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Carol Bossard

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Carol Bossard last won the day on August 15 2021

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  1. ‘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.
  2. “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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. “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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!!
  9. “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.
  10. “I will make you brooches and toys for your delight; of bird song at morning and starshine at night…..”* If I could, I’d edge this essay with lace, tie it up with a red satin ribbon, and maybe add a balloon or two; in another four days we’ll be celebrating St. Valentine. Actually, most of us aren’t celebrating the Italian (Roman) saint at all; we are celebrating those who are dear to us in some way. And the retail markets are rejoicing over our weakness for cards, candy, perfume and lacy lingerie. When our kids were small, we hand- made valentines ---- annually, we had a table-full of red construction paper, lace doilies, glue and glitter, and small valentines for school parties. While I would still enjoy making valentines, I’m fortunate if I can summon the time/energy to find one in a store-full, that appeals to me, for my husband. If I manage anymore cards, it is a delightful bonus. And maybe that’s why my “star” is what it is for 2022. Our pastor, at the beginning of each year, has us draw a star from a basket-full of stars. Each one has a different word inscribed on it. This year, my word was “delight”. How to apply my yearly word is sometimes a bit puzzling, but perhaps this particular one stresses a need to take more time for the delightful little things in life. If that is so, I’m not alone in my need to do this. As a culture, we are so busy that often the little, fun, delightful things escape us. We simply don’t notice. And I think we need those things to stay afloat amid an ocean of life’s difficulties. It is the small, thoughtful reminders that keep life and love fresh. February is the month of the amethyst, that lovely jewel with twilights and dawns in its many shades of purple. It is the month that owls and hawks sit on eggs in their nigh nests. It is when we start thinking more seriously about spring. February is a full-of-birthdays month for our family; lots of celebrations, and speaking of family birthdays reminds me of a current ad (anceestry.com) that asks, “Who are the strong women in your family?” And I laugh, because my answer is “All of them!” As I think of the women in my family --- and there have been and are quite a few of us ---- I can’t think of even one who wasn’t or isn’t strong-minded and strong to endure. Of course, we express our strengths quite differently; some more assertively than others, but that flexible, unbreakable core is there in each. And since we have generally married equally strong-willed individuals, it is good that we can stand firm when necessary. One of the excellent men who married into the family was heard to comment: “The trouble with the Wiley women is that they are always sure they are right. And ----#^*@# -----they usually are! Inner strength, whether male or female, is a good quality to develop, although during growing-up years, it can sometimes be problematical for parents. Societal change is slow, but I think assigning roles to people because of gender or place in society, is increasingly a thing of the past, though it does linger here and there. Our culture has historically offered women fewer options than men. And this behavior was supported by not only men, but also some women! When we came to this community, the church Session (governing body) had mostly been men ---- for years ---- maybe centuries. I think perhaps one woman had been on it prior to 1979. When I was asked to serve in that august body, after some thought and prayer, I agreed. The only individuals who called me to ask why I thought I belonged in a church leadership position, were women. I’m not sure whether they really wished to know or whether they just wanted to register a reprimand. Maintaining the fiction of the frail little woman with a small brain, fluttery hands and a “please take care of me” appeal is quite appalling. We all need taking care of on occasion, but it isn’t gender-based. Equally unfair, during the “Women’s Lib” days in the 60s and 70s, men were often viewed with caustic disfavor by some women simply because they were men. Both viewpoints are generalizations about people. People need to be who they are instead of trying to fit some preconceived notion of what males and females ought to be. We need to figure out how we are called to be helpful in this world ---- and be that person. One interesting individual who speaks on the yin and yang of humans is Dr. Tieraona Low Dog**. She is a well-educated MD, a Native American, an herbalist and one who has studied the shallows and depths of humans. If you come upon one of her books or a podcast, expand your mind by reading or listening. For some of us, winter is a time of sorting out many things ---- thoughts, possessions, whatever needs to be sorted. My kitchen drawers tend to accumulate things, so I’ve been cleaning out. There were some items ---- an apple-corer that I never use, but it’s a nice design with an old green handle, so back in it goes ---- the spikey thing with the red handle, that holds an onion so it doesn’t slip while slicing. Being in a hurry, I never pull it out, but it’s there if needed. I have a wooden spoon whose handle curves in and out like a snake; it fits my hand nicely, stirs well and balances on the rim of a pot. There is a flat wire whip that I use to mix beaten egg whites into a cake batter, on the rare occasions I make a sponge cake. It came from my mother’s utensil drawer, and probably is100 years old; its handle is nearly bare of the red paint it once had. But it works better than any other item for that one task. Out go several nut crackers and picks. Who cracks nuts anymore? And do I really need that garlic press? My utensil drawer still has more stuff than necessary, but it is