Yesterday I mentioned my challenges with relaxation and solitude. That remark drew thoughtful comments from good friends. Before I delve further into that… first about today.
Within a radius of 5 miles my bicycle carried me to a number of remarkable (and memorable) sights. The Stockton Dam, constructed in 1963, featured a state of the art hydroelectric turbine. The original turbine now stands on display. In 2009 one of its huge blades failed, breaking off from the unit and then discharged into the lake. It was retrieved, welded back in place, and the turbine was restored to service in 2010. However, the handwriting was on the wall and a new more efficient turbine was installed in 2013.
Near the sight of the turbine monument are huge rock cores that were excavated at the time of the dam’s construction. These cores provided engineers with valuable information regarding the stability of the underlying strata to support the dam structure. Moreover, the cores gave geologists a remarkable window into Earth’s past. The cores exposed layers of rock that date back 450 million years, a time before vascular plants and vertebrate life forms existed. The cores could not only be examined on the surface, but the holes that the cores left were large enough in diameter to allow geologists to descend the 200 foot depth and closely examine the strata in-situ.
Perhaps the most unexpected encounter on my exploration was a small out of the way cemetery founded by Issac Lyons Hembree (1796-1865). He had settled 1600 acres of Missouri wilderness in 1852 and determined to be buried in a place where he could watch over the work in his fields below. His gravestone is weather worn, but a bronze emblem gives testament to his service in the War of 1812. Other monuments to his descendants speak to service in the “Indian Wars”, and most poignantly to the service of Thomas Wilson Hembree, USN, who died on December 7th, 1941… “a date which will live in infamy”.
I had the good fortune at camp to meet Katherine, a retired educator originally from Kansas City. She and her partner moved to Stockton Lake, attracted to the natural beauty of the area and the favorable cost of living. Initially there was some concern whether they would find acceptance in the rural society. Those concerns were quickly forgotten as they not only were embraced by their neighbors, but Katherine’s partner was elected Mayor of their town.
Katherine introduced me to her neighbor Craig, a 59 year old retired hydrologist. Craig found a new passion in retirement, hand building wooden boats. He brought to camp a kayak and a gaff-rigged catboat. They are both sea-worthy works of art. Tomorrow, weather willing, Craig and I are going to sail the catboat together.
Back to my starting reflection: My friend of 50 years, Maxine, suggested that I sit beneath a large tree and with the aid of a magnifying glass (or bifocals) engross myself with the close examination of the wonders to be found in a square foot of the ground. She touts this as a meditative exercise to embrace both solitude and relaxation. I intend to take her up on this suggestion. However, my first impulse was the thought of what others might think of a 66 year old white haired guy playing detective with blades of grass. Mind you, as an adult I have hugged trees in order to “feel” the life of those stately creatures… I have laid upon the grass to contemplate the endless universe above and the 8,000 miles beneath that separates me from those on the other side of the world. In these and other similar actions I have found a tension between my proper “adult self”, and the childlike wonder that occasionally motivates me.
Childlike wonder reveals what adult propriety suppresses. We knowingly smile at a child’s play with imaginary friends. We gently discourage a child’s “overactive” imagination… and eventually we drive that free spirit into compliance with the norms that we ourselves were taught to observe as the price of our adulthood. What if the unfettered imaginations of a child or an adult nearing the end of life, are able to perceive what we have become blind to? “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” (attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche among others)
Today was a journey not measured in distance but certainly as experienced in its depth.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Perhaps tomorrow will be about “The Next Thing”.