Sunday, August 9, 2009

MUSINGS AND HALF-RUNNER BEANS…

I have this theory…which is that as we grow older, at some point—and this might come at 30 or 60, because it’s really not about age—if we're honest and willing to be ourselves, we begin to slough off all those things in our life which are not important. Habits and interests which fail to reflect who we are. Clutter which holds no meaning. Stuff which keeps getting tangled underfoot because we really don’t care.
Such a course change requires courage, obviously, because you’re no longer hiding behind pretension, but beginning to drop the mask and reveal the real you. Egads!
Nope, such a road won't always prove easy, especially at first. It’s hard to decline to do something you’ve done before; intimidating to try something you’ve never tried, but always wanted to do. And even tougher to do this in front of your friends.
What will your friends think? Will they be disappointed? Shocked? Amused? Does your friendship thrive because of who you are…or who you’re not? By how you fit into their lives rather than they into yours?
I suggest you counter by asking yourself this…do you care? Or is it, perhaps, time to find new friends?
However, this new path has its rewards, the corollary of personal freedom, which makes room for meaning and fulfillment. Not because you've lowered your sights, or downsized your expectations; it isn’t the outgrowth of lessening values. It’s because so many things that occupied space and demanded time and energy were empty, unsatisfying, valueless. We might not have been willing to admit this, but we knew, deep down, how we really always felt. It wasn't us; didn't fit.
You see this with ever greater clarity as you begin to enjoy being yourself, as truly meaningful things start to take their rightful place—and time and space and energy becomes yours. Freedom is always a reward worth seeking. As is honesty and truth.
I thought about this while I was sitting in the rocker on my front deck, stringing and breaking a mess of half-runner beans. The river was chuckling merrily along. Cicadas were ratcheting from the hackberries and box elders. The hummingbirds were squeaking and squabbling over whose turn it was to sip sugar water from the feeder.
The beans came from an older neighbor lady up the road who sells her excess garden produce from a makeshift table in front of her garage. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, sweet corn. The price is right, and the items are fresh-picked, organically-grown, and of excellent quality. I’m lucky to have such a handy source of good vegetables.
I’d been hoping she would have extra half-runner beans this year. I grew up eating home-grown beans—half-runners, Kentucky wonders, rattkesnakes, old homesteads. Beans you had to string and break…but beans with real flavor. None of those no-work, no-taste varieties.
Cooked slowly in a kettle with a bit of salt pork for a couple of hours, until tender, and served with fresh green onions, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes still warm from the sun, and a pone of genuine cornbread—none of that sweetened stuff!—with a pat of butter slipped inside the steaming wedge. Oh, my…oh, my…oh, my!
A simple pleasure. But then, it turns out when I’m not chasing false dreams, I’m a pretty simple guy, in a maybe complicated sort of way.
And on this beautiful Sunday morning, with sunlight streaming through the sycamore leaves, the land lush and green and vibrant with life—and the old, familiar, wonderful scent of half-runner beans cooking on the kitchen stove, it's delightful fragrance occasionally wafting out to where I sit rocking on my deck to remind me of the pleasures ahead—I’m also very, very rich.

31 comments:

Val said...

Oh, Grizzled.... You are speakin' my language today. : )

Fabulous post. Just fabulous!

Gail said...

Hi Grizz and wow!

I never had half-runner beans. I love to 'snap' green beans though and simmer them in salt water and then lightly sautee in a bit of bacon and onion. I can see and smell yours simmering slowly on your stove.mmmmmmmmmmm

And I so understand all the clutter and 'have to's I once had to have. Not so much any more. I haven't hidden behind anything or anyone in a long, long time. I wore many masks for many reasons, not any more. And as I reflect on my becoming naked, vulnerable, real and standing in my own truth just as it was/is - it was no easy journey, but one I am sure glad I embarked upon because I am free. I am me. Voila!! As are you my friend, as are you. :-)

Enjoy your beans and corn bread and all the sights and sounds and scents that surround you. Look hard in the mirror at the man that "is", because you reflect out all that is good and 'just' in this world. And FYI? My friends thought I was crazy when I took up playing the drumns 7 years ago!! I am actually quite good. :-)

Love to you always
Gail
peace......

KGMom said...

Gosh--I didn't think anything could make me yearn to be sitting with a panful of beans in my lap, just snapping away. But you just did.
Oh, yes--there is great truth in your musings about dropping the things that no longer have meaning for you. I knew I was getting ready to stop working fulltime when I would go to meeting after meeting and barely be able to stand all the BS.
What I do now, on a part time basis, is so much less financially rewarding but so MUCH more intellectually. I will take intellect over money any day.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

Well, you certainly live in "bean country," where folks appreciate taste and authenticity in their eats, and know their way around a bowl of green beans and a pone of hot cornbread.

