Friday, October 21, 2016

Reading and More Dust

We've ended up donating a giant pile of things this week to the local charity shops as part of Jim emptying out our storage room. Old furniture, like several desks from when the kids were little, a couple more from their high school years, bookshelves, end tables, my old bedstead from my childhood. Someone is getting a beautiful birdseye oak four poster bed that we gave away.

The dust has been intense so I've been either in my reading nook burning through a pile of books on the Titanic, or or laying on the sofa watching television that doesn't take much thinking while I crocheted. I learned the Broomstick stitch and started on a few Christmas presents.

A little leftover yarn from another project and just like that I've made a broomstick lace scarf.

 I started designing a quilt with the Eiffel Tower in the middle. I'd been stockpiling beautiful cream/black/light pink/silver gray fabrics with that Parisian feel for ages now. I'm going to have to design and sew another 'Game of Thrones' quilt too, something to do with fire and ice this time.

Why am I reading about the Titanic right now? Because I watched the craziest thing this week one evening while I was wheezing and hiding in my office while Jim continued cleaning up the dust from the things in the attic and storage room. I watched a time sequence animation of the Titanic hitting an iceberg through it breaking apart and sinking. It's two hours and forty minutes long, something perfect to do when you are filled with medicines and cannot hardly breath. It's a chilling watch, as they have edited in all the sounds you would have heard, from the crew calling out orders, to the steam venting from the boilers to keep them from exploding right down to the screams of the final moments of those who perished when the ship went down. The only sounds missing were the gay ragtime songs and the hymns played by the shipboard orchestra as the ship floundered and sand.

I knew very little about this tragedy. I know this sounds almost un-American but I never bothered to watch the famous 'Titanic' movie. The only things I knew about it came from the mentions in history books and the likely lies that came out of the mouth of one of my exs who liked to claim he had a relative or two on the Titanic when it sank. I never believed him because he liked to come up with tall tales, like the time he told everyone at school that the scratches on his arms came from a wild cat that had hidden under his bed. We might have been in middle school then but no one believed him.

One of the things I was the most touched and surprised about in my readings were the stories of sacrifice and great heroism that I read. It just goes to show you that you really do not know what your character truly is until you're confronted with a great test. Some of the passengers and crew did some amazing and selfless things in the wake of the tragedy.

When I think about the time we live in now, and how people seem so determined to idolize and look up to the vapid and selfish, I wonder if we as a society can ever find what is good and heroic in our people and our times. When I see folks who are famous for being famous, like the Kardashians, or even presidential candidate Donald Trump I fear we're too far gone and nothing good can come of us.

But I don't know that. Perhaps the next big tragedy will show that there are still heroes out there, people that put others ahead of themselves or who will sacrifice for the greater good.

One bizarre Titantic fact I learned from the books is that one of President Taft's military aides, Archibald Butt, perished in the disaster along with other prominent men important to the country. In Washington D.C., on the Ellipse, near the White House stands a fountain that is a Titanic memorial for Butt and others.

One a hot summer day many years ago, when my youngest was a mere babe in a stroller and my son was walking Jim and I took the kids into the city for the day. Jim had a job interview near the White House with one of the government offices. I decided to wait for him on the Ellipse, pointing out a fountain that I would take the children to wait at, so Andy could run around. Jim walked away rapidly while I took Andy, the stroller, his sister Laura and the various things you end up dragging around with toddlers and babies to that part of the park near the fountain. When I got near the fountain I found it was overrun with homeless men, a pitiful lot. I ended up staying briefly at the fountain before decamping to wait for Jim on a bench near the exit of the Ellipse. I didn't realize it that day but that is the fountain memorial for the victims on the Titanic. I didn't realize it that day, but after reading several books I now know. I wish I had paid better attention.

I guess the lessons of my week sick are that you should always pay attention to your surroundings so that you realize the significance in that moment. The other lesson is always try to rise to the demands of the situation and be the hero you can be in the moment. I don't know that I'm capable of either of those things, but it's given me something to think about this week.

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