Kalmia latifolia

The kalmia latifolia is, appropriately, our state flower of Pennsylvania.

Stepping off the path where this fact lives, according to vacationideas.com, it makes sense that hills, valleys, ups, and downs would be associated with our great commonwealth:

While the mountains do not reach the highs of their bigger cousins in the West, Pennsylvania is home to the Appalachian Mountains, which cut right through the state, with the Pocono and Allegheny Mountains as the most important sub-ranges.”

Further down the road, we have an area identified as the Laurel Highlands. The Laurel Highlands is a region in southwestern Pennsylvania made up of Fayette County, Somerset County and Westmoreland County.

S’merge all these ideas together – mountains and laurels – to get one rooted flower: the mountain laurel. A stately bloom captured on the other side of a lens settled gently in the hands of one with an eye for such beauty. I’ve shared her seizing symmetry before. Pictures are frozen in two dimensions, yet move emotions as if she is asking us to touch the scent … feeling its life.

The featured image for this post is from her archive. Once again, words are necessary.

Every state has a flower, a tree, a motto, a bird. Eastern hemlocks stand proudly as our tree, shouting, “Virtue, Liberty, Independence” from its branches and fine, dark-green needles. Secretive ruffed grouse may be seen by walking through the very forests where my keenly observant friend finds objects – shall I say, finely tuned, natural pleasures – to arrest our attention. These mentioned are Pennsylvania’s designated treasures sometimes surprisingly seen when least expected. Encouragement is urged for you to find your state’s magnificence as my sightly-gifted, grass-rooted earth swoosher asks all of her friends to do.

I’m asking you to find three dimensional allurement in your stately space. As a non-woodsy, never burly guy, my main path does not often go through lush thicket. On the rare occasion it does, either my eyes are too swollen to appreciate the moments, or closely held anxieties I cling to for comfort prevent any relaxed recreation. It is, therefore, your job to log in some forest time on behalf of all peculiar path-adverse people, like me, who only want to sit in comfortable chairs and glance upon very beautiful pictures.

Her pictures draw me in, so why would I subject myself to bugs, bothers, and blisters? I can live, momentarily, in a fantastical world of flowers, nights, trees, birds, and skys without leaving the safety of my insecurities. This is what great art does for those open to the possibilities. A Warholian jaunt, or Leibovitz-like skip from our trouble into whatever we imagine life needs to be to get us through that moment.

A calming moment, perhaps. Maybe kalmia? Softly spoken, with an Italian accent, “Come here..”. “…You’re welcome to join me as my friend. Sit with me and we will rest.”

Great images never have one view, of course. How many times do great paintings draw different opinions from the palettes of discerning wine and cheese guests? Her kalmia latifolia is white on green. A pre-holiday gift to help me keep hoping the present time is not so bad as it seems. They’re very open, as if to want to hold my hand – if only for a moment – and then retreat. Little umbrellas to hide the rain. All of this in a picture.

It’s ok to be open to these possibilities – even if only in two dimensions. I know the creator of the image is alive and well … in three dimensions. She’ll keep clicking away. It’s in her nature to do so and nature gladly accepts her good will. Maybe she’ll catch that wobbly ruffed grouse in her frame sometime for all of us to see.

I sure hope so ’cause there’s not much chance of one crossing my path anytime soon. This chair is just way too comfortable.

Our Governor, Crying Wolf

THE one reason we were given to stop everything was to “flatten the curve”, remember? We had to do our part. In Blair county, we are doing what we can … and it’s not going well. Folks are following the social distancing guidelines better, but masking has been atrocious … AND despite this, I’m not seeing numbers increasing. They should be going up because a lot of people around here aren’t believers.

One of two things is happening: #1) the numbers AREN’T going up, or, #2) the numbers ARE and not being reported. Now, if Governor Wolf wants to keep issuing these increasingly oppressive, rights-infringing orders, SOMEONE better get some real information out – and fast.
There is an increasing impatient undertone afoot around here. Seeing a random comment on FB from an ER nurse mentioning his/her patient count doesn’t warrant belief in a specific, accurate county-wide number with all due respect given.

Overall PA numbers don’t influence much of the attitude here in western/central PA, apparently. Until it hits home and gets real, unfortunately, we will have a general malaise and lack of concern.

Bigger, densely populated cities are apt to take this seriously as they are overwhelmed with cases, people, and attitudes. Friends returning from larger cities report a vast difference in attitudes and approaches toward the mitigation of the COVID-19 virus.

Not so much here. Show the “real” – (if it is here) … not the expected or the “model”. Until then, you’ll probably get more of the same.

It’s been 30 days of forced closures, unemployment, stress, depression, home-schooling, government over-reach, devastating economic collapse, extreme political division, and soul searching. These are the real things happening in every county, in every state, not just in Pennsylvania.

I know my fellow Commonwealthers understand this. I do. They’re just a stubborn bunch of conservative folk.

Today, orders came down from our state capitol requiring all customers and workers to mask. The requirements are more detailed than this, but you get the point. Anyone not obeying the orders will be denied entry. Simple, right?

All this as an additional response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, obviously. The seemingly daily ordeal pushed in front of our conscious every breathing moment. A knee-jerk reaction as seen by those politically opposed to the Governor, and a move beneficial to society for those aligned.

As expected.

So we sit in limbo, in our homes, under lock and key, eating pretty much the same meals every day … taking only intermittent showers. Awaiting the next order from Harrisburg, we wait while the numbers stay pretty much the same.

I don’t want to do this anymore. Show me why I’m supposed to ramp up my efforts, obey another order while others are not, and yet continue to stare into a flat-lined chart of hardly ever increasing cases. We are already into the 11th day of the 14 days of “death” you, Gov. Wolf in sheep’s cloth, warned us about last Monday.

I believed you then. Less so now. So much less.

Me thinks boy Wolf is crying way too much for my taste these days. Run sheep, run.