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Hold onto the good stuff

Published 10:51am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An odd statement, attributed to the brilliant writer Rainer Maria Rilke, reads: “If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.”

Let this conviction allow a peek into your world. Grandma would say: “Life is a salad.” Uncle might say: “It’s all pluses and minuses.” A brother would intone: “Wait. Your ship will come in.” A teacher of mine at the University of Minnesota, who was having a bad day, uttered: “It’s one damn thing after another.” The chuckle from the back row turned a few heads and the teaching assistant tried to hide her smirk.

Each of us experiences, lives within the poles of opposites. Or it may at least be near opposites. We are challenged to either live in the midnights of each 24 hours or welcome a sun breaking through the horizons! There are choices.

As we think of how life falls into patterns or disarray, we face each hour, day, week, or month with a stance toward all that happens. Utilizing the quotation by Mr. Rilke as a metaphor, each person can be coached to a perspective of realism. There is the dark; there is the down! There are flashes of light; there are gorgeous ripples on the clean stream.

The recent memorial service in Austin (June 30), that affirmed the 77 years of a grand person, will be long remembered. Those in attendance honored the elegant memory of Chandler Harrison Stevens, Jr., who, after every rain, brought sunshine to this area.

The bulletin for the service contained an insight — a Chinese Proverb: “Don’t curse the darkness — light a candle.” That insight is, for me, a kind of winner’s torch to steel our wills, emotions, and thoughts.


We renew ourselves by holding onto all that is good

The past days, gathering around the Fourth of July, remind us to stir our gratitude for the providential, positives, plenitude, and promise of prosperity of our grand nation. Hey, naysayers! This time, no grumbling!

Returning to the aforementioned memorial service, two of the musical numbers that were sung, sound a reminder of the harmony we can attain. “Up a Lazy River” contains lyrics such as, “You can linger for awhile in the shade of a tree. Throw away your troubles, baby. Dream a dream of me,” etc. If we are alive we can dream; we can be ventilated by the “good stuff.”

And for Harry Stevens, somehow, he never forgot “The Wizard of Oz.” The lyrics of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” are indeed, for some, maudlin, but maybe there is a soft spot that’s in there! Seek it out, please.

“Someday I’ll wish upon a star,

And wake up where the clouds are far

Behind me.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops,

Away above the chimney tops.

That’s where you’ll find me.”


Not flipping out when the storm hits

There is a word. You ask, “what is it?” The word is proactive. Knowing that upsets will occur in any normal life, we can, in advance, signal the strengths we know we possess. Rather than anticipating loss, we can summon the energies that say “no” to a downward drift. There is a character trait resident in our hearts: attitude.

A novel that I am currently reading by Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, has a sentence that I kept rereading. Quoting: “What you tell me there?” she said sharply. “That is English law.” “Law! The mason boy fix it, that boy worse than Satan and he burn in Hell one of these fine nights?” (p. 110) This exchange represents, within the beauty of the Caribbean, the torment of persons living out of rejection, and then, revenge.

Is being nasty ever, in the long run, better than being nice? In a county, like Mower, the public and private venues, agencies, and opportunities are abundant. Even the almost negligible scene: a student with a backpack, stopping to help a person who lost control of a skateboard and is sprawled on the curb.

We have multiple places of delight in Austin, sustained by the Parks and Recreation Department. What labors of love! The Historical Society, Austin Public Library, Hormel Nature Center, the Senior Center, and the “Y” can be added to the provisions that give reason to affirm our “better angels.”

We may not be able to deny that which is negative, but within each of us, are resources to affirm the positive.

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