Monday, October 13, 2008

Morning Has Broken

I was raking the leaves in my yard today. I stopped to listen to the noon bells ringing through the woods from the church down the road.

I started thinking about Camp Sloane – a YMCA camp in Lakeville, Connecticut. Each summer, in August, I went away to sleep-away camp for a month. The first summer, I wanted to go away to camp because my best friend, Michelle, was going. The following summers, my PARENTS wanted me to go.

It was kind of scary being away from home for a month, but I liked living in a big tent with 7 other girls.
I loved waking up to reveille played over the loud speaker.
I loved swimming lessons in the small lake with fish that would nip you if you stayed in one place for too long.
I loved flipping our canoes over.
I loved the ritual “sing-offs” at meal times ("We are the PIONEERS, the mighty, mighty PIONEERS!)
I loved drinking “bug juice” (kool-aid) and eating pancakes covered in sugar.

Fifth-grade freedom is a great thing …

This afternoon’s autumn bells through the woods reminded me of the camp’s Sunday services in the woods.

At Camp Sloane, there were log benches that lined a shady grove. We would go down there, as a group, on Sunday mornings. Some of the counselors would bring their guitars. They would say some profound 16-year-old words and sing some songs. I think “Kumba-ya” was a regular number. (It was the ‘70s). My favorite hymn was “Morning Has Broken.” Camp church spoke to me because we got to worship outside. I could feel and understand in my bones that God is everywhere.

It is funny, because when my husband and I had just married and moved into our new home, we decided to go "shopping" for a church together. One Sunday, we decided to stop in at the little church down the road. We opened the doors and the whole congregation turned and looked at us. Then the first hymn they played was “Morning Has Broken.”

(Photo credit: Joe Tansey Jr.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Last Words

Have you ever had a book drop off the shelf at your feet in the library – or a scrap of paper fall from your desk – and it is was just what you were looking for?

A four-paged book fragment with the engraving “Aspiration” by George Frederick Wattson has appeared in my papers. If you are familiar with the engraving and the origin of the passage below please send me an email.

The page attached to this engraving reads:

Beatrice. 59
"... and the angels cannot tell God from
man or man from God. And Beatrice showed
Dante this great mystery. And he stood still,
looking, with the great light shining into his

Although he does not tell us what he saw,
we know it was Florence, where he lived,
and that he was looking at all the people with lov-
ing eyes, and seeing them just as those who
live with God see men.

Heaven is here, little children. Let us
love one another."

My uncle, Donald T. Spaulding – “Big D” -- had a great last line.

When he was dying, I asked him -- as delicately as I could -- for his words of advice to me.

He was a great corporate strategist; he helped transform IBM into a blue chip company. When he asked you a question, he wanted to hear "yes" or "no" -- not the extended version. His last words to me: “Do what makes the most sense.”

A couple of weeks later, he died. And the face fell off the craggy "Old Man of the Mountain" in New Hampshire where he lived. In October -- after an 80+-year drought – the Red Sox won the World Series. My uncle never lived to see the Red Sox win a Series in his lifetime – but when he got to heaven, I am sure he had something to say.

Because I was not able to attend Uncle Donald's memorial in New Hampshire, my aunt sent me a program of the church service. It contained the typed eulogies from his friends and family with his picture on the cover.

Below his picture were Big D’s last words. I cried when I read them -- because now I knew just how damn smart he really was. His last words:

“I finally figured it out. It is all about love.”

(Photo credit: Unknown; John P. Spaulding and Donald T. Spaulding)