Friday, April 15, 2011

Last week as I was scurrying through the DFW airport to catch my plane back to Iowa, I noticed an older, dapper gentleman standing by a doorway leading outside to the drop-off lanes. He was dressed to the nines...gray dress trousers, a blue blazer, and a blue pinpoint cotton shirt with tie. I also noticed his nicely-shined loafers. He carried no luggage; the lanyard around his neck displayed an official-looking logo. He waved as I passed by, and since I had forgotten to don my wristwatch, I stopped to ask the time. He grabbed my hand when I was within range and kissed my palm. He whispered the time in my ear as he pulled me close. How very strange.

OK...I had an uneasy feeling that I should get far away from this man, but his demeanor was not that of a leach, but of a tender heart who was reaching out for human contact. I would guess his age to be about 70-75. He spoke with an accent that seemed Middle Eastern. He asked where my journeys had taken me, where my home was, why the hurry....all in a gentle way that invited further conversation. He shared that he was from Israel and would be joining his son there in two months. He had been staying with a daughter, but missed his homeland and was joyous that he would be returning soon. He loved being with his family here, but his grandchildren, were "wearing out this old man!"

We had a pleasant chat, but as I turned to leave, he reached again for my hand. This time he pulled me closer and kissed my cheek. He said he wanted to send me off into the future with a full heart and loving thoughts. I thanked him and wished him well in his travels. With that, I turned and headed off to my gate wondering why he was standing in that spot on this day...was he a greeter for the airport? Was he lost? Where did he belong? Regardless of his story, I was uncomfortable that I had been suspicious of such good will.

Upon my return home, I jumped into some work that had been ignored while at the conference, but I could not stop thinking about the airport gentleman. I recounted the experience several times; I could not put it to rest. Before closing down the computer Sunday night, I tapped on Rob Brezsny's horoscope for this week and here is what I found.

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Cancer Horoscope for week of April 14, 2011
Over the years I have on several occasions stood at a highway exit ramp with a handmade cardboard sign that reads, "I love to help; I need to give; please take some money." I flash a wad of bills, and offer a few dollars to drivers whose curiosity impels them to stop and engage me. I've always been surprised at how many people hesitate to accept my gift. Some assume I have a hidden agenda; others think I'm crazy. Some are even angry, and shout things like "Go home, you freak!" If a comparable experience comes your way anytime soon, Cancerian, I urge you to lower your suspicions. Consider the possibility that a blessing is being offered to you with no strings attached.

Now I better understood that it was OK to just accept this man and my encounter with him for what he was offering....a full heart and loving thoughts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

the Slash Pine

I found a pine that caught my eye while touring the Japanese Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden last week. A gardener (has to be the best job in the universe!) was coming up the path, so I inquired as to what it might be. He grinned from ear to ear and thanked me for noticing such a magnificent tree, the Slash Pine, Pinus elliotti.

This is a tall coastal tree that never should be growing this far west in Texas, but here was a stand of twelve. These mature pines formed a lovely arc in the deep shade along the rim of a bowl whose sides dropped down to the koi pond twenty feet below. What caught my eye initially was their bark. I was unable to take my eyes off the large, purplish, red-brown plates, as well as the incredibly long, glossy dark green needles, as I stumbled along the path. I was so mesmerized by their textural beauty that I forgot to snap a photograph. No way could I have captured their essence with my Canon, so you can just Google and I will treasure this memorable discovery in my mind's eye.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Big Girl Panties

I just returned home from the 33rd Annual conference of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation held in Fort Worth, TX. In early February, I submitted an abstract for my research on Oak Hill Cemetery in Cedar Rapids, IA and I was selected by the education committee for a student scholarship presentation at their April conference. This was my first such venture into the real world of academics. I was to deliver a 15-minute presentation to professors and practitioners from several disciplines, all working in the area of advocacy for the preservation of historic landscapes.

Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous; at least not in that nauseated, gut-wrenching way I sometimes feel when I am in over my head. I admit, I was a little intimidated by the names and qualifications of those listed in the membership directory. Some were scholars whose papers, journal articles, and books I have cited in my research. However, I had worked relentlessly on refining my presentation, and with the wonderful support and guidance of my major prof, I was able to deliver a polished PowerPoint. In addition, upon meeting these wonderfully generous and talented people, I realized that they were truly interested in my research and welcomed me with open arms into this very specialized world of advocacy for historic landscapes.

It was suggested by several friends upon hearing of my upcoming trip to Fort Worth that I tell a joke to break the ice before presenting. I am not very good with jokes, so I just figured I would forgo the funny stuff and plunge ahead into my lecture. But praise the lord, before I left, a professor friend of mine called to see when I was leaving and if I was excited about presenting. I was to leave early Wednesday morning, and yes, I was excited to present. She told me that the first time she presented her research, a friend had told her it was time to put on her "big girl" panties. This was my opener! It was perfect. Almost all of these Alliance people were close to my age, so I felt I could pull it off. I opened with this quick story; I told them right off that I had 'em on and I was ready to roll. Even the curmudgeon in the back row cracked a smile.

Although I am probably more closely aligned with the Depends crowd, I felt that it was time to put on my "big girl" panties. If I was going to do this, I wanted to make a respectable impression. I wanted to be taken seriously for the work I had done with regard to my research. I think I accomplished that these past few days. I made some great friends. I even had a prof offer an invitation for me to come present to his studio. He wanted his students to experience my passion for these everyday landscapes. I said I would have to take a rain-check, but I was humbled that he had asked.

Mostly I am thankful. I have such wonderfully supportive and caring friends who just happen to be my professors who continually push me toward these exceptional experiences. I am always amazed at the bountiful rewards that fall into my lap when I make that extra effort and reach for the stars....and those panties.