I’m a massive fan of Meadowbrook Park, a prairie preserve maintained tirelessly by the Urbana Park District. Its sculpture installations are eternally absorbing. [The header photo was taken there about 5 years ago, at the park’s south end.] I gardened at Meadowbrook’s organic garden plots in the early 2000s. I’ve walked and skated and even run its trails hundreds of times – basically, it’s where I go when it’s time to get outside someplace that isn’t the backyard. So. As it is not often sunny and sixty degrees in December (and, for the record, it shouldn’t be), I thought perhaps it’d be a great day to go see some dogs and walk the trails and survey the now-beige prairie from my favorite vantage points.
I decided instead, at the last minute, to walk my neighborhood – to see it and to be seen in it – because it feels a bit lonely.
[The neighborhood has changed with the change in season, like it does. People have moved away and others have arrived. There have been conflicts, some unresolved. A new email list has sown some seeds of WTF, but one of the Facebook groups is still politely active. People (including us) seem too busy to gather often; over-the-fence chats have waned with the daylight. Our neighbor’s son, an engaging and persistent 5 year-old given to patrolling our street in this Halloween’s police officer costume, sometimes tickets the adults he sees.]
Anyway – I saw some things.
[NOT PICTURED: Hundred of squirrels, an awesome front door, and actual boughs of holly]
What I didn’t see: human beings. There were a few people out wrangling leaves into bags (Leaves into bags! In DECEMBER!), but only one even looked up as I passed. A young woman who has been doing epic work on her house was toiling away on its exterior, so I told her how inspiring it’s been to watch her progress. She smiled and said, “Well, thank you!” A young man walked down the next street, conversing earnestly with someone about his impending return to Eugene – Oregon, I assume. A couple blocks over, I asked a gentleman sitting on his front porch if it was OK if I cut through a small bit of his yard to get to the alley. He laughed and said, “Of course.” Then, as I started trekking through, “Thanks for asking!” As I rolled back onto my street, I saw my neighbors, The Bryans, and encouraged their dogs into bad behavior as we chatted about the unsettled feeling one has when one is putting up holiday lights in shirtsleeves.
That was it, though. No other people. Was everyone out at Meadowbrook? Shopping? Inside, watching sports? Where are we these days? Suddenly my neighbor 5 year-old’s desire to ticket the people he sees made all the sense. It’s genius! It’s about visibility and accountability and it makes me think we are just not either of those things enough.
I’m putting myself on a twice-weekly posting schedule. We’ll see how it goes.
I wish you could smell where I live once the Summer Solstice arrives, and I do mean that in the best way. The scent of high summer in the Midwest, especially during a sunny, hot, and humid summer like the one we’ve been having since late May, is its own heady cut-grass-and-clover beast. Or its own pungent warm-dill-breadseed-poppies-and-horse-manure beast. You pick.
I love that about 1 mile away from 909 and our very cute neighborhood, we can see these guys in something approximating a natural habitat.
Orange: It’s the color of joy and creativity, of warmth and determination… of FUN! No wonder it’s been Jim’s favorite for decades.
O, these sunflowers with their pale-yellow petals and chocolate-brown centers against that as-yet-unhazed summer sky.
Summer also = international tournament/cup soccer. I’m off today, having myself a little Solstice-fueled vacation, and I’m eagerly awaiting my family’s arrival home from work in a bit so we can prepare to watch the US Men’s National Team take on Argentina. 909 is all about the flags at cup time.
I was thinking today: Why is the phrase “real life” or “the real world” or “reality” so often used pejoratively? My daughter is working a fast-paced restaurant job this summer. Oh, that’s good, that’s a bit of the real world for her. Really? Hm. Sure, I guess. But… what IS the real world? I mean, I say shit like that, but this morning I was examining some of the things I say and I thought, well, that phrase, used that way by me, has GOT to go. I’m defining “real life” differently this summer. Real life can include working and earning money and enduring stress and trauma and stupidity and traffic and people being assholes and being tired and wondering IS THIS ALL THERE IS?, but it’s certainly not SOLELY or even PRIMARILY those things.
