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Carol Bossard

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Carol Bossard last won the day on September 29 2018

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About Carol Bossard

  1. Calm Amidst The Storm

    January is, so far, keeping us in a rather mild pattern of weather. I hope this doesn’t mean blizzards in February and March. Those of us who have gardens (or farms) do need some snow cover in winter for a good growing year though. Snow used to be called the poor man’s manure; it carried nutrients along with it as it covered the fields with white. I’m not sure anymore just what snow carries; probably some things not so nutritious like radiation and toxins from industry but the ground still can use the moisture and whatever minerals come along for the ride. Our Christmas decorations are all put away in the storage tubs --- well, except for the ones here and there that I just didn’t “see” when packing. It is amazing how I can look straight at something and it doesn’t register at all! There are now two shoeboxes full of the left-behinds: several glittering stars, one lamb, a llama, 3 golden birds and a handful of silver stars on bendable wire, etc. I purposely left the glass snowflakes in the picture window though; they are so pretty when the sun shines through them. I now have a new surge of energy for rearranging things a bit; bringing a fresh look to our rooms. One of our Christmas gifts was lovely collage framed photographs of our family, with our travels in Maine as background. This gift does mean relocating some things already on the walls (Kerm just refuses to build me more walls…☺ ). Not only does it remind us of ocean spray and fresh air, but there are the faces of those we love. So hanging this oddly-shaped frame is probably where I will begin my rearranging. Then there is the toy room, which is really no longer necessary in quite its present form. It was initially supposed to be my sewing room. Then with grandchildren and other small visitors it morphed into a toy room. The small children are growing up and I’m not sewing all that much. It may become a library ----a small room full of books and comfort with some good lamps and the necessary toys and craft materials remaining in baskets. I saw something like this on a Besotted Bookworm post and was enchanted. We shall see what emerges! The beginning of this lovely new year has been full of not-so-lovely news; dreadful fires, rumors of war, a spike in two strains of the flu and really annoying political scrambling. I try to write these essays in a way that provides some uplift for our spirits (mine included) and reminders that the world is full of wonders as well as woe. But occasionally --- I just have to shake out issues as though they were dirty rugs, when I feel overcome by their state of being. Lately I have run into a troublesome “I’m certainly better than those others” attitude although it is seldom phrased quite so honestly. Now before I tear anyone’s castle apart, I must admit to harboring an occasional “superior” judgmental thought within the disarray of my mind. It pops out especially when I hear people choosing to metaphorically press their hands to their ears, opting for comfort over compassion; refusing to be informed out of their biases. But I do try to squelch it in me as much as I can for I know it isn’t something in which I should be indulging, and possibly(?) some of my opinions may be equally as difficult for others to swallow. However, in today’s world, this nose-in-the-air condition is something that seems to have spread and blossomed like a bad weed. I’m sure elitism has always been part of humanity (in fact I wrote a spoof on it, years ago, during one of the school board races) but we shouldn’t be letting snobbery become acceptable. Our family backgrounds, while important and interesting to us as individuals, should not be something we boast about. Nor should our degree from Harvard, Cornell or Yale raise goose-bumps on anyone’s arms but our own. There will be no stars in our crown because our families are members of the DAR, came over on the Mayflower, are well-to-do, literate and have a PhD beside names. How we do the work that is provided us, how we treat people around us, how we discern with clarity and compassion the world around us; basically how we love, is what is crucial in becoming a real person ----ala The Velveteen Rabbit* (not to mention the Bible). It would be such a good beginning to 2020 --- and to our own growth --- if we could look deep inside and uproot thoughts that we are better than the rest of the population out there because of education, wealth or general enlightenment ---- or any other reason our egos can dredge up for looking downward with disdain. And this brings me to another subject related to “better than”. With all the discord over immigration, I thought I’d check back a little into our history. To quote one writer, Louis L’Amour** “The United States had been settled to a great degree by the economic failures of Europe, albeit the ones with courage enough to attempt a change. The wealthy and satisfied do not migrate; they stagnate. Even those who offered religion as a reason for migration were also those who were impoverished. Many Puritans and Quakers remained in England, but they were those who had much to lose and little to gain {by emigrating}. It was the peasants, the lower middle class and a few adventurers or impoverished noblemen who settled America.” It is certainly something to ponder as we consider the knotty question of immigration. If we look back, we will see clearly that every time there was a large influx of people from another country to our shores, prejudice and fear set in. The newcomers, every single time, were banned from stores, refused jobs and wholly discriminated against for a generation and certainly you’d never let your daughter marry one!!; the Irish, the Welsh, the Italians, the Poles, the Chinese, etc. Of course we, as a nation, should have immigration policies --- but ones made in fairness and compassion, not those made in fear and bitterness. Arrogance and elitism are never pretty qualities no matter how cosmetically enhanced. Winter’s chill along with the nightly helping of bad news, is sometimes hard to endure; it seems forever until we hear the spring peepers. SAD affects so many people that sunlight lamps should probably be sold in every pharmacy. One of the easier suggestions I’ve heard, to help increase happiness levels, is making a Happiness Jar. I’ve mentioned this in the past, I think. Putting one or more slips of paper into a jar each day with something for which we are grateful or a moment that has made us happy changes one’s perspective amazingly. It is a reminder that while life is not always just how we’d like it to be, being alive is still good --- and wonderful ---- and full of small bits of happiness no matter how dour the day otherwise. A poster I saw said: “There is always, always something for which to be grateful!” Reading from the jar at the end of the year would be a fine way to celebrate that small bits of happiness outweigh the down times. A moment that made me laugh this week was due to one of the cats. There is an outside shelf under one window looking into our dining/TV room where the cats sit and seem to enjoy watching TV – probably the lights and moving colors. I was sitting behind a desk at another window with no shelf (and no TV on). I looked up to see one of our cats sitting a foot or two away looking in at me with a “what are you doing there?” kind of look. And after a few moments, he stretched his paw out and tapped the window with a very clear request ---- “Could you please put a shelf under this window too?” I think that’s not going to happen but I was amused at the very easily-read feline request. They are also good at facial expressions that clearly say, “Feed us!!” or “We need petting!” I think all that worry about applying human emotions to creatures is just silly. Of course animals have emotions – (some more than others; I’m thinking maybe snakes may not feel too deeply!) and many creatures manage to be very expressive. There is an old country saying: “Days lengthen and cold strengthens.” I am quite happy to see more light at the end of each day but I expect that we have plenty of winter ahead of us; it’s the nature of the beast in this region. As Hal Borland*** says, “Now comes the long haul up the cold slope between now and April.” There is plenty of time for crackling fires, cocoa, making snow angels and snuggling in with a good book. But in the midst of that, may there also be time for making things better in our own small ways. Being a little less arbitrary with our thoughts and a bit more aware of possibilities for new ideas ---- even change ---- is a good way to go forward in this fine mint-new year. *The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams --- a novel for children but full of wisdom for adults too. **Louis L’Amour. Quotation found in Westward the Tide. American novelist and short-story writer. 1908-1988. ***Hal Borland --- American writer, naturalist, journalist. 1900-1978. For you former D&D players, today is Appreciate a Dragon Day ---- noted from the Burdett Presbyterian newsletter.
  2. Pandora's Box And Hope

    We are in the second day of this new year and I find that 2020 is much easier to type than 2019. January 1st always makes it seem as though we have a clean, unblemished calendar ahead. Too bad we can’t as easily clean the slate of old feelings of bitterness, grief, dislike and prejudice and never let them affect the clean pages of our lives. We could then replace them with feelings of enthusiasm, fairness, inner peace and compassion and consideration for all. Perhaps the ultimate in New Year’s resolutions! Christmas was lovely. Our granddaughters were here for Christmas morning and then the rest of the family gathered on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th) for dinner. It wasn’t snowy, which was probably a slight downer for kids. I’m sure Santa doesn’t care whether he uses runners or wheels on his sleigh, but I remember being disappointed at no snow when I was younger and more agile. Now I am grateful for the mild weather that made shopping, and venturing out for tasks easier. I notice that my viewpoint changes along with my ease in movement or lack thereof. New Year’s Eve was also low-key, as it usually is for us. I think the last time we felt compelled to go out was when our sons had a party at our house with their friends. Their Risk or D&D games tended to be loud, so we decided that finding another place to spend the evening would be kinder to our ears. As I recall, we tried to go out for dinner but ended up at Purity Ice Cream. Without reservations there isn’t a lot open on New Year’s Eve. So currently an evening at home in front of the fire, with a cup of hot chocolate seems more attractive than the glitz and clamor of any New Year’s Eve party. In fact I wonder what draws all those people streaming into New York City to watch a sparkly ball drop at midnight. Hmmmm………….???? Beginning a new year — a new decade even —brings me to a place where I’m once again contemplating where my life is going. I know myself, and I know that making the usual sort of resolution is futile. But I can make a list of things I’d like to consider; that might make a difference. It is very easy to lounge in a comfortable rut of doing what we’ve always done which probably leads to stodginess and arrested development. My feeling is that no matter what our age, we are each here for a purpose and the details of that purpose may shift in some way. We need to be alert for those changes in call and aware of our daily lives. Too, our brain health requires the challenges of fresh ideas and activities. I’m not planning to begin any new career at this point, although as I think back, my mother, when she was my age, was very actively turning out painted items for her Early American Decorating Guild, gardening and taking in at least one of our sons for the summer. I must admit that now, at seventy-seven, I am less energetic than she was at seventy-seven. But regardless of actual vim and vigor, I think that we must be open to new choices for using our time if we are to continue learning more about ourselves and deepening.* It is a difficult world out there; a world that needs our help in its healing. In these times of crisis, I have often heard it said that we need to return to old values; to bring back times when things did not seem to be in chaos; when life was more predictable. I guess it depends on what values one is wishing back. I think that once Pandora’s Box of Changes is opened, it becomes impossible to go backward. All kinds of things pop out of that box — good, evil, and questionable possibilities. The final thing that always comes out of the box, according to legend, is HOPE. That, for humanity, is fortunate. There is very little worse than despair. Using that “hope” wisely might mean assessing our “values” to determine what is truly valuable and what is simply keeping us in our comfort zone. Many people wish to return to a time when ignorance seemed to be bliss; when there was no TV or internet to keep us over-informed; when we didn’t know about wars in other parts of the world or slavery or what our diamonds cost in human lives. When I feel a nostalgic pull toward my mostly crisis-free childhood, I am well aware that my situation was not the norm even then for many, many people. I was just not aware of the poverty, the injustices, the discrimination and the well-hidden moral degradation forced upon many. Things have not changed really; it is just that much of the evil and corruption is more visible and depending on who indulges in it, more acceptable. Ignorance may be bliss for those of us who lived in its shelter but it doesn’t do much to repair a world that spins on its wobbly way to possible disaster. I am reminded of a poster that I own; a quotation of Gandhi**: The Seven Deadly Social Sins: Politics without principle — Wealth without work —- Commerce without morality —- Pleasure without conscience —- Education without character —- Science without humanity —- Worship without sacrifice.” In short, to make the world a better place, we have to begin with ourselves, actually living out and then sharing our visions. And our comfort zone may be collateral damage It is good perhaps that we have January and February weather to slow us down a bit. Winter can be a restorative time with less calling us outside and fewer activities creating that rushed feeling. We can think in peace and maybe perceive with more clarity. Snow and even a cold rain seem to muffle the noise and frenzy of the world. Being outside is calming to the mind. Check out the tiny tracks of field mice, the pronounced hoof-print of a hungry deer looking for sustenance amid your hostas. And if you are at all interested in how nature copes with winter, it is also a fine time to see where birds snuggle in at night and where chipmunks and squirrels find refuge. It is less pleasant, but part of survival, to note a hawk swooping in to grab a dove off the feeder and how, in that moment, there is no movement from any other birds; they freeze in place. Disney movies are fine fare for entertainment, but children need to know, to an extent, the reality of natural life and being outside in the fresh air is good just in itself. It’s good for adults too! There is something about the negative ions in moist cold air that actually helps us feel hopeful. The mind and body need a time of slowing down. In that way we restore our energies and maybe even see more honestly. As January ushers us into a new decade I expect that my hopeful lists will meet with some conflicts. Annoying interruptions will happen. My firm belief though, is that interruptions are often more important than our original plans. People are far more valuable than polishing the silver or cleaning the laundry. Nan Fairbrother,*** author of The House In The Country says: Most of anyone’s life is a preoccupation with urgent inessentials. If we divide our affairs into what matters for a day or a season or the rest of our lives, it is the long-term fundamentals we give the least time to, and put off till tomorrow’s tomorrow. We are more concerned with the pressing than the important……” Over a year, my list of homely little tasks may be relatively valueless, but I will polish like precious stones the candle-lit time with friends, the conversations on the phone with family and the times some of us gather together to sing. None of us can really predict how a year will go, but we can do our best to meet its challenges with courage and patience, and try to spread happiness instead of gloom. And just perhaps we can be sure hope and caring stay alive within us and take precedence over our busy bustling. I wish you a 2020 that showers you with blessings and peace! Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net. *Deepening is a process described in A Swiftly Turning Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. We have a choice to deepen or not; to mature or not; to become more — or less. **Gandhi — Indian statesman who, via non-violent protest, brought India to independence. ***Nan Fairbrother –English writer and lecturer on landscaping and land use. 1913-1971.
