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Carol Bossard

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Carol Bossard last won the day on August 1

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  1. The Equinox has come and we are now truly in autumn. Seasons are flashing past in double-time. Sooner than seems possible, we’ll be contemplating Thanksgiving dinner and then Christmas cards. But even now, there is this strange pull to prepare for winter ---- though most winter days here are navigable and fairly easy to manage. We are seldom snowed/iced in for more than two days. But, still, something inside ---- maybe all those years of helping put in hay bales or canning tomatoes, or perhaps ---- survival genes from eons ago ---- makes me want to be sure we are snug and ready for anything winter can bring. “….She was covered from head to foot with stove blacking. On the floor all around the stove were dribbles and splotches of blacking……That was the worst day. On Friday the house was almost in order and they worried lest Ma come home too soon….”* “Little Town On The Prairie”, quoted above, has Laura and Carrie trying to do the house-cleaning while their parents are gone. Everything that could go wrong, does. That also describes my comprehensive cleaning dilemma; I begin one thing and that leads to something else and suddenly I’m over my head in too much to do and where on earth will I put things? The traditional housewifely practice of the 19th and early 20th centuries demanded deep-cleaning, spring and fall. Of course, then, there were no vacuum cleaners, no carpet shampoos, Scrubbing Bubbles or Windex for regular maintenance. My seasonal efforts are, admittedly, minimal. I bring out the quilts and pillows, change the wreath on the door and add pumpkins and chrysanthemums to the porch. But I don’t take the carpets outside for beating, nor wash the walls. Some windows may be cleaned as we remove the ACs but my efforts are more cosmetic than seriously cleansing. My college major {then called “Home Economics;” now called “Human Ecology!”} was because a) I wanted to be a 4-H agent and b) I’ve believed that making a home where people feel comfortable and loved is both a fine art and necessary skill for happy living. Even an aero-space designer or nuclear physicist --- of either gender ---- needs this. That opinion wasn’t popular in the 1960s when women were trying to escape the rigidity of society’s assigned roles. I agreed about need for change in societal expectations, but if one is free to develop a career outside the home, then one should also be free to make home a career without feeling like a betrayer of womankind. Of course, there is far more to home-making than the house itself, but most of us do tend to focus on our houses, since they are the basic structures within which and around which, we create a living environment. Kerm and I lived in three apartments and one half-house before, we moved to a large, square Pennsylvania farm house; 4 rooms upstairs and 4 rooms downstairs with an attached summer kitchen. We and our then-toddlers moved in to face high ceilings, big windows and empty walls. I was staying home with the children, so one salary had to stretch for all things. My mother, always good at re-purposing, kindly offered me a pile of white sheets she no longer needed, and I made cottage curtains for six big windows, from those muslin sheets, and trimmed them with ball fringe. The living room walls were soon brightened with fabric hangings upon which I appliqued patterns and quotations. It took me about 3 days per hanging, to cut out letters and shapes, hand-sew them on and fringe the burlap, this being before the advent of digital sewing machines that do everything but fix dinner and wash the dishes. We also discovered a new hobby; household auctions. We found large, round overhead lights from the county building that, tipped over, turned into ultra-modern table lamps ---- industrial meets Star Trek. We found gold-framed paintings we both liked and occasional pieces of furniture. I bought an entire bolt of orange corduroy and covered floor pillows, slip-covered a chair and couch cushions. We purchased a good couch and bed, but the rest of our house was put together with very little effect on the budget. It e slowly evolved into an eclectic décor that was pleasing, at least to our eyes. I have always enjoyed seeing the unique ways in which people create their living spaces. Karen, whose casual house-keeping style is similar to mine, and who also enjoys vintage things, arranges pleasing vignettes on her table. I remember one that featured a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles, some interesting stones and a charming little bowl. It was a conversation-starter. Jan fills her walls with original paintings --- not Van Gogh or Rembrandt--- but artists from her community. They may never be famous (or they might) but the art is attractive and unique, and it inspired me to go and do likewise. Pat has her own amazing paintings on the wall and makes beautiful quilts. Ellie keeps a neat and tidy abode without clutter, but adorned with African carvings, flowering plants and a comfy porch where one can watch hummingbirds. Her home breathes out restfulness and peace. Another Ellie’s home always has a touch of elegance whether she is living in an old house, a new house or an apartment. Her elegance comes from within and is expressed via good taste, not thousands of dollars. And Joette’s rooms could be in the pages of “Country Living,” a magazine that we both enjoyed some years ago. All of these houses have a unique ambiance that just fits those who live there. Our preferences have altered some over the years; I currently surround myself with what makes me happy. Books! Music! Photographs! Art from people we know! The top of a high bookcase has a painting of the Campfire Girl’s Creed (done by my mother) and various items suggesting camping and the outdoors. It is a dust-collector but every time I look at it, I think of the fun (and crises) we’ve had camping, and I remember the stories my mother told, about growing up in the early 20th century. I have framed photographs on tables and walls, surrounding myself with people I love. My living room curtains are still white with ball fringe, though not the originals. Our orange decor has changed to rose, blue and green. None of our rooms are “show rooms” in any sense, but they are comfortable. I believe that if we listened closely enough, we’d undoubtedly hear echoes of music and laughter --- of dinner parties and rehearsals, of D&D games and graduation parties---- of adding up the pinochle score ---- all caught in our walls. What happens in a house, over many years, must be absorbed, becoming part of the very air. A home that exudes warmth, welcome and happy times --- in one’s very personal style ---- is one of life’s blessings. And considering how many homes have been recently lost in floods, earthquakes and fires, not to mention bombings --- having four walls and a roof, is definitely something for which to be deeply grateful. We turn to the outside, tucking our gardens in with cover crops. We no longer have livestock (chickens or rabbits), but we do have outside cats who believe they own us, and wild birds with expectations involving suet and seeds. We make a shelter in an ell of our house for the cats, enclosing a table with sheet foam, lined baskets beneath. Some of the warmth from inside seeps out to them and they are protected from the wind. There’s also a double-walled dog house that, with the demise of Freckles, is open to cats. (Freckles would be appalled!) And cats grow thick coats of fur, soon resembling walking muffs. There are shelters for birds to use on cold nights, and we try to provide fresh water for whoever might need it. Concern for the creatures around us is part of being grateful for our life and theirs. This doesn’t mean romanticizing them to the point where they become more important than humans. Here I’m thinking of the cows in India that walk wherever they choose, of the deer in Ithaca that do the same and the people who are all warm and squishy about deer, whales and manatees, but forget about starving or abused children. We need to be compassionate toward whomever or whatever we met on our individual paths, but we should develop well-informed common sense so that our compassion doesn’t morph into gooey sentimentality. A home’s most important quality is probably that of acceptance. Carl Larsson**, an artist of all things homey, says: “A home is not dead but living, and like all living things, obeys the law of nature by constantly changing.” And “The nourished spirit is essentially what we pass on to others whether family, friends, coworkers or strangers.”*** Home should soothe us, inspire us and take us in, that we might be renewed to face a not-always-friendly world. Meanwhile, autumn has come --- today! Golden rod is blooming everywhere. The crickets sing their autumn songs while trying to sneak into the house. We all, with some dread and some relief, await the first hard frost. There is an aroma ---- perhaps a combination of composting leaves, flowers blooming for one last time, a tinge of woodsmoke on crisp mornings and a long, fragrant sigh from the earth as the season turns. Whatever the source, the bouquet for our noses triggers an impulse of urgency deep within us, to prepare for the colder days ahead. So. bring out the quilts, polish the windows and view, with gratitude, the changing life around us wherever we live. Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Little Town On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder----American writer. 1867-1957. If you haven’t read these books, or if it has been years since you did, now is a good time to re-read them. Excellent reads! **Carl Larsson---Swedish painter who exemplified the Arts & Crafts Movement. 1853-1919. ***Alexandra Stoddard--- American decorator and writer; philosopher of contemporary living.
  2. My favorite time of the year is drifting in with these late summer days leading into fall. Perhaps it is due to so many years of school beginnings, but now has always seemed to me, a more appropriate onset for a new year than January. Many cultures back in history have agreed; as harvests ended, a new year began. Instead of snow and ice, we could look forward to weeks of blue skies and pleasant weather with, hopefully, a few more rainy days than this summer provided. It’s time for being outside, watching birds, cats and usually a few turkeys who venture beneath the feeders in spite of those two humans in the back yard. The rose-breasted grosbeaks are gone and the other summer birds are gathering to discuss travel plans. Kerm did see a red poll, probably stopping on its way further south. We seldom see migrating warblers although, with my eyesight, they could be lurking in the lilacs and I’d never know. But even when I could see, I seldom glimpsed any. They are fast-moving, elusive little birds who would probably rather fly a few more miles to safe Sapsucker Woods at Cornell, than to linger in our back yard patrolled by four cats. One bird that I enjoy --- although my husband does not ---- is the crow. Kerm’s feelings are almost certainly biased having grown up protecting corn fields, where crows and corn are not a good combination --- for the farmer. Too, they are often annoyingly loud ---- especially when they become adolescents. I think teenage crows have all-day parties on our hill while their parents are out scrounging for road kill. They are intelligent birds --- and prone to pranks. They bother other birds as well as farmers, for they’ve been known to eat eggs of their avian cousins. Sometimes one sees a whole bevy of smaller birds harassing a crow that has ventured into their territory. But they do have their own place in the family of creatures --- as the song says, “All God’s creatures got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher; some sing out loud on the telephone wire; some just clap their hands --- their paws --- or anything they got!!”* And speaking of choirs, musical groups have suffered over the past three years. I think ours isn’t the only one diminished in both numbers of singers and quality of voice. I’m not saying any of us quite sound like crows, but vocal cords, like all body parts, need to be exercised to function well, and there were very few choir rehearsals during the pandemic. After experiencing COVID, nearly a year ago, my voice has become unreliable and far more prone to “throat frogs.” Yes, it could be age-related but if so, the virus double-timed the process. Depth and quality are sporadic. It is tempting to give up and just not try, but my world would be less joyful without singing. Spencer Singers (our sextet) has been rehearsing, hoping to renew the strength and reliability of our voices. We shall see!! But even if we have acquired permanent disability, singing still lifts our spirits as does just being together. It is reassuring to have kindred spirits who harmonize well, both in music and in thoughts. And as for church choir, singing is not just for us; it is a gift to our fellow-worshipers; an expression of our faith and a shared blessing. A few vocal glitches shouldn’t stop us -------as long as we stay on key and don’t quite sound like crows! Back to school ------- remember that new notebook with those blank pages, the new pencils with unused erasers and the aromas as you walked into school on that first day? It was a potpourri of cafeteria food mixed with floor wax and chalk dust. And there were those breathless few moments before everyone felt comfortable with each other again. Currently there has been nation-wide discussion about the lack of teachers for our schools. The reasons are complex but one thing is true. We do need to offer teachers more respect and attentive ears. These are trained educating professionals not convenient babysitters! Of course, if issues arise, there should be parent-teacher discussions about what is best for one’s child, but I think most teachers truly care for the kids and are doing their best to steer them toward becoming knowledgeable and confident adults. With the current potential for violence in schools, security in the class room is shaky. We all need to work together for solutions. Dads and moms who habitually ignore parent/teacher conferences, who do not become involved in their schools and who degrade good pay for teachers, are definitely one contributing part of our teacher-shortage problem. I wish that parents, teachers and students of all ages would apply a wider perspective to education: “Every morning you rise………… there are amazing things to be a part of, and fight for, and feel, because the world will unlock hundreds of doors when you give this day all the courage, love, and intensity you can.” ** September also offers a significant dose of nostalgia and thoughts about endings, as our calendar year wanes. We humans generally resist endings unless we are in the midst of something we don’t like. I was always glad when the bell rang in a math or chemistry class and I was happy to end three challenging years in one of our abodes. Mostly I like beginnings. However, having reached the Biblical “Four Score” years, I do feel rather as though I am living on gifted time. Each day is to be cherished as a new beginning that runs awfully close to an ending. And while I have no real desire to exit this life on earth (except maybe after listening to a particularly dire news broadcast 😊), I do contemplate this human surety now and then. My personal theology doesn’t really include streets of gold or harp-strumming on a comfy pink cloud. But if one believes at all in a Creator of all things, a universal power of GOOD, it follows that good things are never wasted including human development, imagination and love. Humans have potential for wonderful possibilities including an immense capacity for loving. So, I totally believe that what we call death is a transition, not an end. JRR Tolkien*** said it well: “Still ‘round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate…” That’s good to remember at the end of an experience, end of a year, and the end of a life. Endings often lead to new beginnings. Believing this, however, doesn’t stop the pain when I lose family or friends to this life-change. I desperately want them with me --- touchable ---- huggable---- able to talk on the phone ---- and stop by for tea. I intensely miss those who have gone beyond my sight, and I’d give almost anything to keep them with me. But, when it happens, there’s this tiny shard of comfort, knowing that they are somewhere --- and maybe not all that far away. C.S. Lewis.*** one of my theological mentors, wrote this in The Last Battle, regarding eternal life. The wonderful land of Narnia has come to an end and the inhabitants find themselves in a new place ----the unicorn looks around and says: “I have come home at last! This is my real country. I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this……Come further up; come further in!” Meanwhile, life here is pretty interesting. There are friends, music, more books than I can ever read, birds, flowers, family and a daily, new ideas and possibilities. I think we all, over a lifetime, catch glimpses of our Edens, and mine come more often when September brings autumn. Soon the leaves will be turning rich tints that light up our wooded hills. A change in the tilt of the sun brings darkness earlier (which I regret), nights are cooler and here, in the northeast, we get more morning fogs and heavy dews. Those fogs make our valley appear to be filled with marshmallow crème and the dew sparkles like glitter on the grass. The chickadees again come to the feeders. The school bus awakens me at 7:55 and kids walk by the house to and from school. Transitions! I like this observation from a poem by a British poet, Bliss Carman:***** “There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood ---- Touch of manner; hint of mood; And my heart is like a rhyme, with the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time. The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry of bugles going by. And my lonely spirit thrills to see the frosty asters like smoke upon the hills.”**** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Song: “A Place In the Choir” written by Bill Staines and sung by many groups including Peter, Paul and Mary and, most recently, Celtic Thunder. Bill Staines was born in England but lived most of his life in New Hampshire. He was a composer and singer. If you want your spirits raised, go to YouTube for any one of the renditions of this song. **Victoria Erickson from “Edge of Wonder.” An American writer, poet, dreamer. ***JRR Tolkien ---English poet, writer, philologist and academic. Best known for his “Lord of the Rings” series and “The Hobbit”. 1892-1973. ****C.S. Lewis --- British scholar, writer and Anglican lay theologian; a Don at Oxford University. He has written the “Chronicles of Narnia”, “The Great Divorce”, “Mere Christianity”, “Out of a Silent Planet”, “The Reluctant Convert” and many others. 1898-1963. *****Bliss Carman --- Quoted are the first two stanzas of A Vagabond Song. Bliss Carman was a British subject, born in Canada, who lived much of his life in Connecticut. He was, late in life, honored a Poet Laureate of Canada. 1861-1929.