I'm ticked you like the post!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I wasted a lot of time, energy and heartache trying to be even a part-time herd animal. I'm not—never was, never will be…just plain can't do it. Period. But I tried, for awhile.

But every bird has their song. The more often I sing mine, the happier I am. Which isn't to say I try and build my world around me; I don't—that isn't me, either. But I try to do things in my life, with my time and skills and energy, that fulfill or amuse or move me in some way. Part of that is that I really do enjoy giving and doing for others; I like to share, to help. It returns as much to me as it provides to the other person. I was born with a servant's heart, and the only way I can fulfill that is through service.

That's just as much me as the fact I fit best in the outdoors rather the indoors; I need wild spaces like I need breath, trees and birds, water, sky, and land without pavement. There's a craving in me to go there, in back of beyond, to immerse myself ever deeper in the green mystery of the yonder. I understand the old buckskinners who longed to always be in that place where the wind blew free and and you could look all the way to the horizon without seeing the curl of smoke from a distant chimney.

But, there's the side of me that also loves art and music, good books—dear God, where would I be without books!—and can be perfectly happy curled up by a winter's fireside, sipping a cup of lapsang tea and reading the latest by a favorite writer.

And then there's the me who likes to sit on the porch while my half-runner beans cook…and who absolutely loves to sit down to a plate when they're ready, with all the trimmings on the table, and enjoy the meal.

So you took up drumming a tad past your teenage years…great! Make your joyful noise! That's what life is all about.

I'm a long ways from perfection, I assure you. But then, I've yet to meet a single perfect person. And I expect perfection would be pretty boring, anyway.

Take care—and thank you for your nice comments.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

The thing I learned about all the BS such meetings and the like produce, is that it's contagious. Nobody ever told me I'd end up being just as full of BS as the people I was around—not until I took a job editing a magazine for an old stand-up comic turned publisher and hardcore AA member, who could tell stories about show biz folk that would curl your hair. He said, "you're only as good as the people you run with." I thought about that a moment and must have been looking at him inadvertently while I did so, because he got a bit defensive. "Hey," he sputtered, "I'm a dried-out drunk!"

But he was right. It's not necessarily that you're better than certain folks—just that they're not "your sort of folks." Not like-minded; they don't hear the throb of the same beating drum.

The more you can keep your life disentangled from such people and their interests and schemes, the better.

And…I figure I've done a great job posting when I can have you longing to help break beans!

Gail said...

Hi again Grizz-

Oh yes, your words of self expressed purpose, intent, joy, journey, love, living and respect for all life is so evident. I feel your integrity in every part of your world I am privileged to share. Your "song" is in harmony, in tune with life as it plays out and takes on a loving, respectful, kind, caring rhythm and vibration that resinates (sp) out wildly, strongly, assuredly and yet vulnerable to change and challenges. That is the real wonder - the magic - the marker of freedom that says we are being who we are - when change, changes things but changes nothing all at the same time. In other words, your core, like mine, is solid and swirls and shakes and rattles with the best and worst of times and lands strong and firm every time, alelluia!!
And ya, I make my own noise, :-)

Love to you and all that you are
Gail
peace......

Val said...

Griz,
It wasn't the "beans" I wasn't talking about.... it was everything you wrote leading up to the beans....
: )

But, yes, people round these parts do know and appreciate authentic beans. The jury's still out, however, on how well they appreciate authentic people....

Wanda said...

My parents were both raised in Virginia...they would grow nothing but half-runner beans.

Your stories and understanding of life could make anyone long for a simpler and honest lifestyle...

There have been times...just pushing a grocery cart down the aisle with woman after woman (and man) walking and pushing... selecting and depositing what they want...aisle after aisle with the hum of soothing music...that made me feel like cattle!

I was just telling a young person...sometimes you have to give things or people and stop being what you're not...in order to attract compactible people for making true lasting friendships.

I so appreciate your blog of great photos and thoughts!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Well, in all honesty, my song gets out of tune pretty regularly—or becomes so faint I can barely pick it out from the white noise all around. But—and this is again trying to be honest—I always do my best to listen.

And sometimes that resonating is just me trembling with fear…

But thank you nevertheless. I understand.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

Yeah, I knew that—but in a way, what I wrote was all about the half-runner beans. That is the me, the who I am, in a nutshell—past and present.

The only people who appreciate authentic people are other authentic people. Which, when you think about, are the only ones who matter.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Thank you for such kind words.

I just thought today of all the times and people I'd sat somewhere with and helped break a mess of beans. On porches of all description and in a half-dozen states. Or sometimes as part of a gathering of family or friends, where you carried out a cane-bottomed chair from the house and found a space in the circle under a shade tree in the yard. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins of all stripe. Stories being told, mostly true, and lots of laughter.

