In Memory of Clarice. Musings from the Hills.

by Open mind 28 Replies latest jw experiences

  • Open mind
    Open mind

    This weekend I went for a spectacular, solo, saunter in the hills and woods where I live. If you keep reading, you'll be heading down the rabbit hole of where my mind went. You've been warned! It's fairy long.

    As I was ambling along I did kind of a "walking meditation" for a little while. I quieted my thoughts and just experienced the moment. I highly recommend it.

    After about 20 minutes of this, I came back to the "noisy" world of my mind and let it go nuts. I thought about some recent threads on paganism and how much of pagan thinking appeals to me. Frankly, I'm sure many Christians have a deep appreciation of the natural world around them, they just don't take it as far as pagans do. (BTW, this thread isn't really about paganism, so if you're a devout Christian who'd rather not read about paganism, hang in there. It'll be OK. Trust me.)

    Then my mind drifted onto a person I hadn't thought about for a few years. Clarice. The rest of this thread is dedicated to her memory.

    I first met Clarice when I moved into her town and we went to the same JW congregation. She was about 70 years old and I was in my twenties. Clarice became a widow in her sixties and the JWs came calling shortly thereafter. She never had any children to my knowledge. One JW family in particular really took a personal interest in her and she eventually got baptized. I'd say she was their "Honorary Grandma" and the overall JW experience actually did have quite a few positive aspects for her.

    I don't know if Clarice ever totally swallowed the whole Watchtower party line or not. If she ever did, I'm sure she at least partially wised up by the time she met me. I base this mainly on the twinkle in her eye that I can still see in my mind's eye. She had a love of life that was unstoppable. I can remember a couple of occasions where some super zealot Witness would be spouting off about the imminent destruction of the wicked or why it's so important that we toe the line on the latest directive from Brooklyn. Clarice would just have this knowing semi-smile on her face and that "I know better" twinkle in her eye. She was not feisty and outspoken. Not that that's a bad thing, it just wasn't her style. (At least not very often.) On the rare occasion that she did speak up to voice her displeasure over some stupidity or injustice, it was with few words. And everyone listened. She had a calm, quiet dignity about her. She was nobody's fool. She truly had the wisdom of years.

    I have a suspicion that Clarice may have been a little bit of a closet pagan. At a minimum, I know she loved the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the writings of John Muir. Here's a quote I know she loved:

    "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while care will drop off like autumn leaves." Our National Parks, pg.56

    (If you want to read some other John Muir quotes, here's a link)

    In my mid-twenties I was having my own crisis of conscience of sorts. Should I stay in "The Truth" or not? In short, I stayed because I couldn't bear to break my parent's hearts. That was the biggest reason. At the time I was trying to also convince myself that I just hadn't tried hard enough. Guilt, fear, desire for the paradise. Hammers and carrots.

    So I moved to Clarice's congregation with the mind set that I'm going to "make the truth my own" this time. The first morning I spent in service with Clarice was a very pleasant surprise. I discovered we both had a deep love for the outdoors and the Sierra Nevada in particular. I imagine looking back on it that others might have thought "Oh isn't that OM such a nice young brother working in service with Clarice! He could just be hanging out with the young people, but he makes time for the older ones as well."

    Bullfeathers. We really enjoyed each other's company and there was no "self-sacrificing" on my part whatsoever. After that first morning in service we regularly sought each other out to work together. I can't ever remember us discussing the Organization or religion at all. Any conversations we had with people at their homes were focused on the beauty and wonders of creation. Most of our time was spent doing the very slow meander between doors talking about the mountains. She and her husband both loved the Sierra Nevada and spent as much of their life as possible hiking, fishing and camping there. I could tell by the way she described him that they were truly kindred spirits.

    Now I was trying to be a "good JW" and do my best to have a good reputation with the elders. Periodically I would let Clarice know that I was agonizing over whether I should take a trip to the mountains or not. A "good JW" who's trying to impress the elders doesn't waste time going on too many pleasure trips. Better to knock on doors of empty houses or waking up sleepy, irritated residents. If you've read this far, I'm sure you can guess what Clarice's advice always was: "Oh, OM, just GO! Everyone has regrets when they look back on their life, but I can assure you OM, that I do not regret a SINGLE MOMENT I spent in the mountains. The congregation will still be here when you get back." (See why women aren't allowed to be elders? They'd be giving out good advice right and left!)

    Clarice had a modest house deep in the woods and I know she loved it there. The trees and mountains were her temple. The JWs who made her part of their family no doubt brought her comfort in her twilight years. They were good and sincere people. She lived a wonderful life. To my knowledge she never recruited anyone to join the JWs.

    I never told Clarice what a profound effect she had on me. I don't think I even fully realized it as it was happening. I know I'm not the only young person whose life was greatly enriched by her.

