Snow: Compassion, cicadas and retirement tips

July 14, 2012 

The cicadas are back, filling the summer nights with their mystic chorus.

They trigger the memory of a long-ago summer when I was editor of The Raleigh Times and had hired a young reporter from Brooklyn.

I invited him to dinner. Afterwards we sat outside, under a huge oak. Suddenly, as if on cue by some unseen concert master, the cicadas burst into their nightly sing-song chirring chant.

“What’s that!” the young man asked excitedly. I answered as well as I could, sharing cicada folk lore and the fact that they are often confused with locusts, the eighth plague God visited upon Egypt in freeing the children of Israel from bondage.

I instructed my young guest to lay his hand on the trunk of the oak. He did. The cicadas instantly ceased their singing.

The young man then ran from tree to tree, turning off cicadas by the hundreds. Much to his chagrin, I could not explain the phenomenon.

I wonder about the whereabouts of the boy from Brooklyn and if he remembers that experience. I wonder also if cicadas sing on summer evenings from the trees of Brooklyn.

The sing-song nightly concerts remind me sadly that 2012’s longest day is behind us and that every tomorrow will be shorter than the yesterday that preceded it.

So enjoy to the hilt these lazy, hazy days of summer, even if some of them are as hot as Hades. And tell your children about the cicadas.

Surviving retirement

In retrospect, I wish I had taken up golf, although I’m convinced I would have been a pitifully poor golfer.

Golf is a highly popular sanity-saving pastime, especially for men. Many non-golfing friends, listening to the telling and re-telling of exploits on the golf course, are convinced they’ve missed something great in life.

Much like fishermen who brag about the one that got away, golfers had rather talk about their golf scores even more than brag about their sexual conquests. (Allow for a certain amount of fiction, if not outright lying, in either case.)

During these tough economic times many are losing jobs or are being forced into early retirement. There’s more to retirement than a game of golf.

My longtime friend Glenn Keever, a golfer, and I were having coffee and came up with a list of tips for men on how to survive retirement without its leading to divorce. We thought these tips, based on our own retirement experience, might be helpful

Retired men need someplace to go.

• A job forces structure in a person’s life. Retirement removes it.

• Nothing compares with not having to be someplace next. Enjoy it.

• In retirement, husbands and wives are a community of two against the world. That can be reassuring and fulfilling.

• Retirement makes it possible to have a drink at 1 p.m. Don’t. Take a nap instead.

• Retirees should give each other space, allowing for occasional individual outings with friends, clubs, etc.

• Retirees’ children should talk to both parents when they call.

My friend, a veritable Solomon, concludes with: "Retirement means facing who you are as a human being, not what a job has made you out to be for all those years.”

Good luck and welcome to a new and challenging lifestyle.

Brief compassion

A friend emailed a gripping photo that showed an eagle perched on a tree limb and clutching a squirrel in its talons. The eagle’s beak is piercing the body of its prey.

The squirrel’s eyes seem to be looking into mine.

Why do I feel compassion when I hate the varmints so much? Few, if any, animals the squirrel’s size can be as destructive.

For example, we returned from a few days at the beach to find that squirrels had gnawed through the porch screen and consumed almost 15 pounds of sunflower seed, scattering the husks across the floor. As a sign of disdain for our property rights, they deposited their droppings in several places.

So, my mourning period for the doomed squirrel was brief indeed. Now I eagerly await the return of my own hawk, which usually by midsummer has greatly reduced the squirrel population beneath our bird feeders.

Owl-wise

Practically all of us talk too much.

This past week, I came across something the late, renowned Rev. W.W. Finlator, passed on to me. It was a favorite childhood rhyme, author anonymous, from the 1920s:

A wise old owl sat in an oak.

The more he saw, the less he spoke.

The less he spoke the more he heard.

Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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