I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately, but not in a doom-and-gloom sense of the word.
Mostly, thoughts about the twists and turns involved with our time here have been tumbling around in my head since the news of Jim Riggs’ passing on the morning of April 23.
He was a quiet man who mostly kept to himself, but his desk was a few feet away from mine and I saw him often in my first six months as a reporter. We both shared a love for golf and Lena’s Pizza. When his health began to decline and he was forced to give up his favorite sport, he emailed me words of encouragement after I’d written about the frustrating game and how I’d almost put my clubs away for good.
Here was a man going through a physical battle, encouraging me to keep trying. And I did.
At his calling hours on Thursday evening, there was a table displaying several columns he’d written, along with two pairs of his golf shoes and all of his career holes-in-one.
Those shoes hit me in a funny part of my heart. In a way, it was as if Jim was right there in the room.
Ever since, I’ve been thinking of the two separate beings that make us who we are: body and soul.
Before my grandmother passed away at 97, she explained that her body was like a car that could no longer be repaired. It helped me to believe that while physically we’d say goodbye, her soul would live on – and it does – just like Jim through his newspaper columns and those golf shoes. I still feel his presence in the newsroom, as if he’ll walk in with a camera around his neck and give a customary, quiet “Hello.”
All of these thoughts I’ve had make me appreciate life for what it is, even with all of its hard times.
I’m feeling continually grateful and fascinated for the opportunity of another day to learn and grow, striving to improve.
The beauty lies within the fortune to be surrounded by others who leave a mark on the world in their own unique way.
A reader who commented on Thursday’s question of the day (Have you ever planted a tree?) wrote: “Plant, cut, burn, paint, photograph, trim, clean up after, eat the fruit of and climb. I love trees.” Another wrote, “I’m kind of a tree person.”
As am I.
Our question of the day was connected to Earth Day, and with Arbor Day approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about trees.
I received a copy of “The Giving Tree” as a birthday present one year. As a child, the story made sense, but the emotion involved didn’t hit me until later on.
Now, that book can brings me to tears – the story of how the tree happily gave the young boy everything it had until all that remained was a stump.
I have many memories that involve trees, beginning with climbing one in the side yard of my childhood home. I remember a clearing in the branches near the top that provided a spectacular view over the cornfield nearby.
I spun my car off the highway near Findley Lake once, close to a little pine tree that was probably 3 feet tall at the time. I always look for it while driving in the area and remember how much both of us have grown.
There is a large oak tree in a field close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where friends camp each year for the annual 500-mile race.
The tree is a meeting place, a symbol of the great memories made on Memorial Day weekend for years. It has provided shade on hot days and shelter during the windy storms that sweep through the flat Midwestern state.
It was with great passion that my friend Ray of Fort Wayne explained how he had traveled to the tree, gathering acorns in the fall and growing his own clones from the original, which has been symbolic for so many within the group that camps there.
In many ways, trees give us all they have and most of what we need – shelter, food, oxygen and sometimes, direction. For me, they’ve provided all of those things, plus a job.
I like to imagine what the little saplings outside of The Post-Journal on Second Street will look like years from now and what could possibly happen around them.
They will be the only ones to witness all of what happens in our city for possibly hundreds of years to come.
On a recent trip to the gas station, I overheard the cashiers talking about a man who had just littered as he pulled away from the pump.
A quick glance outside showed a fast-food bag on the wet pavement as the rain came down. After close inspection, I swept up the garbage on the way to my car and tossed it into a trash can just a few feet away.
I am so bothered by the act of littering. While running, I often pass various pieces of garbage on the side of the road and it makes me cringe. Most of the time, I see plastic bags, aluminum cans, wrappers and pop bottles which I’ve recently been warned not to touch for the fact that methamphetamine manufacturers use 20-ounce bottles as one-pot, mobile meth labs and there could be all kinds of chemicals within.
So maybe I won’t pick up any mysterious-looking pop bottles, but it has become a goal of mine to dedicate some time to cleaning up trash when I see it instead of running by like it’s not there.
In one particular spot on my favorite route, there is a broken tube TV. I have thought about that television so many times that its removal has become part of the goal. Among other things, I have seen coolers, building scraps and even a broken toilet.
