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Archive for July, 2011

#51 The Last Lily

This morning at 5:45, a cool breeze wafted through the bedroom window and lightly touched the sheet covering my aged, naked body.  I was aroused by its insistence to reach across the length of the room and awaken me with its caress.  I knew it was time to cut back the front lilies.

This had been a splendid summer for the flowers.  They bloomed for most of the month of July, four weeks of continuous beauty with no work other than to snap the spent blossoms each morning so those in waiting would not be inferior.  Clip, snap, pull, water;  summer vocabulary of the resident gardener.

Armed with shovel, hoe, clippers and wheel barrel, the rusted, three-wheeled hefty bag in metal had been filled and disposed of its contents twice before breakfast.  In less than two hours, my Monet-type summer garden looks sparse and incomplete.  Where it was once thick and colorful, the land is barren with clumps of the yellowing stems in earth that has been raked naked.

Nearby rocks are moved and set into the most obvious spaces.  Invasive species with interesting color are transplanted and cut back, urging them to thicken and hide the marred landscape.  I hesitate on moving my elegant brass pin wheel to the front, but decorum wins over fear of loss, and there is a new element in the wind.

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In June 1944 the weather in New York turned torrid.   Adults in the hi-rise buildings of the Italian neighborhood took to the stoops; they bedded on metal fire escape.  Children played ball in the evening hours and sought the cool waters of day when fire hydrants were released.  That summer, city pools and playgrounds remained open, but few of the Mulberry Street  neighbors would send their children.   There were two war fronts that year; the one in the Pacific where many of its young men would die, and the one stateside where a polio epidemic was ravaging the young.

Fear gripped the city.  Was it the heat, the city pools; was it because people did not wash their hands properly?  Was it because the playgrounds were still open to baseball, and its children were falling prey to too much energy from the sun and too little rest?  Parents were perplexed and scared.

There was little known of the disease in those days; the incubation period; whether or not carriers who did not get the disease could infect others.  Mothers panicked when their healthy children’s nausea turned to vomiting with abdominal pain.  They feared the combination of fever and muscle aches; invariably thinking of paralysis.

Many of the families who could afford it, sent their children to camp in upstate New York, thinking they would escape the outbreak. No longer were they concerned that the Germans might infiltrate the country through its harbor.  Their passion was reserved for an indiscriminate killer; a virus that had no cure.  Little did the families know that polio had carriers, a nameless society, who would unknowingly infect others yet be safe themselves.  The camps were not exempt; there was no known immunity from the virus that seemed attracted to the vibrancy of youth.

 

 

 

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#47 Theatre

In my younger years as a budding thespian, I played character roles, always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Monologues were my favorite; the saucy English maid who drew the curtains in more ways than one on her royal employers.  And there was one where I played tennis with an imaginary player.  Each time I drew the racket back, there was a one-sided volley of conversation befitting a jilted southern-drawling lass.  “And the ball went back and foth, back and foth, until, thwack! it hit its taaget…”

My most memorable role, though, and the hardest to emote was the passion of Appassionata von Climax in Lil’ Abner.  Instead of feeling like the seductress I was written to be, I felt like Hermoine Gingold, particularly when she sang “I Remember it Well” with Maurice Chevelier.  Perhaps it was because the role was written for a 20 or something year old, and I was near planting daisies in my mid 30’s.

All that is behind me now except for storytelling and reading other’s work.  If, “The world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players…,” I am happy being akin to a character like Hermoine.  Today, I use my theatrical voice, the melodious highs and solemn lows not on a stage but in a setting.  I enhance and sprinkle my tales with punctuated silence and alluring eyes that lock onto one who is listening with such intensity, he barely breathes.

Depending on the content of the story, I prefer the telling in a dimly lit room or dusk outside if spooky.  A low-lit fire is a fine foil for its magic.  If the story is one of whimsy, I line the children in a semi-circle on a floor of grass or indoors on a comfy rug, a well-used prop.  Employing nothing more than a play of words with cadence and pause, I draw the listeners in as a spider to its web, “as one man in his time playing many parts…”

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When viewing the artwork between two buildings in Bantam today, I asked why the turtles has been covered so that I could hardly pick them out.  The artist assured me that the turtles on the log are an essential part of the swampy area and will be seen again soon.  We are enchanted with the work and grateful to have it nearby.

 

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