Water, Wind and Land: Metaphors for a Geophysicist (remembrance for Grandpa on his 98th birthday)

My grandfather was an amazing man.  A geophysicist, he was quiet, brilliant, circumspect, pragmatic, a lifelong learner in the fields of math and science and leader in oil exploration – and yet he was so faithfully loving and supportive of a creative like me, his oldest grandchild and just about his polar opposite in terms of interests and passions.

51t9ijqmntl-_sx314_bo1204203200_Grandpa was strong and silent like so many men of his age who served in WWII and saw things they could never describe and didn’t care to remember.  Tom Brokaw called them The Greatest Generation in his influential book of the same name; I just call myself lucky that this first lieutenant in the Air Force fell in love with my grandmother, a divorcé with a tiny daughter, and married her in 1942.

Ruth and Nancy 1941That tiny daughter was my Mom, and this gentle, studious man adopted her as his own, treating her the same as the other children he and Grandma went on to have. I didn’t know Grandpa wasn’t my Mom’s biological father / my biological grandfather for years, and when I found out, it didn’t matter in the least. We were his, and he was ours.

(photos with captions are excerpts from a slide show created by my Dad for my grandmother’s 90th birthday)

Tom Ruth Nancy Steven
Grandpa Grandma Nancy Lucy

A true explorer, Grandpa’s career in oil exploration took him all over the world; he was eventually VP of Geophysics for Superior Oil (now ExxonMobil).  His remarkable career was followed by adventures on the sea, as his retirement began with a 42-foot sailboat and trips that sometimes included lucky grandchildren like my brother and me.

The Sea Urchin

Steve on Sea Urchin
My brother on my grandparents’ sailboat, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, in the mid-70s; this was an epic 7-day trip I will always remember

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The rigors of sailing gave way to land-based adventures as my grandparents mounted an RV in their 70s and traveled throughout the country, visiting national parks and family, arriving just in time for birthdays and births (including my son’s). Their retirement together was rich in experiences fueled by water, wind and land – and love of family.

Tom Ruth RV

Today would have been Grandpa’s 98th birthday. To honor and remember him, I’m sharing the poem I wrote for his funeral in 2002.

Water, Wind and Land: Metaphors for a Geophysicist (for Grandpa)

 

we are all archeologists now

sifting through our memories of you

sorting the bits and pieces we find

to put them back together

in what will become our lasting “mind pictures” of you

sometimes sifting and sorting alone

sometimes together with your other loves ones

turning our memory fragments this way and that

to see where they fit

and make a clearer picture

all of my finds in this archeological dig of grief

are geo-metaphors for a geophysicist:

~ water, wind and land ~

 

for you were not a man of words

you were a man of deeds

of facts

of maps

and plans

 

my dig finds full sails and stormy skies

radars and Lorans

dolphin fish and egrets’ cries

a wood-hulled boat, a lake cabin, a becalming

your thoughtful brown eyes

your “I love you’s” were spoken in geo-metaphor:

~ water, wind and land ~

“help me steer the boat, Kimmie”

“Stevie, let me show you how to tie a slip knot”

“Of course girls can shoot skeet!”

 

for you were not a man of words

you were a man of deeds

of facts

of maps

and plans

 

I dig deeper, contemplative, archeologist-turned sociologist

looking for meaning

and I find you are an underground river

strong, constant, clear and sure

your life’s waters carried bloodlines and love-lines

equally strong

lifelines guiding through shifting sands

~ water, wind and land ~

 

my finds are home-baked bread

and spectacular jams

a well-stocked RV

crossing ferries and dams

Grandma’s letters with your P.S:

“Math and science, math and science!”

recognized clearly – then and now –

as geo-metaphor love, all your best

~ water, wind and land ~

 

you were a man of deeds

of facts

of maps

and plans

~ water, wind and land ~

 

we dig and sort

together and apart

reconstructing geo-you

in the museums of our hearts

~ water, wind and land ~

 

 

love, kimmie

july 2002


Grandpa and me at my first wedding, way back in the 80s. Those pearls were borrowed from my grandmother, one of the many, many gifts he brought her from his world travels.  His finds, which included on the one end spears and art from Nigeria and on the other end, jewelry like these pearls and a gorgeous raw emerald, have been given to all of my cousins. I got the pearls.