a bit tidier. There is something comforting about having a good, utilitarian item that is also attractive in its basic usefulness. We have two or three books by Eric Sloan about old tools; their symmetry and grace. Kerm is as attracted to old tools as I am --- just a different kind ---- and has a fine collection in garage, woodshed and study. Robert Henri*** says: “I love tools. They are so beautiful, so simple and plain. They have not been made beautiful; they are beautiful.” And if they are well-used and comfortable to the hand --- as is my grandmother’s hickory wood rolling pin or Kerm’s wood planes ----- their beauty is increased. Even by February, winter can be beautiful, but, in all its scenic frostiness, it can also be a time of hardship. Native Americans, in the northeast, called this month’s full moon the Starving Moon. February’s 28 days often have bitter cold and blizzard-y storms----- and wild life can suffer. I know that there is controversy about whether or not to feed birds and other wild life. But, for our own pleasure, we do feed the birds as you all know, and I don’t chase away the deer who rob the feeders. I may even leave them an apple or two. And I provide food and lined, sheltered baskets for the outside cats who probably aren’t feral anymore. I do draw the line at coyotes and bears; they’ll have to survive on their own. Humans can be in distress too. Grocery costs continue to rise as do fuel and transportation prices. While we are taking pity on the feral cats and wistful deer, we need to remember the local food pantries and Deacons’ funds and give them a little help. There are food-challenged people in all of our neighborhoods, and many with fuel issues. Somewhere the Bible mentions that those who have much, from them much is expected. I think that might apply to those of us with full pantries and warm living rooms. We are surely to enjoy the good things we have, but it is my belief that we are not supposed to clutch to ourselves an over-abundance of these same good things while others are suffering. Sharing when we can, lightens our hearts and sustains those who, for whatever reason, are finding life hard. Even this month of love, holidays and parties, can be emotionally challenging. SAD**** is the down-side of late winter. A little dancing, a little singing, a heart-shaped card that says “I LUV U!”, and a lot of getting out and moving around can expand one’s mood immensely. So can greenery. On a warm day (and surely there will be a few!) when the temperature is above freezing, cut some stems of forsythia or other supple shrub, and put the stems in water. After a week or so, they will blossom or leaf out, bringing a little early spring. Meanwhile, remember: “When it snows you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.”***** Probably we should do a little of both. Happy Valentine’s Day!! Carol Bossard lives in Spencer NY. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *from My Valentine by Robert Louis Stevenson --- Scottish poet, novelist and travel writer. He is best-known for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island. 1850-1894. **Dr. Tieraona Low Dog ---MD who studied herbal medicine, midwifery, massage and martial arts before becoming a respected medical doctor. She researches combining natural remedies along with traditional western medicine. ***Robert Henri ---American painter and teacher. 1865-1929. ****Seasonal Affective Disorder brought about by long winters and little sun. ***** Unknown but wise advice.
  11. I get a gold star this year for having my plant orders ready early. Last year several plants that I wanted were gone by March. I think people were shut in, bored, and were desperately wanting spring to come. That might well be true of this winter too. So --- I’m ready to call/send them in. I’m also ordering less. It’s an unhappy realization that the energy I have must be portioned out carefully --- and Kerm’s energy too. Dreaming about gardens is my panacea when winter annoys; I just need to rein in the scope of those visions. Weeding is much easier from the perspective of a cozy chair by the fire than on my knees in April. One of the TV shows that both Kerm and I enjoy is “Finding Your Roots”, aired on PBS. It is quite amazing to see what research can discover about one’s ancestors. My brother was very interested in genealogy and compiled reams of information about both sides of my family. My Scottish father and my French mother with a Dutch great-grandmother thrown in make an interesting combination of genes. It is --- I hope --- a good mix! Learning about the “back stories” is fascinating. I wish I’d asked more questions when there was someone to answer them, although my mother did a good job of introducing me to family members via their tombstones. Knowing about forebearers provides a background that makes me think hard about all those who are responsible for me being who I am. As this favorite quotation says: “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” * I’ve been fortunate in having family members who provided good examples for me --- perhaps not always, but certainly often ---- and lots of love, though it wasn’t always expressed in actual words. My siblings were twelve to twenty years older than I, so it was my good fortune that I was able to find a closer acquaintance with my brothers and sister later in life. I would hope to not waste my opportunities with family members and friends who are still with me. It is harder as we scatter ourselves from state to state, but good family ties promote health, happiness and a feeling of security, so we keep trying. I’ve always been comforted to know that if I’m in trouble in New York, in Massachusetts, in Connecticut, in Virginia, in Washington State, in Arizona, in California, in Colorado and now, in New Hampshire ---- I can call on family to rescue me. 😊 Ties are always being broken by distance and/or death, although the good memories continue to be blessings. Last week, we had news that a very good friend died at the beginning of January. Richard Cole hired me to supervise the OFA Nutrition program in Schuyler County way back in 1981. It was a new agency and we were all unfamiliar with each other. Dick managed to turn a diverse group of people into a cohesive team. And in the process, Kerm and I became good friends with Dick and his wife, Mary. Dick had a trio --- the Dick Cole Gospel Group --- for whom he sang, played the piano and wrote music. Spencer Singers joined them for several enjoyable concerts plus ice cream parties and picnics. At work, we did an annual Staff Day Away and Dick offered some very funny and creative workshop ideas as part of team-building. He managed a complicated budget with skill even as he worried over its inadequacy. This man who excelled in personal integrity, in music, had a great sense of humor, and was good at fending off useless NYS mandates, will be missed. He was a fine person and a good friend. “There is a stillness in winter ---a silence that comes from the gentle, falling snow. It calls us to listen to the beat of our own hearts and to the ancient wisdom of our ancestors, whispering through our veins.” Tara Shannon** The death of someone close often leads to thinking about one’s own life in some depth. However, we should take the time to do some soul-searching, not just when death makes us pause, but rather like annual chimney-sweeping or cleaning out the eaves. Winter seems a good time for this. Our early ancestors didn’t have electric lights, cars, planes or anything else that could keep them up at night or traveling hither and yon. Humans, like other mammals, used winter to rest and restore, and from what I have read, it was also a time of meditation and spiritual growth. We, who can run to the grocery store whenever we choose and fly to Florida for R&R tend to forget that our minds and bodies need a surcease from over-active living. We need time to reflect on how our inner spirits are faring. Could life be more satisfying? Do we need to be going in a different direction? Who do we need to forgive? From whom do we need forgiveness? How can we live a more meaningful life in total? A 20th and 21st-century plague, probably more virulent to a good life than COVID, is getting stuck in a rut both in our daily lives and in our perspectives. We allow our routines to freeze into solid barriers that do not allow change or flexibility; we get up, shower, eat breakfast, go to work, do whatever it is we do at work, go home, fix dinner, watch TV or veg out on the computer, and go to bed. If we aren’t aware, we end up doing the same thing the next day and most days thereafter. In a similar way we view the world from our comfy little perspectives; having decided what/who we wish to believe, we refuse to explore further. We say we don’t have time for reading, for joining community groups or church. We don’t have time or energy to sit in nature for a half hour to restore our senses. We don’t even try to understand those who think differently. We are oblivious to the free moments we could easily have if we weren’t so entranced with being busy or lingering on-line. A routine can be useful, but when overdone it can make a life that sees no growth or blooming. Possibilities come with thought, and possibilities inject new life into our days. An understanding of why people do what they do --- or think as thy think--- may just temper our frustrations and add to our peace ---- and possibly, the world’s peace. At this point in my life, I’m not as involved with outside activities as I once was. But I try to stay informed and alert to the world around me. Instead of moaning about what I can no longer accomplish (something I catch myself doing too often --- like daily), I need to do that which I feel especially called to do. Someone else must now join committees, transport people to the hospital, serve on boards and fight fires (not that I ever did this!). I hope the younger people in their communities do feel a responsibility to fill the gaps left by those of us who have less stamina. There was great story recently about high school kids of Sacketts Harbor, NY, who finding a dearth of volunteers for the local ambulance corps, took the training and became the community’s new, and very competent, rescue unit. Good and responsible. Our neighborhoods or villages, with their small churches, volunteer fire and ambulance corps, Granges, Lions’ Clubs and community centers are vital to our national health. Without them, we don’t really know each other which eventually results in not really caring for each other. And we’ve seen far too much of that. Getting to know people --- even those with whom we disagree quite strongly ----reminds us of our mutual humanity. It is hard to hate someone with whom we’ve eaten pancakes at the Masonic Lodge or whose children have played together with ours. Networking is considered a business trend, but personal networking is far more crucial. It’s called keeping in touch! Now, in late January and early February, cabin fever usually sets in. Any time I’m feeling dull or moody because of too much winter, I go to the garden books and catalogs. Would that rose blooming with sunrise colors be right on the new pergola or should we try that crimson and cream honeysuckle? Might we, in our down-sizing decisions, forget about the small veggies like beets and carrots, just getting them at the Farmers’ Market? Maybe we should follow the old Biblical custom of letting the land rest for a year (and us too)? There are many ways to fill winter days with interest, whatever one’s interest might be. What is yours??? I’ll leave this thought with you: “Once upon a time…..there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”*** If we can be glad at least twice a day, simply for life, no matter whether the sky is gray or sunny, and no matter what grief we may be feeling, I think that our days will be less frustrating. And winter might not seem as long! Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net *Linda Hogan ---Television personality and former wife of Hulk Hogan. Known for her TV show, “Hogan Knows Best.” **Tara Shannon – American actress and the creator of “Rabbit and Bear”, a currently popular and relevant cartoon. ***Terry Tempest Williams ---American writer, educator, conservationist and activist. Much of her writing has been influenced by the arid landscape of Utah. She advocates for environmental justice, women’s health and protection of public lands.
