Those of you who know me know my life tends to run in obsessions. In years past, for instance, it was gourds. As my daughter Christine says in the Father’s Day video our Summer Interns made for church (great job, guys!), “My dad really loves gourds”.
But this year, I didn’t plant a single gourd. In fact, summoning every ounce of willpower I have, I actually pulled all the gourd plants sprouting on their own. Well, most of them…
So what’s in their place? Dahlias. You guessed that already, didn’t you?
One of the things I like about dahlias is that they are so varied. They vary in size, from plants that are barely a foot tall to plants over seven feet. Flowers can be less than an inch in diameter or more than a foot wide. They vary in color, coming in almost every color imaginable. And they vary in form. The first one, for instance, is called an “urchin”. The second, a “single”. There are also orchids, anemone, collaretts, formal and informal decorative, cactus, water lily, peonies, pompons, ball dahlias, and so on.
I am by no means an expert, which is I think the fun of it all. Lots of opportunity to learn, to try new things, to create beauty as one paints a garden on their flower palette.
Sigh. I could almost love this picture. First, I love the daylily itself. Look at that color! Second, I love the effect of the rain drops on it. But then there it is. In the lower right hand corner you can clearly see it--my boot. Of course good pictures are the sum of hundreds of little things; the carelessness of including one's boot in the shot is not one of them.
Of all the new flowers we're growing this year, I think this is the one I've most been looking forward to seeing. A dahlia, it's called "Bumble Rumble". This is its first bloom, a little worse for wear since I didnt get a chance to take a picture of it until it was a few days old. But the bumble bees still like it (seems to be named appropriately enough!), and so do I.
When our children were young, we lived in Florida. With the beach never more than a few minutes away, there was much to like about our life there. But with Linda coming from California and my having grown up in Pittsburgh, we both missed cool mountain air. So when it came time for our family vacation, every year we’d head up to the Pocono Mountains of northeastern PA.
I am not sure how we found it, be we stayed in a little cabin by a lake. There was a dock just a few feet away from the front door—and, of course, a boat. A rowboat, actually, which was fine because the lack of motors on the lake added to its rustic charm. The fishing wasn’t great as fishing goes, but it was great for a family.
We’d swim, diving down into the “frozen lime”, the deep green water that stayed cold because the sun didn’t penetrate. We’d feed a pair of swans, read in wooden chairs by the water, eat s'mores, and take hikes. We developed a unique version of hide and go seek in the tall grass of an unmowed filed, and to this day it still makes me laugh to think about it.
Then we moved to Virginia, to the Piedmont region comprised largely by the foothills of the Blue Ridge. The price of the cabins had continued to rise, and now our home was nestled in an area not unlike the one in which we had vacationed. We quit going.
But every year someone would say, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go back?” Well, this year, today, we are.
It’s been well over ten years. Will it be like we remembered? I’ll let you know when we get back…
The grass in our yard is slowly being replaced by clover. There are actually many benefits to this; clover provides a "green carpet" that requires far less water than grass; it grows dense enough to be free of weeds, so you don't have to use herbicides; it doesn't have pest problems, so you don't have to use pesticides; and it doesn't need to be fertilized with the run-off poluting local ecosystems.
Propopent of clover lawns also point out that it is soft to walk on. That is true, to a point-- a point much like the one above. Recongize it?
That, my friends, is a stinger. It came from walking barefoot on soft clover, just like I did when I was a kid. And just like they did when I was a kid, the bees clover attracts still don' take kindly to people walking on them.
Here in Virginia, at least, it’s hot. VERY hot. What to do?
A lot of folks will go to the pool. But that’s the problem; when everyone goes to the pool, the water ends up being just about as warm as the air. Not the refreshingly cool dip we dream of. And, of course, not everyone has a pool to go to in the first place.
There is a solution.
It’s one the animals know: bury yourself. After a little, uh, digging around on the internet, it appears the ground temperature in our area is about 72 degrees. That's more than the 30 degrees cooler than the air, and probably considerably cooler than the local pool.
Of course, that is measured at the depth of a foot, so it will take some digging. But on the plus side it’s a cheap and readily available solution. Run just a little water and make mud, and I bet it gets cooler still.
So there you go. A simple way to be outside and enjoy the longest day of the year and still keep your cool.
On Father's Day, I reread a gift my dad gave me several years ago: "The History of Carl Merola". At 13 pages it is not long, but it is interesting. I appreciate the insight it gives into the particular life of my dad, but also for the insight it gives into life in general in America in the mid 1900s. That was not that long ago, but it sure was different.
Take, for instance, this description of his interaction with his father.
I remember one Christmas when I got a toy alligator, which I believe was a mechanical wind up toy. It moved and the jaws opened and shut when it was wound up. I remember my dad getting down on the floor with me and scaring me with it. I think that I must have been about four years old. It is the only time I can remember my father ever playing with me. That is not a complaint. He was older (54) when I was born and he worked very hard for many years. If anything, I wish that I could have had the good sense to be more thankful for what he and my mother did for me.
Based on what I have heard from many men of that generation, this description is typical of family of life at that time. It is why so many of those men said to my generation, "Don't make the same mistake I made. Spend time with your kids. I don't even remember when my children began to walk." And it's why my generation said to the next generation, "On their deathbed, nobody every said, 'I wish I spent more time in the office.'"
For once, I believe the generations listened. My dad did many things with me, like fishing, playing catch, and hiking. I am grateful. And when I watch dads today, they are even more present in their children's lives. Grey, our new Youth Minister, is already teaching his daughter to play catch, and she is not even a year old. I think my dad waited until I was at least seven or eight.
So times do change. And sometimes, at least-- they get better.