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"Word to the Wise"

Philip G. Roets wrote a twice-weekly newspaper columns for the Oskaloosa Herald, Oskaloosa, Iowa, 1982-1994. Full collection is 1300+ columns.

Sample columns: Nature and Seasons
Word to the Wise: Selected Newspaper Columns


The Spiral of Living.
The spiral of life is an ascending spiral. The spiral turns back on itself but with each circle goes a step higher. The spiral of life should be: enjoyment, planning, achieving, ¬new enjoyment and going ever upward.

Nature teaches this lesson in its seasons. SPRING: warm sunshine, productive rain, rich green, new life. SUMMER: longer days, hours of labor, plants bloom, fruits appear, first-fruits grace the table. AUTUMN: days shorten, nights cool, sun not quite so warm. Spring’s promises, summer’s toils, autumn’s harvest. WINTER: huffing and puffing, enters. Granaries and pantries are full. Days are cold but the house is snug and warm. The earth rests in readiness for spring.

Each season receives its pot of joy from the one before. Each season demands its plans and labors. Each season achieves its goals to be enjoyed. Each season is a foundation and a step forward. This is the spiral of life.

Good Deeds: A Hidden Stream.
Good deeds bring comfort, strength, consolation, and courage to others. They can be compared to the gentle flow of a hidden stream. Few people see the stream. It makes little noise. Fish live and swim in its fresh waters. Trees, bushes, grass flourish along its banks. People come to rest and meditate near its cool, invigorating calm.

This is the effectiveness of good deeds. So often the deed and the person performing it are not noticed but the effects are seen. People are smiling, serene, secure, filled with courage and ambition. The hidden stream of kindness mingles among them in its good deeds, and the people touched by the stream are winners.

Money Can't Buy.
You have heard, “Money can’t buy the wag of a dog’s tail.” You can't buy the smile of a child that says “I trust you completely.” You can't buy the sense of power, ambition and drive that comes as the sun bursts forth in brilliance on the eastern horizon. You can't buy the peace, quiet and sense of well-being that come on a still, star-bright night when the stars spillover each other in a canopy of soft, velvety black.

You walk outside into a cloudless, warm day of new spring. Leaves are just beginning to open. Birds are busy with nests, their songs trilling out in happiness and industry, and a reminder to all of their territorial rights.

What price do you put on this? This sense of contentment, harmony, completeness and satisfaction is beyond all prices.

Whither the Weather?
The weather is a topic of speculation, guesses, curses, praises, hopes and despair. Yet weather is one element of life you cannot change. So the next best approach is to plan your life so you can enjoy the weather.

Children see snow and think of sliding, sledding, skiing, cancelled school. Parents see snow and think shovels, slippery roads, boots, snowsuits, wet clothes, chapped hands and lips. Farmers see snow and think moisture for the spring, a shallow frost line, cold slush and mud in the feedlot. Animals see snow and think cozy den, more sleep, less food. No matter what the weather, some will like it and some will dislike it.

For yourself, accept the inevitable. Accept the weather as it is in your area. Decide on the clothes you need for it. Then plan what you can do and enjoy with the weather as it is. In this way you control your life even though you cannot control the weather.

The Spring Will Come.
Spring often looks doubtful. The trees are barren of leaves and flowers. The empty branches wave in an awkward, protesting way in the cold air. The ground has been frozen for months and the snow is cold and crusty. You sit inside looking out on the bleak countryside and wonder: Will spring ever come?

Spring did come! Now that fall is upon us, look carefully at the promise of last spring. Look at the fields covered with corn, beans, cattle, and pigs. See the tree’s juicy apples. The grapes practically make you drool. Yet last winter, you wondered if spring would ever come. Spring came, summer came, and now autumn is at hand with all the fruits of all the seasons.

The cycle of days, weeks, seasons never grows old. Nature’s cycle happens each year. Our years should be the same. The planting, working, reaping, and enjoying should go on not merely from year to year, but from day to day so that our life is a song entitled “Yes, the Spring will come.”

The Family Tree.
Family trees are wonderful. It's good to know where you came from and who you can claim as ancestors. What happens to the family tree if there was a withered branch or some spoiled fruit? Out come the pruning shears and off go those tell-tale parts. The tree is shorn but pure.

This is not good history. If you really have a provable family tree, give the whole picture. Nobody will be upset. After all, you are not responsible for the good qualities of your family tree, so neither are you responsible for the bad aspects.

Your family tree gives you a start. What you do with that start decides how your descendants can talk about you as part of their family tree. The family tree does not make you or break you, so don’t prune. Just pick the fruit and let others admire or be amazed at it. You don’t have to tell them what you are adding to the tree. They can see and hear it.

Flowers Are Great.
The first snow of winter comes and everyone marvels at how white and new it looks. After a few months, the new snow has become old snow - crusted and speckled with dirt. We wait for it to disappear.

Not so with flowers! The first flowers poke their dainty blossoms out of the ground and everyone takes time to marvel. As seasons follow each other, so does the array of flowers. No one gets tired of looking at the new ones.

Flowers give messages. They turn a drab room into a pleasant room and bring joy to the sick. Flowers express gratitude. They make an anniversary special. Flowers remind mourners that there is a life beyond the grave.

Flowers each have their own family group and individuality. We see the blossoms and we know which will become pears, apples, peaches, plums, grapes or other delicious fruits.

There is a lesson here. If flowers can do so much, what must people be able to do? Did you ever hear of different groups of flowers going to war because they didn't want to be in the same garden with others? Are tiny flowers better peacemakers than people?

Trees: Master Teachers.
Poets have waxed eloquent on trees. I will not compete with poets. But I want to share some things the tree teaches him who would stop and listen.

The tree teaches strength. When the winds huff and puff the tree sways and bends wildly but stands firm.

The tree teaches patience. A child plants a tiny seedling and looks for signs of growth. Then the child leaves and forgets the seedling. As an adult, the child returns to the school yard. That tiny seedling is now a mighty tree.

The tree shows the beauty of creativity in stunning ways. In the winter, it looks awkward and barren as it stretches its scrawny fingers skyward. Then in spring, those fingers take on life. A tiny bud forms and a beautiful green leaf bursts forth. Those leaves reach up and take the energy from the sun and turn it into leaves and fruit. All winter long, people eat apples from the trees.

For years the tree stands, grows, produces and finally dies. The wood is burned and homes are heated. The wood is planed and beautiful cabinets are made and chairs are carved. Who even gives a thought to the gallons of moisture that the tree puts into our atmosphere each day and the carbon dioxide that it takes out!

The tree is a silent master but it speaks constantly to any who would listen. As you walk under the tree or pluck its fruit, listen carefully and learn the wisdom of the tree.

Creative Rest.
Winter is a time of creative rest for the land. The land is allowed to recuperate for the next year. It is fed nutrients by nature in the form of rain and snow and the farmer replaces nutrients that the crops have taken out. Without this care, the land would soon be worn out.

People need the same creative rest. But the creative rest of people cannot be divided simply into the four seasons. People need creative rest each day. At times the fast pace actually wears them out. They are afraid they will not reach goals they have set. They fear they will not make the money, gain the game, or travel as they dreamed. So they neglect this creative rest and their bodies burn out.

Each person is different. Each person has to learn how much rest they need to restore their creative abilities. It is true they do not want to be lazy or indolent. However, they must avoid the opposite extreme of over-work. The happy medium is preserved by creative rest.

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