Friday, August 26, 2011

In, Out of and Under Control

During our recent vacation we went horseback riding. It’s usually a lot of fun, even with the sore legs and stress I feel after the ride ends. It’s always a relief to return to the barn injury-free because anytime I climb onto a horse and grab the reins, I wonder who’s really in control.
Before our ride the guide told me that my horse had a “sensitive mouth” and then she showed me how to steer the horse with the reins, reins that connected to the horse’s mouth. Horses are smart, powerful animals with minds of their own, so I wondered how well the horse would respond to my commands. As we walked along the trail the horse kept stopping to eat the vegetation and that’s when our second riding guide showed me how to keep moving by pulling on the reins and slightly kicking the horse’s sides. So I’m supposed to pull at a sensitive mouth and kick. Was this a recipe for disaster?
Fortunately, it wasn’t. But after the ride, I heard that my horse had been bitten by a snake the day before. Was it in the mood to walk the trail? I don’t know. I can say that the rein instructions worked and my horse behaved. Despite my nervousness, the guides were pleasant and the ride was great—this time. In times past, I‘ve had some unsettling experiences with unruly horses.
Here’s a video of a horse not in the mood for a rider:

I like animals, especially horses, but they can have their moments. A trail guide can offer great instructions, but until animals talk, it’s mighty difficult to know what they think or what sets them off. You’ve heard the news stories about trained animals suddenly going on the attack and their handlers never see it coming.
We like to think that we’re in control, don’t we?  Who or what really controls the reins in your life? Is it money, an addiction, your job, you, the boss, your spouse, your parents or someone/something else?          

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Days are Here Again

We’re back from our Branson, MO vacation! I think people assume that we visit relatives there. When I assure them that we don’t, I get a blank look. I guess they’re wondering what “Branson vacation” really means. Apparently not many people realize that Branson is the vacation capital of the world. Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but believe me, that town is an extraordinarily enjoyable vacation destination.
Branson is like a Las Vegas for families because of its approximately one hundred musical, comedy and variety shows. During our trip we saw the Noah play at Sight and Sound, which featured a menagerie of live animals and a three-story high ark.  In addition to the shows, we went horseback riding, visited a water park, a wax museum, and rode modern-day rides in an amusement park where people dressed in attire from the 1880’s and demonstrated crafts such as glass-blowing and candle-making.
In Branson, it’s not the activities that make the place great, for me, it’s the people and the environment. Everyone is pleasant; the vendors and wait staff always provide service with humor and a smile. During our two visits to Branson, I can’t recall meeting a surly service person or encountering any unpleasantness. Even the local news seemed benign.
Visiting Branson is like stepping back into an era of good, clean fun. The experience reminds me of the Happy Days TV show set in the 1950’s.  Here’s part of an episode:

Oddly enough, searching through the Happy Days archives, I was surprised to see the number of segments that mentioned dating, girl-chasing, making-out, the draft and war.  I never associated those topics with my memories of the show. I wonder, do we generally filter out certain things from our past and focus on the more pleasant aspects? Are our “good old days” really that great or do we actually compare our current realities to distant and distorted memories?  
I know you cherish memories from your past. What’s wonderful about those special times or places? Why do your thoughts tend to linger there?                           

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Don’t Go Changing To Try and Please Me

Last week my husband and I talked with our kids about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The current list, established in about 600 A.D., identifies fascinating man-made treasures including an Egyptian pyramid, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and several other ancient statues and buildings from around the world. Invasions and natural disasters have destroyed six of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Since only the pyramid still exists today, various people and organizations attempt to modernize the list. Currently several updated Wonders of the World lists exist but the most recognized one includes a Mexican pyramid called Chichen Itza, Christ, the Redeemer, which is an enormous Brazilian statue and Petra, an ancient city in Jordan.      
One of my favorites, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights appears on the Seven Natural Wonders of the World list. This mesmerizing curtain of color ripples across the sky in Alaska during our fall and spring seasons. Words fail to describe this natural phenomenon. Take a look at it in this video:

Apparently, earth has an ample supply of wonders. As a society, we constantly toss aside the old in favor of the new, and seek the latest version or model, sometimes with unfavorable results. In the June 3 post, And Then We Will Change, I half-celebrate change as Sarah Vaughn performs a moving rendition of the song, Everything Must Change. The part-time realist in me recognizes that progress can be good, but the part-time idealist in me sometimes longs for an unchanging world.
What things, people or places are you glad don’t or won’t change? 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the Center of a Storm

I’m a pseudo-meteorologist. You probably don’t hear that confession very often.  My mother said that, as a child, I always asked about the weather conditions. At my house, my husband or kids seem to think I have the inside scoop on the weather. Almost daily one of them asks, “What’s the weather today?” and “How hot is it going to be?” Maybe it’s because they catch me listening to the forecast about twice a day, and more often when a big storm is predicted. I just like to be prepared for whatever comes.
Although I dread getting caught in bad weather, that’s exactly what happened last week. Driving home, a curtain of wind and rain slammed across the windshield. I don’t usually pull over during storms but the blinding rain obscured everything. I couldn’t see and I couldn’t pull over. The curvy road offered no shoulder for the faint – hearted. Fortunately only small branches littered the street and nothing fell into my path. After the storm, numerous split tree trunks testified to the storm’s strength.
A tornado‘s power is amazing, and one videographer managed to capture beauty amidst chaos. Take a look: 

Despite a tornado’s massive size and destructive power, it can also create a majestic and tranquil scene. When you find yourself caught up in life’s storms, how do you reclaim peace?