  12. It is mid-January and more light is coming through the tunnels of our winter days. The Christmas tree is out beneath the lilac, giving the birds another refuge from the always interested cats and hopeful hawks. The manger scene on the kitchen buffet and all the cool little animals have been carefully wrapped in tissue and packed away for another year. Hopefully, the wonder of this world-changing event more than 2000 years ago, doesn’t also get put away, but remains with us to light our days! The snow babies are back in their bubble wrap leaving the piano top free for family photographs once again. However, the glass snowflakes still hang in the porch windows, giving us some sparkle whenever the sun shines through them. One faceted silver ball remains; when the sun hits this ball, it puts sunny spots on my living room ceiling and makes me smile. And, of course, the “winter lights” running the length of the driveway will continue to brighten the nights until March. We had a lovely holiday season although we regret the absence of the before-COVID opportunities for concerts. Cornell’s Twilight concert was one I have enjoyed in the past. We did catch an S-VE middle-school event that was streamed on Face Book --- a glimpse of our very talented young people who are discovering all the fun and magic of music. After playing several numbers together, I liked the way each group of instruments was featured separately. We also enjoyed, via PBS, the annual New Year’s Day concert from Vienna. The hall in which they play is full of history and elegance; the music and dancing are stellar. Christmas Eve at church turned out to be a very lovely service interwoven with a comedy of errors. We arrived to discover that the church had no heat. Exploration of the furnace room discovered the need for a new motor in one furnace and I guess the other furnace was supporting its co-worker in the shut-down strike. Fortunately, it was a mild winter evening, so the sanctuary wasn’t actually frigid nor were our teeth chattering. No one dozed off, though! About fifteen minutes into the service, the organist’s hands came down on the keys and nothing --- nada --- emerged from the rows and rows of pipes. David and Kerm were going hither and yon again, trying to discover its ailment. However, a service must go on, so carols and a complicated accompaniment for trumpets were skillfully, and from necessity, performed on the electric keyboard, which continued working amid the general strike. Toward the end of the service, with the current restored to the organ it was time for “Silent Night” and candle-lighting. One more small glitch came when the wall lamps wouldn’t go out. Eventually, the right combination of switches was found and darkness surrounded us until our candles, kindled one by one, brought back reassuring light. Our pastor is quick-thinking and lost no time in reminding us that a barn in Bethlehem was probably chilly, that babies are born regardless of circumstances and that Christmas is much larger than anything else that might be happening ---- or not happening. We really had no trouble in finding the service speaking truth to us as it always has, but with a little unexpected humor as seasoning. Things that go wrong often leave us with memorable object-lessons and certainly with good stories for the years ahead. A bit of discomfort wakes us up! There was the year a candle set someone’s hair afire……there was the year a youngster explained exactly how the baby Jesus was born…………the year a small costumed “lamb” stole the show by escaping……..there’s always a story. Our story continues too. Our sons and their families were here for Christmas --- 8 people and 3 dogs. Gifts were lovely and appreciated but even better was the flow of good conversation amid large dogs trying to sit on laps and the dog who was confined to the upstairs whining pitifully. In earlier days, when we spent Christmases with our larger extended families (20 people or more), there used to be board games and card games --- pinochle with Kerm’s family (his Grandma Storm taught us to play triple-deck pinochle and we’ve never recovered.); euchre with mine (mostly my noisy brothers and nephews). I remember one Monopoly game with Kerm’s family that went on for two days --- same game! The flailing canine tails of 2021 would make table games hazardous. We are grateful for the times we had back then and love these slightly smaller celebrations we have now. Our granddaughters --- now nearly adults ---- were able to stay for a few days after Christmas, which was a gift itself. I love seeing how capable they are becoming in their own ways, their sense of style, and their kindness to the world around them. We have had a lot of teens in our homes over the years ----- 4-H groups, church groups ---and just friends. No one likes to be preached to, but if I could share something with teenagers in general, besides the required cookies, it would be to trust the process of becoming. Given time, patience and love, teens will almost always morph into admirable adults. It is rather like a newly-hatched butterfly fanning its wings for a very long time, building strength before attempting to fly. If, for some reason trauma or ill-chosen friends urge them to fly before the wings have developed, they could become impaled on a thorn bush or the prey of a predator. So, taking time is a good thing. I’d like to tell them that there is so much beyond Middle school and High school. Teens are often highly-anxious. Sometimes they are inoculated with this by driven parents, but I think much of it comes naturally. We humans keep comparing ourselves with others and teens are especially prone to doing this. “Fitting in” becomes very important. But we are created to be unique individuals whose special gifts will benefit the world in some way. Trying to be like someone else is to negate the one-time-only human art we should be. I saw this little quip somewhere --- “Be yourself; everyone else is taken!” The best advice ever! This is not to say mentors aren’t good; they surely are. There are people who’ve been in my life and people in my life now, who I admire and from whom I learn valuable things. But each of them is who they are, and I am me. And that is as it should be. In this shiny new year, there are some things I’d really like to do. 1) I’d like to have more days/evenings of conversation and laughter. I’d like for people to stash those hand-held, addictive phones for a while, and have eyes looking into other eyes as we share thoughts, dreams and funny happenings. 2) I’d like to consciously spend more time outside. We live in a beautiful area --- this Finger Lakes region ---- and specifically, I live at the foot of a forested hill full of interesting flora and fauna. Something I read recently which I think is a revised version of what John Wesley’s mother said about prayer ----- “Everyone should spend 20 minutes/day in nature. If a person is really busy, spend an hour.” It is assuredly true of prayer, and I think true of time in nature. I will try to spend more twilights in a lawn chair, listening for a hermit thrush or perhaps sit at the end of Seneca Lake, watching the boats and the ducks. 3) I’d like to finish two rather personal bits of writing I have sitting in folders ---- “Grandma’s Kitchen” (a book of family recipes and stories featuring my mother’s kitchen) and “My Little Book of Theology” (a collection of things that feed my spiritual life). 4) I’d like to consciously shed some of the baggage that seems to accompany me daily and keeps me from relaxing my shoulders - ---or at least that’s what the chiropractor says. That baggage is composed of anxiety, worry and trying to carry the fate of the world (my small part of the world) on those same shoulders. I know I’m not the only one weighted down by this inadvertent and unwholesome load; I think the world might well spin on its way even if we worriers allowed ourselves to be at ease. 5) I want more sitting around campfires and 6) more singing. Both spread happiness. Meanwhile, there are small bits of gladness amid the chilly breezes that are shaking the wind chimes and ruffling feathers on the birds at the feeders. Chickadees, those little creatures of good cheer, are bopping from feeder to lilac, chattering as though at an after-church social hour. The bright crimson of the cardinals adds color to the winter landscape. They are much more dignified than the merry chickadees; they very gravely take a sunflower seed and offer it to their mates ---- sometimes. Good manners -----sometimes! And the ever-present mourning doves clean up the seed on the ground left by the early-rising turkeys. A couple of deer have been coming down at dusk to see what they can find around the feeders and on really cold days, I share some apples with them. I hope you are finding interests both inside and outside your windows this January. As Hal Borland* says, “Now comes the long haul up the cold slope between now and April.” We can at least take time to enjoy the scenery on the way. In our area of gray skies, we rejoice when the sun shines. If you are in a warmer spot this winter, take note of the creatures that the tropics bring you (I envy the friends who have sand hill cranes in their back yard), wiggle your toes in the warm grass and soak in the more frequent sunshine. A good January to you!! Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Hal Borland --- American naturalist, journalist and author. 1900-1978.
