Russell H. Ragsdale


Five Days of Gratitude – Day Two

Second day of gratitude:

  1. I am grateful for memories of speed.  The past is made up of the gamut between pleasure and pain but fortunately we tend to forget unpleasant things that are not associated with strong impulses such as regret.  So, with the exception of an occasional twinge, when I turn to the things I remember I find myself experiencing the pleasure of running like the wind and nobody can catch me.  There is raw power in that because they all knew I could easily catch them but, even as a group, they could never catch me.  I also remember another “wind in the face” experience from the days when I worked as a young cowboy.  The town was small but you could get on your horse and ride there if you wanted some amusement to break up the long, hard work of living on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere.  Sometimes my pal, the “Portuguese” and I would saddle up and ride to town.  I especially remember racing across the meadow just before town laughing and feeling unbearably happy.  Again on the “wind in your face” theme I also remember my beloved “wheels” from my college years.  I had a sports car, an Austin Healey 3000 convertible (of course) and riding around it was as sweet an experience as driving any Porsche or Maserati. Years Later I would own a Triumph 650 motorcycle (that was bored out to 700) and my love affair with speed would continue.  Speed is the power I can remember and as I turn 70 in a few months it is only a memory.  In the last 20 years I have broken my ankle twice and shattered my right knee cap.  I have experienced the challenge of pinched nerves in my spine that control my legs and the strength that once empowered my legs is no longer available to me.  But still in my memory is the glorious wind in my face.
  2. I am grateful for memories of travel.  When I was thirteen my parents took me to Europe with them.  It was 1958, the year of the World Fair in Brussels.  Ah, the London, Paris, Heidelberg, and Rome I saw on that first trip don’t exist any longer, nor does the West Los Angeles I had grown up in.  I go to those places today and realize what a treasure I have stored away.  That trip started a pattern for my life in which I would continue to this very day, and hopefully for many years to come.  I am planning to go to Paris again in the fall and read poetry with the spoken word group that is active there.  I have an old friend living in Paris as well and I haven’t seen him for over a year now.  I’m missing seeing him and hearing his poetry.  His kids must be all grown up now and I can’t wait to see them too.  The truth is that Paris has become part of me now and I already feel as if I live there part of each year.  But that’s the thing, you see, I’m always traveling and the dust on my shoes from that first trip has become a perennial thing.  Take your children traveling when they are young, your mailbox will always be full of interesting postcards.
  3. I am grateful for memories of food.  In the 50’s the food in England and America was pretty “homey” but the food in France has always been French in its soul.  Yes, over the years the croque monsieur has gone through some evolutions and yet, still at its heart beats the creaminess of béchamel against the tanginess of Gruyere.   Mornay, Hollandaise, bernaise, diable, there is such magic in the flavors to be discovered from time spent enjoying France and its wonderful food. I remember being shocked to discover what food could taste like.  It was as if reality had an earthquake and suddenly everything was different.  From the first meal in France I would never be able to look at food the same again.  The taste of that complex cuisine has never left me and that is probably why I eventually became a chef which was indeed a labor of the love of my life.  You see, I look at the Statue of Liberty from a different direction.  I know where she was born and, although I love New York, I’m so at home where she started from that I often long to see her from her derrière side.