The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Monday, July 30, 2012


 Hardly a new thought, but one that keeps recurring to me is the conviction that we live our lives in a backward way.  When we are young and strong and lithe and curious, we spend our time in school and then work, and then acquiring and meeting wonderful responsibilities such as children, mortgages, things, the list is long.  We work our way through all that, convinced we will remain strong and lithe and curious, until we look up one day and people are deferring to us at the grocery store because our hair is no longer the original color and because, curiously enough, these tall children that are running things today think we are ‘old’.

And all the places we thought we’d go see, and all the things we thought we’d go do, well, they’re still on our list, but there are all those other barriers, such as lack of strength and litheness.  Surely our young, when they are young, should be free to grab a duffle bag or a back pack and simply go.  Some do, of course, but for the most of us, we postpone.  And postpone.  And postpone.  In the scheme of things, this is hardly a tragedy.  We all have choices and make good choices, for the most part.  But many of us make those good choices while fully convinced that one day we’ll be free and able to realize the youthful list.  We’ll go and see the pyramids.  See firsthand what a tropical rain forest looks like.  Spend some time in a small town in France or Italy or Scotland.  And then one day we find ourselves perhaps free of all those duties and responsibilities, and ready to go see the world, but after we take a good look in the mirror, we realize that suddenly we’re no longer young.  And what is worse, no longer young enough.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


“This is not the right time to have a dialog about gun laws.”  This is what various television and political pundits (sometimes those are the same thing) are saying about starting a national dialog to ban assault weapons.  Again.

It apparently wasn’t the right time when the terrible events at Columbine happened, when the terrible events at Virginia Tech happened, when the terrible events at Tucson happened, and it still isn’t the right time now that the terrible events have happened in Aurora, Colorado.

It isn’t the right time when these indescribably terrible things occur:  shouldn’t get emotional.  It isn’t the right time when things have been quiet:  don’t want to stir things up.  It isn’t the right time during an election year, because many who are running for re-election don’t want to incur the wrath of the rabid gun owners and sellers.   It isn’t the right time when it isn’t an election year, because those same rabid gun owners and sellers will remember.  It isn’t the right time when investigative reporting confirms that no background checks are required for weapons of any kind sold at gun shows or on the Internet.

Can it be that our human society has been at war in one place or another, for one reason or another, for so very long that in many places in this world, including the USA, we no longer have, in the general sense, the ability to differentiate between weapons for hunting game and weapons for hunting people?

Monday, July 23, 2012


Well, after the events of the recent sad days in Colorado, we’ve all possibly learned a number of things, some of which I wish, oh how I wish, were not true. 

We now know that all sorts of body armor are easily available on the Internet without oversight or explanation.  We now know that incredible amounts of ammunition are easily available on the Internet without oversight or explanation.  And thanks to an excellent undercover piece by Jeff Rossen with NBC (an undercover piece, by the way, that was already completed before the events of Aurora, Colorado), it is apparent that all sorts of weapons are available on the Internet without oversight or explanation.  Including, by the way, a 50-caliber sniper rifle that fires ammunition that can take down helicopters.  Anyone who is interested in the segment can find it on the Rossen Reports site via MSNBC.  And by the way, these sales are legal.

The sellers who were encountered during this particular report were asked why they were selling such weapons, and they simply responded they were doing it for the money.  Well, how can we condemn these sellers when we don’t condemn the manufacturers who do not exercise control, the gun clubs who support such availability, and let us not forget the members of the United States Congress who refuse to propose laws for reasonable bans, such as automatic and assault weapons, perhaps because they are fanatic gun enthusiasts but more likely because of the money and influence of gun manufacturers and associations.

This is a free country and a great country and most of us cherish and defend the freedoms we have inherited from our forefathers.  But someone someday will perhaps be able to explain to me how not being able to own a weapon that would pierce armor and take down helicopters would infringe on our right to bear arms. 

And there is this one other thing.  How can the members of the gun associations, the gun manufacturers, their lobbyists, and the voters and the members of Congress who support them all possibly know whether or not next time it will be their loved ones under fire?

Friday, July 20, 2012


Last year and this year have been shocking in the violence of weather.  Such terrible scenes of destruction appear on news reports:  whole neighborhoods reduced to ash, or flood waters sweeping away homes and historic bridges, or tornados scouring buildings away and leaving only bare, damaged earth.

Sometimes the news seems like a strange opera, the kind where one chorus is singing, “There’s no such thing as global warming, there have always been weather disasters and earthquakes and hurricanes”; and the contra chorus singing, “But look at all this terrible destruction.  What shall we do?”

