Newsline , Society

Regaining Perspective

Posted on Friday, November 17, 2023
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles

Recently it washed over me: Every minute of the day is part of the journey, sometimes losing perspective, sometimes regaining it.

Living in rural Maine, occasionally visiting the Nation’s Capital, then returning to Maine, my world goes from white and green, or snow, pines, blue jeans, and plaid, to marble floors and guarded doors, suits and ties – then back to shedding birches and quiet churches.

Years ago, I moved away, thinking rural America was the outlier, an anomaly in this vast nation of places to see, a respite from what was more urgent, what called for involvement, what seemed to matter, the vital business of Washington.

While I loved growing up in rural America, breezy summers, colorful falls, snowy winters, muddy springs, seeing the occasional moose, fisher, ermine, and bobcat, I imagined the Northwoods were just that – north of the action, not central to it.

How wrong was I? Very. Candidly, having grown up in the woods, I took an elective or professional detour, just lost my perspective on what mattered before.

But things from which you spring have a way of bringing you home. Life has a way of teaching what you knew and forgot, keeping you honest, focused, and true.

These days, it does that for me, day in and day out. What is local is focal, once again. What is core is what was at the start, friends, family, place, pace and peace of heart, the intersection of nature, time, and space, enough of each to see a leaf – in fact, every single one – flutter from a tree full of them, until it stands empty.

Some will ask, what is exciting about that? You might be surprised – or maybe not.  There is excitement, or rather wonder and appreciation, in watching what happens outside the marble city, back in places where real people live.

For me, that is not just town meetings and coffee in the General Store, but watching a wild partridge, turkey, or skunk amble in the dooryard, or two squirrels try to reverse engineer an anti-squirrel birdfeeder, or watching four loons circle intensely on the lake, a primordial habit that presages an intent to migrate.

The other night, sitting outside in a quiet so quiet it rang in my ears, a full moon overhead, something descended suddenly from a towering pine on my left, caught air under enormous wings, passed at eye level, not one flap, then gracefully ascended to my right in the night – a bald eagle, six-foot wingspan, hunting. Steven Spielberg could not have created a better effect or touch of my soul, God’s show.

Yesterday morning, after wind whooped and ranted under my eaves all night, I put the kettle on, got a strong cup of coffee, and stepped outside – to discover my yard transformed into a sea of fallen pinecones, literally brown waves with white caps.

Then casting my vote last week in local elections, I found myself alone for a while, except for the presence of six thoughtful, dutiful, smiling, cheerful poll watchers.

People like to do their civic duty up here. They take democracy – or our republic – and all the duties it imposes seriously. Something beautiful resides in that too.

On occasion, I leave the woods for Capitol Hill, do my own duty, listening, learning, thinking and watching, to understand where our nation is headed. But having once lost perspective, I do not now anymore, even behind the guarded door.

Sometimes all the marble, those wide Capitol stairs, towering monuments, statues of men in long coats and on rearing horses, all the DC seriousness can still impress, but then I am reminded they all come to nothing, have no purpose, are just sails in the gale, without rural America, without little places like the one from which I hail.

America is where the big things happen, where stiff winds blow, massive pines creak, and people work eight days a week; where life is really lived, votes taken seriously, and each day is a challenge, more so when Washington looks away.

To me, just being there, where life is nothing if not real, weather and work inviting, occasionally downright challenging, is exciting. Having lost perspective, getting it back brings a certain comfort. Away from the fire too long, palms to it warm.

So, yes, every minute is part of the journey, sometimes losing perspective and sometimes regaining it. My eyes stay open, lessons yet to be learned every day.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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11 days ago

Very nice article and also quite thoughtful, when you consider the contrasts between what drives modern Washington, D.C. and somewhere else more “normal” in the United States like Maine.

Life in Washington, D.C. revolves around the constant focus of amassing and maintaining of political power, with every facet of life being driven by political strategies and weighing the cost / benefit analysis of every interaction. A place where getting a straight answer to almost any question is an exercise in futility. Where decisions on anything are done by endless committee meetings, and the end result is often to simply kick the can down the road yet again.

While in places like Maine, life is just about life. Sure Washington, D.C. may have the grand marble floored buildings and the aurora of power, but it also become a place where there is a persistent feeling of it being somehow very grimy and not a place one would care to live very long, if your focus wasn’t solely on the accumulation or maintaining of political power. Again, very nice article.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
11 days ago

Perspective – always , like the changing of the seasons , and understanding the similarities and differences with good people ,friends, neighbors ,business associates , and the forests and fields, the expectations and the unexpected .The silent sort of advice that seems to come to mind from observing trees , animals, feeling the weather . Very good writing Robert , much appreciated. The idea of balance I believe gives many people an incentive to slow down at times , remember certain events that helped to shape their lives . The idea of perspective – a great deal of thought to guide us, new ideas, old ideas – peace from the experiences , knowledge gained , the spirit of the joy of life , the sense of purpose .Giving thought to the ideals of Faith, Family and Freedom , part of perspective . Appreciating the value of truth. With respect.

11 days ago

I, too, live in a rural area, at the other end of the country (northwest). Robert, I always enjoy your calm, rational perspective in this crazy world. Thank you for your introspection and ability to slow things down and be grateful for what you have. It’s a gift.

11 days ago

Beautifully said Mr. Charles. I am blessed to step outside, onto my deck, beauty all around me. Not pine trees and mountains, but fields and fields of crops. Our landscape is flat and rolling, but “Wow” to those sunsets. When I go for a run along miles and miles of cornfields, with a few neat little farm homes splattered along each mile, it is peaceful. Neighbors wave at me when they pass by? Then I go back to hours and hours of videocalls, but in my home, where I can step out the door for that peace. I love the country. Thank you.

11 days ago

Another good article, RBC. I can almost always tell by the title that it’s going to be one of your articles. With all the hoopla going on, these articles are a refreshing escape. Thank you. I grew up in Nova Scotia while my Dad was in WWII. I can identify with the peacefulness of nature.

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