Thursday, May 8, 2008

If the Weatherman won't do it

I was hoping against hope that New York would hand me a beautiful, clear day to lighten things up. Instead, it's been grey-ish and wet and more of the same is coming tomorrow. I guess that if the weatherman won't give me a lift to my spirits, I'm going to have to do it myself.

Serious topics are good things. They stimulate the mind, expand horizons and sometimes lead to good suggestions for problem solving. But those serious topics sometimes need to have some lighter fare interspersed. After all, bread won't rise without a leavening agent; perhaps our thoughts won't expand without one either. So I let my mind wander away from all the serious, weighty topics. I let my eyes gaze outward instead of inward. And I discovered the following.

Azaleas obviously don't sit around pouting about the weather. They have a job to do and they do it. Today my yard is a blaze of riotous color. Whatever items in the yard still need fixing have faded into the background as the azaleas take center stage. Who can be sad when masses of bright magenta and pink and purple and white flower bushes wave their blossom-laden branches at you? Who can think of the world as a difficult place to be with such beauty to offer solace? If the azaleas can weather the stormy downpour of this morning and hold their heads up high and firm, then how we can we do any less?

A student sent me in an assignment today that he has been struggling with for weeks. And today he finally got it perfect. Both he and I have lost track of just how many times he has rewritten this assignment, but it doesn't matter any more. The journey may have been a rocky one, but the arrival at the final destination more than makes up for it.

I stubbed my toe on my night table this morning and felt a stabbing at the same time. I stooped down to see what could have stabbed me and found entangled in the carpet and partially hidden by the table leg an earring I lost a few weeks ago. I was upset when I lost that earring for it was part of a pair of my mother in law's, and she is no longer alive. I forgot about the toe pain in the joy of having my earring back.

My friend called with obvious excitement in her voice. Her daughter and son-in-law became parents of a healthy baby girl last night. After eight long years of wondering if they would ever be blessed to become parents. She has a recording of the baby's first cries and she plays it over the phone for me. She laughed and said: "Isn't that just beautiful music?" Yes, that is indeed beautiful music.

Today I promised myself that I would not forget that just as there are problems in the world, there are also joys in abundance. We just have to remind ourselves of that.....often. My mother likes to say: "If you are here to complain, you have nothing to complain about." Thanks mom for that reminder. Tonight I'm going to do a Scarlett O'Hara imitation and tell myself that "tomorrow is another day." Whatever might need fixing in the world, it can wait for tomorrow. And perhaps the weatherman will be wrong and tomorrow will be sunny and bright. And perhaps not. But that can wait until tomorrow. Tonight is for thinking again about all the good things that happened today.

Note to myself before heading to bed: first thing in the morning look out the window at the azaleas. Perhaps whatever I write tomorrow will be in a more cheerful vein. Might shock my readers somewhat but, hey, change is good for you.


Anonymous said...

Question -

Are green thumbs recessive among frum people ? Or maybe I should say among Haredim or NYC area frum ? Or maybe Brooklynites and Manhattanites ?

With the talk about azaleas and nature recently, I think it's not too out of order.

What can be done about the frum world's lackings when it comes to nature ?

mother in israel said...

Enjoy the azaleas until the weather perks up! And mazal tov to your friends.

Even we got a shower this morning. . .

ProfK said...

Hate to sound like a bad political advertisement, but "some of my best friends are frum gardeners." Thinking about it I would say that this is probably more common in the outer areas of the city. And probably less common in Brooklyn then in other parts of the city. We look at our lots here in Staten Island as being "standard" city lots, but that standard is smaller in Brooklyn then here. Many/most of the houses in Brooklyn that have garages have them as separate from the houses, taking up lot space differently then the houses here which all have "built-in" garages. There is no such thing here as a shared driveway between houses because the lots are wider. Houses here are set back from the sidewalk further then most houses in Brooklyn, leaving space for larger front gardens.

