odd time signatures

Things Grandma taught me

One of my earliest memories: Grandma reading me “The Little Engine that Could.” I can still hear her voice as she read…

“I think I can, I think I can, I THINK I can…I KNOW I can…

Her voice would rise with urgency with each repeat of the word “think”, resolving the cadence when she reached the word “know”. The book, the reading and the message resonate as clearly as if she were sitting beside me reading it to me again today.

Another memory: A practical woman thinking in practical terms with tons of common sense. Smart, well-read, savvy, and above all, pragmatic. She climbed Mt. Whitney in her late 70’s one step at a time, and I can hear her voice again saying that even hard things are possible if one knows how to approach them. Learn, prepare, train. Read, work at it.

She was sharp with me too, sometimes. Not often. She reserved that for the few times where she wanted my full attention on her message.

Mostly, she taught me that you don’t give up on things. You figure them out, you come at them with a practical eye, but you don’t give up. You never give up.

One of the neighborhood moms nicknamed me “never give up” when I was around nine. A high school teacher commented on a report card that I was ‘tenacious’. The comment was made with a bit of a sarcastic bent…we had clashed on the JFK assassination. He was my history teacher, and wasn’t impressed with my challenge to his authority. He challenged me to a debate, winner to be decided by the class. I won. He gave me the A, and the wry comment that I was tenacious.

I make no apologies for that. I am tenacious. I don’t give up when I think something is worth fighting for. I might take a break; I might even stop fighting for awhile. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It means I’m figuring out the best way to make headway.

Today was a series of wrangles on and offline over the ongoing health care reform battle. Sadly, those wrangles mostly involved people on the same side of the conflict, some disillusioned, others disheartened, some in full-tilt surrender mode.

“They’ve won! The lobbyists have won!” “Obama’s caved!” “No change here!”

This is my response: Never. Give. Up. Figure it out, don’t harm the effort to move ahead, hear the rhythm of the steam engine behind you, pushing up the hill, heading closer to the top, and above all, never give up, even when boulders are rolling down the tracks, heading directly toward you. Don’t give up. Don’t divide. Unite. Figure it out.

I owe it to Grandma, even if it means being accused of substituting pragmatism for purity. She would have scoffed at the idea of death panels and the insanity around this debate. Sarah Palin would have been the object of sarcastic scorn. Still, she wouldn’t have given up. That’s why she reached the top of Mt. Whitney and why I still chase bubbles with my camera — to search for that better thing, for the captured second in time when the sun bounced off the side of a driblet of soap and burst into rays and color.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Praise Song for the Day
Elizabeth Alexander

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