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The Story of the Dandelion, Part One

The Story of the Dandelion, Part One

Image by Angelica Vaihel from Pixabay

The story of the humble dandelion draws on a wide spectrum of our history. Unquestionably, it offers an abundance of nutritional value to our diets. In the past, this made it a plant of great importance. It really is a powerhouse. Heralded for the multitude of ways it can contribute to our lives, the dandelion stands apart as a plant of great value in its entirety, from its roots to its myriad golden petals.

Although, nowadays, there are few nods of appreciation for the dandelion. Ideas range from a calm disregard to a tenacious effort to simply rid their yard of its presence.

It’s a story extending from the large estates of the aristocracy to the beginning of the pharmaceutical industry. Taking a look at many medicine cabinets or night-stands, pharmaceuticals have come to be a customary part of our lives. So, it’s little surprise they had a hand in the complex history of the dandelion.

In this two-part series, I’ll spend the first part extolling the virtues of our golden-maned plant. And in the second part, I’ll go into what, for many, went into its fall from grace. Yet, be sure, however despised by some, dandelions will remain tucked in the hearts of others.

What’s in a Name?

In the world of science, the common dandelion is part of a genus known as Taraxacum. from the family Asteraceae. Comprised of a current estimation of 60 macrospecies1 and 2800 microspecies,2 it is a large genus. Two of the most common are Taraxacum officinale and T. erythrospermum, the latter differs as it is red-seeded.

Neither terms particularly roll off the tongue. So, it has acquired countless other names around the world. In the province of Newfoundland & Labrador in Canada, they’re lovingly known as posies.

Image by Rob Leake from Pixabay.

However, it’s also known by numerous other tags. Some are respectful with a touch of the lyrical, such as Irish Daisy, Fairy Clock, Monk’s Head, Priest’s Crown, Lion’s Tooth, Telltime, Clock Flower, White Endive or Wild Endive.

Others are a little more disparaging and off-putting, including Milk Witch, Piss-a-bed, Swine’s Snout, Cankerwort, Blowball and Puffball. These latter two are a reference to the stage when the seeds are ready to disperse. Inspiring, a wide range of emotions, our choice of term would be no doubt reliant on our perspective.

Origins of the Dandelion

The flower has very ancient origins. It’s believed to have first evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia. Used later by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, it also played a role in traditional Chinese medicine for more than a thousand years. With the arrival of the eleventh century, Arabic cultures were drawing on its medicinal merits, treating difficulties of the kidney and liver.

The name dandelion stems back to the fourteenth century, when, in 1373, “dent-de-lion” was mentioned in a French herbal. In English, this means “lion’s tooth.” However, it was in 1363 when the particular word “dandelion” was actually used. Later, it began to travel to the west as the powers in Europe began to explore the world.

Ecology

While the dandelion prefers loose, rich and healthy soil—any plant would—this plant is more than all right with less ideal conditions. Soil may be compacted, rocky or dry, but to the dandelion, it’s just a temporary challenge.

The dandelion is the essence of adaptability. It’s able to grow in a range of altitudes, from sea level to 10,500 feet. It’s a merry inhabitant of meadows and open grass. However, change the scenery and it’s equally at home emerging through the cracks of a rocky cliff or those within an inner city side-walk.

Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash.

While gardeners may cringe when confronted by the dandelion’s characteristic taproot growing deep into the ground, it is a boon for the soil. The taproot is able to bring nutrients to the surface. The roots loosen the soil, creating a micro-climate in which earthworms and arthropods, such as insects, can thrive and further loosen the soil.

It’s adaptability also means the dandelion does equally well in fertile or drought conditions. Whether in shade or situated where the heat of the full sun is beating onto the ground, the dandelion can grow and develop.

Health

For thousands of years, the dandelion has been revered for its medicinal qualities. Dandelion root is actually a registered drug in Canada and functions as a diuretic. It’s no surprise then that it’s the most frequently recorded plant in folk medicine. The dandelion can help alleviate problems tied to an enormous range of conditions.

If you’re suffering from kidney, stomach, or liver disorders, call on the dandelion. How about skin irritations, heartburn, gall bladder problems, diabetes, arthritis, anaemia and constipation? Try the dandelion. And for the odd toothache, fever, wart or dandruff, the dandelion might just be able to help.

Photo by Nastya Dulhiier on Unsplash.

It’s high in vitamins K, C and A, along with minerals such as calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron. While we’re at it, the dandelion can also function as a mild laxative and diuretic. The dandelion has also been used widely for a range of irritations such as skin conditions, eczema, hepatitis and jaundice.

High in lecithin, the dandelion can apparently be also used to reduce cholesterol, thus playing a role in preventing strokes and heart disease. Clearly the dandelion is one of the “go to” plants for numerous health complaints.

Food & Colouring Our World

The great virtue of dandelions is the entire plant, from leaf to root, is edible. The flowers are particularly useful for making Dandelion wine and jam. If the roots are roasted, they stand in well as a substitute for coffee. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, used in our favourite soups, salads and smoothies.

Image of roasted dandelion roots (By Zero-X at Flickr – English wikipedia, Public Domain.

In soups, dandelions simply play the role of the greens. Whereas with dandelion chips, it involves a brief roast in the oven. With dandelion pizza, the leaves and flowers are strewn over the pizza contributing to its culinary virtues and also adding a touch of colour. Really, the dandelion can be used in a host of recipes.

And not only can we eat the dandelion, it can also help in other ways. Dandelion flowers function well as a dye for clothing or other fabrics and yarns. The dandelions yield a powdered yellow sheen.

Dandelions can also play a role in more unexpected ways. Natural rubber is used in a large quantity of products. Thus, any potential sources for this product are being continually analysed. In fact, researchers are exploring the Russian dandelion as a source of natural rubber.

Given its wide range of applications, the dandelion literally has something for everyone. One would think a plant so clearly useful and valuable, especially in terms of health and well-being, would be forever held in high regard. Not so.

In the early twentieth century, many remained resolute in their support for the contributions nature could provide through plants such as the dandelion.

And in part two, we’ll look at the circumstances that came together to spell the precipitous fall of the dandelion, its re-designation as a “weed.”

Sources:

Adamant, Ashley 2020 “60+ Dandelion Recipes ~ Food, Drinks, Remedies & More” https://practicalselfreliance.com/dandelion-recipes/

Browning, Annette 2023 “Natural Dye from Plants: Yarn Dyeing with Dandelions” https://www.fiberartsy.com/natural-dyeing-dandelions/

Dyer, Mary 2017 “Dandelion Plant History And Facts” Gardening Know How https://blog.gardeningknowhow.com/tbt/dandelion-plant-history-facts/

Down Garden Services 2023 “Dandelion” http://downgardenservices.org.uk/dandelion.htm

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft 2015 “Natural rubber from dandelions” https://phys.org/news/2015-06-natural-rubber-dandelions.html

Heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador 2023 “Malnutrition in Newfoundland and Labrador” https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/society/malnutrition.php

Hunter, Candace 2023 “Dandelion History, Folklore, Myth and Magic” The Practical Herbalist https://thepracticalherbalist.com/advanced-herbalism/dandelion-history-folklore-myth-and-magic/

Kantham, Chris 2023 “How Rockefeller founded modern medicine and killed natural cures” World Affairs https://worldaffairs.blog/2015/10/20/how-rockefeller-founded-modern-medicine-and-killed-natural-cures/

Pharmaphorum 2023 “A history of the pharmaceutical industry” https://pharmaphorum.com/r-d/a_history_of_the_pharmaceutical_industry

Soschner, Christian 2020 “A Brief, Economic History of the Pharmaceutical Industry” Medium https://medium.com/illumination/a-brief-economic-history-of-the-pharmaceutical-industry-8feb603be4e3

the1millionproject 2020 “The Origin of Compulsory Schooling” Medium https://t1mproject.medium.com/the-origin-of-compulsory-schooling-cbef6a07777d

Velasquez, Jennifer 2023 “Uncovering The History Behind The Name ‘Dandelion’” Shuncy — Love the Green https://shuncy.com/article/why-are-dandelions-called-dandelions

Wikipedia 2023 “Taraxacum” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taraxacum

Winger, Jill 2022 “18 Dandelion Recipes” The Prairie Homestead https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/04/dandelion-recipes.html

Winters, Chris 2023 “Garden History — How Dandelions Went From Being Sought-After Medicinal Plants To Pesky Weeds” https://12tomatoes.com/dandelion-history/

Endnotes

1A large and usually polymorphic biological species markedly discontinuous from other members of the same taxonomic genus as another plant or animal.

2A small usually localized population slightly but effectively differentiated from related forms.

Blue Skies Above

Blue Skies Above

Big Blue sky (Source: Image by Yves Bernardi from Pixabay).

In certain parts of the world, they are a less common phenomenon than in others. So, for many of us, a blue sky is a treasured gift. Still, when we think about it, the sky is the sky, whether or not it’s filled with clouds. It should make no difference whether it’s thick with a bountiful number of clouds or simply clear and blue. But it does. Why is that do you think?

What Makes the Sky Blue?

When we think of light, the first colour we imagine is white. Although, there’s more to light than meets the eye. Place a prism before the white light and magically it’ll split into a rainbow of colours — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Prism separating white light into a rainbow of colours (Source: Image by Daniel Roberts from Pixabay).

And each of those colours has a particular wavelength. As you go across the rainbow of colours, wavelengths are at their longest with the colour red whereas, they’re at their shortest with violet. The colours we see are all down to reflection. So, if an object appears a certain colour, it’s that colour it’s reflecting.