Grandpa and Kim 1984

In his later years, Grandpa channeled his natural curiosity and scientific attention to detail into cooking, mostly bread-baking and jam-making.  He made the same recipes again and again, meticulously documenting small differences until he had them perfected.  Christmas stocking gifts in those years were highly coveted jars of his homemade jellies.  I treasure the memory of our long talks about cooking from those days. I also inherited some of his knives and big pots, which I consider to be heirlooms on par with the pearls.

Rest in peace, dear man, and bless you for teaching us about water, wind and land – and love.

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

12 Radical Reasons to Write Poetry

The list in the blog post referenced here is a wonderful and persuasive set of arguments in favor of writing poetry, by a self-proclaimed “shameless and impassioned advocate for the poetic voice as an integral player in an integrated life”.  Kelly Belmonte is the founder and Chief Muse of All Nine, and, in her words, “offers just a few of the best reasons to give a go at writing a poem every now and then”. Read them here: 12 Radical Reasons to Write Poetry.

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The header for the All Nine blog, the nine being a reference to the nine sister muses of Greek mythology who represent multiple domains of creativity and intelligence. 

My own “radical reason” to write (poetry, essays, blog posts) is quite simple: the words dwell within me, but have a life of their own and must be released. What’s yours?

 

Travel Day Thoughts

My cousin posted this beautiful photo on Facebook.

Airplane wing 787 from Matt Kiely
His comment: “Clichė subject, but that 787 wing is a beautiful piece of engineering.”

Another cousin confessed his lack of  aeronautical engineering knowledge but said he was “grateful they stay attached to the plane during flight”.  Me, too! The photo speaks to me of anticipation of a wonderful journey, and, as I’m setting out on a brief trip today, it inspired a haiku.

bring me there safely
wings that show me new worlds
and then take me home

Hershey, Pennsylvania, here I come!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Haiku Mind: Book Review in Haiku

My review of Haiku Mind:

what i thought i knew
how to view and feel and say
i knew not at all

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If you are into haiku, this book is for you. It is a book of haiku while at the same time being a book about haiku.  It is quiet and peaceful and illuminating.  And thoughtful.  And challenging. It is making me a better haiku-er, slowly.

Find it here on Amazon.

For more Glover Gardens haiku, click here.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

The Thankful Foreigner: An Award-Winning Essay from a Millennial

And now, as I keep a vigilant eye over the discrimination in my society, I wonder: When will the other people, blinded by prejudice, have the eye-opening experience I had that day?

This little story from a few years ago is incredibly relevant today.

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Let the adventure begin!

In 2011, an incredibly cheap last-minute Houston-to-London roundtrip airfare offer coincided with my son’s 14th birthday and a lazy Thanksgiving week in which we had nothing planned.

So we cooked up a weeklong Mom & Kid trip to give the young ‘un (our last milennial) an opportunity to experience his first international travel:  three nights in Paris, followed by three nights in London.  We left Houston right after school on a Friday afternoon, tickets in hand for our first adventure, scaling the Eiffel Tower less than 24 hours later.  I knew it was going to be a worthwhile trip when, dazed and tired from the overnight flight to London and a couple of hours of fitful sleep on the high-speed EuroStar (Chunnel) train on the way to Paris, he leaned over to me – before our adventures even began – touched me on the arm and said:

Mom, thank you for showing me the world!

We alighted in Paris, stumbled to our hotel, took a few minutes for a power nap, and set out to ascend the Eiffel Tower.  But I digress; that’s a story for another time. Today’s focus is on my son’s memory, captured in his award-winning essay, which he shared post-competition on Facebook, as follows (in his words).

From February, 2012:  The following essay is what I wrote at the Klein Academic Competition that won first place for 8th Grade Ready Writing. The story is non-fiction; these events did actually happen.


The Thankful Foreigner

The sounds of honking European cars, people of all kinds conversing in French, and muffled, slimly audible brakes from subway trains all formed a soundtrack to the beginning of my day.

