Traditions. We love them as much as we love ladybugs. It’s one of the reasons we bake Christmas cookies. At any other time of year, they seem out of place — but in December, they fit (and taste) just right.
Right now, traditions are everywhere in my day job, where I am not the Nitty Gritty Dirt Man. I’m a social worker in a suburban high school, and as the school year comes to a close, the traditions are all lined up. Junior Prom. Senior Picnic. Senior Cut Day. Graduation Count Down. Senior Banquet. Senior Prank.
This is not the post I planned for today. I originally wanted to write something funny about one of my favorite holiday films, Christmas In Connecticut, or poke fun at myself for crying over Christmas carols, like Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).”
Today, though, I have a need to write a long post (my apologies) about a very different Christmas in Connecticut, a very different Christmas in America — and the idea that I, and I think most of us, cannot stop crying — with or without Christmas carols. For me, the overwhelming sadness is just below the skin. It doesn’t take much — the news, a moment of silence, an overheard conversation — to unleash a flood of tears.
Before I get into this post, I wanted to send out a special thanks to those of you who took the time to add a caption to the previous post. Your creativity and humor were wonderful treats after I arrived home and logged in to catch up on blog duty. I’m still smiling and LOL-ing!
I’m not a fan of the Western. I have always found the film genre too gritty, too violent, and too filled with underhanded, unsavory characters. I like comedy, drama, melodrama, a soundtrack, and always a happy ending.
But when Joe and I arrived home at 3:00 a.m. after a marathon drive from Fort Lauderdale, we entered the house as if we were a couple of sun-baked cattle rustlers in our own Western. Unshaven. Sweaty. Delirious. Exhausted. Even our mouths were tired as we spoke to on another with jaws that were just shy of clenched. Ironically, our newly repaired covered wagon — I mean the car — was in better shape than we were! Any thoughts or worries about my garden would have to wait until daylight — or at least until I was prepared to see daylight.
The forecasters, however, had other ideas about daylight. It seems that the next few days would be filled with heavy thunderstorms, strong winds, and possible hail. What’s a gardener in search of a happy ending to do?
I’m still in South Florida, waiting for my car to be fixed. The mechanic informs me that the transfer casing needs to be replaced and there is only one brand new part in the entire country and GMC cannot locate it. There is, fortunately, a used part in Orlando that has arrived and just needs to be installed.
My mind is worried about my New York garden and the clean-up that is waiting for me there. Three weeks is an awfully long time to be away, and I’m sure that there is mowing and weeding and staking to be done.
And my heart and prayers are in Colorado. It seems silly, doesn’t it? To be worried about car repairs and gardening when there is so much pain and absolute sadness surrounding the tragedy in Aurora. With each news update, I long for simpler times. Innocent times. Times when evil didn’t walk into a movie theater — or a school or a mall or a military base . . . and the only sounds to be heard came from life.
It’s positively steamy outside. I’m watching the sprinkler water the zinnias on the far side of the pool, and completely drowning out the sound of running water is the non-stop, rapid-fire droning chirps of the Cicadas. Some might consider the sound a nuisance or torture, but I find the chirping can trigger memories and it sparks my imagination.
As a kid, we always incorrectly referred to these buzzers as locusts — but no matter what we called them, no sound reminds me more of the dog days of summer than the Cicada’s song. It’s like a sizzling sound effect, perfectly accentuating the sun’s rays scorching the garden. A never-ending sizzle, that forces me to stand as still as the hot, humid air. As one chorus whines to an end, another starts up, and so on and so on.
I’m still in South Florida and while here, I’m thinking of there — my Long Island garden. Before Joe and I left, the bud of my Stargazer Lily was setting itself up to bloom. I just know that by now, nearly two weeks since we left, I missed Lily’s grand opening — and divas hate that. So in an effort to make amends with Lily, I offer you this repost.
The stars are ageless, aren’t they?
Let me first begin by saying that this is not the post that I had planned — but some plants tend to be divas. My initial idea was to give you a “Bloomin’ Update,” with a series of photos documenting the opening of a lily. My one and only lily that hasn’t been seen in years. To use a film reference, this lily is my very own Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard fame.
