Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gardening Is My Therapy

Gardening Is My Therapy

Spring to me means rebirth and gardening. Today was my first time working in my garden this spring.  The sun was shining and only a light sweatshirt was needed. Despite injuring my right shoulder on Thursday injudiciously hoisting trash, wrist trauma and bilateral knee stiffness, the soil called to me like the sirens pulled Odysseus into their lairs.  It was time to plant lettuce, spinach and red cabbage!

First stop, Lowes, to stock up on some much needed “organic matter” which is affectionately known as poop in our house to enhance the soil depleted by last summer’s tomato crop and four all greens. The smell of mulch filled the air. Few things are more fragrant in spring than piles of mulch. But alas, mulch must wait for future weekends. And there will be numerous loads of mulch to spread. But, I digress.

Our favorite local nursery is across the road from Lowes. So we headed over to Weber’s and filled the truck with romaine, butter lettuce, red leaf, mixed leaf, arugula, spinach, New Zealand spinach, and red cabbage.

Before planting we removed half the soil from the planting boxes, loosened the remaining dirt, mixed in some 10-10-10 fertilizer, our bags of vitamin enriched poop and the soil we’d removed, turned it and raked it.  Then it was time to remove the gloves.

I cannot plant while wearing gloves. I need to feel the soil while lovingly placing my plants into the ground. With the soil loosened and infused it is easy to manipulate with my hands. There is something life affirming and centering for me to work in the soil.  It clears my mind. It is hard work, but after spending a day gardening I feel as if I’ve truly accomplished something valuable. And the reciprocation I receive, with time and patience, is the beauty of the plant as it grows and rewards me with food or beauty or a sumptuous aroma.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pope Francis ~ Leading by Example

Pope Francis ~ Leading by Example

I grew up in the Catholic Church, literally across the street from the church, rectory, convent and elementary school, at a time that did not preach inclusion and tolerance. Part of my difficulty accepting the dogma of the church was my perception of the chasm between the teachings of the church and the teaching of Jesus.

As a six year old I was taught that anyone who wasn’t Catholic was a heathen and damned to the eternal fires of hell. The nuns indoctrinated children with the belief that we were all sinners at risk of committing mortal sins that only a priest could give absolution for these transgressions. Women were created to get married and have babies to perpetuate the faith. We did, however, pray each day for the starving children in Biafra, although, at the time, I had no concept of starvation or Biafra. I only know that Sister Agnita stood at the waste receptacle in the lunchroom and checked our milk cartons to see if we’d tried to discard any unsavory item, so she could force us to eat it anyway and think of the starving children.  No wonder I still have angst!

But I loved the stories of the saints, particularly St. Francis of Assisi, a man who shunned his family wealth to do good for the poor. And the Jesus of the New Testament was a man who welcome all, young & old, rich & poor, man & women, sinner and saint, tax collector & fisherman, lepers, prostitutes, unwed mothers and thieves. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church, however, seemed more focused on amassing wealth, judging the faithful, excluding those who had different beliefs, and circling the wagons to maintain the status quo. The ruling classes of the Church, in my opinion, were hypocrites and had been such for centuries.

As a child of the 60’s and 70’s I was a conformist comparatively. My rebellion was limited to excessive partying in college; but I also drifted away from the Catholic Church in frustration.   The scandals of recent decades disturbed me further.  Pope John Paul gave me hope. To me Pope Benedict was a throw back that seemed to take the church in the wrong direction.

But the actions of Pope Francis since his selection have given me hope that the church can find, at its heart, the reason for its existence – serving the people. The humility and integrity of this man has had a more profoundly positive effect on the image of the Catholic Church in the last week than any action or encyclical or sermon or press release within the last 50 years. The leader of the Catholic Church went to a detention center for juveniles on the remembrance of the Last Supper, and washed and kissed the feet of young men, women, black, white, Muslim, Christian, those who had taken the wrong turn in the road.  He told them not to lose hope. “With hope you can always go on.”.

His humility, kindness, compassion, honesty and passion for helping those who need it most is the most Christ-like example I’ve seen from any cleric in my lifetime.  This is not to say I do not believe there are truly good and honorable priests, nuns and lay people in the American church. There are good people that live the Christian life by example everyday. But Pope Francis has the eyes of the world as the leader of the Church and he has so far, shown that he is exactly what the Catholic Church needs to refocus on its original mission.  He is putting the actions of Christ back into Christianity.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rain & River, Remembering the Flood of 1913, Logansport, Indiana

Rain & River, Remembering the Flood of 1913, Logansport, Indiana

My wonderful parental units sent us a most fabulous gift for Easter, a book published by the Cass County Historical Society of Logansport, Indiana titled” Rain and River, Remembering The Flood of 1913.  This book was compiled and edited by Thelma Conrad, the curator of the Cass County Historical Museum.

Just 100 years ago this week, the Wabash River flooded my hometown with waters rising to a depth of 15 feet. I remember as a young child visiting my grandparents at their home at 701 Wheatland Avenue and being shown the flood line on the kitchen wall.  One of the photos in this book shows my grandparents’ home surrounded by water.

Apparently this was a thoroughly photographed catastrophic event since there were four professional photography studios in the city. Everybody sought to capture the devastation. Water rose to the level where only boats were able to navigate the streets. Bridges were washed out; houses collapsed; there are photographs of East Market Street that vaguely remind me of Venice (with a little less charm).

I was fascinated to read that within two days of the flooding, as the waters began to subside, Logansport sustained a snowfall. The book reflects recollections by people who were compelled to demolish their remaining furniture for fuel. One of my favorite images is that of a man in overcoat and hat perched atop a cannon in the courthouse park.

