This just into the Newsroom – If the Constant is Change, the Past is the exception that doesn’t. Yes, Friends, no matter how much we (or the politicians) try to reword, rewrite and generally tinker with its retelling, the Past, in and of itself, is neither Cause nor Curse. No matter whose Past it is and no matter how we slice it, the Past simply ‘is what it is’ and will always be.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Just because the Past is the Past, the story doesn’t stop whirling. No sirree Bob. Why not? Because this is the point in our adventure where Change reenters every equation defining us and the choices we’re making right now. Though I’m hard pressed to point to any recent examples of it in Congress, the rumor is the more time passes between Past Point A and Current Point B, the better our understanding becomes of what actually happened in the aforementioned process of moving from said Point A to B. Know better, do better.
Two kids, overheard at the food court in their local mall: “I didn’t think your parents said it was OK”.
“They didn’t, so I asked my Dad.”
We learn. Or do we? Put another way, how long do you keep waking up in a place you don’t recognize without any clue as to how (or who) got you there. How many times are we willing to ask ourselves “Where are my shoes?” Wake up Buttercup, our Lives (or lack of them) are trying to tell us something.
This week, I read about Mr. Edgar Nernberg, an excavator digging a basement in Evanston, Alberta, Canada who struck rock. Not just any rock mind you, but a large flat sheet panel kind of a rock. And the homeowner, being somewhat of an amateur paleontologist knew enough to recognize there were fossils imprinted there…five very old fossils. How old were they? What were they? He didn’t know. But he knew enough to call in the professionals at the University of Alberta and besides, it’s the law that any fossils found are government property…the People, if you will.
To make a long story short, after all kinds of very smart people with very smart machines were done testing, the consensus was the fossils were ‘bony tongue’, early ancestors of a family that includes today’s goldfish and dating back some 60-Million years ago; after the time dinosaurs were thought to have perished and the Planet was rebuilding.
Being a nerd, I find this very cool. The irony comes next. Seems that in the years before the backyard find, our amateur paleontologist had earned quite a reputation around town for asserting his belief that the Earth is some 6,000 years old and the reasons why he thought the fish only dated back some 4,500 years or so to be concurrent with the time of Noah and the biblical account of the Flood.
After the government’s announcement of what had actually been found, you can imagine how the members of the press lined up to get his reaction. Mr. Nernberg was asked if any of this, in his own backyard mind you, had changed his opinion about the age of our planet. His answer was “No”.
I’m reminded of the great Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said, “You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts”.
Speaking of new old facts, our mom got a whole lot older this week with the discovery of a new species of hominid. We’ve all heard about Lucy, one of our oldest fossilized ancestor who lived in Afar region of Ethiopia, dated to be just a little less than 3.18 million years old. This week, I read about Ledi, a new ancestor unearthed some 40 miles away from where Lucy had been found. History.com reports:
“According to a pair of papers published last week in the journal Science, the jawbone is the oldest fossil in the human ancestral line to have ever been found and dated, and it pushes back the timeline of human evolution by nearly a half-million years. The analysis of the lower jaw found more similarities with younger east African Homo specimens than older Australopithecus afarensis ones.”
Some 400,000 years older, it seems that maybe Lucy wasn’t the trunk of our family tree like we thought. Time will tell, but maybe, just maybe what we’ve really discovered is there are more branches than we thought. But here’s the thing. Neither Lucy or Ledi (Ledi-Geraru) changed at all. The only ones challenged to change their minds about what they thought they knew is us. Why are we surprised? Were we there? No. Was there a news chopper to catch any of the pre-historic action? No. Am I surprised that people are acting all surprised? No. Time passages.
Moving back to this Continent and in homage to global warming and the changing sea, this weekend the Gay Head Lighthouse, a fixture on the coast of Aquinnah, Mass (Martha’s Vineyard) for the past 160 years is being moved from its current location. No, not because of bad blood with the landlord, but because of the ground underneath the 400-Ton structure has been victim to “constant landslides, pummeling ocean waves and flowing groundwater hav[ing] severely eroded the brilliantly-colored Gay Head cliffs, oftentimes at a rate of several feet per year”.
CNN reports that today’s brick lighthouse, “built in 1854, replaced the original wooden structure built in 1799”. Some thinking it’s the oldest lighthouse in the U.S., she’s been guiding whaling boats and all manners of sailing vessels through the fog ever since. Without intervention, it is thought the structure would likely have fallen into the sea in another 2-years or less.
How often do we see something going wrong and do nothing to avoid the inevitable we know is waiting at the end of the dotted lines? But these people did. They changed the landscape in order to save something they cared about. Well done. The Light remains tall and lit, standing some 130 feet or so, just southeast of where it had been perched as if at the end of its diving board.
