The Girl, with the ~ Hay!

The last couple days have brought me inspiring moments, and situations, where I have discovered people, who were, seemingly reveling in the simple state of being, or utter happiness.  One took place today, and the other yesterday.  I will start with the one from today, since I like to go backwards in my approach, like the Chinese who rise at dawn, and walk with their backs against the morning sun.

Today I went to a garden center to get various items.  While I was pushing the cart around, searching for things I needed, and didn’t need, I saw a young girl, of 16 years or so, also pushing a cart, and on it was a small bundle of hay, all tied up.  Somehow our eyes met. She exuded an undefinable delight,  an energy from within, and without, which united me with her, like a converging of souls in the universe.  While the experience of her energy was flowing through my outer aura, I asked her, “What are you going to do with the hay?” As she smiled, and laughed, and lifted her arms up into the air, bringing them down in a circular motion, she said; “I’m going to do a ‘faaaall thing’!” The Spanish sounding ‘a’s’ resonated, as if cascading, in mid-air, creating a sort of waterfall effect, after which and without explanation, we both let out a hearty laugh, and walked our separate ways.  Before doing so, however, I of course, with practicality in mind, suggested that the hay might come in handy, that is, if she were going to seed the lawn. That made no sense to her whatsoever!  She was young, and had no reason to worry about lawns.

So I went on my way, looking for mums, and such things, when our paths crossed once again. I noticed that the hay wasn’t there anymore, and so I said: “What happened to your hay?”, to which, she replied, with a slight downward turn of her lips, and a silly frown on her face; “She made me put it back.”  I turned to look at an unsmiling woman next to her, whom I presumed to be her mother, and I said, to her; “but she was going to be creative, and do a faaaall thing”!  And the mother said, “Over my dead body!  I’ll not be picking up bits of hay, all over the place.”  So that was that!  I looked at the girl, who was still smiling, and back at her mother, again, and thought, “Some people just don’t understand.”  I knew it was best not to interfere, and so, with a smile, I bid adieu, and went on my merry way.

Well, there is another story of inspiration, but I think it will suffice to tell another day.  As for now, and later, I await with eagerness, anything, out of the ordinary, something extraordinary, that comes my way.

Carolina Klingelhoets – July 13, 1907 9 months & 6 days.

Carolina Kincelhoets

Truly, a fascinating cross of beautiful wrought iron, it marks the grave of a baby girl, named Carolina. At nine months, she would have been getting ready to walk. It is in the East end, and older part of a cemetery. Walking into the front of this cemetery, one would never have dreamed there would be a marker like this one. Most are of your typical granite, names of grandparents, siblings and even parents of children, with whom I grew up. All very important reminders of past memories. This cross, however was unique. Furthermore, the name, Carolina, is not commonly given to post-war girls of Mid America, and Klingelhoets, whose origin I couldn’t find, is not a surname you come across everyday.
Most of all, this marker is an indicator of the unknown past of a place I thought I knew so well, and a place whose mundane and boring environment from which I was so ever eager to flee. Coming back here, though, I find out things, I would never have dreamed of and glimpses into a past that leaves so much to the imagination. Whoever the Klingelhoets were, they certainly left a beautiful reminder of a child they loved, who walked out of their lives, much to soon.

Struggling to Understand

Thoughts on an article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sunday, August 17, 2014

IGHGrampa writes about ‘struggling to understand issues of Life (and Death)’. He reflects upon the suicide of Robin Williams, saying he had everything a person could possibly want, so how could he possibly want to take his life? Perhaps he has a point, but, many would ask, who is to judge? This point of view reminds me once, when I actually took the attitude, that if someone wants to kill themselves, it is alright. Today, I think twice before making this judgement, and it all stems back to when Someone, somewhere, when I lived in Nebraska, had taken their life. I don’t remember who they were, but it was someone, a coworker of mine and I were talking about one day, at a cafe, or bar. What I do remember, is my conversation with this very attractive blond girl, younger than myself. I really liked this girl a lot.  I think it was her very strong character and the self-confidence, with which she projected herself. In reference to this suicide, I said something to the effect, that it was this person’s decision to do what they wanted with their life, whether it was to continue on, or end it by their own hands. What will never leave my memory, is this girl’s totally unexpected, and strong reaction to my statement. With her steel blue eyes, she looked into, my eyes, and told me point blank; “It’s wrong!” She was adamant and unwavering in her statement, and went on to say that it was a totally selfish act, and that this person had no regard for the feelings of others around him or her. She was so fixed in her opinion that it truly made me stop and think about the act of suicide. To this day, and with utmost respect, I think of the proud and moral position this girl took, and I admire her still, for standing her ground on an issue, about which many people were, and still are, wishy washy. Furthermore, she was young, in the years of the late 70’s, a time when, ‘everything goes’. Today, I shame myself for not having a stronger spine and for following the opinion of the flock.

Going back to the article, IGHGrampa goes on to talk about ‘the struggle’, so to speak. He makes reference to the main character of the movie “Precious”, a woman who seems to have “insurmountable” problems. He writes about the struggle by astronomers to acquire knowledge and an understanding of how the planets and stars are formed, the forces of existence itself.

