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Carol Bossard

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Carol Bossard last won the day on February 25

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  1. Three essays on May might well be overkill, fine month that it is, were it not for Memorial Day, the day of remembrance and celebration, just past, but still current. There are enough reasons to extend the celebration for several days; parades, the annual PBS Memorial Day programming, family picnics and visiting family graves. There is the traditional switch to white shoes and clothing if anyone bothers to follow such customs nowadays. And since Memorial Day brings thoughts about family, about war and peace, and about heroes,there is much to consider. One of my favorite personal memories of Memorial Day would be the parade in Victor. I was in the high school band. Not a marching band; a concert band, but we marched in the local parades. Our uniforms were a bright blue wool with gold metallic trim, blue hats with visors and white sneakers (polished, of course). Since I played the flute, and outdoor weather isn’t great for flutes, I often played the bell lyre for outdoor events. That is a heavy instrument held by a strap over the shoulders and around the waist. It adds considerable weight to the marching; good exercise, I’m sure. Sometimes, I played the piccolo, especially if we were doing Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and that was not only lighter in weight, but more fun; all those little runs up and down the “Stars and Stripes.” The down-side of all this parading was that by the end of May, the weather was/is quite warm, and our wooly uniforms held in the heat. One or two band members per parade, fainted. Not I, having experienced heat in the hay field, I was generally OK. And the show must go on; it was a community event where we felt good about participating. Another memory, oddly pleasant, were cemetery walks with my mother. There were many of her family members in the Holly/Murray, NY area (since 1827), and so there were quite a few graves. We took flowers (sometimes even planted flowers) and walked around the pleasant, shaded grounds, reading tombstones. She introduced me to my forebearers, annually. There was Abner Dusett, my great-grandfather, who was a carrot farmer and his wife, Jennie Mae Allen Dusett, my grandmother Ada Weatherwax Dusett, Aunt Lovina, and many others. Sadly, there were also youngsters who succumbed to childhood diseases. I felt quite akin to all these people after a few strolls through the cemetery. Besides recalling family members gone on, Memorial Day is also a day for remembering our larger history. I regard war as a foolish waste of human and monetary resources as well as a barbaric way to settle differences, get revenge, or satisfy greed. It creates trauma for those fighting on either “side” and for those in the path of harm; “collateral damage” they call it. And yet, even with all these negatives, Memorial Day gives me a feeling of gratitude and even pride in the courage and sense of duty that pulls men and women into defense of their country. In the worst of times, we still manage to emerge intact as a nation, ready to pick up the pieces of who we are, and able to look ahead once more. I have, tucked away in a chest, a Civil War hat from an ancestor who served in that terrible war of brother vs. brother. My father served in WWI until he was sent home with pneumonia --- there being no antibiotics as the time to combat the disease. Two of my brothers served in WWII, one in the Army and one in the Marines, while my third brother was considered essential for keeping the farm going. He was also too young to enlist. In my opinion, they were all too young, but they felt that duty called! Regrettably, I never spoke of this with my mother, perhaps one needs growing sons to empathize, but I cannot imagine the amount of stress that she bore, knowing two sons were in harm’s way for months at a time. As I said, the “glory” of war is a matter of perspective. My brother-in-law served during the Korean conflict. Highschool and college friends served in Viet Nam. Some never returned. Those who did were sadder and wiser, or sometimes, more in despair. One young man I knew took his own life after seeing the atrocities of that war. The sons of friends suffered, both physically and emotionally, from their service in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. No one escapes war without scars,inside as well as out. I recently saw a quotation: “All those who go to war give their lives; some all at once and some over many years.” Some beautiful stories of heroism, of compassion and of personal growth often emerge from war experiences. Humans can develop wisdom in almost any situation if they so choose. But wouldn’t it be fine if combatting the power-hungry, the greedy and those with no compassion or wisdom were not a part of that growth? Meanwhile, reality tells us that the world is as it is ---- a complicated mixture of good and bad, of upheaval and change, of dread and delight. It is for us to find paths that lead to building rather than tearing down. And generally, being unable to change others, we must, to make a difference, change ourselves and our careless, often self-centered thinking. This weekend we turned the calendar page to June. June --- a month for graduates, for brides and grooms, for making hay and for contemplating the wonderful summer ahead. Parents begin wondering what to do with their kids for the summer months. If the kids live on a farm, this is no problem. Haying, combining, county fairs fill the days and often, summer is too short. Summer camps are on the agenda for some. Summer programs in the arts or sciences are available if one is near a college town. Whatever the choices or lack thereof, I believe that parents may give more attention to parenting when school lets out. Speaking of parenting, should it require a license? Of course not, but deciding to have children should certainly inspire more thought than most couples give it. There are people who simply should not have children. Too many young marrieds produce children because “it’s the thing to do,” and then discover that they really don’t have the inner resources for that very hard job of bringing up a child to adult-hood. It takes a wise person to realize that motherhood/fatherhood is not in the best interest of either themselves or a child. Of course, that situation can often change as life changes; what doesn’t work well at age twenty might be fine at age thirty-five. It is good to remember, though, and to remind young people, that adorable babies turn into obnoxious nine-year-olds, and challenging teens. And, one’s life is entwined with a child’s life forever, which can be wonderful, or debilitating, depending on the circumstances. Kerm and I gave parenting as little thought as most young couples. We were fortunate, though, in that when one of us wasn’t doing well as a parent, the other one generally was. Toddlers weren’t my most joyous age, but Kerm played trucks and trains and blocks on the floor with them, often supervised their splashy baths and corralled them when they crawled beneath the pews at church. When they were teenagers and Kerm vanished into some adolescent-free corner of the house, I was able to find humor in their often-clueless and certainly loud, behavior. And I enjoyed listening to their developing reasoning. There were, of course, times when both of us failed to be as aware or as available as we should have been; we made some grave errors and in looking backward, would surely make some different choices. But mostly, we enjoyed being parents and now, we find ourselves rejoicing at the very likeable and accomplished people our sons (and most of their friends) have become. My suggestion to parents of today is to enjoy your kids --- even on the days when you’d like to ship them off to the polar regions. Childhood passes quickly, and suddenly, they are children no more, and for a while, the house rather echoes with emptiness. As I glance back over May, I think it has been a good month, a month of growth, of music, moments of grief for a friend who has passed on, and days of fragrance (lilacs and lilies of the valley) and beauty as the world here grows green. We can close out the month with a visual version of “Taps”: “May is done…”; giving us days to take an honest look at our history, what love of country means, and how important are our families. No matter what today and tomorrow bring, our lives are wrapped intricately with those generations long gone (genetic history), with our parents who did the best they could, and with our close and immediate family. In reviewing our nation’s history, we can be aware of the many times our country has endured crises ---and has recovered. It is the same with families. We have disappointments, crises occur, but we bounce back and continue on together. And now, we look ahead to the summer month of June. We can hope that we get just enough rain for gardens and crops, that wars diminish and that legislators suddenly overflow with common sense and civility. But even if these things do not happen, June still comes with its days of sunshine, blue skies, festivals, weddings, roses and growing grass. And “….together we walk onward …..beyond our vision….. into the unknown….whether the path may be steep or narrow ….wide or straight…….in sunshine or rain….it matters now because we are secure…..and moving toward greater wisdom blending in the glory of life…..and the promise of tomorrow.”* Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. From “Together We Walk” by Peter S. Seymour---- American author.
  2. What lush, thoroughly-enjoyable days we are in. Who wouldn’t like May? Birds are everywhere; scarlet cardinals are flying through purple lilacs and the colors don’t clash at all! Dogwood blossoms make white clouds against the dark spruce trees. In the musical, Camelot, they sing: “Tra la, it’s May! The lusty month of May! The lovely month when ev’ryone goes blissfully a-stray…..”* I’m not sure about the astray part, but it is surely easy to feel blissful right now. The month’s name came from Maia, the Greek goddess who oversaw the growth of plants. The Romans celebrated “Floralia”, a five-day festival to honor the goddess, Flora – the Roman equivalent. For some Native Americans, May is the month of the Full Flower Moon. On the western Christian church’s liturgical calendar, the Easter season is ending with Pentecost, this year, on May 19th. The cinnamon ferns in my shade garden have unrolled like so many green, leafy scrolls. They are now high enough to hide the path created by the “family” skunk, who has a burrow over that way, and who comes out at night to dig in the lawn for grubs. They are so tall that I can no longer see the bird feeders from my chair in the dining room. This is too bad, because the rose-breasted grosbeaks, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers are constant visitors. Baby raccoons will be out of the nest very soon, raiding the cat food. Bluejays have also added cat food to their daily diet; I think it may be a game with them, birds vs. cat! The world is full of life in technicolor, both flora and fauna. May is another way to define a new word I found (I like interesting words) ---" Yugen” ---- a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe that triggers a deep emotional response”.** This response seemed to be true, world-wide, when so many people watched the eclipse. I feel it when there is the dark tracery of trees and shrubs on a moon-lit lawn or in a quiet, lavender twilight when birds’ soft cheeping morphs day into night or when everything sparkles at sunrise and the sky is streaked with rose and gold. The beauty of the universe is so vivid in May. Our pastor gave us an assignment one Sunday for the next Sunday to “find Sabbath” somewhere other than church. It was a fairly easy assignment for me, but not, apparently, for everyone. To feel the reverence and rest of Sabbath while in the garden, or on the lake shore or under a blooming tree is just natural. I do appreciate stained glass and beautiful organ preludes, but I can find awe and delight in all the wonders of what is around me. I can find love and delight in being with family and friends. The world surely has gaping wounds and is filled with grief and destruction in many places. But we can still be bathed in the natural wonders; gifts to those of us living on this earth --- so many beautiful places and ----the opportunity to be with incredible people. Nature’s gifts lead me to consider human gifts. One of the things we recently tossed around in our Friday AM women’s study was how everyone has intrinsic gifts but are not always realized by those who have them. Helping others recognize their gifts is an affirming part of loving/caring. Some gifts/ talents are quite visible; those individuals who pour out music, those who dance as lightly as thistledown, those who bring roles to life on stage, who turn oils, acrylics, and water colors into pictures that speak to the heart, those who take a flat piece of fabric and turn it into clothing, quilts or collage, gardeners who “paint” the landscape with flowers and foliage, people who bring life to wood, stone and metal via sculpture, furniture, and carvings those who draw us into stories until we feel we’ve lived there. So many beautiful things come from our gifts/talents. There are also wonderful, but less evident, gifts. Attentive listening is a precious gift when we need someone’s ear. We don’t necessarily want anyone to “fix” our problems as much as a quiet acceptance, and the feeling that someone hears us; that we are not alone in our feelings. Then there are those individuals who teach in a way that makes learning exciting ---- often helping us with inner growth as well. There is the gift of hospitality; people who always make me feel that they are glad I am with them. There are the comforting huggers, leaving a trail of affirmation in their wake. I am not, by upbringing, a very “huggy” person, but I almost always appreciate a hug from someone who thinks I need one. Another rare gift would be in people who notice small things, and express their gratitude or appreciation. We may not work for rewards, but it does the heart good when someone notices. Going out of one’s way to do something feels better with “Good Job” encouragement along the path. Gifts can be huge visible ones or small quiet ones, but we all have them, and should share them and our appreciation of others’ gifts extravagantly. We might not consider events as gifts, but celebrations, good times of many kinds, are gifts that give us breaks in our routines. May begins a train of celebratory events. Since we live only one-half hour from Ithaca and Elmira, we are very aware of college graduations. Ithaca College graduation is this weekend, and Cornell’s ceremonies are on Memorial Day weekend. We appreciate these events from afar; we try to avoid driving where there is an influx of parents, along with students packing up to go home. This brings me to another subject, which is sort of about wasting gifts. Students tend to leave heaps and piles of perfectly usable stuff behind to be picked up by garbage trucks and deposited in a landfill. This lack of concern about waste bothers me. I think kids should be taught to take good care of their possessions. Feeling “entitled” to everything one wants is not the way to become a responsible adult. It is no gift to a child to be the parents who do not speak to this lack of gratitude and care. There is a happy ending to this messy and profligate exodus. The surrounding community is very aware of this annual “leaving behind,” habitual behavior so the “gleaners” come to the rescue. Potential waste has become, instead, an exercise in re-using and re-purposing. Wasting gifts of any kind, material items or those things of the spirit just shouldn’t happen. In Camelot, because it is May, they obviously believed in letting the good times roll. Here, in addition to the graduations, there are oodles of possibilities for going “astray”, or at least getting out and about. There are parks with waterfalls, lakes and rivers, several garden centers, Farmer’s Markets, The Wind Mill, the Finger Lakes Ice Cream Trail and a plethora of yard sales -- all fun things to give us a break from the very daily lives we tend to live. Check your community’s offerings and be a part of them. Living vibrantly at all ages is using our personal gifts well. And planned recreation for ourselves is as important as planned maintenance for our equipment or functioning factories. We all grew up with the idea that working hard is a virtue, which it certainly is, to a point. Working to achieve goals is a good thing, but learning to contemplate and take reasonable rest is an excellent thing too. Moderation has never been a popular concept in the U.S.; our general population, historically and currently, has tended to bounce rapidly from one extreme to another, and we’ve glorified that “work for the night is coming” hymn. Corporations have made people think they must work 24/7 if they wish to be considered loyal, ambitious employees. There are entities who, even knowing it is illegal, expect their employees work overtime without compensation. And we do it to ourselves; push-push-push until we are exhausted. If we have been raised to believe how much we accomplish in a day measures our value, then having fun may seem frivolous and self-indulgent. Not so!! Taking breaks is a healthy, as well as a creative way to live. We need to re-learn and believe that we are enough just as we are. Personal growth and delight in the world around us are valid parts of living, as well as whatever it is that furnishes our bread, butter, and shoes. Perhaps that was our lesson from our unusual Sabbath. We may not need to go blissfully astray to celebrate the month of May, but maybe we could indulge in just a bit of wandering. Taking time to really see the world blossoming and growing green, actually hear the singing of birds, create a picnic in the park, instead of dinner at home, do something different and fun! Spending just a little time in our own personal Camelot adds elan and value to our lives. “In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot for happy ever aftering than here, in Camelot!”* Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Camelot ---Created for the stage in 1960, produced as a movie in 1967. The story/legend of King Arthur’s court and the brief, wonderful time of Camelot. Written by Adam Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. **definition of “Yugen” found on Pinterest from “Singing Grasses.”
