Pine trees and kitchen doorways

by Rick Mansfield


Reminders of how our life is passing.  Poet Joyce Kilmer described life as “…a highway and its milestones the years….”

We monitor our progress in more than mere months.  Markers include graduations and anniversaries, a marriage, a baby, a new job, a new home, maybe even a new truck or boat.

We set and achieve goals, we change, we grow, learn new skills, maybe a second language, or how to paint.  Maybe we rekindle a passion from our youth.  We once more write poetry.  We practice and re-learn to play an old song.  Maybe even put up horseshoe pegs in the backyard.

For some, we begin focusing on our legacy.  Concentrate our energies on how we will be remembered.  And for what.  Will we leave the world “…a bit better”?  Will we “know that even one life has breathed easier” because we have lived?  Will we “ we have opportunity, do good to all people..” remaining mindful we “shall not pass this way again?”

When we celebrate our milestones, on what is our focus?  Did our graduation truly represent the attainment of a certain body of knowledge or merely the completion of coursework endured?  Are anniversaries the recognition of “time served” or love grown stronger?

A new job the opportunity to elevate the status of our community, or simply an increase in materialistic gain?  A new position at church a real chance to help or a status symbol and social benchmark?

As I grow older, I ponder many of these questions for myself, consider the milestones of my own life.  Years past a fellow teacher and I were up working late on a “Thematic Unit,” a shared lesson that addressed objectives of history and language-arts for my students as well as math and science for his.

In the midst of caffeine and copy paper; he asked, “What would you die for?”

What would I die for?  A sobering thought.  Perhaps more so, “For what would I live?”

The responses for the original query included “country” and “family.”  Maybe even “honor” and hopefully “God.”  It was a long time ago.  Current answers for the latter question would I believe garner similar replies.  I speak only for myself, as this dear friend and fellow pedagogue has now passed on.  Died after a brilliant career of serving students, community and family.  And God.

As a much younger man I pondered such questions, such life-defining paradigms.  Now I visit with friends about the advantages of General Motors 6.2 Liter engine over the 5.3, the Evinrude HO series versus Mercury’s, even occasionally wallow into the pro’s and con’s of two political parties.

I now try to sometimes tackle such uncertainties; grasp at life’s true meanings and my own inherent role.  Call upon the writings of such eclectic thinkers as Emmerson, Penn and Paul to do so.

I stepped outside and looked up the other evening; looking up always a good place to start.  I noticed the white pine around our yard were “candling”.  Candles are those bright green slender bursts of growth that resemble candles on a candelabra.  All my life that has been to me a reminder of another year; of new growth.

Another reminder is much older, and now unseen in homes for many years.  As a child, my siblings and I were made to stand in the kitchen doorway.  A ruler placed along our head and a mark penciled to record our growth.

One could easily compare, see progress.  Perhaps one-dimensional, yes.  A much simpler time, certainly.

Thanks for joining us!   


Eric “Rick” Mansfield is a retired educator who along with his wife Judy, resides on a farm in rural  Reynolds County.  Rick is a seasoned storyteller and writer, always looking for new audiences.  He can be followed on Rick Mansfield Facebook and contacted at