When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”~ Paul Coelho

"Some Mad Hope..."
A young and vital child knows no limit to his own will, and it is the only reality to him. It is not that he wants at the outset to fight other wills, but that they simply do not exist for him. Like the artist, he goes forth to the work of creation, gloriously alone.
Jane Harrison

Jude Harzer Artist/Art Educator

Jude Harzer Artist/Art Educator
My art is a reflection of my effort to recognize and embrace the beauty in the world around me, even when it seems most difficult to find. Contact me at judiharz@aol.com or visit my website at http://www.judeharzerfineart.com

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"Most of us have two lives- the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance."Steven Pressfield

"The greatest freedoms are freedom from regret, freedom from fear, freedom from anxiety, and freedom from sorrow."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Meeting Michael

In August of 2010, while on an impromptu weekend jaunt to Niagra Falls,Canada with my lovely niece, Shannon, I violated several important personal safety rules to which I adamantly adhere and ones that I demand that my children observe as well.You know!...I'm referring to the basic precautionary behaviors aimed toward self preservation and protection."Don't talk to strangers!" "Don't take rides from strangers!" "Use the buddy system!" and so forth.I openly talk to people at length and probably offer way too much personal information on an everyday basis. So this was not particularly alarming to my niece because her mother, my younger sister, is far more extroverted than myself. I did however, certainly cross boundaries when I agreed to ride in a vehicle driven by a man whom we met the day prior and decided to accompany him to his home for a lunch that he prepared for us.We were NOT in the U.S.A. and informed no one of our intentions but it was without hesitation that I doled out my business card and phone number to this quirky, yet fascinating character. I dispensed with rules and common sense. I erred not on the side of caution but on the side of intrigue.

My niece was concerned. Every fear and possible worse case scenario flashed through my mind before accepting this stranger's proposal. Obviously I wouldn't normally encourage this sort of risk taking, but intuitively I was confident that we would be safe and would benefit from this short lived "adventure" with our new found friend. First let me clarify that Shannon is a highly educated, athletic (former college crew and volleyball team member),5'10" ,25 year old woman. I'm one of six children and endured many physical confrontations in my day having had 3 fairly aggressive brothers and 2 equally strong sisters. I assured Shannon that we could take our host on if need be:) I doubted that we would have to resort to such extreme measures but we did discuss alternate plans to dodge and escape if threatened or held captive.Oh the drama of a creative mind!
Well perhaps it wasn't quite so potentially dangerous as I might infer:) After assessing Michael's intentions,demeanor,and authenticity, I felt secure in accepting his invitation. Trust me, I have my ways:) I interrogated, conversed, engaged and listened. The three of us had a quite lengthy and unexpected discussion that ran the gamut from world politics to fine art and dance, all at the Niagra Falls arboretum one early August morning.

Alright so Michael was an 80ish German man, small in stature, with a lyrical accent and demonstrative manner. He was spry and smart, a tool and die maker by trade, a dancer, a botanist, a lover of language and culture. He was extraordinarily opinionated, a bit sexist, but genuinely kind and charismatic. He had a wisdom and magnetism that I "needed" at that moment. I wanted to see Michael in his own environment and experience his world , if only at a glance. So we went. He coerced and stalked us a bit, previous to our actual date, but still we went anticipating an adventure:)

I could write quite extensively about Michael. Perhaps someday I will but only with his approval. He proudly escorted us via car to his home in Niagra Falls where he has lived for some 40 years I believe. Every detail of his home, revealed something about Michael's unique character. It reflected his love of nature, of gardening and of nostalgia. But there was a definite sense of bitter sweetness and quiet, of an attempt to preserve and perhaps "reshape" the past. We learned that he had 4 "successful" children. His wife did not reside with him. His children did not live nearby. In his home, he created a haven of sorts, complete with a handmade koi pond, a thriving and plentiful garden, a workshed and shaded napping bench. It was simple, make-shift, cluttered, eclectic and dated, but oh so charming. It was a reflection of who Michael "was" and "is."

We toured his modest and very interesting home. I ate ripened fruit from trees and vines that were easily within reach and chicken and fresh vegetables that he prepared and grilled. My niece graciously declined, just in case:) I knew that our visit meant a great deal to Michael. As he talked, I watch transfixed,and saw an ageless, passionate spirit, inspired by a voracious appetite for life.My heart ached a bit as he spoke. I listened to his stories of the past and present and intently absorbed the daily stories that he tells himself...the ones that remind him to move forward, to persist. They sounded familiar to my own.

There are many personal details that I ought not to betray about Michael's life. I saw him clearly. I felt equally saddened and inspired by our experience. Michael was reluctant to end our visit but our time was limited and in all fairness to Shannon, it was her weekend as well. Before leaving, in my usual and highly inquisitive manner, I asked our host, "Do you have regrets?". I prefaced it by recognizing that he had financial and material success, healthy and productive children,friends, church, a cultured and abundant life, a rewarding career and more. So as he reflects on his existence at this moment, what thoughts would he most share with me, what guidance, what remorses, if any, regarding his life? His response brought me to tears. My chest tightened.My thoughts reeled. First he handed me a photo copied article that he wanted me to read.Then he simply and directly answered, "Love has eluded me." He shared that his only desire, amid the abundance of his life, was to have a single like minded individual to witness and share his world.... "love has eluded me", he repeated.

I think of Michael often. He called during the holiday season. He offered his home to us if ever we return. I am glad that I put aside my fears, bent the rules a bit and took advantage of those rare and teachable moments that led to our afternoon with Michael.I wish him love.


  1. Thanks for writing about this Aunt Judy! Meeting Michael really was a magical thing and I too am glad that we lived it. It is really a fun story. "I can smell your brain." All we have is our love of life!

  2. My dearest and beautiful Shannon Elizabeth,witnessing you "children" become all that you were meant to be, with great love and passion, is truly the magic:) Thank you for inviting me:) Michael didn't actually reveal anything I didn't know, he simply confirmed all that I feel to be true in my heart:)"I can smell your brain."...perfect and a beautiful mind it is! xx


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