This slim 87-page book is an amazing testament to not only local history but also a glimpse into early 20th Century America. The stories illustrate that while we, as a people, have changed, as w hole we have remained the same. We are a society that pulls together to help our fellow citizens in their times of need. During the 1913 flood, citizens from Chicago came on the trains to help; cadets at a nearby academy brought their boats to rescue those who were stranded; People pitched in together to survive and rebuild.

For my readers who are from or who have lived in Cass County, Indiana, I highly recommend that you purchase this book.  It is available for $35 at the Cass County Historical Society website.

And, as a shameless supporter of my Dad’s contributions to the CCHS, I heartily recommend his book profiling citizens of Cass County which is also available for purchase on the website:

The Collected Works of Richard B. Copeland
Biographical sketches of Cass County citizens by County historian Richard Copeland. Soft cover. $20.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Avoiding Negative Influences

Avoiding Negative Influences

We all have people in our lives that focus non-stop on the negative, what they are lacking, why life is unfair, and the perceived faults of others. I once had a supervisor at a former job that was so miserable she spent an inordinate amount of her day finding fault with everybody who reported to her, trying to find evidence that our manager was involved in inappropriate relationships with subordinates and passing judgment on others. The environment was toxic. I took another job within the company and ultimately left my employer to escape the negativity. It was draining. At the time I had a counselor who recommended I imagine this person had a brain tumor and couldn’t help it, but at the time I was too fragile to really understand. Miserable people beget misery. Sharing their unhappiness and trying to create unhappiness in others is a way of attempting to feel better about themselves.

Eventually, I came to understand that for me to thrive I needed to divest myself of negative people, to invest in relationships with others who are emotionally grounded and healthy, and to keep my focus on my blessings and feeling gratitude for the wonders of life.  This meant that I needed to sever some long- standing friendships and detach with love from some family members. While in some respects I was saddened by this decision, I knew that it was the best course of action for me to live a life of peace and serenity.  Refusing to become involved in other people's maelstroms of discontent, anger, unhappiness, self hatred, gossip, innuendo, plots, insecurities, dysfunction, relationships, addictions or familial strife, set me free to live a life unfettered by the black holes or magnetic forces that pull others into the vortex of misery. 

That is a gift, progress towards enlightenment, an appreciation for a semblance of sanity, and knowledge that I do not have to take on anybody else’s baggage.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Remembering Denis Reen, He Wanted to See the Elephant

Remembering Denis Reen, He Wanted to See the Elephant

An American hero died Sunday, March 24, 2013. Denis Reen was a Vietnam veteran, one of the models for Frederick Hart’s statue of The Three Soldiers which is which is part of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, an historian, Civil War re-enactor, a musician who played the fife in a Civil War Fife and Drum Corp, a member of the Black Hats / First Maryland team of the North South Skirmish Association, the curator of a personal collection one of the premier collections of Civil War memorabilia in existence, and a shop teacher for the Maryland School for the Deaf.  He was truly a Renaissance man.

This was a man beloved by his friends and respected by all, one who lived life to the fullest. He told his friends that he volunteered for Vietnam and joined the Marines because he’d been reenacting the Civil War and he wanted to see the elephant in the room. In 1969 he spent five months in the belly of the beast before being wounded by a North Vietnamese rocket, requiring two months in a U.S. hospital in Japan before being returned Stateside.

When my husband awakened this morning, he was unaware that his beloved friend had passed. But he was off-kilter in a way he couldn’t explain. When he received the news that this larger than life friend had died, he understood. He’d just known.

This death was not unexpected. Mr. Reen had been diagnosed with a terminal illness in the fall. But in any event, his passing was of tsunami proportions to those who know and love him.  He met the elephant in Vietnam and survived. And now he is a part of our collective memory and history at the center of a national monument commemorating those who unselfishly served in a most unpopular war. Rest in peace. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My First Gun Show

My First Gun Show

It never occurred to me that at some point in my life I would be discussing, much less writing about, my visit to a gun show. Granted, the event I attended was not such any gun show – it was the “Crown Jewel of Collectors’ Shows” presented by the Maryland Arms Collectors Association, the Original Baltimore Antique Arms show held at the Cow Palace at the State Fair grounds in Timonium.  Apparently this show has been presented annually since 1955. 

The fact this event is held is Maryland is even more noteworthy to many than my attendance at such a function.  The state of Maryland, of which I was a one time resident, is often referred to by supporters of the Second Amended as The People’s Republic of Maryland not far behind New York in its attempts to become a nanny state.

But, I digress. I actually enjoyed my first two hours of the show, which had for sale or display an amazing array of antique firearms, swords, accouterments and military uniforms from the Revolutionary, 1812, Indian, Civil and world wars.
Unlike modern weapons, the craftsmen of days gone by created weaponry that qualifies as works of art.  I even bought raffle tickets for a beautifully ornate silver inlaid hand crafted Pennsylvania longrifle. It was a bit too ornate for my husband’s taste, but I appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of the gunsmith. Other Kentucky rifles that stirred my soul are those crafted from curly maple, a lovely wood that would set hearts afire in any piece of furniture.

I enjoyed looking at the ceremonial swords on display, a drop dead gorgeous embroidered 18th Century frock coat, and adorable sets of muff pistols. But for the $5000 price tag, the ivory handled set of muff pistols would have gone home with me! I didn’t even know they existed until last Saturday.

The most striking item at the show was a glass-encased dagger displayed as an 1840 Medici Dagger. Now, this one clearly had not belonged to one of the infamous Medici of Italian Renaissance fame. But it was a thing of beauty – sterling silver with an emerald and pearl encrusted hilt. That was worth the price of admission. I’d love to spray luminal on it to see if it was ever used for its intended purpose…now that was a way to fight a duel!