Sunday, March 29, 2015

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Snow . . . Well, Maybe . . .

          In the words (loosely translated) of an old poet- “The best laid schemes of mice and men quite often go awry.” Around here, the most common reason for that derailment is the unpredictability of the Arkansas weather.
          This winter, we almost literally held our breath through December and January. In spite of a few days with some seriously cold temperatures, the precipitation associated with after Christmas bargain hunting and white sales stayed largely to our north and east. We just knew that at any point, the other snow boot could drop, and we’d be in for a white February.
          Sure enough, many parts of our region got pounded by an icy blast, leaving slick streets and stranded motorists in its wake. Even though we had been lucky to that point, by the end of the week after Valentine’s Day, we had had enough, and were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the daffodils. It’s not that we hate winter; it’s just that it can be so doggoned inconvenient. Many of us would have been glad to work, if we could get our vehicles out of our driveways. Staying home and enjoying a hot cup of cocoa became the only option.
          Winter is not the only season when Mother Nature can foil our plans. We have all learned to have at least one alternative ready, no matter how long we have looked forward to an outdoor activity.
          As a high school band student, one of the biggest honors is to be selected to be your state’s representative in the Cherry Blossom Festival parade in Washington, DC. My group, from a small Kansas town about the size of Arkadelphia raised funds for well over a year for our fifteen minutes of fame. We boarded buses on our spring break from school and made the twenty-seven hour trip, eager to show that the early morning and long after school practices would pay off. On the day of the big parade . . . the rain came down in torrents. Faced with the idea of going home without performing, our band booster parents came up with a solution to help protect our brand new uniforms and expensive instruments. The improvisation gave us a new name: The Marching Garbage bags. Undaunted, we played our hearts outs, and finally broke ranks at the end of the route to run to the safety of the buses.
          Another youthful adventure that seems to always break a drought is a camping trip. One hot summer, our third year summer camp scheduled an excursion called wilderness camp. The plan was that we would carve a campsite out of an undeveloped spot in the woods, clear a place to cook safely, dig our own bathroom facility, and sleep in hammocks, instead of tents. Digging in the rain was not too bad, cooking under a tarp was bearable, but oh the misery of zipping a sleeping bag over my head and swinging from dripping tree branches at night. No one could have planned a better character building exercise than that one.
          I recalled that time many years later, when I volunteered with our sons’ scout troop.  This time, sleeping was done in nice, dry tents. The highlight of the weekend was a competition where the boys were to construct camp furniture by lashing sticks together. Our troop had practiced at home, and knew exactly what they wanted to do. After their surprise that there was no cancellation due to the heavy downpour, I witnessed a minor miracle. I remember the pure joy on their faces, as they looked around and realized that all of the other teams were operating under the same situation. How did they deal with it? By pitching in, working as a team, and laughing all the way. The one thing I don’t recall about that contest is who received the prize. I think we all won that day.
          Last year, our family was very happy to attend the wedding of a couple who was dear to all of our hearts. Both had been married before, but were certain that this time the golden bands would be on the right left hands. The ceremony was to be held in a pavilion in the city park, with informality and simple beauty the theme of the day. Surely, we thought, even a little shower wouldn’t hurt, since the pavilion was large enough to accommodate all of the guests that were expected. That day, though, there was more than a little shower. The grounds around the covered picnic spot were soaked and muddy, and there was no sign that the sun would appear at all, even for a short time. So, an emergency move to a very gracious church fellowship hall saved the day, and provided a terrific place for eating and visiting afterwards. Dry and happy smiles dominate the wedding pictures, and the day could not have been more perfect.
          The moral of these stories?  Be prepared, but  prepare to be unprepared. Sometimes, the worst laid plans may be the best after all.


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