Grape Leaves and Bad Policy

MiMi is waiting for someone to start the fire.

If you follow this site through week after week of One-liner Wednesdays, Thursday Doors and Stream of Consciousness Saturdays, you might find it confusing when I say that I don’t normally respond to blogging prompts.

“Um, Dan, 75% of your posts are in response to a blogging prompt.”

You might say. To which I would say: “yes, but not really.” Which is where the Editor would shake her head and make a comment about something being something, only in my mind.

You see, those three prompts/series/blog-hops/whatevers, are normal things and, with the exception of SoCS, they aren’t really prompts. Linda Hill doesn’t give us a prompt word on Wednesday and Norm doesn’t tell us what kind of doors to search for. Linda gives us a word, series of words or phrase to use on Saturday, but she’s pretty relaxed with respect to what we do with it – well, she doesn’t want us to think much (easy for me), she doesn’t want us to edit (difficult) and she sometimes bribes us with bonus points.

“Um, speaking of points, Dan, do you have one?”

Yes, yes, I do. Last Thursday, Marian Allen ended her Thursday Doors post with the following:

“A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about a grape leaf. Or a fig leaf. Real or metaphorical.”

Do you remember the story last August about the police in Georgia tasing an 87-yr-old Syrian woman who was picking dandelions? Various reports had her at either 4’ 10” or 5’ 2” (147-157 cm) tall and standing slightly uphill of the three police officers who felt threatened because she was “wielding” a butcher knife.

When I read that story, I sent it to my wife, daughter and brother with the subject: “This Could Have Been Sita.” ‘Sita’ being Syrian for grandmother.

We lived next to my grandmother until I was about 10 years old. She was about five feet tall and not a particularly menacing figure. However, she could often be found “wielding” a butcher knife in search of dandelions or vegetables. In fact, she had a couple of older kitchen knives laying next to a rain barrel near her garden.

In addition to dandelions, which she would cut for salad, she picked grape leaves from her own grape vines and from vines she found growing in the wild. Those grape leaves were stuffed with a mixture of rice, lamb and pine nuts and steamed until they were oh-so-good.

One summer morning, we were all awakened early to considerable yelling and hubbub between my father and his mother. My father, while on his way to work between 5:30 and 6:00 am, had discovered Sita picking grape leaves along the side of a railroad track. He didn’t tase her, but he probably wrestled her into his car and drove her home. She wasn’t a terrorist threat, but she wasn’t one to tolerate being treated like a child, by her child, so bad words were exchanged in two languages.

As much as I could tell from his side of the argument, A) she had no right being there, B) she could have fallen and gotten hurt, C) she could have been hit by a train, and D) what the hell was she doing out there at 5:00 am? Her side of the argument was much easier to understand, even though she didn’t speak English well: A) God created the grape leaves and they don’t belong to anyone, and B) if you don’t pick them while they are still wet with dew, they will be too tough to eat.

Even I knew that. She had explained that fact about a million times – you pick leafy things while they are wet with dew – end of story.

I will always remember that story, but I never thought I’d be saying: “these days, Sita would be tased, handcuffed and arrested for doing that.” That makes me sad.


  1. Sadly, sometimes people tend to see what they expect to see, regardless of context. To the police, a knife is maybe always seen as an intended weapon, regardless of actual use. So harmless old ladies picking dandelions suddenly become scary threats, especially when said old ladies are speaking a ‘foreign’ language… :-(

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so hard to understand, Joanne, You would think they could have worked out a better solution. She wasn’t threatening them, she just didn’t understand. They actually said “she was uphill from us and that would be an advantage if she attacked.” I just couldn’t help bu see my grandmother in that situation. I guess the police understood at that time, that we are a nation of immigrants.


    • Thanks! I didn’t know there even was a National Squirrel Appreciation Day. I’d say we should celebrate, but that seems like every day around our place.

      I’m sure your hubs can imagine her in that situation. Just the thought was scary.


