With Cream and Sugar

A cool, dry, breezy August afternoon provides a taste of autumn days ahead, days as crisp as the first bite of a McIntosh apple. I enjoy this stretch, from late August into September ... with October, Halloween, and November to follow ... leading up to the full stomach feast of Thanksgiving. (And then a good long nap on the couch!)

There is a slowing down to this part of the year, and yet a speeding up again as the school year begins. College payment is made in time for the fall semester. Books are purchased - hopefully used books. Pumpkins ripen. Crickets sing out their lonesome tune. The checkbook sings out its lonesome tune as well!

Like a pendulum, life does indeed have this way of slowing down and speeding up, of stalling and starting, of going back and forth, of spiraling to and fro like a falling leaf at the whim of the autumn breezes.

And through it all, amidst all that life sends our way, the autumn constellations return to fill our evenings with the wonderment of other worlds. Mighty Orion revisits the evening sky. The ceaseless cycle of the celestial clockwork; the inevitable change of seasons. Ultimately, it leads us to question what this life is all about. To question if there is a God up there watching over us. And if so, what His master plan might be. And whether He takes His coffee with cream and sugar, or black with perhaps an occasional shot of J&B.

Morning began circa 6:33 on the front porch with E.B. White. I'm reading a book of his letters and find myself chuckling over my wake-up coffee at his brilliant prose. White's letters were absolute gems -- humorous, relevant, insightful, nearly short stories in themselves. In those golden days of the 1920's/30's/40's there was time ... time to relax ... time to observe ... time to reflect ... time to sit down and write a letter to a friend or a loved one. Nowadays, I scarcely have time to floss my teeth in the morning!

Mid-morning found me painting some woodwork spread out on two "saw horses" (two small wicker tables, actually) in the backyard as I enter what hopefully will be the final phase toward finishing a home renovation project I began two-and-a-half years ago.

Then off to the dump, followed by a stop at the grocery store for a gallon of milk, raspberry sherbet, shampoo, dog food, a watermelon, and brake fluid. The checkout clerk gave me a strange look when she rang up the assortment of items. I guess I couldn't blame her. By the way, since when does the purchase of a half dozen items result in the printing of several yards of receipt, including personalized coupons based on my past spending habits. Are we now nothing more than a file of demographic information stored on some grocery store's central computer system?!

Noontime arrived with a ham and cheese sandwich, and half a dozen pretzels, washed down with a glass of cola.

After lunch I tinkered with the air conditioner water pump, which has been sticking in the "on" position even after the water has been pumped out, thus threatening to overheat, catch on fire, and burn down the house ... and all my Peanuts comic books along with it. So I flushed it out, took it apart, examined the switch, made what I hoped were the necessary repairs, and reinstalled it. Now I'm praying that the weather remains cool and dry for the remainder of the summer so I won't have to actually turn it on!

Catching up on my mail, I was somewhat surprised to receive a letter from my good friend, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. What was most surprising was that it didn't appear to be part of some mass mailing, but was a letter typed, no doubt, by Obama himself on his Smith Corona and signed in his own hand. I could tell because the letter began "Dear Friend" and ended "Sincerely, Barack Obama."

In the letter, Senator Obama asked me to rush a "generous contribution of $35, $50 or more to the Democratic National Committee today." Unfortunately, I just rushed a rather generous "contribution" to a certain Massachusetts college, so funds are just a wee bit tight at the moment. How tight? Well, let's put it this way - the cute, chubby, gray squirrels that scamper in merriment amongst the pine needles in the backyard are looking rather tasty these days ... as are the pine needles.

Oh, but wait! On the back of the donation form is an opportunity for me to donate to the Democratic National Committee via credit card. And as luck would have it, I received no less than twelve (12) credit card offers in the mail from various banks over the past two weeks. Do you think they know I have a daughter in college, a son on the way to college next year, a brake job due on one car, a muffler needed on the other car, and a real estate tax bill due in November?! It's a darn good thing I invested all my money in wind power!

Late afternoon. Need to put down one more coat of paint. After that, I'll settle down with a Narragansett and a chapter or two of E.B. White. Then it will be time to fire up the grill for dinner. Let's see, last night was squirrel. Perhaps for tonight I can catch one of those fuzzy little bunnies that have been eating clover in the front yard. Speaking of which, the clover, tossed with pine needles and perhaps some acorns and a pinecone or two, might make a nice salad. And I think there's some left over coffee from this morning that I can throw a few ice cubes in and pass off as iced coffee! Things are looking up already!

Later, as twilight slips into evening I can watch the constellations rise one by one, with a waning moon bringing up the rear, as yet another day closes, and as a new one approaches.

Gee ... with all this excitement I can scarcely remember ... did I floss this morning?! 

Jack Sheedy

Footnote: Referring to the Bible, it may be assumed that the Lord took his coffee with sugar as suggested by the following scripture:

From Exodus 15:25: "and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet." ("Shew" is a British term meaning "to show," derived from the Middle English term "shewen" or "showen." Isn't the English language fun?!)

Or from Nehemiah 8:10: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet" ("eat the fat" must refer to doughnuts).

Or from Jeremiah 6:20: "To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country?" (Obviously, Jeremiah, the purpose of the "sweet cane" was to put in the coffee!)

Or James 3:11: "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (Could the "fountain" be a Biblical term for a Starbucks?)

Or even Revelation 10:9: "...and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey." ("Make thy belly bitter" - must be referring to decaf!)

Amen.

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