  3. The turkeys are back!! About two dozen are now scratching up all the vegetation below the bird feeders. Crisp leaves rustle like taffeta under their feet. Young turkeys in the dog pen provide some wild entertainment when Freckles decides he must go out. The birds race round and round, forgetting they can fly, and then suddenly they remember and soar over the fence with pounding wings and squawks of protest. Then we let the dog off his leash and he barks after them. As the leaves continue to reluctantly fall, the catalogs have been pouring into our mail box; pages and pages full of Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas decorations and gift ideas. My mind boggles at the plethora of STUFF ----- I am amazed that anyone would spend money on some of these items. But then I remind myself that taste is surely subjective and what’s attractive, humorous or meaningful to one may not be equally so to another; I do not have a franchise on what is appropriate in décor, lawn ornaments or possessions. Recently, we had visitors from Uganda --- a pastor and his wife --- and suddenly I looked at our house as they might see it. I was struck by the thought that they could well find all my stuff over-the-top too much in the spiritual value system that we share. Everyone’s culture is as different as everyone’s taste. Rethinking our living conditions and our possessions is probably a useful activity now and then. It’s so easy to accumulate, collect, and amass thoughtlessly. Anyone who has visited our home knows that I’m definitely not a minimalist (you can all stop laughing now!). Each corner, the walls and all the shelves are full. I surround myself with items that are meaningful to me or beautiful in my eyes, from shells and stones to cut glass and silver tea pots. I like French provincial chairs and velvet pillows, homespun blankets and brass warming pans. But I can also appreciate homes that are quite different; I admire the sleek glass and steel rooms with splashy Georgia O’Keefe paintings and luxurious fur throws. I like the classic Arts and Crafts designs; Roycroft and Stickley. Then there’s the Adirondack-style décor all pine cones and Pendleton blankets. If I could decorate houses for a living, I’d be on cloud nine until my energy ran out. On the other end, I probably would live in a wilderness cabin quite happily if I had my own pillow and tea cup. I guess my point is that no one should feel a need to copy anyone else’s style – in homes, clothes or living. We are each unique and, hopefully, are able to embrace that. Alexandra Stoddard says: “Let the light that shines brightly inside you become the energy that guides the energy of your home.” * Now when any of my family lift their eyebrows at the multiplicity of my things ---- I’ll just respond that everything from the china and glass to the stacks of books, provide energy for my days------ but that I’m also trying to hold my possessions lightly. In another three days, it will be Halloween. (And in thirteen days I hope you and all your friends, relatives and neighbors will be out to vote!!) We’ve harvested our few pumpkins for the steps and brought out the broom corn. These signs of autumn will remain until after Thanksgiving. My small concession to actual Halloween decorating, are three orange pails with cut-out faces, through which candles shine, and we do usually carve a pumpkin or two. I forgo the skeletons, ghouls, bats and spiders. They are a bit macabre for my taste. Halloween began as the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). This was a harvest celebration and the beginning of the Celtic New Year, but also a time when it was thought that spirits could come back; to vent their displeasure on those they felt had wronged them in this life. The lighted pumpkins and gourds were carried to protect individuals from the unhappy spirits. Bon fires were set in and around villages to make more light for said protection. Samhain became our Halloween due to Pope Gregory the First. In 601 AD, Gregory ordered the missionaries of the Christian church: stop trying to stamp out the pagan customs and holidays. Instead, adapt the times already customary for celebration and rename them to fit the Christian faith. So --- Samhain became All-Saint’s Eve, All Saints Day, and colloquially Halloween. When I was a teenager, we went trick or treating for UNICEF. Our sons seldom went out unless they were visiting someone who did. However, we had several Halloween parties at home, where we and assorted friends constructed mazes, bobbed for apples, did skits and dressed in costumes. Back when I sewed more, I made Super Man, Bat Man and other heroic costumes that after Halloween, became pajamas or went into the dress-up box. Our house in the Catskills was a marvelous site for Halloween parties. It had a split-level attic, the upper part of which was all gabled. We set up mazes there with recorded ghostly music and props like cooked spaghetti and peeled grapes. It was great fun. Currently, since we live back from the road and away from the village, we seldom get any little voices calling: “trick or treat”. However I find that it is sufficiently good to consider the All-Saints aspect of October 31st and November 1st. Enough of my family and friends have gone beyond earth’s tether that I like remembering and celebrating them. One of my current autumn activities is making potpourri – of two or three sorts. My favorite happens to be a basil, sage and marigold combination. This wouldn’t appeal to everyone --- including the men in my family who think that herbs are generally stinky. But that pungent aroma brings back all the greenness and robustness of summer vegetable gardens. I put phlox flowers and alyssum into another mix, creating a comfort-giving scent that triggers thoughts of warm conversations around my mother’s table accompanied by cocoa and molasses cookies. Diane Ackerman**, a local, but internationally-known writer, speaks at some length about fragrances and our sense of smell, in her book, A Natural History of the Senses. Diane is a biologist, professor and poet; a woman of many interests. This is what she says about our sense of smell: “Smells spur memories, but they also rouse our dozy senses, pamper and indulge us, help define our self-image, stir the cauldron of our seductiveness, warn us of danger, lead us into temptation, fan our religious fervor, accompany us to heaven, wed us to fashion, steep us in luxury.” And she goes on to discuss perfumes, plants, animals and humans ---- our olfactory capabilities ----- and tells us what happens when the sense of smell leaves us --- we lose our sense of taste among other difficulties. Odors are often hard to describe, but we can conjure them up in our memories if we concentrate. Helen Keller*** said: “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across a thousand miles and all the years we have lived.” I’m not fond of most commercial potpourris and some perfumes actually give me a head ache. But my home-made potpourri keeps me happy all through the long, NYS winters. Because Halloween is imminent, I conclude with this poem by Harry Behn**** to bring back your Halloween memories. “Tonight is the night when dead leaves fly like witches on switches across the sky, when elf and sprite flit through the night on a moony sheen. Tonight is the night when leaves make a sound like a gnome in his home under the ground, when spooks and trolls creep out of holes mossy and green. Tonight is the night when pumpkins stare through sheaves and leaves everywhere, when ghoul and ghost and goblin host dance ‘round their queen. It’s Halloween!” I hope this carries blessings and fragrant breezes wafting across your life this October time. Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ *-Alexandra Stoddard—American writer and life-style guru. **-Diane Ackerman – American writer, essayist, biologist and poet; born 1948, resides in Ithaca, NY. ***-Helen Keller – American author, activist, lecturer; first person to achieve a BA degree who was both blind and deaf. Quote from “The World I Live In”. ****- Harry Behn – American screen writer; 1898-1973
  4. Resting Between The Notes

    It is always amazing how quickly weather can turn from humid, hot summer days to cooler autumn weather --- and how quickly the leaves become colorful once they begin. After days of temperatures in the nineties, I suddenly needed a wood fire for a chilly morning. And now we are in the throes of a yoyo seasonal change; rain, mild, chilly, foggy, occasional sun, clouds, hurricanes. October is probably my favorite month of the year, although if we have drenching rains or early snow, I may have to reconsider. But October can be sunny and glorious with the pungent aroma of drying leaves and wonderful, crisp morning air. It’s a good season for pumpkins, decorative corn and bunches of drying herbs. My sons would say, if they were here, that the laundry is stinky right now, but I rather like the fragrances from basil, sage, and sweet Annie co-mingled as they hang from the old-fashioned dryer on the wall. The summer months have been full of family gatherings, dinners with friends, birthday celebrations and we’ve enjoyed those far-away friends who came to spend some time in the Finger Lakes. I think we all have tried to pack as many good times as possible into the season, knowing that NYS weather could, at any moment, throw a sleety tantrum and thwart our outdoor reveling. Rachel Peden said about cooler weather: “This is the chill that advises you to discard those plans for things you were going to do this summer and get a good start, now, on what you planned to accomplish last winter.” * Summer enjoyment is understandable, but I think one of our culture’s perennial problems is that we all continue to overload our days, year-round. Kerm and I were given a good movie to watch way back in the spring, and by mid-September, when its owners came to visit, we still hadn’t watched it. This is partly because we tend not to sit long enough to watch a whole movie, but it’s also because our over-done brains don’t stop buzzing long enough for us to indulge in recreation for recreation’s sake. We are really expert at filling the calendar with good and useful things, but very poor at finding fun ways to renew our spirits. And we start our children on the same path when we overload them with activities. In the midst of the luxurious Roman Empire, Ovid** said: “Take a rest. The field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.” I don’t think Ovid meant only our nightly sleep. I think he meant that we really need to find refreshment and renewal during our waking hours. Farming is a good example. Some farmers use and reuse their fields, putting on high-powered fertilizers to grow high-powered corn or grain, year after year. Eventually, the soil becomes exhausted; lifeless! It may seem less efficient, but the land prospers when crops are rotated and the soil is given times of rest. So do we humans need whatever it is our souls crave: music, painting, gardening, spiritual retreats, martial arts, dancing, creating beautiful things, reading or simply times of quiet reflection------ activities that have no part in the daily must-dos. I find that as I age, I need more quiet transition time too. I can no longer come in from gardening and race right into cookie-baking. I can’t return home from an event and immediately involve myself in another equally busy activity. I need to sit between things and re-center myself. Once centered, I make fewer mistakes. It isn’t necessarily that I am so physically tired; it is more of a mental need for space between engagements of my brain. Music needs rests to be the kind of music to which we enjoy listening; my brain increasingly needs whole-note rests instead of eighth-note rests. Watching summer birds diminish and a very chubby woodchuck stuffing himself with apples, I am reminded that, especially in the fall, we humans have a major impact on the fauna around us. As summer transitions into autumn, some wild life will go into hibernation; some will be in and out of deep sleep and others will switch to their winter mode of survival. Around here we often see turtles migrating to their ponds and in doing so, crossing roads. I’m not sure why they find road-crossing a necessity, but when they do, they become a hazard, to themselves and to human drivers. I just learned, if we are unfortunate enough to hit a turtle, it need not be fatal. A cracked shell can be fixed. Last week, a friend hit one --- was devastated because she had done so ---- and picked it up, bleeding, taking it to a vet close by. The vet was quite matter-of-fact in saying that Oh yes, she could mend the turtle and quite easily. *** In autumn, we need to be extra careful as we drive, and not just for turtles. Deer are beginning to mate now and are running blindly hither and yon, other creatures are trying to get ready for whatever they do over the winter. With more and more people building on natural habitats or --- around here --- logging them off, animals are often found in our paths, our gardens, and ----speaking of bears---- on our gazebo steps. We do need to remember that creatures were here first, cut them a little slack and try not to be the cause of injury or death; instead, do our best to live in détente. There is an energy that comes with cooler weather; we all find ourselves getting ready for the long winter in some way. Whether you fall -house-clean, complete all your gardening chores, squeeze in a late vacation or pull out your flannel shirts and wooly socks ---- take deep breaths of October while it is here!! Soak in the sunshine! Here is the last canto of “A Vagabond Song” to remind us to enjoy all the wonder of fall: “There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir; we must rise and follow her when from ever hill of flame, she calls and calls each vagabond by name.” **** Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net. *-Rachel Peden --- American writer who wrote farm columns for the Indianapolis Star and the Muncie Evening Press. This quotation came from her book: Speak To the Earth. 1901-1975 **-Ovid ---Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. Born 43 BC. ***In an effort to be helpful, we should also be careful. Our compassion should not endanger ourselves. Some turtles are snappers, and can bit off a human finger with no trouble at all. And when hitting a deer, it’s probably not really safe to jump out, hold the deer’s head on our laps in our grief (as one good and compassionate friend did). Slowing down on the roads and paying attention might actually lessen some of our co-existence issues. ****A Vagabond Song by Bliss Carman (the last segment). Bliss Carman was a Canadian poet who spent most of his life in the U.S. In his later years he was Canada’s Poet Laureate.
