Candidly, I’m not the gardener in our household, but I still have to pitch in with the work. Let me look on the bright side. Plus, when it comes to dining, I definitely enjoy the benefits.
- There’s less grass to mow, thanks to the beds that take up at least half of what would have otherwise been lawn.
- The sequence of blossoms and produce give me a heightened seasonal awareness. Every week is different, from mid-March as far as mid-November, in the progression of blossoms .
- The selections and placement of plants reveals my wife’s mind with its shifting palate of color. She designs English-style clumps, unlike my straight rows. Yes, it really can be a feast for the eyes, even as we look out from our windows.
- Asparagus, in a permanent bed, is a delight to cut and eat almost immediately each day through the month of May. It’s the first of our you-can’t-buy-it-this-fresh revelations and reminds me of my years of living in the Yakima Valley of Washington state, where it sprouted like a weed. There, our goal was to sate our taste buds for the coming year. Besides, the delicate ferns are stunning foliage all summer.
- Fresh greens. Salads, especially.
- Berries, starting with strawberries and extending into blueberries and raspberries. We also have a bank of currants.
- Real tomatoes, not the poor substitute you find at the supermarket. We always raise a variety of sizes and shapes, and you’d be surprised how much their flavor varies. One year, I think we had 14 different kinds. Nothing surpasses a tomato and mayo sandwich every day through August and much of September. The king of France should have been envious. You can forget the bacon or even lettuce, as far as I’m concerned, they detract from the star attraction. Again, it’s enjoy it while it’s so gloriously available. (We also freeze a lot for deep winter – the soup, especially, can be heavenly while you watch the snow fall.)
- Weeding, which I’d normally avoid, has become a quick means to collect food for the rabbits, which they so greedily and efficiently compost.
- Which brings up composting, a lesson in patience and the importance of worms, as I feel virtuous in turning what would have otherwise gone to the landfill into a miracle mixture that’s revived much of our property from what my wife termed “dead dirt” into something soft, pliant, and fertile.
- Hummingbirds. They make their rounds through everything flowering, but you have to be alert to see them. Sometimes they’re even right behind your back.
Well, gardening does also serve as an item of conversation.
What would you add?
In absolute numbers, I suppose you could say we lived in the place for free, once you compare what we paid for the place and added as renovations against the selling price two decades later, but I’m not sure that would hold up if we factored in inflation or what we might have earned if we’d placed much of that money in the stock market.
Even so, here’s some of what we had done:
- Reshingled the roof.
- Lined the chimney. And then the other.
- Replaced the cracked boiler.
- Saved the barn from collapse, created a mother-in-law apartment, later removed the second-floor deck from the house to the loft, and wired the loft.
- Replaced the downstairs windows.
- Remodeled the kitchen.
- Remodeled the upstairs bathroom.
- Restored the downstairs bathroom as more of a utility room and added a kitchen pantry.
- Replaced the sump pump, this time sunken into the floor.
- Replaced the rotten bulkhead with steel.
And that’s not counting all the garden beds and plantings or tree work.
OK, I’m counting couples as one here. And I’m excluding some nominees I celebrated earlier in the year in my ten fine couples list. Here goes:
- The Obamas, of course.
- And my wife and daughters and the two guys they bring into my life. Natchurally. Think of this as a team.
- Noah Merrill, the ever patient and faithful field secretary of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.
- Brown Letham, energetic painter and activist and father of one very fine author.
- Jim and Eden Grace, holy peaceniks on a global scale.
- Timothy and Nijmeh Curren, Orthodox priest and presbvtera.
- George and Althea Coussoule, welcoming stalwarts of Dover’s Greek community.
- Sherry Wood. See my dedication in Hometown News.
- Jay O’Hara, free-Gospel minister and Quaker activist.
- Gary Snyder, American poet and Zen Buddhist.
So what if this adds up to more than ten individuals in all?
Who’s high on your own list?
You say “New York” to someone and the first thing they think of is Manhattan. Not even the rest of the city, where most of the population works, studies, and sleeps. Or Long Island, as an extension of The City.
Easily overlooked is the sprawling region of Upstate New York, with a population of more than six million people and the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and more. A population that would make the region itself the 18th largest state in the U.S.A., if it were independent. Larger than Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, or a host more.
Besides, it’s a lot like the place where Kenzie alights in my novel Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.
Here are ten more facts to consider.
- Upstate starts right outside New York City, at the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, where you can still see the towers of Manhattan when the pollution-induced haze abates. OK, the boundary is debated, let’s not argue. Maybe it’s just upriver at the Bear Mountain Bridge.
