If, by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling, 1895

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

When I’m down and feeling sorry for myself, “If” is one of the poems I return to for inspiration. Here are YouTube links to great readings of this poem, the first  by Holly Musgrove, the second by Sir Michael Caine-

Insert video link  to Holly Musgrove 

Insert video link to Sir Michael Caine

Life is a gift and a responsibility. Let’s make the most of it!

Tio Stib

Fire In The Hole! Reflections From Summer Camp

It had been a memorable July 4th at Camp Colman. the bright sunshiny day had helped campers enjoy swimming, playing horseshoes, and making those ludicrous craft items you find years later in a box and ask aloud, “what the heck?”

The evening meal had been mouth watering grilled salmon courtesy of the camp’s patron, Ken Colman. After the sun had disappeared on the far side of Horsehead Bay, campers and staff assembled on the beach to ooh and awe at a fireworks show set off from the swimming float. 

As silence finally subdued the crowd, everyone disappeared into the night.

But in Cabin 5, the fun had just begun.

When their counselor left them for adult R & R in the lodge, a voice cried out-

“Hurry up Pat, what’d you get?”

Flashlights beamed on a boy sitting crosslegged in the center of the floor, smiling as he ripped open the recently received package.

It was Pat’s birthday and his sister had kindly sent him a present. Inside lay the obligatory homemade cookies and an assortment of candy bars. But the real treats were hidden under layers of toilet paper.

Fireworks!

Wow!

Jeez!

Can you believe it!

“Man, whose got a match?

As none of the middle schoolers yet smoked, or admitted to it, they seemed to be out of luck. But, the older and always prepared sister had covered this eventuality. Under the secret stash of sparklers, missiles, and bombs was a pack of matches.

Cautious not to draw too much attention to their clandestine celebration, they lit the sparklers first, gleefully twirling their twinkling torches around the inside of the cabin before someone mentioned this might be a fire hazard.

the party moved outside. 

“Hey, what are those?”

“Pop bottle rockets.”

“Yeah, what do you do with them?”

A Coke bottle appeared and was shoved, base first, into the ground, it’s nose pointed haphazardly across the center lawn.

A small digression for a note on local geography. Cabin 5 sat on one side of the large expanse of grass called the center lawn. On the far side of this lawn, perched nobly on a small hill, sat the camp lodge, out-of-bounds to campers but a late night respite for leaders and staff, At this point on a dark night, lights glowed inside the lodges windows but nothing stirred on the campus lawn or adjacent hillside. 

For the uninitiated, a pop bottle rocket is a small missile attached to a stick. This explosive was slid into the waiting pop bottle and a match was lit. Wide eyes watched as the fuse glowed  and quickly shrank to nothing and-

The real fun of pop bottle rockets is that they don’t just go “boom!” Rather, they hiss and whistle and screech as they twist madly towards their target.

This particular pop bottle rocket performed perfectly on its three second flight towards the lodge. As the missile exploded into the hillside there was a simultaneous scream and the distinct sound of something or someone crashing into the bushes.

This unexpected result was barely noticed by the frenzied pyrotechnicians.

“What else is there?”

“Jeez, what’s that, it’s huge?”

“Cherry bomb. Man, can it make noise.”

“Put it in the garbage can.”

another match burst into flame, a fuse lit, and the cherry bomb was tossed into a garbage can, lid dutifully replaced.

“kaboom!”

I swear that lid blew 10 feet into the air. The echo from the explosion reverberated up and down Horsehead Bay.

but what was even more surprising, is that before that lid crashed back to earth, a searchlight swept the area and a voice yelled out, “What’s going on!”

Somehow, in the seconds it took for Camp Director Jack to jump up the steps into Cabin 5, every single one of its delinquent residents was fast asleep deep inside his sleeping bag. All except for the unfortunate kid in the back corner scrambling for the safety of his upper bunk. The searchlight illuminating two squirming legs seeking shelter inside his bag disputed his innocence.

There was no happy ending to this story. The next day, all Cabin 5 campers were put on latrine duty, requiring multiple trips to the two outhouses , Nellie and Egypt, for cleaning purposes.

However, it was difficult for us not to smile as we walked back to camp after our odious chores. Somehow, Director jack had missed the birthday present box, and we lit up the remaining fireworks and dropped them down the outhouse toilets.

