Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Decoration Day and Peonies

One of the posters
I found inside my
new tote bag!

A week ago, the town where I live celebrated the second annual Indiana Peony Festival.  The peony is the official state flower but never had its own party until last year.  I dragged a friend along to stroll around Seminary Park and nose around the vendor booths.  I returned home with two 1-gallon pots of peony plants, a tote bag, and two posters.

Memorial Day and peonies are inextricably linked in my mind.  Peonies generally bloom the last week of May, just in time for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day was originally established in the former Confederate states in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868 (*See below) to remember soldiers who died during the Civil War - from both sides, Union and Confederate.

The ladies of Columbus, Georgia, began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers from their gardens, including the graves of Union soldiers, on May 30, 1866 - just one year after the end of the Civil War.  For years, the holiday was called Decoration Day, before officially becoming Memorial Day.

Here's the Peony
Trail poster.

I remember my great aunt making plans to visit the cemeteries and decorate the graves of relatives who had served in the military.  She always called it "Decoration Day," and the preferred blooms for the job were peonies - abundant, conveniently timed blooms, and gorgeous.  

When I was growing up, peonies were considered old-fashioned "grandma flowers," probably because the people who grew them were the older folks who still made the pilgrimage to the cemeteries on "Decoration Day" with tubs of cut peony blooms, and maybe because if you had any peonies in your garden, they almost certainly came from thinning the plantings at Grandma's house!  

But peonies seem to have made a comeback - not only at my town's festival, but in the stores on printed fabrics and decorative items.  There are a TON of YouTube tutorials on how to draw and paint peonies using every possible art medium available!

Every May there are big showy flowers all along one side of our house.  So why did I buy two pots of additional plants?  Well, you just can't have enough peonies!  There's always a spot where you can squeeze in one or two more.  Along with the Indiana Peony Festival, my town has established a "Peony Trail" - locations of notable plantings of peonies.  I don't think our house will ever be included, but if you drive down our street you'll see plenty of peony beds.  Here are some of my blooms.

I've decided to make the cemetery pilgrimage myself next year.  I'll need all the peonies I can get!


*Although there were people from both the North and the South who embraced the sentiment of Decoration Day, there were others who weren't ready for reconciliation.  Friancis Miles Finch, a Northern judge, academic, and poet, inspired by the observance in the South, composed a poem that was so widely circulated in newspapers, magazines, and books that by the end of 1867, Decoration Day/Memorial Day was adopted by the North, where it was first celebrated in 1868.  In 1893 the poem was included in a school book published by Ginn and Company, Selections for Memorizing, alongside such standards as "Old Ironsides," "The Gettysburg Address," "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and selections from Shakespeare, Dickens, Burns, and Longfellow, among others.  Here's the poem:

The Blue And The Gray
Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907)

By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the one, the Blue,
            Under the other, the Gray

These in the robings of glory,
    Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
    In the dusk of eternity meet:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day
        Under the laurel, the Blue,
            Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe;
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day;
        Under the roses, the Blue,
            Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,
    The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Broidered with gold, the Blue,
            Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
    On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment -day,
        Wet with the rain, the Blue
            Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
    The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
    No braver battle was won:
        Under the sod adn the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the blossoms, the Blue,
            Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,
    Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
    When they laurel the graves of our dead!
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day,
        Love and tears for the Blue,
            Tears and love for the Gray.

Monday, May 23, 2022

On the Road Again With My Sister For LOADS of R&R!

Because of COVID, I have a backlog of timeshare usage and I'm trying my best to use it up before it expires.  So I traded in a week for a trip to Gatlinburg and dragged my sister along with me!  We ALWAYS have a good time together.

We crammed a HEAP of fun into one week!

Bud Ogle Cabin

Naturally, we spent a lot of time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since we were pretty much right there.  We hiked some trails, explored some old homesteads, nosed around some campgrounds, and got our National Parks Passports stamped!

We drove the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.  Our first stop was at the Bud Ogle cabin, where we decided to hike the 0.7-mile, 30-minute, "easy" loop nature trail. 


