On this blog page, author Mary C. Woolling posts an ongoing series of her essays showcasing the positives of life.

New essays are added often. You are cordially invited to become a regular reader. Also, please feel free to share this site with your family and friends via the “Tell a Friend” link, located in the right-hand column below.

Comments on Mary's essays are most welcome. Simply click on the “Post Comments” link appearing at the end of each essay, and share your thoughts.

If you'd like to contact Mary, you may do so at mary@herestolife.us

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Winging into Spring

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, and the time of the singing of birds has come…”
Song of Solomon 2: 11-12

In her 1962 bestseller, Silent Spring, gifted writer, biologist, and early environmentalist Rachel Carson foretold of a world without birds and other wonders of nature as a result of the widespread use of pesticides, specifically DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane). She claimed that these chemicals would cause the deaths of untold numbers of animals, especially birds, and even humans.

Her writing engendered much discussion and study of the use of biocides and their potentially lethal effects. As a result, in May, 1963, President John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee determined that pesticides should be used to maintain the quality of our food and health, but not indiscriminately, in which case it might jeopardize the balance of nature. Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner, the committee chairman, stated that their routine usage posed “potentially a much greater hazard” than the deleterious effects of uncontrolled radiation.

We owe a great debt to Miss Carson for alerting the country to the danger of this potential catastrophe before it occurred. Her efforts ultimately led, in 1972, to the ban of the usage of DDT in the U.S.

The idea of a spring without the familiar sound of birdcalls is inconceivable. Along with the blossoming of crocuses, tulips, and hyacinths, the sight and sound of birds is part and parcel of the season. They portend the end of a long winter and promise of beautiful weather days ahead. Spring just wouldn’t be spring without the birds.

We derive such pleasure from our feathered friends. No matter where we are outdoors, they appear in wide variety, brightly-colored, active, and entertaining to watch. They sing their hearts out for us, providing delightful music to enjoy. Bird watching is said to be the most rapidly growing hobby in America today, with almost 70 million individuals avid backyard birders.

Some species of birds are prevalent in all areas of the country, while others are specific to certain regions. Each in its own way enriches our lives. We can easily invite these feathered songsters into our world through the simple provision of birdhouses, birdbaths, and bird feeders with seed blends, suet, table scraps, or bread crumbs. Feeders and houses come in many types, including those placed on poles, hanging from tree branches, and attaching to the outside of windows. All allow for close-up observation of the lovely winged creatures.

Once we begin to pay attention, it’s not long before we come to recognize certain birds by their distinctive markings, habits, and individual songs. The soft gray Mourning Dove is known for its haunting four or five note cooing sound. The Robin Redbreast is perhaps the best recognized of all North American birds, with its characteristic gait of hop, skip and head-tilt and “cheerily carol.” Then there is the Song Sparrow, aptly named for its unique trilling call, and the unmistakable Woodpecker, with its red head, solid black back, white underfeathers and familiar rat-tat-tapping of its beak on tree trunks. And let’s not forget the brilliant scarlet-colored Cardinal, better known as the Redbird, with its joyful “purty! purty! purty!”

The world is full of intriguing delights–some, like the birds, quite literally right outside the window. It’s Spring! The time of the singing of birds has come once again.

Take a look and a listen. Purty! purty! purty!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

A Day to Be Happy

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

~Anne Frank (1929-1945) Famous Holocaust victim

For two long years during World War II, Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding from the Nazis, confined in cramped attic rooms of an office building in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In spite of existing in a state of ever-present fear and isolation, young Anne never stopped believing in the goodness of life.

Except for her father, Anne and the other members of her family ultimately died in concentration camps. Anne’s gallant message, recorded in her red-checkered diary, however, was not silenced by her cruel captors. The little cloth-bound book, later discovered on the floor of the Franks’ former living area, has prevailed as a timeless statement of hope to the world.

In the spirit of Anne’s words, in spite of our individual challenges, major as they may be, there are still so many reasons to be happy today. Life in all its simple pleasures is precious and a gift to be savored. We don’t have to look far. An infinite variety of things to gladden our hearts is right before us.