  13. Remember that old song (well, depending on your age, some of you may not!) ---- “What are you doin’ New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?”* Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Margaret Whiting and more recently --- Harry Connick Jr. ---- were some of the notables who made this song popular. 2021’s last day is tomorrow and how will you spend the Eve? How have you spent New Year’s Eves in the past? We have had all sorts of “eves” in our lives; parties, watch-night services, quiet evenings at home, and one spent wandering fruitlessly in Ithaca, looking for a place to eat while our kids partied at home; we were trying to give them a little space and ended up dining on ice cream at Purity! I stayed up past midnight at the turn of the century, watching as the year changed around the world. This year we expect our evening will be quiet and maybe restoring. I might exert myself enough to make a yummy drink consisting of vanilla ice cream, milk, eggs and a little B&B Liqueur ---- or perhaps just hot chocolate. We will maybe look back on this year to see what stands out for us and consider what we’d like to do in the year ahead. We will probably read our books-of-the-evening in silence a lot of the time. Appreciation of quiet and peaceful is one blessing that comes with what one of my doctors tactfully calls a “lot of good years”. When 2021 changes into 2022, will we notice any differences? Only humans have made time so arbitrary; for the rest of living creatures, each year morphs into the next with no realization of anything except the seasons. Do you make new year’s resolutions? Are they realistic? I don’t do that anymore although I do have lists for my days. I once had an astute therapist who advised me to STOP making those lists. He was right ---- at the time. I was setting up impossible goals for myself each week. But now ---- those lists keep me functioning. Without them I’d likely forget whose birthday was when, which appointment was coming up and might even forget to bake cookies or tie my shoes. Lists are a life-saver as long as they are taken with a very large grain of salt. But what do you expect from 2022? A year can be one you are glad to see depart, or it can be a miraculous year. Usually it is a matter of our perspective and whether we expect miracles in the midst of challenges. Looking inward and being honest with ourselves can determine much of how our year goes. I look forward to more light in my days. In about two weeks, the increase in daylight will be noticeable. Of course, there is the old saying ---- “As days lengthen, cold strengthens.” I expect, in the next months, we will be getting more chilly temperatures and snow than we really want to experience. When I was a kid, snow was exciting. I remember building snow forts next to the front steps, and snow men, with carrot noses and leering pebble grins facing the road. Our family occasionally had moonlit sledding parties; one of the fields on my brother’s farm sloped perfectly for safe and lengthy sliding. As a teen, we had snow parties and hot chocolate at the local Rod & Gun Club. When a young child, I remember riding in my parents’ car with snow coming at the windshield like the business end of a broom. Now --- knowing the hazards of driving in snow, I’d be highly anxious, but then I felt cozy and safe inside the car. What a difference in perspective there often is between that of a child and that of an adult who has lived a few years in awareness. Keeping a small portion of that child-like curiosity and trust would probably be good for us all. We’d have lowered anxiety and could meet people with less worry about their motives. But back to what I would like --- or what I expect--- from 2022. Spencer Singers has a song called “Winter Is At Hand”** and one of the lines says: “It’s so much more than we deserve or I expect, when winter is at hand…..”. and that’s what I’m thinking about 2022. I’d like to envision/deserve a year of fine weather without tornadoes, without flooding or droughts and without pernicious bugs bent on destroying crops, trees or my roses. But ---- we have not always treated the earth well, nor been deserving of Utopia, so I imagine what we will get is a mixture of lovely weather with all the other less-desirable, seasonal possibilities. I would like to think that my singing voice will recover immediately from two years of non-use and that my energy of a few years ago, will miraculously be restored. But I will be pleased with a large percentage of good days and something on-key and fairly melodic coming out when I open my mouth. I would like to believe that no one I love will experience illness or distress --- that life will run smoothly for them. That is what my father might call a “pipe dream” (referring, I suppose to opium smoking) and he’d laugh. Those I love will probably experience life in all of its facets. So, what I really hope for them is the courage, strength, faith and a sense of humor to meet their challenges. Actually, all of us need those things. Peter, Paul and Mary performed a song entitled “Light One Candle”***. Googling results mentioned it was considered controversial at the time it came out. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why ----- it seems unquestionably acceptable to me. But then, people are always finding things controversial that I think quite appropriate. The song ends with a chorus of “Don’t let the Light go out --- Oh NO --- don’t let the Light go out..!” And that is, I think, our task for 2022; we’ve had some dark days, but we should never forget the lights that have brightened our way and we must radiate out the light we need to move forward. We have a responsibility to shed all the light we are capable of carrying, to light the way for all those who experience darkness. New Year’s Eve fireworks are symbolic of this, I hope. With Christmas and the Solstice just past, I enjoy thinking of the garden sleeping peacefully beneath the snow. It cheers me to know that bulbs are storing up energy to burst out of the ground in April, that even in this chill, owls will soon begin nesting up on our hill and that it is only two months before the sap will be rising in the trees. “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis**** portrays the worst of rulers and situations ---- a queen whose realm had endless winter with no Christmas. It is a good tale --- perhaps an allegory-- ---- but definitely a can’t put-down story for anyone from age 10 through 100. An endless winter with no Christmas is just so descriptive of a life with no hope, no humor, no delight and no birds building nests in January. But be reassured; the book has a good ending. We are emerging into a new year, and there are only three months to go before spring. So ---- rejoice and be glad. In spite of all the old-year dregs that insist upon intruding into the new year, we have fresh new days to live out as well as we can. So ----- Happy New Year and may many blessings shower all over you. *********************************** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net *”What Are You Doing New Year’s?”---Written by Houston Person **”Winter Is At Hand” ----Words from the play Richrd III by William Shakespeare; music by Ruth Morris Gray. ***Light One Candle” by Peter Yarrow, one of the trio Peter, Paul and Mry. ****C.S. Lewis --- British writer and theologian educated at both Oxford and Cambridge universities. “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is book 1 of “The Chronicles of Narnia” series.
