19 August, 2018 “Try to be a little kinder” – Aldous Huxley
That’s my whole family on October 28, 2012 at my brother Kevin’s house in Doswell, VA, a few days before Halloween. Even though we were smiling at a camera on a tripod (as opposed to, for example, an actual human being), we were happy and relatively healthy. 23 days later, Dad died in his sleep, with zero warning. That’s the only picture I’ve ever seen with the seven of us together – maybe one of my siblings knows of another one. That’s Shane’s dog Tara standing warm-hearted sentinel in the lower right. She’s still standing warm-hearted sentinel, only at their house in Blacksburg. A little more later.
I got a lot of hawks this week – a lot – but no decent Red-shoulders (only Red-tails) and nothing that sticks out as a wonderful image. But they’re my ongoing fascination, and they’re always in my consciousness, and it settles my mind to locate one and photograph it. It’s practically a meditation. Of course, if they’re awake and it’s daylight, chances are they’re looking for a small mammal to kill or digesting one they’re recently killed. Here’s one I saw Monday afternoon near the Westbury Apothecary:
Anyway a friend and I share an August birthday so a handful of us get together for lunch every year, and my August birthday friend took me to task for having too much wildlife and not enough people in my blog!! It takes some nerve to say that, don’t you think? Is it just me? I’ll let you in on a little secret – people don’t calm me down – wildlife calms me down. I’ll let you in on another little secret – she’s not the only person who prefers pictures of people to pictures of wildlife. Unless I get a really spectacular wildlife picture, which happens maybe once every six weeks, the only time I get a lot of blog views is when I put up a picture with people in it.
Fortunately Evelyn puts a ton of work into our gardenias and I get to smell them and look at them and photograph them almost at will. Including this week. Here’s a beauty from Thursday:
Dad’s birthday would have been the day before yesterday (August 17). He would have been 83. Putting something in a photograph “for scale” was a signature trait of Dad’s. A quarter was his go-to prop “for scale.” For Evelyn’s stunning gardenia I doubled that and used a half dollar:
I thought about Dad a lot on his birthday. It’s never melancholy, but there’s always stuff I’d like to talk with him about, like flying and hawks and gardenias and books and dogs and photography. And about kindness, although kindness isn’t the sort of thing people have conversations about. Do they? Maybe they do. I’d also like to talk with him about people. I miss his insights. I miss Mom’s too. But it wasn’t her birthday this week.
Dad would have liked this picture. He would have liked to be there. I took it this morning at 11:35 at the northeast tip of Pony Pasture. Mackey is black, Turner in the middle, Yuki on the right:
If Dad wasn’t doing something with his wife or children or grandchildren, his second-favorite thing to do (way in second place) was read. I’ve known voracious readers, but not like Dad. Fortunately Evelyn is a constant reader, and notices the books I enjoy, and finds new ones that are precisely the ones I’d choose for myself, if I knew about them. She gave me one for an early birthday present, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography by Huston Smith. That’s where I got the title quote for this blog post. It reminded me of Dad. Like me, Dad was a person without religion. But he had kindness in his DNA, and it was impossible not to like him. I am clearly biased, but if someone had ever not liked my Dad, I would have noticed in an instant. Here’s the whole quote: “…It’s rather embarrassing,” he [Aldous Huxley] added, “to have given one’s entire life to pondering the human predicament and to find that in the end one has little more to say than, ‘Try to be a little kinder.’”
Dad didn’t give his “entire life to pondering the human predicament,” and he wasn’t an advice-giver. But I suspect when he was feeling other-than-kind, a voice in his head said “try to be a little kinder.”
My friend who chastised me having too much wildlife – as if there is such a thing – in my blog told me she liked the blog post I wrote two weeks ago called My only aunt (I have no uncles). I like writing that way too but it’s really hard. I can’t do it fifty-two weeks a year. But I can do it more often. I’ll do it again soon. Maybe more about Mom.
I’ll insert here – before this post ends – about writing about my parents. Go back up to the top of this post and look at the seven people there. Mom and Dad have been dead for a long time, the other five of us are alive and thriving. And if you asked Katie and Sheila and Kevin and Shane to describe Mom and/or Dad, they’d tell the story differently. But they’d tell it in clear, well-educated, precise English. They’d be kind. They’d be wearing clean clothes. They’d be healthy. Whatever story they’d tell about Mom and Dad, the five of us were left with health and intelligence and a precise moral compass.
Have a great week, see you (I hope!) on the 26th. All best,
PS Speaking of Dad and of flowers Evelyn grows, she has nasturtiums all over our yard (and our house) in Dad’s favorite color: