I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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Judy Bratten has taught school in New York City and London and now lives in Virginia.
It is April and the cold wind shears through Spring, sharp and strident, cutting away the warmth that had been nuzzling the earth. The daffodils have been shredded and the azaleas’ fragile blooms are scissored to limp bits of faded rag. We have been lucky, for the wind has had fiercer, funnel-shaped metamorphoses elsewhere. The neighbors worry about the fruit trees and flash flood warnings. The children gaze out the windows, wishing the trees would stop dancing so they can go out and dig in the warm, dark soil again. I don’t know if the little cubes of potato, tenderly placed in the ground to reproduce themselves, have any feelings about the change in weather, but if they could talk I’m sure they’d complain as vigorously as the old farmer in the hardware store. Ah, cruel April, to chill our newly wakened hopes of green Spring days!
Except for a few independent strands, her soft white hair is pulled back from one of the gentlest faces ever to smile through a window. Her dress is plain, as comfortable as her worn blue tennis shoes, yet feminine. Gypsy Hollingsworth is one of those women one might have seen traveling in a conestoga wagon during the nineteenth century: appearing as fragile as a dandelion puff-ball, yet as indomitable as the plant itself. The strong silent type, she is, with a girlish spark in eyes have seen 76 years.
The human language has been quite abused lately, especially since technology allows equal time to the literate and illiterate. But my mourning weeds are donned for the fatal assault on the most beautiful and important word we have: LOVE. For centuries, poets have rhymed, playwrights have dramatized and novelists have fantasized, searching for ways to describe that most profound of emotions. And how they, too, would weep to watch its interment by the forces of politics and commerce (alias power and greed). We have witnessed the “politics of love” (and I disagree with many of my hopeful friends that good intentions and pragmatic morality can overcome the temptations and limitations of power) and we are urged daily to partake of the latest love potion offered by our advanced civilization (ranging from cosmetics to automobiles).
The days of my life are inscribed in autumn’s diary; the leaves are pages burnished by experiences: some fiery red, some golden yellow, some mellow green, some dull brown.
It is often difficult, usually frustrating and seldom appreciated, but those of us who continue to live our lives faithful to our beliefs and ideals are truly patriots and lovers of freedom.
Heat shadows dance above the blacktop.
Little Rebecca has inherited her mother’s desire to explore foreign places. She can sit in the car happily singing, sleeping or just watching the world go by for ten hours as long as she is moving on to new people and places. Some morning she’ll run to the car demanding to “go, go, go someplace.”
While nursing my rosey two-month-old, I read of the death by starvation of a three-month-old child in — no, not India — but within the “Golden Triad,” in Winston-Salem. The child lived one block from a federally-sponsored health center and her mother qualified for ADC benefits and food stamps.
Golden-headed Rebecca gleefully carried her little red bench through the door of her cardboard house, closed all the “shutters” and secured the entrance and was all alone in her canton retreat. Flashback — five years ago in Tiajuana: a whole village constructed of cardboard crates, corrogated paper, stacks of newspaper and sheets of tin where blackheaded children ran in and out of the makeshift doors. When asked why the people didn’t build more permanent shelters, I was told that the river annually floods the area, destroying the homes anyway.
They say the New Age has arrived, that our consciousness is being raised, that we are witnessing a new stage in our evolution. Though I don’t consider myself a pessimist, it’s hard for me to overlook the spiritual apathy, old-fashioned greed, and general selfishness that seems to pervade our civilization. The advent of a beautiful New Age is difficult to see when the nasty old ways still predominate.
If I were to join in communion with you, to commune with you, to communicate with you, I would do so over a cup of raspberry leaf-mint tea and a piece of Celebration Carob Cake (so called because it was the first cake I baked after the birth of my last child).
That’s one way to nourish one’s mind and body, and for most Americans today it’s considered the best way. Fill the belly with meat, potatoes, Big Macs, shakes, cokes, coffee — keep stuffing it in. And if there’s no food about chew gum, smoke a cigarette. And words are the food for the mind — no matter if they are empty; keep the noise coming in. Music, too, has become meaningless background filler to keep the mind feeling “full.” Our sounds are as nutritious as our food, and it’s no wonder so many eyes around us seem dead behind their dark glasses.