  5. As September fades into October, we’ve finished many outside tasks, though there are quite a few remaining undone. Those left-over things may begin my “To Do” list for 2019 (it’s good to have goals! ). There are gardeners who create cold frames and mulch their vegetables to extend the season. I did this myself once or twice. But at this stage in my life, I prefer to spend November and December with garden plans and seed catalogs inside the house. October allows me a short extension in which to plant some bulbs, a few perennials, and pull some weeds. However, the end of the gardening season is nigh. September has been challenging. I mentioned at the end of August that my sister, Betty, was in Hospice. She died the very day after sending that article out. While I feel a recurring emptiness at losing my sister, I am glad that she will no longer be in pain or be frustrated by growing weaker and less able. Betty was twelve years older than I ---- quite a gap when you are a kid. I remember her taking me to school once; I was probably three. I think I was her “show and tell” for her high-school classmates. After high school and RBI, when she was working, she bought me things that were probably outside the family budget at the time --- a white eyelet dress for a third or fourth-grade play and patent leather shoes for Easter. However, we didn’t become really well-acquainted as adults or close that generational gap until about three decades ago. We had lived miles apart so our contact was basically on holidays, with a few letters and cards here and there. When I came back to the Finger Lakes, it was easier for us to spend more time together. Betty was a very private person who didn’t open up easily. She liked good jazz, books, books and more books, and until she sold her home a few years ago, she had amazing gardens. She sewed when necessary, made yummy red raspberry and pecan pies and, when I was first married, gave me her recipe for one-egg white cake. She loved family gatherings, was generous with her home and her time in addition to enduring four sons who were motor cycle enthusiasts (she was not!!). Betty’s passing leaves me with no siblings. It is strange to now be the eldest of the family, but a situation to be expected, I guess, when one starts out so much the youngest. Fortunately, I have warm friends and wonderful nieces and nephews who will partially fill that relationship hole, though I suppose it never will be filled it in quite the same way. In addition to Betty’s sons, the whole clan, scattered as they are, will miss this woman who quietly provided good counsel, a welcoming house, cared deeply for family and made us all glad that she was one of us. Speaking of death is uncomfortable for many, but quite a few of us (writer and readers) are of the age when death becomes an unbidden intruder popping in and out of our thoughts. And for every person on this earth, of any age, it is not IF, but WHEN. In the event that one does not believe in any sort of life after death, I can understand the reluctance to think about it. But for those whose hearts and intuition are convinced that we simply move into another phase of life, we can look death squarely in the face ---- not perhaps with gladness ---- but certainly with a calm assurance that we will still be who we are. Two of the books that I’ve read recently treat death with humor and imagination, making the conversation a bit easier. They are Fannie Flagg’s “Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven” and “I Still Dream Of You.” They are not theological treatises but delightful and fantastic stories about people; imaginative stories about the hereafter. Here in the Spencer area, we’ve just experienced some seminars that dealt with issues around both aging and death, beginning with a “Death Café” and progressing to legal issues, palliative care and funerals. Participating has been both freeing and informative, and there were goodies to ease the conversation. We have two grandchildren, and having grandchildren makes one think --- of many things ---- one of them being how to talk of difficult issues like violence, war and death; how to explain a world that is far from their experience but is as close as the next newscast. Explaining death is easier than finding words for the hatred, anger and gnashing of teeth that are quite visible no matter what TV channel one watches. These are hard to justify to a clear-eyed child who lives in a loving family and a caring community. I think that even we adults have trouble comprehending it if we have always lived in a secure world, unexposed to violence, war, injustice or indoctrination. World and local situations now make us both fearful and irate, but at the same time, we haven’t a clue what to do with our fear or anger. We have been taught to stifle it, ignore it ---- neither of which works, long-term. Holding in distress makes us feel helpless, which makes us even angrier, and puts us in a place where we are apt to follow anyone who appears like a Superman or Wonder Woman. One of the fun things I remember receiving from an older friend was a “Dammit Doll”. I’ve seen them since in catalogs, but at the time I thought they were her personal invention. There’s a certain charm in having a sturdy stuffed doll that one can beat against the table as a venting tool. Most angry individuals are currently venting on other people. There seems to be no one cause for this viral, negative energy. It is coming from all sides, and ranges from persnickety discontent, to malice, to frothing at the mouth, to flaming, fanatical rage. It is scary because when rage takes over the mind, there’s no room left for thought. We’ve seen this in mass shootings, in road rage incidents, in individuals attacking other individuals over some small slight, of virulent postings on social media and in the thoughtless, spoken words of people in positions of authority, who should be more responsible and certainly more articulate. It is as though everyone’s mental filters have become dysfunctional. I’m not sure what the solution is --- perhaps there is no one solution. And admittedly, there are many things in this world to incite anger. But we need to learn how to channel that anger constructively. A few possibilities are: 1) anger-management classes, from first grade on up; practice in putting anger to work and solving problems in non-violent ways. Anger takes energy and surely that energy could be re-directed into something useful, 2) responsible examples from people in positions of leadership, 3) Remembering that “A soft answer turneth away wrath”,* and 4) ----- Hey ---- maybe making and sharing more “Dammit Dolls”!! Learning how to manage, express and use our anger constructively will surely lead to less fear, more empathy and clearer thinking. One of the things that brings happiness and keeps me balanced is staying in frequent contact with family and friends (often they are the same☺). Recently we had a family party here; we barbecued chicken, people brought food, and we spent a fine afternoon chatting, looking at old family photos and catching up on each other’s lives. The house rang with laughter. That filled up my happiness jar for several days. We can choose our attitudes; we have the option every day to choose calmness and beauty as our daily bread instead of allowing negativity to be our soup du jour. As September exits, I wish you days of good hours, enough quiet time for pondering, an inner feeling of completeness and ease and, no matter what your circumstances, a vision of all the things that bring you joy and peace. *The Book of Proverbs from The Bible
  6. We aren’t quite into actual autumn, but we are definitely into a fall schedule again; choir rehearsal, committees, etc. The golden rod along the roadsides and the vegetable gardens are beginning to look a little tired too. The light mists of August have turned into very foggy September mornings. The birds are flocking for their trek south, cutting down on the seed we use, until the winter birds return. Our porch is nearing its finish. The construction process has triggered “house stories”. The first day our contractor came (he has worked on this house often and knows its idiosyncrasies) he sighed deeply and jacked one corner of the porch floor up because it was way lower there than the other three corners. He couldn’t change the concrete base, but was able to make the ceiling almost level and he will make the floor level over the concrete. We are quite used to the amusing, if frustrating, quirks of this old house, and are fortunate to have made the acquaintance of several people who lived here in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, who can tell us the whys and wherefores. This particular structure came to life in the mid-to-late 1800s, with one room over a dug-out, stone-walled basement. It was a tenant house for what used to be the large farm next door. Over the decades, other rooms were added. The living room, with bedrooms above turned it into a 2-story edifice. Possibly the bathroom, beneath the stairs, was added soon thereafter. Then a shed was bolted onto the back of the house and a concrete floor poured. We’ve been told that the day was very hot, and that the individuals attaching the shed were cooling themselves with vodka ---- frequently. Becoming impatient, they put the shed on the slab before one corner was entirely dry. Thus when we moved in, one could roll a marble from anyplace in the room to that one corner. We have since corrected the floor, but the room has interesting ceiling lines. We learned from a lady who lived here in the 1930s and early 1940s that down the road, in the acreage now known as Cornell’s Arnot Forest, there was a prison camp during WWII. The people who lived here got to know some of the guards, and the guards then came on weekends for home-cooked food, music and a bit of partying. We’ve tried to carry on that tradition of good times and an open house. Bob Benson wrote a book that he entitled “Laughter In The Walls” and I think there’s that in our walls too. During our tenure, we have added a back entrance with a laundry room (where I type these essays), another bedroom, a second bath, several gardens and probably way too many trees. One of our sons remarked that our additions make the house look rather meandering. Well, some houses are built all at once; have simple and congenial bones and classical lines. Others, like ours, are put together rather like Frankenstein, in bits and pieces, often from other structures. That’s how old farm houses evolved, additions as the need arose. It is good to remember that “a home is not for other people; it is for every day and it is for you.” * If it is filled with love, enjoyment of life and one’s own precious things, it is sufficient. If the walls in our house could talk as well as laugh, they would have many an anecdote to share. Our current dining room was a multi-purpose game room when our sons were home, so there might be echoes of kittens, dogs, “Risk” battles as well as numerous forays into the fantasy world of “Dungeons and Dragons”. In its current life, the walls would report on re-runs of Mash, share diverse conversations from dinner-times with friends, and reflect all the sparkle, glow and good cheer of 12th Night parties. Besides the memory of many a good tete-a-tete, the living room would probably spill piano, flute and vocal music from its corners and crannies. There’s been many a Spencer Singers rehearsal around our piano, and there was both piano and flute practicing a few years ago. Even now, when our granddaughters are here, the piano gets a little workout. This room is also where I play CDs, listen to NPR and drink a cup of tea while sitting in a pillowed corner of our very seasoned couch with a good book. The kitchen would send out the aromatic bouquets of lasagna, soups, ginger cookies, chocolate torte