You don’t hear much whistling anymore. Dad whistled his song of life, a gift that unbeknownst to him brought happiness to many over his lifetime. There is playfulness to a sound made through puckered lips, the air tongue-tickled as the breath’s bellows pump, making music on the inhale and exhale, the breath of life’s soul music.
His favorite tune was merry and light, the chorus at the forefront of my memory. I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t hear that tune when I worked alongside him. He loved to whistle during milking time on our dairy farm. The melody danced between the clang of cow chains against iron stalls and through the persistent chug of the vacuum pump. The sound relaxed and eased the cattle. When we worked outside the sound of his whistle was clear and free, traveling far to spread the cheer of his spirit. For some reason even the faint sound of his whistle drew your attention. It had a way of calling you home—calling your heart. At Dad’s funeral, I became aware of the distance his whistle traveled into the hearts of our neighbors, far and near, and how missed it was going to be.
I have memory moments when I expect to hear his whistle. As if I could will it to travel through the dimensions of space and time. My ear searching for the sound only my heart can now hear. Every now-and-again, usually when I’m working on a problem alone, I start to whistle Dad’s song and I am called home. I’m called to listen to my heart and the answer comes.
Dad passed in spring, when the spirit of a new season is ushered in with the songbird’s whistle and the nightly chorus of Peepers, those tiny frogs with the loud chirp, echoing over fields of hope and promise. He left at a time when everything held a song in their heart. Dad had a simple pure-noted purpose in his lifetime. He was a fixer— he worked at fixing life—for his family, friends and neighbors, the earth, his animals and crops. His life was alive with the sound of his own music. What a gift to give yourself. Whistling kept him in tune with his heart, his life a living song.
I can whistle, not as well as Dad, but it’s not stopping me from living to the beat of my own heart like Dad and occasionally I put my lips together and blow.
In memory of Edward Galkowski, Sr.
Old man winter has given us quite the roller coaster ride this year to say the least! Temperatures plummeted to below zero for over a week, reaching a low of -30 several times, and then rose to the high 40’s in two days bringing thick fog. It hung like a heavy wet curtain over the sun and the spirit of folks. Freezing rain and a dusting of snow followed. The mercury once again is hovering below zero. Our coat hanger is laden with coats, thick and thin. Each morning the family navigates through mounts of weather ready footwear strewn near the door.
Old man winter is a slippery fellow. Can’t say that everyone is thrilled with the chill. We don’t have a choice except to weather the weather. We do have a choice as to the disposition in which we do it. The excerpt below from my book, Sweet Wisdoms, gives you my perspective on how I mentally shovel through the challenges of a Wisconsin winter.
We are experiencing below-zero temperatures with the wind chill here in Wisconsin. It’s freeze- your-nose-hairs-together and turn-your-nose whiskers-frosty kind of weather. As I make my morning round of chores, I’m constantly pulling my hat down and my long underwear up! You can feel the landscape’s bones on these sharp cold days. I delight in the simplicity of winter—stay warm. Bitter cruel cold, you can’t make me a bitter cruel cold person.
I’m a school bus driver. Our district has a “no eating “rule on the buses. Mostly, to protect those children with food allergies from a medical emergency while they are in transit. It also helps deters bees and wasps from coming onto the bus looking for sweet treats in the garbage.
On this particular day, a kindergartner tattled on a friend for eating candy on the bus. The candy was a large lollipop. I gently asked the little boy to either throw it away or put back in the wrapper for later. School buses now-a-days have high backed seats. You can’t see anything that is going on in the seats which makes enforcing the “no eating” policy extremely difficult. I’ve adapted a strategy of intentional listening (it sounds better than eavesdropping) on conversations that light up my misbehavior radar.
I can hear a quiet exchange of indiscernible words between the tattled on and the tattler. Within a few seconds, the tattler had another tale to tell, “He’s still eating his candy, Bus Driver!” I now resort to pleading. “Please, put the candy away. You know eating isn’t allowed on the bus”.
That’s when I hear the rule breaker speak up. In a loud, deliberate voice directed at the tattler he says, “For the last time, I’m not eating. I’m LICKING!”
I can’t help but bust into a big smile. Good one! I’m admiring his manipulation skills with a limited vocabulary while at the same time leaving the tattler tongue tied. Then the pure innocents of the situation revealed a profound truth.
We all know we should talk less and listen more. This experience taught me what we should be listening for—meaning. The meaning given to words is defined by the speaker. If we are not giving our complete attention to listening, talking is meaningless.
Soon nature will outfit my horses—Chief Lakota, Duchess and Jazz — with heavy, thick winter coats. During the winter I affectionately nickname them, Fluffy, Puffy and Stuffy, respectfully, of course. Jazz, my mini-Appaloosa, could actually keep his winter nickname all year long. It describes his soft, round physique perfectly! The biggest reason I overlook his aptitude to find mischief is his charming resemblance to a child’s plush stuffed animal. Jazz is stuffed with cuteness!
The change in my horses’ coats is slight at first. It comes one hair at a time, thickening and rising as daylight hours dwindle and the mercury slides further down the thermometer. Slow, gentle change from the inside out is a gift we, whether human being or animal, give ourselves.
Winter’s thick heavy thoughts are right around the corner, too. Like trapped air between hair strands, we insulate ourselves from cold, bitter experiences, their shiver inescapable in the wintry season of introspection. The winter of the mind exposes raw hurt feelings. Their pain can no longer be protected under a blanket of fear. Self -reflection bares our souls; the naked soul is truth’s mirror.
Come spring, the harshness of winter sheds. If we are willing to see ourselves clearly … work through all the stuff and fluff… we will enter the soul’s summer sleek and shiny.
When we open the hurt, the wounds close.
Let us feast on gratitude on this happy day of giving thanks!
“If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is “Thank you,” that will be enough.”
~ Meister Eckhart