  14. “It was a winter evening of transparent clearness, with an innocent young moon above the housetops...”* Isn’t that a great way to begin a story that could go anywhere? It is also a good description of a fine night in mid-December. Early winter evenings can, if we stop to absorb them, fill us with an awareness of how special life is, evening, morning or mid-day. Right now, outside my window a downy woodpecker is enjoying a cake of suet, and just a few yards away, the turkeys are cleaning up the sunflower seeds carelessly shoved off the feeders by blue jays. The chickadees are, as usual, adding movement to the whole picture as they flit from feeder to branch where they crack open a seed. Someone in an inner-city apartment might give much to be seeing these simple country interactions among the creatures. The hanging of the greens (Christmas decorating) has been done at church and here at home too. Traditions are reassuring parts of life. The “children’s tree” at church is its usual flamboyant olio of tinsel ropes and various Sunday school-made ornaments. The rest of the decorating in the sanctuary is less free-spirited and more dignified with evergreen swags and red and white poinsettias. At home, we have managed to have a Christmas tree even though our space for that item is more limited this year. It squeezes in between a desk and a chair, letting a few twigs venture over the chair arm. I find that fewer house decorations please me this year; simplicity is restful somehow. I do miss using all of our ornaments, most of which have stories, but less glitz seems OK. We have a variety of greenery growing on our land, so we are able to bring the aroma and textures of outside, into the house, and that is satisfying. Watching the birds and animals outside reminds me of the stable scenes that many of us cherish. There is one on our church lawn that was built and the figures created by artists in our congregation. Its presence there is a village tradition. The smaller creche we have on our own kitchen buffet was created by Kerm, and is a tradition with us. A few new animals appear each year ---- as is customary in many European creches. In Provence the figures are called santons and are often sculpted by family members. Ours has, in addition to the usual camels, donkeys and cows, two llamas, an elephant (one of the Magi could have ridden an elephant!), a sleeping kitten, a fawn, a goat, a big-horn sheep and a small skunk ---- none sculpted by us. It may be fantasy, but it is good fantasy to imagine the creatures as well as the shepherds and angels gathering at the manger. Christmas has become a widely jovial, spread-the-cheer season, but while many of us are reveling in Christmas joys, it is a kind and caring thing to remember others who find the holiday frenzy an added burden to their already difficult lives. And this should probably include those who are currently trying to exist/survive amid disasters, war and revolution. We need to be aware of those who find the “Ho-Ho-Ho” and canned music grating on their ears as they deal with sadness, depression or are hurting in some way. Instead of urging “C’mon, be merry!” we might just take the time for more kindness and caring; time to simply be a friend who listens and accepts. There is a Japanese proverb that speaks to this: “Be an open bowl and opportunity may drop in.” One never knows what opportunities we might find for healing--- both ourselves and others --- if we are open and alert. Amid the ringing bells and rushing around, the natural world often restores my balance and perspective. In less than a week ---- the Solstice will be upon us -----thankfully! Our shortest hours of daylight will be December 21st and then the light comes dancing back little by little bit. Early civilizations celebrated this event with more awareness and enthusiasm than we do. Perhaps our electric lights have made us feel casual about daylight and dark. With no incandescent or florescent lamps, earlier people felt more of a kinship with the world around them and its rhythms, and were, perhaps, more wary of increasing darkness. Archeological digs have found sophisticated structures designed to mark the solstices and the equinoxes. Either those civilizations were going to take no chances on the capricious gods who might hold them longer in fearful darkness and so celebrated to propitiate them, or they felt a deep gratitude for the returning light and a responsibility to express their thanks. A bit more gratitude and celebration of our blessings, including returning daylight, might not be amiss. Whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yuletide and/or Kwanzaa, they all emphasize spreading Light. This is a reminder that we have access to spiritual resources which, if we choose to believe, reassure us that eventually, “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well,”** Many, many times, in Scripture, we are told to not be afraid; to fear not! And the Gospel of Luke goes so far as to say: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with …. the worries of the world.” Fear is a crippling emotion that leads to unwise behavior including hatred, racism, blind ignorance and a limiting life for those who fear. Fear is so pervasive that it takes an inner spiritual strength to erase it from our lives. Science is a good resource, but if one chooses to operate only on what can be proven scientifically, this reassurance may be null and void. For those individuals, I would ask that they consider this: “We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea ---- and you don’t believe in miracles?” *** Somehow, in spite of ourselves and often amid discouraging circumstances, this multi-cultural, celebratory season of light and good cheer brings the possibility that we can be better people; that we can live with open hearts eager to understand instead of shutting out our fellow humans. We can face the world, out-stretched arms ready to lift up and encourage, and caring hearts filled with a peace that is beyond all understanding. “For though my faith may not be yours and your faith may not be mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks**** As we move toward December 24th, I recall