Monday, April 20, 2015

Some things are etched in stone - and/or simply uploaded to 'the cloud'

"Nothing is etched in stone." That's the saying that was probably laser-cut into the granite river rock at the entrance to a friend's home in France. Not what I expected to notice before the standard poodle welcomed me onto their estate! But it sure hit home with me that day for whatever reason. That was in the summer of 2013. I went to see Montagne Sainte-Victoire with my own eyes (thanks to the imagination conjured through Cézanne's paintings), to celebrate a pair of birthdays, to paddle the Dordogne River in La Roque Gageac, and so much more...

In anticipation of that trip to southern France, I had surprisingly recalled a day-trip to Houston, from Dallas, with one of my Mom's club groups. We went for lunch and to see the Cézanne exhibit at the art museum. (Talk about feeling grown up!) It was one of those most memorable events that you're really too young to appreciate the purpose, but never forget the feeling of being so special... Adding to that my background in geology and appreciation of good art (plus good wine as an adult now), I didn't hesitate to accept the kind invitation to explore new territory in southern France with my own circle of friends.



DFW National Cemetery
It seems like most everything has been 'new territory' since we had my Dad's start and end dates etched into his granite marker which stands on the hillside at the Dallas-Ft Worth National Cemetery with hundreds of American flags. While he could remember names and dates all the way back and past the Triggs in Australia (yes, of Trigg Beach in Western Australia somehow), I cannot even draw the local family tree of today correctly...  I try, but I just didn't inherit that bit of his amazing brain. He sure tried to help me follow the genealogical research he painstakingly - and most lovingly - put together as a bookcase of binders with our pedigree and so many wonderful family stories we would never have known. A few 'monumental' dates however, are permanently engraved in my memory; they pull the heartstrings of my internal clock whether or not they are noted on my perpetual eCalendar.

An excerpt from my notes on May 13, 2014:
Eighty-five years ago today was the first day of my dad's life; five years ago today was the last day my mom lived on this earth (in my lifetime at least). Becoming more sweet than bitter each year now, dad died very close to Father's Day and mom just after Mother's Day... On the few occasions I find myself waiting at the print shop or pharmacy around this time of year, I automatically browse the clever, poignant, and simply silly cards that pop into my line of sight which ever way I turn. Discretely 'not' looking and never touching, that (un)familar dissociating wash brings each of my parents back to life. It's a deeply personal and always unique moment in both my heart and my head ~ never-mind that the lady before me has finally decided on a typeface or the old man who was checking his blood pressure in the corner is on his way again...

I thought I was meant to finish my Five Years Before dream this year, five years after five years ago. The way I think 'things' through, the fact that I had simply been thinking about it and hadn't really done anything - as in produced anything to show for all that angst - really started to bother me as the past year ended and a new year inevitably started again. So I parked a domain name for my birthday present to myself. (Hey, it's a start!) I feared that I was starting to forget 'things' that do matter, to me at least... I felt grounded, but the ground was slipping away from the trails I had blazed for myself... The reality is that I was destined to start the project in five years, not end it! Having had to 'let go' of so many things lately, it turns out that this is what I will hold on to forever...

My lifetime challenge and reward is to the foundations and future of these feelings  the justice of persisting 'to infinity and beyond' somehow! That at this point I have absolutely no idea of what it will become is the reward - not the challenge. That different viewpoint is what is now different about me, 'things', life. And I do not ascribe to any sure definition of 'infinity' anymore in this regard... I never dreamed my parents would ever not be there for me, really. While I recognize their influences and sometimes sense their presence in very real ways, it's still hard to believe they are gone from this same realm. It's okay and definitely a part of life, but always strange when 'things' clear my head and still unexpected when they prick my heart.


On the Dordogne River, La Roque Gageac, France
Looking ever forward, moving onward and upward!
And so here we are: online, looking backward to chart the way we'll choose to go forward... It's all so seriously cool! Having sorted through shoebox upon totebox of old photos and letters, I am set up with a snazzy scanner (which thankfully is far smarter than I with regard to capture settings) and various webspaces to explore the saga in my charge that was left here by my parents. The first phase has already been most interesting... crossing my path with a professional inquiry that fittingly lead to a personal, historical connection. 

Over the past winter break, I scanned a box of photos from my Dad's very few things. Having lead the impressive Manhattan Church building project before relocating to Dallas, there was a photographic record of the old brownstone from which so many of the antiques (eg, stained-glass windows, linen-fold paneling, and barley-twist newel posts) in my home today were salvaged. Through an extensive internet search, I discovered the Milliken Special Collections, Center for Restoration Studies, and ACU Archives at the Abilene Christian University Brown Library. On 10 December 2014, the 'Joe C Nix Papers' were opened with a stack of photos and PDF scans of my Dad's sermon/lesson notes, now safely stored and available for research. And that repository can continue to grow as our family can add items at any future time. Turns out that the Associate Dean for Digital Initiatives, Special Collections, and University Archives who facilitated this project grew up in the same Church that we attended ~ so that lead to other conversations that personalized the entire episode in a truly unique and meaningful way.


Both sides of my parents' headstone at DFW National Cemetery
I have to refer back to the images of my parents' marker (shared front/back in military style) often to get their birth years right. I keep them on my iPhone for ready reference... It's always nice to be reminded of my Dad's service and that he is 'at peace' and that my Mom 'chose to be happy'. Those remembrances were well worth etching in stone for posterity! And I look forward to whatever may come of the various artifacts that will persist in the cloud thanks to technological advances that surely would make both of my parents smile. To be continued...

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Addendum: Guess it was special for my Mom too... just found the museum brochure and Dallas Morning News article about the exhibit! Cezanne: The Late Work, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Jan 26-Mar 19, 1978) - an exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, NY and the Reunion des Musees Nationaux, Paris.
Feb 1, 1978 Dallas Morning News article and Museum Brochure

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