and popcorn. There might be a trace scent of my experiments with lentils, daylily buds, milkweed pods, tofu and carob. There would also be wispy remnants of canning steam due to years of preserving tomatoes, peaches, pears, relish and jellies. Certainly there’d be a breath or two of my cough syrup (termed witch’s brew by a son); a combination of white pine needles, cherry bark, red clover and honey. And thanks to those same boys, there also might be a lingering whiff of motor oil left from the occasional carburetor in the sink. The bedrooms would resound with grunts of Orcs, wisdom of Ents and adventures of Hobbits since the last stories I read to our middle-school sons (before they outgrew being read to) were from the Tolkien Trilogy. And there might be a few terse complaints about enduring shiny stars on the ceiling, brilliant blue paint on the walls, having to absorb music by Van Halen and “The Boss”, and putting up with loud voices at all hours. They’d emit sighs over boys who came in very late at night and left their smelly socks around before collapsing in deep slumber. And they might speak highly of the many good friends, over the years, whose fate it was to sleep in those beds. It is fun to remember the situations and happenings. Every home has stories; they are our ---- and your ---- personal kernels of history. And speaking of stories, when several of us in the same twenty-five-year age span get together, we are all too apt to find ourselves sharing tales about our doctors, complaining about being awake at 2 AM, and expressing our irritations at whatever it is that ails us. While I think we probably should find other topics of conversation, I also feel that it is good to be comfortable in talking, at any age, about what is going on in our lives. We can very often help each other along. I saw a pertinent comment recently (no idea where it came from): “We are all a little broken. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.” In other words, it’s good to be honest about life’s troubles with those we can trust to care. But at the same time, we must never feel diminished because we aren’t who we were, or don’t meet our own standards of perfection. Whether it is depression, chronic sleeplessness, difficulty in getting around, being unable to polka around the room or drive a car anymore, those things are not who we are. Disabilities are annoying, but they have no impact on how valuable we can be to our friends, family and the world around us. When things begin to make us feel that we are not enough --- perhaps we need to recite this old Scottish prayer: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us!” Those monsters can be negative thoughts and skewed perceptions that prey on our minds just as much as the night mares to which the poem refers. Now that we are in September, it is really important to take notice of the natural world around us before flying snow flurries blot out our landscapes. September, October and November can be the most beautiful time of the year with crisper, less humid air and the many scents of autumn. “The golden rod is yellow; the corn is turning brown; the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down……..from dewy lanes at morning the grapes sweet odors rise; at noon the roads all flutter with yellow butterflies. By all these lovely tokens, September days are here, with summers best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.”** I wish for you all the beauty of fall to temper your hard days, to fill you with appreciation of the world around and to just give you peace and energy for the months to come. *-Alexandra Stoddard – American home-decorator and life-style philosopher. **-a few verses from “September” by Helen Hunt Jackson. 1830-1885. American poet and activist for better treatment of Native Americans. Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.
  7. Does anyone remember that funny musical theme for the “Hee-Haw” show? A group of us who sing together, adapted it a bit for a 4-H leaders’ program, and had such a good time. This a fine example of changing one’s attitude; gloom and despair vanish as laughter takes over. Of course there is much today that is so overwhelmingly painful and abysmal, that laughter seems almost an insensitive thing to promote. But without humor, we would find life dull and colorless. The Bible tells us that “a merry heart doeth good, like medicine” and Horace suggests: “Mingle some brief folly with your wisdom.” We need humor to dilute, just a bit, all of the frustration, grief and sadness. Earlier in August we were fortunate to visit with family from afar. Several stayed with us for a few days and, as Lewis Carroll’s poem** suggests: “we talked of many things ….of shoes--- and ships--- and sealing wax --- and cabbages --- and kings ---- and why the sea is boiling hot ---- and whether pigs have wings.”* We rejoiced in our grandchildren, shared how we deal with problems of aging, spoke of what a frightful world it often is and how weary we get of intentional stupidity and lack of concern. We admitted to each other that some days staying in bed seems a great escape. We also, in our reminiscing, found laughter and new energy for moving ahead. I have, on occasion, been impacted by depression. And because autumn has sometimes been a difficult season, I try to think ahead. Experience and a good therapist have, together, given me some coping mechanisms, for usually it is my perspective that needs to change, not the situations. The human brain is a marvelous creation that has, so far, managed to keep doctors, scientists and philosophers from understanding how it works. We need far more research into mental ailments of all kinds, including depression, which negatively affects so many people. We also need to stop fearing and treating those who suffer from it, as pariahs. Admitting the problem and finding treatment shows far more wisdom and results in better health, than living in denial. As a lay person, I’ve observed at least four sorts of depression. There is serious and deep depression usually requiring medication and some in-patient treatment. There’s the Eeyore kind, where one is always sort of depressed and looks at life through perennially dark glasses. This person thinks of the glass as not only half-empty but wonders why bother to fill it at all; it’ll just get empty again. Then there is situational depression; caused by long-term stress, deep trauma, or the death of someone we cherish. And then the kind I have experienced: chronic depression ---- it happens more than once, it comes for no discernible reason and, thankfully, eventually goes. Of course we all have the occasional bad days; when the world seems too much; when one feels like saying along with Sir Walter A. Raleigh***: “I wish I loved the Human Race; I wish I loved its silly face; I wish I liked the way it walks; I wish I liked the way it talks; And when I’m introduced to one, I wish I thought What Jolly Fun!” For this I just turn off the news and have a cup of tea! Doctors blame depression on many things, from chemical/hormonal imbalances to diet to emotional trauma. But the therapist who worked with me admitted, when I asked, that doctors really don’t know; they make assumptions and try medications and therapy to address those assumptions. What works for one person may not work for another. So I’ve developed my own “first aid kit” to address times when depression seems to be sneaking into my life. It is so important to be alert. Depression can creep in “on little cat feet” as Carl Sandburg aptly refers to fog --- and suddenly, the mind is foggy. When putting one’s head beneath the pillow seems the only choice, or there’s a daily “who cares?” attitude, it is time to pull out the “kit” before the depressive virus rages on. Addressing treatment early is crucial. These assists have, in my recent history, helped me to escape the clutches of any long-term attacks of gloom and despair: Get outside more often. Walking in a quiet, leafy place is super good medicine. Even trudging through snow banks helps. And along with fresh air --- enough exercise to get the blood flowing and the joints and muscles working together. It sometimes takes incredible effort to get outside, but I always feel better. Because I’m a reader, I go to the bookcase and look until a book jumps out at me (metaphorically speaking) and find it is just what I need. Some people view this as slightly absurd ---- but it works for me. I read the Psalms (middle of the Bible). If David managed all those horrendous problems, surely I can trust that same help in facing what is making me unhappy. I put on good music more often. Music changes the patterns in the brain and reduces jangling from the outside world. And even better if I can sing with friends. I try to be more patient with myself and eliminate time pressures. The world will continue to turn even if I say “No”, astounding as that seems. ☺ Depending on the depth of the depression, getting out with people, or helping someone else may diminish the darkness, especially if there is laughter, caring and a sense that what one does makes a difference. If the depression continues unabated for many days, it is probably time to visit a therapist or get a doctor’s referral. Talking with someone who is neutral and trained to listen is the greatest of help. Medication is my last resort, although sometimes it can be quite necessary. I didn’t care for the rather numbed feelings that came with an SSRI. But that’s my reaction; not everyone would experience the same thing. It is important to remember that depression can become a fatal disease if left untreated. I do take some OTC supplements that seem to help. Being without a current therapist, due to retirement, I ask myself, “What would ____ suggest?” Having seen two or three therapists over the years, the last one being the best, I can quite imagine him saying, “Have you considered……. Or how did you feel..........?” “And about those to-do lists…” This expands my thinking. Probably the most useful thing is to try to look at the situation with different eyes; a changed perspective. We are quick to label something “good” or “bad” without assessing the up and down sides of the issue. This is why some of us like to move the furniture occasionally; it gives us a new view of the same old things. If we can repurpose and reframe household goods, surely we can re-view and re-frame life. Now making a cosmic jump to a happier subject, our 54th wedding anniversary is approaching. We were married Labor Day weekend, two months after I graduated from college. And having the wedding that weekend meant Kerm’s early departure from the NYS Fair, which was, of course, traumatic. A Cooperative Extension agent just doesn’t leave a Fair in the middle! I think the Fair survived, but…………. When we think back, and are reminded of this event by family and friends who made the most of their prankish propensities, it doesn’t seem so long ago. And it always brings a smile to our faces when we recall that memorable time. During difficult days, it is helpful to remember that while we may not live in total happiness with every circumstance, we are meant to live in real joy as a whole. “The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy!”**** Take JOY! *Horace – Roman lyric poet, satirist and critic; wrote while Augustus was emperor. **Lewis Carroll –1832-1898. English writer, mathematician, Anglican Deacon, photographer. Lewis Carroll was a pen name for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Verses came from “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from Through the Looking Glass. ***Sir Walter A. Raleigh – Trinidad-born Nobel laureate. Writer of precise and lyrical language. Personally brittle and a misanthrope (which the quote suggests). ****Fra Giovanni –1433-1515. Italian friar, architect, archaeologist and classical scholar.
