Hearing the word or saying the word sets my mind on a whirlwind of its own making. What am I thinking about? Gee, I don’t know! The images in my mind are traveling so fast I barely recognize one before another pops into my ‘mental’ view.
Perhaps, only ‘old folks’ can relate to the ‘whirlwind’ of fast moving images. I would imagine that the younger the person is the fewer images their mind can conjure up. If, as, or when I might wish to ‘reflect’ on something, I’m careful to choose my topic and then carefully select an event with a slot to slide the image into while I ponder the pros and cons of said reflection. That, of course, is ‘reflection’ with a purpose and might better help us understand the meaning of what we do as we ‘reflect’ on something.
One of the first times I tried to use ‘reflection’ as a problem-solving tool was some years ago when meditating on ‘forgiveness’. I was told by someone who claimed to know how to forgive that it must first be applied to ones-self. And so began a series of images and events – (was that reflection?) for me to ponder and try to understand what there was about them that made forgiving myself a necessity.
When I was a child our culture in the USA was very different. Homes everywhere had large porches on which one might find a ‘porch glider’, or at least two or three chairs. In summer time, or as soon as warm weather permitted, the grownups assembled on the porch and the ‘kids’ played in the front yard or on the steps that led up to the porch. This was family time as well as the time to socialize with the neighbors. If the grownups were really ‘old folks’ like grandma and grandpa, this was the best time and place for reflection on days gone by. If by chance a neighbor was seen about to walk by a call and a wave was all the invitation they needed to go up on the porch and share in the reveries. Lemonade, or Kool-Aid quickly made an appearance and the fun began. The men reflected on ‘sandlot’ stories, Halloween Pranks, fishing outings and tales of how things are ‘different’ now. The women swapped recipes, talked about the accomplishments of the most recent ‘grandbaby’, showed the newest knitting project and bemoaned about the parents of those ‘unruly’, ‘undisciplined’ kids in the house “in back”, where the backyards touched. “We’ll put a fence up this summer and we won’t have a gate in it either.” Today we don’t often see houses, depending on where we live, just rows and rows of apartments and ‘gated’ complexes. As close as the homes are to each other, too often neighbors don’t even know each other, and most private homes are surrounded by walls of concrete or walls of vegetation.
I have often ‘reflected’ on the change in our culture that separates us the closer together we live, rather than draw us together. We hear pleas to become involved in ‘community’ activities and get to know each other. Schools and churches put together all kinds of programs with the intention of creating a community spirit, but they soon begin to disintegrate and eventually a very few, usually ‘old timers’ remain and wonder ‘what happened’? Now is the time for some serious reflection, but by whom? We don’t find anyone who will take the time to seriously think about what the first intention was, who the people were that joined the group to create ‘something’ and then faded away “into the wild blue yonder” without a backward glance. Most folks just shake their heads and mumble something about, “It’s just like everything else”. They go into their homes, turn on the TV and prepare for another boring evening in front of an electronic pacifier. Wow! Can anything be done? Does anyone have any ideas? The answer to the first question is, “It’s doubtful.” The second answer is, “Yes, and so do a lot of other people have ideas.”
My opinion may not count for much and many people will be shocked, surprised or in denial. My answers are that we are living in a different cultural era. The culture has changed just as cultures have been changing since the beginning of time and we cannot look back on any culture in the past and say, “Let’s go back to ______!” That just won’t happen. Another answer, or idea, to explain why so many things have changed is to point out that a great percentage of the people in today’s society live in fear. Fear keeps us from joining groups – we don’t know everybody and some folks might be rapists, criminals, or other socially unacceptable person. Excuses abound; I need to spend my free time at home; I can’t afford a babysitter every week, two weeks, monthly or whatever frequency is decided upon for meetings; I don’t drive at night; my children need me; I can’t afford it, etc., etc. People are afraid to take on a responsibility for fear they will be the only one left to carry out missions in the ‘community’. These are things I’ve experienced, and I have no other answer for how to make changes that might create a ‘community spirit’. Perhaps we need more ‘reflection’ on existing conditions and how they might be changed.
I can think of many ideas for making changes but it’s not that simple. There really are numerous reasons, real and imagined for people’s responses. As an old saying goes, “Even a Philadelphia lawyer can’t figure it out!” But, wait a moment! There is another meaning of the word ‘reflection’ that is timeless, beautiful and peaceful. At least, it can be. The reflection that one sees in a pool of water or in a mirror.
Have you ever had a baby on your lap and held a mirror up so the baby could look into it? The expressions on the child’s face are precious. A young child is often amused by watching a kitten or puppy that sees its reflection for the first time. Maybe you have been camping or hiking and see a gorgeous reflection in a lake such as a mountain, trees, animals drinking on the opposite side of the lake or a beautiful sunset. One day as I was driving from AL to AZ I saw the reflection of a rainbow in my rear-view mirror. I was in no hurry so I pulled off the road and visually followed the rainbow. For the first time in my life, I saw where the rainbow started on the road side of my car, looked above and turned around to follow the curve as it disappeared under my car. A circle! The road and my surroundings were wet and the rainbow was reflected in the wet sand beside the road and the pavement before it disappeared beneath my car. Such magic, and a memory I have reflected upon many times.
As a lover of jigsaw puzzles, I often look for those of scenes where snow-capped or beautiful green covered mountains are reflected in a lake or a river. I have a son who is to a great extent a self-taught photographer. Many of his photos have been printed onto greeting cards, bookmarks, calendars and short video tours of famous places he has visited. More recently he has turned photos of places and scenes we have shared into picture puzzles and sent them to me as gifts. I can think of no better stimulus for ‘reflections’ than those lovingly created by my son.
-Rowena Nichols, Columnist ‘Row’
Rowena Nichols, RN, Dr. MMT, PTA. Registered Nurse with BS in Nursing, Dr. of Medical Massage Therapy, and Physical Therapy Assistant(Certification). Beyond the use of her mass credentials, she has had a “full and rewarding life,” including living and teaching in Chile and returning to nursing at age 80. Currently, she is writing articles for several Newsletters and magazines, including problem solving for tutors of English at a Literacy organization in New Mexico. She recently celebrated a book release, Wired for Changes: My Recovery from a Stroke. Send your request and a bank check or money order for $10.95 to; Rowena Nichols, P.O. Box 65552, Albuquerque, NM 87193. Shipping is included.