Monday, December 28, 2009

Entertaining Angels Unawares... a seasonal thought

It was late December and our children were still little so naturally we were broke. Christmas was coming and although we were not extravagant, we still provided special food and thoughtful gifts for all eight of them. We were entering the on ramp on I-40 to go home from a grocery excursion and saw standing alone, an elderly gentleman leaning on a wooden crutch. He was about 70 with a stubble of beard; he was dressed in fairly ragged clothing, wearing an old gray hat. His belongings were in a small stained bag, and he had an old woolen blanket pulled tightly about him. I felt sudden sadness upon seeing him and asked my husband if we should stop. He said no because we had three of the children with us and he would have to squeeze him in the backseat with them. He said that surely someone would pick the old gent up for me not to worry. And yet both of us felt a nagging sadness at the old man’s plight.

The following morning we realized we had forgotten some necessary items and again made the twenty mile run to the adjacent town. It was overcast, drizzling and a very cold blasting North wind made conditions miserable. As we drove I asked my husband if he thought someone had picked up the old man. He promised me that surely someone had. We bought the last of our necessities and had only forty dollars left as we entered the on ramp.

Sweet Jesus, he was still there! How could he still be there? We stopped just beyond the old man and my husband got out of the car to help him to his seat. He settled in and I turned the heater to warp while he began thanking us. He said he was trying to make it the Indian Pueblos in New Mexico where he knew he could stay for the winter. He said was Canadian and had served in WWII for the US but had been denied benefits due to his citizenship status. He had fallen on hard times and just needed a bus ticket to get on his way but could find no help in getting one. He said had been standing on the on the on ramp for many days. My husband suggested that we take him to the Travel Plaza where all of the truckers stopped for gas and that perhaps he could find a ride from someone there. He gratefully accepted the idea and said he was warming up a bit. My husband stopped at the plaza and pressed our last forty dollars into the gentleman’s hand as he helped him into the building.

As we drove away we kept feeling a nagging worry and so after unloading our bundles, we drove the seven miles back to the plaza to check on him to see if he had obtained a ride. Our inquiries were met with puzzled looks for no one had seen him… not the people inside my husband had spoken to as he opened the door, not gas attendants nor any the truckers…no one. Only we had seen him.

As this recession deepens, let us remember that many times our sense of compassion, our sense of brotherhood and our ability to unconditionally share with those less fortunate than ourselves may be tested. And let us remember: ‘Forget not to show love unto strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares‘.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In the Garden...Forcing Bulbs

In the Garden
By Catherine Dougherty

December arrived with blustery winds, dipping temperatures, and the feeling that Winter is here. The last leaves have fallen and the stark sculptural beauty of the bare trees has a tranquil feeling. The overgrowth of the lawns and fields has disappeared and suddenly a quiet order has descended. It is the season of rest for the garden and gardener alike.

As December gets underway, it is always enjoyable to bring some Spring into the house by forcing some bulbs for the holiday season. It is not too late to start the darling Paper White Narcissus, which can always be counted on to bring both fragrance and cheer to enhance the Christmas festivities.

First select large, top grade, flawless bulbs which are free of sooty mold. Next you will need some great gravel, some polished rocks, or some colored glass stones for your bulbs to nestle in. Stones and rocks may be purchased quite affordably in the hobby department of any popular store. The variety is amazing so when selecting them, try to imagine the flowers spilling out above them.

Select a rather shallow container for your display. Pick one that will be beautiful as a centerpiece on the dining table or in the living room. Translucent clear red and green glass stones in a shallow crystal bowl are spectacular for the holidays. If you choose a glass bowl then you will have the added joy watching the roots as they begin to sprout and grow, slowly twining in and about the rocks. Fill the bottom of your bowl with the stones, making a bed about two inches deep.

Gently press your bulbs into the gravel about half way down the bulb mass. Try to space them about two inches apart remembering to place them in the center as well. After arranging your bulbs, fill your container with enough water to cover your stones and thoroughly wet the bottom half of the bulb. Keep this water level constant, adding a little each day if needed.

As the roots grow, the reed like foliage will appear and then suddenly several small shoots will grow from each bulb. The small, folded, baby blossoms will appear and slowly open over several days. When the blooms first appear, give the bowl a shot of gin. It will force the greenery to stand at attention and it will prevent the wilting foliage so prevalent in forced Narcissus. I have no idea why the gin works, but it does.

The flowers smell marvelous and last several weeks before it is time to discard them. Once they are forced indoors the bulbs are spent; we have in effect killed them. Toss them, guilt free, after their stunning display is finished. Naturally, the larger the container you choose, the more bulbs you will need and the more riotous your display will be. I always feel that more is better!