Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Gaia’s Children October 18, 2011

My third-grade grandsons were given an assignment to write about the most beautiful place in nature they can imagine. Connor’s story, published in my last post, is about how he spent a summer day at the beach. His twin brother Jake has wonderful memories of a winter day in the Smoky Mountains. He drew the picture you see here. This is his story:

Snowing

“Once I went to North Carolina and I just could not wait to feel the snow at my feet. When I got there I found out that my grandpa bought me a sled for the snow! Would you like that to happen to you? I got all of my gear on and raced outside. I could feel the cool breeze in my face. Then I formed a ramp and slid down it. Then I fell off my sled and landed in the pearl-white snow. It was fun! Would you like that to happen to you? Next I went exploring in the woods. I hiked all the way up to my uncle’s house. It was a lot of work! When I came back down I got a little lost but then I passed a tree I recognized. That tree was close to the house! When I got to the house I was really tired. I jumped on the couch and drank hot chocolate. I wish you were there to enjoy the snow with me.”

Last time I described how the teacher made this writing assignment so much more fun by sending a “top secret” note home asking the parents to respond to their children’s essays. The children knew something mysterious was going on and had to wait a few weeks to find out what it was. The mystery was solved when they opened the sealed envelopes their parents had sent back to school and found their special letters inside.

Connor and Jake’s mother, Robyn, has a master’s degree in education and is one of the best mothers I’ve ever known. I’ve learned so much from her about how to listen and respond to children with patience, kindness and respect that I honestly think she should make instructional videos for parents! You’ll see the kind of person she is when you read her response to Jake:

“Dear Jake,

“I remember last winter like it was yesterday and I couldn’t have described our experience as well as you. When did you become such a talented writer? Reading your essay actually made me feel cold! I now long for new sledding adventures and more treacherous hikes. Most of all, I’m now seriously craving a mug full of rich, steamy hot chocolate!

“I, too, find North Carolina the most beautiful place in nature. As magical as the snow-covered Smokies are in winter, I tend to prefer summers in the mountains. I love our drives there each July, counting down the hours until we arrive. It’s always thrilling to see the first mountain range, then eventually make our final turn onto Buck Creek Road. How I love to roll down the windows just to smell the forest! Can you imagine that woodsy scent right now?

“In North Carolina I feel as though we are one with nature. I am in awe of the animals we encounter, from the tiny hummingbirds that buzz around like giant bumblebees to the chubby chipmunks that scurry across our porch hoping not to be seen. How many slippery salamanders do you suppose we have caught over the years? Not to mention the fireflies — it’s incredible how they light up the night sky! What about the black bears we cautiously avoid on our long walks through the woods? I’d secretly love to catch sight of one — from afar, of course!

“I couldn’t write about the glory of North Carolina without mentioning the waterfalls! I’m amazed that some begin as tiny trickles from above. How do they then explode into raging bursts of water that dramatically plunge hundreds of feet downward?

“Of course I have to mention our rafting adventures! The rapids are exhilarating, but I think my favorite part is the very beginning when we paddle out early in the morning watching the mist float on the surface of the river, listening to the cheerful birds loudly chirping and squawking, greeting one another at the start of a new day.

“On our annual trips, hiking in the woods offers the most beauty. When we arrive at the end of each trail the sights are breathtaking! I could sit at the top of Whiteside Mountain all day, gazing down at the trees in the valley far below, feeling humbled and mesmerized and grateful all at once.

“I have traveled to North Carolina every year since I was a child, and I have forever cherished my time there. I am blessed to share my love of the mountains with you, Jake, and can’t wait for our next trip. What else do you think we might discover?

“All my love, Mom.”

I’ve published these stories and letters partly because I’m a proud grandmother who delights in celebrating my grandchildren’s accomplishments; partly because I’m an educator who wants to share a very special activity for other teachers and parents to use; and partly because I’m a nature lover who’s worried about the carelessness with which we’re treating our Earth Mother, Gaia. At this stage of my life one of my greatest fears is for Her welfare. Likewise, one of my greatest hopes is that my grandchildren’s grandchildren will inhabit a world of unspoiled beauty in which they too can experience the mystery and wonder of swimming in an unpolluted ocean and sledding over pristine white snow on a densely forested mountain.

If a crystal ball could show me my great-great-grandchildren’s world would I dare gaze into it? I’m not sure I want to know.

 

That’s Amore: A Father’s Day Tribute June 14, 2011

In 1904 a young man named Antonio Raffa stepped off the boat onto Ellis Island with a small bag of belongings, $9.00 in his pocket, and hope for a better life. His first act was to kneel and kiss the ground. As he told us years later, there was nothing for him in his small hill town near Messina, Sicily where his only choices were to be poor or join the Mafia. Neither option sounded good to him. With help from his older brother Phillip who was living in New York, Antonio established a barber shop in Brooklyn and settled in.

The next year Phillip returned to Italy and chose the lovely Giovannina Iannelli to be Antonio’s wife. Escorted by her parents, “Jenny” came to America and met Antonio over dinner on Friday night. They were married the next day. After a while she contracted a lung infection and their growing family left Brooklyn for the mountain air in the Catskills town of Liberty, NY. This is where Anthony Raffa, Jr.,or “Tony,” the third of four sons, spent his youth. (He’s the third son from the left in the picture.)

Growing up as children of Italian immigrants wasn’t always easy in those days and Antonio wanted his sons to have every advantage. His first rule was to speak English. The second was to work hard and do well in school. The third was never to leave their house without being well-dressed and immaculately groomed. Tony Jr. was an especially intelligent, well-meaning, and attractive young man, (he could have been Ronald Coleman’s double with his wavy black hair and thin moustache), who thrived in the land of opportunity and made his parents proud.

After working his way through the College of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri where he joined the Acacia club, played the violin in a small combo, and paid his bills by ironing his friends’ shirts for four cents apiece, Tony returned to Liberty and started a medical practice on the downstairs floor of a Victorian house on Main Street. When he married Julia Vera Segar, a nurse of Scotch-Irish descent, they set up housekeeping above the office. My husband is their firstborn son, Fred. His favorite memory from those days is of coming home from school and meeting Rocky Marciano whom his dad was secretly treating in preparation for his upcoming match with Roland La Starza! Wouldn’t the paparazzi have had a field day if they had known?

Sadly, Vera died after the birth of their second son. Five years later Tony married Helen Scobell, a home-economics extension agent, and they moved to Tampa where he was blessed with three more healthy children, a thriving medical practice, a sophisticated home filled with art, music and laughter, and a country club membership. Active in the Masonic Lodge, he was awarded the 33rd Degree and became a Noble in the Mystic Order of the Shrine. Tony retired from his medical practice at age 74 and lost his second love, Helen, to cancer at 82.  At 85 he married Winn Wiley who still fills his life with love.

Unlike his feisty, cigar-smoking bantam rooster father, my fun-loving and even-tempered father-in-law is the most humble, gentle and tolerant man I’ve ever known. I’ve never heard him criticize anyone or speak an unkind word, never seen him angry. As one whose favorite saying is, “Family is the most important thing,” he brought his parents to Tampa and looked after them until they died. Last weekend I was reminded of the wisdom of these words when his family and friends gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday!  I can’t imagine my life without him, his son Fred, or our children and grandchildren.

Family. As Dean Martin, a fellow Italian-American, once sang, “That’s amore!”  Happy Father’s Day to Tony and fathers everywhere. May your lives overflow with amore!

 

 
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