  3. One day post-May Day. May Day or “Carrying little bouquets of flowers to the neighbors Day," which no one does anymore. I’ve written before about making little paper baskets, filling them with early flowers and hanging them on a neighbor’s door knob. It is such fun at age 7 or 8, to be sneaky and kind at the same time. The Victor-area didn’t always have a large variety of flowers in bloom on May 1st, so we had to make do with daffodils, grape hyacinths and dandelions. Our closest neighbor was an older couple with grown children, so they were always glad to see other children, and they kindly pretended they didn’t notice me leaving the basket and running the quarter-mile back home again. There are dandelions and violets dotting our lawn now, and soon there’ll be lilies of the valley. If the weather is especially warm, perhaps early peonies around Memorial Day. The gold finches began changing color in April and now we have a whole flock of little yellow birds. When they all fly up at once, they resemble a cloud of butterflies. In May the northeast becomes “Emerald City Green”. Perhaps that is why an emerald is the gem of the month for May ---- everything is greener and more glowing. One might expect to see Dorothy marching along on the yellow brick road, with the scarecrow, tin man and lion. There is also the fresh smell of garden soil being turned over, and lawns being mowed. The general directive for our region is not to plant anything tender until after Memorial Day, but, eager gardeners that we are, we sometimes can’t resist planting earlier. Quite soon, farmers will begin chopping hay. When that aroma drifts into one’s nostrils, it immediately lightens perspective on the day. Forget all those artificial sprays, just figure out how to bottle the scent of freshly-cut alfalfa and clover. April and May equals Prom Season, as a friend of mine who sews professionally, knows well. She is inundated with orders for sequined, beaded, satin and tulle creations. It has been 64 years since my last prom, but I remember several of them well. In our school, there was a Senior Ball in December and the Junior Prom in April or May. But all classes went to all dances, so they were high school events. Unlike today’s sophisticated hotel venues, the classes responsible decorated the school gym, in whatever theme they chose. One I remember was “Enchanted Island.” Today, insurance companies would shudder to see high school students perched on ladders, hanging streamers. The proms featured live bands, refreshments, and often there were after-prom parties at someone’s home. There were no limos either; only tired, but cooperative parents to provide transportation until our dates were old enough to drive. Life may have been simpler then, but a prom is a prom, and there is always enough excitement and glamor make them special. I understand that currently, friends attend proms in groups instead of needing a date. I think that this is good, for it includes everyone and doesn’t push kids into social situations they’d rather avoid. So not all cultural changes are bad! Mothers’ Day is just over a week away. This was an occasion for celebration a long time, before it became an “official” day in 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. Father’s Day is fast-approaching, too, in mid-June. These are two days in which we can take a closer-than-usual look at our parents, our heritage, and who we are because of both. Parents and offspring have times when they are at odds, and consider each an annoyance. It is part of parenting and growing up! But those of us whose parents have passed on, often think wistfully of how we’d like to sit down with them again, asking questions and getting stories. Louis L’Amour* wrote this: You never think of your parents as much more than parents. It isn’t until you are 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 like until it is too late….” My father died in his early 70s. Since he was 47 when I was born, I barely had time to relate to him as another adult. Our children were very small and I was focused on them. My mother lived to be 94, so there was more opportunity, although I’m not sure that I took advantage of that time as well as I might have done. Kerm’s father also died too early, but his mother lived into her 90s. And we did get to spend more time with her when she stayed with us for a bit. Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day should give us nudges to contemplate who our parents really are/were, to be conscious of accumulating stories and memories, keeping them alive. It seems to be a truism that each generation tends to feel a little superior to the generation just past. Horse and buggy days sound impossible to us now. It seems incredible that when a young man went west, in the 1800s, he would probably never see or hear of his family again. Letters were slow, expensive and other forms of communication were non-existent. Now, it is technology changing our options so rapidly that many older people feel inept. For those who’ve used technology since babyhood, confusion about it seems absurd. Gaps in understanding continue. But regardless of perceptions, each generation does build on the last generation. And there is much to learn on both sides. More listening and less judgement would be wise. If we are watching, and listening around that second weekend in May, we will also likely see and hear humming birds and rose-breasted grosbeaks. I’m also hoping for an indigo bunting. We haven’t seen one now in several years, and I’m not sure what might attract them back. Maybe no cat?? I always cut oranges and put out grape jelly for orioles too. They do come, but only to rest for a few days, slurp up the jelly, drink the orange juice and leave our avian spa for other,to them,more attractive nesting spots. This is also the season when our less-than-welcome bears can be found drinking out of the humming bird feeder, gobbling the grape jelly, and pulling down bird feeders wherever they go. Bears are foragers, but we humans can be that also. In the interest of exercise and fun, now is the time to be foraging for wild foods. Back when I had energy and was enthusiastic about Euell Gibbons, who lived not far from us in Pennsylvania, I explored this culinary option. His books, “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”, “Stalking the Wild Herbs”, etc. were such fun. My experiments had mixed results; some pretty good and some quite horrible, as our sons will remind me and anyone else who cares to listen. But the foraging was fun and the harvesting added some texture and different flavors to our daily food. Tiny, hard day lily buds can be prepared like green beans, very young dandelion leaves add multiple vitamins to a salad and violets can be candied for cake decorations, made into jam or tossed fresh into salads. Food-foraging is healthy; gets one out into fresh air and there’s exercise as a bonus. Along with foraging for possible salad greens, weeds in general are growing apace in my gardens! There is a T-shirt that reads: “Surgeon General’s Warning: Gardening can be dirty, addictive and may lead to OWD --- Obsessive Weeding Disorder!” Unlike my husband and my brothers, all of whom are/were farmers at heart, there aren’t very many plants that I consider absolute weeds. Most can be used in some way; as food, applied medicinally or arranged in bouquets. Some, like Joe Pye Weed and jewelweed, while spreading too rapidly, do add beauty to the garden and food for butterflies and hummingbirds. Another person says: “The weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.”** There are some, however, that give me so much grief, that their usefulness is small potatoes compared to their annoying qualities: dock, poke (or Devil’s Walking Stick), cleavers, gout weed and quack grass. Except for cleavers, they are all deep-rooted and can grow from a tiny fragment of root left behind. Gout weed, in particular, reaches out and grows horizontally as well as vertically, and may take over the world. And cleavers is a prickly plant that grows into mats over night! Whatever you are doing,foraging, dancing, celebrating or weeding, May is the perfect time to turn off the news and get outside; to take joy in the wonderful world around us. This old English bit of poetry expresses it well: “’Tis merry in greenwood – thus runs the old lay ---In the gladsome month of lively May, when the wild birds’ song on stem and spray invites to forest bower……….dull is the heart that loves not then the deep recess of the wildwood glen, where the roe and red-deer find sheltering den, when the sun is in his power.”*** Carol weites from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Louis L’Amour –Quotation is from “Tucker”. Louis L’Amour is an American writer, best known for his westerns, but also the author of several historic fiction novels, short stories of WWII and non-fiction. 1908 – 1988. **Doug Larson from “Wisdom of the Crones.” Doug Larson, columnist for Green Bay Press Gazette. Noted for his clever one-liners. 1926-2017 ***Sir Walter Scott ---Scottish poet and historian. 1771 – 1832.
  4. It was odd... this winter, just past, of 2023 and 2024. And, spring seems reluctant to stand firm. Winter keeps making dashes back with a little graupel here and a snowflake there, as if to make up for its earlier lethargy. We are usually safe from deep snow by mid-April, but one never knows. Early in March, warm weather brought out the snowdrops and winter aconite. Potted Easter flowers have gotten me through to now, when my daffodils and hyacinths are beginning to open and bring more life to outside. Change can often be a charged topic. People generally applaud winter changing to spring, and, in gardens, brown becoming green. A baby has a whole new attitude when his/her diaper is changed. Finding pocket change (coins) is always fun. A changing of the guard is a relief for whomever has been on duty for hours. A change of clothes and shoes to PJs and slippers defines relaxation. But when it comes to our habits, perceptions, comfort levels, or thinking, we would prefer to make no changes. Over Easter weekend, one of our family conversations discussed how we humans resist changes in our perception of what we can do and be. One of our sons left home in Vermont, about 9 PM, to drive to Spencer, getting him here around 1:30 AM. To quote him (the timeless answer to moms and wives): “I’ll be fine! I’ve done it for years!” His wife, who was already at our house, and I, were discussing the difficulty people (men especially) have in even contemplating the idea that they cannot do everything they have always done forever. But, even as we laughed a lot, and worried a bit, I admitted that I, myself, do not take kindly to seeing my capabilities diminished. Who wants to adjust the vision of one’s self from a coping, can-do person to a fragile being with limited possibilities? Life, however, frequently disregards our wishes and forces us to get real. Reality compels me to confess that I can no longer dance all night. My doctor had the nerve to ask if I ever could!! I assured him that not only could I, but I had more than once. Now, unfortunately, I can’t do a polka without stopping half-way through to breathe and settle my spinning head.I’d probably never make it through a set of 3 square dances, though maybe, with steady practice, say, a square dance/weekend!! 😊 When sciatica hit two weeks before Easter Sunday, rather intense pain meandered from my lower back, down through my left hip to my ankle, and didn’t go away. I was just a little cranky about the bad timing, and abandoning my usual holiday preparations. I ended up baking no cookies, no Swedish tea rings, and we dined out for our family Easter dinner. While the bakery cinnamon buns from Owego, and pastries from Vermont, were very tasty ---- and dinner at the Parkview in Owego quite satisfactory ---- I was not happy at the necessity. It wasn’t what we did, but the change in what I could do that I wanted to resist. But ---- as one of the Star Trek (the Borg, I think) lines went: “Resistance is futile!” At least when it comes to change! Hindsight proves that life is constantly changing. And changes generally bring discomfort, even angst, until they become routine. In our seven changes of residence, I only welcomed two of them. And even then, while I was happy about the one move itself, I hated leaving friends behind. I grumbled when my family home was sold out of the family and had a similar reaction when the houses of my siblings met the same fate. In my work life, when there was an opportunity to take more responsibility in the agency where I’d been for twelve years, I took forever and a day to decide; I was very comfortable in my position, so why change? And there were our offspring! Except for the rare occasions when I was tempted to send them to Outer Mongolia, I mostly enjoyed being an at-home mother, so when our children grew into adults, as children tend to do, (our granddaughters have also done this!), I missed those fun years with tweens, and teens. Even with my grumbling, though, I admit that with nearly every change, there has been a gift, something good that would have been impossible without the change. Our ancestral homes were purchased by people who respect tradition and have restored them well. My time as a director of an agency kept us safe from a director we might not have enjoyed, and taught me quite a lot that I have since found valuable. Our sons have grown to be amazing people and have married good and talented women. Our granddaughters are on their way to becoming equally amazing people. A plethora of gifts, all intertwined with change! I am having trouble recognizing any gifts in health changes (for myself or others), but I have been assured that such gifts will be found. My fading vision is frustrating; I finally gave up trying to sew after several abysmal attempts. Actually, I awarded myself an imaginary gold star just last week, when I neither screamed, gnashed my teeth, nor did I throw the machine across the room, all of which I was tempted to do. To be unable to even do an alteration is challenging, so my irritation level was (actually, still is) quite high. But I keep remembering my mother, who dealt with some of the same issues, and only said that she had more time to listen when she couldn’t be doing. The change most difficult for us all, I expect, is the death of someone for whom we care and on whom we rely. Two days after Easter, we learned that one of our dearest friends had passed on; a friend who had been part of our lives for over 50 years. Because we have reached our 80s, we must expect to lose people, but that makes the grief and emptiness no less traumatic and lasting. If I did not believe that human life here on earth is but one stage of living, I would probably be in despair, for this change I do not like. Bill was something of a “Renaissance Man;” interested and educated in a wide variety of things, and a wise mentor. Having been a history teacher, his perception of the world was based on understanding of what had gone before; on cause and effect. He was an outdoors person who enjoyed hiking the hills, watching birds and promoting good conservation practices, and he loved to garden. Becoming an ordained pastor gave him an opportunity to create a safe place for people who came to him with questions and concerns about life itself. He was a fine musician, and skillful with pen and ink; one of his sketches is on our living room wall. He helped us develop our theology and our families had many good times together. He and Connie participated, with us, in Faith At Work and Marriage Encounter both of which deepened our understanding of ourselves and each other. No one wishes to lose a friend who claims so much affection and respect. But the gift therein, has been the many years we’ve enjoyed what Bill offered. We have immense gratitude for all we have found good in this friendship and the impact he had on our family even as we regret his physical absence. As is probably universally true, the death of someone close, brings a thought or two of one’s own mortality; certainly, one of those changes we seldom wish to contemplate at length. I think I might be miffed (can one be miffed in the next stage of life?) if no one missed me. I would hope that the gift accompanying my death might also be whatever good impact I had on the lives around me; that some individuals might be grateful that I’d been there and that others would forgive me for the times I missed the mark. I would hope that our times together would leave stories and laughter, forming a golden thread of good memories, reminding those I love of who I was, and who I will go on being! Change is universal and unavoidable, though we humans may dig in our heels and attempt to ignore the necessity, and continue pining for “back when.” Unless one takes up residence in a glass ball of protected atmosphere, change will always be in every part of our lives; the seasons, the weather, our growth and understanding, choices and what makes up our cultures (no matter how me may disapprove!). Currently, we are on the cusp of change from mud season to blossom time. The amusing woodchuck I watched last summer has waddled out from beneath the woodshed, and is once again happily munching sunflower seeds. I don’t know its gender; I’m hoping that there aren’t babies back in the den. Spring flowers are about to burst into bloom. The change from brown to green, from dormant to alive and growing is, for me, a most welcome change. And this is a change upon which we can rely. So far, we can be sure spring will come every year and these lines by Rudyard Kipling seem both humorous and reassuring: “Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God, who made him sees that half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees. So, when your work is finished you can wash your hands and pray for the glory of the garden, that it may never pass away.” * Proving that some things never do change after all! **** Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net *from The Glory of the Garden by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was a British poet and writer, born in India. Two of his most famous books for kids are: The Jungle Book and Just So Stories.
