August 1, 2008

Summer Winds…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:57 pm


“In summer, the song sings itself.”

—William Carlos Williams

It’s August. Already. Wow, is all I can think. Seems like only a few weeks ago that I was absorbing the fact that 2008 had arrived. Now it’s more than half over.

It’s been a good year so far. A bit strange, in many ways. I’ve relaxed. Settled into the life of a bachelor. Into my natural flow of daily routine. Work. Gym. Writing. A break in routine, traveling to see my family. And then back home. Round and round. And the weeks and months roll by.

I’ll be forty-seven this month. Approaching that “fifty” plateau. If you’re above sixty, that’s young. If you’re thirty or under, you might be wondering when I’ll be unlimber-ing my walking stick. My answer: not anytime soon.

I’m doing pretty well emotionally. Have a grip on how things are. And how things will likely be for a long, long time. Once in awhile, in the morning I still jolt awake and think to myself that the last eighteen months have all been a bad dream. A nightmare. None of it happened. None of it is true. But I always crash to reality within seconds. It did happen. It is true. I get up and stolidly proceed with the remains of the day.

With time, I suppose, even those wake-up flashbacks will diminish and disappear. Can’t happen soon enough for me.

A few months ago, I returned to Chestnut Street Chapel for the first time since Jan-uary, 2007. Almost a year and a half. Slipped in after the service had started. Sat on a back bench. On a Sunday when they served a fellowship meal. I stayed to eat. Every-one was cool. No one drooled. No one simpered. No one oozed false sympathy. I felt grateful. Relaxed. Welcome to return.

Since then, I’ve alternated between Westminster Presbyterian and Chestnut Street. Slowly working my way back. One of these days, Chestnut Street will be my home church again. A place of rest, like before.

Life moves on. For all of us. And obstacles loom. My friends Paul and Anne Marie Zook continue their battle, fighting Anne Marie’s brain tumor cancer with natural treatment. So far, so good. But absolutely no assurances for tomorrow. A co-worker, Eli Esh and his wife Katie just had their first baby, a little girl. She was a preemie with her heart on the wrong side. Operations. Waiting in Hershey at the hospital. Worry. Intense stress. No assurances for tomorrow.

I look at them and wonder how they deal with it. But they do. With grace and courage.

Some carry one burden and some carry another.

And so the summer passes. I review the things I’d planned to do. Many remain un-done. Somehow the days slip by. It’s easy to procrastinate.

The house has not been thoroughly cleaned since I’ve lived alone. Oh, I vacuum and scrub what needs vacuuming and scrubbing. But the house itself has not been dusted, or the floors mopped and waxed for quite awhile. The windows darken steadily over time, from dust and spider webs.

But it’s my home. And just fine by me. It’s OK that books and magazines and news-papers are piled on the floor for weeks on end. Seems like a perfect spot for them. Men are a little more relaxed about their dwellings, I think, when women aren’t around to pester them. As long as I’m presentable in public, I figure, it’s no one’s business what the house looks like. Up to a point, at least.

The flower beds outside the house morphed into a little wasteland. Thorns, thistles and briars reminiscent of the land of Nod, east of Eden. Except for occasionally whacking a particularly obnoxious weed while mowing my yard, I paid the flower beds scant atten-tion, other than to marvel at the lesser weeds. Anyone else ever notice how some weeds resemble flowers if you look at them just right? Blossoms and all.

And so things stood until my friend Anne Marie Zook took matters into her own hands. With her children, Cody and Adrianna, she stopped by the house, usually while I was at work, and labored tirelessly in the flower beds. For hours and hours in the sun. She slew all the weeds and planted many bright new flowers. Left me with basic instructions on how and when to water them. And so the desert, the barren land of Nod blooms again, despite my shiftless indifference.

I haven’t fished a whit, other than those few moments at my sister Naomi’s place in Missouri. Somehow, with the approach of each summer, one dreams of sitting on a bank or beside a creek on a summer day, rain clouds swelling in the west. The best time to fish. But it takes effort and planning to get it done. I have not. Besides, home-owners are very protective of their ponds around here anyway. Unlike the Midwest.

Both my charcoal grills feel quite abandoned. I’ve grilled maybe three times all summer, usually when my friends Allen and Bill stopped by on a Saturday evening. Sometime this month, though, I plan to have a group of friends over. I’ve got a lot of “Steve Beiler” organic sausage that needs to be enjoyed.

I’ve neglected the hiking trails. Except for a few local hikes, close to home, my walking shoes have been idle. My favorite, the Tucquan Glen, is about forty-five minutes south, and I have simply not scheduled the time to go down. Big Blue’s thirsty requirements for a ninety minute drive were also a factor. But I plan to hit the trail at least once, perhaps as soon as this Sunday, if it’s not too hot.

The Tucquan Trail on a summer morning.

Besides, it’s summer. One should be allowed to be lazy during the summer months.

Overall, though, if someone pressed me, I would admit to being happy. Not because it’s summer, but because I have a grip on my life. On where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I look forward to the future and all (or almost all) it might hold.

