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4/28/2012 12:12:30 PM

It’s April 28th in the Northeast.  It should be warm enough outside to begin planting a small veggie garden but my computer screen tells me it’s only 42 degrees and the sound of my furnace kicking on and off reminds me of how chilly it is. 

I’m not a great gardener.  When I bought my house 24 years ago it had wonderful patches of perennial flower gardens and I have tended to them; separated and moved plants when necessary.  They are still thriving.  It always seemed I was too busy to tend to a veggie garden.  When I was “semi-retired” I spent most of my time during the warm weather up north at my camper so anything I planted at home either died of thirst or morphed into an overgrown, unrecognizable version of its original self.

I love garden books.  I love reading about garden design and planting and looking at pictures of successful gardens.  One of my personal goals is to visit Monet’s garden at his homestead in Giverny, France, before I become a flower myself.  I read a wonderful book about Monet’s garden written by a woman who was hired to restore the garden to Monet’s original design.  He laid out the garden like his paint pallet, and when it’s in full bloom the colored flower beds flow from one shade to another to another.

One year I was feeling particularly industrious and planted what was a very large veggie garden in my back yard, at least it was large for me.   Before I tilled the soil and planted the garden, I made Saturday morning trips to the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School and organic farm in Ghent, NY, where I attended gardening classes.  The school and farm are a good hour and a half car ride from home but I was charmed by their back-to-nature philosophy.

My son was in third grade at the time and I considered sending him to a Waldorf School in Saratoga Springs.  Waldorf teaching philosophy is built upon respect for nature.  For example, the teachers take the kids outside and look for twigs that are in the image of letters of the alphabet, one of the classrooms at the Hawthorne Valley School was built around a living tree that sprouted from below the floor and its branches stretched to the ceiling.  Ultimately, I decided not to send my son to the Hawthorne School because they expected their students to never look at TV or play computer games, etc., and even though he was only in third grade, my son had grown up with those things.  It seemed to me that trying to wean him from the technological world at that point might leave such a bad taste in his mouth that it would defeat the purpose of a Waldorf education.

Back to the garden … I loved the classes at the Ghent farm.  We visited a local who tilled her garden with a horse and old fashion till hooked to a harness.  We shoveled egg shells and garbage into huge compost piles and learned about the goodness of organic soil.  I would come home so charged with ideas.  During that spring I created a considerable compost pile of my own and I happily tilled, minus the horse, of course, a large patch of my suburban back yard then covered it with organic topsoil from the bags and bags of soil that I carted home from Ghent.  The last day of class was a sad day for me.

Back in the suburbs I planted rows of tomatoes and green snap beans, summer squash and zucchini and even six or eight rows of corn.  As soon as he got up each morning my young son would run to the window to see what might have grown overnight.  After breakfast we’d go outside and walk up and down the rows to see what had changed since the previous morning.  In the evening we’d go outside and water the garden and most of the time we’d water each other.  When we harvested our first tomatoes we almost felt like we were eating our livestock!

Everything I planted thrived, except for the corn.  Corn needs to have a his and her so that cross pollination can occur.  I was careful to plant them correctly, but for some reason, the doves in my neighborhood seemed to have had it in for the corn.  I looked out one morning when the corn was only about a foot high and saw two doves slowly walking down the rows of corn, pulling the newly sprouted corn stalks out of the ground and flipping them over their shoulders.  I would have been less annoyed if they were eating the stalks, but it seemed they were the hoodlums of the dove community and were pulling them up for the pleasure of it all.

After that summer life got more complicated and other than a few tomato plants the wonderful veggie garden faded away.  Up north, I have planted a few veggies near my camper, but there is no way to keep the critters at bay, so anything I plant grows to a certain point and then disappears into the stomach of one of my furry neighbors.  There was even a deer or two that would walk out of the misty woods on summer mornings onto the dirt road in front of my camper and eat the rose buds on my prickly rose bush.  If I was awake, I watched them through the window blinds.

Last night after work I stopped and bought a little sprig of a tree, my homage to Arbor Day and couldn’t resist buying a few herbs; basil, English thyme and dill, my favorites.  As I type this they are all sitting out in my garage waiting to be planted and images of those wonderful English kitchen gardens outside weathered wooden doors are floating through my head.  It feels like this may be the year of another wonderful veggie garden.

Today's Nuns versus the Vatican
4/21/2012 10:02:07 AM

I’ve been following with great interest the continuing story of the Vatican’s reprimand of the 57,000 member US Catholic Nuns organization.   Instead of getting down on their hands and knees and thanking these women for all of the good work they do with the poor in our country and their efforts on behalf of social justice, while so meaningfully representing what is left of the best of Catholic ideals, these old men are bitching because these nuns did not take the time to get involved in the politically highly charged abortion and gay marriage issues.  This from a group of old fogies who sit in a gold laden country within a larger country thousands of miles away from the nitty gritty facts of life that these women deal with on a daily basis.

