Sunday, February 26, 2012

And the Walls came Tumbling Down

One time, some years ago, Joyce and I were hiking through a Michigan woods not far from our home. It was a fairly dense woods and there were not any significant trails. She looked at me a couple of times and then, rather quietly asked, "Do you have any idea where we are going?" That is not the best question to ask a somewhat self-assured man, and of course my response was, "Of course I do, why do you ask?"  There was no response but a few minutes later she asked, "Do you REALLY know where we are going?" With a little impatience I responded, "Sure - we're headed east toward the river." She shook her head, evidencing some doubt but about five or ten minutes later we broke out of the woods at the shore of the Ausable River. I didn't say I told you so, but I must have had a smug look on face when she asked, "How did you know?" My answer, "I knew which way we were going by the direction of the sun." She looked satisfied but I thought to myself, "Thank goodness the woods wasn't as dense as some out west are, and I'm sure glad I knew the general direction of the river.

Which brings to mind that we often guide our directions by certain objects. In Seattle we might look for the Space Needle. In Paris our point of reference might be the Eiffel Tower. In London it might be the big Ferris wheel. In New York City it might be the Empire State Building. And in Kokomo, Indiana it was a gas tank.

When we would drive to Kokomo we would see the tank from miles away - long before we got to the outskirts of town. It had been built in the 1950's and was huge - almost four-hundred feet high. It served as a point of reference for anyone in the Kokomo area, even long-time residents.

But all things come to an end eventually - football stadiums, apartment houses, skyscrapers, old ships - and 387 foot tall gas tanks. As noted above, the walls of the tank came down by implosion in 2003. Having been gone from Kokomo for over twenty five years I wondered, when I drove into town this past week, where my key point of reference. Then I found it it wasn't there anymore. And I began to lose my sense of direction. I missed the old tank and so did a lot of people in Kokomo.

I guess it's consistent with the old saying, "Eventually, all things come to an end."  Even when it means that walls are coming down.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A new opera:Vigaro...Veegaro....VEE...GA...ROW!

My abject apologies to the great composer of the opera "The Barber of Seville" for my mangling of its reference to Figaro.
I simply could not think of any better way to give some credit where credit is due.

The picture above reflects something that needs recognition.
My wife has a unique gift of raising flowers. The one above is just a sample of her green thumb with plants. This particular specimen has been amazing. It was the runt of the litter for some time. Then, a little while ago, she moved it to a table away from our west-facing living room windows where it seemed logical to flourish in natural sunlight. But no, it seemed to struggle by the window. Now it is under a lamp with a regular lightbulb. We both wonder why it has flourished where it is now. It gets the same treatment as other plants in the same room. Same watering. Same plant food. Same sweet talk from those who enjoy flowers.

That's not to say the other plants aren't doing well - they look great but just not quite as spectacular  as the one above. Could it be the American Flag stuck in the pot with the plant?

Joyce has always had a gift of growing things. She's got a shamrock plant that never seems to give up. It's survived inumerable moves from cold country - to hot country - to cold country - from trailers to houses to condos to apartments. Oh, it's had its moments but somehow even when its existance seems near terminal it surges back better than ever with flocks of pretty flowers. But then, Joyce is of Irish descent so maybe it understands her loving care more than it would mine which likely would be a combination of Scottish and English cockney.

Some people are just naturals with plants. She always has had a knack with them. The only hiccup  in her gardening that I can remember was a veggie garden back in Missouri.
She planted carrots, beets, corn, beans, and more. Especially
Zucchini squash. Lots of Zuchini plants. Enough we could have supplied ample amounts through three or four surrounding counties. When I asked her why she planted so many Zuchini plants she said she thought there was only one squash per plant. I made some inane and inappropriate remark and she looked at me and calmly said, "How was I to know - I grew up in the city."  I mention this only because she has a real gift for growing plants and I have a Midas touch for growing things - hers do well and mine shrivel up and die.

A final note - she uses Miracle Gro - not Vigoro - I found no opera that I could parody in a title. I can just say - whenever she feeds her plants they do well. And whenever she feeds me I do well. What more could a man ask for?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Flip of the Lid

If you go to Switzerland, you're apt to see one of these - a pretty hat with a white feather on it. You may find them in Germany and Austria as well.

This one was purchased at the intersection of three Swiss cog railroads at the base of the Jungfrau - one of the ever-snow and ice-covered mountains in the Alps. I thought it might help me to get motivated enough to yodel. No such luck at that - but it has earned a corner of my closet shelf. However, there remains a problem - a felt hat like this does not moisture. Somewhere in its lifetime it has been rained upon and it shrank. Originally it fit fairly well. When I try to wear it now it sits high on my head and looks a little funny. On second thought, maybe the hat has done well and it has been my head that has grown. Some people end up getting a swollen head over life accomplishments - but I hope that's not the case in my life. Makes me think about the country music song, "It's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way." Sure, and I make chocolate sushi in the summertime.

Anyway, though the hat has shrunk the number of emblems on it has not. Each on of them reflects somewhere we've been. The majority of them reflect places we have been to in Switzerland. Places like Geneva, and Zermatt and Schiedegg (where  the hat was bought, and where I got the first pin.
There are other non-Swiss places represented - places like Heidelberg, Oberammergau, and Berchesgaden in Germany. There are pins from Jamaica, and Alaska, and even West Point.

Some might say, "So what - it's just a bunch of pins" on a hat I can hardly wear anymore. But the collection is more than that - every one of the emblems represented some place we have been. Each of them provides a bright memory of some time in life. Each of the has a back story of life and people we met or traveled with.

So, I keep the under-size hat with all of its pins and emblems on a corner of my computer room closet, not just to gather dust but rather to offer memories of some really good times with good friends in amazing parts of the world. As I sometimes say, along with Bob Hope, 'Thanks for the memories' - and things that bring back good memories from times gone by.