  5. Easter parades are over; a total solar eclipse before us. Birds are returning. I heard, in late February, that a friend had seen two bears, locally, and another friend mentioned the return of her bluebirds. The bluebirds were a welcome sign, but we hoped the bears would stay away until May. However, one or two have already come by, briefly, and so we will soon be moving the big seed cans into our storage shed. This means some inconvenience for me --- up our hilly lawn and around to the back of the out-building. But the exercise is probably a good thing and certainly better than allowing an ursine sunflower seed orgy on our sidewalk. Hopefully, those early bluebirds will find enough buggy food to satisfy their spring optimism. Do you know what a vernal pool is? In the woods on our farm, there were little pools that held water only for the spring season. By mid-summer they had dried up. But for a little while, they glimmered and rippled like tiny lakes, surrounded by mossy stones, and inhabited,just briefly, by tiny frogs, darting water insects and,maybe,possibly, wood faeries. They reflected carpets of violets and starry bloodroot blossoms. And on a nearby slope, in slightly drier terrain, there was a hillside of white trilliums. These 3-lobed trumpets must line the path leading to Heaven, they are so beautiful. In a slightly different terrain,the sandy soil in my brother’s woods (only 3 miles away) we used to find creeping arbutus, a delicate pink flower with a lovely fragrance. Vernal pools, opening wild flowers and a variety of mosses, all greening my little portion of earth. As lawns lose their winter brown, and the trees show the beginnings of leaves, it is good to just get outside. Andy Morris,* a regional poet, says this about the spring of the year in an aging world: “Kneeling down to feel the fresh green grass, I found, lying just beneath it, white as bone, a ghost of grass from a summer past, long since mown I held in my hand like so much paper, or even less than that, a milky vapor. And I thought of how age gives way to youth. And how truth is but the mulch for further truth. And I thought of how my life is but ashes, little more than a fading blade of grass. But when I looked again upon the scene, and remembered what I felt when at first, I knelt, and took the time to celebrate the green.” Celebrating the small bits of new life brightens my day. The seasons of fall and winter, and realization of aging may dim our spirits briefly, but we are restored by the whole, panoramic view of increasing “green”. “Green” is now what we all try to be in an attempt to be environmentally wise. We try to use products that do not pollute land, sea or air. Traditionally, spring cleaning has its own season. This endeavor, in the 1800s and early 1900s, involved rug-beating, scrubbing brushes, pails and pails of water, sometimes lye and white wash (and no latex gloves!). It was a labor-intensive series of tasks that truly was an actual “season”. Little House on the Prairie books give a couple of vivid house-cleaning scenarios. For them, it involved taking the old straw out of mattresses and replacing it with new straw, dragging the rugs outside to be beaten, and washing (with home-made soap) anything washable in the house. My only memory of anything resembling this, was when the inside of our dairy barn was swept down, hosed down and whitewashed, in the spring, after the cows had been let out to pasture. Today, vacuum cleaners, rug-shampooers, Swiffers and a whole array of cleaning products make house-cleaning all year ‘round a much easier process (though often quite polluting), and there is little need anymore, to tear up the entire residence. I think home-makers today may well wish to lift a glass of whatever to the new robotic cleaners, power washers and wipeable paints that make life so much easier --- and, if we are alert, safer too. As I thought about the tradition of spring cleaning, I was also reminded of other traditions with which I grew up. Sitting around a table for daily meals or for tea time is one custom that seems to be dwindling. TV trays, frozen dinners, and conflicting schedules have made meals less of a gathering-together event and more of a fast-food way of survival. We may be feeding our bodies, but are doing less in the way of nourishing our souls and connecting ourselves with family and friends. We did fairly well with sitting at table while our boys were home and in school but then college and summer jobs saw us sitting together less and less often. Now, Kerm and I do eat together but while watching the nightly news. Talk about inviting indigestion!! I have good memories of sitting around several tables. When we went home to visit, our first activity, after dropping our suitcases near the stairs,was to sit around my mother’s kitchen table for a cup of tea and molasses cookies. The table was placed before a large window with a bird feeder attached to the sill, looking out on a flower garden and a pond. So, there were plenty of beautiful things to watch and to encourage conversation. It was like taking a deep breath and relaxing for the allotted time of our visit. Then, at my brother’s house, the front door opened straight into the dining room. We shed shoes, and claimed a chair around the large dining table. We had cups of our favorite tea accompanied by considerable conversation and laughter as the stories flowed with who was doing what. There was a merry tale of a salad that was the “last straw” for Bob (not one for creative or odd foods) when he found a plastic curtain ring therein. There was the time I requested a wonderful potato soup recipe --- discovering that it was originally mine, but totally forgotten. Other family members often dropped in. As we talked, hands were busily doing bead work, blankets were being knitted, and one patient person was creating a needlepoint pillow cover. Coming home and being around a table was a mini-vacation from daily reality and created a sense of forever belonging. When we visited at Kerm’s home it was much the same feeling. I have old photographs of family sitting around the table at holiday time. The round table, pulled out, with leaves added, was laden with good food and filled the small dining room. Smiling faces indicated that we were in good company. Besides meals at that table, there were also riotous times of playing Monopoly or triple-deck pinochle, instigated by Kerm’s grandmother. Then the kitchen table was where we had delectable pancakes for breakfast and where we caught up with Kerm’s mother and what was going on in her life and the neighborhood. What we prideful, independent humans do not always realize is how much we need each other. Some of us mingle more reluctantly than others; we are introverts who find our peace in solitude and quiet. But even introverts need the company of others for healthy living. Good company, that is. I used to give my sister grief about not participating; about staying by herself (with a good book, of course) so much. In recent years, I’ve found myself behaving in a similar way. Given a choice, I’d usually rather stay home and read than go out and socialize, unless the people are near and dear. But when I do make the effort, I have felt completed and renewed by participating. Especially do I find this fellowship and encouragement in our small groups whether they be pinochle nights, Bible study or Spencer Singers. Small groups create a space where we feel safe and affirmed. So many people boast that they don’t need other people. But, of course, we all do. Every single one of us! Families, whether blood relatives or those we’ve built from friends, keep us connected to people who care about us and keep our ability to love, polished. There are two quotations that speak to the value of companionship. “Life is full of opportunities for learning love….the world is not a playground but a schoolroom. Life is not a holiday but an education. And the one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love.** And, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed…….three are even better for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”*** We need good people in our lives for support, for mirrors, and for inspiration. In April, besides finding companionship with people who make life better, the usual spring work is waiting to be done. As the buds on the lilacs and trees swell, so do the numbers of tasks on the “to-do” lists. We’ve had some rainy days this week, the upside of which is giving us a brief respite from the outside jobs. It is good to cross off some of the inside tasks ---- like taking down the glass snowflakes still decorating my porch and picture window, and sorting the immense pile of catalogs, letters and notes to myself. Whether inside or out, may your April bring you just enough showers to refresh, and may you rejoice in every bit of sunshine that comes your way. Be sure you notice the increasing, wonderful greening all around even as you carefully, with special glasses, watch the solar eclipse. Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Andy Morris ---from “Quiet Moments; Lessons In Life And Love” **Henry Drummond ---Scottish evangelist, biologist, and writer. 1851-1887. ***Ecclesiastes 4: 9 and 12b.
  6. “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; When it is summer in the light and winter in the shade….” Charles Dickens TA-Da!!! It is just past the Vernal Equinox and in my part of the world, Spring is here -- on the calendar as well as in reality! Spring, in Zones 4 and 5 can be quite liberally seasoned with big snowflakes, and chilly March winds, as has happened this week. We have, in some years, even experienced a blizzard in mid-April and wet snow flurries in May. But there is always the surety that these slight discomforts will not linger very long; spring, with its many moods, is here. Snowdrops and winter aconite have been in bloom for two weeks now, and the crocuses are an amazing patch of purple by the front steps. Day Lily leaves are 4-6 inches above the ground. While we were gone last weekend, a bear came through and pulled a bird feeder apart. He must have been a fast-moving young bear, because he apparently didn’t remember where the bird seed cans were, and didn’t do any other damage. It is no wonder, with such mild weather, that bears have awakened and are traveling earlier than usual ---- and are hungry!! Who doesn’t know the familiar old song “Easter Parade”: “In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade””? There are no parades around here, but we are a week away from Easter bonnets and spring clothes, which, depending on temperatures and precipitation, may not be just the thing to wear. Easter’s date is determined by the lunar calendar, not our monthly one, and it is quite early this year. Fortunately, Easter bunnies are like the U.S. postal system’s “neither rain, sleet nor snow will keep them from their tasks” motto; rabbits don’t mind a fresh snowfall or brisk winds, and come hopping by (candy-filled baskets in paws,?) as scheduled. Garden flowers, however, can be iffy. Daffodils usually recover from a spring snow. But tulips are less hardy and often sulkily wilt, just to exhibit their resentment. There will be pots and pots of flowers for Easter Sunday’s service, so that no matter what the skies are doing outside, the sanctuary will be full of fragrance and color, and a few sneezes from those sensitive to lilies and hyacinths. The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, is called, by many, Holy Week. In our community, for the past six weeks, there have been Lenten services on Wednesdays. This week, in addition, there is, a Maundy Thursday service, and three options for Good Friday. Then, early on Easter morn, there will be a sunrise service at an old Finnish church up in the hills, where the winds blow and mornings are a bit chilly due to altitude. Later, there are the usual Easter Day services in all the churches and then, perhaps, family dinners. It is a very “church-y” week for those who go. This quotation may not speak of Lent in a totally traditional way, but I would suggest it is one to consider, whether or not church is part of your life: “In case no one has told you lately, this is a reminder that you belong here. There is a you-shaped spot in the world that can only be filled by you. Don’t worry about why. Just know that it is there and it’s yours.” ** When we start thinking about this and what it means, we may find ourselves dwelling in our own 40 days of wilderness. And that time can be holy! It is nearly time for the snowbirds to return north, those humans who prefer to not use their shovels and plows, but who sit out winter where it is a gentler climate than NYS tends to be. Some come home for Easter, some wait until every possibility of snow is past (mid-May) and some meander about the country a bit; traveling before alighting. One couple I know plans to take a cruise to Amsterdam before heading back north. I hope it is tulip season there. I have never been a seasoned/enthusiastic traveler, though we have covered a bit of ground over the years. I find that I am even less open to traveling now, in my later years. Some of that is due to increased traffic and abysmally careless/stupid drivers on interstates, not to mention the hassles of flying. But much of it is that I really appreciate being at home with my just-fits-me chair, my own bed and my cup of good tea in the morning. I like greeting the same cardinals, blue jays and finches coming to the feeder., I like filling the cat’s water bowl, accompanied by his meows of what happened during the night (“just look at my dish; skunk footprints all around it!”). And I hate missing events in our own community. But, staying at home all the time can lead to being stuck-in-a-rut, and closed-minded, so a nice mix is probably good. Travel tends to banish prejudice and change perspective, as we actually meet and find common ground with people outside our usual sphere. We did just get back from a short trip to Vermont. One of our sons lives there, with his family, and it had been a while since we visited their home. Both the trip to Vermont and the trip home fell on nice days. We had clear roads and could enjoy the lovely scenery. During our time in Vermont, there was one day and night of snow. Depending on the altitude, the snow ranged from an inch to five or more. It turned the mountains into frosty snow-globes. Since we didn’t need to go anywhere in particular, we just enjoyed watching the snowfall while we were warm and cozy inside. Before the snow, we journeyed over “Terrible Mountain” to one of our favorite places – the Weston Priory. This is a Benedictine facility, and one of their ministries is choral and instrumental music. They also carve beautiful wooden crosses, throw pottery, and make wall hangings. We acquired a few more of their CDs (Yes, we still use CDs) and a couple of books by authors I enjoy. While we were in Weston, we also stopped by the Weston Country Store, and the more well-known Vermont Country Store, which is based there. After the snow, we went to Rutland, where we found some fine and fun shops, including a used-book store that took our breath away. So traveling, this time, made a very nice break from our daily routine here in Spencer, and it was a pleasure to spend some good times with family. Traveling anywhere else, though, must be put on hold for a bit, for the gardens already need our attention. This year, we are putting some beds into buckwheat, which will fertilize the soil and give it a rest from producing tomatoes and other crops. The rail fence needs a new post with which to hold the dropped rails, some shrubs and trees desperately need pruning, stone blocks around our vegetable garden beds need re-stacking due to winter heaving and,of course, there are the emerging weeds. And we probably should take down our “winter lights” that line the driveway and go across the front of our lawn. Usually, we have more of a breather in March. But with the unusually mild weather, chickweed is already growing profusely amid the flowers, undeterred by frosty nights. I know that chickweed can be used medicinally, but right now, I just want to give the little clumps of snowdrops, the buttery-yellow blossoms of winter aconite, room to breathe. So, when I can summon the determination to ignore my reluctant bones, I’ll be attacking those little green mats of flora, and removing them to the compost pile. This is such an exuberant, expectant time of the year. Green is emerging everywhere. Birds are singing in the morning. Peepers are making an increasingly loud clamor in the swamps across the road and in the stream behind the church. When the sky manages to be blue instead of Finger Lakes gray, it is the color of morning glories. Spring is a box of pastels, a sense of awakening and hope of the blossoms to come. And, according to Hal Borland***, an American naturalist, “March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice.” Whatever these last days of March bring, I wish you a blessed Palm Sunday, a Joyous Easter, an inspiring spring and pleasure in each day. As one song says, “Every morning is Easter morning from now on….”!**** Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer. *Quotation is from Great Expectations. Charles Dickens was a British novelist and critic. Some of his characters are the best-known in the world. 1812-1870. **Sweatpants & Coffee LLC ***Hal Borland – American naturalist, writer, journalist from Connecticut. 1900-1978. ****Words and music by Donald Marsh & Richard Avery.
