Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Gladys' spring


Gladys has a nice thing to say about March the month when spring begins in our part of the world.
As I write, sleet, mixed with snow and rain, beats against the window. But when I open the door and look out, I smell the clean, sweet air, and I hear the brook running down the hill, and I feel spring in my heart. March is a special gift from nature to restore and nourish the land, and without it roses would never bloom so beautifully in June. 
We've had a cloudy, rainy, cool spring with a few days of warmth and bright sunshine. Most people have complained, but for me it was the perfect weather for the flowers. Yes, things have been slow in coming, but the daffodils lasted over a month. I've never seen so many blooms on the crabapple and they didn't fade for ages. Every single tree and flower has looked spectacular. I hope to do a picture posting of all the beauty.

In the 1970s, Southbury Connecticut has changed from Gladys' earlier writings from the 1930s and 40s and 50s. It made me sad to read
Southbury is no longer a quiet country village as it was, and those of us who watch the death of a rural area feel heartbreak. The deep woods crash, marshes are flooded, sweet-running trout streams polluted. Factories encroach. Chain stores plan to move in. A turnpike slices the wild-flower meadows.
Sometimes I think progress is man's greatest enemy. But I am thankful my own woods and swamps and streams are still safe, and nobody at the moment can drain my pond and build a development there. It belongs to the wildlife and the children.
I suppose all of us who grow older in a place we've lived in a long time see changes, and think about the future of our own land. I feel very lucky because our children love this place, and indeed Margaret and her family live on acres that used to be part of it. I can't imagine them ever tearing down the house or subdividing the land. It is part of them, it is "home" to them and to their children.

It warms my heart that one of Gladys' grandchildren writes often in the Friends of Gladys Taber publication about Stillmeadow. It really seems much the same as when she lived there. She would be so very pleased.

And Southbury itself still looks very lovely in some of the pictures shown on the web page, though I'm sure much bigger and busier.

Gladys has a many page diversion from nature and spring to talk about the census. It is quite shocking to read!
The folder said, "Why Your Family?'
Well, it seems I was chosen as one of 17,000 out of 63 million to be investigated by the Census Bureau. It's strictly confidential, I was assured, for the census bureau is airtight against snoopers
... As a writer, I have been interviewed for years by reporters, radio MCs, and various clubwomen, and I have never objected, feeling that I have no secret life. ... But suddenly I began to wonder, and I did not want to fill out all those pages [30 or 40 of them!] about my way of living. We live in a climate of fear nowadays, second only to Communist countries. Newsmen go to jail rather than divulge the source of their special information. Houses are wired, telephones tapped, and the FBI has files on millions of names, innocent or not. The Watergate incident came to my mind. ... 
Then we got to page one. Now the information wanted by the bureau is about clothing and linens, auto expenses and repairs, trips and vacations, utilities, fuels, household help, repairs to appliances, TVs, etc., home repairs and improvements, insurance, and a few other items. 
This is really personal stuff! I was shocked that the Bureau could request (well, it really wasn't a request, was it?) to know all this. It got me wondering if they still do this. I know there is news now about a government "request" to know if a household includes anyone who is not a citizen of this country. But do they also go in for all the minutiae of lives?

