GHD-1974

GROUND HOG DAY   1974

Dear Friends-and-relations,

The philosopher said:

ďIf 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.Ē

Now, I donít agree with him on getting drunk.¬† Part of being happy for a human being is realizing that you are happy ó and self-realization is usually an early casualty of alcohol.¬† And I donít 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 Iíve 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,¬† ďto hell with meat,Ē and making a whole dinner of six different ones.¬† The frantic picking to keep up with the gardenís 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 weíve grown over the years, our three children have provided us with two in-laws and one out-law, but no grandchildren in sight.¬† Thereís no rush.¬† It was enough of an adjustment realizing I was in love with an Assistant Director of User Services;¬† Iíll wait a while before Iím in love with a grandmother.¬† But Sue and David are both progressing towards PhDís 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 ó Iím 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 heís 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.¬† Itís nice to know winterís over despite all evidence to the contrary.

Until next year ó Phil

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