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True story, a frightening one. The event happened last summer and continues to haunt me. This afternoon, I came across what I wrote about it at the time. I had no answers then, and I don’t have any now—just a conviction that I (we?) need to consider social injustice of all kinds.

“Last week I dined with two old and dear friends, one of whom had been robbed at gunpoint the night before. She and her family were watching television when she heard the unmistakable click of the back door. Was it the wind? Curious but not alarmed, she turned to look, and four masked men bounded into the room.

“All had guns, and each intruder leveled a gun at the head of one of the four family members. Four people who’d been enjoying their time together at day’s end moments before were now held captive by the invaders. Pleasure turned to terror.

“As my friend said, ‘It was surreal. I felt like I was in a dream.’

“The young men wanted money, not silver or jewelry or electronic devices. Sadly for them, the family had less than $50 in cash between them. After dumping the contents of the two women’s purses, the armed robbers (is there a better term?) retrieved at least one debit card and asked for the PIN. No fool, my friend readily gave it to him, and two of men left for an ATM machine with this promise/threat: ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re coming back to shoot all of you in the head.’

“Held hostage in what had been presumed to be a safe haven, the family felt powerless. Cell phones had been confiscated and doused with water by this time, making contact with the outside world impossible. Although they were confident that the PIN would work, the family still felt frightened, especially as they thought of the innocent two-year-old sleeping in a nearby bedroom.

“Quick thinking on the part of the young adults, the couple’s daughter and her husband, prevailed as the two began distracting the men with questions. My friend’s husband gave an award-worthy performance of faking a heart attack that must have unsettled the two remaining intruders because they fled before their partners returned, taking house keys and the home owner’s car.

“At least one phone still worked, and someone called 911. Police officers arrived in a matter of minutes. Three of the four men, all under twenty-one, had been apprehended by the time of our luncheon the next day. By that afternoon, the fourth was also in custody.

“How could something like this happen in such a seemingly safe neighborhood with pretty lawns and tree-lined streets?

“Another friend, Maria, and I absorbed this story as we dined on salmon atop spinach lunches and a special sauce. Maria began talking about a recent anniversary trip and delighted us with stories about her adventures, including a ride in hot air balloon. We chatted briefly about two other friends, one in Alaska and one who just returned from a trip to England and Scotland.

“Life was good for them—and for us too. Didn’t we deserve things? Trips and opportunities and salmon atop spinach? Doesn’t everyone? The conversation reminded me of stories I’ve read about people in the most adverse of situations who somehow do more than merely soldier on. They laugh, joke, eat, make love, and sing even as bombs explode around them.

“My friends and I discussed local politics, the juicy sweetness of peaches, and travel adventures including hikes, sailboat rides, and plantation tours. Admitting she had been a tad nervous about riding in a hot air balloon, Maria said, “There was that one that bumped into a barn, you know. It can be dangerous.”

“No matter what exciting, trivial, or funny story came up in conversation, the previous night’s incident was there, hovering over and around and above us. Our dialogue always came back to it.

“When asked if the thieves were black, my friend hesitated a moment before nodding yes. There was sadness in that nod, and knowing. Knowing developed from decades of working with college students and from reading and observing life with a clear eye. A woman of deep faith, she was likely thinking, ‘All are precious in His sight’ even as she relived the terror of the night before.

“Horrific things have always gone on, just not this close to home. I saw The Independent State of Jones last week and was sickened by the work of the Klan. I can still feel my involuntarily uptake in breath when Mr. Moses realized that three white men were following him with taunts and name-calling. His murder was cruel and merciless.

“I recently reread Elie Wiesel’s Night and wondered how the world could stand by and watch. Roosevelt knew about the Holocaust, and I’ve often wondered about his silence. Not a political scientist by any stretch of the imagination, there are many things I don’t understand. We were less of a global community then. Now we send troops to places in the world I’d never heard of until now, but then, six and a half million Jews and other “undesirables” were killed while the world turned a blind eye.”

Nearly a year has passed since the summer night intrusion and the next day’s luncheon. I still have no answers, just a conviction that all lives matter.