The sky is blue because of the different actions of each of those colours when they reach the atmosphere. The atmosphere is comprised of numerous gases and particles which possess charged particles within them (electrons and protons).

The sunlight, an electromagnetic wave, forces those charged particles inside the air molecules to oscillate up and down. As a result, the oscillating charges create electromagnetic radiation similar to the incoming sunlight, although it’s now spread over all directions or scattered.

As we know, blue light possesses shorter wavelengths than the red light. Thus, when the incoming light passes through the air, the blue components oscillate faster than the red components. The faster the oscillation the more the light is scattered, meaning blue will be more scattered than the red. Hence, our eyes see a blue sky.

White clouds (Source: Image by JackieLou DL from Pixabay).

Clouds appear as white because light passing through a cloud interacts with the water droplets which are significantly larger than the air molecules (containing the electrons and protons). The incoming sunlight is scattered by the much larger water droplets, thereby scattering virtually the entire spectrum of light. As a result, it continues to appear white.

Sometimes clouds are more grey and that’s because the scattering of the light isn’t able to reach all parts of the cloud. Hence, they appear more grey. This is especially the case with rain clouds which are greater in size and their foreboding greyness is simply because the scattered light isn’t reaching all parts of the cloud.

Rising Spirits

For most of us, our spirits rise under a blue sky. Think of how exuberant we are awakening to a big blue sky. The additional sun affects us biologically in several ways. The sunlight striking our skin is converted into vitamin D. It’s the vitamin D that plays a central role in the production and activation of serotonin.

Serotonin, located primarily in our digestive systems is a neurotransmitter. These are chemical messengers, the means by which our nervous system communicates with its various components– neurons, nerve cells and the like. Serotonin features in an array of brain and body functions, assisting with our mood, cognition, learning, memory and sleep.

So, it’s not too surprising we get a physical boost by a blue-sky day. Some even feel the deprivation of the sun on cloudy days. Although, this is sometimes linked to our personal thoughts and behaviours, things that would be with us regardless of the weather.

Some do suffer from conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in which our mood alters with seasonal changes. Often, it’s a major depressive disorder that begins with later autumn and resolves with the coming of spring. As opposed to the less serious winter blues, SAD often requires medical treatment.

Seeing Blue

We also benefit from the sky simply being the colour blue and not green or yellow, for instance. Blue carries certain qualities. Blue is generally associated with peaceful and relaxing sentiments. Entering a room coloured blue will be calming, bolstering feelings of security and confidence.

Being blue (Source: Marcel Gross | @marcelgross.ch).

The fact it happens to be the colour of the sky and through its reflection, the colour of the rivers, ponds and the sea helps to further the tranquil feelings it evokes. Researchers conducting studies found exposure to blue light had a positive impact on mental health.

Given the sentiments it tends to kindle, marketers also use specific shades of blue. For instance, dark blue arouses feelings of authority, intelligence and power. Hence, it is the colour of choice for particular police uniforms. In contrast, lighter shades of blue bring forth a sense of calmness and relaxation. Marketers will thus make their choices accordingly.

So, taking into account the feelings blue evokes, it’s not surprising we look forward to blue-sky days.

Big Sky Country

Places such as Saskatchewan are often referred to as big sky country. Although, other regions, such as Newfoundland and Labrador may experience days when the term “big sky country” would equally apply.

A big blue sky (Source: Photo by Harold Eggar on Unsplash).

On days such as these, we are often spurred on, brimming with the feeling that the sky’s the limit. Because it’s on days such as these when there doesn’t appear to be a cap on our world and anything’s possible. And if those aren’t the thoughts guiding us, a big sky certainly just makes us feel unbounded.

Last Thoughts

Standing below a blue sky, many of us simply feel elated. For very good reasons do we feel this way. Yet, we can be under a bank of clouds and still feel on top of the world. Blue skies or imposing banks of clouds are all external drivers for how we feel. Ultimately, our sentiments and motivations are of course guided from within. Still, it never hurts to be stirred by a blue sky whispering in our ear that anything’s possible.

Sources:

Bottaro, Angelica 2024 “What Are Neurotransmitters?” https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-neurotransmitters-5188887

Color Psychology 2024 “Color Psychology – Discover The Hidden Meaning Behind Colors” https://psychologycolor.com/

Del Genio, Anthony D. 2003 “Why is the sky blue?” Scientific American https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-the-sky-blue/

NASA 2024 “Why Is the Sky Blue?” https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/blue-sky/en/

Salters-Pedneault, Kristalyn 2023 “Serotonin: What It Is, How to Increase It, and Can You Have Too Much?” https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-serotonin-425327

Wonderopolis 2024 “Why Is the Sky Blue?” https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-is-the-sky-blue

WorldAtlas 2024 “Why Are Clouds White?” https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/why-are-clouds-white.html

Crossing the Gut in Placentia, NL

Crossing the Gut in Placentia, NL

Anyone travelling along the main road going through Dunville will pass Seven Island Lookout and spot it in the distance. The lift bridge spanning what is known as the gut is simply majestic as it rises from the water’s surface, both imposing and immovable. Built in 2016, it has a long history, one assuring its place in the hearts of residents and visitors alike.

Image of bridge from Seven Island Lookout (Source: Lee Everts).

In the Early Years

For the longest time, the idea of crossing the gut in Placentia was not of any real concern. In the sixteenth century, when the Basque arrived in what, to them, was Plazençia, short of walking, travel by boat was the primary means of getting around.

In the 17th through to the 19th century, similarly, residents would’ve had boats for all their transportation requirements. As seen in the map below, French residents living on the Placentia beach lived on the Orcan River, the channel that led inland from the gut. This was when France controlled the region, known to them as Plaisance, from 1662 to 1714 Most settlers possessed a small wharf for their boat.

Image: A plan of the settlement and fishing room belonging to the French inhabitants of the beach at Placentia completed in 1714 (Source: Library and Archives Canada).

It was only when more people began to settle on Placentia beach, Jerseyside, Freshwater, and Dunville that crossing the gut was of greater concern. People were just getting around on foot and so, the gut posed more of a challenge. Initially, cars were of little concern.

While, at present, the gut and surrounding waters no longer develop a covering of ice, in the past, some winter ice did form. As a result, it could provide a natural bridge, allowing people to walk across the gut.

Crossing the gut was no small challenge. In and of itself, the span of the gut at 73m and the tide, at about 4 knots, changing every eight and a half hours, posed a challenge. The spring tide rises 2.1m and neap tide rises 1.5m. So, there’s little question that if anyone wanted to get across, either a bridge or a boat would’ve been necessary.

Crossing By Boat

By the latter part of the 19th century, a Patrick Kemp ran a ferry known as the Black Punt across the gut. However, it wasn’t running as smoothly as hoped. And as the years progressed, residents complained about the poor service crossing the gut.

Image of people being ferried across the gut (Source: Anonymous).

Even a new and improved ferry was deemed not much better. In 1901, an editorial complained how people crossing were sometimes “drenched with water.” Later, in 1910, a letter to the editor remarked how “it was really laughable … to see a rope stretched across the gut and people pulling themselves … across to the town side on the broken down ferry.” Already during the early part of the twentieth century, a bridge had been promised by the government. Even a petition had even been signed by residents to bridge the gut.

As the years progressed, the government sought to undertake improvements. But it wasn’t enough. In 1917, a writer in a local editorial explained how the old black punt had been converted into a motor boat. Although, in their words “it should be burnt.” In 1920, a telegram was sent to the then Prime Minister with complaints of the “rotten broken down motor boats” being used. So, there was a clear need to cross the gut, once and for all.

First Attempts to Bridge the Gut

Everything changed in 1941 when the United States built a base in Argentia. The presence of the base and its service men and women meant it was imperative to have easy access to the Placentia beach. As a consequence, by September 1941, the government, with the assistance of the military, had decided to build a pontoon bridge.

The result was welcomed by residents with numerous people now freely crossing the gut. However, it wasn’t to last. The currents and tides relentlessly assailed the bridge and within a few months of being installed, the pontoon bridge broke free from its moorings leaving the Placentia area, yet again, with no way across the gut.

Image and pontoon bridge (Source: Anonymous).

All was not lost, for a year later, the United States army re-installed the bridge. However, due to the weather, the pontoon bridge had to be removed prior to the winter. Plus, the pontoon bridge was actually an impediment for fish harvesters who sometimes needed quick access to the harbour should the weather turn.

Besides, in the meantime, the United States base had developed a road that gave them access to the Placentia beach without having to cross the gut. Hence, the pontoon bridge was no longer necessary. Now, crossing the gut was again left an array of individuals who privately offered their services. They sometimes even managed to get cars across the gut.

Image of car being ferried across the gut (Source: Anonymous).

Back to the Ferry

With the arrival of 1954, initiatives to find a solution to crossing the gut were again undertaken by the government. The Newfoundland Transportation Company began providing service across the gut on the MV Ambrose Shea. Able to transport several cars and passengers, it was a definite improvement to what the Placentia area had become accustomed. Finally, crossing the gut was being taken seriously. Still, was it enough?

Image of MV Ambrose Shea ferry arriving (Source: Anonymous).

It became apparent that, no, a ferry crossing could not provide adequate service for the growing populations in the Placentia area. On the 22nd July, 1959, a local news paper, The Evening Telegram ran a story stating how the Gut was to finally be bridged.

