A building that survived the U. S. atomic bomb and was left exactly as it appeared after the blast. It is surrounded now by a Peace Park that is visited by many people from around the world.
On the last day
FRIENDS, that’s what was said by a certain little girl as she sat over her supper one night. I happen to have known this little girl very well, and I can tell you her story.
She is grown up now, so please read on, but back in the late sixties, she lived, not in Pleasant Ridge, as she does today, but with her family in Paddock Hills.
And I’ll tell you this — she was a finicky eater! She did not like vegetables; there was not much use to put them on her plate. She did not want to be healthy.
OKAY, I was this little girl’s mom, and I have to acknowledge that the mom and the dad in this house did not watch their language as they should have done. Now at that time there were bad actors in the country, just as there are today, and our language about these no-good-niks could get out of hand.
I remember a time when I was picking up this little girl up from her play-school at UC. She was sitting in her car-seat in the back seat when her teacher came to her window to say good-bye. And what did she say, this little tot, to her teacher? “Bye-e sweet ass.” Did I the gun the engine of my car, rather quickly, and drive away? I suppose I did.
NOW SHE DID manage to grow up, this little girl, veggies or not. She got married and had a child — a very special child. Here is a sweet and funny picture of Paige and her daughter Ellen. Ellen has a sort of dumb look on her face, don’t you think? And that’s funny because she grew up to be a terribly smart person.
I expect you know, reader, that unions in the U. S. are under a lot of pressure these days — by the Big Money guys who run the country. Big Money wants its way with every doggone thing we do. They don’t want to be told by their own workers what pay they ought to get, what healthcare, what pensions — for those who do manage to stick it out. In Ohio the vicious Republican legislature hopes to pass a Right to Work bill that would allow workers to stay out of their union if they want to.
BUT UFCW has a lot of fight-back in them, and they are one of the most important such outfits in the country.
It was reported a few weeks ago that a number of deaths from Covid19 have struck UFCW workers in meat-packing plants. So awful that is. Guys that have to work, safe or not, and take their chances with Covid19. I’m a retired college teacher, and I can stay safe, but they can’t!
IN ANY CASE, this daughter of mine, Paige Stephens, is on the front lines herself, just like her workers in the grocery stores and pharmacies. She has worn a mask for some months now, and tried to keep her distance from customers without them. As for me, she wants me to stay in quarantine in my home and visits me only in the yard and with her mask on. Paige is one of the political arms of the union and seems to know all the various movers and shakers in the city environs. She’s on various boards that want to have a “labor” person around — and sometimes even pay attention to that person.
IN JUNE Paige had a week’s vacation from her union, and lo and behold she and Ellen and I rode out to Sharon Woods for a hike. One of my few days out of the house, but it was beautiful on that cool spring-like day! We had our masks on in the car and on the hike, and the few other hikers did, too, and we felt safe walking a handsome trail lined by banks of amazing greenery and huge trees of many billowing and beautiful kinds. Ellen is an environmental major at OSU, and even she didn’t know all their names.
Well, that was fun, and I don’t get to have much fun these days. I’m stuck at home, like many others, but I have virtual work to do for racial justice and an end to the rule of Big Money! I have my grandchild Ellen, who’s a dear good girl and comes over with my groceries and her mask on. I have my yards to care for and good neighbors, a special friend named Chuck, and various writing jobs. So there — you nasty virus! Just get yourself off this planet! We got enough trouble here without you!
FRIENDS, in our time of troubles and quarantines, I can’t go out and make mischief for the powers that be, so I just stay home with my friend George, who happens to be a feline friend.
See us here in our living-room in Paddock Hills.
Now George is an indoor-outdoor person, just as I am. During the day, I work in my yard, and George keeps guard over the house from his back porch, a screened-in affair he’s very fond of. He has his own chair out there! Can you find him in the photo below?
RITA HAYWORTH had danced with her father in shows around the country and soon found herself in the movies. Though she loved to dance, she never wanted to become a film idol — or “the most beautiful woman in show biz,” as she became known. She craved to stay home with a sweet, ever-loving husband, but such an animal is hard to find, after all! Miss Hayworth had a series of husbands, including Orson Welles, but none of them wanted to stay home with her, even though she was the most beautiful etc. etc. Hayworth gave birth to two daughters, and then not too many years later, she died — of Ahlziemier’s, and one of her daughters led a U. S. campaign to support other sufferers from this dread disease!
Well, George has his story. (We all have our stories, after all.) He was adopted by my daughter Paige from a friend’s litter, but she quickly realized she was allergic to him, and in his infantile years, he hardly ever got to come inside. When she and my granddaughter Ellen moved back to Cincinnati from Las Cruces, New Mexico, guess who took this kitty in?
