We wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannuchah, Happy Winter Solstice, and happy 1999. This year's letter brings observations, thoughts, reflections, and musings. May they draw you closer to your center in this the season of rebirth.

Whatever comes your way, take part while it is here because it usually will not return, will not repeat. Life demonstrated this again during my vacation. I drove into a beautiful picture of a sun-drenched pasture, cattle, barns, great color, with a backdrop of black clouds, that one picture in a thousand. I didn't stop. It was a beautiful area, the picture would return. It didn't. The sun retreated behind the clouds for the rest of the day.

My birthday present in January this year was a class on creative and inspirational writing. Jan Phillips the author of the book Marry your Muse (Quest, 1997), got me restarted in a direction I have long dabbled in. Jan says, "Stop ignoring your inner voice (your muse) and listen and write." The time has come to get some words down so that if I die or if I become senile, some of the thoughts that I have gleaned from the works of so many others can be in a form to pass on to the next generation. Maybe these words, words that have helped me grow, can help others too.

The hard part of writing, of most anything, is not what you do when you get to the desk, the hard part is getting to the desk. To demonstrate this, Jan gave us a picture of an animal and asked us to write something from it's perspective. Synchornisity provided me with a soaring Eagle. Here is the result of the next seven minutes.

My house sits high in the highest tree.

I drop down off the edge to gain flight speed
as I open my great wings
to gulp up the air's liquid strength.

I feel myself climb.
I flow over field and stream.

Below I spot a brother, a hawk,
floating above a faint wisp of dust on the ground.
An updraft!
I don't have to look for one on my own today.

I stretch out my wings
and soar in his direction.

Now there, I lift my right trailing wing feathers
ever so slightly
and roll right into a great circle.

Around    and    around     and    around
I let that shaft of wind carry me
Up     and    up    and    up.

What a great summer day.

I was "Eagle Man" for the rest of the day.

The last words in the notebook for that day were: We're not aiming at perfection here, we're aiming at creation, at making something to inform or to inspire.

Yes, in theory, the more you read, the more well rounded you are. But at some point, you must put the book down, think, and take up the pen (or keyboard or brush or hammer or broom) and start doing or saying your thing. If what you write or say says the same thing as someone you have not read or have forgotten, so be it, that strengthens you both. If it refutes something you have not read, great, that thought needed to be aired. Let someone else find the link and decide who is "correct," if that needs to be done.

On vacation one afternoon I visited Poland, Denmark, Brussels, Rostok, and Alaska--all small towns to the east of Green Bay. Kodiak Collectibles stood near the tiny establishment of Alaska at East Alaska Lake.

As with many things in life, breakfast that morning at the Bay Family Restaurant appeared pale and lifeless. Ah, but life was hiding inside the al dente hash browns and in the heart of the juicy and tasty western omelet. You have to try your food, your life, to find out how good it is.

Silence is often much better than talk, rest than movement. [So here are all these words!]

North of Eagle Harbor, Michigan, I happened on a small beach stretching in a beautiful crescent, protected by a distant rocky ridge. Maybe the rocks have no opening. Maybe this bay is just too small. For whatever reason, it has been disregarded as a harbor to the great advantage of one looking for a beautiful secluded beach. Small is sometimes better.

A sign on a house in Michigan announced: "Do a little - Sit a little."

A Menominee Indian legend tells of a person dreaming that the Grandson of the Earth allowed him to visit. The man took seven friends with him. The Grandson of the Earth made them great hunters but he is mad at one because he wanted eternal life. So he changed him into a rock and said "Now you will have eternal life." The Menominee believe that when the rock crumbles away, the Menominee will be no more.

The Internet has been a real adventure at times. One night a while ago, I went searching for information on Byzantine coins. I saw a lot and ended up at the Museum at the Monte Casino Monastery, Italy. In between I stopped in France, Belgium, Turkey, India, and Israel. As someone said recently, surfing the Internet is like going out to your garage (or was it into your attic?) looking for a tool at 10 am and returning after 5 pm without the tool but having found so many other interesting things in the meantime.

One night on vacation, I lay in my tent 100 miles from Chicago and the Cubs' last regular-season game--they won. My tiny battery-powered radio announced every ball and strike. But that's not all, when the game is over, I picked up another box, pressed some buttons to set it up, and dialed and talked to Denise, 150 miles away! All this from the comfort of my tent--all for a couple dollars.

These boxes send and detect electronic pulses in the air. The boxes see, hear, discriminate, and make audible to me the minutest variations in the electronic milieu that surrounds us. My little boxes did what no person can do--they heard and reported on only one in millions of electronic "sounds" out there to be heard. And not only that, one took my voice, converted it to a fluctuation in the electromagnetic environment with enough energy to be picked up and delivered 150 miles away.

