The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.



Don’t we all, from time to time, wonder what life is all about?  What is the purpose of our lives? What are we meant to do on this earth?  I know a woman who loves to garden. She says when she gardens she is helping God to finish the job he started when he created the world.  Good for her but not many of us would subscribe to that philosophy.

Taoism says  the end of the cycle of development is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing child –  the level known as wisdom. The wise are children who know. Their minds have been emptied of the countless minute somethings of small learning and filled with the great wisdom of the great nothing.

That’s a healthy dose of philosophy isn’t it? Is that the purpose of life: to  return to being a child again – no agendas, no prejudices, no preconceived ideas?   If I observe several young children at a playground what do I see?   I see joy on their faces: I see curiosity as they pause for a moment to watch a spider constructing a web: I see imagination in castles being build in the sandbox.  I may hear one kid yell “that’s mine” as he grabs a toy but others will contradict him and say “no fair, we share.”  But I do not see them sitting quietly and doing nothing.  They have no empty cups. Their minds may be emptied of ‘somethings’ but I don’t see them as being wise about the value of nothing – of emptiness.

Those explanations are certainly food for thought but they don’t tell me how I am to go about emptying my mind of minute somethings. They don’t tell me what is the wisdom of nothing.

It may be that the difficulty in understanding and living in accordance with philosophies such as those lies in the fact that we are trapped – tied to – our agendas.

If we were able to rise in the morning and face a day without obligations, appointments, responsibilities, it might be possible to experience the value of emptiness. I suspect, however, such an experience would be fleeting and not have any lasting effect on the way in we live.

Is the answer to keep asking until someone responds with an answer that makes sense to you?  And if it makes sense to you but not to me, what then?

Post a comment. What do you think about this conundrum?

Julie Rose


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All of us have one or more memorable times in our lives: times we will never forget, whether or god or for ill: times we might have learned something. I consider myself fortunate to have had several such moments. Here is one of them.



Have you ever gone away and isolated yourself to work on something in peace and quiet, away from chores and the phone or just to escape the complexities of your life and relax? Jens Jensen, a landscape architect, once decided adults should have a camp-like retreat to escape to if they wanted to do just that. He purchased some property high on a cliff inEllison Bay,Wisconsin, overlooking the waters of Green Bay, and built several log cabins, connected by sawdust paths, laid out beneath a ticket of pine trees. To top it off he added a built-into-the-cliff retreat that one must approach, literally, by the seat of one’s pants. Ah – but when you get there, you are Thoreau in the wild!Edenmust have looked like this place.


I went one summer for a fiction writing workshop and, at the same time, there were poetry writing and woodcarving workshops taking place, each with about 10 to 12 people in them. Meals (oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar every day) were taken together at a central lodge,  preceded by a short inspiration reading of some sort and days were spent working —  really working – at whatever it was you had come to work on. It was the most productive work time I have ever had.


I was able to meet with the instructor independently, got good critical feedback, and was, for six lovely days, in the company of creative, stimulating people I will never forget the joy on the faces of an older couple as they left the woodcarving workshop on the last day, carrying a woodpecker and a thrush in their hands. I imagined them instantly mounting them on the front lawn of a curlicued cottage complete with white picket fence, window boxes of pink petunias, and a hammock under a weeping willow tree.


Door County,Wisconsin has much to offer a visitor. Fish boils abound, the beaches are idyllic, shopping tempting and festivals of one sort or another occur regularly. Yet during the week I spent at The Clearing not one participant left the premises to avail himself of any of that.  I do not here mean to endorse The Clearing. Rather my intent is simply to share what was for me a meaningful activity. It was one of those “I’ll never forget” moments.


What’s yours?


Julie Rose


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Some time ago, at a particularly stressful time in my life, rather than seek out a shrink I wrote several short pieces that are fantasies.  I visualized myself as living in a different place or at a different time doing something far removed from the reality of my life.  I would agree it was a form of escapism but it was also cathartic. From time to time I will share one of those fantasies with you. Come along and dream with me.



I am a student again: no longer young and impressionable but mature and thoughtful. I have gone toOxfordto study; to surround myself with serious scholars. . Huge stone buildings draped in ivy and chapels are everywhere and the sun flickers off stained glass windows. Country lanes are lined with gingerbread cottages framed by hedges of yew and holly. Some have herb gardens and when the breezes blow, the smell of rosemary and thyme floats through my window. Flocks of starlings flitter through mulberry trees on the edge town.

