Monday, October 25, 2010

SPRING MEMORIES

The blossoming at Cedar Forest began late in January, as the first to show bloom was always the lemon yellow of the witch hazel. The unique flowers of this shrub were a reminder that winter eventually would start to recede gradually as the days begin to lengthen. It signaled: Time to start watching.

The surprises that February had ready for us varied by the snow and chilliness of the weather. The cheery faces of the varied colors of primroses, sometimes staring from a snowy blanket on which they seemed embroidered, were unfazed by the cool reception. They seemed jubilant to announce the coming of spring. The catkins of the pussy willows were eager to affirm the announcement.

At the edge of the cedars the cherry trees fat buds swelled and burst forth with their amazing pink display. Each tree had a different hue to add to the colorful array. One spread its limbs like a huge pink umbrella.

The display of the trillium varied from single stems at the base of trees to clusters that made an area a delight to view. The several masses of the white flowers that I had removed at Carrie Silva's request responded to replanting. How rewarding it was to be able to find each appearing where they were located previously.

The pink and white bells of the heather started to chime spring. A hardy shrub, it increased annually and always looked green no matter the season. It shrugged off the cold weather.

Begonia formed a neat border for the drive and obliged with pink blooms beneath the green leaves. At the halfway point in the driveway one rhododendron is flanked by two camellia bushes, one white and the other pink. I recall how it attracts deer to the juicy buds just as they are about to open. Just in advance of this happening, I remember anointing the bush with a special concoction with the suggestive name, "Not Tonight, Deer". It makes a bitter taste that keeps the deer from nibbling the attractive morsels.

Around the perimeter of the triangle south of the spruce grove the golden daffodils spread their cheer, some of them single and others with double blooms.
Later in the season a succession of colored lilies replace them. At the peak of the high knoll in the upper garden a five-foot tall lily with multiple flowers will also take its dominant place.

The rustic rail fence surrounding the road edge at the front will herald the beginning of iris season with its array of Siberian blue. Next comes the wave of vibrant pink candles that starts anywhere it is given a chance. But how it sets off the various clumps of daylilies spiced up the rail edge with their individual hues. Behind the rail fence and overlooking the rest rise the exotic bird-like shapes of the crocosmia. Its stems, holding the blooms above its neighbors, add a multi-tier effect to the entire display of gorgeous bloom.

In a very moist place beside the private road a place was found for the yellow iris,
an especially neat specimen. It proved to be an ideal setting. Likewise the ten-foot remains of an old cedar was exactly the right setting for the orange clusters of the trumpet vine. Appearing as summer approached, it seemed jubilant to announce the changing season.

The line along the back fence proved to be a place for the redbud and dogwood trees. The redbud put forth its blooms before it showed green leaves. The fence provided a useful support for the dinner-plate blooms of clematis which also adorned the porch. Near the rear gate entrance an impressive stand of foxglove found a likely location. And lupine's blue or other shades added a dash of color.

Oriental poppies made the roadside bank an accent point among Shasta daisies. Likewise the floral tributes of both the star magnolia as well as its neighbor lent to the scene a touch of grandeur. Among such a show of beauty the beds of Japanese and other iris seemed in proper place. The native bleeding heart felt right at home in this setting.

To such a display of sight for the eyes, the consummate touch of rhododendron and azalea, large and small, was the climax. The span in size and blooming time along the drive and bordering the road provided a finished appearance. Our efforts have given us both a sense of accomplishment as we have cooperated with our Creator.

Monday, October 18, 2010

OUR FADING HERITAGE

This strange hybrid hymnal that currently occupies the racks on the backs of our pews fails to convey the heritage of Free Methodist singing over the decades. For many years a difference was recognized between hymns and gospel songs.
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Along with the Free Methodist Hymnal appeared a succession of denominational song books. Some of these may rouse fond memories: Light & Life Songs 1904; Light & Life Songs No. 2 1914; Light & Life Songs No.3 1918; Inspirational Songs 1924; Worship In Song 1935; Choice Light & Life Songs 1950. And the last genuine FM hymnal: Hymns of Faith & Life 1976.
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Next to the Bible itself, many Christians have found the hymns and songs to be a source of inspiration, comfort, and instruction in righteousness and a basis for meditation. I am concerned lest this rich heritage be lost by the current and future generations.
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One way in which this is happening is the use of only a verse or two of a hymn, often failing to recognize an important sequence of thought. "Let's sing the first and last verse" or "the first second and last verses" is a frequent event. In many songs the third verse carries key meanings.
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In one service where I was involved we concentrated on singing only third verses, thus trying to even out the wear. A quiz in which people were given a quotation from third verses of familiar hymns and were asked to identify the hymn revealed ignorance.
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Why is it that we have time to repeat almost endlessly a few simple words of a chorus but lack time to sing a hymn in its entirety?
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Yes, I do hark back to the days when hymns were sung or played - now they are DONE. This is a term that seems to focus attention on the performer - not on the message.

Monday, October 11, 2010

THANKS FOR MY CPU

(Central Processing Unit - Essential device of computer for organizing data)

I awoke this morning thankful for my active CPU, my memory that enables me to function as a person. While limited in certain areas, such as foot manipulation, I still can go anywhere in the world that my mind remembers. And this permits me to do so instantly. All of the modern advances in technology can't surpass this phenomenon of leaping from Warm Beach to multiple locales on this globe or to outer space instantly at the flick of an idea.

I do not accept this gift lightly. Some of my friends are unable to escape from the immediate environment to enjoy the wealth of past experiences or the thrill of new possibilities. They seem locked into a narrow round of past reality that does not permit them to tap the spectrum of all that is available.

This morning I enjoy conversing with my wife who shares with me over sixty-five years of mutual memories. Being able to reach back in time and space brings a world of places and people at our disposal. The possibilities are so limitless that I can draw from them in detail. The swing through the air on that small Ferris wheel on our first date comes to mind. The music of the band and the voices that mingled in the background were important details. The smiles of delight on Betty's countenance were memorable.

All is not happiness as the recollection of our pets rings in. Our only dog was a sheep dog that abandoned herding the flock passing by our house and chose to adopt our family. His muzzle out the window of the car as I drove reminded us of his eagerness to ride the tail of my snowshoes. His bravado at chasing a car cut short his life. The sight of his lifeless body is etched deeply in my consciousness. But we made the choice to call up memories of his leading the family up the trail.

Recalling the faces of the many students over the years affords me a broad spectrum. While I would like to know all of the outcomes, those whom I know so well bring me a sense of accomplishment - theirs in particular. The result in a variety of their endeavors brings a glow of satisfaction as I recall their struggles.

But you would be likely to point out that these are memories, the storage of facts from the past. My response would be that the longer you live, the larger in size the CPU becomes. And yet, what a scope of possibilities becomes apparent. I'd like to explore a number of these.

My desire to see mountains has been fostered by my past experiences. Mt. Rainier, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Cook and Miter Peak were great experiences for me. But to "see" the Alps, Mt. Everest, Mt. Kilimanjaro and other notable mountains is at my fingertips from a variety of sources such as films, pictures and the writings of various persons who have seen and can transmit their viewing graphically. They are just a flick of the monitor away.

If I fail to get to speak with Bill Gates about a problem with Microsoft's Windows program, there are literally thousands of persons who would be able to help me. The availability of assistance for me is nearly unlimited. My expert is no farther away than my elbow.

The activities at Warm Beach Manor are there to suit the taste of almost everyone. What about model trains? They are lined up to go with the gauge to suit a variety of demands from the miniature and on up. They can whistle, belch smoke and sound realistically like the real thing, To help make the whole scene come alive are those with railroad experience who are eager talk about this their passion. Those with a photographic bent are eager to share their expertise. Others who have a favorite hobby or interest are willing to share.

For the readers and writers, the opportunities are endless. But I must go lest I get excited about the world awaiting my fingers to unlock the riches waiting for me at the touch of the CPU.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TOUGH NUT TO CRACK

One of the trees fast disappearing from the Western New York landscape is the butternut. While its appearance is similar to that of the black walnut, it bears fruit that is uniquely different. It will be my purpose to give credit to this tasty treat and leave the technical description and scope of the tree to those equipped to do so. My wife, a botanist, would do a more thorough and accurate job of describing the
scope and range of this tree than I would be capable of doing.

My familiarity with and appreciation of its qualities dates back almost ninety years
to my boyhood in Brooklyn Valley adjacent to East Otto, New York. The tree on which the clusters grow is not of large proportions nor are its leaves expansive to produce shade. Seldom is it located as a grove of trees,

My interest in it took place about the fall season when the nuts had formed. Growing in clusters about the branches, they gradually developed the meaty center. The main concern was to beat the squirrels to the harvest. Once the clusters were ripe enough, the furry acrobats would loosen and let most of them fall to the ground. Then the squirrels would hasten to gather them to store. The window of opportunity was a rather short period ere the nuts were gathered to their respective hiding spots.

The Pratt's hired man was always knowledgeable about matters relating to the out of doors. He was aware of where things grew best but kept the exact places to himself. It was so about the butternut trees and their yield. He often came by the parsonage to share a portion of what he had acquired. It thus was the case of having his sack of the largest nuts, but was careful to not reveal their exact location.

My good friend, Donald Sprowl, was as eager as I to get to the bounty ahead of the squirrels. We would scout the woods as harvest time drew near, seeking out the most prolific trees to garner. This made a good excuse to be in the woods in the autumn. When we found a tree loaded with the nuts, we would try to devise a way to loosen them so would fall to the ground. Usually a ladder would be too far from the woods to be practical. Instead we used sticks and rocks for the task.
Flying sticks and stones were an ever-present danger in spite of our caution.

Toting the gathered loot back to the farm was an onerous job. The burlap sacks were heavy and on occasion made a second trip necessary. Upon reaching there, we had to locate a safe place for them to cure, as the green nuts would mould unless spread out to dry. The loft in the granary proved to be ideal for that purpose as well as being safe from marauding squirrels. A fine steel wire cage made it relatively safe from the varmints. There the husks dried until they could be removed for shelling.

When Donald 's mother and grandmother gave the signal it was time for the nuts to be used, we hauled out the cracking table. This was a gadget made from two by fours with an old discarded laundry iron attached to the top. In the indentation on top of the iron where the handle had been attached, the indentation made a spot to place the nut to be cracked. A sharp blow with a hammer created either a revealed nut kernel or a squashed nut to be pried out. This took place out in the woodshed where the flying nut shucks could do no harm.

Don and I took turns with the hammer, vying to see who could extract a whole or a half kernel intact. The crushed specimens had to be picked out with a nut pick to rescue the remainder. The shucks flew in every direction. It took some time to accumulate a satisfactory supply for baking. It was no wonder that the delicacies provided were so seldom available.

The baking of a delicious butternut cake replete with real maple sugar frosting with butternuts starring the surface was an event. At the farewell gathering for our family at the Pratt homestead no finer tribute could be offered than to celebrate the occasion with such a lavish display of baking art. To render praise and thanks for my parents' service with a butternut cake was the ultimate baking
tribute. It truly was a tough nut to crack.