A Bridge At Long Last

The McNamara Construction Company began operations building the bridge on 29th August, 1959. After a range of details regarding land and materials needed in the construction were ironed out, on 28th October, 1961, a crowd of residents and officials celebrated the opening of the Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge. The centre would lift to allow boat traffic to traverse the Gut while vehicles could freely travel overtop.

Image of original Sir Ambrose She Lift Bridge (1961-2016) (Source: Lee Everts).

The Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge serviced the region for decades, the obstacles of crossing the gut fading into distant memory. Although, all good things come to an end. For the lift bridge, it was in 2010, when the provincial government began making plans to replace this bridge with one of similar design located alongside the site of the old bridge.

Everything Good Comes to an End

Unfortunately, these plans didn’t move fast enough and on Sunday, 3rd August, 2014, the bridge suffered a major collapse. It inconvenienced residents who regularly travelled over the bridge for work and to do their banking or shopping. Also troubled by the bridge being unable to lift were the fish harvesters. This followed ongoing repairs required to allow the bridge to function.

Although the bridge reopened on the 12th October, it would have to undergo continued repairs and maintenance for the next six weeks. Anyone needing to reach Placentia beach would have to drive a secondary route using a gravel road going through Southeast Placentia.

Time to Change

Despite the difficulties, the new bridge was finally completed and on the 23rd September, 2016, it opened for traffic. Eventually, the price ended up being $8 million more than that contracted. Blamed on additional costs required for external consultants, many were simply happy the new bridge had been completed.

And in all respects, it was an engineering feat. Consisting of a three-span structure, the centre movable span, connected on each side by two simple fixed beam support spans.

Image of new Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge which opened in 2016 (Source: Lee Everts).

The goal was to accomplish the need of the bridge to lift, but to do so in an aesthetically pleasing manner, one accordant with the heritage of the area. The resulting bridge was wider than the first Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge. The machinery required to raise the middle section was located at the top of the towers of the two spans on either side.

The designers were well aware of the harsh environment in which the bridge would be located, trying to take this into account.

Nothing’s Perfect

But nothing’s perfect. So even the new bridge succumbed to various problems, having to be closed at times to both road and marine traffic. Customarily ingenious, some fish harvesters dealt with the inability of the lift bridge to rise by cutting the heights of their vessels. Some would alter their equipment so the masts could simply be bent in order to get under the bridge and raised once into the harbour.

For the most part, the bridge operates unimpeded. Still, every now and then, a problem will arise. However, the problem is eventually addressed and traffic resumes.

An Iconic Presence

It’s now 2024 and in two years, we’ll mark the tenth anniversary of the new Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge. Without question, there’ve been several periods that may have left residents and others wondering, was this really worth the cost? Still, for the hundreds regularly crossing the bridge, the answer would definitely be, yes, it was worth it. And without question, the bridge has become an iconic feature of the Town of Placentia.

Sources:

Canadian Consulting Engineer 2013 “Lift bridge in Placentia has to be durable” https://www.canadianconsultingengineer.com/transportation/lift-bridge-in-placentia-has-to-be-durable/1002340407/

CBC News 2014 “Placentia’s lift bridge out of commission for time being” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/placentia-s-lift-bridge-out-of-commission-for-time-being-1.2726865

CBC News 2018 “Fishermen frustrated and fuming as Placentia lift bridge leaves boats stuck in harbour” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/placentia-lift-bridge-upset-1.4655557

Everts, Lee 2016 Placentia Area — A Changing Mosaic https://books.google.ca/books/about/The_Placentia_Area_A_Changing_Mosaic.html?id=YUTBCwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y

Library and Archives Canada 2014 “A plan of the settlement and fishing room belonging to the French inhabitants of the beach at Placentia” [cartographic material] Local class no. H3/140/Placentia/[1714] 140 – Metro areas, Newfoundland cartographic material, architectural drawing

“Placentia Ferry” Evening Telegram Editorial Notes (St. John’s, N.L.) 1901-04-30

Roberts, Terry 2016 “Cost of Placentia bridge nearly 20 per cent higher than contracted” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/placentia-lift-bridge-cost-1.3585545

“Telegram to R.A. Squires” GN 8, File # 157, Folder 1, [District of] Placentia-St. Mary’s The Rooms, Provincial Archive of Newfoundland and Labrador

“The Old Black Punt Again to the Rescue” Evening Telegram (St. John’s, N.L.), 1910-09-16

“The Placentia Ferry” Evening Telegram (St. John’s, N.L.) 1917-12-14

A Second Chance

A Second Chance

Abigail hurriedly turned the engine off. She quickly looked in the mirror to check her hair. It was all askew, but it was most of the time, so shrugged her shoulders. No matter. She then darted to the door, as her brother and his wife were already there waiting to go in.

“Hey, loser,” she said to her brother. It was always a game with them, since they were young. He was older than she was and usually brushed it off as the usual from his kid sister. That he didn’t respond, was no surprise. Her mother opened the door and welcomed them in.

“Oh, Geoffrey,” she said, her arms open wide. “I’m so glad you could make it.”

“I wouldn’t want to miss Easter. Not now, anyway.”

“Thank you, my love,” her mother said, giving him a long hug, then turning to Amy, her brother’s wife and giving her a hug. The two of them chatted while Geoffrey became reacquainted with the dog, Bark, who was also eager greet the new visitors.

Abigail was all smiles, but her mother then turned, she and Amy walking further into the home. A little dumbfounded, she disregarded it, thinking, oh, well.

“Mom?” Abigail called out. “Geoff?” she said to her brother who was then taking off his boots. But he didn’t respond, just getting up and walking into the sitting room. “Geoff?” she said again, sing-songing his name. Nothing.

Then, she laughed, sure that everyone must be ignoring her on purpose. Some sort of joke, she was sure. Still, it was odd. She went into the sitting room. All her family were there, chatting. She could smell the meal. Her mom had found a local farm from whom she’d begun buying their meat. It was always delicious. The aroma of the turkey filled the air, mixed delectably with the smell of seasoning her mom always put into the dressing.

Everyone kept chatting, just pausing when her mom came in to briefly let everyone know, it’d just be another fifteen minutes. But everyone they expected was here. Abigail then came to sit on the couch next to her sister. No one was paying any attention to her. It was getting really strange. “Hello,” she said. “Hello.” A little louder. Still, nothing.

Abigail went a little closer to where her brother was sitting, close enough to hear the conversation he was having with her oldest brother.

“I don’t know,” Eric said. “You knew her best. There was just no getting through to her in the end.”

“Yeah. She’d just let it take hold of her and in the end, she had nothing in her left to fight.”

“I went to her place about two months ago,” Geoff said.

“How was that?” Geoff rolled his eyes, looking at his brother.

“Well, she wasn’t high, at least. But the place was a mess, things all over the place. Complete disarray. I mean, whatever. All we know is she was so lost. Abby should never have gotten together with that guy. I don’t even remember his name.” Abigail frowned. “What?” she thought. Then it slowly came to her and the world started closing in. “It can’t be.”

“Samuel. And I heard he’s gone, too,” Melissa, Abigail’s sister said as she was walking past. Abigail sank down onto the seat, but her leg seemed to disappear into her brother’s leg. She wasn’t even totally there, she thought, looking up in shock. “I can’t believe this,” she said to herself. Abigail looked up when her brother began to speak.

“I mean, I tried to reason with her. Geez, I told her I’d pay if she’d only go into rehab.”

“Well, you know Abby. She was always stubborn,” Eric said. I’m not stubborn,” Abigail said immediately, obstinate they’d misjudged her.

“Yeah, for sure.” Geoff paused for a moment. Still, ya know, I actually thought I’d convinced her. I left having told her I’d be back the next day and we could start to get things organised,” Geoff said.

“O, man, really?” Eric said, draining his wine.

“Yeah,” Geoff said. “Then, the next day, of course, we heard.” He looked up meeting Eric’s eyes. “I tried so hard to, I don’t know, make her realise she was worth something.” Abigail stared at him, her eyes moistening. “I listened. I heard what you were saying. I know I’m worth something. You were right,” she said, her voice breaking. “Didn’t I go?” she said to herself, like it was coming back to her. “I’m sure I went,” she said to herself, quickly patting herself on her chest. “I’m not dead,” she said. “I’m not dead!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.

She looked up as her mother came into the room. “Supper’s ready,” she said, clapping her hands.

“Time to put the feed bags on,” her husband said, giving her a hug and a kiss. Abigail sat back on the sofa in disbelief and anger. How dare they say I didn’t go into rehab.

But for the life of her, she wasn’t completely sure that she had. And she was maybe more angry that she distantly remembered resisting Geoff’s pleas. I can’t believe this. “I can’t be dead” she said, her head down, tears trailing down her cheeks.

Abigail heard them talking and laughing in the dining room. All she wanted to do was get out of there. With tears were in her eyes, she could barely see, everything was so blurred …

“Abby? Abby?” she heard a familiar voice. She knew that voice. Yes, it was her brother, Geoff.

“I’ll go get a nurse.” That sounded like Amy, Abigail thought.

“Abby?” She blinked, but everything was so blurred. “Abby? Come on, girl. You can do it,” he said excitedly. Blinking again, she could just make out Geoff’s face.

Someone else appeared, checking things. It was the nurse who began removing tubing. Abigail met Geoff’s eyes. He smiled, stepping back to give room for the nurses. They finished and after checking to make certain everything was okay, they left the room. Geoff sat down next to the bed.

