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About this column

by Carol Bossard - Sharing life and urging awareness at the smaller, wonderful things around us

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Carol Bossard

The Easter Bunny has come and gone.  Daffodils, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are blooming.  Bees are buzzing with great enthusiasm over our boxwood blossoms.   Hopefully our weather will not immediately turn into summer as is sometimes the case.  The gardens are calling; weeds are growing apace, as well as the flowers we actually planted.  

We had a lovely time with family over Easter weekend.   Nine of us enjoyed dinner together on Saturday.   While they were here, our granddaughters climbed our hill to visit the water fall that only “falls” during the spring rains.   And our current trio of kittens provided more fun than one could buy in a toy store.   Everything is so very alive at this time of the year; birds are singing morning and night, insects (unfortunately for our dog’s ease of mind) are buzzing and flying about.  Ticks are numerous and we should all be reminded to check ourselves at the close of every day we have been outside.   It is also  time to put the bird seed cans safely inside a shed before our annual pilgrimage of black bears comes, looking for food.

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Now that we actually see the season opening around us, our thoughts can, perhaps, travel ahead to plans for weekend jaunts or vacations this summer.  We will probably schedule at least one trip south to visit a son’s round, light-filled home in the Blue Ridge, where we get to see soaring vultures, and the goats and chickens as well as family.  Then we need to get back Morrisville-way to sample the good cuisine at the Copper Kettle or that of a couple of fine restaurants in Cazenovia ---- and to reacquaint ourselves with the plethora of cats in our son’s family, as well as enjoying a visit.  Their Madison County scenery, all hills and dales, isn’t too shabby either!  We’ve thought of a whale watch this year; it has been too long since we’ve inhaled the salt air and experienced the wonders of whales soaring out of the ocean.   We also have high hopes that some of you will be coming this way on your travels.  The Finger Lakes are a marvelous place for nearly anything you might want; the water falls, wineries, B&Bs and cuisine simply can’t be topped.

The peepers have been singing now for three weeks.  They begin at night, but soon their burbling, carrying chorus goes all day too.  Peepers are really little tree frogs, and according to one source, they are to the amphibian world what robins are to the world of birds; a sure sign of the spring season.   One once attached itself to the window screen just in front of my computer and we peered at each other for a time.  By morning, he/she was gone --- off to adventure with some other tree frog companion.  This is about the time of year when, as a child, I collected pollywogs from a seasonal creek on our farm.  I’d keep them for a day, watching them swim around my glass jar, and then return them to their mucky little pools.  It was messy, but great fun.  And mud washes off!   Marsh marigolds/cowslips will soon be  blooming in all their golden glory along small streams.  There is something about being out and about in spring air that refreshes the soul.

I love seeing the many forms creative thinking takes with people.   When our granddaughters are with us, they do a lot of art work ---- and their sketches and collages are always full of interest and sparkle.  And I’ve mentioned before the writing groups in which I’ve participated.   I am amazed at the wonderful stories, poetry and nonfiction that come spilling out of the pens, guided by the diverse minds in the circles.   The One-Room Sunday school curriculum that we use in our church offers several choices for activities that illustrate whatever the lesson is for the day, and a couple of Sundays ago, I observed kids painting flowers onto large sheets of paper, using their arms and feet as paint brushes.   It was a wonderful example of using the energy of children as part of their learning process as opposed to attempting to turn them into well-behaved, quiet little robots.  Life offers so many opportunities for being open to new things.  “Creativity springs from our curiosity and our inner resources.  All creativity comes from an inner awakening.”  Alexandra Stoddard*

One of the things I enjoyed most as a child was my paper dolls.  (Perhaps this influenced my dubious choice of a textiles and clothing major in college.)  I had printed books of paper dolls, but even more fun than the commercial dolls were those I made myself and for which I designed the clothing.  My playmates and I would either cut out or copy clothes from Sears catalogs to go on our paper dolls.   And this kept us busy for hours.   I also had some really old collections --- maybe left over from my sister’s play days; Carmen Miranda, Deanna Durbin and other stars from the early 1940s.  I can’t help but think that perhaps our “play” with paper people was more of a learning experience than the hand-held electronic games in which today’s kids are focused.  Or perhaps it is just that we are learning different things in different ways.   Each child comes into life as his/her own person, but curiosity and creativity should be encouraged in all children, no matter what direction it takes.  I’m always appalled at people who are afraid, and consider imagination a bad or useless quality, and who do not introduce their children to myths, fairy tales and make-believe.   Limiting one’s world because of fear defeats life’s possibilities.  What one find possible to imagine can be transporting, life-changing and the root of amazing inventions.

For those of us who celebrate Easter, we are reminded in this season, that our vision must be more than what we see on TV, on the internet or in the papers.   Easter tells us once again that fear is something we no longer need to endure.  As our faith vision expands, our perspective can alter immeasurably.  Thomas Wolfe** said: “The essence of all faith for people of my belief is that man’s life can be, and will be, better.”   We do not necessarily get to choose what this world brings to us, but we do get to choose how we will respond; how we will live our lives.  In Julian of Norwich’s*** vision of God there is total trust in life’s outcome: “I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well, and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well.”  This probably will not be true with humans tomorrow or next week ----- but, eventually, goodness will spread like spilled honey.   At least that’s what Julian and I think.   Happy Spring!!

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

*- Alexandra Stoddard --- American writer, interior decorator and lifestyle philosopher

**- Thomas  Wolfe --- American writer; 1900-1938

***- Julian of Norwich ---English theologian and Anchoress; 1342-1416

 

 

Carol Bossard

In another week, the six weeks of Lent will culminate in Easter, the major celebration for Christians all around the world.  This year, the Jewish time of Passover begins April 11th, and will be celebrated during many of the same days as the Christian Holy Week.  There seem to be so few certainties in today’s world that rites and celebrations, full of tradition, are instrumental in keeping us grounded.   I am, annually, reassured by the familiar palm branches and transported by the fragrance of Easter flowers.  This is also when I pull out our small collection of wooden and marble eggs to be crowned by the one fragile egg, painted in great detail, brought back from Poland by a friend.   And Easter Sunday is when our Sunday school kids make the “empty tombs” ---- biscuits that are baked with a marshmallow in the middle; this leaves a space surrounded by sweetness.  Tradition --- often a really good thing!

 

A tradition that has little relevance to the spiritual emphasis of this holiday, involves Easter bonnets.  I loved my small-girl Easter hats, but thought they were an out-of-date custom.   A couple of weeks ago, I was happy to hear a young mother speak of shopping for an Easter bonnet for her four-year-old.   Clothes may be one of humanity’s vanities, but there’s little more appealing than small children dressed for special occasions, and most especially in an Easter bonnet.  The hat I remember best was a pale straw confection, trimmed with a black velvet ribbon and daisies.  YUM!!  It was also the year that, for some unknown reason, my father took me shopping for an Easter dress.  When I couldn’t decide between two, he bought both.  This etched an impression in my young mind that going shopping with Dad was a really good deal.  

 

 

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We found another kind of YUM a week or so ago when we joined friends for lunch at the Seneca Sweet Shop.  It is a fairly new business in Watkins Glen.  In addition to tasty sandwiches on home-made bread, they have a small bakery and a large choice of classic chocolates.  The restaurant opens into another shop where one can find gifts and memorabilia.  Lunch was very good and the ambiance was bright and cheery.  At least two of us are looking forward to revisiting that chocolate counter and helping the Easter bunny out just a bit. 

 

Do you ever consider the people who have helped you become who you are?  A few of us were discussing those who had influenced us over the years.   We all are, at some time, influential with someone, beginning in our families.   I think, in our busy daily lives, we forget that what we say and how we behave is going to have, on those around us, an impact that might be lasting.    Usually we don’t know until years later – perhaps never – what that was.   Very occasionally, one does hear that we’ve made a difference for someone, and it’s like a star-burst for the day.

 

When I was about eight years old, my mother and I had tea with an elderly friend.  The memory of how Mrs. Boughton treated me --- as though I had preferences and opinions that mattered ---- has stayed with me my entire life.  Adults don’t often see children in that respectful way.   I had a couple of teachers who definitely influenced my developing character --- and at least one whose teaching affected me negatively.   My sixth grade teacher was a creative woman who, when she saw that some students were a bit bored, devised extra projects that kept us interested.   And she always cared how we were feeling and what we were thinking.   My high school English teacher was an amazing person who made even Shakespeare interesting to juniors and seniors.  Her comments and encouragement certainly set me on the path to writing.   On the negative side, a fifth grade teacher (there are a few inepts in any profession) instilled in me a yawning incapacity and dislike for math that lasted for probably forty years ---- until I had to work out the puzzle of an agency budget and discovered some “Ah-Ha” moments of clarity.   I wish I had shared my appreciation with those two teachers who shone so brightly.   I can hope that they somehow knew.

 

All along my life’s journey, there have been affirmers and mentors, though seldom officially.  These were people who simply entered my life at just the right moment either as neighbors, fellow-church members, co-workers or service-providers.  They helped me grow in understanding of leadership, spiritual growth, and self-awareness.   Some of you are reading this right now.  Many times individuals were simply kindly and good-hearted.  In the Lewisburg area, when we moved into a house, two or three women from our church appeared with buckets and sponges –scrubbing walls and windows.   After our children were born, there were those who took the place of absent family, reassuring me, as a new mother, and occasionally babysitting.  And when we moved to our current residence, similar kindnesses occurred.  I was warmly welcomed into this community via music, church and work.  “Happiness is a perfume; you can’t pour it on somebody else without getting a few drops on yourself.”  James Van Der Zee*.    One simply never knows the impact any of us might have on another and ultimately, on ourselves.  So pass the fragrance on!

 

Speaking of impact, I’ve made a major dent in some of my stuff.  There is a magazine, “Country Living” to which I have subscribed since it came to be.   The magazines were so full of information, beautiful photographs, ideas for one’s home, and yummy recipes that I kept every one.  At twelve issues per year for over twenty years, you can perhaps imagine the stacks I had neatly stored on shelves.  After considerable inner dialogue, I decided that it was time to let them go, and spent several hours of a few days flipping through each one.  I tore out a few things but, surprisingly, felt almost no trauma at letting these “old friends” go into recycling.  The decision itself was momentous, but now that the task is done, I’m feeling refreshed and am rejoicing that I have some empty shelves to fill with things more useful to me at this point in my life.   And – well – I admit that it wasn’t a total cleansing; I kept the Christmas issues to cheer some cold December days.   

 

If you are spring-cleaning, I wish you strength and the courage to discard your too many things! .  And many good wishes for a joyous Easter and/or a blessed Passover.

 

*James Van Der Zee was an American, born 1886 and died 1993.  He was an honored Harlem Renaissance photographer.

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.  

 

 

Carol Bossard

My poor little flowers have had a rough time.  The bright yellow winter aconite growing close to the ground, stretched its head up (just before the big snow hit) with sort of a questioning, “What is going on here; I’m COLD!”  Of course, when 18 inches of fluffy white fell, the flowers were totally blanketed.   Birds have been congregating at the feeders and not very patiently waiting their turn.   One red-bellied woodpecker pulled the tail feathers of a starling to encourage that gluttonous bird to stop monopolizing the suet.   It was quite funny to watch.  The storm meant I needed to fill the feeders three times/day instead of once; the flocks of red-winged blackbirds and starlings were added to the regular winter birds and they go through a lot of food.

                                                                  But…….. It’s March………..

                                                                Little rivulets of joy

                                                                Begin flowing down stones,

                                                                Through the mosses,

                                                                Out from the tree roots.

                                                                They’ve been there all the time,

                                                                Just hidden down under

                                                                Where they’ve quietly added sparkle

                                                                And glow to the ice,

                                                                And crunch to the snow;

                                                                There’s a warm glow over the earth

                                                                    In the setting sun……………

 

That’s the first stanza of a poem written one spring when cold weather was taking forever to go away.  Winter in the Finger Lakes loses its charm about February, and when it lingers into March, it’s rather like being wrapped in numb.  So we hope that the storm of last week was our final one.  But regardless, the spring equinox has come, and spring IS here.  The doves know; they are cooing every morning now.

 

There are many ways to combat the “cabin fever” that hits about now.   Its symptoms are angst – a restlessness that can’t be explained, an impulse to wash all the windows or dance around the yard on a good day and a descent into the blues when another snow shower hits.  It feels as though it is time to take a weekend off and go --- maybe to Santa Barbara, where a niece, Jan, has a beautiful golden rose blooming right this minute!  But since that probably won’t happen, I have other activities that bring back my joie de vivre.  Moving furniture helps.  It is kind of like taking a mini-vacation to clean, polish and put the furniture in a new and different place.  I’m also adjusting pots and pans, cook books and trying to do a better job of storing things.  It is amazing that tiny changes do refresh daily living.  Onward to sparkling windows and crocuses!

 

As for life in general, I’ve had even more reason lately to consider some of the problems of aging via the doctor’s offices.  Several appointments and chats with various specialists sometimes one leaves confused; wondering where the intelligent line is between acceptance of what they recommend, and acquiring a more positive mental attitude that ignores difficulties and pushes on ahead.   Pain can be an “I can live with it” annoyance or it can be code for “SOS! Do Something!”  It takes really knowing one’s body to decide which.  Energy waxes and wanes; how much should we try to push our limits and will doing so really manufacture more zip?  Adding another day of Bone-Builders to my schedule would be good for my physical body.  But after our over-busy weekends, I need Mondays to recuperate both physically and mentally.  This is my day of rest and quiet to strengthen me for the rest of the week.  So the doctor and I compromised.    I agreed to do yoga at home instead of an additional BB class.  

 

I think that as one ages, many compromises are necessary.   Can the gardens be smaller?  Might it be possible to find someone else to mow or turn part of the lawn into a flowery meadow?  Could some meals be take-out instead of always prepared at home?   Beautiful things collect dust; do we need quite so many or do they fill a need?  How much of what “we’ve always done” must still be in our lives?  What is really important?

 

One of the local businesses held a seminar on how to reorganize one’s home to make it safer when balance, eyesight, and agility become issues.  I was surprised last week to find that trying to walk in snow up to my knees felt precarious.  How very annoying!  But a ski pole made all the difference for safe wallowing versus an inadvertent snow angel.   Planning for these things can make life much less stressful, and maybe even ease the over-imaginative minds of our offspring who may see us as less able than we see ourselves.   (Their view might be accurate, but……..)  So --- now --- all we have to do is implement the precautions.    Admitting that we need them is Step # 1.  I wrote the following verses giving my own, slightly biased, perception of aging: Age is so relative;

                                                                                                                                  It is liquid and flowing.

                                                                                                                                 Time is linear only in our heads

                                                                                                                                  For really……….

                                                                                                                                 Time is endless, swirling

                                                                                                                                 And layered.

                                                                                                                                 Whether we are sixteen or sixty

                                                                                                                                 We are who we are and,

                                                                                                                                 Age doesn’t really matter! 

                                                                                                                                               

Kerm and I recently found reassurance for the future in some much younger people.   Regrettably, we missed “Harvey”, the S-VE play, but we heard it was delightful.  We did get to the senior play in Bath, where a nephew was both Nana and the very amusing crocodile in “Peter Pan”.  Whoever did the choreography was exceptional; the kids were so in sync with each other.  I thought I was back in camp with Lummi Sticks (anyone else remember those??) when they performed a rhythm exercise during one scene.  The media news gives us a depressing, fearful down-side of most everything.  But when seeing these musical performances, listening to the “athletes of the week” in our regional schools; reading about kids wanting to donate their hair to cancer patients or collecting for the local Food Pantry; hearing that high school kids in our district are reading to the elementary school kiddies, I do not at all despair about our nation’s youth.   There are many who surely do need opportunities for a different environment and caring mentors.  But there are large numbers already doing their best to become strong, courageous, talented, caring people.  They make me glad and optimistic. 

 

I wish we, who are “seasoned”, were leaving them a better world and better examples for living together.  However, as spring comes, anything seems possible.  As Robert Browning said in “Pippa’s Song”: The year’s at the spring, and day’s at the morn; Morning’s at seven; the hillside’s dew-pearled; the lark’s on the wing; the snail’s on the thorn; God’s in His Heaven ---- all’s right with the world!”  Or at least we feel that it could be ---- and will be!   

 

 Carol may be reached at:  cpeggy@htva.net.

