Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sand County Almanac

"During every week from April to September there are, on the average, ten wild plants coming into first bloom.  In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.  No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.  He who steps unseeing on May dandelions may be hauled up short by August ragweed pollen; he who ignores the ruddy haze of April elms may skid his car on the fallen corollas of June catalpas.  Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education."
              A Sand County Almanac 
              Aldo Lepold

This summer I re-discovered this wonderful book when I ran across a copy at a thrift store in Northern Virginia.  My own copy long since loaned to someone, or perhaps given.....
It is an important book to read, at any age of Life, but, at this stage of my development, I am finding it soul-fulfilling and rather like meeting an old friend again, after all these years.  An old friend who has discovered pieces of Life that I am just now getting to.....


Twenty-three years ago,  my dear husband, Rob rode in his first Century bicycle ride.  This is 100 miles of bicycling.  In one day.  In August.  In Texas.  Wichita Falls, Texas.  With 12,000 other bicyclists (no, this is not a typo.  You read it correctly. 12,000.  Some years over 15,00).

He has been riding in this event every year since then.  Sometimes I tag along, Collies in tow (not riding, only joining in the celebration....and worry....); sometimes our sons-in-law ride with him; sometimes he goes alone and makes new friends in the thronging, sweaty crowd of deranged (and later, after 100 miles, delirious) bicyclers from all over the country.

The first year he chose to do this, I went along justincase he needed someone to accompany him to the ER.....It's always good to have someone identify the body....

While he rode, well, of course, I went shopping.  Thrift stores, garage sales, interesting grocery stores, and huge plant nurseries.

Remember.  It is August. Always the fourth Saturday in August.  In Texas.  Everything is suffering in this heat.  Dry heat. 100-degree heat.

Certainly nothing is blooming, and the plant nurseries are eager to unload any and all of their summer plants for pennies on the dollar.  Please adopt these and take them to a Better Place where there is shade and water and cooler temperatures. Have Hope for prettier days next spring, where, if they survive, they will bless you with their blooms in the greening-up of April.

I always have Hope, especially where plants are concerned.  Once released from the bonds of their plastic pots and tucked lovingly in the soil with a layer of leaf mulch,  I can almost hear their sighs of relief and contentment.  Their promises of Springtime blossoms and adding beauty to Eden......

Amid the brown and crunchy perennials gasping for life in the 100+ heat,  enter this:


Garlic Chives.  Blooming their little hearts out.  Potbound and pleading for a good place in the solid earth.  I planted them in the backyard.  They have migrated to the front yard. I have shared and Shared them with many friends who love their garlic smell and their welcome blossoms when everything else has given up in the heat.  

And every year, the fourth Saturday in August, they bloom.  Their leaves grace our salads, and the flowers adorn our vases.  I call them my Hotter'n Hell Flowers.  And I pretend that we are still as young as we were 20+ years ago, as the Earth has turned round and round, and the bicycle wheels spun hundreds of miles.

So.....Reading Leopold's passage again......What does this marker Tell about me?

Mostly, I think, it speaks of the change of the seasons and the anticipated relief of the oppressive heat with the coming September.  And of a 70-year-old man who continues to throw his leg over a bicycle and ride beyond his physical limit.  And who brings me presents of coffee cups and cookie jars and Sonic coupons.  Of Life.  Life that continues with the Young and delights the Old.  Of noticing.  And appreciating.  And always looking forward.  





Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father of the Year....I Don't Think So......

There are many things that the Fatherofmychildren cannot and will not do.  He is incompetent in several.  Refuses to do the remainder. Things that Most Dads just naturally teach their offspring, he sees no use in instruction.

In the beginning of this Parenting Odyssey, and, admittedly, even during the most demanding times of the children’s growing-up, I struggled  with these Deficiencies and Imperfections in his plans to bring the girls up correctly.  My heart saw only the holes in his efforts. 

Dancing.  He never danced with them.  Never.  Not even at their weddings.  Not even in the living room with their tiny feet on top of his…..He doesn't dance.  He plays the music people dance to.  He has a trumpet up to his face while he watches their circuits around the dance floor.

But he does smile so sweetly when the children “twirl” for him, spinning around like dervishes, their  skirts flying, their faces bliss.  Bliss because of his blatant approval and appreciation for their skill and beauty.  They always knew they were beautiful in his indulgent eyes.  

Grilling.  He has never cooked a meal outside.  INside, for that matter.  The man does not cook.  He doesn't even honestly appreciate the skills that it takes to get a good meal together.  He will eat anything.  And have seconds.  But he takes no pride in the preparation or even the end result.  

He bought me the biggest grill I would allow on the deck.  He hooked it up to the maximum safety standards and makes sure that it is fully turned off after the meat is done. He savors the meal. He compliments my efforts.  But do not ask him to do anything more than push the electric igniter to begin the process.  

He does know how to French Braid our daughters’ hair…..When I went to Europe with Emily’s Girl Scout troop for 6 weeks, back in the ’80’s, Kathryn was left in the care of her Dad. The 10-year-old child would only allow her hair to be brushed and French Braided at this moment in time. No exceptions.  No deliberations.  No discussion. So, he took instruction from me, detangling spray and comb in his left hand, and mastered the skill. He became proficient. And The Baby had less angst (at least about her hair) while her mother traveled the world without her.  

Mowing.  Mowing the yard.  It’s a big yard.  Almost 1/4 an acre.  All clipped with a push mower because of all the twists and turns he must make around my flowerbeds, water gardens, and various trees I’ve planted.  But he never saw fit to teach the girls how to propel the mower across the lawn.  He always insisted on doing it himself while they “stayed inside where it is cool.”  They married men who mow religiously and bore sons who mow.  

He is the Finder of Lost Things, our very own St. Anthony.  Irritating, sometimes, when all one wants to DO is rant and rave about how she “cannot find ANYthing around here.”
But he calmly processes the possibilities of where the Lost might be, and always, Always discovers its hiding place. He finds Lost Things. And he soothes our defiant, ruffled feathers…..Unfortunately for those of us who would like to remain angry and frustrated because we insist it aids in finding things. 

Shooting a gun.  The girls never held a gun in their hands until they were grown women.  Never. They never felt the kickback of the wooden stock against their shoulders.  Never felt the thrill of hitting the Mark with their keen eyes.  Never experienced the rush of holding the smooth steel of a pistol in their hands. 

He does know how to bathe a baby and change a cloth diaper.  In the ’70’s this was a skill that many fathers left to their wives.  There was still a bit of designated “women’s work” that hadn’t eased its way into the realm of masculinity at that time.  Rob never considered these tasks, these opportunities, to be relegated  to just one parent. He folded and pinned on diapers  better than any professional.  

He has fallen way short of the Dad Things most people expect.  He doesn’t meet the bar at all for the qualifications of Traditional Dads.  He barely disciplined the children or raised his voice.  Told them more than once, “If you do that again, your Mother is going to spank you.”  Never prepared pancakes for breakfast or took them to a ballgame.  Took them camping, but once they were asleep, escaped to the car and dozed. Always deferred to me regarding pets, but always dug their graves and played the role of minister when they died.  Never engaged in decorating for Christmas, but drove us thru ice and snow to celebrate the holidays at Grandma’s.  

Nope.  He’s not the Dad we all read about and admire.  But I write this to tell you that I have never met a better Father.  He raised two very intense and entertaining women who continue to improve the planet and show the world what Love looks like.  I’ll take that.  Anytime.


Happy Father’s Day, Rob Bailey.