  2. When my grandmother came to visit when I was young, she was always out in the back yard and alleyway looking for dandelion greens. To think someone would be threatened is really ridiculous. But our emotions and lack of tolerance have gotten to a dangerous point. I wish I could see things leveling out, but it appears to me to just heighten with each week passing. Love the Maddie video. Go Maddie. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Judy. It does seem that we are still moving in the wrong direction. My father-in-law always seemed to be able to find dandelions for a salad, too. Between our narrowing views of people and the notion that produce only comes from Whole Foods, I think we are doomed for a while.

      Maddie enjoyed what might be a short-lived Mt. Maddie, but she really seems to prefer the paths this year. In the past, we stayed on the path and she roamed in the deeper snow. Last year and this year, she walks with us on the path.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, isn’t this food for thought?! What a sad situation. I don’t think most police officers will ever pay attention to context Dan…’s just knee jerk reaction now. I’m glad your Sita only had to deal with your dad!

    Love video of Maddie running around with the ball, laying claim to Mt. Maddie. She becomes a new redhead in the snow! MiMi enjoying the warmth of the fire, and squirrels and birds being cared for. I’m sure between you and the Editor plenty of peanuts and birdseed are being distributed on a regular basis.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger. Back then, if the police had found her, they would have brought her home or called one of her children. I remember going with her (well, being told to go with her) on several occasions. No one ever seemed bothered by her presence.

      The critters were happy. I knew the storm was over when the squirrels popped out for peanuts. We’ll keep them all fed, if they brave the cold and come out today.

      Maddie just loves the snow. MiMi is waiting impatiently for that fire to be started back up.


  4. Sometimes I have to shut out the news because it is too ridiculous. The squirrels conversations are always such a riot. They are polite, if nothing else. Now, a peanut, please…… The joy Maddie gets from the snow makes me smile. She has so much fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lois.The news often just leaves me shaking my head. This story made me sad, because I could easily imagine that poor woman. The squirrels seem to know that we either have peanuts or we know where to get them. Fortunately, the squirrels gave Maddie some free time in the yard. She ran herself silly,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Also E) They spray poison on the vegetation beside railroad tracks to keep it down. People have died from eating normally nourishing things gathered from the edges of tracks.

    Great use of my prompt! You have the best stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So sad. But fear is a very real thing, especially when it’s been drummed into you that people who look different than you are evil. :( That, more than anything, needs to be retaught.

    P.S. The grape leaf dishes sound amazing.
    P.P.S. Love your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Linda. It’s so sad that we can’t get beyond the raw appearance and consider the context, the history and use the our brain to figure out a better way to react. It doesn’t sound like split-second timing was required here. I think they had a few minutes to think about it.

      The stuffed grape leaves are amazing. You can make them very easily (buy grape leaves in a jar, stay off the tracks) and you can buy them ready-made in many Mediterranean shops and restaurants.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. So how many bodies did they find at the bottom of that bag of dandelions ? It is not always easy to enforce the law. Especially the law that even though people are born with a brain oh so many people refuse to use the brain they were born with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “…so many people refuse to use the brain they were born with.” – I remember my father often challenging me to “use the brain God gave you!” I see too many cases where that’s not happening today. Thanks John.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I noticed your blog through a post written about your grandmother, Dan, and relate to this one as well. As of dandelions, my own mother (and I joined her) dug them out too and made salads with them, adding hardboiled eggs and tiny smoked herrings. One of my favorite childhood dishes. The grape leaves are also so delicious when stuffed. Your grandmother was really special to you, I can see.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Those darn teeny tiny old ladies and their dandelion knives! So scary!

    Really? Three policeman who felt afraid for their safety and lives? Maybe they should look into a different occupation.