I live in a small slate roofed cottage outside of town with an herb garden off a small patio. The stone fence around the property is covered with morning glories that wake up when I do. Pink and red geraniums in window boxes glisten with early morning dew. A yellow pansy patch lies in a corner of the rear garden, frequented by hummingbirds whose nests hang in the birch tree outside the kitchen window.  Sometimes in the early morning deer pass through my yard. Drenched in gingham and calico, the kitchen is warmed by the sun in the morning and by a pine scented fire in the evening. Farmers stroll by in the early morning driving their Guernseys to pasture and greet me as I am on my way to classes or the library.

I spend most of each day with people who talk about Socrates and Marx and Jabotinsky and Mozart and Einstein and Rossini and the French Revolution and the Enlightenment and I know enough about all of them to converse intelligently. I take strange esoteric courses like Druid Architecture and Medieval Chinese Folklore. My professors are brilliant. I find them both intellectually and sexually stimulating. As I sit in front of them I am tense and my eyes never leave them. I am tuned in to both their words and the sensuality emanating from them. I love the rough tweed jackets, the occasional  plaid  tam, the intensity with which they pursue their subjects. My brain whirls and I am full of questions.

I have little to do with other students. They float around me in ivy league cashmere sweaters that identify them as a member of one or anther society. What is happening has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with the environment and the faculty.

I do have some  company in the form of a very active Cocker Spaniel whose name is Zelda.  She sleeps with me and has an amusing habit of running around just before bedtime and gathering up all her toys, putting them – one by one – on the bed. Occasionally I have visitors and we travel  throughout the English countryside. We stay in bed and breakfast places and move leisurely, absorbing history and soaking up tranquility. It is pleasant to have friends share my experience but I am happy to be alone again when they’ve left.

I study and write and spend hours at the library. I take long bike rides into the country stopping for tea at village inns. The proprietors are proud folk willing to chat at length about their lives and communities. One has taught me how to make a fine trifle and another gave me her secret recipe for gooseberry jam.

I feel mature and challenged at Oxford. I work hard, struggling with the course material. My dissertation, ”The Psychological Implications of the Philosophy of Franz Kafka,” is accepted for publication. Several elite private schools offer me staff positions. I am humbly and smugly gratified.

What is your fantasy?


Julie Rose


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I wasn’t valedictorian of my class. I didn’t win any blue ribbons. I did win Spelling Bees , a Betty Crocker cook book, and I think I deserve a few points in a mommy contest


I won’t score 150 on an I.Q. test, will never own a patent, won’t ever  write a best seller but I .can turn lousy prose into a winner, knock you off the Scrabble board with BINGOS!


I can’t play like Mozart or sing like Ella. I’m unable to emulate Degas or Hepburn, but I can outshine you in the kitchen.


I’m never going to have a fortune, live in a penthouse, wear pearls, but I’m

not yet quite broke.


I don’t drive a Ferrari, a Porsche or a Mercedes but my car gets me to where I want to go.


I own no diamonds nor minks but I’m warm enough and have a bed in which to sleep.


Got short changed in the beauty department; no long curly hair, no sexy legs, lost a few dimples to wrinkles. Cute’s not so bad.


Was dealt average cards – no full houses for me – but I play a decent game of Bridge.


I don’t understand technology – can’t program any device – but I can wield needle and yarn more than satisfactorily.


I can’t ice skate, ride a horse, turn cartwheels  or ride a bike ten miles but I swim like a fish.


I’ve no knowledge of science, little of history, only a smidgen of mathematics but I have studied all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets.


I’m neither a  model nor a shopper – out-of-style clothes and no make-up are okay with me.


I’ll never take a dreamed of Mediterranean cruise, visit the Greek islands, but I’m content with a sail on an inland lake.

Average?Normal? Not the worst fate to befall one.

Post a comment.

Julie Rose


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One of the things that  accompanies the aging process is that we sometimes begin to think about things we’d do differently were we able to relive certain parts of our lives. It’s a worthless endeavor, of course, but nonetheless we can’t help but regret missed opportunities. Generally, I’m pretty satisfied with the way I have lived my life but I still  have a few such regrets.


Had I known about home schooling when my kids were very young, that would have been my option.  I would not have turned them over to an inadequate and ineffective public school system. I would make damn sure my kids: (a) were bi-lingual; (2) could play a musical instrument, (3) were reasonably proficient in some sport.  I think those are good goals. I’ve recently learned that exposure to classical music affects a child’s ability to learn mathematics. Something about the structure of music carries over into understanding math.


How my husband and I let this one pass by us I’ll never understand.  Why didn’t we teach our kids the game of Bridge? A game guaranteed to produce critical thinkers –  a game that can be played no matter where you find yourself in the world.


I bemoan the fact that I didn’t read enough of the classics as a youth — Shakespeare’s plays, the great Russian writers, lots more. For years I promised myself I’d read War and Peace. Never did.  In a last stab effort to make up a little piece of  that lack, I recently purchased a copy of the Odyssey


I’d certainly make a much more determined effort to step away from the “wallflower” slot into which I’d placed myself. I’d force myself to join activities where I’d meet others and make friends.


