Monday, June 27, 2011

One Way or the Other, It's All About the Rain

"It was a dark and stormy night..." 
OK, I know that sounds like a Mickey Spillane novel, but in our case it is true.  Close and jarring lightening, punctuated by thunderous grumblings and splattering rain whipped by severe winds spooked the night.  It was a meteorological melodrama that prompted more than one query as to whether we should sleep in the lower level.  It isn't a storm cellar by a long shot, but it is lower and at least feels more grounded, with a few more corners remote from the prospect of flying glass. 

Morning, however, finds all well and mostly in its place.  The sky is blue, with scattered clouds -- like a guilty child trying to pretend its innocence.  Walking Tir through the neighborhood we were serenaded by gurgling storm sewers while dodging puddle-bloated branches blown drown from trees and damming the gutters.  My deck garden seems to have survived intact.  My single pea-sized tomato looks no worse for the disruption, and the half-dozen or so peppers curling and dangling from their stems managed to hold on as well.  The rest of the tomato plants and tomatillos are still covered with blossoms.  Tir and I offer a sigh of relief.

Hopefully we will be able to get some work done at the big garden.  The almost daily rains will have elevated the mowing alert status to "red," and the trenches will be inundated with weeks.  It would be funny if it weren't aggravating:  at the Berclair farm, nothing can be done because of the drought.  At the Baxter farm, nothing can be done because of the rain. 

Go figure.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Neighborly Equivalent of a Song

It's somehow friendlier early in the morning.  Perhaps it is the coolness before the summer sweat simmers all the flavor out of our congeniality.  Perhaps it is the spirit of possibility still fresh before the day's inevitable jostles and sharp edges.  Perhaps we haven't yet turned on the morning news to see what new travesties nature -- or other human beings -- have inflicted on us overnight.  Perhaps it is simply that our muscles and demeanor have not yet had the chance to fist themselves into defensive postures. Or maybe there is simply a relational expansiveness early in the day that, like morning glories, opens only briefly -- beautifully -- before folding back up again until tomorrow.

Whatever the explanation, it was in delightful bloom this morning as Tir and I enjoyed a first walk through more remote portions of the neighborhood.  Sprinklers were already busy in lawns; one early riser with hose in hand was washing off his driveway -- and smiled and said, "hello."  Drivers of passing cars waved.  Even the hostas in the manicured landscaping seemed to swell into greeting, and the vibrant purple of the sage seemed to glow luminescent just for us. 

Before long I will be back at the garden, weeding out the interlopers, and trimming back the encroaching blades.  Someone, sometime in this day, will almost certainly speak a jagged edge.  But early, the day began with the neighborly equivalent of a song.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Market Blessing 2011

For the past 14 years our church has hosted a farmer's market in the parking lot.  By comparison, our market is tiny -- 20 or so vendors in contrast to the 200 or more downtown  -- but it is wonderfully accessible, delightfully relational, surprisingly multi-cultural, and, to summarize it in a word, neighborly.  From Kettle Corn to Barbecue, hand-turned woodcrafts and baskets and games, to artisan bread and local honey and vegetables of wide description. 

One of my favorite writing assignments for the past few years has been to offer a "Blessing of the Market" prior to the opening whistle on the opening afternoon -- a blessing and a whistle that both blew last evening.  I'm always amazed and more than a little humbled by the attention paid in those quiet and prayerful moments by eager vendors and hovering shoppers alike.  This year the sun was shining and the breeze was gently wafting and it couldn't have been more perfect.  And amidst all the anticipation, this year's blessing went like this:

God of the soil and those who tend it; of the seeds and those who plant them; of rabbits and weeds and those who contend against them; of running vines and swelling fruit, and all those who harvest them; of satisfying food and those who prepare it, we give you thanks for all those miracles of nature and ministrations of humans that go on in fields and kitchens and craft rooms to enable such a market as this. Bless our weeks together – we buyers and sellers, poppers and barbecuers, diners and growers and groaners carrying bags delightfully overfilled. Bless the conversations we initiate, the efforts we appreciate, the playfulness we stimulate, and the community that, in our comings and going and setting up and tearing down, we create. Bless this market, we pray, with a taste – a foretaste, even – of life as you intend it. Amen.

Pencil Marking the Growth

 LT calls it "Post Gardening" -- planting in a soil-filled PVC pipe.  The 20 such posts I have planted and ringing our deck are progressing nicely.  The lettuce is ready for a salad, the swiss chard is leaning toward saute, at least one pepper plant is showing off,

  and the tomatillo and tomatoes are starting to blossom. 

Rain has relieved some of the watering responsibilities, but the truth is I rather enjoy the chance to survey the progress and bond with the emergent harvest. 

How else, for example, would I have noticed the vivid yellow stems of the swiss chard, reminding me of the varietal's name -- "bright lights"? 

Now that the third garden is planted -- a community garden plot downtown -- there will be even more to water; hopefully even more to pay attention to and, if there were a door frame nearby, pencil mark the height progress like I used to do with the kids.