  3. “Itsy, bitsy spider went up the water spout….down came the rains and washed the spider out. Up came the sun and dried up all the rain and the itsy, bitsy spider went up the spout again!” A kid’s song apparently appropriate to August; I found three spiders escaping up the wall, in my shower this AM --- after having nary a one all summer. Steps will be taken!! August ---the month with no holidays. There are actually about 3 ½ weeks of summer remaining before the Equinox, but we are programmed to feel summer is over by Labor Day, just a few days away. Golden rod is blooming along the roadsides --- and in my garden too, where it escaped my notice. Other unwelcome plants have also crept into the garden; lamb’s quarters, red-root, chick weed, and a variety of grasses. In spite of little rain, the weeds have flourished --- leading me to declare my gardens a {Disaster Area for 2022.} I wonder if I could get Federal relief funding??? 😊 Fortunately, for gardeners, there are always rosy hopes for next year. Even with those flowery dreams, though, Kerm and I have realized that some of our landscaping and gardening has gone beyond our energy level to manage. Sometimes reality prints a clearer picture of life than we really want in our albums. And speaking of albums/scrapbooks, maybe I should do a new one to record perspectives in my new decade. I’m now officially in my 81st year having turned 80 on the 15th. If that doesn’t make me feel “mature” enough, Kerm and I will be celebrating our 58th wedding anniversary on September 5th. That doesn’t seem possible either ---- maybe because we have crammed so much into those 58 years. There has been nothing boring about our life together. Frustrating maybe and certainly surprising at times; annoying as well as delightful; occasional crises to live through; dancing, singing and weeping. But never boring! The “not boring” probably began with our wedding day; friends who attended fifty-eight years ago, still bring up stories about it when we get together. So, in spite of our current inability to dance the night away or to single-handedly relandscape our property, we don’t really feel the full weight of our birthdays or our years together. Our family gathering of three weeks ago was once more a time for stories and laughter. Sitting beside Cayuga Lake on a summer day, cookie-baking behind me, was a relaxing and renewing time. I felt immersed in affection and belonging. Jan and I were the eldest there the “Grande Dames” of the family, as Jan put it. Of course, by this time in our lives, we have reached a point where age doesn’t really matter; we are all peers. Whatever we are, it was a refreshment for the soul to see nieces, nephews we’ve not seen in a while. Small cousins romped together, and it was good to see adult children of all my siblings. We never know what may happen from one year to the next, so this time together was a gift. We are fortunate to have each other --- even at a distance. Another August gift has been slightly cooler weather. In spite of our garden’s unproductivity, they still must be shut down and tucked in for the season, in preparation for next spring. Assuming the temperatures will no longer be in the 90s, we will try to catch up on the weeding before snow falls. Possibly we’ll even plant cover crops. This year we’ll be buying our decorative pumpkins since I didn’t plant any. I’ll miss our “Cinderellas”, the Long Island Cheeses and the mottled “One Too Many” pumpkins. The deer will miss them too; they will have less to graze upon with no fall crops. Ah well --- some years the gardens, like weather, just aren’t fit for man or beast! As I thought about fall chores, I recalled one gardening job I disliked when I was a kid. It involved plant surgery!!! In August, my mother separated and transplanted iris plants, which should be no big deal, since the rhizomes are planted quite shallowly. But iris plants are prone to an iris borer that makes the rhizome all soft and squishy and --- eventually --- dead. So, I was handed a paring knife and told to cut out any soft, mushy spots in the iris rhizomes. Not appealing! I still like iris, in spite of their labor-intensive care, and I have just ordered six new ones to plant in front of our pergola along with oriental poppies. I can just see them in my mind’s eye as they ---- hopefully ---- will look next June. Garden iris has a cousin, the yellow flags that grow in swamps. My home farm had a swampy area and a pond at the back of our acreage (just past the hedgerow with those blackberries). Some interesting plants grew there; swamp irises, cattails, button bush, Joe Pye weed, Jewel weed, osier dogwood, elderberries and a myriad of other plants and shrubs. I would cut arms-full of blossoms and fill two large crocks on our front porch with late summer color. We also harvested elderberries there in mid-to-late August ---- a delicious treat not appreciated by everyone’s palate. Walking the fields of home was therapy for whatever ailed me. If school left me in a dour mood, I would take my grouchiness past the barn full of Guernsey cows, along-side the orchard housing Berkshire pigs, down the lane and when I came to the fork, I could either go up the hill (called a drumlin; a particular kind of hill left by the glaciers) where the winds would blow my bad mood away, or I could continue on to the back of our property, to the pond and wooded acres. Here there was silence except for --- if I was lucky --- a Hermit thrush, whose song is like a crystal cascade. There was an ironwood tree with a seat-like branch where I could sit and think. By the time I walked back up the lane, I had nearly always regained some clarity and perspective. I think that too many of us do not allow ourselves that kind of down-time; space to rethink our hours (and our opinions), and find some perspective for the unhappy or confusing parts of our days. As adults, the stressors are more far-reaching than test marks, dates or dances. And the instant-access news tends to clog our brains and accumulate there like so much silly putty as we “carry on as usual,” until we explode at someone, or become ill. Doctors and therapists frequently recommend meditation --- of which there are many kinds and many layers, and, regularly practiced, is good for body and mind. A walking meditation --- or even just a walk ------ is healing. I no longer have my long lane or tree, but have found many other spots where one can shake off daily life and feel renewed. From Maine’s seacoast to Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains; a change of scenery helps me sluff off the fatigue and stress, and regain perspective. But it is quite possible to do this right at home, where we need it most, if we will just take the time. We can walk up our wooded hill, sit by the creek that flows behind our church, stay out in the gardens at twilight and listen to the birds signing off. Each of us is worth the time and effort to keep ourselves stable and light-hearted. Our brain and how we see things can actually be changed-----by us --- with practice. How we look at situations and what we tell ourselves we expect from life can keep us happy or unhappy. Grief is still grief and illness is still debilitating, but there is almost always something in the midst of those situations that can bring us hope and light. This leads me back to the acceptance of growing older and realizing that some capabilities have diminished. Sadly, I no longer climb out windows onto the roof (a teenage habit). I can no longer run up and down the lawn. I can’t get the house ready for a party in half a day. But ---- there are so many things I am still able to do. I can enjoy times with friends. In spite of compromised vision, I can still --- so far ---- read books and watch TV. I can enjoy music, art, dancing and laughter. I can appreciate the variety of flowers and grasses growing in our gardens. There is truth in this quip I saw on FB: “Some days you’ll move mountains; other days you’ll move from the bed to the couch ---- and both are OK and necessary.” There are so many good things happening in this month that even with no holidays, it seems appropriate to declare this whole month of August, ”31 Good Days of Summer.” Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. ******** *Perspective is from the Latin root, perspicere meaning “to look through”. It has to do with courage and seeing clearly. **Speaking of light and perspective, I can recommend a book that tells of how one woman kept light in her life. A Life In Light by Mary Pipher was a true gift. It is a book of stories describing her growing-up years. Her childhood was no field of clover; she had to endure poverty, moving multiple times and some of the time, neglect. But she triumphed because she was able to see a shard of light in every situation. She continued to love her family – not always easy --- acquired her own family ---- and, as a well-known psychotherapist, has written books and provided counseling to many. It is a good and inspiring read.
  4. It’s mid-August and the stores are blatantly advertising school supplies and autumn clothing, not to mention Halloween decorations ---- this, in spite of the humidity and 80-90 degree temperatures. August is still summer!!--- and days continue to be good for picnics, sun tans, and nights fine for star-gazing. Hal Borland* describes August well……….”Dog Days ….Dragon flies and Damsel flies follow the boat when I go out on the river……little spotted turtles sun themselves on old logs and slip into the water when I come too close…………..barn swallows begin to leave and so do the chimney swifts……golden rod comes into bloom everywhere……milkweeds have formed their pods, still green and tightly closed………..wild blackberries ripen.” I remember, as a child, trudging down the lane, to our back pasture, where blackberries grew in the hedgerow. They were harvested with considerable effort, while garnering mosquito bites, scratches from the impressive thorns and purple fingers and mouths. Inside that hedge row, was a wild, unexplored and slightly enchanted world of vegetation, birds and bugs, ripe for the exploring. Our granddaughters will, in the fall, be exploring a different uncharted territory. One will be entering public school classes for the first time in many years, after having been home-schooled. And the other will begin her college/further education years. I’ve been thinking back to my move from home to college. My freshman roommate visited me this summer, and as she looked at some photos from our year together, she said: “We were so young!” We definitely were --- though I’m sure we felt quite adult and competent. I had some really good experiences that first and only year at Plattsburg (including the roommate). There were some fine teachers and classes. Once or twice, we biked out into the country; my first experience with a bike that had gears. Despite the frigid winter winds, we blithely skated on Lake Champlain --- having no clue about dangerous things like air pockets in the ice. I think our guardian angels might have been overworked that year! Probably needed to work in shifts! We played tennis, sighed over a tall and good-looking baritone, and – somehow --managed to glean considerable growth in the process of being on our own for the first time. Growing up always includes some angst about fitting in. How long was it before I felt confident enough to be me --- with everyone? Honesty forces me to say that the process went on into adult-hood learning experiences. If only I’d subscribed earlier to the adage often attributed to Dr. Seuss:** “Be yourself! Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” It takes a few years of living to trust the truth in that. We are all born with gifts unique to each of us, and we need to share that which is ours alone to share --- without fear and without worrying about who will like us and who won’t. Just as there will always be someone to criticize, there will always be someone to appreciate the persons we are. Our own uniqueness is how we give back to a world that needs what we have. And those who criticize should really look more deeply at themselves ---- and mind their own business. I am about to experience a personal “turning of the year;” into a new decade. One up-side to aging is finding I’m able to be more objective about things that might have sent me into a tizzy earlier. My current life-span is just too short to waste meaningless anxiety on people and events about which I can do nothing. If I’m going to be anxious, it will be for something that I consider important --- like whether Friendly’s will continue making butter crunch ice cream even though they are closing restaurants, or whether one of our sons is again on busy super-highways, driving in the wee, small hours. Actually, I can’t do anything about those either, but having an excellent imagination, I am capable of creating amazing scenarios for worrying. I’m trying to learn to divert my thought processes when this happens, but that is a continuing life-lesson in trust. Birthdays are a time for thinking; about looking back to see how the year has been, and looking forward with gladness to the unexplored territory that is the year ahead. Some people get grumpy about birthdays after a certain age, but I feel that celebrating them is good for the psyche. Having fun times and remaining alert to the world around is a key to enjoying life --- and birthdays. I will admit that it has been a bit startling to think of myself as “senior” or “elderly.” My body agrees that I certainly am, but most days, my mind feels no special age. Regardless of increasing lines and wrinkles, I’m sure that I’ll find this year just as full of challenges, fun, sadness and delight as the last year, when I was only 79. It is Spencer Picnic week, a community festival of long-standing tradition of 111 years. It is a celebration of community; a way to maintain the ties that bind. There’s good food, carnival rides, a “Miss Spencer Picnic” and a talent show. There is the parade on Saturday and excellent fireworks. Kerm and I have always chosen to live in small communities for this very kind of connection, and we find small town positives are far more outstanding than the negatives. One’s experiences and views, wherever one lives, can be as wide as reading and travel make them. We have found the Spencer-Van Etten area a good place to live. When someone is in need people step in as soon as they know. There are fund-raisers for local children who are in the hospital, fun-raisers for the Ukraine, people who will help new-comers find plumbers, electricians, and play groups for their kiddies. When one’s large, fawn-colored dog runs away during hunting season, the hunters are careful not to shoot it. We have personally experienced neighborly kindnesses --- often. I have noticed that people can be adversarial in theory but wonderful in reality. If the discussion is about politics or local issues --- people can disagree vociferously. Voices are raised and hostility creeps in. But if a neighbor needs help, that same person who yelled at the last town meeting will be right there with a casserole and comfort. Therein lies hope for the world. For my childhood years, he road on which my home dairy farm stood was a dirt road --- rural! While growing up, I’d visit up and down that road; there was the elderly couple who I adopted as surrogate grandparents and where I played with a beautiful, old porcelain doll and washed my hands in a dry sink. There were neighbors who had a TV, which we did not. They also had a pool table and a slot machine. So, after school, I watched the Mickey Mouse Club, learned to keep the white ball out of the billiard pockets and tried to avoid putting the slot machine into TILT mode. I learned to ride on a neighbor’s horse. Another neighbor came to help us with haying. So, while we were mostly autonomous, we also relied on each other to be in community. Hal Borland* (quoted above) also wrote about community. He lived on a dirt road, had good neighbors, and observed wild life very similar to that around here. Of course, when he wrote, 40 years ago, none of us had bears, fishers or coyotes all of which now make themselves very much at home in our back yards. This summer the creatures that share our outdoor spaces are both annoying and amusing. As I sat here typing, I noticed the tall weeds waving back and forth at the end of a garden bed (yes – I do have weeds; LOTS of them!) --- but there was no wind. A slanted brown head poked out --- a woodchuck was gobbling down the lambs’ quarters that had grown up there. I probably should have let him eat the weeds, but I was so startled to have him dining eight feet away, right in my garden bed, that I spoke rather firmly ---and loudly. He took off for the wood shed. Something (Bear? Raccoons? Possums? Skunks?) have also drained the water bowls every night during the dry weather. I’m thinking we should have a “creature patio” where each one has his/her own little table and cup ala Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson,***a book much loved by our boys when they were small and by me as well. Now that we are in August, it is time to store up good things; to preserve summer, whether it is blackberries, herbs or memories. We’ll be canning tomatoes and probably freezing some peaches. I’ve already dried mullein – in case of respiratory problems. I’ll also be drying tansy to discourage pantry moths and lemon balm simply to smell wonderful. And I’m trying to store up mental photos and feelings to pull out when the outside weather is less enjoyable. There is something in the mellow air of mid-August, alerting us that summer though it is, we are subtly moving toward fall. So, we need to luxuriate in balmy weather now. “Buttercup nodded and said goodbye, clover and daisy went off together, but the fragrant water lilies lie yet moored in the golden August weather…….”. **** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Hal Borland ---- American journalist, writer, naturalist. 1900-1978 **Dr. Seuss --- Pen name for Theodore Seuss Geisel, an American writer of mostly children’s books well-known for their unique rhyming style of prose. His perceptions of humanity did change over the years and he was a strong proponent of good ecological practices and caring for even the smallest person. 1904-1991. ***Robert Lawson --- American writer and illustrator of children’s books. 1892-1957. ****Celia Thaxter --- this was the first stanza of her poem, “August”. She is an American writer and poet who lived in New England and on the islands off the coast of Maine. 1835-1894.
