Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Dumplings

If you live long enough, life becomes more about letting go than of gathering. It is inevitable, this letting go.

Sometimes we have to let go of our favorite things: our favorite pair of shorts worn to the fray. Our favorite book with its tattered pages. Even our car, with its 200,000 miles of memories.

Sometimes we let go of clutter, and wonder why it took us so long to throw them out. You know what I speak of: The box full of old research gathered for stories that probably won’t ever be written. Those uncomfortable shoes with pointy toes and impossibly high heels that you never, ever wore, but dang they look sparklie. Those skinny jeans that felt more like a bone corset then denim. Those old love letters, although the guy went on to marry someone else. Those laser disks (what?). Those eight-tracks (what?). That rotary phone (what?). Those old ideas that no longer serve a purpose in our lives.

Sometimes the letting go is more profound, as we say good-bye to our special friends, the four-legged as well as the two-legged sort. And those with wings. And we say goodbye to family. To colleagues and heroes and inspirations.

Of course, the key phrase in all of this, If You Live. And perhaps, along the way of living our lives, we gather some understanding of it all. We become, hopefully, wise. It’s an elusive concept to grasp. Through the ages, religious leaders, philosophers, even politicians have debated on what is wisdom.

According to Dr. Vivian Clayton, wisdom consists of three elements: cognition, reflection, compassion. Wisdom happens when we take the time to gain insights and perspectives from one’s cognitive knowledge , what she calls the reflective dimension. Then we can use those insights to understand and help others, what she calls the compassionate dimension.

Of course, if it were that easy, with just three ingredients, there wouldn’t be all this debating about what it means. That’s why I like hanging out with poets. They know about such things. Marion Dane Bauer inspired me in her recent post, “Because receiving is another way of giving. The giver grows in the giving. And that’s a truth we all need to hold close at any time of life!”

And her wisdom resonated with me. I am not the poet like my fellow Teaching Authors. Did you see Carmela’s Thanks-Giving Thanku

I am just a storyteller. Begging your indulgence, I was reminded of an old English folktale (Source: Lindsay, Maud. The Storyteller. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard; 1915).  It went something like this: 

There once was an old woman who lived in the woods. One day, she decided to bake apple dumplings. These dumplings were her favorite. She had everything she needed to bake the dumplings, except for the apples. She had plenty of plums, however. She filled a basket with these plums, covering them in her finest white linen. Then she dressed in her finest clothes and set out to trade these plums for some apples.


By and by, she came across a young woman. The old woman asked the younger if she had apples to trade for her plums.

“No,” said the young woman, as she looked with such longing at the plums. “I have plenty of chickens, and not much else.”

The old woman traded her basket of plums for a bag of feathers. The old woman thought it was a good trade. The bag of feathers was much lighter to carry.

By and by, the old woman came to a garden, one of the loveliest gardens she had ever seen. She stopped a moment to smell the roses when she heard a couple arguing. The couple saw her, too.

“Tell us, old woman," said the woman.  "Do you agree that cotton is best for making a cushion on our bed?”

“No,” said the old woman.

“See, the old woman agrees with me,” said the man. “Straw is best for our bed!”

“Never straw!” said the old woman, as she held up her bag of feathers. “But a bed made of feathers is fit for a king!”

The old woman traded the bag of feathers for a bouquet of roses. She thought it was a good trade.

By and by, the old woman met a young prince who looked as sad as a rainy day.

“I go to meet my lady love,” said the young prince. “But I have no gift to show her how I truly value her.”

“Give you lady love these roses,” said the old woman. “And she will know.”

She traded the bouquet of roses for a gold farthing. What a good trade! At last she had enough money to buy her apples!

You may think the story might end here, for it seems like a happy ending. But it does not.

By and by, the old woman came to a young mother and her child, who stood with a big and furry dog. They were all frail from hunger.

