Saturday, July 4, 2015

The City That Refused To Celebrate Independence Day

In 2011, I posted this on July 3.  I repeat it today, with some edits.

Today, July 4 is Independence Day in the United States, what we call "the 4th of July" (as if the whole world didn't have a 4th of July on their calenders.  In fact, there's a joke...but I digress.)

But, at one time, not all the United States celebrated their Independence Day.  There was a city that refused to celebrate for many, many years.  Why why they held out makes for a story more relevant today, in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting and subsequent events, than ever.  Hence:

The City that Refused to Celebrate the 4th of July

The obvious thing to do would be to blog today about the Battle of Gettysburg, which ended 148 years ago today.   It was the day the South lost, although the war lasted for almost two more years.  But, the the purpose of this blog is to write (mainly) about lesser known events and people of the Civil War.  So, I'd like to write about a little nugget of information I picked up while listening recently to a rerun of Ken Burn's classic TV mini series on the United States Civil War.  (As I write, keep in mind that I am a native of New York State.)

Vicksburg, Mississippi has an online listing of community events.  Listed in here, along with the Farmers Market, Faith Fest and the Old Court House Flea Market, is the "Red, White and Blue" Fourth of July weekend, and the 4th of July fireworks.  Nothing special, here.  Nothing different than what thousands of other cities and towns in the United States offer in celebrating our nation's Independence Day.

Or is it?

Several generations of citizens of Vicksburg, Mississippi didn't know what a hometown 4th of July celebration was like-because they didn't have one. Stores remained open.  People went about their business.  And stories were told, dark stories, about the Siege of Vicksburg and its surrender to the Union Army on July 4, 1863.  It is said that General Pemberton, the commanding general of the Confederate States of America forces at Vicksburg,chose to surrender Vicksburg to the Federals on Independence Day as he thought they would get more favorable terms of surrender.

After that surrender, Vicksburg did not celebrate Independence Day until 1945.

We must try to understand why Vicksburg  felt that way.   Vicksburg is located on the Mississippi River, one of the most important waterways in our nation.  It was just as important, if not more so, in the 1860's.  It was vital for the Federals to take control of the Mississippi in order to win the war.

Vicksburg stood in the way.  So, basically, it was put under siege by Union forces commanded by General Grant and starved into submission.  As a young girl growing up in the Bronx, I remember drawings in a textbook showing how the residents ended up taking refuge in caves dug into hillsides, and what they used for food as the siege progressed.

For Vicksburg, July 4th didn't stand for our country's birthday but rather for what its fellow citizens did to it back in 1863.  I can only think that its citizens going overseas and fighting World War II side by side with the descendents of its former enemies of 80 years before, to fight a strong evil threatening to overtake the world, is what finally started to heal those wounds. 

As William Tecumseh Sherman said, "War is Hell".  The wounds of that war are still there, right underneath our collective skin, not fully healed.  They may not fully heal even in my lifetime.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Falling Friday - The Russian Trip

Wednesday, I graduated from my falls prevention class, part of the nationwide (yes, even worldwide), Stepping On program. 

But not quite with flying colors (no pun intended) as, early in the week, I tripped, catching the toe of my sandal on the rug in my place of employment. My manager wanted to talk to me, and I rushed over. Obviously, I wasn't practicing heel to toe walking, as I had been taught in my class.

And, I was rushing, another no-no I was taught about in my class.

"Don't rush and trip!", a co worker admonished me as I (almost) went flying by.  By the magic of my co-workers' sense of humor, that quickly was turned into the Russian Trip -something that I, obviously, have not yet mastered.

So, although I can not teach you the finer points of the Russian Trip, I can tell you that I plan to continue my Falling Friday feature for the next few weeks.

So today, instead of demonstrating the Russian Trip, I want to blog about something that will help prevent tripping - heel toe walking.  It's a great ankle exercise.

But, just walking from heel to toe, and making sure you don't shuffle your feet, is what we in our falls prevention class were encouraged to do.

Seniors tend to get into shuffling their feet, we were taught, for a number of reasons.  But it isn't just a matter of picking up your feet to prevent shuffling. Rather, shuffling happens BECAUSE of other factors.  Fear of falling.  Weak muscles.  Decreased balance.  Inability to feel in the soles of the feet.

