New seasons always get me thinking.
These are times for renewing and examining. The renewing is a lot more fun. However, examining may be more essential because it encourages you to evaluate and consider, and provides fuel for what should be renewed. It is also about recognizing that life’s renewals can come from unexpected places and at unexpected times, and even from friends under the sea.
With this in mind, a few things on my thought list from the desk in the shed at 6:30am on a late summer day with rain threatening.
—I’m back teaching again at Columbia College Chicago. There is nothing like the energy of a classroom and I’m thrilled to return to rooms full of bright and lively students. But I still wonder about higher education. Its costs and the viability of it in America, in our economy. How it’s structured and its ultimate worth for some of us. With all its opportunities, college is still not the right place for some. There are other ways to find your way, to explore your dreams. But our society has for decades constructed a false narrative that one’s life will never be complete without a college education. That’s a flawed story. There are other ways to educate. We need to find a way to rewrite this.
—Good company is golden. My wife and I recently brought a group of friends together to help celebrate our wedding anniversary. Do you know when you have died and gone to heaven? It’s when you are surrounded by people with the most incredible spirits and energies.
—I’m my father. When I was a young man starting out, my Dad was the go-to guy for getting stuff done. He would visit my place here in the Chicago area from his home in Pennsylvania and get right to work without ever asking him to. He would fix a door handle, repair a knick in the wall, mow the lawn, plant a tree, build a child’s play set, construct a backyard deck. I will never employ the skills my father had, but some of it is apparently hardwired. My youngest son needed some help at his home while he and his wife were out of town recently, So, what did I do? Cut the grass, reorganized their garage, moved rooms full of furniture back in place after hardwood flooring was repaired, It’s apparently in the DNA.
—The faucet is still running. Sometime in my 40s is when I began to take writing more seriously. I had been a broadcast writer and reporter for years, so I certainly did my fair share of writing. But it was an experience teaching at a low-income school in Aurora, Illinois that sparked a different discipline. That experience became my first book, Accidental Lessons. Now, in late 2020, my 8th book will be published. I have a completed manuscript that I’m tweaking for another novel and a new novel has just begun. What the hell? Honestly, I don’t understand it. The faucet continues to run; I can’t stop writing. Someone said to me that you probably have been holding onto these stories in your head for many years, and then someone turned the lever and they all came flushing out. I’m grateful for whatever it was that turned that handle. Maybe it was those kids at that school in Aurora, those young teenagers who were also trying to find their way.
—Dog’s are incredible companions and maybe more than meets the eyes. Recently I spent nearly an entire day alone with my dog, Sam. I did some chores and some errands, and for nearly eight hours it was just the two of us. No one else. She was at my side all day. Sam joined me for a long ride in the car. She joined me in the hardware store. (The place allowed dogs inside.) She ran in the yard while I ran the mower. We played catch. And although I talk to Sam on a regular basis, this time she and I had more private conversations. Just the two of us. She offered some great advice.
—Going to a book club for your own book is a blast. Had one this summer. Have another in the fall and maybe another planned for later this year. The interaction is like nothing else. What I’ve learned? Good readers are incredibly insightful. More than you first realize. And not everyone likes your endings. That always makes me smile.
—I’m not as out of shape as I thought. Hadn’t been on my bike much this summer. The other day, I headed out. Ten miles. I didn’t struggle. I didn’t die. Got to find more time for this.
—My relationship with golf is becoming a love/hate affair. Love being out there but hate how the muscle memory disintegrates in the years. Maybe I really do need to get back on the bike more.
—Football is fickle. I enjoy watching my beloved Steelers. But I’m afraid this might be a rough season. I can’t let it determine my Sunday mood. Ugh!
—I am absolutely certain I would parish without coffee, wine, and occasional paella.
—And lastly, but maybe most importantly, a reminder that the most beautiful things are never planned. My son allowed me to write about this, and I’m grateful for that. He and his wife had their honeymoon to Hawaii. It was a tough go there. A lot of lost days to sickness, a couple of doctor visits, and an overnight stay at the hospital. At one point there was talk of surgery. Much of the honeymoon was rough going. But on the last day, with one swim in the ocean, this happened…
My son tells the story:
“About thirty minutes into our swim, she (his wife) notices something bobbing in the water. It was a family of enormous sea turtles, shells three-to-four feet in diameter. They swam with us for almost an hour…within six inches of us. (His wife) cried. It was beautiful. It was such a special moment that no tour could recreate. People on the beach came to watch us with them. Magical. We said it was the Demigod Maui giving us something special for dealing with so much.”
As autumn awaits, I want to remember to savor it, to look for the special moments, like the sea turtles in Hawaii. To walk in it. To smell it. Summer is wonderful but autumn is essential, and it reminds us that time passes so very quickly, seasons change, and that we must keep an eye out for what those changes may bring us, especially in the unexpected places and most enchanted ways.
I’ll leave you with these quotes on the coming season and on the wisdom of sea turtles.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
“And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.”
“Advice from a sea turtle: Swim with the current. Be a good navigator. Stay calm under pressure. Be well-traveled. Think long term. Age gracefully. And spend time at the beach.” — Ilan Shamir