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Soulful Dichotomy

Tim and I have this nature dichotomy thing going. On one hand we love animals and encourage their residence in our yard. We pay more money monthly for our bird seed and peanuts than we do our cable, and if we had to give up one, the t.v. would go. We established a National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat in our yard, and have the sign to prove it! And we spend time every morning having coffee with the birds and squirrels.

On the other hand, we are gardeners. And by virtue, we are often at odds with the animals we invite into our yard. Bottom line, wildlife ARE NOT courteous guests. They have little respect for our property, never offer to help, and I've yet to get a thank-you note from a single one. We read about natural ways to keep the animals out of the areas we don't want them, but obviously they don't read the same books because it seldom works. And they never seem content with the virtual cornucopia of gastronomic delicacies we put out for them. Instead, after filling their bellies with seeds and nuts, they move on to tender foliage and juicy roots.

We've managed to curtail the abuses of rabbits and deer enough to get meager crops from our yard, but what we've never been able to get a handle on, is the destruction from chipmunks. Such cute little guys, gluttonously filling their cheeks with seeds, planting them deep in the ground, only to forget where they stuck them later. But we're okay with that. The problem is they like to tunnel under our perennial beds and eat the roots. Their destruction is camouflaged and deadly. This is how it works. You have a lovely plant in your yard, let's say a coral bell. It looks beautiful and healthy. No nibble marks on it. Then one day, when you are watering, you notice the bottom leaves look a little wilty. When you reach down to examine the plant, the whole bloody thing falls over. There isn't a root left to anchor it to the ground or to nourish the plant. And in the corner, just out of reach, a chipmunk is rubbing it's belly, enjoying the afterglow of a gourmet's nosh.

The only way we've found to deal with chipmunks, is to trap them, and take them for a long drive. On a good summer's day, we can relocate 8 of these little rodents. Because I really hate breaking up families, we always drop them off at the same place, hoping they'll be reunited with their loved ones. It's this lovely, quaint little country cemetery, and I don't think the residence mind their roots being munched on.

Given this on going battle, it might come as a bit of a shock, when yesterday morning, Tim looks out of our bedroom window and says, "Oh no. There's a chipmunk in the pool." Looking out the window, I see a chipmunk doggy paddling for all he's worth. This is just a little plastic sided pool we keep on the deck for the kids to splash around in after they get out of the big pool. (This is where they have their evening bathes on many summer's nights.) But once in, the little guy could not get out. I'm not sure how long he was in there, but when Tim scooped him out, and laid him on the deck, it was obvious he was nearing death, and undoubtedly heading toward the light!

He was so pathetic. How long had he been there? What little chipmunk thoughts were going through his head? I wonder if he was thinking about all the things he had yet to accomplish in his life. There were so many coral bells yet to be ate. Had he properly prepared his children for survival? From my bedroom window, I'm telling Tim to lift his head and rub his chest. Doubting his ability to properly resuscitate a drowning rat, I headed outside, wrapped the little guy in a towel, and began stroking his chest. "Don't give up little, guy. You made it this far, don't die on us now." After about 15 minutes of stroking him, I sent Tim in the house to get another dry towel. We were going to make a little bed for him until he got his strength back. When Tim came out, carrying the towel, it felt warm. "I heated it up for him." (I kid you not.) We placed the towel in a basket making a little nest, and set the little guy inside. He briefly lifted his head, I'm going to believe he was thanking us, then settled in.

He was still wrapped in the towel a half an hour later when I needed to leave the house, but his nose was twitching more, and he tried to dig deeper in the towel when he saw me. When I came home 2 hours later, he was gone. I felt elated. I know tomorrow I'll be griping about the chipmunks in the garden. I will gently chide our border collie for not chasing them off, and we'll set a trap in hopes of transporting another chipmunk over the county line. But we'll go nose to nose with a strong and healthy chipmunk. We were not going to take advantage of the little guy's weakened state. I'd like to think he will repay our kindness by sticking to bird seed and leaving our plants alone. But a fish has to swim, a bird has to fly, and a chipmunk has to nibble on roots.


Gone, but not forgotten

Okay... Don't you hate it when you stumble upon a blog, through divine intervention or happenstance, and fall madly in love with it, only to realize that the author has not contributed anything for months... maybe even years. "Bad form", I scream! "I enjoy your blog. What right do you have to stop? I was never consulted." When a blog you enjoy closes up shop, we all experience a sense of loss. It's like a friend moving to another country, and leaving no means of getting in touch with them. Just like our fascination with obscure childhood television stars of our youth, we want to know "Where are they now?" To quote Edward Cullen, "I hope you enjoy disappointment." In the blog world, we aren't always given the final chapter!

Blogs give us insight into other people's lives. Sometime they are chatty, sometimes they are helpful, but all the great ones are personable. We want to "hang out" with the author. We develop a sense of friendship, even though it is often one sided. We get to know the author, and begin to anticipate how they will react in a given situation. We feel their pains and share their jubilations. I guess that's a large part of friendship, isn't it? But just like the "real world", sometimes we have to say goodbye and wish our friend good luck.

I do wonder what's become of the authors of some of the blogs I enjoyed. Did they take on new responsibilities that put time restraints on their blog time? Did they just grow weary and decide to go on hiatus... indefinitely? Heck, were they abducted by aliens? We may never know. BUT I would like to send out a generic "Thank you" to everyone out there that has written blogs that I enjoy reading. You have brightened my days with witty repartee, shared recipes for delicious meals, taught me some new crafting techniques, shared your take on recently read novels, and generally, enhanced my life. If it is time for you to move on, I wish you well. If you decide to come back, I'll be waiting. That is, after all, what friends do, right?  

BTW and FYI... This was not a preamble to telling you I am leaving the blog world. I am not closing up shop, although "reliability" hasn't been a catch word with me lately... at least not here at One Gen! No. It's just that recently a couple of well read and enjoyed blogs have grown quiet and it's given me pause, and cause, to wonder... Anyway, hope everyone is having a lovely summer and doing some "living in the moment"!   


Strange Bedfellows

There is a saying attributed to Charles Dudley Warner, “Politics makes strange bedfellows” which most people have heard and understand. There are times in politics, when people of seemingly opposite beliefs, are forced by circumstance to work together toward a common goal. What most people don’t know is that like many “quotable” quotes, it was first penned by Shakespeare in The Tempest: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” This was uttered by a man shipwrecked on an island who must seek shelter besides a sleeping monster.

Although I have not found myself sleeping next to any monsters, I have found the misery that has touched our nation, has brought together many unlikely bedfellows. The other day I was having my furnace cleaned. Although the service technician has been to my home many times before, we’ve never really talked. I’m not sure how we got there, but soon we were sitting at the kitchen table, talking economics and its impact on our own families. I learned things about this man I never would have known if not for this crisis. But people are scared, and when we are scared, we band together.

The frustration level in this country is running so high right now, in part because we are a people of action, and NO ONE knows what to do. So, here is my one piece of advice to everyone for all it is worth, “Be excellent to one another.” We are ALL in this together, and we should be there for one another.

If misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, sleep around. We can all use a good hug.

Time Began in a Garden

I love gardening. But who can blame me? Time began in a garden, at least biblically speaking. God did not plop Adam and Eve down in the desert… that’s where they were banished to when they screwed up! Nor did he choose a mountain side or a quaint cove along United States’ eastern seaboard. Nope. He created the Garden of Eden. Granted, this wasn’t a working garden. Adam and Eve did not need to toil from dawn to dusk tilling the soil or performing tasks as seemingly mundane as weeding, but, he knew when he fashioned the first humans, a garden would prove to be good for their soul.

Years ago I was given a garden sign that said, “I’m closest to God in my garden.” Truer words have never been uttered. I like church just as much as the next guy, and I’ve humbled myself before God in the wee hours of the night, safely tucked in my bed, BUT, I have my best conversations with God while I’m in my gardens. Sometimes our conversations are purely philosophical. “Okay, God. What’s up with mosquitoes? I don’t get them. Was that a faux pas on your part, or did you intentionally put them on this earth just to remind us that we aren’t in Heaven yet?” Sometimes my gardens become an outdoor counseling session with me just jabbering away about my latest woes, and God just sitting back jotting down notes. But my favorite time in the garden with God is when we work side by side, without speaking, simply aware of each other’s presence.

My first experiences with gardening weren’t as cathartic. As memory serves me, when growing up our gardens were quite lovely. Couple an engineering father who NEVER did anything unless he had a blueprint, and a mother who could have been the editor of Better Homes and Gardens, our gardens, like our house, belonged in magazines. I remember pristine beds filled with roses and alyssums. A porch flower box always held geraniums exploding with vibrant reds. And, seemingly an afterthought, although nothing ever was, the side of the house was a dense planting of my mother’s favorite flower, the zinnia.

The problem with the gardens was they were not interactive; at least not for us children. My parents planned and planted our gardens. We were not included in the creative side of gardening. Our only true interaction with them did not instill love of the gardens. Perhaps coincidentally, although I wonder, my parents would always wait until the hottest days of summer… certainly only days over 90 degrees, (there is the slightest possibility that I'm exaggerating) when the soil was parched and hard as a rock, then they would say the 2 words that instilled undiluted horror, “Go weed.” We were given spoons and instructed to dig up the weeds. If this seems like a scene out of “Mommy, Dearest” I can assure you, that’s exactly how it felt at the time! I think I probably started talking to God in the gardens back then. It’s probably a very good thing he never answered any of those prayers!

