Dear Friends-and-relations,

The philosopher said:

“If a man would be happy for a day, he should get drunk.  If a man would be happy for a year, he should get married.  If a man would be happy for a lifetime, he should start a garden.”

Now, I don’t agree with him on getting drunk.  Part of being happy for a human being is realizing that you are happy – and self-realization is usually an early casualty of alcohol.  And I don’t agree with him on marriage.  His time scale is off by at least 1.5 orders of magnitude.  After 31.08 years of marriage I still find that each year is happier than the one that went before.  But, when it comes to a garden I think he knows what he is talking about.

Thirty-one and a half years ago I was general manager, treasurer, foreman, and sole employee of the Antioch Community Cooperative Vegetable Farm.  Keeping inverse bankers’ hours of 5 to 9, I did everything from ordering seed and plowing the three acres of ground to selling and canning the vegetables that grew faster than 60 college students could eat them.  It was a happy summer.

Then came the war and the merchant marine; and graduate school and a tiny apartment in the city and starting a family; then starting a career and more family; then living in Chicago with little or no ground of my own.

But now we are in Minneapolis in a home with a yard and all children grown and gone.  So I’ve started a garden: a small thing but my very own.  Actual size was 5 feet by 31 feet, right along the driveway, in full sun all day long.  And all summer long we had peas, lettuce, spinach, parsnips, radishes, beets, carrots, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and limas.  On the scale of one, two, three, infinity, the satisfactions are infinite.  The delicious taste as a morsel is eaten is but the culmination of a sequence of pleasures.  The feel of sinking a fork or a hoe into rich soil and the pleasant stiffness that follows.  The act of faith that a seed too small to see without my glasses will result in a crunchy carrot or a bowl full of lettuce leaves.  The wonderment of the regular row of green that appears in a few days (always plant some radishes) and the unbelievable speed with which the plant grows, blossoms appear, fruit appears and ripens.  The first salad of tiny lettuce leaves and beet greens picked to thin the rows.  The feeling of wealth the first evening there is a choice of two vegetables to pick.  And the occasional saying,  “to hell with meat,” and making a whole dinner of six different ones.  The frantic picking to keep up with the garden’s bounty at the height of summer.  The tinge of sadness when the last pea is picked, the last spinach, the last bean.  The warning of frost and setting out the green tomatoes in a tray on the porch.  Then eating the last bean, the last tomato, the last carrot, and finally, in November, the last parsnip, with a mixture of accomplishment, sorrow, and plans for next year.  All this from a few seeds.  Yes, the philosopher is not wholly ignorant.

As for the other things we’ve grown over the years, our three children have provided us with two in-laws and one out-law, but no grandchildren in sight.  There’s no rush.  It was enough of an adjustment realizing I was in love with an Assistant Director of User Services;  I’ll wait a while before I’m in love with a grandmother.  But Sue and David are both progressing towards PhD’s and truly creating a partnership.  David cooks and Sue does the dishes and they play violin-piano duets.  Phil and Anne are finding the going a bit rougher; I hope things work out for them.  Phil got his BS in Civil Engineering, passed his EIT, and is an Associate Member of NSPE – I’m only an Affiliate.  And the latest name change of our youngest (Betty, Elizabeth, Liz, Lisa) is only a switch from the Italian to the Finnish pronunciation.  We liked Mike from the first time we met him, and I think he’s gradually getting used to us.  Lisa graduates in June and is excited over an invitation to go to Washington for a job interview.

At 8:32 am our groundhog emerged to a snowy land and sky without a shadow in sight.  It’s nice to know winter’s over despite all evidence to the contrary.

Until next year – Phil

Original letter was hand-written on ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics stationery