So, Who Won?

In all the history of warfare between nations, one of the adversaries has almost always been declared the winner.  In the Peloponnesian War, it was Sparta; in the Punic Wars, Rome; in the Norman Conquest, William of Normandy; in the War of the Roses, Edward VII of the House of Tudor; in the American War of Independence, the newly-formed USA; and in both the First and Second World Wars, Britain, France, the USA, and their allies.

On more than one occasion, ‘though, armed conflict has ceased with no winner declared.  In 1953, for example, an armistice brought fighting to an end between North and South Korea.  No peace treaty was ever signed; a demilitarized zone was created to separate the two countries.  Hostilities ceased, but a mutual hostility has continued to this day.

korea2

That struggle on the Korean peninsula was not the only war fought between north and south armies.  Almost a century earlier, the USA endured its Civil War; southern forces, the rebels, opened hostilities with an assault on Fort Sumter in 1861, and ended the fighting with a formal surrender at Appomattox in 1865.  In this war, the northern forces defending the union were the winners.

civil war

(In a strange twist, and unlike almost any other conflict, where defeated leaders have been vilified by the victors, heroes from both sides in this war have been venerated by succeeding generations—Lincoln and Grant from the North, Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the South.)

The official history of these wars, and every other war, has been written by the victors.  And any attempt to counter their accounts has generally been ineffective in supplanting the approved versions.  We know who won because the winners told us.

It’s worth considering, however, if future wars will similarly boast clear winners and definite losers.  Or will everyone lose?

The world is presently on tenterhooks, wondering where the simmering tensions between North Korea and the USA will take us.  Whenever one side in a conflict is headed by a preening, egotistical, autocratic, and impulsive leader, we have a right to worry.  But in this case, both sides are thus afflicted, and both, to some extent, have (or are feared to have) access to nuclear weapons.

trump kim

It is an irony of diplomacy among nations that treaties and accords are signed by various and sundry allies in an effort to keep the peace.  But it is those same mutual-defence agreements that pull nations into war when one of the signatories is attacked from outside.  Secure in our North American fortress, Canada has never gone to war because she was attacked, but because she was bound to defend her allies who were.

There are no exact, universally agreed-upon figures, but in the First World War, almost 31 million military personnel from all nations were killed in action.  In the Second World War, nearly 25 million were killed.  In the Korean conflict, almost 1.2 million military personnel were killed.

Ask those deceased veterans who won the wars.

Civilian casualties are another matter.  Almost 7 million lost their lives in WWI, nearly 55 million in WWII, and 2.7 million during the Korean conflict.

Ask those poor souls who won the wars.

bayeux-war-jp5

In the next war, if there is one—perhaps pitting the USA and its allies against North Korea and its allies—one can only imagine what the death tolls might be.  The current population of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is approximately 25 million.  The city is well within the range of North Korean bombardment.  The population of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, is close to 4 million, and it, too, lies within range of enemy attack.

Imagine the horror of a nuclear strike against either city, or a chemical or biologic-pathogen attack.  Imagine the carnage that would follow.  Strike would be followed by counter-strike, the targets would multiply, and any nation that dared join the fray would leave itself open to similar attacks.

If past examples are anything to go by, such hostilities might well lead to a world-wide conflagration, where even western-hemisphere nations would be affected.  It might not last long, but it would almost surely be the most deadly conflict of all time.  And as we know, the hangover from nuclear detonations or man-made epidemics would alter living conditions on the entire planet, perhaps threatening everyone still alive to witness it.

cockroaches

One might imagine (if one had a macabre sense of humour) a cluster of cockroaches amidst the ruins, perhaps the only survivors.  After surveying the desecration, one might turn to the others with a quizzical expression.

“So, who won?”

The Eyes Have It

“All my men!  Here now!  All-l-l my men!”

The cry would ring out across the schoolyard, almost every recess or lunch-break, and hordes of eight-, nine-, and ten-year-old boys would scamper to a grove of elm trees adjacent to the playground.

