The dogs and I walked through a valley shrouded in mist this morning - it swirled up under my umbrella, making me feel a little silly carrying it (in my defense, I thought it was raining when I glanced outside before heading out because the mist condensate was dripping from the porch overhang.) Four white-tail deer silently crossed the road in front of us. The dogs didn't even notice them.
If I had to choose one or the other, I'd pick soaring warm mornings of sunshine and blue sky, but I enjoy mornings like this, too...every once in a while, anyway...and not just so I can appreciate the sunny ones. Misty mornings have their own subtle beauty...good for quiet reflection, a remedy to these countdown days before Christmas that could easily become frenetic.
My thoughts were on a shooting on a Dallas freeway during rush hour yesterday afternoon. It was the first thing I heard about on the news this morning, and for a split second I worried about Tommy - then I remembered he'd had to work late, and I was so grateful. But then my thoughts were on the ones who were killed, and their families, and how sad the holidays would be for them, and then I thought of the workers who have been laid off from their jobs, and then on a friend whose father just died.
While reading and re-reading my great-great grandfather's memoir, I've been amazed at how hard his life was at times and the heartbreaks he endured. Life can still be hard and full of heartbreak, though - the past doesn't have a monopoly in that area. It helps to know that others have gone through this life, through war and illness and empty pockets, and survived.
My friend Ann wrote on her blog the other day about how she loves looking at her family's old sepia photos, and included a song by Jamey Johnson - In Color. I'd never heard it before, but I love the lyrics, about the stories behind the old black and white photos families have stashed away in boxes and albums. I gather up as many of these old family photos as I can, gaze into the faces, some stern, some smiling, and even beyond them at their world - the houses, pets, clothes - trying to get clues about their personalities, their lives.
One of my favorites is this one of my grandparents - my dad's mom and dad - Annie B. and Durward - I believe taken when they were still dating or newly married. I love the fact that they joked around like this, switching clothes. I love seeing this side of them, imagining them before and after the picture was taken.
The play I'm writing is about Annie B.'s grandfather, and includes many of her memories about him. I realize I missed writing about her on her birthday in September. I guess she would have been 102. We thought she'd make it to her 100th - she was going strong for a long time, probably on pure determination, but her body just kind of wore out - I guess it's been about six years since her death. She didn't let hard times, heartbreak or her age stop her from what she wanted to do - I have LOTS of stories about her I'll have to tell later.
Before she died, she gave me this admittedly corny poem, "Don't Quit", (framed, and appropriately printed over a picture of a rainbow in the hills) that I think explains a lot about her resilience, and probably a clue to all survivors - those that find something to smile or even laugh about even when everything seems to be going wrong - a shared attitude that I have trouble hanging onto, but I keep trying. I'm sure she wouldn't mind me sharing it.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit,
It's when things seem worst, that you must not quit.
In keeping with the black and white photo theme, here's a good Christmas past photo - Donnie, me, Brenda (and Santa, of course)...