Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Rose

©2010 by LeeZard

The rose that lives its little hour
Is prized beyond the sculptured flower.
- Bryant

This was a very good summer for LeeZard’s rose garden. Well, it’s not a garden per se; I have the bushes spread throughout our ¾-acre property. But we’ve enjoyed a bevy of big beautiful blooms (All the photos in this piece were taken by LeeZard). No mean feat; as many of you know, the fabled rose requires considerable care and feeding, especially in the damp Pacific Northwest.

LeeZard is fascinated by the rose. I love the flower’s look and intoxicating scent. I am not alone. More than any other bloom, the rose has a unique place in our hearts and in history.

Their lips were four red roses on a stalk.
- William Shakespeare

According to the University of Illinois Extension, roses have a long and colorful history.
“They have been symbols of love, beauty, war, and politics. The rose is, according to fossil evidence, 35 million years old. In nature, the genus Rosa has some 150 species spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from Alaska to Mexico and including northern Africa. Garden cultivation of roses began some 5,000 years ago, probably in China. During the Roman period, roses were grown extensively in the Middle East. They were used as confetti at celebrations, for medicinal purposes, and as a source of perfume. Roman nobility established large public rose gardens in the south of Rome. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the popularity of roses seemed to rise and fall depending on gardening trends of the time.”

In perhaps its most famous and political iteration, the rose became the symbol of factions fighting for control of England in the Fifteenth Century. The white rose symbolized York, the red rose Lancaster, hence the famous “War of the Roses.”

Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.
- W. Somerset Maugham

My Mom cultivated a magnificent rose garden in the long narrow yard behind our small red brick Cape Cod-style home in Queens. Here was a woman who couldn’t cook worth a damn; she burned boiling water but her green thumb was magic. I’m sure that’s where it started for me.

More than anything, my backyard was fantasy Yankee Stadium all summer long. I spent countless hours with best buddy Ira Kaplowitz trading off the broomstick handle bat and pitching in the pink Spalding rubber ball, each of us doing our own play-by-play. Between ball games, though, I’d wander over to the roses – in foul territory – and stick my nose into the largest blooms, to drink in their perfume.

But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Shortly after I purchased my first house, I began cultivating the favorite flower. I started with two small bushes and so began the agony and the ecstasy that comes with the trial and error. As with anything beautiful, the rose is target for many evils, including (to name a few):
Japanese Beetles
Powdery Mildew
Black Spot (especially in the Northwest)
Rust (not the metallic kind; it is a fungal disease)

Given the number of threats, the rose has an unfair reputation for being very difficult to cultivate successfully. LeeZard has found this to be a bad rap. For one thing, these enemies do not attack at once and some prefer certain types of roses. Thrips, for example, seem to prefer lighter colored blossoms. With the proper care, I’ve actually found the rose bush to be quite hearty if not difficult to kill.

So, if you love roses but feel intimidated by their supposed difficulties, I urge you to take the plunge next spring. You will find the rewards far outweigh the effort.

Finally, to end on a philosophical note, like baseball, LeeZard looks upon the rose as a metaphor for life. They bring moments of supreme beauty tempered by a trail of thorns.

But he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.
- Anne Bronte

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mosque Madness

Fox News - 8/2/2010
©2010 by LeeZard

LeeZard is troubled by the broohaha over the planned Islamic Community Center and Mosque near “Ground Zero” in New York City’s lower Manhattan. I am more than troubled; anything that breeds prejudice and hate (= ignorance) makes me sick.

Rick Lazio, the Republican front-runner in the New York State gubernatorial race, calls the imam behind the center’s development a “terrorist sympathizer.”

Sarah Palin Tweeted after President Obama expressed support for the development, “Mr. President, why are they so set on marking an area w/ mosque steps from what you described, in agreement with many, as "hallowed ground”? (Grammatical error – question mark outside of quotes – is hers).

Palin further mangles the language with this Tweet, “"Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate." Arrrrghhhh!!

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) joined the fray. He said, “it is analogous to allowing the Nazis to put a sign next to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The New York imam leading the project, Gingrich charges, is a “radical Islamist.”

And, saddest of all, the Anti-Defamation League, which proclaims at the top of its Web site homepage, “Fighting Anti-Semitism, extremism and bigotry,” stunned many when it came out against the community center/mosque. Said the ADL, “while "proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam," it is ultimately "not a question of rights, but a question of what is right."

Moreover, despite "the bigotry some have expressed in attacking" those behind the building of the mosque (which the ADL deems "unfair" and "wrong"), it is their judgment that "building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain - unnecessarily - and that is not right."

Puh-leeze, you can’t have it both ways. If you are fighting bigotry then fight all bigotry. This contradictory stance is not new for the ADL. LeeZard once sat on the Board of the Seattle chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. I quit because the organization wanted to suspend the Bill of Rights First Amendment (Freedom of Speech) and block Neo-Nazi groups from marching in Chicago.

There is no evidence that the man behind the Islamic Center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has any connection to terrorism. In fact, according to Time Magazine (8/3/10) he is, “actually the kind of Muslim leader right-wing commentators fantasize about: modernist and moderate who openly condemns the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents — ironically, just the kind of "peaceful Muslims" whom Sarah Palin, in her now infamous tweet, asked to "refudiate" the mosque. Rauf is a Sufi, which is Islam's most mystical and accommodating denomination.”

Additionally, the proposed center is not at Ground Zero. It is actually five blocks away from the World Trade Center site and there are other mosques nearby. The Associated Press instructed its reporters and writers NOT to use the term "Ground Zero Mosque." Yet, polls show that more than 60% who responded are against the new Islamic Center. LeeZard isn't one of them.

Unless and until anyone can prove that Feisal Abdul Rauf has terrorist connections, he has every right to build that center wherever he damn pleases. I don’t like Islamic terrorists any more than I like Nazis but our democracy cannot survive if we systematically pick and choose who gets to enjoy our freedoms and who doesn’t.