With Aches Comes Wisdom

Man on sled in cloud of powdery snow
Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark

When we awoke this morning the CowChows lay under a four inch thick blanket of snow. Snow brings a peace and quiet to the world that is both soothing to the nerves and invigorating to the spirit. I found myself at once wanting to be outside frolicking in the snow and inside curled beneath my own blanket near a crackling fire. Throughout the morning I chose the latter. If only I’d been smart enough to stay there.

We were just finishing up lunch when I heard the tinkling laughter of children outside. The CowChows is nestled onto the side of a fairly steep hill, and through the window I watched as a couple of neighbor kids took turns on a sled. Their laughter, falling snow, the aroma of wood fire created a moment of nostalgia and a tiny voice inside my head asked, “How long’s it been since you slid on a sled in the snow?”

“They won’t want to play with me,” I argued. “To them I’m an old man.” But, the next thing I knew I was bundled up in my coveralls, boots, gloves, cap and shuffling out into the snow. I stood off to the side and watched, feeling every bit like the kid who wants to play with the other kids’ toys but is afraid to ask. We exchanged “Hellos” and they continued to play, and all the while the little voice kept urging, “Go ahead; ask them.”

So, I did. I asked if I could ride their sled. Their stunned silence lasted only a few seconds and then they explained it was actually a “Snow Boogie” and yes, I was more than welcome to ride it. I wanted to start from higher up the hill and as we climbed to the perfect place to take-off from the little dark haired girl explained the finer points of snow-boogieing including steering and balance and safety, and I pretended to listen.

At last I said, “This is it,” primarily because I was already winded. We turned and with the excitement of a child I took two running steps and dove onto the boogie sleddy thing. As I picked up speed the years fell away and I was flooded with childlike sensations and childhood memories. The cold pinched my cheeks, my eyes filled with tears, and I could not stop smiling. I was flying down that hill and going faster by the second. At some point, though, fast became too fast.

About halfway down I was sure I’d passed the speed of sound because I could no longer hear myself screaming. I wished I’d paid more attention to the little dark haired girl when I realized I was not going to miss my neighbor’s mailbox. Luckily, my shoulder absorbed most of the blow and it hardly slowed me down at all. I caromed off the mailbox, across the snow covered road and into the ditch where we had placed several large rocks last Spring to prevent washout. Somehow my Snow Boogie stayed under me and not only skipped across the rocks but picked up speed in the process. When my eyeballs finally stopped bouncing I realized I was headed straight toward a neighbor’s truck. Rather than be decapitated, I bailed.

The world became a blur of snow covered ground and snow filled sky as I rolled over and over and over. Thankfully, a hedgerow of thorny bushes stopped my tumble. I rolled onto my back and lay there panting, and as if drifting down with the snow I heard again the laughter of children. Funny how much different it sounds when you know they’re laughing at you.

Perhaps age will eventually bring wisdom, but aches will definitely do the trick.

Cordially yours,

Tim Couch

Live Free

baby-flagI stepped outside a while ago just to drink in the day, and what a beautiful day it is. The neighbors to one side, a young recently married couple, chatted intimately while grilling their supper. Beyond them, another neighbor meandered about with a garden sprayer tending his lawn. To the other side neighborhood children played and laughed and squealed with joy or excitement or surprise; their lilting laughter wafted across the valley like birdsong.

I looked down the hill to another neighbors home. With one arm he was loading construction tools into the back of his truck in preparation for the coming workday. In the other he cradled his infant son not willing to put him down even long enough to load his truck.

Kids wandered between houses; neighbors stood in their yards and conversed; tires sang on the far-off highway as more-distant neighbors went to and fro. And, as I stood and watched the world evolve around me I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

This country we live in is the freest the world has ever known. The time in which we live is among the most productive, prosperous and progressive in the history of mankind. Few of us have known what it means to go hungry. Most of us have never known mortal fear. All of us have the freedom to pursue that which we believe will fulfill us.

The freedoms that we take so much for granted may be given by God, but they can be taken by man. I wonder what it must be like to live only at the will of another, to live without hope, to live and yet not live. Freedom is a precious thing, even more precious than life itself. It must be earned everyday, guarded with diligence, protected with ferocity, and endowed with generosity.

The freedoms that we have, and have enjoyed for only the last two hundred and thirty three years, are the one thing our descendants can not live without. Live Free.

Cordially yours,

Tim Couch

Never too old to play

Priceless angel
Priceless angel

Kids are great aren’t they? All that boundless energy and unbridled enthusiasm for life, the fearlessness with which they approach everything they do, the careless joy of simple play, and their endless curiosity for everything around them always puts me in a special mood. That’s why I try never to miss an opportunity to screw with their little heads.

I was out dawdling in the yard a while ago, and several of the neighborhood kids were playing nearby. The sound of their laughter and their occasional high pitched squeals took turns making me smile and setting my teeth on edge. I suspect it has something to do with turning fifty that other people’s children aren’t quite as endearing as they once were. But, I’m quite experienced in the art of prepubescent ignoration and so I was going about my piddling without too much discomfort.

Unfortunately, in my determination to let them have their fun I didn’t notice that they had noticed me. “Hello,” I heard in a tinkling little voice. I looked up and there were three of them. They had me surrounded on one side.

“Hello,” I said, “and how are you ladies doing today?”

“Fine,” they said in chorus.

“It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun over there,” I said, and they all laughed as if I’d said the cleverest thing.

“How old are you?” asked the medium sized blond one.

“Well,” I said, “that depends on what you mean by old.” This gained me a quizzical stare but no further discussion of my age.

“We like your house.” said the taller dark haired one.

“Thank you very much,” I said. “We like it too.”

“Where did you get the money to buy such a big house?” asked the little one, her blond curls framing an angelic face.

“Well,” I drawled as I squatted down to their level. I looked around suspiciously and then whispered, “We used to have a little girl about your age, and we sold her. I sure hope your Mom and Dad don’t want a bigger house.”

They were still screaming when I stepped inside for a glass of iced tea. See, you’re never too old to play with the kids.