    A. If this life is all there is, then this thread is dedicated to living life Clarice's way.

    B. If good people go to Heaven: "Hello Clarice! Thank you for your wisdom. I love you and miss you."

    C. If the paradise fantasy is true: "Let's go tackle Mt. Whitney together Clarice!"

    Regardless of whether any or none of A, B or C are correct, this much is true:

    I Love You Clarice. You are not forgotten.

    Open Mind

  • Gopher

    That is one hell of a beautiful story, very well told.

    What a gift, to have known an older, much more experienced person who shared their love of life with those around them.

    Thanks OM.

  • ex-nj-jw


    That was a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing that and I'm happy for you that you have those fond memories. They probably are a source of comfort for you especially now!

    By the way - these types of threads should come with a warning for women who are PMS'ing, menopausal or pregnant!!


  • Kudra

    What a great tale... :)

    I want to be Clarice when I grow up.

    The Sierras are my heart-home. I love going there and spend weeks there every summer. I like reading John Muir and speaking of, I hiked the John Muir trail by myself a summer or two ago. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I can understand Clarice (and you too!).

    By the way, where were you guys located if you can say? I was in N CA in Mendo county.

    Do you get out to the Sierras often? Have you gone to the Wind Rivers? They are reminiscent of the Sierras with their sharp granite spires and headwalls.


  • Open mind
    Open mind


    very well told.

    Thank you Gopher. I'm trying to make a point of giving a post my very best effort every so often. I really enjoy reading a nice bit of prose from the likes of AK-Jeff or Confession now and then. Thought I'd try repaying the favor. Glad you liked it.


    these types of threads should come with a warning for women who are PMS'ing, menopausal or pregnant!!

    You know I started getting misty eyed when I re-read it. It wasn't really my intention to have it be a sappy tear-jerker, but I guess it is a little bit. I wish I had a video of Clarice to share with everyone. It brings back nothing but positive, healthy, happy memories for me. I hope some of that came through.


    I want to be Clarice when I grow up.

    Me too. I think I'm on my way. Actually I think her secret was, she never "grew up".

    I hiked the John Muir trail by myself a summer or two ago.

    Wow! Good for you! I'm curious now about where your avatar is from.

    By the way, where were you guys located if you can say?

    Northern California. Can't say more than that, sorry to say.

    Do you get out to the Sierras often?

    Not nearly often enough, but at least once a year. I would die if I couldn't. Well, as long as I have legs and a car, I'll make it once a year.

    Have you gone to the Wind Rivers?

    No, but I've read many great things about them. I'd like to explore there someday.

    Thanks again for the kind words everyone. Breathe deeply and enjoy each day.

    Open Mind

  • Kudra

    OM -sent you a PM


  • BFD

    What a beautiful story, OM. The very best friend I ever had in my life was Iris. She died at the age of 92 in 2005.

    Here's to Clarice and Iris. clink

    Thanks for sharing that.


  • Open mind
    Open mind

    For Clarice and Iris:

    To Life, To Life, LeChaim!!

    Thanks BFD.

    Open Mind

  • Locutus of Borg
    Locutus of Borg

    OM, it's not often that a post here touches my soul as yours has. I knew a couple of Clarice's in my days as a teenage dub. There was Dan F. An older brother that tended his huge apple orchard in NH. I worked for him PT as a teenager helping him tend his orchard. The bookstudy was at his house. . We had many talks such as yours with Clarice. Dan was really in touch with the earth . . his philosophy then I later recognized as the modern Gaia (or Gaya) philosophy. His wife was the zealot, Dan was a lover of plants and fruit trees and animals and the brown dirt that living things sprang from. I was blessed to even know him.

    Then there was Heather. A widowed Scottish woman of Clarices age that I totally adored. She was like my Auntie way back then. My Dad, the superfine elder, didn't like me hanging with her because of her independant and somewhat boisterous spirit. . I used to do chores around her place for her, gardening, mowing the lawn etc, all for the awesome oatmeal, butterscotch chip and walnut cookies she used to bake and a few dollars now and then.. She had a thing for roses, she grew them (many varieties) in her back yard. And she was a cat lady with like a billion cats. Wherever she went on her property she was followed by at least a dozen cats. I was quite stricken by Heather. She occasionally would give the elders a pretty good tongue lashing during the service meeting if she thought they were thinking a little too much of themselves sometimes. They were a bunch of pussys when it came to standing up to Heather. I really enjoyed that lady. She once told me "Oh, Douglas, If I were 50 years younger I would sweep you off your feet!" She died when I was 20, that hole is still there. . .

    Sigh . . .

    Thanks, OM for jogging some good memories.

  • journey-on

    I've danced around this thread all day and hadn't opened it. I thought it was about someone

    I didn't know and Open Mind just wanted to express his condolences. Then tonight, I clicked on

    it because someone mentioned it in another thread. My gosh, I'm glad I did. To have known this

    lady and to have connected with her the way you did considering the big age gap is absolutely a blessing

    of deep communion. It reminded me of that poem about how some people come into our lives for a reason,

    or for a season, or for a life time.

    Thanks for sharing this so eloquently and tenderly................Journey-on

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