  7. Does anyone remember, back in your childhood, the tale of “Chicken Little”, who panicked from what he experienced in his limited little world, and ran to tell everyone that the sky was falling? Of course, the sky remained right where it was supposed to be. Today, something similar happens regularly; on the evening news, on our phones, on Facebook, in conversations. The tone of the message from all channels and media, is that the sky is falling again and again. We hear opinions and projections, often without context, and we panic. However, have you also noticed that spring keeps coming and the sky hasn’t yet fallen? When I was a kid, at the first sign of spring, I’d be checking to see if there were tadpoles in my little vernal pool, past the orchard and down the lane. March 7th might be a bit early, so probably I’d find only rippling water. But sometimes, there would be pollywogs! hat was Victor (Agricultural Zone 5). Spencer is also listed as Zone 5 but here, it is actually closer to being Zone 4. Still, the stirrings of spring are evident, in the fresh air and in one’s sensing of the atmosphere around. Spring is on its way north, a few miles at a time. “Springing forward” is the cry for the weekend just ahead of us. We move to Daylight Savings Time! To be honest, I do not enjoy losing that Sunday AM hour of sleep; I already have a hard enough task making it to church on time. I can relate to the song from My Fair Lady: “Oh get me to the church….. get me to the church… just get me to the church on time,” as I try to get a cup of tea before we go. Personally, more light at the end of the day is worth the temporary pain and the possibility of dozing in my pew. Others, though, reasonably prefer light at the beginning of the day, when they are out and about – walking or running. This annoying-to-some disruption of our culturally- accepted clock-time was first suggested by George Hudson, a New Zealander, in 1916. Germany and Austria-Hungary began using it immediately. Canada also adopted it during WWI. It was accepted in some areas of the United States, but became more popular during the energy crisis of the 1970s. I appreciate that it gives me more time outside in the garden, but can be confusing. Not all states use DST. It would be a sensible move to decide for the entire nation, for all year --- Standard time or Daylight savings time. But consider that kind of bill landing in Congress! They can’t agree on whether or not the sun should shine, much less the time of day! Time is something of a puzzle. We say “time flies!” and I find that to be true more often, as I get older. But my granddaughters also say that time moves fast for them. When I was their age, I think perhaps I was in a time warp filled with endless possibilities, sometimes moving at a waltz tempo, and sometimes the faster pace of a polka. Time was adventure! Well --- except maybe when I had to help cull chickens or retrieve our herd of Guernsey cows from a nearby swamp! Time rather dragged then! However, with near-hourly advances in technology and our fill-every-day-to-the-brim life-styles, years zip by now at a frightening pace for all ages. Of course, time can drag still; during a root canal, in a class with a boring prof, the middle of the night when the clock says 2:30,in a hospital bed or nursing home. How fast or how slow an hour goes depends on our thinking. Perspective has much to do with the movement of hands on the clock. People frequently yearn for different eras; times, “back in the day;” times, when we felt that all was well. If we know our history, this sense of well-being was mostly because we were oblivious or uninformed. People of my generation wish for a return to the 1950s, when “I like Ike!” was the slogan, and “One nation under God” was added to Pledge of Allegiance. It wasn’t that those years were wonderful for all the world; in truth, there was even less justice for all then, than here is now. It is just that we had no clue that people were starving, were maltreated, were being eliminated with ethnic cleansing. Our ignorance was bliss ---- for us. Perpetual bliss, however, isn’t our assignment in this life; appreciating and building a better world, is. There is a down-side to growing knowledge. That, along with the increased speed of our lives, can create an information overload ---- which results in fear. The world seems to be threatening on all sides; culturally, physically and spiritually. Of course, there is more than one kind of fear. Some people enjoy the shuddering, tingling fear that comes with watching horror movies and reading Stephen King books; easy come, easy go --- like ghost stories at Halloween or tales around a campfire. Realistic fear can be good; it protects us from walking down dark alleys in bad sections of town or putting our hand into a fire. But there is deeper fear: Fear of those who are too different, Fear of what people will think, Fear of what consequences might come along with change, Fear of living fully. I found, in a young adult book, this quotation: “Almost all the evil in the world stems from fear.”* Perhaps this is why the Bible tell us, so many times; “Do not fear!” “Be not afraid!” And yet, we ignore angels, and fear plagues us still. We fear for our children, we fear illness, we fear old age. It is scary to not know the road ahead ---AND scary to carry the burden of immediate knowledge of world news. We constantly teeter on the edge of wanting to know and of covering our ears and eyes to avoid knowing. Our fear makes us forget the wonderful and good things around and about us. It is like the adage: “We can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or we can rejoice that thorn bushes have roses. Do you regularly listen to those who amplify scary things? Do you like the shuddery feeling, or does it make hating seem reasonable? Those who desire power over others, consider fear an advantage. “In times of uncertainty, fear is the unifying force. Fear binds people together in a way that cannot be achieved by any other means. Those who would convert people need fear……and fear is something that will drive everyone back to the paths of darkness.”** Remember the Salem witch trials, the Inquisition, the cycles of immigration fears when the Irish, the Italians, the Germans, the Japanese came to our shores ---- and today’s immigration problems? There are many people who fear anything out of their own experience; ready to jump on the band wagon of anyone who dislikes what they dislike, and who promises to bring back the comforts and standards of “back then.” We are being blackmailed with our own fears; fears that will chain us emotionally and spiritually as surely as handcuffs and leg irons would do physically. From experience, I know that fear makes us lose our perspective; we can no longer afford compassion and our discernment is badly skewed. I remember, as a small child, being in bed and “hearing noises outside”. Most children at some time fear monsters beneath the bed or who knows what outside. My parents would reassure me with “Oh it is just the animals in the barn, moving around.” I was not reassured!! I remained afraid. Our granddaughters, when little, heard us talking about the raccoons stealing cat food and bird seed in the night. That night, one of them fussed and cried --- and finally said: “I’m afraid that the raccoons will come.” So, we turned on an outside light, and went to the window. Sure enough, a raccoon (just one!) had come and was happily chowing down sunflower seeds. Our granddaughter said: “Oh , he’s really cute!” Many of our fears --- very real to us --- can be blown away like a mist, if we are brave enough to look at them head-on. We humans have such a short time here on earth. We need to ask ourselves, “do we really want to spend it in fear and trembling?” It is time now (slow-dance time at this point in my life) to notice the wonders that come with spring. Connection with growing things nurtures our inner peace. The greening grass --- first in the swamps and then on our lawns and the subtle aroma, even if the air is chilly, of awakening soil. Birds are singing more often. I have already seen a red-winged blackbirds at the feeder, and a friend has blueibrds. Little points of daffodils have emerged and the snowdrops and crocuses are in bloom. John Muir*** had a piece of advice for all seasons and all times. If one substitutes “hills” for “mountains”, it fits where, I live. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into the trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like leaves in autumn.” The natural world has a way of dramatically changing a mood of fear or despair to a reassured, positive one. And it costs nothing. Appreciating and enjoying the world around us brings its own blessings. Opening our hearts to all the newness of spring will remind us that our fears come and go, but spring will keep right on coming, every year, about this time. Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net *Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery **Dancing With Demons by Peter Tremayne ***John Muir—Scottish-born American writer, naturalist and advocate for national forests and parks. 1838-1914.
  8. Due to that recent warm spell, my enthusiastic little crocus bulbs are putting forth green shoots. And this week, we have another warm day or two to encourage them. Has anyone seen skunk cabbage peeking out of swamps yet? My former drive to work took me through swampy areas, so I always noticed those green-y/ purple-y, pointed, smelly leaves. You wouldn’t want them in a bouquet, but they are a visible sign of spring. Spring, on the calendar, is about a month away. But Easter is early this year (we are now in the season of Lent, which, appropriately, began February 14th) and, to me, that means spring, regardless of the calendar. I’m in the mood for pollywogs, daffodils and Easter bonnets. Back in the dark ages of elementary school, we celebrated Washington’s birthday today. Now-a-days, our first president must share the party with Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, on a mutual President’s Day, this past Monday. I think George and Abe would probably enjoy a Lady Baltimore cake and pudding while having considerable conversation about our foolishly complex lives today. I expect that after leading the nation through a revolutionary war, and a civil war, our life-styles could seem a bit laughable, and even potentially hazardous. February is a busy month for our family; several birthdays keep us hustling for appropriate cards and/or gifts. I don’t really mind; I have more of a problem when birthdays aren’t celebrated. I think un-noticed birthdays are a neglect of one’s personhood; ignoring what intricate and amazing creatures we are. “Oh --- it’s just another day to me.” Nonsense! We need to celebrate and be glad for our existence. All this angst about age, “never ask a woman her age,” is silly. Seemingly, in the last few decades, males have become just as anxious about aging as females. Thanks to a glitzy corporate culture and addiction to media stars, hair dye and skin products sell well for both genders. We vain humans succumb easily to promises guaranteeing we will look younger and nearly wrinkle-free, and the dollars roll in to the persuasive retailers. I wonder when we became a society that worships youth thinks being young is the only time that life is good. The place to be, and stay, forever? Admittedly, younger years have some advantages: agility of limbs, fresh-looking skin, boundless energy... all physical pluses. But regardless of our misplaced adoration of it, youth isn’t the ultimate stage in good living. Maturing has its upside. One centenarian, when asked about the benefits of aging, replied, with a smile: “There is very little peer pressure!” That’s amusing, but there is so much more to anticipate! Having worked for 20 years with a county Agency on Aging, I observed a wide scope of behaviors and attitudes among people age 60 and older. Very few tried to deny age or remain forever young, and there were some cool, talented, articulate people among our clients. There was one woman though, and I remember her because no one else was quite this ditsy and foolish. She was a nice enough person, but insisted on trying to be 40 years younger than she was. She regularly dyed her hair an unusual pinky-blonde, wore make- up that no longer went with her skin, and dressed in frilly, girly clothes. Her youthfulness was all on the surface like a mask, and unfortunately, she hadn’t developed much in the way of inner resources beneath that mask. She married again late in life, and sadly, when her husband became an invalid, she helplessly wrung her hands and said: “I didn’t count on this!” and promptly separated from him. She had little substance, no depth, and from what I could see, very little joy in life. She clung so tightly to her imagined “best time of life” that growing older brought neither wisdom nor happiness. Aging gives us an opportunity to develop in understanding and complexity. While I appreciate all of the good times I had in my growing-up years, I would never wish to be eighteen again. I am not the same person I was at 18 or 25, or even 45. If we use our brains, in every passing year we grow in confidence about who we are. Those of us who reach our 8th and 9th decades, feel free to be as Boho, as eccentric, as unusual as seems good to us. What people may think of us is no longer a major concern. We can develop our unique sense of fun, our spiritual lives and perception of the world around us as far as our souls take us. After all, we have observed the world turning several times, and ----if we have used our common sense ----- we know what is important and what isn’t. Naturally, we want to maintain our physical bodies as well as is possible. I wish I had taken better care of mine earlier! All that gardening, with no sun screen, did my pale, Scottish skin no favors. While I wouldn’t put my face under the knife of a face-lift, I do have my own little cache of moisturizers and lotions. I am also notoriously inept with my hair. One hair professional, who I knew well, said: “please don’t mess with your hair! You’ll just botch the job!” Fortunately, my parents both grayed late in life and the inherited genes have been kind. Some people pay well for added silver highlights. So, I worry none at all about increasing silver, and don’t moan a lot about a facial crease here and there. I do miss wearing sparkly, high-heeled shoes, but because I wish to walk, I’m glad to find (SIGH) inch-high heeled shoes that support my uncooperative ankles and don’t look too therapeutic. Obviously, more than a dollop of vanity lingers, and probably will for all of us, as long as we live. We should be asking ourselves why the outer shell of a person should seem so much more worthy than the inner core? Why is it that we judge a person by how svelte their bodies, glamorous their hair or smooth their skin? Or how chic their clothes? What about a beautiful brain? And a light spirit? A wonderful sense of humor? A stock of information and/or wisdom? Someone said: “When any older person dies, we’ve lost an important piece of history.” This is so true. The stories vanish!! There are one or two people in our community who are older than we are, and I love listening to their tales of growing up. And I am assured about our own offspring who, having their own stories of pranks and difficulties, but continue to exhibit the integrity, the humor and the caring for community that was a hallmark of those older friends, in their stories. Back to birthdays; the day is surely worth at least a special cookie, if not a four-layer cake and a brass band. Some years ago, for or my husband’s 50th birthday, we put together a jazz band, with the help of a few musical friends. Kerm had said so often that he wanted a New Orleans jazz band for his funeral, that we thought it’d be a good gift for his 50th birthday. And it was!! But even if you must celebrate without a brass band, doing something special is not a waste of time. Dance around the room (carefully!!). Take a few moments to be glad you are you. Carl Jung *said: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are!” Have a special treat --- chocolates, ice cream, tea, lemonade, a brandy Alexander ---- whatever makes you smile. You are unique ---- you have blessed the world for however many years and you deserve to take note. A birthday is an excellent time to run your memory film backward --- to recall all the good times; the special, growing occasions you’ve experienced; how you have become who you are. Birthdays or not, we still have some winter weather. Someone recently said: “Winter is definitely a ‘Wonderland’. I wonder if I’ll slip on the snow! I wonder how many inches we’ll get. I wonder if the car will start. I wonder where I left my gloves.” I’m quite careful as I wander around our snowy yard, not wishing to fall flat. But even as I shuffle through powdery snow and avoid muddy spots, to fill the bird feeders, I am energized by the negative ions filling that cold air. Chill breezes are the winter version of a summer water fall, and those ions are good for us; good for our brains and good for our spirits. There are days, of course, when those negative ions aren’t sufficiently luring. I really don’t want to get out and face the weather. Nor do I have the energy for deep-knee bends to ready my legs for gardening. Late in the day, all that chopping for salad sounds like too much. But I come from relatively stubborn people, so I keep assuring myself that this feeling will pass. If I can just push through, I will feel better and more able to cope. But sometimes we do need a respite. There is this whimsical, little Self-Help that someone posted on FB: How to stop time: Kiss How to travel in time: Read How to escape time: Music How to feel time: Write How to release time: Breathe** In other words, stop and refuel! Little interludes restore one’s zing. For this last bit of winter, remember this little ditty by Robert Frost***: “The way a crow shook down on me the dust of snow from a hemlock tree. Has given my heart a change of mood, and saved some part of the day I had rued.” Perception, changing one’s mood, is part of life. Yoyoing from birthdays to bad days to better days is how we roll. CarolBossard writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Carl Jung ---World-famous Swiss psychologist. Also a prolific writer, illustrator and correspondent. 1875-1961. **from Inspiration Power Bost. ***Robert Frost ---- Widely loved New England poet. 1874-1963.
