Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

Here Comes the Sun

Today's my birthday.  Every July I look back over the months (and years) that have passed.  As I prepared for mowing last week I revisited springtime at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina, where I spent my freshman and sophomore years.  I thought about the first warm days of April and the ritual of "laying out."

Between the heat and humidity Columbia can rival the surface of the sun for discomfort in the summer.  Even the Palmetto bugs---cockroaches the size of kittens---stop skittering and their antennae droop.  But April is fine and perfect for building that valuable base tan.

For back in those days the sun was my ally, not my enemy.  Yes, my children, my friends and I danced like happy honeybees to the roof of one of the dormitories to put us that much closer to the object of our affection.  We'd spread out our beach towels and pour on oil to facilitate our roasting.  The more health-conscious among us would break out suntan lotion with SPF of 8.  ("Suntan lotion"---Another case where word choice tells the story.)

We would lie there as long as we could stand it, carefully switching sides at regular intervals in order to achieve even cooking.  Even we English majors called this procedure "laying out" with total disregard for the proper use of "lie" and "lay."  Perhaps the term referred to our laying the beach towels on the roof, although I think that interpretation is somewhat generous.

Fast forward to 2014.  Mr. Pettit and I are blessed with a spacious lawn; it's like the National Mall without the monuments.  I tried driving our zero-turn-radius riding mower once, but I had trouble coordinating the movement of the two steering handles---I wound up carving ocean waves in the grass.

The husband said he was sure I would get the hang of it, but I didn't want to sign up for another learning curve.  So on grass-cutting days I steer the push mower through the tight places where the riding mower can't travel.

Getting ready for duty takes about as long as the job itself.  Put on appropriate attire:  A pair of black-fading-to-gray shorts and an old T shirt.  The shirt I tie-dyed with some fifth graders several years ago and the 50th Flying Training Squadron tee with the hole in the neck seam are always good choices.

Pull hair back.  Slather thick white sunscreen, SPF 50, over face and neck until I resemble a ghost.  Pour a thinner liquid, SPF 30, over arms and legs.  Rub in well, being sure to cover those easy-to-miss spots, like the back of the knees and the ankles.

Slide on sunglasses to protect my eyeballs and slap on a hat.  Sometimes I go with my green microfiber hat with the flap in back to cover my neck, just in case I missed a spot with the sunscreen.  More often, I choose my Navy hat (in honor of Daddy's service) since it works better with the headphones that provide ear protection and a way to listen to the radio or iPod over the noise of the mower.  (This is where I have arrived: I consider those headphones one of the best presents Mr. Pettit has given me in the past ten years.)   Turn on headphones and fit them over the hat.  Once I pull on my gloves I'm ready to spring into action.

As I wrangle the mower through the ditch by the road I sometimes wonder what folks are thinking as they drive by.  I'm a child of the South, so one sentence comes to mind:  "Bless her heart."

What's really scary is that I don't care.

That's not to say I'd show up at church on Sunday morning in this get-up.  I wouldn't even run to the grocery store for a loaf of bread.  The women I grew up around did not leave the house without makeup and proper attire.  To do so would be as bad as having someone leave your home hungry.  It is not done.  My Colombian daughter-in-law says her culture is the same; they even have an expression for it: "Ante todo el glamour."  Beauty before everything.

Beauty certainly took center stage as my friends and I baked atop a dormitory all those years ago.  I recently came across some handwritten pages from my sophomore year.  Apparently I had been asked to examine my values and vision for my future as part of a Bible study I was attending.  After reading that draft I'm surprised I sought out the sun, since I was clearly the center of the solar system.

I wish I could go back in time and thump myself on the head.

I suppose self-absorption is a common affliction among the young.  However, I think I, the spoiled baby of the family, had an especially acute case.  As I've grown older I've slowly realized that people are not spending much time worrying about what I'm doing, what I'm thinking or what I'm wearing.   The folks speeding by me on our country road probably spend more effort trying not to hit me as I mow (thank you) than noticing my poor fashion choices.  Realizing the world does not revolve around you is incredibly liberating.  I've distilled this revelation into four words:

It's not about me.

As a Christian I take that motto a step further:  It's not about me;  it's about Jesus. Bet you didn't see that coming when you started this column.  But I try to be transparent with you, dear readers, and this is where my thoughts have taken me.  It's not so surprising, really, since only the Creator of the sun and the grass deserves credit for bringing me through another year to another year, day by day.

Thank You, God, for another birthday. 

Sticks and Stones

Life, Love and Lyrics