The morning broke full of bird song and sunlight breaking through the pine trees at the lake. Not even the interstate’s distant noise interrupted the beginning of this new day. Watching the new day arrive, I remembered some particular words of my mother. Whenever one of her children would complain about the heat or the cold or the wet of a day, she would answer: “Don’t worry ‘bout that. That’s His business.” Her seven-word response revealed her faith in her god, but it also offers a philosophy for non-believers or followers of another religion.
In our world of high technology, we have come to believe that we control or can control a great deal in our lives. That is true to a degree like any other issue. But sometimes, it seems to me, we carry too far the adage, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Any prudent person should plan for retirement or a sports contest in which he or she is a participant. However, there are moments, like when drinking coffee or tea in the early light of day, that need to be savored, just as the hot drink should be. The joy of that moment cannot be planned for, but it can be missed.
This savoring is easier now that I am retired. But when working as an educator, I tried each day to find a time, a comment by a student or fellow teacher, or a witnessed event to savor. If I could experience that one moment of exuberance, I believed, then that day was of a special consequence. Yet it was also easy to get captured by the grading of papers, the planning of lessons, and more that would prevent the capture of a savory moment. Now, while I have no papers to grade, I still am in danger of being captured by “things to do” instead of fully living each day.
Many words have been spoken or written about ways to accomplish a full life. One is the Latin expression “Carpe Diem” which became so trite during the mid-1990’s that coffee mugs and tee shirts with it printed on them became popular. Those who used the mugs or wore the tee shirts with this aphorism blazed across them carried themselves with a new-found arrogance as if to say that they knew something the rest of us did not. I suppose Horace would not object to the oft-used translation of his quoted words, “seize the day”, but I wonder what he would say concerning the belief that one should enjoy today and let tomorrow worry about itself?
Another suggestion for living a full life comes from an internet server where I live. Its latest commercial flaunts it newest system and says that consumers should switch in order to get “what you deserve.” That is a common sentiment expressed by many commercials lauding a parade of products. Gosh! I always thought we each deserved whatever we had earned through service or merit, not what we had purchased or wished for. Deserve, like so many words in our language, is in danger of becoming trite.
All of this brings me to Maggie, a medium-sized brown dog with beautiful, pale brown eyes. I met her when we moved here four years ago. She would visit me at my shop when she and her mistress took late morning walks. Angelique, her mistress, would release her leash, and Maggie would inspect the shop and the desk on which I worked. We had to be careful that she did not eat the few raisins on the stump that were for Atticus the mockingbird, but Maggie obeyed. After a polite time, Maggie would saunter away, a signal to her mistress that it was time to continue their walk. Often, in the late afternoons, I would see Maggie taking her master on a slow walk down our road as if to give him time to relax and unwind from his busy day in Charlotte. Yesterday afternoon when I went out to close my shop, I saw the three of them on their last walk. As she always had done, Maggie came over and visited, but she then began walking across our lawn with her owners as they held hands. Too soon her veterinarian would come to administer the shots and Maggie would be at rest.
For the first morning in sixteen years, Angelique woke without Maggie lying next to her on the floor. Emptiness? Yes, the space on the floor did not hold their beloved dog. But there was a moment for them to grasp, to pluck, to hold dear in honor of Maggie.
The popular translation of Horace’s phrase is “Seize.” However, I read that the more correct translation is “Pluck.” I like that verb better because it is what we do, or should do, with those life moments—see them like a fine fruit that we take for our nourishment and pleasure.
Maggie gave many moments for all of us to pluck. And with that action, we each will keep her forever in our individual memories.