  9. February is sort of a transition month. We may still get snow, sleet, and freezing rain but, there is some snow melt, and daylight becomes darkness, later and later. Somewhere out in the snowy woods, high up in a tree, a mama owl is sitting on eggs, warming them with her fluffy self. And squirrels, having found mates, are aggressively defending their territories. Hal Borland*, renowned naturalist, said: “In February, snow will actually melt in very cold weather; evaporating without going through the water stage, and is absorbed by the dry air passing over it. I’ve seen a snow drift shrink six inches in four days, without the temperature getting above 30 degrees. ……the sun is warmer, the day is longer, nights are shorter.” No wonder our skin suffers in winter; dry air = dry skin. Lather on the moisturizers! Today would be my sister’s birthday were she still with us. Betty (Elizabeth Selenda) was 12 years older than I, and we had three older brothers. She took me to school at least once that I remember --- sort of a senior high show and tell, baby sat me a few times on the rare occasions my parents were away ----- and I babysat her first child when I was in my early teens. We were sort of like ships passing in the night while I was in college, seeing each other mostly on holidays; she was busy with family and later, after college, I was occupied in the same way. We also lived hours apart. But in our later years, saw each other more often and found much to share. She was fond of gardening, bird-watching, and reading. She was also fascinated by the big locks on the St. Lawrence River and collected Cape Cod light house replicas. She and Ray, my brother-in-law, had four fine sons, losing one baby in between. And she gallantly put up with motorcycles, big shoes, and more people in and out of her house than she might have preferred. We were different in many ways----- but quite similar in others ---- and I miss her. I always think of Betty when I see this poem by William Butler Yeats**, the Irish poet: I will arise and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there of clay and wattles made, none bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, and live alone in the bee-loud glade. ….I will arise a go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore…...” She would have liked the peace and simplicity. We are less than a week away from Valentine’s Day. Some call this a Hallmark Holiday since it creates considerable income for retailers selling greeting cards, lingerie, chocolates, and flowers. Perhaps you remember, as a kid, making valentines --- and the valentine box at school? Our big table, when the boys were small, was covered with tiny red paper cuttings, glue, glitter and those small, humorous valentines that came in a package of 25.; a rather messy collage of creativity. I loved it! I still have a small stash of red construction paper, lacy doilies, and appropriate verses, in case, some fine February, I am taken over by a valentine-making mood. And of course, we always try to stock up on those little candy hearts with the terse sayings. The day, itself, is named after a pastor and physician. Valentine, was a Christian Bishop of Rome, when Rome was focused on conquering much of the world. He fell afoul of Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. Claudius was fighting wars and needed soldiers --- preferably young men with no romantic attachments to distract them from warlike duties. So, there was a ban on marriages for people of a certain age. Bishop Valentine, in direct disobedience of the no-marriage edict, continued to marry hundreds of young couples. His defiant behavior came to Claudius’s attention, and Valentine was thrown into prison where he was beaten and finally beheaded on February 14th, 270 AD, thus becoming a Christian martyr. While he was in prison, he sent notes to his friends, signing them “Te Amo ---, Your Valentine”. So, we mix history and romance (and a bit of Latin with English) and get our Valentine’s Day. The world today surely needs more love -----all kinds of love –-- romantic (eros) -- the love of friends (Phileo), without whom, life would be savorless, and selfless love (Agape), which emits grace and appreciation/care for all ----- lacking which, our world has become a mess! Lack of respect/ compassion, and far too much apathy, greed, and actual evil are all reasons our world seems to be falling apart quite regularly. Another, possibly more fixable reason, could be lack of communication. People don’t listen well even when the conversation is agreeable; we are busy framing replies in our minds instead of hearing what is being said. We frequently fail to “hear” (or even contemplate) viewpoints that differ greatly from our own and --- in addition --- we are often inept at sharing our own opinions in a way that doesn’t put others down. A few years ago, a local foundation sponsored a seminar in listening skills. It was excellent three hours; learning how to clearly speak our thoughts, and how to immerse ourselves in another person’s thinking. This does not mean that in our new understanding, we agreed. But we were able to grasp what someone else saying, and often, why. We also discovered, in this process, that expressing intense feelings without being patronizing or insulting takes thoughtfulness and finesse. Tolstoy said: “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself!”* If you or I feel very strongly about something, we may find that 1) discussion is uncomfortably threatening to that inner belief and 2) attempts to be understanding may fly out the window if someone disagrees with what we feel is a universal given. Surely if a concept is set in stone for me, it should be for everyone! Tolstoy is right about how we humans think, but perhaps, if understanding is our purpose, we could remember this thought from Henry Drummond**: “Life is full of opportunities for learning love…...The world is not a playground; it is a school room. Life is not a holiday but an education. And the one eternal lesson for all of us is how better we can love.” And no one said the lessons would be easy! (It would probably also be useful to not bristle like a porcupine, metaphorically covering our ears going: La -La La- La! I can’t hear you!”) Loving February can be almost as hard as hugging a porcupine. Most of us are unhappy when Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter; we are ready for SPSRING! There may be fewer days in February (Yes, even in Leap Year), but it seems like a too-long month. If there is a thaw and mild breezes (as this week), I cut forsythia branches, forcing them into early bloom inside. Forsythia tries to take over the world, so pruning it is a good deed. If one has access, a mixed bouquet of forsythia and pussy willows is lovely, but our pussy willow trees, unpruned by their lethargic owners, have grown far beyond our reach. Later in the spring, the fuzzy little gray nubbins will flare against the sky about 25 feet up. So, my early bouquet will feature only forsythia. There was a pussy willow tree on my brother’s farm, grown sturdy and tall, between a stone smoke house and a shed used as a play house. His children and I would climb that many-branched tree, sitting up amid the branches, viewing our “kingdom” o’er. At my home, I had two trees for my personal scaling. One was the cherry tree that met the roof outside my west bedroom window; perfect for up and down. Our cat thought so too; he would climb up to my window and meow to be let in. The other was an ironwood tree growing in a hedgerow in our back pasture. It had a horizontal limb, creating a seat, about five feet up, among the leaves. (And it was nicely far enough away from the house, that I couldn’t hear if anyone called.) Every child ought to have at least one tree to climb; a sylvan sanctuary! A few years ago, the larch trees in our front yard were at the right height for our granddaughters. Now they have shed lower branches, as larches do, so climbing them wouldn’t be safe but the girls have probably mostly out-grown the desire anyway. Jungle gyms may be good on a playground, but there’s nothing like an actual tree for pure, tactile satisfaction. February is still winter, but that vase of golden forsythia will remind us that spring isn’t far off. My seed and plant orders will be in this week ---- early for me. Last year I missed some plants I really wanted because I was so late in ordering, so this year, I have pushed myself to order 2 months earlier. I also am trying to restrain my overly-optimistic view of what I can do in the garden. SIGH! Plant catalogs are SO convincing and so tempting with their marvelous photographs. My imagination immediately envisions beds of roses backed by clouds of delphinium, rows of peonies, and lilies. We are supposed to be cutting back, so, expanding my gardens is not acceptable. However ------ fine-tuning what we have is surely a good idea ----- right? I remember (and repeat to my husband and children) this truism: “Gardening is cheaper than therapy ---- and you get tomatoes!” Whatever the weather outside your window, try to have a little love for February. Right now, at this very moment, it is all we have. Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Leo Tolstoy – Russian novelist; considered one of the greatest classic writers. 1828-1910 **Henry Drummond ---Scottish writer, lecturer and evangelist. 1851-1897.