“Fire in the hole!”

Respectfully submitted,

Camper 4601

(Camper name has been omitted in fearful deference to the ghost of departed Director Jack)

Footnote: This historian readily admits that fifty years of time and a failing memory may have resulted in some distortion of facts in recounting these events. However, I’m certain that the above mentioned garbage can lid flew at least ten feet up into the air. As for other Camp Coman happenings, the camper sleeping bag stuffed with jellyfish, the various articles of camper clothing run up the flagpole, the painful proddings  by the Order of the Fork, the life altering impact of snipe bites, and the imaginative uses of peanut butter and marshmallow cream on the initiation outing to Dead Man’s Island, I shall entrust these details to more sound minded scholars. I will admit though, that I was the last one on the campfire stage to figure out the metaphysical mantra of the turbaned visiting Siam Prince Shambu -“ohwhatanassSiam.”

Additional footnote: For the curious, the unheard scream when the pop bottle rocket exploded into the hill below the lodge belonged to Jr. counselor Dan downey. Since nicknamed “ducker,” it is reported that Dan still suffers from PFSD, post fireworks stress syndrome. It was noted in the newsletter from his 50th high school reunion, that when a champagne cork popped off, “Ducker” dove under the refreshment table, causing some embarrassment and a lot of spilled drinks.

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Jumping Off

leaning out the open door
time roars by
it’s gone
no more
I wonder what my life might be
had I the courage to jump free

behind me in the train’s cocoon
dreams fly off to distant moons
faces glued to heartless screens
joyless stares and silent screams

and so we travel every day
secure and safe or so we say
the child no longer comes to play
the status quo will have its way

will I stay an untold story
remain in hopeless purgatory
pretending that I care no more
soul crying for its need to soar

then I jumped off into space
the unknown flying in my face
It’s not clear where I will land
no matter
I am free again

tio stib

2016, 2017, 2019

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Afternoon Sun

for the first time 
in seeming months
we sat at water’s edge
mesmerized by stillness
listening
to the gentle lap of waves
feeling the warmth
of afternoon sun
slowly melt our frozen souls

shadows passed
as geese honked overhead
laughing children scurried by

Ah…
I heard a voice within

at last,
there is hope again

tio stib

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Blind Man on a Bench

a surprise lover
the cool breeze kisses my cheek
my body delights
in sunshine’s warm embrace

wavelets lap softly on the sand
the scent of seashore drifts into my nose
a fly buzzes by

birds surround me
chirping behind
squawking above
honking across the water
laughter approaches

raucous conversation
“good morning!”
“Good morning to you”
the footsteps fade
a blast of male perfume persists

I bite an apple
crisp
juicy
sour
my lips pucker

smile

immersed in a beautiful day
mind swimming in memories
a blind man on a bench

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 6 – A Shared Life

“for better for worse, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part.”

These thoughts are part of many marriage ceremonies, I’ve committed to them myself. Yet, until recently, I’ve never fully grasped their significance.

In the past, the bumps on our life road were never terminal, there was always a way out, there was always tomorrow, things would get better, time was on our side.

That’s not our reality now. Alzheimer’s dementia is no game of the day, not a trivial illness that will go away, we’ve now entered a path that is one way only, and it well end only one way.

Most of us take all measures to avoid the subject of death and dying. In younger years, I was certainly that way. However, later in life, death has knocked on my door several times and I’ve learned to open my heart and appreciate the gift of being with other’s as they end their life journey. Is this tough work? Beyond words. But, so are the rewards.

Being blind has humbled me. Blindness took away many freedoms, many activities and experiences I often took for granted. Our life now, our shared life, is simple. There are no complicated agendas, no long “to do” lists. We get up and enjoy the wonders of a new day. I listen as my wife delights in describing hummingbirds hovering at the feeder, as she greets passersby and talks to children, and reminds me we have to buy more cookies.

Our shared life has become a series of special days. Our special days have become a series of precious moments.

tio stib

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Wondering What I Will Be

I wonder if I’ll ever be
happy with just plain old me
accepting what the mirror can see
surrender to reality

stop playing the re-invention game
lusting after love and fame
stop playing other people’s games
hope the world will speak my name

I wonder who I will be
when I give up on changing me
exhaust all possibilities
get up one day and let it be

tio stib

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