My college choice would not have been a  party school. I’d have sought to be accepted by a university with high standards, excellent teachers.


I would have learned to play the piano.  When I refused to practice daily, my mother discontinued piano lessons. I have spent more than 50 years resenting that and wishing I could sit at a piano and knock out the songs I love to sing.


I regret the fact there were no such things as aptitude tests when I was in college. Had here been I probably would have become an archeologist or a librarian – not a glorified secretary.


Surely that’s enough regrets for one lifetime.


What do you regret?


Julie Rose


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What is the biggest problem America faces? We’d all probably have different answers – most perfectly valid. The one that jumps out and slaps me in the face is our educational system. If we ran our military system the way we run our educational system, soldiers would carry 50 different rifles.

Why should a child from California who moves to Kentucky be faced with repeating material he has already learned? Why should a grade of “A” in a Mississippi school equate to a “C” in New York?


A fifth grade child fromJapanwho enrolls in a Japanese school in the U.S. will open the same textbook to the same page he was on inJapan.  If he enrolled in an American pubic school and opened his textbook he’d be reading something he studied two years ago.


We have adopted a minimalistic approach to education.  We refuse to acknowledge the fact that a three year old can be taught to read. We don’t feed a child’s yearning to learn early enough or deep enough. Moreover, our performance based system squelches a child’s innate imagination and curiosity without which we produce robots, not people capable of technological advancements.


There is a man in Romania who taught his twin daughters Chess at the age of three or four. Those two girls became world class competitors on the chess circuit.  Tiger Woods father put a golf club in Tiger’s hands at the age of three – look what happened. That is HEAD START. What we call Head Start is pabulum.


The statistics are appalling

  • 70% of our eighth graders can’t read proficiently.
  • American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science compare to students in 30 industrialized countries.
  • By the end of 8th grade, U.S. students are two years behind in the math being studied by their peers in other countries.
  • More than 1.2 million students drop out of school every year.
  • Annually, dropouts  cost our nation more than $300 billion in lost wages, lost taxes and lost productivity. A dropout is more than eight times as likely to be in jail as a high school graduate and nearly 20 times as likely as a college graduate.


Add to those statistics the fact that far too many of our students struggle to spell correctly, can’t write a coherent sentence, and never heard of Plato or Homer or Dostoyevsky or Whitman or – or  – or.


Who is responsible for this dismal state of affairs, the high drop out rate?  That is a subject I’ll address at another time.


Education is an issue that affects our national strength and security. If we don’t revitalize our education system, our standard of living will decline, our democracy will be at risk and we will continue to fall behind other countries industrially.  Putting caps on the number of charter schools, failure to fund private schools,  is, I believe, equivalent to the suicide ofAmerica.


My children went to reasonably decent schools with relatively good teachers. They mastered what was being taught.  BUT – they did not reach their full potential. Had I known about home schooling when my kids were young, that would have been my option.   Admittedly, it takes some dedication to home school but it doesn’t require that one be a genius.  Resources abound.


I know a mother – not a scholar – who home schooled her kids. The eldest just completed a semester at Oxford, on full scholarship. Had he graduated from an American public school, it’s highly unlikely he would have been allowed into those hallowed halls.


What do you think is America’s biggest problem?


Julie Rose


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What is it, this thing we call happiness?. Where is it to be found?  I, for one, am content to be content. I don’t search for happiness.  I think it’s like a butterfly that eludes you if you pursue it but if you sit quietly may come and land on your shoulder. To say that someone or something makes you happy is, to my mind, ludicrous.  Only you can find your own keys to the door of happiness. Any key found elsewhere won’t open the door.

Here are a few reflections about happiness from others.

*  Happiness is the feeling you’re feeling when you want to keep feeling that feeling.

*  There are three essentials to happiness. Something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. (Joseph Addison)

*  Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. (Mahatma Ghandi)

*  If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, teaching his son, pruning roses in his garden. He will not be searching for a lost button under the bed. He will have become aware he is happy in the course of living life 24 hours a day.

I particularly like this: “A happy life must be, to a good extent, a quiet  life, for it is only in an atmospheres of quiet that true joy dare live.” (Bertrand Russell)  Think, for a moment, how contradictory that is to the hurry-up world we live in and the noise that invades our everyday lives.

I play Bridge several times a week, in a quiet atmosphere, I might add.  I am overjoyed when I have good hands and a good partner.  Just as often I have a partner who should be shooting marbles instead and I can spend three hours at the table without one decent hand. If I want to play this game, from which I derive much pleasure, I have to accept those lousy partners and rotten hands.