  10. A few snow squalls, some bitter wind gusts, and there goes January! The mild weather throughout December and some of January has discouraged the long winter naps for our resident skunk and possum. They’ve been out and about, thieving at bird feeders and the cat’s dish. The birds haven’t been quite as ravenous as when the snows come fast and deep, though the cold of last week sent them often to the suet. The deer have been down from the hill, but not in multiples; I think only one or two. The squirrels have been bouncing off feeders and trees like dizzy acrobats; it is mating season for them; apparently, showing off is part of the process. We have not seen even one turkey. Usually, by this time, we have two or three groups of them, coming off the hill to browse around the feeders, but I haven’t seen a turkey since mid-summer. I’m not sure whether to blame coyotes or the turkeys’ wandering spirits. It could also be the lack of berries and nuts due to that late frost last spring. Maybe they went south? Does that make them snowbirds? We miss them but out bird seed lasts longer. Winter months are designated, by some people of wisdom, as a restoration time; an opportunity to replenish energies and clarify hopes and dreams. Of course, much of the world races on as usual; trying to forge ahead on in-the-hurry journeys, with no change in habits to accommodate winter. I have found it less and less attractive to slog through snow drifts or even venture out on the roads when they have gunk on them, so I’m leaning more toward the restoration idea. It is rather pleasant to simply sit inside by the fire and look out at the liberally frosted branches and twigs after a large snowfall. If I have an appointment, I pick up the phone and say: “Sorry, but there’s snow!” Naturally, when things are shoveled and plowed, we get out into the world again. But that brief time of feeling snowed-in, is restoring in its own way. I recently saw a post on FB that had kids of all ages, and then adults too, singing “Sing A Song” from the Muppets. One viewer said, “Now I can’t get this out of my head!” It’s not a bad thing to have stuck in one’s head. Instead of moping over world news, instead of grasping for power and fame, instead of snarling at foolish behavior, we could be humming along with “Sing, sing a song --- sing out loud, sing it long --- sing of good things, not bad, sing of happy, not sad…...” Our Friday AM group is looking at what is called, by many, the Beatitudes, a section that makes clear how our behavior depends on our attitudes. Singing always improves mine! I spoke recently with a dear friend who lives some distance away, and who is care-giver for her husband. They are a little older than we and a bit less mobile. She said it was rather comforting to be less active in the world, and more attuned to the small things around her; the snow coming down, a good neighbor’s visit, contemplating life (from the perspective of someone who has “seen these things before”) as seen on TV, and knows that ill tidings will, eventually, pass. She can pray for people and for serenity without being distracted by too much busy-ness. There are seasons in our lives as well as seasons in the calendar year. This friend and her husband have what I consider super-stellar attitudes toward getting older in this life. Right now, I find less time for participation in “multiple activities”, and maybe more time for puttering. One definition of “puttering” is “the act of doing dozens of little chores that no one knows need to be done, that no one wants to do, and no one notices have been done.” * So, puttering brings no E -for Effort, or blue ribbons for achievement. And yet, it is quite satisfying in its own way and occasionally, I spend a day doing just that. If I clean out three drawers, I smile, knowing those drawers are now lined with pretty paper, and the contents are tidy and available. The seeds that some house-mouse had stored there are gone and, temporarily, so is the confusion. I can putter among our books and know that once again, maybe for only a short time, they are on shelves according to author and/or subject matter. While trying to downsize, as I’ve determined to do, puttering makes a dent in the baskets and boxes of papers. Items for recycling, the church yard sale, and the burning pit grow. Puttering gives me time to think, to re-group and to shine up my attitudes for busier moments. There is a world full of always-energetic people who look askance at puttering. And for those of us who move to a different drummer, this tacit disapproval can be difficult. Or, as Brene Brown** says, “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” When busyness became a gold standard, I’m not sure. Too much of our population is metaphorically gasping for breath as they strive to keep up. We need to rest, not just our bodies, but our minds. One of the things I find restful, is noticing small things around me. If I spend a few minutes watching a tufted titmouse happily dining on suet, that makes me smile ---- and somehow, that smile and the titmouse made me relax. Watching a sunrise or sunset takes very little time, but suddenly the wash of wonder over the colors, lifts fatigue away. Winning the approval of others by over-doing will lead to exhaustion of mind and body. We should maintain ourselves at least as well as we maintain our cars, don’t you think? Instead of a lube job, we give ourselves a a rest-job and that includes awareness. Blindness to our surroundings actually leads to more than just weariness. If we are unaware of the created world around us, we are also probably unaware of the people in our lives, and how they are feeling. Someone who once worked in my office was a perfect example of this. That person mostly kept all the county mandates and fulfilled duties. But people’s feelings were, daily, splattered right and left by thoughtless words and total disregard for what was going on in others’ lives. This lack of awareness and disregard for feelings is probably a major reason for damaged and broken relationships everywhere. Rachel Carson*** was a biologist who was made famous (actually, infamous at first) by her book, Silent Spring. She was quite explicit about the need to be aware, of the earth around us, of our own back yards, and of the people in our lives. She said: “One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’” Surely a few days/weeks of asking these questions, would increase our appreciation of the world in which we live and the people we love. And we might just find ourselves feeling an energy and enthusiasm for life that, somewhere along the way, we had lost. Meanwhile, we are in January, named for the god, Janus; a two-faced god who looks back at the year just past, and forward to the year we have entered. He was considered the Roman god of new beginnings, of gateways and open doors.; the embodiment of longing for the past and hope for the future. Mostly, in this northern hemisphere, January is known for its winter weather, and (on a more celebratory side) remembrance of Martin Luther King, who did so much, in a completely non-violent way, to help our country realize its lack of justice for so many of our citizens. We humans don’t much like changes to our comfort levels or our thinking. But each new year forces us to consider changes. Thinking of these things; re-sorting in our minds how we should be living, is a gift for a new year, a Leap Year, which gives us one extra day to be delighted with life. The birds, squirrels, and deer that do not go into hibernation for the winter months face the winds, survive cold and messy conditions seemingly with the same vibrancy with which they enjoy the summer months of sunshine and warmth. We could learn something from them --- about acceptance, about joy in adverse conditions, about being a part of a natural network of creatures inhabiting our planet. I like what Frederick Buechner**** says about living well: He said, “One life on this earth is all that we get {here}, whether it is enough or not enough. And the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least, we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can.” Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer. *Terry Hershey --- Author, humorist, inspirational speaker, ordained pastor, dad, golf addict and lover of French wines. **Brene Brown –Author and speaker who studies human interactions and vulnerability. ***Rachel Carson ---American author, marine biologist, whose book “Silent Spring” brought about cascades of criticism; truths that we now accept. 1907-1964. ****Frederick Buechner ---American author and theologian. Ordained Presbyterian pastor. 1926-2022.
  11. We have just exited the Christmas season. Having made it through December and New Year’s, many people are breathing a sigh of contentment, repletion, and maybe —- relief.? Wonderful holidays and the Christmas decorations lovely, but it is time to take the tree down and put the ornaments away until next year. Twelfth Night, just past, is traditionally when the Magi reached their destination (probably not the stable in Bethlehem although all of our creches have them there), to worship Jesus. Regardless of time and place, it does commemorate a special event; that the hope and love in the Christmas story are for all the world. The other name, Epiphany, originated in the Orthodox Christian churches but quickly spread to include the European churches. It also marked the end of the 12 days of Christmas merry-making. For many years, we held a 12th Night party, always including more people than our house could comfortably hold. Somehow, its walls stretched, perhaps aided by the laughter and good conversation. It was a warm and wonderful occasion that fortified us to meet the rest of January. We miss doing it, but it was an activity that became too difficult, regardless of how much fun it was. I recently found a word that expresses our coming year’s journey very well: “Coddiwomple.”This word means: “To travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination.” Isn’t that perfect for a new year? We all have hopes and plans, and some people, who are more confident and/or arrogant than others, have no doubt that their plans will work as they wish. Those of us who are more experienced (generally older) know how quickly life can change regardless of our wishes. So, I really like that word both for its uniqueness and for the reality that our year’s journey will be full of surprising side trips, some not always of our choosing, but many that are delightful — for which blessings we can be grateful. When one reaches our elevated state of “elderly”, there are decisions to be made; issues to discuss. One that came up for us recently was our home. Our sons and daughters-in-law,- and rightfully so, were concerned that the maintenance of house and land was getting to be too much for the energy and strength we find it possible to summon. The gardens that I’ve had so much fun creating, with Kerm’s helpful digging, raking and weeding, are way too vast for us to keep in order, especially with mutually uncooperative artificial knees and a tendency to run out of steam too soon. Inside the house, the dilemma is nearly as bad; both of us have several projects going at once, creating too much stuff for tidiness. Creative ideas keep on flowing, but my organizational abilities, sadly, have diminished. Our concerned family members also, undoubtedly, are contemplating the huge job it might be to clean out and distribute our way-too-many belongings. So, what to do???? We considered several options. We could buy a smaller house. A couple of houses in town have come upon the market, but there isn’t a lot of turn-over in our community. And we are relatively fussy. As we considered that move, we agreed that it would cut down a bit on the volume of our maintenance, but only a bit. As for cleaning out our stuff, certainly some of that would be accomplished, but I’ll never live as a minimalist, so we will always be surrounded by too many things. We cherish our books, and I enjoy various sorts of porcelain silver, sculptures, and glass ware. We could consider renting, eliminating outside maintenance. However, rentals in this community are not numerous either and we are rather firm about sufficient space for each of us to do what we want to do. Neither of us wants to sit in the other’s pocket! Ithaca has some fine senior living places where we’d probably do just fine. But, as much as we enjoy visiting Ithaca, we really do not wish to leave our community where we have 45-year-old roots, a church, fine neighbors and friends. So, after analyzing things, we finally decided to stay right where we are, but to revisit the issue each year. And we’ve agreed to try to find help for cleaning and gardening. This may not be easy or inexpensive. But it seems to be the best solution for us right now. There is a concern that one not put off too long what changes might be necessary. Too often, older people procrastinate with decision-making, and those choices, by necessity, fall upon their reluctant children. It is sad when older adults are “put” somewhere, often with no opportunity for closure, because they didn’t make changes in their lives while they could. Of course, sudden illness or disability unexpectedly hastens the need for other accommodations. In former centuries, most homes had multiple generations living in them. But with healthier old age and young adults going out on their own earlier, this simply is no longer the norm. Certainly, multi-generations in one abode bring their own challenges, some of which probably means a bit of discomfort for all involved. We went through a series of care needs with Kerm’s mother; moving her, reluctantly, from her farm home to an apartment in town, then to assisted living, and finally to a nursing home. And that nursing home didn’t always please us, but her need for care was more than we could provide at our home. My sister moved from her home, also reluctantly, to a lovely senior apartment, but from there, right into a nursing facility when she suddenly needed more care. That nursing home was excellent though it still wasn’t really “home”. Quality of care varies considerably, sometimes due to available finances; sometimes due to lack of staffing or training. And most places have nothing happening that would encourage a resident to feel needed or valuable. There is a nationwide need for continued discussion, planning and creativity around elder care. People are people who all need the same consideration and medical opportunities. And even more important, for mental health, no one wishes to feel stashed away and useless. Meanwhile, we are still at home, and hope to be fully participating in this new year. And while we intend to eliminate some of the unnecessary stuff ( via yard sales, auctions, and loving relatives —-lock your cars! — 😊) in our lives, I found other even more important, but less solid things we all should remove. All of us, regardless of age! “Fitting in” should not be all that important. We all wish to be liked but we shouldn’t deny our uniqueness and gifts to accomplish that. Being harsh and critical of ourselves is foolish and unhealthy; our brains don’t respond well to self-bashing. Be careful about criticizing others, especially for small things. We have no idea what troubles and pressures exist in their lives. Instead, pray for them. Do not spend time with people who make you feel badly about yourself. You are the only just-like-you in the universe. This is good. Don’t let someone else make you uncertain about that. Don’t worry about or agonize over failures. Mistakes become learning experiences if we are at all wise. Don’t become too attached to material objects. This one is tough for me; I’m a “thing” person and many of my possessions remind me of times, places and people I love. But I’ve also reached a point in my life when I could give almost anything to someone who needed it. I might replace what I gave away via the next antique shop or auction, but….. 😊… So perhaps better advice would be to not let material things be first in our lives. Stop comparing yourself to anyone else. We are each different —- purposely. We can learn from others, but shouldn’t try to be clones of them. Develop a spiritual connection. Someone once said we are spiritual persons in a physical body. So, this is a health issue that also, during spiritual growth, brings a few growing pains, but also a certain quiet joy. If we all consider putting these into practice, 2024 would be a gift to ourselves and all those around us. And surely one step toward a happier world. We may be looking at the year with gloom, doom and fear in our hearts; certainly, there is enough evil, both generally and specifically, and potential chaos to make that dour perspective reasonable, even logical. Or we can trust what has been true for eons; that joy will find its way into the chaos and there will be many times of happiness, warmth and enjoyment in the coming days. I hope to go on setting goals, finding interesting things to do and continuing to plan ahead, even if I must go to Plan Z. I hope the same is true for you — that your year finds you looking for both enjoyment and ways to help wherever you are, and that you can look ahead with that trust and faith that makes life worth our participation. Ranier Maria Rilke* had an especially good thought that starts this year off well. He said: “And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us — new, untouched, full of things that have never been.” Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Ranier Maria Rilke —- actually Rene Karl Wilhelm Josef Maria Rilke. Rilke was an Austrian poet and novelist. 1875-1926.