Trying to force my eyes open, I sat up, told my mom good morning, and, after slowly rising to my feet, walked over to the window of our hotel room. Pushing the red curtain away, I looked down upon the busy Parisian street, where people were walking in and out of shops and cafes, waiting to cross the intersection, and riding on motorcycles or in cars.

Now I knew it was true. The previous day had involved exhausted scrambling through airports and train stations, causing more of a feeling of trauma than that of a vacation. But now I was sure; I was really in Paris.

Within about a half hour, both my mom and I were dressed, clean, and ready to hit the street. Our first stop, as we had already discussed, was going to be a nearby cafe. We needed breakfast.

It called out to us the second we stepped out the door; across the street, a nice neon-red sign reading “La Porte de Montmartre” flashed out at my eyes. Immediately, I asked, or, I should say, STATED: “We should go there.”

So we took a risk; we waited for a pause in traffic, then dashed across the street.

It looked even better from up close. All the tables occupied by regular French citizens who all looked like some character in a classic movie…we had to get coffee here.

So my mom and I walked straight through the cafe to the bar, where we instantly mounted ourselves upon two vacant stools, and at the bartender’s acknowledgement, ordered two cups of coffee.

I noticed soon enough that this man was very young and handsome, yet obviously exhausted. He also, however, seemed like the kind of Frenchman that one of my less considerate classmates would sneak snide comments about back home. I knew about the unfounded views other countries have of the French, but…I knew that not ALL the French people were pompous and arrogant.

As he came back from the kitchen with our two cups of coffee, my ever-so-inquisitive mom asked what I’d been wondering: “Where are you from?”

The second she asked that, his face brightened up. “You tell me first,” he said through his grin, his French accent indeed present.

“We are from Texas, in the USA,” I said. “And you, sir?”

He stood up straight and said, rather proudly,

Normandy Beach. The ruins of the D-Day attack. All of the American liberators are buried there…Many of my people are not as grateful to the Americans as they should be. I mean, thanks to your country, we are all still French. So, personally, I thank you and all your people.”

Within two seconds of his ceasing to speak, I knew that any anti-French sympathies I could’ve had prior to this day would be gone.

It was obvious that this man was at least 30 years too young to have experienced the historic World War II battle that had brought recognition to his hometown. Yet he had the heart to honor and respect a foreign country and its military for the well-being of his own.
Since then, the “French” slur and stereotype has been something I make a goal to avoid. I now see the prejudice and ignorance behind many comments that, before that sunny Parisian morning, I might not have seen.

And now, as I keep a vigilant eye over the discrimination in my society, I wonder:  When will the other people, blinded by prejudice, have the eye-opening experience I had that day?


 

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The Thankful Foreigner, himself
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The wise 14 year old, our last millennial 
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We’ll go back to La Porte Montmartre when next we are in Paris

Back to the Present

Back to the present, back to my voice…Wow.  I’ve experienced this story in a myriad of ways:

  • When it originally happened; I realized that the young French man would be someone we remembered forever.  “Because of you, we are all still French!” is how I remember him proclaiming his appreciation for the American and Allied liberation of France.
  • When my son’s name was called at the UIL district competition award ceremony as the first place winner…I I lost my self-control, rose from my seat in the uncomfortable gym bleachers and screeched “Woooooo!” before sitting back down, red-faced and yet unabashedly proud.  Then, a few minutes later as I almost strangled him with hugs, he told me the topic of his essay, and we reminisced about that morning, that young man, that authentic gratitude.
  • When I actually read the essay after he got it back a few weeks later and understood what the magical moments with the young man in the coffee bar had meant to my son, and wondered at how he translated the ridiculousness of petty prejudices into this insight:  “I now see the prejudice and ignorance behind many comments that, before that sunny Parisian morning, I might not have seen.”
  • And now, more than 5 years later, as our country struggles with immigration, our place in the world and how we interface with those who are “foreign”.  Perhaps I’m biased – well, heck, of course I’m biased – but I find my son’s final statement in that little essay truly profound:

And now, as I keep a vigilant eye over the discrimination in my society, I wonder: When will the other people, blinded by prejudice, have the eye-opening experience I had that day?

What’s that old saying…”out of the mouths of babes”?  How about:  “out of the mouths of millennials”?

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook; The Thankful Foreigner printed with permission of the author, Thomas Wenglinski