Years ago, as children in Aylmer, my sister Rhoda and my brother Nathan and I used to run and play in the yard and fields as the summer sun was setting. It was a magical time in a magical season. The end of day as dusk was settling. The white moon rising in the eastern sky. Southwestern winds rustled through the maple trees. Purple Martins swooped for insects in the air. Cornstalks crackled in nearby fields. The brilliant hues of the western skies remain vivid in my mind. Never since those enchanted childhood days have I so keenly felt and absorbed a sunset.

We chattered and laughed as children do, with no thought of tomorrow. Unaware that all too soon it would all be gone. That the years would flow like water, that we would soon emerge from our innocent state. That there would be no return.

And yet, occasionally at dusk in the summer months I feel the southern winds and relive those moments in my mind. And come tantalizingly close to grasping them once more. Only to a point, and then they recede again into the mists of time.

I reflect on those memories. What they are and what they mean to me. And feel a bit pensive and sad.

We were children. Blissfully oblivious of all that life would bring. We were happy. And we were free.

We were children. Running barefoot through the windswept grass.

And it was summer.

Well, I finally met the man. The guy who sings all those hilarious PA Dutch songs. John Schmid. (web site: He was in the area for a few days to help with Nelson Coblenz’s revival meetings this week and honored me with his company one evening. A friend directed John to my blog last winter and he contacted me via email. Since then, we’ve spoken and emailed regularly, but had never met.

He and an Amish friend and I dined at the grand old Revere Inn and Tavern in Para-dise Monday night. (No, the place has nothing to do with Paul Revere, but I think George Washington slept there at least once.) Great food and a lovely time. After dinner, they made noises about stopping by my house for awhile. I rushed home to clean it up a bit, mainly by piling most of my books and junk into the bedroom and out of sight. The house was moderately presentable when they arrived.

Ira and John in Ira’s messy kitchen

The next day John stopped by at work to tour the place and we had lunch at the local restaurant. I get a kick out of him. No one is a stranger. He struck up a conversation with a pudgy elderly man in the next booth. The elderly man approached our table as they were leaving. A retired United Church of Christ pastor, he laboriously regaled us with a detailed (and surprisingly accurate) history of the Mennonites and Amish. This was after John identified himself as a Mennonite. (I scrunched down and didn’t say what I was.) Guess it never occurred to the elderly pastor that John might know much more about such history than he does.

After a few minutes, the elderly pastor’s equally elderly wife walked up, probably to drag her husband away. He was on the verge of overstaying his welcome. Without blinking an eye, John turned to the old man and said, in all seriousness, “And this must be your daughter.”

The old man blinked, mildly startled, then smiled delightedly. The old lady positively glowed. The years seemed to drop from her, and she smiled and beamed. And for a moment she might actually have been his daughter.

“Oh, you are SUCH a sweet young man,” she gushed.

John is fifty-nine.

The old couple walked out, hand in hand, floating on air. I gaped, astounded. Couldn’t have pulled off something like that to save my life. John returned to his food and our conversation as if nothing had happened. All in the day’s work for him, I figured.


(No Comments) »

  1. John Schmid is one of a kind.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — August 1, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  2. Thank God for those little grace-filled churches! After we left Decatur, we were hurting. We ended up at a little unaffiliated Mennonite church where they were so good to us — no pressure to join, no pressure to conform, just let us rest and heal. Glad you are finding people of God who extend grace and love to you.

    Comment by pilgrimhen — August 2, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  3. Ira, it was good to finally meet you. I had a great time.

    It was providential that I didn’t know you were a Braves fan until I got back to Ohio. That would have put a damper on the whole deal. I look forward to showing you around Holmes County someday. I’ve already got several people who have demanded I bring you by their house when you show up. I think you’re good for several free meals for you & me (if you keep the Braves thing under your hat).

    God bless you.

    Comment by John Schmid — August 2, 2008 @ 11:25 pm

  4. Good to see the photo with you in the presence of Holmes County greatness, the mayor of Benton and friend to all he meets, John Schmid. All around good guy, with a great ministry. Per John Schmid’s comment, if you are in the Holmes County area, one free meal ticket could be had on me.

    Comment by John Yoder — August 3, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

  5. Hello Ira,

    Silly to say, I guess, but I feel like I know you…….in a way. I found your web site by way of your nephew Ira Lee’s Bird-In-Hand News site.

    I find your writings very interesting indeed. I like your “style” of writing…….easy going, realistic and always thought provoking. There will be the topic you are discussing but, at the same time, there always seems to be an underlying layer of humanity and an uncommon understanding of people…….in good times and bad. I know I am not saying that right, but I hope you get the general idea.

    In a very small but real way, your writings have taken me through some of the ups and downs in your life.

    Your writings give me yet another perspective when I consider some of the ups and downs in my life.

    So……..keep up the good work and I look forward to your writings in the future.

    I just want to let you know you have another person who appreciates your writings.

    Robert Miller

    Comment by Robert Miller — August 4, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

  6. John Schmid is a cultural treasure!

    Comment by jason yutzy — August 6, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  7. Ira,

    Just read blog about John Schmidt, sounds like him.

    Wondering if you could cure my courosity. Did you ever work at Starcraft in Indiana? Someone told me about your blog and I said I think I know this guy. I used to work w/him.

    Josie Miller

    Ira’s response: Can’t deny it. I’m the one. Remember you as a young guy with longish curly hair who drove a pickup.

    Comment by Josie Miller — August 8, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

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