George has stayed the course with me. He’s been my best friend for some years now. His doctor says he has a heart murmur now, but not to worry. He may be okay for quite some time, it seems. I once wrote, btw, on this blog about George and our beautiful friend Lucy Dog. Lucy, too, had needed, during her late years, a refuge, and she found it with George and me! We loved her to death. (Please see on this blog A Tree, a Dog, and Death So Near.)
A Cat Refuge
NOW LOOK, I GOTTA SAY that in my later years, my house has been nothing but a Cat Refuge. Animals are dropped off on me by my children. My daughter Shelley gifted me once with a puny little dark-striped cat named Mayo that I became quite fond of. She had found baby Mayo cold and trembling under a car one night on a certain street, and took him home with her! She soon moved into a condo, though, and Mayo did not fit in. So yeah — I took him in on Bristol Lane. Years later, the poor thing died in my back yard of what the vet had told me was feline HIV!
My son gifted me once with a yellow tabby that didn’t like me much and immediately ran away. A year later, I saw him sunning himself comfortably in a yard on a street in the neighborhood. A neighbor woman had thought he was a stray and taken him in! (The nerve of her — and him!)
ANOTHER CAT I will always remember was Wildcat! Before we got a screen in our kitchen window, my husband and I would find in the mornings that some animal had gotten in and taken bites out of the leavings on the counter. What kind of animal likes a piece of leftover toast? we asked ourselves..
Wildcat then turned up now and then on the back porch, very hungry, but he was terribly afraid of us humanoids. I began to put before him a dish of food, and gradually he let me come close to him. Finally I reached out one day and stroked his head very gently. From then on he was mine! Wildcat came to love me very much. But after a few years he got sick. I took him to the vet, and the vet said No hope! Kidney failure, he said. Possibly something he ate, I was told, and frankly, I think he was poisoned by someone who didn’t want him around their property. (I cannot forgive that!)
SO MY FRIENDS, be cool, be safe, be good to yourself and your animals (if you have any), and stay in touch! Leave me a Comment, perhaps? Or a photo of an animal person you’re acquainted with? You need not identify yourself — just be Anonymous, if that suits you!
See Comments below this link.
Here’s that beautiful link for Fred and Rita! Choose Sway with me on far left.
“Martha! We’re dying!” cried the peppers today.
“Are we Martha?” said the tomatoes in one chorus, hoarsely. “Tell us please!”
“My darlings . . . yes-s,” I began. I could hardly speak, but I had given life to these friends and knew I must stay the course with them.
“Yes, my pretty ones, I cannot but say that tonight the cold will come, and in the morning you will not wake.”
Sad murmurs along the rows. I steeled myself to go on. I felt they wanted to know everything.
“Tonight, my darlings, your limbs will begin to droop rather badly, you’ll wither and go limp, and as the days pass — you’ll become stiff and brown. You’ll be nothing but the withers. No blood, no sap will run in your stems. No voice will you have. No mind to think about your fate. And that is death. That is what we call death, my darlings, my little loves. When I come to your beds again, you will not know that I am here. If I speak, you will not hear . . . .
Silence there was for a long time. They were trying to understand the world.
When they spoke again, their tones were as thin as locust wings. “You, Martha — you will not die tonight?”
“No-o, I do not think I will die tonight, my darlings . . . my pretties that I love. When the cold comes this evening, I will go in my house and shut the door, and the cold will be outside and I will be inside. But you — your feet are in the earth, they cannot move you to warmth and safety.”
Somehow I went on — I don’t know how. “Look at me, my pretty ones! See me — my eighty years upon me? Fix on my face your poor dear eyes. Can you see this face, half-withered even now, as I stand before you? I will tell you today a great truth. On this October day in the year 2016 of the earth, and in the name of the nature that enfolds us all — I will tell you that all creatures go down, as you will tonight, and we big ones go down. We do not know why. Why . . .? we ask ourselves sometimes. But who is there to ask this question of? There is no one — no one.
“So we are waiting all the time for the withers to come and take us and seize all we have. Our voices. Our limbs. Our minds. The sap in our roots and stems. Our memories . . . everything!”
Weak expressions of sorrow trickled out along the rows.
“Martha, dear Martha,” they said. “It is a sad thing to know and yet it is best, we think, don’t you — to know things? And it is as if we must — we must know them . . . even very very sad things.”
“Yes-s my darlings. Somehow we feel we must, we must know things — though we don’t know why . . . .”
The peppers spoke again. “Do you see Basil, Martha? How thin, how sere she is? She was never strong. Last night we believed she still lived — then this morning she was quite gone. Dear Basil is gone!”
“Yes,” said another. “Dear Basil, with her beautiful scent, is no more.”
On this late fall day, the butterbeans had long since lapsed into the weedy growth of their mounds. In the ferocious summer heat, the cucumbers had hardly lived at all, for the beetles had come; and the summer spinach had been still-born.