  12. It’s March……Little rivulets of joy Begin flowing down stones, Through the mosses Out from the tree roots. They’ve been there all the time, just hidden down under Where they’ve quietly added sparkle and glow To the ice, and crunch to the snow. There’s a warm glow over the earth In the setting sun………* This is one stanza of a poem that describes spring’s beginnings. Now it is only 3 days until the time change, bringing us increased light in the evening, and 14 days until the Spring Equinox. Everything is looking up, even though I know well that garden-planting and green grass are still weeks away. Even with a positive mental attitude of anticipation and happiness, I’m not literally jumping for joy. My body is not in the spring of life and leaping is a really bad idea. These days, I tend to move quite carefully! I greatly appreciate my chiropractor, acupuncturist, internist and massage therapist (though I don’t have one right now) -- who assist greatly in keeping that body moving; muscles and joints are less flexible than they were a few years ago. However, even with some stiffness and discomfort, I feel a lightness that comes from all the years of coping with life. By this age: 1) I don’t really care about the expectations of anyone --- except those people I truly respect. And sometimes it is necessary to educate them a bit about the reality of elder-ism. 2) I no longer blithely put off writing a note, making a phone call or a visit with an “I’ll get to it later,” because one never knows how quickly that might become impossible. When opportunity knocks, I try to open the door right then. 3) I feel free to speak my mind (usually politely!), dress as I choose, read for hours and leave the dishes unwashed overnight if that makes me happy. What is truly important to me is keeping in touch with my family and friends, making our abode a happy place for us and for anyone who visits---- and living in awareness of each day’s little gifts and sudden miracles. People are important to us. We see friends as often as possible. Each time we share a meal and conversation, my day is brighter --- and hopefully theirs is too. Some of our friends live afar but we think of them often, phone occasionally, Email and mutually recall fun times. Our friends are of all ages, for as one gets older, generational gaps tend to diminish. But we must admit that friends of the same age group do “get it”. They understand the difficulties as well as the gifts of being this age. When we came to Spencer, Kerm and I were probably in our late-thirties. One of the persons we grew to enjoy very soon was a lady nearing her 90th birthday. She was a member of our church, a Grange member, and a retired Phys. Ed. Teacher. Originally from Vermont, she was a no-nonsense, plain-spoken and practical person. She made us welcome, came to our parties and was one very cool lady. She told us, as she moved further into her 90s, “I enjoy life and I love all the things I do and the people here. But I really miss friends my own age. They understand references to things, and past happenings, that younger people do not.” We are beginning, now, to understand Amy’s comment, and this little poem by Doris Ashworth expresses our current attitude well: “When we’re older, let’s meet every Sunday at four, in that little café we love. Let’s laugh at our foibles, our mishaps and then release our mistakes to above. We can share a new wrinkle or a hair that’s turned gray, and marvel at how we have grown. We both reminisce on the lives that we’ve led and how grateful for each day that we’ve known. When we’re older let’s meet by that tree in the park, the one where the blossom grows yearly. We can share what we have and toast with a drink, remembering those we have loved dearly. We will not give thought to the youth we have lost for we see so much worth the change. We won’t feel the rushing of a fast-ticking clock for we know time is ours to arrange. When we’re older, let’s meet every Sunday at four in that cute little café we love. Let’s be wowed by how we have weathered this life; let’s release our regrets to above.”* No matter what our ages, we all need to stop “putting off,” and do right now, what will make our days lighter, brighter and, when it is time to sleep, will bring us satisfaction with how we’ve lived. We can always use the excuse of “we’re so busy…”, and, of course, everyone is! But perhaps we need to make the choice to not be so busy. Life passes by very quickly I have discovered. There have been things in my life that I have regretted, but I’ve never grieved over leaving the dishes or the vacuuming, or ignoring spring cleaning in favor of a long visit with family or friends --- or a walk down the lane in springtime ---- or spending time singing with friends. We need to surround ourselves with people who are positive and glad for their days; people we care about and enjoy. Whining and grumping are contagious and to be avoided if at all possible. We all have ideal scenarios for ourselves, in our minds; how life should be, but seldom will life totally cooperate with our visions. It is smart to simply accept that, be glad for the things we can do --- and let the rest go. This can be traumatic, in a sense, for in letting things go, we are also letting dreams of what we might do, go. But it is part of the process; part of down-sizing, cleaning out, simplifying life and being happy. Speaking of creating happiness, the Spencer Grange used to plan for a community Winter Wake Up. In late February or early March, cabin fever often sets into our region like an epidemic of the flu. People have become tired of boots, scarves, snow, cold and mud. So, the Grange created an evening for anyone who wished to come for a dish-to-pass dinner, a musical jam session, and a neighborly get-together. Sometimes we made games available, like an Art Gallery of Puns or a simple mixer. A few people brought guitars, mandolins, etc. Sometimes people, especially the little kids, danced. It was a good and refreshing evening that transitioned us from the winter doldrums to anticipation of spring. Sadly, the Grange in Spencer had to close its doors several years ago, but the fun times it initiated are still remembered by the S-VE community. An organization to sponsor isn’t necessary; we can all decide to create fun as an antidote to the winter doldrums oozing into our lives about now! Doing something with people helps immensely. Being in community has been difficult during the COVID years. When people are unable to gather --- for whatever reason ---- they lose touch ---and even worse --- forget how enriching community can be. We have become too inclined to sit home, hunched over phones and I-Pads, growing less and less open to our fellow-men. With three years of lock-downs and little socializing, people now seem reluctant to venture out. Taking precautions is sensible, but at some point, we must cease living in fear and adjust to reality. We need contact with others for mental health and growth, but it may take a while for us to realize our loss sufficiently for us to make the effort to participate in the human experience again. An African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We suffer without community! Jumping from humans to plants and animals, my optimistic daylilies are pushing green shoots out of the wet and cold soil, even after being snowed upon multiple times. The yellow blossoms of winter aconite have popped up, and the snow drops have hung out their little white bells. Forsythia branches brought inside have bloomed. The birds are becoming more vocal. One cat apparently has a severe case of spring fever. Besides trying to balance on the pickets of the garden fence, I saw him attacking a wooden post with claws and teeth, purring all the while. So much energy; I could borrow a bit. Because this is a thoughtful time of the year, and Easter is coming, I will share the whole poem for March and hope it speaks to both your heart, and the coming spring: It’s March……Little rivulets of joy Begin flowing down stones, Through the mosses Out from the tree roots. They’ve been there all the time, just hidden down under Where they’ve quietly added sparkle and glow To the ice, and crunch to the snow. There’s a warm glow over the earth In the setting sun. Isn’t that God’s love too? Its warmth and sparkle are always there, But in our ice-boundedness; The snowy winters of our discontent, We do not sense or see that reality in our lives. Until the season changes, And little rivulets of joy come flowing Out of the cracks In our frozen hearts, And through the pores of our stiffened limbs, And we open ourselves to the Springiness of God’s love, So it can flow from us And refresh the world. CWB Happy March to you and hopefully it will be, whether wintery or spring-like, a time that brings good experiences to us all. Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *CWB ---- it is a poem I wrote some time ago. I’m not really a poet, but once-in-a-while, inspiration strikes. **Doris Ashworth ---- Found her poem on Face Book; searched, but apparently is not known otherwise.
  13. What a variety of weather February is bringing us. Shortly after Valentine’s Day, environmentalists on social media began encouraging us to leave garden debris for a few weeks at the beginning of the “season”, and “don’t pull dandelions.” I’m thinking, “Umm.….there are still patches of snow beneath my shrubs, plus what we just got, and dandelions haven’t dared show a glimmer of green. There’ll be no debris-removal until mud season is over and my fingers won’t freeze.” Regardless of yoyo weather, I am appreciative of each morning; my heart has continued beating all night, and I’m up and relatively mobile. Cardinals and nuthatches on the feeder make me smile, and I enjoy figuring out which creatures have been passing through during the night. The ears of corn are nibbled away, indicating deer, and the large water bowl is empty, so I’m assuming skunks and possums are awake. I’m glad to be awake myself. I don’t take these privileges for granted anymore! And, spring is working its way north, dandelions and all! Yesterday, we entered the Season of Lent. Mardi Gras is over. For Fat Tuesday, I had planned to make some raised-dough delectables from my Grandpa Dusett’s recipe. The events of the day decided otherwise. An appointment with the acupuncturist for shoulder pain seemed more important that the sugary wonders ---- definitely an all-day project. I do enjoy carrying on traditions when possible and making family recipes is always a pleasure. In addition to the doughnuts, I also have My grandfather’s recipe for oatmeal cookies – soft and chewy with raisins and just a touch of molasses. I might make those soon, but the doughnuts will have to wait now, until we celebrate Easter. Back to the Lenten season which is, for Christians, a preparation time, similar to Advent but without the hanging of the greens and stringing of lights. It is the six weeks prior to Easter and marks the 40 days of Christ’s sojourn in the desert. It is a time of less exuberance and more stirring of the heart; a time to recognize how far we fall short of who we could be, but also to rejoice and be glad in the possibilities of change and growth. In the early centuries, AD, the Season of Lent was a period of severe personal sacrifice, and the custom lingers --- in a milder way. Fewer and fewer people are tied to church liturgy, but even non-church people still ask “What are you giving up for Lent?” Common responses are: “Candy” or “Lunch” or “Ice Cream” --- a far cry from medieval fasting and flagellation. I suppose forbidding something appetizing does have a certain value in reminding us of what Lent is all about and if that works for you, it is good. But more recently, I’ve felt that my offering should be more pro-active, something to create peace and joy. I suppose this would differ immensely for various people, for how we live our faith is very individual. Some possibilities might be to read more Scripture every day, or perhaps to spend time in praying and visualization of unity and understanding, or volunteering in a soup kitchen/food cupboard or being a friendly visitor in a nursing home. We, who observe Lent, would do well to use the time in a way that gives us six weeks of soul-building and spiritual delight. Jumping to a bit of back-story, you may recall that last October, along with my granddaughter, I attended a writer’s workshop in Vermont. One of the speakers that day, was John DeDakis*, former CNN Senior Copy Editor. In retirement, besides teaching, coaching writers and editing, he is creating mystery novels. I have one of his books, and while it took me a couple of chapters to get into it --- possibly because I hadn’t read the preceding book and so didn’t know the characters ---- by the third chapter, I really wanted to see how this situation would resolve itself. “Who did it?? Oh NO, Lark is in jail……!” Only a compelling story would keep me up after my bedtime and Bluff did that. More important (to me) than the good read, however, were Mr. DeDakis’ thoughts regarding the art of writing ----and communicating. His words do not apply only to writers, but to how we relate, people to people. In his workshop, he began by asking us to jot down all the words we would use to describe “grief.” He then spoke of his own deep grief at losing a son and went on to say that if we want our writing to connect with others, our pens must pull words from the depth of our own experiences; write from our hearts. Stories should spring from what we know and feel. I seldom write fiction; it’s not my forte, though I spun out some “Jonathan” stories for our boys when they were young. Nor do I feel skilled at devising complicated, interwoven plots. I am far more comfortable writing about life --- my life, the lives around me; my perspective on the world, especially my own small portion of it. I can describe our snow-covered pergola, bright with three crimson cardinals. I know about retrieving cows that have wandered onto the NYS Thruway, about catching polliwogs in vernal pools and the aroma of fresh hay bales on the wagon. I can describe mediating a contest of wills between a county legislature and a state human services agency, and am able to reflect on surviving a life with family, job and chronic depression. I can share moments of delight, and urge a better understanding of history for its importance to our survival. My gardens, the singing birds, our feral cats, black bear visits, and the small homey bits of each day beg to be shared. I try to send out sparks of hope, create moments of awareness and mete out a quiet kind of joy. So, John Dedakis’s philosophy made sense to me for both writing and for conversation. Personal stories connect us as humans. We find healing as we share our lives, whether via fiction or non-fiction; whether written or spoken. Our stories bring us connection and free others to tell theirs. The Friday AM Women’s Study group that I help facilitate, is a fine example. When we first came together, we really didn’t know each other all that well and were a bit cautious. Now we know each other in ways that are, perhaps, different from, and in some ways, deeper, than we know many of our friends ---there is a soul-connection that is affirming and supportive. Confidentiality is how we respect each other, and how we can trust in the sharing. Families, too, need more awareness of each other. Choosing a time that works ----after school with a snack, or around the dinner table, or just before bed along with reading stories --- is crucial. Family members need to talk with each other about their day ---- and no reprimanding or preaching. It doesn’t take much --- a little careless laughter, a pushing aside of an art project, a small scold --- to make a child think no one wants to hear from him. Of course, parents get busy, worried, frustrated and tired, but if they want kids to talk openly with them when they are teens, the rapport and freedom to do so must begin when they are small children. Being really heard is key to believing we are worthy of life. A “Question Journal” works especially well with tweens and teens. Parent and young person share a journal. The parent writes a question in it, gives it to their kid, who then has the day to write an answer. After they’ve found time to talk about the answer, the young person writes his or her question and hands it back to the parent to answer. Honesty and consistency are crucial. It is also honest to quietly say “I’d rather not talk about that now Let me think about it.” When Kerm and I participated in Marriage Encounter there was a similar procedure. Each person wrote on the question of choice for 20 minutes, then silently read the other person’s thoughts. After writing and reading, there was 20 minutes of discussion. This non-threatening kind of dialog assists in keeping up with each other’s thoughts and feelings. How many people, after years of being together, don’t have a clue about what their partner is wanting or feeling? Communication skills need mending everywhere --- in families, in schools, certainly in Congress, and all over the world. This, as well as other great movements, is a grassroots change that begins at home. Here at my home, February is drawing to a close. I saw a red-winged blackbird on my feeder; probably a scout sent ahead to assess the situation. Yesterday, after the snow, the feeder was inundated with black birds of all genres. There were also wild turkeys, coming off the hill, liberally scattering seed and scratching some in. Sunflowers will be popping up everywhere! But that won’t be happening for a while; both dandelions and sunflowers have the innate wisdom to lie low. Finger Lakes weather can be capricious during February and March. “First gray skies, and then blue, Snow blows in on great gusts of wind while the next day is mellow with sunshine and aromas of coming spring. Red-winged blackbirds come swooping home in spite of unfriendly weather….” **is descriptive of late winter/early spring here. I try not to be impatient, but my heart is ready to be lifted by the sight --- and smell ---- of hyacinths and daffodils. Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *---John DeDakis – novelist and writing coach. Former CNN Senior Editor for “The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer”. He is the author of five novels and is a manuscript editor ---- and, from my own experience, a really nice person. **- portion of a poem from “A Safe Life” by CWB.