We got our fill of hiker's R&R (Roots and Rocks) on that trail.  And we had to clamber over fallen trees, cross streams on either log bridges (where there WERE bridges) or teetering rocks.  My sister actually fell (gracefully) at the last crossing.  The rock rocked one way and she went over the other way.  Luckily I had packed a couple of hiking poles for us and we used them, or it would have been harder on us.

It was NOT an "easy" trail.  I'd call it a moderate trail.  At one point we (I) missed a turn and we had to backtrack a little.  And the "30 minutes" turned into 90 with picking our way through the R&R, which seemed to be most of the trail.  

It was beautiful and QUIET, though, and we enjoyed it.  A bit of a challenge when you're not used to doing that sort of thing, and challenges are good for you - they stretch your horizons!  Right?

Newfound Gap

Our stay overlapped with the 72nd Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Park, which a couple of my friends, one of whom is a presenter, attend every year.  So before they arrived, we had our own wildflower extravaganza - they were everywhere!


We visited Newfound Gap where there were banks and banks of wildflowers along a stretch of the Appalachian Trail which crosses the road there and continues on to Clingman's Dome and Charlie's Bunion.
Fringed Phacelia

Spring Beauties

White Trilliam


Appalachian Trail


Yellow Trillium

It's often rainy in the Smokies in the spring, but we lucked out with the weather that week.  Every day was dry and beautiful except for one, which we used as our day of R&R (Rest and Recovery) before going out and doing it all again!

We did much more in and out of the Park, but I'll stop here for now.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Thirty Days in May

Today is the official start of the events leading up to the Indianapolis 500, but it just doesn't feel right to me.  I guess I'm old and crotchety.  Oh me.

Back in The Good Old Days, young'uns, the 500 festivities started May 1, not on a Wednesday in the first week of the month - THE FIRST.  The Race itself was run on Memorial Day, MAY 30 - not the Sunday before the last Monday in May.  People talked about "RACE DAY" and nobody asked "Which race?"

It used to be all about the Thirty Days in May in the newspapers (yes, there used to be more than one) and on TV and radio.  There was big 500 news EVERY DAY.  Elementary school art teachers taught kids to draw race cars.  There was the 500 Festival of the Arts exhibit and competition for local high school students.  People stuck checkered flags in their front yards and hosted race day cookouts.  Who does that now?  Sad.

Drivers used to stay at the Speedway Motel or in people's homes, believe it or not!  And not like an AirBNB-type place, either.  Actual people's HOMES.  In their SPARE BEDROOMS, and sometimes BASEMENTS.

The Snake Pit had no bleachers, no family-friendly picnic area, and no grass most of the time.  If you weren't looking for trouble, you didn't go there except by accident or sheer ignorance.  It was full of bikers and drunks and women flashing their goodies - oh my!  (MAYBE we could do without THAT tradition - HA!)

If you went to the 500 Parade, you didn't need a reservation to watch; you could line up along the route and crane your neck to see, or climb up the steps of the old Post Office/Federal Building and find a seat - all for FREE.  Now you pretty much have to pay for a reserved bleacher seat if you want to see anything at all.  UGH. 

Practice days were every weekday.  High school and college students would skip school to go to practices, and return the following day with the most amazing lobster-esque sunburns!  Qualifications were run every weekend.  Today's "Carb Day" was Carburetion Day, when the crews tuned the cars' carburetors (no fuel injection!) in preparation for The Race. 

Anyway, the 500 was a big deal here.  But for the last couple of decades, it seems to have lost its luster.  What was once a source of local pride and excitement became a nuisance (the traffic!) and just another day - ho hum.

However, Penske recently bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and seems to be trying to bring back some of the local excitement.  There are commercials on TV that aren't just about "The Race is coming!  Buy your tickets NOW!" but evoke nostalgia for the ceremonial rituals and traditions of the race.  One of my friends has lived with the track nearly in her front yard her entire life, and can be excused for having a jaded attitude toward all the hoopla, but even SHE is getting excited about The Race again.

There IS hope!


