Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Trip Back Through Time

For me...
A stop at Pier One
Cost Less Imports
is a trip back through time.

The moment I open the door
those fragrant aromas and familiar sights
intrigue me...
bombard me...
invade my senses...
and send my mind racing
back through time
to when life was simple,

Sandalwood incense.
Gentle ocean breezes and salt sea air.

the sturdy tree by our back door
yielding fragrant blossoms.
Plumeria by name.
Soft white petals of moist velvet
Golden yellow in the center where the petals merged.
dripping from the branches
waiting to be picked and strung
to welcome a guest to tropical paradise.

Musky, earthy aromas
that waft from the bead covered entrances
of the small Oriental shops.
Fragrances that beckon to me...
"Come see.
Come touch.
Come experience."
Wandering aimlessly amongst the dusty wooden shelves.
laden with china, brass, bone, ivory and wood.
Touching the treasures
causing one's mind to ponder times long ago and lands far away.
Mysterious cultures waiting to be explored and experienced.

Gentle ocean breezes...
Such an integral part of the island experience.
warmed by the sun.
gently caressing the land as they make their way along the coast
and up the mountains to the land on the other side.
that soothe
and relax.
Almost hypnotic by nature
creating a state of euphoria -
carefree abandonment of all worries and problems.
Breezes that touch the skin and permeate to the inner being,
warming and cooling simultaneously.
Breezes that mingle with the damp salt sea air,
creating a smell unlike any other.

Even still today...
thirty-nine years later,
there are sights,
smells, and
that open up the doors of my memory
and allow me to experience
a trip back through time.

A Morning in Time

The weathered farmhouse sat in a field to the West of a lonely, dusty road. In the early morning light, it kept a silent vigil over the still quiet countryside. As the sun slowly took its place in the Kansas sky, life gathered momentum to face another day.

The aging farm dog ventured out of the dog house that rested under the large elm tree by the water pump. He yawned, stretched and gazed expectantly at the dilapidated backdoor of the old two-story frame farmhouse.

The dog was suddenly filled with a burst of youthful energy as the screendoor opened and He came out. The old man, wearing his traditional blue denim overalls, softened and faded with age, tapped his pipe on the pump to loosen the contents. He hit the pipe against the palm of his hand and dumped the smoked tobacco onto the ground. Checking to make sure it was empty, he reached into a pocket, removed a folded red foil package and proceeded to fill the pipe with the deliberation of an artist at work. Upon completion of the task, he replaced the package in his pocket and removed a tosy-tipped wooden match. He lifted his right leg, promptly struck the match against the tightened denim of his pants and brought the flare to his pipe. He drew deeply on the stem of the pipe, tossed the burned stick to the ground and pondered the day that lay ahead.

He reached down, ruffled the hair of the dog and the two of them headed toward the wooden gate which separated the farmhouse from the barnyard.

In the gray light of early morning, She moved with deliberation from room to room, tidying along her way. Leaning across the bleached wooden kitchen countertop, She pulled the kitchen curtain aside and watched the old man and his companion enter the red barn. A smile briefly graced her lips as she silently thanked her God for her man of forty-some years. She let the curtain fall back into place and reached for the worn apron that shared a hook with his razor strap. She vigorously pumped water into the enameled coffee pot, added a generous amount of coffee grounds and crushed dried egg shells and placed it on the relatively new gas stove. It hadn't been all that long since she'd cooked all of the meals and heated her irons on the blackened cast iron stove that now resided behind the lean-to on the North side of the house.

As if by plan, the old man returned to the house with a pail of warm milk just as She took the last of the hotcakes off the griddle. He used the toe of his heavy workshoe to gently scatter a group of frisky kittens out of his way as He carried the milk into the lean-too just off the kitchen. He carefully poured the contents of the pail into the milk separator that had been readied for use the night before.

She placed heavy crockery plates and mismatched flatware at 2 places on the massive circular oak table that dominated the kitchen. As He took his customary place at the table, she sat a steaming mug of coffee in front of him. The dog barked wildly, alerting them to callers just as she sat the platter of hotcakes, sausage and eggs on the table.

She hurried to the backdoor to quiet the dog just as a green Chevy sedan pulled into the gravel driveway. She quickly wiped her hands on the corner of her apron and pushed open the screen door. He joined Her on the step, an expectant smile on each wizened face.