Many of these factors can be addressed by a program such as Stepping On. And, once we exercise to strengthen our muscles (and continue to do so, after the class is over), we become more conscious of how we walk. 

Walk.  Keep on walking.  Keep on stepping.  And be sure to walk heel, toe, heel.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday - The Seed Lending Library

Alas, since I wrote this post in 2012, our local Broome County Public Library has discontinued their seed lending library.  However, the movement itself has grown.

Some public libraries lend seeds, which the public can take, grow an harvest from.  Some of these libraries also lend tools, or give gardening classes.

I wonder why our local library stopped the lending, but I believe their program ended in 2013.

Does your local library lend seeds or tools?

Libraries do so much more than lending books - they are an integral part of their communities.  What things other than lending books, DVDs or CD's does your library offer?

The Seed Lending Library

The Broome County public library, in Binghamton, new York, has started a Seed Lending Library.

"You can check out seeds at the Information Desk starting April 7th.  You will need a valid library card..."  The seeds are donated, and are organic.

There is no cost, and the seeds offered include tomato, radish, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, melon (noting melon can be a bit of a gamble crop here in upstate NY-I hope what they are offering is a short season variety) cilantro, parsley and broccoli.

Apparently some public libraries out in California have had similar programs.  I have a feeling BC Library is on the cutting edge.

The expectation is that people will save seeds from the best plants and give back to the library.  "however, you will not be penalized...."  I would hope not.  The reason given is that this is a new program. 

In a way, I have to be a little leery over the expectation that people will be expected to return seeds at the end of the year.

1.  Are people going to be educated as to exactly how to save seed and return at the end of the year?    It may be easy to save cucumber seed.  Parsley, not so much.  It is, after all, a biennial and the person has to be able to overwinter it.  There may be a similar problem with late cabbage in that the gardening season may be over by the time the cabbage bolts.  If they are community gardening, it may be impossible to keep the plants that long.

2.  Some items offered, such as eggplant, plus the aforementioned melon, are not easy to grow here.  Eggplant, especially.  I've tried to grow eggplant several times (from purchased plants!) with wildly varying success and I have about 35 years of gardening experience.  A couple of the offerings, I think, are just not good choices for beginners.

3.  Some veggies offered, such as cabbage and lettuce, don't bolt until the useful life of the plant are finished.  Again, people will have to be educated to this.  And, they will have to sacrifice the very best plants, to fulfill what is expected of them in the seed saving arena.

These, however, are quibbles and I hope this is a successful program.  With a little education, I think it can be.

Thank you, High Mowing organic seeds, for donating seeds to this program.

Do you have a seed lending program at your local public library?  Has it worked for your area?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Ramblings - More Lilies

Early summer is lily time.

Last week, I shared some lilies with you.

Today, I have more lilies for you. Although I will have a lot of "throwback" posts this month, I also hope to bring you a gift of fresh flowers each Wednesday.

These are lilies of upstate New York.
This is planted in a container, at the Broome County courthouse in Binghamton, New York.  In other words, a nice downtown lily.  Why not?  Lilies are hardy, and can grow in many conditions.
More lilies in another container at the same courthouse.
These beautiful lilies are now in full bloom in my front yard.
And finally, some yellow daylilies in my front yard.  Right now, I have three varieties of daylilies in my garden with another variety about to join them.

What are your favorite flowers?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

To Everything There is a Season

The only thing certain about life, besides death, is change.

Today, the year is half over (approximately).  It seems like only yesterday that it was New Years Eve.  Things seemed a lot more certain than they do now in my life.
Only yesterday, the freezing winds were blowing and snow covered everything here in upstate New York.  Now, roses bloom.  It is raining - again.  Things are so out of balance, with rain desperately needed on the other end of our North American continent.

To everything there is a season.  And to several people in my life, great changes are coming in this season of their lives.  Change is coming to my life, and the life of my spouse, too.  I will blog more about this as time permits..

Today, I end two blog challenges.  Next month I will not participate in any blog challenge.  I will participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, but I've set a low goal and it will basically be a diary of my July.

For my readers, there will also be some changes.  I still intend to post daily but July's blog posts will consist of a mix of "throwbacks", new posts, and whatever I have time for.

One reader suggested I tell stories about my childhood growing up in the Bronx, and perhaps I will pull some stories out from a rough first draft of a memoir I worked on a couple of years ago.

To everything there is a season.  I am a writer and this will not stop me from writer (she said, bravely).

What will the second half of the year bring?

Have you had any surprises in your life (good or bad) this year?

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Sound of Rainfall

Yesterday, I woke up a little before 5am.  The sound of heavy rain does that to me.

I lay in the bed.  At one time, I loved the sound of rain.  But, as someone who has had experience with her neighborhood flooding, the sound is stressful now.

It has been since September of 2011.

I couldn't sleep.  Then, a bird started to sing.  I knew it was near dawn, because that is what birds do.  Sing. Even if flooding is just around the corner.

It was too dark to go down to the park near the river, several blocks from me (complete with flood falls that were breached "last time").  And, I really didn't want to know if there was any water in the basement.

So I lay there, listening to the other birds who were joining the first bird in the daily pre-dawn chorus.  I listened to the rain, bathed in anxiety.

Finally, I went downstairs to my laptop, and started to write today's post.  I looked at my smartphone.  No weather alerts. Relief.  For now.

The rain stopped and I went back to sleep.

It rained on and off yesterday, as it did in much of the Northeast.  I will just have to wait patiently and see what happens.

That's all any of us can do.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Civil War Sunday - History Before Our Eyes

Although the United States Civil War officially ended (for the most part) 150 years ago this past April, I've always maintained that the war never truly ended.  Now, in the almost two weeks after a tragic mass murder during a Bible Study class at a Charleston, South Carolina church, we are seeing still another battle in this seemingly never ending war.

Whether our country will have a true dialog about race, and the legacy of the Civil War as a result of this horrific act, or if it will just be a lot of empty talk and then business as usual, remains to be seen.  But the war that has been simmering under our surface is now more public than ever.  At least surface changes are made.  Perhaps the changes are symbolic, or won't hit upon the tough issues, but the fact is - people are thinking.

I am not blogging today to express my opinions.  Rather, I want to show you pictures of some of the sites that have been in the news.  It's hard to explain this to my readers in Great Britain and India, but I will try.  Even a month ago, in my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined the events of the past almost two weeks.

Where do I even begin?

With the College of Charleston, where one of the funerals took place on Friday?  Their President is a former state senator (noting one of the dead in the shooting was a state senator) and a former lieutenant governor, and was a controversial choice when hired last year.
March, 2015, taken by AM
This is the South Carolina State Senate Chamber, where the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the murdered nine, served. The American flag is on the left and the South Carolina state flag on the right.  Outside this chamber, a Confederate flag flew near a monument on the grounds of the State Capitol. Now, debate rages on whether that flag should be taken down.  

The above President of the College of Charleston?  His views on that question.

Many Southerners will have to ponder how best to celebrate their heritage.
Mt. Pleasant Fishing Pier at Ravenel Bridge at Sunset, March 2015

The Arthur Ravenel, Jr.  Bridge, which connects Charleston, South Carolina with Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, is a favorite destination for walkers and bikers.  I've walked on it a number of times (and completed the entire walk in both directions once). A week ago today, thousands of people (perhaps 40,000)  marched on this bridge. Some joined hands in a "unity chain" to show support for the people of the City of Charleston.  But the elderly man the bridge is named after - now 88 years old- is, himself, controversial.  There was an effort to rename the bridge earlier this year, which failed. 
Taken March, 2015, by AM, before the defacement

This Civil War Confederate Monument in Charleston was defaced several days ago. (I totally reject this kind of activity, be it a Union or Confederate monument.) Debate now is taking place about whether these monuments should be taken down.

This is a Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans license place (picture taken by me at a Civil War reenactment I attended). A Confederate battle flag design is on the left side.    This specialty plate, it appears, will no longer be permitted.

Some former Confederate states had incorporated Confederate flag designs in their state flags. They are now rethinking it.  Could this be because the shooter was photographed burning an American flag, and holding Confederate flags?  But, although the Confederate flag is publically debated, it must also be noted that there are thousands of streets, parks, and other public places named after Confederate figures - one, in particular, stirring controversy, due to what he did after the war.

The families of those murdered, the people of Charleston, and people of the South, have some hard days coming as they must work out the direction their future will take.