Thursday, May 15, 2008

the merry month of may

We may have had a more beautiful spring than this one, but if so, I don't remember it. The weather has been the perfect blend of warm and sunny to make everything bloom, with cool and rainy to keep the flowers blossoming longer. Everything is so lush and green right now - I think this is what the Pacific Northwest must look like.

May has been my favorite month of the year for a long time. What's not to like? The whole world is green and blooming, the temperature is perfect ("ideal," the thermometer outside my kitchen window reads), there is no humidity when the sun is shining, and there are almost no bugs. Maybe I am noticing it more because I am at home every day to appreciate it. Whatever the reason, I am loving it.

Rufus wants to go outside now, and so do I. Hope you are enjoying this spring as much as I am.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 4th

Later today, as I do every year, I will drive over to campus with four bunches of freshly-cut flowers. I will lay them at four temporary memorials marked out in the parking lot where I used to park when I worked at the university. It is the only way I know to leave a concrete symbol that I remember what happened there.

Thirty-eight years ago I was a junior in high school. The first knowledge we had of something gone horribly wrong at Kent State was a frantic phone call from my aunt. Shots had been fired, she told my mother, "I'm going up there to get David." Davey, my much-loved cousin, was a KSU student living on campus that spring. My aunt and my grandmother got in their car and drove from Canton to Kent to "rescue" my cousin. I learned later from countless news stories about the hell they drove into. We all learned about it. It was the only topic of conversation in all my classes in the days that followed.

You know what happened that day - or you should. Government troops had arrived and set up camp on the university commons. Armed soldiers patrolled the campus perimeter. When students protested the military presence on the campus where they lived and attended classes, the troops opened fire on the unarmed students. Thirteen of them were shot, four fatally. Two of the dead students were a part of the protest; two of them had been walking to class when they were gunned down.

So many thoughts swirl through my mind as I remember that day. The one that I come back to time and again, though, is how it feels when spring finally comes to Kent, Ohio. The winters are long here. The days are cold and snowy, the skies are gray for months on end. When the temperature finally climbs above 70 degrees and the sun shines and all the flowering trees on campus bloom, it is the most joyous time of the entire school year. Everyone is outside, playing frisbee, laying in the sun, checking out the opposite sex, for sure. Doing anything, really, just to be outdoors on a glorious spring day. I know if I had been on campus that day, I would certainly have been on Blanket Hill to see what was going on, and, yes, probably to protest an armed government presence on my campus.

Allison and Jeff, Bill and Sandy were older than me when they died - I was still in high school, after all, and they were college students. The years have passed, however, and now my own children are older than they lived to be. I think of their sunny, bright, young faces in all the photos I have ever seen of them, and I know I won't ever forget them or how they died in that sunlit parking lot - killed by agents of their own government. I hope you will always remember them, too.

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Ohio - Neil Young

Thursday, May 1, 2008

and I don't eat 'em, either

This time of year, it's not unusual for me to see dandelions when I close my eyes at night. Robust, vigorous, brilliantly green-leafed, sunshine-yellow dandelions, growing up through the grass. I see them because I spend a part of each day pulling them out of the struggling grass in my back yard. I even have a special tool to pull dandelions. I hate dandelions. I cannot express that strongly enough.

In my earliest memory of dandelions, I don't hate them, actually. A neighborhood child (who it was is lost in the mists of time) and I have picked large bouquets of dandelions and I marvel at their intense color. The other child encourages me to present my bouquet to my mother, and although I sense that is a bad idea, I give them to her anyway. She quickly abuses me of the notions that they are a)beautiful b) flowers or c) an appropriate gift to give her. She tells me to throw them away and go wash my hands.

I have one other memory of my mother and dandelions. The only work I can ever remember her doing in our tiny back yard or our even tinier front yard was when she would go outside on a spring evening after dinner with an old kitchen paring knife, and cut dandelions out of the lawn. She must have hated them alot to do that.

I have been told that dandelions were introduced to the U.S. by the A. I. Root Company in Medina, Ohio for the benefit of their honeybees. The closest thing I could find to a verification of that is this: "They were even introduced into the Midwest from Europe to provide food for the imported honeybees in early spring. " I found that information, for what it's worth, at this website: Damn them to hell, if it is true. What a curse they brought upon our land.

None of us like to think that we have become - or are becoming - our parents, but when I do battle with my mortal enemies, the dandelions, I think of my mother, bent awkwardly at the waist, cutting dandelions out of the yard on a warm spring evening. It's not the worst trait I could have inherited from her.