Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas '09

Red morning sky---
are you glad of it?


I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.

---Joseph Campbell

The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing---to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.

---John Keats

Of course, Keats died young. Good grief, by the time he was my age he had been dead about 45 years! Does that idea of letting thoughts rush through one's mind sound like a young man? I think I can remember being like that. Joseph Campbell lived into old age and he sounds it. I suppose we elders treasure moments when we feel especially alive.

I don't wish to belittle those ideas by bringing up age, but I was thinking of the relativity of one's eagerness for new things as I tried to come up with something to say about the passing year. It feels like only yesterday Dana looked over at me and said she was ready to have grandchildren now. Actually it was a couple years ago, and I remember sort of blinking at her and wondering where that came from. Ilona was still in high school and Jeroch showed no signs of settling down. I guess being settled isn't a requirement for getting married and having children, but I tend to associate permanence with those conditions. Why was Dana rushing us into grandparenthood?

She just was ready, that's all. Maybe women know about these things. Nesting instincts or something. It all remains very mysterious to me and other men I know---which may be why we invented the garage and hunting and activities like that. Dana has been a wonderful grandmother I think...and I hope our daughter-in-law Karen agrees. Because shortly after Dana was thinking about becoming a grandmother, Jeroch up and married this perfectly perfect person for him, and out have come two beautiful and fascinating daughters, Nina and Sophia. Jeroch hasn't settled down, and in fact has established a philosophy that young people shouldn't try to settle down in these tumultuous times. We need to prepare for a return to the life of nomadic tribes.

This year they've continued testing their hypothesis by house-sitting for numerous sabbaticalizing professors around here. Low rent, and you don't get bogged down accumulating a lot of stuff. Jeroch has been working at Fur Peace Ranch, the music camp and concert area rock and blues musician Jorma Kaukonen set up in the area. Jeroch has a number of skills in baking, cooking, gardening he puts to use, not only for Jorma but in freelance work too. Karen has trained for years in some intense yogas, and is adapting these forms into midwifery. Now as Nina celebrates her 2nd birthday, it is clear she loves her little sister very much---in English and Spanish. (They are a bilingual family.)

Ilona's scholarship made her a candidate for just about any university experience she wanted. We traveled around to a few normal schools, but all the time she kept talking about this place in the Smoky Mountains called Warren Wilson. I kept pointing her to New England, betraying my chauvanism about where you get an education in this country. Nope, finally she got me to go down to Asheville, North Carolina, and those people romanced me right into signing on the dotted line.

The college is very oriented toward environmental approaches to things, and that's what Ilona wanted. The school has the first Leeds accredited dorm in the nation, and the other residences are competing with each other to catch up. The college grows its own food and raises livestock. Each student has a job at the school, for which payment reduces tuition. Ilona has had training in energy auditing, and that's what she does there. Besides academic studies, students are expected to perform community service as well in areas of Appalachia where the need is great. Here she is, home for winter break and when I hinted that OU really is making progress in environmental concerns, she saw I was opening up an alternative just in case and affirmed she's in the school where she wants to be.

As for Dana and me, we had a little empty nest time...but then I guess we were reminded that it's been a long while since we were just getting to know each other. It might be refreshing to pick up where we left off with that. We don't have to argue about who's making what mistakes with the kids anymore, and we just can go out on dates and watch old movies if we want to. That's not a bad deal...I mean, when we're not babysitting.

1 comment: