1918 – 2018

Dear Da,

Happy one hundredth birthday! I know I’m late, but the actual day did not go unnoticed. I was birding in Colombia with 3 others. We were in an expansive wetlands watching waterbirds. “Today would have been my father’s 100th birthday had he not died at 95,” I told them — maybe somewhat out of the blue!

Last summer when preparing for a public walk through the Kennel House meadow, I came upon this picture of us. Too bad, I thought then, that it does not show the plants in the meadow except as a haze of greenery. I wanted a before-and-after kind of photo so people could see the progress in restoring the meadow. You will remember how ruthlessly we tore up the bittersweet by its roots, how relentlessly we hacked away at the stems of Japanese bamboo. We look pretty clean and relaxed in the photo. It must have been snapped as we were on our way into the field. We’d be wringing wet by the time we finished.

Now I look at the picture and I see something else: we are both wearing second-hand gardening clothes. Well, you’re hat is a Dunes Club — i.e., first hand — item. Everything else is sourced from the Jonny Cake Shop or other second-hand store. Do you remember those pink pants of mine? I had a matching pair in an equally as WASPy-golf-club-color of green. I don’t know what happened to the green pants, but after 20 or 25 years, the pink ones disintegrated.

Thank you for passing on to me that practice of buying second-hand clothes. I don’t use it for all my clothing (as Mother will be glad to hear), but it is handy for gardening wear. Since the pink pants — which more or less fit — and an awareness of the hazards of Lyme-disease-bearing ticks, I’ve been buying second-hand garden wear that pulls over regular clothing so that I can shed a top layer when I come out of the field.

I know that at age 90 or so you wanted to live to 100 You should be glad you did not. You would be horrified with the state of American politics. You often told me that the Senate was not worthy of the respectable image it tried to project. Brawling, even fist fights, were not unusual at least in the 19th century you said. Today a fist fight would look civilized next to the unfathomable cruelty and callousness of Senators. And that’s just that start of the despicable behavior of our elected officials.

You would be pleased, however, with the state of the old field. It would be folly to say that the bittersweet (note the piece wrapping it’s way along the rail of the fence) is gone. But it is no longer the dominant plant species. The same can be said of the Japanese bamboo. The two hedgerows of evergreens that I planted from pencil-sized seedlings — one along the driveway to the houses behind and the other up the rise to the road — have grown in. They work well to choke out invasives and establish the boundaries of the field. The fence I lean on in the photo rotted away years ago. The edge between the field and the lawn is now defined by garden beds and the vegetable garden fence. A rose of Sharon that Winkie dug up for me from the Great House garden serves as a post between the lawn and the meadow in the south western corner.

Thank you for your gardening tutelage while I was growing up not to mention your physical labor at the Kennel House. Shed #1 is still stocked with your tools, by the way. You live on around here.

Happy birthday! usnan salguod

3 comments
  1. Sharry Lukach said:

    Dear Usnan,
    What a charming salute to Paul Douglas. I like hearing stories about your parents and I really like knowing what it was like to be in their presence.
    Also really LOVED the snowy scene in the blizzard blog and I’m glad you’re recording the beauty of those rare winter days when the power lines fail and the cabin fever sets in – seriously. They make you know you’re living it!
    I’m off to DC in the morning to see the kids who are going to heal this sorry state of things for us. Alleluia.

  2. Judy said:

    Nice piece, Usnan.

  3. I love this post and picture. Very eloquent and bittersweet in every sense.

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