Dick's Blog

“Quiet Places”, Chapter 29 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

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STEAMBOAT SABINO AT MYSTIC SEAPORT IN MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT (a quiet ride into history)

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out,” and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside,” by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, “Quiet Places”, Chapter 29 of “Inside and Outside” (the soft chorus and the occasional nod from one head to another)

In Three Weeks, October 30, “The Magic Picture Window”, Chapter 30 of “Inside and Outside” (picture this with the lights turned off)

Update:

After a few years of restoration, the Steamboat SABINO at the world famous Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, has been happily returned to service. This is a story about an evening I spent on the SABINO with a group of “humming” friends several years ago. It cast a spell on all of us. If you like four-part harmony while being transported over the water on the quietest transportation on this earth, then you will like this story about an informal singing group called the “Hummers” and their evening at Mystic Seaport. I copied this picture of the SABINO from the Mystic Seaport website (mysticseaport.org) with permission. It’s exactly as I saw and experienced it years ago. The picture captures the tranquility and mood. This is not a commercial endorsement, but when you read this story you will want to visit this place and take a quiet ride into history.

Quiet Places

Hikers find them all the time. They may be filled with sound but not from manmade sources. The white noise made by wind, moving water, bird and insect calls, rain or sleet hitting my parka, the crunch underfoot is easily displaced by visual stimulus and thoughts. When my tinnitus, the hiss in my inner ear and brain, is the only sound, this is truly a very quiet place. Even that annoyance is masked by my feelings of solitude.

The quietest natural place on Earth is an evergreen forest after a snowstorm. The heavily laden bows soak up every decibel. The words from my mouth, saying how beautiful it is, fail to reflect back to my ears, swallowed up by the muting self-canceling vibrations of billions of ice crystals. Will they play back my conversation to an empty wood when they succumb to the warm spring rains?

Sailors, too, are blessed with quiet places. Last night, I was transported over the mist-shrouded still waters of Mystic Harbor in the SABINO, powered by a 75-horse power steam-powered compound engine. Once a passenger ferry and cargo carrier, the SABINO is a National Historic Landmark, the last coal-fired steamer in America today, providing quiet and scenic rides for visitors to Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. The vessel glided around the harbor without the faintest audible indication that there were 75 horses “silently running” on the lower deck. On the top deck, over two dozen men, including me, stood and sat softly singing old Yale college songs and ditties, led by a blind pianist named Dave. Dave read from his Braille songbook and kept the pace up, reminding us when we were singing a particular piece too slowly. The group of men call themselves “Hummers,” a gathering that has assembled once a year for this event for over thirty years. Membership is by invitation by any member. This was my introductory first year to the “Hummers”. Beer was served on board that night, and song sheets passed out to help those who never went to Yale or can’t remember the words to sixty or more songs. “Here’s to the man who drinks dark ale and goes to bed quite mellow.” The mood was mellow, each man in his own private quiet place. There was very little verbal communication, only the soft chorus and an occasional nod from one head to another.

After our hour of drifting by other historic landmarks, including the AMISTAD, a re-creation of the schooner involved in the 1839 revolt of the captives on board, we drifted in twos and threes along the misty pathway to the Seamen’s Inne (now called Latitude 41), where we continued our singing (in four part harmony no less) and a shared a buffet dinner, our gifted musician and spiritual guide casting his spell over us with many selections on his keyboard. Listening to the music of three of my favorite ballads, one of them, “Misty,” I was transported to my own inner self. Music does that to me. I’ve been a senior member of a snowshoeing group for over thirty years known as the Clowns. Last night I became a new fledgling member of the Hummers. Both groups have taken me to quiet and holy places. I’ll return again and again.

In Three Weeks, October 30, “The Magic Picture Window”, Chapter 30 of “Inside and Outside” (picture this with the lights turned off)

“Radio Nights”, Chapter 28 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

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IMAGES FROM OLD TIME RADIO CONJURED UP IN MY MIND

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, “Radio Nights”, Chapter 28 of “Inside and Outside” (listeners of the 1938 Orson Wells’ radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” were convinced that New Jersey was being invaded by Martians)  

Next Week, “Quiet Places”, Chapter 29 of “Inside and Outside” (the soft chorus and the occasional nod from one head to another)

Update:

My attached sketch is the kind of images I conjured up in my mind when I heard a radio play as a child in my darkened room under the covers. Do kids imagine anymore or do they just replay what they have seen on television or YouTube? Sometimes, I’m lying in bed, holding my book but with my eyes closed. My wife says, “I suppose you are reading the back of your eyelids again.” I am, and the pictures are beautiful. The old radio plays (I’m dating myself) taught me how to see without vision, how to paint pictures with words. Kids are really lucky when they have parents who read to them or tell them bedtime stories. They are experiencing more than the words. That is the closest they will ever get to what I experienced listening to old time radio.

Radio Nights

H. G. Wells, an Englishman who lived between 1866 and 1946, wrote the most fantastic stories. Much of his material and the work of more contemporary science fiction writers were adapted for plays in the golden age of radio. Between 1945 and 1955, in the waning years of this period, the weekday radio plays started about 7 PM and continued to about 10 PM . The early half hour programs like Baby Snooks, and Fibber Magee and Molly, were followed by programs more somber and thrilling, much of it science fiction. I remember programs like Dimension X, X Minus 1, The Mysterious Traveler, and I Love a Mystery. Those plays were broadcast in living color, Dolby Sound, and 3-D, all projected and recorded on my mind’s silver screen. My darkened room, twin bed and radio were my escape vehicle to the stars, my luge and Olympic bobsled run. Usually, during I Love a Mystery, the last radio play of the evening, I would be ending my evening’s ride, drifting in and out of my own mysterious reveries.

Today’s television and movie special effects can’t compete with the radio-induced visions of my youth. Television and movie screens are typically filled with thousands of frenetic images every minute, a cacophony of digitally produced stimulation, feeding the insatiable hunger of increasingly bored audiences. Radio produced an almost seductive focusing effect, creating insightful thoughts, intimate close ups and a growing anticipation and apprehension of the story’s unfolding climax.

Last week at my class on creativity, someone’s casual comment about radio mysteries initiated a vivid flashback. Lying there in my bed, with my head under the covers, I was listening to a radio play of The Crystal Egg. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that this was a short story written by H. G. Wells. The twist of the story was that aliens were observing us here on Earth through viewing devices disguised as benign crystal eggs, somehow transported here from Mars. An observer here on Earth, who came into possession of one of these artifacts, could see life on Mars, while an alien observer on Mars, in possession of the egg’s twin, could see life here on Earth. We were being observed for future invasion. This short story probably preceded Well’s novel War of the Worlds, which was Americanized and made famous in Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater of the Air broadcast, the night before Halloween in 1938, the year I was born. Even though disclaimers were made during the broadcast, late listeners were convinced that New Jersey was being invaded by Martians.

Other radio plays were imprinted on my mind, the plots still running through my head to this day. Often, I was surprised as an adult to come across those same themes when reading anthologies of classic science fiction short stories. Those authors had passed on their legacy and made a lasting impression on a very young mind. It would affect my life, my career choice, and my constant wonderment of the mysteries of our universe. 

Next Week, “Quiet Places”, Chapter 29 of “Inside and Outside” (the soft chorus and the occasional nod from one head to another)

“Sisters”, Chapter 27 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

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SISTERS UNTIL DEATH DO THEY PART

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, “Sisters”, Chapter 27 of “Inside and Outside” (they bring bird seed to attract the birds their parents loved so much)

Next Week, “Radio Nights”, Chapter 28 of “Inside and Outside” (listeners of the 1938 Orson Wells’ radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” were convinced that New Jersey was being invaded by Martians)

Update:

This is a story about friendship, love and personal relationships, how we minister to and help each other. It’s about the bonds we form as friends and families. As part of a lay-led summer service we led at our church, my wife read first person accounts of chapter 27, “Sisters”, and chapter 14, “A Story in There”, as examples of the theme of the service and my sermon, “What is Your Ministry?" We are all lay-ministers, maybe not ordained, but blessed to be members of a loving congregation. My wife does a better job of reading some of my stories aloud than me. I’m a softy, often finding myself choking up when vocalizing some of the emotionally charged passages.

Sisters

My wife and her sister are five years apart. As children, the age disparity was too great for a close bond. Her sister was the brat, spying on her and doing silly things that created embarrassment in front of her friends. Now, sixty years later, living a thousand miles apart, they have become clones, finding commonality in almost everything in life. They are joined at the hip, almost telepathic, emailing every day, often sending the exact same holiday and birthday cards. If it wasn’t so beautiful, it would be downright scary.

I can appreciate a five-year age disparity between same sex children in a family. I too am five years older than my brother. We’ve grown much closer with age. As children, he was the relaxed unflappable one. That seems to be the case with youngest in the family. He could always find ways to pull my chain and rattle my cage. It was a helpless cause trying to fend off his incessant humorous abuse. I’m glad I never took retribution, because he is now my dentist and capable of inflicting severe pain.

My sister in-law is here from Minnesota for the week. She and my wife are working their way through all the home interior, craft and gift shops in Connecticut. They just arrived home from an afternoon excursion, more shopping bags, single-handedly turning the economy around. Four more shopping days until she departs! The State of Connecticut Sales Tax Revenue Department and I will miss her dearly. Individually, they are both quite frugal and will only buy bargains, but together they’re on a mission to create their own version of House Beautiful. My wife will reciprocate, improving the local economy when she travels to Minnesota.

I’m trying to understand why these sisters, once juvenile rivals, have created such an intense loving relationship, something as mysterious and deep as the origin of the universe. If I complete this self-assignment, I will reward myself with a pat on the back, and another vote for the institution of sisterhood. I owe my wife for my recovery from depression. Her strength came from her sister and other-sister like relationships she has developed over the years, including that with our daughter. There is a level of permanency and steadiness here that transcends the universe itself. My church preaches that “God is Love.” I think they borrowed the theme from the first sister act on earth. Not all sisters and mothers and daughters are this close. They don’t know what they are missing. If there are any sisters, or sisters of the soul out there, who have lost con- tact, this would be a good time to pick up the phone.

First, there are genetics, hormones and natural selection things I can’t fully explain. In terms of survival of the fittest, their behavior is programmed to ensure passage of their genes to future generations. I’m not sure how this works since they are long past the childbearing and rearing age. But, they do have adult children and grandchildren. There is still the potential for more grandchildren and great grandchildren to carry on their genes. They are still involved in supporting their children and nurturing their grandchildren to help them to survive on their own personal “Savannahs.” When mankind first stepped out of the forest onto the plains and started to compete for resources, this forced the development of communities and the reign of women, of “sisters.” Without women, there would be no children. Without sisters, there would be no civilization, no mutual protection of the young, and no organization. My wife knows all about organization (I’m using humor). If I were to fail, then that would jeopardize the grand plan of keeping the family intact. No matter what the biological incentive, I’m grateful for my wife’s constant support.

Second, my wife and her sister came from a loving household. As children, in spite of their feigned indifference at times, they still felt protective toward each other. My wife recalls the time that her little sister was exposed to poison ivy laced smoke from a neighbor’s burning rubbish pile. Her sister swelled up like a balloon, with only slits for eyes. My wife genuinely felt sorry for this poor little kid, even if she was a brat, lying on the bed covered with cold compresses. Their common bond is the shared memories of both good and bad times and the family that provided them with constant support. Keeping things intact is also a learned behavior and a way of life.

My wife and sister no longer think of themselves as five years apart. The age difference is irrelevant. They are both grandmas. A dozen years ago, they held each other as their father took his last breath as their mother slept fitfully in the bed next to him. Each time my sister-in-law comes to visit, she and my wife visit their parents’ grave site. They bring birdseed to attract the birds their parents loved so much. They laugh and cry together, sisters until death do they part.

Next Week, “Radio Nights”, Chapter 28 of “Inside and Outside” (listeners were convinced that New Jersey was being invaded)