Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Treatise on Bales of Hay by Liz Flaherty

It's a do-over, on account of I'm tired this week. But it's also a favorite, and I still love those bales of hay. I hope you enjoyed the fair this week! - Liz

I feel kind of cheated sometimes. Drawing ideas for columns from the news is something every columnist I know of does. Or used to. The only ones who can do that anymore are political or religious writers. They know they will have support from those whose beliefs coincide with theirs and will be called names and have their intelligence and education questioned by those whose do not. They know it going in, so that they won't be surprised when people they don't know talk mean stuff about their family members, pets, and how they voted in 1992.

Well, okay, that's the way it is. Sigh. But for people like me, whose ideas are limited to begin with, whose skins are too thin for name-calling, and who wants everyone to like her, it gets dang difficult.

So let's talk about hay.

I've been sitting here looking at the round bales in the field just west of the yard. They're framed by trees, and I have been enjoying the picture of them ever since they were baled a few weeks back. Their outer color has changed, losing its verdancy in a segue to gray that makes them less pretty, but no less attractive. 

It's like people age, isn't it? They lose hair color and sometimes hair, their skin loses elasticity, and their shapes get a little less...shapely. They're not as pretty as they were in their springtimes for the most part, but they're attractive nevertheless. They still look great in a frame.

Bales of hay probably aren't all that big of a deal to everyone. If you never played in the haymow with kittens...or hid in the haymow because you hated everyone and everyone hated you and you wished you were dead...or maybe spent some haymow time with the boyfriend of the summer...or shared confidences with friends (about the boyfriend)...well, chances are you don't see the charm.

But hay in the barn offered a place of privacy and quiet and sometimes even spirituality. If there was a rope to swing from, it was also a place of adventure and a possible concussion. 

Bales of hay are dusty and scratchy, but they smell so good--especially when they're fairly new--that describing the scent is a lot like answering when someone says what is love? It's different for everyone. 

Before hay is baled, it's cut and then left in tidy windrows to dry. Hay isn't the only plant that makes it into the bales. There are grasses and weeds and prickly things. There are other things, too, that I'm not going to go into here. You know, in case some cow is reading this and decides she's not going to eat that, after all. And leaves a mean comment here and calls me names.

I'd venture to say my little treatise on bales of hay won't change anyone's mind about them. If you didn't think they were interesting before--beyond possibly thinking when they're dressed in their white covers, they look like tractor eggs or steroid-filled marshmallows--you probably won't be too impressed by them now. If you liked them already, you're going to know what I've been talking about and you're going to remember spending some time in a hayloft. Or maybe you're going to itch. Either way, you'll like it.

This is how it needs to be if a columnist writes something drawn from what's in the news, isn't it? If you don't like it before, you probably won't like it afterward, either, but you haven't been hurt by it. You can argue its point without feeling the need to malign either the writer or what is written--no matter how intensely you may dislike bales of hay. If you do like it before, you will feel represented, something we all need, and maybe you'll say something nice. 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

The Week We Worried by Liz Flaherty

It was an idea. I got it when I was lying in bed sometime between midnight and four in the morning worrying about my kids and grandkids, my brother and my sisters-in-law, my husband, climate change, politics, aging, health, my energy level...did I mention my grandkids?

I thought, in the midst of this, when I'd turned over three or four times, squinted at the clock, and sighed with a depth that should have shaken the bed, that it would be a funny blog post. In the light of day, after all, I seldom worry. At least, I don't worry all the time. Usually.  

I wondered what other people worry about--are they as all over the place as me? So, since this is the 2020s, I did research in the most up-to-date and professional way. I asked on Facebook, expecting to get responses from a dozen or so friends. 

As of this morning, Friday, the dozen I expected was four dozen instead, and what I expected to be a probably-funny post isn't funny at all. 

About half of us worry specifically about family, with three more worrying about sick friends and family. Personal health is a concern

Money issues are things, I think, that keep people awake. A few worry about how they will pay their bills, about getting enough work hours, about being fiscally safe. 

Parents worry about their kids' health, their businesses, their finances, that they are or will be bullied, whether they are happy. Mothers of daughters worry about their girls' rights being taken away.

Photo by Skyler Wilson

People worry about cancer and the catastrophic effects it brings to its victims and their families and friends.

My niece worries about her parents. My daughter worries about her students being okay during the summer. A friend worries--and now I do, too, Leah!--about a general lack of curiosity. Another friend, a teacher, worries about how her decisions will affect those she cares about. Yet another teacher worries that she can protect her students from gun violence.

At least two worry about things that are beyond their control, that they can't do anything about. 

Valerie worries about the blights that taint society as a whole: "Addiction, racism, corruption, injustice, global warming, brutality, greed."

In line with that, several are concerned about the world we're leaving for the next generation, but the worries are diverse. Several of us are worried about the planet itself. Charley worries that "You have to watch what you say or you could be charged with a hate crime." On the other side of that, many worry about society becoming desensitized to hate. Joe worries about the "wokes"--others worry about the ones who are not. 

Some of us worry about guns. Helen worries about how dead batteries are recycled and I do, too, now (the planet again.) Vicci worries about the "disposable society" we have become, with concern for human life being at the top of the list. 

