The sun is shining…

and, for me, that’s a wonderful thing.  I can deal with most anything if the sun is shining.  I’m definitely one of those people who needs lots of natural light.  Despite my love of the sunshine, I’ve never thought of myself as a sunbather.  In my mind, sunbathers were those individuals who roasted and basted themselves for hours in the sun.  I’ve never been able to do that because I get too antsy.  I just can’t sit that long, especially if there is a body of water nearby.

After looking at the definition of the word ‘sunbathe,’ it does appear I may just be one of those.  The definition mentions sitting or lying in the sun, especially to darken the skin.  I guess I don’t think of it that way.  My body and psyche just feels a whole lot better when I absorb some rays.  Do I enjoy being tan?  Well, yes I do.  Am I going to end up paying for my affinity for the sun?  Yes, I will.  Will I be able to restrict my time in the sun if need be?  I don’t think so.  I’ve spent the last 20 or so Summers frolicking in the water.  I love to swim and be in the water.  It’s my jam.

I grew up playing outside in all seasons.  I had a great deal of sun exposure.  Being a fair-skinned individual, I often experienced a mild sunburn before tanning took place.  Over the years I’ve had a few horrific sunburns.  I taught tennis for many summers, always outdoors.  There was no sunscreen back then.  We burned.  Teaching tennis was a great way to get sun because I was always moving and never thought of it as sunbathing.  The only time I intentionally set out to get some color was for the Senior Ball in high school when I sat in the backyard with aluminum foil on my Beach Boys “Endless Summer” album cover.  It was a double album so maximum exposure.  I ended up a deep shade of red, go figure.

In fact, the neighborhood pool opens on May 19th and unless it’s raining I will be over there with my bathing suit on and will get in the water despite it being a brisk 60 degrees on average.  This is on my mind because tomorrow is my visit to the dermatologist.  I’m sure he is going to recommend I lighten up on the sun.  And I’m fairly certain he will be “zapping” a few spots.  Don’t you love it when they say, “you’ll feel a little pinch.”  Are you kidding me?  I’ve been pinched by the best (my brother comes to mind) and I’ve never felt a pinch like that.  Certainly I take precautions by using sunscreen, and have for years, but I know the damage was done long ago.  I’m willing to continue to be cautious but I don’t want to stay out of the sun.  As Sheryl Crow sings, “I’m gonna soak up the sun.”  I have to.  It’s part of my soul.

Posted in gratitude, Health, life lessons, Sun | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Laugh often and laugh hard

“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

At the age of five, I first experienced the wonder of Mary Poppins on film.  It was sunshine and lollipops on the big screen.  And, for me, the pinnacle was Ed Wynn floating and singing “I Love to Laugh.”  Even now when I think of it I can’t help smile.

Humor is an important part of my life, always has been.  According to my mom, I was a funny kid.  I didn’t always mean to be, but I was.  I did silly things, said silly things, performed spontaneous silly acts.  As a toddler I walked about the house with a box on my head and talked a blue streak to myself.  In pre-toddler years, it was said that when I performed a funny little dance that meant it was time to change my diaper.  If it feels good, do it.

My mind finds most everything funny, or ironic.  Quips escape my lips faster than water from a broken hydrant.  At times, I marvel at my own thoughts, at times I don’t understand why others don’t see the humor in things, at times I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.  C’est la vie.

I’ve experienced many forms of laughter:  the spontaneous blurt; the screaming laughter; the titter (yes, I just chuckled as I typed that word); the mirth-filled snort; the ‘lol’; the uncontrollable that produces tears and excess mucous (and perhaps various and sundry other bodily fluids); the inappropriate laugh that you have to swallow; and any other that exists.

