Mid-May brings a world of blossoms, fragrance and rapid growth. Both the house finches and the gold finches are partying at the feeders. The hummingbirds are back as are the rose-breasted grosbeaks. The blue jays continue to be quarrelsome and pushy but there have been no all-out battles. The turkeys don’t come down so often now. It is a little early, but we can’t resist planting just a few things in the gardens. After all that rain and chill, if we get three dry days in a row, it’s planting season!!
The bears are with us again! One came through last week, ripped apart a metal bird feeder, stole all the suet, drained the humming bird feeder and up-ended a full can of sunflower seeds. SIGH!! Then three more turned up the next night; a mother and two probably year-old cubs. Of course, if I would just put out a buffet for them, perhaps they would be more mannerly. ☺ Having to store the seed inconveniently in a shed and take in the bird feeders every night – leaving the cardinals to whistle f or their twilight-time snack, we are feeling besieged by bears!
Memorial Day is approaching; a time that always pulls at my heart strings a bit. We always try to watch the PBS special that Sunday. It is partly personal and partly a sense of history that draws me to care so much for this occasion. My father and uncle were both in WWI, two of my brothers were in WWII, my brother-in-law in the Korean Conflict, several friends were in Viet Nam, young people I know well fought in the Gulf War and a nephew has been in several tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Honoring the people who have been and currently are soldiers is important; we need to be supportive. And we need to take far better care of them when they return home.
That being said, I think war is a stupid way to settle differences and I believe it is philosophically bad for a civilization to send such young people out to what will certainly be a traumatic and possibly deadly experience. I know that there are occasions when there seems to be no choice, but I always liked the little poster that said: “What if we threw a war and nobody came?” Still, those who go often develop courage they didn’t know they had and compassion for people who are caught up in a conflict they couldn’t avoid. I hope everyone will take time from the parades and picnics to send out some thoughts of gratitude to those who did not survive the experience, to those who have returned with wounds both mental and physical, and I hope we all summon the determination to teach people how to settle problems in a better way. “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Abraham Lincoln* and “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” The Bible
There are days now and then when I have my own personal war — with myself! By the time one reaches one’s seventh decade, it is often assumed that wisdom and patience should be easy. However, there are moments when I just want to smash something, often because of my own errors and occasionally for the “don’t care” attitudes around me. Perhaps it is a side-effect of spring fever —- the feverish part. When this mood came upon me as a kid, I was able to go to an area common to all farms several decades ago — their own private “dump”. Back in those ancient times, there was no garbage pickup in rural areas. Food garbage went to the pigs and chickens, paper trash went to the burning barrel, but old dishes, pieces of machinery, broken chairs and toys — solid things that were neither edible nor burnable — went to the dump at the far back end of the orchard. There I could usually find enough broken china to vent my upset feelings with a satisfying smash. Today, with recycling, I have no such easy way to channel my angst, and slamming doors seems a bit juvenile. I am getting better at sorting out the source though. After my initial explosion, if I take some time alone, a moment of clarity comes and I can diagram the problem just as we used to diagram a sentence. This doesn’t always bring closure but at least I know where my displeasure should be directed.
I find that very often my anger and even more, my sadness, is because of the short-sightedness of our present culture. People evidently need immediate gratification whether it is at one’s work, one’s play or life in general. There is often no consideration for the community, much less the generations to come. Only one’s pleasure or profit seems important to many people. We continue to litter the oceans with life-killing plastics. It becomes necessary to have “pick-up-the-trash-along-the-road” days because of the careless custom of throwing things out of car windows. Small businesses flounder as we drive a distance to more enticing-sounding restaurants or big box stores where we can buy items for a dollar or two less than in our home towns. Since we have lived in this community, three feed mills, three restaurants and a variety store have ceased to be, I assume, because people didn’t buy as much locally. In the nearby malls, stores are leaving as though the plague had hit — possibly due to so much on-line buying but often because the corporations owning them don’t achieve exorbitant profits. Apparently just a good profit is no longer acceptable.
I am not opposed to all change, and I am well aware that life moves in cycles. But lack of thought and callous disregard for the impact of our personal and/or corporate actions seems frightening. A book that Gladys Tabor** recommends for us all is Stewart Udall’s*** “The Quiet Crisis”. I plan to read this even though I expect to be even more appalled at our wide-spread and very comfortable ignorance and lack of care. As Gladys says, “It may be that no country in the world has such varied natural beauty and such a wealth of rivers, lakes, mountains, plains and forests………..nature replenishes itself unless man interferes. It was man who made the dust bowl.” We all need to be more aware of how our life choices impact our resources whether they are the natural world around us, our community health or the spirits of those close to us. It does restore some cheer to remember all of the wonderful people who do their best to care well for this earth, the people around them and themselves.
My indignation as I wrote the above made me laugh a bit as I thought of how my mother recycled before recycling took hold and my resistance. She washed out plastic bags and hung them to dry, clothes-pinned to the curtains for later use. She took the ends out of metal cans so that she could flatten the cans to take up less room in that farm dump I mentioned earlier. She was careful to not use many paper towels; I occasionally saw one or two of those drying on the dish rack. She saved rinse water (gray water) in the laundry sink to use in her flower gardens. These were annoying little tasks that I did not appreciate doing, and said I never would do in my own home. And until the last couple of years, I have not. But when one of our sons mentioned his grandmother’s skimpy use of paper towels as he noticed my more profligate use (“what would Grandma say”….???), I’ve begun to use fewer. I do repurpose plastic bags though I’m not clipping them to the curtains — yet. We recycle everything that the truck will accept and return bottles. And while it will be an inconvenience to my arthritic self, I agree with the progressing ban on thin plastic grocery bags and plastic straws. Maybe in another ten years of awareness and growing guilt, you’ll see me using soapwort from the garden instead of shampoo and refusing to buy anything housed in plastic of any sort. We’ll see! “Living in balance and purity is the highest good for you and the earth.” Dr. Deepak Chopra****
Meanwhile, the garden calls loudly for more and more time and energy. The rain that created all this lush greenery has benefitted the weeds as much as the flowers. Suddenly I have a sea of green and sorting the weeds from the good plants is a task requiring stamina and strong fingers, which mind are not. But we work away when and as long as we are able, and thus goes our war on garlic mustard, goutweed and deep-rooted dock!!
*Abraham Lincoln –16th president of the United States. 1809-1865
**Gladys Tabor –Author of 59 books, columnist for “Ladies Home Journal” and “Family Circle” magazines. Quotation comes from “Stillmeadow Calendar”. 1899 -1980.
***Stewart Udall—Served 3 terms as Congressman from Arizona and then Secretary of the Interior from 1961-1969. 1920-2010.
****Dr. Deepak Chopra—American writer and speaker, is an MD, proponent of alternative medicine. 1947