Monday, February 25, 2019

On a wagon in a field

And, the movie of the year is......Green Book!!! Oh, yes, I cheered. We saw the movie and fell in love with it. Not only did it take me to the past but also to the present. The acting was superb. The film well written. A true story brought to light. A story of us.

Four brothers were born in Piqua, Ohio. (So was I) John Jr, Herbert, Harry and Donald were sons of a local barber who founded a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony. His sons learned from their father just as we did from our parents. This vocal group grew into one of the longest-lasting oldie acts in American popular music, entertaining audiences for decades. Even before Pentatonix began making their own instrumental sounds, this oldie group made their own. In the late 20's this group charmed radio audiences. This quartet went on to record with Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. In 1943 their Paper Doll became one of the biggest hits of the decade with 12 weeks at the top of the charts with six million records sold.

June and I got into a discussion about where Myrtle Mack had lived and about the house across from my Uncle Bob's house on Yount Road where I was sure her son Don moved with his lovely wife Nancy. "Remember the field between that house and Uncle Bob's? It was where a wagon was pulled into the field for the singers to stand on," I said. Dad and his quartet sang warm-up for that group of boys from Piqua. June came back with, "You know Dad's quartet (a group of young men lead by Mr. Paulsgrove) travelled with them. They sang mostly in churches. Dad got a serious ear infection and had to come back home for surgery." Well, yes, I did know that, but it raised a question, especially after having seen Green Book. "Dad's group stayed in one hotel and the Mills Brothers stayed in another or maybe a tent." What?!?!? I thought that was only in the south!!! All these years I had never thought about it.

The bus pulled into the driveway. They came to do laundry at our house. We girls were thrilled to have them. When they found me in the basement singing along with my record player (which was a daily occurrence), Marva Jo Dixon lifted me onto her lap, and the girls joined me in song. Often June and I have questioned why Mom and Dad never had them stay in our house which was always open to anyone we knew or didn't know when they needed a place to sleep and have a good meal. These beautiful young women from Piney Woods Boarding School in Mississippi were not allowed to sleep in our beds. Oh, they used our outhouse and used our old ringer washer, but did not stay in the house. When their bus was parked at the church, they had no access to the inside bathroom but used the outhouses. A school based on Christian principles with students who sang in church after church were not as welcomed into homes as a white group of students would have been. It was a day and age. And, it was wrong. And, it was not the south.

The old belief that we are of different races is quickly coming to an end. Genetically, we are all the same. The colors of our skin are determined by how melatonin is affected through our genes and affected by where we live. Research the information. It is fascinating. We all began in Africa. We are all related. There is no denying it. We found this more clearly when my son did his DNA. He is indeed .01% black. He is also .02% Jewish. Our genetic makeup over the thousands of years has been influenced by mutated genes and the blending of cultures. We all started in the same place and are one race. Wouldn't it be so much better to look at the positive things we have in common rather than the differences?

Green Book brought it all home. I stepped away from that sign I saw on a bathroom door in Georgia back in the 60's: Coloreds Only. I opened the back door of my life and saw that discrimination was not only the south but right outside my door on a bus and in a field on a wagon. We can always learn and grow. I thought that we in the 60's would change race discrimination for all time. Yet, we didn't, did we? Maybe my .01% is crying out to have a voice that began for all of us in Africa.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Welcome home, Rufous

Something hid beneath the leaves. A little mound told me so. I learned long before s tthat there were wonders beneath leaves and twigs. So this was well worth investigating. A wonderful morel mushroom was nestled there. The prizes we craved every spring. Yes, I learned to look beneath the leaves. And, I learned a lifelong lesson.

So many are crying for forest management here in the west. No forest fires if these huge forests are managed better. Really? I learned from my father that you don't mess with nature, because nature is where all wildlife and sweet morels thrive. Baby animals live in underbrush. The earth is nurtured by decaying leaves and limbs. Mother nature knows what is best.

The Rufous Hummingbird has returned to Oregon. The few hummingbirds who wintered here are once more battling these snowbirds for their place on their feeders. I sit in the loft watching out the window as bright patches of green and red flit by. The trees behind us shelter the birds, giving them sustenance as well protection. Living so close to nature is a dream come true. Like my father, I am protective of the nature in our charge. We share it with the grandkids. We soak it up surrounded by windows and evergreens. Sweet birds peek in at us, and the grandkids gather nesting materials to do  their part in preserving this eco system.

Dad was always upset when he passed a woods where the ground was swept clean of nature's debris. He would encourage me to think about it. Where did the little critters live when this clearing took place? Where did they find their food that was once tucked beneath those leaves? Where did small plants find their nourishment? Where were would Jack sit in his pulpit and the Dutchman hang his britches? What was more lovely than nature just being itself, serving itself?

Farm land was cleared and crops grew. Over time farmers became aware that overuse of the land and the flatness of it would tend to cause erosion and loss of vital nutrients. The land was rich because of the landscape that came before. The rotting leaves that fed the trees. The animals that nurtured the soil by digging and what they left behind. The soil that was rich with the gifts of the forest and its creatures.

I had no idea what it was like to be surrounded by green all winter long. I had no idea what it was like to see nature in its own environment so close to me yet in its own.  Because of all this, we will plant flowers to draw in the bees, butterflies and hummers. We will be cognizant of our responsibility to wildlife, so it in turn will survive to bless our grandchildren.

Nature is indeed an eco system that begs to continue as God meant it. It is we who infringe on it. We who use it and abuse it. It is we who tear out trees to build houses and who in turn take away our clean air. It is the mighty dollar that causes the very source of the world's clean air to be destroyed in South American so enterprises can thrive.

So, please, think on your plans as spring approaches. What flowers will you plant? Could you plant a tree or two? (So what if you have to rake in the fall.) You are creating shade and a home for birds. Be an advocate for conserving what earth we still have not just for yourselves but for those who will come behind. Stop using chemicals that destroy our water sources. Recycle even if your waste management does not. Look at what is around you and realize that we are all the caretakers.

Here in Oregon the Rufous Hummingbirds are back. The daphne is blooming and the daffodils are on the brink of bursting forth. Take it all in. Preserve it. Encourage others to do the same. For we are indeed responsible.