Thunderstorms are beautiful and terrible and necessary, and they are real life. Beautiful, hopeful weddings are real life, and, sadly, death is also real life. Ripening blackberries are real life; so are the thorns we have to deal with to get at them (unless you have the thornless kind, which I do not, but am still eternally grateful to Tim for letting me dig some up at his old house). Enthusiastic discussion with Lilly about filling out her proposed schedule for college – just a couple of months away – is real life. So is pondering the unverbalized question what will it be like when you’re away at school? And… so is admitting I’m afraid to find out.
The backyard at 909 is my real world. So is driving along listening to this interview with two absolutely awesome guys (twins!) in Ireland. So is sitting down every morning to write and watching difficult truths emerge. Vacation and daydreaming with Jim are real worlds. So is working at my desk at my job. It’s all real… but some realities seem to have the wrong weight attached. Recalibration is required.
Welp. I’m going to go smell some tomato plants and basil leaves. More soon.
It’s been another Sunday spent watching the transport of cheap white bread, pre-packaged fruit pies, and old pizza.
The sweet gum tree in the photo is the only one on our lot – it’s in the front yard. Ten years ago, when we bought 909, the fact that the only tree on the lot was in the front yard was a huge selling point for me. [Trees are awesome; I just don’t want them growing where I want to grow food.]
I hate picking up its goddamn gum balls off the front yard every spring, but I still love that tree. The infancy of those goddamn gum balls in the spring is ADORABLE. The tree has amazing bright yellow foliage in the fall. And it is most definitely some sort of environmental focal point for birds, squirrels, and Perry the Possum in a four-house area on our street.
I find this daily drama fascinating. Every day the sparrows hang around the feeders in our front yard, mixing comfortably with the squirrels, who rarely try to eat from the feeders anymore and are instead satisfying themselves, alongside the juncoes and cardinals, with whatever birdseed the sparrows drop out of the feeders (there’s plenty). When the silence outside becomes deafening, I look up into our tree’s lower branches. More often than not, a young hawk is watching like a … well, you know.
Let’s get back to the squirrels. The nest in our tree (see photo above) is home to some really active sciuridae-about-town. They spend a ridiculous amount of time going back and forth between our tree and the backyards of two houses across the street – they’ve worn a visible path on the grass between the houses – and the reason they’ve done that is the reason they no longer hog all the birdseed in our feeders.
The guy across the street is feeding them. He’s not feeding them peanuts, or chunks of apple, or stale bread, like one might every so often. He’s not feeding them stuff that would normally go in the compost, like lettuce butts and carrot peelings. Every day, he’s feeding them absurd amounts of old pizza, entire loaves of stale bread, Hostess fruit pies, ancient hamburger buns, and saltines. I watch these poor small mammals struggle up our tree several times a day, carrying pieces of bread as big as their torsos. They risk their lives in front of cars and bikes by going back after a half-bagel they dropped in the middle of the road. And, for whatever reason, they leave entire pieces of pizza and half-eaten fruit pies in our garage, on our back steps, and in our planters on our front steps.
Why? Why do they abandon their junk food in weird places? Is it because they’re full and somewhat disgusted with themselves and decide head off to my compost pile in order to undo the damage?
The other morning, as I was having my coffee and getting ready to face down another day at work, I saw something a bit different. The sun was up. It was just lovely outside, you could tell. And there was Perry Possum, heading across the street toward our house, from what can only have been a debauched night consuming processed white carbs. Perry Possum? In the daytime?
[I know a lot of people are not fond of possums, but I don’t mind Perry. It’s pretty clear Perry is known in the neighborhood, because our cats are just fine with him/her milling around while they hang out on the back porch at night. Perry is just doing his/her possumy thing.]
This isn’t good, this feeding of utter crap to the local fauna. It can make them sick and cause them to lose the instinct to feed themselves if/when the source of the junk runs out. I want to tell the gentleman across the street that he’s not doing them any favors, but I actually think he might actually live to feed these animals. I don’t know; in ten years he’s never spoken to us.
I thought about this today as I pondered the meaning of the word disruption in the context of work I do at my job and the culture we live in. Some disruption is very, very good; change is required for growth, and being able to discern, and then adapt, is critical. But I think about those squirrels wrestling with a Hostess fruit pie and I think, we can decide, at the end of the day, how we want/will allow ourselves to be disrupted; the local fauna really can’t. A bit less junk would be better for all of us.
There’s a lot to be said for continuity, too. Spring’s coming.