previous Christmas Eves all of which seemed to hold a bit of magic for me. As a child, I accompanied my parents to 11 PM services. Being allowed to stay up that late plus the candles and music transported me to what felt like a wonderland --- even as I struggled to keep my eyes open for the carols and readings. Sometimes in later years, we joined my brother’s family in a house service ---- much earlier in the evening. My brother was a dairy farmer and could never stay awake for too late hours. (Actually, whenever he sat down his eyes closed.) Also, as a child, snow for Christmas seemed absolutely necessary, but now hearing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or "Silent Night" is enough to bring back the magic felt as children, snow or no snow. The world is really full of wondrous things. It is true that there are wars, rumors of wars, and enough hair-raising disasters to keep our anxiety levels high. There is worrisome illness and the loss of people we love. There is stupidity, intentional ignorance, meanness and vice. But there is also the daily rising of the sun, the sparkle of frost on each needle of the fir trees, the song of a cardinal. There are joyously-playing puppies and kittens that turn into comforting pets. There are the immense and wondrous elephants, giraffes and then the tiny shrews and amazing honey-bees. There are hollyhocks, roses, peonies and all the vegetables that keep us fed. And there are “helpers”; thousands of people who go out of their way to encourage, assist, make life better for those in their paths, and also inspire each of us to observe the need in our own paths, and to take action to improve life where we are. My wish for you this season is that no matter what issues may be giving you sadness or discouragement, that you find an inner joy and unquenchable hope for the world in this December of stars, snowflakes and space. And may your Light shine out into a world that needs your gifts and your being your own unique self! And remember (Though this is a bit daunting!) --- “every time any one of us opens our mouth to speak, we are saying ‘Let there be light, or we are adding to the darkness.”****** Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Edith Wharton---American novelist, writer of short stories and designer. 1862-1937. **Julian of Norwich ---- English anchoress of the Middle Ages whose visions and writings have become well-known in our own times. 1342-1416. ***Wisdom for Life & Living Well ---- Ginger Harrington--- writer on Christian spirituality. ****Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks---British Orthodox Rabbi, author, poet, theologian and Peer. 1948-2020. *****Glennon Doyle via a Max Lucado book via Dreisbach UCC newsletter --- Glennon Doyle is an American writer and activist. She is founder and president of “Together Rising” an all-woman organization that supports women and children in crisis. Max Lucado is an American writer and pastor. Dreisbach UCC is located in between Lewisburg, PA and Mifflinburg, PA.
  15. No matter how many Christmases have gone by, or how many gray hairs I have, every year brings this feeling of expectancy, happiness and a bit of mystique when the season of Advent arrives. This is when I pull out our collection of Christmas and Hanukkah stories and try to read one or two/day. It is when I begin playing Christmas CDs alternately with the usual classical and folk music. It’s time for my totally unrealistic “to do” list, designed to create the perfect holiday times. Of course, I don’t do all those things. I’ve grown sufficiently wise that I don’t even expect to accomplish everything. Planning is part of the fun, and we always manage the essential things. (And really, it is amazing how few things are essential.) I am a bit tired of this year’s woeful news commentators moaning about empty shelves; how the toys will be fewer this year because they are sitting on ships out in a California bay, and maybe this will “spoil Christmas.” Now I can sympathize with retailers and their losses, but spoiling Christmas? Have we forgotten what Christmas is all about? Turn off the news. Get out the Scrabble game, or even better --- Twister! Collect some Christmas films or old musicales. Read stories. There is enough good will and wonder about Christmas to provide delight regardless of finding just the “right” toy. Parents need to give experiences along with things ---- to make time for good happenings ----to actually listen to their kids and share stories about growing up. A relaxed attitude---- genuinely feeling that time with family is a good time --- that is what kids will remember. A day of creating a gingerbread house or baking cookies, a taffy-pull, an evening of popcorn and movies, driving around town to see all the decorated houses, setting up a creche and reading Luke, Chapter 2, maybe an in-house contest to see what gifts can be made from whatever can be found, will hold more value than the very latest 1000-piece Lego set or whatever this year’s magnificent digital toy might be. My most memorable Christmas, as a kid, was the year my father built a doll house. It wasn’t a surprise, because we watched it grow. Actually, he built two of them; one for me and one for my niece, my eldest brother’s daughter, who grew up with me. The houses were built of plywood, were two-stories with eight large rooms and a patio. These edifices took up a lot of space; a bit over a foot deep, probably 4 feet in length and 20 inches high. They were nothing like the elaborate plastic models one finds in stores nor were they as beautiful as those a friend built. But they were quite wonderful in their own way. Those simple empty rooms were just waiting for creative play. I painted each room, pasted on “windows”, made rugs, bought or made furniture bit by bit, filling hours with fun. It cost my father something for the wood probably, and took hours of his time, but I expect the cost was tiny when divided by the hours I spent using it. Currently it is in a great-grand-niece’s play room where I hope she will find it as wonderful a toy as I did. Gifts do not have to leave a family in financial chaos; chosen wisely, they can express love, caring, fun ----- and be