The boy they rallied around was an object of ridicule among my friends, we grade-eight boys playing soccer and baseball.  We had no time for his foolishness.

A classmate of ours, he called himself Marvellous Marv, without a shred of embarrassment.  We called him Starvin’ Marvin, and not because he didn’t have enough to eat.  He was porcine, in fact, taller than I, but physically uncoordinated, and somehow out-of-place wherever he was.  The girls we sought to impress thought he was icky.

Once gathered, his acolytes would listen to whatever he was telling them there in the shade of the trees.  And then, at his signal, they would swarm across the soccer pitch, across the ball diamond, sixty or seventy strong, yelling like banshees.  They never accosted any of us—we were older and bigger, after all—and they never stopped, even when we’d trip as many of them as we could, angry at the interruption to our games.  They simply picked themselves up and kept running, rendezvousing eventually back in the trees where he awaited them.  Never once did he accompany them on their wild raids.

Marvin’s voice had deepened sooner than most of ours, so his clarion call to his much-younger followers was quite distinct.  But his eyes, not his voice, were his most distinctive feature, squeezed between plump cheeks and eyebrows, squinting pig-like at everything and everyone.  We used to wonder why his younger acolytes continually obeyed him, but I think it was probably the impact of his eyes.  Although unafraid of him personally, even we were unsettled when he’d stare at one us in class, as he often did.  There was a disturbing aspect to his eyes, as if the brain behind them were somehow untethered from our reality.

Today, as I contemplate influential people we’ve come to know in our society—political, military, entertainment, criminal—I try to understand what it is that makes them attractive to many of their peers.  Lots of easy reasons spring to mind: a compelling message, brute force, overarching talent, a pathological audacity, a promise to make us great again.  None of these, however, would be sufficient on its own if we did not become convinced that the person, him- or herself, is authentic.  Conviction is key.

And it’s in the eyes we find that messianic fervor, that zealous certitude, that passionate persuasion that ensnares us.  That conviction.

Consider the gazes cast upon us by some historic influencers, for better or worse, during the past century—

manson1   rasputin2

 

Evil or brilliant?

loren1   bardot1

Safe or dangerous?

trump1   ali2

 

 

Mad or conniving?

trudeau1meir1

Stone-cold or warm and loving?

newman3     churchill1

Visionary or murderous?

When I see their full faces revealed, I’m drawn to the eyes of these people, even if just in photographs.  In person, I imagine, I would be transfixed.  But I don’t know if I could ascertain their true character or purpose by simply returning their steady stare.  I could easily be fooled.

It’s been said that a person’s eyes are windows into the soul; deep wells from which we are often compelled to drink; pools of mystery into which we sometimes plunge, occasionally in spite of our better judgment.  Our eyes may be sorrowful, laughing, blazing, blank, wide, squinty, even Irish—and, for the most part, unremarkable.

Not so for those who aspire to lead us, and for many who have in the past—whether in war or peace, good times or bad, for good or evil.  More often than not, they captivate us with their remarkable, magnetic eyes.  We can easily be misled, and have been in that same past, because we misread the message those eyes convey.

The eyes portrayed in this piece are, left to right, top to bottom:  Charles Manson, Grigorii Rasputin, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump, Pierre Trudeau, Golda Meir, Paul Newman, and Winston Churchill.   Some we venerate, some we abhor.

But all have influenced us, and others continue to—in part because, despite our best intentions, we cannot help being drawn into those compelling eyes.

The eyes have it.

 

 

 

 

Nuclear Flushin’

On a long-ago Saturday morning, musing over a cup of tea, I came to a mind-altering realization.  My entire family, except for me, was in the bathroom.

Not the same bathroom, of course, for we had three in our house back then.  But that insight sparked an idea, a theory, as to why we’re witnessing a change in the traditional family structure in our North American society.

I knew immediately that if I were ever to present my idea to a United Nations Conference on the Family, for example, it would be extremely well-received—probably heralded as a major breakthrough—because I felt it would answer a question that has plagued sociologists and urban-planners for a very long time.