“Oh, Abby. I’m so glad you’ve woken up. It was touch and go there for a while. I wasn’t even sure you were gonna make it,” he said, holding her hand. Abigail smiled as best she could.

“Am I okay?” she said, faintly.

“Yeah, girl. You had an overdose.” Their eyes met, neither saying a word. “But hey, look at you. You made it through,” he said, brushing her hair from he forehead. “You scared the life outta us. I’ve already rung Mom, Dad and everyone else. They should be here soon.

“Did I go to rehab, like you’d said?’

“No, girl. The plan was for you to start this week. Remember? But then, I guess things happened. As I say, we just heard you must’ve overdosed. He looked away, not saying another word for a moment. “But you still can, though,” he said, his words filled with hope. “Is that what you want to do?” She nodded her head slowly. Abigail shuddered, remembering the hollow feeling that had travelled throughout her body when she realised she’d actually died. It was raw fear.

“I will. I promise I will,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.

“Oh, Abby. That’s music to my ears. We can get things organised in a few days, I’m sure,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I love you Abby. We’re gonna do this together aren’t we.” She squeezed his hand.

For the Love of Rocks

For the Love of Rocks

Image by Cao Hoang from Pixabay

For much of the time, we pay little attention to the assorted rocks in our lives. We nonchalantly crunch over them as our cars enter our driveways. Standing on the edge of a pond, we fling them, watching satisfactorily as they skip over the water.

At the outset, we must happily recognise that for many, there is an intrinsic beauty to rocks, with the unique reasons they formed being sufficient reason to study them and be in awe of them. Just ask a geologist.

Still, something happens when we extract that particular rock from its usual everydayness. Whether we paint it, collect it or simply admire its texture and colouring, somehow, there is a profound connection we make, permitting us to delve deeper into its hidden meanings.

Painting Rocks

Over the millennia, people have been painting rocks of varying sizes. For some, it was no doubt the only canvas readily at hand. Some of the first examples of cave art were found in Spain. Now a World Heritage Site, in the Cave of Altamira, the cave art stems from the palaeolithic age.

Image of cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art

of Northern Spain (Source: CC BY-SA 3.0 igo Wikipedia)

Traversing the deep pathways of time across the globe, from Portugal, France, England, Italy, Romania and German to Russia and Indonesia, we find other illustrations. In each, our forebears have shared their expressions, ideas and beliefs, images that no doubt touch on elements of religious or symbolic nature.

For those of us in more modern times, we, too, create and express our sentiments and ideas in paint on the various rocks we find. We do so for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just to have a bit of fun, passing the time doing something that may bring a bit of levity to another. We may even leave the rock in a place where we know it’ll be found and thus bring a smile.

Image of painted rocks by Fuzz from Pixabay

Others paint rocks to enhance their sense of spiritual wellness. If we’re feeling a little down, painting rocks can help take our minds away from whatever is troubling us. And if we choose, as noted above, to leave the rock for another, our spirits can be heightened by the connections we’re making with another person.

Collecting Rocks

Alongside painting rocks, another activity many of us enjoy is simply collecting them. We do so for a number of reasons. We’re sometimes visiting a place of meaning and feel the urge to collect a rock.

Many of us have visited spots both near and far and looking down, we spy a rock, noted for its colouring or texture. Picking it up and inserting it into our bag, we’re contented the rock will readily evoke the accrued memory for that locale. It’s an emblem for the sense of place linked to that spot in our hearts. Rocks can be a heartfelt and evocative keystone for our memories of place.

Image of someone collecting rocks (By 27707 from Pixabay).

At other times, rocks may be used as a particular marker for having visited a location. So, every day thereafter, we smile, looking at an emblem of our accomplishment. “I did it,” we might say. Sometimes, rocks might be a proof we’ve visited a particular location where only certain rocks can be found. For instance, the igneous rock llanite can only be found in the area of Llano County, Texas.

Qualities of Rocks

So, many of the rocks we collect are ones of unforgettable aesthetic beauty. Their colouring or qualities of their texture are ones we admire. But what is it about rocks that captures our sentiments? Is there something else? Are there characteristics of rocks towards which we ourselves would strive?

In many cases, rocks offer one very important quality—durability. So, yes, if we collect or paint it, generally speaking, we can be fairly sure, in even 50 to 100 years or more, it’ll still be in markedly good shape.

Is there something else in particular about this quality? Is durability something we would like to see in ourselves? What does durability mean? According to most dictionaries, it’s the ability to withstand wear and tear or decay. Well, even in our own lives, we highly regard qualities of durability. Think of our health, something that would speak to our longevity on earth.

For some, durability against the expected decay of the years passing us by is vital. People go to great lengths to stem the inevitable weakening of their bodies, taking measures to allay the expected changes we experience as we age. So, being of such merit, is the durability of rocks an innate quality—a form of continuity—one to which we inherently aspire? Is this an underlying element of rocks we love vicariously?

Being durable, rocks are unchanging or steadfast. Of course, rocks undergo the eroding effects of wind and water. However, they do so at a rate that is sometimes imperceptible to our eyes. Thus, they may appear to be unchanging.

And to be unchanging is something we, as humans, generally prefer. Biologically, we are hardwired to not change through the condition of inertia. Inertia plays a key role in how our bodies maintain a state of equilibrium—homeostasis.

The idea our bodies are able to maintain steady levels of temperature and other conditions needed for our survival and well-being is central to life. Could this be why we inherently value the unchanging conditions of rocks?

Finally, the strength of rocks is undeniable. As much as being a quality we respect and admire, it is also one we would seek to see describing ourselves. Thus, it is an aspect of rocks we would readily seek to mirror.

Hidden Meanings of Rocks

We paint and collect rocks, admiring their inestimable beauty. At other times, we gaze at them in admiration of their sturdiness and stability. However, are there hidden meanings concealed in our regard for rocks?

Elements of durability, strength or steadfastness are all qualities of rocks we understandably admire in rocks, as well as in ourselves.

Rocks are thus not just rocks. They are symbols of continuity we hold as models for our own behaviour.

Sources

Andrea 2024 “Why Do People Paint Rocks? https://rockpaintingart.com/why-do-people-paint-rocks/

Clottes, Jean 2023 “Cave Art” Britannica https://www.britannica.com/art/cave-art

Ryback, Ralph 2017 “Why We Resist Change” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201701/why-we-resist-change

Remembering Roger F. Sweetman

Remembering Roger F. Sweetman

When a loved one dies, many go to great lengths to ensure their memory and identity—what made them special—is preserved. It’s a profoundly personal period of our lives. Even if a loved one would prefer not to be remembered with a headstone or anything serving as permanence, it still matters. “Just think of me when the crocuses you planted bloom,” they may say.

One day, I was wandering around in Mount Carmel cemetery on Placentia beach, a part of the Town of Placentia. As with many other cemeteries around the world, it identifies with the heart and spirit of the community. Sitting nobly on Dixon’s Hill in a spot overlooking Placentia beach, it’s surrounded by hills as well as the waters of Placentia Bay. And it’s here where I discovered the coffin of Roger F. Sweetman.

Image of Mount Carmel (Source: Lee Everts).

Someone had covered his coffin entirely in silver paint. It was obviously a best intentioned effort to preserve it, albeit not the best approach. The only reason I knew it was his coffin was because I could just make out the date of death which I knew. Otherwise, no one would ever know. Still, it put me in mind of the efforts we take to enshrine the memories of our loved ones in a cemetery.

Image of Roger F. Sweetman’s coffin (Source: Lee Everts).

Roger F. Sweetman, R.I.P.

Roger F. Sweetman was a notable individual in these parts. He was born in Ireland to a prominent family who owned a transatlantic fishing business, shipping their wares across the globe. Operating in the 19th century, it was one of several prosperous fishing firms in Newfoundland, as this former country was known at the time.

The Sweetmans played a big role in Placentia. Roger F. Sweetman’s grandfather was Richard Welsh, also from Ireland, who began the fishing business in the 18th century. While the business may have started as a humble effort, in no time, it became wildly successful. Its presence was powerfully felt throughout the southwestern part of the Avalon peninsula of Newfoundland, as well as across the world. In the end, it would survive for four generations.

Image of Avalon Peninsula (Source: Wikipedia).

I learned about him through a bit of research. He was actually Harry Verran’s father-in-law. Ironically, Harry Verran was a another person I would’ve loved to have met. Roger F. Sweetman was clearly an astute businessman. But, for me, what stands out about him, was his willingness to lend a helping hand, to step up and serve his community.

Much of it is circumstantial, but I remember reading how Roger F. Sweetman was defined as a “kind-hearted man” (M.F. 1930, 105). He was regarded as both generous and giving. He left Newfoundland, returning to his homeland of Ireland, in the 1840s.

It seems he was in Ireland during the potato blight which resulted in a mismanaged debacle leading to an horrific famine. In 1845, Roger F. Sweetman also served as President of the Waterford Chamber of Commerce. While in Ireland, he also served as treasurer for the local relief committee.

When I discovered his coffin, I could just make out the date of his death, the 27th November, 1862, which I knew. Believing him to have been an upstanding citizen, kind-hearted to those around him, my first thoughts were that an injustice had been committed. It seemed wrong any proof of his presence amongst us decades ago had been so diminished on his coffin.

The Function of Burial Marker

Whether a headstone, tombstone, or coffin, each are used to mark someone’s grave. They are often embellished with symbols of meaning reflecting the nature of the person who is buried in that spot. At other times, a grave marker is just that, simply stating where someone is buried, their name being then humbly engraved on the stone.