Carol Bossard

Ta-Da!!!!  The seed and plant orders are in and my garden plan is done --- until, of course, I think of a different arrangement, and change it.  The little yellow winter aconite bulbs began blooming two weeks ago, during that mild week we so appreciated.  The snow drops emerged then too and ended up shivering on their stems for a few days when frigid temperatures returned.  These plants are tiny and frail-looking, but tough and enduring; a harbinger of spring and definitely they bring cheer to the heart weary of winter.

 

Winter may be the time to snuggle in with a good book, but my reading time doesn’t diminish just because better weather returns.   My father’s frequent exasperated request was to “get your nose out of that book and do something.”   That used to irritate me, but it makes me smile now --- because it is so true.  I enjoy reading many genres.  I like the smell of the books and how the words are put together on the page. Mostly I prefer non-fiction, but there are some writers of fiction that I appreciate for their skill in transporting me to a different place and time.   Some reading is fluff, but other stories speak very clearly to the world in which we all live right now.  One of those is the “Sister Fidelma” series  I’ve been re-reading (mentioned before in my articles), written by Peter Tremayne.* His books are set in 7th century Ireland, and he researches extremely well so the history is both absorbing and startling in that so little in human nature has changed over the centuries.

 

Our nation and the rest of the world exist in an unsavory place of disillusionment, discord and disarray.   There is much divisiveness and endless blame being liberally handed around.  And we are often filled with fear; afraid of what might happen, afraid of the rest of the world, afraid of people unlike ourselves, afraid of being labeled.  We fear change, the unknown, and sometimes we haven’t a clue as to what we fear but we are still afraid.   Civilization seems to continually be in a “fight or flight” mode.

 

A little sane fear has its place; warning us to avoid doing dangerous things and is probably a life-saver.  But even though we all experience it, fear that comes from inside us, fear that we can’t cope with the cluelessness and evil around us, fear of new ideas, fear of things that are different ---- that fear blocks our creative thought and action.    One emotion useful for dissipating fear is humor; there is strength in laughter!   Laughter lightens up our dark attitudes and diminishes the fear; it can even be a powerful weapon.   Back in the last century, Deborah Kerr sang, in The King and I, “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune, and no one will suspect, I’m afraid.”   And that very attitude is akin to laughter.  I think as long as we allow ourselves to see humor in situations, we will be able to maintain our sanity in the face of the world’s disarray.  

 

Laughter also makes pomposity and ego-driven behavior look ridiculous.  Political cartoons have been weapons of the intelligent for centuries.  Humor is feared by those who have inflated egos and/or little confidence within.  According to history, Ireland was a glowing light of civilization during the Middle Ages.  They had sensible (for the time), humane laws, some of which we might well emulate today; laws that allowed no disrespect to women, that prohibited bullying of any kind and demanded that law-breakers provide compensation instead of simply being punished.   And they felt that some kinds of unethical behaviors, especially when coming from the powerful, are best treated with public laughter.  “…….Laughter will succeed where threats, punishments and pious lectures will not.”  ** Their laws even had strong penalties for those who satirized people without justification, so seriously did they take the potential results of laughter.  

 

Many people around the world would give all they have, to have our Constitutional protection for freedom of speech.   Liberty is feared by the small-minded and those who crave power, and too many of us take it for granted.   Most of us have misused that freedom, either intentionally or in thoughtless moments.  “Alternative facts” and outright lies are running rampant.  And people too often pass things along via the Internet without checking the authenticity.  Perhaps we should consider treating our words as the explosive jewels they might really be; being more careful of what we say and definitely checking for accuracy before we spread information.    Our freedom of expression should lead to replacing carelessness with integrity and fear with action.  And we should never be afraid to laugh at any naked emperor who pretends he’s wearing new clothes.  I believe that courage plus integrity is what those who drafted these amendments expected.

 

The Ides of March is approaching (remember Latin I?) and winter is waning, though I’m almost afraid to say so.  I distinctly remember driving home from Syracuse in one mid-April snow storm, so March isn’t exactly a guarantee of spring.   But I’m feeling optimistic; the red-winged blackbirds are here, there are cat-calls in the night and I’m hoping that soon there will be daffodils and hyacinths making pools of color and fragrance in my gardens.   The pussy willows are out and I am reminded of a custom told to me by a co-worker; an Aleutian who grew up in Alaska.  Since there’s still snow and cold in Alaska around Easter time, they used pussy willows in lieu of palm branches for Palm Sunday in her Russian Orthodox church.   I felt this was a good use of what is available, and so I use them for our altar bouquets during the season of Lent.  Their fuzzy little buds enchant the children and everyone feels encouragement in seeing and touching them.

 

It is during this season of Lent that another avenue of encouragement is available for me, stemming from the community Lenten services that are now in progress here.  The brief Wednesday services move from church to church.  After the noon services there is a luncheon; after the evening services, there are snacks.  Of course, the services themselves are useful and meaningful for one’s Lenten meditations, but the luncheons or snack times are equally as helpful.  Even in a small community, where we are acquainted with most of the inhabitants, the opportunity to know someone better is a very good thing.   As we chat together after these services, it provides that chance to find commonality with each other and that leads to understanding and, eventually, affection, and more of that is what we all need.  “One kind word can warm three winter months.”  Japanese Proverb

So ---- Happy March and don’t forget to turn the clocks ahead this Saturday night.   

 

*Peter Tremayne is the fiction pseudonym for Peter Berresford Ellis, a prominent authority on the ancient Celts and author of numerous works of history and scholarship.

 

**Badger’s Moon by Peter Tremayne, page 171

 

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net.

Carol Bossard

I was accurate in thinking that winter might fly by (for me), as has the rest of the year.   We looked out one morning this past week, to see a male turkey fanning his tail, even though his feet were sunk in snow, and hoping that the ladies, who were busily gobbling sunflower seeds, would notice.   Next week, Lent begins and in two weeks, Daylight Savings Time brings us dimmer mornings and lighter evenings.  These very mild days this week nearly had me out looking for crocuses, and I did cut some forsythia branches to encourage early blooming.  However, I must admit that in February, the things most encouraging me are the colorful choices in the seed and plant catalogs.   

This penchant for planning gardens is either genetic or catching like a virus.  When our granddaughters were here a couple of weeks ago, they poured over my catalogs and made extensive lists of flowers they’d like to grow.   I expect to see their fields breaking out into bloom on one of our visits.  Their great-grandmother, who had extensive and beautiful gardens, would be delighted to know of their interest.  It is a good choice of activities; John Greenleaf Whittier* said:  “Give fools their gold and knaves their power, Let fortune’s bubbles rise and fall; who sows a field or trains a flower, or plants a tree is more than all.”  I find that time spent in the garden makes any day better.  

One of the other indications that winter is waning might be the outside activity I hear on some nights.  Something --- and I’m thinking skunk, raccoon or possum --- loudly rattles the cat food pan, finishes off anything left there, then knocks the pan around.    Since the above-mentioned creatures tend to nap in really cold, snowy weather, it seems logical that they are awake now because there’s a thaw and maybe spring is coming soon.   We have no outside light beaming right on that spot, so when I get out of bed to look, whatever is there blends into the shadows, and I can’t be sure which animal I should be accusing of trespass and larceny.   

Unfortunately, after doing this middle-of-the-night creature-check, I’m wide awake!!  I probably shouldn’t be amazed at how many other people are also up in the middle of the night, and on the computer; sleep problems seem to be universal.  One morning, recently, I had been awake since before 3:30 AM, and finally got up at 5 AM.  Not wanting to disturb the dog (that would mean going out in the cold), I turned on the computer.  First I worked on an article, the thoughts of which had been bubbling in my brain and keeping me awake.  Then I went to Face Book --- and found several other people, also sleepless.  Of course my hopes to not awaken Freckles were dashed by 6:30, and he began his urgent suggestion (pacing back and forth, accompanied by THE STARE) that we go out NOW.

The dog thinks “NOW” and often I do too, even to wanting something yesterday.  But I’m also good at putting some things off; things that might mean uncomfortable adjustments to some of my habits/ life-style, or things that might be controversial.  But occasionally there is a lightning bolt of clarity that suddenly and unexpectedly illumines my thinking.  I’ve had a few of those over the years and they usually come when I’m slightly disgruntled with life.  Last Sunday the sermon in church presented a too-clear reflection of how short we, who profess Christianity, fall from what are the tenets of our faith.  And then the speaker gave us a bit of time to ponder what she had said before closing the service.  So I pondered, and immediately found many good reasons why it would be impossible to love, forgive, turn the other cheek, go the second mile, give my favorite coat to or pray for some people.   Then another clear and rather annoying thought popped up; “I’m seventy-four years old.  So when do I think I should consider my lapses in walking the walk?”  

It’s the human condition to find that our behavior doesn’t necessarily match our ideals.  Many of us do the same thing with food choices, exercise, biases of any kind, etc.   I know the harm that excessive sugar and other carbs do to the body; I’ve studied nutrition and food-preparation.  I am well-aware that chronic respiratory issues would be lessened by the deep breathing of yoga exercise.  I know that daily meditation for going deeper into my faith and for calming the mind would be useful, both for spiritual maturity and stress-control.  And bias always comes from fear and/or lack of understanding.  So what is it that enables me to ignore what I know to be true for convenience’s or indulgence’s sake?    Fatigue might play a part.  But I think it is more likely that many of us harbor the happy dream that we will just keep on living as we do, and we can attend to all these non-crucial issues later.  Our days fill with minutiae, instead of real living.  There are two problems with this thinking: issues of health and living with integrity, both physical and spiritual, are not non-crucial, and “later” seldom comes.  

Making resolutions seldom accomplishes much, and it is futile for anyone to try doing a total makeover of self all at once.  Being awakened, and remembering that moment of clarity is a good place to begin.   And realizing that in this “home stretch” of my life, there’s not going to be a better time to live in a way that speaks of what I truly believe.   So as Spring advances, in addition to planting my gardens full of beauty and good food, I’m going to work on one or two of those things that I’m feeling called to do.  I hope to be able to eliminate some of the non-enjoyable, non-essentials that clutter my life, and instead remain open to leading from within.  I’ll let you know how that has worked out in six months or so. 

Meanwhile, this week is a great time to enjoy the lovely mild weather we are having ---- until it changes, as is usual in this northeast part of the country.   And in just a few days, it’ll be welcome to March!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  

On the first Sunday in March (5th), the annual Business Showcase, co-sponsored by Inspire and the Chamber, will be at the S-VE high school, from 1 PM until 4 PM.  This is both fun and educational.  The wonderful plethora of arts and crafts, skills and services that we have in our region are featured.  And there will be food, and music.  Some of the very talented S-VE students designed video publicity for this, so the event draws from the collaboration of all ages, and is useful for all ages.  If you are interested in being a vendor, call: 607-589-6059 or email: kb45@cornell.edu.

*John Greenleaf Whittier; 1807-1892, Quaker, Poet and Abolitionist.

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net. 

 

 

 

 

Carol Bossard

When I wake up singing a kids’ Sunday school song in my head, I’m pretty sure the day is starting out well!   The skies may be gray, but the little tune inside reminds me that there is blue sky above those clouds and the sun is shining somewhere --- probably in South Africa, where a Face Book friend sends out photos of their beautiful beaches.  Being quite “allergic” to long flights, it is unlikely that I will ever set eyes – or feet --- on that lovely land where Terry lives.  But I enjoy sharing the beauty and warmth with someone so very far away, and to know that we are having similar thoughts and feelings about the day.  

This time of winter does create an urge to escape the chilly winds and gray skies.  But more than a few days away from home, and I want to be back!   And our dog, while he’s all excited about the kennel for a day or two, is the same way.  A few days of fun and then it’s time to return to the familiar.   The outside cats are displeased if we are late in feeding them, so several days of our absence, even with a kitty-sitter stopping by, annoys them exceedingly.  Cats do not like change!   So in lieu of escape, I content myself with admiring the fine penciling of winter trees against the sky, the many patterns of clouds that our skies produce and making sure I get fresh air and exercise every day.  There are still moments, though, when a warm breeze and the sight of dolphins leaping just out from the beach, would be wonderful.

We had an entertaining spectacle in our yard a few days ago.  A flock of wild turkeys had ventured down after the snow had subsided sufficiently.  They had just begun gleaning when WHOOSH --- they took off with all the clamor that startled turkeys can make.  When I looked to see what had frightened them --- I saw one of our feral cats ---- large, gray and fluffy ---- just zooming after those birds four times his size.  And when they left, he sat down with an obviously satisfied expression on his face; the “cat that swallowed the canary” look --- and began licking his paws, which is probably the feline version of a high five.  Life is never dull outside even now!

Winter may make us feel our age, first by weighing us down in heavy coats and boots, so that movement is hampered.  And many of us succumb to health issues; colds, flu, more intense arthritis, etc.   Of course if we had understood at age 12 how very important it would be to take good care of ourselves, there might be less moaning and groaning now.  But some infirmities come regardless of good care.  One of those things, for me, is macular degeneration.  My mother, one brother and my sister have all experienced this annoying retina deterioration.  Nor were my eyes content with just one form; my right eye has both wet and dry.  So we’ve been trekking to Rochester to a retina specialist for shots in the right eye ----- which is nowhere near as horrible as it sounds.  Well --- the trekking on stormy days is, but the shot is barely felt.   It is, however, irritating, both metaphorically and in reality; for days afterward, seeing psychedelic floaters and looking as though I’ve been out on a binge with only one eye open.   There’s consolation in good company, though.  One lady in the elevator, with wry humor, said: “I’ve had five eye surgeries; getting old sure isn’t easy, is it?  Good thing we can laugh!”  My sister doesn’t complain either; she only says, “I can still read pretty well, and watch TV.”  So I have good role models and consider this just one more bothersome speed bump along the road of living longer.

Garden orders will, hopefully, be done before the end of February.   I can clearly visualize those tall blue and mauve delphiniums.  What takes so long is trying to be sensible when looking through seed/plant catalogs; it is really nigh unto impossible!  Who can resist the frilled petals of the latest peonies or rose varieties, or the mental vision of a bluebell carpet among the ferns?  And we know that fresh food from the garden is healthier.  But at the same time---- I must remember how much energy all of these gardens require ---- and supposedly, I am cutting back.  Hmmm…………  I’m having real trouble trying to think what flowers or veggies I can do without!

Remember the listening skills seminar we were to attend?   It was excellent!  After some spoken instruction, we spent three hours learning how to slide ourselves into another person’s thinking.  Listening in this way is supposed to help one find some clarity about where that other person’s reasoning is coming from---- and then both of us can discuss an issue, with less heat and more understanding.   I would guess that all who attended came away with potential new skills.  It will take practice and it also takes being willing to be non-judgmental while listening.  Not easy!   “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.”  Leo Tolstoy*

The following day, some of us discovered that expressing intense feelings without insulting another’s point of view takes thought and finesse.  If a person feels very strongly right about something deep inside, they may find that: 1) discussion of differing thoughts is too threatening to their inner belief, and are unable talk about it calmly, and 2) any attempts to understand may well fly out the window when someone disagrees with what one thinks should be a universally- understood given.  

So ---- maybe we can civilly discuss why or why not a pipeline should cross Native American sacred lands ---- that is an issue that calls forth opinion, but doesn’t affect our inner beliefs.  But we have far more trouble in considering differing personal spiritual convictions; something that’s part of our psyches.   We all should remember some wisdom from a Scottish evangelist from the 19th century:  “Life is full of opportunities for learning love……..The world is not a playground, it is a schoolroom.  Life is not a holiday but an education.  And the one eternal lesson for all of us is how better we can love.”  Henry Drummond**

We are so often ruled by fear --- especially when we have no relevant experience.   That is why, in some languages, the word for “stranger” and “enemy” are the same.  Two Biblical promises are that “the truth will make us free” and that “in perfect love there is no fear.”  And Robert O’Brien*** rephrases this:  “…there is nothing really, to be afraid of.  As we learn this we grow in faith, we grow in strength and most important, we grow in our capacity to love.”  Robert O’Brien*** There is much discord today; it will take many of us, working at it, to change.   So onward, to more civil discourse, beautiful beaches and an early spring!

*Leo Tolstoy ---Russian novelist; one of the greatest of classic writers. 1828-1910

** Henry Drummond ---- Scottish evangelist, writer & lecturer. 1851-1897

*** Robert O’Brien --- American writer and novelist

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.  