And then the big kettles of beans were started on the stove. After a while, the chicken which had soaked overnight in buttermilk, was dusted with seasoning and flour and fried in big cast-iron skillets; platters of golden succulence. Potatoes were boiled or mashed. The cornbread got baked. Fresh garden veggies were sliced and set out. Pickles and relishes and homemade preserves, too. There was apple stack cake, blackberry cobbler, and maybe a rhubarb or gooseberry pie.

Old and young, all took their place. Heads were bowed. Grace was said—and not one of those canned prayers, either, but genuine words of thanks and appreciation, and perhaps a mention or two of certain particular needs…though not so much that it seemed like a want list.

"Help yourself!" someone would say—and mean just that. And everyone would.

Your parents knew those days I'll bet—as did mine; as did I. And following the herd through the big box grocery will never take its place.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I've found one of the most important things to learn is to stick your neck out for your own dreams - not other people's dreams for you! Sometimes it's hard to tell where the two get tangled up.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

Wisdom spoken by a true expert at sticking one's neck out…but true, indeed. Separating your dreams from the dreams of others is often the tricky part—as is the willingness to admit which is which all around.

Val said...

I get it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

Ahhh sooo! :-)

Bernie said...

Hi Grizz, great post. Loved hearing your "musings" and hope you post more of them. I, too try to live an honest life and enjoy my passion which is service to others with my volunteer hospice work. It brings me so much more than I could possibly ever give. Your words struck my heart and knowing there are people like you and Wanda around makes me happy, this world a much better place with people like both of you in it........:-) Hugs

The Solitary Walker said...

This post ceratinly struck a big chord with me. But sometimes it's not easy to 'slough off' the bad, ingrained habits of a lifetime, is it? I feel 'authentic', feel I'm living my own personal dream, some of the time. But at other times I feel swayed this way and that, adopting this and that role, swamped by negative feelings such as guilt, jealousy and despair. The nearest I've got to finding any religion or philosophy to really help me live an honest, uncluttered, clear-eyed life is (Zen) Buddhism.

Jayne said...

Oh, I so wish I could convey how timely this post is for me. :c) Thank you Grizz. Really. Thank you.

And now, I am dreaming of my mama's killed lettuce, white beans, and cornbread... mmmmmmmmmmmm

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I do think people should always "give back," should share themselves and whatever they can with others. I think givers always receive as much as they give—if they give honestly.

More than anything, I believe life is to be lived with passion and zest. It sounds to me like you try and do that with your hospice work. I know you touch lives and make a difference. We each have "our" life to live, but in the end, I don't believe it is to be lived selfishly.

Thank you for your lovely comments.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

No, it is not an easy thing to do—and personally speaking, I'm not sure it's even possible. I certainly fail in various ways almost daily. But it finally occurred to me that it was better to fail while trying to do the right thing than succeed at what I knew to be wrong.

I know many who read my posts and comments think I'm always upbeat, positive, as happy as a shaggy old bear with his paws in the honey tree. I'm not. There are days when I'm so depressed, riddled with despair and hopelessness, my life fraught with guilt and failure—I wake up not knowing how I'm going to make it through from morning until nightfall, and not much caring whether I do or not.

Try as I may to have it otherwise, I still sometimes find my life has again been co-opted by others, that I've lost my path—which causes me to fear the path itself was only a fantasy or mirage.

No, it surely isn't easy to slough off all those things which comprise the whole gamut of our history.

For me, Solitary, strength and direction—and often courage and reason—has to come from without rather than within. There's a hole in my life I can't fill on my own.

Given your background, perhaps you know one of my favorite old hymns, "How Can I Keep From Singing," whose lyrics (not the version using the watered-down verses as sung by Enya, Pete Seeger, and many others, but the original words, as published by Robert Lowery in the 1869) in part read:


My life flows on in endless song:
Above earth's lamentation; I catch the sweet, tho' far-off hymn; That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin; I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths, Since first I learned to love it.

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, A fountain ever springing; All things are mine since I am his--
How can I keep from singing?

Sydney said...

THat you are! You have been busy, I have been busy... but i did put up another pic of the baby vulture, still fuzzy but getting far bigger. There's a link back to the original story, which just takes a few minutes, if you get them to visit.

Until then, I aspire to write as well as you!

Carolyn H said...

Griz: It's never JUST about the beans but something like beans can remind you about the rest of it-- the good things, the really important things, the uncluttered things. Thanks for reminding me again this time around.

Carolyn H.

The Solitary Walker said...

"Better to fail while trying to do the right thing than succeed at what I knew to be wrong."

Yes, I think that's wonderful - and gives us all hope. It's recognizing we're all human, and by definition fallible, necessarily weak. And we can be strong too - because we can reject the ethically impure, dishonest ways we pretended were OK because it was just making a living/doing what everyone else did etc. etc.