As the car pulled to a stop, the rear doors of the sedan opened and two squealing and laughing young girls jumped out and bounded into the arms of the two on the back step. The driver of the car, a man in his mid-thirties, walked around the front of the car and was welcomed by the elderly couple. The pigtailed girls noisly disappeared into the house and She caught the screen door just before it slammed shut. The three adults followed the girls inside only to find them already seated at the large oak table.

While the two men discussed the spring crops and the effects of the recent rains, the old woman turned her attention to the breakfast and unexpected but welcomed guests. She enlisted the help from the girls in setting three more places at the table while she prepared additional eggs for the men.

Leaving the men to their "man talk" she entertained her granddaughters with questions about school and play.

An invitation to eat went unissued to the guests. Their presence at mealtime was silent acceptance of the implied invitation. When the eggs were ready, the five of them sat together in the rosy blush of sunrise and grasped each other's hands as the elderly man uttered a short German prayer of thanksgiving.

Grace being offered, the family went about the business of breakfast in noisy communion with one another.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Radio

"When everything around you is changing, turn to the part of you that doesn't change, that is calm, centered, and connected to something bigger." - Ariane De Bonvoisin

Fade in: Yesteryear

The gangly young girl stretched out on the sculptured carpeting beside her younger, sassy sister. Both of them demonstrated multi-tasking as they used their favorite Crayolas to complete coloring pages while listening intently to the radio. The object of their attention was a solidly built unit that stood against the West wall of the living room and was the source of many exciting family evenings. Built of wood and kept shiny by repeated and frequent polishings, the floor model radio was massive by most standards. The dark cabinet featured rounded corners, a cloth covered speaker in the front and metal knobs and dials, worn from constant use.

It wouldn't be long until their Father arrived home from work just in time for the evening meal, but until then, the girls could catch up on the latest installment of one of their favorite radio programs, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. The serial program featured a Canadian mounted policeman and his sidekick, a Malamute named
Yukon King. Every week, the Mountie, his dog, and villains embarked upon adventures set in the frozen North. These stories transported the girls to places they could only imagine.

Excitement escalated during the minutes prior to each broadcast and when Mother located the correct position on the radio dial, the girls settled down to listen intently to the somewhat static laden stories. The sounds emitted from the radio were magical - sounds of thunder, rainstorms, wind, horses' hooves and a variety of other special effects. The sounds of nature painted vivid pictures in the minds of the listeners and enabled them to be "right there" where the action was taking place. The stories kidnapped the girls' imaginations and carried them away on enchanting mind experiences. It was especially fitting to listen to Sgt. Preston during the cold, dark evenings of winter. The swirling snows and howling winds of Kansas further heightened their visual journeys.

When the evening meal was over, the girls relinquished the radio to others. For a short period of time each night, they were allowed to listen to shows favored by their parents. Their father preferred Dragnet, Gang Busters and a show about the FBI. Mother enjoyed comedies such as Fibber McGee and Molly, Amos and Andy, Red Skelton, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. They both liked listening to the big bands such as Benny Goodman and Guy Lombardo.
The girls knew that after they had gone to bed, the parents listened to the news before retiring.

Fade out:

Fade in: Today

Today, the radio - as we knew it then - is almost forgotten as a form of communication. Few radios are found in homes and fewer still are used as a source of information. Most radios in use today are tuned in to music and a talk format. The majority of listeners are in their cars driving to and from work and are merely "passing time" with the radio.

Years ago, gathering around the radio to listen to our favorite radio shows was a family that I now realize was a precious part of growing up together. The radio wasn't a luxury in those was a necessity. It not only kept us in touch with a very big world community - it kept us in touch with each other. We were informed and entertained by the radio - we laughed and cried; we danced and sang; we learned about the price of a bushel of wheat during harvest and how weather was affecting the crops; we listened to the President address the nation during times of war and we heard peace celebrated on the streets of New York; we cheered when
announcements were made naming schools closed due to snow ( and ours was closed) and we ducked into the basement when the radio issued tornado warnings. The radio was like glue that joined us together as a family - whenever we sat down and listened together.

Just the other day, I came across a broadcast of a show that I recall listening to with my Dad. It was called The Shadow and was the closest thing to a radio version of a film noir (a highly stylistic post-war film genre of Hollywood drama) that I can recall. The key phrase of the program was "...only the shadow knows..." and that phrase remains a constant reminder tumbling around in my memory of those precious moments on the rug, our family sitting around our favorite entertainment of the time...the radio.