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.
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.
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.
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.
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