“But look at Radish!” said the friends. “He is as strong today as the day he was born!”
Only one radish remained from the early spring patch, and Radish was a splendid specimen indeed — a hero of survival, grown as bushy and tall as a pepper almost. When I had observed his peculiar strength, I had not pulled him for his root, his leaves, but left him to shade the Romas, and they had wound themselves about his arms and legs and the peppers nearby, and ripened snugly underneath.
Radish seldom spoke. He was a Daikon after all!
“We understand he is a sort of princeling, Martha, and does not speak to such as us. And that his great root is as thick and long as the roots of human men that grow between their legs!”
“When tonight we depart this earth, where will Radish be?”
“Radish, my dears, will stay on a while in all his bushy glory. The early cold will not take him, you see, but in time the snows will come, the ice and greater cold will come, and Radish will be pulled!”
The friends spoke once more, and I strained to hear, for their tones were fading into the frosty air.
“Take of us, Martha! Take our last fruits home with you today! And by them . . . remember us . . . and our little lives . . . rounded by a sleep. Dear Mar-tha, remember . . . remember us . . . for we can say no mo-o-r-e . . . .” ##
A building that survived the U. S. atomic bomb and was left exactly as it appeared after the blast. It is surrounded now by a Peace Park that is visited by many people from around the world.
Friends, I live in a cruel country, and I should write about truth and justice every day, and all the time, and yet I don’t. May the holy spirits forgive me, but today I want to show you my little garden on Bristol Lane — with photos by Ellen Kieser, my granddaughter.
Yes, I call myself a gardener, did you hear? But I don’t have a greenhouse. My seeds in the ground are just out there in all weathers!
No toolshed either. My hoes and rakes, my seed packets, my gloves, my bags of potting mix, my bone meal — are all collected, notoriously, just inside my front door, or at the bottom of my front steps, or on my small back porch.
Plus — I’m old. (Did you know?) As I step around my new tomato plot on the one sunny corner of my front yard, I’m prone to missteps. I have to catch myself at times and hang onto a limb of my spruce bush — and warn myself to take it easy.
Yet I do garden, and I sometimes feel it’s brave of me! But I love to be out there. Love to dig and water, nourish and protect my little friends, my plants. Mommy nature is my friend, so I don’t dig up her wildflowers — and most of them get along very well with my food plants.
You see here my spring greens in their own small space near my tomato patch. In the evenings sometimes I like to go out and just look at them. My pretty mustard is from a very old jar of what I call “non-stop mustard seed.” I’ve kept this seed for years in the back of my fridge, and it couldn’t care less how old it gets. (Sort of like me.)
YES, NATURE for me is mostly the nature of my yards these days, front and back; and during this beautiful cool spring, I’ve liked walking around the neighborhood to see the gorgeous sprays of spring blooms on our trees. We have huge, amazing oak trees, taller than two houses end on end.
You see, I don’t hike much any more. I don’t travel a lot. My nature is now the trees and shrubs in my yard, growing fast and tall in our new normal of heavy rain!
Look at my famous huge white hydrangea, for instance. Yeah, that’s my granddaughter Ellen keeping guard over this precious bush. Everybody in the neighborhood loves it.
Nature for me is also the birds I hear and see when I’m out working in my yards. Chickadees and robins, little brown birds, harpy blue jays, even doves come to my back yard to be fed — or to sing to me!
Now you fellows who read my blog on this site, or on Facebook, will feel, I bet, that you don’t care for honeysuckle, that it can’t be disciplined, gets very uppity. But look here — what I see from my kitchen window is my great smart honeysuckle bush. In the spring it fills up my whole window with its gorgeous white and yellow blooms! They last, I find, about a month, and bring nature right into the house, you might say.
MY COLLARDS, by the way, are thriving and enjoying life in the circle around my magnolia tree — also their cousins, the kale plants. Both are survivors par excellence. I have seen them standing up in snow. I have turnips that wintered over from last fall, and their leaves are delicious too! I throw some in my salads with my collard leaves, mustard, and kale.
I grew up in Waycross, Georgia, and my mother wouldn’t have made salads from these greens; for her they were just for cooking! She would cook up a big pot of them with a ham-hock in the pot, and we ate this dish piled up on fresh cornbread! Nothing better than that, my friends, though I doubt if you hominids in Ohio would even taste such a dish!
TODAY, MY FRIENDS, I must write about my two oldest friends, and I will begin with my oldest one, my tree!
I wish I could hug my tree today, but I cannot. I loved my tree — did I ever tell you that? Or let me put it this way — we loved each other.
We had known each other, after all, for forty-six years. Now we’d had some little ups and down, nothing serious. In the shadow of my tree I couldn’t grow any marigolds or petunias, and sometimes I complained, but not often, because I loved my tree’s shadow, too.
