Tag Archives: joy

Snapshot In Time: Get Your Song Back

Many years ago there was a little girl named Margaret who loved to sing. A neighbor lady asked her why she loved to sing and she answered “Doesn’t everyone love to sing? Grandma sings. That’s how she met Grandpa. He doesn’t sing normally but he plays the piano and sometimes the organ at church. He sings with his fingers.”

Margaret’s rules for when to sing and when not to sing adjusted to the time and season. She was a snow skier and when she was skiing she did not sing. Neither did she yodel. It was low class to make noise when skiing. There was too much joy in the sound of your skis on the snow to mess it up with singing. Racing down the hill as fast as her snow plow allowed made her feel as if she were being chased by a big fat Ball Of Joy that would knock her over if she slowed down. When she did stop Joy caught up with her and filled her up so her throat was tight with it.

Except for skiing, and school, Margaret sang when she felt like it. She didn’t think about it, she just let fly with whatever song bubbled to the top. She particularly loved the folk songs her mother played on the LPs she stacked six-high on the turntable in the living room.

One day Margaret’s Grandfather (the same Grandfather who sang with his fingers) took her shopping at Northgate Mall. People could shop anytime at Northgate Mall because it was covered. (Many years ago shopping malls were not covered.) Everyone knows a covered mall is as good place to sing as there is, almost as good as the bathroom.

Margaret and Grandpa were walking next to Nordstrom’s when Margaret let fly with the chorus of the old folk song “O My Darlin’ Clementine”:

“O my darlin’, o my darlin’, O MY DARLIN’ CLEMENTINE!

“You are lost and gone forever! O, my DARLIN’ CLEMENTINE!”

Grandpa was very English, and very taciturn, and he loved Margaret very much. He kept walking, holding Margaret’s hand, looking straight ahead at where he was going, and watching the people in the mall look around to see where the noise was coming from. Most of the people in the mall looked at Margaret and smiled, partly because she was so small and the noise she made was very large, and partly because it made them remember when they were little and could sing.

Some people didn’t smile because Margaret made them wonder why they didn’t sing anymore, not even in the bathroom. They wondered what had happened to them. They felt they ought to at least feel like singing even if they didn’t do it.

That’s what life does to you. It takes away your song.

What would Margaret say to that?

“Get your song back.”


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‘Tween Here and Heaven

Ronald Mowry sat carefully on the wooden bench at the eastern edge of the playground, gradually relaxing his full weight onto it, and sighing with relief at the absence of back pain. The morning was cold, and crisp with unexpected sunshine. He propped his cane against the bench and took a look around. The playground wasn’t yet full of children, but it would be, and that was why he was there. On particularly lonely mornings he loved to watch the happy chaos of kids playing; they brought him outside himself into the light. He looked across the sawdust pit, over toward the slide, and saw a familiar-looking little boy.

“That looks just like Jack” he said to himself.

The boy was dressed in a white short-sleeve shirt, sweater, jeans held up with a thick belt, and a ball cap covering his blonde hair.

Tommy, Jack, and Ron, at The Ranch, Bend, Oregon.

Ron wondered how long it had been since he’d seen Jack. Eight years at least. Eight years and cancer treatments for them both. Ill-health robbed one of the motivation to stay in touch, particularly when trying to talk with someone as reticent as Jack.

Ron and Jack were cousins, sons of two of five Rowell sisters. Their families lived in Portland, but it wasn’t until Ron’s father moved the family to a ranch in Bend, Oregon when Ron was twelve that he and Jack got to know each other well.

Portland was The Big City, where you went to school, obeyed your parents, did your chores, and ate Sunday supper after church with all the aunts and cousins and neighbors who had no family to speak of. It was one hundred and seventy-six miles and a world away from The Ranch.

On The Ranch you were a man, albeit a small one. You rode horses, shocked hay, dressed in thick jeans, cowboy hats, and boots. The older men with the sun-browned faces and serious eyes showed you how to do cowboy things, ranch things, man-things–reparing the barbed wire fence, branding the cattle, catching the chickens to be killed for dinner. On slow days you saddled your horse in the morning after your chores were done and weren’t expected to be home until dinnertime; there was nothing but mountains and high desert and room to ride and a thick blue sky over top of it all.

Ron Mowry chuckled to himself, remembering his cousin’s first visit to the ranch. Ron’s hat and boots went missing, and when he heard the clump-clump-clump of boots on the hardpack dirt he looked out the window and saw his cousin down below, hat falling low over his eyes and boots threatening to leave his feet behind because they were two sizes too big. Behind him Jack dragged a pitchfork; it was needed to pitch hay into the corral, like he’d seen his uncle do.

“Jack never did come alive till he came to the ranch” he said to himself, smiling at the boy by the slide, and the memory of his cousin in the stolen hat and boots.

Hat-and-boot-thief Jack, Tommy, and Ron The Generous, The Ranch, Bend, Oregon.


Filed under Stories From My Dad, Uncategorized

An Eaglet Is…. Homely

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its lovliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

From the poem “Endymion” by John Keats

A brief glimpse of the Decorah Eagle eyrie this morning http://decoraheaglecamalerts.com showed it covered in snow, The Papa securely tucked in the middle of the nest, and the Graylings (aka the three chicklets, Peep, Peck, and Poo) nowhere to be seen. Comfort is found in this second year of waiting for the eaglets to fledge, where we know that the chicks are just fine no matter the weather, and no matter how hard nor harsh they will never be abandoned by the Mama and the Papa, faithful and true.

Could we live in a world where poetry was the only adequate method of communication? A world in which everyone talked like Falstaff or Shylock, or the prophet Isaiah? Where everything was important and no word was allowed to fall casually to the ground and giggled at? No such thing as “whasssup!” or “booyah!” or “sock joy!”?

No, I prefer to live on the outskirts of that literary town; where just saying “weiner steam” out loud makes us laugh, where poetry is held in high regard, and where the eaglets huddle under The Papa’s protective breast feathers, high atop an eyrie in the middle of an Iowa winter.

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Strength, Not Skill

There is energy in doing the right thing, whatever that thing is for you.

There is strength in that energy. It erupts not because we’re skilled at the activity, but because the energy flows from the heart’s recognition of a fundamental right-ness. It’s as if engaging in the activity slides the tumblers of the lock in place, and the safe drawer slides open with a soft click.

Like the wind across the Oklahoma plains, let the wind of encouragement blow you a step closer toward doing the things that give you joy, and strength.


Filed under New Life, New Season

What If It Were Safe?

“Knowledge is fuel for action. If it’s action you want, share everything you know.” Simon Sinek

Discovering your giftedness isn’t (necessarily) about finding your ideal job. Discovering your giftedness is about living a better life because you’ll understand what success, joy, and contentment look like in your life, and no one else’s.

People invest themselves in an activity only when it’s safe. Safety in the workplace most often leads to joining some version of the what-I-don’t-get-paid-for committee. The most creative conversations take place in the smokers-stand-here square of concrete outside the back door at the north end of the building. Most of the deep laughter occurs in the committee and the break area. Because they are safe.

What would you invest yourself in at work if it were safe to do so? (This isn’t meant to frustrate, but to inform. You need take no action.)

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We’re All Perishable. So Mail Me.

There is nothing like sending baked goods through the mail to the ones I love and appreciate. The entire process is a delight, from the idea, to the baking, to the wrapping, and especially the final moments at the post office when I’m asked questions vital to the preservation of democracy and the civil society. (I only go to the counter instead of the self-serve package mailing machine when there are six people waiting behind the poor soul who has never before used the machine, doesn’t have a debit or credit card–the machine doesn’t allow cash–and can’t figure out what to do because the screen has devilishly defaulted to Spanish.)

It’s my turn. I step up to the counter. The first question comes.

“Mailing anything explosive today?”


“Anything liquid or breakable?”


“Anything that promotes the destruction of America as we know it?” Ah, yes, this one is manufactured, but I’d love to hear it the next time I’m at the postal counter because it would mean I’d found the one postal worker with a sense of humor.

“Anything perishable?”

The mind is a marvelous thing. In the blink of an eye I say to myself “No, not if you do your job, it won’t perish,” and “We’re all perishable given enough time, right?” while simultaneously telling the postal worker


“Why does it say ‘open immediately upon receipt’ on the outside?” she asks.

Note to myself: No more ‘immediately upon receipt’ in red block letters on the outside of the package. Better to call.

“They are going to be so eager to receive it they will want to open it right away” I say.

Joy! The postage sticker spits out of the machine, I pay the bill, look the postal worker in the eye and smile, and tuck the receipt in my wallet. Success!

Moral of the story: Let nothing stand in the way of showering love on those you care for. The possibilities for creativity multiply like farm animals in the springtime.

Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A feels the same way:  http://cathyfamily.com/resources/videos/please-eat-more-chicken.aspx.

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Turkeys Akimbo

“Akimbo, baby!”

A long hike was winding down to a lazy conclusion on the East Side Trail. Coulter and Jeffrey pine trees cast long shadows across meadows covered with gold winter-grass. A turkey gobbled from the forest.

Another answered. My camera and I hunted the herd with the wind in our favor and joy in our hearts; at least twenty turkeys shuffling through forest.

We crept and crawled close enough to see the pink at the edge of their wattles when they spooked into flight, an explosion of wings and gobbles, and flew over my head into the trees behind me.

“Akimbo, baby! Turkeys in the trees!” I stood up and shouted; the camera went to work.

They dropped onto the meadow, gathered together, and the toms herded the hens north. Somehow an old song (generally best left to the seventies) came to me; with a slight twist:

“Sunshine On My Wattle”… makes me happy.

Akimbo, baby!”

Akimbo: əˈkimbō Exclamation appropriate to a wild, unexpected, and elbows-askew delightful event.


Filed under New Life, New Season