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So far, 2010 has been rather hard on heroes — by my count at least thirteen voices that I’ve heeded throughout my life have gone quiet in this new year.

I’ll miss the poets Lucille Clifton and Robert Dana, wildly differing world views, yet his beach poems about the Carolina coast and her blessing the boats along the Chesapeake smell of sea and sand, wind and wide-eyed ocean dreamers.

Robert Parker and Dick Francis, pot boiler maestros, rescued me from hours of tedious waits, broke up exam prep and provided slightly guilty thrills and spills.

On a slightly more elevated plane — I plunged into the words of JD Salinger, Erich Segal and Louis Auchincloss. Salinger spoke to my teen angst, while Segal seemed like the Nicholas Sparks of my Mom’s era. I admired Auchincloss for his non-fiction, the novels seemed hothouse overblown.

I adore TV and the movies, always have and probably always will. I made up stories about my favorite characters, wrote ever so florid sequels to movies that I loved, and found books that fleshed out their world. Pernell Roberts died in January — and while I know, Michael Landon was the beloved littlest brother on Bonanza — I went for the erudite Adam. Forget all the Trapper John moments and the extensive movie career — the Cartwrights of Ponderosa, the Barkleys of California (OK, I liked the smart brother Jarrod in that one too) and the Zane Gray novels sucked me into the Old West early and deeply.

Most of a continent and several generations away, Jean Simmons’ buttoned-up, doe-eyed Sarah Brown saving the musically mean streets of New York captivated me to this day. After I saw Guys and Dolls for the first time, I rushed to the library to find the Damon Runyon stories — then I watched the movie again, and again…. Not to say she wasn’t spectacular in Spartacus or even the Thorn Birds, to me she just was Sarah.

The academic world lost Louis Harlan, Mary Daly, and Howard Zinn — who will push beyond the conventional interpretations now? Who will make you so uncomfortable that you go and look for the answers yourself? I’ve respected them, admired them, argued with their books (slightly odd — but hey, it works), and relished each new publication. I will miss them and my mind will miss them more!

The last entry in my small roll call made her impact not by the noise she made — but by her silence. Through her courageous invisibility, Miep Gies protected Anne Frank and the others hiding in that attic. Would I, could I, could you? In the years since that unspeakable horror, Gies worked tirelessly to make sure we all could and would step up and protect each other in a world gone awry… For a wonderful slice of this amazing woman, read the section of Erin Gruwell’s Freedom Writer’s Diary — where the “at risk” kids of LA meet Ms. Gies. It was powerful, joyful and oh so challenging!

While the passing of life may skew towards Shakespeare or the Old Testament, I find my pleasure in the words of Robert Burns. My Daddy loved him and would recite For A’ That, or To A Mouse relishing a Scots’ accent that would have a native Glaswegian weeping. Burns’ humor, compassion and notions of the brotherhood of man are part of the reason he’s considered a hero of Scotland to this day!

A Man’s a Man for A’ That by Robert Burns

Is there for honesty poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave – we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a’ that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A man’s a man for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that,
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A price can mak a belted knight,
A marquise, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s aboon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that,
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
That man to man, the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that
.

life list: Living the Life of a Dreamer (Alice Russell — what a voice, and her lyrics are interestingly quirky); Ordinary Day (Vanessa Carlton — pop sass, but fuller than you’d expect); Living for the First Time (Teddy Geiger — better than teeny bopper indy boy); Somebody Else’s Body (Urge Overkill — Oh I have a weakness for this song); My Way (Frankie or Elvis — who can choose?); Alone in the Universe (from Seussical — such a great song); Nobody Told Me (John Lennon — life 101); Hey Man (the Eels — such a pop-py cool song); Nobody Knows Me (Lyle Lovett — such an evocative song); Dancing with Myself (the Donnas — girl power independent song); This is the Life (Amy McDonald — one of the coolest new artists out there); Speed of Sound (Coldplay — the sort of rushing feeling you get sometimes); Leave Me Standing Alone (Lizz Wright — her voice defines R&B, just gorgeous); My Interpretation (Mika — I can’t decide if I like him or not, the music is intriguing); My Life (Billy Joel — OK, teenage anthem — turn it up & sing along); Que Sera, Sera (OK — Doris Day if you need inspiration and Sly & the Family Stone for kick-butt); Sometimes you can’t make it on Your Own (U2 — they are so good, but they never seem too over-inflated); What I’ve Done (Linkin Park — they are so raw, just lovely); Straight Shot (the Subdudes — have you heard these guys, they are just fun!); You Can’t always get what you want (Rolling Stones — ’cause it has to be here) and All this Time (Sting — these are just wonderful lyrics).

There’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to [live] with pride. –> Aunt May, in Spiderman

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