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Mar 19

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I hate graveyards and old pawn shops…

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Souvenirs by John Prine

All the snow has turned to water
Christmas days have come and gone
Broken toys and faded colors
Are all that’s left to linger on
I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my childhood souvenirs
Memories they can’t be boughten
They can’t be won at carnivals for free
Well it took me years
To get those souvenirs
And I don’t know how they slipped away from me

Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this
mornin
Always look the same to me

I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs

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Around 1972, the American singer /songwriter, John Prine wrote the tune titled, Souvenirs. The song offers a sweet and lovely melody that contrasts the lyric’s (found in the above verse) strong sense of sadness. His words wax melancholy, yet eloquently about loss of love and the sadness of reflecting upon memories from childhood.

Here is a live recording of John Prine playing with another American great, Steve Goodman -born 7/25/48 – died from Leukemia, 9/20/84.

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Sometimes, it seems we spend our lives in pursuit of what we expect will bring us happiness only to experience profound sadness along the way. Of course, if we have never known sadness, how could it be possible for us to appreciate happiness? If we had never experienced great difficulty, how could we expect to understand comfort and ease. Memories, sad or joyful, are not something that can be purchased or won without the experiences that attach their polar opposites. They are, for good or ill, earned through the lessons of living. No one goes through life untouched by these various acquaintances with the facts and events of living . We are sentient beings and our senses offer stimuli that activate emotions and hopefully reasoned contemplation.

Often, we have little control over the events that make up the experiences of our lifetime. Some of life’s events hold intense memories of trials and tribulations. Others remind us of great accomplishments and special achievements. The people we meet along life’s path come and go and sometimes they depart much sooner than we would wish. All the memories of such are what Prine refers to as “souvenirs”. So fleeting are the hours, days, months and years each of us are given. We have a finite number of them and we know not how many that number will total. Nothing lasts forever, though sometimes we wish that the good feelings could be prolonged. By contrast there are experiences that inflict an overwhelming feeling of sadness and a sense that suffering will never depart. We can only be assured in the knowledge that all things pass and looking back, they sometimes seem like a dream or just a figment of our imagination. They assume an ethereal quality that time and distance cause to fog the memory…as if life were but a dream within a dream.

This morning, I woke to find a late season snow had passed through over the course of the night. In this part of the country, there are snows with interesting names. A few days ago, we had what I think would be called a “crack stuffer snow”– a lite and fluffy snow that blows into the cracks of a barn. Last night and today, we had a “sapling bender” — a heavy wet snow that weighs down the small trees and bends them. I think the next one we receive will be an “onion snow”. An onion snow is when the wild field onions are starting to burst into life again, after the long winter dormancy. These three are late winter – early spring season snows that were named by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Here, in Pennsylvania, the soil still slumbers beneath the hard frozen crust. The springtime weather can be turbulent and ranges from sunny warming days to blustery snows. Some rain storms help to soften the ground and then another heavy frost will reassure us that winter is not yet finished. Today, we had snow in the morning then, some clearing with bright sunshine. In the afternoon, I watched the clouds roll back in and the skies turned slate gray and a mix of snow, hail and rain, turning to rain and clearing again. It is hard to dress for this weather!

This late season snow-scape gave me cause to reflect on memories of “graveyards and old pawn shops”, on days and years past, on friends and family members who have departed never to return to this mortal plane. It was a strange feeling to consider my life’s souvenirs. I am not one who is too involved with mysticism though, perhaps the people we may have had a strong bond with in this life, may be able to communicate to us from the great void. I don’t mean to say that we can hear their voices, but maybe there is some power to perceive a “message” — a sign or symbol, from the deceased. Do you think it is possible?

“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it is dark.” Zen Proverb

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Some interesting reading:

Man and His Symbols by Carl Gustav Jung

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

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A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3

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