Claiborne Lake
















Springtime on the lake.  So far I have seen or heard only five or six boats go by.  There are more on the lake, but the lake is just that big.  The trees that were all stem and branch last month are  in bloom now and there is a wonderful fragrance of jasmine and roses.  Magnolias and Cape Jasmine are budding out and there are berries on the blueberry and blackberry vines.

With apologies to Mr. Bunker..

images-7Boy, the way Glenn Miller played. Songs that made the hit parade.

Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days.
And you knew who you were then, girls were girls and men were men.
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
Didn’t need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days.

Those Were The Days, written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse

Maybe so, Archie, and yes, we never locked the doors and it was safe to walk the streets at night.  You knew the images-4neighbors,  people helped each other.  Life was slower, simpler… BUT

Elastic on underwear was not sewn in but only threaded through casings, and if  it broke (and it frequently did), you were literally caught with your pants down!  And then there was hair care.  Curls were the thing, but there were no “home” permanents  Hair was rolled onto rods, and baked on electric rods in beauty shops.  Need I say more?  And hair color?  You might end up with  green or purple hair in an attempt to be blonde.  And it was permanent.  Nice

Unknown-2Canning today is cool.  It’s fun to grow your own strawberries and make your own jam.  Or to buy pomegranete/boysenberry jam tied up with a boquet of lavendar at the Farmers’ Market.  But “back in the day,” canning was a necessity.  Home freezers didn’t exist.   Fresh fruits and vegetables were available only in season so they were harvested or purchased  in large quantities,  and canned for the winter.   This had to be done quickly to avoid spoilage.  The entire family participated and the work was frequently  shared among families.  Children washed jars and  peeled, men cut food  into slices and  carried the heavy baskets and jars, ladies cooked and put into jars.  It was dangerous, hard and  tedious work.  And uncomfortable. The weather was almost always hot (no AC).  And it was far from an exact science  It didn’t always work.

But most of all, we forget (or never knew) about laundry.  Almost an afterthought for us, accomplished automatically in the imagesbackground while we do other things, laundry for our grandmothers was a day-long, weekly arduous task.  There was no liquid soap or stain remover.  Stains were removed on wash-boards with bar soap, often home-made.  Unlike the pretty bar soap we buy today at boutiques, they contained no oatmeal flakes, rose petals or lavender beads.   It was either lye soap or lard soap, and it didn’t smell good.  There were no dryers;  washing machines had wringers.  Laundry was hand-cranked between  rollers,  the wet soggy mess dropped into laundry baskets,  lugged to clotheslines and  hung with clothespins to dry – unless it rained.  Then laundry was hastily retrieved and draped over everything in the house that was upright.  Today,  although drying laundry on clotheslines in the fresh air has some merit, it’s an alternative to the dryer.  We seldomimages-6 iron today. But most clothing and linens were ironed in the “old days.”  Laundry was  soaked in  liquid  starch prepared by dissolving a powder in boiling water,  and then ironed while still damp with a dry iron.  No spray starch, no  “permanent press.”

So, Mister Bunker, you have a point.  But if we’re honest, we don’t really want our grandparents’ lives.  Their lives were harder and their world was far from peaceful.  Most lived through two world wars and a depression.   So instead of pining for the “good old days,” we should be focusing on making these days better ones.  After all, they’re going to be the “good old days” for our grandchildren.

Author’s note:  Inspired by newspaper columns  by Mrs. Juanita Agan in the archives of the Minden Press Herald.







Close Reading

I love Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer.  Here’s her description of Close Reading:

“And as I wrote I discovered that writing, like reading, was done one word at a time, one punctuation mark at a time. It required what a friend calls “putting every word on trial for its life ”: changing an adjective, cutting a phrase, removing a comma, and putting the comma back in.

Prose, Francine (2009-03-17). Reading Like a Writer (P.S.) (p. 3). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

For the most part, this is how I read now and I prefer books that have to be read this way.    But I had not read like this since since high school.  And that because I was required to answer questions from the text.  Unfortunately, I suspect  the questions were designed to make sure we actually read the thing and not that we  understood it.  That would probably have been asking way more than hormone-challenged 17-year olds could manage.

So after graduation,  I put away my classics, or took them to used book stores, and purchased books from  various best-seller lists.  And until  I retired, most of my reading was for entertainment, or escape;  easily digestible, plot-predictable, “chick-lit,”  books that fit into my handbag, could be picked up from where I left off rushing to board the last flight,  coffee alone at Starbucks, etc.   Although for the most part, they had  something to say, I give myself credit for that much discretion, and I usually identified with them, or learned something.  And I enjoyed them; still do.  But their effects were short-lived.  They did not change  the way I thought or saw the world.    Out of guilt, or curiosity, I periodically tried the latest Nobel or Pulitzer prize winner or a  Dickens,  Jane Eyre, Dostoyevsky,  Bronte etc, but usually admitted defeat after a chapter or two.

But now,  re-reading  the same books, I get it.  Although that literature is not for speed-reading should be self-evident,   somehow I missed that as I sped through my revved-up life against a  background of noise around us so pervasive that I no longer heard it.  Speed-reading literature  would be as pointless as  skateboarding through a Van Gogh exhibit or playing Bach on fast-forward.  (Now that I think of it, I think someone actually has recorded a high speed version of Bach’s Inventions!)

So here’s my challenge.  I dare you. Find your favorite literature classic even if the last one you read was in high school.  Even if it’s not your favorite, just the one you disliked the least.  Take ten minutes to read the first page.   Take even five minutes to read the first page.   I think you will be amazed. I certainly was.  But be warned:   It could change the way you read, what you read and what you think.

Who knows what else?


Looking for truth in all the wrong places

For me writing is no more nor less than paying attention and telling the truth. Unfortunately we live in a culture that rewards “busyness” and “self-improvement.” Sadly, if that’s where our attention lies and that’s our truth, we miss the best parts of ourselves trying to improve  our worst parts.



Sunrise surprise

There is a large vine on the fence by the lake that was not there last year. Its roots are buried under a concrete fencepost and it survived the coldest winter in recent history with no care at all. I assumed it was an annoying weed I would have to pull out,  probably two hours’ work. But overnight it opened its blossoms. It is Crossvine (Bignonia Capreolata to the naturalists).  A beautiful reminder that Nature has wonderful surprises in store for us in places we least expect to find them.