Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's in a Name (of an iris)?

Those of us who grow iris want varieties that appeal to us visually. One might say that's the whole point. But they all have names, and those names can have an appeal all their own. Or, conversely, they can be a big turn-off.

Most of the iris in my garden have names that mean something to me, however obliquely. A good example of this is the very small order I put in (to BlueJ Iris) yesterday. I hadn't planned to order this year, and was pretty determined to stick to that. But then I noticed some room in the front of one bed that the shorter Intermediate Beardeds would fill so nicely. And then I started thinking about other reasons to add to my iris collection.....

I ordered Terryton to honor my dear cousin Terry, whom we lost late last year. The name reminds me of her, of course, but so does the coloring. Terry was a strawberry blonde.

Crazy For You is for my 16-year-old dog, Angel. Again, not only the name, but the liberal use of grey in the coloration, as Angel is a grey Briard mix.

Sings So Softly for my daughter Gillian, who died on Memorial Day eight years ago. I have many irises named for Jill.

Stairway to Heaven for her Husky-Shepherd, Wolfy, who will join his beloved owner at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Bedtime Story for this story, which brought me a much-needed check this year and which people (amazingly) still continue to read.

Thunder Spirit for another dog. His name was Thunder, and he was my first German Shepherd. Gone more than 30 years ago now, but never forgotten.

Good and True is for all the positive things in my life.

Yes, you might say that I slipped off the wagon by placing this order. But I don't feel the regret I remember from my days of eating Sara Lee brownies (a very long time ago!). I woke up this morning happy that these will grow in my garden.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Airbrushing and the Women's Movement

I came upon a rather dramatic and glamorous photographic portrait of Michelle Obama on the Internet the other day, and after I admired it I took a second look. I'm not sure, but I think it was airbrushed. It's a little hard to tell with Michelle because she's not exactly a mass of wrinkles. But I wouldn't be surprised if even she had been Photoshopped. It seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days.

My awareness of the prevalence of airbrushing started with a media flap about a heavily retouched shot of Faith Hill. Faith Hill! Faith Hill isn't someone who needs a lot of physical improvements. But the before-and-after pictures said it all: Someone had deemed it necessary to airbrush her face, trim her waist, even slim her back. I thought it was sick, and in fact it turned out to be contagious. Pandemic, even.

I don't think witness to the early days of the women's movement could have foreseen that we (and I use this term loosely) would one day inject botulism into our foreheads to paralyze the muscles so we could no longer frown. (How is Botox different from Scarlett O'Hara's corset-induced 18" waist, by the way?) Wasn't there a lot of talk about aging gracefully, and with strength? Why, then, do most of the ads for anti-aging cosmetics feature 20-something (airbrushed) models? And while I'm at it, why do ads for mascara show photos of models wearing false eyelashes? What ever happened to truth in advertising?

Most of those airbrushed faces lose their appeal along with their laugh lines. Who wants to look as though their skin has turned to plastic? Speaking of plastic, and loss of appeal, what's with the plastic surgery going on? Do you know of anyone who has actually been improved by these procedures? I look at the aging Hollywood population, with their overblown, drooping lips and tight, pulled back eyes, and I wonder what they see when they look in the mirror. I myself see a 19-year-old half the time, so I guess I just answered my own question.

I think it's a silly trend, all of it, and a tad disappointing. We've gone from burning our bras to squeezing into Spanx. To each his/her own, I guess, but when it comes to digitally imposing youth upon a face, I hope they'll leave my Michelle alone.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Why I Drive a Gas Guzzler (or two)

I'm a single person with two 8-cylinder vehicles.

I dislike waste of any kind, I'm frugal, and I try to be a conscientious consumer in all areas. But I have an SUV (Toyota 4Runner) and a big sedan (1992 Chevy Caprice--my beloved "cop car"). I drive one in winter and the other in spring, summer, and fall. The Caprice does surprisingly well on gas for its size and power: 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. But it still probably qualifies as a gas guzzler.

I'm not defending my ownership of these cars, but I'd like to explain. I spent my first 26 years in NYC, and in all that time never knew anyone who was hurt or killed in a car accident. I drove a cute little Fiat Spyder convertible. When I moved here to the country, I was shocked at the number of automobile fatalities that occurred on a regular basis. I read about them in the paper and saw them on the TV news, and later, as a reporter, I wrote about them.

This area has a lot of young drivers. We also have a lot of drinking drivers. Combine that with winding, hilly (in some cases mountainous) rural roads, and treacherous winter conditions (plus clueless summer vacationers), and you can see why driving is a dangerous activity around here. A reporter I worked with was killed just a few years ago. On her way to work before 8:00 a.m. on a road I travel all the time, her gas-efficient car was hit by a truck driven by a young man who had already had an alcohol-related accident an hour before.

Even if I felt I could afford to go car shopping at this point (which I don't feel I can), I'd be very reluctant to give up all the metal that serves as a buffer between me and the drunks, the reckless, and the trees.

You won't find me burning gasoline frivolously. I commute 25 miles (each way) to work, and constantly juggle my schedule to combine errands. I like to drive well enough, but by the end of the week I've had enough of it and am more than happy to stay home.

And that's my report from the old farm, where one vehicle is parked alongside the ice house, and the other sits under a pear tree.