Why are we experiencing such a major shift in the traditional social patterns of our society, most specifically in the so-called, nuclear family?

Before revealing the disquieting answer, I should provide a little background.  The nuclear family, until not so very long ago, had been the fundamental element in the fabric of our culture.  It consisted of a nucleus, usually two parents, and several particles orbiting the centre, those being the children.  Like the atom, to which it bears a resemblance in diagram-form, the nuclear family had long been considered virtually unbreakable.

atom3

But in the 1940’s, we learned (perhaps to our sorrow) that we were wrong about the atom; it could, indeed, be split.  The nuclear age dawned on an unsuspecting world when physicists discovered the means to do that.  Our whole existence was altered with the advent of nuclear fission.

In a similar way, with perhaps more profound consequences, the nuclear family has begun to split during the past few decades.  Several theories have been published over time which attempted to explain the reasons for this, but not one of them has managed to find the true cause.

Now, at last, I have it, and I’ve christened it nuclear flushin’.

As with so many major discoveries, the answer, once known, is relatively simple.  The fragmentation of the nuclear family in North America has been accelerated by the proliferation of a phenomenon known as ensuite bathrooms!

ensuite

Don’t believe me?  Well, think about the home you live in now, or about the homes where your friends live.  In all likelihood, regardless of the size of the house, or its style or its layout, there is more than one bathroom.  There’s an excellent chance, particularly if the house was constructed during the late 1970’s or later, that ensuite bathrooms are connected to one or more of the bedrooms.  And that’s in addition to a main bathroom and a two-piece powder room.

Now compare this with the home you lived in with your parents (or where they lived with their parents), and you may begin to see what changes the ensuite bathroom has wrought.

Once upon a time, in a typical family of five or six, the average morning witnessed a grand reunion before breakfast.  Everyone gathered in or near the one bathroom in the house.  The daily rituals of bathing, shaving, brushing teeth, combing hair, and other such essentials were performed to the accompaniment of cries to hurry and demands to share the mirror.  In my family, one was seldom alone with one’s ablutions; and woe betide anyone who tried to lock the door!

One of the beneficial effects of this shared intimacy was that the various members of the family came to appreciate how much we were alike.  Few secrets existed among four children sharing a tub!

kids in tub

I first became aware that there must be more than just physiological differences between the sexes when my brother and I, for reasons we didn’t fully understand at the time, had to wait until our sisters were out of the tub before we could get in.  And I still remember how the two of us would pee in the bath, laughing giddily at fooling our father, who’d have his hands in the water while scrubbing us.  Duh!

But that was once upon a time.  Today, we’re all encapsulated, cut off from one another, no longer sharing our most natural activities.  Each morning, we emerge from our bedrooms-with-ensuite-bathrooms, sparkling-clean and perfectly-groomed.  None of us ever sees the others as we really are, and so we do not appreciate how much alike we are.

Today, it seems to me, everyone is preoccupied with personal space, privacy, and rights—all of which emphasize our differences.  And that, I submit, is why the nuclear family is disintegrating.

Eventually, I’ll commit my theory to paper (not of the toilet variety), with innumerable citations and references to support my thesis.  And when the opportunity arises, as I’m sure it will, I’ll truly enjoy presenting it to the United Nations.

I still need time to really flesh out the details, however, to think the idea through more carefully.  But the wonderful thing is, I have the chance to do that, in glorious solitude, in my own ensuite bathroom!

privy

And you’re among the first to know!

 

 

 

Resurrection Relevance

Another Christian observance of Easter is upon us, with its celebration of the resurrection of Christ, the man whom many consider to be the Son of God.

cross

During his brief time on earth, Jesus preached peace, tolerance, faith, forgiveness—and, perhaps most importantly, love for all humankind, even one’s enemies.  In return, he promised eternal life for all who believed and acted in accordance with these precepts.