In an ideal world everybody would be happy 100% of the time but we don’t live in an ideal world. Certainly there are days of unhappiness. The trick is accepting them for what they are and moving on, confident you can be happy if only you will it to be so.

Are you happy?  Post a comment


Julie Rose


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            It isn’t often I read a book I will never forget. Heidi, which I read when I was about eight years old, is one of the few. Two others are 84 Charing Cross Road (Helene Hanff and Aphrodite: A Memoir Of The Senses (Isabel Allende). Heidi because it was escapism to the Alps for a young girl living in not very idealistic circumstances. 84 Charing Cross because of its wit and the passion displayed by the author. Aphrodite because of its marvelous descriptive language and amusing accounts of the relationship between food and sex.


Recently I read another. This one I will remember because it is a powerful story of cross-cultural friendship, human transformation and reconciliation.


The Pope’s Maestro is a first-person account of a 17-year relationship between Gilbert Levine, an American Jewish conductor, and Pope John Paul II, who, in furtherance of his wish to improve Catholic-Jewish relations, commissioned Levine to conduct a series of signature memorial concerts. Initially the Pope asked Levine to conduct a concert commemorating the 10th anniversary of his Pontificate. Later he requested a “Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust” which was the first officialVatican commemoration of the Nazi genocide during WWII. The music featured Leonard Bernstein’s Third Symphony (Kaddish).  There were several others over the course of the 17 years, all broadcast worldwide. The concerts are all available on disc.


At the time they first met, Levine had just accepted a position as conductor of the Krakow Philharmonic. Thus, there is the background of an artist being controlled by the Communist government at the same timePolandwas struggling to free itself of Communism. To that must be added a Jewish conductor whose mother-in-law was a Holocaust survivor, the improbable friendship between him and the Pope, as well as wonderful descriptions of the music selected for the concerts and the result is an unforgettable story.


Highly recommended.

Julie Rose


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Someone accused me of not caring about anything because  I do not yell, argue, stamp my feet. I care about many things. I care that our educational system produces robots and our children are being under taught. I care about drug addicted babies and mistreated pets without a home. I care about improving cross-cultural relationships. Stamping my feet doesn’t prove I care any more.


My philosophy is that each day we are given a limited amount of emotional energy and a choice as to how to use it.  I refuse to use mine for vengeance, envy, greed, jealousy or any other negative feeling.  Every minute spent being jealous deprives me of one minute of joy. As I see it, that’s like robbing yourself.


Where does my philosophy fall in the spectrum of philosophy? It isn’t metaphysics or aesthetics. It isn’t the philosophy of language, or education or politics. It’s not about various forms of reasoning so it’s not the philosophy of logic. The only classification left is the philosophy of ethics. Is that what it is and why should I care? I have a hard time putting a refusal to waste time on negative feelings in the category of ethics but that may be due to an inability to broaden my view of ethics.  I care because, as with most things in my life, I relish order. Indecisiveness, chaos, messiness are anathema to me.


That is not a philosophy of half full, half empty. Nor is it something that labels me a pessimist or an optimist. It simply reflects a denial to be the woman who, for ten years, denied you a second invitation because you didn’t accept the first, or the man who, fifteen years later, refuses to bowl with you because you’re better at bowling than he is.


I once mentioned a line from one of Dr. Seuss’ books  to a friend:: “You’ll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond Z and start poking around.” My friend then asked me what Seuss’ philosophy was and I was at a loss to respond. On rereading some of his work I realized that How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about anti-materialism and The Sneetches is about racial equality.  Is that philosophy?  I think so.


Would you say “A person’s a person, no matter how small” is philosophical?


Why am I rambling on this subject — being wishy-washy if you will?  I can only tell you I enjoy playing thinking gymnastics with ideas and setting my thoughts down on paper.  Who knows? Maybe somebody will read my ramblings and find therein something that strikes home for him or arouses his curiosity..


Post a comment. Where do you fit in the spectrum of philosophy?

Julie Rose



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This blog is the creation of a 74 year old retired woman who, although she writes fiction, once tried her hand at some poetry – rather pediatric poetry. In the process of doing that she discovered she had a head full of ideas and thoughts to which she’d never given voice. You don’t sit down with a friend and say, “Do you think imagination is the highest kite you can fly,” or “Do you look at things with a squint?” do  you?

For the most part, the postings on this site will be those unarticulated thoughts. It is unlikely I’ll ever address issues of politics or religion.

You are encouraged to share your ideas by writing comments on any of the postings.

Julie Rose

…………proud mother of three, grandmother of six, optimist, caterer, living modestly in a suburb of Chicago, struggling with a fourth novel, and writing a fifth because she accepted a challenge to do so.

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