My friends all like to laugh, that’s part of why they’re my friends.  And with some longtime friends, the laughter is as powerful now as it was decades ago.  Maybe there is a more mature tone to it.  Nah.  What’s the fun in that?  As a high school teacher, I tried to avoid certain words in the classroom.  Believe it or not, the word “duty” takes on a whole new meaning to adolescents.  I always included a specific Sherlock Holmes short story because when Watson has to awaken Holmes he says, “Sorry to have knocked you up, Holmes.”  Minutes would pass as the students laughed deliriously.  This episode was always followed by a few specific questions:  “Are they gay?,” “Why are they living together?,” and my favorite, “Is Holmes really a woman?”  Believe me, at times like this it was hard to remain in adult mode given my own state of foolish mind.  But there are teachable moments in every situation and I would turn the discussion to differences in language and time periods.

Given my non-married status a student once asked if I was queer.  My instantaneous response, “I’ve been known to be considered odd from time to time,” at which point I burst into laughter.  Then I would have to explain my response because they didn’t get it and thought I’d gone off the deep end.  It was an honest answer.  The question was rude.  Thankfully my reaction distracted us from the question’s original intent.

There are times when I crack myself up and I’ve been known to start laughing for no apparent reason.  In my own head there’s a reason.  Things and words just strike me as funny.  Through the miracle of the Internet, I can feed this habit at any time by watching videos.  And some I can watch over and over and over, like the iconic dance greats dancing to “Uptown Funk.”  A laughable favorite is “Mafia Babies,” part of the Brock’s Dub series on YouTube.  If there are sight gags along with silly language, I’m just a mess.  I like the thinking dogs who say “heckin'” and express their thoughts in ways that I’ve actually thought on my own.  I like any of the Bad Lip Reading series.  Honestly, I don’t always need the outside visual because I’m pretty entertaining on my own (at least in my own head I am).

Laughter has saved me and I mean that in the most literal sense.  Let yourself be silly, let yourself laugh randomly, let yourself be amused.  It’s marvelously restorative.  Haha.

Posted in life lessons, laughter, Personality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Peace and quiet among the wax begonias.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

Kudos to one of our important American writers for being succinct; he also of the phrase, “simplify, simplify.”   Even back in the 19th century, Thoreau thought people were too caught up in the trappings of life.  He worried what the belching smoke from the new-fangled locomotives would do to the air.  He urged people to live simpler lives and to take stock of their surroundings.  Does that mean Thoreau was a loner because he enjoyed peace and quiet?

Loner has such a negative connotation.  Why, it could lead to being anti-social.  I don’t believe that for a minute.  It is possible to enjoy time alone and not be anti-social.  I should know, as I spend a fair amount of time by myself.  It’s never bothered me to spend time alone.  Does that mean I don’t enjoy people?  No, it doesn’t.  I enjoy people a great deal but there are times I need and want to be alone. I’m more apt to become bored in a crowd than I am by myself.

There’s a great deal to be said for sitting quietly and watching what goes on.  When I rented at the lake, one of my favorite activities was to swim to the middle of the lake and float on my back.  Staring at the sky and watching the birds was very calming.  A bonus was a sighting of plane contrails far up near the heavens.

A fun thing about kayaking was the silent glide of the boat.  I loved to travel through the lily pads, watching the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks, skimming across the water quietly.  Sometimes I just sat in the kayak and watched.  It was always a soothing balm for any stress I carried.

I take time to stop and smell the roses when I pass them.  If you happen to be with me, I will probably strike a silly pose as I do so just to remind you of how much of a doofus I am.  I will always stop to watch horses run in a field.  It’s such a beautiful sight to see them stretch out their legs and gobble up the distance.  Snowflakes landing on my jacket may distract me for several minutes.

At my previous house, I planted several window boxes of wax begonias every spring.  As the summer waned and the stress of the school year loomed, I’d sit on the back steps and watch the bees collect pollen from those flowers.  It amazed me to watch them stash the pollen on their legs as it looked like they were utilizing saddlebags.  The peaceful feeling that washed over me gave me strength.