As a child, I learned quickly that one of my mother’s interpretations of his teachings was that I must not fight with other children.  She was very firm about this.  During my early school years, it seemed like good advice; I was a friendly little guy, and others seemed to like me just fine.

schoolyard

As I got older, however, I learned that not every kid subscribed to her viewpoint.  Some of the classmates I encountered in the older grades were quite aggressive, to the point of being bullies, and for a while I was at a loss as to how to cope.  That was one of the reasons, maybe, that I became a fast runner.

Alas, it was not always possible to escape the marauders, so fighting became the only alternative to being pummelled and punished repeatedly.  It was safer to stand up to the bullies, even if I lost the fight, than to do nothing.

My father quietly helped me with the dilemma of disobeying my mother by suggesting that, although her sentiments were correct, fighting back when attacked was okay.  Starting a fight was really the thing to avoid.

I still remember an occasion in my mid-teens, when my mother agreed to accompany my father to watch me play a hockey game, the first time she had done so.  About halfway through, I became involved in a fight on the ice, not one I started, and was ejected, along with my opponent.  My mother was, by all accounts, aghast.

hockey fight

Although I played recreational hockey for another forty years, she never attended another of my games.

That incident shapes my outlook today when I consider the state of humankind on the planet we all inhabit.  Christ was not the only person to preach peace and love; many devout prophets professing other faiths have advanced the same messages.

But just as not every Christian follows Christ’s teachings obediently, so, too, do some adherents of other religions also stray from their prophets’ words.

The situation is complicated by the fact that there are also false prophets from all religions, who have preached a wilfully-distorted or violent version of the message, demanding their adherents forcefully convert everyone to what they call the true faith—and failing that, to kill them.  They have existed under many guises—the Christian Crusades, Islamic jihad, radical Zionism, the Hindu saffron terror, and so many more.

They survive even today, in a god-eat-god world.

'Its a god eat god world.'

If we assume that the vast majority of people alive right now want to live in peace and harmony—perhaps not anxious to love their neighbours, but at least happy to leave them alone—then why is there so much warfare and bloodshed across the globe?  Are we being driven to demise by the bloodthirsty minority, the zealots, and (as a friend likes to call them) the lunatic fringe?

As a questioning Christian at yet another Easter (believing in the wisdom of Christ’s teachings, but unsure about the promise of a heavenly hereafter), I see benefit in acknowledging, if not a literal resurrection, at least a continuing relevance of his message.  And further benefit in acknowledging the similarities between that message and those of other great prophets of different faiths.

Back in that long-ago schoolyard, there was ample space for me to run from those who would harm me.  On this increasingly-crowded planet Earth, however, whither can we flee from the radicals and fanatics seemingly bent on our destruction?

Shall we turn the other cheek, perhaps to be slaughtered?  Shall we fight back, perhaps ensuring mutual annihilation?

Or shall we continue to do what we can to spread those universal messages of peace, tolerance, faith, forgiveness—and, perhaps most importantly, love for all humankind, even our enemies?

love

It is up to all of us in the end.  Or it will be the end of us.

The Supreme Power

Rudyard Kipling wrote these lines in 1902, the beginning to a small poem about his daughter:

I keep six honest serving-men/(They taught me all I knew);/Their names are What and Why and When/And How and Where and Who…

Five of those interrogative words, whether rendered in English or any other language, enable us to ask the fundamental questions of all mankind.

What is the meaning of life?  Why are we here?  When did life begin?  Where are we headed?

And the most fundamental of all:  Who created us?

Throughout the millennia, mankind has striven to find meaningful answers, and has codified those answers in various constructs: dogma, commandment, or science.  The first of these forms the basis for religious belief, the second for a stable, civil order, the third for progress.

