Saturday, May 16, 2009

In a tight economy, hyacinths for the soul are even more important

Hi everyone,

Sometimes my editor's prose gets a bit purpler than mine. His headlines are below.

I've also noticed the paper doesn't use proper "Oxford" commas. This, to me, seems an infinitely greater danger to civilization than swine flu. :)

Saturday's column

Turn to hyacinths, creme de menthe
Enrich your soul, if not your pocketbook

My adopted grandmother, Virginia Austin, used to say that during the Great Depression, no matter how bad things got, she always kept a bottle of crème de menthe and a tube of caviar in the fridge – that way, she said, even when they had nothing else to eat, they could keep their spirits up. When I would point out that caviar didn’t sound like a cost-effective choice, she’d point out that the most important economies are not financial – and then she’d quote from Sa’di, a poet most famous for this little rhyme:

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

It’s hard to argue with someone who quotes medieval Persian poetry at you, but during the years that followed, when I was living on free soup bones from the butcher, beans and rice, and had worked out a deal with the local grocery store to pick through their vegetables before they threw them into the dumpster, I kept a small bottle of crème de menthe in my ice box. It reminded me that, during tough times, you have to enjoy the little things even more.

The economy promises to make this summer tougher than previous summers, but there are still plenty of little things in West Bend to help us remember to enjoy our lives. I waded through a bunch of the local summer schedules and picked out the sort of hyacinths Virginia might have suggested.

First, plant a garden. The reason for planting a garden isn’t simply to grow less expensive food but because, when money’s tight, you should always eat the best food you can afford. If your thumb isn’t green, West Bend is lucky enough to have a great Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 7:30 to 11 a.m., June 6 through Oct. 31. We buy most of our vegetables and eggs there, plus you get to spend the morning drinking coffee and bumping into people you know.

Second, fortify yourself with some inexpensive fun. West Bend offers quite a list.

On Thursday nights this summer you can enjoy the free Music on Main series in Old Settler’s Park (from June 11 through Aug. 20, 6:30 to 9 p.m.) or, starting June 25, pile into the West Bend Community Memorial Library’s free family entertainment nights (sing-alongs and storytelling). They also have reading programs for all ages planned all summer long.

West Bend neighborhood parks provide a free Supervised Playground Program from June 15 to Aug. 6, Mondays through Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the playgrounds in Barton, Decorah Hills, Regner, Riverside, Wingate and Ziegler parks. And don’t forget to run the kids around the trails at Lac Lawaan, or up and down the Eisenbahn Trail and the Riverwalk. They need the exercise. So do you.

How about free movies? Glacier Hills Credit Union and the West Bend Park, Recreation and Forestry Department are showing Friday Night Outdoor Movies starting at 7:30 p.m. On June 12, July 10, and Aug. 21 the movies will be shown at Regner Park and, on June 26, July 31, and Sept. 4, at Glacier Hills Credit Union, 2150 S. Main St., south of Paradise.

Of course, there’s swimming at Regner Park (you can save on the swim passes if you pick one up before June 12) and the Rec Department has tons of inexpensive programs. Think “Adult Kickball.” You can catch up with them at 335-5080.

My favorite summer event was, is and will always be the annual Duck Races at Regner Park on the Fourth of July. Better yet, call the Kiwanis, buy your own duck and spend a few weeks with the kids decorating it into a spectacular work of art.

Finally, remember to let your grass grow; cut it higher and less often. Longer grass keeps your weeds down without herbicides, leaves the lawn healthier, saves gas and gives you an excuse to sit on your porch enjoying the afternoon. Less yard work also leaves time for the most important hyacinth of all: get the neighbors together for a block party. There is no better hyacinth for the soul, and no more valuable currency, than the economy of good neighbors. With good neighbors even a tough summer can leave you rich.



John Jost, West Bend said...

According to a Wikipedia article, the argument against the Oxford or serial comma is that "the comma is redundant, since the and or the or serves by itself to mark the logical separation between the final two items."

My primary language being French, where this comma is not used for that very reason, I agree with that argument.

Mpeterson said...

John, them is fightin' words. :)

My sense of French is that the extra comma is as useful there as it is in German or Italian.

In compound sentences written without the comma, amphiboly becomes easier -- although, perhaps that's the fault of overly complicated English.