It seems that the viney honeysuckles are always blooming on the banks of Clay at graduation time. Its yellow and white flowers, and sweet, unforgettable scent, still brings back memories of my own high school graduation. Although it has been 64 years since I stepped up and received my diploma, poignant memories flow through the recesses of my mind of that long ago time. There are shadowy images of young people of the past who populate my mind and live again in their youth.
Some of them are gone, and tears mark their memory (good-bye Owen, good-bye Hazel Lou, and many others.) We, who are left of that graduating class, with gray hair and infirm bodies, are traveling that same path toward eternity. Some of us, with canes, walkers and wheelchairs, are inexorably going down the valley one by one.
Does this sound depressing? It is life and we are all mortal. So what is the answer? We can turn to the Bible for all the answers we seek. In Psalms 90-10, we read, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Then it goes on to say in verse 12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (The entire chapter of Psalms 90 is excellent instruction.) We need to learn to redeem the time-in other words, spend our remaining days wisely. Count them out, as a miser would count his gold, one at a time and get the most good out of them. Then we can walk upright before God and do His will, and when our end cometh, we have the promise of eternal life. Sometimes I get anxious (as my Cousin Katie says) to see what is on the other side of the door. We don’t have to fear death. My years are playing out, and yet another generation takes my place.
Our first great-grandchild is graduating from high school this year. Morgan Lorena Bragg, daughter of Joshua and Regina Bragg, will march up to the podium and receive her diploma. My, how the years have passed! It seems such a short time ago that this little pink-cheeked baby made her entrance into the world. We’ve seen our own six children go through this ceremony, as well as most of our 22 grandchildren, and now we are starting on the great-grands.
The only advice I have for Morgan and the other young graduates is found in Ecclesiastes 12-1. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” This is an oft-quoted scripture, but so true. I was once young like you, and now I am old, so quickly.
It has been an unusual spring, to say the least. May days float by on the wings of a restless wind that keeps blowing through the greening hills, scattering dandelion fluff and dogwood petals. Non-ending showers of rain fall upon hill and valley alike, and sunny days have been few and far between. It has been a hassle to try to get the garden planted between rains. May has showed us some typical March weather with cold, blowy days interspersed with some sunshine and high-flying clouds.
It is seedtime now. We have always waited until after the 10th of this month to plant corn, beans, cucumbers and squash, and to set out tender plants such as tomatoes and peppers. We have these out now, but they are sort of floating in water. Hope this season is not like last spring, when our garden was inundated with water.
My Cousin Tony, who is an expert gardener, waits until after the 20th of May to plant his beans. It is important to keep the vines up off the ground, especially during a wet, rainy season (like this one!) He places stakes 10 to 20 feet apart and builds a trellis of grass rope. He sprinkles fertilizer in the furrow as he plants, and also on top of the covered ground.
While we watch the calendar and anxiously wait for warmer weather, Mother Nature goes placidly about her business of setting spring in place. She offers some early wild foods that are in season now. The orange day lily is a common sight up and down the highways all summer long, and they are a versatile edible wild food. It belongs to the same family as wild onions, wild garlic and ramps, but they are mild and unassuming in comparison.
Every part of the plant is edible, but the unopened buds are the only part of the plant that I have tried. They taste somewhat like green beans, but use caution! I didn’t know they were cathartic if you eat too many (as I did!)
I steamed them with a butter sauce, and they were delicious. Young day lily shoots can also be gathered early in the spring (discard large outer leaves) and steamed with a butter sauce, and the unopened flower buds can be fixed oriental style with garlic, soy sauce and fresh ginger-along with ½ cup of chopped wild onions. Sounds good to me! The buds or fully opened flowers can be dipped in an egg and flour batter and fried in hot oil. The wilted flower is sometimes added to soups or stews for an okra-like ingredient.
If you have not grown up eating these wild things, it might be wise to try only a bite or two and then wait for 30 minutes to see if you are allergic. When we were kids, we roamed all over the fields and hills, sampling everything within our reach. We ate mountain tea leaves, and also the red teaberries, chewed sweet birch bark, nibbled on tender sassafras shoots and spice wood twigs. I guess it built up an immunity!
A few hummingbirds have been spotted, and it is time to put out the feeders. Legend tells us that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning, and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.
From our sister state of Virginia, our “adopted” son Scott reports that he has been hearing whippoorwills. I miss the sweet, piercing call of those birds, which tells me that spring is truly here. God has our world in His hand.