Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I did a little yard work, and also a little essay grading. I really want to put down some landscape fabric in a few places, in an effort to smother bamboo grass (good luck), and I may procrastinate on the essays a bit and do it.

We finally got the pool to be clear, and there were a few hot days for swimming. The yard in Samsonville is badly in need of a weed wacking, though.

On Thursday, my sister and I went to a garden tour and luncheon that was sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County. It is part of the "Master Gardener Program," but to be honest I'm not sure how "master" is defined. I'm not very good at remembering the name of exotic perennials, but I do like to grow things. It was held at Lake Mohonk. What a fabulous place!

I am feeling so melancholy today, because also on Thursday, my uncle died. It wasn't unexpected, but it sure was sad. The services were Sunday and Monday. At the cemetery yesterday, a small boy was playing Taps when the scanners went off and the fire department sounded the alarm in Uncle Bob's honor, since he was a long-time volunteer. It was such a beautiful and poignant tribute.

My brother mentioned at the service that Uncle Bob was the master of nicknames. I remembered that when I was a teenager, he called my friend and me the "cemetery sisters" because we would walk around in the cemetery after school and in the summer.

I don't like the idea of death but I still like cemeteries. The Bushkill Cemetery, where Uncle Bob was buried, and its environs, the towns, the mountains and the Reservoir, are naturally breathtaking. Sometimes I think the landscape becomes almost invisible when you see it on a daily basis, but there are times when the panorama is undeniable. Six years ago when Aunt Jean, his wife, died, those moments at the cemetery were etched in my mind, whispering to be committed to paper, and a short story was the result. Now I have this journal.

They were both such a big part of the community, my hometown, that special place. I have been thinking that people who have never had the privilege to live in a small town, or have never been inclined to stay in one place for any length of time and put down roots, may never find that kind of fellowship. It is traded off for other things, for convenience and change and opportunity and excitement.

I am transcribing an old diary from 1915, that was written by a man who kept a journal every day of his life, from 1906 when he was 16 until 1975, the year before he died. (I hope to do them all, which is a very ambitious project.) He lived in the same community as Uncle Bob, and he wrote a booklet that I have reissued on my website. The title is West Shokan: Eden of the Catskills, and I guess that about says it all.

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