Monday, July 6, 2015

My Independence

Happy Independence Day weekend everyone. The first two of my sunflowers bloomed and I just couldn't resist cutting them for a bouquet. I will probably have some allergies but oh well. Right now it is so nice to have these sunny faces on my kitchen table. The reddish one is the result of a squirrel poop and the other one is supposed to be a teddy bear sunflower, but isn't. Hmm, not sure what happened there. Only time will tell.

I hope you've had a lovely holiday.  As the holiday fell on a Saturday this year, almost all of Philadelphia had Friday off.  It was a pleasantly calm and peaceful Friday. Less traffic, less people moving around. Just a calm quiet summer day. And so we've had three lovely days. It didn't even rain as much as it was supposed to. Such a nice surprise. 

I spent the weekend taking care of business. The tenants needed a new contraption to keep the shower curtain rod up.  They have a claw-foot tub and so the shower curtain is oval shaped and suspended from the ceiling. One of the rods to hold the thing up broke and needed to be replaced. I spent a nice afternoon in Chestnut Hill at what must be America's greatest hardware store, Killian's Hardware (their website is old-fashioned too). This was the second hardware store I went to looking for this particular piece and the guy said, "I don't think you'll be able to find anything like this but - I can fabricate something for you." Ha! So he took a piece of metal, cut it the correct length, threaded it, and only charged me $1.99! Hot dog! All three of us (me and 2 tenants) installed it on Friday afternoon. So far - So good! 

I also gardened.
The Aloe Vera has bloomed and I'm not sure what that means. Does this mean this plant will now die? I hope not. It has been such a wonderful friend for 12 years. 

The cosmos have exploded:
I only have orange cosmos because I save the seeds from year to year. 

I gave up on weeding the walkway along the porch and am putting my theory from last summer back into play:  if I cover the walk way for two weeks that should just about kill everything and I won't have to weed constantly.   
 I have two - seemingly infinite - rolls of old buckram I acquired from a conservation-lab-closing-situation. It was plenty long enough to roll out a ribbon and cover it. I plan on using this year after year. Let's hope it works. 

Then of course there are bugs:
There is this one, which looks really pretty but is eating a lot of holes into my sunflower leaves. I'm not sure how I feel about that and so we may have to have some discussions about this.
The mantises will be back. I have seen so many. Here's is a little guy about an inch long. Ain't 'e cute?!
He's twice the size of the first few I saw who were smaller than my thumb nail. I even rescued one the other day from the inside. It hitched a ride on the raspberries so I had to take him back outside.  
There are also the usual mosquitoes ( I do have a few bites to prove it), billions of spiders spinning webs every evening, lovely fireflies... and (gasp) bees!
 Yes bees! Now I'm not sure if this is good or an accident. But they are there...
Here's the story. The other night, Miss Mary and I grilled and split a bottle of wine between us. We had a great time. At one point she asked me about the hive. What was in there? I had taken a peek about a week ago because I was curious myself. There were no bees, but a beautiful mountain of beeswax comb. It was free-form and I wish I had taken a picture of it because now I can't.  But I could still show her two days ago.  I took the lid off the hive and she was amazed, then she said, but what's in the rest of it, and I knew how Matt had it organized, so I thought I'd show her the frames underneath. Well. The frames underneath were chockerbock full of honey. Miss Mary is from Jamaica, and has told me about when she was a little girl raiding the bee hives there (I love her stories). Fresh local honey for her - what a treat! So we got a plate and cut some honey comb for her. Yay! (I just got the scoop - she ended up with about two cups of honey).
Then I woke up the next morning and thought - oh boy. Now what did I do? I went and looked at the hive, sure enough, there were ants and wasps and flies really curious about the big box where there had been none before. I'm sure they smelled the sweet mess we had made inside. Oh I felt guilty. So I waited to see what would happen. Then this afternoon I went for a bike ride and found the hive swarming with bees - honey bees! I'm not sure what they are doing. Are they stealing the honey? or just cleaning up my mess? or maybe moving in!? That would be terrific if they moved in. Neither Matt ( the Bee man) nor I had the $100 to spare for a bee hive this year. I know, pathetic right? Well, that's the working poor for you... At any rate, I've emailed him and am anxiously awaiting his reply. Will keep you posted. 

Keeping watch on the hive is a new feral kitty. sigh. They just keep coming. This one is another really sweet one. And no - this is not Swee'pea.  
This is feral kitty number umpteenth million. If he's still around in a week or two it will be time to round him up, get him fixed, and go from there. He really wants human company. He comes up to me when I'm on the porch. He even hung out with Miss Mary and me during our escapades. Jacques of course is NOT happy about this. 
Ugh. Sometimes it's terrible being a cat-lady.  

Most of today was spent working out how to set up a digital copy of the complicated sundial popup (scroll down). In the end I got it! 
I pretty much had to redraw each piece so that I could get it to line up. But it works and it fits. Yay! Such a gratifying feeling.  

But with all of this good positive stuff for me, I have not forgotten about my last post. After reading it, my sister sent me a link to this article in the Los Angeles Times. Erin P.  and I spent some time last Wednesday looking through articles on this topic and so I was aware that the KKK had stepped up their recruitment. You'll have to google more of this yourself because I really don't want to right now. It makes me so upset. It's just more hatred and in the end I didn't want to blog about it. But I was shocked that it had happened in my Southern California home town. I went to high school with people who lived on this street.  
The thing that really gets me about these guys is that they know they are spreading hate. Why else would they put propaganda in a ziplock bag, with a rock and a lolly-pop, and toss it onto front lawns in the middle of the night? I am assuming the rock is to help toss the bag onto the lawn and the lolly-pop is to ??? cancel out the rock? Or the hateful message?  I mean, look, normal campaigns do the research, find out which households are sympathetic to their cause and then send people door to door. This is how it works when I've stumped for the Democratic Party. You get a stack of papers with addresses on it. Then you go door to door with big Obama buttons pinned to your fronts and talk to people - face to face. It was all very positive.  
Can you imagine the KKK going door to door for recruitment? Seriously? Never mind the fact that no one would even open their door for a couple of skin-heads - once they did - how would that conversation go? I wish I were a brilliant comedian who could come up with the perfect skit of this. I really miss Robin Williams. Because let's compare it to other organizations that we all loath to be caught by - maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the Mormons?  It gives a different perspective on things doesn't it? They might be annoying, but they really believe they are doing good for all people. They are, in their own way, preaching love for all. This is why, when I am caught by Jehovah's Witnesses at my front door, and they invite me to celebrate the DEATH of the lord Jesus Christ every Easter-time, I swallow my shock at the verbiage and thank them for their kind invitation with a smile and say that I don't think I will be able to make it. They are so earnest in their invitation and it in no way discriminates against me (not counting that they believe I will go to hell because of - blah blah blah... but I don't believe that so there) so why can't I be kind about my thanks and refusal? They mean well. But opening the door to two skin heads? Really? I'd be stupid to do that and they know it. So they resort to these bull-shit tactics. 
But that doesn't mean WE can't say anything. WE can. The same amendment - the first one - gives us the same protections they have to pass that filth out - to say - no thanks. We don't want this in our neighborhoods. It doesn't have to be loud or raucous or seeking fame or anything - it just needs to be as adamant as the opposing side's convictions. NO. This is not welcome in my world, in my country, in my neighborhood, on my lawn, in my home. 

Given the weekend, I've been thinking a lot about the Declaration of Independence because of some research I did at the beginning of the year for work. I put together a display on Penmanship. I know, sounds deadly boring, but bear with me. There was this guy, Timothy Matlack, who ended up playing a major role in our nation's history. You have heard of him before. He's in a recent popular movie - National Treasure. I love this movie. Its ridiculous, especially the parts that take place in Philadelphia, but I love it anyway. I have even given a few tours of Philadelphia through the National Treasure lens.  But I digress...
Remember the part (at the beginning) where they find the meerschaum pipe on the boat in the arctic? Remember the text that is revealed after Benjamin Franklin Gates (played by Nicholas Cage) cuts his thumb and rubs the blood on the pipe and rolls it onto his notebook? Well in case you don't:  

"The legend writ."
"The stain effected."
"The key in Silence undetected."
"Fifty-five in iron pen."
"Mr Matlack can't offend."

That Mr. Matlack? 
Yeah, that wasn't a made up character. He was a real person. There is a pretty good book written about him too. According to eye-witness accounts, he was the first person to read the Declaration of Independence aloud on the State House steps to an audience. He wasn't supposed to. John Nixon officially read it on July 8th. But who can blame Matlack for wanting to read it first though? He's the guy who "engrossed" it (a fancy term for writing it up on parchment - the supposed piece of American History flying around in the movie) and then probably spent all night at John Dunlap's print shop helping proof the type set version. And I totally get it! When I've finally completed something I think is absolutely amazing, I can't wait to tell people about it.  So there you are... the first wiki-leaks-Julian-Assange of American History was Timothy Matlack in 1776.
Incidentally, the reason I became interested in him for the Penmanship display is because most of the lessons for penmanship in the 19th Century were based on his script.    
Just in case you aren't used to reading that old-timey script it says:
Passed in General Assembly
the 5th day of 
February 1777  - 
T Matlack clerk of 
the General Assembly

He's using the written form of that long "s" we don't see very often anymore. 

What is my point in bringing him up? I'm not sure. I think that in researching him, I realized, these guys - the FOUNDING FATHERS, they were just guys. They were just guys who felt entitled to better treatment. They believed they had a better way of doing things. Were they perfect? Oh heck no. Timothy Matlack was a beer bottler and, among other things, a cock fighter! yeah! But they did something amazing. They put together one of the longest running governments in history. Things have changed. What is right -  has changed. What should be right  - has changed. And while it is easy for those of us who accept these changes with ease to take them for granted - don't. They are not. They are like a garden that needs continuous care. Only with much nurturing can we have something beautiful. 

When I think of all of this an how it applies to me it gives me pause:  I am a free single woman who owns her own house. This would have been something incredible in 1776. But it is normal now. In 1776, it was normal for land owners to own slaves. That is not normal now. I was raised in a world where bombings and lynchings of black Americans was History. I want that to continue to be History. I do not want that to be normal now. Maybe that is my point. Happy Independence Day to all Americans. May we continue to tend the gift our Founding Fathers gave us.


Los Gatos said...

Beautifully written, thought provoking column!

tara said...

Thanks Los Gatos!