New Ring, Old Promises

I’ve been writing this week about the saga of my golden wedding band that we bought at a pawn shop over thirty years ago. I shared how over a year ago I had to cut it off with a pair of pliers because my finger started swelling. The most recent installment on this little melodrama described Randa’s less than enthusiastic response to my purchase of a dark bronze-colored silicone ring. Apparently, matching the bathroom faucets and showerhead didn’t carry as much aesthetic influence as I had hoped.

I put the silicone ring back in its box for a few weeks. While it was safely tucked away from visual influence, I had a few conversations with Randa about the new ring. I pointed out the safety issues, that it wouldn’t cause my finger to swell and in the event of a particular type of mechanical situation, it would be much less likely to cause severe trauma to the finger.

I’ve been wearing my new rubber ring for several weeks now. Even though it’s not the same ring and looks nothing like the original, it still reminds me of the vows we made to each other thirty years ago. Vows even more precious today, vows whose substance is greater than their luster.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Family, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , ,

The Strother Martin Wedding Band

Last year, my ring finger on my left hand had swollen so much I was afraid it might progress to a legitimate medical emergency. Preferring to not pay ER prices for the favor, I decided go DIY on the deal and used a pair of pliers to cut my original wedding band in order to get it off.

A few weeks ago, mental awareness and individual initiative sufficiently merged that I took the ring in for repair.

For the past few years, I’d been thinking about getting a silicon wedding band. Given the remodeling work, mud runs and other inclinations I have, the silicon option seemed like a good one. While admittedly lower on the shiny jewelry scale, there were some key safety factors plus comparative costs regarding the potential loss of the ring.

So far as I know, my dear ole pappy never said, “It is of greater advantage to suffer the deprivation of a relatively inexpensive synthetic ornament than to endure the involuntary surrender of one possessing deeper symbolic and higher intrinsic value.” Nonetheless, I was convinced of the verity of the premise.

Having mused over the proposal for quite a while and having had multiple conversations with myself about the idea, and finding myself conveniently close to Schmidt Jewelers’ display of silicon rings, I decided I’d get one. I opted for a dark bronze color.

Randa’s bewildered response was not what I expected. When I held up my hand to proudly display my new acquisition, she stared at it for a few seconds, then looked at me. She looked as if she’d just woke up with her head sewn to the carpet. “What is that?” I proudly told her, “It’s a silicon wedding ring.”

That did absolutely nothing to change the effect. “A what?” Suddenly it were as if I’d lost all facility with the English language. Or lost all facility, period.

Fairly quickly, I realized that I had failed to include her in any of those conversations I’d had with myself on the subject. Having watched me wear that golden wedding band for nearly twenty-nine years, and then wear nothing on that finger for over a year, she was completely unprepared for the look of a thick, dark bronze-colored ring on my hand. And, she’d never even heard of a “silicon wedding band.” It probably sounded like an oxymoron to her.

Those who know me well understand that I possess some of the qualities of both an ox and a moron. For others, let’s just agree that Randa was far less impressed with my pragmatic romanticism than I had assumed she would be.

Even though I’d readily admit that I might be more prone to the trait than some folks, I suspect that our species often fails to assure shared communication process. We have an idea. We mull it over from time to time. That idea comes to make so much sense to us that we expect others to adopt it instantly, fully and devotedly. We might forget that they have not had the hours of mental processing that we’ve devoted to the topic. Sometimes, I suspect that we also forget that they bring a different set of experiences.

Even when we share the same key values, different perspectives may result in different perceptions.

H. Arnett

Posted in Humor, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , ,

Beyond Repair

Around a year ago, I had to cut the wedding band I’d worn since 1989 in order to get it off of a very swollen finger. A couple of months ago, I decided to have the ring repaired and resized so I could wear it again.

I’d met Lucas Schmidt and his wife Blanche, co-owners of Schmidt’s Jewelers, when I was soliciting sponsorships for the hospital’s annual fundraising event “Landrush.” In the twenty years they’ve been in business, they’ve also been active in the community. Lucas and I were both “contestants” in a recent male pageant to raise money for the Burford Theatre and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. Blanche served as one of the attending escort/assistant/stage handlers. It’s typical of the way they work together to help out.

Since they also do jewelry stuff, I described the ring incident and Lucas invited me to bring it in. “I’ll take a look and let you know what we can do.” I left a sponsorship brochure with him and told him I’d be back.