One may ask, however, whether the answers so far obtained have been beneficial to our understanding of our existence.  It might be argued, for example, that the plethora of religious beliefs espoused by so many have led us, not to an utopian bliss, but into almost-endless warfare as we seek to establish the predominance of our own set of beliefs.  Think of wars fought in the name of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, either to preserve or spread those creeds.

wars

Or consider the nearly-numberless dictators and rulers over the ages who have demanded fealty and obedience from their subjects, only to have their empires crumble into disarray: Persia, Athens and Sparta, Egypt, Carthage, Imperial Rome, the Ottoman Empire.  Their names are legendary—Cyrus the Great, Leonidas, Rameses the Great, Hannibal, Augustus Caesar, Suleiman the Magnificent—but their legacies are reduced to historical footnotes.

And what of more modern empires, be they economic or military—the British Commonwealth, America, Russia, China?  Are they truly stable models of order and good government, destined to last forever?

Even science, that bastion of fact-based evidence, can mislead us.  At various times in history, scientific evidence demonstrated conclusively (at least to some) that the world is flat, the earth is at the centre of the solar system, there are canals on Mars, and life as we know it would end on Y2K.  So, who is to say the theories we espouse today are any more reliable—that evolution, not creation, has brought us to our present state; that our very existence is imperilled by global warming; or that the universe we inhabit is endlessly expanding?

The most fundamental question (Who created us?) can be deconstructed into two oppositional queries.  The first:  were we, in fact, created by some supreme power?  And the contrary second:  did we create the notion of a supreme power to help explain our existence?

Worldwide, the answer from untold billions of people to the first of these is Yes!  And, perhaps not so strangely, the answer to the second, from different people, is also Yes!

Truth be told, I have offered up affirmative answers to both queries at various points in my life, believing each at the time.  I have flip-flopped on many occasions.  But even as I answer, more questions form in my mind.

If there is a supreme power (variously portrayed paternalistically in different religions as Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Krishna, and so many more), why did it create us?  Is there some magnificent purpose behind it all?  Were we put here to love and nurture one another, in a grand homage to our creator?  Or were we created to murder each other, providing a somewhat cruel spectacle for the amusement of our maker?  Was there, perhaps, no purpose at all, just a random experiment quickly forgotten by a supreme power that is, at one and the same time, our initiator and destroyer?

god 3

Conversely, if there is not a supreme power—if, in fact, mankind created that notion to soothe our fears and protect us from our most base instincts, lest we annihilate ourselves—then what?  Are we alone in the universe, left to our own devices?   Are we nothing more than a tiny fluke in the cosmic sea?

Religious folk, theists, profess to both adore and fear their maker, as well they might in their longing for life-eternal, rewarding their faithfulness.  Non-religious folk, atheists, proclaim no god (though some may fear an unknown afterlife).

And those in the middle—the ones too sophisticated to fall for the charade of a supreme power, yet too fearful to deny its existence—what of them?

I do not know the answers to any of these questions.  But I favour the idea that there is a creator, that we and our universe could not have sprung spontaneously from nothing.  That’s not provable, mind you.  It’s faith.

This much, however, I do know to be true.  As I survey the world around me—with its endless stream of callous and fervent punishments inflicted on some of us by others of us, and with the threat of nuclear or environmental destruction looming ever more forbiddingly in our future—I despair.

If there is a supreme power, but one uncaring toward, and indifferent to, our plight, (s)he must be laughing hysterically at our hapless ways.

Equally, if a supreme power exists as a loving and compassionate being, (s)he must look upon us with pity and sorrow.  And weep.

And most frightening of all:  what if there really is…..nothing?

nothing

 

Avoiding the Truth

How we know when politicians are lying to us, the old story goes, is that their lips are moving.  Cynical as that point of view may be, I find it increasingly difficult to believe what I hear from elected officials, be they municipal, provincial, or federal.

Mind you, it is rarely, if at all, that I actually have a face-to-face conversation with government office-holders.  My contact with them comes through newspapers and periodicals, the broadcast media (mainly television), and the innumerable digital streaming platforms that seem to be rapidly taking over the information age.

