Writings about

the many life lessons

unearthed when we dig

in the dirt . . . and pursue

a range of other interests

in the constantly evolving

garden of life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Interview | Lee May

as seen in January Magazine, September 1999

By Janice A. Farringer

"All life's lessons grow in the garden: Birth, nurturing, love, heartbreak, success, joy and so many more." – from Gardening Life by Lee May

Author and journalist Lee May strides into a room and you know he is there. He is a tall, well dressed man over 50. I first saw him at a small town North Carolina book talk. The audience took to him right away. After all, we are all gardeners.

Lee May writes about the people he has met through his interest in gardening and in life. In his essays, collected in Gardening Life, he tosses together characters and tales about plants and places. It is a wonderful mulch from a natural storyteller. Folks seem to let themselves "be" in their garden and Lee May is there to tell us what he has seen, what he has heard and how it all felt.

Local News: If It Bleeds, It Leads

I love television. Some of my best friends are television journalists. And when I was a newspaper writer, we’d often wind up covering the same stories, eating dinner together, rehashing the day’s events together.

The medium is a miracle of communications, offering immediacy when news breaks, a  sprawling range of entertainment and sports, along with a healthy portion of arts and educational programming, even amid a profusion of sadly laughable reality shows.

So, what’s not to love?

Local news that offers up a steady diet of murders, rapes, fires, burglaries, missing children – all gleanings from police blotters presented presumably as news we can use.

The bloody practice so pervades TV news, friends in the business began joking years ago about how stories line up in a local newscast: “If it bleeds, it leads.” 

For decades, it's been that way wherever I've lived, including Cleveland, New York, Atlanta and the nation's capital. And, now Connecticut.

Watching the parade of stories, featuring body bags, perp walks and flashing police lights would make you think crime is the only activity among the citizenry. Or at least the only activity worth broadcasting.

My wife Lyn and I watch by shifting time – pausing, or recording and playing back when we want, thereby skipping useless piles of crime.

To be sure, these stories are important to the victims’ kin and friends and to the friends and kin of those committing the crimes. But these stories are not important to the rest of the viewing audience in any market. And, apparently because one geographic area does not provide enough grist for the local TV crime mill, stories from far away places are picked up and flung at audiences by the most charming news readers, well-dressed, well-groomed folks who seem such unlikely traffickers in society’s carrion.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Month That Wears Out Its Welcome – and Us

January is the longest month ever, the time of the year when April feels eons away, when we look out the window and see the cold, feel it, even indoors. It's a living thing, this first month, designed to make us forget everything except the hope that spring really will come this year.

It cannot come soon enough.

So, I work mightily to create spring indoors, filling every bare spot on floors and tables with plants that help me keep hope alive. Plants that bloom, like orchids and African violets, plants that evoke the warmer climes, such as palms, philodendrons and cactuses. And, for punctuation in this self-preservation, I make sure to spread around fragrant growers like jasmine and citrus.
A Cheerful Counterpoint to a Hard January

Each morning, before much of the world gets cranked up, I take long tours through this indoor garden, put on a kettle of water for humidity and coffee, breathe in the damp earthiness of newly-watered plants and feel transported to fragrant, verdant spring.

Because ours is a small family, my wife Lyn, cat Bette and I can always find space for aloneness, even in our relatively small home.

When the snows come, and come, and come, as they have this winter, solitude reaches a higher level, approaching isolation. Our road, always little traveled, becomes virtually untraveled, more like an extension of the garden than a thoroughfare in the early morning after a big snow. All around the house and into the woods, the snow, a huge fluffy blanket, decorates trees, snuggles benches, caps stones and raises the level of the land to a height that beckons us to dive and wallow.

Eerily, during the really big winter storms, no sounds from anywhere get through our doors or windows, even when the occasional car or truck gingerly makes its way up the hill; sounds seem muffled by snow, frozen by cold. Snow-removal machines are seen but not heard.