July 2014 Features

Music Review: Shine On

When I first listened to Sarah McLachlan’s new album, Shine On, I noticed that most of the songs on it include a reference to some sort of water. The types of water range from rivers and the sea to rain and tears. These watery references bring to mind the ebb and flow of life and they connect a diverse set of tunes in an intriguing way.

A track from the CD that particularly struck me was “Song For My Father.” McLachlan wrote the song in remembrance of her beloved dad, who died in 2010. I initially heard the song on an evening in June, and that night I had a dream in which my father, who passed away last year, appeared; that was a powerful reminder of the kind of impact that certain songs can have on us.

In addition to memorable and meaningful lyrics, the album contains melodies and rhythms that are striking and varied. It opens very energetically with a tune called “In Your Shoes” and ends more quietly with a song titled, “The Sound That Love Makes.” Some of the music is somber, and yet Shine On concludes on an optimistic note. McLachlan’s voice, as ethereal as ever, conveys on the album that she is moving on, with hope, to the next phase of her life, after passing through a trying, troubling time. 

Photo of the Month: To the Beach

A serene picture of a path to the beach can evoke numerous memories of delightful visits to the shore….

  Bethany Beach, Delaware, August 2008.   (Photograph by Michael Riddle. )

Bethany Beach, Delaware, August 2008. (Photograph by Michael Riddle.)

Book Review: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

Did you see the music video of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” that was recorded in space last year? If so, then you’ve seen Col. Chris Hadfield, author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and star of that video. In the book, Hadfield tells us about his life in space and on earth and he includes a description of the making of the music video.

Chris Hadfield decided 45 years ago that he wanted to become an astronaut. Specifically, he made the decision at age 9 on July 20, 1969, after viewing television coverage of the first moonwalk. However, he is Canadian, and as he writes, “NASA only accepted applications from U. S. citizens, and Canada didn’t even have a space agency.” But he was determined: “Maybe someday it would be possible for me to go too, and if that day ever came, I wanted to be ready.” He got ready by attending military college, majoring in mechanical engineering, becoming a fighter pilot and then going to test pilot school. And the Canadian Space Agency did come into being. In 1992, he was one of four people chosen by that agency that year to become astronauts, via a rigorous process that began with 5,330 applicants.

During his career as an astronaut, Hadfield went to space three times—he flew on a shuttle in 1995 and in 2001 and he was on the International Space Station from December 2012 to May 2013. He provides lots of vivid details about what it was like to be on a space shuttle and about what it’s like to live and work on the ISS. For example, here’s his description of weightlessness: “you can move huge objects with the flick of a wrist, hang upside down from the ceiling like a bat, tumble through the air like an Olympic gymnast. You can fly.”

Hadfield shares a number of lessons he’s learned that can be applied to life on earth. A particularly noteworthy lesson is about attitude: “There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction.” Another of his lessons, “sweat the small stuff,” perhaps is more applicable to a test pilot or astronaut than to the majority of us on earth. When you are in a high-risk occupation, everything has to be just so, or there can be dire consequences. Fortunately, most of us in our day-to-day lives have more leeway than that.

Hadfield retired in 2013 and is now enthusiastically pursuing the next phase of his life. He says, “Endings don’t have to be emotionally wrenching if you believe you did a good job and you’re prepared to let go.” His story is an engrossing tale of someone who did an especially good job, in the face of enormous odds against him. It’s worth reading to gain a sense of what astronauts actually experience on earth and in space. Plus it certainly presents some life lessons that are worth contemplating.

5 Reasons To Be Grateful in July

Some of us keep a gratitude journal, in which—at the end of the day—we write down several things we are grateful for. In that spirit, here are five things to be grateful for this month:

 Summer evening at the seashore. (Photograph by Michael Riddle.)

Summer evening at the seashore. (Photograph by Michael Riddle.)

1) Daylight that lasts well into the evening.

2) Air conditioning, which makes the hottest and most humid days bearable.

3)  An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, in every part of the country.

4)  Opportunities to enjoy music outdoors, at various parks and pavilions.

5)  Frozen desserts! Ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, gelato, sorbet, you name it.

Word of the Month: Independence

Curiously enough, the opening section of the Declaration of Independence does not actually include the words “independence” or “independent.” It does, however, include the word “liberty,” which is closely related to independence. Other words that are typically associated with independence are freedom, self-sufficiency and self-determination.

For me, self-determination is one of the most crucial concepts associated with independence. It involves setting your own path and charting your own course. Input from others can be valuable, but you as an individual (or as an entity such as a nation) are in the best position to determine what is truly in your own interest. Naturally, there are prerequisites that are usually needed for independence. Five-year-old children are not ready for full independence, nor are most 16-year-olds. It seems self-evident that an individual (or a group) needs skills, resources and maturity in order to achieve independence.

You can value independence and also recognize the importance of interdependence. We can think for ourselves and follow our hearts while we help each other out in families and communities and at workplaces. Even the Declaration of Independence recognizes interdependence. At the end of the Declaration, the signers “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” It can be challenging, but we can indeed pursue our own personal independence while actively participating in something larger than ourselves.

See July 2014 article

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