Happy Birthday

Yesterday was my granddaughter’s birthday and tomorrow is mine. One of us is eight and the other sixty-seven. No hints.

I did get to thinking about the difference in life perception from an eight year old to me. There are a lot of experiential years in between that provide a knowing look on the condition of human kind and there is a lot of youthful wonderment in eight years of existence that I have forgotten and should probably embrace for a gestalt understanding of life and times.

When I was eight television was just coming into the home. My TV-programs were on only three channels. CBS, NBC and Dumont. ABC had not yet been formed into the third national network.

At first, I watched TV at a neighbor’s home since we didn’t get one until later. We kids (I can’t even remember my young friends names) watched Howdy Doody, Gabby Hayes, Captain Video and Tom Corbett Space Cadet. They were generally fifteen-minute programs starting around five in the evening.

After we got a television a year or so later, I remember my Mother coming home from teaching elementary school and while preparing dinner Kate Smith could be heard in the living room singing her theme song, “When the moon comes over the mountain”.

My granddaughter’s TV choices are over six hundred channels. I imagine her birthday thoughts are just as profound as mine. Her gifts were a few electronic games and books and goodies from classmates, parents, cousins and grandparents. Her year will linger long in merriment for she has only lived one-eighth of her life.

Tomorrow I will get a few birthday wishes and calls, a couple of cards and a gift and a hug from my wife, but the day will pass quickly as they all do in one’s sixty-seventh year.

I’ll try to talk to my granddaughter about serious things a little more this year. Where do puppies get all their energy? When you imagine things where does it come from and can you stop thinking if you wanted too? How come candy tastes better than green beans?

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once wrote that it’s good for the young and old to be together. The child then is able to acknowledge the elder in herself and the elder is able to acknowledge the child in himself and a new agreement is formed between generations. I like that.

Heroes and Stars

With Plaxico Burress of the New York Giants football team in the news my thoughts are on the greatness and failings of our heroes and stars.

We revere the greatness that comes from our sports stars or any celebrity we deem to hold high. We admire their talent, their accomplishment, their beauty or their potential. We appreciate their team or individual success. It inspires the individual in us to be better by practicing more, getting better grades, respecting our bodies, or extending a kindness to someone. When our heroes and stars have public failings it forces us to privately acknowledge our own.

When heroes fall and falter, the tendency is to focus only on the disappointment and not on the whole person. Mickey Mantle’s addiction to alcohol, for instance, while bad, both for him and as an example to young athletes, did not minimize his 536 career home runs.

OJ Simpson seems to be a case all by himself, but he is still included in the category of sports stars gone bad or celebrities who make bad choices. Michael Vick is another, as are Jayson Williams and Mike Tyson. And let’s not forget the conviction of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska or the choices of President Richard Nixon.

Burress’s choice to carry a gun into a New York City nightclub and then shoot himself with it, however accidentally, still makes him subject to the consequences of carrying a loaded gun in New York City. If convicted that’s three and a half years in jail. He basically has thrown away a 35 million dollar career.

Heroes and celebrities come in both genders and attain all degrees of fame and status. Parents, teachers, clergy, and politicians can be heroes and some will inevitably disappoint the admirer or the fan.

Human frailty is universal. Greatness comes when we learn from it.


I want to share with you some places that may not be of your choice or current experience. They are based solely on my interests and abilities and availability. To me they are profound.

These are places of extreme quiet, where silence and nothing are one and you cannot tell them apart. Places where only nature speaks and her sound is deafening when no other audible intrusion is near.

One place is on a silent river. Where portions neither ripple nor descend through noisy cataracts, but carry liquid volumes in the stillness of deep flows and where it is far enough away from man’s concoctions that the only thing you think you hear are your own thoughts, but they aren’t.

If you’ve never been to such a place and find yourself in it, there will come wonderment, a revelation, a spiritual attunement, a surprise appreciation of the empathetic knowledge that only stillness engenders in a singular moment of time.

The first time I found such silence was on the Green River in Utah as I rafted in a quiet eddy pool and found myself in involuntary prayer with nature whose sacristy I entered and then sustained by the choice of benevolent thought.

The second time was at night alone at the edge of a lake in the Allagash wilderness of Maine. The stars have a noticeable brilliance when civilization is far away. They also have a sound that man rarely hears for we occupy a space of things and doing in the Cosmos of life.

The third I experience numerous times for I live nearby. It is on the Wallkill River in New York. When my Kayak drifts on the silent surface I embrace the Oneness and silence of All That Is.

I know that science has learned much from the music of the spheres in the vast cacophony of the heavens. I know that religions promote silence to reach the unreachable. I know that the frigid stillness of winter creates a cocoon where sound will not enter because of density.

What I didn’t know until I experienced it was the joy that silence gives the listener and that robust laughter needs no sound and God needs no dogma. The thoughts you think are yours, but aren’t, are God’s. He talks to all of us in stillness.

Mother Kills Children

Sometimes a story grabs your attention and pulls you into a sadness and anger that you cannot shake or dismiss.

The death of three children in Colorado Springs, Colorado is one of them.

Maybe you’ve heard the story by now. A 40-year old Mother was found guilty of first-degree murder killing her three children by burning down her home for the insurance money.

The children were eleven, five and three.

Deborah Nicholls will be sentenced tomorrow and faces life in prison without parole.

The law will decide her fate, but what of the children?

I want to believe that there is a place of cuddling comfort and dancing peaceful wonder. A place where toys and crayons never break, and scratches, cuts and bumps do not exist.

A place where teddy bears talk in happy colors, and puppies always wait to play. A place where candy is for breakfast and presents fill the room. Where no one knows what fear is and no shadows hide in halls.

I want to believe that in this special place, every mother who ever lived and loved her children, is waiting with open arms to hug, to love and comfort these children forever.

I want to believe it, for when I do, anger and judgment fade and sadness takes its’ rightful place and I can cry without the hope of vengeance.