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"For me, and, I am sure, for most of you, to be human is to always be in the process of becoming, to be in quest of openings, of possibilities." ~ Maxine Greene

Friday, February 4, 2011


I should name these two goats.  How about Harold and Maude?  Harold can be the one on the left.

Harold and Maude are my "touchstones," whom I pass each time I catch the ferry to work from Fauntleroy, West Seattle, to Southworth on the Kitsap Peninsula.  Which is to say, about 3 times every week. 

These two little goats provide much joy and anticipation as my Suburu and I unload from the ferry, drive up a short hill, and make a left onto Sedgwick Road.   Each time I go by their place, Harold and Maude are doing something just flat out charming or goofy, like standing on their little back hooves and stretching their necks as high as they can to strip the last leaf from one of the small trees in their yard.  Their bellies are very round, so they cut quite a figure!  On this particular day, they had ambled up a short ramp the owner had placed on their "goat house," and seemed to be surveying their surroundings for the first time.  (As I took this photo with my iPhone, Maude let out a little bleat to say Hello.  Harold was chewing thoughtfully.)

On other occasions, one of them might be standing on one of the small boulders in the yard, with all four feet pressed together in a clump.  Just standing there as if to say, "I'm King (or Queen) of the mountain!"  One or the other is always eating eating eating, or standing around and chewing its cud.  

There's also a little grubby white sheep who joined Harold and Maude several weeks ago.  I'll call her "Shadow" since she doesn't garner as much attention as Harold and Maude, but is still there in the scene, munching away.  

The concept of "touchstone" came to mind one day as I drove past Harold and Maude's place, but didn't see either of them, or Shadow.  The rest of the drive to work felt very hollow and lonely; I realized then how much I rely on seeing them to "make my day."  To put a smile on my face.

A touchstone, in its literal sense, is actually a small tablet of dark stone, such as fieldstone, slate, or lydite.  It has a finely grained surface, on which soft metals leave a visible trace; it's used to assay precious metal alloys, such as gold or silver.  In the early days, when gold and silver were traded more commonly as currency, people needed a way to find out the degree of purity in the metal being offered.  They used a touchstone on which to rub the more precious metal, and then tested the residue left from the mark made on it.

Metaphorically-speaking, a touchstone is a physical or intellectual measure by which the validity of a concept can be tested; in literature, for instance, a critic might determine if a piece of poetry, when compared to the "touchstone" of a recognized great literary "classic," has value or merit. 

Harold and Maude are my Touchstones for Goodness and Innocence in this world.  They stand for simplicity and humility.  They represent a baseline for comic relief.  Whenever I am taking myself too seriously, or when I forget my own Basic Goodness or that of others, all I have to do is flash to Harold and Maude standing on their roof, chewing their cud, and nonjudgmentally (I hope) looking down on me.

Do you have a touchstone?  If so, please share!

(Information about touchstones retreived from: http://www.reference.com/browse/touchstone)