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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: May Sun Rising

May Sun Rising MC.jpg
Ken Smith

In winter months, on the occasional clear morning, from our back door I’d spot the sun rising over rooftops to the right of the neighbor's bare maple tree. In May, however, most mornings are clear, and thanks to the earth’s seasonal and incremental motion, the sun sizzles out there now at the horizon line well to the left of the big maple. Long shadows from the fence slats tilt across the back yard. In lines of light between those shadows, our perennials show themselves a little greener and taller each day. In the house, sunlight splashes on yellow and purple walls that were dark at that same hour all the winter long. You feel the wide world wanting to wake up.

"Urge and urge and urge," Walt Whitman said, "always the procreant urge of the world.”

Socially, we feel the stirrings too. In spring, our clan celebrates some birthdays and anniversaries, but this year there’s also a graduation, a Bat Mitzvah, and a wedding on the calendar. Pretty soon, too, something very special: a ninetieth birthday.

At the Bat Mitzvah, the young person stood up bold as a May sunrise and said, in effect, “I have studied and studied, and I stand before you today to claim the rights and responsibilities of an adult in this community.” Later, at the big dinner, a couple of dozen children armed with plastic light sabers sparred like heroes on the darkened dance floor. Their martial energy alarmed me, but mainly filled me with hope. As did the young person’s bravado during the morning service.

At the graduation I attended, there were quite a number of speeches, quite a number. Each time a speaker at the podium praised the graduates, which was often, the university’s minister, standing nearby, tended to smile. But when a speaker geared up to say, in effect, “Look, y’all, globally speaking, we’re in a tight spot,” the minister could see it coming and she’d start nodding her head in agreement. As if to say, “I see that May sunrise energy you all are giving off here at your graduation, you with your many fields of fresh-minted expertise. Well, there is some work cut out for you, here on our imperiled globe.”

At the upcoming wedding, the couple will stand beside a minister, before friends and family, and say, “We have gathered you all here today so we can advise you that the two of us are in this life together for the duration.” And friends and family will drive in from all points of the compass to serve as witnesses and to say, “Oh, we believe you.” And “We believe in you.”

The first time I was in a wedding, forty years ago, the presiding rabbi warned the groom backstage how embarrassing it would be if he failed to break the wine glass wrapped in the linen napkin on his first try. (He also told us it would actually secretly be a light bulb because these make a bigger, more authoritative Pop!) During the ceremony, I saw my friend Lance, with the rabbi’s advice in his mind, bring his knee way up and then drive his dress shoe down hard into the linen. The sound of breaking glass rang through the room. To me, that was a message from the couple, something like this: “Fate, do what you will. The two of us will be making this long sweet journey together.” I catch the same vibes from this season’s wedding couple.

And to that couple, bursting over the horizon in a few days, I say, “I believe in you.”

Ken Smith writes about algebra, bikes, con artists, donuts, exercise, failure to exercise, grandparents, harmonica, introverts, jury duty, kings of long ago, Lipitor, meteors, night fishing, Olympic athletes, peace and quiet, rattlesnakes, silly sex education, Twitter, unpaid debts to our fellow human beings, the velocity of an unladen swallow, World War II, extroverts, Young People of Today, and the South Bend Zoo.