- The region has two major mountain ranges, the Catskills and more impressive Adirondacks, plus a lot of Appalachian foothills. It is largely rugged terrain.
- It was largely uninhabited by whites until after the Revolutionary War, when the Iroquois natives were pushed out. What it means is that the bulk of the region was then settled about the same time as much of the Midwest.
- The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 turned the region into a hotbed of manufacturing along its route, as well as religious upheaval, leading it to be called “the burned-over district” because of its zealous waves of missionary activity.
- Many of those companies led to giants including General Electric, IBM, Kodak, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb, Carrier air conditioning, Endicott Johnson shoes, Gannett newspapers – manufacturing enterprises heavily hit by Rust Belt devastation in the past five decades. The region is still hard-pressed to recover economically.
- It gets a lot of snow. Nobody accepts the crown of the snowfall capital, which seems to shift each year.
- The Mormon movement took off when Joseph Smith reported having visions while living in the Palmyra area in the 1820s and ’30s.
- The Shakers first settled at Watervliet, near Albany, in 1776.
- The Catskills supply New York City’s water via an elaborate pipeline system.
- Welch’s makes a lot of grape juice in Chautauqua County, while the Finger Lakes Region is noted for wine making, including Manischewitz sweet kosher wine in Canandaigua.
Well, compared to ebooks and all this digital reading.
- I can caress it. Yes, even the texture and weight of the paper itself.
- Admire the spine on a shelf.
- Frame a page and mount it on a wall. (I’m thinking of a broadside, especially.)
- There’s marbling in some old editions, and end-papers. Nothing like that in ebooks.
- Underline and make notes as I read, enhancing the engagement.
- A sense of timelessness. Unlike a computer crash.
- Open an old book and there’s a special aroma. Hopefully not mold.
- Reading one works better at the beach, in full sunlight.
- Easier to find errors when correcting galleys or drafts.
- It really does feel finished.
In local Quaker congregation, the head honcho is called a clerk, an important (unpaid) job even when there’s a pastor. (A whole other discussion.)
In a traditional body that observes “unprogrammed” worship like ours, the role carries the added burden of being the official spokesperson for all and the presumed face and voice of the Meeting. (Not that everyone will agree. Not in our pluralistic age. Beware of the back-sniping.)
The position rotates among members deemed worthy, and I have served five years, plus a few others as the deputy recording clerk and also as clerk of our regional umbrella, so I’ve done more than a little. But I’m far from the only one. Nor am I whining.
Here are ten others from the three-plus decades I’ve been in New England and active in Dover Friends Meeting.
- Silas Weeks. Replanted from an old Long Island Quaker family and long the steady hand in rebuilding our Meeting. Quite a Character.
- Pat Gildea. Quite an administrator. She loved having lunch to discuss things. After marrying, she scurried to England and new challenges. Whew!
- Barbara Sturrock. A beloved elder. Now in a retirement center up the coast.
- Charolotte Fardelmann. Grounded in her heart. In a retirement center closer by.
- Sara Hubner. Now much appreciated in her demanding, detailed work in the yearly meeting office. Membership moved to Gonic Friends up the road. Board games, anyone?
- Connie Weeks. Silas’s wife and then widow.
- Chip Neal. A New Hampshire public television personality and producer with a gentle sense of wonder who has since moved under the shadow of Parkinson’s, yet still showing flashes of wonder.
- Bill Gallot. Deceased all too early and dearly missed.
- Jean Blickensderfer. Also deceased and ditto. I never would have made it through my terms in the role if it weren’t for her support, eventually recognized as assistant clerk.
- Chuck Cox. Organic farmer. It helps, especially where nurture and patience and more patience are needed. I always lean on his warm smile and twinkling eyes.
As you can see, it’s an equal-opportunity job gratefully sifted by the Nominating Committee. Tell us about similar public servants you’ve known.
Although I’ve concentrated a lot on the hippie end of the counterculture revolution, I’m not that conversant in many of its more recent manifestations.
Considering the events in my novel Nearly Canaan, when Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined, out in the desert on the other side of the mountains from Seattle, I see I need to pay attention, especially since grunge entered the scene just a little later.
Here are ten points.
- Sometimes called the Seattle Sound, grunge was a blend of punk and heavy metal revolving around the local independent record label Sub Pop and featuring a distorted electric guitar sound. (I’ll let others define both punk and metal.) And then it took off into the ’90s and mainstream.
- The lyrics are typically angst filled of a socially alienated sort. Apparently, we could do a Tendrils right there.
- Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 likely played into its demise.
- Its mundane, everyday style of clothing sharply contrasted to punk’s mohawks, leather, and chains. It also featured Doc Martens boots, wool flannel plaid shirts, and thermal underwear befitting the Pacific Northwest.
- It was seen as anti-consumerist. The less you spent, the cooler you were. Cobain’s widow Courtney Love was the embodiment of the thrift-shop philosophy.
- Males, especially, had unkempt hair.
- Espresso, beer, and heroin have been cited as its three main drugs.
- It led to a distinctive graphic design based on “lo fi” or low fidelity imagery, with intentionally murky lettering, photography, and collage enhanced by desktop publishing and digital image processing on Macintosh computers.
- The appearance of ‘zines, often of a literary sort, blossomed as an off-shoot of this. I’ve appeared as a poet in many of them, mostly photocopied and stapled.
- Some see the movement as introducing non-binary sexual awareness to the wider culture.
Can’t help thinking this sounds like hippie on a downer trip to me.
What’s your take on grunge?
The two sisters of Lazarus in the New Testament play a bigger role in the overall story than they’re usually given credit for. You often have to piece it together from the four different Gospels.
- Mary anoints Jesus with costly oil.
- In one version, she’s identified as a harlot (prostitute).
- So what does that make her sister? And why are they single rather than married? (Take that as a clue.)
- Considering her aforesaid status, as well as the expectation that women not be present alone with unrelated males, see how much scandal that element adds to her going in to listen to the guys rather than help prepare dinner. (Yes, it’s still an affront to social customs, only more.)
- Martha gets slighted for feeling a responsibility for feeding their guests, but she does openly rebuke Jesus earlier for his failure to come to the aid of his (presumably close) friend or relative. That is, don’t see her as some shy feminine type.
- Mary can’t keep a secret. She blabs, and that’s why everybody and his cousin shows up on the streets of Jerusalem for Palm Sunday a few days later.
- By the way, don’t get this Mary confused with Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. No suggestion there, despite widespread assumptions. No, the Magdalene maybe had only mental problems, as far as Scripture reports, nothing of a salacious nature.
- Although Jesus revives Lazarus from the stinky dead, the religious authorities come back and kill the girls’ brother a second time. Is this some kind of bad joke?
- Bethel, where they live, has always had a rap as a disreputable neighborhood. FYI.
- The Hymn of Kasianna, in the Eastern Orthodox Passion Week services, is no doubt the most erotic piece of Christian liturgy ever. Look for it at the end of Tuesday evening’s or Wednesday morning’s service, the only time in the year it is chanted. It voices Mary’s deep gratitude for redemption and salvation despite everything.
Now, do these considerations add or detract from your estimation of these two saints?
Southern Indiana is a distinct subregion in the American Midwest, as I touch on in my novels Daffodil Uprising and What’s Left. Defined loosely as the third of the state south of Interstate 70 or the earlier National Road, U.S. 40, it’s hillier than the farmlands to the north, which had been leveled by glaciers back in the Ice Age. Besides, it was also heavily impacted by migration from the South, especially North Carolina and its Quaker stock fleeing a slaveholding culture.
Here are a few observations.
- It gravitates toward the Ohio River and its border with Kentucky. Louisville is as influential as Indianapolis.
- Much of it is forested and hilly, with Brown County as a kind of spiritual center. Many folks there live in log cabins. The county seat, Nashville, and the state park are tourist magnets. It was also influential in the development of bluegrass music, thanks to Bill Monroe and his festival at Bean Blossom.
- The region is underlain with limestone and caves. In fact, its quarries are legendary, just look at the Empire State Building, Pentagon, and National Cathedral.
- Evansville, on the Ohio River close to both Illinois and Kentucky, is the state’s third largest metropolitan area. Its impact is largely unseen.
- Columbus is a showpiece for contemporary architecture, thanks to J. Irwin Miller and the Cummins company.
- Terre Haute, on the Wabash River, is the birthplace of radical Eugene V. Debs. It has a liberal tradition.
- Basketball great Larry Bird was born in West Baden Springs and played college in Terre Haute, after moving on from IU in Bloomington. Basketball, we should note, is a religion throughout the state.
- Speaking of Bloomington. It’s the cultural and intellectual center of the state. Purdue up north prefers engineers and agricultural economists.
- It has a different dialect from the rest of the state, linguistically.
- Tornadoes are a distinct threat. On April 25, 2020, twisters killed 10 people in Bedford, 104 in Terre Haute, 48 in Mitchell, and 300 in Martinsville. Not your typical day.