Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bounty and Respite

The gardens continue to give and give and give.

 I am so grateful for this bounteous year.

Even the fruit trees have produced big crops, more than we can process. The deer and other wildings feast on dropped fruit every night.

Today I am freezing corn; tomorrow, we will start on applesauce. The jars and the cellar are filling fast. I've even dumped my old dried herbs and replaced with freshly dried ones.

Onions have been dried, others stored whole. The potatoes need to be dug and the beets await.

I can see the season slowly shifting; the trees seem to be giving a sigh as they release a few leaves; there is a distinct golden tinge to much of the roadside vegetation that isn't goldenrod or the other yellow wildflowers mingling with the blue chicory and other late summer wildflowers.

Afternoons are still hot, but mornings, evenings and nights cool enough that no air conditioning is needed. I do not like July; it seems like a month to simply endure. But August offers occasional respite and we can see the coming of cooler days. August has become one of my favorite months.

It is good to focus on such homey things as gardens, putting up food and weather in the wake of the weekends horrors and turbulence. We need a touchstone these days, a place to return to, to remember that all is not turmoil and anger and hate, and that there is still much good in this world.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Porch Conversation

Larry and I were talking on the porch the other morning as we drank our coffee. These morning conversations take circuitous routes, starting with the hummingbirds, moving on to the dogs and the cats to what is wrong with the riding mower to what canning needs to be done. This particular morning the conversation included some political talk too, as we discussed how the President's pastor seemed to be advocating for a nuclear attack on Korea, and how religion has in some cases been so twisted and so far from what it should be--or what it should be in our view anyway.

This led to talking about praying. For those of you on Facebook, you know how many prayer requests come on any given day. Some for terrible, serious events in our friends' lives, others for what seem to be pretty trivial reasons, still others so vague that no one really knows what they've been asked to pray for.

I remember as a child we said the rosary in our very Catholic home almost every night for years. The custom pretty much ended when Mom began working evenings. I guess Dad didn't have the heart to continue it without her, although he did try. By then my older brothers were working and seldom came home after school, often rolling in late at night; the times were changing and everyone seemed to be on the go. I moved out when I was seventeen, and I do not know if the rosary was continued after that for the rest of the family or not. But when my parents were elderly they joined several prayer warrior groups, and prayed a lot, both morning and evening, for long lists of people. They also said the rosary every night as part of their prayer rituals.

After Mom's death, I would call my father every evening and say the rosary over the phone with him. I had long ceased going to church and the words were rusty and strange at first, but as the months passed I got better at it, even remembering the various mysteries. Those were tranquil times; Dad and I would talk a long time both before and after the rosary and I got to know my father better than I ever had. We were complete political opposites but that didn't matter. I did not argue with him about his views, because what would be the point? He was 83 years old and not likely to change; arguing would have only upset him and that was the last thing I wanted to do, as he was dealing bravely with the grief of losing his love of 61 years. The last time I talked to him, the evening before he died, we'd said the rosary, and as one of my intentions, he asked me to pray for him, something he'd never asked for before. I should have realized that he know he was close to death. I treasure the memory of those evening phone calls.

As Larry and I talked that morning, our conversation moved on to those calls with my Dad, and how being religious or spiritual doesn't necessarily mean going to a church, it can happen anywhere. Then Larry said, "I remember one neighbor, well he and another man would go out in the middle of the road and pray."

"What?" I asked. "In the middle of the road? Literally in the middle of the road?"

"Yes, they'd kneel right down in the road and pray sometimes. I don't know why, but I remember seeing them do it. No one seemed to think a thing about it."

Vincent Van Gogh, Man Praying, 1883.
I try to envision these two men, both coalminers, probably wearing bib overalls, on their knees in the road praying out loud, and the neighbors just passing by with a nod, and maybe a word or two. Why would they pray like that? What were they praying for?

