The Key to Seventeen

This year,

Elias holds the key to being seventeen, right in the palm of his hand.

 I don’t quite know how that happened;  he was just born yesterday and he has been here forever.

family portrait at sunset

When we checked into our hotel in Tobago to celebrate with scuba diving and beach combing, we were given this key to our room.

 Funny how the universe works like that so often.

room 17

As we were driving home with scuba teacher Tuley, a hip forty something Trini who is as passionate about scuba as he is about life in general, he and Junie were in the front seat  humming along to an eighties band called The Fabulous Pop Tarts as they put the Desiderata to music, complete with an eighties beat.  Elias, Nicole, and I squished into the back seat of his hipster jeep, marveling that Junie and Tuley could find such animated hummable-ness in an Irish prose from the 1920’s.

But there it was.

So here it is again.

My wishes for you Elias, as you launch into your seventeenth year,

can be found in this very same Desiderata that your Dad was grooving to as we wound through the narrow streets of Tobago on the day of your seventeenth birthday.



pp houses

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

elias tob am

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

flo pink

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.


Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

shack mural

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;

parrot cage

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

elias on pier

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

e fish

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

elias on boat

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

glam nic tob

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

e beach house

many persons strive for high ideals;

ringo estrella

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

e n find

Be yourself.

Elias 17

Especially, do not feign affection.

elias and nic sunset tob

Neither be critical about love;

love is it

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

sea grapes

Take kindly the counsel of the years,


gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

baby elias

Nurture strength of spirit to guard you in sudden misfortune.


But do not distress yourself with imaginings.

shack 5

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

shack 4

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.


You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

tobago light on elias

you have a right to be here.

pp from boat

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,


and whatever your labors and aspirations,


in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

elias on palm tree

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,

dead turtle

it is still a beautiful world.

amazing g

Be careful.

sunny tobago

Strive to be happy.

elias bule glasses

© Max Ehrmann 1927

5 thoughts on “The Key to Seventeen

  1. Love the post El! Great pictures, and the Desiderata quotes are great (I printed them out to tape to my work computer – hopefully will help me keep perspective). Happy Birthday to Elias! While I’ll admit to missing the toddler-cherub Elias, it’s so fun towatch him grow into adulthood in such fine fashion. Love, Ed


  2. Dear Ellen, I have started my year back in the classroom as a mandala, I Love Pema! I enjoy your blog and thank you for taking the time to share your inspirations. I am with you on the passionate Hash of teaching IB Art. With Love and Good Wishes, Karen Kenney, Denver, Colorado

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