Candle Power

yurok

Dylan Thomas advised that we rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Thomas was writing about aging, of course – the slow, and sometimes not so slow, deterioration of our bodies and, let’s be honest, of our minds. But his sentiment is an attitude, a way of approaching life.
With all due respect, I have come to disagree with the poet.
Oh, I rage. I rage loudly and employ inventive curses against everything from my bad back, to Wall Street thieves, to the general stupidity of the world. But, at sixty-five, my rants are quieter, less profane and more a matter of habit than they were in my younger days. And before my sputtering frustration has died, I’m hunting down a match and searching the darkest crevasses for that candle I know I hid at the back of the metaphorical kitchen junk drawer.
Years ago I saw what is still my favorite Christmas card of all time. The outside of the card showed good ole Charlie Brown talking to Lucy. The Blockhead was explaining to my favorite cynic that, “It is better to light a single candle than to stand and curse the darkness.”
The inside of the card was black. All black, but for the white outline of an uvula (that little hangy downy thing in our throats) clearly outlined, the mouth obviously Lucy’s and wide open.
The caption read, “YOU STUPID DARKNESS!”
Yesterday, Jack and I attended an elders dinner put on by the local Native American tribes in our area of Northern California. There was a free meal of salmon and turkey with all the trimmings. Native dancers in soft, pale dear skin and beautiful willow basket headgear whirled. Porcupine quills and hawk feathers floated around weaving bodies. There was even a contingent of Aztec dancers up from Mexico in headdresses of long feathers and shining silver.
But the part I enjoyed the most about the day was that, for the most part, young people did all the work. While we waited for our free dinner, a young woman worked her way down the line pinning colored award ribbons to our chests. Mine was white and proclaimed me an Honored Elder. Jack’s elder’s ribbon was red (he’s a few years older than me) and he also received a red, white, and blue ribbon for being an Honored Veteran. Anyone over eighty-five received a purple ribbon and the crowd was speckled with a good many of these bright declarations of long life.
Young people seated us, young people ran to the side of anyone who raised a shaky hand. These young folks offered more food, an arm to lean on, an attentive ear. Teenagers carried trays of food, fetched coffee or punch or water, offered pie and were just generally kind and respectful and did everything in their power to make the day about honoring their elders. Jack had Matilda, his walker, with him. He was in good company. A third of the people there sported wheels. Everywhere Jack went, people made way for him, saluted him, laid a gently hand on his arm.
I felt blessed.
Jack and I don’t watch the news every day. We came home to see the attacks on Paris.
I admit, my instinct was to revert to my Lucy self. To open my mouth as wide as possible and rage against the darkness.
Instead, I held Jack’s hand and allowed my mind to be lit with the glowing faces of the young Native Americans who gave up a sunny Saturday to honor their elders.

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About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
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