I have long been a quasi-political junkie—more queasy now than quasi, alas—‘though I have never aspired to enter the fray directly.  Perhaps, given my background as a student of history, I’ve always enjoyed seeing events unfold in real-time, even if vicariously through reading about or watching the news of the world.  My first visceral, voyeuristic exposure to that happened shortly after the Kennedy assassination, when I watched a Dallas hoodlum shoot the alleged assassin on live TV.  The blunt shock of that resonates still in my memory.

Oswald

So today, many years after that seminal event in broadcast history, I still read about, watch, and listen to the newsmakers of our present era.  But it is in the visual media that they look most real, even if sounding less than authentic.  And over time, I have come to accept everything I see and hear from them with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The main reason, I think, is that they never seem to answer the questions asked of them.  I have seen them in front of their supporters, in media scrums, at formal press briefings, even in parliamentary Question Period, deliberately avoiding a direct reply to a clearly-stated question.

If I were to be charitable, I might concede that, perhaps, they are not lying to us.  Maybe they are merely obfuscating.  Evading.  Deflecting.  Or maybe they really believe what they are telling us.  Or, most ominously, maybe they don’t know the answers.

But if I am to be honest, I think they are lying.  Deliberately.  Through their teeth.

Imagine, if you will, that you are watching a televised (or streamed) interview, conducted by a respected journalist, with me as the subject (and in order for this metaphor to work, you must also imagine that I might be a world-renowned, best-selling author worthy of the journalist’s time).  Listen to the questions the interviewer poses, listen to my answers, and determine for yourself which of my responses, if any, constitute a direct reply, or an honest one.

I’ll give you the score at the end of the interview.

Q.  Thank you for sitting down with me today. Do you consider yourself a worthy successor to the likes of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner?

A.  I appreciate the comparison. You’re very gracious in your praise.

Q.  Yes, but what about those other writers?

A.  You know, of course, that they were American, right? And I’m not.

Q.  Okay, so what is it about your writing that so captivates your audience?

A.  Writers write, and readers read. There’s a difference.

Q.  Well, sure. But how is it that you’ve captured readers’ imaginations so thoroughly?  What sets you apart?

A.  Asked and answered. Next question?

Q.  Ummm…okay, what are you working on now? Can we look forward to another blockbuster?

A.  The great thing about our capitalist system in North America is that market forces determine what’s up or what’s down.

Q.  There are rumors abounding that a Nobel Literature Prize might be in your future.  Any thoughts about that?

A.  Alfred Nobel was a great humanitarian, an example to us all.  And I really like Bob Dylan.

Q.  Alright, let’s switch gears for a moment. Have you ever experienced what the pundits call ‘writer’s block’?

A.  You know, the wonderful Italian operatic composer, Gioachino Rossini, never wrote another masterpiece after the age of thirty-seven. Isn’t that interesting?

Q.  Yes, but what does Rossini have to do with your writing process?

A.  One or the other of his operas is always playing in the background when I write.

Only one of these eight answers was straight-up honest, rather than misleading or outright untrue—the final one.  The rest were as if taken from prepared talking-points, to be used regardless of the questions asked.

That, in a nutshell, is what I find so annoying about politicians today.  With few exceptions, and but for rare occasions, they refuse to tell me the truth.

What is the truth about climate change?

What is the truth about the mid-east peace process?

What is the truth about the sub-prime mortgage scandal?

What is the truth about the nuclear arms race?

What is the truth about our planet’s impending freshwater shortage?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and nor do you, I suspect, because our elected leaders refuse us the information that would help us make informed decisions.

It seems not to matter who they are—a dreamy prime minister, a buffoon president, a thuggish dictator—none comes clean with us.

politico

In the burgeoning development of artificial intelligence, AI, I wonder if there is perhaps a glimmer of hope that we might someday be governed by unemotional, clear-thinking, moralistic leaders—smart machines—unimpeded by the failings of human arrogance.

But no, that would be too ridiculous to contemplate, a substitution of artificial intelligence for the limited or nefarious intelligence we deal with today.

Wouldn’t it?