When we first moved into our house 31 years ago a neighbor from across the street came over to welcome us and also told us "we keep up our yards in this neighborhood" a not so subtle hint that gardening was important in this neighborhood. Can't imagine that happening in Brooklyn.

You also find lots more houseplants in the homes here then I have seen elsewhere in Brooklyn. Either our homes were built with deeper window frames, so plants fit more comfortably on the windows, or it really is a regional difference in attitude. My windows are full of plants and I'm typical here. When I was a young married living here I frequently exchanged cuttings with other women in the neighborhood.

My mother is an avid gardner--always has been, so I got my love of plants by "yerusha." It didn't hurt that I grew up in Oregon, where "nature" is stressed.

Even those who live here who aren't doing the actual "digging" work because they have gardening services that do routine maintenance, still find themselves involved in the choice of annuals that are going to go in, or in what types of bushes and trees will be planted.

Years ago I was teaching a fourth grade class in a local day school. Among the things we did in class were to take nature walks in the neighborhood to identify the types of trees and bushes and to point out the varying kinds of leaves that we had studied about in our science book. We grew small potted plants, one for each child, that they took home for Tu B'Shvat. We studied the root systems and the requirements for optimum growth. My classroom, in fact all the primary classrooms, had windowsills full of plants, and the students helped to take care of those plants. They learned about growing seasons, and how every thing in nature has its own requirements, and soil differences and clorophyll up close and personal. Science was hands on and plants were an integral part of that. Perhaps this is not done in the areas of the city where gardening doesn't seem to be of importance.

I don't think it's genetic--it's a question of nurture rather than nature..

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps whatever I write tomorrow will be in a more cheerful vein."

Well, is toilet paper more cheerful? I think so :-)


Anonymous said...

I can definitely see myself mentioning tonight "I was reading about toilet paper on this blog..." The laughs are sure to come.

Anonymous said...

Re frum and green thumb - I am happy to read that those types exist on SI.

I guess I was thinking more about in the darker sections of the Haredi world, where it seems to be less common (particularly among males).

By the way, doesn't everyone know that frum are not supposed to get their hands dirty ? So how can they dig in the dirt?

The fact is (unfortunately in some cases) that Orthodoxy has increasingly taken on a Brooklyn face (upon reflection I guess that has been going on for some time now). When people think frum, they think Brooklyn. And when they think Brooklyn frum, too often the image is someone who is not environmentally conscious (in more ways than one, not just in currently PC ways), drives a gas guzzler crudely, someone not in the best physical shape, and definitely without a green thumb. I admit I am thinking more of males here and certain sections, and of course there are exceptions, but the type I am describing definitely exists as well. Brooklyn is like the 800 lb. gorilla of the frum world. It has a very large influence.

Let me throw in another pet peeve by the way. Why do some of the frum think they need to hire companies that send Mexican workers (who I suspect may be illegal aliens, but that is another discussion) with noisy leaf blowers to their houses regularly to 'perform'. Why do they need those very noisy electronic groggers ? Or maybe it's like the way-too-loud music at certain weddings and they think that the noisier it is, the better it is. Why do their neighbors have to suffer regular assault on their senses ? Some suburbs have placed restrictions or bans on these very noisy and polluting machines. As usual, certain of the frum are behind the times and think it prestigious to have such.

ProfK said...

Outside of Brooklyn frum people do a lot of things that they don't do in Brooklyn. Gardening is only one of them. Men here have been known to do their own oil changes on their cars. They have been known to paint the ceiling in a room that needs painting. They have been known to change a washer in a faucet or even replace a pipe. And yes, they have been known to be environmentally aware. My borough got onto the recycling bandwagon very early on. I know plenty of people in Brooklyn who still don't follow the recycling rules--sort garbage? You're kidding of course.

You are right that Brooklyn is often the 800 pound gorilla in the frum world. Perhaps we should remember that gorillas are not the brightest of nature's creations--a lot of brawn not always married to brain. And maybe we need to remember that "might is right" is not a tenable way of doing things and results in some real catastrophic events.