When I look out our kitchen window each morning, I feel as if the neighbor's corn plot just on the other side of Gerald's neat garden has grown a foot over night! Next Gerald's garden takes my eye and absorbs my mind. I drink in the beauty there. Such a variety of plants of various heights with nary a weed in their midst is truly as beautiful and fascinating as a painting.
Gerald is starting to bring in a handful of blackberries each day and laying them on our kitchen table. A short row of staked berry plants defines the south end of his garden for the first time. Loaded with red berries, this new crop will soon need to be put in cobblers or the freezer.
We have almost used up the excess okra put in the freezer in 2014, so Gerald planted a row of that vegetable this year. I will be happy to restock the one vegetable that I know our grand-kids all like. They even like the way I frequently burn it a bit when I fry it and the cornmeal crust gets crunchy and brown.
Watermelon and cantaloupe vines hug the ground like patches of lacy green, and further behind are staked tomatoes with ripening fruit I am eagerly anticipating. At my urging, Gerald is trying to cut down the size of his garden although he has always enjoying giving away its bounty. We have needed to admit our age and cut back on many things. There is not longer time to do all the things we used to enjoy and also keep all the dental, eye, hearing, and other doctor appointments now required.
I always bragged about the weeds back in the day when I gardened. Gerald never complained, but I knew he was offended. They definitely were not pretty; but despite them, I raised plentiful crops and the weeds represented hours I did not spend hoeing and weeding. I did everything with a hoe as I was not one to learn to use riding equipment in a garden, although Gerald probably would have liked the excuse to provide it if I had wanted it. He has never met anything on four wheels that he does not enjoy. That is why our lawn just keeps getting larger every year.
Gerald got back his tractor this week—with all new parts wherever the fire did damage before he valiantly ran up our lane to get a bucket to put out the fire. We were certainly grateful for insurance that covered the thousands and thousands beyond the first thousand deductible. He always carried a fire extinguisher in a combine, but he had never had a bird nest start a fire on a tractor before. Now he is carrying a fire extinguisher on the tractor too. He enjoyed using the larger tractor the insurance provided for him while ours was being repaired, but he admits he does not need that size any more. That is a difficult admission for any farmer to make.
I have always heard folks say that life seems to speed up as one ages, and that feels true. I have trouble admitting all the advanced ages of our grandchildren and that great grandchildren are now bringing memories the previous generation used to make. However, I have just finished Thomas L. Friedman 's latest book Thanks for Being Late. I heard him promoting it and asked Gerald to give it to me for Christmas. It has taken me this long to finish it 461 pages, and I must admit that it was only the last part of the book that talks about things I understand. Remember: I liked to garden with a hoe. And though I really love computers, changing the ribbon on a typewriter is what I understood. Computers are way above my pay scale, so Friedman is absolutely correct that life has accelerated way beyond my comfort zone. Nevertheless, he is an optimist and gives me hope that this acceleration will bring answers to many worrisome problems that maybe we do not need to be worrying about since fortunately there are great educated minds out there working on those problems right now!
The last part of his book was more understandable to me, and I found it very important. He reviewed the values he grew up with in Minnesota. I have spent little time in Minnesota, but I recognized the values that Friedman valued as the same ones I knew in small town and rural Southern Illinois. I suspect many Americans recognize these human values he grew up with.
We need to see people and help one another feel that we are all part of the human group or as he worded it, “people embedded in a community.” People need to be “protected, respected, and connected.” We must listen to one another, include one another, and eventually learn to trust one another. In other words, follow the Golden Rule and recognize that we are all God's children.
Friedman praised the emphasis on good schools in his childhood community that outgrew its previous prejudice against Jewish families such as his family and then provided outstanding teachers that have produced many present-day successes now serving society. We need to embrace one another to reap the benefits of other groups than our own. If we really value education, we must be willing to embrace life-long learning, so I am now beginning to re-read the first part of his book that was difficult for me. Now I am beginning to understand the consequences of the word “exponential” and I know what Joe Biden was talking about recently when he mentioned Moore's Law. Yes, everything is accelerating and time is flying and things are changing. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, and we can embrace the speed and changes.
For example, before I finished this column, I went up to the kitchen and found not a handful of blackberries but a bucket with enough for a cobbler. That is definitely a good thing!