Happy to Be Home

Having just returned from a wonderful trip to South Africa, I am struck, as ever, by how good it feels to be home again.

Our journey through that wonderful country constituted the trip of a lifetime, a celebration of our golden anniversary.  Readers of this blog have already shared in some of our adventures, although my scribblings are no substitute for being there.

Over the years, my family has always loved to go on trips.  Be it winter for skiing, or summer for camping, we really enjoyed going away.

camping

My wife and I worked in the school system, so our holidays tended to come in regularly-spaced chunks, which was especially nice when our daughters still attended elementary school.  We were able to get away several times during the year, usually for short spans of four or five days.  That made us more fortunate than many folks, and we appreciated that—one reason, perhaps, why we enjoyed the opportunities so much.

Due a combination of lack of interest and financial realities, I suppose, we didn’t make elaborate journeys to glamorous vacation spots.  Our most expensive holidays were of the weekend-at-a-ski-lodge variety.  Mostly, we just visited with family members who lived out of town, stayed with friends at their summer cottages, or set up our own digs at one of the myriad provincial campgrounds.

Vagabond vacationers—that’s what we were.

In spite of our love for going away, however, and regardless of the type of trip we’d been on, there was one element common to all our family meanderings.  We loved to come home.  No matter how long we’d been gone, it was a real joy to come in the door, drop our gear, and explore through the house.

This lovely memory of bygone days washed over my wife and me once more, upon our most recent return.

Each of us seemed to have one special thing we liked to do when we arrived back, a self-appointed task that served to herald our homecoming.  Among the several necessary jobs—turning up the temperature in the water heater, plugging in the water-softener, or opening windows to dispel the stuffiness—our special tasks stood out in their importance to each of us, respectively, as our way of saying, I’m home!

My wife would spend fifteen or twenty minutes visiting her plants, watering them, talking to them, grooming them lovingly.  My youngest daughter would head to her bedroom to check on whether everything was just as she left it (though, sometimes, given the disarray, I wasn’t sure how she could tell).  My older daughter would take Cinnamon, our dog, on an inspection tour of the house, the sunroom, and the back yard, generally in that order.

For all of them, it was a renewing of acquaintance with home.

My task was to wind the five clocks.  The time on each face had to be adjusted, the chimes and gongs checked to be sure they were synchronized, and the pendulums re-started.  It wasn’t a difficult job, or a lengthy one, but it could be stretched into a half-hour of time alone, savouring the feeling of being back home again.  And, when the next full hour rolled around, and the clocks began to sound, everything seemed normal once more.

clock2

Perhaps you share my sentiment that, when I’m not in the place I love, I love the place I’m in.  My family certainly looked forward to every succeeding trip or vacation spot we planned to visit, and always seemed to enjoy ourselves wherever we happened to be.  But, when it came time to head for home, we were never unhappy with that prospect, either.

Our daughters have been gone for several years, of course, off raising families of their own.  But they’ve continued the tradition of holidays together as often as possible.

For my wife and me, however, holidays are different now—more sedate, more pampered, and to more exotic destinations than in our earlier years—places like South Africa.  Although we miss the girls, we still love to get away.

Way back when, we had a nice little routine we’d go through as each journey neared its end.  One of us would start by remarking on the terrific time we’d all had, how much fun it was to be on holiday.  Someone else would comment on the wonderful weather, or the exciting activities we had shared.  Another might mention some of the memorable highlights of the trip now ending.

“Yeah, it was a great holiday,” somebody would eventually conclude, “but it sure is nice to be coming home.”

Later, perhaps at the supper table, or maybe when the girls were getting off to bed, one of us would look up and re-affirm it.

“Y’know, it’s good to be home!”

home

So, most recently, when all the plants were tended to, and all the clocks were wound, my wife and I settled in with a glass of wine.  No words were spoken, yet we understood how each other was feeling.  And by the time the clocks chimed ten, we were both fast asleep, exhilarated and exhausted by our wonderful adventures.

And most of all, happy to be home.