Talk about audacity, the Vatican also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by American bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops - "who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals" - is unacceptable, the report said.  Let me repeat this, American bishops, "who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."  Well if these American bishops are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, so many of whom shuffled child molesters from parish to parish and let children suffer for decades at the hands of other “authentic teachers of faith and morals,” then the church is in deeper trouble than it appears.

Currently there are 57,000 nuns in this organization, which represents most of the nuns in the US.  As a child growing up in the 50s and 60s attending Catholic schools, it seemed to me there were 57,000 nuns just in the Albany Diocese where I lived.  For years people have been asking where all the nuns have gone.  Some say that they’re still here; they just don’t wear the habits any more.   All you have to do is walk into any Catholic school and count the number of lay teachers versus nuns and you know it’s not the clothes.

It’s representative of a church that refuses to recognize that women and men are equals.  A premise they got away with until the late 60’s when women started thinking beyond what they were taught as they grew up. When women who would have added to the growth and expansion of the catholic faith began to walk away from a patriarchal system that they knew in their hearts was wrong.

It’s almost like the Catholic Church has a death wish.  By refusing to evolve, by digging in their heels and adhering to the writings of men who knew Jesus but wrote of him decades after his crucifixion when they themselves were old men, and whose words have probably been reinterpreted a thousand times over the years, the Catholic church no longer sounds true.  Not only that, they’ve also lost the free labor of those millions of nuns who were the backbone of the Catholic school system over the years.  As a result, very few families can afford to pay for a Catholic education in today’s world, an education that propagated the Catholic faith.


It appears the Vatican fails to understand that they do not have the exclusive rights to Jesus.  There are many branches of Christian faith where a person can express their beliefs in Jesus and his teachings that believe that all of their parishioners and clergy are equal. 

Easter 2012
4/5/2012 8:37:00 PM

The Naylor kids always had to give up sweets during Lent, mostly because mom stopped baking them. Other than chocolate chips for Toll House cookies, we seldom had candy in the house. But it seems to me after 3PM on Good Friday the household became more lenient and sweets began to reappear until Easter Sunday morning exploded in an orgy of chocolate. 

I was never a fan of Lent as a kid.  I just didn’t get the concept.  It has never made any sense to me that God wants people to suffer, or go without.  Which isn’t to say the idea of divine retribution didn’t scare the hell out of me; I guess I walked a thin line as a kid.  Mostly I followed all the rules just in case they were right.

Holy Saturday night was spent around the kitchen table.  On that table were little paper cups half filled with colored water of dark green, blue and red into which we would slowly lower a hardboiled egg balanced on a thin metal halo, an egg that would inevitably plop into the water at the last second, splattering dyed liquid all over us and the table.  After a minute or two of carefully watching the egg change color, we would fish it out of the paper cup using that metal halo and ever so gently lay it onto a paper towel.  When all the eggs were colored, or when we grew bored with the process, whichever came first, we would wander away into the parlor to watch TV before going to bed.

The Easter Sundays of my childhood were second best only to Christmas Day.   Not only was there candy all over the house, not only could we eat as much of that candy as we wished, but I loved the clothes.  A lot of my wardrobe as I grew up was hand-me-downs from my older cousins.  But for Easter, I always got a new dress and it wasn’t one of those plaid, back-to-school dresses.  Oh no, they were magical dresses.  After a long, dark winter of wearing nothing but a heavy maroon uniform, Easter brought dresses with wide satin sashes and lace trim.  Those dresses were always soft pastels; greens and pinks and blues.  Even if it was a cotton dress, the colors made it magical.

And shoes, dress shoes of black patent leather with straps and buttons and sometimes flowers; maybe white shoes, but always patent leather.   I wasn’t a fan of hats, not that I didn’t like them; I just never liked how they looked on my head.  Yet, every Easter Sunday I wore a new hat to church along with a fresh pair of white gloves holding on to a small shiny pocketbook.  Inside that pocketbook was a small handkerchief; my favorite was the white one with blue flowers embroidered in one corner.  Also in that pocketbook was my small contribution envelope that I would take out and drop into the collection basket as it passed by me during mass.  Pinned to my shoulder was a small Easter orchid, surrounded by white lace that mom took out of the frig just before we left for mass.  The corsage tickled my chin and as I write this I can imagine the flower’s sweet smell.

When we got home from mass we could eat as much candy as we wanted while mom was busy in the kitchen cooking an Easter ham AND I could wear my new dress all day long.  My brothers wore suits on Easter Sunday, with long ties and white collared shirts and shiny shoes.  They too wore their Easter clothes all day, minus the jacket, of course.

The religious celebration of Easter Sunday made more sense to me than the abstinence of Lent.  The dark covers were removed from the Stations of the Cross and from the beautiful statutes of Mary and the Saints that lived in my church.   Elegant white and gold linens were draped on the altar and the room was filled with the fragrance of fresh roses and lilies and carnations.  In my memory, every candle in the church was glowing.  Even the hymns that we sang were joyous and in celebration.   Easter Sundays of my childhood, at least in my memory, were flawless.

That’s what I wish you this Easter of 2012.  A magical and flawless day with your family and the people you love.


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