• Joan Carris

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy.

They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

~~ Marcel Proust

One memorable spring—way, way back there—I was sitting on our front steps, anticipating a delivery. In our new, too-large front yard I had a too-large, sickle-shaped flower bed that needed help. I waited, excited, gardening tools at the ready.

My neighbors had warned me months ago when we moved in. “Your soil is lousy,” they’d said. “You need a ton of the real thing.”

On delivery day I watched as an elderly pick-up truck bumped down our long, graveled driveway. The truck stopped and the small, very old driver leaned out of his window. “This the right place?” he hollered. “I got a whole load here!”

I bounded off my steps and raced toward the pick-up—I was 34 then, so bounding and racing were still possible—“Oh, yes! This is the place! I am soooo happy you’re here!!”

I smelled it right away. The real thing—moist and richly decorated with bits of hay and straw among the fresh dung. Horse manure, and all mine.

The old man and a very dirty teenage boy looked at me in silence.

Maybe I needed to explain. I told them about my inherited love of gardening, the giant dahlia bulbs on the way as a gift from my father…. I knew I was babbling, so I pointed at the large flower bed. “That is going to be just beautiful in a few months, thanks to both of you! I’m very grateful, really!!”

The old man looked at the teenager and nodded. “We should probably help her spread it around some, don’t you think?”

The three of us worked together, gradually talking more as the morning went on. The old man’s wife of 60 years had recently died, and the boy was his youngest grandson. I explained that I was an English teacher and mother of three. We took a break and drank Cokes in the shade on the front steps. With the work completed, I paid them, sorry to see them leave. I remember that we all were happy and nodding and smiling at one another.

Recommended Reading:

How The Penguins Saved Veronica, Hazel Prior

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse (all ages), Charlie Mackesy

Northern Borders, Howard Frank Mosher

Thank You For Being Late, Thomas Friedman

Three Bags Full, A Sheep Mystery, Leonie Swann


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Updated: Jan 16, 2021


The first five days in the New Year of 2021 were quite pleasant: vaccines on the way, a mild winter here in central Virginia, wonderful new neighbors—life was good. Except that the self-absorbed bloke in the White House summoned his minions to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, because HE was angry.

Well, he is usually angry. He doesn’t seem to understand harmony or tolerance. Instead he has cultivated a “base” of loyalists who are America’s disaffected—other angry people who think life has cheated them. Clearly, they thought it would be exciting to go to D.C. and trash the symbols of power they’d been taught to hate and distrust. If you saw their faces on TV as they broke windows, stormed doorways, and destroyed property, you could see that they were having a whee of a time.

Guess who will get to pay for that damage? Taxpayers like you and me, of course. I don’t know about you, but I really cannot afford that. Writers don’t make much money typically, and certainly not during this pandemic. I’ll have to bill Mr. Trump for his destructive party, although I know I won’t be paid. He’s already declared bankruptcy many, many times.

So…I would like to start a fund, hoping that millions will join me. This fund will repair all the damage his goons caused and send him to a psychiatric hospital in another country—preferably one of the many with a sane, sensible woman at its helm.

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  • Joan Carris


I’ll bet you remember the Carthaginian general Hannibal, mainly because he went to war with trained elephants. That custom ran in the family. His father, Hamilcar, always took elephants to war. We’re talking about 200+ B.C. here, when the Carthaginians fought the 3 Punic Wars against their bitter enemies, the Romans.

Though warlike and stubborn, Hamilcar’s family was patient, repeatedly depending on their elephants to triumph over the dratted Romans, even though history had shown that fellows who took elephants to war NEVER won the war. Never. Hamilcar chose to ignore history and so did his son, Hannibal, who also never won a war with his elephants, although he took 57 of them to the Second Punic War, over the Alps and into Italy.

I’d like to know what the elephants thought of crossing the Alps, but no one asked them. One glance at elephants’ bodies and feet, though, gives us a fair idea of how they viewed mountain climbing.

And so here we are—history and patience and elephants and war and stubbornness all mixed together. Now, in the autumn of 2020, we are at war with an enemy, the stubborn Covid-19 virus, and we pray for patience. Historic medical records dating back to the 1918 pandemic DO give us plenty of information, however. So if we are patient and do what history and modern science tell us, we’ll eventually win the war.

Seems to me there’s an old saying: Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. Not humorous, I know, but at this point I don’t care.


Highly Recommended Reading: (non-fiction)

Elephant Company, by Vicki Constantine Croke

The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony

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