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Birney Imes: The power of a few well-chosen words


Birney Imes



The moon vine in the backyard has entwined the empty chicken coop and is now launching an assault on the Mexican petunia next to it. The vine''s large blooms are white and diaphanous, like tissues left on a make-up table in the dressing room of a Broadway star. 


I''m only imaging this, though once I had occasion to go backstage before a Broadway play. It was a subterranean chaos, chattering people in various states of undress scurrying to and fro in a catacomb of small, low ceiling rooms. I''ve also stood outside the stage entrance after a performance watching fans and actors as they emerged from the theater. Moments earlier they had been elegant and dignified, full of purpose, the height of sophistication. In the light of the street, they were kids with backpacks, in T-shirts, jeans and Nikes. 


In its own way, a flower garden, too, has all the magic of the theater. With its ever-changing cast of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, a garden has all the elements that draw humans to Times Square: drama, beauty, sex. Though the action may be more discreet, it''s all there for the patient and knowing observer. 


Standing amid the color, beauty and movement, a flower garden can be a meditation, a gentle way to ease into a stressful day. Most mornings a perky hummingbird -- think Rodgers and Hammerstein -- is usually the first actor to take the stage. Clad in an iridescent green coat, he hovers in front of the Turk''s cap, trumpet vine and the black and blue salvia. Most days he''s all business -- pausing between each flower to take stock; occasionally he will linger for a second at eye-level an arm''s length away, as if to say, "What are you doing here? Friend or foe?" 


In the South, gardening is one of the many distractions we have to help us endure our crazy hot summers. There are plenty of others -- among them, watermelon, ice cream, fireflies and America singing "Ventura Highway." 


I love to get emails with a quote at the bottom. Here''s one that accompanied a recent message from Allison Barnette, a Caledonia 8th Grade Social Studies teacher: 


"If you want to build a ship, don''t drum up people to collect wood, and don''t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." 


-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944); aviator, writer 


Amazing the power of a few well-chosen words strung together in the right order: "... the endless immensity of the sea." Makes you want to get on a sailboat and head for the south Pacific. 


NPR''s Scott Simon the other day offered a tribute to Jack Layton, a Canadian politician who recently died from cancer at the age of 61. This from Simon''s report: 


Layton joined the liberal New Democratic Party, and lost several elections -- for Parliament, and mayor of Toronto--before winning his first seat in the House of Commons in 2004. 


He brought the New Democrats to their biggest victory in history in May. But by July, Jack Layton''s cancer returned. Two days before he died, he wrote a letter that his family released this week. It is graceful, blunt and personal. 


"Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out," he writes, but tells others afflicted with cancer, "please don''t be discouraged that my own journey hasn''t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better. ... My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer." 


And then, a man who gave his life to politics closes with what amounts to a personal credo: 


"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we''ll change the world. 


"All my very best, 


"Jack Layton." 


Maybe I''ll use Jack Layton''s quote at the bottom of my e-mails: "Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we''ll change the world."


Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment kat commented at 9/4/2011 12:57:00 AM:

Ahhhhh yes, if only we all could see the world through your rose colored glasses Birney......what a wonderful world it would be.!!!!


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 9/4/2011 5:45:00 AM:

I'm sorry, what was the question again?


Article Comment hope commented at 9/5/2011 10:17:00 AM:

Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
With FOX news dividing our world with hate for the President and with the "flamethrower" Russ Limbaugh and Glenn Beck providing more of the same along with AFR and countless other FOX news outlets and talk shows, these three words are meaningless to them. Power and Greed triumphs over all three of these words.
Bauchmann says the eartquake and hurricane is God's wake-up call to our politicians. And our wake-up call could be President Obama being elected to replace the God Fearing administration who drove our Country to the brink of disaster. I have yet to hear of one preacher praying for our President. It seems that they along with Fox and the Republican Tea Party want him to fail also.
Be careful of what you sow, you may have him another 4 years!


Article Comment be_dimplez_be commented at 9/5/2011 1:28:00 PM:

"Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we will change the world."

Despite what is going on in the world, it all begins with you. There is strength in numbers.

Thanks Birney- point well made and taken.


Article Comment hope commented at 9/5/2011 1:53:00 PM:

@gogetum----I don't have time to listen to all of them, but I get most of my clues about them from reading your comments.
EXAMPLE:To fail in his attempt to take down the U.S. within, Nikita Khrushchev said he himself could take down the U.S. without firing a shot with sex and alcohol (booze). But you want the people to believe that he mean't it would be President Obama. Either distorters of the truth or liars. Take your pick! That's them!


Article Comment frank commented at 9/5/2011 8:15:00 PM:

It is interesting to watch the liberals in a ranting, raving, screaming, cussing panic lately. I guess when you can't defend a crumbling economy and soaring unemployment you go around blaming everything from bad luck to Fox News. Biden, Waters, Kerry, Hoffa, and Barry are all out there cussing the tea party which is not even an organized political group.

Is the liberal 2012 campaign strategy going to be whine, cuss, and blame? Good luck wid dat!


Article Comment hope commented at 9/5/2011 9:00:00 PM:

@frank:President Obama elected to replace the God Fearing administration who drove our Country to the brink of disaster.
You want the people to believe that President Obama is the cause of our crumbling economy and soaring unemployment. Either distorters of the truth or liars. Take your pick! That's them!


Article Comment frank commented at 9/5/2011 10:58:00 PM:

"distorters of the truth or liars"
The $15 trillion debt, 9.1% unemployment, and zero job growth last month are not distortions of the truth. If anything they are underestimates of the real numbers. They are also official numbers as reported by the Federal government.

It is hard to hide from the facts after 4.7 years of a Democratic congress and 2.7 years of this liberal President. I don't think screaming and cussing is fooling anyone anymore but hey, keep it going. It is amusing to watch.


Article Comment kat commented at 9/6/2011 11:00:00 AM:

WAIT---as Roscoe said, "what was the question again?"


Article Comment hope commented at 9/7/2011 1:58:00 PM:

@frank------more facts:GWB's 700 billion dollar stimulus package created a minus 9 million jobs. President Obama's stimulus package created how many?


Article Comment frank commented at 9/8/2011 10:08:00 AM:

George Bush is ancient history Hopeless. Obummer now has his own record to run on and defend. If the plan is to use the flame and blame game as an election strategy, it ain't gonna fly.


Article Comment hope commented at 9/9/2011 7:38:00 AM:

@frank;with the approval rating of congress at 14%, this after loading it down with Republicans in the last election, the lowest it has ever been, and his at 44%, it looks like the Republicans are the ones that ain't gonna fly.


Article Comment frank commented at 9/9/2011 8:59:00 AM:

A little gridlock is not a bad thing Hopeless. It would be good if the Democrats hold on to one house of Congress so long as we get a competent President. A good house cleaning all around would probably be positive for the nation.


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