 

Carol Bossard

One winter month nearly gone!!   When we think of staying warm, this generally means hoping that our heat sources are adequate and that we are suitably garbed.  But there’s also inner warmth to be considered.   We, who live in four-season regions, complain considerably about the weather, but we also find much to warm our spirits….or we’d probably live elsewhere.  If one stays aware of the tiny changes that come each day, our cycle of seasons is warming and reassuring.   I like seeing a partly-frozen stream bubbling along, and knowing that deep in the mud, there is life, just waiting for better temperatures.  The owls are nesting right now.  And the chickadees, unafraid of the worst weather, sing between mouths-full of seeds and suet.  Every time there is a thaw, I see the shape of the gardens, and remember that beneath that clay, snowdrops, daffodils and peonies are just waiting to burst out of the ground.  So I agree that “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”  Albert Camus*

 

 

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Perhaps this is a good place to mention how warming our fruit cake apparently was this year.  It seems that I simply can’t bake fruit cake without having some glitch in the process.  One year I left out the dry ingredients, making a sort of brittle; this year, I over-baked it.  My timer either didn’t go off (I also have problems with timers), or I didn’t hear it, and the cakes baked probably ½ hour longer than they should.  So, I assumed they’d be drier than one would want fruit cake to be.  To mitigate that, I poured more B&B Liqueur over them than I ordinarily would do, before I wrapped them for aging.  I don’t drink alcoholic beverages myself, so how much would be enough probably isn’t in my skill set.  Anyway, the friend to whom I gave the first small cake, said to me after tasting it, that I’d “certainly been generous with the alcohol, hadn’t I?”  So I tried it myself, and, yes I had!  But the cake was moist and tasty, so I guess the little extra zip wasn’t amiss.  I wonder what interesting thing I’ll do next year!

 

Along with the expected grief I’ve been feeling since my sister-in-law, Nickie, passed on a few weeks ago, I’ve been unexpectedly re-experiencing a nostalgic loss of the family times around her large dining table where we conversed, told stories, occasionally sang and always laughed much.  People would be perched in every chair; some might be beading, some would be knitting or embroidering, and a few of us simply sat and enjoyed the conversations along with our tea.   As I thought about this particular bit of family tradition, I thought about hospitality in general.   Nickie’s house was a welcoming place.   I’m not sure that this is true of our culture anymore.   I think that as we have grown more technologically-inclined, as we’ve grown busier, and as we’ve moved from the communities in which we grew up and become less connected in our neighborhoods, we have also become less comfortable opening our homes to others.  One does have to show wisdom in who we allow to step onto the welcome mat; not every person should have access to our inner selves or our homes.  But cocooning --- a cultural reality now --- isn’t all that good for humankind and surely not good for understanding each other.  We simply need to develop discretion as well as a caring spirit.

 

The home in which I grew up was “open house” all of the time too.  Much of the traffic was family since my older siblings and their families --- at that time ---- all lived within 20 miles of the homestead.   But neighbors and friends dropped in too, and seemed always welcome.   Perhaps this was a rural phenomenon?   Being familiar with this style of living, Kerm and I have always felt that our home should carry on in the same mode.  It seems normal and part of a good life, to us.   We feel that if we are blessed by having a comfortable abode surrounded by gardens and woods- ---- it is not to grasp it to ourselves---- but to share it with others.   This sort of sharing has brought us great pleasure and many interesting --- and only occasionally dubious ---- times.  I think whoever lives in our house after us, might actually sense laughter in the walls from our years here.  

 

On an entirely different subject ---- does anyone else have a dyslexic car????   The warning light on the dashboard came on several times to tell us that our right front tire was losing air.  We checked it each time and found the air pressure to be just fine.  Finally, we checked all four tires --- and it was the right rear tire that needed air.  And now this has happened again.  We drive a supposedly American-made car, but either some computer part is made elsewhere in the world where the translation was in error, or there’s a dyslexic engineer right here in the USA Chevy plant, putting our dashboard components together backward.  I could write a small book on our experiences with cars, over the years.  I’m convinced that quite probably our cars do have inner lives, just as the Cars movies showed!

 

Cars aside, this first month of the year has been anything but boring and bland.  If it isn’t politics that fills the news, it is the weather, and if not the weather, then resolutions for the year ahead.  A guest speaker at church recently talked about setting a direction for one’s life so as not to wander aimlessly.  There are surely days when I think I’ve been roaming with no purpose in mind; I go from trying to tidy the kitchen to feeding the cats to maybe doing a little laundry and reading the paper --- and suddenly, it’s bedtime and what useful thing have I really accomplished?  There has to be a greater purpose in my life than the chores of living.  And here I want to applaud those friends, and women in my family who took part in the women’s marches in various cities.  In standing firm in the face of societal scorn and political power, you have showed quality ---- as in Theodore H. White’s **definition: Quality --- in the classic Greek sense ---- how to live with grace and intelligence, with bravery and mercy.”

 

As January ends, I hope that in spite of the sniffles, sneezing, wheezing, coughs and other unwelcome winter guests, that there also have been good times, warm times and delight in the world around.  We have experienced many gray days here in the Finger Lakes, but even with that, there is always something in the day that brightens my mood.  It is usually the antics of either birds or cats, but occasionally, it is something like new storage for pots and pans, a particularly inspiring book, a hug or a phone call that brings a kind of sunshine and warmth to the whole day.  And just as a reminder to us all: Life’s short and we never have enough time for the hearts of those who travel the way with us. O, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.”  Henri-Frederic Amiel***

 

*-Albert Camus --- French author and journalist; 1913-1960

** - Theodore H. White – American historian and author; 1915-1986

*** - Henri-Frederic Amiel --- Swiss philosopher and poet; 1821-1881

 

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Bossard

If you don’t like what’s happening outside, wait a day and it’ll be different!”   In the first week after New Year’s Day, we had snow, freezing rain, rain, grapple and snow, and our temperatures varied from the mid-40s to nearly zero.  The same for this week!  It surely keeps life interesting, and makes necessary a variety of outside wear from warm boots to muck boots, and down jackets to rain gear.  And some of us, to remain cheery --- or at least civil ---- need lights that resemble sunlight, for there aren’t many rays emanating from the sky here in the Finger Lakes.

 

Our annual Twelfth-Night party is over.   It’s fun to assemble a group of people, all of whom we enjoy, along with good food and conversation.  It is the perfect way to both end the season of Christmas and to brighten the long winter.   The cheering bit of news is more daylight each day.  And really, as one ages, time seems to move faster, so I figure winter isn’t going to seem that long.  My plant/seed orders are in process!   These are the quiet months ---- when I can work on scrap books, catch up on mending, begin new sewing projects, and work on a couple of potential books.   Perhaps I can even empty several of the file drawers and baskets full of papers.  At the beginning of January, all sorts of wonderful things appear to be possible.  The year stretches enticingly ahead like the blank pages of the calendar.

 

I don’t really make resolutions to mark the beginning of the year, but I do think about things I’d like to do.  There’s the usual determination to spend more time in the garden, to manage a walk outside every day even if it is only around the yard and to give more caring attention to good food preparation.  But there is one specific area needing attention; thinking before I speak!   (The summer and autumn of 2016 were good training for that!)  I know several people who seem totally oblivious to the effect of what they say; thoughts move directly to the mouth and spill out; they seem to have no filter.  I hope I’m not quite as tactless as I could be, but sometimes my filter needs a finer mesh.   The old adage that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is quite untrue.  Words can leave scars; they cut like a knife and damage the inner core of the person on the receiving end.   And the person on the “giving” end is impacted by the fallout.  On the other side, some people are incredibly prone to feeling insulted, so it is often like tiptoeing through a mine field to be in conversation with them.   I’m always amazed when I read letters to advice columnists; the things that offend people sometimes seem so very petty; so inane.   But determining what should or should not hurt is like comparing your life to someone else’s life and arguing about which is worse.   We are all so individual and our past experiences all contribute to who we are and what hurts us.   Anyway, I have been thinking about running my words, before I say something, through the filter of: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it useful?  3) Is it kind?  It will surely be easier in some situations than in others, but thoughtfulness before speaking should ease many potential trouble spots.

 

We are already experiencing our first time of sadness in this new year.   A marvelous woman, who has been my sister-in-law since I was two years old (my eldest brother was twenty years older than I) passed on to a new life on Epiphany Sunday.  She had experienced ill health for several years now, and was not at all happy with her physical and mental situation at ninety-five years, so I expect that her death to this life was a blessing.  But for those of us left behind, we feel immense grief that we can no longer sit at the table with her, give her hugs or hear her laughter.   Her six children have been devoted to giving her the best possible opportunities and care and her absence will be a difficult way to begin a new year.   NIckie graciously put up with me from toddler-hood on; I played together with her first two children, she helped me with my 4-H sewing projects, informed me of a few pertinent things I needed to know as a teenager, she covered and attached about forty tiny buttons to my wedding gown, and was always ready to assist with a project (she found marvelous “old man face” slippers for my husband’s 40th-year Christmas gift), and was usually ready to laugh at life’s inconsistencies.   I believe that she is glad to be restored to my brother, Frank, and to her family members who have also passed on.   And I think she is now free from all the disabilities that plagued her, making up for the past years when she couldn’t always do what she would have chosen to do.  As my tears fall, I remember that our loved ones do leave us, but the wonderful times we’ve had with them continue to bless our lives forever and are passed on to our children.

 

One bit of business left over from the holidays is to return the Christmas decorations to their tubs in the squirrel-proof outbuilding.   Not much around here is squirrel-proof; they are ingenious little monsters, but this building has been reinforced with metal so an entrance can’t be chewed.   This was done by us in a spirit of determination, spite and malicious satisfaction, after squirrels broke in to eat bird seed, and we smelled mouse in the crèche box.  No more animals in this shed!!  To make things harder, this year I vowed to down-size.  We have more decorations than we use, and sorting out might eliminate some of the heavy carrying before the holidays next year.  So ---- how many unique Santas will I ever use again and could someone else enjoy reindeer and other porch items?   Then there is the new string of lights that we bought thinking they were bubblies, but turned out to be fake bubblies that didn’t bubble.  And there is a whole tin box full of bread dough ornaments as well as garlands of all kinds.  Perhaps it will be a little traumatic to discard these things, but fewer tubs will make our Christmas-decoration-toting next year much lighter.

 

Winter is before us, and I’ve already heard moaning on Face Book from people who want spring to come soon.  Perhaps this thought from John Burroughs* will help us all look at chilly temperatures and snow with more appreciation: “It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam.  This crisp winter air is full of it.”

 

*John Burroughs – America naturalist and essayist; 1837-1921

 

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net

 
Carol Bossard

Our winter weather, so far in December, has been up and down.  We still have patches of old snow here and there, but this week’s milder temperatures gave us large areas of grass.  Today the snow is coming down again, making eveerything white, and piling up on the stone wall behind the rose garden.   “Rose garden” is something of a misnomer because in reality, I have to re-plant roses there nearly every year to make it so, and thus my husband and co-gardener considers my roses “annuals”.  They spread their roots reluctantly in our heavy clay and dislike variable ground-freezing and thawing.  But I feel a strong need to have roses, so we keep planting, and there are some hardy varieties that endure.   The lilac bush next to the rose garden was full of birds today; several cardinals.  I’ve seen a painting of a birch tree filled with cardinals against a snow scene; our lilac bush is rather like that painting, only there were also several starlings, a lot of finches and sparrows, juncos and chickadees here, to add variety.

Toward the end of the year, our wild life quiets a bit.  The feral kittens- becoming- cats are having a hard time in the snow; they consider that cold, white stuff a personal insult.  They laboriously make their way through it lifting their paws with each step and just looking disgusted.   The turkeys’ big feet make paths for them, though, as they march down from the hill, twice a day, to glean the seed knocked out of the feeders.  And the deer slip in after dark.  I have seen them stand on hind legs to lick the feeders clean, and they bang their heads against the glassed-in feeders so that the seeds fall out on the ground.  Hungry creatures can be very creative. 

Christmas was a bit different this year; we had to really try to make time for being together as a family.   Work schedules, fatigue, weather and distances all make being in the same place at the same time less easy, so sometimes, what has been the custom just doesn’t work!   A friend came on Christmas Day to help us celebrate what was a lovely and peaceful afternoon.  We did manage one gathering of extended family on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), and our immediate family time will be New Year’s Day.   Sharing stories and keeping current on what the younger members; nieces and nephews are doing is reason enough to make the effort, and the warmth and gladness of being together is a plus!

Over the years, we’ve had a variety of Christmas experiences.  One included a trip to the emergency room of the Hornell hospital when our 2-year-old had tonsillitis; we reached there after a five hour drive from central Pennsylvania to New York on Christmas Eve.   I remember being amazed at how quickly a child’s frighteningly high fever and lethargy could be eased with the right medications.  Then there was the Christmas when we stayed at home and our three-year-old arose in the wee small hours, and began opening gifts.  He couldn’t read so he was blithely ripping off paper at random.  The very last time we traveled on Christmas Day was when the boys were seven and nine.   It had snowed heavily Christmas Eve, but looked a trifle better Christmas morning.  So mid-afternoon, we set off from the Catskills, for Christmas at Grandma’s --- four hours away.  That was a major lapse in judgment on our part.  Rt. 17 was abysmal and down to one lane on each side.  Rt. 79 was also bad, but when we reached Ithaca, streets were bare.  However, only a few miles further, on the flats up along Cayuga Lake, conditions became very difficult with barely-plowed roads and blowing snow.  Just north of Trumansburg, we were forced off the road by a snow plow, and in hitting a snow bank, cracked our radiator.   The people from one of the houses beyond where we sat, came out to help us and warmly welcomed in the four of us and our dog for the night.  It was an interesting experience, and our hosts were kind and generous, but thereafter, we spent Christmas at home and joined family on another, sunnier day.  And mostly, we no longer feel compelled to travel in a storm to get anywhere.

Looking back over 366 days (it is Leap Year), I have gratitude for the many good things that have happened.  There have, of course, been sad things; the loss of family members and friends, misunderstandings that affect our relationships, the national and international news, and the almost daily frustrations that come into everyone’s life.  But there have been incredibly wonderful things every day, if one only takes the time to appreciate.   There’s the loyalty and kindness of good friends.  And while the garden wasn’t great, there was still the fragrance of lilies-of-the-valley and the very ruffled petals of a new pale yellow rose.  There were lunches with friends, celebrations of special occasions, amazing sunsets, re-discovering people we sort of knew long ago and finding kindred spirits.  There is our church family that, even though we have no pastor at the moment, sticks together like glue and provides mutual support whenever needed.   And there is definitely the joy of seeing our grown children turning into fine people who contribute good things to this world.  And always, there are the blessings of granddaughters and other children.

As we are about to open a new and fresh calendar, I always like to remember this quotation from...Rainer Maria Rilke*: “And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”  Many of us are looking with some trepidation at the months ahead because of the roiling stew pot of iniquitous, unprincipled, nefarious behavior that infiltrates the entire world.  We could easily become discouraged, depressed and grumpy about life.    But in addition to having a spiritual admonition to carry light into the world’s darkness,  it is our responsibility as caring, intelligent people, to look beyond the headlines,  and to see the consistent efforts to spread love, to assist the needy and to encourage peaceful solutions to snarled issues.   We can’t allow discouragement to become epidemic in ourselves, inadvertently carrying it to others.   Alfred, Lord Tennyson** lived in a time that was probably as difficult as current times.  He could still say: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come.”  So ----- Happy New Year! ---- and may we all find moments of absolute delight as well as experiences that build and renew all of us.  

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist.

        ** Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), British poet laureate

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

Carol Bossard

We haven’t had a lot of snow in our little micro-climate pocket, but what we have had has been Christmas-card-pretty.  One morning, last week, we awoke to about an inch of heavy wet snow all over everything; each branch and twig had been liberally frosted.  And with the sun coming up behind this and a mist rising from the still-unfrozen ground, it was ethereal and beautiful.  There was an aura over things a color that my father used to describe as “sky-blue-pink”.  Just to keep me in touch with reality though, birds around the feeders were gobbling seed as though we’d had a blizzard, and looking toward the windows in an obvious request for MORE!    Since last week, the temperatures have been dropping and things are now feeling frigid and very wintry.  Even the geese are finally flying south. 

 

It’s definitely time to get those cards and letters out.  Of course, we are well-known for tardily sending our cards and rather voluminous letters well after Christmas.  The problem is that I’m really good at organizing things via my lists, but my energy level seldom matches the tasks.    We have been making our Christmas cards for almost as many years as we’ve been married.  At first, a couple of kind friends with whom we’d gone to Cornell, silk-screened our designs for us, and for a very short time, I did some silk-screening myself.  But pen and ink sketches are less messy.  So each year, we find a verse that suits both of us, and then I have to figure out some design for the card that might or might not have relevance to the verse.  Often, I just do a sketch of something around our house; a “from our home to yours” kind of thing.  Since I’m not an accomplished artist, this requires that I be in a patient and creative mood --- not easily come by these days.  But one more year is “under our belts” and the cards and letters will soon be duplicated by our friendly Kinko establishment in Ithaca.

