Ten years ago, I added Toni Morrison’s words to my photo of bleeding heart vine. The words captured my emotions in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. The flower? Well, all of our hearts were bleeding.
I used to love the news. Over the past several years, though, I’ve found that it brings me more stress and anxiety than information. As a result, I’ve done my best to avoid it. Every so often, though, a news story breaks through my wall — and one such item was the recent school shooting in Oxford, MI, which — according to CBS News — was the 28th school shooting of 2021. (There were 10 in 2020. Thank you, COVID.)
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.
Snow has melted, fallen, and melted again — but winter’s debris is still there. I don’t mean the fallen leaves and broken twigs that litter the beds and lawn. I’m referring to actual litter.
Due to a combination of winter winds and my home’s location at the head of a T-shaped intersection, my yard is the final resting place for not only the leaves from the intersecting street, but also for my neighbors’ garbage. Whether it’s been set free from cans on garbage pick-up days or dropped on the street by passers-by, trash loves my yard.
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.
Thanksgiving is around the corner, and that can only mean one thing. My PHSD is about to kick in.
Post-Holiday Stress Disorder, or PHSD, is the only way I can describe what happens to me once turkey day is done — and in less than a week, it’s about to come on full force.
Just the other night, while Joe and I were shopping in a local home improvement box store, I heard tinny, computerized notes weaving their way through the store’s general noise. The song sounded familiar, and as soon as I realized it was a Christmas carol, my head ached, my stomach knotted, and my chest tightened. Goodbye November and December, and hello PHSD.
Hi, August. It’s me.
Listen, I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. I’m just going to dive in and let you know . . .
It’s over between us. I know I waited until the end of your days to tell you this, but I was really hoping you and I could have worked things out – maybe come to some sort of agreement on the nature of our relationship. That seems to be out of the question now.
Each year, I hope to look forward to your arrival, but you are very skilled at trying my patience – and as quickly as my expectations rise, you find every opportunity to walk all over them.
Take my impatiens. Please. When I first saw that they weren’t thriving, that their stems were barren of leaves, I blamed myself (not enough water). Then I blamed the slugs (they had to be munching all night). And then I learned about the fungus. Maybe you didn’t create the fungus, but your heat, humidity, and rain games certainly didn’t help.
An Open Letter To All Home & Garden Centers
Dear Home & Garden Centers:
I have come to the conclusion that you are deliberately misleading the plant-buying public for your own profit by selling plants while not fully disclosing the plant’s specific needs and growing conditions.
I first became suspicious of your tactic years ago, when I purchased a beautiful climbing vine that was covered with deep pink trumpet flowers. The plastic tag said Mandevilla, and when I asked the salesperson if this can grow on Long Island, he said yes. Although I was suspicious, it wasn’t a complete lie. This tropical beauty did grow on Long Island — until the first frost. Then, it was kaput.
Imagine my surprise this year, when I saw countless Zone 6 and 7 shoppers picking up pots of Croton, pictured above. I had only seen the plant in South Florida — because it is native to the tropics. Actually, it’s one of my favorite plants in South Florida — the leaves come in a variety of shapes, from flat to crinkly, wide to elongated, and the colors are brilliant hues of greens and reds and golds. With autumnal colors like that, it’s no wonder that so many northern gardeners stocked up on the plant, punching up their fall flower displays.
What saddens me in all this is the amount of money that homeowners shelled out for a plant that really would only last until the first frost — which, in this area, could happen a day or a week after purchase. There’s no guarantee when frost will arrive, just know that it will — and when it does, your tropical treat will be a droopy disaster.
Equally frustrating is the amount of money the garden centers pull in by selling tropical plants at the end of the growing season. I really cannot blame the gardening public. For starters, they may not have any knowledge of the plant. It’s the garden centers, though, which not only count on the consumers’ impulses but also have their expert salesperson guide the novice gardener into making the purchase.
That’s a lot of brown matter, as well as green matter — financial and organic. It’s also a waste. And it’s irresponsible. And it teeters awfully close to being a scam. But, hey, that’s business. Right?
From now on, I will speak up when I see a shopper wasting his or her money on a plant that has no chance of surviving because of the climate. The buyer and the gardener should certainly be aware, but so should the home and garden center — we gardeners know your game and we know how to plant seeds.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Man
I’m not sure of the accuracy of this depiction of the first Thanksgiving, but it is the inspiration for this Not-So-Wordless Wednesday post. While there may be a lot happening in the image, I’m not sure if it fully captures all that occurred during that first Thanksgiving. Many of those lessons seem to have been lost over the centuries, crowded out by thoughts of food shopping and preparation, football, and Black Friday, which, in my opinion, is one of most vile displays of human behavior — so much so that my Mayflower ancestor, William Brewster, would cringe.
Apparently, we could all use a bit of that first Thanksgiving.