4Usually at this time of year, my garden is lovely, filled with flowers and lush foliage. The odd weather means that instead I have this puny effect.

Partygirl dropped by and commiserated, thought it is worse for her, since her house is on next week’s garden tour. She leafed through a couple of decorating books in hopes that there would be some good way to make her husband’s prize-winning rose garden, cut nearly to the ground after the frost, look as though it belonged on a garden tour even though there wouldn’t be any roses.

A really distracting cushion on the glider, maybe.

It is of course much worse for the farmers. Our state is expecting that there will basically be no fruit. I haven’t even4 been down to the farmers market yet, since the word is that there is nothing there but hot house flowers. I should probably go anyway, just for the socializing, but it might be depressing to see the grim farmers with their sprigs of lettuce.

“Buy local” may just be hard to do this year.

I cut the two flowers I had blooming and brought them in to make an arrangement.

A really good flower arranger can make something elegant with two blooms. We learned this while preparing for #1 daughter’s wedding: anyone can make hundreds of roses look good; it takes an artist to be breathtaking with a couple of lilies. 4

So, while my husband and I were cutting out the deadwood on our non-prize-winning roses and lavender bushes, I cut lots of herbal foliage and made a measly arrangement.

The foliage of lavender smells almost as good as the flowers, fortunately, and the gray-green color is quite pretty.

I also had this lovely piece of vintage lace that my brother gave me years ago. I washed it, and I ought to mend it, but I hesitate. I don’t know how to make this kind of lace, so I hesitate about trying to mend it, but there are a couple of little holes starting, and I don’t want them to get worse.

If any of you are knowledgeable about the care of vintage linens, let me know. For the stern among you, let me herbcatassure you that I have given several examples to a museum for proper care for the future. But the ones that I kept, I like to use.

The cat liked the arrangement.

I did grocery shopping and housework, though not in the quantities I had envisioned.

And in between #2 son’s gymnastics and Partygirl’s visit, I worked on my encyclopedia entry, which is due tomorrow.

I have 933 words, and the assignment is for 1,000, so that isn’t a problem. The problem is that I don’t like the entry.

And the central problem there is that we have been working on this encyclopedia for years now, and all the juicy stuff has already been written. Counties that had important archaeological sites, civil war battles, and presidential boyhood homes have been done. The county I am writing about has to be summed up with things like “There are no important archaeological sites, but hey, there were probably prehistoric people here, since there was a river and all, and what the heck, why wouldn’t there have been?” and “There were no Civil War battles here, but there were some local boys who signed up as soldiers.”

It is hard to make a really thrilling entry out of things like that.

bijouxblouseHere is the Bijoux Blouse. It is made from a pattern by Oat Couture, in Endless Summer’s Connemara. The pattern is very easy. I have been carrying this around and working on it at conferences while the attendees were in sessions, while watching my son’s gymnastics class, at the Federal Building while waiting to talk to investigators, during meetings of various kinds, and even occasionally just at home on peaceful occasions.

It is perfect for that kind of knitting. It is boxy, with drop sleeves, so you must expect something like a sweatshirt when you finish. However, the problem of cotton yarn’s predilection for belling out at the bottom works with this pattern, as the pattern itself is fairly bell-shaped. This will make a wonderful cozy slouchy sweater for cool 4evenings.

And here is the table runner, getting nice and textured.

I worked on it while talking with Partygirl. We did not talk about how to get along with people when moral shades of gray arise, but the subject came up repeatedly during the day.

#2 daughter went clubbing with a friend, who misbehaved. #2 daughter was angry, and uncertain about how to deal with it. From the relativist point of view, her friend’s choices aren’t hers, so it’s none of her business. From the utilitarian point of view, her association with the other girl could lead to people’s drawing false conclusions about her, and she had to stay out longer than she would have chosen to, and be alone and unprotected in the club longer than was comfortable while the friend was making errors in the parking lot. From the point of view of a moral absolutist — well, her friend’s choices are still not hers, and her best solution is probably not to go clubbing with this girl again.

The natural reaction — being angry and yelling at the friend for being such an idiot — doesn’t really fit into any ethical code.

Then my husband found an empty cigar packet in #1 son’s car.

#1 son just turned 18. Apparently the local custom on one’s 18th birthday is to go buy a cigar and smoke it. #1 son assured us that he didn’t plan to take up smoking, in fact he didn’t plan to smoke ever again. But from his point of view, his father’s discovery of the packet while checking his oil for him constituted invasion of privacy and his telling me amounted to tattling. Our talking with him about it was disrespect for his 18-year-old self, and his father’s disapproval — since he smokes — was hypocrisy.

I felt blessed that we could have a five-minute ethical discussion over this, rather than a screaming and yelling fight, which could easily happen with an 18-year-old.

Janalisa dropped by as well, and reported her distress with a situation in which any or all of the parties could be in the wrong, if we knew all the details, which we don’t. The only moral issue, really, was whether her telling me about it was gossiping.

In all these cases, my mind went back to what we discussed this week in class. We should distinguish between actual moral issues and those that are really about preference, opinion, and style. We should make our position on moral issues clear, but not to the extent of behaving immorally ourselves, even when that is the natural reaction. On the others, we can and generally should respect individual differences, letting the stronger defer to the weaker.

Smoking may be disgusting, unhealthy, and — as my smoker husband pointed out — expensive, but it isn’t immoral. There are worse things our son could have done to celebrate his eighteenth birthday. As his parents, we had a responsibility to remind him of the negatives of smoking but I’m glad that we didn’t let it become a hindrance to our good relationship. Janalisa’s problem wasn’t a moral one. As her friend, I was glad to have the opportunity to encourage and support her, but I’m also glad we were able to discuss it without passing judgement on the other people or turning it into a gossip session. In the case of #2 daughter and her friend, there is a moral issue involved. #2 daughter shouldn’t encourage her friend in her misbehavior, either by her presence or by her words, but neither should she herself misbehave by being unkind to her friend.

I doubt that this approach will prevent wars, but it does seem to work well in daily life.