Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Long Trek

This is post number one thousand on String Too Short to Tie. It has been an interesting journey for me. Today we will look at life's journey, three trips, actually, pathways diverging.

The snapshot was taken in 1943 in Canon City, Colorado. The three of us, my sister Vee, our friend Donald, and I are standing in Mystic Avenue in front of Donald's house. We lived in the parsonage, perhaps sixty yards behind and to the left of the camera.

We are embarking this beautiful summer day on a hike, destination the top of the Hogback, Skyline Drive. It was another time, and in truth another world. We were six, eight and nine years of age. Our expedition was not sponsored by, nor was it accompanied by, an adult. It was just the three of us. Oh, the parents knew where we said we were going, but their input and their participation was limited to taking the picture and advising us to be careful and that supper would be at the usual time. A different world, indeed.

I have mentioned Donald a time or two on STSTT. Other than my sister, he was my first playmate, as the bleak and remote Nebraska outpost from which we had moved was sorely lacking in social opportunities for the little kid. I was five when we moved to Canon, and Donald and I found each other rather quickly. He was my best friend until we left that town five years later.

Donald was a precocious child and by the time he started school, he was telling folks he was going to be an ichthyologist when he grew up. I recall riding the bus from Colorado Springs to Canon City to visit with Donald. I was perhaps 12 or 13. It was the last time I saw him before he moved with his parents to California. I stopped briefly in Redding more than forty years ago and saw him for a few minutes.

Donald's career path took him to the summit, university professorship, and publication of numerous books. Botany and photography are particular interests. He and his wife Janice have written extensively on our natural wonders. They also write and publish devotional material. Donald was, as the saying goes, a friend for a season.

Though three years younger than I, Verla kept up, from the day of the hike, and ever afterward. We lived in a parsonage with a dedicated mother who, I think, decided that if she couldn't make a preacher of me, she could prepare Verla to be a preacher's wife. I think it entirely possible that, while she was receptive to instruction and learned her lessons well, Verla was less than enthused with the prospect of being a minister's wife. She has been happily married to a preacher for 55 years.

In addition to "stand(ing) by her man" in the parsonage, Verla gave birth to and raised four beautiful children, each of whom is a credit to his or her chosen profession. While nurturing these offspring, Verla earned her bachelors degree and started a teaching career. Her husband's work took them to Indianapolis, Monroe, Detroit, and Kansas City. Verla stayed by his side and continued her career. She earned her PhD and her last post before retirement was as university professor, department chair. She is a published novelist. Her first novel is released and will be in stores on November 8.

Vee is my sister, but more, she is my friend, "a friend for a lifetime." She now lives perhaps forty miles from where she stands in the picture, and I live more than a thousand. We see each other on average maybe once a year, talk on the phone possibly once a month, but we communicate in the blogosphere and by email several times a week.

David is the only one of the three tykes who started up that mountain that day in 1943 who has not held a professorship, who has not been published. Well, two out of three is not bad.

I jest, yet I say truth. I achieved my career goals; and perhaps I was wise in knowing my limitations, to set the bar where I could clear it. I fathered four children and appreciate watching them and their children in their accomplishments. I had a teaching career which was very satisfying, and when I aspired to move into administration, I accomplished that. Probably the most telling comment ever made to me was by the mother of four of my students, three of whom I taught in junior high school. She said, "It is too bad that they take the best teachers and move them from the classroom to the office." This is a two-edged sword, cuts both ways. I lapped up the compliment, her assessment that I was a "best teacher," but on the other hand, I have reflected on the underlying implication about my administrative work. Snicker-snee.

Every life's journey is unique. Our lives intersect, join together, separate. But I often think of the lines from "A Psalm of Life" penned by Longfellow:

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on 1,000, and for collecting such good people with whom to share your journey.

vanilla said...

Jim, thank you. I am blessed.

Vee said...

Interesting! Our Colorado AAA magazine had an article on the Skyline Drive last month.

Maybe one day I'll reach 1,000!

Secondary Roads said...

Congrats on post #1000! And what a beautiful post it was.

vanilla said...

Vee, one post at a time!

Chuck, thank you; and thank you for your faithful support!