Certainly, there are beliefs that what is buried with those who have passed away will assist them in their afterlife. Notable examples would be the Vikings or the Amesbury Archer in Britain who had one of the richest Bronze Age graves ever discovered thus far. Still, nowadays, most of us mark our passing with a headstone, embellishing it with various symbols that define our understanding of death.

Image of the Amesbury Archer, an early Bronze age figure found near Stonehenge during excavation for a housing development, now called Archer’s Gate. This image is of the display in the redeveloped Wiltshire Archaeology Gallery at Salisbury Museum (Source: Wikipedia).

Stone is customarily used nowadays, as it’s permanence and durability reflect how we choose to see our loved one—going on forever. And we’re right, who they are in our lives will go on. When headstone, coffin or other burial structures are made, our eyes are often firmly fixed on the future.

In the past, wood was the choice. After all, it was likely more ready at hand. Regardless, whether wood or stone, it is inscribed with the name of the deceased, a brief description of their lives, how they died, and perhaps a poignant quote or poem. The goal is for these expressions to ease our way through the loss of a family member or a friend.

What Really Matters

For Roger F. Sweetman, it was impossible to see whether anything had been written on his coffin. Most likely there had been something, given his place in the community. Not choosing wood, the hope was for it to last. Regardless, it failed against the rigours of time. Again, upon first encountering his coffin, it seemed wrong, nothing seemed to remain of him.

Still, in the end, I thought, does it matter? Whether or not his name emotes some feeling in the decades or centuries following his death, has little bearing on the kind of person he apparently was while alive. And that’s when it matters.

To him, what was of value were the decisions he made to help create a better place for people while he was alive. It’s at times like these when we’re reminded how all those burial markers and their myriad meaningful symbols, we leave are primarily for us, those who have been left behind. Without question, all these adornments are welcomed by family and friends who visit a grave.

Although, for people such as Roger F. Sweetman, perhaps we can be assured he’d already made a substantial difference in the lives of people around him. So, an unadorned coffin will have to do for the rest of eternity.

Sources

Cuff, Robert H. 2014 “19th century Newfoundland outport merchants” https://heritagenl.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/29-19th-Century-Outport-Merchants.pdf

Editorial Team 2022 “5 Reasons Why People Put Headstones On Graves” https://www.emuarticles.com/5-reasons-why-people-put-headstones-on-graves/

Huang, Eric 2024 “Graveyard symbols: architectural markers of life and death” https://www.europeana.eu/en/blog/graveyard-symbols-architectural-markers-of-life-and-death

Johnson, Daniel 2021 “The True Story of the Potato Famine” https://www.grunge.com/324540/the-true-story-of-the-potato-famine/

M.F. 1930 “Women’s Section – Christmas Hospitality in an Outport” The Veteran 9(2)

Mannion, J. 1986, “Irish Merchants Abroad: The Newfoundland Experience, 1750-1850”
Newfoundland Studies 2(2), 127−90

Memorials.com 2022 “Headstone Symbols and Meanings: A Guide to Cemetery Symbols”

Viking Style 2024 “Did Vikings Bury Their Dead?” https://viking.style/did-vikings-bury-their-dead/

Wikipedia 2024 “Headstone” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headstone

It’s Never Too Late to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Works

It’s Never Too Late to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Works

Image Source: Photo by Nik on Unsplash

At the beginning of the new year, many of us eagerly make our resolution. We look at our lives, seriously attempting to divine what we need to change. We do so with the best of intentions. But as we’ll see, our success may hinge on the nature of that resolution.

Origins of Making a Resolution

We come by the idea of making New Year resolutions honestly. It stems from ancient Babylonia, several millennia ago. At the time, their calendar began in the spring in March. This was known as Nisannu, the first lunar month of the calendar.

At this time, around mid-March, they’d hold Akitu, a huge religious festival. At the time, they’d crown a new king and as part of the celebrations and they’d make promises to the gods to live a good life—paying their debts and so on. These promises, would eventually become our resolutions.

Stele of Hammurabi” from the Louvre Museum (Image Source: Wikipedia).

Although, we understand New Year resolutions as something undertaken in January rather than March. So, fast forward to Roman times.

In time, the Romans had adopted Babylonian New Year. They continued the tradition of making resolutions at the top of their year, in mid-March. The Roman Calendar system was also initially based on a lunar calendar.

However, in c700 BC, a funny thing happened. King Numa Pompilius altered the calender. He added two additional months—Ianuariusi and Februarius—which were intended to account for the winter. Further decisions moved these two months to the beginning of the year. Now, the beginning of the year was in January rather than March, hence the timing of the New Year’s resolutions we all know and love.

How Things Have Changed

Naturally, the early pledges of the Babylonians and Romans were closely tied to the harvest. Thus, intentions to pay debts related to farming or other promises were tied to the harvest. This would’ve been common practice.

Times change and centuries later, in mediaeval times, noted resolutions were tied to the world of knights with the “Peacock Vow.” This was a pledge to uphold the values of knighthood.

Taking the Peacock Vow. Jacques de Longuyon of Lorraine is the author of a chanson de geste, Les Voeux du paon (“The Vows of the Peacock”), written for Thibaut de Bar, bishop of Liège in 1312. It was one of the most popular romances of the 14th century, and introduces the concept of the Nine Worthies, the ideals of chivalry (Image Source: Wikipedia).

Still later in the 18th century, there was a religious flavour to the remembered resolutions. It was merely a determination to live a good life in the coming year.

Fast forward again to more modern times and we’ve seen a curious trend in the resolutions. Many are linked to some form of self-improvement. A poll completed by Forbes Health/One Poll in 2023 noted how the top resolutions focussed on improving fitness, improving finances, improving mental health, weight loss and improving diets.

Where Things Go Wrong

Everyone has the best of intentions when they make their resolutions. However, for the vast majority, these new year’s resolutions tend to only last for two to three months. Indeed, many people fail to succeed with their New Year’s resolutions.

There are various reasons why people may not be able to uphold their pledges. Some explain how the idea of change needs to be more deeply explored. Terry Bly, a clinical psychologist has stated how “the pain of not changing has to be greater than the pain of changing.” Only then can we maybe find real change.

Maybe we also fail to realise the true nature of the change. For instance, anyone can say they want to lose a certain amount of weight. But it’s not simply about eating less. It’s also about exercising more.

Moreover, it’s about not getting up at night and having something to eat or maybe not snacking and so on. In this sense, it’s tied to the fact changes require a change to our lifestyle. That’s no small endeavour.

That small insignificant resolution to “lose weight” rattled off on the 31st of December must involve a much larger change to our entire lifestyle if we have any notion of succeeding.

Still, there’s another reason we may be failing in our resolutions.

Maybe It’s Not All About Me

What we note about the majority of the most popular resolutions is there focus on ourselves. “I” want to improve my level of fitness or “I” want to improve my finances. Now, no one’s saying the wish to improve these aspects of our lives aren’t admirable goals.

Although, there’s another option. Say we choose a New Year’s resolution tied to others. For instance, we may say we want to explore what’s involved in setting up a community garden. The wisest first move is to arrange for people to sit on the board. In so doing, it’s a goal that moves from “mine” to “ours.”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Moreover, we’ve now got a resolution intended for the community. This involves more than just “me.” It involves all of us. In so doing, it brings in the notion of oneness. And when we feel a sense of oneness, we feel connected to everything and to all.

The tendency is then to work closely with others in cooperation and collaboration. We are all at one with each other, recognising the myriad interrelations and interconnections that bind us together. So, ultimately, to help another is to help ourselves and everyone for whom we care.

In so doing, the likelihood of accomplishing our resolution greatly increases. There are unquestionable gains to our mental health when we help others. Essentially, most of us are hardwired to do good things for others. When we do, our levels of stress diminish. Practising altruistic actions can also lead to what some refer to as a helper’s high.

Benefits of Helping Others

When we help others, it places life in a new perspective. Sometimes when we help others, we gain an understanding of the seemingly insurmountable challenges some face. As the old saying goes, there always is someone worse off than we are. Such a perspective is invaluable.

It’s always worthwhile to give a helping hand (Source: Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

Helping others also broadens our world view. For instance, as a resolution, we may say we’ll volunteer at a homeless shelter. It’s possible our only previous understanding of homelessness was walking past people begging on the street. Although, with this experience, the “homeless” become people, ones we may just as soon like. Experiences similar to this one would undoubtedly broaden our world view.

Some Final Thoughts

Hopefully, with a little thought, we can make a resolution at the top of the year with more assurance of being able to see it through. As we know, whatever we choose to do, it’s always best to start small. However, if we really want to meet with a winning resolution, not to mention, make a difference, our resolutions can be centred on others.

And if things aren’t looking great in terms of our success with the various resolutions we made at the beginning of the year, there’s still hope. Some look to the 17th January as a time when we can provide that extra push we need to find success. And what the heck, if things are really not looking good, then come the 17th January, we can make a change and throw our efforts behind something that will truly ignite our personal fires. There’s always hope.