 

It happened in church. Something the speaker said triggered a distant memory, and although I had a sketchy image or two in my mind of the event and the principal players, I couldn’t for the life of me recall the day of the week—or even the year. It was probably not a Saturday or Sunday. Of that I was certain. Could it have been a Friday? Memory is a hot topic in psychology, and yet there I sat, someone who’d been teaching about behavior and mental processes for a couple of decades, feeling lost.

I had probably lived (at that time) 16, 425 Fridays but could recall fewer than one hundred of them—or maybe fifty. Truthfully, I had a hard time coming up with twenty. Where had all the Friday nights gone? How had they been spent? And what about the Tuesday mornings? The only one I remembered with any detail was the Tuesday at 3:10 a.m. when my daughter Elizabeth was born.

Church ended, and I forgot about the time thing. Sort of forgot, that is. It was always in the back of my mind, and I made more of a conscious effort to commit some moments to memory by jotting them down in gratitude journals. Years passed, and a couple of years ago I began taking and posting a Pic of the Day on Facebook. My iPhone made this an easy task. In fact, it was a pleasure and forced me to take notice of things going on around me.

Later I became aware of a website entitled 100 Happy Days and decided to participate in that. Several people I knew were doing it so I jumped on the bandwagon with them. Sharing the 100 days with like-minded people added to the fun and challenge.

What was especially enjoyable about the two above activities was the visual record of sights I had either seen that day or that someone had shared. I made a Shutterfly book of the Pic of the Day photographs, and the 100 Happy Days site printed 100 photos for me—for a price, of course. Since many of the photographs include scenes and people of interest, family members enjoy looking at them almost as much as I do. It helps them recall places and things too.

One day this past week I listened to an NPR podcast (TED Talk) about the shifting nature of time. It was right up my alley, and I found it educational and interesting. Psychologist Dan Gilbert’s comments were particularly thought-provoking…maybe more so than those of the physicist who talked about when time began. Since I don’t know as much about physics as psychology, I had to work harder to understand him.

But the speaker I’m latching on to this morning is Cesar Kuriyama who has developed an app entitled the One Second Video. Easily downloadable, the app helps a person “stitch together moments of your life into mini movies that you can share with anyone, or keep for yourself.” At the end of a year, you’ll have 365 one-second videos spliced into seven and a half minutes (or thereabouts).

In Mr. Kuriyama’s words, “I have seconds that look incredibly boring, but represent ridiculously meaningful events in my life, and I have seconds that look gorgeous, but many have been relatively insignificant days of my life. Each second is a secret code to myself that only I know the hidden meaning of.”

The app costs $4.99. I downloaded it Monday and am going to start using it today. And no, I’m not working for NPR or Mr. Kuriyama. I’m just a person who realizes that time is life and that once it’s gone, it’s gone. I also know that a photograph or video can serve as a fabulous retrieval cue. So can some scribblings in a journal, but that’s not what I’m pushing today.

Was that morning in church in winter or summer? Was it raining? Were the children behaving? What was I wearing? All I know is that it was Sunday. I also know that today I’ll be recording my first one second video.

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A couple of people have asked me why I post a “Pic of the Day” on Facebook every evening. Although they’ve been too kind to add, “especially since most of them aren’t really that spectacular,” I feel like they’re wondering about it. The reason for the daily photograph is simple. I’m more mindful of life when I know that I’ll be recording the one photograph that best demonstrates something memorable about that day.

About 15 years ago, a friend and I started gratitude journals. That’s right. We jumped on the gratitude bandwagon with thousands of other women after reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance. Soon we found ourselves looking forward to the time of day when we sat down and recorded at least five things about that day for which we were thankful.

Back in the day June and I wrote our lists in the old-fashioned pen and paper method, but lately I’ve been recording the gratitude list in an app on my iPad. The app is especially fun to use because it gives the writer the opportunity to add up to three photographs a day. Knowing that I’m going to add some pictures to accompany the day’s experiences has made me even more mindful of the goings-on around me.

There is beauty all around, even in the mundane, and it’s chancy to leave it up to my mind to remember it all.  For instance, one afternoon after jury duty last week, I walked over to the big second story window to check out the weather before leaving the courthouse. The picture above is the one I snapped. It was still raining. The slick, wet sidewalks, the hunkered over forms of my fellow jurors as they hustled to their cars, and the steady drizzle from the gray sky all let me know that I needed my umbrella. I pulled out my iPhone and took the picture.

