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A ticket to paradise (06/14/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
“Follow your bliss,” the poet once chortled. One man’s paradise is another’s misery.

“I just do as I please – just breezin’ along with the breeze!” Early morning May air was sharp and chipper! On our deck with a mug of English Breakfast, I found myself bombarded, ducking in the nick of time, as a pair of bright yellow finches made a tailspin for their regular pit stop at Pat’s thistle seed feeder. Confused by my presence, they swooped and dipped between the bare branches of our ash tree, playing tag without a care. Oh, to be free as a bird!

Rarely, for brief intervals, a human is exhilarated, transported to a dimension otherworldly. This is one of my most cherished Robert Frost stanzas, on a dog-eared page in my collection of his poems: “Heaven gives its glimpses only to those/ Not in position to look too close.” I see.

In today’s commercial world, the old maxim, “The best things in life are free,” may be misleading. “Anything worth having comes at a cost” may be more apropos. For outdoor fun in a natural setting (green spaces,) a trek to a bike path or picnics by a lake, usually involve driving, which may mean sacrificing a pit stop at a root beer stand for a fill of gas so Mom can drive to work in the morning.

A ticket to paradise is a destination in the eyes of the beholder. We all do our own thing. Time stops for no mortal on a delayed pursuit, for those who have plans they never seem to get around to when they can afford it or when they retire. A study found that an extra year spent on the job can delay the onset of dementia by six weeks. (Huh? I’ll take my chances!)

Relationships often come at a cost. Here, the word “sacrifice” strikes like a swift, stern slap on the wrist. Every relationship can be difficult at times, seldom without its speed bumps, road blocks, detours, dead ends, and slippery slopes. Those fortunate enough to have found their life’s “soul mate” might have an easier go of it. Someone asked how you can tell if you have. The answer is, if you have, you won’t have to ask.

You needn’t say a lot to be brilliant! One can indulge in a novel, a collection of poetry, or essays that seem to click, where a person can escape to a temporary haven of bliss while taking a break from mundane routine. I feel possession of a great book upon reading it. On my library shelves, one touches another in staggered rows. I never divorce myself from any insight and inspiration they had aroused in me at the time. My life is an open book.

Writing can be like an addiction. I know the symptoms well, and always keep a pen and tablet and a tattered dictionary at hand. Since Pat and I got back to our camper at Chetek, I have been indulgent in metaphor and dangling participles. I need a new tablet already!

The heading of one of my scribbled pages of ramblings is “up at the lake.” I wrote about a windy, full-sun afternoon. Jagged waves, sporting summer algae green, bring the fishing boats in with unbridled force. I sit isolated on a bench built into a 4-tiered, bare wood stairway down to the pier. Between swinging branches, I catch glimpses of a faceless sky dropping into vermeil water to another shore, where isolated harbors keep others’ secrets.

Lingering winter flesh refuses to keep the chill out. I feel a tightness in my face as old skin creases with my squint. I dare not claim this space or any portion of its wildness, yet an intricate part of me will always be a part of it, the shadow of my soul embedded here…as long as memory allows.

What more can a mortal ask for than to be, on prolific and mystical occasions, free as a bird! Happy Trails!

Janet Burns and her husband retreat up north, but her hometown of Lewiston will always be the last stop. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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