Sources:

Boeckmann, Catherine 2023 “The Interesting History Behind New Year’s Resolutions” https://www.almanac.com/history-of-new-years-resolutions

Davis, Samantha and Alexa Hall 2023 “New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2024” https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-statistics/

Goal Mastery 2024 “19 Surprising New Year’s Resolution Statistics (2024 Updated)” https://insideoutmastery.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Kedia, Surabhi 2020 “Oneness: Becoming Whole with the Universe” https://themindfool.com/oneness/

Pruitt, Sarah 2023 “The History of New Year’s Resolutions” https://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions

Sexton, Chrissy 2021 “New Year’s resolutions are more satisfying when they’re focused on others” https://www.earth.com/news/new-years-resolutions-focused-on-others-are-the-most-satisfying/

Trovato, Tegan 2022 “Here’s why summer may be the perfect time to revive your annual resolutions” https://www.fastcompany.com/90760697/heres-why-summer-may-be-the-perfect-time-to-revive-your-annual-resolutions

Tsipursky, Gleb 2016 “Is Serving Others the Key to Meaning and Purpose?” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intentional-insights/201607/is-serving-others-the-key-meaning-and-purpose

Vinney, Cynthia 2023 “The Psychology Behind Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail” https://www.verywellmind.com/why-new-years-resolutions-fail-6823972

iThis is January in Latin.

Finding the Light

Finding the Light

Image Source: Young Shanahan Wikipedia

Harper inhaled a couple of times, trying to shield her cigarette from the rising wind.

“I can’t believe you’re lighting a smoke,” Dia said, nervously looking around

“Why?” Harper said. “There’s no one here except that old man over there and he’s not gonna notice. Likely couldn’t care less anyway. Not like anyone really does,” she said as she blew some smoke into the wind.

“I’m just saying.”

“Who cares.” She plunged the spade into the soil and started digging. “I mean, why worry about it? This is just a temporary thing to teach ‘you teens how to take responsibility for your actions.” She mimed the last part, pretending to quote the words of the social worker, assigned to their case. Dia laughed at Harper’s words and continued to also dig her holes.

They continued to work until their dinner break. Dutifully, Harper and Dia walked over to the picnic tables where they usually take their break.

“How’s it going girls?” Mr. Oldfield said, giving them their bags. “If you need to fill your water bottles, it’s best to use the water in the shed. The water from the hose is just meant for the plants.” Dia smiled.

“Thanks, sir.” Mr. Oldfield smiled and then walked away, picking up the tree saplings and moving them to where they’ll be planted.

“Why’re you sucking up to him?”

“What’ya mean?” Dia said, turning to look at Harper.

“Thanks, sir,” she said, imitating Dia.

“Just being polite,” she said, taking a bite of her sandwich. Harper rolled her eyes.

“He’s an old man who’d much rather be lawn bowling or whatever, than making sure two rowdy girls don’t destroy his beloved community garden.”

“Well, all I know is he seems really nice.” Harper rolled her eyes, each bite an expression of her aggravation.

After they finished eating, Harper and Dia headed back to the area of the garden they were working on. The idea was to extend the community garden and prepare it for planting.

Harper dug down again, everything floating through her mind, remembering her dad was coming to see her at the weekend. She hoped he didn’t bring his new wife. Harper couldn’t stand the woman who was just about ten years older than herself. It was stupid and really kinda pathetic.

But her mind went to her mother who was currently away with her girlfriends to some amazing card game or something. She was sure it’d just be an excuse to drink and squeal and whatever they do. I mean, act your age. What a waste of time. Sinking her spade into the ground with some added strength, fuelled by her assorted grievances with life at the moment.

“What’s that,” Harper said as she scraped away some dirt from something in the hole she just dug. Kneeling down she reached down and identified some sort of chain. Pulling more at the dirt, she was finally able to reveal what appeared to be a pendant.

“Hey, Dia. Come look what I found.” Dia dropped her shovel and came over.

“What’s that? Was it in the dirt?” she said, as she scrutinised the pendant Harper was holding.

“Yeah. I was digging in the ground and then this was just in the dirt. Weird, eh?”

“Yeah. What’s on it, Harp?” Harper started to scuff off the dirt. There appeared to be a three part spiral design. “It’s weird. But it’s cool, hey.” She smiled and gave it to Dia who turned it around, polishing it a little.

“What’ve you found girls?” Mr. Oldfield said. Harper looked at him warily, the same way she viewed all adults.

“Harper found this when she was digging,” she said, holding it up for Mr. Oldfield to see. She looked at Harper, ensuring it was okay to ask, but Harper just stood there with her arm resting on her shovel and looking at Dia and Mr. Oldfield.

“Oh, isn’t that interesting,” Mr. Oldfield said, taking the pendant and turning it over and around.

“Do you know what it is?” Dia said, taking another quick look at Harper.

“Most certainly. You’ve got yourself a nice little find. Looks to be gold, too. Someone must’ve been wearing it and it came loose. Is the tie broken on it?” Harper looked.

“Doesn’t seem to be.”

“Oh, well, who knows. Maybe it was meant to be,” Mr. Oldfield said, smiling. “I’m not sure how this place was used before they decided to use it for the community garden.” He looked into the sky, trying to think. “Although I seem to recall it used to be an old residential area. But they fell into disuse decades ago. I think I was only a boy at the time.” He laughed.

“But do you know what that symbol is?” Dia said.

“Well, yes. It’s very well known. It’s called a Triskelion. Thousands of years old,” he said as he held the pendant up to see the symbol more clearly. “It’s beautiful. But yeah, it’s often termed a Celtic Triskelion. But as I mentioned, it predates them. Although, it’s something they adopted to adorn many of their objects. I mean, it’s a symbol used across Europe, really. How it travelled from one place to another isn’t known,” he said. Harper came and looked again at the pendant.

“That’s pretty amazing,” Harper said.

“And it’s actually really amazing because in a few months, we’re going to have midwinter.” Harper and Dia furrowed their eyebrows. “Well that’s when we officially enter winter. It’s the longest night. And actually the Triskelion is one of the images carved into the rock at Newgrange.”

“Where’s Newgrange?” Dia said.

“It’s in Ireland. And with at sunrise, a shaft of light enters a roof-box over the entrance and then shines down the passage-way.”

“Wow,” Harper said. “Imagine that. They must’ve really had to work to make sure everything was lined up properly.

“Oh yes. They were a clever lot, that’s for sure.”

“So, every winter, this happens?” Harper said, turning the pendant around in her hand.

“Every winter. You figure out what the sunrise is in Ireland come winter solstice and that’s what’ll be happening.”

“How do you know all this Mr. Oldfield,” Dia asked. “You’re pretty smart.” He smiled.

“No, no. I just read a lot, I guess. If you go to the library, I’m sure you’d be able to find several books on the Triskelion. You could even just look it up on the internet. No doubt, there’ll be a good bit on all of these things.”

“Seems really special.” Harper said, mostly to herself.

“Well, it is very special. Things like the Triskelion and all the beliefs centred around it remind us of our connections with this world.” He raised his hands, gesturing all around. “It’s our connection with the universe. It gives us a chance to put things into perspective a bit.” He looked at Harper, their eyes meeting. “Do you understand what I’m saying?” Harper looked away. “These people worked from dawn until dusk. The most important thing to them was the returning of the light because that’s all the winter solstice meant to them. More than anything, it meant their continued survival. Do you understand?” Harper looked again at him, slowly nodding her head.

“Ah, Mr. Oldfield, that’s just beautiful,” Dia said. “I just want to give you a hug.” She hugged Mr. Oldfield, her eyes closed as she smiled brightly. Harper looked away, off into the horizon somehow gathering her thoughts.

“Anyway, girls, I think we’re done for the day. I’ll see you tomorrow. That’ll be your last day, won’t it?” Dia nodded her head vigorously, smiling.

“But it’s been fun, hasn’t it Harp?” Harper shrugged her shoulders, picking up her knapsack. Mr. Oldfield smiled at Dia.

The next day, Harper and Dia came with the social worker. Mr. Oldfield was already there puttering around the garden. Harper and Dia got out of the car and walked over to Mr. Oldfield.

“How are you doing girls?” Mr Oldfield said.

“Not too bad, Mr. Oldfield,” Dia said.

“How about you, Harper?” She just gave him the thumbs up, her hand involuntarily going to her neck. He smiled, their eyes meeting. “You understand what I said about your pendant, don’t you?” Harper nodded her head slowly, being fairly sure he knew she was wearing it. It didn’t matter. She’d cleaned it up last night and felt the urge to wear it.

“Yeah, I do. It’s important to always be strong and to know your place in the world, to know your have a place in the world.”

“That’s my girl. You’ve got it.” Harper smiled. She and Dia took their shovels and, knapsacks on their backs, went off to further extend the community garden.

The Golden Rule As a Pathway to Peace?

The Golden Rule As a Pathway to Peace?

Image by Rosy / Bad Homburg / Germany from Pixabay.

Many of us look at the countless never-ending wars darkening our world at present, wondering, is there ever a chance for world peace? Could there ever be some reason for people to lay down their arms? Some would say the only way would be some vast unifying catastrophe. But the likelihood of such an event is fairly slim. But is there ever a chance?

Perhaps we are left relying solely on people’s personal beliefs and ethics, what guides their behaviour. There are various principles over the millennia that have been used to help steer us through life. One of the most notable ones is the Golden Rule. Could it be the lodestar able to guide us toward peace?

Why Do We Fight One Another?

When we look around our world, seeing the countless disputes, it’s simply more of the same. We’ve been doing that sort of thing for thousands of years in some form or another. We’ve fought one another for numerous reasons, each eventually leading to a dispute. For one, there’s a wish to seek economic gain whether that involves fighting over something of value. It could be livestock, land, fuel or minerals. If you’ve got it and I want it. Invariably, there’ll be problems.