One of the men, Larry said, had a large family, 11 or 12 children. They lived in a house with a dirt floor, although in earlier years they'd had a big house with lots of windows. He didn't know what had happened that made them move to the small, dirt-floored house. Maybe an injury in the mines; the man couldn't work, so he wouldn't get paid and there was no disability or worker's comp pay back then. Maybe the mines had shut down for a while, putting the man out of work. So many things could happen in the days before the social safety net was in place. Larry said the man's wife had the biggest, widest feet he'd ever seen, and that her feet were so tough she could have walked on hot coals and not felt the burn.

Another thing he remembered--the man was hard on his family, and drank a bit. His wife left him a few times but she had to come back because she had no skills beyond housework and cooking and couldn't survive on her own. And then there was all those children who needed her. Despite her husband's temper, she would return. Maybe this was why his friend took him out to the middle of the road to pray?

I will never know the answer to that question, but this story, like so many of Larry's memories, tells certainly recalls a time and place, where life was hard, the people harder, and where the power of prayer was probably called upon regularly to help them get through troubled times.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Exploding Cows, Disappearing Dirt and the "Walking Dead"

One story often leads to another, and today was no exception.

We had a great day today, after a marathon day yesterday of putting up peaches and getting our half of a hog into the freezer. Today, we decided, we were going to play. And our idea of play is to go junking and find more inventory for our booths.

We went to a flea market in the nearby town of Ravenswood, moved on to several yard sales in town, and while we were there we added a few things to our booths t Th Riverbend Antique Mall. Then we went on downriver to Point Pleasant and stopped at a yard sale on the way.

This yard sale was in the coolest little cabin. I wish I'd thought to take photos. A lady and her grandson were running the sale, and a nicer, more polite boy you could not wish to meet. The cabin was built entirely by the grandmother, right down to the porch and the shelves inside, and it was filled with collectibles. The grandson and I got to talking, and he said how he wished things could go back to the way it was, before cars and electricity and "all of those things" came along. He was quite a worker, helping his grandfather get in firewood, and gardening and canning with his grandmother.

We stayed a while, just talking on the pleasant porch that looked out over fields leading to the river. The lady was talking about how gullible some people could be, and told us this story:

from The Graphics Fairy website
"We had a calf that died, and my husband had to bury it. His sister came over later that day, and saw the newly dug ground and asked about it, so he told her about the calf. He said it had died way back on top of the hill, and she said, 'Oh my! How did you ever get it down here to bury it?'

'Well,' he said, 'it wasn't too hard. I just stood it up, and it would flop over on the downhill side. Then I'd stand it up again, and it would flop over, and I just kept doing that all the way down the hill.'

She was amazed,and told him how smart he was to figure that out!"

Her story reminded me of something that happened not too far from my house, about thirty years ago:

A neighbor had a cow that died one winter. The ground was frozen and he didn't want to try digging such a big hole in frozen earth, so he came up with the idea of using dynamite to blow the cow up. No need to bury it if it was pulverized, right? He put the dynamite under the cow and ran his fuse wires as far as he could. Now, he'd used a lot of dynamite, but he didn't have much fuse so the line was pretty short. He lit the fuse, and the dynamite blew that cow to pieces. Literally, there were bones hanging in the trees for several years afterwards.

The fuse being so short created another problem though--this man and his wife couldn't run away fast enough and so both of them were plastered with the smelly, exploding cow. I won't even repeat what the wife said to her man at that moment.

And that story reminds me of another, that also happened within a few miles of my house. Again, it was winter, and a cow died on a neighbor's farm. Rather than dig the hole, he figured he'd just bury some dynamite and blow a hole in the ground big enough to bury the cow. He got some dynamite--a lot of it--dug a hole, and buried it. His brother was watching the whole business, and he said that when the dynamite went off, dirt flew w-a-a-a-a-y up in the air and scattered for several hundred feet around the blast site. It worked--there was a huge hole, far bigger than needed for burying the poor cow. But the blast had blown the dirt over such a wide area that there was nothing left to cover the cow. And because the hole was so big, the guy had even more digging to than if he'd just buried the cow the right way in the first place.

All true stories, my friends, all true.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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