The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


In our area we had an unusually lovely fall.  Several mild days in a row, even toward the end of November, when we could do all sorts of cleanup tasks in the garden and last minute bulb planting, turning the compost heaps, vacuuming leaves, all that sort of thing, and when we got tired, we’d stop for a break and sit at the garden table and survey what we had accomplished and make note of what we still needed to do.  Just before the first frost we harvested the cherry tomatoes on the vines and had enough to ripen and eat for several weeks.  Sometimes we’d have rain, very welcome, and then would come some more lovely days.  Well, that ended rather abruptly in early December when a winter storm advisory came true and three inches of ice fell overnight, followed by several days of below-freezing weather, bringing much of everyday life in our area to a standstill, because the ice just didn't go away; it stayed for almost a week.  And all of this before the first day of winter.

 Now there are parts of this country where winter storms at this time of year are not unexpected, but around here we’ve been known to not have a freeze til January and not see a winter weather visit such as snow and/or ice until mid-January or early February.  Last year I had daisies blooming at Christmas. 

But this year the weather patterns were interesting everywhere and even with the ice, we personally knew we were lucky.  We didn’t lose electrical power, we had enough warning to stock up on food and comforts, we had wood at hand just in case, and even our cat, Max, who loves sunshine and being in the garden about as much as any creature, was content to snuggle inside on the ottomans where he’s allowed, taking long winter naps.  We looked out the window a lot, made sure the birds had food, we read and found plenty of tasks to do inside, and we were almost as content as the cat. 

Friday, November 29, 2013


Every individual and every family that find themselves in the cultural areas where a Thanksgiving  is observed, observes that occasion in an individual way.  Our family is no exception, in that we adhere to certain celebratory patterns and yet we have made other patterns our own.

We try to start the meal with a short meditation of thankfulness.  The menu is pretty much standard:  turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, veggies as are wanted, and probably pumpkin pie and goodness knows what else.  It’s the ‘what else’ where we make our own design.  For instance, everyone except me and my mate wants turkey, we would prefer chicken.  We usually have turkey ‘for the children.’  On the other hand, we always, always have cornbread dressing and it is always baked separately, never, ever stuffed.  Sweet potato casserole has become an adoptee for the last few years, but we never put marshmallows on top, which is a southern tradition that we just don’t much care for; today we sprinkled pecan pieces on top and they toasted as the dish baked and it was awesome.  And of course not everyone in the family likes pumpkin pie so there was chocolate pudding for the pumpkin pie resistors.  Pretty simple meal, really.

Today after dinner we all went for a short walk because the weather was cool but lovely after several days of cold, cloudy wind.  After that we could have played dominoes or cards, but for the last several years our daughter has requested that after the meal we watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a movie we have all watched so many times we are able to both anticipate and repeat much of the dialog.  And while this is a really funny film, with imaginatively comic events and some fine acting by Steve Martin and John Candy, it seems that every year we see something more in the story, something more in the characters, something transformative.  Both characters make their own mud, so to speak, getting in their own way and blaming each other.  Yet Del Griffith, the John Candy character, who is so oblivious of his obnoxious behavior because he feels he maintains a cheery friendliness, is called to account by Steve Martin’s Neal Page, and Neal, who is just as intense and uptight as one would expect someone in advertising to be, learns, through a very difficult series of experiences, to be more tolerant and see beyond the surface.  And at the end, we as audience are left with our annual reminder of the value of friendship and family and a day to give thanks.

And we none of us went shopping.  We had enough and we were thankful.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The JFK We Knew

Oh, let’s get one thing clear right away:  we neither of us knew Mr. Kennedy personally.  But fifty and more years ago when Mr. Kennedy was elected, we were young and Kennedy did not seem that much older than we, and we and everyone in our generation felt like we knew this man.

We were oblivious of the gossip.  Like many others, we saw Jack Kennedy as a loving father of young children, as a graceful escort of a lovely wife, as an impassioned speaker who inspired so many to give to their country and to the world.  We read the admiring newspaper and magazine articles and admired the photographs of the Kennedy family, and went on our own ways.  We were neither of us as seriously interested in the politics of our country as we have become over the years, when we finally realized, as many of the young eventually do, that politics are about how we live and work and build a future.  

And when Mr. Kennedy died, we mourned along with most of our country and much of the rest of the world, that a still-young man was destroyed mid-presidency, and that a young wife and very young children were left without him.  It was, and is still, a shocking event.  We have read some of the books and seen some of the films and documentaries, and formed our own conclusions, as everyone must, about what exactly happened, and why.

While there will always be questions, at this far-removed view of those long-past days, there are a few convictions we hold.  We believe that the president who stood steadfast during the Cuban missile crisis managed to stare down a terrifying foe and perhaps lay the groundwork for bringing the Berlin wall down a few decades later.  About that Cold War, he spoke the following powerful words:  For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”

And after we watched the recent documentary about the March on Washington, we realized that the president’s quiet support for that event greatly helped move along the civil rights movement that, for the most part, has prevailed.  And that ultimately must and will prevail. And these will be how we remember him.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


The United States, because of its size, is both blessed and cursed, with a tremendous about of coastal exposure, all along our eastern, southern, and western boundaries.   The blessing, of course, lies in access to fishing waters, and to the natural beauties found all along our coastal edges.  As one who simply finds sea air among the most wonderful of fragrances and the beauty of waves and the sound of surf wonderfully healing to one’s spirit, I can well understand the loyalty of those who love the ocean and want to live there.  The curse, of course, is our vulnerability along those same coasts. 

There seem to be so many considerations:  exposure to natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, just for example; exposure to man-made disasters such as the monstrous oil spill in our southern gulf; the difficulties, even with our excellent Coast Guard, in keeping out unwanted human invaders; the deposit of ocean debris from such events as the tsunami in Japan; the normal beach erosion plus the sort that is now being experienced because of higher tides.

The fact that communities have been built along the waters’ edges in almost every area of our massive coast line means that over and over there has been destruction and rebuilding for centuries.  And make no mistake, our entire society bears the brunt of helping to recover from coastal disasters and of helping to rebuild.  Insurance money, tax money from all levels of government, charitable assistance:  all of these must be available.

The real dilemma is whether we can keep on rebuilding and rebuilding along our
beautiful and vulnerable and huge coastlines. Certain areas such as New York City can perhaps devise systems to handle storm surges but the entire length of the East Coast and all along the Gulf Coast and all along the West Coast?  The dilemma is whether or not protective wetlands should be allowed and coastal development should be re-thought and restructured so that our coasts will be protected rather than settled as they are now.  Living on the edge of the water is a choice and no economy can fund that sort of choice.   If we as a society really love our coastlines, we must protect them from ourselves.