 

Back in our younger years, we created more of our gifts too.  As I light beautiful, purchased candles, I remember our candle-making years.  We bought tin molds, wax and wicks and made candles for ourselves and others; pillar candles of various shapes and sizes.  In addition, one year, my 4-H girls made sand candles in our kitchen.  That was an over-the-top messy but fun adventure.  It was months before the sand was finally out of the nooks and crannies.  One of my favorite Christmas activities that also involved candles was an Advent log.  This was a piece of very weathered fence post – about eight inches in diameter and two feet long.  We drilled as many holes as there could be days in the Advent season and filled them with what were called floral arrangement candles --- very slim, tall tapers.   We’d read something relevant and short, and light a candle every night, when our sons were young.  We grew out of the practice for two reasons; older sons aren’t home every night (nor were we), and it is very difficult to find those candles anymore.  But the log still resides in the attic, perhaps awaiting a new home.

 

Christmas is a holiday that fills many people with expectations so high, that often disappointment follows when the Christmas of our dreams doesn’t materialize.   When we try to live up to the glitzy magazine spreads full of ideas for food, parties and the perfect gifts, we often find ourselves exhausted and unable to enjoy what we have.  Holiday time is also a sad time for people who have suffered many losses or who are alone.  It is good to remember that not everyone is into the glitter and glamour of Christmas.   We need to be sensitive to those who are in pain, who are lonely and who perhaps feel lost  amid the lights, music and good spirits around them.   

 

We are approaching the Winter Solstice; December 21st.   One of my nieces gives an annual Solstice party; a celebration of increasing light once again.  I’ve always wished that we could be in two places at once so that we could celebrate with them.  But I can be grateful right here at home.  The growing light doesn’t make a big impression in December, but by January, the difference is evident.  I do complain about the early darkness, but people who spend time outside after dark know that there are shades of dark.  I have been in a dark so very dense, during a fog and ice storm, that it was impenetrable; and that must be where the saying came from: “You can’t see your hand in front of your face”.  You really couldn’t!  But one writer describes the darkness of most nights: “Under the open heavens there is always a faint luminous diffused light, even at midnight, I have found, which you cannot believe from inside the house.”  This is from Barbara Webster who wrote The Green Year.  Perhaps if we were occasionally out in it, we could find pleasure in the long night hours.  As we approach this darker time of year, we can be glad that the turning of the earth is one more indication of the connectedness of everything and everyone.

 

That connectedness is never so apparent as at holiday time.  Somehow, hearts soften and our spirits reach out to each other.  We tend to want to help others in spite of our often insular, cynical selves.  Norman Vincent Peale said: “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”  Perhaps that is true, at least in some of the world, and accomplishing it in even a small portion of the world is something of a miracle.  Whether we celebrate Hanukkah, which begins on December 24, or Christmas which begins this year with Advent on November 27th and ends with Epiphany on January 6th, or Kwanzaa which begins on December 26th, we all celebrate community and God’s grace and love that makes being part of a community both a joy and an obligation. 

 

And this reminds me of a quotation I’ve always loved, spoken by the famous psychologist, Carl Jung: “Bidden or not, God comes!”    May you be finding joy in this season both by giving and receiving the love that is available to us all and often found in strange places.  Blessings………….and stay warm.

 

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net.   

Carol Bossard

The season of Advent is here!  It’s preparation time --- both for our hearts and our homes.  We prepare for Christmas, with joy and gratitude, but whatever December holiday you might celebrate (Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa), all emphasize the spreading of light and love and the joy of community.   We “hung the greens” at our church this past Sunday to make it look festive and even more beautiful.  It always is an energizer that this occasion is accompanied by hot soup, sandwiches, and lots of cookies.   (The decorations are done just in time for our evening of Candor chorus, coming on December 4th for a concert and carol-sing.*)   Kerm and I put our small white lights down the driveway and across our front lawn early this year.  The world can be a dark place and this year seems darker than usual; we felt the need to spread a bit of light.

This was a fruitcake year; I’m sure my husband and sons will rejoice.    I actually got the cakes baked with a few weeks to mellow, and remembered to add all the ingredients (I refer you to the year I baked them without the flour!) from the butter and sugar to the flour and quantities of fruit.  Fortunately, there are other people in my life who enjoy home-made fruit cake, so I don’t have to be the sole consumer from Christmas until 4th of July.  My paternal ancestors were from Scotland so the taste for this delicacy must be passed down genetically, because my French/German husband and multi-ethnic sons think it is something to put out for the birds.

We have had a couple of snow-falls, but nothing that has stayed with us too long.  The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we awoke to a bit more than an inch on the ground, which increased to six inches by Tuesday morning, with a wind that was blustery and full of snowflakes.  The deer hunters were glad to see snow, because on opening day, the temperature was nearly 70 and no deer were moving. Snow makes footprints easier to track and deer a bit more energetic.  But now, two weeks later, I can easily see the gardens’ outlines again, and continue planning, on paper, for spring.  My first seed catalog came before Thanksgiving and more have followed.  Plotting out on paper is far easier than actually transplanting things, so I use the winter season to make garden plans ---- erase them --- and plan again.  Our smoke bush, azaleas, roses and rhododendrons are swathed in burlap cages as protection against both the wind and the deer.  This makes the yard look a bit odd, but with no wraps, they’d be chewed down to little nubs at lawn level.   Maybe we should light those too; possibly crunching a light bulb would be a way to communicate to our hungry deer that there are some limits to our welcome.  

Speaking of limits, sometimes there is a “final straw” that impels us to action.  One of our friends expressed her distress at our national penchant for not listening to each other.  She isn’t dismayed by diverse opinions so much as the fear, hostility and prideful righteousness that lends itself to an atmosphere where civil discourse and understanding don’t happen.   So she has spoken with a person at a local college who actually teaches listening skills, hoping that we can begin, as a community endeavor, to become better listeners.  I would agree that few of us listen well to others; we are: 1) in too much of a hurry to really spend time listening and 2) too preoccupied in forming our responses instead of really trying to understand what the other person is attempting to say.  I have noticed this in myself on many occasions.   I’m sure I erred in this way when my sons were children, and I observe it with all levels of my acquaintances; family, friends and people with whom I hold casual conversations.   The most obvious inattention to another person is sneaking a look at one’s cell phone while in conversation.   So I applaud my friend’s attempt to improve our listening skills, and after that, to try to come together to build the kind of community where we feel both heard and valued.  

Perhaps at this time of year, we all think more about values.   Christmas lights are up everywhere and Christmas music pours from every loud-speaker.  We are, perhaps, drawn to spiritual thoughtfulness even as we shop.  Annually, when the season begins, I determine that I will not be engulfed in the Christmas frenzy that seems to occur earlier and earlier.   Some years are more peaceful than others.  This year I began the season with a nasty cold that settled --- where it usually settles ---- in my bronchial tubes.  So my determination to relax is enhanced by the listlessness that comes along with illness.  I will enjoy the beauty, the music and the warmth and joy of this season and will not overdo.  When I’m at all tired, I will STOP!!  And the rest of the world can go on its merry way while I sit and listen to music or take a nap.  

I hope that reading this will inspire you to set limits that are appropriate to you, so that you will really enjoy December.  Taking time to just be thankfully aware of our surroundings and to enjoy time with the people for whom we care; gratitude is really what much of life should be about.  Perhaps this suggestion by Helen Keller** will be a useful reminder:  “Hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow.  Touch each object as if tomorrow, your tactile sense would fail.  Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never taste or smell again.  Make the most of every sense.  Glory in all the facets and pleasures and beauty which the world reveals to you.”  If Helen Keller can say this, surely we, who have access to all of our senses, can take note.  Happy December!!!

*Concert and Carol-Sing are Sunday, December 4th at 6:30.  Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Spencer.  Cookies afterward.

**Helen Keller was the first blind/deaf person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.  She was an American lecturer, political activist and author.

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net  

 

Carol Bossard

“Over the River and Thru the Woods….” Thanksgiving is coming, next week!   When I was a child, the days crept by like one of our tiny spiders negotiating a very tall wall.  Now the seasons fly by so quickly that I don’t even have to put away the Christmas CDs because suddenly it’s holiday time again.  

November is a month that holds both joy and sadness; I think these elements are in the very air of the eleventh month.  The autumn has been lovely; brilliant colors, soft days, sunshine and warmth well past the Equinox.  But now the winds have blown most of the leaves to the ground where they crisp around the edges, making a rattling sound as they blow across the lawn.  The larch needles turn a brassy amber as they shed.   Mornings are chilly and the rains hold a cold promise of snow to come.  Of course, there is Thanksgiving and the many blessings of family and friends.  There is hot oatmeal with nuts and raisins, and the warmth of the wood fire in the morning.  But there is also the dearth of green plants in the garden, chilly winds and many shades of brown.   November reminds us all of our frailty and of life’s spirals.  To quote Louis L’Amour: “Where go the years?  Down what tunnel of time are poured the precious days?  When we are young the fire within us burns bright……. the world lies before us and nothing is too great to be done.  No challenge is too awesome…..” *   It takes a lot of living before those words really makes sense.   We who have seen many Novembers know well the inner changes that come to all of us.  It’s not necessarily a loss of interest or vitality; just a difference in how we view life and what is important to us.  Perhaps it might better be called mellowing.  It is the people for whom we care and the warm embers of that formerly over-hot fire that make this era of life a very good time in spite of the changes. 

 It is reality that some circumstances are harder and darker than others to contemplate, and we may feel that it is nearly impossible to cope or even imagine.  Someone, last week, posted this very appropriate section from A Wrinkle In Time.  I found it comforting.  If you haven’t read this book, you definitely should make time for it.     “Mrs. Whatsit said: ‘We showed you the Dark Thing on Uriel first – for many reasons.  First because the atmosphere on the mountain peaks there is so clear and thin that you could see it for what it is.  And we thought it would be easier for you to understand it if you saw it --- well, someplace else first, not your own earth.’   ‘I hate it!’ Charles Wallace cried passionately.  ‘I hate the dark Thing.’  Mrs. Whatsit nodded, ‘Yes, Charles, Dear, we all do.  That’s another reason we wanted to prepare you; we thought it would be too frightening for you to see it first of all about your own beloved world.’  ‘But what is it?’ Calvin demanded.  ‘We know that it’s evil, but what is it?’  ‘You hhave ssaidd itt!’ Mrs. Which’s voice rang out.  ‘Itt iss Eevil.  Itt iss thee Ppowers of Ddarkknesss!’  ‘But what’s going to happen?’  Meg’s voice trembled.  ‘Oh, please Mrs. Which, tell us, what’s going to happen.’  “Wee wwill coonnttinne tto ffightt!’  Something in Mrs. Which’s voice made all three of the children stand straighter, throwing back their shoulders with determination………..’And we’re not alone, you know, children,’ came Mrs. Whatsit, the comforter.  ‘All through the universe it’s being fought, all through the cosmos……….I know it’s hard for you to understand about size, how there’s very little difference in the size of the tiniest microbe and the greatest galaxy.  You think about that and maybe it won’t seem strange to you that some of our very best fighters have come right from your own planet, and it’s a little planet, dears, out on the edge of a little galaxy.  You can be proud that it’s done so well.’…..Mrs. Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly, ‘And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”**   So ---- we just keep moving on, doing our bit to be bearers of light!

 A couple of weeks ago, we traveled to Virginia to visit family.  In spite of my antipathy for long roads and heavy traffic, at least the gray concrete ribbons take us to good times and fun places.   While there, we spent a night at a charming B&B; the Mountain Song Inn outside of Willis, VA…… (www.mountainsonginn.com).   Views of the Blue Ridge were wide and wonderful, the rooms comfortable, the food delicious and the table-settings elegant.  There are lovely gardens, one of which surrounded a tiny fenced-in terrace just outside our room.  It would be a delightful place to spend a week or so, drinking in the peace and quiet that we so seldom find in today’s world.  And just a note; in late May all the Siberian Iris would be in bloom.  We enjoyed being with our family too, as well as admiring their wide fields where vultures and hawks are soaring with dips and turns over it all.   We met the “Fainting” goats and Buff Orphinton chickens that now inhabit the barn, making chore-time for our granddaughters a reality.

Now is the time to check our bookcases, making sure we have some good winter reading; there are old friends sitting on the shelves, but I’ll be adding a few new authors.    “A book can be a star, explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly, a living fire to brighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” *** Having books available is nearly as important to me as my “happy light”, and wood for the stove.   Be sure, too, to have lots of candles.  A few years ago, friends were in for an evening of pinochle, and we needed those candles.  Just as we sat down to play, the power went out.  Playing pinochle by many candle-lights gives a whole new ambiance to the game.   

There is still plenty of opportunity for out-door time in November.   Fresh air during the day is essential for good health, and being outside is a mood-enhancer.   Birds are still active, especially woodpeckers, as they skitter around a tree checking for bugs, and then hammer away to make noise.   Last winter, a downy woodpecker found metal we had put on a shed door and had a marvelous, reverberating time.   I think the bears have left us --- for now.  One wandered through in October, and he/she/it pulled down three feeders, so I’m assuming it was a young one; older bears generally show more finesse.  We’ve heard that there used to be some coal-mining around Erin (a few miles away) and that the old mines are still accessible.  We have often wondered where the bears go --- and maybe that’s the answer.   

I hope your Thanksgiving is one to truly bring you happiness and that when you count all the things for which you are grateful --- there are so many that you lose count.

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

*Louis L’Amour --- American writer (1908-1988) Quote from: To The Far Blue Mountains.

**A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

*** Madeleine L’Engle --- American writer (1918-2007); probably known best for A Wrinkle In Time, but has authored many thoughtful stories and non-fiction for young people and adults. 

 

Carol Bossard

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, on November 3d, to the person who consistently supports whatever it is I am doing and whoever I happen to be on a daily basis.  I celebrate the person he is and all that he has meant to me and to each community in which we have lived.  May he have many more years to enjoy his preferred birthday treat: strawberry short-cake.  November 3d was my eldest brother’s birthday too, and he also tried to promote education, improving circumstances for those who shared his life-work; dairy farming.  There must be something about that date that encourages responsibility, hard work and generosity of time.

Kerm and I recently enjoyed an incredible view from the top of a hill, reached via a rough lane, on a four-wheeler.  We could see for miles --- probably about 45 miles ---- into the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania to our south and to the softer hills of the Finger Lakes on our north.  We had come to choose “plots” in the Green Springs Natural Burial Cemetery.  Because of my work with the Office for the Aging, I’ve dealt with funeral issues for many years and know how important it is to have plans in place.  While both of us are sort of traditionalists, we felt a choice other than the whole casket routine or cremation --- both very polluting to the earth and skies ---- would be better for us, and we found this place a few years ago.  The land for this unique cemetery sits wa-a-ay out in the boonies, so our graves are more likely to be visited by soaring hawks and foraging rabbits than people.  Actually, the spaces we chose for ourselves are in Bobolink Meadow, which, when we visited that day, was full of golden rod and bird song.  Contemplating death is uncomfortable for most people, but planning ahead is a boon and a blessing to those who are grieving and trying to make difficult decisions.  And this space of meadows, woods and rocky hills is perfect for us, and is illustrated by one of my favorite poems: “Do not stand at my grave and weep.  I am not there.  I do not sleep.  I am a thousand winds that blow.  I am the diamond glints on snow.  I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.  I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.  When you awaken in the morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.  I am the soft stars that shine at night.  Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there, I did not die.”  (Hopi Prayer)  This collection of similes is not quite how I envision life in eternity, but I’ve always wanted to be in many places at the same time.  

November is here, bringing a change in the landscape and to our clocks.  This coming weekend will create an “extra” hour as we move the clocks back ---- always annoying to our dog and cats, for in their mind, time should remain just as it has been for the past months.  They do not approve of change in any way.  We finally have gotten some soaking rains; greatly needed.   And I was finally able to get into the garden to plant the fall bulbs that will bring so much spring beauty.  These bulbs include some from a friend who says the daffodils will be spectacular.