  5. Is the aroma from my kitchen wending its way out? Do you smell cinnamon---- chocolate----orange? This is cookie-baking week ---- a variety of cookies for that family gathering I mentioned in the last essay. Pineapple cookies, ginger cookies, chocolate cookies and some melt-in-your-mouth buttery nut cookies. One thing I’ve noticed is that the cost of ingredients for cookies have risen a lot, and so desserts are actually as valuable as restaurants have been trying to make us believe all along. But home-made cookies are definitely worth it. Out of the kitchen and into the garden, tomatoes are beginning to ripen, which means that canning season will soon be upon us. Hurray for the modern kitchen stove. I can imagine just how hot a kitchen must have been with the old cook stoves that used wood or coal. That is why many homes in Pennsylvania and further south, had “summer kitchens” where they could keep the heat of preserving out of the house. Our home in central PA had a summer kitchen with an immense fireplace. We didn’t use it for canning, but for the occasional party. The first stove I recall from my childhood was a kitchen stove with kerosene burners across the front, like little lanterns of isinglass. I think that didn’t last too long before an electric stove came to the kitchen. I so appreciate my large gas burners and the stove’s capacity for more rapid heating for canning or baking, and less heat for the kitchen. Another appliance that I ---- sometimes ---- appreciate, is the computer. Emails are, of course a quick way to write a letter or even to decide committee business. Thanks to a friend, I often get materials from the Jungian Society --- followers of Carl Jung, the famous psychologist. A recent article talked about how to make life meaningful. I immediately thought --- my life has been chock-full of meaning; how can one’s life not be so? Then I considered further about a person who has been trapped by circumstances in work for which they do not especially care, simply to earn money for living. Or someone in a relationship that simply hasn’t worked out, but lingers on. People in those situations often find release in heading to the nearest bar after work to ease the boredom/troubles of the day. Often, they are not part of any social group or community that gives them inspiration and affirmation to know that life can be different. The daily grind/rut for people in such situations, seems to leave little chance for a whole, meaningful life------ although attitude makes a difference. There is the old story of the two workers. When asked what they were building, one replied that he was laying stone for a wall; the other said” I’m building a cathedral.” Creativity and good attitude = Meaning in life. Kerm and I were both fortunate in finding work to earn our bread and butter, work that we enjoyed doing. Occasionally it was sheer serendipity. After early years of working with kids, both as a professional and a volunteer, the coin flipped. My college degree was not in gerontology, but that is where I ended up for nearly 20 years, and it was a good fit. Kerm’s choice of careers was working with 4-H kids but he eventually administered the entire county Extension Service program. We were part of an army of “human services” workers, careers that didn’t accumulate wealth but did amass rewards for mind and spirit. So, there has been meaning in how I spent my days – both at home and away from home. Another plus in our lives, is our affiliation with a church. With each move, we’ve chosen where to go, not necessarily based on denomination, but on how much Life and Spirit there is in the congregation. We’ve been with Presbyterians, Methodists, United Church of Christ and a community congregation made up of those three. We’ve also attended Roman Catholic services and a Catholic charismatic fellowship, Lutheran services, Assembly of God services, a Unitarian service and Baptist services. For years, one of our favorite groups has been “Faith At Work” (now known as “Lumunos”). It was/is an interdenominational group offering relational spiritual growth. And for several years, we were part of a Marriage Encounter presenting team, working together with a Jewish couple, a Catholic couple and a clergy person. So --- we’ve been on several of the main avenues and some of the side streets of spiritual possibilities. And we have learned that God is in every one of those places we’ve been. I expect God is also to be found in a Buddhist retreat and a Native American sweat lodge, among other locations. God goes where God wishes to go and much as we might like to confine God in our own golden boxes, God won’t be restrained. I mention all this background to explain that our spiritual lives and being in the fellowship of those also growing, are a large part of what makes us mostly happy in the midst of a world full of turmoil and, sometimes, personal crises. Other choices have also made our lives exceptionally good --- and very few of them have to do with our bank account. Enough financial security to live is a very good thing; I am not extolling poverty. But the constant and growing need for more and more material things has not, thankfully, infected us too badly. We were fortunate to be born into families that valued education, hard and creative work, honesty and love, so that glamor, glitz and jet-setting just never seemed too desirable. Instead, we have friends who are amazing people, who have added depth, laughter, and a wider perspective to our being. I like what Heather Aardmem said: “You can either live by design or live by default.”* We can’t always control our situations, but we can choose the better of each path as it comes along if we know what we value in life. This not-always-easy process of choosing may be what helps us to develop courage for and have appreciation for each day we live. One of my nephews, for whom I babysat when an infant, has a birthday today. I don’t remember much about those days, so he must have been a pretty good kid. He is certainly a good adult. I think that with love and attention, most kids are good kids who then become good adults. Too often, it is parents with false values and self-centered needs making thoughtless/misguided demands on their kids, who send kids veering in damaging directions. Of course, that is a generalization; there are other factors and parents are not always to blame. I have liked working with kids --- especially those often-obnoxious but honest and eager twelve, thirteen and fourteen-year-olds. They are trying so hard to be adults but often still have the needs of a child. They are sometimes awkward and loud but they say what they think unless they’ve been habitually squelched. I think we all need to pay attention to the young people to whom we have access. They need more smiles from us, more listening ears; they need to feel affection, value and acceptance of who they are coming from adults around them. Yesterday and today, family members have been visiting from California and Connecticut. It was an absolute joy to have time (though never enough) to catch up and just be together around the breakfast table. When we all lived in the same vicinity, it was way easier and when I read about the families staying in the same communities for centuries, I’m a bit envious. But we also bring something to each other simply because we don’t all live together; we bring the diversity of what we’ve learned about other people and places. And any gifts we might have and what we know from our own genetics and our own family experiences has been shared in those places where we now live. One time some of us in the family, were fantasizing about buying one of the Thousand Islands (I believe one was for sale at that time) for us all to live upon. It wasn’t long before we were laughing uproariously. We love each other; we even like each other but ---- we don’t have the same social needs, spiritual visions or ways of living. If we were all put on one island, we’d have at least three people building boats in which to escape……and they’d undoubtedly be arguing about how to build the best boat. I do miss sitting around the large dining table at my brother’s, visiting with family; some would be beading jewelry, some would be knitting, we’d all be drinking tea and laughing as we tell and retell stories. I miss sitting with my mother at her kitchen table; the cookie box open, fragrant “Constant Comment” tea in the pot and a view of the wide lawn and gardens; frogs chunking in the pond below. Life changes and losing those we love leaves us with a permanent “sad room” in our brains. But instead of lingering too long therein, it is both cheering and strengthening to just allow ourselves to be grateful for these good memories of the past and, recognize how they have led us to our now, for which we are also grateful. We have come to the end of another golden summer month. August is only a few days away. Soon we may be watching the Perseid meteor showers, finding our mornings a bit foggy and noting that the nights are just a tad cooler (hopefully!). We’ll also see he sun setting a bit earlier. Life cycles go on as usual with summer heat and cleansing thunder showers. Let’s be open to the gifts of each day --- those “moments when the universal seems to wrap us around with friendliness.”** ********** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Heather Aardmene –Weigh loss coach and aspiring minimalist. **WilliamJames ---American philosopher, historian educator and psychologist. He was the first American educator to offer a course in psychology. 1842-1910.
  6. The birds aren’t singing as enthusiastically as they had two months ago, but they are still happily visiting the feeders and chirping away contentedly. A very small hummingbird – probably this year’s baby —- zips in for the sweet fluid and hesitates when he sees me sitting on the porch. The fireflies have begun lighting up the grassy parts of the back yard, especially on warm humid nights. The second cutting of hay is nearly done for local farmers. The garden is growing but not ready to harvest. Mid-July is a fine time for picnics, for just sitting outside in a shady spot and for thinking about many things —-“Cabbages and Kings………..”* — except that I’ve observed the weeds moved in and took over when I wasn’t looking, so there’s that to do. But still, there’s a somnolent feeling about mid-summer; a contented quiet; a magic that seems ready to go on forever. Life is not all summer, though. One of the difficult adjustments to make as one gets older is the loss of strength and energy. With fibromyalgia, I experienced this loss at a younger age than I would have expected — or desired. My mother could outwalk me when she was in her early 80s and I in my 50s, so when I visibly slowed down in my 60s, I was annoyed — very annoyed —- still annoyed! But this bit of writing caught my attention and gave me a metaphoric slap on the back of the head —- Gibbs**-style. “Can’t clean up the whole room? Clean a corner of it. Can’t do all the dishes? Do one dish! Can’t get into the shower? Wash your face. Always look for the thing you CAN do With the energy and focus you Do have. Little wins pave the way for bigger wins. 1% beats 0%.” Dr. Glenn Doyle*** Sometimes, what we want our lives to be like, just isn’t! I can growl about what I can’t do —- or actually do what I can. I have friends who are able to do less than I can even, and while this doesn’t make me any happier, it does put things into perspective. So did a comment by Marc Middleton:**** “The key to aging well is to not mourn what is lost but to celebrate what remains.” I’m quite sure that must mean more parties! As a kid and 4-H member, mid-July was county fair time. The Ontario County Fair was a big deal then; a party for lots of people. There was not only lots to see and do, with 4-Hers from the entire county, but it also was the free pass to the NYS Fair if a person was fortunate enough to be a Grand Champion in some exhibit. And there was the unique Fair smells; the aromatic potpourri of hot sausages, cotton candy, cinnamon apples, saw dust, and barns full of horses, cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. It is good to watch a young exhibitor scrubbing his/her calf and fluffing its tail —- calmly endured by the calf who is as tame as a puppy. If the animal was a beef steer or lamb, there were often tears at sale time, but — economics is an important part of education. I only showed an animal once — a Berkshire pig that I’d fed and coddled. Obviously, I hadn’t spent enough time training this pig because once in the show ring with other pigs, it lost what few manners it may have had at home. With a cow, a showman has a halter and lead. With a pig, there is a cane to guide one’s pig in the direction you’d like him/her to go and an oddly-shaped, hand-held board to stuff between two warring animals and that is all. Not nearly as useful as a halter around the nose and neck! This is because pigs have no necks. After the pig experience, my Fair exhibits were sewing projects, baking and garden produce. I know that county fairs have suffered during COVID, along with concerts and many other crowd-gathering events. But truly, they were diminishing in attendance even before that, and I wonder why. I hope we haven’t become so sophisticated —- so blasé — so enchanted by glitz and expensive glamor that we do not know how to have fun together in our own communities. As well as being over-grown with weeds, my garden is in its mid-summer slump. The day lilies are in bloom but the annuals haven’t blossomed yet. I’m waiting for the marigolds, nasturtiums and zinnias to burst into color. The roadsides are colorful, though. The brassy gold, slightly tarnished now, of the wild parsnip continues to stand tall along with white clouds of sweet clover, and the periwinkle chicory is sided by tall Queen Anne’s Lace. There’s a garden outside our car windows as we drive along. Of course, some limited people consider these roadside weed patches. But wild and untethered as the plants are, they help the pollinators, they hold the soil in place and I consider them a way to beautify the country. Those who experience breathing difficulties with pollen may not be so enthusiastic, because there are also allergens, but one could argue that there are both upsides and downsides to almost everything. One of our granddaughters enjoys debating and I hope she will find a debating team in her new school where she can put that agile mind to work. I don’t enjoy it all that much, though I’ve participated in one or two debates. However, I’ve noticed that there are people who not only do not debate, they close in upon themselves if their opinions are questioned. They don’t want to defend or even discuss their views nor do they wish to hear anything that opposes them. These people tend to make pronouncements and want immediate affirmation. I have three friends of that ilk — good and caring people who I like immensely—– but, whose thinking is so structured that they simply can’t believe everyone doesn’t agree with how they see the world. It probablyfeels like a safer way to exist, for there is comfort in being absolutely sure about everything. But there’s little adventure and little growth in such rigidity. I think this attitude must come from an innate fear of being wrong. One of our professors in college, who was well-acquainted with both Kerm and me because she (“Scotty”) was an advisor to the Cornell Recreation Team of which we were a part, was absolutely sure that we were making a grave error in getting married. She mistakenly thought that our lively discussions indicated major disagreements. She mentioned this to us a time or two. Obviously, she was wrong and her vision of marriage a bit skewed; we’ve managed to survive our differences in opinion and stay together for nearly 60 years. This is because our disagreements were and are generally not about basic principles but more about how one goes about implementing the principles we have in common. One principle that we hold in common is the importance of family. In two weeks, my clan will have a gathering for a summer picnic. People may be coming from California, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, NYC, and around central NYS. We older ones all grew up more or less together, in the Rochester area. And whether our surnames are now Smith, Bossard, Landry, Romeiser, Buda or Ross, we all either emanate from or married into, the Wiley clan; beginning with Leo and Marguerite Wiley. As adults, we’ve scattered ourselves to the wind; we have grown in different directions and are the holders of many and varied spiritual philosophies and political leanings. But more important than any of these is that the original perpetrators of this sprawling family expected us to stay connected. When help is needed, those who are able respond. A few of us make sure, when there is distress or joy, that we pass the news on to the rest. A friend once commiserated with the host of this coming family reunion: “Why do you do this? Isn’t it deadly boring?” The host simply said” “Well, we happen to like each other.” And we do! One thing I do to help maintain the connections is to send out a family quiz each summer before the party. “Who is 1/4 on her way to being an MD? Who bought the same unpleasant pastry twice while in Iceland? Who just graduated from kindergarten?” We may not remember all these things about our relatives further than that day, but it gives us a glimpse into the lives of our kin for a moment or two. The lovely weather that so encourages summer parties, seems endless now, but later will appear to have flown by in a moment or two. I feel as though I should be harvesting summer senses, as we do tomatoes, for a time of cold breezes and icy paths. I found this little poem that speaks to our good months of plenty: “First April, she with mellow showers opens the way for early flowers; then after her comes smiling May, in more rich and sweet array; next enters June, and brings us more gems than those two, that went before; then, lastly July comes, and she more wealth brings than all those three.” ***** Enjoy the continuing magic of summer. ******************** Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer. *”…of cabbages and kings” is taken from a 1904 collection of interlinked short stories by O. Henry. He, in turn, took the title from Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from “Alice’s Through the Looking Glass”. **Gibbs-style refers to the well-known call to attention administered by Jethro Gibbs of NCIS. ***Dr. Glenn Doyle —- Plastic surgeon in Raleigh, NC — obviously a sensible advisor. ****Marc Middleton of NW Facets —American television journalist, author and media entrepreneur who is the CEO of Growing Bolder — a wellness and health business. Robert Herrick—— “July: the Succession of the Four Sweet Months.” Robert Herrick was an English lyric poet and Anglican cleric (which I find amusing considering some of his poetry!) He was baptized 1591 and died 1574.