This post actually began long ago, well before there was a blog. I had planted three lilies in what I will call the perennial garden. In fact, the perennial garden was really my first attempt at gardening, and I felt the need to fill it with as many flowers as I could order, purchase, find, borrow, root. There was really no rhyme or reason. Regardless, the lilies bloomed beautifully, but their perfume was overpowering. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was smelling my yard or the funeral home that backs against the woods behind my property.
One of my most favorite romantic comedies – ever — is Pillow Talk, starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. There’s great chemistry between the stars, great views of “Mad Men” era New York, great fashions, Doris Day’s great apartment, and the great Thelma Ritter as the housekeeper.
There’s also Rock Hudson as a swinging bachelor luring women into his swinging bachelor pad with the tune: “You are my inspiration [insert name here].” It’s a running gag in the film, as countless young starlets line up for some Hudson lovin’.
I speak of inspiration because recently Charissa of Joy in the Moments awarded me with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award – and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time. You see, I needed some inspiration to get me writing. So, thank you, Charissa, not only for the award but for also inspiring me to write and to examine my own sources of inspiration. And if you aren’t familiar with Charissa’s blog, please pop over to her site and explore a place that not only celebrates writing but also offers the chance to celebrate all that life offers. Hers is an uplifting place.
Willy Wonka — actually Gene Wilder in the better of the two Chocolate Factory movies — sang, “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.” But is it possible to have too much imagination?
That thought occurred to me just the other day when I found myself with my head very close to a pail of moist seed starting mix – inhaling. I’m not sure what came over me. One minute, I was mixing the dry powdery combo with water – and the next, I was breathing. Deeply. Completely absorbed by the clean, fresh, earthy smell.
I admit, when I’m working outside and I’m by myself, I do get lost in my own thoughts and imaginings – and it’s more than daydreaming of what to plant and where to plant it. No, that would be too easy. My imagination, I feel, needs a diagnosis.
Following a recent post in which I compared Mother Nature to Scarlett O’Hara, Janet of Planticru Notes commented on my ability to weave films into a gardening blog. That small sentence was enough of a seed to get me thinking about gardening movies that I enjoy, especially now that Mother Nature has given the northeast a cold shoulder.
Movies, like gardening, have always provided an escape for me. No matter the emotion of the moment, each activity gives me a chance to think and breathe and laugh and cry and absorb. Sometimes I need a Zinnia, sometimes I need a period piece, like Dangerous Liaisons. Certain films, like certain plants, are part of my very being. The garden will always have Dahlias, and moments in life will trigger a scene from What’s Up, Doc, which I will then recite in my head.
At the same time, while each of these passions can be solitary in nature, they can also be quite communal. Put a group of moviegoers in a room and a group of gardeners in another room – and there are endless conversations and accolades and critiques and comparisons. Watching in the dark and growing in the sun — both bring us together.
Here, in no particular order, are some garden-related films. Grab a pillow, a blanket, and a bowl of popcorn — our show is about to begin.
What’s up with Mother Nature? Has she forgotten to look at the calendar? It’s January, and she should be full of bitterness and coldness and frigid wickedness. Instead, it seems Mother Nature is having a bit of hot flash, teasing us with a taste of a spring fling.
That’s why I’m more inclined to envision Mother Nature as Scarlett O’Hara, flitting and flirting her way through the folks at a Twelve Oaks barbecue, while I am one of the admiring suitors gathered around her. My heart beats with every flutter of her eyelashes. My pulse races with each giggle of her southern feminine charm. The temptation is overwhelming. I so badly want to reach out and grab my rake to clean out the flower beds, to let my fingers sift through the soil, to plant seeds and to nurture them to full growth — and I want to do all of this without the protection of work gloves. I am hungry to be in the garden.
Traditions are a huge part of Christmas. To mangle a line from The New York Sun, how dreary would be Christmas if there were no traditions. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. For me, traditions come in many shapes and sizes – from Christmas trees to antique ornaments to home-made cookies. Growing up, holiday baking was a family activity – Mom made the dough, Dad squeezed it out of the cookie press, my sister and I were in charge of the red and green colored sugars. Butter cookies were shaped like trees; cream cheese cookies, my favorite, were shaped like wreaths.
With age and lack of time, many traditions either fall by the wayside or become chores that compete with day-to-day life. It seems with each passing year, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the spirit of the season.
And it’s when I feel myself slipping into that frame of mind that I return to two of my personal favorite traditions. Continue reading