June 14, 2011
John Beal's column, Cabbages and Kings, appears monthly on the Voices page of The Dispatch. Beal is a Shawnee resident and retired editor of The Dispatch.
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It will probably come as no surprise to anyone who reads this column that I like to watch the travel shows on public television.
I love to travel. To my mind, there’s nothing to beat the thrill of viewing a new country.
I always look forward to Tidy Town, the annual exercise in clearing out our attics and basements.
Spring may have put in a brief, grudging appearance, but we’re still waiting for the birds.
It’s too early to do much about it, but at least one can reasonably start thinking about spring.
I’ve had enough of winter. As I write this, the 10-day forecast shows only a couple more days with highs below freezing. That’s good; I’ll take whatever relief comes my way.
We got back from a holiday visit to the East Coast just in time to hunker down for winter at home. Who ever said life was fair?
Even rank amateurs can’t really spoil a good Christmas carol.
Sometimes I wonder how many friendships and family relationships “Antiques Roadshow” has put to the test over the years.
If my time is worth anything, then the tomatoes we’ve been enjoying recently rank right up there with Kobe beef and black truffles.
Sometimes it’s hard to come to grips with the speed at which change overtakes you, to say nothing of the magnitude of the change itself.
What this winter lacked in severity it seems to have more than made up in tenacity. It just doesn’t seem to want to let go.
I think it’s about time I got my hands in the dirt again. I mean, after all, here it is the middle of April, winter has basically done its worst, and the planters out on the deck are calling me. “Come on,” they are saying, “this year it will be different.”
I’ve become something of a fan of Scandinavian television crime dramas.
It’s getting harder to remember every year, but there was a time when you could find your car because they didn’t all look the same.
I don’t usually bother much with New Year’s resolutions.
If you’re anything like me, a lot of your memories of past Christmases have to do with the food.
I see a lot of campers on the road these days, and in my mind they’re all heading south for the winter.
I’m a card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool, knee-jerk, rock-ribbed, through-and-through Christmas fanatic, and I don’t care who knows it.
I suppose Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to take stock. After all, that’s what the holiday is about.
Sunday was Veterans Day, and so I naturally thought back to my own time in uniform.
I thought the birds were supposed to know when the weather was going to change.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that we have decent fall color for a change.
I’m starting to get a touch of the wanderlust again.
This year was going to be different.
Over the years I’ve seen I don’t know how many thousands of bumper stickers, and basically I can take them or leave them.
Some people have all the luck. They never seem to put a foot wrong.
The late Ogden Nash wrote that marriage is a partnership of two people, one of whom likes to sleep with the window open and the other with the window closed.
One of the woodworking magazines I subscribe to has a regular feature called “I Can Do That.”
The parched earth yields its bounty only grudgingly in these dry times.
It will come as no surprise to the mothers who read these lines that children are, or soon will be, back in school. Shawnee Mission schools began this week; children in the De Soto school district will start next Wednesday.
Obsessing about the heat is probably not the best way to deal with it.
Surely it comes as a surprise to no one that songs can evoke powerful memories.
As much as I like to travel, I’m finding myself in something of a quandary. It’s getting so that I like coming home almost as much as leaving.
Dumfries, Va. — Surely I am not the first to realize that people back here are different from the rest of us. They talk and act differently, and the latter is nowhere more apparent than when they get behind the wheel.
Boston — Whatever else you can say about this fine old city, they certainly know how to put on a fireworks show.
For the past several days, I’ve been thinking about what I should have told my grandson on his 16th birthday.
You wouldn’t think a few measly birds would be likely to eat you out of house and home.
The garden, such as it is, is showing signs of plenty, but I can’t help feeling it’s still pretty precarious at this stage.
I’ve been playing bachelor for a week now, and I guess about the best I can say about the experience is that it’s a mixed blessing.
I recently watched “The Way,” a charming little film that tells the story of a man who undertakes a pilgrimage to honor his dead son.
Everyone seems to agree that Memorial Day dates to the end of the Civil War.
Our garden, such as it is, has entered that frustrating stage where it must be appreciated for its potential rather than its actual produce.
I saw my first hummingbird of the season last week.
I freely confess that I make no attempt to keep up with the latest trends in sartorial splendor. Fashion is all Greek (or geek?) to me.
I just have one question: How did I get to be so old?
However much one likes to travel, you reach a point when you’re ready to be home. Usually, as is the case now, that happens when you’re about a thousand miles away from all the familiarities and comforts of life around the old homestead.
Rubber-necking landlubbers that we are, the first thing we did when we got here was to put our feet in the Gulf of Mexico.
We don’t have much luck with exotic species, I’m afraid. Other bird-watchers may chalk up an elusive red-breasted bumbersnatch or blue-winged shrike or whatever, but we have had to content ourselves with the normal progression of finches and such.
You know you’re getting old when you go into an antique shop and find things that are younger than you are.
The years take their toll, sure enough, and not just in the expected places. I think we all expect that our bodies will eventually fail, or at least that we won’t always be able to do the things we could when we were young... But some things we expect to last.
It’s hard to fully appreciate the onset of spring when we really haven’t had a winter worthy of the name. Be that as it may, it’s official: the Vernal Equinox, which heralds the first day of spring, occurred at 12:14 a.m. CDT on Tuesday.