How can I eat apply dumplings when my neighbors cannot eat at all? thought the old woman. And she said to the young mother,” I have need for a companion, and would ask for your help. May I trade this gold coin for your handsome dog?”

The young mother agreed. The old woman worried now, for how could she take care of a big and furry dog? Where would he sleep? What would he eat? Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t notice where she was walking.

“That’s one fine dog,” someone said. She looked up to see an old man rocking on his porch. His house sat in the shade of an old apple tree.

“That’s a fine apple tree,” she said.

“Apple trees are poor company to an old man who cannot bake,” he said. “But I’d trade all the apples you want for that fine fellow!”

The old woman traded the big and furry dog for a barrel of apples. She baked apple dumplings for her and her new friend. And that night, she enjoyed one of the finest apple dumplings she had ever baked.

Not The End.

My list of grateful things:

My daughter, who stands above any list.

For the wisdom of my friends. For working in a field where my heroes have become my friends. Including Eric and Marion, Monica and Emma, and Karen, and far too many that I do not have space enough to list. Thank you.

For the compassion, and love of my kindred spirits, like Cynthia, Carmela and The Teaching Authors, Rebecca and the Collective, Brian and the Snuggies; for soul sisters Jo and guiding lights Bonny and Bette. And many more. Thank you.

For apple dumplings.

If you like this tale, you might be interested in my book, One Fine Trade, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand (Holiday House, 2009).

You also might be interesting in this: Phyllis Korkki. “The Science of Older and Wiser,” New York Times , March 2014.

Don’t forget about the CWIM giveaway!

Bobbi Miller


Rebecca C said...

I need to work at letting a few more things go in my life, and in doing so, offer them up to others. Givers certainly do grow in the giving! And I love the post, tale and reminder you've just given us!

Pat McDermott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat McDermott said...

An enjoyable tale, your rendition of Apple Dumplings. That and the other gentle reminders in your post made a lovely start to my day.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

What a wise and thoughtful post! Thank you, Bobbi! xox

LInda Baie said...

It's a beautiful post. Thank you for your putting together of so much wisdom that will guide me through the week, & on. Have a good, and satisfying, week of trading yourself!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanku, Bobbi Miller!

When writing of thanks,
what counts more than form is the
number of heart beats.

Carmela Martino said...

What a marvelous post, Bobbi. I feel so honored to be among those for whom you're grateful. <3

Carmela Martino said...

Oh, and I meant to comment on this: >>I am just a storyteller<<.
At least to me, this sounded as though being a poet is somehow inferior to being a storyteller. I hope that's not what you meant. Your storytelling abilities are wonderful and I am so thrilled to have you sharing them here with us! :-)

Bobbi Miller said...

O no, Carmelo! Did you see where I had mentioned that poets know about such things as wisdom. And that is why I like hanging out with them. It has been their words and their notions that have set the stage on fire (just ask Shakespeare), and set the world on its end (just ask Sandor Petofi, the Hungarian rebel poet of 1955 that set into motion the Hungarian Revolution). Poetry is ancient. And epic. As Gilgamesh journeys in desperate search for the secret of life, and Penelope waits 20 years for the return of Odysseus. “You have to live life to the limit, not according to each day but by plumbing its depth.” said Rilke. “Someday, somewhere - anywhere, unfailingly, you'll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.” said Neruda. Only a poet could offers the secrets of life with such dignity. I claim no right to wisdom. I am just a storyteller. Quite, quite, quite literally.

Bobbi Miller said...

Thank you Pat and Rebecca for your kind words.I'm so glad you stopped by!

Bobbi Miller said...

And Thank you, Joann and Linda! Your kind words made me smile. And ThankU, Esther!

mary ann rodman said...

Lovely, Bobbi. Thank you (and I am thankful you are a Teaching Author,) said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful words of wisdom!

Bobbi Miller said...

Thank you, Mary Ann. I am pleased as punched to be with you guys! And thank YOU, Marcia, for your kind words!