  7. ‘Tis the season of the Strawberry Moon, according to the Algonquin, Ojibwe and Lakota peoples. And from ancient Rome, we’d be one day past the Ides of June! Few people realize (unless they sat through Latin classes with Mrs. Dunn) that the Ides come every month. The 15th of March is the famous Ides because it was the chosen date of Julius Caesar’s demise via assassins. “Et Tu Brute?”!! But we are now just past the middle of this lovely month, in our time, and Mid-Summer Night’s Eve is soon to be with us — a time of myth and magic extending far back into history. It is the eve of the Summer Solstice, arriving on June 21st. From that day on until December 21st, the light fades a bit day by day. Now that I am seeing less well, light is very important to me. Midsummer In Sweden, Finland and Estonia it is celebrated with joyous festivals. The Spencer-Van Etten area is heavily populated with people who’ve lived in Finland, or who are descended from Finns. And the regional Finnish society celebrates what is called “Juhannus” (Mid-summer Festival). One year, back when we had a lovely restaurant in Spencer called the Main Street Café, this festival was celebrated there, and the buffet array was outstanding. There were foods that I’d never tasted before. In all European countries, this was traditionally a time when it was said that one might see pixies, fairies or elves; there was magic in the air. Rabbits danced madly in the meadows and, in old England, it was customary for young, unmarried women to wash their faces in the dew, at dawn on Mid-summer, after which they would, supposedly have a vision of who they would marry. As a Christian holiday, stolen from the pagan tradition, it is also St. John’s Eve. St. John is one of the patron saints of bee-keepers, and considering the current lack of honey bees, we could use a little saintly help. I would appreciate a few of those pixies to assist in the garden too, but I hear they are pranksters; they’d probably pull the lettuce and leave the chickweed. Exploring the stories and reasons for our traditional celebrating of holidays, is a fun journey into history that allows a little fantasy to seep into our very practical lives. And speaking of history, because this is the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Agnes and the Flood of 1972, I’m going to re-tell the tale of our adventures in that traumatic event. I wrote about it a few years ago after Ken Burns made a fine documentary film. Now a Bucknell University professor is collecting information and experiences for another documentary film, and this has triggered my memories again. In 1972, we lived outside of Lewisburg, PA. We (two small sons and I) accompanied Kerm to 4-H camp the second week in June at a Boy Scout facility on Pine Creek near Jersey Shore, PA. 4-H members from five counties (Union, Northumberland, Center, Lycoming and Snyder) attended, and there were about 300 kids there, plus counselors, cook, nurse and three Cooperative Extension adults. We had two or three lovely days before the rains began, and even when the showers came, we still sang, ate and did crafts while sloshing through wet grass—– until the alarm went out that this might be a difficult storm — which it surely was. It blew across Pa. moved on to NYS’s southern tier and whipped around to return to Pa., filling the streams and rivers to well over flood levels. After the power went out, we managed to get 150 of the kids onto buses and back home. There were 150 remaining when the call came to abandon camp. The difficulty was that there were only two ways out of the camp; one was a steep, dirt road requiring a 4-wheel drive — and in this situation —- slippery with rain. The other way – and how most everyone came in — was to walk across a suspension bridge, over Pine Creek, which, after days of rain, came gushing and rolling down the valley sending its flood waters to the Susquehanna River. By the time we got all the kids across, there were trees and house-trailers rolling along in those waters. One memory is forever etched into my mind; telling our sons (ages 6 and 3) to hang onto my rain coat and not let go — as we walked across that swaying bridge to the waiting school bus. Thankfully, they did just that! Once on the bus, we made the hazardous trip to a shelter — the bus driver had to guess where the road was since there were several inches of water covering it. The bus full of kids was utterly silent as we went. The raging creek was close, so getting off the road could have been deadly. The last adults, including Kerm, came out in National Guard trucks. The camp was so damaged that it never reopened. We sheltered overnight in a school library — snoozing between the stacks. The next day, with water still rising in Jersey Shore, we were taken further up the hill to a Catholic church. I remember singing our boys to sleep in the sanctuary aisles, and turning around to find a group of teens sitting there, listening —- taking comfort in the songs too. Being stranded with 150 kids from ages 10 to 16 could be daunting, but those young people were wonderful. They were concerned about their families (no cell phones then and phone lines down) but their behavior was incredibly good and caring about each other. We were all awed by the devastation we could see from our vantage point high on that hill; just the church steeples and roof peaks of the buildings showed in the town below; all else was inundated and covered in many feet of water. Image courtesy Chemung County Historical Society Probably everyone has had an experience at some point in their lives that remains vivid in their memories. We didn’t know until later that several people had drowned in NYS’s Southern Tier region, not far from where we now live, and in Lewisburg, the chief of police drowned on Main Street. The flood left not only visual images in our heads, but sensory memories; the smell of flood clean-up is something no one forgets. While I still love water —- the ocean — rippling streams — water falls—–lakes, I have great respect for what water power can do. And I have no desire to live on the banks of any streams. Maintaining the dams and the flood control efforts are incredibly important. As storms increase in frequency and severity, remembering the past will ensure that there won’t be such destruction and loss of life again. Learning from history most definitely applies to other areas of life too; the economy, wars, ecology, conservation of our resources, education and sociology. The majority of humans simply seem unable to think further than today and perhaps, tomorrow; seldom next week and almost never, next year. There is a Native American philosophy that before we do anything, we should consider the effect it will have on the next seven generations. This is not a concept that we seem to carry in our pioneering genes — but perhaps we should begin developing that long-term concern as we think of our earth and the fate of the grandchildren we love as they live upon it. Right now, though, on this day and in this time, we are finding ourselves in beautiful mid-June. Peonies are blooming and sending their fragrance out over our yard, and my huge, unruly rose bush resembles a waterfall of pink blossoms cascading down over the wahoo trees. Currently the many waterfalls/streams that make the Finger Lakes region so very scenic, are neither roaring nor flooding — thankfully. I am grateful for the bounty around us. It behooves us to make every effort to be aware of life, each day we live — the fragrances, the people, the colors. To be grateful, we need to notice and appreciate. “The earth is the cup, the sky is the cover, of the immense bounty of nature, which is offered us.” Emerson.* We need to shake off our superiority and arrogance in our human accomplishments and realize that we are a working part of this earthly habitat. As Louis Armstrong **sang “It’s a wonderful world!” It will take all our efforts to keep it that way. Read Wendell Berry’s*** The Peace of Wild Things while sitting in the sunshine, absorbing the world around. Have a bowl of strawberries. Your stress will melt away and your eyes will find a new appreciation for your surroundings. And in another five days, keep your eyes open for a pixie or two! Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Ralph Waldo Emerson —American philosopher, essayist, poet, lecturer and abolitionist. He was a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. 1803 – 1882 **Louis Armstrong —American trumpeter and vocalist; of immense importance in the jazz world. 1901 – 1971. ***Wendell Berry — American novelist, essayist and poet, attorney, farmer and environmental activist from Kentucky.