  8. ‘Tis one day after my birthday and though I can’t say that I actually feel more aged, the calendar doesn’t lie about linear time. Fortunately, linear time (chronos) isn’t the only kind of time; there’s another sort (kairos) that swoops, swirls and flows over and under linear time in sort of a paisley pattern. It is where our memories, dreams and possibilities take us. It is how time seems to fly when we are busy and having a good time, but drags in times of waiting or boredom. It is how we can meet a friend we haven’t seen for 50 years and pick up a conversation as though it were yesterday. If you question this, check out the recent 60-Minutes documentary on the Hubble Space probe. The probe is going back in time and finding “ago” still there. This must be why I find it so easy to remember my junior prom but forget where I put my glasses. It was a bit daunting to realize, at our family picnic a couple of weeks ago, that we are now the elders of the tribe --- at least at that event. One niece commented that I sort of straddle two generations since I am so much younger than my siblings --- but ---the awareness of generations passing was very vivid. Those swirls of time that I mentioned above explain why being an elder comes as such a shock; inside I feel that I am who I am and I don’t necessarily fit a category of age or much else, and that’s true of people around me too. It was interesting to see how others are dealing with the issues that come with finding one’s self in one’s fifties, sixties or seventies. For some, there is observable depression involved (which I will address in another essay) but for others, there is a sense of, “Yes, my knees hurt and I may need surgery, but isn’t life an adventure?”! One’s personal perspective and attitude is the key to feeling good about life. We felt great about life when, a couple of weeks ago, we were catching up with former colleagues who worked with 4-H, and are now “retired”. As we’ve always known, people who retire from Cooperative Extension simply go on doing all sorts of things that are helpful to the world in general; they just don’t get paid for it anymore. And of course, they also participate in activities that keep them growing and interested; bird-study, gardening, traveling, mentoring, writing, etc. I am always inspired by the experiences that people share at this event. A few are older than I and still zipping along and that definitely gives me hope and confidence for the future. One can look at the outside person and see difficulty in moving, shaky hands, slower words, perhaps a cane ---- but the smile and bright interest tell us that the inside person continues to be vibrant and interested, and houses a spirit as young as always. Retired Extension people subscribe to this thought: “Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.” JRR Tolkien* Spencer Picnic began yesterday. This is a combination carnival and Old Home Days; a four-day event, with a parade, music in the park, food, talent contest, rides and the usual “Miss and Mister Spencer Picnic” competition. Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun shone that first day. Kerm spent last night helping in the food booth ---- not at the grill, thankfully. Anyone who works the grill comes home saturated, even dripping, in grease; clothes, beard, eyebrows! I really do very little with this event, for while I am supportive, I must admit that my actual time there is brief. Crowds are no longer my thing--- if they ever were. But I do manage to put together a gift basket to support our local foundation, Inspire. A very energetic person then wraps all the donated baskets in festive cellophane and ribbon, and they are raffled off to earn monies for scholarships, services for the older population and programs for kids. It is fun to gather stuff for my “Home and Garden” basket; I can shop with a clear conscience since it is for a good cause, and I’m not personally accumulating more stuff. Photo from Spencer Picnic Facebook page Most small communities plan occasions to encourage identity and connection; Spencer Picnic, Owego’s Strawberry Festival, the Candor Fireman’s Carnival, etc. While these events take a huge amount of work, the results usually bring forth a camaraderie that lasts at least until the next election. I find the upside of living in a small town outweighs the downside immensely. We’ve seen again and again how caring people can be. Most recently, Kerm’s truck died at the end of the driveway, and partly into the ditch. He was on his way to a meeting so he simply came back up the driveway and took the car. A friend called to tell me the truck was slightly in the way of her lane of traffic and we might want to do something before dark. A neighbor called later to offer his truck, knowing that there would be Food Pantry deliveries to be done later in the week. I think we all try as we can, without being too intrusive, to keep track of each other, be there in times of need and hold each other in prayers. Of course there will be occasional gossip, judgmental comments and sometimes even bitter divisions about community issues. But in a crisis, these things are put aside and the good in people shines. Those who live without this neighborly element in their lives are missing something wonderful. As summer dwindles, we try to pack in all the things we envisioned doing when summer began, like exploring more of our beautiful Finger Lakes region. Last summer, along with friends, we did a two-day trip to Skaneateles. This year, these same friends have spoken of doing a trip to Mumford to see Genesee Village and maybe take an Erie Canal boat ride. But we’d like to also do some exploring on our own ---- finding some of the hidden and delightful waterfalls we haven’t seen or the cottage shops that abound. And of course, there are all of the more mundane late summer jobs that need doing; pruning the shrubbery (our holly will soon be taking over the sidewalk), continuing to harvest the prolific cucumbers, canning tomatoes and juice and digging up the foundation plants around our porch. We will be making some changes in the porch that will, we hope, give us as well as our friends, easier access to our front door. As arms and legs refuse to remain flexible and strong, we need a little more help from our porch steps and railings. Time may be our friend or our foe, but we can’t escape the need to work with it. Speaking of aging and time, we were recently sent a humorous and delightful song about being on the “green side of the grass”. It was a song full of chuckles and also one to inspire a little thought and gratitude. Many thanks to Gretta who sent it our way! No good comes from bewailing the diminishing of our bodies. Perhaps being less physical will give us more time to work on our spirits which, over the busy years, we’ve undoubtedly, neglected. “It is the best sign of a great nature, that it opens a foreground, and, like the breath of morning landscapes, invites us onward.” Emerson** *JRR Tolkien –British philologist, poet & author, university professor, known for Lord of the Rings trilogy. 1892-1973 **Ralph Waldo Emerson – American philosopher, essayist and poet. 1803-1882 Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.
  9. Stepping Out Of The Nest

    I knew the summer would fly by! Here it is --- August already!! Brown-eyed Susans orange day lilies and Queen Anne’s Lace dot the roadsides. Before we turn around, there will be golden rod. The self-seeded sunflowers are sporting saucer-sized yellow blossoms that seem to be smiling. And I smile back when I see them. The expensive ones I planted, however, are reluctant to thrive; some didn’t even germinate! So much for my green thumb where sunflowers are concerned! Perhaps the crow colony on the hill watched me plant and then had a dawn snack. And speaking of snacks, Mama Turkey is bringing young ones down to our bird feeders; part of their survival training no doubt. August is my natal month; I am a Leo astrologically although I have enough trouble connecting my dots, without the complication of star lore. Astrology was a respected science for many eons, especially in the Golden Age of Ireland; a complicated and exacting way of determining when one should marry, travel, etc. Currently it is frowned upon by many, still followed by some and basically disregarded by most, as I tend to do. However, because I think nothing created is useless (though I wonder about mosquitoes and ticks), I am sure the stars have their place in the stories of the world. After all, the Magi were astrologers. Part of our family is about to gather for the annual picnic on the shale-layered shores of Cayuga Lake. It is more difficult now as children have become teen agers, college attendees and couples with children; they have their own schedules calling. And, as is true with many families, we are scattered from coast to coast. This summer picnic helps us to stay in touch. Besides marvelous food and lively conversation, one thing that we find useful and amusing is our Family Quiz. I send out a request for items of interest asking people to share some of their accomplishments, bloopers, and what they are currently doing and loving, with the rest of us. When I’ve gleaned what I can, a set of questions goes out, with the answers following some days later. For instance: “Who, is back on the race track, doing what he loves, after a long time away?” Or “Who graduated from kindergarten this year?” Or “Who tipped the tractor over in the snow and walked away unscathed?” Because we care, we try to stay current and remember who we are. “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”* Getting together reminds us of this truth. Before we all scattered to the winds, my siblings and I were in and out of each other’s houses frequently. The furthest away anyone lived was fifteen miles. I expected, when I graduated from college, that I’d be coming home again, finding a job, etc.. As it turned out I was home only for the summer; Kerm and I married the September after graduation, and moved to Washington DC. After that, leaving for new pastures seemed to happen regularly among the younger family members ---- Connecticut --- Massachusetts---- California ---- Virginia ---- Montana. Leaving what we’ve always known --- wide fields, glacial hills, making hay, Sundays with family, small town ambiance, Northrup’s ice cream ----- was not easy. New adventures are almost always scary and a bit risky, but, accompanied with courage, they also may be the road to growth, as I think we’ve probably discovered. Not everyone leaves; there are those who stay and hold the traditions, and others who seem called to follow new paths. When a call comes for either way, refusing due to fear is like remaining in kindergarten when we are actually ready for first grade. It stunts our growth as surely as the old customs of foot-binding or whale-bone corsets. Hugh Walpole said: “It isn’t life that matters, it’s the courage you bring to it.” ** Listening to that inner voice usually leads us in the right direction. That first move away was difficult. I am a “nester”---- a person who wishes to snuggle into well-known digs with my pictures and pillows. But it was good for us, as a new couple, to be forced to only rely on each other in that new place. However, it should be noted that my aversion to relocation didn’t go away after one move; I’m a slow learner. To this day, as the car rolls down the driveway – even for vacations --- I often want to turn around and go back. Twelve years after that first move, on the way to our third move, it took me three months to unpack the boxes. I was inundated in depressive home-sickness for the place and friends we’d left back in Pennsylvania, and I simply couldn’t function beyond getting meals and tending children. There are those who can live life by lightly touching down and easily wafting away again. But if one is a nester, moving from a well-loved place creates trauma. That’s just the way it is, and learning to cope with this has been challenging. Perhaps that is the lesson: the process may well be painful, but the positive experiences that come after the “pack up and move” can bring new gifts and happiness, which we’ve always found --- eventually ---- in each place. I try to remember (when I’m cranky about a situation) my conviction that life is essentially a training ground for eternity. Sometimes (not often) I am actually successful in recalling this. ☺ In retrospect, I have found that even in the locations or situations where we weren’t all that comfortable or thrilled to be there, that there was something we needed to learn as individuals and/or in the collective of our marriage. Both of us can look back and say, “Yes, that move was something we needed, pain and all.” A delightful and wholly non-painful experience was a recent visit by our granddaughters. This time they stayed without benefit of mother and daddy, and I think we all had a really good time. Besides having quiet times with crafts, being outside in the gardens and lawn, and reading, we explored Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology at Sapsucker Woods, visited Josh’s riding stables where they got lesson #2 (lesson # 1 was last summer), visited Morrisville’s Dairy complex, and both girls helped a bit with our community Bible School. We saw a few fireflies, lit sparklers and enjoyed slightly crunchy S’mores (our marshmallows didn’t melt the chocolate very well). We are grateful for the time. Now, as we enter August, I’ve been weeding, exposing both disappointments and surprises. Where is my Holy Basil? Why does it not want to grow here? Why only a half row of lettuce when I planted the whole row. How did those cucumbers suddenly change into jumbos? And I thought kale would grow anywhere, but I don’t see it. Speaking of kale, everyone knows this is one of the current health fads; kale smoothies, kale salad, kale chips ---- is there kale ice cream yet? I learned a new trick recently for making kale quickly palatable. At our recent pinochle gathering, our hostess made a kale salad. To tenderize, one usually marinates kale overnight, but Gail put it right into a salad by first massaging it!! She gave those leaves a good rubbing ---- that apparently did the trick, for the salad was delicious. Education just goes on forever if one is open to it. The last time I wrote, I mentioned that we needed rain. That problem was certainly eliminated with last week’s continuous all-day showers and down-pours. The only time prior to this when I remember a week-long rain event it turned into the 1972 flood. There were some areas this past week that experienced flash flooding, but fortunately, Spencer did not, though our creeks were high. I hope wherever you are, that you have just enough rain, plenty of sunshine and are ready to enjoy the month of August. Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net. *Linda Hogan – born 1947. American poet, story-teller, academic, novelist and environmentalist. This is NOT the ex-wife of Hulk Hogan, whose name also comes up in a Google search. **Hugh Walpole ---1884 (New Zealand) – 1941 (England). English novelist.
