Monday, December 22, 2008

The Ripple Effect

The snow has left me a little housebound, and the break from the normal routine gives me moments to think…no small feat with a wee hangover from last night’s neighborhood party. What particularly hit me was how our words carry weight and can have an effect beyond what we can see or is immediately perceptible to us…ergo the ripple effect. Just like a stone tossed into the calm waters of a pond, the splash of our initial comment is often our primary focus. Yet if we continue to watch we see the ripples emanate in all directions, often in perfect symmetry as the laws of nature are obeyed and sometimes for great distances. True, the magnitude of the wave diminishes as it stretches into ever-increasing circumferences and eventually beyond what we can perceive.

It reminds me of a tsunami, which is really a ripple that emanates from a seismic event deep below the surface of the ocean. Just a few years ago we saw the devastating effect of such a ripple. It was virtually undetectable to the ships it passed beneath in the ocean until the shallow seabed raised it into a series of tremendous waves that wiped out buildings and swept thousands of people out into the sea.

So it is with our words. What we say and the manner in which we say it, can have a significant effect on others…often beyond what we can immediately see. We have all had our hearts warmed…or perhaps stung, by the words of others. Sometimes those words are deliberately meant to cut into us, and other times it may be a thoughtless or idle comment that hurts. Those of us with children have seen that effect all too often. As a parent I have seen my own words, spoken in an impatient moment leave a wound on my child. Even a hastily said “not now, I’m busy” can sting to a child seeking a moment of sharing, that later I have had to seek forgiveness and dress that wound. Had I taken an instant to say something different, or perhaps in a different way, the wound would not be there in the first place.

I am by no means perfect…none of us are. Yet I do strive to measure what I say, whether it is my child, a partner, a neighbor, a waitress, even a clerk helping me at the mall. My goal is to brighten someone else’s day…to lighten their mood.

What will you say today?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thoughts on Pearl Harbor

A day that will live in Infamy

The words of Franklin Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbor resonate 67 years later, and we like to compare it to the Pearl Harbor of our own generation…the attacks on September 11, 2001. It is a fair comparison, but I would like to pose another thought.

Imagine a young woman, 18 years old and living under the boot of the German occupation of Holland in 1941. This news brought to her, her family and neighbors, hope. Hope that perhaps now the United States would finally bring its strength to bear against the Nazi juggernaut overwhelming Europe. Perhaps now an ally would bring more than mere supplies and come to stand alongside what had been the last chance against the German onslaught, England, just across the channel.

In a way, the attack on Pearl Harbor signified a godsend of sorts for those who were desperately looking to the United States to shed their isolationist tendencies and join in the struggle to stand against Germany, and it indeed happened that way. It took another 2 ½ years before that hope in Holland was realized in the Allied invasion on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Liberation finally occurred for that 18-year old girl and her family in the Spring of 1945…though she was by then 22 years old.

That young girl became my mother. Pearl Harbor holds a special meaning to me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hummingbirds and Serendipity

This photo was taken last July at Mount Tabor, a park near our house in SE Portland. Yes, it is a hummingbird, feeding from a flowering vine climbing on a chainlink fence. Although I often walk this park with Frankie, this time I was there as part of a project in which the firm is reviewing several historic structures associated with the various reservoirs in the park. While taking photographs of the Gatehouse at Reservoir 1 (which was built more than 100 years ago as an integral part of the City of Portland's water system), I was "buzzed" by a pair of hummingbirds. Although all I had was my "point-and-shoot" camera, and not my DSLR, I was able to get close and zoom in on this very lucky shot. A review of the shot on the screen appeared that it looked good... and then I promptly forgot about it.

This is where the serendipity comes in. Months later, in late October, Carolyn, a coworker on the project came into my office. "What is this???" she exclaimed, "Did you take this amazing picture?". I had to squint to see it, and of course then I recognized it. She was reviewing photos for the report on this project and happened to come across it...and fell in love with it.

The more I looked at this photo, the more I realized how lucky this shot was. The thrill of seeing these beautiful but small creatures in their habitat, is recalled as I contemplate the photo. So it is in life, where we often are so focused on our tasks at hand that we run the risk of missing something unique and beautiful...right before our very eyes. We also risk losing that precious moment in the mass of files and information we store to (hopefully) later run through in our work. It makes wonder what else have I "lost"? Perhaps someone else sifting through what we all too often think of as detritus, will discover yet another treasure?

One can hope. Thank you, Carolyn.