One of my recent “Kids’ Time” stories for church involved choosing friends wisely.   When you are the age of the kids who come up for story time, you pretty much play with who is available.  But as one moves into junior high and high school, friends are more an indication of how you see yourself.  I think I have, over my life time, chosen most of my friends wisely ---- well, maybe a couple of early-on boyfriends weren’t the best choice ---- but that’s a normal teen age dilemma.  What I said to the kids listening to the story was that we need to choose friends who honor the same things we do.  They may not always agree with us ---which is a good thing and may well widen our perspectives keep us from doing something foolish ---- but they need to respect our ethics and the persons we are.   Kerm and I still connect with many of the good friends we’ve made in the several places we have lived.   We can go back to visit in Lewisburg or the Catskills and comfortably pick up where we left off.  Friends are crucial to living happily and with integrity.  They support you in times of sadness, they hold you accountable for living up to your values and they are people who share in tears, laughter and the every-day situations we all live out.  And, hopefully, we reciprocate.   George MacDonald* said: “Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly.”*

A few weeks ago, I had a very good day with friends made many years ago.  It was one of those mild October days when everything moves slowly, the sun was in and out of clouds, and the leaf color was at its peak.  Three friends from my high school days drove considerable distance to come here for lunch.  It was a relaxed time of catching up on what we all are doing.  And it was a fine illustration of how keeping good friends can guarantee some fine days together though out life.

People we elect to leadership positions don’t need to be friends, but I think that they should be people we can respect and who exhibit the qualities of wisdom, fairness and intelligence.  That is a little harder to determine; getting to know someone takes a while, and I’ve been fooled once or twice.   What we see on TV election ads or hear at a “town meeting” isn’t necessarily the truth about that person.   And trusting a political party to do what is right is naïve to the utmost power.  In fact, power is exactly what too many people want, and will rationalize almost any behavior to get it.   We (and they) often forget that those elected individuals  are there to serve the whole nation, not just filibuster for the issue or two, about which they (or we) are intense.   I think that we (and they) often forget that people who have been given leadership responsibilities need to serve with a degree of humbleness, honesty, dignity and caring about the needs of the nation.  Needless to say, the current election “fooforaw” has been anything but illustrative of those things.   Thomas Jefferson** said: “When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.”  And William Ellery Channing*** said: “Men are never very wise or select in the exercise of a new power.”   We need to think things through before we leap into the maelstrom of the world around us.   Less opining and more careful listening would be a step further into wisdom for each of us.

  And ----- Happy November --- this month of transition, with its brown leaves, acorns, busy squirrels---- and gratitude.

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.  

 

*----George MacDonald (1824-1905)---- Scottish Pastor who wrote allegorical children’s stories: The Princess and the Goblins, At the Back of the North Wind……..

**---Thomas Jefferson--- (1743-1826) ---Third president of the United States.  Home in Virginia near Charlottesville.  

***--- William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) was a distinguished Harvard scholar and preacher.  

 

Carol Bossard

Pumpkin Time Again

We are deep into October; the leaves on my euonymus trees have turned a rich cherry red and the little pink chandelier-like berries are quivering with each breath of wind. The gardens are harvested and seeded with winter cover crops.   And heavy rains predicted for tonight, will probably send our leaves, now full of color, flying.   Clocks will soon change back to standard time ---- my personal bête noir.  I try very hard to talk myself out of the feeling that I can’t really do much after dark, but my psyche simply won’t cooperate, and as darkness falls, so does my focus and energy level.  There are compensations; a cozy fire in the wood stove, cocoa and no feelings of guilt about not weeding.   But I do look forward to the time after the solstice, when the light begins to return.

 As many of you know, one of the ways Kerm and I find entertainment is occasional attendance at estate auctions.   (Our family members may take a moment here to groan in despair.  We have picked up some rather strange objects on occasion----- like those weird dolls!)   Last time we brought home a tall porcelain coffee pot in the blue and white transfer pattern of my grandmother’s set.   They obviously needed to be together! We found an artist’s easel for the hopeful day that I make time for collages.  And we acquired an old wooden laundry wringer for the Farm Museum.   We often watch Antiques Road Show, so we know about auctions for serious collectors; they have guide books for each item and buyers are often dealing with Tiffany lamps, art, ephemera and are concerned about provenance.  The auctions to which we go are more apt to be collections of everyday items; fine china, un-fine china, linens, kitchen tools, boxes of silverware, garden tools, some furniture, and crates of stuff.  I like to think about who owned and loved the well-worn rolling pin or the hand-embroidered tablecloth.  Our choice of entertainment is far from the glitzy club scene that many find fun, but regardless of what is au currant, we know what renews our spirits.  We bought our first every-day set of china and several pieces of furniture at estate auctions, and with these, we furnished our first house.  We’ve been indulging ourselves in this way for a long time!

We’ve also been involved in continuing education for most of our lives.  Several members of our families are currently in college, trying to determine what they want to do with their lives, and thinking of this made me look back on my own life.  I wonder, as the years have rolled by, how much was good planning and how much has been serendipity.   Before we had children, I was a 4-H and Youth agent in Maryland.  When the boys were small, I assisted in high school home economics classes, did some substitute teaching (I could write a book on that!) and was a church secretary.  Interestingly, I ended up spending over twenty years in gerontology, a field to which I’d given little thought and, initially, had no training.   And I enjoyed almost everything about the “career” into which I more or less stumbled.   Most of my co-workers and clients were a joy to know and with whom to work.

Pumpkins21.jpg

 

As I look at the drama and uncertainty of today’s working environments (as per “Dilbert”), I can see how very many pitfalls I avoided, quite serendipitously.    For the most part, I worked with people who still cared about ethics and other people.   Most of my co-workers did their jobs with skill, humor and attention to detail.  I hear (via frustrated managers) that this is not always true, and toward the end of my time with the Office for the Aging, I did note one or two people who exerted themselves no more than necessary.  Of course no job is without difficulties; having to explain the facts of county agency life to OSHA, dealing with a large and leaking refrigerator in our kitchen on the day the Health Dept. was due, rescuing a tribe of feral cats when a client died, trying to juggle county Legislature demands with NYS demands ---- often totally opposed in philosophy.  But I seldom ran into unethical transgressions, back-biting, or inappropriate behavior among colleagues.

I do think we career-shop in a rather uninformed way.  When kids even begin thinking of “what I will do when I grow up”, tell them this:  “Don’t ask yourself what you want to be or do.  Ask yourself how you want to feel in your life.  Then every time you have to make a choice, choose what will make you feel that way.”*   Remembering this will also be a reminder of one’s ethics and inner integrity.  If you feel good about and find purpose in what you are doing, you will feel good within yourself and won’t be tempted to take dishonest shortcuts.   And this thoughtfulness works whether for a job or when one is a retiree and trying to decide how to use one’s time.  Volunteering often requires the same decision-making skills needed in work that pays.   No job is perfect, but there should be a sense of accomplishment and happiness in what we do.

On the fun side of life, Halloween is coming.  Has anyone else noticed what a plethora of “decorations” one can now find?   People of the pagan era, where Halloween (Samhain) originated, would be enthralled by our choices; chrome skeletons, ghosts dancing in a circle on the lawn and leering, lighted eyes to place in trees.   The early Celts only had hollowed-out lighted turnips and gourds to ward off evil spirits!  I can momentarily appreciate some of the dark humor, but I stick with a harvest theme; pumpkins for my porch.  Some consider Halloween and all that goes with it to be --- at the least, unwise ---- and at the most, evil.   I think that evil can sneak in anywhere, but is not necessarily where we faulty humans imagine we see it.   Those of us who are able to take the occasion lightly enjoy the costumed trick or treating kiddies and the Jack-o-lanterns lighting up our entrances.  For me, the day following Halloween – All Saints Day --- is very special.  It is the time I think, with gratitude, of the people who have been part of my life, who have helped me grow in faith and in understanding of how to live well; people who are no longer with us.  It is really a more meaningful remembrance time for me than Memorial Day because it has to do with my faith and is far more personal.  So as we observe Halloween, think of this: “I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than myself.”  Montaigne.    We are all capable of great good or great evil, so before we fear, or throw up our hands in horror, contemplate what possibilities are within us.  It is definitely humbling!

Meanwhile let us bask in autumn and store away the warmth and sunshine to cheer us when the clouds move in and colder winds blow.

*“Where Women Create” magazine.

** Michel de Montaigne – One of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance period; best-known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre (bless him!!).  1533-1592

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

 

Carol Bossard

“Soup---- beautiful soup……” warbles the mock turtle from Alice In Wonderland.  This is soup season.  It is comforting to have a pot of soup for days when we are tired, chilly or not in the mood to do something more elaborate.  I have one or two actual recipes for soup (none for mock turtle, though), but more often, my soups are “refrigerator soup” ---- whatever is in the refrigerator needing to be used.  More recently, I’ve learned how to make soups vegetarian or gluten-free.   I have a bit more trouble with vegan and “Paleo”.  My favorite soup for us is probably a plain, simple vegetable-beef concoction made with local beef and amplified with carrots, potatoes, corn, bulghur and my tomatoes in a jar.   Twenty minutes in the kitchen for preparation, and let it simmer for as long as necessary.  I occasionally throw in millet; a tasty, chewy filler ---- unless a certain son is coming for dinner.  He objects strongly to millet; says it is bird seed.  In truth, most birds aren’t fond of it either.

Fall has brought more refreshing temperatures.   Our dog has moped all summer when outside.  Part of that is his age; Freckles is twelve.  But he doesn’t like heat or flies.  So when the insects diminish and there’s a nip in the air, he rejuvenates and charges around his pen, determined to be a puppy again.  Recently, on Face Book, someone posted a cozy corner with a wing chair, pillows and a steaming cup. The slogan expressed a longing for a cup of cocoa, a book and a rainy day.  That would be rejuvenating for me.  Some might consider that wasting time and I do have some thoughts on “wasting” time that may not fly with those who live in a busy-every-moment mode.   We can truly waste time --- in worry, anxiety, anger, or frustration ----- but I think that doing something fun and relaxing, listening to people share their stories or finding some creative activity is not wasting time --- nor is listening to music, having tea with a friend or simply sitting on the porch and watching the stars.  When I’ve worked for a couple of hours on a scrapbook, I am refreshed enough to then tackle cleaning the refrigerator (well ---- that’s a stretch, but maybe…..).   After reading a few chapters in my latest choice of books, I have enough focus to make a batch of cookies or fold laundry as well as having some new ideas to think about.  And watching the stars speaks to the soul.  Remember the old saying: “Variety is the spice of life”?  Variety is also a creator of new vitality.

In addition to our genetics, we are a compilation of our life-experiences; even those that “waste” time or turn into disasters.  All of them merge together to make us who we are.  The mistakes we make generally help us to learn and mature if we are receptive.  Unfortunately our culture doesn’t have a lot of sufferance for errors or for taking time to think things through; a perfect TEN, ASAP and STAT are our cultural mottos!   Patience and pondering, though, often lead people to create something magnificent.  Daydreaming is a hotbed for ideas.  And instead of making our children – or any of us --- feel badly when we fall on our faces, this should become a time to sit down and analyze the situation together, so that no one fears trying new things; so that one learns how to use mistakes -- making better choices next time.  Behaviors that seem like “waste time” often turn out to be ways of processing things in our minds and then achieving something good.

One of the conundrums I’ve been processing lately is how we humans create ways to separate ourselves from each other.  My husband says that in his school, it was the “country kids” and the “town kids”.  In my school it was more the Regents and non-Regents students ----- or maybe those in music and those who were not?  Of course, now, as adults we have vociferous political separations, deep-seated religious separation, cultural separation and wealthy vs. non-wealthy.  And in New York there is a wide barrier when it comes to voting and funding New York City vs. upstate New York.   Some barriers are real; some made up of false perceptions.  Do we feel better when we can look down on someone because they aren’t like us?  Does what we haven’t experienced have to be “weird” or “outlandish”?  Is it threatening that we might have things in common with someone we consider totally different?   A Face Book friend or two from other parts of the world have helped me to see differently, as have some of our adventures.    And a few class reunions have made it evident to me that what we were in school was an illusion; we  all have traveled different routes to get where we now find ourselves and we have become people worth knowing and enjoying.    

One of my really good experiences has been with a group in Ithaca.  I haven’t participated for a while because of time and energy, but it will remain one of my growth-engendering and joyful ways to spend time.  Women of all ages and many backgrounds come together for two hours; one hour in writing from ideas collected by our leader, Zee, (in all venues: poetry, fiction, fable or non-fiction) and one hour listening to what we have all written.   The variety is astounding, as is the non-judging affirmation.  And the perspectives I acquired from listening to those who came from backgrounds far different than mine were valuable; all sorts of walls in my mind, crumbled.  The more diverse our experiences and the people we grow to know, the better and more understanding individuals we are likely to become and the less we can generalize.

Now, back to the kitchen --- and tidying up!  Our house is, strangely, orderly right now because we expect part of our family to come together in a couple of days.  And it has taken extreme effort to make that happen.  Usually, the more interesting things I find to do, the less time and strength is left for cleaning.  Possibilities are endless for making disorder --- and I use those possibilities well.   I don’t have a lot of energy, and we don’t have a super- large house with an extra room for creativity, so if it is a choice between having several projects going at the same time, or having my rooms shining and neat, I’m afraid I usually choose the former.  But right now ---- the furniture is dustless and shining, and there are no piles of anything taking up space on chairs and tables.  And the refrigerator is not hiding any over-the-hill soup ingredients.  No doubt our abode will look more normal in a few weeks but right now, the novelty makes it very nice.  

Keats called autumn the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.  And I so enjoy these misty mornings and rich, sunny afternoons.  I hope you do also, or at least that whatever your climate happens to be, you are finding October a good time to be alive.  And may your soup pot provide endless nourishment and warmth as we move toward chillier weather.

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Bossard

Farewell Summer

“The magic of autumn has seized the countryside.   Now that the sun isn’t ripening anything, it shines for the sake of the golden age; for the sake of Eden; to please the moon for all I know.”  Elizabeth Coatsworth*  September sunshine does have a mellowing effect.  It is generally warm without being scorching.  And many days are perfect for simply sitting outside and reveling in the warmth and turning of the season.  I just picked a bouquet of wild purple and white asters; called “Farewell Summers” by the English and Canadians.   At this time of year I get a sense of incredible wealth---- the scenery, the aromas, golden showers of leaves, and all the ambiance of friends and fall.

Several of us, who enjoy each other’s company, took a trip to Letchworth State Park this week; a place with breath-taking scenery and interesting history.  Arch Merrill*, wrote a series of books about western NYS and the Southern Tier; both regional legends and facts.  He tells the story of William Pryor Letchworth (a successful and progressive businessman) and Mary Jemison (“White woman of the Genesee”) in Gaslights and Gingerbread.  He paints a vivid picture of the people and events that brought us this grand park.   When it seemed that a power company was ready to use --- and misuse --- the three tumbling falls for their own profit by building a large dam in 1907, the elderly Mr. Letchworth deeded his estate, “Glen Iris”, to NYS, for a park, to protect its beauty.  The story of Mary Jemison is part of this.   She was captured, in Pennsylvania, by a group of Indians and Frenchmen when she was sixteen years old. Her parents were killed and she was forced to march to Fort Pitt where she was given to a family of the Seneca tribe, who had lost a son in the war.  She eventually married a young Delaware Indian and walked 300 miles, from Ohio, with a baby strapped onto her back, to her new home on the Genesee River.   As a tribal member, she was not allowed to speak English, so to retain her own language, she quietly recited the prayers, daily, she had learned as a child.  She died in 1833.  William Letchworth had her cabin moved to his estate and requisitioned a monument to her courage.  His estate was also the site of the last Native American council fire on the Genesee in October of 1872.  Of course there is much more to the story and you might enjoy reading the whole.  We certainly enjoyed the ambiance and fellowship time with good friends.

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Photo courtesy of www.fingerlakes.com

Learning about our history sometimes helps my mental anguish.   My patience is frequently tested by the world around me.  Today’s steady barrage of injustice, deliberate misrepresentations, dishonesty, greed and blatant evil fuels my anger until it simmers like too-hot summer day.  In another of Arch Merrill’s books, (Bloomers and Bugles) he talks about several presidential elections in the 19th and 20th centuries.   They were almost as appalling as our current political situation.   Knowing this is a little reassuring in that nothing changes, but the world keeps going ‘round and ‘round.    However, it doesn’t always mitigate my ire. 

 So what to do with that inconvenient emotion?  My husband has wryly observed that my whole clan has inherited an “irritability gene”; that we could, perhaps, be called prickly!  (He’s probably right; none of us suffer fools gladly, but at least very few of us hold grudges.)  Because politics and the world situation are such huge dividers, I tend not to discuss them often, either in print or verbally; I’ve no intention of being a political commentator or of stirring a roiling pot (except on rare occasions when I can’t help it ).  So, instead, I simmer, which can be quite unhealthy.   Mark Twain said: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”  And, as usual, Mr. Clemons was right.  Anger and irritation upset my digestive system, give me a headache and send my mood dive-bombing.   Meanwhile, the person who has been the cause of my angry feelings is probably going merrily along his/her way feeling fine.

