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Charity’s Column: Looking ahead

A few weeks ago, I changed the only two clocks in the house that still wait for me to spring them forward, enjoyed a brief shot of warm, sunny weather, and crawled back into my den like a groundhog.

Since then, the sun hasn’t been out much, and when it is, everyone on Shelter Island is suddenly walking the dog, on their knees digging in the yard, or hiking in Mashomack with their coat tied around their waist. On a nice spring day, everyone is an optimist, looking forward.

Why not feel optimistic? We’re getting better all the time. Having a beer with friends on Saturday night, I realized I was the only one in a group of four who had not gotten a new hip installed recently. My titanium-hipped drinking buddies were feeling so jolly about their new joints they made me long for the day when I too can have a new part installed as an outpatient procedure.

Until then I’ll revel in the new lens just implanted in each of my eyes, which allow me to see every whisker on my dog’s dewlaps.

Being an optimist can be challenging. During the nor’easter on Wednesday night, we heard a thump and on Thursday morning saw that it was caused by a large tree that came down nearby. Is this tree across the yard a shot across the bow?

Should we worry about an even larger one coming down on the house in the next storm? Not me. The only damage was to the tree. Judging by the root ball, it was a goner anyway. 

Sometimes optimism runs in the family. The morning after the tree fell, one son texted to say that his apartment building was swaying in an earthquake, but fortunately his dog only awoke briefly and went right back to sleep. Later, my other son assured me by text that he had acquired a pair of protective glasses for watching the eclipse, in case it was sunny enough to see it, so I shouldn’t worry.

Why would I worry?

Of course, there is plenty to dread in the coming year, but let’s not dwell on the problems our country and our town are having getting important things done, or even agreeing about what those important things might be. I’ll do as my dog does and apply myself to the important things that I control.

For example, I’ve embarked on a mission to put the food that lies frozen in the basement freezer to good use before it is supplanted by the bounty of a new season. The result so far has been porgy fillets baked in tarragon/mustard sauce and several batches of chili and spaghetti sauce using a large bag of peppers and a flat of frozen field tomatoes from my Sylvester Manor CSA share. I am counting on a huge 2024 crop of tomatoes to refill the freezer and feeling optimistic about the peppers, as well.

The garlic that I planted in November is coming up, with spiky green leaves already poking out from under their mulch and popping over the sides of a raised bed — a device we refer to as the deer salad bar. So far, the deer have not eaten the garlic, and I’m feeling good about my chances. I’ve started some onions seeds, hoping to add another food that deer seem to hate to my crop rotation.

 Suddenly, eggs are on my mind. In the meadows of Mashomack volunteer-midwives have been checking the bluebird boxes for signs of reproductive activity. As of Thursday, Pete Dandridge and Betty Bishop reported three nests built and Jean Lawless saw a pair of amorous-looking bluebirds hanging around one of the boxes, which means we’ll see eggs any day now.

Last week, a tribe of local kids found dozens of colored eggs in a field off Cartwright Road and others found them all over their own backyards. Cheery egg-salad sandwiches in shades of green, blue, and pink are still being served across the land.

Our yard is full of worm-seeking robins, and the pair of swans who have made Chase Creek their nursery for years are back to gliding along in tandem, stopping to feed side-by-side with their tails in the air.

Kathryn Klenawicus and her son ran into me coming out of the post office, and both were beaming so brightly over their mail, I had to stop. “Look what we got,” she said, showing me sheets of life-sized songbird decals. “We’re going home to put them all over the dining room walls.” 

I love the rack of fancy, new dresses, in the window of the only store in town that sells clothes that are too stylish to wear here. It’s a sure sign of optimism for a great summer season to come. I probably won’t ever buy one, but I’m glad they’re here.

Things are looking up.