  8. “Outside the open window the morning air is all awash with angels. Love calls us to things of this world.”* This totally describes a morning in June with its singing birds, dewy grasses and long hours of light. Besides the beauty of the world around us there are all the people who give love and those who need love. June —— when graduating seniors get a bad case of “senioritis” and grade-schoolers gaze longingly out the windows of their classrooms ——when birds who flew north in March have fledglings just growing their feathers —– when gardens are showing little green rows where lettuce and spinach have been planted. To quote a line from “Oklahoma” — “June is bustin’ out all over!” It is a symphony in green and gold. Speaking of symphonies and other lovely things, I was reminded recently about our high school days, when Jan and I cut arms-full of garden flowers for an event at school called “Moving Up Day” at just about this time of the year. I’m quite sure schools no longer have this sort of event with queens and courts (although they still do have prom queens). For this annual occasion there were two attendants chosen from each class, 8-12, plus the queen, who was always a senior. The attendants were voted on by their classes except for the attendants from the senior class and the queen. They were voted on by the entire high school plus 8th grade., and those chosen were a closely guarded secret until The Day! There was great pomp and ceremony as the girls moved slowly down the aisle to the tempo of “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody”, to take places on that flower-decked stage. The slow beat was necessitated by the hoops beneath the skirts. It is incredibly difficult to move in hoops, especially with the hesitation step. Those hoops sway back and forth, and soon the wearer also begins to sway and without care, there is every possibility of falling headlong. My respect for the agility of all those southern belles, with their big skirts, has increased since then. For this event, there was music, there were speeches and it was the VCS attempt to make moving to the next class special; mini-graduations. Because our mothers had large perennial gardens, Jan and I cut a large swath through their peonies, daisies, lupines and mock orange to decorate the stage. The whole concept might feel a bit outmoded now, but we, who were there, remember both the music and the much ado, with pleasure. With June comes Father’s Day, this year on June 19th. I’m not sure why we separate mothers’ and father’s celebrations; parenting is supposed to be a joint venture. Of course, what is supposed to be often isn’t. And good parents probably do deserve at least two days of recognition. Father-honoring has been done for many years, in eastern Europe, on March 19th — St. Joseph’s Day. A church in W. Virginia celebrated it in 1908. Then, in 1910, it was officially designated to be on the third Sunday in June. It doesn’t get quite the press of Mother’s Day —- perhaps because June is such an event-filled month. My father was probably somewhat unusual among the fathers of my contemporaries. For one thing, he was older than most of them. I was a late-in-life child and my father was 47 when I came along. My grandfather (Dad’s father) died when Dad was two years old, from typhoid fever and pneumonia. An uncle provided a male presence in his life until his mother married again, to my kindly step-grandpa. Dad’s Uncle Fred was a kind and generous man but an exceedingly proper individual who had some very firm standards that he instilled in my father. There was no alcohol in our house — ever. Dad mildly disapproved of coffee too, but my mother was a Universalist of French descent, who although she cheerfully became a Presbyterian, needed her coffee. So, there was coffee! Dad worked hard, expected his children to be respectful, obedient and to always meet their responsibilities with their best efforts. I imagine that, in this regard, he was occasionally disappointed. But he never gave up trying. He also — unfortunately for me — had no comprehension for anyone who couldn’t understand —–nay —- couldn’t take delight in algebra, geometry and trig!! I have mentioned in prior essays that my father was a bit autocratic, highly irritable (which trait he may have passed on to me), very caring about his land and his community and a Scottish Presbyterian to his core. So, you might guess that over the years, especially when I was a young teen, he and I might have had some disagreements and tension. There was never any estrangement between us, but we weren’t always the best of comrades during my adolescence. We did have some very good interaction when I became an adult, and had we lived closer, I’m sure there would have been more. He took much delight in his grandchildren — all 16 of them. I certainly respected my father and I know he took his responsibility as a parent very seriously and really loved his family. When I see this quotation, I think of him — and my mother too: “Quality — in the classic Greek sense — how to live with grace and intelligence, with bravery and mercy.”** I wish we’d had a little more time. He died at age 72 — too early. Fathers come in all varieties with many diverse ideas about how to live and how to raise children. Some do not accept responsibility at all and are absentee fathers — which is their disgrace. Some do not know how to love and cherish. But so many fathers are amazing; most of my friends’ fathers were fine people. Kerm and I were fortunate that our parenting ways complimented each other. I wasn’t the most patient mom when our boys were toddlers, but Kerm could blocks with them and endure the splashing of their nightly baths. When they were teens, the bedlam of the house and their highly energetic and articulate games sometimes tired him, so I was the one who stayed up, made cookies and sometimes corrected the D&D philosophies. He endured their car engines hanging from trees and their casual attitude about his tools. I waited up for them and kept their baseballs out of my gardens. Together we worked well. Now, as we watch our sons interact with the children in their lives, we are pleased and proud that they have become adept, caring and wise in helping young people to grow up. And we empathize with their occasional discouragements. I admire the many fathers who quietly assume responsibility and often stretch themselves thin to provide both the material, social and spiritual needs of their children and often the children of others. So —— Happy Father’s Day!!! June brings high school graduations, weddings, reunions; there is so much crammed into the month of June that it flies by far too fast, and suddenly it is July! As veggies are popping up — and so are the weeds. We have mulched the potatoes and tomatoes so that we need not weed those garden beds. Mulching the little seedlings is harder and we haven’t been as successful with that. But grubbing in the garden for weeds is not a bad way to spend some time. There is something about handling the soil that works wonders on my psyche. It provides bodily exercise, reaches the senses of smell, touch and sight, and cheers me up. There is a whole movement now called “grounding” that encourages contact with the earth for good health. I remember that some years ago, when I’d take the time to lie on the lawn for 15 minutes or so, my back felt quite a lot better. I probably wouldn’t buy the available “grounding” equipment for my bed, but will ground myself outside while good weather is with us. Being outdoors is also an antidote to the closed-in-ness of the time we spend on phones or computers. That hunched-forward position leads to back pain, headaches and probably clogged thinking (I could comment further on the epidemic of clogged thinking!); anything we do — from gardening to walking opens up the shoulders, stretches the legs and clears the head. Daylight is still extending itself in early June; night moves slowly from Atlantic to Pacific over a three-hour span. There is little lovelier than a June twilight sliding into a just cool night. I am remembering days when, at home, we brought in bales of hay all day and then sat outside when night came, enjoying the fragrance of the new hay along with a sky full of stars. And since we had a pond close by, there was the hypnotic chunking of frogs. The world is full of clamor and distress and yet at the same time, the world is full of quiet and beauty if we are only aware. As one wise person said: “The gloom of the world is but ashadow; behind it yet in our reach, is joy. Take joy!”*** A happy June to you and may you find it more full of blessings than problems. Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net *Richard Wilbur—American poet and literary translator. Associated with Amherst College and Harvard University. 1921-2017. **Theodore H. White —American political journalist known for his reporting from China during WWII. Also known for his “Making of a President” series. 1915-1986 ***Fra Giovanni—Belonged to the Order of Friars Minor. Was an Italian friar, architect, antiquary, archaeologist and classical scholar. 1433-1515.
  9. How wonderful is the month of May? Its thirty-one days are all too short, even as February’s twenty-eight days are far too long. It is a month of moderate temperatures and new growth everywhere — flora and fauna. A perfect picture of May would be a spotted fawn peering out from a mélange of ferns, trilliums and dogwood. There are so many shades of green as the trees and shrubs leaf out, and many of my favorite plants are in bloom. The very air of May is fragrant. We planted potatoes last week, and will plant seeds soon, but most important, May is a marvelous time for sitting outside and just drinking in the fresh air and Vitamin D. May, in many schools, is prom month. A friend who is a professional creator of wonderful clothes as well as quilts, has been sewing prom gowns for two months now. In my school the entire high school student body was welcome at the two annual formal dances; one held in December (Senior Ball) and the other in April or May (Junior Prom). No limos and no hotel ball- rooms. The class responsible transformed the gym into an unrecognizable delight and hired the band. I was looking back on these occasions in my mind, trying to remember who I went with and what I wore. I remembered the anticipation of being asked to the dance, the excitement of getting ready and the romance of getting a corsage and of just being part of the music and the night. I had a little trouble recalling my escorts but I clearly remember the dresses. We purchased one or two —- not at the exorbitant prices of today. My first gown was a frothy pink chiffon with puffed sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. My mother made one or two others and I inherited a couple from my generous sister-in-law. I especially remember one Mother-crafted gown; it was a heavy white fabric shot with gold threads. And she made a red velvet cummerbund for it. The dress is long-gone, but the cummerbund lives on, in all its richness, in the kiddie’s dress-up box. Far distant from the froth of proms and corsages, but also part of May, Memorial Day reminds us to be remembering those who have given years of their lives in service for this country, and sometimes, in actuality, their whole lives. The PBS annual program is a fine reminder. We remember too, those in our own families who have gone on before us. Two of my brothers were in WWII but they did not speak — at least to their younger sister — of those days. Each of themdid however, teach me to pick out their particular armed services anthems on the piano — the Marines’ “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli….” and the Army “As the Caissons Go Rolling Along”. There is always a lot of “glorifying” around wars, and certainly many brave deeds occur, but basically, war is a dreadful experience; that too often seems to discard human decency in the process and leads to lasting trauma. I think that as we profess gratitude to our defenders, it could be best shown by finding another way to settle differences and stem imperialism. However, as long as we humans make decisions based on greed, nationalism and the desire for power —- and act out our volatile emotions, I suppose wars will continue to sacrifice our young men and women on the altar of humanity’s dark side. When people for whom we care, die, one of the issues with which we often struggle, is regret. I have heard people say: “I wish I had told them….” or “I said I couldn’t forgive them then, but….” or “There are so many things I wish that I’d said before they died.” I grew up in a family that wasn’t exactly exuberant in expressing emotion and feelings. My father was of Scottish and German heritage; stoic! Crying was not encouraged and I can’t even imagine having thrown a temper tantrum. There was no doubt that we all loved each other but we didn’t express it with the ease that family does now. Looking backward, I certainly wish that I’d told family members, now gone, how much they meant to me. I hope that somewhere in eternity, they know that. The Women’s study group of which I am a part has had considerable conversation about forgiving. We all have a collection of “if onlys…”. Cleansing our hearts of grievous hurts is sometimes a hard and a lengthy process. “But they don’t deserve to be forgiven!” is what we hear most often. And when we talk about what forgiveness really is, we find that it is really about us —- notthem. Over the years I’ve had to contemplate forgiving (or not forgiving) more than a few times. Haven’t we all? Lapses in judgement when someone was doing the best they knew how, or even carelessness, is easier to forgive than deliberate hurts. One situation has taken years. Someone injured not me, but my children, indelibly and, as far as I know, without remorse. I went through many stages and several years before I could find resolution for that one. Other women in the group had equally difficult issues facing them, from parental neglect to friendship betrayal to abuse of some kind. How does one forgive such deeply scarring behavior? It really comes down to one’s definition of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that we condone whatever it is the other person has done. Forgivenessdoesn’tmean excusing behavior that is hurtful. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily make everything hunky-dory. But forgiveness IS realizing that judgement and consequences are not mine to determine. Forgiveness frees me from a corrosive burden of anger and leaves the consequences of another’s behavior up to God (or Karma – or Fate -whichever one calls a power outside ourselves). Forgiveness does not mean that we must continue a relationship with that person if it would continue the hurt. Forgiveness is explained well in this poem: Decide to forgive —–For resentment is negative —- Resentment is poisonous —Resentment diminishes and devours the self. Be the first to forgive — to take the first step ———-Do not wait for others to forgive for by forgiving you become the master of fate — the fashioner of life —- the doer of miracles. To forgive is the highest form of love. In return you will receive untold peace and happiness.” Robert Muller* Remembering those we’ve loved, respected and — hopefully — forgiven is p art of life. When I was a child, my mother took me to the cemetery in Holly, New York, where many of her family members were buried. As we left flowers on each grave, she would tell me stories of who they were and her memories of them. Putting flowers on the graves of loved ones has been a long-lived custom that I think is waning. One of the LM. Montgomery** short stories speaks of how, each year, families took special care of graves, trimming grass and planting flowers; it was a community custom. But we are a mobile culture and often live nowhere near what used to be family cemeteries. Kerm and I would have to travel to Holly, to Fairport, to Victor, to Howard, to Bath and Hornell. We already know that our own permanent resting places will be difficult to access. We’ve chosen a “green cemetery” at the end of a dirt road up in the hills of Van Etten/ Newfield. But we hope our stories —the essence of who we are, will linger on with our family and friends. Remembering is a fine thing, but being in the moment is the way to live with happiness and gratitude. The longer, beautiful days of May are a blessing. The showers and sunshine have created lush greenery — weeds as well as desired plants. Our war with goutweed, garlic mustard, ground ivy and deep-rooted dock continues. We know we are in good company! It is a happy feeling to experience and share those things that keep us connected —- animals, foods, gardening, music, dancing and stories. It is also good to let new wonders into our lives. May is all about new life and I like this quotation by Jessamyn West***: “If I were to join a circle of any kind, it would be a circle that required its members to try something new at least once a month. The new thing could be very inconsequential; steak for breakfast, frog hunting, walking on stilts, memorizing a stanza of poetry or, creating a stanza of poetry. It could be staying up outdoors all night, making up a dance and dancing it, speaking to a stranger, chinning yourself, milking a goat —anything not ordinarily done.” Whatever you do with the rest of this month of May, may it be something that brings new life to you, sunshine to your body and freshness to your thinking. Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Robert Muller — I am not sure about this source; there are several Robert Mullers, but I am thinking it must be the man born in Belgium in 1923. He has spent most of his life working for world peace, developed something called the World Core Curriculum and was once considered for Secretary General of the United Nations. **L.M. Montgomery — a resident of Prince Edward Island who wrote the popular Anne of Green Gables stories 1874-1942. ***Jessamyn West — American author, creator of short stories and novels the most famous being “Friendly Persuasion”. Jessamyn West was a Quaker. 1902 -1984.
