Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain quote’

Experience teaches us only one thing at a time—and hardly that, in my case. (Mark Twain)

Wow! I see individual leaves on the trees. A male and female goldfinch at the birdfeeder. Sky, blue with white slivered memories of larger clouds. All seen through dark sunglasses. The world no longer appears wrapped in fuzz.

Not to my cataract-free eyes. My brain remains as scrambled as ever. How many places have my thoughts run as I drive a few miles along a familiar route? Past politics. Into man’s inhumanity to man. Through global warming. My stomach considers lunch and dinner preparations—I should have stopped for breakfast.

There’s a speed indicator on a pole. How long has that been here? I pass this way often enough to drive it blindfolded. Okay, almost. The number on my speedometer drops. Into a one-thing-at-a-time ordinary pace.

Ugliness remains. I look at it differently. I can be peace by joining others who live love. By not giving up. My cataract-free eyes have sight yet can continue to seek vision. Wisdom, it is earned. Never an automatic right.


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There is no such thing as the Queen’s English. The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares! (Mark Twain)

A wet snow falls as a man outside the post office asks about our day.

My husband smiles and answers, “Fair to middlin.”

“You know where that expression came from?” the man says.

We don’t. I have never thought about it because it isn’t an expression I would likely use. However, the gentleman’s friendliness intrigues me. Mother Nature is in one of her icier moods. He doesn’t seem to care.

“I’m a country boy.” He grins displaying a huge gap where at least five teeth are missing.

I guessed he has a southern background by his accent.

“Well,” he begins at a slow, mellow pace, as if this were a gentle April afternoon. He must peg us as city folk because he gives a full explanation about where the bacon is found on the pig, the loins, the better cuts versus the less choice. “The middlin is up from the end, not the best quality. It’s still mighty fine though, the part that’s not bad at all. So, fair to middlin is good stuff. Makes up a great breakfast.”

I am not a big meat fan, but I listen anyway. No thanks to slaughter stories.

We wish him a fair to middlin day, better if possible, and move on. The next day I ask Google. The pig story does not appear. It is neither verified nor proven untrue.

The Urban Dictionary refers to the phrase as a term coming from the deep south. It describes cotton that fits the definition but lacks quality.

Later I find a closer explanation to this man’s tale. In America somewhere in the mid 1800’s fair to middling, often pronounced without the g, referred to the quality of livestock. The term did mean better than average.

Perhaps the friendly grown-up country boy with the optimistic, good-enough definition comes with another point of view. One that morphed over time. And gave him strength to ignore bitter circumstances, like ice and snow.

Today I walk in sun that has quickly melted the white. Same month. Same city. The cold continues. For now. Today is all I can experience.

The historian tells only part of any one story, and it contains bias. The future is made up of speculation.

Now, I celebrate the gift of life.


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The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter. (Mark Twain)

My friend Ann lost one eye to glaucoma when she was a young teenager—the pressure won and destroyed it. Then, several years later, the disease attacked the other eye. Even so, Ann is fiercely independent.

I am at her apartment. She has mail for me to read to her. An audio device in her kitchen announces her laundry will be dry in one minute.

Don’t get up, Terry. She will be insulted. After all, she does this all the time without your assistance. “Go ahead. This newsletter is kind of long.”

I have imaginary glue on my chair. Nevertheless, after what seems like an exceptional amount of time, I rise. Slowly. On purpose. And tiptoe to the hall. From the top of the stairs I recognize her blue pants and beige shoes. She is inside the laundry room, and next to the door.

“Hey, girlfriend! Need help carrying anything?” A request I would ask anyone.

“Sure. Want to carry the basket?”

Her towels are neatly folded. (My folding fits into the good-enough-to-dry-a-dish or body-part category.)

When I tell Ann that she does more for me than I do for her, she always smiles and thanks me. However, she doesn’t realize how tangible the rays of her spirit are. “I’ll be your friend forever,” she often says.

After we finish with the mail, she slides between an old couch and a bookshelf. “I want to show you some things, if I can find them.”

No if about it. She finds what she wants within seconds.

