On this blog page, author Mary C. Woolling posts an ongoing series of her essays showcasing the positives of life.

New essays are added often. You are cordially invited to become a regular reader. Also, please feel free to share this site with your family and friends via the “Tell a Friend” link, located in the right-hand column below.

Comments on Mary's essays are most welcome. Simply click on the “Post Comments” link appearing at the end of each essay, and share your thoughts.

If you'd like to contact Mary, you may do so at mary@herestolife.us

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Harvest Time

Have you noticed it? Subtle changes are in the air. There’s a feeling of anticipation, excitement, and new beginnings. The sun is slanting a little differently now . . . casting longer shadows. Days are growing shorter, with more comfortable temperatures, evenings decidedly cooler. Summer is waning and quickly passing away. Autumn is upon us.

The general pace of living seems to have picked up from the “lazy days” of June and July. Most of the vacationers are home now and back to work. Bright yellow school buses can be seen again on the streets, for the children have returned to classes, proudly armed with new pencils, pristine notebooks, and high aspirations. “This fall is going to be the best one ever,” my young friend Sarah assured me recently. A determined third-grader who finds decimals and fractions a bit of a challenge, Sarah nonetheless vows she’ll master those concepts this year. “I’m going to be a math teacher when I grow up,” Sarah proclaims, “so I need to know this stuff.”

For many of us, once we reach Labor Day, the real “New Year” begins. Life gears up again in earnest. It seems an auspicious time, a time for making plans. Football practices and games, school programs, and band rehearsals begin to fill our weekly calendars. Fall festivals appear on the scene, and organizations are scheduling their first meetings of the season.

Retailers have put away their racks of beach towels, sunglasses, and flip-flops until next spring. In their places, we now find rows of potted chrysanthemums in yellows, bronzes, purples, and burgundys, as well as eye-catching displays of fall decorations, including bundled ears of variegated Indian corn and ornately-twisted garlands of burnt orange bittersweet. The coming season is clearly evident in the packages of candy corn and Halloween masks that already fill the store shelves.

Out and about, I see signs that Nature also realizes a shift is in the offing. Flocks of wild geese with their familiar honking cry are appearing in the clear blue sky, as they take flight southward. Fewer fireflies twinkle in the early evenings, and the presence of crickets is becoming more noticeable as their chirping sounds seem to grow louder.

The last of this year’s tomatoes, deep red, hang heavy on the vine. Slightly tougher in texture, these tomatoes also taste different now, not quite as flavorful as those relished a month or two ago. The luscious peaches and nectarines and tender ears of sweet corn – all pure delights of the summer – have also passed their prime. Hardy marigolds, in bright yellows and oranges, the famous late-bloomers of summer, are now in full flower in my garden. Faithful little plants, they’ll continue to flourish long after all the other posies have faded away.

Queen Anne’s lace, with its dainty, white-clustered blossoms, is everywhere along the roadsides, and will be so until first frost, lending an old-fashioned, Victorian charm to the scene. Milkweed pods will be opening soon, releasing countless seeds that float hither and yon through the air on their little feathery-white parachutes. Country fields of goldenrod will presently be in evidence as far as the eye can see, their deep saffron florets waving gently in the breeze. It won’t be long before we’re deeply immersed in those picture-postcard days of fall, when the green leaves of summer magically transform into blazing jewels of ruby red, glowing amber, shimmering wine, and brilliant yellow.

It’s harvest time. The black walnuts and hardy acorns are ripe and falling from the trees, to be retrieved and cached away by busy squirrels already planning for winter’s provisions. Apple orchards are laden with shiny, bright-colored fruit ready for the picking – as a crisp, crunchy treat or cool, refreshing cider. The zucchini and summer squash are at their peak and ready to store in the freezer. Months from now, when our beloved gardens are just a memory, these delectables from our carefully-cultivated patches of earth will evoke a reminiscent touch of summer when made into sauces, casseroles, breads, and cakes.

It’s harvest time for you and me, too, perhaps – time for taking stock, for evaluating the yield of our lives, so to speak. How fruitful have our days been? As we’ve tended to our crops of daily duties, responsibilities, and challenges, have we also tended to the people in our midst? They have crops of challenges, too. They could use the provision of a helping hand, a sowing of sunny thoughts, and a shower of encouraging words. Such caring acts can make a powerful difference for good. Indeed, the things we do for others throughout our lives often prove to be our greatest accomplishments.

What of true value have we reaped so far, and what significant offerings can we hope to glean in the time we have left? “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit . . .,” read the Scriptures (John 15:5). It is reassuring to know that, even in the autumn of our lives, with God’s help, we can still bring forth a veritable bounty of good deeds and kindnesses of lasting impact.

The unfolding of the fall season’s sights and sounds not only invigorates our senses, it also renews our spirits. Lofty goals are being set, and rightfully so. As my friend Sarah said, “This is going to be the best fall ever!”

Monday, August 13, 2018

Write It Down!