  10. April showers --- and the slow increase of temperatures --- have brought May flowers and growing weeds as well as discovering which plants have made it through another winter. There are the burgundy sprouts of peonies --- old-faithful plants that laugh at winter weather. Day lilies are inches high, the ferns are tightly curled fronds, the trout lilies’ yellow bells are sunshine in the garden, and trilliums are going to bloom very soon. Hands in the dirt bring good vibes to the psyche! May is also Older American’s Month --- something engraved in my mental calendar from my 23 years at the Office for the Aging in Schuyler County. We always celebrated with a splashy dinner-dance and with choosing a Senior Citizen of the Year. I miss conversations with the people who participated in OFA programs. There is so much wisdom to be shared by those who have lived well, over many years ---- and often so little regard for that wisdom in society. In some populations, age brings respect and honor. Not so much in our youth-oriented culture. Much retail advertising is focused on the young in spite of the fact that more of the money resides with the older buyers. As soon as one uses a cane or hair turns white, we are seen by younger people --- and too often by ourselves --- as less than. Of course, just being old doesn’t necessarily endow one with wisdom; foolishness can abide for a lifetime. But experience and life-stories are meant to be shared. One astute friend called retirement, “refirement” --- a chance to do new and different things that fill us with joy and to share from our experience. Turning 70, 80 or 90 is not a timer switch that suddenly turns off one’s capabilities. We might have to make some adjustments in our heavy lifting or speed of movement, but we can still contribute to life. Sunday is Mother’s Day, and for those of us whose mothers are no longer with us, it is a time of wistful remembrance. There are times I’d like to apologize to my mother for not understanding --- and so many questions I wish that I’d asked. Louis L’Amour* expressed this well: “You never think of your parents as much else than parents. It isn’t until you get older yourself that you begin to realize they had their hopes, dreams, ambitions and secret thoughts. You sort of take them for granted and sometimes you are startled to know they were in love a time or two…..You never stop to think about what they were really like inside until it is too late.” Family stories are only carried on if an effort is made to do so, and by the time we pause to realize our need for this, our opportunity for getting those stories may be past. That’s one reason I create a “Family Quiz” every summer. It lets the stories live on, keeps our far-flung clan connected --- and besides---- it’s fun. “Who moved twice in one year?” “Who lost pool balls all over the NYS Thruway?” “Who was so intent on taking a photo that she fell into a pool?” My mother’s gardens flash before my eyes every spring. I’ve mentioned that remembering them inspires me to keep going with mine. Her gardens extended around the foundation of our farm house and then more garden borders framed the outside of the lawns. There aren’t very many plants hardy to Zone 5 that she didn’t have. She was even able to coax a firethorn (climbing shrub --Zone 6) to flourish there. I have a photograph of her in overalls, cultivating a large vegetable garden, but by the time I came along, she was mostly cultivating flowers. After my father died, she worked out her grief in making a new garden where her old veggie garden had been – an area that h ad grown up into wild roses and weeds. She put in a sunken path then planted flower gardens on both sides. She landscaped with small trees, blooming shrubs and selected perennials. I wasn’t all that enthusiastic as a kid, about picking green beans or trimming away iris borers, but as I helped, gardening became part of my life-style; the norm for living. I was the fifth living child for my mother, and came twelve years after the rest. She may have had other plans for her life at that time, but if so, she went ahead with them and took me with her. She was born in 1898 and died in 1994, so her years spanned amazing changes in culture. She grew up with horses and buggies, trollies, a lot of walking, then automobiles and finally air planes. She had a bit of a lead foot on the accelerator and she enjoyed flying. She handled the necessary changes in technology as gracefully as she accepted late-in-life motherhood. She never --- at least out loud --- lamented the “good old days” and she was always interested in what was going on currently. She behaved like a lady and was known by her family for her terse and pertinent comments regarding life, love and world events. Her love for family and her strong faith were the framework for her choices in life. She was a good example --- and a little tough to live up to. There have been other people who have provided “mothering” and mentoring when I needed it, people I remember fondly. Mothering is, I think, the alert, compassionate, affectionate regard for someone else’s welfare. It is the warm hug, the favorite cookies and the soothing assurance that things will be OK. My sister and sisters-in-law were anywhere from 12 to 20 years older than I, so they endured and helped with my growing years --- mostly with grace and tolerance. My husband’s mother welcomed me from the time we first met, when Kerm invited me home for the weekend. We shared much good conversation around her kitchen table. We have lived in various places, and wherever we lived, there were older women who helped and gave counsel. Everyone needs a mother-figure now and then and perhaps we all should be alert to provide it on occasion. Dads too!! Around Mother’s Day is when our grosbeaks and hummingbirds return, and last year we had orioles. So, I’ll put out some cut oranges for the orioles, and the nectar for the hummingbird feeder. Of course, we’ll have to bring the feeders at night, for it is also bear-traipsing-through season though I haven’t seen any since that lone wanderer back in March! In addition to bird-watching we could be wild-food foraging. I did more of this during an earlier time in my life when I was both energetic, and enthusiastic about Euell Gibbons. He lived not far from us in Pennsylvania. I experimented with several wild foods, some of which were really good--- and a few ---- well, not quite so good. It was fun and added some interesting textures and tastes to our experience. This early in the year, the options are basically greens, but of several kinds. Violets (both blossoms and leaves) and dandelion greens are excellent sources of calcium, potassium and Vitamin A, as are yellow rocket greens. A bit later in the season, little, green day lily buds, cooked as one would green beans, are delicious salted and buttered. Violet blossoms make an interesting jam, to be served in tiny portions only. Pansy petals brighten up a salad. If you decide to try foraging for wild foods, be SURE you know what plants are what. It is wise to purchase a good field guide for wild plants --- and, if you can find it--- Euell Gibbons’** “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”. Avoid plants that grow along a well-traveled road; they will be covered with pollutants from car exhausts. For more traditional food, garden-planting days are nearly upon us. Weeds grow overnight, so one mustn’t malinger. I saw a T-shirt recently: “Surgeon General’s Warning: Gardening can be dirty, addictive and may lead to OWD – Obsessive Weeding Disorder”. It’s true! We feel this urgent compulsion to get out there! As spring moves along, suddenly there is more to do than there are hours in the day. I recently read a book ---- “The Music of Silence” ---- and it impressed me mightily with its take on hours in the day. Its author is a monk, David Stendl-Rast.*** I know that my personality is not such that I’d make a good monk/nun, but his idea for living well our 24-hours is something that, to a certain extent, I can adapt to fit mine. He speaks of the “seasons of the day”, beginning with Matins --- the dawn of the day. It is true that my personal dawn comes several hours later than actual dawn, but it is my day’s beginning. David Stendl-Rast then goes through his twenty-four hours ---- stopping at specific moments in the day, to be aware, to be at peace, being fully aware and expressing gratitude. Vespers and Compline end the day and provide a time to bring the day to a close and even to embrace our wakefulness. Observing these quiet spaces keeps me aware and in-the-moment instead of running fast-forward oblivious to time passing. It is taking moments to notice the life in soil as I weed --- the crisp, tender dandelion greens ---- and the sun slanting in the window setting off sun spots on the ceiling. Being grateful and finding joy both change the brain ---- in a good way. And in the “merry month of May” (from Camelot) that shift in perspective seems an excellent spring tonic. ********** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Louis L’Amour --- American writer, poet, novelist who wrote about the American west and also historical fiction. This quotation is from “How The West Was Won”. 1908-1988. **Euell Gibbons --- American naturalist known for preparing foods from wild plants. 1911-1975. ***-- David Stendl-Rast ---Born in Vienna, Austria in 1926. He is a Benedictine monk and committed to interfaith dialog.
  11. Easter is just past though one of my favorite lilting, happy songs says: “Every morning is Easter morning from now on….”. It was a most unusual Easter morning which I will, perhaps speak of in a later essay. It included the death of a long-time friend and member of our congregation and I am still processing that. To celebrate Earth Day, I’m thinking of planting peas in a pot. It is a bit too early for our clay soil to be warm and welcoming; seeds planted in the ground would likely rot instead of sprouting. I keep reminding myself, we aren’t in central Pennsylvania anymore, Dorothy! 😊 Our garden there was just wonderful --- good soil and Zone 6. But while I miss those advantages in gardening, and still miss our friends there, I’m glad to be in the Finger Lakes. The crocuses are over and the daffodils are in bloom ---- reluctantly, I’m sure. That snow fall on Monday night discouraged plants as well as people. The cats took it as a personal insult! Fortunately, we only got about 3 inches. Every spring of the year, the gardens seem as though they might be turning out as well as their plans on paper. Of course, that ideal hasn’t happened in my last 50 years of gardening --- but I always hope for the best. Gardens are in my DNA. Our plots and beds come nowhere near the ones that my mother designed and created, but it is written in stone --- and soil ---- that I must try to continue the spread of beauty wherever we may be. I was fortunate to have an article published (some years ago) with my mother’s garden story (Flower and Garden Magazine) and re-reading it always gives me a little push to go on in spite of dry spells or drenching rains that necessitate re-planting. Gardens are so unique to the people who plan and plant them and they are all beautiful ---- even when “Weedus Victorious” is the case. Not just gardeners, but people in general, have life stories that would fascinate and amaze us if we only took the time to listen. Anita Krizzan* says: “We are mosaics ---pieces of light, love, history, stars---glued together with magic and music and words.” Sometimes, at first glance, there are people who seem to be made up of less attractive elements, who then create many of the world’s problems. But first glances/judgments are seldom the whole story. Quite a few years ago, while participating in a conference, small groups began getting acquainted by having a time of each one telling his/her story. At most events, people tend to introduce themselves by what they do --- “I’m a banker” or “I teach high school”. But one’s story is a different thing than how one earns daily bread. Your story includes from whence you come, how you got where you are and what is important to you. We would do well to consider these things about the people around us. I try to remember when someone does something that annoys or appalls me, that I don’t know their whole story. Knowing a person’s back-story is an immense help as we try to be non-judgmental, forgiving and caring. Mr. Rogers said something similar: “As a human being, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has --- or ever will have.”** I recently made reservations for the VCS Alumni banquet in June. I haven’t attended one of these since I graduated from high school --- some years ago. I have been to class reunions but never the all-school event. It has always been good to get re-acquainted with former classmates --- discovering what they are doing to make a difference in their world and how they are having fun. I expect to have the same good time at this event. I hope it is well-attended by people from my era. High school was a mixed bag for me. There are people who loved high school and others who hated it. I didn’t feel strongly either way; it was just expected and there I was. There were good days and unhappy ones, mostly due to the teenage malady of yoyo emotions. I was never the ilk of cheerleader, home-coming queen or valedictorian. But I had good friends, participated in some fine musical activities, played intramural basketball and had great fun decorating for proms and being in the Senior play. Scholastics were taught sufficiently well that I did Ok in college when I got there. I respected and liked most of my teachers. So, I’d say school did what it was supposed to do. I probably could have excelled had I concentrated a bit more on studies but, I think I lacked a strong feeling of competition; I just wanted to satisfy myself, and to please favorite teachers, not compete to surpass others (well --- except maybe for that guy who took first chair flute at All-State!!). It has been a long and scenic road from high school to all these ages later, and, as someone remarked, “the days are long but the years are short!” If there would be one understanding I wish that I’d had back then, it would be to take life slowly; to not take my hourly ups and downs so seriously. A bad day (often a matter of perspective) really wasn’t the end of all things; someone laughing at me wasn’t necessarily about me but possibly their own insecurities. By graduation, life opens up and what seemed so crucial in high school really doesn’t matter much anymore; there are so many wonderful things waiting outside the brick walls of classrooms. It didn’t occur to me when I was living much of life to think about how the small bits and pieces would assemble into that collage of the years ---- all those tiny pieces of light, love, history and stars. But in spite of some sad times, some frightening times and some dull times --- I do believe that the magic Anita Krizzan spoke of has touched my personal collage, making it glow with the good memories. They are like the golden thread running through a tapestry. And I expect that this is true for most people. I try to be more aware, daily. Right now, before foliage emerges, the bare bones of the garden structure stand out. I check to see what needs building up or tearing down. I love the old stone walls of New England, so we built one. Kerm piled the stones into a 2 & 1/2-foot wall behind a flower garden, thinking it would be a good background for my roses. It turns out that the spot isn’t great for roses, but is perfect for chipmunks. All its rocky nooks and crannies provide a safe space for the cheeky little rodents. It is when they go far afield that they come to grief from the cats. The wall also provides a a fine background for an azalea, a pink flowering almond and ivory plumes of astilbe. Currently, we are completing the pergola that was begun last summer and put on hold when we had some personal structure problems. Kerm’s knees and my head wound combined to stymie most of last summer’s gardening efforts. Kerm has hurried to get the stone floor down before knee surgery later this spring. I can envision the pergola with a climbing yellow rose, a golden Carolina Jessamine and perhaps an airy, white Autumn Clematis softening its frame. We’ll hang a leaded glass window on a cross-piece, put the grill inside on the stone floor along with a couple of weather-proof chairs. It won’t take the place, in our hearts, of the huge white pine we had to take down, but it will be a usable and attractive substitute. One startling issue this year was the rise in cost of ordering garden plants. It will be interesting to see if they are less expensive in the garden stores. Not only have the costs of perennials nearly doubled, but the postage for having them shipped is also excruciatingly high. Buying seeds is still cost-effective, so I’ll be trying to grow delphinium, lupines, etc. from seed. They won’t bloom until next year (assuming I’m successful at germinating them) but neither will they break the bank. And they will be hardier since they were born in this soil. Spring is a lovely time ---the peepers are singing loudly and the air is fragrant with awakening soil. We all rejoice on days that are sunny with blue skies and balmy breezes. But I am coming to appreciate those “April showers” although I prefer water and not snow. Water is a most precious resource that we all take for granted. Western states are already feeling the pinch of not enough, so when there’s rain (and even snow), I feel more secure about the water table. This poem by Langston Hughes*** seems just right for April. “Let the rain kiss you. Letthe rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk. The rain makes shining pools in the gutter. The rain plays a little sleep song on your roof at night. And I love the rain.” The fresh air of spring tells us there is something wonderful in the ordinary. Instead of going on our habitual way, oblivious to the world around, spring wakes us up to the wonders --- the miracles we see only if we are mindful of our surroundings. Be aware of these days of new growth and new opportunities. In three weeks the lilacs should be in bloom! Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Anita Krizzan --- writer and poet from Slovenia **Mr. Fred Rogers --- Presbyterian pastor, story-teller, TV personality, and author. 1928-2003 ***Langston Hughes –James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist, playwright, social activist from Joplin, Missouri. 1902-1967
