“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”— Maya AngelouAmerican …
In recent years, I pledged a personal oath … that I would try my darnedest to complain less and appreciate more.
Returning to newspaper work almost 8½ years ago made it easier. I don’t have to complain because I’m too busy listening to the complaints of others. As an editor, it’s part of the job.
Much the same is true in my private life. Like anybody else, I try to sit patiently while wading through the gripes of others who feel society has wronged them in just about every way. Some are legitimate. Others, not so much.
I’m probably the same. What I feel is a crisis — one obviously brought on by nothing of my own doing — is little more than burnt toast to another.
But what happened two weeks ago … now, that was something. So today, I would like to complain. It won’t change anything, but maybe … just maybe … it’ll get the attention of Mother Nature, that pretty lady whose scorn can run afoul of all things good and anything wanted.
All I sought was a calming vacation — a time away from this office and the people who abuse it, a little travel, some productive days in the yard, and a chance to enjoy life outside the annoyances of phones, emails and deadlines.
To get it required only this: Good weather. Was it so much to ask?
Our week off work would begin with a trek to the state’s western end to Love Muffin's hometown of Greenfield — a tiny hamlet just a stone’s throw from the college campus (UT-Martin) where we first met 43 years ago, and about two hours north of Memphis.
It was a simple plan.
The first three days of paradise — Saturday, Sunday and Monday — would be spent completing chores for my beloved in-laws, both of whom now reside north of 80. Of course, we’d spend time laughing, reminiscing on our days of yore, enjoying some home cooking and sharing anecdotes about life and our eternal pursuit of happiness.
In between all that we would pressure wash their house, clean the windows, mow the yard, rake pine needles and their pine cone counterparts, reorganize a cluttered storage shed without throwing anything away … no matter how old or unneeded, and perhaps do some seasonal landscaping or dig a post hole. A yard can never have enough post holes.
But our meteorological lady of fate had other plans, and showered the good citizens of Greenfield with her blessings aplenty.
It rained Saturday.
It rained Sunday.
It rained Monday.
Finally, near the end of the third day we welcomed a brief sighting of the sun. Though shrouded in grey, its luminance was unmistakable. Throwing caution to the wind, we escaped the house to tackle — and complete — a mild chore prioritized on the itinerary no higher than No. 15: the rearrangement of front-porch patio chairs, tables and a concrete water feature long-ago repurposed into a flower bed.
After 72 hours of rain, it came as an exhilarating experience. Never mind that it took only 15 minutes. Anything moved was an attainment gained.
As scheduled, we returned to Cleveland on Tuesday under erratic clouds, spotty showers and a hope for drier times and better days. Our Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would include yard projects of our own, sprinkled with short forays to Blue Ridge, Ga., a special restaurant hideaway in Dillard, N.C., and perhaps a trek to Helen, Ga.
It rained Wednesday. It rained Wednesday night.
It rained Thursday. It rained Thursday night.
Hopes for painting the backyard swing, for trimming untold numbers of shrubs and a couple hundred clumps of ornamental grass, for cleaning the gutters, for cutting the grass and for re-staining the front porch all fell by the wayside. Dreams of Dillard and Helen faded with the late-afternoon light.
Sometime before dawn Friday the monsoons subsided. Borrowing from the mind of a famous American, we feared the likelihood of having to drain the swamp. But, for the rest of the day Mother Nature showed her mercy, allowing us to salvage Blue Ridge and the popular Mercier Orchards.
Our newfound dry time also allowed for some landscaping maintenance and John Deere took care of the grass. Our vacation bonus came over the weekend with a short trek to Rhea County to enjoy the ambience of a Dayton restaurant of which we had heard but had never graced.
On the flip side, the weekend also saw my return to the office with this imagined, but inevitable, message: VACATION OVER.
Yet, ours was the last laugh. We basked on the deck late Sunday afternoon with relaxing beverages, a smoking grill, and more hamburgers and hot dogs than two people could ever eat … much to the delight of Harley, our neighbor’s dog.
Maybe this is not so much a complaint, after all. Maybe it’s more of a measured smile on a tiny slice of life, one long remembered for a time together and without undue regard to that which can pull apart.
Sure, storms will brew. But in their wake come the brilliant rainbows that signal hope for the days of promise that lay ahead.
(About the writer: Rick Norton is an associate editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at email@example.com.)
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