Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries…sometimes.

Back in 1976, I was living in what used to be called West Germany, in a quiet little town called Kaiserslautern, in an apartment on a quiet street which had a cherry tree in the backyard, right outside of the kitchen window. When the cherries were in full bloom, I could pick them off the tree without leaving the apartment. I loved this part of my living arrangement, and one day I took a photo of the cherries in a little glass bowl next to a figurine of a red cat that had been given to me by a dear friend who thought my apartment could use a little color. At one point during the photo session, I inadvertently bumped the dish with the camera and it fell over. It seemed to me to be the perfect rendering of the image I was hoping to create, even though at the time, there was no way I could have known that it would end up as the lead photo to my 100th blog post.

These days, it’s a perfectly good metaphor (especially for those who love cherries) to say that “Life is just a bowl of cherries,” when life is going well. We tend to lose perspective, though, unless we realize the deeper meaning of the message contained in the song. The original song by that title was popular in 1931 with lyrics by Lew Brown, music by Ray Henderson (1931)

People are queer, they’re always crowing, scrambling and rushing about;
Why don’t they stop someday, address themselves this way?
Why are we here? Where are we going? It’s time that we found out.
We’re not here to stay; we’re on a short holiday.

Life is just a bowl of cherries.
Don’t take it serious; it’s too mysterious.
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can’t take your dough when you go, go, go.

So keep repeating it’s the berries,
The strongest oak must fall,

The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you’ve never owned?

Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh at it all.

Life is just a bowl of cherries.
Don’t take it serious; it’s too mysterious.
At eight each morning I have got a date,
To take my plunge ’round the Empire State.
You’ll admit it’s not the berries,
In a building that’s so tall;

There’s a guy in the show, the girls love to kiss;
Get thousands a week just for crooning like this:

Life is just a bowl of . . . aw, nuts!
So live and laugh at it all!

As a young lad at age seven, firmly entrenched in the family religious regimen, I could not have anticipated living in Germany in my own apartment, attempting to photograph the cherries I had picked while standing in my kitchen, but I clearly believed that life was just that sweet, and the photo above seems to confirm that sweetness. If those sweet things in my life were just loaned, than how did I lose what I never owned?

In 1976, the year of the American Bicentennial, I was living in Europe, actively engaged in the defense of my country, a young soldier and unofficial diplomat, a German linguist, and resident in a lovely neighborhood in a small town, never imagining what the future held for me, not really worried about why I was here, or where I was going. Life actually did seem like a bowl of cherries–for a little while.

As the years passed, and I moved into my role as a father to my children, I rarely had the same feeling as the day I photographed the cherries on my windowsill in Germany. There was great joy at certain times as each of my children appeared in the world, and plenty of happy memories to savor, but the carefree bowl of cherries was a distant memory, and the weight of responsibility and the urgency of caring for them all prevented life from being possible to describe as anything near carefree. Once again, at a time when I was actively engaged in the serious cares of life at the time, I was attempting to photograph myself for a distant friend, and inadvertently caught myself unaware:

You can almost see the worry in my face, as I became lost in thought, momentarily forgetting that I had set the timer on the camera. Distracted beyond my ability to focus so often, (with a house full of children) that even when I was trying to redirect my attention, I would frequently become lost in the moment. Life was accelerating, and the hope for any sort of contemplation by design was constantly being redirected into a host of other more pressing issues. I worked, I tried to save, and I clearly did worry so. I struggled to attend to my inner world, and in desperation, took to writing as a means of reaching beyond the temporal concerns and the chaos. I worked long hours, and tried hard to seek the answers to the big questions, sometimes in between sleep and work, sometimes in a brief moment of silence with the whole house asleep ahead of me. More years passed, and there were other struggles. As the song says, the strongest oak must fall. And I fell.

Pulling it all together when you’re falling apart is no bowl of cherries, but somehow I managed to survive long enough to see my children grow and to learn a few things about life in the process. I even tried my hand at baking:

Since beginning this blog last year, I have had the privilege of sharing some of my accumulated progress over the years, and with all the children grown up now, a little more time for contemplation of the important aspects of my inner world. I’ve met some truly talented writers and shared many feelings and emotions and ideas with some wonderful bloggers here, and have found much inspiration in learning about what others think, and feel, and care about. I am grateful to all of those who have read along with me and shared their thoughts and feelings in the comments section of these first 100 posts, and hope to share much more in the days to come. Life may not always be a bowl of cherries, but blogging and sharing with all of you has been fairly sweet.

With much appreciation to my readers and with hope for the future…..John H.

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4 comments

  1. milenanik3

    Dear John,
    May the rest of your days become what you want them to be. I love Your article.
    Enjoy your time and fulfill all Your wishes!
    Be blessed!
    With love and respect,
    fellow blogger,milena

    • jjhiii24

      Dear Milena,

      I want to thank you so very kindly for your good wishes and I return your love and respect in full measure.

      With gratitude…John H.

  2. patricemj

    John, this is a wonderful post. I felt like I was with you in your West German kitchen and nearly certain I could reach out the window there and pluck a sweet cherry from the tree. You always say I am generous in my posts, but you are the one who is generous and it shows so much here. I love seeing how your inner world unfolds here on the blog page. The photos and your words that accompany them are wonderful. All my best, patrice

    • jjhiii24

      Patrice, thanks for your gracious response, and for taking the time to share it. Some of the finest moments in life (and as a writer) come unexpectedly and unanticipated. The chain of events that led to the moment of inspiration when I lived in that apartment, all the way through to the spark that inspired the post when I came across the photo, are (in my view) intimations of our vital connection to what we sometimes call “the human spirit,” which I believe is simply the human version of the spirit of life–the animating force present within all of existence. After reading your comment, I was further inspired to dig through my photographic archives, and was able to locate several images of the view out of the window, several of which were taken on the same day. Your images and words have provided some additional inspiration too!

      It was an amazing time in my personal life in numerous ways when I lived in Germany, and although I didn’t realize it fully then, it was a vitally important foundation stone for everything that followed. Looking forward to sharing more of this story,

      Warm regards…..John H.

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