Although I can not literally share your own religious beliefs (though I have a fervent Methodist background which haunts me still), I can at least emotionally share the sentiments of that stirring hymn.

"There's a hole in my life I can't fill on my own." Yes, I understand that.

Thank you for such a heartfelt, honest and vulnerable reply.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Sydney…

Hey, I'm so glad you reminded me (AGAIN!) to read your baby vulture posts. I just think that's a great, great story—and the photos are neat. Not the cutest baby critter, I suppose, but lovably ugly—or perhaps the politically correct terminology should be "beauty challenged."

Thank you for all your (always) nice comments, and even more for your enthusiasm for nature and life. You make a difference, and you do it with joy and passion.

And whenever I lag behind on keeping up with your vulture posts—or just your posts in general—don't hesitate to give my chain another yank. Sometimes us decrepit dogs get to lolling on the porch and forget to remember what we wanted and meant to do.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I understand exactly where you're coming from. And thank you for understanding me—and for being willing to understand.

No friendship of value can ever be built on any foundation that compromises understanding and honesty.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

No, it isn't just about the beans, or the music, or the vast blue sky overhead. It's about all those threads and pieces—beliefs and prejudices, fears, follies, habits, dreams, desires, and moments in the darkest of dark nights when we lie awake and listen for some stirring in our soul that gives comfort and hope—all the many, many things that, when assembled, make up the patchwork of our individual lives; that make us whatever we are, whoever we are.

You and I are fortunate in that we both, I believe, understand the wonder and fulfillment in simplicity and the natural world. We can find escape and renewal, adventure, reason, in wind and water and woods.

We don't have it all figured out—at least I certainly don't by a long shot—but we've quit looking in the wrong places.

Thank you for commenting. I'm glad you liked the post.

Rowan said...

I could visualize you sitting there on your deck and I could hear the river and the wildlife too, a lovely piece of writing. I think it's easier to be yourself as you get older because you have gained more self confidence by that stage and it takes time to discover just what really matters to you. At 25 you view things differently to the way you see them at 60. I learned to say 'No' when I turned 40 and have become more my own person as each year passes. What I do find though is that there is more than one me! Most of the time I am a quiet, domesticated countrywoman but occasionally another me emerges who likes a bit of a social whirl and enjoys wearing lovely clothes and eating in good restaurants. Both are the real me but different facets - there are actually other Rowans who surface occasionally too:) The intrepid traveller will be putting in an appearance soon when I cross to your side of the Pond :) As for friends, I've never had huge numbers but the ones I do have, with one exception, have been my friends for 30 years or more - I'm pretty sure they accept me for who I am by this stage. I've never been too bothered about going against the tide - I stayed a full time housewife when the done thing was to go out to work because that was what I wanted to be. I've never regretted it either but I think if one more person had asked me when I was going back to work I'd have thumped them - and I'm not a violent person as a rule! Oh dear, we have an essay here again, sorry!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

You obviously understood when I said I was, at the core, a mostly simple guy in a complicated sort of way. There are several facets to the fellow penning these posts. Just are there are to you—and to many other Riverdaze readers too, I expect.

I've never tended to make many friends, even during my youth. One or two at a time, a few more I'd characterize as comfortable acquaintances. And it's that way still. I think if they're lucky, a person might have two or three true friends over the course of a lifetime.

Oddly, I love people: don't mind crowds or parties; pretty much feel like I've never met a stranger. But I'm perfectly happy alone, too; I don't need company for company's sake.

Does that make sense? I'm just not capable of being part of the thundering herd. I don't care who wins the World Series. Don't need to see the latest blockbuster. I like country cafés and fancy restaurants…though I think the cafés have the more interesting and fascinating clientele/characters if you like to sit in a booth and eavesdrop over breakfast.

I think aging in people is like aging in a good wine—time in the barrel allows for growth and magic, while the oak tannins smoothes out the remaining residual harshness, evaporation reduces and concentrates and intensifies certain subtleties, enhances minor nuances, and what's left is the very best that could be offered.

By the way, I admire you for holding your ground on choosing to stay home and be a housewife. And I'll bet it was indeed exasperating to constantly have to defend that decision and not "liberate" yourself, or "have a career." In the end, I wonder how many of those who made such a move because it was socially expected, found half as much fulfillment?

Finally, you can write an essay here any time. Your words are always welcome.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-
ad to these words of yours....."
And sometimes that resonating is just me trembling with fear…"

I say let's hug, one great big body pressing, leg wrapped around, arms tight and secure upon hands holding on hug!!!

I Love you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Kind words, a good hug, an understanding pat on the back…sometimes just a smile. We all need one—figurative or literal—from time to time.