Saturday, March 20, 2010

Call Me Alice

I grew up two doors from Dr. Alice L. Kibbe, a biologist, professor at Carthage College, and an odd sort. If you had an injured pigeon or were trying to raise a baby squirrel, she could tell you exactly what to do. She could tell you if you could catch her between her car and her door and if you were brave enough to ask her.

She didn't believe in mowing her yard. It was all grown up with all sorts of wonderful stuff. She had a little pond in the back with goldfish and frogs and lily pads in it. There was actually a park bench in her back yard where you could sit and cogitate. Once my father saw her fall backward into a snow drift and ran out to help her up. She said, "I'll get up when I'm damn good and ready." He wisely left her there.

She had a stuffed giraffe looking out the window of her office at the college. She wore a string around her neck holding about a gazillion keys. She drove as often in the ditches as on the streets, and in the fall she could sometimes be found digging bulbs out of your yard. She wasn't big on the idea of ownership. She was really old and sort of creeped around.

So today I was walking through the woods next door, picking up trash and enjoying the Universe. I came back for a bucket and shovel and divided some spring bulbs and tubers that were overcrowded. I certainly left some of everything there and only took what was crowded in. I also got some starts of ivy and some other interesting things.

My goal, and I'm well on my way to achieving this, is to have a totally planted "lawn." No mowing is done at my house. I have lots of ground covering plants, herbs, bulbs, leaves, rocks. Nothing fancy. No sod. No chemically stuff. Good compost bin and rain barrels. I'm planning to put in a little goldfish pond, largely so I can attract bats to naturally control the skeeters.

Today, while thanking the Universe aloud for the gifts from the woods, speaking words of encouragement to the plants and bulbs, I noticed that some of my neighbors were out also and were evidently entertained by me. I smiled and gave them the peace sign.

I know this isn't the time to dig or plant bulbs, but I've got to do it when I can do it. My body is creaky a lot of the time, so I do things when I can and often just creep along. At one point today, I lost balance and fell over backward from a squatting position. The sky was nearly unbelievably blue and there were just a few cotton ball clouds floating above me. What a view! I enjoyed it for a minute before getting up.

And that's when it hit me. I have become Alice L. Kibbe. Oh, of course there are differences. I'm a better driver for one thing. My ceilings are no where near high enough for a stuffed giraffe and I don't think I'd want one anyway. I don't know one percent as much about biology as she did. But I'd like to.

I understand that Dr. Kibbe didn't care what people thought of her. I know if I could tell her that I thought she was brilliant and lightyears ahead of her time and that I'm proud to be much like her, she'd probably give me a humph and a lecture on the speed of light. But I'd like to tell her anyway.


  1. I knew that name the moment you mentioned it, but I don't know why. Maybe because you've become her.

    Quirks, eccentricities, personal oddities—they are traits that make us who we are, that make us different from the rest of the herd. If people think we're a bit strange, then so be it—that is their problem, not ours.

    On another note, it would be interesting to me to know what books you've read and the ones that you loved or that made a deep impression on you. Just a suggestion for a future post.

  2. Maybe you don't have room for a giraffe, but you could always fit a two headed calf in your living room. Then, you would truly be Dr. Kibbe. That's MY memory of her - and of course, the keys! You could start collecting them now. Great blog. nan

  3. Hey Fay,

    Dr. Kibbe sounds like quite a woman. I think our society puts to much pressure on people who are different. But the people that don't care about that are truly awesome. It's a good thing your like her, but also good you recongize the differences. Great post.

    Hugs your blog buddy,