What if, instead of posting status updates to Facebook, I just posted them here?
Today’s reading material, at various times while reclining on various pieces of furniture:
Confession: I desperately – DESPERATELY – want to hang out with Coco Moodysson, who wrote and illustrated the memoir Never Goodnight, up there on the upper left. Her Tumblr is here. Her husband, Lukas Moodysson, made her memoir into a movie called We Are the Best!. He’s pretty cool, too – he’s made a couple other movies I highly recommend, like Show Me Love and Together; His Tumblr is here. [He hasn’t updated since September 2015 because, he says, the internet takes more than it gives. I’m inclined to agree.] Anyway, I’ve gone in and out of Moodysson fandom for almost 15 years and today I’m feeling it pretty hard.
It’s unanimous these days: Cooking food from scratch at home is one of the best ways to eat sustainably without breaking the bank. It also enables eaters to easily support food producers who use environmentally sound, ethical, and humane practices. But most Americans can’t pull this off regularly.
Now, four years later, I’m trying to square that with this article from just a couple days ago. Here’s an excerpt – again, emphasis mine:
No one wants to think about farmers calling it quits. It muddies the heroic glow cast around our food producers. It cuts through all of the feel-good chatter about food systems and local economies. Each time a farmer quits, a little piece of our new agrarian dream dies. But however hard it is to discuss, the rate at which farmers are walking away from their farms—whether by choice or by force—may be the most important measure of whether or not our food systems are actually working. Because although farmers’ markets are springing up everywhere, the average small-scale farmer is barely surviving.
“Heroic glow”. “Feel-good chatter”. “New agrarian dream”. I have such incredibly mixed feelings about this terminology – so aspirational, so lifestyle, so mainstream. I freely admit to responding to this kind of marketing even as I hate it, though, because I want farmers to win, and I like to imagine that together, we can do this! I want to support local producers and am in a position – for now, anyway – to be able to do that. But we have to get real about it. More from the article:
Wendell Berry asks, “Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: Love. They must do it for love.”
I have an immense amount of respect for Wendell Berry, but I am growing tired of this answer. Certainly it would be a mistake to become a farmer if you did not enjoy being outside doing, if you were not fiercely independent, if you did not enjoy the physical labor involved in food production. But a farmer cannot survive simply on love alone.
Related: This audio series by some local (to me) high school students about farming in 2015-2016 in Illinois. Full disclosure – these are my daughter’s classmates, though she didn’t work on this project, and they produced the series in partnership with my employer. I think they’re amazing.
Finally: Valentine’s Day brought us a couple of inches of snow.
February is halfway over. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m cool with it.
Head space: In canning, one must leave some in order to get a good seal. In life, one must to leave some in order to gain perspective, which is basically the same as getting a good seal. I mean, you want to be able to enjoy what’s in the jar, you know?
The Autumnal Equinox approaches – it’s this Wednesday. I’ve taken the day off and am giving it over to whatever (Canning tomatoes? Power napping? Writing?). The moon should be waxing under mostly clear skies this entire week, which thrills me. The signs of the change in seasons are everywhere in central IL – leaves starting to turn, squirrels acting stupid and running out into traffic, and the last of the peaches at the farmers markets.
There’s nothing finer than the ultra-blue skies we get this time of year. ANYTHING thrown against that sky looks awesome, even (especially?) withering walnut trees.
When I was a kid, I loved ladybugs and yellow was my favorite color. My love for ladybugs is now more about respect, and I’m not a huge fan of the color yellow… EXCEPT this time of year. I mean, look at it.
It’s also a really birthday-heavy time in my circle of family and friends. Jim, Lilly, and I have birthdays between mid-September and early November. Our friend Douglas had a birthday yesterday, and invited people to his workspace in Tolono (he relocated Uptown Concrete there this summer) to check it out, play parking lot games, and witness a shopping cart bonfire.
I made a rather sloppy carrot cake, per his request. I learned that it’s really important that the cream cheese frosting act as serious mortar to the bricks that are the cake layers (this is a TERRIBLE analogy), especially if you’re transporting the cake ten miles over bumpy and twisty county roads, so more powdered sugar is critical. It didn’t matter – it was delicious and it looked pretty with candles on it.
It has not been the easiest 6+ weeks in the world. One of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around has been the death of my friend and neighbor, Mel Farrell. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in spring 2015 and immediately started kicking its ass, but toward the end of the summer, her body tripped her up a few times, and at the beginning of this month, pneumonia claimed her life. She was a rock star in so many ways, and readers will likely be finding more about Mel later, but I’ll say this for now: Though I’d known her for about 10 years, and of her for 5 years past that, there was much I didn’t know about Mel. Since her death, I’ve come to realize that she was quietly expert at filling up any gaps in her life with more friends, more fun, more food, more… and it was the quality aspect of more, not the quantity. She was so very thoughtful and truly believed in the basic conviviality that goes missing from so much of modern life. Her laugh gave serious body to so many gatherings. And… and! She had stories. Sure, the whole legitimately-at-Woodstock thing was awesome, but I was electrified when she told me a few years ago that, when she was a kid growing up in NYC, her mother’s day job was, if I recall correctly, working for James Beard. That wasn’t my favorite part of the story, and I don’t think it was Mel’s either. No, we both loved the fact that her mom came home from working all day for Chef Beard and often had the following dinner, feet up: An onion sandwich (2 pieces of white bread slathered in butter with sliced onions in between) and a beer. I figured Mel and I had all the time in the world to eventually get some of these stories saved. We did not. I do wonder if she saved any of them herself.
Seriously. If you have food stories to tell – and we all do – write them down. Tell them to someone. You know what, though… don’t stop at the food stories (you don’t have to start there, either). Stories, period. Histories. Get them onto paper, or make some audio – just talk into your smartphone, if you have one. I truly fear real storytelling – the passing along of the big stories and the quotidian ones, the bare facts and the tall tales – is going the way of ultra-curated social media (which I feel sadder and sadder about with each passing day): Cropped and filtered just so for maximum effect, negative or positive, spun emptily one way or the other. We all seem to crave the unvarnished truth (witness the popularity of Storycorps), but we seem ever more reluctant to tell it.
History, via the last dozen years’ worth of journals, demonstrates that I typically don’t do well the last week of July and the first ten days of August; my current theory is that my lizard brain is already sensing that we’re losing light, not gaining it. Also? The mosquitoes have been ridiculous this summer. They love me – REALLY LOVE ME – and I find myself avoiding the garden, which thanks to Jim is far more free of weeds than in years past. Still. This grumpiness about the outdoors is a very unsatisfying and unsettling feeling for me.
Yesterday’s weather was spectacular, however – sunny and warm and lacking the oppressive humidity that was literally hanging around earlier in the week. After work, I went to Meadowbrook Park to walk, commune with nature, get over myself, and catch up on the Dear Handmade Life podcast. It was a lovely way to spend 90 minutes, and I didn’t run into a single person I knew, which was OK by me.
Here are a few things I did see.
I saw an artist atop a ladder, working in the sunshine. Sorry about the backlighting.
I saw/smelled so much bee balm. I wanted to hug it.
And later, in downtown Champaign, I saw the moon rise above its friend, the lamppost.
My goal for the next ten days is to find more of these bits and pieces out in the world and to hold them close. I plan to listen to Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue whenever the mood strikes. I plan to let my daughter chauffeur me around town so she can get her license this fall. I plan to note the exact time each night when the cicadas give way to the crickets and katydids. And I plan to sleep with the windows open whenever I can.
I struggle with the concept of “home” in the broader sense. Where is my hometown? When people ask where are you from, what do I say? How do I explain? What does it even mean? I left Minnesota in 1991 after 10 years, as did my younger brother. My parents split up in the mid-1990s and went to opposite ends of the country. I was born in New York; my young childhood was spent in two different parts of Florida. I spent some pretty formative years in Chicago as a young adult. I’ve lived in Urbana for 19 years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere, and I’m entrenched here. Home – as in where I’m from – could technically mean any of these places. But if we’re talking true affinity – old friends, depth, experience, strong memory, stuff like that – I’ll say it. Minnesota is where I’m from. I just haven’t lived there for a really long time.
[I never really intended to leave Minneapolis for so long. The move to Chicago was a statement move, the kind of move you make because, well, why not? I was 22 years old and ready, I thought, to test myself. I got my wish. Shit certainly got way more real in Chicago than I ever imagined it would. But when Jim and I arrived Urbana-Champaign for a weekend in March 1996 to see Mercury Rev and Hum play at the Blind Pig, I felt an enormous and immediate rush of familiarity. Something about the way the people at the show talked to each other and treated each other reminded me of… what? On the drive back up to Chicago, it hit me. The people there remind me of people in Minneapolis, I said to Jim. We should move to Urbana. He agreed. It took us three months, and we’ve been here ever since.]
It’s time for college visits chez B-K, so we planned a long-deferred trip to MSP so Lilly and her BFF could have a look at my tiny alma mater, Macalester College, as well as the behemoth University of Minnesota. Further incentives: Being able to stay with my longtime friend Chank and his wife, Heidi (and Max, their 9 YO), attending a Minnesota United soccer match (well, Jim, the girls, Chank, and Max), and Amphetamine Reptile‘s Bash15 party with Diane, one of my CFoAT (Closest Friends of All Time). Here’s what we crammed in:
1. When we arrived, we went straight to the new Surly beer hall. Not only was the beer terrific, the food good, and the space gorgeous, Jim and I also smeared a couple dudes at bags/cornhole.
2. We visited the schools on Friday; some of Lilly’s impressions can be found here. She’s in the info-gathering phase for post-high school activity and is “building her list”, as her college counselor Lisa Micele says. I wasn’t getting strong feelings either way from her. Macalester felt incredibly small to me, after all these years with the U of I campus practically down the street, and I had to laugh when the “sample” dorm room they showed us was a room in Wallace Hall I hung out in quite a bit my freshman year.
4. Then it was hours of punk rock, walking, talking, eating, and checking out the beer selection at Indeed Brewing. The beer scene in MSP is intense. I ran into two people from high school at the AmRep thing, which was weird. Saw a friend from college there, too – much less weird.
5. We drove the 7+ hours home in relative silence. We were all exhausted.
It was a little hard to come back. The budget situation in the state of Illinois is frustrating and embarrassing and serious. There are lots of people here working hard and making things and thinking and creating and putting in the time, but I see/hear about unfortunate things happening here bearing the indelible stamp of THIS IS DOWNSTATE, AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT. I also see/hear about things bearing another indelible stamp, this time of WE’RE NOT FROM HERE, BUT WE KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU. How to balance that in this very unique community? I don’t know. It’s hard to not be distracted by what’s happening 120/250/515 miles north and west, knowing that those places aren’t perfect, either.
But I came home with fresh eyes. Since returning, Jim and I sat in on a workspace negotiation between a property owner and an artist that’s kind of a big deal for both of them. I’m watching one of my beloved local hangouts expand into a second location. A good friend is about to jump in head first to a new venture (actually, new ventures seem to rule the day lately). We have coffee roasters and flower artists and cake artists and food truck rallies and farmers markets and guerrilla furniture and true public art and bold moves, which is a lot.
This is the place.
A senior year in high school and two fall soccer seasons are starting up soon for the B-K household, so some of my thinking is forced ahead, but the rest of me is all about high summer. The tomato blight that seems to be affecting most local gardens has really taken hold; I’ve already resigned myself to not having enough tomatoes to do anything with besides eat in the moment. The garlic is almost done curing. The basil is free thus far of the disease that killed it last year. Blackberries are off the hook. So much kale. So many coneflowers. The daylilies are almost finished. It’s too humid to hang clothes on the line. After yesterday’s hot atmospheric soup, I take back every negative thing I’ve ever said about central air. Cicadas rule during the day and katydids at night; the fireflies linger but are definitely on the wane.
I have 2 big things and one small things that need finishing before I can move on to this new idea I have floating around. The goal is to finish by the time school starts in 29 days. New season, new project. Maybe even a new workspace here at 909? Hmmm.
The rain has been epic. There are so many weeds. Our house is wearing a tutu made of flags. I went to Chicago and hung out. We went to Madison and hung out. Summer has arrived.
