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The duke's mixture in America

Tonight I put another can full of vegetable scraps into my compost pit. What I have in that pit is grass clippings, seaweed, flower petals, celery chunks (I try to double my celery every year), rhubarb ends, corn silk, corn husks, rotten tomatoes, strawberry shavings, rotten blueberries, potato peelings, egg shells, leftover potting soil, dirt from under my fingernails, coffee grounds, flower stems, chopped up banana peels, orange peels, apple peels, pieces of watermelon rind, cantaloupe mush, onion snips and skins, fallen leaves, rainwater, teardrops, sunshine and wind.

I turn it over, mix it up regularly then let it sit and fester (aerobic decomposition for you scientists) all winter. In the spring I am rewarded with the richest, most fertile soil supplement in the world. All that worthless stuff -- thrown together, stirred, mixed and anticipated, then it becomes something precious. That entire magic process is just one more example of the cycle of life. Just one sentence in the long story of creation.

There is no exact recipe for generating a rich compost. It's like horseshoes, perfect would be great, but close still counts.

I call the compost ingredients a "duke's mixture." And as soon as I say that I realize I haven't heard that expression in a long time. Years ago there was a "Duke's Mixture" pipe tobacco. The expression came to mean a mixture of things, sometimes confusion or chaos. In the world of dog breeds there are purebreds, hybrids and duke's mixture. Whenever somebody refers to a duke's mixture dog, he is talking about a mongrel mix of many breeds, which, unless you're a dog snob, is every bit as lovable as a purebred -- sometimes even more so. I had a couple such dogs when I was growing up and I loved them both. In return, they thought I was really something.

In our little city we have a duke's mixture of residents. We have Norwegians, Swedes, Germans, Poles, Scots, Russians, English, Irish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Iranians, American Indians, East Indians, Bohemians, Czechs, African Americans, Danes, Finns, Icelanders, French, Mexicans and a few other flavors. Stir us together and we get a rich All-American mix. We're not as diverse as New York City, but we're a mini-melting pot all of our own.

We also have a duke's mixture of religions. We have Baptists, Catholics, Congregationalists, Alliance, Episcopalians, Jews, Lutherans, Methodists, Mormans, Fellowship, Missionary Outreach, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mennonites. Religion is important in our community and in this country. The freedom of religion has been firmly established ever since the first amendment to our constitution was adopted in 1791. That freedom includes all religions, including, for that matter, the right to not believe.

But we get rigid and quirky when it comes to religion. Jews are entitled to worship in temples. Yet there are so-called American patriots who smash windows in temples and paint swastikas and insulting graffiti on their walls. That's un-American and cowardly. Why is that? You don't have to be a Christian to be a loyal American.

Then there is the matter of Muslims and mosques. There are many peaceful, law abiding Americans who happen to be Muslims who worship in mosques. There are also Muslims in the Middle East who are terrorists. So now, so-called American patriots are harassing American Muslims and calling them "terrorists." Worse yet, many so-called American patriots are terrorizing American Muslims by vandalizing their mosques and actually beating American Muslims because they are "terrorists." Is this crazy or what?

America is like good compost. We are a duke's mixture and strong because of our diversity. We are seen around the world as the most tolerant, most accepting society anywhere. Yet well intentioned citizens keep slipping over the edge. We need to remember what it is we claim to believe in and accept one another's differences.