I also concede that anger sometimes pops up when things don’t go the way I think they should go.  Some of us have a control gene as well as an irritability gene.  We have a clear idea in our heads as to how things should be, and when they don’t fall into place, we may react in anger or bewilderment.  My father was a person who had firm convictions about how things should go, from his daughter understanding math, right down to the ironing of his white shirts ---- and I may have inherited just a miniscule smidgeon of that.  But Frederick Buechner’s** advice is good; he says: “Stop trying to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you…..remember that the lives of others are not your business.  They are their business.  They are God’s business……”.   I think that most of us could live more serenely, more happily, if we stopped trying to control our circumstances and the people around us.  Our unhealthy anger might even diminish.  I can’t give myself high marks here, but I’m working on it. 

My management impulses remind me of Fiddler OnThe Roof.  Not too long ago, we watched the movie with our granddaughters, ages 9 and 12.  They were quite skeptical about “the Papa” choosing who his daughters would marry.  And careers?  Girls couldn’t have careers???  It was part of that culture for parents to assume more control over their offspring ---- especially daughters --- those fragile beings unable to take care of themselves --- and the sons who were expected to follow in their father’s footsteps.  Tradition!!  Most parents wouldn’t consider subscribing to that management philosophy today, although there are surely some who try to micromanage their kids beyond what is good for either parent or child. Our expectations for life in specifics and in general, and the frustration that follows when those expectations aren’t met, can be a barrier to living in joy ---- as we see in some of this movie’s situations.   Always reaching out to keep tabs on everything also leads to exhaustion.  So ---- let’s let go; unclench the jaw and open the hands, and enjoy that feeling of relief.

I hope this September has been a good month for you who read this.  Back in January, I decided to put things for which I am grateful, on paper and into a jar.   I’ve been neglectful about that this summer; it has been so very hot and humid that my inspiration level has been low.  However, September has brought refreshment.   I am feeling rich and thankful for the world that surrounds me and the people with whom I spend time either in person or via writing.  Certainly there are personal health issues and anxiety for friends’ medical problems, difficult days and the clamor of the world, but still ---- we are all wealthy if we count our stores of love and beauty.  And that’s a great antidote to grumpiness, anger and politics.  By Thanksgiving, if I’m at all aware, my gratitude jar should be full  

*Arch Merrill --- Newspaper reporter in Rochester, NY and prolific writer.  1894-1974.  **Frederick Buechner ---- American writer and theologian; ordained Presbyterian minister; 30 published books.  Born in 1926.

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

 

Carol Bossard

Food For Thought

“The goldenrod is yellow; the corn is turning brown; the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down………the sedges flaunt their harvest in every meadow nook; and asters by the brook-side make asters in the brook.  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 summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.”  Helen Hunt Jackson   Of course, those lines are sort of unique to the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of our country at this time of year.  

I can’t help it!  When August turns into September, this poem comes floating back into my conscious memory, so I probably quote it annually.  My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Powers, asked us to recite a stanza of poetry at roll call in the morning, so quite few verses have lodged in my mental files.

The yellow buses are rolling again, kids are trudging along, backpacks full and schools are redolent with the aroma of the cafeteria food, crayons and disinfectant.   The track team is daily running by our house and the first football game was last week.  I kind of miss (briefly) the excitement of back to school shopping; the new notebooks, pens, crayons and sneakers.   However, when I recall the price of those size 12 shoes and recall tripping over the multitude of them left about the house, I can enjoy the nostalgia and forego the actual experience.   What I sometimes wish (also briefly) is the opportunity to relive and do a better job, or maybe be more understanding, in some parts of my life, including school.   That’s simply one of those impossible dreams worthy of a man chasing windmills (Man of La Mancha). What’s done is done!   But after dealing with knotty county budgets, I might now be able to ace Math 12 with Mr. Palumbo!

As I contemplate school, there are a few courses I’d like to see added to school curriculums ----- and a revision of some others.  History could be presented in more useful and interesting ways than the focus on memorizing dates.  There is a reason for knowing our history ---- to learn from it in order to avoid the same mistakes and to perceive why we are as we are.  That so obviously isn’t happening anywhere in the world; an adjustment in what and how we teach it seems appropriate.   Using drama, creating a time-line to learn what events/inventions/social changes went on at the same time all over the world, and putting more emphasis on our own history as a nation ---- our honest history ---- instead of one that is sugar-coated for kiddie consumption might make more sense.  Considering the violence running rampant in this world, anger management classes might be a useful addition to the curriculum.  Bullying is one form of violence, as are words spoken in the heat of anger, and schools should start work on prevention as early as first grade.  Some educators are already teaching creatively in these areas, but doing so isn’t a wide-spread practice, nor is it easy to work extra things in, in addition to the demands of the Dept. of Education.  At least one fine teacher I know also manages to include a little badly-needed information about personal hygiene.  Life skills are important because much as we’d like to think that parents are teaching their kids all these things, the reality is that many are not.  Some parents can barely manage their own lives.  

When our sons were young, I had a good time envisioning my ideal school.  There would have been some really good teachers, although I’d have had to call them in from several places in the United States.  No one would have been bored, nor would they have been sitting at desks all day!! They would learn about enjoying healthy food preparation, about the flora and fauna among which they live and about leadership skills and being articulate, about balancing check books and credit card interest.   And the usual subjects of math, English, sciences and technology would be taught in a way that made them relevant to daily living.  They’d also learn one or two other languages; picking up language skills is easier at very young ages.   There would be music, art and laughter.  Ah well, the Secretary of Education is quite unlikely to be knocking at my door anytime soon for input, but I can dream.

A couple of weeks ago, we shared some time with family at a wedding.  Everyone’s wedding is unique to them and that’s fine; it’s their party, and one can only rejoice at weddings and all new beginnings.   The atmosphere was quite informal and there was plenty of time to enjoy chatting with our dear ones.  We did find that the large round tables seating eight people are a tad too large, for those of us past forty-five, for hearing each other well.  So many times did we respond with or hear: “what did you say?” that we were often helpless with laughter.  All we needed for additional ambiance would have been personal ear- trumpets. 

Our driving hither and yon for weddings, picnics and road trips this summer has been enjoyable, but amid our wonderful scenery of waterfalls (not much water), lakes (lower levels) and gorges, we shudder at the condition of the crops soon to be harvested.   Much of the field corn this year is badly affected by the drought; the leaves are shrunken and dry, and the plants are really short.   That’s here in the Finger Lakes, while in other regions, fields are washed out by downpours, and crops are drowned.   And this spring’s late frost means a small peach and apple crop here in NYS.  It makes anyone who is observant, very aware of the fragile ecosystem that brings us food.  This past year, Public Broadcasting presented “Harvest”, a documentary about NYS farming and how it has waxed, waned and is once again expanding with niche farms.  It was clearly evident that people have gone from knowing where their food comes from and how difficult it is to grow the food, to consumers expecting sterile food with no blemishes or bugs, and having no comprehension of the processes required to bring them this food.    There is, however, a glimmer of hope; more people are participating in Farmer’s Markets and similar local food resources.   Spencer began community gardens this summer.  They have worked out very well and it is a good beginning in outreach, education and practical experience regarding good food.   The more we can connect people with provision of their food, the better understanding there will be for the needs of those who grow it.

My favorite season now begins; late summer and on into fall.  “In the garden, autumn is, indeed, the crowning glory of the year” says Rose G. Kingsley.*   Tomatoes are nearly done producing, potatoes are being dug and we are working on tidying a bit while the weather remains pleasurable.  Those things that bloom now bloom with gusto, knowing that they have only a few short weeks to show their splendor.    Be well, and soak up autumn like a sponge. 

 

( Rose G. Kingsley has written several gardening books, and especially one on growing roses. )

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.  

Carol Bossard

Phlox is one of my favorite summer perennials.  Not only does it have a comforting, spicy scent, but it blooms for weeks, and in the hottest of weather.  Next to phlox are sunflowers; they make the whole garden look cheery.   August, however, is speedily moving on to asters and golden rod.  Asters (purple, blue or white), golden rod and JoePye weed (dusty pink) make lovely porch bouquets.   When I was a kid, and wandering our wide fields, all of these grew in large clumps around the pond in our back pasture and along the creek bed, and looked really good in the crocks my mother had collected.   And in which she no longer made pickles.  Now I grow all three plants in my garden (although the golden rod isn’t there by invitation), and they still look good in the crocks --- which I no longer use for pickles.

This is the season for pickling though ---- cucumbers, peppers, green beans, nasturtium buds --- whatever can be pickled probably should be if one has energy and enthusiasm.    A variety of pickles is always a nice accent to any meal.  I haven’t done as much preservation of food as I did when we had a house-full.   But I always enjoy the aroma of pickling spices and vinegar bubbling away on the stove.  We recently received a photo of one of our granddaughters --- arms overflowing with cucumbers.  (It was good enough to be featured on a seed catalog cover.  Not that I’m at all biased!  )  But with that many cucumbers, pickling or making relish is the only answer!

Another sign of late summer is the birds gathering on telephone wires, no doubt gabbling and fussing about the best route and just when to start.  Fortunately the little gold finches, boisterous blue jays and brilliant cardinals stay with us, and also the less showy nut hatches, juncos and chickadees.    The squirrels have mostly retreated to our/their wooded hill for the annual “squirrel camp”.   Perhaps the elders give their little ones lessons in surviving without sunflower seeds.   It certainly cuts down on consumption at our feeders.

I don’t really feel any older now that I’ve had a birthday, but there definitely are many days when I feel less capable of accomplishing what I want to do.   Of course that was true even before my birthday! Recently I spoke with someone who belongs to a group that reflects on issues of aging.  Each person in the group was to make a “bucket list” for themselves.   I thought about this and concluded at first, that I really don’t have a bucket list.  Oh --- there are things I want to get done: a family cookbook with stories, new pillow covers for the couch pillows, a book of personal poetry for family, putting loose photos and memorabilia into additional albums/scrapbooks.  But those are just things to do, not huge “I must to do this before I die” projects like going to Alaska, building a house by the ocean or sky-diving.  I am, apparently, not yearning excessively over life experiences left undone.  I’m not sure whether this means that I’ve had all the adventures I could possibly want, or whether my imagination is not fully functioning.  But, after checking out Jan’s bucket list, maybe my “To-Do List” and a Bucket List aren’t all that far apart.  People in my age bracket are quite aware that our years don’t stretch quite so far into the mist.  And whether large or small, we all have tasks, goals, and pleasures that we want to achieve before that transition into another state of being.  One of the better intentions I’ve lately seen is this, from Thomas a Kempis:*** “A man is not only happy but wise also, if he is trying, during his lifetime, to be the sort of man he wants to be found at his death.”  “Man” here, being generic for human beings!

I think that my hopes are more for inner growth rather than physical adventures.  While I would enjoy standing on the volcanic crater of Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, watching the sun come up, I really have no strong desire to pack up and fly there.  My visualization of that via someone else’s experience is sufficient.   But I do crave more times of silence and time for thinking and plumbing the depths of me.   Joseph Campbell* said: “You must have a room, or a certain hour of the day or so where you do not know what was in the morning paper.  A place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.  At first you may find nothing’s happening.   But if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen.”  Or as Diane Ackerman** said:   “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.  I want to have lived the width of it as well.” 

I think we all are prone to over-busy ourselves in daily routines, leaving no room for contemplation and/or growth.  In this way, we avoid the discomfort of having to see ourselves clearly and perhaps feel a need to make changes.  A rut is more secure, but it does leave a wistful passing thought ---- “IS this all there is?”  I remember a song from the fifties sung by Peggy Lee with that very title.  And of course, this isn’t all there is.  We all have unplumbed depths ---- and the opportunities to grow in new understanding of life are endless.  It is to our benefit and probably joy in life that we be brave enough take time, to stop our busy tasks long enough to consider who we are, what we are doing, and what more we would like to do or be in this life.   One’s life span probably shouldn’t be a series of duplicate days, one following the other.  I think life really should be viewed as more of a creative adventure – not humdrum or totally predictable, and certainly not boring.

Right now my small adventures include keeping the crickets out of the house, the weeds from overcoming late-season flowers, preserving peaches and taking in a seminar or two.  Oh yes --- and canning tomatoes so that I’ll have sufficient juice to drink and a base for casseroles all winter long.   August is surely the time to make pickle relish, but also the time to deeply relish being alive with the colors, fragrances and abundance of late summer.

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net. 

 

*Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer.  His expertise was in comparative mythologies and comparative religions.

** Diane Ackerman is a biologist, poet, writer who is based in Ithaca, NY.

*** Thomas a Kempis – 1290-1471 – born in Germany.  He was a priest, monk and writer who is often quoted on living out one’s faith.

Carol Bossard

What a good time we’ve had, being with family!  The party is over but the stories go on and on.  Then this week, we enjoyed a picnic with retired 4-H agents who had worked for Cornell Cooperative Extension.  The stories flowed there too; tales of the times at NYS Fair, of 4-H camp episodes, of award trips and of watching kids blossom when they find interests that really grab them.  We were so busy in our earlier years, while in the midst of these things --- I wish we had taken the time to simply enjoy the moments.  We do that now, in retrospect.

August is my natal month and also the traditional “end of summer”.  So enjoying it thoroughly is very important to feeling I’ve experienced summer in all its glory.  Hal Borland, naturalist, described August well: “Dog Days!.....Dragonflies and damsel flies follow the boat when I go out on the river……..little spotted turtles sun themselves on old logs and slip into the water when I come near…………Flocks of cowbirds follow the cows in the pasture but they are getting restless…………..barn swallows begin to leave and so do the chimney swifts………golden rod comes into bloom everywhere…….milkweeds have formed their pods, still green and tightly closed………wild blackberries ripen.”   I remember heading for our back pasture where blackberries grew among brambles, trees and shrubs of a hedge row.  They were harvested with much effort, garnering mosquito bites and scratches as well as berries.  August is when I cut lavender, dry basil, sugar-preserve borage blossoms, and make bouquets of Queen Anne’s Lace and brown-eyed Susans.  The first tomato shines like a jewel on my counter.  August is time for garden harvest, heat and sudden storms.

A family member who lives in California looks forward to the thunder storms she occasionally experiences while visiting back here in the Finger Lakes.  We tried to fulfill that need by scheduling one while she was staying here this week.   There’s actually a word for that: “ceraunophilia; loving thunder and lightning and finding them intensely beautiful.”   I think my brother liked thunder storms in that way, so it’s logical that at least one of his offspring (residing where these storms are rare) would agree. I’m not fond of wind or lightning, but I do like the fresh, clean smell of the air after a storm; it must be all those negative ions.   And right now, I’ll take anything that brings rain.  While we were visiting in the Blue Ridge Mountains, earlier this summer, we were in a house with encircling windows that gave panoramic views, and as the thunder boomed, we were surrounded by lightning flashes and downpours of rain.  Afterward, the mist hovered over those blue hills folding into more and mistier hills while everything close up looked green and lush.  It will be interesting to see what the winter brings.   Will we have heaps and piles of snow to make up for the loss of moisture?  Or will the warm winter of last year prevail?

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In the past two weeks, we’ve gotten some brief, stormy downpours but nary a day-long steady rain.  We haven’t had enough water to bring the wells back to normal, but my portulaca is looking much cheerier, and the pepper plants have taken on new life.  I can see both from the window where I type out these musings.  Those brave little annuals just keep on regardless of drought, but they now look less languishing and in need of last rites.

As for languishing, I feel a bit that way after spending a few days moving furniture ---- all because we bought a desk.  Such a simple thing to create so much chaos!  But there were only two or three places the desk would look good, and any of those places meant moving large, heavy chests, the couch, chairs, tables ---- and suddenly three rooms looked as though we’d just moved in.  We had to shift a bookcase to the opposite side of the room (and then back again; it didn’t work there), which meant taking all the books out.  Of course, that is one way to sort and pass on to others the results of our continuing book addiction.  I’d like to think we are bibliophiles, but I have a suspicion that instead, we are bibliomaniacs.  Large drawers full of stuff had to be emptied before moving the chests.  Amazing!!  It all fits into smaller compass now and is --- for a while --- quite organized---- except, of course, for the boxes of things about whose destination I am currently clueless.  All this moving around keeps us from becoming rigid in our living patterns, but on the down-side, we are feeling a little less muscular these days and the aches and pains after lugging furniture are a bit more pronounced and lingering.  And Freckles, our setter, is really annoyed at the changes, and refuses to sleep in Kerm’s recliner because it isn’t where it is supposed to be!!

