I wear the mantle of my heritage, although it is not by plan or design. Who I am is here for all the world to see. The history of my life is written in my face; the sorrows displayed in the furrowed brow, the laughter in the creases next to each quiet brown eye, and all the passion for life glimmering from my eyes -- a deep and deathless fire glimpsed only as though it were a candle's flame seen at a great distance. Those witnessing the sudden flare of that fire in those quiet brown eyes, and feeling the heat of the passion surging forth upon need, remember well the surging life-force beyond the heat of the moment's demands and tread carefully when trespassing on that ground a second time. All this is without thought or conscious planning, but is the result of lessons learned as a child, ethics absorbed from parental attention to the details of my life, and the furious love given to me by my ancestors, via my parents, to be passed on to my descendents.
The office I share at Pine Mountain Music Festival has a marvelous old mantle, with mirror and shelves for the icons of my life -- at least, those I'm willing to share at work. The image above left shows the few items I've chosen to bring to work, at least for the moment. We moved into these offices only two weeks ago, and I am still uncertain how much I wish to invest in the space that holds my time and talents for a full third of my life, five or more days each week.
I brought an alarm clock. We occupy the second floor of the Quincy Mine Office, an historical building -- part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park -- which must be maintained as an historical building should be, without driving nails into the lath and plaster walls, and certainly no modern clocks mounted anywhere. So, I bought an inexpensive twin-bell old style alarm clock. It is functional, useful, and fits the decor -- pretty much the same way I do...
I brought a picture of my wife, Marian. A life-partner for over 35 years already, there is little that I say or do, anywhere, any time, that does not cast a double shadow on life's canvas. She deserves to be there, and I need her to be there, silently observing my efforts to provide for us.
I brought images of my children. I can no longer remember what our lives were like BC (Before Children). When younger, their needs ruled my life. Now, of course, I need to make an appointment to see them, because their lives are accelerating rapidly toward the future, and they have less time for quiet chats and long discussions about nothing at all.
I brought a gift given by friends at a job I left a long time ago. It is a reminder that one can really part company with office mates and colleagues, without rancor, pain, and grief. I need that reminder because I was suddenly separated from the job I held immediately before this one. It was snatched out from under me, along with dreams and hopes, investments and plans, peace and a quiet retirement. Poor resource management, bad planning, and "the revenge of the Sea Gull Supervisor," combined to steal away a 17+ year career, and any respect that I had for my alma mater. It left me devastated. Dead to my family and grieving for lost dreams, I plunged into darkness for almost two years. I found work again. I found friends I could trust. I found self-esteem and a way to start again. But so much had been lost, that it took a long time and a lot of prayer to lead me past the shadows, and let me stare past the abyss of 2004 - 2005 and see the happy days past. That's why I need the ship on the shelf.
I brought a picture of the cast of Arsenic and Old Lace. I played Officer O'Hara in the production, and re-connected with my ability to reach out and listen to fellow players, respond to an audience, and feel again. We all play roles in our lives. One only needs to play a role on stage to sense the truth, and to recognize the same feeling when playing a role with friends, relatives, coworkers, and others. I need to remember this, so that I can avoid the role-playing which destroys communication.
I brought a framed needlepoint from my daughter, Heather. It says simply, "Eschew Obfuscation." A gentle reminder that I tend to bury clear thought in dense and expensive language, that phrase is ever with me, and the gift from Heather stays with me to prevent writing and speaking that is "replete with stinkiosity!"
I think I shall bring more. My grandchildren (3 grandsons and I gorgeous little granddaughter) have invaded my heart, and their images should surround me at work. Other memories will come and go, seasonal things, and unexplainable trinkets will likely appear and disappear -- memories on parade and dreams growing anew -- the ever changing icons on the mantle of an old fireplace, reflecting the ever changing mantle of my heritage, once again worn proudly for all to see.