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  • Preface: This morning I heard something on NPR about the Titanic tragedy and it made me recall something I might write about on this 100th anniversary of the great loss. I looked to Google images for a specific photo of a ring, but, alas, nothing. So now, as the shadows lengthen here, I thought I'd try one more image search, for if I didn't tell this story on the anniversary, what's the point (or something like that). So, I looked and whereas there was nothing about this ring online this morning, only 20 minutes ago this newspaper story was posted online. Unbelievable. I am flabbergasted by the timing....once again. It was simply meant to be. (end of preface)

    Maybe seven or eight years ago my friend and I, who together had founded Maine's Island Institute in 1983, were on the prowl...out fundraising for our first capital campaign. We were trying to raise money in support of the Institute's acclaimed programs and we were calling upon every person who would have us, to see if their passion for the coast, its people and its communities would inspire them to lend a financial hand.

    We went to visit the late Fitz Dixon at his farm inside the city limits of Philadelphia. It is not a small farm. And, to repeat, it's inside the city limits. Old money personified.

    It was the one and only time I ever met him. He had been quietly and consistently generous every year when we mailed him a membership renewal request, but we had never met in person. He was gracious enough to invite us into his innermost private office at the farm and listened very patiently and graciously while we spun out our pitch. He agreed that he would help us and then, not wishing to overstay our welcome, we stood and made ready to shove off...when I saw it.

    On his hand was an exceptionally handsome ring. It, too, was not small. Being the forward type that I am, I complimented him on it and said that for some reason it struck me as being very special. He smiled and allowed that his grandfather gave it to his grandmother as she was boarding Lifeboat #4 on that cold and clear night off Newfoundland.

    I have waves of goosebumps right now, this second, just as I did that afternoon in Philadelphia.

    I was hypnotized by this talisman of the great event and this family's loss. I lost what little self-consciousness I perhaps should have felt and asked him if I could touch it. He smiled again and welcomed my hand reaching out to his. I touched it. I touched history with a few degrees of very intimate separation.

    And then, as it was meant to be, this image was posted online in a newspaper story. Minutes ago.

    The goosebumps here in my studio are not small.

    I am pleased that I could share this story and show you the beautiful ring.

    And I think of hands reaching many hands....
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