I see so many things on any given day that cause me to say to myself, “Wow, that’s amazing.”  It matters not to me that many people don’t view life this way.  And I don’t mind when some allude to the fact that I’m a loner.  I’m not, really.  I enjoy my time alone or my time with others.

Take some time to smell the roses, or look at a unique shade of clematis; watch kids skateboard and do fabulous tricks; enjoy the silly antics of birds as they swoop to and from feeders; just spend some time really looking at something.  You will find you are no longer seeing, but feeling.

wwax begonias

Posted in bees, learning experiences, nature, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And now…

(cue the Monty Python music) for something completely different.  Thought I’d throw one of these out there.  It’s an older effort, penned after riding home on the school bus from a tennis match.  While the players were doing their teenage thing, the coach was staring out the bus window.  I love the night sky.

Late Evening Bus Ride

Along the horizon

a line of gold

stretched beyond the imagination


An indigo hue

floated above

broken by bits of the heavens


A bright crescent

keen against the azure

offers the hope of other luminaries


Chill autumn air

magnifies the celestial entities

making them real


If I could…

If I try…

My fingers might graze a star.


©Beth Anderson


Posted in autumn, nature, poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greek life in high school?

I’m writing a history of our local school district.  I feel history is important and since no one has undertaken this task, I decided it was time.  It occurred to me that valuable resources, in the form of oral histories, were already lost.  In an effort to gather as much early history as possible, I’ve been interviewing some of the oldest living graduates of our local high school.  It’s a wonderful experience to listen to their tales of school days and the past histories of the local towns.  Their narratives enrich all of the facts I’ve discovered.

Much of my time has been spent poring over old school yearbooks (they begin in 1929).  Early on I noticed references to fraternities and sororities beginning with the inaugural book in 1929.  The references primarily appear as ads in the Advertising Sections of the books.  However, during the 1930s and 40s, sororities are often mentioned in the activities of female students.

While many people in our country are accustomed to thinking of Greek Life in conjunction with colleges and universities, it is not unheard of in the secondary school ranks.  Based on its collegiate forerunners, the first high school fraternity began in the U.S. around 1860.  Of local note, a fraternity (Alpha Zeta) was in existence in 1869 in a secondary school named Union Classical Institute (affiliated with Union College) in Schenectady, NY.  That school eventually became Nott Terrace High which then merged into Schenectady High.

At any rate, it is uncertain how many of these organizations advertised in the yearbooks.  Some of the fraternities that appear in the yearbooks are:  Omicron Chapter of Sigma Kappa Delta, Phi Delta Phi.  Some sororities listed are:  Delta Psi, Gamma Rho, Beta Gamma Rho, Sigma Theta Epsilon.  It is likely these groups were organized purely for social purposes.

It’s not for me to judge the worth of these organizations in high school.  There are pros and cons to every subject.  I’m just amazed that these thrived for decades and at least one fraternity and one or two of the sororities are rumored to be in existence at the present.  I have appealed to former members to speak with me about their experiences but perhaps it is verboten to do so because no one has readily come forward.  Some have happily allowed me to photograph fraternity jackets and I have photos of a sorority pin and pendant.

Maybe it’s just all about belonging.  Whatever the case, it existed and may still exist.
N.B.—in the spirit of high school influences, I wish to thank a fellow classmate of mine who recently encouraged me to continue to follow my passions.  Writing and researching are a couple of those.  This informal post represents an area of my future book in sketch form.  In other words, this is a topic contained in the book but this post is a very condensed version.

Posted in education, Greek Life, history, nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “cost” of aging…

For some reason I’ve felt my age this past week.  It’s far more than the effects of the political turmoil; it’s far more than my chronological age; it’s far more than spending winter in the Northeast.  With ages comes wisdom, thank goodness.  With wisdom comes disillusionment and my mental head shaking threatens to give me arthritis.  So, yes, my pronouncement is mostly tongue-in-cheek; however, my eyes tend to roll more often as time goes on.  This is why I don’t play poker.  My feelings are usually evident.

