Tag Archives: high school

Carrying On, Oblivious

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We had a severe winter storm last December that damaged many trees here on Beaver Island.

As the Winter snows melt away, the Spring waters recede and the deep mud dries up, I’m able to walk the dogs through areas that have been impassible for months. We often come upon trees that have fallen, casualties of that long ago storm. The big dog usually goes over; the small dog goes under. Most times I go around.

Last week, preparing to go off trail once again to circumvent the large treetop that was still in my path, I noticed a change that brought tears to my eyes, and caused me to investigate further.

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This is where the tree begins, far into the woods. The weight of the snow on its branches caused it to bow, and it eventually snapped. It took another, smaller tree down with it.

It is laid out through the woods, forty feet or more of it, from heavy trunk to the tiniest, topmost branches, which are spread out across the woodland path.

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And, close-up, look like this:

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Yes, oblivious to the fact that the trunk has been severed from the earth, that death is imminent and unavoidable, this tree is about to unfurl its leaves in a show of Springtime glory!

One of my entries here on WordPress was selected for “Freshly Pressed” a couple weeks ago. I think it’s a pretty big honor. I know it’s very flattering.

That distinction brought several new readers and “like”-ers and “follow”-ers (Welcome!) to my blog. It also made me afraid that I would never again have anything to say that would come close to that quality of writing. Which would mean that from here on out, everything I write will be a disappointment (Sorry!).

It really can be quite paralyzing.

Many years ago I worked with a young man named Jeff, the summer after his high school graduation. He had been a popular boy, a football player, the class president, well liked by both students and faculty. He’d had a wonderful high school experience, and he was smart enough to appreciate it. He was also intelligent enough to be thoughtful, and he was afraid. “What if those were the best years of my life?” he wondered, “How can anything else measure up?”

These are similar to my fears about this blog, since being “Freshly Pressed.”

I had opportunity to talk to Jeff ten years later. He’d learned that fresh challenges present themselves, new experiences bring joy, and those high school memories fade into the past, so that they are no longer the yardstick by which all other experiences are measured.

“And how did you come to learn that?” I asked him.

“Well, I guess I just blindly kept going, and things worked out,” he said.

So, with that magnificent, doomed tree and that thoughtful young man as examples, that’s what I’m doing.

Maybe one with a better perspective than I have can see that it’s hopeless. Maybe my best is behind me.

Oblivious to all that, I carry on.

What?!

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My friend, Kate, has been making me laugh.

I’ve known Kate since grade school…though she was Kathleen then.

We all went by our full names at Bishop Kelley School. I’m not sure, but I think we may have gotten extra credit if the given name was an actual saint’s name. In any case, no shortened versions. Twice, in the eight years I attended, I had to bring a note from home, verifying that – in fact – Cindy was not short for Cynthia or Lucinda, but my given name just like that (I was actually named after Cinderella, but my mother had the good sense to keep that off the birth record!). I’m fairly sure my younger brother – we called him Teddy back then – would not have had to repeat the first grade if he hadn’t had to spend so much time trying to write Theodore Ricksgers on every paper!

When we transferred, after grade eight, from our small Catholic school (90 students divided among eight classrooms)to the large, city-wide high school (1200 students in four grades with dozens of different classes), it was easy to lose track of people. Depending on scheduling and class plans, it was possible to have six classes with not one single familiar face. There were many more options for activities and interests; without the ever-vigilant nuns overseeing our choices, a whole new world of clothing and hairstyle options opened up to us. Names were shortened. It took me two years of high school to realize that Bill, the funny, loud boy with longish hair and cool attitude, was the same shirt-and-tie and crew-cut wearing William that I’d sat in the same classroom with from first through eighth grade!

So, in the larger world of high school, Kate and I lost touch. When we re-connected last year through the internet (and its magical ability to make the world a smaller place), we had hardly spoken to each other since the eighth grade! Still, there are strong connections between people that were children together. The years tend to downplay differences and accentuate similarities. Through her wonderful blog, I’ve learned about her family, her interests and her life. Through messages she has sent, I have benefited from her understanding and sympathy. I have been surprised and pleased by her wonderful sense of humor.

Most updates on social media are pretty dry, aimed at a specific audience, and remind me just a bit of notes passed in high school: “sick today…UGH!”, or “headed for the mall – new dress!”.

Not Kate’s! Every single post is a gem. She is brilliantly funny, a master of understated hilarity, simply profound:

“Procrastinate zealously…Put it off until there are penalties.”

“I like the way “Peace be with you” gives everybody smiley faces.”

“It kind of hurts my feelings to hear other people talking about how smart their phones are. My phone is smart, too…It just never applies itself.”

I read any one of her offerings, and I grin about it for hours…or sometimes days. Most recently, I’ve been chuckling over this entry:

“So, I said to myself, “Kate, you have too many pairs of flip flops!” Then I said, a little bit louder, “What?! You can never have too many pairs of flip flops!” ”

Silly, yes, but so very applicable to my life!

This week, crawling around on hands and knees to clear weeds and debris from my garden, I thought, “Too many flower beds!”, then thought of Kate, smiled, and thought, “You can never have too many flower beds!”

Picking up yet another package at the Post Office, I chastise myself, thinking, “You really have too many books already…” then I imagine the twinkle in Kate’s eye as I say, “What?! You can never have too many books!”

This morning, I put the long bench out in front of the forsythia bush. I dragged the old metal chair to its spot under the big maple tree. I pulled the benches out of the shed and sat them on either side of the outdoor table. I moved the red folding chair to the back yard, and the sling chair to it’s spot near the vegetable garden. I thought, “Really, Cindy, for one person, you have way too many things to sit down on!”

And the distance from Greensboro, North Carolina to Beaver Island, Michigan disappeared, and more than forty-five years fell away, and Kate and I could have been two children giggling together as I said “What?!”