The following is a quote about his losses from someone named Rick Spraycar, one of many victims of the 2012 fires in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and when I read it, it almost seemed like poetry, terribly sad poetry that perhaps sums up the sense of so much loss by so many:

The blanket that was on my bed when I grew up,
a bunch of things my mother had made.
It's hard to put it into words.
Everything I owned. 

Dear Nora Ephron

Thank you, dear Nora Ephron, for what you wrote and how you wrote it.

We are all so fortunate that your gifts will live on and continue to delight and inspire for a very long time.  All those wonderful films:   You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.  These, along with Heartburn,  Silkwood,  When Harry Met Sally, and Julie and Julia, form our favorites .

Now we have watched each of these films several times over the years and yet still relish their wonderful dialogue and stories and appreciate them all over again.  Some lines from your movies have become part of our family persona, such as “F O X – Fox”, or “How much does it cost to fly to New York?  Nobody knows!” or asking for sauces or salad dressings on the side -  and so it goes.  Little things.  Quirky things.  Things that make up real life.

And when we watch these films again, so rich and layered with those ‘little things’, we discover for instance that in Sleepless in Seattle,  the wonderful humorist Calvin Trillin plays Annie’s Uncle Murray at Christmas Eve dinner, and suddenly we get an insight into how you must have known such wonderful gifted people and made them part of your life.  The sheer intellectual richness that metamorphosed into your rich stories that then came to us all.  And then there are your plays and books as well.

Here is a wonderful quotation I just discovered:  “We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world.”  This is from Sayings of the Buddha.  That is what I think you did, Nora Ephron – with your thoughts, you made a world of humor and kindness and did I say humor, and we are all the happier for that.  And for that, we thank you.

Monday, July 16, 2012


It took some doing, but eventually we found a bird feeder that would fend off the squirrels and the doves and yet allow the small birds such as finches and the larger birds such as jays and cardinals to feast.  And finches, chickadees, titmice, cardinals and jays, along with hummingbirds, account for most of the bird population in our backyard.  From our garden room, while we are giving our cat, Max, his daily brushing or while we are utilizing the stationary bicycle, we can often see all sorts of interaction between the various birds. 

And it is really a revelation.  Because the big birds bully the little ones, the little ones bully each other, and the hummingbirds, while they really don’t compete for the seed feeder, are fierce with each other.  In fact we have had many occasions to observe hummingbirds in literal aerial wars, presumably because they are so very territorial.  When one considers how little hummingbirds are and how active they are in flight and in hovering and how little they seem to sip at a time, one wonders how they manage to sustain themselves through the vigorous battles they pursue.

I’ve never cared for attributing human characteristics to our fellow earth creatures, but sometimes it is hard not to see self-defeating possessiveness and greed in the behavior of these big and little birds.  Why, sometimes they seem almost human.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Oh, no one should be impressed at the title.  The reality is far less than what is implied.  Our total food plantings this year were two tomato plants.  In addition, we have a blueberry bush in a pot.  These two foods represent two of our favorite flavors.  We never get too many tomatoes, especially home-grown ones, in a season.  Well, almost never.  There was the year, not too far back, when we planted five tomato plants and they all bore heroically and we were giving tomatoes to our neighbors, our friends, our family doctor, and finally resorted to making home-made tomato sauce for pasta.  But within reason, we do enjoy tomatoes and have been known to eat them with three daily meals upon a good season.  This year, we planted only two tomato plants, one a slicing tomato called Beefsteak and one a cherry tomato.  The cherry tomato is seemingly invincible, with the earliest imaginable blooms and a continual supply of sweet, delicious fruits even with the horrific heat we are now experiencing.  The Beefsteak tomato has produced far fewer fruits in number, but the first one we harvested weighted one pound fourteen ounces - that's very nearly two pounds.  And oh, my, was it lovely to eat.  And the next ones harvested have been equally delicious, just smaller.  That same heat, you know.

As to berries, well originally there were two blueberry plants in the same huge pot, because we understood there needed to be two different varieties to produce berries.  One of the plants died last year, but blueberries make pretty bushes as well as berries, and the remaining plant has lived valiantly on, making a nice plant, blooming last year and making one or two berries, and we thought, well, that’s the last of those.  Then this year the blueberry bush bloomed again and then berries set, and the other day we harvested a full dozen berries, with more not yet ripened.  And we scrupulously divided the dozen berries and ate them, every one, and they were delish, too.  So either our original information was wrong, or an itinerant bee pollinated the flowers.  We neither know nor care.  We’re just enjoying the home-grown fruit and keeping a sharp eye out for the birds.  Birds, you know, like berries too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


That is possibly a strange question to ask, particularly as the body of opinion seems to be as equally divided about the global warming issue as it is about politics – or should we say, ‘other issues of politics’.

But in the middle of a discussion with someone dear, I had one of those personal moments of illumination.  Thinking over the past few weeks of this year of horrific drought and fire and flood and storm, and keeping in mind those same problems in the last few years, and holding those situations up against my dear one’s doubts about whether we are indeed dealing with climate change or a brutal, multi-year cycle, it occurred to me that maybe everyone is right.  Maybe climate change is going on, and maybe a lot of it is cyclic, and maybe it actually doesn’t matter what the cause, or causes, is or are. 

Because in all of these events, just like all other events in human lives, what matters  more may be what we are going to do about it all.  Maybe we need, or at least a majority of us needs, to simply look at one of those photos of earth taken from space.  You know, the ones that show our lovely planet floating out here in aloneness.  Maybe we need to join with all the organic gardeners and earth societies and green movements to simply focus on taking better care of this only home of human kind.  
Most of us know things that can be done:  stop using plastic bags and focus on using reusable bags and containers; stop using our automobiles as toys and use them as frugally as possible; recycle constantly and carefully; turn off everything when we’re not using it; avoid toxic chemicals on our lawns and gardens and farms and ranches that contaminate our land and water; look for and support green initiatives such as solar power and wind power and clean (or cleaner) fuels.  And there are so many ideas and suggestions constantly coming forward.  Maybe we can figure out how to channel flood waters away from a stricken area and toward a drought stricken area.  You know, like a gas pipeline, only with water.  And perhaps most important of all, we can plant something – a tree, a bush, a flower, some plant in a pot that will help clean the air. 

We seem to be so busy as a culture in worrying about the economy and money and politics and religion that, as important and vital as all these issues are to humankind, what good are these issues and even their resolutions going to be if we don’t have a survivable environment?   What earthly good?

Thursday, July 5, 2012


There are many reasons for going to museums, and we probably share all those reasons:  curiosity, a search for beauty, a good meal (in many museums there are excellent eating facilities), to acquire a sense of culture, to learn.  And over the years, we have been devoted museum attendees, in all sorts of places, from a carpet museum in Iran to a riverboat museum in Jefferson, Texas, to a mind-blowing exhibit of original Van Goghs in Paris. 

Because we are fortunate to live in a city with several world-class museums, we try to go often, but circumstances had prevented us from doing so for quite a long time.  So recently we took ourselves to one of our favorites, to see an exhibit of Impressionist paintings that was winding down.  Since the exhibit has been going for several weeks, we thought that this would be the perfect day to avoid crowds, have lunch, and enjoy the exhibit.  Wow, were we wrong, at least about the crowds.  The museum opened at noon on this day of the week, so we arrived just after noon, to find streams of people all headed toward the museum as if something free was being given away.  Not deterred, we parked and headed in and toward the restaurant, planning to eat first.  Since we usually go there in as much of an ‘off’ time as possible, we were amazed.  A line to wait for lunch, although the line moved efficiently, then a line to the exhibit itself, which was wonderful. 

What was not wonderful was the effect of many people, who had rented audio phones to listen to information about the exhibit rather than reading the information displayed with each painting.  People who use audio phones suffer from the same ‘obliviosity’ exhibited by people who drive cars and talk on their phones.  The folks with the audio phones would walk right up to a painting, not aware of the people already there, and there they would stay until whatever spiel was playing had finished.  One had the impression that they felt anointed by the audio phone with a dispensation to disregard anyone around them.  We learned to stay out of their way and then approach whichever painting appealed to us.  And not every painting did.  Because art speaks to individuals, not to everyone.  But there were many paintings, more than we expected, that we found quite splendid.

And after we managed to squelch our frustration with the oblivious and inconsiderate fellow attendees, a thought occurred to us.  Here was a beautiful summer day, and yet all sorts of people of all ages and backgrounds were here at this museum, having spent fair sums of money to see this exhibit.  And there were really lots and lots of people.   So regardless of our national addictions to cell phones and ‘reality’ TV shows and automobile races and other mindless preoccupations, lots and lots of people were willing to spend time and treasure to simply spend some time with timeless beauty.