How someone could carelessly discard items on the side of the road boggles my mind. These pieces of garbage aren’t going to break down any time soon either – they could stay where they are for years to come.
John Jablonski III recently submitted a Chautauqua Watershed Notes article, printed in the March 13 edition of The Post-Journal, in which he encouraged group effort to beautify our community.
“Litter is not just ugly,” he wrote. “It is also unhealthy for the ecology of waterways and may threaten the health of the entire aquatic food web.”
He explained that plastics break down in waterways to microbeads, which can carry pesticides and other carcinogenic pollutants into the food chain as they are ingested by organisms and passed up in the food chain.
“These microbeads carrying potential toxins can even become part of your fish dinner,” he wrote.
These are all sad reminders that we should be doing more to keep our roads and waterways clear of debris, unless we want bigger (plastic) fish to fry.
They’re as American as apple pie. It fascinates me that a piece of clothing designed 145 years ago has been recreated over and over throughout the years, continuing as a staple in the wardrobes of both genders at all income levels, regardless of age.
Standing at nearly 6 feet tall, finding a pair of jeans (or any pair of pants, really) that fit well and are long enough has always been a personal battle.
There is nothing worse than pants that are too short, yet nothing better than finding a pair that fits just right – a rarity.
I have gone long stretches of time without purchasing jeans, wearing my old ones again and again. Jean shopping is tricky.
I’ve tried buying them online, but they arrived too small or too large.
Perhaps I contributed to the 6-percent drop in domestic denim sales three years ago, when denim was “in real danger of going out of style,” according to NBC News.
But they were wrong.
Blue jeans continue to transform. I remember glitter jeans being all the rage for teenage girls in the 2000s, though I don’t remember owning a pair. I just remember seeing glitter consistently on the floor in class, most likely from the sparkly pants-clad girls who wore them. Following the trend, pre-ripped jeans became increasingly popular, sparking the commonly heard phrase from parents nationwide: “Why would anyone spend money on a pair of jeans that were already ruined?”
I preferred to ruin them myself, although it didn’t hurt if they were already a little destroyed by the time I could find a pair that were long enough.
Now, I think the holey jean war is over and wholesome-looking jean styles have returned, but I could be wrong. I recently saw three pairs in Harper’s Bazaar with unevenly cut hems. One pair, made by Vetements, had patches randomly placed on the backside. They retail for $1,395.
I wonder what Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss, the men who invented blue jeans, would say today, knowing blue jeans are still in style on a global level.
What I wonder about more is the next equivalent to blue jeans. Who will create a new, affordable, wearable style for both genders with success spanning into the next century and beyond?
I’ve divulged in the past about my need for music to get through the day.
I use Pandora Radio to listen to my favorite artists and songs, and can quickly purchase them through iTunes if the desire strikes.
I’m constantly amazed that so many songs have been written with a combination of notes and lyrics, and how sometimes lyrics aren’t necessary at all – like the classical music I listen to every day at work.
However, sometimes lyrics are powerful enough to bring on laughter or tears – a phenomenon that doesn’t need explaining.
If I’m in the mood to cook or bake, I’ll enlist the help of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. Their voices make the experience more relaxing.
When hitting the road for a run, I’ll put on AC/DC to get the energy flowing. There’s nothing like hearing “Hells Bells” when that mid-run exhaustion hits, putting the pep back in my step. Rap and hip-hop also help my adrenaline flow.
It’s country music that hits me in the heart. I’d put it near the top in terms of my favorite genres.
I grew up listening to Clint Black, Brooks and Dunn, Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks, the first artist I ever saw live for my 4th birthday.
I remember hoping he’d know I was there, something my sister, mom and I laugh about to this day.
Discovering artists from the ’50s and ’60s helped me realize much of what inspired country music in the first place: the blues, hard work, love and loss.
Too much Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline can make me sad, but in a way that’s bittersweet and beautiful. Similarly, just hearing the piano introduction to “The Dance” by Garth Brooks is enough to bring a tear to my eye.
I wish more of today’s country songs had the same effect and meaning as that song. It still blows my mind as much as it did the first time I heard it.
The ability to spark emotion in listeners is something I think every musical artist strives for, but country music artists do it best in my opinion.