Here’s just a sampling:

The irreplaceable sound of a loved one’s voice calling “Good Morning”

Brilliant sunshine streaming through a window

Fluffy white clouds in vivid blue skies

Beckoning green hills with lush valleys below

Delicious aroma of freshly-brewed coffee

Cheerful song of robins twittering in the trees

Regal purple iris and friendly daisies in full bloom

A rainbow decorating the sky after a thunderstorm

A little white farmhouse with red rosebush nearby

Tinkling piano music drifting across the air

Children’s voices raised in shouts of delight

The merry peal of a grandmother’s laughter

The sight of a baby taking her first faltering steps

The contented purring sound of a tabby cat

The soulful eyes of a cocker spaniel

What makes you happy today?

Friday, April 14, 2023

Ode to the Dandelion

It is the familiar that usually eludes us in life. What is before our nose is what we see last.

-William C. Barrett, American philosopher/ educator (1913–1992)

This morning, the dandelions are at their peak in my backyard. The recent, unseasonably warm weather has brought out these annual visitors in all of their glory. The beauty of their brilliant yellow blossoms has magically transformed the green expanse of lawn into a royal blanket of gold.

Did you know that dandelions hail from the Aster or Sunflower family? And that, like the sunflower, dandelion flowers rotate toward the sky throughout the course of the day, following the sun’s rays?

The word “dandelion” comes from the French words “dent de lion,” meaning lion’s tooth, referring to the serrated edges of their individual leaves. Each dandelion bloom is actually comprised of a compact mass of tiny, individual, yellow florets.

The dandelion – a delightful little spot of cheer in our world. And yet, because of its omnipresence, most people take it for granted. They say it’s not worth much. In fact, it is regarded as a common weed and something that does not belong in the “better” yards. Most homeowners strive continuously to eradicate this little flower which blooms prolifically year after year all through our lawns, unless we have taken measures to prevent it. Dandelions also come up in all sorts of additional locations – cracks in parking lots or driveways, along the edges of steps and fences, and interspersed between desired growing things in our gardens.

American philosopher William Barrett pointed out, in his words printed above, that many things in life are overlooked, simply because they are always there in our day-to-day landscape. So familiar to us do these things become, we ultimately fail to “see” them at all. It’s a good practice periodically to open our eyes to what is right before us — things that are actually well worth noting and valuing.

Case in point is the familiar, ubiquitous dandelion – often unseen and definitely unappreciated. I believe we have been too hasty in our negative assessment of the dandelion, for this brave and mighty little plant never stops volunteering its charming presence, with no encouragement from us.

The dandy also possesses many other qualities that are actually quite dandy. The first dandelions of spring are recognized as succulent, tasty, early sprouts to be eaten raw or used in cooked dishes. Before modern nutritional science warned us of the harm of high fat diets, “dandelion greens,” wilted when sprinkled with hot bacon grease and served alongside rich mashed potatoes, was a popular delicacy. My late father often spoken of having enjoyed this dish as well as of helping his parents prepare dandelion wine from its flowers. Today, nutritionists tell us that dandelion soups and salads (sans the bacon grease!) provide us with a good source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, as well as vitamins B, C, and E.

Further, my father told me that the leaves and roots of the dandelion plant are sometimes considered as folk remedies used for medicinal purposes. It has even been reported that grounds from the root of the dandelion can be roasted for a type of coffee substitute. (This undoubtedly would have a ways to go to match my favorite latte, but still, not bad for a little weed from the backyard!)

Dandelions display exemplary durability, vitality, and resourcefulness. Near the end of their lives, their yellow blossoms transform into spheres of white parachutes/seeds, converting entire fields into misty white blankets. These little white puffs are then gently blown away by a slight breeze or breath, floating off to distant places, there to begin another generation of dandies.

So, here’s to the plucky dandelion, a hardy little plant which, in spite of unpopularity, ridicule, and even threats to its very existence, is ever true to its mission of thriving in our world while providing pretty little posies for us to enjoy.

Through it all, the faithful little dandelion blooms on . . . it has much to teach us.

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