  10. Dog Days And Dilemmas

    We are at mid-summer now; sort of half way between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. And we’ve had our share of “dog days” when even Freckles, our setter, didn’t move far from a fan. We could use some moisture; often we seem to be in a little pocket where the rain goes happily around us leaving us out there doing our rain dances in vain. We did get some thunder showers this week, and so things are growing fairly well and the state of the gardens is good enough that my sensible thoughts of putting some of the beds to rest next year are getting resistance from a more optimistic (and foolish) part of my brain. Speaking of the brain, we all have heard about the current overdosing crisis with opiates. Sadly, we’ve had young victims even in our small community. I had a related and interesting experience recently when I visited the pain clinic attached to the medical services I use. I had no intention of requesting opiates ---- mostly because no pain medication I’ve tried has made the least difference. Heat, topical applications, and specific massage were far more productive for jabbing nerves and spasmodic muscles. But part of the procedure at this clinic was asking me to sign a document giving them permission to prescribe opiates if I agreed they were needed (really??!! Sort of a no-brainer I’d think!), and then there was a list of promises I had to make IF that occasion ever arose (the real thrust of the document). None of the promises were objectionable, though a couple were ones I hadn’t previously considered. I was just rather taken aback by the whole experience. It definitely emphasized how seriously addiction is now being regarded and how much the prescription process has tightened. My visit there led me to think further about addiction to substances or behavior and why it is so prevalent. Truthfully, I think we all have addictions of varying degrees. Our sons accuse us of being addicted to auctions! Really!! But there truly does seem to be an increase of serious dependence on drugs or alcohol, to gambling, pornography and other risky behaviors, to food, to video-game-playing, to the omnipresent I-phones, and OCD is addiction to process and procedure. A desperate abyss of need leads to addiction of some kind. When I’m feeling low, I often self-medicate with a cup of tea and chocolate, both of which, thankfully, are still legal and relatively innocuous. But that same situational need could turn to addiction if I should become desperate enough, due to pain, either physical or mental. Research has shown that some addictions or tendencies to addiction can be inherited, either genetically or by the examples we see growing up. The dilemma comes in finding a way to quell pain, that isn’t illegal or destroying to our health and relationships. Most of us are not stoics nor should we be!! Pain is debilitating, and needs easing. It’s just too bad that fresh garden peas or delicate green lettuce leaves don’t have the same pain-numbing effect that brandy, opiates or cigarettes have. Just think of the benefits if we could develop addictions to daily walks, evening meditation or kale smoothies. Many years ago, I was taking an anti-depressant. When I decided that I didn’t really like its side-effects, I found that going off that medication, even with a doctor’s plan for weaning the body, gave me three quite uncomfortable months. My mind didn’t really care, but my body surely wasn’t happy about it. On the other hand, chocolate candies or salty chips are not bodily cravings. The digestive system is quite happy with chicken, carrot sticks and cucumbers, but one’s mind and sense of taste create that yearning for salty and/or sweet and it is the mind that panics when the cupboard is empty. So craving can be either physical or psychological, or both. In the past two or three years, I’ve heard a variety of attitudes regarding the growing new programs out there for treating addiction to drugs or alcohol. There are still people who think that anyone dealing with addiction shows a moral weakness that could and should be conquerable by a strong will, and they resent taxes being used for recovery centers. This has probably been the prevailing, shaming attitude for decades. It indicates considerable lack of knowledge on the part of those who think this. They obviously do not understand how the body and brain work and probably have little insight into their own behaviors. Some individuals voicing these uncharitable and unscientific sentiments are the same people who go through a six-pack every night, a half-dozen doughnuts or ten cups of coffee in a day. Their addiction is more subtle. Research and experience show clearly that serious addiction is a public as well as personal health issue that needs treating much as does diabetes or small pox. And the support and love of friends and family is essential. If we are honest with ourselves, we should realize that each one of us could find ourselves in an addictive situation unless we are, as I mentioned, stoics who seek no easing for any kind of pain, and go through life with a perennial stiff upper lip. Jean Paul Sartre* said: “You are your choices”. But it is also good to remember Alexandra Stoddard’s** assertion that “the power of choosing good is within the reach of all of us.” Even against all odds! Ludwig von Beethoven*** said “…the mark of a really admirable man {person} is steadfastness in the face of trouble.” And he should know! No musician regards deafness with anything but horror------ but Beethoven wrote some very fine music through the pain of his disability. I personally know two people who have done tough work in therapy, discerning why they were/are addicted to a substance. They consider that they are still in recovery even after years of abstaining. The process is never easy; it takes courage and starting over again and again. But they are a shining light to anyone else who needs help on that path, and they inspire me. Sometimes we find that our pain, whatever it might be, can be used to bring maturing and healing to ourselves and others. I truly believe that nothing we experience is wasted if we choose to live in the Light. And regarding light, we are now on the diminishing side of our daily light cycle (daylight) in this hemisphere. But we still have lovely evenings for sitting on the porch or gardening. I find healing for many kinds of pain, in just being in the garden, especially between about 7 and 9 PM. There’s a peaceful atmosphere that quiets my soul often ruffled by the day’s turmoil. Actually lying on the ground (on a thin sheet; must remember those cats, birds, and turkeys wandering our lawn) is healing to back pain too; something about the magnetism of the earth aligning with that of the body. These mid-summer days are just right for hammocks, swimming holes, lemonade and thinking long thoughts. Naturalist, Edwin Way Teale, reminds us to enjoy our summer days while we have them. “Each year, during sweltering summer days, the same reflection occurs to me. I remember, with a sense of wonder, how difficult it will be to recall my sensations in the heat of July when --- only six months hence ---- I am amid the cold and snow of January.” **** So take things easy and relax into summer. *John Paul Sarte –1905-1980. French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist and literary critic. **Alexandra Stoddard ---- American interior designer and lifestyle philosopher ***Ludwig von Beethoven --- 1770-1827. German classical and romantic composer. ****Circle of the Seasons by Edwin Way Teale. 1899-1980. American naturalist, photographer and writer.
  11. My Country

    The song, “This Is My Country”* has two verses. Vs. 1 begins: “This is my country, land of my birth; this is my country, grandest on earth..” And Vs. 2 is:“This is my country, land of my choice; this is my country, hear my proud voice.” The lyrics are inclusive. If we are grandest on earth it is because of the mixture of cultures, experiences and traditions. We are far less grand, and heading toward abysmal, when we insist on being insular, hostile and selfish about who matters in this country. Laughing, sharing meals, listening and finding common ground should be our good goal for a great country. In my personal countryside, the garden heliotrope is dropping its tiny petals after blooming for about three weeks. This plant grows wild along the roadsides over toward Wayne and Hammondsport, but I’ve had trouble making it happy here. Finally, however, my plants are over three feet tall and covered with fragrant heads of tiny little lavender/white flowers. I’ve always wondered how something with such an attractive scent in flower, can have such a revolting odor in its roots. Garden heliotrope^ is the valerian often recommended to help one relax and gently sleep. I once bought some of the roots, thinking to make tea, and they made my car smell so bad (rather like dirty teenage socks!), only from Trumansburg to Spencer that I ended up tossing them. I do take the capsules occasionally, but always accompanied by a tasty juice; never with just water. We are one day past our nation’s birthday, which brought to mind the song with which I began. I expect that many celebrated with parades, BBQs or family parties. I love fireworks and so, apparently, did our forefathers; lighting up the sky on special occasions seems to be a tradition nearly as old as our nation. Here in our valley, fireworks echoing off the hills remind me of the Catskill’s Rip Van Winkle bowling with the little men. The booming, echoing noise of fireworks is not universally admired though; I remember having to hold a small granddaughter on my lap while she held her hands over her ears. People with PTSD may also have a major problem with what resembles battle-field sounds. And before Freckles became hard of hearing, he didn’t like it much either; it jarred his nervous system. We should be aware. In high school, our band marched in a parade or two, though we were actually a concert band. I’m sure that I felt all patriotic as we played “Stars and Stripes Forever” or “El Capitan.” But I’m also sure that I didn’t really think about why. Enduring the blue wooly uniforms in the heat and keeping my white sneaker-clad feet in step while carrying the bell lyre or playing the piccolo, was a more immediate concern. Now, at my current advanced age ☺ and in these times, this annual commemoration makes me ponder. There are so many wonderful things about this country that are found nowhere else, but we’ve made and continue to make some grievous errors in judgment and policy over the years (according to me, of course). And I can’t help but wonder what George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson would think of our journey and our current reality? I imagine they would approve of some things, stand in amazement at a few and find others appalling --- and not always as we might think they would. They were politicians, but they weren’t career politicians. They accepted a responsibility for the time necessary, and then returned to their regular lives. I think that probably makes a huge difference! George Washington spoke with some warning: “In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude. Every man will speak as he thinks…………… or without thinking……..and consequently will judge of effects without attending to their causes.” And “Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” So the absence of thoughtfulness and presence of abuses of our freedom apparently remain the same regardless of passing generations. And from Thomas Jefferson: “The time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.” And “When a man {or woman} assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.” Since all of these things: corruption, desire for power, inability to think things through and licentiousness continue to abound, it appears we don’t learn much from history, even recent history. Those quoted gentlemen had flaws, as do we all, but they took their values seriously and tried to explain that we all have a responsibility to protect the liberties, integrity and principles on which our constitution was actually based (the spirit of what was written) and not try to make what it says fit our own wishes, desires and comfort level. Loop holes are ---- not always, but often ---- the bane of justice. Shrugging our shoulders, yawning in apathy and thinking that our own experiences are (or even should be) universal will hasten destruction of the life that we value. Ben Franklin, of the same era, said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And here is a verse from a poem by Jessamyn West**: “Freedom is a hard-bought thing – A gift no man can give, For some a way of dying, For most a way to live………” I think this means we should live in awareness and gratitude but be ready to stand firm when civil rights --- for anyone at all --- are threatened. Sometimes we forget how precious are the small things of daily life and we assume that liberty is a given. Most of us, simply because we were born in this country, have been sheltered from many hard issues of life ---- issues that we, living in relative comfort, cannot even comprehend. As a result, we come to feel entitled and blithely take some of the most important things in our lives for granted; the love and security of family, our personal safety, the many retail choices, the sun coming up in the morning, the aroma of grass being mowed, the simplicity of a child’s affection and trust, space for gardens, no bombs dropping or mine fields to fear, food in our refrigerators and pantries. We can put those very precious things at risk by living in apathy or ignorance. And from my spiritual point of view, we fail in our purpose here on earth if we neglect to address hunger, loneliness, injustice, hate-mongering and evil simply because we are, as yet, personally untouched by them. So, while the actual 4th of July holiday is over, perhaps we could allocate a day or two more to consider: What makes this my country? How can I usefully support a nation that was formed on values of freedom (as they saw it at the time), caring for those in need and encouraging opportunity for each of us? How do we correct sociological mistakes from the past? I don’t necessarily mean in a political way, although that is one responsibility to contemplate. I mean in an individual way. What can I ---- you ---- anyone ---do by our lifestyles, our conversations, our volunteering, to make our little corners and maybe other corners too, places where good things thrive? What is it that we want to nourish and preserve? Be aware that I’m not suggesting that each of us try to improve the entire world by ourselves and in our lifetime. I am learning that one should do only what it is possible to do without unhealthy stress or neglecting other important arenas of our lives. What we feel led to do with the gifts within us, should come from the heart after serious contemplation. However we choose to live, each of us has an impact on our entire fragile world. Right now we are personally rejoicing because our granddaughters are coming to visit. That’s a very precious gift and we appreciate being able to enjoy their company for a few days. Perhaps there will be a campfire with toasted marshmallows; hopefully there will be fire flies; definitely there will be music and stories. And we are glad that we have the freedom “to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day……..watching the clouds float across the sky.”*** Even while my country may be having a difficult summer ---- I can still be grateful for my personal countryside and all that is therein. *”This is My Country” written in 1940. Lyrics by Don Raye and Music by Al Jacobs **Jessamyn West ----American author, notably wrote “Friendly Persuasion”. 19902-1984 ***John Lubbock ---- British banker, politician, scientist, philanthropist. 1834-1913 # --- Garden heliotrope (Valerian) is NOT the annual deep purple heliotrope that nurseries sell in the spring. It is a tall perennial of a different family.
