Rediscovering My Muse

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Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center

Rediscovering Atlanta author Celestine Sibley is becoming a ritual for me every Spring. For some reason, at about the same time that the dogwood trees begin to bloom, about the same time my Star Magnolia puts out the first of its fragile white blossoms, and about the time I begin to wonder where I will position my bedding plants, I start hankering for the wisdom and joy that I always find in my signed 1984 edition of “For All Seasons.”
The late and much beloved columnist, who spent years with the Atlanta Journal and lived just outside the city in a rustic log cabin she called ‘Sweet Apple,’ created a journal of the twelve months, of the holidays, of famous people born during each month, and most importantly, she recorded the changing landscape of North Atlanta. Just yesterday, I opened her little hard-bound book to the month of March and before I could even get a glimpse of her herb garden or her tender tomato seedlings in their eggshell hatcheries, I was immediately presented with a puzzle that would lead me on a delightful search into Middle English!
It seems that Chaucer opined in the vernacular of the day, the 14th century, that March was the month “in which the world bigan/ That highte March, whan god first maked man.” Quite remarkable. I have no idea where the poet got his information as to the month in which Adam and Eve were made, but even Celestine was confused as to what “highte” meant. It only took me about thirty minutes on the Internet (not available to Ms. Sibley in 1984) to run down a dictionary of the period and discover that it simply means “to be called or named.” I wish I could pick up my cell phone and just call or text Ms. Sibley, tell her what I found. I bet she would get a kick out of the fact that I have an entire dictionary of ancient words, most so far removed from what they have morphed into in today’s English language, at my fingertips! But since she died in 1999 at age 85, I suppose she has all these answers now where she is…communing with all the scholars, writers and baseball players she admired. And I am not so sure she would have been very impressed anyway.
Celestine may not have had all our new-fangled communication and research devices, but she never felt life wasn’t fresh and exciting every day. She would probably have been aghast at the time we waste or that is stolen from us by these high tech inventions designed to bring us closer together, yet are creating a society that rarely speaks face to face.
Years ago a German philosopher named Hermann Hesse commented on how some people “live out their lives in a dull and loveless stupor,” oblivious to the simple pleasures and joys that life provides for each of us. Too many people today, children, teens, adults, and yes, senior citizens, fill our days with “mindless electronic chatter,” losing hours to Facebook, Chat Rooms, YouTube, and Yahoo threads that, like some golden string we follow eagerly, as though they promise great wealth, knowledge and delight, but which simply lead us into a labyrinth, into the lair of a monster called TimeStealer!
How many of us today imagine life as a happy thing, a festival, something to be enjoyed, celebrated? How many of us put a high value on every minute of our lives? Hesse noted at the turn of the twentieth century that “the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy.” He had no idea what “hurry-hurry” looked like!
I want to leave you, Dear Reader, with a quote from another of my favorite contemporary thinkers and writers, Ann Quindlen:
“Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. ”
That is exactly what my friend Celestine Sibley did. She cared so deeply about the goodness of life that she spent her life spreading it around. I want to do that! I hope you will, too.

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