Saturday, May 21, 2011

May Showers Bring????

May has been a depressing month in New York.  Cloudy days have far outnumbered those with blue skies and sunshine, and "April showers" have continued on almost a daily basis -- often in the form of steady, heavy rains.  While our plight is not as serious as that of the Mississippi flooding, rivers and lakes are at record heights, and many homes along the shores are flooded.  After a particularly cold and snowy winter, we were looking forward to spring -- the joke is on us!!  The cool, rainy weather has been particularly beneficial to the weeds in my garden.  My feeling of accomplishment after weeding last week is somewhat lessened today as I see once again fluorishing weeds throughout the garden.  The grass has grown inches since we mowed, and the entire yard has an unkempt look.  I love my free-flowing natural garden, but if the rains continue, the weeds will be more plentiful than the flowers. 

There are treasures to be enjoyed -- my neighbor's little arbor garden is a Monet masterpiece, with bleeding hearts and forget-me-nots blooming their hearts out.  My own bleeding hearts are gorgeous, and the ferns around my little pond are lush and enchanting.  Despite the extra rainfall, my herbs are doing well, and my love of gardening and cooking brings great joy as I cut fresh herbs for omelets on lazy Sunday mornings, and add them to sauces simmering on the stove.  Fresh herbs add texture and  flavor to every dish they enhance.  

Of course, I am fortunate to live on high ground -- many gardens along the rivers and lakes are under water.  The lovely homes along these waters that we envy on beautiful summer days are paying a huge toll this year for their proximity to the normally peaceful waters.  

I am also blessed with a spirit that isn't depressed by long bouts of clouds and rain.  In fact, I love the patter of raindrops, and the coziness of the house on a chilly, cloudy day.  Of course, I miss early morning coffee on the porch with sunshine filtering through the trees, and puttering in the garden at will.  I am tired of wet shoes and soggy sweatshirts, and towels that never feel completely dry.  I desperately want to plant some zinnia seeds around my mailbox, but must wait because one rainy deluge will wash the tiny seeds down the street.  I haven't planted my tiny impatiens in the windowboxes and planters, because I worry that they will be floating in the soil.  

Maybe Memorial Day Weekend will be our turning point.  Maybe by then the sun will come out for more than a half hour at a time.  Maybe I can spend a day planting my seeds and tending the gardens. Maybe the waters will recede so our waterfront neighbors will be able to determine the extent of damage to their homes and gardens and begin to return to normalcy.  And maybe I will be able to stand in the sunshine to watch the Memorial Day Parade in our little town.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Profusion of Lilacs

Tonight my white ironstone pitcher sits in the middle of the kitchen table, filled with abundant free-spirited purple lilacs; the scent of spring has overtaken this old house. 

This has been a stressful week -- we filed for our bankruptcy on Monday, and face losing so much that we have worked very hard for over the years.  I am worried, upset, angry -- tumultuous feelings that have unsettled my spirit.

This afternoon, though, Alivia and I walked up the street to a lovely stand of lilacs in her other grandmother's back yard.  Pruning shears in hand, we gathered our incredibly beautiful bounty of heaven, holding them lovingly as they spilled over our arms, soaking in their scent as we worked.

I tell everyone that roses are my favorite flower, but as I gather these vivacious lilacs, I realize that they are truly my first love.  Their arrival each spring is a precious occasion.  Their abundant bloom is a gift -- their scent soothes my soul -- and because they are so short-lived, they remind us to enjoy life "in the moment."  They are here in all of their beauty for a few days, and then gone until next year --

We brought them home, cut their stems, and immersed them in water -- their glorious blooms will bring joy to my soul while they are here -- a blessed abundance that must be enjoyed now.