When my father was in active medical practice, beginning back in the 1950s, long before the days of answering machines and voice mail, doctors routinely employed the services of what was called the Medical Exchange. During off-hours, when patients could not reach their doctor at his office, they would call this glorified switchboard and leave a message.

The lady who took the messages was a Mrs. Kendrick, who had been with the service for many years. When the doctors would later call in to retrieve their messages, Mrs. Kendrick would always insist, “Write it down! Write it down!” She wished to emphasize that our short-term memories can be fleeting and fallible.

We may think that we shall always be able to recall life’s details with full accuracy even after lapses of time, but Mrs. Kendrick knew better. Most probably early in her career she had received many call backs from doctors, asking, “On that telephone number you gave me . . . did you say 341? Or 321?” Or, “Was that patient’s name War-ren or War-den?” The longsuffering Mrs. Kendrick would sigh and patiently repeat the information, along with the admonition “Write it down! Write it down!”

Throughout our lives, we experience many memorable events. We also have some rather profound ideas. Things we wish to remember always, but sometimes the exact details of which escape us. If you have special tales and insights you wish to keep for posterity, write them down! Now. While the facts are still fresh in your mind.

What are you most grateful for in your life right now? Where do you find comfort and peace for your journey? Who are the individuals who make your heart go pitter-pat? Whose presence sustains you? Write it down. Tell your story.

I have discovered that much of what I wish to say to the world is brought out simply through the act of remembering and then writing those thoughts down. It’s kind of amazing, actually. I often see my work coalesce on paper right in front of my eyes, even before I consciously realize where my thoughts are taking me.

I’m reminded of the story of the little child in Kindergarten who was intently sketching a picture one day. He was deep in concentration on his work when someone asked him, “What are you drawing?” The little boy, with a rather exasperated tone, replied, “I don’t know. I haven’t finished it yet.”

I venture to say that every one of you has recollections and perspectives running around in your head that are definitely worth sharing with others. I encourage you to grab a pen and a pad of paper, put on your thinking cap, and let your thoughts flow.

As Mrs. Kendrick would say, write it down!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Never

All my life, people have advised me “never say never.”

However, I know of a situation where the word “never” is never wrong: we never regret a kindness.

My late beloved companion, Frank, who was the epitome of kindness, once told me of an experience that clearly illustrates this fact.

When Frank was a teenager, he coached Little League. Frank loved children and was also extremely fond of sports, especially baseball. Working with youngsters within the world of baseball was therefore, as Frank put it, a “win-win” for him.

The little boys on Frank’s team admired their coach. Understandably so, for Frank was lots of fun. For example, as a faux exercise in balance and reflexes, he would have them spin around and around their bats and then quickly run to first base. The boys, delightfully giddy from this revolving action, would dissolve in dizziness and laughter.

Frank was also scrupulously fair in his dealings with the boys. He made it clear that the game was serious business and had rules that must be followed. Further, team members were expected to give their all; no half measures on the baseball field. “We play to win,” Frank would say. Accordingly, the boys rose to the occasion. In fact, they seemed to revel in the discipline and sustained effort Frank required of them. Little League became a popular and well-attended event in Frank’s neighborhood.

After practice, the boys would routinely bicycle over to Frank’s house, to spend even more time with their beloved coach. They’d hang out on the sidewalk and front yard, joke, laugh, and talk. They’d even ask for Frank’s advice on things that were worrying them. Frank would patiently listen to their tales and offer guidance where he could. Through his devoted interaction with the boys, he not only presented the rules of baseball but also lessons for life.

Living a few doors down from Frank was a little girl who had Down’s syndrome. Frank said she was a sweet child who longed to play with the other neighborhood children but sadly, because of her handicap, the kids excluded her. If she would ride her bike over to Frank’s when the baseball team members were visiting, the youngsters, evidently uncomfortable by her presence, would be up and away in no time, leaving the poor little girl behind and alone.

Tenderhearted Frank understood the situation. He took time to greet the child and make her feel comfortable, sitting down in the driveway and talking with her. Naturally, the little girl thought the world of Frank. As it turned out, whenever the boys were at Frank’s for a visit, she learned to watch and wait from her window. Just as soon as the boys would leave, she would hop on her bike and, with a big smile on her face, pedal over to see her good friend Frank.

I’m speculating that Frank, in his adult years, would have used this situation as a teachable moment for the boys, explaining to them about the differences in people and the need for tolerance and compassion. Even so, as it was, he acted with extraordinary empathy given that he, himself, was just a teenager, showing kindness to a little girl who had been ostracized.

Ultimately, Frank moved out of the area but, many years later, he returned to the old neighborhood. On a whim, he stopped by the little girl’s house. He was greeted at the door by her mother who, with tears in her eyes, informed Frank that her daughter had passed away. Then, the child’s mother reached out her arms and gave Frank a big hug, telling him that her daughter had always loved Frank. And she added that the little girl had never forgotten him or his kindness.

Never say never? I beg to differ. We never regret a kindness.

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