Success at Camp David. Thank God. All week I had wondered what was going on there, and then the excited news via phone from the University of Maryland: "Jim found it. Excessively rare nowadays, of course, Gray's lily. Lilium grayii."
Not Gray's lily? At Camp David?
"Yes. The very one."
Well, great day. Dr. Jim Reveal, botanist at the university, was hiking along, stumbling over Secret Service people, for there is a presidential retreat nearby, when suddenly he saw seven plants of this rare native.
Which, as you know, was first discovered by Asa Gray in 1840 on Roan Mountain. Always rare, and now quite rare.
Cows had been browsing on several. One or two had mosaic virus.
Still, there the elegant nodding lilies were, red outside, orange inside, purple dots and everything.
I had taken off the past week from my labors and done absolutely nothing, and am the better for it.There are days, you know, when you lose heart with America.
But all week I kept hearing people talk about Camp David and great things going on there, and I tell you this, a nation is by no means lost when the Camp David discovery is all anybody can talk about.
Other news has altered in, too. Dr. George M. Darrow has solved the problem of birds eating blue berries, one of the few vices to which our feathery friends are susceptible.
Darrow, as everybody knows, bred the great Blakemore strawberry (for decades the great commercial berry) in 1923.
In 1938 he started visiting around blueberry farms (a novel venture then). He is not only a world authority on all sorts of small fruit and berries but is one of the capital's best-known gardeners, and is spry as ever, always thinking about the future and the glorious blueberries and daylilies, etc., we are going to have some day.
"You got Bluetta?" he began when I ran into him on my week off.
"No, only the blueberries you recommended in that Brooklyn Botanic Gardens book."
"Well, get Bluetta. It's a week or two earlier than the others," he said, leaning on his stick but keeping a sharp eye out for any signs of country gardens.
"My hound keeps eating blueberries off the business," I said.
"You got the wrong dog," he said. "I have a German shepherd. There are only four birds around here that really do in the blueberries. Robins, catbirds, mocking birds and brown thrashers. They all nest low. The dog chases them off and they have to nest somewhere else. Never bother my berries now."
"You're never had trouble with birds?" I inquired with wonder.
"Used to have a terrible time. Used to net all the bushes with chicken wire in a cage. But the kids liked to get on top and use it like a trampoline, splitting the seams and the birds got in. But with my German shepherd I don't even net them any more. As I say, you got the wrong kind of dog."
He's right. And the worst thing is, when the hound strart eating them, I watch mesmerized.
I went to see all the great people - to get off this nature kick - at Katie Louchheim's house. She always has persons of influence and power and a good assortment of people like me who peer about. Women Cabinet and agency chiefs, senators and people who make a real difference to all of us, like gas lines and all.
Spoke briefly with Frances Howard about her brother, the late Vice President Hubert Humphrey, but nothing sad about it. The man was well fulfilled.
A young woman had asked her advice on getting a husband, because she seemed to be sort of scaring the good ones off.
"So what advice did you give?" I said.
"Well, I just told her, 'look, no man is going to just lay eyes on you once or twice and pick you up and marry you. You have to invest in him.
Like maybe feed him.
"Nothing just happens," the dowager went on, "I don't care what area we speak of. There has to be interest, time, tact, discipline - in short, investment."
Well that is God's own truth. I asked her what she had been up to before coming over to Katie's.
"Pretty busy," she said. "Froze 64 cups of bacon grease. I have that big freezer. My young grandchildren have been visiting me two weeks. Sometimes you run out of exciting new things to do. So we froze 64 cups of bacon grease. For the birds next winter. It's terrible to waste that usable fat."
You gonna have birds? You gotta invest.
Which reminds me, for some reason, that a wolf jogs at 5 miles an hour but if you chase him in a car he can go 40. Defenders of Wildlife told me his speed.
Alas, not fast enough for nowadays.
First the good, then the shocking, news of teddy bears which surely fits in just about here:
The Marquess of Bath was host at Longleat House to 8,000 Good Bears of the World. The GBW justifies itself by providing teddy bears for children in hospitals, but what they really do is get together with their teddy bears and have a lovely day. Lord Bathhs bash was the largest gathering thus far. I was myself invited. If it is not too disgusting to drop names this way, but failed to attend. Retired American Army colonels, all sorts of people there. Bath says T. bears are charming things to cuddle.
Mine had wheels. Brass wheels at that, but I do not have him now, more's the pity. What with gas.
Here is something shocking. Sources report there is ponographic film about teddy bears. It is too awful to think about.But you do sort of wonder how.
But on to wholesome ground:
Greek Ambassador Menelas D. Alexandrakis and Mrs. Alexandrakis threw a great party to say goodbye after five years in Washington and 15 years' service outside their country. Now they're going home.
Somewhere I think it should be recorded that one night at a very posh dinner there were raw scallops first, which nobody ate, followed by slabs of raw veal (that is, uncooked, never saw the oven) which nobody ate, and Mrs. Alexandrakis dutifully stirred the stuff around her plate and made her face work to show she was enjoying this delicious feast.
Several elegant New Yorkers were down for the occasion. They do like to slum a bit. The conversation was very brisk, with numerous references to the great world and naturally simple people could not very well take part.
I noticed Mrs. Alexandrakis smiling and asked her why.
"Oh, it's too inane to mention," she said. "Well," I said, "I'm fairly inane. Try me."
She cast a searching look, decided I was truthful and said she had been reading a book of riddles. At first she insisted they were too trite and banal to repeat, but I pointed out they made her smile, so she said:
"What does a grape say if an elephant steps on it?"
I could not immediately recall so she said:
"Not much. Emits a little wine."
She went on, with other equally splendid, and the more we riddled the more we laughed. Finally people at the table looked at us. Couple of crazies.
And despite the food which nobody ate, it was one of the best suppers you run into this town. So I dropped by to tell her so and we laughed again.