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BY THE WAY

As with Bible, Shakespeare, more Robert Burns references will come

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 12:01 am

“I missed the question on Robert Burns” was the complaint from one reader about the latest quiz. “How come you use him so much?”

The answer is simple: I like his poetry. But sometimes things almost go awry. (That’s Bobby Burns language.) When my husband Curt and I were in Scotland, of course we had to visit Loch Lomond. And, oh, how disappointing it was! Bottle caps and other debris littered what should have been pristine beauty.

Our guide sensed my disappointment and said he’d be right back. He returned with a rowboat and asked me to hop in, which I did. Then he rowed out to the middle of the lake and ceased rowing. I looked around in all directions and saw the Loch Lomond of the song I had first sung in junior high school. It was beautiful — serene and peaceful and worthy of being immortalized in words.

That’s the way it is, I guess. We hear about places and eventually get there and sometimes it’s not quite right. That’s the way it was for Curt when we were in Rome. On our tour of the Vatican we ended up in the Sistine Chapel. I was completely absorbed with its magnificence, then was marveling at the difficulty facing the artist and his crew.

As I turned to Curt, I was puzzled by the expression on his face. “What’s the matter?” I asked. He responded, “Listen! It’s terrible. So many people are talking loudly and there is such a hubbub when there should be quiet and reverence.”

I had been so wrapped up by the magnificence I had wiped everything else out. He hadn’t and couldn’t.

But that did happen to me at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. I had gone to Baltimore and Washington every summer as I was growing up: It is where my parents came from and their families were still there. So every summer there were sites in the area that were visited and often revisited. The Lincoln Memorial was one. You understand. It is so beautifully executed with reverence and respect and admiration, with his words inscribed, and there’s a special aura. This was such a great man!

Well, not many years ago, we went back to see it again. It was early evening and there were many school buses and throngs of kids, many of whom were running around and whooping and hollering — and I was disgusted. I approached a park service person and asked, “Don’t these kids know how to behave?”

His answer was, “No. Their parents haven’t taught them.” That was that. I guess their teachers were powerless, too.

So we respond differently in different situations. The last time I was in Washington, my children and I visited the Roosevelt Memorial and the new World War II Memorial. My son-in-law is a history buff, so he had a great time seeing the phrases and references he had read about. I was reliving history because all of that history was something I had lived through.

Our perspectives are influenced greatly by so many things. I have written before about our trip to Morocco and the Sub-Sahara. My brother and sister-in-law and Curt and I were driving near some dunes and I asked our driver to stop at one.

“Come on,” I said to my brother. “Let’s leave our ‘footprints on the sands of time.’” He grinned and joined me as we raced up the dune, then watched as the breeze slowly moved the sand, erasing our immortality. It’s because we both had had Mrs. Lane for senior English at Central High School and she had enthusiastically taught us poetry that we could savor that moment.

It’s the season in which we see “a host of golden daffodils” and remember the poet’s words. It’s seeing a film like “Quartet” and thanking our parents once again for instilling in us a love of music. And it’s my assuring you that there will be more Robert Burns references in future quizzes just as there are almost always some Biblical and Shakespearean quotations.

As I wrote up there, we respond differently in situations, so get used to it. Some things may change, some never do.

Betty E. Stein is a retired schoolteacher.