Territorial gain is another reason. One nation’s got land another believes should be theirs. Nations may also seek to have a buffer zone, more land or simply expansion as a display of power. Other reasons may include religion or nationalism, each pushing people to fight.

It’s clear to see how wars are a complex beast. Take for instance the current war in the Middle East where one can identify several reasons—religion, territorial gain, as well as economic gain. So, it’s rarely just one reason nations take up arms.

What of World Peace?

So, we have every reason to war with one another. And as a result, it’d seem that something like world peace is a tall order. Peace is defined in various manners, but overall, it’s a reflection of “quiet, calm, rapport, concord, truce; lack of hostility.”

Amongst people in families, circles of friends or a community, difficulties may erupt. But, in time, they often simmer down. At a larger scale, conflicts may occur within nations. However, while they often lead to distress, maybe even brutality, in time, they can abate. Witness the changes that have occurred in Ireland now that the religious difficulties have largely been put to rest.

All well and good. But what of world peace?

The Golden Rule

One of the principles many of us learned when we were younger was the Golden Rule. This was always intended as a rule to encourage and perhaps discourage certain actions with one another. So, for instance, we’re about to say something nasty about another person. Yet, we recall how it wouldn’t be so nice to experience such a thing ourselves. Hence, we realise it’s an unkind thing to do. So, maybe not, we realise.

Image of “Golden Rule Sign” that hung above the door of the employees’ entrance to the Acme Sucker Rod Factory in Toledo, Ohio, 1913 (Source: Wikipedia).

As we all know, the Golden Rule is a principle of great strength, able to guide people of all ages. It can do so regardless of even a diverse range of backgrounds and other qualities that sometimes separate us—sex, religion, nationality, and so on.

The Golden Rule is considered by some to be a central tenet of life, with some even regarding it as a universal principle. In fact, myriad religions utter some form of the Golden Rule in their efforts to guide their believers. The one with which many are most familiar emerges from the Christian interpretation—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a principle that unquestionably offers a pathway to peace.

And if all of us pursued a life where the Golden Rule were a guiding principle, would there be any reason for our interactions to erupt into conflict. Would not an adherence to the Golden Rule dampen and extinguish these clashes?

Yes, it would be a wonderful idea. But maybe it’s not so simple.

Is the Golden Rule Always Appropriate?

One of the many challenges of the Golden Rule may be the fact that not everyone would agree about the action in question. For instance, someone may make a romantic gesture towards someone. The individual making the gesture would say this is fine, as they would welcome the same being done to them. Yet, the individual in receipt may not share their sentiments and actually be taken aback. So, in this case, doing unto others is not the best approach?

However, in this instance, we need to simply ask ourselves if we need to alter how we apply the Golden Rule. Perhaps it’s just a matter of rewording the question—Would I want to have romantic sentiments overtly imposed on me? Our answer may very well be no, in fact we wouldn’t. Thus the Golden Rule would stand true.

Another complication may occur if someone is convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of time behind bars. When imposing the Golden Rule, we might say, we would not want to spend time in prison and thus, we cannot do this unto another.

Yet again, what if we simply alter the question? If I would be willing to pay for a crime I committed, then actually, I would accept this being done to another. Again, the Golden Rule will hold true and still applies.

We just have to take care regarding the question we ask ourselves. For instance, in the one, it wasn’t a matter of wanting to be behind bars or not wanting to be behind bars. The real underlying issue was about accepting punishment for something we’ve done.

Golden Rule and World Peace?

Now, we can question whether all of this could apply in terms of world peace. Well, in my opinion, world peace is certainly possible. But at the same time, it’s still highly unlikely. Certainly, at the scale of nations, there would seem to be too many conflicting interests and agendas guiding people.

Sometimes, application of the Golden Rule requires a bit of tinkering to truly understand the issue at hand. What exactly am I okay to have done unto me that I feel someone else should also have no problem experiencing. In any respect, one can easily see how this is far more possible to work out face to face than amongst nations. The application of the Golden Rule isn’t always straightforward.

But then, maybe we‘re thinking of finding a solution at entirely the wrong scale. If there ever will be world peace, maybe it’d best begin with you and me. Which is to say that perhaps the idea of world peace requires we change our perspective. Instead of thinking at the scale of nations, we must turn our attention on ourselves first.

Perhaps, as is often the case, the challenge is to ensure that you and I find peace in our families, circles of friends and communities. It is much simpler to work out the finer nuances of the Golden Rule when dealing with fewer people and also when we’re able to do so face to face.

Image Source: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Ultimately, we seem to have little control over what nations are doing. But we do have control over ourselves. We can start with ourselves and maybe it’s possible that peace will be able to touch the nations at large. We may be surprised how great an impact you and I do have on the world. Everything beautiful and magnificent always begins and prospers in the small and quiet corners of the world.

Sources

Goodman, Paul 2023 “The 8 Main Reasons for War” Owlcation https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/The-Main-Reasons-For-War

New World Encyclopedia 2023 “Golden Rule” https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Golden_Rule

Shatz, Itamar 2023 “The Golden Rule: Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated” Effectiviology https://effectiviology.com/golden-rule/

People Are Never Who You Think They Are

People Are Never Who You Think They Are

Madrona cast her eye around. He’d been there since they’d started work in the park. This’d be their last day and so, she was hoping she’d see him. But she’d better get to work. The attendant wasn’t always in the best of moods.

She was glad to be able to get onto this work assignment. Anything would be better than staying inside the prison. Maddie had gotten into a fight two days ago. It had been bloody, but because she clearly hadn’t started it, they hadn’t taken away her privilege of the work assignment—thankfully. A few other prisoners had spoken up on her behalf.

Life inside Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

Maddie was just defending another woman who clearly didn’t know the ropes, so to speak. “If you’re gonna survive inside, you gotta know the rules of the game and always, always show respect to your fellow inmates. Don’t look at anyone. And trust no one,” Maddie had stressed with her afterwards.

“Hey Maddie, have you got any extra trowels?” Maddie looked up and gave Pettie a thumb’s up. “Thanks. I can’t seem to find mine.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a couple extra here.”

“Oh, great. It’s looking really great now, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. “Many hands make light work, my nan used to always say,” Maddie said. Pettie wasn’t on the work assignment, but she worked with the nursery who was sponsoring the work at the park. Before she put her head down to work, Maddie quickly cast her eye around to see if he was around. And across, by the fountain, she saw him pushing his trolley towards the benches. She smiled, relieved he was here.

Maddie worked steadily, but as soon as the time struck 10:30, she hurriedly put everything away before making her was across to see him. She’d only learned his full name a couple of days ago—Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. Apparently, he was named after his father who’d fought in the first world war, someone whom Spencer held in very high regard. And the Bartholomew was from great grandfather who’d done the family proud in some manner. Spencer hadn’t elaborated on that just yet. But she loved listening to the stories he’d tell.

They’d been working there for almost a few months. The nursery was essentially refurbishing a place where there used to be a store. Maddie thinks someone said it was once an old Woolworth’s store.

When she first started working here, that’s when she’d met him. He always wore a hat, like men used to wear in the old days. It’d fallen out of the trolley he always pushed. She’d picked it up and given it back to him. He used to proudly say all his worldly possessions were in that trolley. From that moment, they’d become fast friends.

At her dinner break, she’d always go and sit down by him and he’d tell her stories. They’d be spell-binding, speaking sometimes of the well-to do folks back in England, from where he obviously must’ve come. There’d be stories to of an old fisherman whose life had transformed when one of the daughters of a lord had fallen in love him and she with her. Every day she came to work at the park, Maddie would look forward to meeting him. Although, he seemed to be limping a bit just now. Maddie hoped he was okay. She’ll have to ask him.

“Hey there,” she said as she walked over to his bench. She through herself down onto the bench and gave him a small peck on his cheek. “What’s wrong with your leg, old man?” He smiled.

“Oh, it’s nothing, my sweetie. Just a bit of old age. We can’t last forever can we?”

“Well, no. But you’re all right, aren’t you?” He nodded his head, a smile on his face.

“I think this is our last day here. I’m not sure, but I heard one of the women who works for the nursery saying so.” She sat down and started to eat her sandwich.

“I’ll be sorry to see you go. Still, like everything, I’m afraid nothing lasts forever. Not even us.”

“Yeah, I know, but …,” Maddie said.

“No buts about it, my girl. Besides, as they always say. It’s always darkest before the dawn. Never forget.” Maddie offered him a cookie which he gracefully accepted.

“I’m not going to be able to see you any more,” Maddie said, putting her head down. She looked up at him, sorrow in her eyes. “And I’ll only get out in a few months or so.”

“Well, the most important thing is that you’re getting put soon. We met one another and now we can both enjoy knowing we have a loyal friend. I thank you again for sticking up for me when those young fellows were making my life a misery. I’ll never forget.”

“O, it wasn’t a problem. Believe me, I’ve seen worse,” she said, rolling her eyes. “They had no right.”

“I’ve always known the importance of knowing you have a friend on whom you can count to be there when you need them. I know, in my heart I can count on you.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” she said, her hand gesticulating with assurance and determination. “The minute I get out, I’ll get a job and wherever I live, you’ll be more than welcome there, I can tell you that! Then, if you want to come to the park here, you can, but then you can go home afterwards because you’ll have a home!” Maddie said, beaming, her hands clasped together. Spencer smiled at her confidence. “And I’ll work to get a job somehow. I’m not saying it’ll be all fancy living or anything like that. But I’m determined to try.”