We were always aware of each other. Certainly in summer. In summer my great oak tree was always there for me, everywhere in the yard I turned, there was my tree. When I read at my dining room table and raised my head to the big windows, there was my tree.
My tree had been abused once quite seriously — before we knew each other. My tree grew near the street, under the power lines, and the evil power company had sheared off its head. It had literally removed a whole side of my tree’s crown. Yet my tree had not died; it had grown a new head out of its injured crown. The new head had veered off to one side, however, as it grew, so my tree had a vicious gap in the middle of its crown. Yet as I have said, my tree was a loved tree, and it still had a gorgeous canopy, if a slightly interrupted one.
In summer this canopy cooled the whole yard and the front rooms of the house, and in winter we felt my tree stood a lonely guard over house and yard and took on itself the brunt of the ice and snow.
Then my tree died. Not a natural death, my friends — no, no. My tree was murdered — didn’t you hear?
EARLY ONE MORNING in springtime, a certain company arrived at our house. We had hired this company to install a walkway in our backyard; we had not asked it to repair the slightly tilted sidewalk beside our friend, the tree. But the company made a tragic mistake that day. It thought it had come to repair the raised walk.
That morning I woke up to hear jack-hammering out my front window. What is that? I asked myself. A road repair? I got up and went to the window. What!? I cried. I threw on my robe and ran downstairs and out the front door. “Stop!” I cried. “What are you doing? Stop that!”
Too late. The Death Squad had done its heinous work. One huge yellow root of my tree lay exposed among the shards of concrete. Such a round, healthy root! Beautiful!
A neighbor came out to look. She loved my tree’s canopy, too, and she said to the killing squad, “You cover that root back up — just cover it right back up!” So the company called its friend, the Urban Forester. He came at once and professed to examine the great elephant toes of my tree’s trunk. “This tree will have to die,” he said. “See the rot down here?” We did not see any rot, and we knew he was colluding with the paving firm.
“That tree was old,” the company explained to me the next day.
“Yes,” I said, “and I, too, am old — should I be jack-hammered to death one morning . . . ?”
The Story of Lucy-Dog
I’LL BE ON AND ON about death today, my friends, for I have lost not only my tree, but my dear doggie as well. A month after my tree died, my beautiful black lab of seventeen years was taken from me as well. The gods of family life were jealous, I believe, of my relationships.
Lucy-dog died at home. She had been ill for only a week, no longer much interested in our daily walks, though late in the cool of the day, we would still go out for a breath of air. For a few blocks she would sniff along the curb and more or less investigate the territory for me, and then she would be satisfied that things were all right out there, as if to say, as I later imagined it, “Martha, you’ll be fine on this street when I’m gone.”
One night we were visiting with neighbors in our front yards. We didn’t want our dog to be lonely, so we helped her struggle outside. She lay down in the neighbors’ front yard and could not rise. Eventually we were able to help her back to our front door. She lay down in her favorite place on the living room carpet, and that evening I stroked her head and murmured loving words to her.
I went to bed, and when I got up in the morning, Lucy was not breathing. I lifted up her head and stroked her old black nose, just to remember what that was like. I made myself cups of tea, and for hours I simply left her that way, so I could look at her and enjoy her company once more. Then I called the vet, and she told me what to do. My husband had flown off on a trip early that morning, but I wrapped the body of my dog in an old sheet, and the daughter of a neighbor helped me move her to the hatch of our van.
I drove to the pet hospital, where I could leave my girl’s body for cremation. A young assistant came out to the van to help, and when I pulled back the sheet, she said, ”Oh, what a beautiful dog!” My dog had not lost, you see, the trim, artistic shape she had always had.
I felt somehow closer to death that day — to the phenomenon of death — than I ever had before.
IT WAS MY DAUGHTER Paige who had cared for Lucy-dog most of her doggie life. She had gone camping with the family over and over again. My granddaughter Ellen says she would go down by the river and run over the fields, but she never ran off. “All we had to do was call! She loved our camping trips!”
As just a young girl, Lucy had been a stray. She had hung out on a street where Paige lived, and one day she asked the kids whose dog she was. “Nobody’s dog,” they said, but that people fed her at times and made friends with her.
Paige wasn’t looking for a dog, but she she took Lucy in. She looked like a pure black lab, but at the vet’s they said she was part pit-bull! Imagine that. When Paige learned from me of Lucy’s death, Ellen said, she was cleaning out a closet, and she began to cry. When she had moved back to Cincinnati a few years ago, she had not found an apartment where she could keep a dog, and Lucy had stayed at my house. I was Lucy’s grandmother.
I AM NOT MOZART, but I wish I could compose a beautiful requiem, a Requiem Aeternam, for these two old friends of mine. May eternal rest be granted them, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon them.
Let us all give to the poor in their holy names. ##