Every week, The New Yorker magazine features a Cartoon Caption Contest, inviting readers to submit a caption for consideration. After three finalists are chosen, readers vote for the winning caption. You can view my first attempt at a similiar contest here on this blog with family members on a Sunday outing.
When we sorted through our mother’s things after her passing, I found a large photo likely from the 1970s taken by Ken Smith Photographs from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. The photographer snapped my Grandma Fannie Longenecker with bonnet and neck scarf and my dad, facing her away from the camera. Apparently they are in line at a breakfast buffet likely at a farm equipment convention. Others in the line are unknown. All seem intent on filling their plates, some more than others.
“What was going on here?” I ask. Everyone in the photograph registers a similar band-width on the emotional scale, except for the couple on the left.
This photo begs a caption.
* * *
What’s going on here?
Invent a caption.
Guess at the scarario.
Supply a two-line dialogue between the couple on the left.
Imagine the photographer’s motive.
Reminisce about an awkward moment you recall.
O, wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as others’ see us! “To a Louse”
Robert Burns 1786
(On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church)
Coming next: Moments of Extreme Emotion: Where’s My Spyglass?
Before I dashed off to my college classes each morning, I had a 10-minute oasis of breakfast time around 6:30. With a modest-size repast of tea and lemon, bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese + a piece of fruit, I told God, “Thank you for this food and the leisure to enjoy it in.” Why would I even think to call it leisure? I had just 10 minutes before I bolted out the door, joined the traffic on Beach Boulevard, and rolled my car onto campus at 7:00 a.m. Busy day ahead!
Now in my writing phase of life, at 7:00 I may tune in to 20-minute yoga session, pre- or post-breakfast. It just depends.
But now my breakfasts are more abundant and leisurely. Well, . . . most of the time.
Breakfast time includes a spiritual dimension:
First, CLEANSING . . .
Then, moments of SILENCE
Silence, however brief (then) or longer (now). . . requires meaningful retreat from the hurly-burly busy-ness of life.
In his memoir, The Chosen, Chaim Potok’s main character, Reuven, speaks of the enlightenment his friend’s father, Reb Saunders, a Hasidic rabbi, imparts about the restorative value of long stretches of quiet: “. . . “I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.” And later Reuven’s brilliant friend Danny admits: “My father taught me with silence, . . . “ so I would not grow up with a mind having no soul.
Now take a deep breath . . . read s l o w l y :
When you are faithful in [silent meditation] . . .
you will slowly experience yourself in a deep way.
Because in this useless hour in which
you do nothing “important” or urgent
you have to come to terms with your basic powerlessness,
you have to feel your fundamental inability
to solve your or other people’s problems
or to change the world.
When you do not avoid that experience but live through it,
you will find out that your many projects, plans,
and obligations becomes less urgent, crucial, and important
and lose their power over you.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger to Henry Nouwen (Quoted in Fil Anderson’s Running on Empty, a book about living restoratively in “a world stuck on fast forward.” 73)
Next, MEDITATION . . .
Take another deep breath, read, and reflect
Grandson Patrick, my less pious stand-in for “Meditation.” He is reading from his Grandpa’s Bible the story of one of the shipwrecks of Apostle Paul he learned about in Vacation Bible School.
Happy to say, I haven’t heard the phone ring yet, so there’s even time for another cup!
You were waiting for an OOPS! and here it comes. Life doesn’t always go as planned. Interruptions happen. And frequently. There is often a need to revert to Plan B. (See again Southern Friends Meet PA Dutch Dish)
Fil (really, not a misspelling) Anderson, again, in Running on Empty quotes Author Robert Benson, Living Prayer (page 81) who has devised a theory of life he dubs the “Rule of 21.”
Twenty-one minutes is the amount of time that one can go without being interrupted by a telephone call, a knock at the door, or an attack from cyberspace . . . .
Twenty-one days seems to be the maximum number of days that one’s life can go smoothly. The average is four, but the limit is twenty-one I think. It’s hard to live for more than twenty-one days without a car breaking down, a trip being cancelled, a family member getting sick, a pet dying, a tire going flat, a deadline being missed, or some other thing that scatters all of one’s otherwise neatly arranged ducks.
While I’m writing this post, there have been several hiccups in the rhythm of my own life. Specters in the form of medical, institutional, and financial needs have reared their unwelcome heads either in my own or our extended family. And it’s been, I gasp, about 21 hours — give or take a few!