  12. Greening Of The Year

    Green is the prevailing color in June. All of the trees have leafed out, the encroaching comfrey and day lilies have grown green, tall and wide and we are mowing the grass often. Tulips are gone, lilacs have ceased to spread their fragrance but the peonies are opening into ruffled aromatic blossoms. The birds are quieter now, busy with their nests and nestlings. Corn is being planted and hay fields are being mown or chopped; an aroma that brings back all sorts of memories. My brother bought a baler that made smaller, cylindrical bales so that a house-hold of daughters and one younger sister could help with the hay. While I didn’t cherish the job when I was sixteen, to this day, mown hay is a fragrance that I breathe in deeply and appreciatively. A June day with blue skies and sunshine is what most people refer to as being the “perfect” day and it is also an ideal kind of day for making hay. As for special days in June, there’s Flag Day on June 14th and Father’s Day, this year on June 17th. Flag Day was emphasized more in my growing up days than now, and many of us may still be able to recite part of Henry Holcomb Bennett’s* poem, “Hats off! The flag is passing by.” There’s plenty of controversy around the flag right now; we all need to remember that it is an icon not an idol, two quite different things. Father’s Day is a very old tradition in Europe, celebrated on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th). The Spanish and Portuguese brought this custom to Latin America and it eventually was adopted in the US. It was first celebrated in 1910 in Washington state, and eventually put on the third Sunday in June for all states. It is a time to appreciate not only actual fathers but also the caring people who provide father figures for those who need them. I haven’t often written about my father, perhaps because his too-early death came just about the time we could have related as adults. In my junior-hi and high school years, my father and I experienced a certain amount of tension. He was fine at math and sciences, and had no clue why his youngest child wasn’t. This created mutual frustration! Many years earlier, he worked hard to get school buses for our centralized school, and so saw no reason why I’d want to ride in anything else. And he was considerably more authoritarian than my maturing sensibilities liked. I think this was probably true for many fathers of that era. However, he was also a person of integrity who wouldn’t consider doing anything in a dishonest or slovenly manner. He advocated for good schools, feeling that the education not available to him was essential for his children. He had a respect and love for the land; I remember walking with him as he hand-scattered seed in the fields and explained which seed was for where. And he cared deeply for his family. He insisted on good manners, on relating to people respectfully, and on doing one’s best ---- and a bit more. He was easily irritated a tendency that, unfortunately, he passed on to me and a couple of his other offspring. My husband insists that irritability is a genetic line that runs through my family……. prickly, he calls us. ☺ It’s just that we tend not to suffer foolishness patiently, and certainly not gladly. On this Father’s Day, I will be remembering my father as someone who would play Candy Land or Chinese checkers with small children, who purchased two Easter dresses for me when I was ten years old because I couldn’t decide which one I liked best, and who thoroughly enjoyed seeing his house full of family whenever possible. I wish I’d expressed my appreciation to him more often. For some reason, deeply buried in my subconscious, June often puts me into a state of nostalgia. I pour over scrapbooks and yearn for family gatherings and luncheons with friends. I may make more phone calls just to stay in touch. I find myself suddenly wishing for home ------ but which one? Where I now live and have lived for nearly 40 years and am deeply rooted in community? Our Pennsylvania home where both children were born and where we lived for ten years while acquiring a wonderful group of friends who we then had to leave? Or the home where I grew up, a farm house surrounded by stately trees and wide gardens with Guernsey cows in the fields (hopefully not in the gardens) and acres to roam? Where do you consider “home”? Everyone has their own vision. For some, it is the rolling green hills of Vermont or upstate New York. For others it is looking out over the ridges and hollows of the mountains that run like a spine down through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky; blue and smoky. Still others long for the wide sweeps of corn, wheat and sunflower fields of the mid-west or the tall, snow-capped mountains of Colorado and Wyoming ---- or the wide blue skies of Montana where one can see for miles and miles. And there are those who pine for the ocean of either coast. What we see and cherish is often a matter of perspective linked to the experiences we’ve had in those places. In the home where I grew up, near Rochester, I experienced small town warmth via family, church, school and the Grange. I learned leadership skills in 4-H and I loved the farm (well --- maybe not the chickens!!) with its fields and woods. Then, as a young married couple, we lived in Pennsylvania and I remember ice cream socials, wonderful 4-H volunteers, church retreats, ladies’ Bible study, our toddlers’ wall-to-wall toys, and parties in our summer kitchen with the walk-in fire place. Here, in Spencer, where we’ve resided for the most years, we experience a community that seems to have accepted us for who we are, even when they think we are slightly odd. Our sons spent most of their being-educated years at S-VE; it is a small enough school so that we knew their teachers and felt welcome there. One didn’t have to worry too much about kids in trouble because someone would be sure to tell you if they were on the roof, hanging from the catwalks or out of line in any way. We continue to find fellowship, friends who truly care and opportunity to grow in our faith and understanding of the world here. Think about your home; its blessings, your experiences, what has made you love it. A little nostalgia is, on occasion, a good thing, as are thoughts of what makes a real home. Alexandra Stoddard,**a creator of homes and a writer, says: “Home is where we express our passions and our unique creative vision. We should seek and celebrate the poetry of every day at home.” And perhaps taking time to consider that is what makes each day special. While summer doesn’t officially begin for another two weeks, most of us consider early June its real onset. I look forward to the activities and events already on my calendar for the summer months, but I know that all too soon I’ll be looking back on them. Thus it is my firm intention to enjoy each day to its fullest ---- even those days of heat and humidity that try my endurance. Seeds are planted in the garden, the tomatoes and potatoes seem to be thriving and the usual weeds are growing apace. As June explodes in flora and fauna, we remember why we so enjoy the four seasons; variety just makes life interesting!! *-Henry Holcomb Bennett ---American author, journalist and poet. 1863-1924 **- Alexandra Stoddard is an American interior designer and lifestyle philosopher Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.
  13. June Specials

    High school graduations are popping up all over. If only we could hand out flyers along with those diplomas carrying some suggestions of what is important in life and what isn’t. At eighteen (and sometimes way older), who thinks about that? Eleanor Roosevelt* said it well: “To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family. Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.” Perhaps this should be engraved on each diploma. June is, traditionally, month for weddings, though people generally get married when it fits into their calendars. We recently attended a lovely wedding for one of our nieces. The bride was beautiful, the groom appeared to be a fine young man, and they were obviously moving in a cloud of joy. In addition to being bathed in the happiness that filled the room, we were able to visit with family members we see too seldom. And of course, we all told stories of our weddings. While it seems impossible to us, Kerm and I have been married nearly 54 years. Interviewers of those married for decades always seem to think/hope that there’s some secret formula to staying attached that long. If that is true, I’m not sure that we know what it is. Basically we respect each other, have similar senses of humor, enjoy many of the same things, care about each other’s families, and most of the time, we love each other and our life together. And we have taken our commitment to each other seriously, even when shaking the other until his/her teeth rattle would be satisfying. There is no honest relationship that is entirely smooth and wonderful. There will be disagreements, hurts, adjustments, misunderstandings and occasional horror at some of the things we learn about each other (“You paid HOW much for those shoes?” “You ate a whole quart of ice cream?”) I remember that Ann Landers offered a bit of advice when queries came in about staying together. “One must ask, would life be better with or without this person?” The optimal answer is: “I can’t imagine life without her/him.” We were married on Labor Day weekend, and after honeymooning in Vermont and New Hampshire, left for University of Maryland graduate school, seven hours away from our families. Fortunately home-sickness is seldom fatal, and I survived, but in that situation, we had to rely on each other instead of extended family; probably a very good thing. We also elected to not have children for a couple of years, which gave us time to feel comfortable with each other and to grow up a bit more before needing to care for small people. No one has exactly the same needs or the same patterns and rhythms to their lives as anyone else, but no relationship can be lasting and good unless there’s effort spent on it and determination to stick with it. That is really the common denominator. When anything else (other than personal honor and faith) becomes more important than that relationship, there will be trouble and hurt that’s hard to heal. June also ushers in what we all hope will be a lovely season of sunshine, warm breezes and freedom to enjoy the outdoors and other summer pleasures. The summer solstice is TODAY ---- June 21st; a day of longest daylight and shortest hours of darkness. I’ve written before about what a magical time the Solstice has been, for eons. Some of the ancient stone structures that amaze us by their complexity were designed to mark the solstices and equinoxes, and are quite scientifically sophisticated. Mid-summer Night’s Eve is so rife with legends it becomes easy to believe that faeries and elves might be peeking out from behind every fern. In some early Celtic celebrations, flaming wheels were sent rolling downhill to propitiate the gods; sort of a spectacular fireworks display of gratitude for summer. An Elizabethan custom encouraged unattached maidens to wash their faces in the dew early on Mid-summer’s Day. Those who did this would, supposedly, envision the person they love. In my yard, it would show good sense to make sure no turkeys, cats or other wild life have been in that dewy grass prior to washing one’s face. June is also the month of roses, and my climbing rosebush that flings its arching shoots at least twelve feet into the air, covers two small trees with a stunning fountain of pink blossoms. Late peonies are sending out fragrance, the lupines are fading and need dead-heading. We’ve been mulching with straw where we have plants in the vegetable beds, and that nice warm straw seems to be a great place for kitty-napping. Apparently also good for playing hide and seek among the peppers and marigolds! Keeping the cats out of the gardens would take monitoring, 24/7. They seem to think that if I work there, they should certainly explore, dig, and play in the same. The Eleanor Roosevelt quotation with which I began this ramble led me to think about my life. I’m definitely not a recent graduate of anything (except perhaps lessons in patience and I’m still working on that degree), but I thought long about whether or not I live according to what I value most. The surrounding demands of our communities and culture never end; we all could be busy doing good things with no hours left to sleep, so there is eternal discernment needed. There have certainly been times when I’ve said “Yes” for the wrong reasons and then found myself overwhelmed or disillusioned. Many of us feel so led --- pushed --- convinced--- that we should being making this world better that we do not comprehend when we should let go and let someone else. Doing good things is admirable but not if it leaves us no time for our own growth. It then becomes a way to avoid thinking about difficult issues. This is where determining what we truly value helps us with balancing our days. Many years ago when our children were small and going to Sunday school, and Kerm and I were teaching teen and adult classes at 9:15 AM, we decided to keep our Saturday evenings free of social events. We played games, planned out our curriculum for the next day and got a good night’s sleep. At first it was a bit difficult to turn down what surely would have been fun occasions. But after a while, we looked forward to the peace and hominess of Saturday nights. In later years, we haven’t always been so discerning, but we try to assess our calendars every so often; are we living out what our values are now? Most important, in this beautiful month of June, are we savoring each day and making sure we spend time with those we love? Goethe** said we should “Connect our inner light to the external light of our environment.” And SHINE!!!! *-Eleanor Roosevelt……1884-1962. American diplomat, activist and wife of President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. **-Johann Wolfgang Goethe…… 1749-1832. German writer, artist and politician .