I’ve mentioned in previous articles that cleaning out and down-sizing also means re-purposing and giving up some dreams.  Some are easily erased; others more difficult.   I don’t need that silk-screening equipment anymore; I really have no desire to do more T-shirts, banners or cards.  And some of the way- too- many home accessories would be fine in someone else’s home.  All those picture frames I’ve collected over the years, purchased inexpensively at auctions?  Time to go!!  But, am I ready to ignore the flower catalogs?   I really should plant more shrubs and stop buying plants that need coddling and care.  But ----- that I’m not ready to do.  And I should give away more fabric, but the pieces I have continue to call out to me, just as they did when I bought them.  Some dreams may be transformed into something more fitting to life now; others not!  But changes need to be accomplished gently; the process shouldn’t be rushed.    Giving up dreams can be wounding, so we need to be wise.  This is something to keep in mind when moving an elderly person to assisted living or skilled nursing care.  If there is no chance for closure with things they love, healing of the hurt can take a long time ---- if ever.

As summer wanes a bit, I am in my usual “try to absorb every wonderful minute” mode.   The sun is setting a bit earlier, nights are often cooler even when the days are hot, and I heard crickets chirping this week.  So I will sit in the gazebo and enjoy the quiet, I will savor the ripe tomatoes and I’ll try to catch some of those “falling stars” of the Pleiades meteor showers that come in August.   I hope you will be able to do all of those things too.  

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“A little garden in which to walk, and immensity in which to dream.  At one’s feet that which can be cultivated and plucked; overhead that which one can study and meditate upon; some {herbs} on earth, and all the stars in the sky.”  Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net.  

 

Carol Bossard

Summer Times

Thankfully, a few showers came through that refreshed the garden a bit, but we are still in drought mode; surviving but not thriving.  And we haven’t done much lawn-mowing, but narrow-leaf plantain, which apparently isn’t bothered by lack of rain, has stems rising above the grass, giving the lawn a rather scruffy look.  So mowing can’t be abandoned altogether.  

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We have a large family party coming up next weekend.  Prior to this, I collected items for a family questionnaire so that we are (in a small way) aware of where and how much is going on in the lives of our kin.  Of course, this is only a surface skimming, and we probably miss many good stories that would enrich our lives or bring us to laughter.   But it keeps us slightly connected if we know: Who has been exploring Bhutan? Who just acquired three fainting goats? From what part of Scotland did our ancestors travel to reach America? Which couple just celebrated 50 years of marriage? Who is training to be an “end of life” doula?  These are just a few of the fun and interesting items we find in the lives of our aunts, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews.  Keeping up with family is getting more difficult as everyone’s children have activities that make traveling difficult, and as we move hither and yon around the world.   It’s possible that these connections don’t become a priority until we reach an age to realize how fortunate we are to have a family history and how rare it is to have family members who know and care about each other. 

This reminds me of a book I recently read: “Love and War” by Mary Matalin and James Carville.  Two more opposite-thinking people (politically and culturally) in one marriage one couldn’t find.  She helped elect Republican candidates and he worked for the Democrats.  What James says in one segment of the book I find pretty true of our own families: “Even in all my years away from Louisiana, the closeness of the Carville clan never wavered ……whenever any of them would come to see us or when we’d visit home, we’d slip back into the same conversations, tell the same stories, laugh at the same jokes……………..some of them are {even} Republicans.  They don’t believe what I believe about {many things}………..but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter; we love one another dearly, and we don’t spend much time sitting around talking politics.  We talk about our kids. We talk about food. We talk about football.”  With the exception of talking about football, this pretty much describes Kerm’s and my families, and most of our friends too.  We know that should any crisis occur, some family member or members would be here to hold our hand, cry with us, pray with us, laugh with us and fix good food.  And it is a very reassuring thing to experience those kinship ties and the affection. 

When one talks about family, there is usually a place we consider “home” other than where we now live --- you know, “Over the river and through the woods……”.    A group of us were discussing whether it is possible to ever “go home”.  Of course returning to a place is easy, but both places and persons change over the years, so that few elements are exactly the same.  I grew up on a dairy farm about 18 miles south east of Rochester.  The farm land where I then lived, now, instead of being dotted with Guernsey cows, sports houses --- very large, ornate houses that really don’t (I think) fit into the landscape.   The ground where oats, wheat, hay and corn grew currently grows lawns and occasionally (not often enough), gardens.  Since I have no access to the pond and woods in the back of the acreage, I can’t say whether the hermit thrushes still send their silvery notes out among the trees and wild grapevines, or whether the frogs still expound in the reeds and cattails.   But the sights, sounds and aromas of how it used to be, are stored very nicely in my brain and I can pull those files at will.  So really, I can go home anytime I choose.   

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Photo courtesy Spencer Picnic Facebook Page

 

Spencer Picnic is coming soon for those who consider this small community home – August 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th.  I expect many communities feature this kind of event.  This combination carnival and old-home days is small-town caring, chatting and sharing fun at its best.  Some go for the sausage and pepper rolls, some for the Bingo pavilion and others just to reconnect with people who have come back for the event.   Of course there is a parade with floats, a Miss and Mr. Spencer Picnic, pizza, kettle corn, rides, music and fireworks.   In past years, there was an alumni band for the parade, composed of any high school or post-high school instrument player who wanted to once again tootle the marches of John Philip Sousa.  We, who now creak a bit, gingerly climbed up on a hay wagon pulled by a tractor, sat very carefully in folding chairs and enthusiastically played our seldom-practiced instruments as we rolled along.  With changes in music programs and teacher retirements, that has gone by the wayside.  I kind of miss that pick-up band, even though playing my flute isn’t easy now due to arthritis in my neck.  But the four-day Picnic itself is a community tradition and long may it survive.  “Togetherness” via any means is a very good thing.

Some of the togetherness in my garden will, with a bit more rain, be interesting.   The tomatoes and pumpkins will soon be intermingling so that it is going to be hazardous to the pumpkin vines when it is time to pick tomatoes.  I’m sure that at night, the vegetables have wild parties out under the moonlight.  That’s surely how it looks when I attempt to weed or pull vines back where they belong.  It has been a difficult gardening summer; intense heat and no rain are not a great combination.   Every time I complain, though, I remember the dying almond orchards and cracked-earth fields in California and shut my mouth.  Meanwhile, my sturdy zinnias are attempting to bloom as are the cone flowers and the magnificent oriental lilies.  Their fragrance is absolutely intoxicating.   I think even in a bad gardening season, anyone who has flowers of any kind is blessed.  Claude Monet says it well: “More than anything I must have flowers.  Always.  Always.”

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net

 

Carol Bossard

"My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends ---- it gives a lovely light!”  Feast by Edna St.Vincent Millay

I don’t really subscribe to the above philosophy, but life has been very full and busy for the past two weeks, and that burning candle is sort of how it feels.  Retrieval of the garden which, in our week’s absence suffered from drought and weeds, is taking much time.   Working in dry, powdery soil isn’t much fun.  And there is a section of garden where lettuce is spread in an abstract pattern instead of a row.  The cats rolled in all those freshly planted seeds and inadvertently created “lettuce art”.   

We’ve also gone on some day trips.  We drove to SUNY Morrisville where a nephew was participating in Boys’ State.  It seemed a good time to catch up with family, and we were able to visit with a niece who yoyos between Kenya and California.   Another opportunity for connecting was found at a memorial service for a beloved uncle, where we shared memories and got our hug quota for the week.  That was a warm and gratitude-for-family-filled occasion.  That same day, we paid a last visit to the barn on the farm where Kerm grew up; sadly, it is being demolished.   And I managed to squeeze in a drive to Victor, where I had some time with my sister, and via a friend, was able to donate my mother’s 1919 wedding gown to the Victor Historical Society.

We were delighted to have our granddaughters with us for a few days.  There is nothing like young people to enliven a house.  Ours was enlivened to the point where our dog had trouble getting through the living room between the crafts table, balloons, flip-flops and books.  There was laughter, creativity and good conversation.  We now have a fairy house made from a hollow stump, which gives our gazebo a bit of magic, though the fairies wish the girls would come back and finish their abode.   And we embarked on a just-before-bed poetry time.  Life moves so quickly that most people don’t find time to read some of the wonderful verses that are part of our cultural heritage, and so expressive of life.   I enjoyed it very much; reading good stuff like: When Daddy Fell Into The Pond by Alfred Noyes, Questions at Night by Louis Untermeyer and Phoebe Cary’s narrative poem, A Leak In The Dike.  On NPR, Garrison Keillor has The Writers’ Almanac readings.  That is probably the only poetry currently available to American listeners via public media.  His choices are quite varied, and he also gives some historical background for each day.   But taking the time to really listen ------ that’s difficult for the achievement-driven people we are.

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It’s not only the calendar that drives us; there is the mind.    Those who meditate call it “monkey mind”; it keeps our thinking in turmoil and gives us little rest.  That constant churning of thoughts creates anxiety and sometimes even fear, and definitely is a problem for many of us --- if not for everyone.  At some point, one has to take the mind in hand and speak firmly to it about trust and faith and not trying to control life.    Laughter helps immensely.   Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor for the New Yorker magazine, says:   “Humor is the antidote to over-thinking.  It’s a way of saying life is paradoxical.  Humor contains contradictions; it does not resolve them but revels in them.  It says the way to exist among the contradictions, paradoxes, and absurdities of life, is to cope with them through laughter.”   So scheduling in some time for whatever kind of humor makes you laugh out loud is a health benefit.  While suffering from a serious ailment, Norman Cousins found that watching funny movies every day bought him an extended period of being pain-free.  And I’ve noticed that after a group get- together for an evening of pinochle, music rehearsal, or Bible study, we laugh a lot, and there is a renewed sense of well-being and even peace.

As summer progresses, my drapery of pink roses has faded to something resembling old Chinese ivory, petal by falling petal.  It is beautiful for the few weeks that it blooms; 15 feet high and probably almost that in breadth.  But it doesn’t re-bloom as many of the hybrid teas and floribundas do.  The lacy flowers of elderberries along the roadsides are also starting to look a bit tattered.  Soon the berries will form and begin ripening for August harvest.  Periwinkle chicory, lacy golden wheels of wild parsnip and fluffy yellow and white spires of sweet clover are all in bloom, making a drive along country roads very attractive.  However, the drought is taking a toll on everything in my cultivated gardens.  Even though our dug well has never gone dry, we are a bit uncomfortable using it too often for watering plants, so things aren’t exactly thriving.   I had hoped that we’ve at least reached the end of the bear parade, but saw on Face Book that a neighbor --- two houses over ---- had one rummaging in his garbage.  SIGH!!  We seem to have a free-range zoo whether we want one or not; turkeys and bears and raccoons – Oh MY!

And speaking of zoos ---- two families in my circle of acquaintances, are considering guinea hens, to combat the very major issue of ticks.  These birds are a hoot!  Related to peacocks, they are indigenous to the continent of Africa.  They are feathered in a tiny black and white check, with very red wattles, and their vocal powers are stellar; they herald anyone approaching “their” turf with loud and raucous screaming.  And, as a group, they take off after bugs with great gusto.   Our neighbor just up the road kept them, when I was a child.  They would parade up and down the road, making sure everyone knew they were keeping tabs on the entire world.  My sister reminded me that they would occasionally get into our mother’s gardens --- at which time Mother would go up in smoke! 

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But back to burning that candle at both ends, July is definitely not a time to be doing that.  July is an abundant month that begins with bursting fireworks and continues to burgeon with color and lush greenery.  July gives us signs from nature that this is a time to inhale deeply and simply absorb the fragrances and soak up the sunshine that summer has to offer.  “First, April, she with mellow showers opens the way for early flowers; than after her comes smiling May, in a more rich and sweet array; next enters June, and brings us more gems than those two, that went before; and lastly, July comes, and she more wealth brings in than all those three.”  Robert Herrick

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net    

Carol Bossard

“You’re a grand old flag; you’re a high-flyin’ flag and forever in peace may you wave.  You’re the emblem of the land I love, the home of the free and the brave.” George Cohan

I have a Little Golden Book that tells the simplified story of how our flag came to be; the changes, from individual state flags, to the original 13-star flag during the Revolutionary War, to the Confederate flag and on to the current 50-star flag that stands for a united group of 50 states.   Right now, the united part is a tad wobbly.   We have many inspiring resources (poetry, essays, history, history-based fiction) that either fall on deaf ears or remain unread and untold by too many of our citizens.   Ignorance is not bliss, nor is it patriotic.

We are just a day away from July 4th celebrations; picnics, parades, barbecues, fireworks ---- and, incidentally, our nation’s birthday.   In this time of such political chaos, one has to ponder our beginnings and give some thought to our present condition.   I paid little attention to politics for the first thirty years of my life, although I heard a bit here and there from my staunchly Republican father.   But until the past few years, I do not remember anyone speaking in such disrespectful terms or promoting such crass values as the supporters of some hopeful candidates, and in some cases, the candidates themselves.  Instead of working toward unity and integrity as well as growth and education, we are wallowing in the very worst stew pot of biases.  Too many people find it an easy slide from having strong opinions to being censorious and judgmental, and it becomes almost a recreational activity to criticize and cut people down.  While there truly is much to criticize, it might be more useful if we concentrated on affirming the efforts --- of which there are many--- to make things better.   Perhaps we could share this poem (author unknown) that I found in an old book:                                                                  

 

    Which Are You?

                    I watched them tearing a building down, a gang of men in a busy town;

                   With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell, they swung a beam and the sidewalk fell.

                    I asked the foreman: “Are these men skilled, and the men you’d hire if you had to build?”

            He gave a laugh and said: “No, indeed!  Just common labor is all I need.  I can easily wreck in a day or   two what builders have taken a year to do.”                       

                   

                  And I thought to myself as I went my way, which of these roles have I tried to play?

                   Am I a builder who works with care, measuring life by the rule and square?

                  Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan, patiently doing the best that I can?

                  Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town, content with the labor of tearing down.

 

I find my own attitude becoming rather battered due to all the self-centered nonsense we hear and read, and by the embers of violence that seem ready to burst into flame everywhere, bringing that pot of bad ingredients to boil.   Instead of adding to the stew,  it is crucial that we put out the fire, and each look honestly to our own values and integrity,  be informed about issues both historical and current, and make educated judgments and decisions based on whole facts, not sound bites and hearsay, or even our own frustration.   We, and our Congressional representatives, might do well to remember Patrick Henry’s speech in the First Continental Congress where he asserted: “I am not a Virginian, but an American.”  Many people seem ready to support anything their favorite talk-show host or chosen political party says, no matter how divisive, wrong or intemperate, assuming that any other line of thought must be even more wrong.  Even worse is the feeling that we need a change so badly that any change is a good thing or conversely, nothing that we do really matters.  That thinking can spark either apathy or violence, depending on the person.

I, and we, need what my retired teacher friend described to his students as an “attitude adjustment”  (which he offered to do for them); to begin thinking about what is good for our country as a whole, for all people to thrive, and also thinking further ahead than our own experience and comfort zone.   I generally subscribe to the “this too shall pass” philosophy, but any more, I’m not so sanguine.  I worry for a country whose citizens will so easily explode in anger, hatred, blaming, and tolerance of crude and biased rhetoric.    I just finishing reading a story (totally fiction) of a civilization many centuries ago; this thought was true then and today: “Ignorance and fear breed intolerance.  Intolerance breeds war.”* When we stubbornly refuse to learn about things alien to our beliefs or experience, we add to the grief and chaos of the world.  When we substitute what is comfortable for what our tenets of faith really say, we make a mockery of our religion and of God.

Now that I’ve expressed my rather intense seasonal thoughts, I’m ready to move on to happier events; namely last week’s travels through several of these United States.    We are grateful for the freedom to move through state boundaries, for the kindness of people with whom we came in contact on our way, and the awesome scenery from the Finger Lakes to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  “America the Beautiful” is certainly expressive when it comes to the diversity of landscapes.  In Virginia, the yucca was in full bloom; falls of white bells on those tall, rigid stems, and the rhododendron was just beginning to blossom.  Another week and the mountainsides will be full of pink and white flowers.  We enjoyed time with friends and with family and are grateful for their hospitality and warmth.   And we also savored that summer evening delight; clouds of fireflies over grassy fields.  

