This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. I’m wondering today if anyone is having as much trouble with the calendar as I am. I spent most of mid-April this year in my garden, only it was the middle of March. Now April has come, and the May apples are up and blooming. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not pining away for the frost and the cold, but I’ve got to tell you, this out-of-season spring seems almost as alien to me as the one a few years back that waited until all the fruit was blooming and then hit us with three days of temperatures in the teens. That, of course, was as hideous as this year has been delightful. But alien still. And just as out of kilter.
I know that a good many folks may flinch and grab their pitchforks at the very mention of the phrase “global warming.” So let’s consider it unmentionable. But whatever’s happening with the climate, I don’t like it. I didn’t like it when the armadillos got here. I didn’t like it when the collared doves arrived, either, beautiful as they are. I got to know them down south on the Gulf while searching the sky and the trees for what might be making a noise like a crow with the croup. I thought they were interesting. But I’d never seen or heard them in the Ozarks before. But they’re here now, and getting more common by the day.
And what am I to do in the garden. The peas are up and blooming, but some people are planting tomatoes, a month too soon. Gardens are always a gamble – too cold and the beans will rot, too hot, and the lettuce will bolt. But this spring, this month, belongs in Mississippi, not the Ozarks. I repeat. It may be a charming devil, but I don’t like it.
It could be worse, I know. The news tells of places on the globe where whole nations and their populations are getting blown, or washed, away. One Pacific Island nation recently voted to disband and move elsewhere before the island disappeared completely from under them. Desertification is a word that I have no memory of from my childhood. It, too, is becoming commonplace.
Now don’t go all politics on me and accuse me of going green or something. I’m just going Ozarks, as I always do, and wondering if the changes I see are fleeting or here to stay. And my answer to the situation, if it needs an answer, is to simply hold fast to the ways we in the Ozarks have always responded to changes, especially difficult changes.
Grow my garden so there’s plenty in the pantry and freezer come fall. Choose my purchases wisely, so as to have what I need, and not what I’m persuaded by my television that I simply can’t do without. I can do very well without a great deal of it, actually. Buy things that last, that are not disposable, and remember that none of my income is “disposable.”
Continue to use, and value, the tools at hand, and if one needs replacing, buy the very best I can afford. Don’t be too proud to visit stores that sell the pre-owned, as they say about used cars. This isn’t just a way to get through hard times – it’s a way of life, being frugal, living sparely and making choices mindfully.
Life is rarely expressed in the most meaningful terms by phrases that will fit on a bumper sticker. But there is one I saw some years back that spoke to me, and I have not forgotten it. It was a statement about wastefulness, and it said “Live Simply, that others may simply live.”
It had a powerful effect on me at the time, because I was struggling to find a way to reconcile my frugal Ozarks ways, referred to by some as being “tight,” or “Scotch”, with the profligate habits of those around me. I was living in southern California at the time, a society that seemed to pride itself on its carefree lifestyle. All well and good, but it was astonishing to me, and not in a good way, how quickly the notion of being free of care translated into an outward urge to demonstrate that nothing mattered. Like the Beatles song, Strawberry Fields: Nothing is real. Nothing to get hung about. I just could never square that with my lifelong training of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
So I had to come home, and find a corner of the Ozarks where that saying and the way of life it proposes was still practiced. I found the notion a little frayed in the cities, a little tattered in the up and coming communities, but still intact, still recognized as not just an old way to be, but a very ethical way to be – living as though everything matters. It’s still a good idea, in these times or in any, in your comfort zone or somewhere in some alien spring. This is Marideth Sisco, celebrating, with some trepidations, a Mississippi Spring in these Ozark Hills.