  14. Tis The Merry Month Of May

    Because I grew up visiting Rochester’s annual Lilac Festival, spring isn’t really here for me until the purple, pink, white and mauve plumes send out their signature fragrance. There is even a bottled scent available called “Highland of Rochester Eau de Parfum”. Other signs of spring are that the flag once more flies from our porch, high school bands are tuning up for the coming weekend’s ceremonies and there’s no snow!! The past two weeks have offered the sort of romantic spring weather that poets put into verse --- as in Camelot’s, “’Tis the merry month of May….”! Everything seasonal is in full flower, and the air is filled with a potpourri of fragrance from not only lilacs, but also apple blossoms, viburnums, and tulips. Even dogwood flowers have a light, pleasant fragrance. Now is also the time of year to vote on school budgets; an event that most small school districts in NYS schedule for May. Showing up to vote is one place to experience the camaraderie in rural communities. As we gather in the auditorium lobby to sign in, we can chat with others coming to vote, and those who are manning the tables. We talk about how volunteers are dwindling, how organizations like Lions’ Club, Farm Bureau and churches are suffering a lack of membership. We ask how this person is doing and whether that person is out of the hospital. We talk of the school play of a few weeks ago and what a good music department we have. We may very well not be voting the same way as those with whom we chat, but even if we disagree on how --- we are mostly all there to vote because we care about our community and our kids. A larger world-wide community calls for our attention as we approach Memorial Day. For many this weekend is a family time for putting flowers on family graves, having picnics and perhaps either attending or participating in celebratory parades honoring veterans. But Memorial Day also offers a world view. What really honors those who have given their time, their health, and sometimes their lives? We are proud of and grateful to the people who stand on the front line between the utter chaos of the power-hungry and our wish to live in peace. Yet might we not express gratitude in more useful ways? Certainly our care for returned soldiers is dreadfully lacking; true gratitude would give them adequate, timely care and resources for mending and healing. And should we not deeply regret that humanity still glorifies war and continues to accept killing each other as a way of solving problems? My father was in WWI, two of my brothers were in WWII and a brother-in-law participated in the Korean “Conflict”. Friends with whom I went to high school and college were part of the war in Viet Nam. And we held our breaths for our own sons and nephews as calls came out for the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and other troubled spots around the world. We currently have a nephew in the armed services. Conflict and war just never seem to stop; they simply ebb into a dribble until the next trouble spot erupts. If we could look at this eons-old dilemma from afar --- like from another planet perhaps ---- what might we think about common sense and humanity? There are people who firmly believe that as we advance in civilization (education, logic and science) that we humans will become less barbaric and more compassionate. I’m not so sanguine. While I believe that we should keep moving ahead in those arenas, I’ve found that logic seldom changes anyone’s mind (“la, la, la --- I can’t hear you!!”). Education does make a difference but it takes two or three generations for deeply instilled philosophies of bias and antipathy to change, and that often is due to experience not education. Our ancient tribal instincts are deeply woven in some part of our subconscious, and until we can actually look at all humans as our brothers and sisters, we will not be able to subdue our fear and hostility of those who aren’t like us. As Robert Burns* commented: “Good Lord, what is man!! For simple he looks, do but try to develop his hooks and his crooks, with all his depths and his shallows, his good and his evil, all and all, he’s a problem must puzzle the devil.” Until we admit to ourselves that each of us needs to make some changes within, we probably will continue to be puzzles, living in a puzzling world. Fortunately, there are those who seem to find a way to rise above fear and suspicion; they don’t emit that primal scream response but act in compassion and love. They quietly go about the business of making wherever they live a better place. They may not get a lot of recognition, but their basic goodness, and caring spirits light many paths other than their own. And once you have ministered to someone, it is no longer possible to think of them as “other”. I think here of people who bring laughter, cheerful conversation and maybe a helpful tonic to a friend in pain, those who drive people to doctor’s appointments, send cards of encouragement, keep their friends in their prayers, read stories to children, rescue stray dogs and cats and prepare food for those who hunger. While it is nice and newsworthy to invent new medications, create an unusual App or speak for human rights at the United Nations, it is the persons who just keep moving quietly among their fellow-humans, applying bandages and scattering seeds of peace and joy as they go along, who really keep our world from imploding. We simply need to look after each other and do what we can. I’ve had occasion lately to visit a massage therapist or two; their healing hands keep me moving. In a discussion with one of them, we spoke about how all of us have the potential to be healers. Whenever we choose a smile over a scowl, kind words in lieu of hurtful ones, to look at those who are different with acceptance, we are spreading a healing elixir. There are no educational requirements, class demands or earned fame that matter at all. Emerson** says this quite well: “To laugh often and much --- to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children --- To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends --- To appreciate beauty and find the best in others --- To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition--- To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived ----- this is to have succeeded.” So if you are feeling overwhelmed now that spring is here ---- if you are running from pillar to post; from the garden to the church meeting to the grocery store to your child’s baseball game; wincing at the nightly news ---- STOP! First, take a moment to inhale deeply spring’s fragrant aromas. Think long about how and where you fit into Emerson’s ideas of success. And take several moments during each day to rejoice that you are alive and that you are you in the midst of this “merry month of May”. *Robert Burns ---- Scottish poet. 1759-1796. Poet and Lyricist, also known as the Bard of Ayrshire. **Ralph Waldo Emerson ---- American Poet. 1803-1882. Essayist, philosopher and poet who led the Transcendentalist Movement of the mid-19th century. Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.
  15. Mamas Just Keep Moving

    Ta-Da!! The kittens are gone. The SPCA outside of Ithaca kindly received them for neutering and adoption. They were such bouncy, amusing little creatures that I’m sure they were snapped right up. However, on the down-side, the Mama cat is accosting me every time I go outside; staring at me from a safe distance and obviously asking WHAT I did with her babies. Now to trap HER! Due to the arrival of some good weather, our “winter lights” are now in storage. We can’t really call them Christmas lights, because they go up on a good day around Thanksgiving, and we seldom get them off until March or early April. Since decent weather was late in coming, we have just removed them from the trees going up the driveway and across the front lawn. Their absence does create a problem for those trying to find our driveway; the lights make it much easier. What a difference a few hundred miles makes! We have just spent ten days in the vicinity of Willis, Virginia, enjoying time with family. They are mowing lawns there and planting gardens. The red bud trees were a glory all the way down from Maryland to Virginia and back again. And in Virginia, the dog woods were just beginning to bloom. Back in NYS now, I’ve missed some of my daffodils; they blossomed while we were gone. But the tulips are beautiful, and the garden soil is good enough to get the potatoes planted. Mother’s Day, is this coming weekend ---- a holiday celebrated in 40+ countries sometime during March through May. In the United States, it was begun by Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honor her mother ---- a care-giver during the Civil War and a Public Health advocate. So, in 1908, at St. Andrew’s Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, Anna Jarvis began this custom with a celebratory service. Currently, Grafton is also the site of the International Mother’s Day Shrine. By 1911, all states observed it and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation that “Mother’s Day” would be observed annually on the second Sunday in May. Anna Jarvis was greatly disturbed when Hallmark cards began to “commercialize” this celebration, but I think that however love is expressed and shared is valid and good --- whether via phone calls, cards, visits or sky-writing. I’ve written considerably over the years about my own mother, and recently an essay about her achieved first place in a “Women of Distinction” writer’s contest. My mother was a homemaker who, when her children were sufficiently grown, became a Dekalb salesperson. She was respected by area farmers for her energy, integrity and expertise. After retiring from an awards-filled sales position, she took lessons and excelled in a traditional Early American mode of painting on wood and tin, had amazing gardens, participated in her church, the Grange, Home Bureau and was a good neighbor. She’s a hard act to follow for her life has left an impact on her children, her grand children, perhaps a great-grand child or two, and on the neighbors who came to her with their problems. She had pretty definite ideas and gave voice to them very clearly, but she also tried to listen, learn and be fair about new thoughts and philosophies. She seldom, if ever, interfered in her adult children’s lives, though I’m sure there were many times when she probably wished she could. We were able to discuss books, theology, gardens and the latest technological advances right up to her death, at age ninety-four. In addition to my mother, I was also fortunate in my mother-in-law, who was wiser in many areas than I and very accepting. Also I was privileged to watch my older sister and sisters-in-law who became parents long before I did. Parenting is not easy, and most of us do so with little if any training, so mentors such as these were a blessing. They taught me to pick my battles and to just keep moving forward. Regardless of errors in parenting that we may have made, we respect and take delight in the grown-ups who used to be our toddlers. They’ve turned into fine adults, who’ve made wise life choices. Our daughters-in-law are intelligent, caring and accomplished women. Growing up well would also be true of our nieces and nephews. Watching youngsters mature from children to adults is sometimes a tad painful and often a little frightening. But the accomplished results (in our families at least) have been worth all efforts, fears or irritations that came along with the process. And now we have granddaughters! One of the activities our granddaughters do is dancing. One takes ballet lessons and the other participates in liturgical group dancing that acts out stories. I envy their litheness and agility. At this point in my life, moving the body is often problematical. The joints ache, the muscles would rather not make the effort and the energies are miniscule. We have a lift at church now as an alternative to the steep stairs that take one from the lower level to the sanctuary. I do use it sometimes, but try to keep that from being often. As arduous as the stairs are, I have a feeling that if I stop using them, my muscles will “smile complacently” and refuse to do even what they do now. As Leonardo da Vinci said: “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” Of course, there are days when being gentle with one’s self is a very good idea ---- so long as it doesn’t mean a spiral descent into couch potato-ism before that’s really necessary. Gardening is one way I choose to keep moving. Right now, I’m a bit handicapped by a severe neck issue and today, we are also getting light showers, but hopefully those things will not long be problems. The weeds are growing apace and it’s time to plant the garden beds with lettuce, peas and carrots. Soon the lilacs will be sending their purple fragrance throughout the yard along with the viburnum carlesii. I know that around here, one should not plant before Memorial Day, but it has been such a long winter that we are all eager to begin the cycle of planting and harvesting. So I may sneak in a few things and hope for the best. If you garden, I wish you a wonderful garden this year, and whatever you do, go ahead and enjoy spring!! “Sometimes it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy!”** Guillaume Appollinaire *Leonardo Da Vinci--- Italian Renaissance man who excelled in painting, architecture, music and many other of the arts. 1462 – 1519 **Guillaume Appollinaire was a French poet; 1886 - 1918 Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net.