As we approach this 4th of July, I hope the fireworks of celebration and the fiery words of those who made our history, inspire us to choose the higher road of thought and behavior.  We are a nation that has made mistakes; we have plenty for which to grieve and atone, and much to repair and learn.  But we are also a nation that has shown strength, compassion and an expectation of freedom that allows us more choices than most other places in this world.  And best of all, it is here where, in June and July, there are “….tiny lights of fireflies moving through the scented dusk ---- softly ---- ever so softly……”**!

*-- “Sing The Four Quarters” by Tanya Huff

**-- “Come Climb My Hill” by Winston O. Abbott

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net 

Carol Bossard

The garden is now at the mercy of the weather and our weeding propensities, both of which tend to be erratic.  Last year’s tomato crop was abysmal, so we are hoping for better things this year; our tomato juice is almost gone, and we’ll need enough fruit to make around 50 quarts.  Home-canned tomato juice is my winter elixir whenever a cold begins, and also the base for savory soups.  The pumpkin patch is finally planted too; I love the names of the various varieties: Rouge de Tempe, Sweet Lightening, Long Island Cheese, Jack-Be-Little, Baby Boo, and Musque de Provence.  They are such wonderful shapes and colors; I hope they grow happily and prolifically.

 

Haying season is a June marker but the process has changed over the years.  Depending on the weather and growth of grass, hay may be chopped and made into haylage, rather than being baled and stored in a loft.  Or it may later be cut and made into gigantic tootsie-roll bales, wrapped in plastic.  Recently, at an auction, we found a hay knife; a tool used when hay was put away loose.  It was used to cut out sections for feeding from the firmly packed-down hay.  I can just vaguely remember loose hay being removed from the wagon with lethal-looking tines that hung from a ceiling pulley in the barn.  The tines grabbed a large swath of hay and deposited it in the mow, where it was wonderful for jumping into, barring the occasional thistle.  By the time I was old enough to help in the hay field (driving the tractor at a snail’s pace) we had round bales; much smaller than the immense rolls now found in fields.  Bales weren’t as convenient for burrowing and jumping, but we managed to have fun among them regardless.   That dusty, fragrant hay mow was a fine playground.  

 

And speaking of playing, my doll collection, which also includes my mother’s dolls, recently moved to southern Virginia, to live with our granddaughters.   I’ve enjoyed them for several decades, and it is time they found new care-givers.  Two of the dolls were made in the latter part of the 19th century; one has a bisque head (with a skillfully-mended crack where my mother whacked off her head!) and jointed kid arms and legs, and the other is a German doll; about 20 inches tall, with curly brown hair and a sweet face.  Both are dressed appropriately for their era in dresses heavily trimmed with laces and embroidery that my mother made from fabric also of that time.  My own dolls were made in the late 1940s and early 1950s; a large toddler doll that used to say “Mama”, two “Little Women” dolls (Amy and Jo) by Madame Alexander and some fabric ones made by my mother.  I’m glad to know these dolls will go on being loved in their new place and possibly will even be passed to a generation beyond.

 

I remember that my father spent hours building two doll houses; one for me and one for my niece Jan, who grew up with me.   In spite of his focus on business, education and world events, he understood my need for dolls, paper dolls, tea sets, etc.  And I think he enjoyed seeing us being so creative with our play ---- as long as we did our chores first.     And this reminds me that Father’s Day is this Sunday, and fathers should be celebrated.  The men who partner to create good families, who try to bring out the best in their children and who love and play with their grandchildren, should definitely have a special day.  I wish I had been able to spend more time, as an adult, with my father; he died at far too early an age.  This Sunday is a good time to give your father, or anyone who has fulfilled that role at any time in your life, a hug of appreciation that they’ve endured both the good times and the wild times.

 

And speaking of wild --- wild life in the back yard is a country-living asset ----usually.   Turkey heads often come popping out of the tall daylilies.  Squirrels romp in abundance, plundering the bird feeders.   Coyotes sometimes sing at night and we’ve heard the strange vocalization of foxes and have seen tracks of elusive bob cats on the hill.  But sometimes, the call of the wild is a bit overwhelming.   After a 3-day bear visit in mid-May, we had been bear-free until early June, when a single, adolescent bear ---- probably a three-year-old ------ came wandering through and lingered --- and lingered.  The first time I saw him was up close and personal; I was chopping the over-grown comfrey around the chat chalet when I noticed one of the cats frozen in place and looking away from me.  I turned and about twenty feet away was Mr. Bear, standing beside the rail fence, watching.  I was so startled that I reacted by shouting at him (at some length) to get lost.  He didn’t!   So I did; carefully walking back into the house.  The next evening at about 9:00, Kerm swung the flashlight around the yard, saw no ursine visitors at the feeders, and took the dog out to his pen for his before-bed activities.  Unfortunately, Bruin was out and about, and he came lumbering up from the driveway.  Then, startled by the presence of man and dog, he jumped into the dog pen --- with Freckles --- who immediately took umbrage at a bear in his pen.  So bear and Freckles went tearing around the pen, the bear bouncing off the woven wire part of the fence a few times.   Finally, he vaulted over the five-foot pickets and ran for the woods, with Kerm shouting behind him.   We are grateful that neither dog nor human were hurt in this dubious comedy of errors.

 

As summer waxes, we are looking forward to less structured living.  This isn’t to say that the calendar is empty, but life does slow down a bit.   We have several family occasions coming up, but amid the scheduled events, we look forward to hours spent with our granddaughters, time for enjoying the marvelous scenery of the Finger Lakes region via occasional day trips, and moments here and there to simply listen to the bird songs in the morning, watch fire flies at dusk, and try to keep track of wild life in our back yard.  We just hope the large, black, very furry representative of wild life is no longer with us!!

 

  • ---title quotation:  Mickey’s philosophy ----- from Michael O’Halloran by Gene Stratton Porter

 

Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

Carol Bossard

June has turned the world into far more than 50 shades of green.  The garden is in process, and my less-than-straight rows are showing some life.  I should explain that when I make the furrow for seeds, gauging it with my eye, the rows tend to waver a bit.  When Kerm makes a row, using string and a measuring tape, they run very straight.   We do have a few personality differences.   

One of the recent outings we both found entertaining was an evening with Garrison Keillor.  He did a one-man show in Elmira at the Clemens Center.    And while this isn’t quite as entertaining as seeing his radio show being put together, it was pretty good ---- just like his catalog of “Pretty Good Things”.  The program began with audience group-singing, and there were some very good voices harmonizing along with “My Country Tis Of Thee” --- “Amazing Grace” --- “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, and more.   Then he just starts talking.  He is an incredible spinner of tales.  His vignettes will go off on tangents and sometimes one wonders at his rambling, but then he pulls all the loose ends of the story together into an integrated ending.  He spoke and sang for two hours with neither a break nor a sip of water.   And his audience laughed, applauded and sang along with him.  A fine evening!

Classes are drawing to a close for public school students in NYS.  It is the time of year when socializing looks a whole lot better than studying for Regents exams.  When I was thirteen or fourteen, I remember hosting a slumber party in June.  I still have a few photos --- little square ones--- taken by a Brownie camera --- of our pajama-clad selves.   I don’t remember what we did for amusement, but there was a lot of giggling and very little sleep involved.  I do recall several of us sitting on the steps outside, singing “It’s Three O’Clock In The Morning” and ringing cow bells.  I expect that the neighbors, as well as my parents, thanked the heavens above when the party was over.   

Kerm and I had dinner out a couple of weeks ago and hit another end-of-the-school-year event; “prom night”.  A few couples, garbed in sparkles and tuxes, were dining at the same restaurant, and others were awaiting Capt. Bill’s large boat, on which they planned an excursion up Seneca Lake.   I was momentarily reminded of my own prom, but in the dark ages of the late 1950s proms were simple compared to what’s happening now.  Our class chose a theme and decorated the gym for our junior prom and senior ball, after which we went home to get dressed for the event.   There were no pre-dinners, no limos or tuxedos, no outside venues, and the after-prom parties were held in the homes of whoever wanted to have one.  If photos were taken, it was by our parents or friends, with a Kodak camera.   In that pre-digital era, the occasion was not documented and immediately posted on social media.   And nothing cost $800, which, I understand, is the average cost now of prom attendance.  No wonder kids feel entitled when so costly an event is the norm in high school.  I have no problem with many of the new customs, but I do think that when parents succumb to the temptation to re-live experiences through their children, it leads to unreal expectations for what life “owes” those same children.  But ---it’s also understandably hard to go against the flow.

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June is also the favorite month for weddings.   Weddings have, along with proms, become blown out of common sense proportion.  It is so easy to get caught up in staging a wedding extravaganza that being happily married often gets little thought.   From my observations and from my own experience of over 50 years, it is very, very easy to become so comfortable, careless, or even detached in a relationship that the relationship itself is taken for granted.   Once the glamour of falling in love and going through the showers and wedding plans is done, and the honeymoon is over, it is back to careers or children or whatever fills one’s daily life.  Happiness in a relationship takes effort and vigilance ---- and maintaining a bit of romance.   Alexandra Stoddard:  “I used to think if I love someone, they feel it.  Now, I’ve come to discover, no one feels loved enough.  By telling someone you love them over and over, this has a cumulative power.” *  A possible reason for couples splitting after the kids leave home is because they’ve not had a conversation about real things since the children emerged from the womb.  And suddenly, they neither know each other nor do they know how to reconnect.   With us it has been occasionally by blind luck and always with considerable effort that we have managed to weather a few disagreements over the years, and also to remain happy in our togetherness.  Of course it helps that we both think auctions are cool, cocktail parties boring and a houseful of kids playing Risk more important than elegant décor.  We’ve had separate interests as well as mutual ones, and we’ve trusted each other to be trustworthy.

One of the things that we have noticed as we’ve reached our advanced and hopefully wiser decades is that our perception of time spins along more and more rapidly.  No one can be certain of what tomorrow will bring.   So it is radically important to fully live each day and not put things off for too long.   I’ve quoted this particular philosopher often, but what he says is so very important; Henri-Frederic Amiel**said: “Life’s short and we never have enough time for the hearts of those who travel the way with us.  O, be swift to love!  Make haste to be kind.”

The window beside my computer allows me to watch the seasons turn, and right now, gives me a full view of June activities on the east side of the house.   I see a variety of birds at the feeders.  I can watch the cats playing in the garden, stalking the birds (and can also open a window and warn the birds away from the cats) and I can clearly hear the hairy woodpecker hammering on a pine squirrel feeder.  I’m sure he’s getting no bugs from the seasoned, planed pine, so I must assume he’s enjoying the loud noise that he’s sending out all over the neighborhood.  I can feast my eyes on the pink and purple spires of lupines blooming in the stone-wall garden and watch the bees on the comfrey blossoms.  On busy days I may forget to notice, but it only takes a moment of looking out to once again find joy in the simple things; the very green world, outside my window.

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.

 

Alexandra Stoddard --- Writer, Interior Designer and Life-style philosopher

**   Henri-Frederic Amiel --- Swiss philosopher, critic and poet.  1821-1881

Carol Bossard

‘Tis the season of the bear”!   One came through during the night.  Following the bear droppings, we assume it first drank the humming bird feeder dry.  Then it took the finch feeder and left it looking like an hour glass.  It bent one of the metal poles at a 45-degree angle to reach another feeder, and  dumped a plastic can of bird seed.  Then it took another feeder up the lawn to enjoy a more leisurely snack.  And a couple of nights later, it dumped a tightly-covered, full metal can of seed.  While I can barely move those cans, a bear has no trouble at all tipping them over and spilling 100 pounds of seed all over the lawn.  He’s generally made a nuisance of himself for several nights.  We are bringing in the feeders every night, so I hope he soon gets discouraged.

 

 

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Photo courtesy British Columbia SPCA

 

 

It’s also porch-cleaning time!  All of the winter debris needs to go so that we can once again sit in the rockers for respite from mowing, weeding and planting chores.  It’s absolutely amazing to see what has accumulated there over the past four months --- including three new kittens because we were unable to trap “mama”.   The tidying task is essential, for there’s nothing quite as soothing as a porch at twilight.  There’s a symphony of sounds and sights.  Humming birds will zip in over our heads for a last sip of nectar, and a few feet away, in the bird feeder, cardinals are chipping softly while enjoying a bedtime snack.  Moths hover around the candles, the neighborhood lawn mowers have ceased, and the whole world seems to have slowed to a more restful rhythm.  Daytime, metaphorically, is accompanied by a percussion section of activity with, perhaps, agitated violins to urge us on in our labors.  Twilight is more like flutes and oboes, with maybe a tenor saxophone, suggesting a largo of pleasurable quiet.  (And if a bear comes by at midnight he’s heralded by bass drum and tuba.)

 

Usually our busyness does have purpose.  “We are all fixing what is broken.  It is the task of a lifetime.”  This quotation from Abraham Verghese’s Cutting For Stone, speaks to the volumes of things needing repair in the world.  Most of us who are at all involved with life, are trying to mend problems as we go along ----- as in the story of the doctor who was so busy splinting broken legs that he didn’t have time to fix the pot hole in the sidewalk outside, where people were falling.  That seems to be how we, as a culture, respond to the woes around us.  We try to provide ER treatment, but cannot find the time, energy, or money for correcting or preventing the original problem.  Or perhaps it is that we simply can’t agree on the optimal solutions.  Fortunately, there are many individuals who quietly go about the business of not only putting splints on broken legs, but trying to also fix the sidewalk, so the infrastructure of life does not totally fall apart.  “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”  Adam Smith*

 

 Memorial Day is coming soon; a special time for considering the never-ending streams of people who spent years out of their lives, and sometimes their very lives, trying to fix the problems of hatred, pride, and greed--- issues that remain with us still in spite of efforts to the contrary.  Our soldiers and diplomats, teachers and human service workers are among those who labor to stem the tide of disaster, and, looking at history, perhaps that is all we can expect.  There are optimistic people who believe that as we advance in civilization (education, logic and science) we humans will become less barbaric and more compassionate.  Logic, I’ve noticed, seldom changes anyone’s mind-- (la,la,la--- I can’t hear you!  Don’t confuse me with facts!)   Education does make a difference and is certainly essential to any betterment of civilization, although there have been some very well-educated psychopaths.    Developing our spiritual selves and recognizing our connections with each other and a power greater than we, sometimes encourages more humane behavior.  But I think many of us are never far from a potentially savage nature and that it doesn’t take much in the way of mob persuasion to send us scratching, biting and being afraid of and callous to each other, even when it is disguised as respectable, well-bred “concern” about those who are different.

 

                                      “Good Lord, what is man!  For as 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.”  Robert Burns**

 

 This is why we all, regardless of intelligence or accomplishments, need to be careful of our words and our anger, for what we casually wish or say in petulance or frustration, may lead someone less encumbered by ethics and morality, to create calamity and chaos.  When I’m tempted to indulge in satire or clever repartee, I remind myself that pointing out what is good makes more sense; it is building up versus tearing down.  One can be a catalyst for good ---- or for bedlam.  Memorial Day is surely a reminder of those who have died, but it should also suggest that we find better ways to solve human interaction problems; solutions that no longer require the sacrifice of lives.  In fact, I think that schools should offer anger management classes from first grade on up.  There’s surely a time when using force becomes inevitable (as Ecclesiastes says: “A time for war and a time for peace”), but violence is not the answer nearly as often as we humans seem to think.

 

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It is lilac time in the northeast, and perhaps if we could pipe the aroma of lilacs all over the world, peace might follow?  Aromatherapy is a good and useful antidote for many things.  One can follow the settling of the land by the old lilac shrubs.  The houses and barns may be gone, but the purple blossoms remain.  The fragrance always reminds me of home, and Rochester’s Highland Park Lilac Festival.   My mother belonged to the Lilac Association, and we had a plethora of lilac varieties around our home.  I’ve been trying to emulate that here; not to maintain tradition, but because lilacs are so very enchanting during the short time they blossom.  This spring, most of the lilacs in our yard were frosted, so our flowers are few, but the scent is still entrancingly seductive.  It has been bottled as a perfume ---- but never quite seems to achieve exactly the same fragrance.  

 

Meanwhile, we’ll continue digging out the gout weed and pulling the garlic mustard.    It’s nearly time to put in the tomato plants.  Spring really is here despite our morning frosts!   Oh yes, and must refurbish those signs that say: BEARS NOT WELCOME!!!”

 

- Adam Smith – Scottish philosopher, political scientist and journalist.  1723-1796

- Robert Burns – “Bard of Ayrshire” – Scottish poet  159-1796

 

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net

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