Poor Gladys. 74 years old and being asked all these things!
An hour and a half later I needed an ice pack on my head. Unfortunately, I did not know how old my toaster was, when I had last bought sheets and pillowcases, how old my car was (this never came out right since I bought the last one of a model the week before the new ones appeared). I had no records of when I bought my TV set (but it was black-and-white, which she wrote down). I remembered that my electric range was a little over a year old (just old enough so the warranty had run out when the timer blew).
Trips and vacations drew a blank, as I never take them. I confessed that I have only one typewriter, non-electric. And no humidifiers. I forgot my one old electric fan. I had not bought any new clothes or rented any. And I did not know how much I had spent on food. No hospital expenses. I said I needed a new sofa because the springs were sagging in mine but I did not remember when I bought it or when it was re-covered. ...
Books are evidently of no interest to the Census Bureau, and I must have several hundred at least, overflowing the bookshelves and stacked in piles in closets. Never mind. I had not bought a new coat this year. Or new shoes.
The census woman was to come back twice more, and in the meantime Gladys was supposed to fill out more pages.
I began to wonder how much 17,000 of these elegant portfolios, complete with pad and pencil and glassy pockets, must cost our rich government and how much this investigation cost and how far that money would go for food for the poverty areas.
And then she ends with some rather chilling words.
I do know in this age we are not expected to have or want any privacy, but I wonder if it isn't time for a change before we all become statistics fed into a computer?
I find this whole project more and more disturbing. At what point can a citizen of our great country have any privacy? Are we by any chance tending toward an era when the government will regulate our whole lives? I wonder if I were to say, "I do not wish to be in the census, thank you. Try my neighbor down the road" - would I make the FBI files?
I am too docile ever to know.
Gladys then goes on to write of her cats, past and present, and the wild ones who live in the barn. This part was hard for me to read as our Raya died in March. She made her first appearance on the blog here. And there are more pictures under the "Cats and Dogs" label on the sidebar under "Letter Topics". We had her for 18 years. She had been a big cat but in the last years she lost so much weight and by the end was only about 5 pounds. She was the most loving and interesting and difficult of all our cats. She was the greeter when anyone came to visit. She loved people. And she loved the grandchildren from the very beginning. Here she is with 7-month-old Hazel.


As for the difficult part - well, she was unstoppable. She stretched on and under every single chair. If she wanted my attention for some reason, she would just go over and begin stretching. She chewed on every plant. But, my goodness I miss her.

I used to tell her that she had to live until 2019 so I could say that Tom and I had had 50 years of cats, and she did. Tom doesn't want another cat, and I understand his reasons though I do ache for the presence of a kitty. But what I really ache for is my Raya. Gladys Taber would certainly understand.

32 comments:

  1. These census questions make my blood run cold. If I would think about it, which I try not to do, everything we do is tracked now days. Even where we drive our cars. A scary thing to think about.
    So sorry to read about your Raya. It is so difficult to lose a darling pet/one of the family. Maybe after a brief mourning Tom will want a lap full of fur again.

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    1. And I've heard those things people put on their wrists to measure steps can be used by insurance companies. I don't know if the person has to sign off on that or not. It is unbelievable how much "freedom" we've all given up, and it seems, quite willingly. Some people left Fb when all the privacy issues were raised, but most people stayed. There are billions of users all over the world. Thank you for your words about Raya. Tom won't change his mind, I'm sure. But we may get a second dog at some point. I think he is just done with litter pans, and cats on counters, and stretching on furniture. ;<)))

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  2. First of all, your header picture is just beautiful! A cool rainy spring does certainly encourage beautiful flowers. It's been the same in our area. Just a bounty of wildflowers this year, mostly gone now or looking a little scraggly. I know you miss Raya. Precious picture. As to the census stuff, well, I suspect that our lives are pretty much an open book these days - much more than any of us would like. Technology has improved some things certainly but...

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    1. I am wowed every day by the flowers and flowering trees! And they last so much longer without the heat! I sure agree with your thoughts.

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  3. One has to wonder if anything useful is done with information we are expected to submit. What would happen if we filled the pages with wildly inaccurate data? Would 'anyone' ever read it?
    On a gentler note: Jim and I still miss cats--and a dog--and a horse--who were with us for many years. The youngest 3 of our cat family are turning 7 this summer--the lives of our beloved animals are too short. We continue to miss a number of the 'special' ones who are gone.

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    1. Yes, like those surveys they give high school students asking how often in the month they have taken drugs or had alcohol. Who would ever tell the truth?! I've also heard that people never tell their doctors if they smoke or drink. haha. We had one horse and we all still talk of him with such love.

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  4. Oh Nan! Every cat we have lost we have cried over. We've had cats in our life for around 40 years, and our last, Mabel, is 17/18 (we didn't get her as a kitten). Her big brother Fred went to the big mouse hunting field in the sky around two years ago, and because of our age (similar to yours) we think a "next" cat might outlive us...... although, somtimes a cat will turn up at your door and not leave and if that happened, we would of course have to offer accommodation! Lovely memories for you of Raya though.

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    1. Gosh, I have never thought about the age aspect, though there was a New Tricks episode where animal rescue people wouldn't allow Brian to have a dog because of his age.

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  5. Yes, I really miss Sterling.
    What a wonderful essay.

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  6. Wow, she got it just right about us being just fed into a computer, didn't she? I always love it when you write about her. What a wonderfully gifted writer she was! By the way, I know you love children's books, I wrote of Alice Tait in a post recently and mentioned you! 😄

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    1. I'm sorry I haven't seen it yet. I just haven't been writing or reading much lately. A very busy spring!! I will get over there, though.

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  7. Not sure we ever "get over" the loss of a pet any more than the loss of a family member. I still miss our Miss April Jones, the most remarkable German Shepherd ever to grace our lives. And, I too, am reluctant to adopt another due to my advanced age, but I love seeing pictures of yours.
    This header is magnificent ... into the woods I'd go!

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    1. I love the name of your dog. Thanks so much about the photo. The lupines are on our back hill. They have spread wonderfully, and continue to do so!

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  8. Oh Nan! I'm so sorry to read about your Raya. I totally get it--I do. We lost my favorite cat in 2011 and I still have moments when I get all misty-eyed thinking about what a good friend he was. May God continue to comfort you as only He can while you heal. (And thanks for sharing about Gladys' predicament. Man, I can't stand the whole thought of things like that....sigh....) Thinking of you! Blessings, Debra

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  9. So sorry about Raya, that's so sad. A beautiful picture. I love your quotations and that the places they're writing about are still as they are - that's comforting, isn't it.

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  10. Yes, the woods and fields I used to play in as a child now have the Penzance ring-road running through them. I know this keeps heavy traffic out of the congested town-centre but I still grieve every time we use that road.

    Wow, that census stuff is a trifle scary!

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    1. That just kills me to read. I'm sure you do grieve. It is a comfort when one's childhood home/town is still there, and at least partly the same.

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  11. I'm so sorry that you lost your Raya. It hurts so much to lose a dear pet who is simply a member of the family. Nan, I put off too long buying the copy of Country Chronicle that was in my Amazon basket and it had been sold when I remembered. So must look again because all the things you write about from it really are new to me.

    All of those census questions Gladys had, I never remember getting someone asking them!

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    1. She was one of those specially chosen. Most people didn't get them.

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  12. I love your header. I miss my Callie so much, daughter has her, with severe arthritis I cannot trip over her.

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    1. I know you do. I'm so sorry. Can she ever bring her over to visit?

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  13. Like everyone else here, I always love your Gladys Taber posts, and this one was no exception.
    All of us who have ever had a pet can relate to how sad it is when one of them dies, such as Raya. My white cat Mimi had to be put down with painful bladder cancer when she was about 17. I had raised her from 12 weeks old. She has been gone since the summer of 2003, but I still think of her almost every day for one reason or another.

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    1. Thank you! I'm so very happy you like them. I'm sorry to hear about your cat.

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  14. I am so sorry you lost you loved Raya....My miniature poodle Bogancs died in 2016 and I am still missing him. But I'm not getting another dog (my son may get one) because I would probably die before him and I don't want to do that to any animal.

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  15. Such a sweet picture of Hazel with Raya. I'm sure you still miss her terribly. I know I still miss my Annie-Dog...

    Gorgeous lupine in your header. We are on a short road trip and the hills on the coast (in Oregon and Washington) are covered with wild foxglove. I love this time of year! Everything is so lush and green.

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    1. The lupines are gorgeous this year! We transplanted a few some friends gave us years ago, and they have spread over the whole hill, and now into the field. Wonderful flowers.

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