often mentioned the metaphor of a mosaic when teaching, as any individual seems to be her own artisan, breaking little colored ceramic pieces into myriad colors, seeking the proper hue for one’s current understanding of life’s picture, trying to figure out where it should be placed, all the while unsure of the final image. After more than seventy years, this simulacrum is attaining a clearer focus, one leaning towards a
How much do we control that image’s construction? I would like to think a significant amount, but, that is the story to be found in some future (or past?) blog. My penchant for epistemology is always blurring my own vision and it is sometimes preferable to let things flow, to listen to the wind, view the sea smoke, hear the crunch, tinkle and other chimes of the day on the way to the best wafting of scents one can ever remember. We have had our fair share. This past year has added so many.
My own tesserae seem to be coalescing around an image that points to one that has less and less motion. I think that is a good thing, for which I am finding satisfaction, maybe even resolution. We are nearing the anniversary of our reconciliation and assuaging of our common goals, the placing of all that we love, physically, metaphorically and spiritually, in one place. This does not mean that we are pigeon-holing our experiences, far from it. What we have found, though, is that it is enough much of the time on which to rely. Anything outside of the mosaic is a premium, sort of like having your Regal Card ring up a free movie, giving you a bonus experience. It has been a good year in spite of the obvious distractions. We truly hope yours, too, has been blessed, and, from the time we have spent dipping into your lives through the available social media reflections, we’ve viewed your many moments for which all of us can be thankful.
Some thoughts: Enjoyment in watching the recent Kennedy Center Awards, Norman Lear is such a blessing. How much he has guided us with his wit, moral compass and prodding. I agree with his moniker…a good belly laugh is spiritual. We need to make a belly laugh one of our most important tesserae as we place another piece in the mosaic this coming year.
Another thought: Mary and I just watched a program on Polish synagogues from the 17th and 18th centuries called, Raise the Roof. It is highly, highly recommended, but to fit in with this writing, I want to refer to what the college program leader discussed in the film. He was the head of an architectural program at an American university that ended up reconstructing a synagogue from photos, research and the very determined work done by dozens upon dozens of students over several summers who traveled to a field in remote central Europe and later to Warsaw to finish the job. Their accomplishment is now possible to view in Warsaw, in the museum constructed on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto-it is truly astounding and worth someone’s tessera…it has been added to ours.
This teacher had three universal truths he never spoke of in their entirety together. To paraphrase: Learn to love to work, for once you love to work you will never work another day in your life; Learn to love to learn, for once you love learning your life will be filled with wonderment; Learn to love to give, for when you learn to give the world and everything in it is yours. Another three tesserae for my mosaic.
One of our favorite mutual memories from long ago that is a anchor tessera that gets compared to the many new ones of the last year is a walk home from the opera in Vienna nearly four decades ago. It had snowed heavily throughout the day and was continuing through and after the performance that evening. It had not stopped the city, but had slowed it to a crawl. Workmen were out late at night maintaining the Strassenbahn rails to allow the cars to carry on. As we came out into the absolutely quiet, still night air for our walk across the 1st Bezirk to our home on the Wasagasse, huge snowflakes continued their quiet assault on every procumbent surface, leaving the city outlined in a bold white with the ground a deep, soft blanket. That walk home has been solace for more than half our lives and is referenced when we are reminded of all things good. This past two weeks have offered us many views to rival that night.
A fall walk in the vineyards of Alsace, a meal in the same region at the Auberge de l’Ill and shopping anywhere there is a long-necked Alsatian Riesling option in the bin in front of us connects all those earlier memories every time. Opening the door to our kitchen to greet the neighbors, the visitors from Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina visiting us this summer and fall, our return trip on the Stephen Taber this year with the Walkers to book end the one last year with the Barretts, the annual Vienna reunion with Edie, the Drapers and Barrs-with the addition of the Dawsons this year and their daughter, Mackenzie and husband, North, and son, Finn, at a later time on a trip to Belfast, the mail person and our quick exchanges, rekindling our relationships with the many people in Northeast Harbor at our little summer business, the visit with Allison, John and the kids there as well, meeting Hank Jordan on the island and his wonderful stories of his lifetime in the village, seeing Sandra King, Pat Conroy’s wife, in Ellsworth for a catch up, anyone who allows us the opportunity to engage in the outside world, each and every one of these have been part of the events from the year that pad our good memories…it always makes us happy. There were more than the usual share of good feelings this year. Our business took us to Brooklyn and Manhattan which always is a treat to reunite with old friends and we are just about to return in a short while…can’t wait.
Our internal world at 13 Mountain Street has been among the biggest of joys of 2017. Here, we have finally sorted our books and placed them in their new homes, which, after too many years of allowing them to lie fallow in their respective boxes, we found we needed so many more shelf feet of space to allow them to remain. That was its own project during the year. Now, we have even opened the jackets and perused their contents. That joy of reading by the window has been supplemented by our frequent walks down the block to the 1928 Camden Library. It was added to in the 90s by removing the adjoining hillside, building a whole new section under the original building in order to preserve it and then replacing the hill. It is truly a community center where we have heard great presentations and utilized their texts, audio books and videos. The much anticipated and repeated promise regarding the library has been realized, too, to sit in their comfy chairs that look at over the bay window while we peruse the periodicals with no schedule pulling us away during the day.
Using the kitchen to its fullest was another joy. In Belfast, the town to our north, is an excellent co-op that has dozens upon dozens of loose product bins from which we pull the respective levers to deliver portions of Dutch Cacao powder, organic rolled oats and coconut shavings for making granola, Basmati rice, various nuts, King Arthur whole wheat baking flour and such. There are all manner of loose ingredients for health, seasoning or scents. In the area we have about a half dozen coffee roasting operations, with Coffee On The Porch being one of our top choices when we look through our options and after having made our own sampling tasting of them all. Our local slaughter house, Curtis Meats, is one of those rare options in rural areas, a place where small farmers and ranches bring their cattle, hogs, lambs and such to be delivered to the public behind a small glass case full of the apportioned servings with wonderful local family helpers exchanging stories with their wares. As usual in Camden, any errand that you had anticipated taking ten minutes or so turns into a visit three or four times longer when you factor in the chatting time.
The Penobscot Bay continues to give us the backdrop we seek and the nearness to a body of water that we determined long ago was central to our happiness. The harbors, inlets, precipices along the shore, the mountains meeting the sea, all serve as destinations either in the early morning or just before sunset when the light is the most welcoming and filled with life. It matters not the season, though spring, fall and winter have equal claims to our love of the area. Summer is the high season in Maine, so no complaints about being here then, either, other than 40 million visitors also come across the line to swell our 1 million inhabitants count.
As we leave the detritus of 2017 where it deserves to be and look forward to better decisions, better options and new individuals of honor and deserved valor in the news, here’s hoping yours is the very best for you personally. Come visit.