  12. “The sun was warm but the wind was chill; you know how it is with an April day when the sun is out and the wind is still, you’re one month on in the middle of May. But if you so much as dare to speak, a cloud comes over the sunlit arch, a wind comes off a frozen peak, and you’re two months back in the middle of March..”* Spring is here with its yoyo weather; in and out sunshine, torrential downpours and the occasional snow flurry. And with it comes mud season where feet can pop out of boots while walking along, as mud sucks the boots down. The area where the turkeys search for seeds beneath the bird feeders is especially clawed-up. Those large tricorn feet can really cultivate soil! I should harness them to rototill the gardens! Can’t you just picture a harnessed team of turkeys? The changeable weather does a number on bones and joints for those of us who have (to quote my doctor) enjoyed a lot of years. But even with aches and pains that blossom when another front comes through, we have learned that it is exceedingly good to be alive. It is a fine feeling to be open to new things, as spring comes dancing along with its slow two-step. That’s the dance pattern; two steps forward and one step back! Easter is less than two weeks away which means it is time to be getting a palm bud for Palm Sunday and thinking of flowers to add color and fragrance at church. Easter is probably my favorite special day. The flowers, the music and the service itself are all spirit-lifting. It’s true that occasionally the weather doesn’t cooperate; I remember one snowy Easter when pastels and straw hats seemed inappropriate in those cold breezes, and the egg hunt had to be inside. But these little challenges have never ruined that hard-to-describe feeling of new life. As a special touch to the holiday, we usually have family with us. For a little fun, the Vermont Country Store catalog is offering Easter baskets with chocolate bunny ears --- just the ears --- the first thing most kids (and some grown-ups I know) eat. Last year (I think it was), we had “Easter crackers” ---- those paper tubes that when pulled apart, have little gifts inside. And have you ever expanded a “peep” in the microwave? Marshmallows do strange things when zapped! Easter is a very good day for all of our senses. Whether or not the Easter story is part of your theology, it is certainly the most potent example of agape love ---- the selfless kind of love that covers all beings regardless of who the beings are. It is the always-awesome story of laying down one’s life for another ---- in this case, a whole bunch of others --- humanity! It is love with no strings attached. There has been considerable talk over the past few years, and plenty of in-your-face examples of a world-wide lack of love and compassion. Narcissism seems to be a spreading plague from the upper layers of government to the men and women on the street, where people think only of themselves and what they want. Taking care of one’s self --- a good and wise thing --- has morphed into “Me First and you get out of my way!” --- a harmful and destructive thing. All of us have moments of self-centeredness, but when it becomes the norm, not only are we individually on hazardous turf, but our whole world is in danger. Gladys Taber, a writer from some years ago, said it well. “Love of God gives sustenance to almost all human creatures, although the meaning of God varies……………..The more one loves, the more the capacity to love develops. For loving involves reaching outside oneself, sharing with others, joining in someone’s grief as well as joy…….Hate cripples the power of love much as beetles devour the heart of opening roses. Any old hate will do it --- the hate of other races, other countries, other ways of living, or the next-door neighbors. Bigotry is a strong form of it. Oddly enough, any kind of hate destroys the hater more than the object. It is more corroding than any chemical.** We humans have a lot to learn and we don’t seem to be progressing as well as we might. Even knowing these negatives, and agonizing over the depth of evil in the world, we must also keep ourselves aware of the positives. We are often astounded by sudden magnificence. The beauty of the natural world (a sunset, the Borealis)----- those masterpieces that artists create (Sculptures, painting, the Hallelujah Chorus) ------ the many efforts to help a neighbor ---- are often stunning as well as reassuring. Mr. Rogers’ mother told him that when he was discouraged by evil, to seek out the helpers. There are some seemingly tireless helpers among us. This excruciating time of seeing the ravages of war every evening on the news, also brings us a clear picture of those who move forward to help, putting their own lives at risk. Recognizing this brings us back to the reality that we humans are a mixed race of beings, some wonderful and some who are abysmal --- and each of us is probably a little mix of both. Speaking of a demonic and angelic mix, I present our cats! They began as feral cats that came by to scarf food wherever they could --- too often their entrée was birds. I think they also enjoyed harassing our dog, Freckles. But now they are fairly contented and very well-fed kitties that can’t, in all honesty, be called feral. They sit on the outside window sill, watching TV through the window. They still don’t like being picked up, but they do like being petted and conversed with. And the birds ---well, the cats do continue to sit beneath the feeders and ---- occasionally ---- grab one; that behavior seems to be in the feline DNA. But they now know they aren’t supposed to. I see the feeders from my computer, so when the cats linger longingly beneath a feeder, I open the window and scold them. They simply glance over their shoulders and stalk away --- as in, “I had no intention of catching anything; was just window-shopping!” Of course, it is possible too, that the birds have grown more wary. On spring-like days, our cats are restless and playful --- pouncing on blown leaves, balancing on the fence pickets, and racing up and down the lawn. And at night they now prowl! “You may call, you may call, but the little black cats won’t hear you. The little black cats are maddened by the bright green light of the moon. They are whirling and running and hiding, they are wild who once were so confiding, they are crazed when the moon is riding…..”*** As spring advances and flowers open up, I always feel a spurt of new energy and optimism. All those waiting projects might actually be accomplished! I am blessed with some very good holiday memories too ---- I’m recalling frilly pink dresses, bonnets with black velvet ribbons and daisies, Easter baskets and colored eggs. My mother’s special Easter cake was an orange sponge cake with a marvelous pudding and mandarin orange filling. The week before Easter (Holy Week), I along with many of my teenage friends, attended a 7:30 church service after which we walked to school. Those were informal, inspiring beginnings for the day ----and for someone who always rode a bus, walking with friends was a treat. Take time to pull out your Easter/spring memories and to enjoy a glance backward. The world is never at a loss for sadness and difficulties, so remembering and making our times as beautiful as possible is good for us and those around us. Spring and Easter are both times of wondrous things---------magnificent things, spiritually, in nature and in people. In our community, we’ve put out jars for donations for the Ukraine --- in every possible venue. It is true that we have, in the past, been less concerned for other parts of the world when they might have needed us just as much, but doing this supportive thing now, is good --- both for those we try to help and for our own growth. People in Poland and other neighboring countries have opened their homes to refugees. This is magnificence amid evil. The world is, indeed, full of peril and in it there are many dark place. But still there is much that is fair. And though, in all lands, love mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps the greater.” JRR Tolkien**** I really believe that for every evil deed, there are many good and wonderful things happening at the same time. Meanwhile ---- the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming. I can get out and prune the roses and clean up the shells of pumpkins and gourds that are left from winter deer browsing. The day lilies are showing green tips and the buds on the lilacs are swelling. Happy Easter and Happy Spring! ***************************************** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *From “Two Tramps IN Mud Time” by Robert Frost. American poet who was known especially for his depictions of rural life. 1874-1963 **From Conversations with Amber by Gladys Taber --- American writer, columnist. 1899-1980. ***From “The Bad Kittens” by Elizabeth Coatsworth ---American poet and novelist for both children and adults. Married to Henry Beston, also a well-known American writer. 1893-1986. ****JRR Tolkien ----English writer, poet, philologist and academic. 1892-1973. His book “The Hobbit” and his Middle Earth trilogy are well-known examples of good vs. evil.
  13. Our recent spring-like weather has most of us who garden looking through our seeds and perusing the plant catalogs once again ---- just to make sure we have all that we need. Last week, the turkeys stopped coming down so often and I think the deer didn’t come at all. Of course, another snow-fall, and they will all be back. We probably are not quite done with wintry weather, but soon, soon! Someone (not sure who) said, “The first day of spring and the first spring day are quite different events.” As spring days near, anyone living in a rural area knows the pungent odor emanating from farms and fields. Tractor and spreader begin a smelly process that recycles waste into something good ---- fertile soil. I was thinking that we probably should do the same with mistakes we’ve made in life. Instead of storing them in our own little Pit of Errors, we can recycle those things into learning experiences that make us wiser and more compassionate persons. We are now three weeks into the season of Lent --- the traditional 40 days before Easter---and we have three weeks to go. It began on March 2 with Ash Wednesday and will end on Easter Sunday which, this year, is on April 17. The week prior to Ash Wednesday is, traditionally, Mardi Gras week. Parties precede the sacrifices of Lent and celebrations begin again upon Easter’s arrival. I like tradition and also celebrations. A lot of years ago, I read a book --- Open Heart/Open Home by Karen Burton Mains.* It spoke of the responsibility of hospitality, and I liked what it said. Of course, hospitality doesn’t always mean celebrations or parties. It is more a way of thinking and being willing to open ourselves to provide acceptance, comfort or shelter. One can be hospitable at church, at Lion’s Club, or on a plane. Both Kerm and I grew up in homes where the doors were open to anyone who knocked. I had four siblings who were older, married and had children, so stopping by was just part of our life-pattern. That doesn’t happen as often now, so we try to arrange occasions for seeing family and friends. It isn’t about formal “entertaining” with elegance. It isn’t a way of showing off ----which is a good thing because while we have a comfortable home, it is no grand mansion with crystal chandeliers and spacious rooms. It is simply a way to bring interesting, wonderful people together, to share ideas and experiences and to find enjoyment in each other. Hospitality adds flavor to life! One of my favorite memories is of a New Year’s Eve party back when our children were toddlers. Those invited were unmarried singles from church. We lived in an old farm house with an attached summer kitchen ---which was unheated---- but it had an immense fire place one could walk into. It was a mild night that year for December 31st, and we built a fire in that fire place as well as lighting up the rest of the house. This group, some of whom had been around the world, seemed to be having a marvelous time making balloon animals in the living room, playing charades upstairs and down, and simply talking around the fire place. One attendee told us that he had been in Paris the year before, and this party was more fun. Ah ---- a Pearle Mesta moment!! Of course, our children had birthday parties as they were growing up. We used nature films from the PA Conservation Service, and age-appropriate games or crafty things to make so that bedlam didn’t occur. Actually, the kids and their friends were well enough behaved that bedlam wouldn’t have happened anyway ---- probably. One of the finest acts of hospitality in my life came from strangers, when we were stranded in a snowbank on Christmas night; stranded with two boys and our English spaniel. The people who lived on the other side of the snow bank came out and invited us in. They didn’t know us and we didn’t know them. They gave us blankets, provided games for our boys and allowed our dog to point their cockatoo all evening. They gave us breakfast the following morning and took us to a local garage where we could get our car towed and repaired. Our sole contribution was a Swedish tea ring and a few cookies. I still think of them and their willing hospitality, with extreme gratitude. Probably our most recent and fun gatherings were Twelfth-Night celebrations. Because there is so much going on during the weeks prior to and the week after Christmas, we decided to push our time with friends further, to end the 12 days of Christmas. That first year, when we began making a list of people --- the number was more than our not-so-large house could comfortably hold. We thought ---Aha! We’ll do an open-house where people can come and go, and invited 40-50 people. The problem was that people did come ---- but they didn’t go. So, we had a “musical chairs” situation where people stood until someone got up and they could grab a chair. No one seemed to mind this, though, and the Saturday nearest 12th night was on calendars for the next year and the next. We never served gourmet or fussy foods; we made a couple kinds of soup, snacks and cookies and a big bowl of frosty, fruit lemonade. And people often brought goodies to share. Every chair, stool and even the stair steps were filled and the conversation flowed. It was a time for just total enjoyment when being hospitable was really easy. About three years ago, we had a “last 12th Night Party” simply because I no longer have the energy to prepare ---- but I miss them and I know others do also. I try to remember the advice: “Don’t cry because it is gone. Be glad that it happened!” It is time for other kinds of hospitality more fitting for our capabilities. We’ve also had revolving beds --- or, perhaps more accurately, revolving sheets. Since we’ve lived at some distance from our extended families, an extra bed or two for when they come by has been wise but the traffic grew beyond that. Once we hosted a young man (Jorge) from Mexico --- part of the Up With People** musical group. Occasionally we’ve welcomed someone who needed shelter for a few days. Nieces and nephews have come. Our sons have always felt welcome to bring people home with them for dinner, an evening of games or overnight. There was an unexpected twist though; a couple of their friends came for the weekend, and stayed for 5 or 6 years ---a bit unusual, but the circumstances that allowed us to borrow these “extra” sons during their college years, were a blessing. We enjoyed them, and our boys benefitted by acquiring two more brothers. I’m still not sure, though, how we managed with six people and only one bathroom. Overnight traffic has now slowed even though we have more space now and two bathrooms. But back in February, in the space of a week, we made up beds for our granddaughters, followed by a son for a couple of nights and then the other son and his wife for a night while they were moving from one house to another. It’s great fun, but I do think that we need to increase our sheet stash for our often unplanned, B&B! Hospitality is a very personal thing and depends on individual circumstances. When we moved here, we found hospitality when a woman (Janet) at church welcomed us personally, when a local musician (David) invited me to sing in a group and another person (Ellie) made me feel comfortable in a rehearsal. During this COVID era, we’ve had fine porch visits and times in the gazebo and around a campfire. Making people welcome wherever we happen to be is hospitality. Our homes can be the refuge that we all need, but they can also be --- to quote one of our family members about a family home ---- “a place that embraces you when you walk in.” We’ve all heard: “No man is an island; no man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me; each man’s grief is my own…”***This truism is a good reason to extend ourselves to whatever need comes our way. We grow in our humanity as we share our lives with others. Right now, “People of the Book” (Christians, Jews and Muslims) should be involved in inner searching and celebration. Ramadan begins April 2. Passover begins at sundown on April 15th. And Christians are in the midst of Lent, awaiting Easter. We are reminded that even during this unwelcome, tragic war, because of these special, faith-related, traditional times, we should be a standard of peace for all of humanity. Our prayers need to rise like incense for a permanent cease-fire and freedom. Meanwhile, it is spring by the calendar. And no matter what your tenets of faith, it is definitely a time to be grateful for life itself. Take time to look around as things green, and inhale the fresh air. You can feel the turning of the season. And this is true even if the spring aromas aren’t always that of hyacinths and lilies. If we care well for what we have, if we make all parts of our lives more fertile, if we open our hearts to the people around us, ---- “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”**** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Karen Burton Mains –An American writer; the wife of a pastor who writes from her own experiences. **Up With People –American non-profit organization that uses a 5-month series of workshops, concerts and other learning experiences including travel. ***Quotation from a song which was excerpted from a poem, For Whom The Bell Tolls, by John Donne, who was an English poet. 1572-1631. ****I’m sure you’ve noticed how much I like this thought from Julian of Norwich. I use it often. You may recall that she was an English anchoress who wrote, prayed and led a group of nuns. 1342-1416.
