Harriet Ludwig: Second chances in new life


Published: Monday, April 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:12 p.m.

Life in an assisted living facility has introduced me to many fellow elders who, far from totally retiring, are pursuing active second careers. Meet Juliet Wood, whose activities brighten both her life and the surroundings of all of us.

After 30 years of traditional farming with her husband near the city of Alachua, Juliet has transferred her experience with growing to a bright floral table garden in the courtyard of our new home. Both the wind and bees have spread the seeds of the flowers beyond the nine-foot wooden table edge, and tall Amaryllis plants wave brilliant red blooms at one side.

Cheerful yellow pansies rim the walk that curves across the courtyard. On the table, pink, yellow and deep purple petunias surround taller yellow and pink snapdragons. A blue Dianthus stands by other colorful plants that Juliet says she can't identify beyond "They bloom. That's how I decide what plants to buy — they have to bloom."

Juliet's garden attracts many other residents who also appreciate blooms. They make daily trips to watch their growth and the seasonal changes Juliet makes in her garden. Her daughter, who still lives on the family farm, is her driver to visit local plant shops.

Farm experience taught Juliet the practicalities of plant growth, like the proper fertilizer for different plants. Her touch gives her garden special beauty. The slightly over three-feet high wooden table allows her to stand as she works with her plants. The table also provides shelter for plants she is developing; a pot of Easter lilies will soon move for top showing.

In my youth in Dust Bowl, Depression days in South Dakota, little bloomed. Seniors had only the county farm as a last resource. Those were the days before Social Security, to say nothing of Medicare and Medicaid to help people when age challenged their health.

Physically able farm residents did farm labor to pay their way. I assume the county government paid for the care of the ill and disabled who lacked their own resources.

I listen to today's protests against government help for the poor, the children, the elderly and I wonder what world they live in. Did their parents care for them so completely that they their education and independence are shared by all their peers? Do they see needy peers as totally responsible for the massive job losses of our own times?

On the other hand, fortunately, my email brings me news of communities here and far away banding together to help one another. That's my next writing project.

Harriet Ludwig lives in Gainesville.

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