Sunday, May 19, 2019

A belated Arbor Day...

Post and an early Father’s Day one. 

Here’s an Oldie but Goodie on this sunless, cool Sunday morning in Colorado. (Great day to plant a tree!)

 Planting a Tree...

My father, a survivor of Hitler’s insane concept of human genetics, planted a tree at our house in the Bronx. The sapling was a two-foot white pine that my father appropriated from the Catskill Mountains, AKA in the “Big Apple” as the Jewish Alps. “Jeffy, watch! This tree will one day be taller than our house,” he proclaimed. Like a faithful son, I believed him.

One winter, a Nor’easter blizzard blew down along the eastern seaboard. The heart-attack-heavy snow broke the tiny, white pine in half. My dad, a tailor by profession, but whom Uncle Sam trained to be a medical assistant in WWII, sprang into action. He fashioned a splint made of a few sticks, a side order of rags and a lot of twine. With these meager tools and devices, he made the wounded tree whole again. He reasoned, “It works for people, why not trees?”

In 1978, I escaped the hassle and hustle of the Big Apple and moved out West. Now I, a son of a son of a tailor and graduate from the Syracuse College of Forestry, nurture trees at my home in Fort Collins, Colorado.

I can’t take all the credit; I get a lot of help from Mother Nature. Neighborhood squirrels burrow acorns into the mulch and forget where they placed them. A white-oak sapling will arise a season later. My furry friends do the same with apple cores and cherry and peach pits. I have a virtual fruit stand growing in my yard. We haven’t had much luck with avocado pits yet. When the oaks, peaches, apples, cherries and ashes grow too close together, I’ll go in and do a “thinning operation,” and rearrange some saplings. Once in awhile, I have to place a few up for adoption.

Letting go of my green children is always a difficult process. First I have to find a suitable “parent.” Then the lengthy application process begins. With questions such as, “Are you aware that Colorado is now in a drought?” Then a follow-up query, “Will you be able to provide an adequate supply of water for this young plant?” After that, I quiz the applicant about his or her general knowledge on such diverse topics as soil conditions, fertilizers and peat moss. Only when I am satisfied with their answers will we venture out in the yard with a shovel in tow. As we dig up the adopted seedling, I make sure the new owner understands that I get visitation rights. It’s never easy to let go.

In the fall of 2000, I went back east to visit family and friends. I borrowed a car and drove out to see my childhood home in the Bronx. I was glad that I had faith in my Dad. He was right; that white pine tree is now taller than the house.

Do yourself a favor; plant a tree. It’s good for the soul.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Lessons my Mom taught...


“You can observe a lot by just watching.” 
Yogi Berra

Clara Sambur was called back to Heaven when she was just 52. I was a distraught seventeen year old when she was taken in 1972. I always felt cheated in losing her at such an impressionable age. 

Yet my diminutive Mom made a major impact of me in her subtle understated ways. I learned a lot by watching her. Her classes were mostly visual instead of tutorial. 

Here’s a few examples of Mom’s lessons:

Begin each and every human encounter with a smile. (Unless it’s a totally inappropriate situation. IE. A funeral.) 

Always offer food/drink to anyone who enters or approaches your home (or Van.)

Hugs are an acceptable form of greeting with family and friends.

Public displays of affection are fine too.

Be polite.

Value Education.

Savor silence.

To check a child for fever, tenderly place your cheek against their forehead. 

Read a book in quiet times.

Keep smiling.

Thanks Mom for all that you taught me. I wish the lessons didn’t end when I just a teenager. 

I still miss you.

Last photo: Deep down inside I’m really a Jewish Mother in a short man’s body.

Happy Mom’s Day to all you Motherly Mentors.


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Seeking Contentment in the Land of...

Thirst and Desiccation.

I’ve been on a protracted tour of my personal Happy Places. Beginning with Grand Canyon National Park, I took time outs in Zion NP, Kodachrome State Park, Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef NP and Canyonlands NP. My sprint journey finished up in Great Sand Dunes NP. 

I made a five night R&R stop in Durango, Colorado as well. 

For the most part, the weather was mild to marvelous. I slept with Benedict the Van’s windows ajar. All my campsites had enticing views. My neighbors were respectful and quiet. I saw a few new gorgeous places and got reacquainted with Old Buddy hikes too. My Utah contraband stash of IPAs stayed cold. I expelled many sighs of contentment. Once again,  my World was silent and serene. Happy Times.

There’s a commonality to all these sublime low humidity landscapes. They are all a few hours or a day’s drive from Durango, Colorado. Location, location, location. Did I mention the San Juan Mountains (Colorado’s most beguiling Range) are practically straddling Durango’s lap? Armed with a 4x4 pick-up truck with a camper topping it,  a wanderer can explore for ages. There’s heaps to see around here. Most of it is Virgin Territory to me. 

It’s for the above reasons and scads of others, I’ve plunked down a deposit on a tri-level townhouse beginning on August 1st. It’s a walking distance to Durango’s restaurants, brewpubs, library, pot dispensaries, movie theaters and grocery stores. The unit has an east facing balcony which will be a perfect fit for a Weber Grill. The place is already furnished in a Macho Southwest motif. ( I reckon, I’ll start wearing a cowboy hat.) There’s two bedrooms and three bathrooms with flush toilets.  There’s hot and cold running water. The kitchen is equipped with more than a Coleman Stove and Cooler. (That’s a good thing) The unit has a washer and dryer. There’s over 100 TV channels to veg out over. It has loads of storage space which I won’t come close to filling. 

I’m still a Minimalist. 

After existing for seven years in the Van’s 66 square feet of living area, the townhouse will feel like the Taj Mahal with electricity. I’m joining the World of Grown Ups. I’ll now be a home owner by choice. No longer will I have to stammer an answer when someone asked me, “Where do you live?” 

This might take some getting used to. 

Wish me luck.