  14. Ahhhh….. It’s March! Daylight savings time (this coming Sunday) and the Vernal Equinox (March 20) all in the same month. And yes, we will lose an hour, but it will be delightfully light longer in the day. We can feel the new life of Easter approaching, for the season of Lent began last Wednesday with a community service and luncheon. It is a time of introspection as well as awakening activity. My process of cleaning out is continuing; it might continue on into infinity! “Yet occasionally we discover in the folds of an old handkerchief, a shell or insignificant stone that had once embodied our happiest of afternoons.”* I did find some items that brought back good memories. And I found an old essay from 2014. Considering the current controversy around books, I think this is an appropriate time to re-share my thoughts. There is a tired, old saying; “Sure, I approve of censorship ---- as long as I can be the censor.” Censorship has cropped up regularly though out history, usually at the behest of an autocratic ruler who fears anything that might make people think. The first thing an autocrat does is to imprison or execute professors, artists, librarians and writers; they are dangerous thinkers and distributors of materials that make others think. Currently, Putin has shut off the internet and declared independent reporting a “war crime”! To censor or not has always been a problem for parents who are reluctant for their kiddies to process what their parents might consider alien to their thoughts or beliefs ---- or maybe even just because it’s not quite nice. Many of us have tried to shield our sons and daughters from anything disagreeable, frightening or crass. There’s a fine line between what is sensible precaution and what just keeps us, the parents, comfy. Through-out history, people have been killed for their beliefs and teachings (Jesus, Socrates, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy…….). And this continues today. There are those who think eliminating the person, will make the issue will go away. The problem is that neither killing people nor burning books will erase the ideas. Other people will continue to think. And kids will find a way to learn about all sorts of things that their parents wish they had not. There was no TV in our house for several years as our children were growing up. They, however, managed to know all the characters on kids’ programming even without TV, and wanted the latest Scooby Doo or Spider Man lunch boxes. A parent may try to hide The Hulk or Harry Potter, but it just won’t work. Of course, there’s my very own personal book burning! Those of you who know us, and who are aware that we have hundreds of books of all genres, may find it hard to believe that I burned a book. But it is true. One of our sons was home at the time and was visibly astounded, annoyed and also, I think, a bit amused. “Mom’s Book-Burning” might be a story to go down in family history. I didn’t burn the book because I thought it was inappropriate reading for the general public; or even for my kids. I had realized ---- after reading a few chapters --- that it was not a good reading for me. And I knew if I disposed of it in the usual way (library book sale), I’d finish reading it. It was a well-written, compelling story. But the violence was exceedingly graphic and was going to give my mind a severe case of memory indigestion. That’s the down-side of the way our brains are designed; they store things away forever. And memories may crop up at 2 AM, that we’d rather not have in our heads. We each have different tolerance levels. I’ve absorbed a wide variety of writing, from novels to non-fiction; from fantasy to historical fiction; from philosophy to nature and from biography to poetry. In fact, slipping into an alternate universe via a good book is often a blessing. But some things etch themselves so deeply into my brain that the aftermath is damaging to my peace of mind. There are a couple of books that I read in my younger years ---- classics they were too ---- that I shouldn’t have cracked open. The depth of evil described in those stories has haunted me forever after. The same is true of some TV programs and movies. In addition, there is no end to the perverted, smutty, crass materials available if one looks. Would I like to see them gone forever? Definitely! But where does the censorship stop? Who decides? I have never repeated my book-burning escapade, but for sensible self-care, I think that we all should be a little careful about what we put into our minds. Just as we try to limit salt, sugar and poly-unsaturated fats, we should try to avoid things that might give us disturbed or calloused emotions. This includes frequent watching of certain movies, TV programs or reading, that dulls our senses or leaves us with a creepy feeling that we’ve been invaded by evil. Having said that --- how do I feel about the recent book-burnings in the news and the attempts to censor school libraries? Who do I think I am --- or you are ---- to decide what books should be in a library??!! Yes --- a parent does have a responsibility and a right to speak for the welfare of their child. Not all children are ready to read the same material at the same time. There should definitely be alternative books for those parents who don’t think their 8th-grader is ready for the horrors of Nazi-ism or the adolescent muckiness of Catcher In The Rye. A parent should know their child and what that child would find palatable. But no parent has the right to censor the entire library, making that judgment for all kids. Too, I think some parents are over-ready to shield their kiddies from anything distasteful or hard to hear. Covering up events or issues enhances the crime. Kids are incredibly alert to spot parental shading of the truth or hypocrisy. Parents need to be honest and open with their kids and discuss difficult things. Ignorance is seldom bliss! I am constantly amazed at how frightened some adults are of education hat treads beyond the borders of their own experiences. The philosophy seems to be “If I don’t know about it, it must be bad and I don’t want my kid to be exposed to all that weird stuff.” When Kerm and I taught Sunday school back in our Pennsylvania years, one of the things we told the teens we had in class was “God has no grandchildren.” It actually was a poster available in a Christian bookstore. Basically, we were telling them that just because their parents believed in God and had brought them up in the faith, that didn’t make them God’s children by inheritance. They needed to think on their own and find their own faith. WELL --- such a hullabaloo we created! Parents went clamoring to the pastor ---- who wisely asked us to meet with the parents and explain ourselves. And we did. And eventually, all was well. But fear drove the initial reaction as fear often does, and, in this case, perhaps just a little indignation that their parental faith wasn’t enough to cover their children forever. The bottom line is: we all need to stop trying to censor other people’s choices! If one of our kids had wanted to read a book that we thought inappropriate, we would have read it along with them and talked about it. If it was a book that I actually thought would be detrimental for them, I’d have explained why I felt that way and asked them to trust us and put it off a couple of years. We often loan books to our granddaughters. We’d like to contribute to their education and enjoyment, not to their disillusionment, so we are careful about what we offer. We have a couple of series that are well-written stories but would be inappropriate for their current ages and life-experiences. Maybe when they are forty … 😊! They are good readers and mature thinkers, and have read and discussed things widely --- with no discernable harm. Censorship nearly always creates more trouble than any protection it might give. “Some like to drink in a pint pot. Some like to think. Some not. Strong Dutch cheese, Old Kentucky Rye, Some like these, Not I. Some like Poe, and others like Scott. Some like Mrs. Stowe. Some not. Some like to laugh, some like to cry, some like to chaff. Not I.” RLS Meanwhile, regardless of all our human foibles, we are in March and life is looking up. We can, and probably will, get snow and mud and gusty winds.*** But--- the daylight hours are longer, more days are sunny, and the geese are flying north. I even think I can hear some stirring in the garden; of course, it could be the weeds we didn’t pull last fall but maybe it’s the daffodil bulbs. I expect to see purple-green skunk cabbage popping up in the swamps any day now. The cats are walking the fence pickets, showing off and pouncing on anything that moves. My spring memories, among the “happiest of afternoons” memories, are watching pollywogs in vernal pools, and the shining gold of marsh marigolds at the edge of small streams. I’m wishing I could be walking down the lane toward the wooded acres on the farm where I grew up, experiencing those very things soon. Happy Spring --- and pleasant journeys to you this week! ******************* Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Patti Smith ---- American rock poet laureate at age 75. Quotation is from her first book of prose, a memoir: “Just Kids”. **Robert Louis Stevenson --- Scottish writer, poet, novelist and travel writer. ***--- See the weather for this Saturday!!
  15. “I stood beside a hill, smooth with new-laid snow, A single star looked out from the cold evening glow. There was no other creature that saw what I could see --- I stood and watched the evening star as long as it watched me.”* Stars somehow look larger and clearer against a black sky, when the night is cold and still. This week’s melt has left us with much less snow though tomorrow will likely remedy that ---- but the stars are still shining, waiting for us to connect whenever we gaze up. Late February is when, a few years ago, the Spencer Grange would offer its annual Winter Wake-Up party. By this time of winter, we all need some fun. There was a dish-to-pass dinner and entertainment of one kind or another for anyone who wanted to come. Sometimes entertainment was a pick-up band of community members who enjoyed playing together. Sometimes, it was just “mental games” that people could do on paper at the table. But it was an evening that brought some brightness into our long, cold winters. Community events like this have been missing for nearly three years due to precautions around COVID, but those particular parties have been gone since the Spencer Grange closed its doors. Whenever a community organization ceases to be, it is sad. Unfortunately, even good things do come to an end. Changes occur and we have to move with the changes. The Grange building has become a community center where there are classes and events, and a gym ---- all good things too. Life is, in fact, full of changes. Robert Gallagher** said: “Change is inevitable---- except from a vending machine!” In my office a Mary Englebrecht poster said something like “Be flexible or you will break.” It seemed an appropriate slogan for those of us who worked for the county--- or the state ---- or any human services agency. Some changes delight us, like the birth of a new baby into the family. Some sadden us, as in the loss of someone we care about. Some annoy us – perhaps in changes to laws that inconvenience us. How we handle change is, perhaps, a measure of how well we have matured and learned that life is not all about us. As a child, I clung to what was familiar. I would get annoyingly homesick, whenever I was away from home or when my parents were away from home, leaving me with my older sister. I can remember my sister being exasperated with my seven or eight-year-old whining about “I don’t feel good.” During my first week of 4-H camp, days went by before I felt comfortable. When I went to SUNY Plattsburg, 300 miles away from home, I was homesick for most of that year, in varying degrees. Fortunately, I had a cool roommate who was a lot of fun! When I transferred to Cornell, nearer home, I was homesick all over again ---- for Plattsburg. Emotions can be unreliable and capricious things, and emotions tend to kick and complain about change. I no longer need to be at home every moment, but a couple of weeks away is usually my limit. I would like to visit far-flung places. I’d love to meet some of the people in Kenya who facilitate the mission we support there. I’d be over-the-top happy at visiting the Galapagos Islands and to see some of the places in New Zealand that I’ve heard about. But --- to do so, I’d have to be whisked there and back again via teleporting (Star Trek) or floo powder (Harry Potter). I’m probably what is called a nester, and this is, no doubt, why we are currently skidding around on February ice instead of spending our winters in Florida or Arizona. Nesters are home-makers and home-bodies. Our homes represent comfort and security; they are the safe place in a world gone amok. One of our sons and his wife, are moving, this very day, and our second son is contemplating a several-hundred-mile move with his family. I was thinking how much fun they will have in transforming a whole new set of spaces into rooms that reflect their tastes; places that will signal “HOME” to them. Right now, while amid the daunting task of packing and the trials of moving, they may not be thinking that change is so wonderful, but once they are in, and boxes are unpacked, a better perspective will open for them ---- I hope. They will surely miss the homes they’ve left, but new views and a new community will soon be theirs and they will be comforted as they become connected. I grew up in one place for 18 years, but Kerm and I have moved seven times since 1964. Except for the first two small, furnished apartments, and one unfurnished, where we lived briefly, I never met a house I couldn’t turn into a comfortable home ---- even with very limited funds. Until the boys were older, we were a one-income family, so I needed to be creative. Our first large set of dishes came from a household auction; pretty porcelain with a small flowered pattern; 12 dinner plates, soup plates and luncheon plates. They went well with the Oneida flatware and Libby glasses that were wedding gifts. Also, I became skillful at making large appliqued fabric hangings to enhance empty walls. As a result, I am amazed at the demands of home-buyers today. Far too many want perfection immediately, in whatever home they decide to buy; granite counters in the kitchen, tiled bathrooms, newly-painted walls throughout. Perhaps this is reasonable if buyers are, late in life, looking for their ideal home after living in many. But to expect the newest, glitziest surfaces and appliances to be waiting in every home one lives in, seems to me to be both unreasonable and a bit greedy/entitled. And what about all this “staging”? We’ve never yet looked at a house that was “staged” as seems to be the current mode. Our potential homes have been empty rooms, and I’ve never had a problem imagining our possessions in them. Actually, I think other people’s possessions might be distracting. Imagination is a useful quality that seems to be lacking. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I remodel (in my imagination) the homes I’ve lived in previously. Or I design a suitable place for when we’ve decided to seriously down-size. There are certain things we want. We need to be where we can see trees and hear birds singing. We need lots of natural light, and enough space so that we can get away from each other. We enjoy being together, but we also need time and room for our own pursuits. It’s tough to hear the Mash episode on the TV when the sewing machine is running full tilt across the room, or a Bach oratorio with a football game in progress. The kitchen needs more than a hot plate and a refrigerator for our cookie jar must be full and the oven accommodating to large pans. And bookshelves ---- we can cheerily dispense with much that we now own, but not our books. Have you ever spent time considering what you can or can’t live without? Home has so many different meanings, and what I want may be alien to others. But a home of some kind is a human craving, I think, and one that I wish more people could have. I was appalled when I saw my first homeless people on the streets of San Francisco. Later, I learned that not too far from us in a well-to-do college town, there is a community of homeless people living in a tent camp, winter and summer. I know there are people living in their cars, and kids in our small community who “couch-surf.”*** In a country as creative and wealthy as ours, we should be able to do better. The imaginative “tiny houses” in some urban areas, for people who are homeless are a wonderful idea. Not too far from us (Brooktondale) there is a whole community of wee, brightly-colored rental homes that will accommodate just one or two people. Also hopeful are the shelters that work with people to find job training, then jobs, and --- eventually --- homes of their own. Habitat for Humanity is great though it doesn’t provide homes on a large scale. Maybe some of the abandoned malls could become lodging. We need innovative solutions so that people find a peaceful, affordable nook to call their own. I think that individuals in nursing homes should not have to share a room either. Even at 105 years, we need our own spaces. Efficiency should not necessarily be our top-most goal in these end-of-life residences. As I sit by my own wood fire, watching the sun spots dancing on the ceiling, and listening to a Bach chorale, I know how very much I am blessed and wish that for everyone. It is maple-syrup time in our region. Those people blessed with access to sugar maples are out tapping the trees for the clear sap that, after many hours and hours of work, turns into the golden syrup that we find essential for our waffles and pancakes. By the flowing of sap, we know the season is changing. “For low, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle dove is hard in our land.” **** This essay began with a snowy field and ends with singing birds. A metaphor for life --- and change. Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *”February Twilight” by Sara Teasdale ---American lyric poet born in Missouri. 1884-1933 **Robert Gallagher --- American commercial and editorial artist based in LA. ***Couch-surfing is what kids do when they are unwelcome or hurting in their own families. They stay overnight with whomever of their friends will welcome them --- and move from friend to friend. ****Taken from The Bible – The Song of Solomon Chapter 2 NOTE: For those of you who knew Dick Cole, there is a time of remembrance on Saturday, March 5th from 1-4 in the afternoon. Family will receive people at the Montour Falls Methodist church.
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