Susan, Lady of Leisure

PART TWO

Susan took her time selecting and packing up her belongings, disposing of all the stuff she didn’t want to bother moving.

“Funny how one collects so much in a lifetime,” she told her daughter one morning. “But I want a life of a minimalist now. No more trying to find places to store knickknacks. No more cleaning clutter and moving it from one spot to another.”

Another task that took some of her time was saying her farewells at the various groups and clubs she was a member of through the years. She determined to be a minimalist in that regard, too.

“Now that I’m retired,” she told her friends at the book club, “I’m going to be careful what pies I put my finger in from now on. I may join the book club down there, or I may not, but I’m definitely not going to become so involved in organizations. I don’t regret the time I’ve contributed to Bake Sales or served on the Boards of MADD and the COPD Foundation, but now they will have to do without me.”

“We’ll see about that,” her friend said with a nod. “You may get bored and want to become involved in things down there.” She nudged Susan and winked. “Now that you have all this free time, you can bet different groups will be calling on you.”

Susan laughed. “As for being bored, that may take a year or two. And I can always say no to people who want to sign me up for this and that.”

The whole group then toasted her new life of ‘footloose and fancy free.”

Finally the day came when the last thing had been loaded on the moving van and it was heading off. Susan locked her apartment door for the last time, handed in the keys to the super, and drove away. She took her time driving down to the coast, hitting a few tourist spots en route. She stopped at some small village tea shops, savoring her new freedom as well as the local cuisines. Life is so good, she told herself.

She arrived at the cottage to find the moving van had already arrived and unloaded everything so she got right to work. It took her a few weeks to unpack and get her belongings stowed into their proper places in her new home. And of course yard work now occupied some of her time. The last owner had a gorgeous flower garden Susan intended to keep up. All her life she’d wanted one.

The next month flew by as Susan enjoyed her flowers, puttered around the house, and visited the local stores. Being only half an hour from the beach, she spent quite a few mornings stretched out in the sunshine. Not ever one to sit in front of the television, she spent the pleasant summer evenings reading or doing walkabouts in the neighborhood. She met and chatted with her new neighbors from time to time.

Yes, this was the retirement life she’d always dreamed of. Nothing to do, no appointments to keep. Sure, she missed the hustle and bustle of the hospital ward at times. As much as she was glad to get away from that old routine, being totally without one started to bother her a bit. The first few weeks she’d told herself, There’s no hurry. I can sleep til noon if I wish. But now she was starting to think, I can’t just let myself go to pot, either. I don’t want to morph into a couch potato here!

One day an odd, empty feeling came over her. It took her awhile to define it, but finally it condensed into a question: Do I have any real purpose in life anymore?

She brushed it away at first, yet somehow that question rose up like a mountain, looming over her, dark and scary. Susan trembled. She didn’t have an answer.

To be continued…

Avalanche–Part 2

How long will it be before I run out of air? The question lingers around me like a noxious fume.

What am I doing here anyway? Why did I sneak over here, hoping and praying no one would know, so fearful they’d steal my gold? Right now I’d give it all to have one friend who cared enough to come and dig me out.

This is really crazy. Here I am, surrounded by all this wealth and I’d trade it this minute for empty space — space that would hold more air so I could live a few hours longer. Maybe long enough to dig myself out? Maybe not.

My mind snaps for a moment. I grope around, grab a bag of nuggets, and hurl it as hard as possible against the snow in the entrance. I hear the thud as it strikes, then falls to the ground.

Rocks. Small glistening pebbles. They won’t buy me enough oxygen to survive. They won’t buy me an air hole, never mind a hole big enough to crawl through.

If I could only melt my way through. I picture myself trying to melt some of the snow blockage with a lit candle, and I laugh. Oh, well. Maybe I should light one of them anyway. What difference can it make? Why not enjoy a little luxury as I’m dying? The candle and I can go out together.

Impulsively I crawl back to the entrance and try to move a bit more snow, but there’s no place to put it. I think about some fellow who wise-cracked one day that our town had a great snow removal plan. “It’s called Spring.”

Yeah. Spring will indeed move all this snow from the door of this cave.

And maybe next spring when the snow melts someone will think of me and come looking. If they find me they may use some of my gold to buy a nice fancy coffin for my remains and a headstone for my grave. It could say, “Here lies a very selfish man who died for his sin.” They’d choose marble, probably. Maybe that nice creamy-colored stuff with a cross carved on top. Or maybe just granite.

All depends on who finds me. Maybe some other miner will peek in and grab my bags, cover the hole, and my bones will be left here until Judgement Day.

I contemplate that day. Will the Lord come soon, like some preachers say, or will it be years and years yet? Or will He forget about us here on earth and go on to other things? I been in church a few times in my life, especially to funerals, so my mind drifts back to some of the songs and bits of sermons I’ve heard.

But I don’t want to die. Never gave it much thought before, but now I’m scared to die. Here I am, a prospector living all alone up here in the mountains, facing dangers every day, and now this. I’d better get ready, because I’m going to die.

I find myself shaking; tears are running down my cheeks. “Oh, God,” I shout into the darkness, “I’m afraid to die.”

Conclusion tomorrow.

WordPress Writing Prompt: Under the Snow

Ads, Ads, Fried Termites: Perils of a Writer’s Mind

As you may well know, a writer’s mind is a constantly swirling inkwell.  I see, hear, read, experience things – and my mind right away wants to turn this new info into printed matter.  It’s in my genes; I come from a long line of storytellers.

After all these years I’m still trying to decide if this swirling process produces pearls or is a peril.  Is God sending these inspirations, wishing to speak through me – or is it that “muse” some people speak of that’s made chaos of what could have been my well ordered life?☺

I have dear friends whose minds seem to turn in orderly rotations around the fulcrum of “clean and neat.”  It’s deep in their genes and I admire the results they achieve in their homes.  May times I’ve decided to give up writing in favour of having a sparkling house like some others.  I edit for hours–days!–trying to achieve “clean, neat, and in order” in what I write but this doesn’t leave me time to give my physical surrounding that same care. ☹

Some women look at the world with their eyes, where I tend to see the world with my mind or imagination.  For example, if I walk through my house and see light shining in the windows, I might think about doing an article on light versus darkness; my friends will see that the window needs cleaning and get to it.  Or they make a mental note to do it later–and remember.

I make notes, too, but they get lost somewhere.  (The fate of many of my literal lists as well.)  Then there are times when some really brilliant idea or comparison pops into my head, but I can’t drop what I’m doing.  I do try to snatch a moment to rush to the computer and type in a title –and maybe a few lines– before I forget it.  When I’ve finished what I’m doing, I’ll get back to that file and let the creative juices flow.  If I remember.

Speaking of which, a few weeks ago I noticed a file in my hard drive entitled “Ads, ads, and termites.”  I stared at the screen for a minute.  What kind of ads was I thinking of?  On Kijiji perhaps?  But why the repeat?  And how do termites fit with ads?  I was mystified.  Maybe someday it’ll come back to me, I thought, and didn’t even bother to open the file.

Last week I saw it again and the fog started clearing.  “Ads, ads” wasn’t advertisements; this stood for adjectives and adverbs.  I was thinking about adjectives and adverbs, then read something about termites, and somehow a comparison popped into my head.  I’d been reading a missionaries’ letter –they are working in Cameroon– and they wrote something about termites.  But what?

Today I opened the file; here’s what I’d typed in:

Adjectives, adverbs, and fried termites  (Fried termites?)

The almost-pure-white butterflies flipped and flopped in lazy circles over the crisply sun-burned lawn, searching for a choice bit of vegetation on which to lay their tiny greenish-yellow eggs.

I know adjectives and adverbs have fallen into disfavour these days.  You’re supposed to cut back on them and rather choose strong nouns and verbs.  Like “The ivory butterflies twirled figure eights over what once was lawn, searching for some green spot to lay their eggs.”

But what does that all have to do with fried termites?  Whatever the case may be, I fear they will be forever linked in my mind now.

It will be just like the incident my mother-in law told me about.  One day while she was still a girl at home her brother Jake asked her a question: “When you see a falling star, do you ever think of onions?”

“Onions! No, never,” she answered.

“You will from now on,” Jake said with a laugh.

“Oh, brother!” she thought, but she told me his words have proved true: after that day, every time she saw a falling star she was reminded of that dumb joke.  And since she told me, I’ve thought of that silly “onions” joke, too, every time I see a falling star.

So be warned.  It’s possible that, from now on, every time someone mentions adjectives and adverbs you may find yourself thinking “fried termites.”

Perhaps I’d better find that letter, read it again, find out what my comparison was and tell you, too.  Right now the letter is buried somewhere in a pile of correspondence we received, but if I’d clean my house once…

Another Pearl that’s been forming in my grey matter:

A few days ago I read a post on someone else’s blog that really struck a chord with me.  It was about being a front-line soldier for the Lord.  My mind immediately flipped into the thought of –and started putting together an article about– the nature of an army.  I’ve asked permission to quote part of what she wrote because I think we all need to ponder this.  I’ll post her writing in a few days as an introduction, then my article will follow.  Spring cleaning can wait a bit longer, right?

Who Do You Work For?

Who Is Your Boss?

By Edgar A Guest

“I work for someone else,” he said,
“I have no chance to get ahead.
At night I leave the job behind;
at morn I face the same old grind
and everything I do by day
just brings to me the same old pay.
While I am here I cannot see
the semblance of a chance for me.”

I asked another how he viewed
the occupation he pursued.
“It’s dull and dreary toil,” said he,
“and brings but small reward to me.
My boss gets all the profits fine
that I believe are rightly mine.
My life’s monotonously grim
because I’m forced to work for him.”

I stopped a third young man to ask
his attitude towards his task.
A cheerful smile lit up his face;
“I shan’t be always in this place,”
he said, “because some distant day
a better job will come my way.”
“Your boss?” I asked, and answered he:
“I’m going to make him notice me.

“He pays me wages and in turn
that money I am here to earn,
but I don’t work for him alone;
allegiance to myself I own.
I do not do my best because
it gets me favors or applause—
I work for him but I can see
that actually I work for me.

“It looks like business good to me
the best clerk on the staff to be.
If customers approve my style
and like my manner and my smile
I help the firm to get the pelf
but what is more, I help myself.
From one big thought I’m never free:
That every day I work for me.”

Oh, youth, thought I, you’re bound to climb
the ladder of success in time.
Too many self-impose the cross
of daily working for a boss,
forgetting that in failing him
it is their own stars that they dim.
And when real service they refuse
they are the ones who really lose.

From his book Just Folks
©1917 by the Reilly & Britton Co.

What Passion!

It’s All In The Delivery

The actress Helena Modjeska was highly regarded for her ability to breathe life and emotion into her performances.  One day she was giving a dramatic recitation at a dinner party.  The item she recited was well known in her native Poland and she delivered it with such zeal and passion that, even though they didn’t understand any of it, her listeners were moved to tears.

Now that’s talent!  And what was this wondrous piece of literature that could so touch the emotions of her listeners?

The Polish alphabet.

Wonderful Land of Raining Minutes

 

One of the Dec 26th daily challenges at The Write Practice was to imagine it was raining unicorns. Children would be delighted, but I couldn’t get all that enthused about that as I have little interest in unicorns, also I fear they’d trample my garden. Especially in the course of falling from heaven. So I altered it to something much more appealing to me.

What if it rained minutes from heaven?

Can you imagine the delight if one day it would shower extra minutes – or even if every day it would rain ten minutes’ worth of extra time? How we’d all race out to grab up the extra minutes we need to finish our various projects! I’d be out there scooping them up into every available container. Wouldn’t you?

We all complain about the lack of time. If it rained minutes even once a week, would we be able to gather enough to lengthen our lives by a few days or even a few years? And then would we fill these minutes productively? Would you and I get the things done we think we’d get done “IF I only had a few extra minutes”? Maybe I’d get a few more books read – or written!

Would we be selfish with the newly gained minutes? If I went out with a huge basket – and I assure you I would! – and later discovered that an invalid had been unable to even gather an extra hour, would I share?  Would I give up the precious minutes I’d gleaned to help another, or would I hoard each one for my own use?

What if it rained minutes? If you’re like me you’d rather see them trickling down from the sky than trickling away into that huge drain we call YESTERDAY, like they do now.

You may gather as you read this that I have a major problem with time management – and you’re right. I haven’t yet learned to put into practice the words of that old hymn, “Give every passing minute something to keep in store. Work for the night is coming when man works no more.”

It may be wise to begin with the question, “Would more minutes help – or am I just fooling myself?”

