Still Learning To See


Not everyone looks as happy to see me arrive in life as my mother but it has been a great life for 68 years.

Not everyone looks as happy to see me arrive in life as my mother but it has been a great life for 68 years.

Yesterday was my 68th birthday. There is no doubt I’ve lived a very privileged life, though some might call it lucky or blessed. While I grew up mainly wearing secondhand clothes, I never went hungry and was loved by an amazing mother, father, three older sisters and a younger brother. We always had a roof over our head. School was easy because there was an expectation I’d succeed, and I was fortunate my real teachers were the woods among the trees and the edge of the lake and creek in any kind of weather.

jrs-05704Life was not without problems and battles—my father and I spent many long, stupidly painful years on opposite sides of the political fence—and I struggled with finding my way after dropping out of college. But my problems and battles were pretty tame by comparison to most my fellow humans must deal with. Religion, a long and deep family tradition, ended up not being my cup of tea though I’m grateful it provided a strong framework of values that still supports me.

jrs-05637Liz and I started our own life and that led to this amazing family and with support from her and many friends I am now sixty-eight and, despite the election results, feeling stronger than ever about this miracle called life. From the intensity of Red Oak leaves in November sunshine to the immediately recognizable pattern of Maidenhair Fern, the world has provided sustenance to me at every turn.

I don’t know how long I have left—longevity is in my family and I see many older than I who continue to inspire.”I’m not dead yet,” having managed to survive for all sixty-eight years the insanity of M.A.D.—mutually assured destruction at the push of a button connected to 6000 nuclear warheads— and cigarettes, two “heart incidents,” and various other near misses. I spent too much of my time not taking care of myself as well as I could have.

I am pleased to have managed to build and create more than I ever dreamed possible, even as I sometimes wonder what will be left of it all in another sixty-eight years. Seeing an 150-year old stone wall on a recent walk was a good reminder of how quickly human life can change course, how all that work and sweat end up an anachronism, a pile of stone in a field now grown to pulp wood.

jrs-05648But today I know I am alive and well and ready to continue standing for what has always been important to me—the things my mother taught me, the things I learned from sharing with my family, and all the remarkable beauty that Mother Nature surrounds me with. Today I am 68. I’d love to sit on that old stone wall with our newly elected president for an hour in the sun and talk about what is really important to me, my family and the planet.


This entry was published on November 14, 2016 at 6:34 pm. It’s filed under John Snell, John Snell Photographer, Trees, Vermont and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

9 thoughts on “11/13/1948

  1. Carole Naquin on said:

    After 3 girls your mama was happy to have a boy baby! Can’t figure out what your daddy was thinking….

    • Yes, given that he and mom both grew up in China, the first son was pretty important. In fact, unfortunately girls didn’t really count to my dad in meaningful ways. Interestingly, I also was unnamed for a week while he apparently wrestled with making me a “jr.” Life is so darned curious!

  2. Dan Fram on said:

    Happy Birthday. I’d love to be a fly on the stone wall during the conversation. Love the moss on the wall and know little grows on you! Dan

  3. ehwfram on said:

    Happy birthday John – & many more!

  4. Happy Birthday John. And thank you for all your wisdom and love over so many years that I’ve known you. You have always been a compass for me, an inspiring human being doing his best to make the world better, to see all the beauty there is in all things, to help others see it too. Your attitude toward being on this planet, being a responsible participant in its orbit, has always taught me how to be. I want to thank you again for your smiling face. I love you deeply, Ted

  5. Thanks Theo. Needless to say—so I’ll say it!—the same holds true from me for you.

  6. What a wonderful life summary surrounded by appropriate pictures. John, you may not be a church person but you are one of the most spiritual people I know. You notice and revere all of God’s creations and are awed by them all. Keep up your marvelous journey.

  7. What a remarkable life you have led, John. Some similarities with my own. Thanks for sharing your life story. I am blessed to have met you so long ago!

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