  14. February in the Finger Lakes is like a mild case of the flu. Instead of sneezing and coughing, however, our symptoms are less patience with and more grumbles about cold, snow, graupel, ice and slush. We will assuredly survive, but we are ready for more sun and a few signs of spring. Yesterday was a good start! I try to look at winter as a performance and I’m interested to see how the scenes play out. Will Acts I & II (mid-December- Mid February) bring cold and blizzards, or will it be an open winter with occasional snow squalls and mild temperatures? The 8 below zero last weekend was a mean twist in the plot! After mid-February, we hope Act 3 brings more blue-sky days, occasional signs of swelling buds and a tinge of green in the swamps. Perhaps the play will conclude early with Mendelssohn’s Spring Song. This is a month of celebrations - Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras (AKA: Fat Tuesday/Doughnut Day/ Pancake Day), the season of Lent and family birthdays. In January, one granddaughter turned sixteen, and now, in February, the other will turn nineteen. Both daughters-in-law, another family member and a couple of long-time friends also celebrate this month. So, bake the cakes, light the candles, open the cards and be glad for another year of adventures. Businesses that sell cards, red construction paper, lacy doilies, candy and flowers, rejoice. According to legend, this holiday exists because of a clergyman, Valentine, who continued to marry young couples in Rome against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius thought young men made better soldiers if undistracted by marriage. So, he threw Valentine into jail. From his cell the priest sent notes to friends, signing them “Your Valentine”. Another bit of lore is that he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and sent his “your Valentine” notes to her. Whichever is true, his name came to be associated with love prevailing against all odds. Sadly, he was executed for his persistence, becoming a Christian martyr who was then elevated to sainthood by the church and given a feast day in his memory ----- St. Valentine’s Day. Of course, there are many kinds of love. In the Greek language, there are at least three options; eros --- the sort of love that leads one into an intimate relationship with another person, phileo --- brotherly love and kindness for a family member or friend, and agape – the sacrificial, all-caring love for all individuals --- for humanity; God’s sort of love. Tara Shannon’s *Rabbit asked Bear about love: “How do you know when you love someone?” and Bear answers: “When you feel like you’re home no matter where you are.” Bear’s definition is good for all three kinds of love. Movies, TV shows and fairy tales often depict love in ways that are mostly unrealistic. How many girls have waited for their “prince” to come and found that instead of the glass slipper and castle, real love requires patience, accepting differences, balancing a budget, possibly changing diapers for a baby and picking up sneakers from the kitchen floor before scrubbing that same floor. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and several other princesses of lore have set up impossible scenarios for young girls --- and young men too. What sixteen-year-old boy feels like Prince Charming? And how many adults have felt stuck in their roles because of sitcoms? According to TV, “Perfect” wives vacuum in their best clothes, after which they prepare a gourmet dinner. “Perfect” husbands sweep their well-dressed wives into their arms when they return home (after having made oodles of money), they mow the lawn regularly and solve everyone’s problems before bedtime. More recent sitcoms, unfortunately, depict eros as social recreation for the boudoir instead of a commitment to another beloved person. Feeling comfortable with ourselves and encouraging our loved ones to be who they are ---- that is a more real love than the ephemeral feelings of fairy tale love or the banal and graceless philosophy of free love. I expect all of us have, when we are young, felt what is called puppy love --- being noticed by the cool guy or girl and, hopefully, being asked out! It is the glamor of dressing for the prom, the excitement of holding hands at the movies, the quality of a school day that depends on whether “he” or “she” is in class that day. Those developing, delightful, yo-yo emotions need time to mature. Pat Boone sang about “April Love,” but I’d call this early attraction “February Love.” Maybe that’s why there are so many June weddings? Metaphorically speaking, love needs time and wisdom to mature from springtime to summer. Happiness does include romance but no lasting relationship is all moonlight and roses. It is also work, sharing the same values and -- very important ---- finding similar things funny. Kindness, shared interests, laughter, and a bit of moonlight and roses, smooth the twisty path through life. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!! As I’d planned, I’ve been using this winter to go through boxes and baskets of papers; papers of all sorts and genres. Some of what I’ve unearthed is family memorabilia. I’ve found myself wishing once more, that I’d asked more questions when there was still someone alive to provide information. It takes a few years of living to realize that one’s roots can be exceedingly interesting. Their importance does NOT necessarily lie in discovering a coat of arms, eligibility for the DAR or even being related to Pocahontas or King Henry VIII. We each contribute our own value to this world. But knowing about my forebearers gives me a sense of belonging, and I am grateful. One of my favorite quotations explains this: “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still they say. Watch. Listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.**” Every time I read this, I feel loved, connected, and grateful that I am part of a special group of people. We do know a little, for one of my brothers explored some of our genealogy. We knew that my maternal ancestors came from France, but we’ve recently learned that they probably made the hard trek from there to Canada, and then to the United States ---- ten or twenty years before the Revolutionary War. We believe they were part of the sad exodus from Canada, when the British took control from the French, as mentioned in Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline. My father’s paternal ancestors were Highland Scots who probably came to this country either after the Jacobite Rebellion (1747) or when the lairds selfishly uprooted families and threw them off the land to make room for more sheep (1810-1820). I’d have to check on dates, but there is usually an economic or life-threatening reason for leaving one’s land of birth. Along the way, I acquired a Dutch great- grandmother and a German grandmother. This makes me quite a mixture, and gives me a better sense of who I am. But I’d still like to know more ---- about “Uncle Abner Dusett” who I’ve heard, grew fields of carrots on his farm. I’d like my mother’s perspective on the 19th Amendment; she was 22 when it became law. Was “Grandma Allen” really related to Ethan Allen? And how did my paternal grandmother survive being widowed, with two very small sons, in a day when there were few jobs for women? You, who still have older members of your family, take note, and ask questions! History will come alive with stories. My gardening gene is definitely an inherited trait although I wouldn’t have thought so when I was nine and sent out to pick green beans. My mother’s gardens were amazing; I wrote an article about them that was published in Flower and Garden Magazine some years ago. She moved from a veggie garden (after most of her children grew up) to transforming swaths of land around her home with herbs, flowers and shrubbery. Working in the garden was her joy, and even though, in her later years she was legally blind, she gardened until the snows came in her 94th year. When she died the following February, we found her flower orders ready to be sent. One of the fun things ---- for me ---- about gardening, is planning, and I think that may have been true for her too. After her death, I found several detailed garden plans drawn and labeled in her fine script. Visualizing color combinations brightens my January and February. My garden plans tend to change a time or two before planting season. Then, about mid-June, they are altered again, depending on what didn’t germinate, what the rabbits ate and what cool plants I’ve discovered at Early Bird, Baker’s Acres or Iron Kettle. This year, will be a whole new exercise in creative cutting back. Hal Borland*** said: “Spring advances northward at approximately 16 miles per day; roughly 100 miles per week. This applies only to even ground though. When one begins to climb, then northward pace slackens, since Spring moves uphill only about 100 feet per day.” An enthusiastic mathematician could visit Washington D.C. during cherry blossom time and then ascertain when trees might be blossoming in Albany, New York. I think I’ll just watch the cats. When they begin racing around the lawn and dancing on the picket fence, I’ll be quite sure spring is coming closer. Meanwhile, February gives us time to make valentines, fry doughnuts and plan gardens as the snow filters down outside the windows and the cold winds blow. It is good to let people know we love them via valentines. It is a pleasure to use my grandpa’s doughnut recipe (for Doughnut Day, of course) as a once/year treat. And there is great satisfaction in visualizing a garden by the fireside. No bugs, no weeds and beautiful blooms! Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Tara Shannnon ---American writer, poet and artist. **Linda Hogan -----American writer and TV personality. ***Hal Borland ----American naturalist, writer and journalist. 1900-1978.
  15. Snow, snow and more snow! Winter snows and winds have impacted several of our trees, especially our lilacs. The oldest one, probably at least 60+ years old, had three large broken branches that we removed from its center. Now it looks like two champagne flutes with space in the middle. Kerm taped another newer lilac back together, hoping it will reattach. Butternut and tulip trees have shed limbs all over the lawn, and one crab apple tree is split right down the middle. The deer have been nibbling one rhododendron whose burlap cage was too low. Winter can be a relentless pruner. I’ve been indulging in garden dreams (catalogs); White Flower Farm, Jung, Bluestone, Pinetree, etc. I particularly enjoyed this thought by Rumi*: “And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It is quiet, but the roots are down there riotous!” Our 2022 gardening clarified some gardening choices for 2023. We no longer wish to weed endlessly, to cultivate new spaces or even to process bushels of food come harvest time. I enjoy carrots and beets from my garden, but fresh produce from the local store or Farmers’ Market will provide adequately. This year we will need more mulch, and we’ll be growing only what I won’t be without; potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, basil and lots of flowers. Well ---- maybe some pumpkins! I believe that working in the soil is so healthy for the body and mind, that unless I’m confined to bed, I’ll be out there with trowel doing something. Just not quite as much! Remember our pinochle group? Ten or twelve of us around the table playing with three decks of cards? We even played by the light of many candles one night when the power went out. This group hasn’t met for three years because of COVID and other obstacles. We happily got together a couple of weeks ago. It isn’t that we are super-serious about pinochle ---- which is fortunate---- because some of us were a bit hazy about a double run, what was trump, who led, and one of us (who shall certainly remain nameless!) even played an entire hand leaving meld on the table. But, as we played, we caught up with each other’s lives, nibbled on delicious snacks and laughed quite a lot. We are a diverse group; there’s a retired teacher turned life coach, a retired music teacher who continues to direct choirs and draws wonderful music from pipe organs of the region, a retired Head of Maintenance in a large company and retired dental hygienist, two retired human services administrators, and an entrepreneur currently running a book store. We were missing the Bee Master and the retired University forester. Pinochle is one of our vehicles for having fun and feeling better about life. We are good for each other! Everyone needs friends like this, not necessarily for cards, but to add affirmation, humor and understanding to life. Anne LaMott** says that “Laughter is carbonated holiness.” I like that because laughter lightens the heaviness that we all feel and it often improves perspective. A sense of humor is a curious thing. I’m not sure whether we are gifted with it, or whether one can develop it. It is the old argument regarding nature and nurture. My mother didn’t have the same sense of humor that I had. She would laugh at a duly labeled comic strip and the antics of small children, but puns and small bits of coincidental humor never registered with her. Fortunately, she managed to be light-hearted without this gift, but both she and I wondered why we didn’t always find humor in the same places. Some people view life as super-serious. To the too-focused (fanatical), laughter seems frivolous, and they find little humor in the surrounding world. Some TV examples would be Temperance Brennan, forensic specialist on “Bones”, and the annoying young scientific geniuses in “Big Bang Theory”. These characters are intelligent, inner-directed, and very, very serious with nary a gleam of humor entering their consciousness. Laughing at themselves wouldn’t be possible! My high school English teacher wrote in my year book, (with slight exasperation, I thought): “you made me laugh even when I didn’t want to.” Maybe that was good --- a high school English teacher probably needs to laugh more. I do know that seeing the humorous bits in most situations has been a boon and blessing for me. Without laughter I’d be mired in the deepest despair for the world. And because there’s currently so much world-wide anxiety, I would like to share a poem by Mary Oliver.*** In spite of fun and humor, I am a chronic worrier, though I’m also chronically trying to reform from undue worrying. So, I keep this poem where I can see it regularly. “I worry a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow in the right direction, will the earth turn as it was taught, and if not, how shall I correct it? Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, can I do better? Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows can do it and I am, well, hopeless. Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, am I going to get rheumatism, lockjaw, dementia? Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And I gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang.” ‘Tis a fine line between contemplating--- being prepared ---- and worrying. I hope to step over that line less as I go along. However, having made only small improvements in 80 years, I have to accept that I’m a slow learner! One thing that would probably create less worry and more understanding universally, would be a better awareness of past events. After all, “There is no such thing as the past; there is only someone else’s present!”**** Which means the same things keep happening. The lack of historic awareness among the general population, is abysmal and frightening. For example -- every one of us who lives in these United States (unless one is a Native American, and even then…) stems from immigrants who came from somewhere else. Our forebearers were usually desperately escaping poverty or tyranny. Those who know history, know that every time a new wave of immigrants enters the picture, there has been bigotry and tension with claims of losing jobs and rising crime to stoke the fires of fear. During the gold rush, the Chinese were scorned as heathens, fit only to launder the miners’ clothes. When the Irish came, there were “No Irish need apply” signs in shop windows, and you’d never want your daughter to marry an Irishman! When the Italians came, they were disdained and relegated to “Little Italys”. The United States shamefully disregarded the danger to Jewish people at the beginning of WWII and refused them entrance. Arrogance combined with ignorance, is scary. There are many other examples of historic forgetfulness; The witch mania in New England, two centuries of minimal educational opportunities for any except the elite, “blue laws” that trespass on the neutral zone between church and state, lack of labor laws for the welfare of children and other workers, the institution of slavery, the mistaken idea that during the “wonderful fifties”, there was little violence or unrest. Ignorance of history allows us to judge the rest of the world by our own experiences and to think no one ever before had problems like ours today. We are so busy despairing of each “new” issue that comes along, that we throw up our hands, and make little effort to solve the problems in a sensible and equitable manner. The back story might actually help us see what works and what does not. By the time situations are so bad that we must do something, we usually over-react and make laws that ignore common sense. Most frighteningly, ignorance of history allows us to be easily duped by those who wish to manipulate us, using fear, our lack of knowledge and glib words. Spending less time memorizing dates for the War of Roses, and putting more emphasis on what has changed mankind’s journey in the last two-hundred years, including the difficult parts, would be useful. Our children are leaders of the next generation. They need to know about Barbara Fritchie’s flag and Nathan Hale – but they also need to know what conditions necessitated an inspired Jane Addams, Rosa Parks, Nellie Blye and Martin Luther King Jr. Delighting in our heroic past needs to include honesty about where we’ve erred and how we can be better. History shouldn’t be boring; it should be enlightening! There are only five more days before January is “history.” We can feel joy because we are closer to spring, or be equally as happy that we have plenty of winter to go. I hope we each find something that pleases us in every day, even the stormy ones. Blue jays vs. cats with the cat food make me laugh. In the stillness of a winter night, with flakes of snow filtering down I am grateful for living here. It is often the little things in life that bring delight. January is just the cusp of the new year, so as 2023 progresses, I wish that: “God gives you blessings for this new year --- stars for your darkness, sun for your day, light on your path as you search for the way, and a mountain to climb.”***** And laughter --- may there always be laughter! Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *********************** *Rumi –Poet and writer from the Islamic Golden Age. His works have been translated into many languages. 1207-1273 **Anne LaMott ---American novelist and non-fiction writer, speaker, activist and writing teacher. Her base is Marin County, CA. ***Mary Oliver –American Pulitzer-winning poet. 1935-2019 ****-- David McCullough –American popular historian and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. 1933-2022. *****Myra Scovel –American nurse and missionary for the United Presbyterian church, and writer. She wrote “Chinese Ginger Jars” among other books. 1905-1994.
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