Ash Breeze

 Pop is a very ugly word.  Like moist and spotty I think it may need to be stricken from the English language.  Moving and more regular travel over that last few years floated many of these words, phrases and regional differences to the surface.  In Virginia ‘Hun’ is a term for all people and ‘soda’ describes the flock of drinks such as Coke, Sprite, Root Beer, etc.  In Michigan ‘Guy’ is the term for all people and soda is what you mix with Vodka, a bubbly water of sorts.  My youngest asked what kind of soda a local restaurant had his first evening here a few years back, to which was returned a very confused look from the waitress.  I gently pulled him aside and explained, “They call it pop here…guy.”  The North East calls a sub  (short for submarine sandwich) a Grinder.  I can’t imagine what I would do if we had a Quebec in this country!

In my first month here at Andrews I was with a student who overlooked a small team in the fields.  I wanted a task completed quickly and efficiently and said, “You need to ‘break bad’ on this.”  In return I received a long blank look.  Later I said he had ‘too many irons in the fire’ and received the same blank look.  A month back a strapping twenty something was relaying recent happenings that occurred, “Just after the turn of the century.”  I found myself, saying nothing and staring at him with a blank look now on my own face.  How could this event happen recently and yet just after the turn of the century?  Oh!  My turn of the century was 1800 to 1900.  His turn of the century was Y2K when I stayed up late to see if my computer really would crash.  Yes, the blank look takes no sides.

It was yesterday when I slipped into the field where a handful of folk toiled away.  The gardens were especially clean and they had caught my eye as I drove passed.  I simply wanted the OCD in me to have the pleasure of sharing that joy.  Cesar, an architecture student here on campus, was pulling weeds by hand from a long, long row.  “Cesar,” I say, “This place is looking shipshape!”  To which he replied… after a long blank look… “I hope that means something good?”  Well it did and it got me thinking about all of these phrases we use and our gardens.

Nathanial Bowditch is one of the most famous American sea captains and navigators who lived around the turn of the century (1773-1838).  He made himself famous with his math skills and developed new ways to calculate sextant readings that significantly changed the course of navigating for seaman world over.  A book, inches thick, is still one of the staples for sea going people today and is simply called Bowditch.  Captain Bowditch didn’t have the easiest life, loosing a wife early, as seemed all too common in those days, and he eventually coined the phrase ‘Ash breeze’.

Screenshot of my phone.

Screenshot of my phone.

When sailboats in those days ran out of wind, or wind was simply against them, they sat useless and dead in the water - just as many of us feel during windless times in life.  Those large heavy ships in the need to make forward progress would pull out long oars on which men would set to the miserable task of rowing.  No choice, slow, unhappy, uneasy- forward progress.  Nobody was happy but it was what needed to happen.  These oars where often made of Ash trees (Fraxinus americana).  And, it was those Ash trees that ‘made’ the breeze for the heavy ships in hard times.

However, Bowditch didn’t coin this phrase as a sailing term, but as a life term.  For when he came to hard times, when he felt no wind in life and had to just ‘pick himself up by his bootstraps’, he called it ash breeze.  When he had to leave family for long periods or struggle emotionally through tough life events he didn’t lay around whimpering.  He moved himself forward by Ash breeze.  It’s what we do when where we want to go isn’t easy.  Sometimes places we need to be aren’t easily reachable with the wind we have, and all we are left with is Ash breeze.

Cesar was keeping our garden shipshape, clean, healthy and happy this week by Ash breeze.  Organic gardens in this country overall are nurtured by Ash breeze.  Good health in general is managed by Ash breeze.  It would be easier to drive down a row of tomatoes with a boom filled with spray to combat the problems.  But, we are beginning to understand the results of that and it’s not the course we wish to set for our personal or earth’s health.  Food from a box would be easy but we muster some Ash breeze and chop veggies.  So, when you’re home late from work this week and don’t want to spend the time in the kitchen and wonder what it will take to pull it together.  We have a phrase for what you will do…Ash breeze.