Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The inner jukebox

Retirement creates empty spaces, lost of them, more than I've ever lumbered into before in my life, significant periods of time when there's nothing that's gotta' be done and no one is expecting you to do it.  An old friend of mine told me that retirement was, at first, difficult for him because he had no ritual, nothing but empty space that he finally satisfied when he decided to raise some black angus that had to be fed daily.  Cattle gave him ritual. Ritual made his retirement happy.

Not long ago, another old friend asked me how it is I'm so tan.  The answer is simple.  I spend more time outside than I have in the last half-century because there's always things to do on an acreage.  Now, I got the time, and lots of those chores are mindless for the most part--like cutting lawn or clearing brush, jobs you can do even if your mind is a mile away.

But then, there's nothing going on a mile away either, nothing particularly compelling, no demands I can't afford not to remember. The mind, after a fashion, becomes an open slate. Well, that's pushing it. Let's put it this way: the to-do list is a 80 acres away from overflowing.

In The Secret World of Sleep, Penelope Lewis argues that when we're asleep the brain does what most all of us do after a delicious meal--clean up. While we're sawing wood, the brain is carefully taking the dishes off the the table, putting them in the dishwasher, wiping off the counter-tops, and putting the milk back in the fridge.  Making things spiffy, in other words. Organizing the chaos of our daily lives.

What Ms. Lewis hasn't done is research the minds of retired people. I'd like to think it wouldn't be hard at all for my brain, these days, to be some kind of neat freak because there are, as I started saying here, lots and lots of empty spaces, more than there's ever been. Can't be all that difficult for a brain to clean up when there's been no mess.

That's what I'd like to think, but my own relationship with most octogenarians- and octogenarians+ suggests that organization isn't exactly the right word to describe what's going on upstairs.  More research is needed.

I can add one interesting bit of data here, however.  When I'm mowing the acreage or stripping an old piece of furniture or lugging brush from the river's edge, my mind, for reasons I don't understand, kicks up ancient ditties from my earliest years of Christian school, long, long ago.  "Give Said the Little Stream," for instance, arose out of nowhere a couple of days ago. 

Singing, singing all the way,
'Give away, oh give away'';
Singing, singing all the way,
'Give, oh give, away.

 I'm aboard the riding the lawn mower, swinging around the silver poplars in the front yard, and I'm singing "He loves me too/He loves me too/I know he loves me too," lines I hadn't rehearsed in my mind forever.  I've got grandkids, but they don't sing those songs--even my own kids didn't.  They're long gone, except in my head.  I've become an old hymnal. I've got to go waaaaaay back to second grade to retrieve them, but, suddenly, they're there and I'm not even conscious of having looked them up.  

If God so loved the little things
I know he loves me too.

It's very strange. They're just there.

I will make you fishers of men,
fishers of men, fishers of men;
I will make you fishers of men
If you follow me.

Complete with actions.

If you follow me,
If you follow me,
I will make you fishers of men
If you follow me.

It's weird.  Honestly.  Look, the meals of our lives take far less cleaning-up-after than they did when our family was around. You got to feel a little sorry for a brain that simply doesn't have as much to do.  Maybe I ought to invest in black angus.

Anyway, all of this is prelude.  Our three-year-old grandson has decided to make a ritual of sitting on the toilet. Must be something about the seat that thrills him because he can sit there for a long time.  Earlier this summer, his other Grandma, his Oma, hauled out her smart phone and recorded him--no video because she wasn't in the room--but a perfectly clear audio as the little guy sat there comfortably singing "10,000 reasons," especially those big triumphant swooping lines in the chorus: "Bless the Lord, o my soul,/Oh-oh-oh my soul,/ Worship his holy name."

There he sat, crooning.  I'd like to say he's a very pious young man, but he could just as well have been singing about gummy bears--that one's a favorite too.

But still, when I viewed that video that wasn't a video, when I heard him wailing away on that contemporary favorite, I couldn't help thinking that someday on a lawn hovercraft, he too will start involuntarily drawing selections from some hidden away inner jukebox, singing lyrics that'll come back to him like spirits of the age as he tends his black angus.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name.

And that's okay.


Anonymous said...

Raising angus. I do it and I'm a duffer.

When they suffer you suffer... when they lose a calf and mourn, you mourn too. They are skiddish around strangers but they will stand next to me like I'm one of them. I rotational graze so they think I am always there to put them on new grass.

My bull, A-Rod [Number 12], has a manly mission of eight this year and I think he got the jobs done in record time. He belly-aches at me cause I did not buy more heifers for him.

Jim, the routine is great and the work is plenty... Reminds me of baling for Delmar.



Anonymous said...

As I listen to the rhythm of the falling rain today and look out at the Angus graze this morning... I am reminded of the folks in the Old Testament.

One of the indicators they used to measure how blessed they were by God was the number of cattle they had. I understand. I have 14 head and feel greatly blessed. Great retirement activity.


Anonymous said...

Love that song! I first heard it at a wedding of a guy who was in prison and gave his life to the Lord. He wore a bright orange suit with matching shoes....Most days, I wake up with a song in my heart. The best way to start the day. May your grandson someday sit on a lawn mower and have that song sing back to him from his memory bank.... I think you would make a great farmer....try some goats, you can milk them and then you can weave what you shear off, lots of routine.....

Anonymous said...

Wondering if another oldie
from that maroon
Let Youth Praise Him
has resurrected from
your inner juke box?

"Hold the fort, for I am coming,"
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will."

Precious memories...TY!