In Another's Words

"The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart - this you will build your life by, this you will become." James Allen

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Boston Post Cane Passes to Emeline Torrey

On September 10, the Boston Post Cane was awarded to Cherryfield’s most senior citizen, Emeline Torrey, 94 years old on September 19, 2011. The recipient of the Boston Post Cane must be the oldest registered voter in town and must have lived in Cherryfield for at least twenty years.

The 102-year-old cane “to keep for the day” and a framed certificate “to keep forever” were presented to Ms Torrey on Saturday by Kathy Upton, President of the Cherryfield-Narraguagus Historical Society, at a reception organized by the family and held at the Narraguagus Snowmobile Clubhouse near Torrey’s home. Friends, neighbors, and family members from around the state and country joined in celebrating the event that she is reported to have been “looking forward to” with great anticipation.

Ms Torrey was born in Machiasport, ME, in that “populated place” known as Starboard and began school there. When she was nine years old, her family was lured to Minnesota by a relative and job prospects. “They were both carpenters,” Emeline says, “and Uncle Frank kept at him until he went out there.” There she grew up, married Sylvester Northrop in 1937, had three children, and remained until 1949 when the family of seven – Emeline, her husband and three children, and her parents Raymond & Rosie Sprague – returned to Maine and settled in Lubec where her husband died just months later.

While the family was still in mourning, a neighbor had a baby girl, but was too sick to care for her. Emeline stepped up and welcomed the newborn into her home. “Shelley Rae Boo Northrop Sheehan Cleaves” was “a bright spot” in their lives and became the family’s fourth child. She grew up with her “adopted” family and lived with them off and on for years. “When I think of a mother, I think of Emeline, and her family as my family, her home as my home,” says Cleaves. “The house was filled with smells of everything you could imagine cooking. She is just a wonderful person. I can’t say enough good things about her. She is a fountain of energy and an amazingly hard worker.”

Emeline has always worked at something. To supplement her widow’s pension, she did housework and cobbled together a living doing whatever work was available. She would come to Cherryfield and stay with her cousin Laura Tenan while working at the Stewart’s blueberry factory in the summer. After the children were grown, she provided live-in cooking and housekeeping services to Senator and Mrs. Hollis Wyman in Milbridge for ten years, retiring from that position in 1977. Tenan also “recommended” her to Ward Torrey, who worked for the Wymans. They married in 1980 and had seven years together before his death in 1987.

In the 1980s she worked on the inspection line at Cherryfield Foods with Kathy Upton who says, “Hers were the last eyes to see the berries before they went into the can. She was like a mother to us all.” She retired from there in 1993, but she’s still working – washing and ironing linens the old-fashioned way for her friends, Frank and Ada Graham of Milbridge. When I met with her at her home, she had just put up fifty pints of green beans that she had picked from her son’s garden.

Her family has grown to include 12 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, and 6 great-great-grandchildren. Her daughter Alice Reid now lives in Florida, her son Bud lives in Lubec, and Emeline lives with her daughter Bonnie Wallace in Cherryfield. It’s a very close-knit family who share the attitude, “she took care of us, now we’ll take care of her.”

Her grands and great-grands call her “a homemade Grammie” and she is famous for her cooking and handicrafts including, but not limited to, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, needlepoint and quilting. “I got the last baby blanket she made,” her great-grandson Samuel (16) boasted.

At the reception, praise for her Shredded Wheat Muffins and Blueberry Cake were on many lips and her cooking skills still in evidence. “There’s a cheese ball I made right over there,” she said, referring to the centerpiece of the reception buffet and she is always willing to share her recipes. “She’s never cooked from a box,” claims her granddaughter Mary Northrop.

“She still loves to pick cranberries and blueberries and help in the garden,” says her granddaughter, Roberta Willey. “She taught me how to drive when she was 71. At Whiting Corner, she just got out and said, ‘here you go.’” Emeline was driving until she was over ninety and still drives within a twenty-five mile radius of home on a restricted license - “no night driving.”

She has lived through nearly a century of amazing change and suggests that perhaps electricity and automobiles have had the greatest impact on the way we live. “We got our first TV in 1957 and it was great entertainment in the old days. I haven’t been watching much lately because my eyes aren’t so good,” but she still enjoys watching the “The Price Is Right,” “Jeopardy,” “Wheel Of Fortune,” and especially “The Young and The Restless.”

Her “daughter” Shelley Cleaves sums up everyone’s feelings perfectly, saying of her surrogate mom, “She’s just a dear woman.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

As A Man Thinketh

"All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thought."

So begins my favorite James Allen's essay, "The Thought-Factor in Achievement," one of seven essays that make up his most successful publication, As A Man Thinketh. Regardless of the clarity and practical value of this collection of essays, it and its author remain obscure. Considering the fact that in our modern world  "success" by any of its myriad definitions is sought with such passion and that communication is instantaneous and ubiqutious, it's hard to understand why his name and words are not on more lips.

Over thirty years ago, my then husband and I, wanting very badly to succeed as Amway Distributors, purchased a self-help leadership development series called "Lead the Field" by Earl Nightingale. As a bonus, we also received two tapes of Earl Nightingale reading As A Man Thinketh that served as our introduction to this late 19th century writer. I can't tell you what ever happened to all that "Lead the Field" material, but I wore out those two bonus tapes and have kept a copy of As A Man Thinketh at my bedside all the years since. It has influenced my thinking more than any other thing - animal, vegetable, or mineral. I would gladly give any taker all the books that fill the six-plus foot self-improvement section in our library, but I wouldn't sell my copy of As A Man Thinketh.

And I know what you thinketh right about now, too.  Surely it's something like, well if that book is so wonderful, why isn't MsMOMA the richest, most famous, most accomplished, all round most everything person in the world if she's been reading it over and over every year for thirty-plus years? I can tell you why. Reading it, even over and over, isn't enough. Believing it, even deeply and completely, isn't enough. The truths he illuminates must be applied, practised consistently.

The answer is in the first line of the essay "Thought and Purpose." "Until thought is linked with purpose there is no intelligent accomplishment. With the majority the bark of thought is allowed to "drift" upon the ocean of life. Aimlessness is a vice..." She who has no purpose, gets no where. That's the message and the answer to the question and describes me pretty perfectly. My only purpose in life has been to enjoy it and be happy. In this I have succeeded. Now I am confronted by the question, is this enough?

The most important thing I learned from James Allen, and have internalized like I thought of it myself, is that we choose our thoughts and thereby our circumstances. If my thoughts produce congenial circumstances, I just keep thinking the same thoughts. If I want to change my circumstances, I change my thinking. The passion behind my thoughts determines the speed with which my thoughts out-picture in my environment. It is very empowering to know that I can, to a great extent, control my circumstances. While there may be other forces at work in the universe that contribute to my destiny, and there are many theories on this point, at the very least perhaps I should control the things I can control, and that would be what thoughts I encourage.

Like everything else, this is easier said than done. I seem to need constant reminding that I must focus on some goal if I want to avoid drifting about on the sea of life and never arrive at any destination. Continuing the nautical metaphor, I must be comfortable drifting because no particular port of call has ever beckoned persuasively enough that I'm willing to break out the oars and put my back into rowing hard enough to get there.

About this aimlessness James says, "Those who are not prepared for the apprehension of a great purpose, should fix the thoughts upon the faultless performance of their duty, no matter how insignificant their task may appear. Only in this way can the thoughts be gathered and focused, and resolution and energy be developed, which being done, there is nothing which may not be accomplished."

I find this, like everything else in the world, very interesting indeed. And therein lies the dilemma.