Though I doubt the first builder of the lighthouse would ever have imagined its current peril, they did understand Change. Tides change. Birds do it. Bees do it. And so do the Seasons…turn, turn, turn.
So it is with Spring when I and amateur gardeners everywhere turn their thoughts to planting and the general joys of playing in the dirt. But with Chicago’s last Winter seeming to hang on way past its expiration date, I will admit to having had some doubts as to exactly when Spring was going to be. In fact tonight, it looks like we’re going to be at 40-degrees, cooler near the Lake…it’s the very end of May and we actually had the conversation earlier in the evening about maybe covering some of the plants tonight!
But I get ahead of myself. Wind chill or not, as the days grew longer, there comes a point in every farmers life when we just have to hitch up the horses and get thyselves out to the local garden center. Two weeks ago, that’s exactly what we did. Flowering plants for the pots started with the Begonias and ran all the way to the herbs and spices like Cilantro and Basil now populating the long troughs on our porch. And the hanging plants! No upside down tomatoes this year.
My self-avowed green thumb is still throbbing from last year’s debacle. I still remember all the effort that went into the grand experiment of the hanging gardens of tomatoes. I was so pumped to be installing new eye hooks and stringing good heavy wire, you know the braided kind, all to support what I envisioned was going to be the weight of dozens of bit fat tomatoes issuing out the bottoms of their bright red containers filled with the best soil and medium money could buy. The planters were cool. I’d never done it before as I assured myself that all my neighbors were secretly jealous of my cutting edge vision of what it meant to be an urban gardener…New Age? Ha! My methods were the cutting edge of the Future. I was going to have so many tomatoes coming in week after week I ran the risk of running out of people to give them to.
But alas, there are those among you gathered here today who remember what I got [Read Wabi Sabi Tomatoes – Sept 9, 2014]. After all the prep, the care and the tending, my entire harvest consisted of a few tomatoes a little smaller than marbles, barely enough to flavor a salad or two.
So back to current Point B. There we are, the two of us walking the aisles of an outdoor nursery/garden center so vast it could be its own county and I’m still going on about my stupid upside down experiment, giving new voice to my rage over last year’s tomatoes. “…you know if I charged Time and added up the cost of the compost and everything else, I’ll bet you each of those tomatoes came in at $40 apiece.”
In a burst of brilliance and maybe to offer a diversion that might shut me up, Rick sagely points out an entire aisle of hanging baskets of every shape and description. Nearly a block long, I felt like I had just come out of the woods and was on my way to Oz. “No tomatoes this year. We’re going to add more hanging stuff.”
“You know, I think that’s an excellent idea…” and he followed it up by telling me about some other baskets he’d been spying, how much they were, why they’d be good additions.
I was hooked. Soon after we got home, the old tomato containers were unhooked and before you could say ‘Jack Spratt’, the faded red tubes were in the dumpster. All winter long they had been humming ‘dust in the wind’, never missing an opportunity to remind me of the whole affair.
But that was then and this is now. The hooks were still good and the heavy wire had played no part in the previous season’s paltry harvest. Zip, zip, zoom, the new overflowing baskets of plenty went up to join the other baskets already hanging. We stepped back and I knew…it was good.
But sometimes, all’s well does not always go well.
After a long and windy day last weekend, something went so ‘whoomp’ it woke me up. Seconds later, Rick came into the room with this look on his face that I had to ask, “What is it?”
“The basket. The new one. It just fell. I think it was the wire.”
Sure enough, racing out to check the damage, there was my sturdy braided wire hanging naked all by itself, swaying in the wind over the fallen wreckage of the newly minted basket now laying cracked and sideways, dirty guts spilled out over its concrete resting place. So what did we do? We cleaned up what we could save and wrapped some black duct tape around the wounds in the baskets side. Tying a new loop in the wire, I crimped the knot down tight with the pliers. “There, that ought to hold it” and back up went the not-so-new basket. Wide awake, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to understand what had gone wrong.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday. I get a call at work. It’s Rick. “The other basket…”
“It came down like a bomb.”
“Is it cracked open?”
“Nope. Basket is fine, the flowers underneath it broke the fall. But the Begonias don’t look so good. In fact, the white one is crushed.”
So even though I’m kicking myself and already thinking the ghost of last years’ tomatoes had something to do with it, my other half has mad skills, so we wrap up the call. He’d see what he could do and we’d figure something out.
When I got home later that evening, he took me out to the scene of Round Two. Sure enough, the hanging hooks were solid, but there was the hanging wire having shed the weight of its charge underneath. Turns out the wire, that sturdy braided wire I was so sure of simply couldn’t withstand the fatigue brought on by the spinning breeze catching the sails of the overhanging flowers inside it.
What I knew had worked fine just last year had spun itself to the breaking point and I had not once seen it coming. Last years’ evil tomatoes had cursed the spot the new baskets were supposed to fill. And now, me, Mr. All-That-And-a-Bag-of-Chips was confronted with having had the same problem bite him in the Pride…twice in less than a week! I knew better. I had tugged on the wires. I had even hung on them a little to see if some weight still found them to be rock solid. The hooks were in tight and you could pull a car with a strand or two of the braided wire. I had done what I knew to do. What I hadn’t counted on was the spinning.
Looking up at what had used to be, it was oh so plain. The other older (still hanging and never having fallen) baskets had chain…it minimized the spinning. The hooks on either end offered resistance which limited free rotation. Why hadn’t I thought to replace the old wire? Simple. I was complacent in the knowledge the wire had worked even when the tomatoes hadn’t. What I thought I knew didn’t take into account the forces actually at work when I wasn’t looking. How long can any of us spin in the wind before the fatigue of it all causes a failure? In this instance? Less than a week.
There have been times in my life when I thought I had done all my homework. I had considered every possibility. I had so overthought the solution I couldn’t hear my common sense for all the background noise I was creating for myself.
I am in awe of how the kids in the mall, Mr. Nernberg, Lucy, her new relative Ledi, a 400-Ton lighthouse in Massachusetts and the Tale of the Hanging Baskets all worked together in clobbering me over the head with the obvious.
We went to the hardware store, bought two 14” lengths of very stout chain and two snap-ring hooks. Hooked each end-link to its overhead hook, snapped the rings to the other ends and slid the basket hooks into the rings. A 747 can now crash on top of us and those baskets will still be there. They don’t spin anymore and look good next to the other baskets. For their part, the plant life living underneath our hanging gardens are sleeping better tonight. They’re under the stars shining over the baskets who are looking down on the plants under the blankets protecting them from any potential frost that even thinks about trying to injure them.
So for all my blathering about it, there is no Curse of the Killer Tomatoes. No curse, only causes. Causes which brought me to a new awareness about things I’d simply gotten used to or at least, was willing to put up with…things I can change before they are in the Past. If I don’t? Too late. Game over. Know better, do better. And I am trying. What can I say, it’s always good to be on the side of a good cause. Thanks for hanging out with me a little while. Later. Gotta go water some people…
Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III
February 3, 1969 – May 30, 2015
“It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life…”
— from a statement by Vice President Joe Biden.
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Killer Tomatoes: SOURCED at https://mishkanyc.com/bloglin/2008/12/31/top-10-ebay-purchases-of-2008; At the Mall by TheEdMinistrator765: http://theedministrator765.deviantart.com/; One of five fossilized fish recently discovered in Calgary. (University of Calgary) (SOURCE): http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/fossilized-fish-found-during-excavation-in-calgary-suburb-1.3090047; Daniel Patrick Moynihan is commonly credited with the quote though attributions are varied: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Daniel_Patrick_Moynihan; Lucy: https://iho.asu.edu/about/lucys-story; and http://www.history.com/news/discovery-of-oldest-human-fossil-fills-evolutionary-gap; Ledi – Ledi-Geraru by Minasse Wondimu_Anadolu Agency_Getty Images (SOURCE): http://www.history.com/news/discovery-of-oldest-human-fossil-fills-evolutionary-gap/oldest-fossil-3; Gay Head Lighthouse being moved – by Charles Kruppa/AP: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/28/travel/gay-head-lighthouse-move-feat/ and quote: http://a.msn.com/en-us/news/us/iconic-marthas-vineyard-lighthouse-being-moved-inland/ar-BBkkppa; Large Tomatoes by Tracy Sigler: http://www.tracysigler.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/tomatoes-big.jpg; Hanging Baskets: Its Not Work Its Gardening by wiethop-greenhouses – http://www.itsnotworkitsgardening.com/2015/04/wiethop-greenhouses-visit-part-1.html;
Darwin and Change from another WordPress blogger. Thanks. Go visit at: http://faithingeeks.com/2012/03/11/the-only-constant-is-change/
Beau Biden and his family: http://www.people.com/article/beau-biden-joe-son-dead; AND http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beau_Biden#Illness_and_death; Excerpt from the President’s statement on the passing of Beau Biden: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/30/statement-president-passing-beau-biden; Spring Leafing in the Garden: http://www.lapalomafarms.com/#!Are-we-making-gardening-too-hard/c24mc/B409FA9A-6A67-4339-9F2F-7E417D95ED93
Wabi Sabi Tomatoes at: https://dan4kent.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/wabi-sabi-tomatoes/
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