July 23, 2009

The Sixties Revisited

From 1972-74 we lived in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which may be why The Help, a first novel by Kathryn Stockett, held me in its grasp for the past 24 hours.

The novel, for those who have not yet heard of it, explores the relationship between black maids and the white women they worked for in the segregated Deep South in the early 1960s. It was an ugly time in our nation’s history and, while the book is set in Mississippi, anyone whose family had a maid will recognize the truth of the narrator’s stories.

Philadelphia was the only place where officers in the Indian Health Service Corps did not wear uniforms. It was ten years after the death of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, and the distrust of anyone wearing a federal uniform was still palpable.

I’m not sure which was worse: being a Yankee or being Jewish, but the combination was deadly. Oh, the folks in Neshoba County were pleasant enough, always adding a “Y’all come and see us sometime” after a pleasant introduction, but you knew darn well that it wasn’t an open invitation to show up on their doorsteps.

So I was particularly grateful when Stanley Dearman, editor of The Neshoba Democrat, hired me to write a “Cook of the Week” column, obituaries, photo captions and other odd assignments that came my way.

July 15, 2009

The dilemma, continued

Last night we were talking with friends who live on the Cape about the landscaping, and told them the landscapers had let a lot of the cuttings fall into the river that is behind the house. She’s a lawyer who is involved in protecting the ocean and waterways of the Cape, and she told us it’s against the law to do this, as the cuttings pollute the river.

So I quit wondering what to do and decided to call the real estate agent. She’s on her way over to take a look and will call the owners of the house, who live in New Jersey, after she’s seen it for herself.

Stay tuned.

July 13, 2009

An ethical dilemma

We’re renting a house in Falmouth at Cape Cod this week, a lovely home that we also rented last year. We love its location a block from the beach and the yard, with beautiful roses, daylilies, hydrangeas and other flowering bushes.

This morning, as I often do when I’m on vacation, I found myself weeding the daylilies. Give me sun and a garden and before I know it I’m unconsciously at work in it. I must have inspired my fellow houseguest, for while I was at the beach, he decided to weed the front. He was doing this when the landscapers arrived to mow the grass, and they got into a conversation about how the bushes were really being overtaken by weeds.

The landscaper got on his phone, and it wasn’t long before another truck, with another crew, arrived. Apparently they realized they better do more than cut the grass. It was time for the annual clean-up.

When I arrived home from the beach they were already hard at work. One of the beautiful rose bushes, which had been covered with flowers, had been shaved. I followed the sound of the electric pruner and found a young man shaving a yew. It was clear he didn’t know the first thing about bushes, pruning or how to garden, but he sure did love the power of that pruner.
So, here's the dilemma. I’m not the owner of the house and don't really have the right to tell these gardeners what to do. But then again, I was pretty sure the owners would be upset to see what was happening.
Should i have done something to stop the massacre of the bushes? And if so, what? The photos here tell but a part of the story.

Your thoughts?

July 10, 2009

First fruits

June’s rain is finally over, but it has left its toll on the garden.

Last year by this time the lettuce was long gone and we were eating tomatoes cucumbers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This July 10 we’re still harvesting lettuce hand over fist, and the rest of the garden is a month behind.

But hope springs eternal, and we have a cucumber, ready to pick for tomorrow’s breakfast.

July 8, 2009

Dying with dignity

When I tell people I’m seriously considering becoming a hospice volunteer the reaction ranges from bewilderment to outright disbelief. Most people try to change the topic but a few good friends have asked me why trying to fathom what is behind what they think is a strange if not morbid idea.

Filling out the application for

I also spent a great deal of my career working in and with hospitals and have been dismayed frequently by the aggressive treatment the critically ill elderly patients receive.

July 2, 2009

Shredding as a community service

My mother used to say “You learn something new every day,” and today’s Wall Street Journal proves her wisdom, yet again.

A Town That Shreds Together” chronicles the latest community building activity: bringing a shredder to town so residents can safely dispose of their financial records, tax statements and other paper that should stay out of the hands of identity thieves.

And, as there’s usually a line at these events, shredding can take on the atmosphere of a community fair. Often the shredding us an opportunity to raise funds for a local charity, but the more lasting byproduct may well be the friendships and community ties that result as folks talk to their neighbors, get to know their dogs and children, and chat about local affairs.

Westchester County owns two shredding trucks which they will bring to any municipality that wants to sponsor a shredding day for household paper. While Larchmont and Mamaroneck haven’t scheduled such a day, the trucks will be at several locations throughout the county over the next few months, including Harrison on Sunday, July 19, and New Rochelle on Saturday, September 5. (See the full schedule online)

So do yourself and the environment a favor. Pull out those old tax records, bank statements, credit card bills and other papers that are overflowing your files and filling boxes in the attic, and dispose of them safely. You might even make a new friend while your online.