Serenity Awaits

Until an epiphany a few minutes ago, my appreciation of and trust in the Associated Press (AP) was enormous. And they may remain so, but I’ll have to mull over my flash of insight before I reach any conclusions. As I skimmed the AP headlines, it suddenly occurred to me that the volume of sports stories on the AP website seemed at least equal to, if not greater than, the volume of pure “news” stories. From that realization emerged dark disappointment; how could an ostensibly legitimate news source give as much coverage, or more, to something so frivolous as the World Series or FIFA politics or an Eagles versus Texans football match? Just as quickly, though, my budding anger fizzled, replaced by yet another epiphany: the media have a responsibility to provide ways to escape the dreadful realities of the news they report. For some—many—people, sports provides that escape. Sports provides a pressure-relief valve to mitigate the stresses and horrors of current events. News about entertainment and science and technology, along with other news focusing on unnecessary diversions also provide outlets to relieve the pressures of life in modern times., another news resource to which I frequently turn, is just as frivolous, “reporting” on lifestyle matters, adventure travel, cooking and gastronomy in general, and other  topics that, I suddenly realize, are simply my diversions of choice. Just like sports are the diversions of choice for millions of others. My disdain for spectator sports (except the occasional baseball game, viewed from open-air stands, and some soccer matches, among others) is being replaced by embarrassment. Embarrassment that I have a tendency to mock sports fans for their mindless adoration of adults playing children’s games. Embarrassment that, until moments ago, I have not recognized the resemblance between my appreciation of “how to” or food-related news and others’ love of sports. I doubt this epiphany will translate into a dramatic increase in my respect for sports mania, but at least it gives me cause to ponder and reflect.


Until yesterday, I had not given much thought to this year’s Thanksgiving day meal. But a friend’s mention of the possibility of a gathering on that day caused me to reflect on what I have done on Thanksgivings in the past. Before we moved to Chicago, we tended to celebrate with my parents and any of my siblings who happened to be nearby. Those family meals were the kind one would find in a Norman Rockwell painting. Later on, my late wife and I sometimes followed our national traditions, with turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce (whole berry for me, jellied stuff from a can for her), etc., etc. But our more frequent “traditional” meals were traditions of our own, just the two of us. We sought out celebratory meals from various other cultures. Thai, Indian, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and various other “foreign” foods. Those celebratory meals were easier to come by when we lived in Chicago and Dallas. I think we had a Thanksgiving meal at a now-defunct Indian restaurant in Hot Springs a few short years ago, but otherwise our meals here have tended toward the broader traditions of the culture in which we live.

My life has changed in fundamental ways since those days of intense culinary adventure. But I miss those deliberate departures from American tradition almost every year, even though I continue to value the traditions I remember from the days when several members of my original family gathered. I suspect mi novia and I will develop our own unique traditions which may involve gathering with friends who, like us, are distant from our extended families. It’s interesting to me how the traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially, seem to revolve around food as much as the “meaning” of the holidays. Yet I use the occasions of those and some other holidays to reflect, privately, on matters of gratitude and loss and hope. Food provides both a physical and an intellectual setting for contemplating such important issues and ideas.


My friend who is cruising north along the coast of Norway has achieved her dream of seeing the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.  Viewing the photos of the phenomenon she posted on Facebook, I can imagine her excitement when, in the crisp, cold air on the ship’s deck, she first saw the green and gold and yellow atmospheric glow, the lights quivering like a thin, sheer curtain dancing in a light breeze. Whether my imagination reflects reality—whether my mind’s eye mirrors the way the lights appear—I do not know. Regardless of the accuracy of my imagination, I think I would stare in grateful appreciation if I were to see the Aurora Borealis myself.


No sight is more provocative of awe than is the night sky.

~ Llewelyn Powys ~


Open-minded. Broad-minded. Receptive to new ideas. Receptive to conflicting opinions. I like to think those words and phrases describe me, but too often I find myself firmly ensconced in an unwavering position informed only by my deeply opinionated beliefs. That intractability bothers me. It runs counter to my fantasy about who I am. When I am forced to admit my obstinance, I curse myself for allowing belief to crowd out reality without conducting adequate investigations into the facts of a matter. I suppose I have always known about these flaws in my personality, but I have attempted to ignore them. I have wanted to be better than to allow myself to give more weight to my opinions and beliefs than to verifiable facts. Perhaps by recognizing imperfections I can take steps to overcome them. Of course I can. But will I? I like to think I am malleable, adaptable, open to adjustment when exposed to different perspectives. Time will tell if that self-congratulatory attitude has merit.


The scene behind my house, as viewed from the base of the stairs leading from the deck to the ground below. The place where serenity awaits.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.