The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Having learned to read very easily (which nicely balanced my general lack of comprehension of mathematics), books quickly became a source of magic for me.  And when I discovered libraries, well … a great source of the richness of the world became mine.  The first library I had access to was a long bus ride away, so we, my brother and I, could only go there when our mother had time to accompany us, which was mostly in the summer.  There, in the children’s section, I found books such as Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey.   It’s about a doll with a hickory nut for a head that gets left behind by the child and how she adapts to a different life.  This magical book was first printed in 1946, and is still in print.  Then eventually along the line of time, our school established a library of its own and I simply started reading in the A’s and kept on going, Asimov to Maugham to Steinbeck and so on.  And with my first job at fourteen, earning perhaps 40 cents an hour, I joined the Doubleday Dollar Book Club, when books were really a dollar back then, and bought books of my very own, some of which I still have after all these decades.  Books become friends and ultimately old friends and very much a part of one’s self.

Then I eventually married a reader and between us we have enjoyed acquiring and reading so many books.  Some are mine, some are his, some are ours.   Inevitably, between us, at any point in time we have too many books.  We’ve thinned out the stock many times, giving some to libraries and some to charity, some to friends, and even sold a few, and now we have a firm policy of buying very, very few, and simply visiting our local and excellent library.  One of our summer projects was to sort, area by area, and find new homes for most of our books.  Of course we have not yet done so and summer is almost gone.
We have reached the stage of life when we feel weighed down by too many possessions, and particularly too many of our beloved books, and we realize we need to continue to thin and thin them until we are down to the essential ones. How to choose is difficult.  For instance, decades after I had last read Miss Hickory, I realized that it might be possible to find my very own copy and read the book again and so I did.  She will always be among the essential ones, as will some of the ones I bought at fourteen and still love.  We’ve moved here and there over the years, but there are some books that hopefully will always be with us.  But we still have too many.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Some folks think that manners are archaic, no longer applicable in a modern world.  Perhaps they do not understand the essential purpose of manners.  Every culture has a set of manners.  Although manners may differ from culture to culture, surely they are for communicating good will toward people we do not know.

And if you want to find a perfect illustration of the lack of manners in modern society, drive on the road.  Any road will do, a local road or a freeway or an interstate highway.  Every time we go out and about, we never fail to gasp at least once, because of the bad manners exhibited by way too many drivers.

Or watch a political debate or just an interview with a politician, while they accuse their opponents rather than stating their own positions. 

In far too many instances, rudeness and arrogance have become admired and encouraged and labeled as competency rather than what they are.  And this is true whether the individual is a driver of a vehicle who ignores the safety of all others on the road, or whether it is a candidate for higher office whose ambition is greater than their honesty and their sense of courtesy.

If an individual holds a door open for someone behind them, if a driver signals their intent to turn or change lanes or exit, if any kindness is shown to a perfect stranger just because …, these acts do not show weakness, they show good manners, they show an understanding of the basic glue that holds any society together. 

And manners can be extended even further:  to negotiations with other nations that will help those nations prosper as well as our own, and build toward peace rather than war. 


Because if we cannot indeed use mannerly behavior to make our travels safer, to show courtesy toward those with whom we disagree, to work toward peace and a better world, well, then, my original question stands:  “What are manners for?”