Example #1:  Now that I feel comfortable in expressing my opinions as a true adult, political correctness and lack of civil discourse have annihilated my desire to do so.  It seems much of our society is on the attack and if an individual doesn’t agree, an “attack” ensues.  This week, on FB, I made the “mistake” of commenting on a post which shared a video clip of a celebration in which a famous athlete was busily groping a woman’s breasts while in the throes of celebrating a victory.  I commented that I thought it was disappointing for kids to see that behavior and think it was okay to do.  Yes, I was raised to be modest; yes, I was raised to respect myself; yes, I was raised to think such a display was unnecessary.  It’s my opinion and, last I knew, I’m entitled to it.

Well, I had my opinion dissected, whirled in a blender, and thrown in my face.  There was a comment, this is a paraphrase, that belied the fact that “white men” can’t behave like “white men” without getting into trouble.  WTF?  My comment was “colorless.”  Race and/or ethnicity were never mentioned.  Then I was ripped a new one and told the man wasn’t groping just anyone, he was groping his girlfriend.  I dared to comment that it was unfortunate she didn’t have more respect for herself.  I was then informed that she is “a model for tits” so she didn’t have a problem with it (again, a paraphrase).  Not understanding what “a model for tits” does/is, I chose not to comment further.  In fact, I deleted my comment altogether.  I’m sure the word “tits” was used derisively in relation to my use of the term “breasts.”  So I guess even my vocabulary is “offensive.”

I’m not a prude but I also don’t subscribe to this generation’s lifestyle that is much “looser” than when I grew up.  As a young woman, I didn’t exist to show off my wares (and I had them then!) nor did I live to “get with” loads of guys.  It’s a generational thing and I don’t have to like or agree with it.  It’s hard enough to have it thrust at me through all types of media each day.

Example #2:  As times goes on, I find myself sitting in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices far more often than I would like.  Granted half of the time I’m with my elderly parent, but I have many, many appointments of my own.  In fact, as far back as I’m able to remember, I’ve had loads of weird medical events and illnesses.  Add to it that I competed in sports during a time when women’s sports were not recognized as legit and we received no treatment for any injuries and never sat out.  And the fact that I’ve spent a large part of my adult life being overweight contributes to my situation.  I may be many things, but being stupid isn’t one of them.  My gradual descent into inactivity is the biggest regret of my life.    However, some of that was out of my control.

Suffice it to say I understand why I need appointments.  Lately I’ve had a naggingly sore area on the top of my ear.  I’ve put off making an appointment with the dermatologist.  Over the last few days I’ve noticed a freckle on my leg that has deepened in color.  I’m fully aware of what is most likely happening.  Yes, exposure to the sun was a large part of my young life.  Heck, I spent ten different summers teaching tennis outdoors.  I have a fair complexion and I do tan but burn first.  I still enjoy the sun all summer.  It will be difficult for me to restrict my time in it.  I have a feeling that will be the recommendation.  Should I wait for more problem areas to appear?  Nah, On Monday I will phone for an appointment.  Just because my body is aging doesn’t mean my attitude has to keep pace.  I might think like a curmudgeon in some respects but my inner child is still alive and well.  The price of humor will never be an expense too high for me.

Posted in Disillusionment, frustration, humor, life lessons | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mad as hell…

imageFor several weeks I have been immersed in elder care.  The way our elderly are treated is repugnant in every way.  My heart aches for those who have little or no family and, therefore, few to no visitors.  Patients in facilities must have advocates, otherwise they are treated as though they are disposable.  The manner in which our “care” facilities are run is abhorrent to every moral and ethical fiber in my body.  And yet, not a thing is being done to fight against the companies who run all facets of our healthcare systems.  Money is always the bottom dollar.  Our elderly are robbed of their dignity and respect.  It makes me ill.

