Are You Ready For Winter?

The Old Order Hath Changed.

                 Wow!  How the old order hath changed, for with the first nippy air heralding the coming of winter, I realize again that people “don’t get ready for winter” anymore.

                  Not too many years ago (Come on, now, who’s counting?) but this area was  very rural, and, “Hello, are you ready for winter?” was the common greeting.  And, as a kid at home, it seems that one of Mom and Dad’s first considerations of late summer was “to get in the coal”.  How else did one cook and keep warm?

                  At one time we had a coal shed and it was piled clear to the rafters when “the coal came”.  Later on, with house reconstructions,  Pop had it slid into the basement coal room, but either way, with the first blast of winter, everyone wanted to have stored all the coal they’d need for the long months ahead.

                  Mom always bought flour for the year, too.  I still don’t see the wisdom of this, but the big 50 lb. sacks of flour would arrive (of course everyone baked their own bread) and my parents would carefully store the flour in the cool attic on a special framework Dad had made for them.  Maybe flour and coal were cheaper in the summer.  I don’t know and who is there now left to tell us???  I can only give hints.

                   Putting up fruit kept our mother in a turmoil of work for at least six weeks in the late summer and early fall and it was this child’s delight to step to the basement and see the long shelves filled with the glorious colors of the fruit, pickles, sauces and tomatoes she ‘bottled’.  To me it meant good eating in the months to come and I was always glad when it snowed, for until then, Mom wouldn’t let us start using that good stuff.  It was food for winter, not summer or fall.

                  Pop built outside Root Cellars, too, and they were common to this area then.  Long trenches were dug, lined deeply with fresh clean straw and then vegetables, winter pears and apples were stored.  More straw covered the raw food and a deep layer of soil went over the top.  “Chimneys’ were built to ventilate the warm, buried food.

                 The idea was to keep everything cool enough to stay crisp but warm enough not to freeze and the idea was great.  The trouble was, however, that in the dead of winter,  getting through a foot of snow, to that frozen over-lay of  soil, then through the stiff, frozen straw and finally to the goal of it all, the vegetables snugly buried safely underneath.

                 It was a good trick also, to go for carrots, delve down through the three layers of snow, soil and straw, into the depths for where you were positive the carrots were, and instead find you had ‘hit’ parsnips, apples or cabbage.  Somehow nothing looked the same once snow arrived and the markers put up so carefully in the fall had a different look in the middle of January.

                 Besides that, it was always so darn cold that no one (well, it was always Dad’s job) wanted to take time to really survey the place.  Just dig, grab, cover again in the right order and then get back into the warm house.  And, something no one spoke of, but by the time winter was over, everything ‘down there’ tasted and smelled like the protective straw.  Oh well.

                 Just the same, to the child that I was, listening to the adults talk, I felt winter was a terrible threat that was held in abeyance only by Dad and Mom’s preparation of getting “ready for winter”. 

                 Mom, with her chests full of clean quilts and blankets, basement shelves filled with fruit, and for heaven’s sake, I almost forgot, our winter long-arm and long-legged  underwear, dresses, jackets, coats, hats, pajamas, and mittens (not gloves), boots  and whatever else cold weather demanded.

                That phrase, ‘Getting ready for winter’,  was a safety buffer to me and I felt nothing could harm me when I’d hear Dad say,   “Yes, we’re ready,”  in reply  to some neighbor’s query.  Upon hearing those three simple words, some spot within me relaxed for with them I knew all was right and safe with my world. 

               When you’ve been raised that way, that question was hard to put aside, for without all that work, preparation and storing away, who and what was to protect one from that Demon called Winter??

                 And, today, I watch two of my neighbors (their tie to past is their own business, not mine)  but it’s satisfying and gives me a good feeling to know that there are those who, in their own way,  still follow the customs I once knew so well.

                 And by the way, “Are you ready for Winter”?  Or do you even give it a thought?  Much less a ‘second thought’.

It’s Not Living, It’s Now Survival

And we’re doing it to ourselves.

We’re slow learners.  It’s only been for the last half-century that we’ve started to be concerned about what we are doing to Mother Earth, our air and the water, and yet in 1850, the U. S. government was trying to ‘buy’ land from the native Americans, these words were written by Chief Seattle. We didn’t ‘hear’ him, for after all, he was just a ‘wild’ savage, but how wrong we were.

“The President wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky, or water, or the land? The idea is strange. How can we sell the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water?  Every part of this earth is sacred and holy in the memory and experience of my people.

“We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The bear, the deer, the  great eagle, the rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, as well as man, all belong to the same family.

“The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst, carry our canoes and feed our children. Give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

“If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, and share its spirit with all of the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath, received his last sigh, and gives our children life. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

“Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother, and that what befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth?

“This we know.  The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all, and man did not weave the web of life, but is merely a strand in it. And whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

“Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? And the wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the Eagle be? Gone!

“It will be the end of living and the beginning of survival.

“When the last Red Man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only a shadow, will the shores and forests still be here?

“We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Preserve it for all children and love it, as God loves us all.

“We are part of the land, as you, too, are part of it. This earth is precious to us, it must be precious to you. One thing we know: there is only one God, and no man, be he Red Man or White Man, can be apart. We are brothers after all.”

How wise, and far seeing Chief Seattle was. Without a thought we kill and spoil our  earth.  Thor Heyerdahl, with four others,  in 1947, spanned the Pacific on a raft, and he told how pure the ocean was.  Twenty-five years later he and others sailed the same course, and he told how there never was a foot of ocean that wasn’t fouled with our garbage.  Plastic sacks wherever they looked.  And now we are tossing our discards into Outer Space. The moon carries far more than Armstrong’s footprints, and now we’re beginning on Mars.