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Curbside Pickup Just Got REAL

As I wrote in a previous post, we replaced our dishwasher (ourselves) and thought we were done replacing things.  


My (ancient) laptop decided to start giving me fits.  The sound played intermittently, and the touchpad stopped working.  There were things I could do with it, but there were many more things I couldn't, so I started researching.  Long story short, I got a new laptop - nothing fancy, but newer, and most importantly, it WORKS.

So I'm finally done and I can get back to it, right?

HA again!

Last summer, I noticed that the plastic kill button on my boat's little outboard motor was chipped around the edges so that the clip that keeps the motor running couldn't perform its function.  This has happened before, so I knew what was needed - a throttle assembly.

Now, the boat and motor are 35 years old this year.  Parts.  Ah, yes.  It always comes down to Parts.  I searched for places that carried The Parts.  There were several, but only one had all the pieces for the throttle assembly.  So I built an order.

HOLY COW!  The total!  ACK!  I have the original receipt for the old motor, and the amount for JUST the throttle assembly parts was more than what the motor cost new in 1987!  OUCH.  I mean, come on.  After replacing the throttle assembly I'd still have a 35-year-old motor.  Who knows what would fail next?

So I REconsidered my options and searched for an equivalent NEW motor.  I read reviews and sailing forums and ads and websites.  It took several days, but I found a motor that would work.  

The new motor, at home.

Time to order!!!

Well, if only it were that simple.  Supply chain issues haven't gone away yet - will they ever?

I found a few sites that carry The Motor, but only TWO with any in stock - that's the $64,000 question!  

One was in California and the other in Connecticut.  The place in California was a little less expensive, but the "preparation fees" and shipping costs and all the other add-ons made it quite a bit MORE expensive.  Bait and switch.  The ancient cheat.

I ordered the motor from Defender Industries in Connecticut.  They only had two in stock.  After considering my options AGAIN, instead of having it shipped, I said I'd pick it up.

Yes, that's right.  I drove to Connecticut to pick up a new outboard.  

Yes, I'm crazy.

Well, just a little.  I decided to make the most of the trip.  Why not spend a week in New England?  And I could look in on That Girl and her family on the way.  So that's what I did.  I visited in Baltimore and stayed one night going.  I drove to Rhode Island, where I stayed for my off-season vacation.

"Ultra-Low Emissions"
But the motor was in Connecticut!  Not to worry.  Where I stayed in Rhode Island was about two miles from the Connecticut state line, and Defender Industries was only a thirty-minute drive from my temporary home base.  Half an hour in the car is nothing.  It was the perfect location.  I was only three houses from the beach.  I did walk to the beach a couple of times, but it was too cold to do anything else there.  Even the closest restaurants were closed for the season, and it snowed one night.

No, no beach activities besides walking - in my down parka.  I don't know that I've ever done that before.  

Anyway, that Monday I went to Defender Industries.  Why "Defender?"  Well, they specialize in inflatables (!) similar to Zodiacs, used by all sorts of public safety agencies, and as tenders to yachts and stuff.  They have ONE retail outlet and they carry ALL kinds of neato marine stuff, including sailboat hardware, floats, dock bumpers, Sunbrella material for covers, and just about everything you could wish for.  

A dangerous place! 

Here's The Box.
No actual luggage.

I had to go inside to let them know I had arrived.  I showed GREAT restraint by not wandering around and exploring the warehouse-like expanse of boat-related goodies.  I DID almost buy a set of charts for the Chesapeake Bay and another for the Block Island vicinity.  I picked them up and leafed through them longingly, but better sense prevailed and I returned them to their shelves.

When I drove around to the loading area, I saw The Box.  Oh, I KNEW (in my head) what size it would be, but actually seeing it in the back of my vehicle, I started to wonder whether I'd be able to fit my luggage in there with it! 

I managed. 

And I managed well enough that driving home (via Baltimore again) I didn't have anything blocking the rearview mirror's sightlines.

So, a successful curbside pickup.  Now I just have to figure out the new motor's foibles and eccentricities - oh, boy!!!