What can one citizen do?  I have no idea.  We are always told we, as individuals, can make a difference.  Can we really?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how to find out.  I look at the state of our country right now, the lack of cooperation that exists, and I feel demoralized.  Somehow, I must figure out how to make a difference.

It hurts me so to see individuals who were so productive and vital, just sitting and staring.  Many of them cry out because they need a small bit of attention but the health care aides can’t be bothered to answer their calls.  I’ve overheard too many comments like:  “I’m not your aide,” “If you keep using the call button, I will take it away,” “What do you mean you have to go to the bathroom again?”  This is a tip of the iceberg but it hurts me too much to go on.

Workers who tend our elderly are not well paid.  Patients are often made to feel they are doing the patient a favor by tending them.  Hello?  It’s your job.  I’m sorry you have to work two jobs to make ends meet.  I worked two and three jobs until I was 40.  I know I’m resented because I’m there each day with my loved one and obviously “don’t have to work.”  I’m retired.  Give me a break.  I worked hard.  How dare you judge me, someone you don’t know, and then treat my loved one poorly because you resent me.  Why can’t you just do your job?

Just as nursing is not performed as it was initially intended…when nurses really fussed over and cared for patients, our whole healthcare system is shot to hell.  It is dictated in 10-15 minute increments because that is what the healthcare companies deem appropriate.  I often feel like a cow being prodded along as my doctor, or more commonly physician’s assistant, keeps an eye on the clock.  They “hear” me and don’t actively “listen” as they are too busy typing things into their laptops.  Now I’m just in full-blown rant mode.  Time to stop.

To quote Peter Finch’s character in Network-“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Posted in challenges, Health, life lessons, The elderly, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A few confessions of a retired teacher…

My academic teaching career didn’t begin until I was 30 years of age.  I’d taught tennis to various age groups from the time I was 15, but that’s different from classroom teaching.  Being a teacher was wonderful.  I loved it.  I think I would be hard pressed to list a bunch of specific reasons, but it boiled down to loving my subject matter (English) and being able to share that passion with my students.

I’m proud to say I taught in a well-respected school district, in a high school that always ranks in the top few in our area.  Believe me, we have many, many fine schools in said area.  The fact that it was the school I also attended made it extra special for me.  As teachers we were expected to be on top of educational trends and to push ourselves.  As a person who expects a great deal from myself, it wasn’t difficult to identify with the high standards to which I was held by the school district.  I worked hard, most of my colleagues did.  I never minded working hard.  I wanted to do a good job.  I expected myself to do a great job.

To say that teachers have an easy job means someone isn’t familiar with teaching.  Though I recognize there are different challenges at each level of education, I am only able to speak to teaching at the high school level.  Thankfully I was a member of a very good teacher’s union.  Our contracts were usually reasonable.  During my career I was expected to teach five classes per day.  I received one lunch period per day.  So that leaves two “free” periods per day.  Free period is an oxymoron.  During one of those “free” periods, I would be assigned a duty.  For one semester, I would have the duty three times per week; the other semester, the duty was required two times per week.  A duty may have been a study hall or a hall supervision assignment.  The hall supervision may have been scheduled on the far side of the school.  Study halls might have contained 15-30 kids.  By the way, our district is touted as having a 14:1 student-teacher ratio.  I don’t know in what century that occurred.  Over my career I averaged a student load of 120-145 kids per year.  In writing courses there were often 30 students per class…and 1 teacher.

Also during free periods I could use the rest room, make a phone call, grade papers,have a snack, answer emails, grade papers, run to photocopy lessons for an upcoming class, see a guidance counselor about a student, grade papers, formulate future lesson plans, research for an upcoming unit, grade papers, etc.  Many days all of those activities were accomplished during that 43-minute free period.  And on some days, when supervision wasn’t required, I got to do it twice!  I have forgotten many other things done during free periods.