What about you? How many more minutes would you like to have every week to improve your life or vocation?

 

The Salesman Gets A Shock

by Edgar Guest

The salesman saw his shabby clothes and eyed him head to toe;
so rough a looking man, thought he, could not be good to know;
and since he sold expensive cars, which only rich men buy,
to sell to the ragged-looking man he did not even try.

The stranger walked among the cars and looked the models o’er,
the youthful salesman passed him by a dozen times or more;
not once he paused to talk to him; he scorned the proffered smile
and looked about for richer men who might be more worth while.

The manager came out at last and saw the shabby man.
His hand went out in welcome as he shouted, “Hello, Dan!”
“Hello, Bill,” said the shabby man. “My daughter wants a car
and I’ve been noseying around to see how good they are.

Send up the red one over there; she likes to cut a dash.”
And reaching in his wallet he drew out the price in cash.
“My women wear the style for me. You know my ways are quaint.
My word,” said he, “I think that boy has fallen in a faint!”

They brought the youthful salesman to, and sent him home to rest.
“Don’t ever judge a man,” said they, “by how he may be dressed.
You lost a good cash customer, but write this lesson down:
‘Not all the worth while people strut in worsted ‘round the town.’ ”

From his book The Light of Faith
© 1926 by The Reilly & Lee Co.

Courage: Not A Spark But A Fire

Courage
by Edgar Guest

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
a daring deed in a moment’s flash;
it isn’t an instantaneous thing
born of despair with a sudden spring.
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
or the final tug at a slipping rope;
but it’s something deep in the soul of man
that is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
in the work of life or the game of sport;
it isn’t a thing that man can call
at some future time when he’s apt to fall.
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
when the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
that flashes and passes away from sight’
it’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
with the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue;
it’s part of him when he has work to do;
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
it isn’t a thing that can come and go;
it’s written in victory and defeat
and every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
it’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly and Britton Co.

Father

by Edgar Guest

Used to wonder just why Father
   Never had much time for play;
used to wonder why he’d rather
   work each minute of the day.
Used to wonder why he never
   loafed along the road an’ shirked;
can’t recall a time whenever
 Father played while others worked.

Father didn’t dress in fashion,
   sort of hated clothing new;
style with him was not a passion;
   he had other things in view.
Boys are blind to much that’s going
   on about them day by day,
and I had no way of knowing
   what became of Father’s pay.

All I knew was when I needed
   shoes I got ‘em on the spot;
everything for which I pleaded,
   somehow Father always got.
Wondered, season after season,
   why he never took a rest,
and that I might be the reason
   then I never even guessed.

Father set a store on knowledge;
   if he’d lived to have his way
he’d have sent me off to college
   and the bills been glad to pay.
That, I know, was his ambition;
   now and then he used to say
he’d have done his earthly mission
   on my graduation day.

Saw his cheeks were getting paler,
   didn’t understand just why;
saw his body growing frailer,
   then at last I saw him die.
Rest had come! His tasks were ended,
calm was written on his brow;
Father’s life was big and splendid,
   and I understand it now.

From his book, A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

Qualities of a Quality Man

A MAN
by Edgar Guest

A man doesn’t whine at his losses;
   a man doesn’t whimper and fret
or rail at the weight of his crosses
   and ask life to rear him a pet.
A man doesn’t grudgingly labor
   or look upon toil as a blight:
a man doesn’t sneer at his neighbor
   or sneak from a cause that is right.

A man doesn’t sulk when another
   succeeds where his efforts have failed;
doesn’t keep all his praise for the brother
   whose glory is publicly hailed
and pass by the weak and the humble
   as though they were not of his clay;
a man doesn’t ceaselessly grumble
   when things are not going his way.

A man looks on woman as tender
   and gentle, and stands at her side
at all times to guard and defend her,
   and never to scorn or deride.
A man looks on life as a mission,
   to serve, just so far as he can;
A man feels his noblest ambition
   on earth is to live as a man.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
published 1916 by The Reilly & Britton Co

(And I daresay this man will be able to hold his head up to others and be able to look himself in the mirror every night. We ladies should be aspiring to these virtues, too–not to be self-righteously sweet but to be a REAL person, gentle, caring, and faithful to our Creator. It’s our calling to be a woman men can respect.)