Oh my God, the rain. It has rained what seems to be incessantly, though it is not incessant in, say, the Pacific Northwest way. When it rains, it pours, the saying goes, and when it decides to rain in these parts, it does not mess around. Basements flood. Streets flood. If you leave your car window open an inch by accident, the entire interior of your car will flood (well, your neighbor’s car). Following these torrential downpours, the sun emerges and the temperature rises to about 85° and it “feels like” a swamp. Which brings me to…
Jim and I have been surprisingly diligent about working in the garden when lack of rain and down time coincide. I still have a big round of beans to plant, and I’m disappointed in some seed germination rates (as in, zero germination for sunflowers. WTF?), but the food garden is mostly in maintenance mode now, which means the Big Bed (mostly flowers and herbs) needs weeding along with maintenance weeding in the food garden, and with the rain… it’s a ridiculous task. I loathe weeding, and some places have been neglected this summer, which means the crabgrass and mint and creeping charlie and bindweed are stubbornly squatting in those places. They are winning, for now, because the rain is on their side.
It’s World Cup season again, people. It’s the women’s turn this year and we loved last year’s flag décor so much, we decided to add more. They wrap, quite literally, halfway around our (small) house, making it, Cody remarked, “that” house. Which it kind of always has been.
I decided the first weekend in June to drive up to CHGO to see Cody and to hit Reckless Records to hear writer/guitarist Jon Fine read from his new book, Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear). CHGO is only 2 hours north of here, a fairly straight shot up Highway 57, but it is a drive we rarely make these days, and it is even more rare that I make the drive alone. I’m a city driving lightweight; I haven’t made the trip more often because I’m intimidated. NO MORE. This time? I was like whatever and hopped into the car at 11:30 AM that Saturday morning and was parked in front of Cody’s dad’s place in Ukrainian Village by 2 PM after getting coffee and making a pit stop and dealing with road construction. [The most alarming thing about my drive up: The sheer number of deer carcasses, some in weird places. Like… what was a deer doing at the top of a bridge that close to the city? Anyway.] Cody got off work early, I met him in Wicker Park, we ate some food, got some coffee, went to Quimby’s, “ran into” Cody’s dad who just happened to be working in the area, marveled at all the Blackhawks jerseys (they were playing in Tampa that night), went to Reckless, listened to/watched Jon be interviewed by Rose Marshack, and then hung out in the park until just before 7 PM. It was critical that I get on the road by 7 PM because… deer carcasses, you know? I was home by 9. It felt so awesome to spend the better part of a day in one of the best cities in the world, a place I once lived and loved very much, even though the most difficult years of my life happened there. I did love coming home to a place where the stars are visible at night and one can hang 18 flags on one’s house without worrying about them – Urbana, where I’ve lived for 19 years and also love very much. But I’m glad CHGO isn’t that far away.
The B-Ks have reached the point where the youngest member of the household is old enough to be visiting colleges. While we live in a town that is home to a giant Big Ten university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is about 4 hours from here and offers some stuff Lilly is interested in (many foreign languages, some topography, bodies of water, etc), so off we went, with plans to crash with Jim’s sister and her family. We crammed a lot in – a session on the honors program, beer and food at Union South while watching the USA vs Sweden, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Geology Museum, a trip to the Dane County Farmers Market (OMG), some shopping, a full campus tour, more beer and food at Memorial Union on the lake, etc. I spent some time in Madison in the summer of 1990 (there was a boy involved). It was nothing like I remember. I think Lilly liked it. One school down, several more to go this summer and fall. Note to self: Do not drone on about the way it used to be when we visit Macalester.
I was thinking the other day about how I really OBSERVED the progress of the seasons when the kids were younger. I not only watched, I marked. The summer solstice is both a high point for me and a low one (as Cody liked to cheerfully remind us, it’s all downhill from here), and back in the day we’d have parties and… observe. Since my return to full-time work 9 years ago (NINE?!), that’s gotten much harder for me to do. The solstice is Sunday, which is also Father’s Day, and I think we’ll observe with tacos on the grill and maybe having a few people over.
Let’s talk about the weather for a sec, like people do.
[Wait, first… a photo of a peony about to bloom. If you follow BYI on Instagram, you might have already seen this:]
OK. I don’t know about the weather where you are, but the weather here in old central IL has been less than helpful in terms of partnering with me personally (because it’s all about me, right??) to get the garden into the ground. By mid-May, warm weather stuff – tomatoes, herbs, peppers – have typically been planted, the worst of the spring weeds vanquished, the flower seeds sown, and the few planters we do have lurking here at 909 have something in them that was actually put there on purpose.
Thanks to rain timed to coincide with the end of the workday and/or weekends, I’m 25% of the way there. OK, 40%. I’m kind of mortified. It really isn’t just the rain – it’s also working off the premises and taking care of other business. Time’s gotten away from me. I do way less for the garden than I used to – when I bought a bunch of vegetable and herb starts at the farmers market this past weekend, Jon from Blue Moon was all, hey, whatever happened with your home seed start production? And I was like, dude, I haven’t had the chance to start seeds in 5 years, so THANK YOU for making these available! – but I got in front of that by planting some food that basically grows itself every year, like asparagus, blackberries, apples, and perennial herbs. Garlic doesn’t grow itself, but I planted it last fall, so that counts. I love food that mostly grows itself. And I love farmers who start seeds and offer those starts at farmers markets.
Anyway. I’ve planted the planters (which helps psychologically because they’re cheerful, full of cheap marigolds and portulaca*) and I’ve bought/dug the starts I want, and have planted some kale and beets and salad mix. Um, it’s not June yet, so I’m going to just be OK with it.
My weed patch and brush pile, though – let me show them to you. I call this photo “Still Life with Old Holiday Wreath and Creeping Charlie, Mint, and Aging Wheelbarrow”.
The coolest part of working in the yard when I could over this past (sunny) weekend was seeing/hearing my neighbors do likewise. It’s been so damn rainy and I hadn’t seen anyone for weeks. Chris and Melony next door did some hard time in their yard. Virginia, an elder woman who lives behind us, was working on her lovely yard with a friend. I went a few houses down to my new neighbor (and old friend) Bruce’s house to ID some plants for him. And I saw Lara, a block over, being a TGB**. I’m not sure she left her yard the entire day. As a result of the damned hard work she and Phil have put in since they bought the place a few years ago, their yard/garden/chicken coop are among the most incredible-looking in Urbana. You can see what everything looked like last year in “Henthusiasm“, starting at 4:21. Seriously, if garden coaching were a thing (and maybe it should be) Lara would KILL IT. She has an artist’s eye for color and placement, much enthusiasm and fire, is fearless about trying things, does not believe one should have to spend a lot of money to have an awesome garden, and does not ever tire, apparently.
LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively):
Tim (the other half of BYI Video) and I are experimenting with Slack as a collab tool
April = satisfaction. Leaves emerge. Birds sing. Severe weather threatens. We survived winter, friends. WE PREVAILED.
– I’m doing some writing about music – very amateur! I’m rusty as hell! – at Innocent Words. This link will take you to a thing I did about Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart. Another piece about (well, sort of) Donita Sparks from L7 was just published yesterday (language, y’all). I’m pretty insecure about my music writing because I’m not a critic. I’m not an academic. I just write about how music makes me feel, or how I remember it made me feel at a certain point in time, and describe those feelings through the lens of now. I don’t think about music as much as I used to. I don’t even listen to music as much as I used to, although that’s changing as a result of this assignment. I think about how old I was (25) when my dad was the age I am now (46) and how he was not even trying to understand “grunge” or Britpop because it all sucked and the music HE had in his 20s was better. JEEZ, DAD. But… while I totally love a lot of the stuff I hear in passing today, I find myself writing about the days of yore. You cannot take the Hugo out of the girl.
– Speaking of the days of yore and writing, I read Viv Albertine‘s memoir while I was on vacation and I loved it so much. I read it in 8 hours. I wanted more. I wanted five hundred more pages. And the device she uses as a “bibliography” – is brilliant.
– Speaking of brilliant, my daughter is doing some fantastic writing for Rookie. She’s a deeply-feeling athlete who doesn’t speak in coachy/jocky platitudes about “gutting it out” or “finding a way to win” – she’s writing stuff like I pour myself so wholeheartedly into the game that when my voice is silenced and my strength sapped I don’t know what to do with myself, how to react, how to adapt. I LOVE HER SO MUCH.
– Tomorrow is video release day and I’m pretty damn excited about it. I’ll post the link when it’s live! Yes!
I’m kind of excited about… everything! All the things! I have a lot to learn about saying yes and saying no and standing up for myself and holding my ground and managing my time and doing the work and basically figuring out what it all means. There are days when I freak out that I’m still doing this at my age, trying to get my shit straight, but I’m starting to realize that it’s never too late, and everyone’s always working on something.