affordable. Kerm’s grandma always gave boxes of home-made goodies and every one of us eagerly looked forward to those boxes. My mother knitted slippers and mittens, and also hand-painted containers which she then filled with cookies. No one was ever disappointed to see their name on one of these. And to those of us for whom Christmas is an integral part of our faith, gifts are a pleasure, but incidental to our celebration of new birth and beginnings. “Joy To The World” is a gift that fills us with awe, delight and hope for the year ahead. Those stranded ships full of toys may create an inconvenience, but Christmas will be Christmas regardless. I think that perhaps we all have mistaken expectations not only for Christmas. ----but for ourselves---- much of the time! In our rush to acquire everything on our universal life-list of wants, we often amass possessions to the point where we really don’t have space or time for them. And we do the same with Christmas ---- scheduling activities until the holiday season flies by in a blur and we end up exhausted and wondering how we missed the magic. We need to plan for space and silence; we will never hear the angel bells of legend amid our rushing and tintinnabulation. We will miss the depth of the Christmas story --- or the Hanukkah story ----- unless we give ourselves time to think about what it means to have a Savior of the world born in a barn (so alien to our worldly values) ---- or a lamp whose oil kept burning for days after it should have run out (so impossible!) ----- or the fact that these stories have impacted so many lives for centuries. Thinking about the simple and yet miraculous things in this world will bring more joy than all the glitz in the shops and malls. And this is also true for life in general. Speaking of a lack, many people have chosen, in the past few years, to not send Christmas/Hanukkah/holiday cards. This is quite understandable. There is an immense amount of time involved in writing notes and addressing them and there is the rising cost of postage. But so far, I’ve not been able to let go of this annual connection. We began making our own cards, I think, in 1966. I drew a design, and friends silk-screened them for us. That became a bit overwhelming all around, so then we began running off our own; first on a mimeograph, then silk-screened on our own frame, and now we use a copy machine for the design of the year, and our rather lengthy letter. As I address each envelope, I think of and am glad for the friends to whom that card is going. We are not known for being timely with our holiday greetings. We do get a few out before Christmas, but most are sent later. We try to have them in the mail by “Little Christmas” --- Epiphany, January 6th, but sometimes they run a bit after that. Being late gives us opportunity to respond to the letters we do get. I miss hearing from people who have decided to no longer send cards, but ---- it is quite possible that one of these years, our thoughts from afar will have to suffice in lieu of actual cards and letters. Now that we are past Thanksgiving, our pumpkins have gone the annual route to the bird feeders. The multi-colored fruits of the vine have been such a joy on our porch. However, over the months of December and January, turkeys and deer will consider them an additional, yummy side dish to the sunflower seeds they come to eat. In place of pumpkins, snowmen of various sorts, will take over our porch along with an evergreen wreath and some window candles. We have a small problem inside this year. Having added another chair to the living room for the benefit of my back, we have eliminated the corner where the Christmas tree usually sat. So, we are looking at a --- gasp ---- small tree!! This would truly be a change for us and will take some getting-used-to. We had a table tree once before ---- our very first Christmas together. We lived in an efficiency apartment outside of D.C., so our very – at the time --- expensive little tree sat on a dresser. How we will now select only a few ornaments from our stash, for a small tree, will surely be a problem. Our tree trimmings have accumulated over the years, and always bring back good memories. There are the colorful little angels --- a gift from a niece. There are the fragile “Shiny Brite” glass globes that decorated my childhood trees. There’s the gleaming brass Noah’s Ark, given by a friend and a whole collection of crocheted and sparkling snowflakes. I will just have to dream up new ways to use these things if I run out of tree space; seeing them makes me happy! I expect we will cope; we’ve always managed to be flexible with our holidays, as has often been quite necessary. There was the year we set out for a family gathering, ran into a blizzard, and spent Christmas night with strangers who welcomed us (2 adults, 2 children and a dog) into their home when our car ran off the road north of Trumansburg. Another year, a certain toddler (who shall remain nameless) awoke at 3 AM, wandered downstairs and busily began opening everyone’s Christmas gifts. Another year, one of our little ones developed tonsillitis on Christmas Eve as we were driving from Pennsylvania to grandparents in NYS --- necessitating a trip to the ER and antibiotics. And now, with the years, family structure has changed; we are the elders. Our sons are grown with their own families, and flexibility is what keeps us all happily celebrating ----- whenever and wherever we can. More than the outward trappings, we are hoping to enjoy this season with serenity and awareness of the wonders around us. We hope this is also true for you. There will always be changes and sometimes even grief. But Christmas is larger than our very human concerns; it will, if we allow ourselves to be open, fill us will a deep sense of gratitude for our lives and all of the amazing bits and pieces of the world. So let us add thankfulness and awareness to that “To Do” list. And in this early December, let us prepare our hearts for a time of mystery, expectancy and closeness to Creation. Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer NY. You can contact her by email at: carol42wilde@htva.net.
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