Pull-string toys that tell jokes. Two fish full of puns. “Fish business begins on a small scale.” I laugh, not because I haven’t heard most of the jokes, but because the atmosphere here is fresh. Stale cod jokes, but no odors. This place is beautiful.

When I left home I was anxious because I kept missing calls about biopsy results. My friend loosened my fears—good, since the word benign resounds loud and clear when the call finally arrives.

Ann has lost her sight, not her vision. Friends for life? I’ll take it.

photo-shopped public domain image









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I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. (Mark Twain)

In the wee hours of the morning a six-point earthquake hits the Napa Valley; San Francisco responds with some twitches strong enough to sway a skyscraper. Jay and I are on the eleventh floor of a hotel—we sleep through the rocking. We don’t discover what we missed until the next morning at breakfast when the other members of our tour tell us what happened. Many of our fellow travelers wondered if the building was cracking. We haven’t been watching the news, and we don’t plan to follow it; this is our vacation.

However, the wine tasting event, next on the agenda, is canceled. The roads to Sonoma are torn like cheap cardboard. Since I drink un-fermented juice, I’m not as disappointed as some other folk could be. I had planned to celebrate the artistic twist of the vine and the shine of the grape against the sun. Fortunately the wine drinkers have a sense of perspective. They show greater concern for the people affected by the quake. I don’t hear any grumbling.

Our adventure has barely begun. A car fire on the expressway ignites a wildfire that closes a major expressway—the one leading to our next stay.

Our tour director, Craig Cherry, maintains a sense of humor. He and our superb driver, Jeannie Williams, map out another route, hours out of our way.

Then comes strike three, more literal than anyone would like. A rock flies from a truck into the windshield of the bus. Tiny shards fly everywhere. One hits the leg of a front-row passenger. She is too shocked to react. The window crack grows from a small line into a much larger one. The window could shatter at any time.

Jeannie and Craig find a close convenient store large enough for us to wait until a new bus arrives. The wait in ninety-nine-degree Fresno is amazingly short. While our tour guide and bus driver work we build camaraderie: jokes; shared life stories and ice cream; unusual items on the shelves; “Can you believe this gizmo makes popcorn in your car?”

When the remote control to the DVD player is missing batteries, Craig announces, “I’ve got to be on Candid Camera!” We are all old enough to remember the program. Fortunately, someone toward the back of the bus has two double AA’s.

By the time we arrive at our destination we aren’t comfortable. We’re stiff, tired, and a bit dazed. But, chances are that if any one of us are asked if we remember the Globus California  Tour of late August, 2014, we will smile and say, “Oh, yeah!” with a smile the size of the state. Sometimes bad circumstances bring out the best in people. Thanks to Craig for his leadership. A little humor and a lot of patience make all the difference.

(photo taken from the bus of a burned section of forest, fire caused by a lightning strike)

burned forest in California

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You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. (Mark Twain)

I drive alone in silence and savor the freedom. Certainly traffic brings noise, but that sound is outside my jurisdiction and it isn’t emergency-vehicle or passing-train loud, at least at the moment. Sometimes I crave space simply to be, to make a detour if I want, shorten or elongate a trip on a whim—celebrate a day without obligations or deadlines, with only open blue skies and a sense of the continuing now. I love hours when words and I work together at the computer, sometimes leading to a story, occasionally discovering a truth. That takes a certain amount of love-for-the-hermit’s-life.

I haven’t traveled far when I recall an incident with my youngest granddaughter, as she dressed herself with an infant bib, at least three long necklaces, a length of cotton batting, and sunglasses. Since her speech is limited I’m not sure whether she played the part of a princess, actress, or model getting ready for a shoot. Then I recall treading water with my older grandchildren, the joy we share as the warm water caresses us, the games we play as the deep end of the pool supports us with a little kicking and a lot of laughter.

I am hit with the fact that this moment of freedom isn’t really where I want to live forever. I just need to breathe occasionally and observe the whole. Chances are I’m going to be exhausted after spending a full day tomorrow with grandchildren again. Perhaps living perpetually alone could become a tomb, not the utopia I desire. One, two, three, breathe… Real life is about to return in a matter of hours.

time alone PIQ

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