I was reminded of a poem that touched my heart:

Stealing Lilacs

A guaranteed miracle,
it happens for two weeks each May,
this bounty of riches
where McMansion, trailer,
the humblest driveway
burst with color -- pale lavender,
purple, darker plum --
and glorious scent.
This morning a battered station wagon
drew up on my street
and a very fat woman got out
and started tearing branches
from my neighbor's tall old lilac --
grabbing, snapping stems, heaving
armloads of purple sprays
into her beater.
A tangle of kids' arms and legs
writhed in the car.
I almost opened the screen door
to say something,
but couldn't begrudge her theft,
or the impulse
to steal such beauty.
Just this once,
there is enough for everyone -- "Stealing Lilacs," by Alice N. Persons

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mothers' Day

Mothers' Day this year will be bittersweet.  My mother-in-law is no longer with us, so this will be my first Mothers' Day with no "mother" to celebrate -- placing flowers on her grave is no substitute for seeing her eyes light up with pleasure for a special gift.  The gift of my brand new granddaughter, Emma, is the highlight of my own Mothers' Day this year, though.

As always, Mothers' Day is one of my favorite holidays for pondering and remembering.  I was fortunate to be raised by a loving mother and additionally blessed to have my grandmother living with us throughout my childhood.  The unconditional love of two "mothers" is truly a gift to a little girl.  Both my mother and grandmother have been gone from my life now for a long time, but their words echo in my heart every day.  I am thankful for the loving bonds we shared and for their patience and encouragement in shaping the mother and grandmother I have become. 

I give thanks for my Aunt Irene, also gone from my life now, but forever a part of lovely childhood memories.  While raising two daughters of her own, she always had time to listen to and love her nieces. 

My Aunt Bonnie is still a loving presence in my life.  She has a large flock of children, step-children, grandchildren, nieces & nephews, and children of her heart that she loves and prays for.  I am particularly grateful to her for holding us all in her heart.

And now, I have a new generation of mothers to be thankful for -- my two daughters-in-law, who have blessed me with four precious grandchildren.  Tomorrow morning we will gather together for brunch, to celebrate our special day.  There is nothing more wonderful than to be surrounded by your children and grandchildren on Mothers' Day. 

Motherhood is a gift in itself, and those of us who were "well-mothered" ourselves are doubly blessed.  How wonderful it is to have a special day set aside to celebrate the mothers in our lives.  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Can We Improve TV

In mid-April I had dental surgery and spent most of my week snuggled into my living room chair -- ice packs, hot packs and soft foods abundant.  This is not the way I would have preferred to spend my "spring vacation" from the grandbabies.  My usually hectic days came to an abrupt stop when I returned from the dentist with my swollen face and pain medicine.  My resultant drug haze made reading and writing difficult, so I was left with no choice but to watch TV for hours on end.  I do not  enjoy many TV programs, so the multitude of cable choices do not tempt me.  However, this week of television viewing provided me with time to really think about the programming available to our society and its negative influence on our children.

Coincidentally, recently I watched an award show on the TV Land channel.  TV Land features reruns of TV shows from the 70's, 80's and 90's.  On this Sunday night, one of the stars of the sitcom "Facts of Life", thanked TV Land for providing TV programming that our children can watch.    As I watched this award show, I enjoyed the glimpses of the past -- the years when I was raising my own children and we gathered around the TV together in the evening.  Programming then was naively entertaining.

During my long, boring week of recovery, I scrolled through the cable guide to find something that would hold my interest.  The reality shows are not worth viewing; the sitcoms are disgusting, and I cannot stomach the blood and gore of the various CSI's.  For the most part, I was drawn to the cooking channels and the channels which featured old reruns.  Now I remember why I don't watch TV anymore.

Unfortunately, most of today's TV programming highlights the worst of our culture -- our lack of morals, civility, and ethics.  In a world that so much needs examples of good parenting, responsibility and accountability for our actions, and the knowledge that success is not a matter of income level, there is little in our programming to provide any of these examples.

Watching reruns of "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" particularly sparked comparisons in my mind with today's TV selections.  Both "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" were realistic portrayals of family life in the time periods they represented.  There were struggles and hardships to endure, and the families were not immune from tragedy.  There were also dishonest, greedy neighbors who continued to thrive, despite their lack of character.  However, values such as honesty, loyalty and hard work were held up as something to strive for.  Children were given an abundance of love, but taught responsibility and values from an early age.

It seems to me that TV programming today is designed to celebrate material excesses, sex without feeling, and a pervasive nastiness in human relationships.  Could it be that what our children are watching plays a large part in the serious problems of bullying, violence, and lack of civility in our society?  How can we bring back quality TV programming?