Where is the time to do all the little and big things we want to do. Recently in a college book store I wondered among books and kids and activities and bulletin boards hawking other books and activities and rooms for rent. I thought to buy a book on Visual Basic graphics. It looked like fun. But when would I have time to read it, let alone pursue its craft?

I must identify and read what I have already on my shelves. I have to identify what I want to spend my time doing. After all, I'm 55 and I only have half of my life left to do the tasks I have left.

A very good friend's son died this year. The card at the visitation quoted Henry David Thoreau: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." Great words, often spoken.

But the back of the card had these impressive words I had not seen before:

"Shiftless and shy, gentle and kind and frail, poor wanderer, bewildered into vice, you are freed at last from the seas you could not sail, a wreck upon the shores of Paradise.

When he went blundering back to God, his songs half written, his work half done, who knows what paths his bruised feet trod, what hills of peace or pain he won?
- Charles Hanson Towne

Every day people come and go, from nowhere, to nowhere, with no ceremony. We know neither their origins nor their destinations. Yet when one is born or one dies (no matter how) we have great ceremony to congratulate on the addition, or to give sympathy for the loss.

Those additions and losses of the first type, the everyday comings and goings, often have a greater and more lasting importance than those of the second, the births and deaths. They often involve those whom we call "friends."

So it is important to celebrate when soon-to-be friends join us and when long-time friends move on to their next adventure. For how much less forever is this friend's going-away than another's death? How much more new is a birth than a new friend's arrival (a friend not known as such when (s)he arrives on the scene)? Let's celebrate all arrivals and departures. For the entrances and exits of friends are no less permanent, no less momentous than a birth or a death. Thanks for coming. Thanks for spending some time with us. Bon Voyage.

This year a fellow technical writer and friend-- at 37--joined the Peace Corps and went off to Poland to live a radically different life style. This is like my friend John Hazam going off to work in Africa, where he has worked for almost 30 years. This is like anyone who has the guts to get off the standard path and do the extra-ordinary, that which they know (and don't know) they want to do at a juncture in their life. They take the poorly marked side path that often ultimately shows them the way. Whenever someone goes off and does something so radically different, so contrary to accepted norms, so true to their inner desires, we all have to look into our own journey down the path of life and ask whether we are going down our "true" path (whatever a "true" path is).

In 1973 I wrote: I must move toward possessing nothing. For it is only in possessing nothing that I possess everything.

Then in 1974 I wrote: No. I must move toward not possessing anything.

I like what I said in 1974.

I ran across short note that says "Look forward--not back--the past had no guidance when you were there--so why look for it there now?...not totally true."

Indeed, not totally true. For the past had a lot of guidance. I suspect I didn't listen many times and in other times just took one of many valid choices. Those other choices may still be available. So do look back, just don't dwell there too long. Sometimes you can go back and take another fork in the road.

Develop peace within. When things get you down, remember the peace mantra, "Peace on it." Say you lost your job? "Peace on it." Someone smashed your car? "Peace on it." Ah, Peace on it. Now doesn't it feel good to get really peaced? --Swami Beyondananda

Fame indeed is fleeting. The Elgin Coin Club Newsletter did not win the American Numismatic Association (ANA) publication contest this year. That's OK because I know last year's version (the one in this year's contest) was much better than previous years' versions, which won three consecutive national prizes. I have a great publication that is consistent, quality, and getting better. It's interesting that I kept looking for an award announcement all July and August right up to the day of the awards ceremony. I just expected I would win again!...... Do I really need that external validation when I know it is good?

A day at work is like surviving in the wilderness. You have to watch out for the briars and brambles and black widows and sharp rocks and porcupines and skunks. But there are also beautiful flowers and trees and scenery and sunrises and sunsets and successfully completed journeys along with the storms and rubble-strewn paths and blind trails. Some days are a lot more difficult than others, some a lot less. It is indeed walking in the wilderness. Even though parts of the wilderness may be familiar, every corner has very real potential for failure, or success. ...just like the rest of life.

Remember, life is short. Do something you like. You are not here to build up a pile of gold. All you need is what you need for your roof, food, entertainment, and transportation. [Yes, I know these can be defined in a lot of ways; but KISS--keep it simple, sweety.]

That's it for this year. As I said earlier, silence is often much better than words, rest than movement. Having broken my silence for these few pages, I now retreat into silence and give you a chance to enjoy your holidays and 1999.

And finally, an Irish Blessing from Herself:

Deep Peace of the Running Wave to you.
Deep Peace of the Flowing Air to you.
Deep Peace of the Quiet Earth to you.
Deep Peace of the Shining Stars to you.
Deep Peace of the Gentle Night to you.
Moon and Stars pour their Healing Light on you.
Deep Peace to you.

-A Gealic blessing

The very best,

Mike Metras

Return to Writings page
Return to the previous page
Return to Home page

Copyright Mike Metras, 1998