Pondering these struggles, Grampa remarks on his own trivial struggles, and that ‘sometimes you just have to put the struggles aside for a time.’ He even works on his own little problems in his workshop, to help him forget about the larger struggles of the world. Or, he likes to simply listen to classical music, to escape. His final statement makes so much sense to me, and that is, that perhaps, in order to understand, the key is ‘to make an effort to remove oneself from the struggle’, someway, somehow.

Grampa’s words bring me back to the idea of the struggle, to choose life, or death, between what is right, and what is wrong. In light of these thoughts, it is our duty, to find something that can be done for those, who find themselves alone in a moment of desperation, something to prevent them from hurting themselves, and/or others, whether it be with words, actions, or no action.  The passive-aggressive route. To help them to make an effort to ‘remove themselves from the struggle, and carry on in this world of life and death.  If my blond friend were here today, she would know. She would know what to say, and do.

Presently, I am thankful that this girl stepped into my life, if only for a short time. Like a few people in my life, she is gone, hopefully living, nonetheless, out of my radar.  Yet, the spirit of her hopefulness, has not subsided.  When the question of suicide ever comes up, I think of this girl, who worked by my side, in Lincoln, Nebraska, and, I think twice.

The Russians and the treatment of Nature in “My Ántonia”

In Book I, ‘The Shimerda’s’, Cather continues to set up scenes, develop characters and unravel the relationships of her story.  Told through the eyes of Jimmy Burden, he describes in part VIII the misfortunes of money and health, that fall upon the two young Russian neighbors of the Shimerda’s.  After a description of how Peter goes into terrible debt, mostly because of his creditor, Wick Cutter, a “merciless Black Hawk money-lender, the action is set in motion when Ántonia and her father, Mr. Shimerda come to Jimmy’s grandmother’s house to get buttermilk.  As Jimmy describes. “where they lingered…until the sun was low”.  While they are there, Peter the Russian, comes to relate the unfortunate news of Pavel, who after having fallen in his chores, began to cough up blood and became bedridden.  He wants Mr. Shimerda to come, as Pavel has taken a turn for the worse and cannot get out of bed.  Jimmy, upon hearing this news, asks his grandmother if he can go with them.  In the first person, Jimmy explains, “My plan must have seemed very foolish to her, but she was often large-minded about humoring the desires of other people.” Large-minded is a perfect word to describe an open-minded person. The goodness of Grandma’s character continues to shine through as Jimmy, in his storytelling, elaborates, “She asked Peter to wait a moment, and when she came back from the kitchen she brought a bag of sandwiches and doughnuts for us.”   Thus, Jimmie would not have to go without supper and the others would also benefit from her generosity.

The treatment of nature in Cather’s book, is one way she shows the smallness of people in the universe.  As they are moving along in the wagon, Jimmy describes, “After the sun sank, a cold wind sprang up and moaned over the prairie.”  Developing an almost seemingly amorous relationship between him and Ántonia, he says, “We burrowed down in the straw and curled up close together, watching the angry red die out of the west and stars begin to shine in the clear, windy sky.”  Peter is anxious about his brother, Peter.  They continue down the road and the description of the ever powerful nature is resumed.  “Up there the stars grew magnificently bright.”  Speaking of himself and Ántonia, he says, “Though we had come from such different parts of the world, in both of us there was some dusky superstition that those shining groups have their influence upon what is and what is not to be.”

When they arrive to the house, again the description of nature sets the tone for the dreary state of affairs.    “The wind shook the doors and windows impatiently, then swept on again, singing throughout the big spaces.  Each gust, as it bore down, rattled the panes, and swelled off like the others.  They made me think of defeated armies, retreating; or of ghosts who were trying desperately to get in for shelter, and then went moaning on.”  Then, “the coyotes turned up their whining howl”.  In these descriptions, there is another narrator, omniscient in character, showing how Nature itself is a character, playing its part in the series of events. Setting the background and creating mood, and presence, in the dreadful illness of Pavel.  These interludes with the stars, the sun, the wind and the howling wolves, tells us these are not always the thoughts of Jimmy, but the artistic expression of Cather herself, working her artistry, through Jimmy.  It is, like painting a picture of emotion, with her words.  Nature mimics the fears and apprehension of the characters.

“My Ántonia”

When Ántonia meets Jimmie Burden for the first time, she grabs his hand and they run at top speed out to the Squaw Creek.  They arrive there breathless, and Ántonia’s little sister runs with them.  Her name was Yulka. Antonia wanted to give Jimmie a silver ring she wore on her middle finger.  Jimmie insisted he wouldn’t take the ring.  He didn’t want it.  In his words he felt, “there was something reckless and extravagant about her wishing to give it away to a boy she had never seen before.”

Willa Cather, masterfully develops character, plot and movement in the course of her novel, My Ántonia.  Her choice of words describe who the character are, what they are like physically, what they are wearing and every physical attribute, which helps to define their character.  Their personality is defined by the way they speak and interact  with other characters and the way they respond to their environment.  In turn the setting is described  with a highly selective and sumptuous vocabulary.

Thoughts of Jim Burden in “My Ántonia”, by Willa Cather

“I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin… All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines…The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers….I kept as still as I could.  Nothing happened.  I did not expect anything to happen.  I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more.  I was entirely happy.  Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge.  At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.  When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”