Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music ...
Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music Education from Truman State. Now retired, Rich enjoyed reading, writing music and short essays. He is the director of Kirksville Community Chorus.
MCKNOTES ON A WINTER SMILE
I’m not a big fan of winter. I don’t like being cold, and frankly, don’t care much about the seasons, except for the fact that the change of seasons is necessary for some plant life. I lived in a tropical zone for a long time and can’t say that I ever missed winter. It thrilled me to wake up every morning and know that without piling on enough clothes to restrict my motion, I would be perfectly comfortable. I loved seeing blossoms year round.
I am particularly fond of hibiscus, frangipani, bougainvillea, night blooming cereus and so many other beautiful tropical flowers that adorn the terrain of locations with climates that are pleasant almost constantly. I’ve lived most of my life in the Midwest, so it appeared comical to me to see islanders in the Pacific don their winter coats when the thermostat fell below seventy degrees, but I enjoyed the absence of truly frigid weather. Still, I have great appreciation for the constant presence of beautiful vegetation.
I admire people who brave the elements and seem to be unfazed by bad weather, but while I admire them, I have no desire to be one of them. Like I said, I’ve lived in the Midwest most of my life. You may be thinking I should shut up and go live in a climate that pleases me year round. Well, I do think there are a number of advantages to living where I do.
I like California, but I can’t feature living there. I guess when I think of California, I think of the densely populated places like L.A. and San Francisco. Of course there are remote locations that offer a less frenzied existence, but if I were going to live there, I’d want to be “where the action is.” At the same time, the constant traffic would deter any thoughts of moving there.
I really like cities. I grew up across the river from St. Louis. We didn’t really spend a lot of time in the big city, but I like the fact that there are so many services available to city dwellers, and such a rich culture. Of course, one can find plenty of art in small towns. It’s interesting that art can and does survive in all settings. Even people who have found themselves in really horrible settings, for example, under tyrannical dictatorships, manage to find ways of expressing their love and practice of the arts. So I guess it boils down to just the difference in climate.
I’m completely aware that one can be lonely in the most populated places in the world. Good friends are available in cities or rural settings. It has to do with what one pursues. There are other factors that influence one’s choice of locations in which to live. I’m not fond of desert climate. Even though temperatures can be in a range that would otherwise seem comfortable, factors like humidity, rainfall, wind and the general mixture of natural elements that can either appeal or disappoint. Desert conditions are generally dry, with a wide range of possible temperatures from day to night. Vegetation is limited to plants that require little water. In much of the country, lawns include areas with flowers, green grass and flowering trees. Desert landscaping requires irrigation or alternate methods of landscape beautification such as rock gardens.
I am completely aware that none of these factors have anything to do with happiness. I believe happiness is a choice that can be made regardless of temperature, traffic, ratio of concrete to grass and so on. I choose to be happy. Oh sure, we all have days when we’re grumpy or don’t feel completely satisfied with the way life is unfolding, but for me, those periods are relatively short lived. It’s interesting that even people who face really difficult health situations can often wear a smile and project a good attitude. Others, who seem to have “all the breaks” can almost always find something on which to blame their lack of cheerfulness.
So I try to look in the mirror each day and overlook the flaws of the face staring back at me. If I smile at the mirror, just like magic, that face smiles back at me. If I frown, that too is reflected. I don’t mean to imply that I jump out of bed every morning and do cartwheels while I look for a mirror to assess my presentation for the day. while I joyfully pretend that I’m as happy as I can possibly be. For one thing, I’d be badly bruised by a single cartwheel at this point in life, and I’d be lying if I tried to tell you that was my usual approach to the mirror prior to my present age and somewhat limited physical ability.
I’m generally happy, though. I have a good life and everything I need. Sure I get angry sometimes, or disgruntled, but for the most part, I am pretty well off. I’ve also found that the face that smiles back at me from my morning approach to the mirror reacts like most of the people I run into at the grocery store, or wherever else I have to go during my day. If I smile at them, they will most generally smile back at me. Maybe they’re laughing, but I choose to see a smile that is friendly and comes from a place like the smile I’m wearing.