We are at the very height of the summer. The tomatoes are in, the corn is high. Every leaf on every tree has made its appearance and every summer flower is abloom. Life abounds in the woods and on the beach. The back bays have their fishermen; the salt meadows their greenheads. Even the boardwalk boasts a bumper crop of visitors out to celebrate this season of fertility and abundance.
I made the mistake, in the luxury of early morning idleness on the Fourth of July, of watching a speech on CSPAN by writer David McCullough. There are few authors so universally respected by readers, leaders and obscure writers like myself who celebrate his success and recognize the tremendous amount of work and dedication he brings to his chosen field. His best-sellers about John Adams, Harry Truman, 1776, the Panama Canal, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Wright Brothers hardly come out of his typewriter before the public and the Pulitzer committee snap them up.
Thousands of years before the Christian era there existed on the Greek Island of Crete a Minoan civilization with a great palace at Knossos. Its fabled history lives on today in tales of the Minotaur, a monster half bull and half man, which was imprisoned in a great labyrinth; a maze into which young men and women were sent as sacrifices to become lost and ultimately devoured by the monster.
In War: Resolution
In Defeat: Defiance
In Victory: Magnaminity
In Peace: Goodwill
Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War
Aunt Tess, the youngest in a family of 11 including nine older brothers, is not one to ease up on family duties just because she’s getting on a bit. She had celebrated as her brothers had come home after licking Hitler. She still shows up to celebrate as her large crop of nephews and nieces go through the weddings, baptisms and graduations that mark all our lives. As the last survivor of her generation she is accorded the first pew in the church and the best chair in the house at such events.
John McPhee, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and perhaps the finest writer New Jersey has ever produced, wrote books so good they echo in the mind 30 years after you read them. I thought last week of his “Coming into the Country,” his classic work about wandering north in Alaska in the 1970s, eyes open and mind finely tuned, trying to explain to himself how the parts and turmoils of that great wilderness fit together. He blended geography and politics, zoology and sociology, rowdy drunks and adventurous bush pilots into a wonderful tale of a new state a-building.
We are deep into the birthing season of presidential candidacies, midwived by super-PAC billionaires, talk-show hosts, pundits, pollsters, columnists, cartoonists, fund-raisers, Sunday morning TV panelists, and every coffee-shop waitress in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“Encaena” is an old Latin word for a graduation ceremony, seldom used in the U.S. but cherished in the lush green fields and among the libraries and colleges and pubs of Oxford in the heart of England. It is an annual festival, a ceremony of honorary degrees and new-minted graduates celebrating their achievements with glasses of champagne sipped happily in garden parties and along the River Thames and on the punts that glide along the River Cherwell near Folly Bridge.
Full Disclosure: I am not and never was a “Car Guy”. Even in my high
school freshman year when a buddy and I delighted in stealing the cigarette
lighters from the latest GM models on display at the Steel Pier I had no claim to
being a car guy. Of course I met the requirement imposed on all teenage
American males that we recognize every make, model and year on the road, and maybe know its horsepower, but that didn’t make me a car guy. Those were guys like Lee Iacocca or John DeLorean, who knew what a muscle car should look and act like. Or the guys who brought out the Chevvy Corvette in ‘53 or the Ford Thunderbird in ‘55.
“On July 20, 1969, when … Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon , he
carried with him, in tribute to the Wright brothers, a small swatch of the muslin
from a wing of their 1903 Flyer.” The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough.
If you ask the ubiquitous Google about the oldest living persons, you will still find a handful of folks who were alive when the Wright brothers made their historic flights on the dunes of North Carolina. But none, I think, who saw them happen. A hundred and twelve years after those great events, all known eyewitness survivors are gone.