Once again the yellow primrose is blooming madly in a small corner of the garden that I can see from my back window. It never disappoints, not since it was given to me in 1960 by my new next door neighbor when we moved to Oneonta. My friend, Nan Moorby, no longer lives in Oneonta. We lost touch a few years ago, but the primrose goes on, blooming right through June every year, always modestly reminding me of its beginnings in my possession. Plants are like that, providing a link in the chain of our life experience. The primrose was there one May when I brought Betsy home from he hospital; It was blooming when David graduated from high school, when Mother broke her hip, when she died and then Harry, past all the marriages and divorces, babies, and honors. Always this connection with friendship which holds together the substance of my life.

Some plants hold these memories longer than others. I think, though I’m not exactly sure for instance when somebody might have planted the currant bush that sits on the path of the second terrace, but I believe, and belief is often a satisfactory substitute for reality, that the bush was panted in the 1949 by the wife of a former music teacher here at the college. I don’t remember her name, but it is a peasant reminder f daily life before technology took over the task of household management. I can’t remember the woman’s name. She and her husband built this small house themselves after the war, and they took special care of the music room, a small room but elegantly paneled in a dark wood. I mention the elegance only to suggest the importance music held in the household, (He was head of the music department, played the piano) while the tiny kitchen was impossible to work in. Often they had friends in for an evening when the professor played the piano and guests sang. During the course of the evening I am sure one of the treats would be cookies filled with Mrs. (who?) currant jelly.

(In those days there could be plenty of hard-drinking, but the end of the evening was always signaled by coffee and dessert)

Mrs Who? got plenty of credit for these treats of hers that got their start in her garden, but at that time it was only the piano playing that achieved the real status among the guests who counted–the men. My own husband was often annoyed by the mess in the kitchen when I made jelly and jam but the preservation of these fresh local foods was simply a matter of Doesn’t Everybody? Jelly was the easiest. The cook simply put a lot of fruit in a pot with a little bit of water to get the cooking started. When the color of the fruit had been bled out of it was time to strain. Strained fruit went into the mulch pile and juice was strained in a jelly bag to eliminate all fiber. The trick was in the following guidance: Put 1/4 cup of alcohol (in my case Harry’s bourbon which I stole) in a cup and add one to two tsps of fruit juice. Stir. If there is sufficient pectin in the juice, it will need a certain amount of sugar to be determined by the lumping of clear pectin in the juice. It all depends–a hundred tiny lumps? one big lump? Correctly done you ned never add any pectin. Otherwise you will have to cut up an apple and reboil. With each new task the process becomes more mysterious. The fruit juice must come to a boil, boil up to the top of the pan, boil down and suddenly without any warning, must when tested in a spoon, turn onto slippery spoon full that slips whole back into the pot. Pour immediately into the jelly glasses. Do not delay!

It is this sort of job that involves women in things of the spirit, and it is this sort of thing I think about whenever I carefully work my way past the stickery currant bush along the path. A few years ago I gave a cutting of Mother’s Elephant Ear to my friend Bette. My mother brought it with her to my house in her old age. It has a different set of memories than other plants and at Bette’s house it will have a whole new set of memories attached. I got notice this morning that Bette’s husband Dave is facing his losing battle with cancer. I hope Bette still has the plant.

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Another sunny morning, and although the lilacs and forsythia and pears are all preparing to bloom, the maple and beeches over here on the east side of the hill are still bare, still allowing the sunshine to bake the last summer’s leaves where they lay thickly on the ground.

That’s one thing. Another thing is that I probably won’t go out in it, this beautiful morning, that is. My chest is tight as a drum and it occurs to me that carbon footprints have been stamping all over my neighborhood and probably everyone elses, encouraging pollen to fly, heat to rise and molds to greet every day with a smile.

Another point. You’ll begin to understand how confused I am. Why aren’t there any articles in the newspapers about the potential suffering of our children and grandchildren as they face the effects of global warming. How is it that we protect these children and grandchildren with our investments in digging up the ground for oil and gas and cutting up mountain tops to uncover coal, instead of spending these huge sums of money on such relatively harmless sources of energy as wind and sun and the rotting leaves our trees give us every winter.

My friends and I are having lunch when these topics come up.

Well, then, what can we do?


I’m enjoying a hamburger, a hamburger with tomato and avocado. It tastes awfully good.

