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  Monday January 26th, 2015    

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Skirting deception (05/23/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns

I have been suffering from writer’s block. All I want to do is bake brownies and chocolate chip cookies and have tea. This is not a good idea! Since confession is good for the soul, I’ll admit that I’m a chocoholic. I think one affliction feeds the other.

Today, mindful of cold weather forecast for tomorrow, I went outside to sit on the sun-drenched bench, hoping to conjure up some inspiration. Nothing came of that. Walking around our house, through a backyard I’m totally unfamiliar with since Pat grounded my clothesline several years ago, I noted how huge and gangling our two birch trees have become. These are the branches Pat hates to pick up before he can mow. I am amazed at how detached I’ve become from my own property!

Images flashed through dandelion grass, of three children, familiar with their hair bleached blonde from a sunny Minnesota summer. Trying to swallow the lump in my throat, I strained to see their cheerful, impish faces, to delight in forgotten foolishness and giggles that had once brought joy and love to our now empty house, quieted by years dropping away. The mischievous, naive boys and sweet little girl grew up and have made lives for themselves.

The sagging, worn wood bench out by the front door is more familiar territory. Oh sure, here come to mind those haunting words of Thoreau about being opposed to owning property, and just borrowing the land for the time of our sojourn here. He wrote, “I put no manure whatever on this land, not being the owner, but merely a squatter.” Pat’s applying fertilizer to the lawn right now. Thoreau would not approve.

“Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me.” Walt Whitman I never cared much for, except for his tribute to Abe Lincoln’s lilacs: “When lilacs in the dooryard bloomed.” Whitman wrote, “Lilac and stars and bird twined with the chant of my soul, there in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.” Romantic reverie.

On a recent jaunt to Winona I came to life, my heavy thoughts deserted for the beauty of a luxuriant season. Roadsides tumble with yellow blooms that biologists have labeled weeds. Lilacs are everywhere, as old as God. Trees rise adorned in fetching fecundity; their lacey leaves turn silver in the wind, and branches bend to the whims of four-season weather. Near the top of hillsides, rock walls appear to anchor trees, which seem to have sucked nourishment through roots tangled with earth at the core of eternity.

At a busy intersection in Winona, as I waited for the light to turn, I was assaulted by a disgusting bed of nasty cigarette butts and cans strewn all along the patch of dirty grass. An epidemic of stupidity must have infected some mindless squatter! People coming and going along city sidewalks wear sobering faces. No one is smiling! Nobody waves!

Deception – that’s it! Everyone is deceiving, or deceived by, someone. Fear has infected every sector of society. Fear...and something lost that seems too distant to be recovered. How long will we get away with it? Can we go on without mutual affection, the warm satisfaction of trust, sincerity of emotion, carefree, innocent laughs shared, congenial neighbors bantering from yard to yard, and Sundays devoted to worship and warm fellowship?

A stroll around our house, some nostalgic reminiscing, tea – no sugar, a fix of Whitman and Thoreau, and some respectable self-deception, and all is well. Spring will do that to a person!

Carpe diem!

Janet Burns is a nomad at heart. She will answer to patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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