The Eccentric at the Base of Design

The squirrels and crows are feasting on the persimmons. I can see them through the window of my Writingshed. My high school English teacher, who was also my mentor, either said or quoted a poet (I don’t remember for sure which, and I have to paraphrase):

The persimmon tree in winter proves
That the eccentric is at the base of design.

I have found myself reflecting as the year comes to an end, not just on the past year, but the past decade.

I was supposed to go to my uncle’s ninetieth birthday in January of 2000. I had been looking forward to it, a respite from the craziness of having worked on a Y2K project.

Then I got bronchitis three days before I was to leave. I held out hope until the last minute, but had to call and let my mother know I would not be able to join them in Sequim, Washington for the celebration.

I hung up the phone, and told Tom this felt just like the time when I was seven and couldn’t go see Heidi. It was the Shirley Temple version of it—she was still a bit of an icon for littler girls back in the mid fifties. We were living in Saudi Arabia, the movie was only going to be showing for that one day. I got the flu that morning. My mother poured me ginger ale and I cried, imagining that every little girl in our American community—except me—was trapsing off to see Heidi, and that I would never, ever, get to see it.

This first decade of the twenty-first century has been tumultuous. My mentor, my mother, my mother-in-law, and my father-in-law all died during this ten-year period. My uncle turned 100 in January of this year, then died in June. The Supreme Court decided an election, the world became less safe, more hopeful, and more hateful.

I feel changed by the events—personal and global—of the last decade. I think I learned the art of surrender; that resistance, while not futile, prolongs agony. And, strangely, I learned how empowering surrender can be. It seems to have allowed me to drift with the current of my life when necessary, and then swim with intention when the time is right.

I think what is different for me, about me, is that I have come to appreciate that the eccentric is at the base of design. On that January day in 2000, after telling Tom my story about Shirley Temple and “Heidi,” Tom kissed me on the forehead, I lay down on the couch, wrapped myself in a blanket, picked up the remote and switched on the television, intending to drown my misery in daytime television.

It tuned to AMC, the last station we had watched. At that particular moment they were broadcasting “Heidi”—the Shirley Temple version.

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