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The Coming Of The Green

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Carol Bossard

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Easter parades are over; a total solar eclipse before us. Birds are returning. I heard, in late February, that a friend had seen two bears, locally, and another friend mentioned the return of her bluebirds.  The bluebirds were a welcome sign, but we hoped the bears would stay away until May. However, one or two have already come by, briefly, and so we will soon be moving the big seed cans into our storage shed.  This means some inconvenience for me --- up our hilly lawn and around to the back of the out-building. But the exercise is probably a good thing and certainly better than allowing an ursine sunflower seed orgy on our sidewalk. Hopefully, those early bluebirds will find enough buggy food to satisfy their spring optimism.

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Do you know what a vernal pool is? In the woods on our farm, there were little pools that held water only for the spring season. By mid-summer they had dried up. But for a little while, they glimmered and rippled like tiny lakes, surrounded by mossy stones, and inhabited,just briefly, by tiny frogs, darting water insects and,maybe,possibly, wood faeries. They reflected carpets of violets and starry bloodroot blossoms.  And on a nearby slope, in slightly drier terrain, there was a hillside of white trilliums.  These 3-lobed trumpets must line the path leading to Heaven, they are so beautiful. In a slightly different terrain,the sandy soil in my brother’s woods (only 3 miles away) we used to find creeping arbutus, a delicate pink flower with a lovely fragrance. Vernal pools, opening wild flowers and a variety of mosses, all greening my little portion of earth.

As lawns lose their winter brown, and the trees show the beginnings of leaves, it is good to just get outside. Andy Morris,* a regional poet, says this about the spring of the year in an aging world: “Kneeling down to feel the fresh green grass, I found, lying just beneath it, white as bone, a ghost of grass from a summer past, long since mown I held in my hand like so much paper, or even less than that, a milky vapor.  And I thought of how age gives way to youth.  And how truth is but the mulch for further truth.  And I thought of how my life is but ashes, little more than a fading blade of grass.   But when I looked again upon the scene, and remembered what I felt when at first, I knelt, and took the time to celebrate the green.” Celebrating the small bits of new life brightens my day.  The seasons of fall and winter, and realization of aging may dim our spirits briefly, but we are restored by the whole, panoramic view of increasing “green”.

“Green” is now what we all try to be in an attempt to be environmentally wise.  We try to use products that do not pollute land, sea or air. Traditionally, spring cleaning has its own season. This endeavor, in the 1800s and early 1900s, involved rug-beating, scrubbing brushes, pails and pails of water, sometimes lye and white wash (and no latex gloves!).  It was a labor-intensive series of tasks that truly was an actual “season”.   Little House on the Prairie books give a couple of vivid house-cleaning scenarios.  For them, it involved taking the old straw out of mattresses and replacing it with new straw, dragging the rugs outside to be beaten, and washing (with home-made soap) anything washable in the house.  My only memory of anything resembling this, was when the inside of our dairy barn was swept down, hosed down and whitewashed, in the spring, after the cows had been let out to pasture. Today, vacuum cleaners, rug-shampooers, Swiffers and a whole array of cleaning products make house-cleaning all year ‘round a much easier process (though often quite polluting), and there is little need anymore, to tear up the entire residence. I think home-makers today may well wish to lift a glass of whatever to the new robotic cleaners, power washers and wipeable paints that make life so much easier --- and, if we are alert, safer too.

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As I thought about the tradition of spring cleaning, I was also reminded of other traditions with which I grew up.  Sitting around a table for daily meals or for tea time is one custom that seems to be dwindling.  TV trays, frozen dinners, and conflicting schedules have made meals less of a gathering-together event and more of a fast-food way of survival.  We may be feeding our bodies, but are doing less in the way of nourishing our souls and connecting ourselves with family and friends.  We did fairly well with sitting at table while our boys were home and in school but then college and summer jobs saw us sitting together less and less often.  Now, Kerm and I do eat together but while watching the nightly news. Talk about inviting indigestion!!

I have good memories of sitting around several tables. When we went home to visit, our first activity, after dropping our suitcases near the stairs,was to sit around my mother’s kitchen table for a cup of tea and molasses cookies.  The table was placed before a large window with a bird feeder attached to the sill, looking out on a flower garden and a pond.  So, there were plenty of beautiful things to watch and to encourage conversation. It was like taking a deep breath and relaxing for the allotted time of our visit.

Then, at my brother’s house, the front door opened straight into the dining room. We shed shoes, and claimed a chair around the large dining table.  We had cups of our favorite tea accompanied by considerable conversation and laughter as the stories flowed with who was doing what.  There was a merry tale of a salad that was the “last straw” for Bob (not one for creative or odd foods) when he found a plastic curtain ring therein. There was the time I requested a wonderful potato soup recipe --- discovering that it was originally mine, but totally forgotten.  Other family members often dropped in.  As we talked, hands were busily doing bead work, blankets were being knitted, and one patient person was creating a needlepoint pillow cover.  Coming home and being around a table was a mini-vacation from daily reality and created a sense of forever belonging.

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When we visited at Kerm’s home it was much the same feeling. I have old photographs of family sitting around the table at holiday time. The round table, pulled out, with leaves added, was laden with good food and filled the small dining room.  Smiling faces indicated that we were in good company.  Besides meals at that table, there were also riotous times of playing Monopoly or triple-deck pinochle, instigated by Kerm’s grandmother. Then the kitchen table was where we had delectable pancakes for breakfast and where we caught up with Kerm’s mother and what was going on in her life and the neighborhood.

What we  prideful, independent humans do not always realize is how much we need each other. Some of us mingle more reluctantly than others; we are introverts who find our peace in solitude and quiet.  But even introverts need the company of others for healthy living.  Good company, that is.  I used to give my sister grief about not participating; about staying by herself (with a good book, of course) so much.  In recent years, I’ve found myself behaving in a similar way.  Given a choice, I’d usually rather stay home and read than go out and socialize, unless the people are near and dear.  But when I do make the effort, I have felt completed and renewed by participating.  Especially do I find this fellowship and encouragement in our small groups whether they be pinochle nights, Bible study or Spencer Singers.  Small groups create a space where we feel safe and affirmed.  So many people boast that they don’t need other people.  But, of course, we all do.   Every single one of us!  Families, whether blood relatives or those we’ve built from friends, keep us connected to people who care about us and keep our ability to love, polished.

There are two quotations that speak to the value of companionship. “Life is full of opportunities for learning love….the world is not a playground but  a schoolroom.  Life is not a holiday but an education.  And the one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love.** And, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed…….three are even better for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”***  We need good people in our lives for support, for mirrors, and for inspiration.

In April, besides finding companionship with people who make life better, the usual spring work is waiting to be done.  As the buds on the lilacs and trees swell, so do the numbers of tasks on the “to-do” lists.  We’ve had some rainy days this week, the upside of which is giving us a brief respite from the outside jobs.  It is good to cross off some of the inside tasks ---- like taking down the glass snowflakes still decorating my porch and picture window, and sorting the immense pile of catalogs, letters and notes to myself.  Whether inside or out, may your April bring you just enough showers to refresh, and may you rejoice in every bit of sunshine that comes your way. Be sure you notice the increasing, wonderful greening all around even as you carefully, with special glasses, watch the solar eclipse.

  Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.

*Andy Morris ---from “Quiet Moments; Lessons In Life And Love”

**Henry Drummond ---Scottish evangelist, biologist, and writer.  1851-1887.

***Ecclesiastes 4: 9 and 12b.

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