“That’s wonderful. Life is full of second chances. If we look, we’ll always find them.” Maddie nodded her head.

“Well, for me, I’ll never steal anything again. I used to make a living from that,” she said, laughing. “And I’m off the drugs, now. I’m sure of it. Thanks to you. When you told me about your grandfather working in that mine and what he put up with, I thought, no, I can do it.”

“Well, we can look back at our forebears and take a bit of the strength their lives left behind. Oh, I have no concerns that can do anything, once you make up your mind.”

“No question. Anyway, I better get back to work. I’ll pop by before we go.” She held his hands, her eyes sparkling and fixed on him. He smiled again.

“You better get going, you silly girl.” She through her things in the bin and ran off to finish her work.

When they got done, Maddie looked up, but couldn’t see Spencer. She put everything away, ready to be put back onto the truck. Then looking up again, she spotted him coming out of the toilets. She hastened over to the bench and sat down next to Spencer.

“Well, that’s it for us.” Looking over the grounds, she smiled. “It looks so beautiful, now. Mirabelle took a photograph of it before we started and then now, again, and it’s miraculous.”

“Well, I was sold as soon as you put these benches here,” he said, patting the bench.

“Yeah, it’s like night and day. It’s hard to believe the change.”

“You should all be proud of yourselves.” She smiled brightly at him.

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

“And I just learned there’s another place where we’re going to be working. It’s on the other side of town, though.”

“The time you have left will go by like that.” He snapped his fingers, smiling. Maddie smiled, but then her face became serious.

“But I won’t be able to see you. And I’m not sure, but will you be around in these parts when I get out?” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Who know’s what’s going to happen. As I said to you, what matters is we know one another now. What’s in the past doesn’t matter and frankly, what lies in the future doesn’t matter much to me either. Right now, I’m sitting in beautiful park chatting with one of my dearest friends, for you are.” Maddie put her head down. “Now, none of that.” She raised her head and he smiled. “You’re precious and you have so much yet to give to the world. I know that.”

“Come on Maddie. We’ve gotta get going,” one of the guards said, calling from the bus.

“Well, I gotta go now. Oh, it was the most wonderful gift I was given when I met you.” She gave Spencer a long hug. “I’ll never forget you. Thank you,” she said as she got up and then started to walk away. Maddie turned around again and gave him another wave, blowing him a kiss and then turned around and jogged to the bus.

Maddie ran her hand along the curtain. It was nothing special, but it was furnished and she at least had a roof over her head. She’d contacted numerous places to ensure she had a place when she left the prison. This one was the only one that got back to her. It was good, as it seemed they were in the business of providing at least a temporary home once someone left prison.

The goal was to see if she could find Spencer today. Although, who knew if she’d have any luck. Later, she set out, catching the bus across town to the park where she first met Spencer.

“Thanks,” she said to the bus driver, who’d clearly chosen well when deciding to go into public service. One the first bus she’d taken, the bus driver had clearly not chosen well. But Maddie shrugged her shoulders. Didn’t matter anyway. She walked to the park and headed over to the bench where Spencer always sat. She looked around, but no Spencer.

Image by Sharon Ang from Pixabay.

Maddie sat down on the bench and took out the books she was reading. She decided she might as well wait around for an hour or so because he might have just stepped away.

She had no luck on the first day and tried again on the next. But Spencer was also a no-show on that day.

“Excuse me,” she heard from behind as she walked away from the park bench. Maddie turned around and she saw a middle-aged woman walking and then running and then walking towards her. Maddie smiled.

“Yes. What can I do for you?” The woman caught up to her and then took a breath.

“Oh, my goodness. I’m not used to that much exercise,” she said, laughing. She was only a little over weight, but was obviously not in the habit of jogging.

“No worries. How can I help you?”

“Just to explain who I am. I used to watch you chatting with Spencer. I work in the shop over there.” She pointed across the street. “It’s a café and Spencer used to come over every now and then and use our facilities, so to speak. Anyway, I saw you here yesterday and now today and, well, I just wanted to tell you why he’s not here.”

“Oh, my goodness. Don’t tell me …”

“Yeah. I’m so sorry to say he passed a few weeks ago actually. You obviously were a good friend. You always used to chat with him.” Maddie lowered her head.

“O, that’s too bad, y’know. I was so hoping he’d still be okay.”

“I know. It’s always horrible to learn about things like that. He was such a fine man.”

“I know. He was full of stories and it always seemed so sad he was homeless.”

“Well, in the winter, he used to stay at the mission on Hanover Street. And when he came to the café, we’d always give him a cup of tea and a sandwich. But yeah. Hard times ‘n all.”

“Yeah, well thanks for letting me know.” Maddie headed home, her mind awash with memories of her friend. Maybe she’d try to find where he was buried and at least leave some nice flowers. She could secretly plant some crocus bulbs. He’d like that, she was sure.

Over the next few weeks, Maddie spent her time looking for work. She went to the library to prepare and print her resumé. She just decided to give it in to as many places she could find. One of them was bound to be looking for a worker.

Her family had always been on social assistance. It had always become a way of life. But she couldn’t wait to get off it. All that chatting with Spencer, it made her feel there was more she wanted to give to the world—more she could give to the world.

On Friday, she went to the post office to pick up her post. In the pile of mail, one seemed official-looking, but the other one was obviously from one of the places where she’d applied for work.

When she got home, Maddie, buoyed by hope, ripped open the letter from the potential employer. But the minute she spotted those well worn words, “We regret to inform you …”, there was little reason to continue. Maybe out of spite, she made sure to rip it into pieces before throwing it into the recycling.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said to herself. Spencer always used to say, it’s darkest before the dawn.”

She threw herself onto the sofa and opened the other letter she’d received. Reading it through, her heart began to resound in her ear, suddenly the world closing in on her. She read aloud: “I trust this letter finds you well. I am reaching out in my capacity as the Executor of the estate of Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. Following the fulfilment of all legal and financial obligations of the estate, it is now time to proceed with the distribution of remaining funds to the designated beneficiaries as per the deceased last will and testament.

Distribution Details

Total Funds Remaining in Estate: $113,478,012.83

Your Entitled Share: $1,000,000”

It went on about the distribution and how the funds would be transferred to her. But Maddie was in utter disbelief. Spencer was homeless. How could he have been worth so much money. She looked on the letter for contact information. This can’t be for real.

It had to be someone having a bit of fun at her expense. Maddie found the contact information and rang the number, not really sure of what to expect.

“Hello,” Maddie said. “Hi, my name’s Madrona Sykes. Everyone just calls me Maddie.” She laughed nervously. “Um. I think I just received a letter from Spencer Crispin’s estate and, I guess, I’m just ringing to see if this is for real. I’m not sure if you’d know anything about that. You’re Malcolm Digby,” she said, looking on the letter for the name of the Executor of the Estate.

“O yes. I’m Malcolm Digby and yes, I’m the executor of Mr. Crispin’s estate. Your question is more than understandable. I’m also Mr. Crispin’s lawyer and he made the changes to his Will only last month or so. But no, the letter you received is indeed genuine.”

“O, I see. I mean, I just don’t understand. I met him a few months ago and I thought he was homeless. And I just …”

“Yes. Sorry to interrupt. But in a way, he was homeless. For him, though, it was by choice. His business is still doing exceptionally well. He was in IT support and technology and I guess he’d had enough of it. He happily handed things over to his children and just decided he wanted to experience another part of life. He’d always remark on how it’s so common to miss the sheer richness of life from 40 floors up. So, in the latter part of his life, that’s what he was determined to experience and savour, I dare say.”

“Sorry. I’m at a loss for words. Y’know, it’s like everything’s upside down. Things for me aren’t in place anymore.” Maddie laughed nervously. “Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean I’m not beyond grateful. It’s just difficult to understand.”

“Well, I’m not surprised it was a shock. But there’s no question you made an impression on him, given his desire to add you to his will.”

“Yes, thank you so much. He was a beautiful person. No question. Thank you very much, sir. Good Bye.” Maddie put the phone down and picked up the letter and closed her eyes, still not able to comprehend.

Over the next few months, Maddie spent some of the time not always worrying about being able to afford things. Not that she went on a spending spree. It was more a matter of not always saying ‘no’ to things such as fresh vegetables which she could now afford. She’d always tended to avoid that section of the grocery.

She’d done as would be expected, sharing her new wealth with her family and friends. Maddie also made an effort to find Spencer’s grave, not to mention, secretly planting a few crocus bulbs.

And last night, Maddie’d had an epiphany. It seemed impossible to conceive of it as being possible. Still, she’d begun looking through the programmes at university. Fancy a member of her family actually going to university. Even finishing high school was an achievement. But she would attend adult basic education classes to get the grades to finish her high school and than apply to university. Her plan was to go into social work.

She got off the bus. “Thanks,” she said to the bus driver. Walking to the park she was keenly looking for it. It was only when she got a little closer that she could she see it, there, front and centre—the Spencer B. Crispin Memorial Park. She’d written myriad letters making the suggestion they name the park after him. Maddie hadn’t known it, but he’d been a big supporter to the community against homelessness and their various other efforts over the years. So, it wasn’t that difficult a sell. Afterwards, she’d given them a big donation, sort of a thank you. It was the least she could do.

Maddie stood there looking at the sign, thinking. People are often never who you think they are. Despite his riches, Spencer spent the latter part of his life giving honour to the men and women who lack what so many take for granted—a home. She clasped her hands together, “I’ll do you proud Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. I promise.”