Wednesday, May 6, 2009

lunch with Moxie

Today I had the pleasure of having lunch at a restaurant with lovely first daughter, who shall for the purposes of this public blog be referred to as Moxie. Now, I relish every time I eat in a restaurant, cognizant that it is actually an amazing luxury to have food prepared and served by a stranger, and that quite likely, such indulgences won't be around forever, even for money. But even more I savored this too rare opportunity to spend time with Moxie, who I have loved immeasurably ever since I first looked into her crystal clear, brilliant blue eyes.

Anyway, Moxie began complaining about the wet weather recently, and her difficulty in finding an opportunity to plant seeds in the garden, and her patio pots. Better too much rain than too little, I pronounced. But as she seemed unconvinced I reminded her of years past when extended periods of rain were common, in particular the summer I was supposed to be having a house built, in the newly subdivided woods behind the colonial farmhouse I had shared with my ex-husband.

It turns out that JCP&L workers have a clause in their union contract which provides that if there is one smidgen of a drop of rain, all non-emergency work (i.e., new construction) is abandoned for the rest of the day. Thus from the time my project began exactly nothing was accomplished for weeks that then stretched into months, because it rained virtually every day that summer and into the fall.

Now perhaps this would have proven no worse than frustrating but unfortunately, having horses to feed twice daily and 3 children, I had opted to rent a trailer on the site until the house was habitable. Consequently the trailer had no power, which would of course have been extremely annoying in and of itself however, since I live on the outskirts of a small village, some considerate busybody felt obliged to inform the county health department, who promptly evicted my children and me. Just as school was starting, we took to the road with an irate and raucous parrot, staying with first one, then another tolerant friend, camping on spare beds with the bird cage stationed in the tub.

In vain did I try to convince the bureaucrats at JCP&L, in phone call after tearful phone call, that this was not new construction, since we were already living on the site, thus was justified categorization as an emergency, since we had no power to pump water from the well, or for heat, for instance.

Becoming convinced I was going to lose every friend I had if this continued, I finally contacted my neighbor, then-Governor Whitman, and begged for relief. I felt very bad about asking favors but the situation was getting desperate. Needless to say, the next day a crew showed up and within a few days we were in our cozy trailer, which we soon came to loathe after the builder went bankrupt and swindled me out of vast sums of money, condemning us to trailer purgatory for over a year.

Hence the name, Wit's End.

Anyway, I reminded Moxie of this rain soaked episode as we left the restaurant, a handsome and historic stone Inn in Bernardsville, and then couldn't resist pointing out the damaged landscaping and surrounding pines. Moxie just shrugged her best insoucient shrug. She said "Yeah, well at least the flowering trees look fantastic this year" (so there).

"Exactly", I said, "I noticed that too (see earlier post!) but I wasn't going to mention it. They are putting all their energy into reproduction. Just like the pines producing so many cones."

My kids are all just a little bit weary of my fixation on tree decline and the attendant implications for the rest of the ecosystem. I don't blame them. It isn't nice to be told your future will be grim, and much more paltry than what you have come to expect. I want them to enjoy their lives fully, every minute they can. But I also want them to be prepared to survive whatever happens.

They do not have the memories of long rainy weeks spoiling a summer vacation, or healthy trees being the norm.

I have always loved trees since I was little. One of my earliest memories is of climbing a favorite pine, which was easy, like going up a ladder. My mother knew about it because my long hair would daily be matted with impossibly sticky pine sap. I could smell it when I fell asleep. But she didn't object until she actually saw me at the very top of the pine which had to have been over 50 feet high, clinging to the trunk and swaying from side to side in the wind. That made her shriek frantically.

I also remember spending many ecstatic hours under the shade, constructing elaborate multi-tiered dwellings amongst the gnarled roots from chunks of bark, twigs, moss, and any other bits of arboreal detritus that littered the forest floor. That was before the dawning of Barney and Diego. I think it is significant that even those teevee shows have in common with Beatrix Potter and practically any movie, story or fable, anthropomorphized animals from farm, woodlands and jungle. Children are drawn to animal characters to the point where it is quite difficult to imagine them being as amused in a world with a paucity of them.

The first time I can recall seeing a dead tree, I was already a young mother. This specimen was one of several majestic red oaks that lined our street, which was settled over 300 years ago, about a quarter of a mile away, on the other side of the bridge over the Cold Brook. They counted their age in the centuries, probably from around the time the road was carved out to connect the farms that were established before the Revolutionary War. Abruptly, it seemed to me, one of them just stopped putting out leaves, and soon the town removed it. I was shocked and indignant. I really assumed they lived forever, or at the very least, longer than I would, unless they were chopped down.

Today after our lunch, I took some pictures of the landscaping around the restaurant, and on the drive home as well. Some trees will leaf out fully but I expect that another long hot summer will cause them to wilt and drop.

Those I have photographed are either thinning pines and perennial, evergreen shrubs, or deciduous trees leafing out only partially. Some won't leaf out at all but it's too early in the spring to be sure which ones.

Also this week I will take pictures of plants that are flowering in the garden. We can't be all doom and gloom! The daphne is blooming and perfumes the whole yard, and the wisteria is just opening up.

I'll try to upload some pictures later tonight, which will hopefully not be a failed experiment.

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