    Still no snow here, but cold. We get a few days in the low 20’s this week, then a high of -1 on Friday. I would gladly exchange that for snow. Any day. Is it spring yet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was -1 when I left for work. It’s -3 now, supposedly heading to a high of 5. But then, they say 47 and 51 on Wednesday and Thursday respectfully – I don’t understand winter anymore. I’ve been running a space heater, but my office is only up to 66 (and I’ve been here 6 hours). Fortunately, our boss let us wear comfy clothes today.

      I agree with your assessment, These guys need to consider a different line of work. One that doesn’t require thinking.


  10. Ahhh..What a wonderful grandmother and great memories you must have. I think our grandmothers could almost be sisters. Mine was 4’11” and wielded power as the matriarch, but only in running the household. She deferred to my grandfather for all things edible out of doors. I don’t think grandmothers wield power like that anymore… at least I don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very sad post . I hadn’t heard about the tazing incident . You really elicit some reflection and thought about our society by making the issue immediate and personal . Your writing skills are exceptional. Maybe you should start a blog . ( Okay , just kidding. But maybe you should start a movement to fix the world’s problems ? Seriously , in a small way , your writing engages in such a movement already . Thanks . )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Dan. I’m trying to think of ways I can do something with my writing. I’m not sure I can fix the world’s problems, but some are really bothersome. I don’t know about blogging, though ;-)


  12. So many aspects to this post i feel the need to comment on – first thing….having grown up in Iowa wouldn’t you think I would know dandelion greens are great for a salad…I grew up getting paid to dig them out of the lawn – root and all. second thing….great pics of squirrels, snow and Maddie…we could have used her yesterday to eliminate the Pats from going to the Super Bowl and lastly…..sad commentary on the taser situation….really sad commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful photo of a beautiful couple. Did he keep safe in the Pacific? Mom used to send us out to dig up dandelions and she boiled them. I still love them and most greens. Also milkweed greens, did your grandnmother pick those too? Nice pics as always.❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I nod to Sita’s wisdom.
    It’s such a sad state these days. Last night we spoke of pocketknives. When I was a teen, certain young men carried pocketknives. Everyone knew, no one was concealing them. If you needed a knife, you’d ask Adam, Mike, or Steve. Simple. No one was wielding them, they were tools. Of course, these were dangerous times, as you well remember. *rolls eyes*

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember getting to the age where my dad gave me a pocketknife. It came with rules and instructions, and it clearly wasn’t a weapon. Yes, dangerous times, indeed.

      I learned a lot from that woman.


  15. Interesting story about your grandmother. I liked the Maddie video. She loves it out there. I was also curious about two things. 1, Your snowblower appears to have a coffee cup holder. 2. You have marked your driveway with indicators that are taller than the snow. Great ideas both.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dogs know how to have fun in the snow. I loved watching Maddie run. And grandmothers from that era were so resourceful and earthy. My father’s mother always had garden growing. He tells a story about her picking berries next to a wild bear like it was no big deal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maddie does love the snow. It’s too cold to let her stay out, but she had a good time Yesterday. My grandmother’s garden always seemed to be alive with veggies. She had grape vines, berries and even a fig tree. I can imagine your grandmother picking those berries.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! We do have a few squirrels who packed on some weight i preparation for winter. We aren’t the only people who feed them and the birds.

      The fire was started in plenty of time to bake the cat. She loves being in that room when the fire is burning.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. It’s been a while since you wrote about Sita. I love those stories. So, reading about her tonight, although in a different context, makes me feel good. Thank you for that, Dan. The number of times my husband and I have looked at each other and said, “We would have been arrested for that” over simple things that were practical, is more than you want to know. Maybe I have a little of Sita in me. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that would be good thing, Jennie. A little Sita almost always helps.

      It seems the world has gotten more binary, more black and white and less room for gray. I wish people thought more about the context around an event/action than just the action and the appearance at one particular moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. In India people (of all age groups) are getting lynched and killed just on the basis of fake WhatsApp news. The victim has no clue why so many people are trying to kill him or her. That’s the next level of where the world is heading.

    Liked by 1 person

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