In Romania, it is now:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Growing Season

These are the days of the great green hope. Everyone seems involved in a gardening project, even if it's in window boxes or balcony pots. Romanians seem to draw from the soil a special nourishment that goes beyond the benefits of good food. One could say it has pagan roots (no pun intended) and that the ancient rhythms of the seasons remain spiritually important unto themselves even when anointed with religious labels. No matter the reason--this time of plowing, planting, and tending seems a very satisfying and rewarding season. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a gratar (cookout) (Photos) in a garden setting here in my village last week and was given a tour of the beautifully planned and planted garden--a large one of vegetables of every kind, smaller beds of flowers and herbs, and many fruit trees and berry shrubs. The owners were rightfully proud. Never mind the hard work, there was a real joy in the accomplishment of establishing the garden for another year. And under the blooming chestnut trees we celebrated, of course, with delicious food cooked on the grill and sinfully good little pies and pastries ("little lies" was the translation of the dessert).**** And speaking of chestnut trees (castana), they are in full bloom and everywhere. They're the preferred shade tree here, having thick foliage and growing quickly to maturity. The other blooming tree one sees and smells all about this region is the locust (salcam). It's highly prized both for the tea made from the dried flowers and the honey that comes from their pollen. When I looked it up (Wikipedia to the rescue), I learned that it has been naturalized from the native trees in North America. I know we have Honey Locust in Georgia, and I suppose this is the same, maybe a bit altered by the climate. To my knowledge no one back home made tea from it, but certainly the honey is important (hence the name).The fragrance is fresh and clean from little white flowers that could be flakes of soap.***** I'm missing my visits to the Roma Boys home these few weeks as they work in their villages with a team of Americans from upper state New York. Seeing them on Mondays is always a real pleasure and I wish I and they could work out other times for tutoring classes, but they're busy guys and my schedule is full, too. (Photos) The agency running the home and other such schools and homes in the area are providing a wonderful service and I salute their mission and dedication. As I've said in the past, the complicated issues involving the Roma (gypsy) population in Romania have no easy answers, but certainly working with the children is the most effective approach for lasting change.**** My birthday is this week. It will mark the one year anniversary of our group's arrival in Romania. Sometimes it seems only yesterday and sometimes it seems a lifetime ago. Just as a tree shows by its rings that it grows more or less in a given year, so I believe the human soul has greater or less growth in a year's time. For me, soaking up all I can in this endlessly interesting culture, I think I've added one heckuva broad ring, not to mention a few pounds!

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