This is all under the assumption that the administration is doing its job so that I’m able to do mine.  I’m able to say that, for the most part, our administration-department level, school level, district level-was staffed by professional, collegial, and caring people.  However, there were small percentages of time when that wasn’t the case.  It made my life a living hell and impacted my health.  It’s a shame that some individuals must cut others down to size to make themselves feel better.  I don’t care to speak on that subject any further.

Through it all, I made a decent salary and received good benefits.  And yes, I’m retired.  Was I ready to retire?  Not really.  I had more to give my students but if you recall, there were some negative impacts to my health.  My mind and body would not allow me to continue in the manner to which I was accustomed (see also self-imposed high standards).  Could I have “phoned” it in for the remaining four years until I reached the 30 year requirement for my full retirement pay (60% of final average salary)?  Yes, I could have.  Others had done so.  In one reactive hissy fit, a teacher used two years of accumulated sick leave as a protest against an extracurricular position he didn’t receive.  Unfortunately I have integrity and a conscience.  For the first time in my life I had to “give up.”  I disappointed a bunch of kids; I let them down.  I will always regret that.

So yes, I’m retired.  I love it for the most part.  While I’m sad that I receive a substantially reduced retirement benefit, I’m happy to have good health insurance.  And since I will mark my 60th year soon enough, I am inching closer to collecting Social Security which I have paid into since I was 15.  I hope it’s still available in a few years.

Posted in education, life lessons, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patience, my dear girl –


I’m sitting in the local history area of the NY State Library. I’ve come to look at three newspaper articles pertaining to my school district history project. The newspaper I need has not been digitized and is still on microfilm. Not a problem, I’m familiar with most types of microform.

However…you saw that coming, didn’t you…however, the film must be pulled from the basement of this enormous building. They only do that every half hour and tack on a half hour for it to be delivered. I must pass almost an hour until it’s in my hot little hand.

As a dedicated reader and researcher, I’ve always loved libraries. But I don’t know what transpires within libraries to turn the workers into passion-less entities who seem very unhappy in what they are doing. Hey, I know a few librarians and they are certainly not like that in their behaviors.

I digress because I am impatient and don’t like sitting idle. Heck, I’d be happy to take the elevator to the basement and get it myself but that’s not allowed. Still, I’m very fortunate to have access to a wonderful repository of history. The fact that it is housed with the NY State Museum is an added bonus.

There is a sweeping panoramic view of Albany and its surrounding areas from my 7th floor perch. The windows are hazy, maybe they are meant to be but they look just plain filthy. To distract myself I’m allowing my mind to wander and to think of what this view would have been like a few hundred years ago.

Given our spate of tropical downpours lately, I’m sure the residents would have worried about the encroachment of the Hudson River on their settlement. In the early days, housing and businesses were close to the river’s edge and there were no mechanisms in place to control flooding. Because Albany is almost at sea level and the Hudson is a tidal river, it flooded often. That would lead to outbreaks of illness and disease for which little treatment was available. Makes me feel darn fortunate.

The vista still shows plenty of trees and hills in the distance. It’s easy to imagine the rolling hills and farmland that occupied this space until 100 years ago. Some of what I see in the distance was land that is integral in the project I am researching here today. The circle closes. And it’s almost time for my microfilm to appear.

Posted in history, nostalgia, research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glorious sacrifices?  I think not.

I haven’t written a blog post in eons.  Wish I could say I had a good excuse, or even a bad one.  I will cut myself some slack because I’ve been working on my book project.  Honestly, I’ve avoided blogging because sometimes it seems readers just want to see angst and really frank personal honesty.  Not there yet, and maybe never.  I don’t feel I have any serious life lessons to pass along, in fact I’m not so good with my own life.  But I have finally accepted that I’m what people call a “deep thinker” (wtf?), though when those words are used the accompanying speaker often wears a look of trepidation as though it’s an albatross around one’s neck (water, water everywhere…).

