Friday, April 10, 2015



If you are paying attention, and I do understand that there are times when not to pay attention is more comforting, you do not have to grow old to realize that things begin to change as time goes on. Things like the erosion of eyesight, which for most of us begins in childhood, the odd toothache, or other physical defects such as chronic sinuses and allergies.

I remember sitting in my dentist’s chair for a regular cleaning visit and mentioning how now and then there are small “areas of discomfort” that just go away on their own. He said it was like the shifting sands of time about which nothing can be done, except to adjust to the changing oral topography and to call if those shifting sands uncover an unexploded land mine.

That was many years ago but those words - that mental stance - have stayed with me as I have applied that principle to the entire matter of being an old human being. (See the various categories of shifting sands listed above and add a few of your own).

I rolled out of bed a couple of weeks ago and kept going in a more or less counterclockwise direction as the room seemed to be moving in the opposite direction. I didn’t worry too much until a similar episode happened while completing my stretching session a day later. My tendency is to interpret these issues as simple speed bumps in my personal octogenarian highway. But this felt differently.

I called my primary who sent me for an MRI (I know I have been over all this before) to check on the brain neighborhood. Nothing there (so to speak) but the sinuses were in bad shape. Did you know that there is a whole field in Physical Therapy that deals with balance issues and that can impact the middle ear’s contribution to things like stumbling out of bed? I didn’t.

I have been given a series of stretches and exercised that will, A - correct my posture, and B- increase my range of movement in the spinal area, all of which is said to be related to my initial complaint. After two days of this regimen, I am a basket case of aches and stiffness. Hey, I yelled. This is supposed to be getting better! Which brings me back to the two Tylenol supper caps at bed time last night.

What’s a modern miracle is being here in the first place. The shifting sands of time seem to be acting more and more like the quicksands of time. Anyway, all is well and I can get out of bed and remain upright long enough to get to the bathroom.

Be well and stay tuned. The adventure continues.

I’m Jerry Henderson

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Maybe if I think about gardening a little more and less about this lingering season of cold, wet, snowy semi spring, I'll feel better about things. Problem is - I haven't been too successful at the gardening thing for the past few seasons either. Seems like another just right place to use my favorite bail out expression: Hapless Hope.

I GREW UP IN A VEGETABLE GARDEN. I am old enough to remember when there was no TV, no telephone and no food in our house in tin cans. There was food in tin cans but we ate from home canned jars and right out of the gardens that my maternal grandfather maintained the year round. Disclaimer: OK, so this was in southern Louisiana. We had three seasons: Summer, still summer and a week in January that we called winter. We cut the grass in January, just so you know.

In his younger days My grandfather, Shug, sold much of what he produced. He was what was called a truck farmer. After moving to Baton Rouge and going to work at Standard Oil, he became mostly what is called a market farmer, selling much of his produce to local grocery stores directly. Of course, my mother and aunt next door put up great amounts of food and after the deep freeze came into our house many things were frozen.

Shug made an effort at making a farmer out of me. It didn't take too well. This was the day of the big wheeled push plow, an instrument hardly seen anymore except in antique shops and displays of torture devices such as the rack, thumb screw and whip. I never got the hang of plowing a straight line, and he never let me forget it. Years later, I realized that I got more from him than he ever knew. He talked about what he was doing and I suppose I soaked up some of that gardening wisdom without knowing it.

I have had excellent gardens. Such a garden has not happened recently. As a matter of fact, it has been a rough several years for gardening for food here on Elmwood Road. There are reasons for some of that. First we have been too busy doing other things and being away. A good garden demands some attention. Second, last year we forgot to "sweeten" our acidic soil and things just did not work well. This year we did not forget and we made some wonderful garlic at least. I figure if you make garlic, you can claim a certain amount of success. Who has not experienced that rush that comes from pealing a thumb sized clove of garlic, fresh from the soil, and popping it into your mouth? It's what summer in Maine is all about. You can just feel the healing deep inside. Don't mind the tears - and tears will come - it's all good.

I used to "start" seedlings in the throes of winter to get a head start on things. That worked just like it was supposed to but - well, I don't know, I am not sure that the effort brings forth the result that is anticipated. For me, anyway. We go down to THE GARDEN SPOT in North Pownal and load up on sets that only need to be put into the prepared beds. Call me lazy. Call me a sluggard. Call me a shortcut artist. Call me Jerry however when it's supper time.

What I do miss about gardening at these latitudes is speckled butter beans, crowder peas (purple hull), okra and figs. Yes figs. How I loved to put up jars of figs. My cousin by marriage, Edna, sent me four pints of fig preserves from her back yard last summer. I have one pint left. I'm thinking of some nice things to say to her that might encourage her to repeat such a generous gift. Not much equals a hot biscuit covered with preserved figs.

We will do the garden again. We will exercise our hope glands and dig, fertilize and water with all the assurance of true believers. What happens is what we get. I actually like the process. All except the digging and hauling of dirt. Thing is - time spent in the dirt is never wasted time. I read that somewhere. Could it be true?

Saturday, April 4, 2015


There are dozens of these chickadees that hang out at our house all winter. Of course we feed them the highest quality black oil sunflower seeds. And Just as "of course" they eat them voraciously. They know a good thing. It seems that they are specially hungry this spring. When I consider the possibility that one day they won't be here at all I become afraid for humanity itself. You who doubt - look to the bees. They are declining in record numbers and we don't know why. Or do we? Some say we are loosing over 10,000 species a year at a minimum. Maybe as much as ten times that.

There have always been birds. As a boy I slaughtered dozens of them if they got near the family fig tree. My BB gun was a ready implement of home defense. There was nothing sweeter and more anticipated than mother's preserved figs on hot biscuits and I was doing my part. Anyway, that's what I believed at the time.

A case could be made, and often is, for forgiveness of that age of un-enlightenment during the late 1930's and early 1940's. I mean, whacking a few tiny birds that were threatening the household fig supply was no big deal - at the time. No, I'm not proud of it, but I am also not into denial. There could have been another way to chase the birds away.

Yesterday as we drove away from the bird survival store with $40 worth of bird food in the trunk, I wondered what would happen to all those delightful Carolina Chickadees if we didn't feed them. Good question. One view goes like this: they got along without us before they knew us, they could get along with out us now. Besides, neighbor Dean will feed them avian sirloin as long as he can walk.

Consider this: Those little birds eat all day, one seed at a time. They go to the feeder and grab one seed in their tiny beaks and the race off to a safe bush or tree to break the seed open and eat the kernel. That scenario is repeated over and over all day. I sometimes wonder what they do for fun. Then I realize it is a matter of life or death. They are not messing around. They are trying to stay alive. They eat all the time. Of course, that's all I ever see them do.

Secretly I envy them. I wish I could eat all the time. Imagine: eating and flying all day long. But if I ate all the time like those little birds, I'd be as big as a horse. Forget my Levi 501s. I'd be left with designer blankets for my public appearances. However, if I covered the ground that they do in their gastronomical flights, I could maintain my svelte figure as easily as they do. They are not as big as crows because they spend all day flying dozens of miles eating 25 pound bags of premium black oil sunflower seeds

You can catch me from time to time just watching them. Flitting from feeder to bush or tree and holding the seed between their feet and a branch. Pecking and munching out. Now and then stopping off at the water bowl. What a life!