The Long View

I’m reading a sort of romance written a hundred years ago. I say “sort of” because I don’t think there was a romance genre back then, at least not the way we know the genre. But it’s irritating me in the same way that modern romances irritate me. So much of the story is based on non-communication. If the people involved simply talked to each other, there wouldn’t be a problem (or a story). I suppose it makes sense for such an old book to be based on communication problems because that era was the beginning of it being acceptable for women to speak their minds, especially around men. But for modern stories to be based on the same stupid theme? Not acceptable.

That’s not the only thing impinging on my life right now that I find unacceptable. Rich, successful black politicians, politician’s wives, celebrities, sports figures who are feted and adored by blacks and white alike are telling their story with the same old racist rhetoric. “White people don’t see me.” “White people hate me.” Um . . . did it ever occur to these folks that maybe it is not their racial heritage that some people might object to, but them specifically? Not everyone likes everyone. Not everyone sees everyone. Not everyone cares about everyone. (Though we often pretend to.)

This reminds me of what Jack Nicholson said to Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Wolf. “You know, I think I understand what you’re like now. You’re very beautiful and you think men are only interested in you because you’re beautiful, but you want them to be interested in you because you’re you. The problem is, aside from all that beauty, you’re not very interesting. You’re rude, you’re hostile, you’re sullen, you’re withdrawn. I know you want someone to look past all that at the real person underneath but the only reason anyone would bother to look past all that is because you’re beautiful. Ironic, isn’t it? In an odd way you’re your own problem.”

Other than that, I find nothing objectionable about my day. Well, I do find it objectionable that a couple of my Kentucky coffeetrees seem to be fading away. But if they all die, I’ll wait until fall or next spring, and beg my neighbor for another of the tree’s “volunteers” that will be growing in her yard. (There is one thing about the beans that bothers me. They are poisonous if eaten raw, but when roasted, they once served as a coffee substitute for prairie folk. My question is how did they discover that? If you eat the seeds, you get sick and maybe die. So why would you roast the seeds and try again? And how would you know they would make a coffee substitute if they made you sick before you could learn that?)

Although it’s uncomfortably humid today, it’s also cloudy and cool enough that I was able to plant my new plants. Perhaps they will do okay, but I won’t really know until next spring. Gardening is a hard occupation for a person who likes to see quick results, but then, it’s probably a good occupation for such a person — it teaches one to look at the long view.

Unfortunately, a long view isn’t necessarily different from a short view— look at the 100-year-old romance: the same today as it was then.

I suppose it’s possible that the folks who learned to roast the coffeetree beans took the long view, thinking that some illness and a few deaths were worth the long-term gain, in which case the long view paid off.

In other cases, such as the ongoing violence, burning, and looting that’s been going on for months now, the long view isn’t worth contemplating because what’s going on now can’t portend anything good for the future.

So maybe taking the long view isn’t necessarily a good thing to learn. Maybe I don’t need to learn anything when it comes to gardening — just do what I can, and see what happens.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Seedling Forest

We’ve talked before on this blog about the changes that are happening or might be happening because of having to wear masks. Without being able to see smiles, we don’t connect as well with others. Without being able to see mouths forming words, we don’t hear as well. (Which is a serious problem for the hard of hearing.) Without the humanization of faces, we are in danger of becoming dehumanized. And, as I’ve been discovering, they make us cranky, especially me.

I’ve been shopping at the local market partly as a rebellion against the closures — it seems so wrong to keep Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, and other corporate businesses open, but forcing smaller businesses to close their doors. You’d think the local grocer would be pleased to have such a loyal customer, but what was once a pleasant experience has become decidedly less so. Out of the last three visits, twice I was overcharged, twice the clerk was rude, twice I ended up fuming and thinking that maybe shopping at Walmart isn’t so horrible after all.

(This rudeness is something I’ve often wondered about when it comes to small independent stores. They don’t offer the discounts that the major stores do, they don’t offer service, they don’t smile or make the visit anything more than a ho-hum shopping trip. They act as if they’re that pretty girl who knows she’s pretty and so has to do nothing to foster a relationship but accept one’s homage.)

Today the shopping experience was especially unpleasant, and I know it was the crank factor.

The skies are cloudy, though there are no clouds — that cloudiness is the smoke drifting here from the fires in Colorado and California. Because the air is still, the smoke just hangs around. (Such irony! There have been strong winds most of the summer, and now that we need to move out the smoke, the winds have disappeared.) Although I can see (and taste) the smoke, I can’t smell the air — I am allergic to smoke, so my poor aching sinuses have closed off my smeller. It’s hard enough to breathe without the mask, but once that’s added, oh, my. So not fun! (Hence the tendency toward crankiness.) I should, of course, have thought of this before I went to the store, but I needed to drive my car and I wanted to get various healthy snacks to take to work tomorrow. (We always have an afternoon snack, so I’ve been eating things that are in her house but aren’t on my diet, such as cookies. I don’t have to have them, but the sharing of a meal is even more important than the snack itself.)

So what does all this have to do with my seedling forest? Not a whole lot, really, except that it pleases me to be growing trees at a time so many trees are being destroyed. Admittedly, these seedlings will not in any way offset the millions of trees being burned, but then, there’s not much any one person can do about any of the horrors that are defining our world today — the fires, the riots, The Bob, wearing masks. Still, it’s something.

Most of the seedlings are locusts that planted themselves in my yard, though one was grown from a seed in the pot itself. Previously, I’ve tried transplanting the seedlings into the ground directly, and they just died. (I have a hunch it has to do with the harsh sun burning their tender shoots before they got over their transplant shock). Oddly, the seedlings seem to like the pots. A couple of the seedlings are Kentucky coffeetrees, new additions from my next-door neighbor. Apparently, these trees are rare in this area, and her next-door neighbor ending up cutting down his coffeetree (to the horror and sorrow of the tree cutter) as well as a couple of my neighbor’s trees (a property line dispute, which makes me even happier that I had my property surveyed), so she and I are trying to repopulate the area with these gems.

Planting trees seems such a hopeful, non-cranky thing to do, and best of all, I don’t need to wear a mask to tend to my seedling forest.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator