Monday, March 23, 2015
Published, March 18, 2015
This time of year my dad, Robert Munn Sr., one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, loved seed catalogs. He’d be leafing through pages and pages of colorful advertisements to find just the right vegetables and flowers for his yard. From first planting, until the final turning of the soil in the fall, his garden was his life.
My father always wanted to be a farmer. As a little girl I remember Sunday rides to view country homes with farmland for my parents to buy. Until retirement, his job required a lot of travel and ultimately defeated the farm-dream. But standing amidst his tomato, cucumber and pepper plants, set back from the busy Post Road in East Lyme, he was like any other farmer dreaming of a lush harvest.
As the short days of winter began to lengthen, but were still wrapped in cold, he’d talk about the first sign of spring, and what lay under the soil, like a little kid talks about what will be left under a decorated tree. As the last frost of winter would begin to soften the soil he’d begin to watch and listen for nature’s messages that winter was almost over and spring would soon be upon us. He believed those messages were first shown in the heady fragrance of damp soil and the sound of spring peepers.
Peepers, are little frogs that inhabit moist woodlands and wetlands in the eastern United States and Canada. In parts of Canada they are known as “tinkletoes” and “pink-winks” and on Martha’s Vineyard they are sometimes called “pinkletinks”. Once the ground thaws these little amphibians begin peeping at night, just to let all of us know that planting season is almost here. My dad used to spout the old wives-tale that after hearing the peepers’ song, there would be three more frosts before you could begin planting.
One of the least competitive men I have known, my dad loved to be the first to hear the peepers each year. But because our driveway abutted wetlands we almost always beat him to the first peep. I’d call, hold the phone up, and though separated by miles we’d celebrate the arrival of spring.
It became so newsworthy in our family that I began to mark the calendar when one of us heard the first sounds. In January, when I’d switch to a new calendar I would hardly note family birthday dates but I did keep track the peeper’s first peep. It was always in March.
One year while switching calendars I threw away the old one before I made note of all the peeper dates. I cried and never told my dad I had accidentally trashed the family’s fifteen year peeper record.
My dad has been gone almost ten years now, but every year I get a call from my daughters, or I make one, when pop’s peepers first begin to sing. It not only reminds us that spring is indeed upon us and warm weather follows but it’s a tribute to my father, the gardener, who gently lived by the sounds and sights of nature like the farmer he had always wanted to be.
This year our family will be particularly attentive when the ground begins to thaw, and the trees begin to tip with buds, because the cold has been so intense and relentless. I can’t help but think of the little frozen frogs held captive underground in the nard-packed wetlands. They are just waiting for the ground to soften so they can scrim out of the mud and make a racket about spring. When they do, I hope to make the first call to my daughters and tell them that pop’s peepers are shouting and spring is finally here.
Published March 02. 2015 4:00AM
More than a few years back my husband and I were watching a news report about an armored car door swinging open while speeding down the interstate. Cash was cascading out the back, spilling tens of thousands of dollars onto the highway. Drivers were stopping, grabbing handfuls of money and racing off. Very little was recovered. So I asked my husband, "If a bundle of hundreds landed near your car, would you stop and grab it?"
"No," he said.
"Suppose a few hundreds stuck to your windshield? When you cleared the glass would you take the money?"
"Let's imagine $20 from the truck flies in your window landing on the seat next to you. No one saw it. You're car's on empty, and so is your wallet, your cupboards are bare, the fridge is empty, you're out of dog food and your pup is hungry. Would you keep the $20?"
"Because the money doesn't belong to me," he said.
My husband is better than me. I probably would have kept the $20, pumped a few gallons and shared a burger with my dog.
Recently I received a check in the mail that was double the amount owed to me. For an instant I considered depositing it. But I thought otherwise. Not because I'm a decent person like my husband and not because I knew they'd eventually figure out their mistake and I'd have to pay it back. Age and experience has taught me the importance of seriously considering the ethical consequences, (which once permeated my 20s like patchouli and pot-smoke), of the behavioral and belief system based on Karma. I truly believe ill-gotten and unearned gains eventually become a windfall clouded by negativity.
About a month ago in Rochester, N.H., a woman returned over $2,500 which had been handed to her in a Burger King bag. She discovered the money on her way home from the restaurant. Though she considered keeping the money, it was religious ethics, (she's a Jehovah's Witness), which swayed her to return the restaurant deposit.
Taxi drivers in Las Vegas have returned, numerous times, hundreds of thousands of dollars left in their vehicles by winners. One driver in Newark, N.J. turned in a Stradivarius violin. His reward, a concert for 100 fellow drivers by the musician who misplaced the instrument which was worth $4 million.
In New York City, a young medical student/taxi driver drove 50 miles out onto Long Island to return over $21,000 in cash, and jewelry worth thousands more, to an elderly woman from Italy who left her handbag in his cab. The driver, from Bangladesh, did not accept a reward because he said his mother was his inspiration. She taught him to be honest and work hard.
In New Paltz, N.Y., three roommates bought a couch for $20 at a thrift center. It didn't take long for the kids to discover that the lumpy couch contained bubble wrapped bundles of cash, $40,000 in all. It was an old woman's entire life savings, stashed in the couch by her husband. Because the woman often slept on the couch her children donated it and bought her a new bed. Though the college students, and recent graduate, certainly could have used the money, their thinking mirrored my husband's almost exactly, "… it's their money, we didn't earn it."
So I asked myself, would I have kept any of that found-money even if I knew, no one would know? Actually I would not. I'd give it all back, and not because of religious beliefs or parental teachings, I'd return it because someone else's loss is too high a price to pay for my prosperity. But, would I accept a reward? Hell yes. I'd fill my tank and feed my dog steak. Enough said.