2004: A year in the life of Richard Clark
By Richard Clark
January: New Year’s Day opened with an arctic cold snap and snow. In my part of the world, eight degrees Fahrenheit is awful. In order to avoid freezing and breaking water pipes, I piled snow against the vents beneath my floors. It was tough shoveling snow and I was left quite weak. Homebound until January 9. Too hazardous outside! Finished reading The Year 1000 by Robert Lacy and Danny Danziger and The Ascent of Man by J. Bronowski.
February: Donald Yung, my 14-year-old piano student, received honors upon passing his grade eight exam with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Surrey, B.C. Oddly, I had to mow my lawn on the 12th. The grass was green and healthy despite the January freeze. Canada’s sponsorship scandal is peanuts compared to my country’s loss of worldwide respect since overriding the United Nations’ policies in favor of “doing our own thing.” Finished reading Adam, Eve and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels.
March: I won’t be seeing the little pusher-prop amphibian fly past my house anymore. Canadian artist Toni Onley died when his plane crashed in the Fraser River. With his watercolors onboard, he used to fly from Victoria, land on a lake and paint a scenic work of art. At 75 he died doing what he loved, but it was sad to see a great artist go. Finished reading The Agony of Mammon by Lewis Lapham.
April: Donated most of my Peace Arch collection to the White Rock museum. For many months 10 boxes of archival material lay in my bedroom. Now I’ll have some room there. I was surprised to receive a phone call from a National Geographic researcher who sought information on the history of Point Roberts.
May: Wild animals are coming into my town. A cougar skirted our city limits. But a brown rabbit moved into my property. A second rabbit came later, giving my visitor a companion. My lawn became the spring and summer abode of hares in their habitat – or rabbits in their rabbitat. Finished reading Tragic Sense of Life by Miguel de Unamuno.
June: Ronald Reagan died, but I think he’s better off, following the years he was living with Alzheimer’s. The Washington State Music Teachers Association inducted me into their hall of fame. Donald passed his grade nine Royal Conservatory piano exam with first class honors. He will begin terminal grade 10 in September. The mayor presented me with a plaque in recognition of my work that led to the completion of Sam Hill’s Peace Arch: Remembrance of Dreams Past last year. It was never published, but manuscripts are in WWU, Blaine and White Rock libraries – all 357 pages of each, single-spaced and without photos. You may still see the first draft at www.thecshop.com.
July: The chimes hanging in my living room started gently ringing and awakening me at 5:10 a.m. on the 15th. I couldn’t feel anything, but a 5.5-point earthquake was rocking the waves west of Vancouver Island. It was a dry month here, but a big flood struck Edmonton. Finished reading Jews, God and History by Max I. Dimont. I’m convinced most Americans don’t have much knowledge of Jewish history.
August: The Internet surprised me when I saw a 1972 photo of the sociology faculty at Southwest Missouri State University, and there I shyly stood with them. Alas, I was the only person given the title “unidentified.” Angered, I emailed a complaint to the department’s head honcho, and he corrected it with a generous apology. Oh, my horrid ego!
September: Twenty years ago a tree specialist told me to cut down my diseased prune tree because it would never produce. Well, it produced a record crop this year. I gave away bags of prunes and Buckley Giant apples. This is my summer of declining health. I knew it was overdue. It seems a flurry of transitory ischemic attacks got me. I can no longer walk my three miles. Finished reading Max I. Dimont’s second book, The Indestructible Jews, appropriately on Yom Kippur. Again, I’m convinced most Americans are overwhelmingly ignorant of Jewish history.
October: Filled my gasoline tank for the fourth time since Christmas Eve, 2003. I hesitate to drive, given my physical condition. Still, by taking rest breaks, I managed to mow my lawn for the 23rd time this year. Listened to the presidential debates. I’ve doubts about both contestants. We’ve a deepening crisis of leadership in our country. Dad’s 1919 naval photo is on the Internet. Search USS Mongolia. Wondered why it was becoming difficult to see clearly. Diagnosed with cataracts this month. Bought magnifying lenses that help me with reading.
November: Completed 12 essays on the history of the Peace Arch, now being published in The Northern Light. You may be able to catch some of the series at www.thenorthernlight.com. Look for the title, “A Portal’s Monumental Secrets,” published once or twice per month. You’ll find me standing before the Peace Arch at www.theotherjerry.com. Look to the bottom of Jerry’s photo album. I donated another collection of Peace Arch info to the White Rock Museum. Cleansed my home of possessions accumulated for years. My four piano students are most important nowadays. The two who have no pianos study with me six days per week. They, by far, are making the most progress.
December: I can only discuss this month by anticipation; I mailed my Christmas November 30. Old age is the only crime that carries a universal death penalty. And I’ll be 75 in April. Given my ageing and failing health, this will be the last year I’ll send annual greetings to you. Kindly remove me from your Christmas mailing list. Do know I’ve appreciated your love and friendship all these years. I’m enjoying my solitude; I’m neither depressed nor lonely.
My country is hardly heralding peace on earth, and I apologize for the trouble our misled president and staff have caused for Canada, Germany, China and New Zealand – other countries where my Christmas-letter pen pals live.
me conclude by quoting the statement I sent my three
doctors when I terminated treatment August 11, 2003: “You
have served me well, and I have
no complaints. While much could be written about my decision, suffice it to
say I find my fulfillment in the last line of Nine Songs of Travel
by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who
took it from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘I have lived and loved
and closed the door.’”
In closing, then, Love from Dick.
(Ed. Note: This concludes our 2004 Year in Review feature. Richard Clark is a regular contributor to these pages who wrote a concert review last week.)