Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 26, 2013

*Marking Time* Flashback, June 2006

profile Shaker shot -myspace circa 2010 ish

In HONOR of my 700th WordPress blog post, below are two blog entries, one long and one shorter, from the earliest days of this blog.

I was going through my archives on my hard drive today, came across some saved material, thought it would be fun to look back awhile. This blog was started on Myspace, because at the time I didn’t know any better. I stayed there a few years, before making the leap over to WordPress.

Above is the photo (taken in a famous Shaker meetinghouse near Lee, MA), that I was using for my myspace profile for quite awhile.

To see blog post #1 in its natural Myspace state, go here. I’m glad it’s still up… though its such a distant, dark digital alley, buried so deep, that this may be the last time anyone ever looks at it on myspace. Which is fine. Bye-space…

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

* * * * * 

Jun 25, 2006

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Current mood:accomplished

[ Blogmaster's Note: Look, I don't KNOW why the myspace people can't design a program that uses regular font sizes and formatting, like the rest of the known computer universe! So it ain't my fault that my written-elsewhere/pasted-here text is displayed in about five different font sizes. The half hour I'd have to spend reformatting each oddity isn't worth it-- not for the two people who actually seem to be *reading* this ghastly blog. Deal with it, people.]

     I spent a few glorious hours the other day building a grapearbor (my first)  and then training the vines–that is, winding them around the wood  of the arbor, and around their brother and sister Vines.  I felt like a spoke in the Wheel of Life, like a novice in one of the monasteries where similar vines have been grown (and wines made) for hundreds of years.


I didn’t plant the vines, I must confess. It would be more accurate to say I rediscovered them. They have  been ignored for seven years or more now. Planted in the front section of a wildflower garden at our summer cottage, neglected by the previous owner of said cottage (and by me for two growing seasons –except for the decision not to mow over them like the last guy), it fell to me to take up the task of continuing this ancient tradition.


For a lifelong suburban brat like me, there’s something exhilarating about growing one’s own food, even if it is just for fun, and not for true sustenance. Most days all I see around the Chicago suburb where I live are young Latino gardeners, maintaining lush, green but ultimately useless lawns and shrubs, or else planting and trimming exotic greenery they probably cannot even afford for their own homes. But the prospect of eating the fruits (and veggies) of one’s own labor is something I’m just beginning to appreciate.     


The fact that it was grapes and not just clematis vines and flowers made my efforts feel doubly blessed. I kept thinking back to all of Jesus’metaphors about vines, and new wine in new wineskins, and all the other farming and  cultivating references in the Bible. I also thought of my heroes: the monks who did and still do a lot of serious gardening, and who developed the hazelnut liquer Frangelico (I call it “angel drool”, and I have it on good authority that it’s the one alcohol, besides wine, of which Yahweh on High fully approves.) All this wine and booze chatter then got me thinking: My friend’s brother used to work for one of the big California wineries. Now he works for that winery’s parent corporation, a large national liquor company. She recently told me, with some chagrin, that he’s become a bit of an elitist as he’s moved up the corporate ladder. Somehow he has betrayed the sensible, thrifty Midwestern values they were raised to respect. My friend’s main proof of this was the ease with which her brother dropped $200 on dinner for three, on more than one occasion. Of course, he lives in Manhattan, where it’s much easier to do that. But it still made my friend feel that they have so little in common anymore, and I respect her for admitting that about her own brother. Because–and I know it’s a liberal cliché, but it’s also true– in a world where that same $200 can feed a Salvadoran village for a month, there’s something obscene about a system that sets the same $200 price for a single bottle of Dom Perrignon. And considering it’s made from humble grapes, not gold, uranium or even petroleum, that “wine” and its price are a little hard to swallow, I don’t care how much it sparkles. Those 13th century monks, who I think invented champagne, and who almost certainly took a vow of poverty, world turn over in their graves if they saw what’s become of their great gift to us.

 *  *  *

If potty-training is the biggest problem you have with your kid…

Sometimes a little humbling is necessary. As Bogie once said in Casablanca, I was reminded this week that my problems don’t amount to a “hill of beans” compared to some.

We got an email yesterday from a friend whose little grandson Hunter is facing some major hurdles, probably for the rest of his life. Hunter is five, and what began a few months ago as some disquieting dreams at night have now blown up into a full-scale neurological and psychological problem. 

Until I get a chance to write more, consider this a call-to-prayer for Hunter Hess.

[Editor’s note: As of 2013, Hunter’s ok. Got a diagnosis of some variant of epilepsy, he’s getting good special ed services, and he is a sweet kid… though I have not seen him in about two years, only hear news from his grandparents.]

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