We continue to kill Mother Earth. And the fire which we have been told will destroy this earth, will be, it’s speculated, because the ozone layer which we are rapidly destroying  will allow killing rays to bombard us.

And as surely as our Earth is depleted of its virgin forests, clean water, and pure air, and now Space itself, we are creating our own destruction. And it won’t be God’s will, and it won’t be God’s punishment. God has nothing to do with it, for it is something we have done, and continue to do to ourselves.

And just as that wise Chief Seattle , that ‘crazy savage’, told us over 150 years ago, we find ourselves exactly where he told:  The end of living and the beginning of  survival.

It Might Have Been Otherwise

Change the words, as I did, to fit yourself

I got out of bed
With strong legs
And an alert mind.
It might have been otherwise.

I ate cereal with fresh yogurt,
Juicy blueberries
And home-grown walnuts
It might have been otherwise.

I drove to the office
And did chores
Others could easily do,
But for now they are mine
And I did them.
It might have been otherwise.

I sat at my window
Seeing fields and mountains that
Generations of Bradfords have also seen.
It might  have been otherwise.

I spoke with and laughed
With Robert in Maine,
Emailed Ken in California
Bob in St. George
Dewey in Santa Monaco
Laurel in Mesa,
And chatted with LaRee
Just across the valley
It might have been otherwise.

I did my nightly yoga
Murmured words of praise,
Slept in a bed in a room
I’ve slept in for sixty-odd years,
And whose walls hold
Beloved paintings and words,
Fully aware that one of these days
It will be otherwise.

(This poem was written by Jane Kenyon.
To reflect MY life, I  have changed
Every single word except the last line Of each verse. )

Read it again and put your own
Actions where I ‘ve put mine.
Made me a bit more aware of
Just who and what I am.
Good luck.


Wasted Hours? Wasted Days?

Wait a few years, and you will find them precious!

Sometimes the days, hours or moments we ‘waste’ turn out to be the ones we remember for the rest of our lives.  We think of all the chores we could be doing and feel it’s ‘wrong’ to occasionally do nothing but look, relax and experience the joy of  life itself.

I remember just such a day.  Two small boys were going wild with the joy of the first really warm day of summer and were constantly calling me to, “Oh, Mommy, come and see”.  And smart enough to know that they wouldn’t always want me to ‘Come and See”,  I put aside my dust cloth, broom and cookpot and together the three of us roamed the fields and pasture. A fields not fenced off and the cow-pasture that is now the Mick Riley Golf Course.

I can re-live that day right now.  They showed me certain ‘special’ rocks they found, we peered into  bird nests, watched bees drone in the sun, found tiny hidden flowers and ate our lunch on the warm slope of the hill.

Ah, the chores I left unfinished that day are long ago forgotten and  whatever I fixed for that night’s dinner matters not,  but how the three of us spent that day has become one of my most precious memories. A ‘wasted’ day?  Don’t tell that to any parent who has taken the time to walk, listen and watch while their children still want them ‘to come and see what I’m doing’.

I remember another ‘wasted’ summer day long before that, when my own mother scolded me because she had looked for me and worried when I couldn’t be found.  I was far too young and unknowing to even try to explain, but just the same, I can still see where and how I spent that time. And no matter how many office buildings have been built in  that spot, I still have my memory.

Yes, I can still see the Cherry tree at the head of two rows of Currant Bushes.  The grass grew high (Well, it was high for a four or five year old) between the bushes, and I played the hours away in their seclusion.  The Cherry tree had a pungent odor I still would know, and my cheeks pucker even as I write these words and recall the sweet-tart taste of the ripe currants I stuffed into my mouth.

But how could a child tell her upset mother she was just taking her first real look at God’s world and finding it good?  The truth is, the child didn’t know what she was doing.  Just aware that the day had been satisfying beyond anything she had before known.

I also remember when, as a young bride, I ‘wasted’ a few minutes, made extra work for myself, but found unforgettable beauty.

I had hurried out to bring in the my laundry from the clothes line, as a rain storm was near.  With the frantically gathered linen in my arms I turned to hurry back into the house, when I noticed black billows of clouds tumbling and pouring down the ravines of Mt. Olympus, looking like big billows of black whipped cream being poured from some height, and I stopped in my tracks, dead still, and watched.

The wind whipped my hair and clothes and big rain drops came and wet me and the sheets and towels in my arms, but the violent beauty  of the eastern mountain became etched on my mind.  The work of once more drying the linen is forgotten, but the storm’s beauty is still mine.  ‘Wasted’ time?  You know better.

Oh, it’s easy to scold the young lad who has stopped in the middle of lawn cutting to stand and dream, with the warm sun on his back, and the cool lawn at his feet. But who knows?  He just might be seeing the world in a new way,  and that moment of seeming idleness, a moment he’ll treasure years from now when his whole world has changed, and he’d like nothing more than just to be that  boy again with nothing to do but mow the lawn.  And have dreams.

‘Wasted’ moments????  Ah, these aren’t the wasted ones.  I’ve forgotten forever the many tasks of  cleaning rooms and preparing thousands of meals, but the ‘wasted’ hours I spent amid Mama’s Currant bushes and the day with two little boys at play in the pasture that is also gone forever, will be with me to the end of my days.