Thursday, July 1, 2010

Looking Up, Into the Sky

When I need some respite from troubled thoughts, I think of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.
by Charlie Leck

I’ve been troubled as I think about a blog I wish to post tomorrow. It involves saying something about the soul – about my soul and the very soul of the State of Minnesota. It’s about things troubling and disturbing that threaten our state. This is not easy for me and I needed to gather my emotions. Sometimes I quite forget how much I love this state and about this instinctive protection mechanism I have regarding it.

I thought of something I had read very recently in one of Alexander McCall Smith’s lovely little novels about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Strangely, I could picture about where in the book my mind had taken a photograph of the page and that it was only and certainly on the right-side page, just about in the middle of the book. Does that ever happen to you? That you want to go back into a book and find a certain sentence, and your mind remembers that it began on the second line of a left-hand page? I’ve never asked anyone about this before. It’s a phenomenon, if that’s not too strong a word, which I often experience. Well, anyway, I found the quotation easily and I reread it and took it as good advice – Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s advice about what to do when facing a troubling situation or problem.

“…but he had found that the best response to these was the same in every case. He would sit down and consider the situation carefully. Not only did this help to identify the solution to the problem, but it also gave him the opportunity to remind himself that things were not really as bad as they seemed; it was all a question of perspective. Sitting down and looking up at the sky for a few minutes – not at any particular part of the sky, but just at the sky in general – at the vast, dizzying, empty sky of Botswana, cut human problems down to size. It was not possible to tell what was in that sky, of course, at least during the day; but at night it revealed itself to be an ocean of stars, limitless, white in its infinity; so large, so large, that any of our problems, even the greatest of them, was a small thing.”

From the character description of Alexander McCall Smith, I often draw a happy picture of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni in my mind. Do you do that in your mind, ever, with characters you meet in novels? This is a simple, but wise man. He is generous and kind and his face reflects it. He’s a big, oversized, strong man with very darkly colored skin, like the people of Botswana have. He has penetrating eyes that remain calm and are often looking up into the sky as he searches for answers to problems.

I feel better now. The sky is beautiful today with only wisps of thin clouds against a bright, bright blue background that is big as can be, as big as Minnesota skies often are. I am ready to think again about Minnesota’s soul.


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