The shot didn’t make it my Pic of the Day, but I did post it in my electronic gratitude journal that night. There are days that I’m too tired to record words at night, so I’ll post some pictures as memory prompts for the next day. Those pictures work amazingly well in helping me to remember events, experiences, people, and thoughts of my days. I’m in agreement with Anais Nin who said (paraphrase) that keeping a journal helps one to live life twice.

Do you know what you were doing on Tuesday, January 14 2014? I do, and it’s because of my journal and its pictures. Have you already begun taking pictures of the scenes around you? Would you consider sharing them with us?

This weekend my husband and I went on a little anniversary getaway to the mountains of North Georgia. While we did a lot of sightseeing there and back, most of our time was spent in Helen, GA, a unique replica of an Alpine village. We stayed at the Helendorf (more on this later) which is located on Munich Strauss, one reason being that the appearance of the hotel sounded more German than Day’s Inn on Main Street. The other reason is that my son Paul and his family were going to be staying there Saturday night, and I wanted to snag the chance to see them as often as possible.

We hiked, shopped, ate at some interesting restaurants, and in general, just did the “tourist thing.” We especially enjoyed watching the people tubing down the creek and vowed to do that the next time we go there. We also like watching the fishermen (didn’t see any fisherwomen) standing on the rocks of the creek casting their lines out again and again hoping for a big catch. We overheard a woman asking a shopkeeper if he knew where she could get some moonshine, and this naïve small town girl wondered WHY when alcohol seemed to be flowing so freely in the town.

On one of our walks we spotted some horses in a field, and they came over to socialize with us a few minutes. We stood there talking to them, and just as I began to wonder what in the heck one was supposed to say to a horse, a man from across the street came up and gave us a bag of carrots. “Here’s what they want,” he said. At first we were a little hesitant to take the carrots, but after he assured us that he kept several bags on hand for just that purpose, we took them. I loved our little walk that morning; it was breezy and cool and unrushed.

Time is a bit short this morning, so I need to get to the purpose of this post. A couple of decades ago I was at Girls’ Camp with some young people, including my two daughters, from our church. Not a “roughing it” kind of gal, I was only staying for one night, and maybe that’s why the ambience of the camp made such a lasting impression. Tucked away in the woods away from civilization, the area was peaceful and beautiful. That night we walked to a pond and placed candles on the water as reminders to let our lights shine. Seeing everyone’s candles gently floating together was a phenomenal sight and served to illustrate the power of unity and strength.

Of all of my memories of my time there, something else that has stayed with me through the years is a cross stitch sampler hanging in the dining room that read, “We may never pass this way together again.” I’m not sure why that impressed me so much but it did. I looked around at the faces of the people there and knew the truthfulness of that statement. Although I would see most of them again, it wouldn’t be in that setting, and it was then that I decided to  relish every moment that we were together. I also decided to do the same for other life experiences down the road.

So far, I’ve been pretty good at seizing the day and relishing the moment…and recalling them later. This past weekend was no exception. That’s one reason Amanda and I were determined to have family pictures made by the hotel mural before we left. While it’s true that you can hardly see baby Ethan, we can see enough of his face to let viewers know how beautiful he is. And then there’s precious Olivia with her brown bear. All dressed up to go to church in nearby Mt. Airy, she’d been nibbling on Cocoa Puffs just a few moments earlier.

As I look at the picture of all of us, I’m reminded of all of the moments we experienced together (and separately too). Some of mine include watching Paul throw Olivia up in the air in the heated pool the night before as she squealed with delight, the sounds of the babbling brook and laughter of the tubers as they floated by, the taste of the German potato salad that we sampled on Saturday night at the International Restaurant, the gurgling noises of the motorcycles, the sights and sounds of the hike to Anna Ruby Falls, and the ambience of the little village itself.

Will we meet there again? I hope so. I’d like to go tubing with them…or watch the babies so that Paul and Amanda can go. But even if we don’t meet on Munich Strauss again, at least our paths crossed there for a few brief hours.

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  • Nadia Boulanger
    "A great work is made out of a combination of obedience and liberty."
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