Regrets, Indignities, And Preserving

We’ve had some glorious September days this year.  After returning from vacation and with the exception of a couple of rainy days, we’ve had perfect early autumn sunshine and temperatures.  Unfortunately, I had over a week of being intensely ill and then several more days of recovering, so wasn’t able to get right out into the garden to catch up.  But as soon as I had the strength, I was out in a lawn chair with notebook in hand and jotting down what worked and what didn’t, and where things should go when my plant orders arrive. 

One morning, a week ago, I peered out of the window, with slightly bleary eyes, to see my moonflower vine IN BLOOM; I was so excited that I even reported it on Face Book — and received a number of requests for pictures.   My camera holds a couple of lovely photos to remind me of that delightful morning but I have no clue how to post them.  I have been trying to grow that plant for thirty years at least, and this is the first time one has thrived and blossomed.  It is a rather flat white trumpet that opens into a tea cup saucer, blooming at night and sending out a fragrance.  I’m guessing that the night moths find it heavenly.  There have also been some wonderfully starry nights when, to quote Anne Morrow Lindbergh*, “This is what one thirsts for, I realize, after the smallness of the day, of work, of details, of intimacy — even of communication, one thirsts for the magnitude and universality of a night full of stars, pouring into one like a fresh tide.”  Somehow, a clear star-filled night sky puts things into perspective.

A few things did, to my dismay, slip by me this summer.   Somehow, I missed elderberry season (late August).  We really like those seedy little berries that are so labor-intensive to remove from their thread-like stems. Although it is probably an acquired taste, we love elderberry pie or elderberry crisp and — of course — elderberry juice is a fine cold remedy.  I also regret not getting some sweet clover cut (late June/early July); I like to put the fragrant, dried branches in the linen closet with my sheets and pillowcases.  I really regret letting the pumpkin vines ramble unrestrained.  They interlaced themselves with the tomato cages so that picking those hidden red globes has been like playing hide and seek in the jungle.  And — as usual — I’m sorry that I haven’t spent more time just sitting and enjoying the gardens, the birds and the cats.  

Sometimes, in addition to the joys and difficulties of daily life, there are current events that grab my attention and fire up my indignation.  I recently watched an interview with Angie Dickinson; a marvelous actress from the last century.  She is currently in her eighties or nineties, and continues to be funny and very sharp.  One of the questions involved the “Me Too” movement.  Her comment was that she felt it was being ballooned out of proportion; that yes, some bad behavior needed to be addressed, but there was perhaps, currently,  an over-sensitivity.  And, from my own rather sheltered experience, I sort of agreed with her—– for a moment.  But then, I had occasion to listen to a friend describe a situation in her life where she was being subtly menaced by a person well-respected in the community, and this situation was adding both frustration and turmoil to a life full enough of its own stressors. And I remembered a similar story a few years ago from a different friend, about an entirely different person but a like situation.  And my anger grew!  No longer should anyone be making excuses for inappropriate and down-right bad behavior.  How long will we say “Boys will be boys  (or the adult version: “men will be men!”) and smooth over incidents brought on by indulgence and arrogance?   And how long will some men feel it is OK to treat women as objects?  I thought — “NO! Until men and women realize that pressure or predation of any kind is unacceptable and totally wrong, perhaps we must blow it out of proportion. It sometimes takes blowing things out of proportion to make the problem visible enough to demand change. Moderation seldom triggers action and humankind tends to only notice the neon lights and the blatantly obvious.

A while ago, I gave our daughters-in-law a lipstick-sized canister of pepper spray.  And when our granddaughters are off to college, they will be getting something similar. Maybe they’ll also get tasers.   Grandmas don’t mess around!  Isn’t it humbling, though, to realize that for all of our claims to civilization and sophistication, we still have to deal with those who think like barbarians; that if they are bigger, stronger, wealthier, more powerful —- they can have whatever they want and need bear no consequences for their behavior? It will be a while before the ideas of women as property, those with less money as lesser people, and moneyed-class privilege are erased from our culture.  When that happens we can then talk about being civilized and sophisticated.  Until then, some in our current culture are still little better —- and maybe not as good —- as the raiding Norsemen or the pillaging Goths. They didn’t pretend to be appropriate!

On a happier note, a golden autumn has arrived.  Some wonderful days are filled with sunshine, carry the aroma of composting leaves and cool the atmosphere with fresh breezes.  Our fall clean-up is beginning now that we’ve canned the tomato juice; pruning, weeding, tying up and surrounding azaleas with burlap.  Our humming bird seems to have flown off to winter quarters; I haven’t seen him perched on the power lines, looking over his domain, for several days.  The cats are beginning to curl up together in the porch rocking chair, so it is probably time to winterize their cat house quarters.  We are down to four cats now, and only three that actually seem to sleep here.  I think the fourth one comes for snacks and petting.  So we need to tidy and streamline their nooks for avoiding cold rains, snow and winter winds ….. not that I really want to think about any of those weather conditions.  Now is surely the time to store away as much outside time as possible; to strengthen our immune systems so that illness isn’t part of our October and November days.  This selection from Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard** expresses this feeling well:  We followed a path in between the trees and there, in the middle of the wood, stood an apple tree, laden with apples. The children were as astonished as I was; apple trees are supposed to grow in gardens not wild out in the forest.  Can we eat them, they asked.  I said, yes, go ahead, take as many as you want.  In a sudden glimpse as full of joy as it was of sorrow, I understood what freedom is.”

In the midst of our small, rural, lovely community, we are still part of a world with many problems, issues, varying ideas of what freedom means, and seemingly un-bridge-able differences in what is good and acceptable. Just maybe, if we all found the time to hike through the woods, sit on a mossy bank, pick apples, listen to the silence of the out -doors and enjoy our family and friends in gratitude — maybe we would realize that many of the things that tear us apart aren’t nearly as important as the things that bring us together. I wish you free, healthy and glad days ahead.

Carol may be reached at:


*Anne Morrow Lindbergh —American aviator and author, wife of Charles Lindbergh.  Quote is from  Gift From The Sea.  1906-2001.

**Karl Knausgaard — A Norwegian author best known for six autobiographical novels.  Wickipedia suggests he is one of the 21st century stellar writers.  Born 1968.

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