So, yeah, I think about lots of stuff and the channels of my thoughts change constantly.  I mostly find what is swirling in my head pretty interesting but at times it’s a tad disconcerting.  The last few days, I’ve found my thoughts to be very emotional.  The foundation of it all relates to the horrible mess of our current society but I’ve been very moved by some of what I’ve been writing.  In writing a history of our school district, I’ve become very attached to much of what I’m writing.  I’ve “studied” some of these people for well over a year and feel as though I knew them personally.  Much of what has been told to me through personal interviews is often colored by the fact they are childhood memories.  Kids are wonderfully unfiltered and I think some of these folks have been surprised at how their stories come out.

I’m digressing.  Here’s the deal…several people spoke of a wonderful young man, kind of an all-American boy.  With smiles on their faces, they related how he taught them swimming or how they had watched him as a competitive diver.  One man shared he hadn’t known the fellow well but liked him because the fellow dated his older sister (3-4 yrs difference) and didn’t treat him like the proverbial kid brother.  He was treated as a peer and engaged the kid brother in meaningful conversation.  But the individual stories always ended with some version of “it’s a shame what happened.”

Now, I was a kid when the Vietnam thing was taking place.  I remember it was a contentious topic.  I remember the daily kill count reports at 5:00 p.m.  I remember the social unrest it caused here in the U.S..  As a ten year old, I wasn’t equipped to understand the real essence of it.  But, I learned.  And I learned mostly because I was to teach a Vietnam-era novel as part of the curriculum in 11th grade American Literature.  I’ve always felt history is important to literature, important in understanding the time period in which a book is set and influences its overall character.  So I immersed myself in all things relating to the Vietnam War.  Since it was not my job to influence what students were to think of the war, I tried to gather information from all manner of resources.

And I learned.  Through my father and uncle I had gained some understanding of WW II and the Korean Conflict.  I’d long been a Civil War buff and know a fair amount of that gruesome spectacle.  Through genealogical research, family members of mine have served in:  the American Revolution, the Crimean War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WW I, WW II, and Korea.  I’ve sampled the poetry from many of these conflicts and have watched oodles of documentaries and films.  There is nothing glorious in war.  No amount of veneration will convince me that it serves a worthwhile purpose.  Read a few chapters of Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun and try to find some exaltation.  Watch the film Glory and see how you feel at the end.

Listen, I have a deep reverence for these men and women who give and risk their lives for our continued freedom.  They make the ultimate sacrifice.  I guess my feeling is they shouldn’t have to do it.  Let me share a few titles and lines from poems I admire:

“Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.”  “The Charge of the Light Brigade”–Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“And who are you my child and darling?/Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?”  “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim”–Walt Whitman

“We are the Dead.  Short days ago/We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,/Loved and were loved, and now we lie,/In Flanders fields.”  “In Flanders Fields”–John McRae

“Who should dare to write their praise/Do so in the plainest phrase./Few names last, where many lie;/Even names of battles die.”  “An Epitaph for the American Dead”–Yvor Winters

“Godspeed, Marine!  Here’s my old wartime copy/of the Twenty-Third Psalm./”When assailed from all sides, it will provide you/with great solace and calm!”  A Dad’s Letter to his Marine”–Robert Hinshaw, CMSgt, USAF, retired

“He’s lost his right arm/inside the stone.  In the black mirror/a woman’s trying to erase names:/No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.”  “Facing It”–  Yusef Komunyakaa

And I learned…of love, of loss, of horror, of tragedy, of senselessness, of loyalty, of brotherhood, of fear, of sacrifice.

I’ve expended tears and prayers and am so thankful for these three to have marched through my consciousness.

RIP – Col. Richard Kibbey (BCHS ’52), Lt. (Jg) Henry Klein (BCHS ’57), 1st Lt. Dean Allen (BCHS ’59)

Posted in Grief, poetry, Reflections, war | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment