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.
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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?
Do you live where Daylight Saving Time has gone into effect recently? If so, today you may feel out of sync, sleep-deprived. The loss of even one hour of sleep pushes one’s biorhythms out of kilter.
Who’s to Blame: Daylight Saving Time
In the wee hours of Sunday clocks moved forward one hour, delaying sunrise and adding evening daylight. According to one source, a New Zealander proposed the modern idea of DST in 1895. Germany followed in 1916. Many other country since then have followed the spring ahead/fall behind routine, especially since the energy crisis of the 1970s.
The time change has been loved or hated ever since. My author friend Janet Givens provides a well-researched blog post on the topic. Her research explodes the myth that Daylight Saving Time is supported by farmers.
Sleep: A Cure
Medical journals including Psychology Today, often publish articles about sleep or the lack thereof. Such pieces also regularly appear in the table of contents of women’s magazine and AARP journals.
Literature is replete with references to sleep. In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, who has recently murdered King Duncan, knows his sleep will be troubled or interrupted even as he ruefully ticks off its benefits:
“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care / The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath / Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” Act 2, Scene ii
Sleep repairs the unraveled parts of our lives, knits them up.
Sleep comes at the end of the day; it looks like a little death.
Sleep brings bodily relief from pain as do baths.
Sleep refreshes the mind.
Sleep is essential to life. We can’t do without it.
In Search of Forty Winks, Patricia Marx comments:
Ben Franklin and the Bible on Sleep
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. ~ Benjamin Franklin
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. ~ Eccl. 5:1
Our son Joel was fast asleep embracing his teddy bear knitted by his Great Aunt Ruthie. He may have been dreaming of riding his skate board or playing with match-box cars. As a nine-year-old, he was certainly not worrying about caring for children, the needs of a wife, mortgage payments, or at-work performance.
Wordsworth offers a philosophical perspective on sleep:
Here is the first stanza of a nursery rhyme Joel probably heard before he fell asleep:
Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their bed, for it’s past ten o’clock?
Comments about sleep, advice about getting more of it? Your wisdom welcome here. All creatures need down time, even inanimate ones. Note that there is a sleep button on your computer, just above re-start.
Jane Martin Walters never attended a single Elizabethtown High School Class Reunion, and Dr. Norman P. Will no longer attends college graduations as a president emeritus at Florida State College at Jacksonville. Yet, they both linger in my memory though Jane died in her mid-twenties and Dr. Will in his late-fifties. I have vowed to get rid of memorabilia in anticipation of down-sizing one day, but I can’t – I just CAN’T – part with the pieces of paper that attach their memory to mine.
Jane was smart, very smart, and excelled in college prep track classes in high school. Unlike mine, her learning appeared to be effortless. And her home life quiet and orderly too. After a snow day off from school one winter Jane remarked that she loved snow days because her Mom would pop popcorn, and she and her family would sit by the fireplace and read or play games. In contrast, after the thrill of sledding on traffic-free roads passed, our house was noisy, no hearth for refuge in sight.
You might get the impression I felt envious. But I didn’t. Jane was poised on a pedestal in my eyes, and I admired what appeared to be her calm cadence through life. When I heard she married and worked at the Library of Congress in the Congressional Reference Department, I was pleased. Maybe I’d visit her in Washington D. C. some day. But some day never came. She died of cancer shortly after after her marriage and at the beginning of a promising career. Aunt Ruthie told me, “She ate a nice dinner with her family, said her goodbyes and died in her sleep that night.” I was devastated.
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I admired Dr. Norm Will too, though in a vastly different way. An English professor had become a college president: All’s right with the world! College operations purred along smoothly with Dr. Will at the helm. He advocated free thought, offering friendly evening colloquia for faculty on diverse topics like current ideas in neuroscience and the health of Florida’s St. Johns River. But on the first day of Convocation in 2005, Dr. Will did not appear. He had died the night before while sipping wine and reading The History of God by Karen Armstrong, a text I later happened to reference in my paper for The Oxford Roundtable.
In her piece “Dealing with the Dead” (The New Yorker, October 11, 2010), Jennifer Egan discusses the deaths of three close family members and observes that she has kept an article of clothing from each: her grandmother’s 3-tiered necklace of fake pearls, her father’s navy-blue wool V-neck sweater, and her stepfather’s gray and burgundy argyle sweater. Though the pearls eventually broke as she rounded a corner in the East Village, Jennifer vows to wear the sweaters “until they unravel into shreds” because she likes their feel against her skin. Author Egan shares wisdom gained from loss as she opines:
“Wearing the garments of a person I loved was like being wrapped in a protective force field.”
“When the clock stops on a life, all things emanating from it become precious, finite, and cordoned off for preservation.”
Keeping items from those who have passed on “is a way of keeping them engaged in life’s daily transactions—in other words, alive.” [Italics mine.]
I will add a quotation of my own from Shakespeare’s King Richard III: So wise so young, they say, do never live long.” And then from Scripture:
“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 KJV
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Have you experienced loss? Is your story like any of the stories I tell or very different? Here’s the place to share it.