Every so often a song will sort of lodge in my memory, and I’ll find myself humming it as I go about my daily tasks. The songs of our youth transport us back into those times — not carefree times, necessarily, but still times we like to remember all the same.
Driving back from a family errand in Nebraska on Sunday, we fought the wind all the way. Stiff north winds, with gusts up to 30 mph or better, stirred up great clouds of dust along Interstate 29; sometimes it was like driving through a fog, but a dry fog of dust. Along toward sunset, the sun was barely visible, a golden orb viewed through the ochre fog.
We’ve had such a mild winter, I wonder how we’ll know when spring gets here. Maybe we won’t even notice; maybe one day, we’ll just turn around and the flowers will have burst into blossom and the trees will have put on a new coat of leaves without our noticing any change.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to turn back the clock (well, okay, maybe just a little), and I do relish the relationship I have with my grown children. But I can’t help but feel a bit wistful when I think of the times that their problems were a lot easier to solve.
Sometimes, you just have to accept that life doesn’t always make sense.
There was a song by Garth Brooks that made the rounds a few years ago about unanswered prayers. I had occasion to think of this the other day while watching a documentary called “Deep Water.” It was about the ill-fated voyage of one Donald Crowhurst, a 36-year-old engineer from Great Britain who perished during a single-handed round-the-world sailing race in 1969.
I don’t suppose I’d have made much of a pioneer.
It’s taken the best part of a week, but the birds have finally returned. We were gone just a day short of two weeks over the holidays, and during that time the birds who normally visit the feeders off our deck out back emptied the feeders and went off one knows not where in search of better pickings.
Creating road signs is, I guess, something of a specialized art, at least when it comes to getting all the information needed into just a few words on a diamond-shaped warning sign. This leads to some curious syntax, to wit...
I confess I’ve never really gotten into celebrating the New Year. I’ve just never been able to see what all the fuss was about.
I finished my Christmas shopping early this year. This is in marked contrast to some previous years, when I’ve been racing around on Dec. 24, trying to find one last gift.
When the size of your household swells from two to eight for a few days, and when you’re making special, festive meals, a lot of that food gets left behind to fill up the refrigerator. There’s only so much you can do with leftover turkey once you’ve used all the parts that are good for sandwiches, after all. Turkey tetrazzini, anyone?
Kansas weather is nothing if not fickle. I’m sure that’s no great revelation to anyone who’s been here more than, say, a week or two, but it bears repeating.
Like the fellow said, when you’re up to your hips in alligators, it’s a little hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp... The point is, we get so frustrated with our problems and our challenges that we tend to forget our blessings.
The house is quiet now, but we’re counting the days. Before long, the halls will ring with children’s laughter and the air will be heavy with the scent of good cooking. For a brief time it will seem as if the rafters are groaning with the all-too-uncommon burden of burgeoning life.
This coming Friday is Veterans Day. Thinking about that caused me to remember my own time in uniform. To tell the truth about it, I was never much of a warrior.
I have so far resisted all entreaties to pick the last fruits green, so we can fix fried green tomatoes or some such delicacy. I stubbornly hope that, if we can somehow just hold the inexorable change of the seasons at bay for a little longer, we may yet harvest a few more tomatoes for salads and sandwiches, or to savor by themselves.
I sometimes wonder to what extent we allow ourselves to be defined by our possessions.
Much in the same way that the ideal gift is something you’ve always wanted but would never buy for yourself, a personal, handmade gift is really an expression of love and esteem.
Writers of fiction sometimes complain their characters can sort of take over the creative process. Sometimes this column is like that.
Summer is nearing its end, and the end can’t come too soon to suit me. We had a taste of this last week, before it started to warm up again over the weekend. Now, after a couple of warm days, it’s supposed to cool off again.
Like most countries in Europe, the British have continued to invest in their passenger railroads. The result is that you can get almost anywhere you want to go in Great Britain by rail... But, although you can get almost anywhere, the operative word in that sentence is “almost.”
My wife and I have been walking around London these last few days hand in hand, like a couple of love-struck teenagers.
I’ve probably planned a lot more trips than I’ve ever taken, and although I don’t think I’ve ever had the experience of having the planning be more fun than the trip, sometimes it’s been close.
I’m not sure a gardener can have too many tomatoes. I think that’s like a quilter having too much fabric, or having too much money, or being too thin...
The U.S. space shuttle program ended last week when Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It spelled the end to a lot of dreams.
Thoughts harken back to summer nights without cool air
There’s no taste that compares with that of the first tomato of the season.
The lines have been drawn and the battle for this year’s crop of tomatoes and other backyard bounty is soon to be joined.
I never cease to marvel at life’s ironies, and surely one of the greatest is that we all like to listen to the sound of the rain.
Going back to a place you last visited almost 50 years ago presents a few challenges.
I confess to a love of the open road. I’ve been driving for more than 50 years now, but I still get a charge from setting out on a long trip — especially through country that I haven’t visited previously.
Now, when the wind blows from the north in these latitudes, it’s blowing right off the Arctic Circle. And when it blows across water that is only 42 degrees to begin with, there’s nothing that’s going to warm it up very much. Let’s just say it was cold and let it go at that.
The Amish, as F. Scott Fitzgerald was wont to say about the rich, are different from the rest of us.