Our children and grandchildren can go on eating hamburgers till the cows run out I say with a chuckle, and we go ahead with our discussion of various garden plans for this year. My vegetable garden concerns me in spite of my pessimistic outlook, in part because in spite of the talk about the futility of looking to the future, we can’t let the old, the ancient, habits of plant, and cultivate and grow that we have developed over the millennia go simply because it seems to be part of the program. Nowadays, engaged in what I see is a gratuitous season at the end of life’s trimester process, I don’t want to forget that among us humans life in utero is a trimester system.It our mammalian duty to grow in this way, and though we often try to alter it with our many medical successes, it remains the same. Now I and some of my friends are pausing in this interim which may be a gift that we should try to use while we are still enjoying the other gift, the gift of humanity which only lasts for a season. I first discovered this need for people to explain their particular predicament, bad legs, arthritic joints, kidney, liver and heart malfunctions, when my mother, having broken her hip and begun to grow blind, found herself behind her walker in a nursing home, a place where people from many walks of life spend this last holiday, thinking of themselves standing in a line to heaven. Mother’s friend Elna came up with the answer that the other lades all felt was reasonable.

God will take each of us in turn, and he’ll pick in the order he wants. You can’t tell God what to do.

Yoga and Christianity teach us that every day is a gift and that it is our duty to fill it well, so that’s what I’ll try to do today. I’m going to order a chair made for the arthritic hip. That’s first. Then I will plan the beds in the vegetable garden. I might even order the materials for a raised bed that I can access by my new chair. I’m going to fill up these days as best I can. I don’t want God to think I’m wasting the time he has offered me.

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First crocus.......March 11, 2012. In front of lower terrace, back yard emerging from winter confusion.

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The Seasons march on

It is not evening, but morning in December in New York. It is the one time of day that the sun shies directly into the house.  Jim has started a fire that isn’t really going yet, but Jack just feels good about everything.  He’s home for Christmas vacation, but in one week he’ll be off to New York for three weeks working for his Aunt Julie at Wossing, her Chinese culture emporium, where a person can learn to speak Chinese, learn the secrets of Chinese cooking, send a child to tutorials in school subjects, learn to play Chinese instruments. I could go on. Wossing is, simply put, a general store conveying information on all things Chinese. Jack is a talented linguist and thinks he’ll learn Chinese during his three weeks? What do you think?

Below you see the snowdrops on March 5, 2012. The whole world has changed.  New York is over.  The next time we get a look at Jack he will be wielding a rake. The beds will have to be cleaned up, and a new language is looming. It will be Spanish in Seville.


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                                                                                                               Isn’t this great.? Earlier today, with Jim in charge, the computer burped out this missing bit of backyard history and for the first time in my personal experience lived up to their name.                                                                                                                                                                                         The title is First Blossoms of spring——2012, and they are growing, as I  repeat down the page, just behind the rock wall that runs from the right side of the arbor. See below.
Well, I somehow missed posting the first snowdrops this year, and have resigned myself to greeting spring with my birds. They, and I, have just watched a tiny mouse across the lawn skitter into a hole in front of the rock wall. It is this mole and its family that has been attracting the cats who like to crouch a foot or two away waiting for the crucial moment and distract me into thinking about Ben and Jerry. I do not like this weak grasp I have developed on the thought of the moment. Which reminds me of my mother and her own elderly eccentricities. Is there no end to the meandering thought.
I leave this whole paragraph in place just to show how sad and  basically disoriented it makes me when I run into these photo glitches. I really do think that the essence of blogging is the photo and it is clear to me that although I can illustrate text with photos, it is just as plausible to find the theme of the blog in the text.
It all began yesterday morning when I woke p to brilliant sunshine, and as those of you familiar with central New York know, brilliant sunshine is a state of the earth that can make a person twirl with joy.It’s all so new and so clean. My two favorite chickens, .01 and .03, are sitting on  my lap top table in front of me looking out the window, and although they never speak, I know they are telling me go get out there and look around and see what I can, before some cloud slides over an spoils everything. Sun or not I had enough sense to put on a jacket and pick up the camera and, as if directed by a superior power I head straight for the wall, slip on a piece of ice in the lawn, and arrive at the wall where, you guessed it, the snowdrops were already starting to open. And it is at that very spot that the day’s drama began.
Thinking it over I will now bypass yesterday and move on to today. The most important thing that happened yesterday was that I spent two hours in the morning reading nothing in the Sunday Times except an article in The Arts about the new musical Newsies, following which I ate two slices of bacon and retired to my chair with a cup of coffee and brooded over my inability to move a photo from my camera to the blog page. It was a total waste of time, but  friends rescued me from greater waste by carrying me off to see The Artist, where I learned how I should act today in the face of failure.
As I said, the day dawned as brightly today, a slight snow cover was already beginning to disappear, when I made my plans to tackle digital photography first  hand.
At first Jim said, I don’t know Apple.
Then I said, Oh Okay, I’ll wait for Fiona.
And then he said some kind of manly equivalent to, ‘What the heck.’
And together we did it. We got the snow drops. I can barely settle down long enough to mention that the chickens and I are now watching the parade of living creatures that sail and  flutter and perch all over the yard. The chickadees are on the patio, woodpickers, the cute little ones, are pausing in their northern journey to east on maples and oaks that are proving to be a reliable food source and the shadows of enormous wings speed past, but somehow the birds themselves are hidden away from the window. The shadows are so big I think maybe they are ravens, because they are in a flock. Are there hawk flocks? I didn’t think so. I take a quick glance at .o1 and ,03.  I pretend they are jealous of the live birds that are simply taking over the whole back yard this morning. What a day! What a life.
And within half an hour I’ll be having lunch with Garden Club friends.  Does it make any sense to say how happy all this has made me? Am I too easy to please?
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The Punctuation Cane

A cane might also be used for placing one's periods and commas.

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A glimpse of the past

When Rita sold her big house last fall and moved into an apartment she had a lot of work to do shrinking not just a house full of furniture but everything else she and her husband had packed into the house during the past thirty or forty years. Rita never threw anything away, so that when she came to the attic she visited one of her many past occupations, one which Judy and I shared.

Judy and Rita were both experts at sewing and other handcrafts and I had a particular interest in olden times and how my grandmothers had lived  lives that were, at least on the surface, so different from mine. We must, this one year have been together at the state fair, but I don’t remember now whether it was at handicraft exhibits or  somewhere around sheep that we began to watch a local sheep farmer, Betty Russ, effortlessly spinning wool she fed into the wheel with both hands as she pumped the wheel around with her feet. We hung around her for a long time, asking questions and at some point we decided to take lessons from her.

Betty dressed up in a 19th century style of house dress, full skirt, long, cotton, put her hair up in a bun, and in general gave off the air of another time and place. We gathered in a room of her house specifically set aside for spinning and weaving and there was some mysterious aura in the place that made us really want to be just like her. The times did favor feelings like that. Back to the earthers found cheap dwellings all around Otsego county (and I think probably all around the whole United States) where the discovery was being made that we had hands for a purpose more relevant than the typewriter and the steering wheel. We wanted to share. Before the first session was over we had ordered our new spinning wheels from New Zealand and were well on our way toward performing at craft fairs, mall sales and elementary school historical sessions. More plainly we envisioned ourselves a commercial success making money, as we expressed it, hand over fist. And thus began a few years of living halfway into the 19th century. Judy and Rita both had a scholarly bent that led them deeper into a study of raising sheep, as well as the various skills needed to produce a sweater or an afghan, and all the things in between.

We invested in dresses like Betty’; we put up our hair. We developed a welcoming way with children that won their hearts and we taught them quickly the rudiments of spinning. My own family by this time was a bit tired of my obsession. After all, I haven’t mentioned the hours we spent combing the woods and fields for dye stuffs, or the huge on on the stove bubbling with lilacs and vinegar. I think. I find it strange right now to imagine that something so meaningful to me at the time has now faded, at least a lot of it into foggy generalities. Priscilla is still capable of expressing my carelessness in spinning wool fibers into the atmosphere at our house, thus inflaming her allergy to wool.

But Rita and Judy were scholars. They wanted to know everything there was to know, so when I would come home at noon  from my job in the special education room at Greater Plains School, I changed into my jeans, and met my friends for another tour of the countryside, petting more sheep, looking for fleeces to buy, looking for a substitute for cochineal red. And I have to say I felt pretty satisfied with myself. For one thing we did make a little money selling yarn and hats and mittens that we knit for the sales. It is only now at my advanced age that I see what a false idea we had engendered in ourselves, or that I had in mine. Billy remembers an afternoon when I came in from the Fair at Riverside School and cracked open a Budweiser beer.  The irony is only apparent to me now. And no one will  be surprised to learn that it was our willingness to buzz around the whole county learning what it was like to be an Old Fashioned girl while making use of every modern convenience available to us.

I am very much in doubt at this point that any  of the steps I have taken to learn “what it used to be like” have revealed much of the truth of that other time, and I am sure that none of my other attempts are very successful  The gardens are filled with hybrids right from the start; nobody would think of using a lawnmower to make that kind of old-fashioned discovery, and as for paint, it all has lead in it.

I really think I’ll abandon all such attempts from now on and get my info from books that somebody else wrote.


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