When I came back the next week, I brought two rings with me: the aforementioned wedding band and a diamond ring Randa had given me around fifteen years ago. I had the severed ring in my pocket and was wearing the diamond ring. I handed Lucas the wedding band. He took it, nodded toward my right hand and commented, “You’re missing a diamond in that ring.”

“Yeah, that’s why I brought it in,” I admitted. “I’m guessing you notice things about jewelry the way a Florsheim salesman notices people’s shoes.” He grinned.

After his inspection of the wedding band, he told me what it would cost to add the extra metal and re-size the ring so it would fit my left index finger. It would be about five times what I’d paid for the ring originally. “Tell you what, let’s just do the repair and I’ll wear it as a pinky ring.” I also asked him to replace the missing diamond in the other ring.

A week or so later, I got a call that both rings were ready. Lucas opened a small manila envelope and took them out.

I was stunned at how much brighter and shinier they were! Both gleamed brilliantly. “Wow!” I exclaimed softly, almost reverently. “Wow!” I stood there, examining both of them, marveling at the repair and the transformation. I fully expected that the wedding band would no longer have its broken gap. I fully expected that the other ring would no longer be missing a diamond. But owing to my own clear lack of experience with gold jewelry repair, the cleaning and polishing took me by complete surprise. “You know,” I commented to Lucas, “I’m not sure these looked this good even when they were brand new.”

Sometimes we are surprised because we have under-estimated someone’s ability. Sometimes because we have under-estimated their desire. Regardless of the reasons, it is always a good thing when we do more good than was expected and do it in a more excellent way.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation, Work | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A Tight Band

At the time Randa and I got married thirty years ago, we weren’t exactly flush with money. Rather than double our debt load for the sake of celebration, we opted for frugality. Randa reconditioned a wedding dress she found at a thrift store and we bought a set of used rings at a Saint Joseph pawn shop. All three items sufficed for the purpose.

Eventually, taking advantage of improved economic situation, I bought Randa a nicer ring. For sentimental reasons mostly, I kept wearing my original band. It allegedly had a few diamonds embedded in its upper side but not having a jeweler’s microscope, I couldn’t verify that.

About a year ago, the finger on which I wore the ring began swelling. At first, it was only annoying that I couldn’t get the ring off of my hand. Within a few days, though, the swelling caused discomfort. When the swollen area started turning red, I did what any man of elegance, dignity and means would do. I took a pair of diagonal pliers and cut the band. Then, with the aid of a small screwdriver, I pried the sides apart enough that I could slide the ring off. Thanks to such state of the art medical treatment, the swelling subsided.

I hated having to take that particular action but I’m rather well convinced that cutting off a ring is better than cutting off a finger. While I would also agree that losing a finger is preferred over losing a hand, I was happy to keep the choices from escalating to that level of consideration.

There are times when health or other factors of significance require that we sacrifice sentimentality or some other form of self-indulgence in favor of self-preservation. Sometimes it’s to save a finger; sometimes it’s for something even more important.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , ,

Cool and Soothing Waters

Somewhere between Atascadero and Morro Bay,
Toro Creek Road makes its way up out of the valley,
over the mountain and back down
and over a bit more to the Forty-One running east to the coast.

My son and his wife spent just under three years
living here where the public part of the dirt and gravel
comes almost completely unraveled and then
makes its way up another mountain on private land.

In the span of three years, they saw deer and turkey
strut across the roads and fields between ruts,
caught bobcats killing their chickens, rattlesnakes in the yard,
and had a huge black bear prowling around just outside the kitchen.

Hidden in low branches beneath the squawking scrub jays
and camo’d for his chances at hunting turkey,
Ben twice saw a mountain lion slipping through the shadows
along the trace road leading up to the ranch.

Both of their boys were born here
while they lived beside the tiny stream coming from the springs
that seep from the ground and then follow their way down
beneath the pines and coastal mountain oak.

I have come here from Kansas to help Ben clean the house they are leaving.
In mid-afternoon in late August, we take a break,
make our way up the broken road then down a steep incline,
taking our time and moving carefully to the stream.

Water clear enough for drinking tumbles and gurgles over a stone lip
set among overhanging roots that droop their way to lower rocks.
A boulder the size of a truck rises up from the side,
its lower edges calcified and smoothed just above the surface of the pool.