But, there must have been some recessive gene that lay dormant, until I had a house of my own. I was shocked and nearly giddy, when I discovered the creative side of gardening. The pure, unadulterated joy of pouring over seed catalogues in the dead of winter. Hey, it might be -20 degrees outside, but I knew… nay, I felt it in my heart, that under the heaps and mounds of snow, my friends the plants were sound asleep, dreaming flora dreams, just waiting for the first kiss of spring to awaken them. I began to see my yard as a canvas and plants as my artist’s pallet. Colors and textures comingled in any way I fancied. Pulling weeds and removing sod were a small price to pay for this ecstasy.

Sometimes I spend hushed time in my garden. Sometimes I play in it. But mostly, according to Tim, I full body garden! It’s become a housekeeping imperative that if I wish to maintain any standards of cleanliness in our home during gardening season, that I strip down to my birthday suit at the back door, leaving behind mud and assorted insects, as I run naked through the house free as a child, praying no one catches me in the act! There are few sensations that can compare to showering after a day in the garden, when the hot water beats against your aching back, and the smell of lavender soap reminds you of your garden’s promise.

So, I often spend the last moments of daylight in my garden… my cathedral. As Tim and I listen for the birds to depart, and the bats and lightning bugs to make their entrance, my garden, no our garden, fades into the shadows. But I know, when I awake tomorrow, and find myself being drawn to my garden, that God is waiting, in the place it all began.

Words, Words, Words

I love words and the subtle nuances the perfectly chosen word denotes. Why use the word “wavy” when you can use “undulate”? Why use “excess” when “plethora” has the audio equivalent of the bouquet of the finest wine? And why should I settle for a flat sounding word like “wordy” when “verbose” more fully expresses my propensity to prattle incessantly? The English language has a rich heritage which makes learning grammar and vocabulary a challenge, but it also adds to the beauty and intrigue of both the written and spoken word.

My interest in the English language began early. I remember one lovely summer day when I was around 4. My mom was out and about and my father was left with not only the responsibility of supervising the children, but to make sure we didn’t trash the house my mother had just cleaned. Piece of cake. It was a hot summer’s day, there was water in our little pool, and a baseball game on the transistor. My dad could do this all day, or at least as long as the baseball game lasted. So, my brother and I were contently splashing in the pool, soaking up the rays, when I got one of my first scathingly brilliant ideas. We could play soda shop. We just needed a few essential props from the kitchen. As we headed toward the house, my father stopped us.

Dad: Where ya goin’?

Me: We need some stuff from the kitchen.

Dad: Fine. Just don’t get the linoleum wet. Mom just cleaned in there.

We entered the house. My brother and I stood in the middle of the kitchen, creating a small pond under our feet.

Me: What’s “nanoleum”?

Brother: Beats me. I think it’s the curtains.

When we didn’t make a timely return, Dad followed us inside. After he hydroplaned across the room, we learned very quickly that linoleum was another word for the floor. As the sting from a whack across my butt wore off, I can remember wondering, why hadn’t he just said floor? But later that day I found myself repeating the word linoleum over and over again. Say it aloud a few times. Linoleum, linoleum, linoleum. Feels good in your mouth, doesn’t it? So although my introduction to the word linoleum came at a price, in the long run it was worth it.

One of my roommates in college was dating a guy that I thought was an arrogant narcissistic. They were both in their first year of medical school. She was lovely, but he believed himself to be far above the plebeians that surrounded him. He had a friend that often came over. When the two of them got together, they often began to speak in a foreign language. It was a strange blend of English and an unknown vernacular. Although I normally tried to ignore them, I was drawn to their strange banter. I was finally able to ascertain that they were, in fact, speaking English. They were just using words that normally only surfaced toward the end of advanced vocabulary exams, and admittedly, the average person would find it near impossible to comprehend their almost cryptic repartee. Granted, they did this mainly for sport, and although they were inarguably ostentatious, I could not fault them for taking the opportunity to make use of their extensive vocabulary. Although I still thought him an insensitive cad, I must admit I was filled with awe for his mastery of the English language.

Possessing an imposing vocabulary is more than a parlor trick. It is power, and knowledge, and beauty. For that reason when I had my children, I believed it their incontrovertible birth right to be exposed to a rich and expansive vocabulary. Very early on I exposed them to a vocabulary that far exceeded their stature and embraced every opportunity to expand their personal dictionary.

I remember sitting on my back deck at our house in Kentucky. My youngest was napping and my two oldest, 6 and 4 approached me.

4 year old: Mommy, can we have licorice?

Me: Okay. But just 1 each.

Several minutes later, I espied the 2 walking through the backyard, each toting a beer!

Me: (Befuddled, bewildered and besot!) What are you guys doing with a beer?

My 6 year old daughter gave her 4 year old brother a look that implied… “I told you so.”

4 year old: “You said we could have licorice.”

Ah, I got it! Note to self… explain the difference between licorice and liquor, which I did after I confiscated the beers!

Not only does an impressive command of the English language allow you to communicate in an accurate and expressive manner, there is a beauty and symmetry that is personally enriching!