We worry about losing loved ones. About our spouses if we die first. About ourselves if our spouses go on without us. 

Brenda worries that she's not doing enough for the Lord. Another friend worries because her kids don't attend church. Many of us worry about our churches as we become increasingly divided in how we practice our faith.  

Two friends say they worry about nothing. In a way, I envy that, but in another, I still feel as if worrying is part of my job on earth.

There were more on the list, although I've covered most of them here. Debby Myers said, "All of the above."

I looked for a quote to put with this post, and all of the ones I found indicated that worrying is pretty much a waste of time. I don't believe that. As I said above, I believe it's part of my job as a mom, a Nana, a wife, and a human being. While I'm a believer in "let go and let God," I think He doesn't mind my helping. 

I've gone on longer than I intended. The Window hasn't been funny. It hasn't solved any problems. However, it has reminded me that although as human beings we are very different, we are also very alike. It's also reminded me to pay attention to what's going on around me, to care about what is in the hearts of others.

Have a good week. Worry if you need to, and listen to someone else's worries if they need to share them. Be nice to somebody. 

Saturday, June 10, 2023

It's my job... by Liz Flaherty

Do you suppose everyone wishes they were different? I'm not one who hates myself--other than my weight and when my hair's frizzy, but those are different things--and there are things I about myself. I like that I write, that I'm a feminist, that my faith is solid, that I'm fairly empathetic, that I accept and actually pretty much embrace the mental and emotional detritus of aging. (The physical, not so much.)

But I really hate that I'm scared of snakes and spiders and that I won't remove a mouse from a trap--or from anywhere else he's died or still lives. I'm sorry that even though I know how to change a tire, I'm probably not going to. I'm disappointed that the most athletic thing I do consistently is turn rings round and round on my fingers while I'm thinking. 

My sister used to say that Mom was a good "poor" cook. She made the best soup and soup beans and potato salad around, and her homemade bread was to die for, but approach her with a nice steak to cook and she'd run the other way, afraid that she'd burn it or something. She was also absolutely certain all recipes called for more good stuff than they needed, so her chocolate chip cookies never had a whole bag of chips in them, the sugar in her sugar cookies was likely halved from the recipe, and she could make a pound of hamburger feed the 5000. The purveyors of the loaves and fishes had nothing on her. 

I like that she could do that. I don't like that I've never risen above the ranks of mediocre in either poor cooking or otherwise. I would ruin a hamburger as easily as I could a ribeye that costs whatever they cost a pound right now. (I can also set the smoke alarms off without even trying. It's a talent and all, but no one appreciates it.)

The other part of the whole cooking thing don't like is that I no longer care whether I cook well, badly, or mediocrely--I don't want to do it at all. 

I like clothes, but I don't like they never look on me the way they did in the picture. I like shoes, but not that one shoe always feels better than the other one and that when you buy a duplicate pair because you really liked the first ones, the duplicate often doesn't work out. 

Oops. As usual, I've segued away from the subject at hand, haven't I? That's another thing I don't like, wait, I do like that. Because life is comprised of moments, isn't it? And even days. I've said forever that I've had a few years I wouldn't live through again for any amount of money, but actually, those years had some great moments in them. Some great days. 

I started writing this determined I was not going to be Polly Positive today, because I do realize it annoys some people. Sometimes I even annoy me. But, the truth is, even with bad moments, bad habits, bad days, unreasonable fear, etc., I'm not a half-bad person. And neither are you. I'm so glad to know you. 

Have a great week. Enjoy the Cole Porter Festival. Like yourself, and be nice to somebody. 


Saturday, June 3, 2023

About Complaining by Liz Flaherty

I think summer's here. I've complained about 47 times this week about being hot and no one's done anything about it yet. That's a problem with complaining, I've learned. Something else is that you need to be selective about it.

1. Only complain to someone who can do something about the issue, preferably someone whose job it is and who's being paid to listen, apologize, and fix. 

2. Only complain once about any particular thing--47 times is just way over the top. 

3. Don't complain about the weather. Go inside or out, whichever suits your personal climate, dress accordingly, and--as your mother said--look at the bright side.

4. Don't complain to people who would give their eyeteeth to be in your shoes. 

Tierney Flaherty
5. Don't complain about other's people's kids or grandkids--they can't all be as cool as yours. 

6. Don't complain about people who brag about their kids and grandkids. Their families are their hearts just like your family is yours. 

7. Don't complain publicly about a business based on one bad experience. Give them a chance to clear up whatever the error was and then give them another try. Things are tough all over and social media complaints ripple on and on and...yeah, you get it. 

8. Don't complain about there being nothing to do when the truth is you haven't looked very hard.

9. Don't make lists so long they get boring...

So, could you tell I didn't have much to say this week? I hope you're enjoying summer even if is too ho...never mind. Ole Olsen has performances of The Ballad of Granny Siler this weekend and next; the fair will be coming up this month, followed shortly by the circus; Second Saturday will be the 10th (the Klabundes are performing at Gallery 15--don't miss them!); 100 Days of Summer is happening at Maconaquah Park; baseball fields are ringing with the sounds of "hey, batter..."

And, lest I forget, there's ice cream. 

Have a great week. Find something to do and, while you're at it, be nice to somebody.