We step into the stream, feet searching for the safe seams.
Ben moves into the deep but I pause for a moment,
feeling the cold working its way into my knees
while he sucks in the shock that always comes with such as this.

I look up through the trees, wishing the angle of the sun could find us here,
send some warming rays against the rocks of this tiny pool.
Lacking the faith it takes to move the sun or mountains,
I join Ben in the deeper cold of this good fountain.

Chest deep, we laugh together, feel the edges of ancient stones
and the soothing swirl of water drawn from the earth itself.
Water beads on our beards, mine gray with a few dark specks,
his thick and brown, not yet wrecked by the thirty years between us.

We talk about another dip we took together
in Kentucky’s Red River of the Gorge,
father and son, man and man, on an autumn day
over twenty years ago and two thousand miles away.

We climb up and out of the pool for a while,
move stones and pebbles and sand to form a makeshift dam
that in only a few minutes raises the water level by a few inches.
We step back into the deep water.

After the in and out, the water seems somehow a bit warmer
and we take turns bending our backs
against the soothing surge of the tiny waterfall,
marveling at how a stream this cold can feel this good.

After lingering a bit longer, we step from stone to stone,
climb our way up through the woods and back to the road.
Though there is still work to be done and other stories to be shared,
this alone is worth all the traveling we have done to get here.

H. Arnett

Posted in Family, Nature, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Not Quite Paradise

Given a long enough distance
every road seems slow.
Traveling through one universe after another after another
and even the speed of light seems a bit stifled
after a few hundred years, I suppose.
When are we ever going to get to the next galaxy?

It’s the getting to where we want to go,
where we want to both be and mean
that seems to turn traveling
into some sort of unraveling of mind and matter:
time freezes in the heat of the Mojave.

And yes, it is a dry heat,
but a hundred-and-ten degrees—
no matter how strong the wind—
still sends a shock through you
when you step out of the air-conditioned truck,
makes you pray that luck, karma, Providence,
and God Almighty
do not abandon you in this place.

Whatever it is in August
that you happen to taste in these long hours
of passing through this view that shifts about a bit
but never really changes
might be enough to help you be sure
to make arrangements
that you will always live somewhere
other than here.

We finish taking care of why we stopped
and somewhere between a mile and a year later,
pass by the half-pile, half-wall remainder of deep burgundy blocks,
miniature chunks of desert clay barely softer than rock
and the same shade caught in the sloping base of a distant mesa,
sun-burnt reminders that used to be abode and are still adobe.

There is no hint of doors or rafter or roof,
only one corner of what was once a window,
looking out from this small box at a life they could not sustain
in this particular place
and that must have made any place green
seem like a much better place to be,
no matter how high the humidity.

Every place other than Eden has its drawbacks
and even that sweet garden had its own path to destruction.
And though I’d definitely take Hawaii over the Mojave
as a place to live for a decade or two,
there’s still beauty in the desert
and typhoons can certainly ruin an island.

It’s not so much where we travel
as what we carry and keep inside us
that decides whether we live in purgatory or paradise.
Or someplace comfortably in between.
Are we there yet?

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

In Gratitude, Labor Day 2019

They dig our ditches, mend our fences,
spend their days, their nights, their lives
building, making, stitching, sewing, mowing,
stowing, mixing, moving, painting, paving,
fixing, repairing, rebuilding, restoring.

They plant the seeds, pull the weeds,
trim the trees, harvest the fruit,
pack the meat, sift the wheat,
drive the trucks, hope for luck,
sweat and swear in the searing heat,
shiver and shovel in the aching cold.

They dig the coal, fuel the steam,
bear the brunt of others’ dreams,
raise their kids, polish their lids,
make clothes and cars they cannot afford,
clean the rooms where they cannot stay,
tend the courses they cannot play,
build toys and tools and trinkets.

They wash and wax and pay the taxes
that build roads, hire police, firefighters,
soldiers and millions of civil workers.
They furnish our food, weave our clothes,
make our cars, build our roads,
pay their bills and their tolls.

There are no medals and few parades
and yet all that we have, they have made.
Without them,
we starve and freeze,
or else die in the smothering heat.

So here’s to you,
you who labor and are heavy laden,
may you find rest
for your bodies and your souls.

And, thank you for your service.

H. Arnett

Posted in Poetic Contemplations, Spiritual Contemplation, Work | Tagged , , , , , ,