Columns

A Single Bloom in a Monochrome Month

A scraggly camellia bush is planted in a cracked pot on our back deck. It has not fared well since making the voyage from our front yard, where it joined three others in an unsuccessful attempt to add some color to a small patch of grass. Too shady. So it was placed in the pot and transported to the back deck. Its counterparts did not survive the transplants, but this camellia has hung in there for a few years now. Its leaves are mottled with yellow splotches, no doubt infested with some plant disease of which I am woefully ignorant. About a week ago, this camellia burst forth with a fat red blossom,...

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Mutilated Myrtle Still Abound

A harbinger of the New Year has unhappily but inevitably arrived. I was running errands. There is a church on the corner where I turn onto Fourth Street to head to the Big Box Stores to which I trek several times a week. This church has rows of crape myrtles on the south and west side of its parking lot. At some point in the past week, landscapers had performed their annual Crape Murder, as some call it. I prefer Crape Myrtle Mutilation. Two rows of those lovely trees, prevalent throughout the South, had been whacked back nearly to the trunk in a ritual that is as ugly as it is unnecessary. It...

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‘The Library Is A Listening Post’

One of the most valuable tools for a research nerd is the interlibrary loan service provided by both academic and public libraries. Through ILL, one can request books, articles, microfilm and even DVDs. One fills out an online form provided by the library one patronizes. I have availed myself of this service uncounted times over the decades. It never fails to provide a small thrill when I’m notified that an item has arrived through ILL. For example, through LeTourneau University’s Margaret Estes Library (where I have worked part-time for a year as a reference assistant) I obtained three...

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A Graceful Ending to a Tumultuous Year

As 2018 draws to a close, I can't help recalling another tumultuous and eventful year. It brings comfort to realize our country managed to survive the horrific events of 1968 a half-century ago, though not without scars and lasting damage — both to people and to the nation’s democratic institutions. I feel that way now about much of what has transpired this year. Once again, our country is in chaos. I pray the coming year brings a semblance of sanity, but I’m not putting money on it. It’s fair to say that 1968 proved to be the most eventful year in my young life. It forever shaped the person...

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Suddenly, it is Christmas

Christmas awaits. The hardwood trees are bare, the grass brown. Our neighborhood is awash with Christmas lights. Driveways are beginning to fill with the vehicles of families coming home for the holidays. As always, my Beautiful Mystery Companion has beautifully decorated our house while I wisely stay out of the way. My job is to hang the lights outside, treading carefully on the roof. I then wrap our outdoor Charlie Brown Christmas tree with 300 feet of colored lights and hang ornaments from the branches. I learned a few years back to caulk the top of each ornament, where the hanger dangles from...

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Whole New Meaning to ‘Good Read’

For the first time since I was a kid, I decided to keep a record of the books I read this year. I started a list in a notebook I carry with me, writing down the author and title each time I finished one. Then my daughter, Meredith, reminded me she had helped me sign up for Goodreads, a “social cataloging” website now owned by Amazon. The compamy began in 2006 and soon developed a strong following, now with more than 25 million members. Goodreads allows one to find titles, buy them on Amazon (of course), make recommendations, participate in polls, blogs and other activities in which I take no part....

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Firing Gmail’s Composition Genie

I have been using Gmail for my personal account for more than a dozen years. I managed to snare a simple address — garyborders@gmail.com — and have used it for personal business, while maintaining a separate address for work. As with all computer applications, Gmail gets updated on occasion, sometimes requiring me to get used to a different appearance or a slightly different way of finding emails. For several months, a button appeared in the top right of the screen: Try the New Gmail. I ignored it, content with the old Gmail. I have enough technology issues to confront without voluntarily...

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Checkmated on Thanksgiving Day

We gathered for Thanksgiving on a warm autumn afternoon out in the country. A steady breeze scattered leaves across the back patio and down the hill to the pasture where a small herd of cows grazed. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I were lawfully wed, as the term goes, at the bottom of that hill nearly eight years ago. So it is a special place. After indulging in a typical feast of over-abundance, some of us sat outside around the pool. Our nephew Connor, now 13, mentioned that he had bought his portable chess set — a compact affair with magnetic pieces. Connor over the past few years...

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Rituals Coalesce Into a Blur — But I’m Thankful

Every morning, if I get up before my Beautiful Mystery Companion rises, I am greeted by a quartet of critters. Tater, an orange-and white galumph of a cat weighing in at close to 20 pounds, is perched at the top of the stairs, waiting for me to open the door. It stays closed during the night to keep critters downstairs. Otherwise, meowing and whimpering could commence about 4 a.m. Once I open the door, Tater bounds down the stairs, the sound echoing off the wooden steps like a small pony in full gallop. His brother, Tot, and the two dogs, Sam and Rosie, join Tater at the foot of the stairs....

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Reading, and thinking, about America

Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together I've got some real estate here in my bag So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies And we walked off to look for America — “America,” by Simon and Garfunkel 1968 |———| I have been reading tomes about America lately. Recently I finished These Truths, Jill Lepore’s brilliant and sweeping history of this country released this fall. Lepore accomplishes what most would consider a nearly impossible task — telling this country’s history in a single, if hefty, volume. Her account begins in 1492 and ends with the election...

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