Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Search for balance-- Musing around the Fall Equinox

It is the Fall Equinox—the time when the day and night are of equal length and the world balances before sliding into the dark months ahead. I spend considerable time, around the equinox, thinking about balance in my own life and neighborhood.

Mark has been patrolling the townhouses for the last two weeks, looking for loud parties and calling in noise complaints. One night, when I came home from chaperoning a dance, it was really quiet on the block. “They’re not back yet,” I thought as I walked in. Mark was looking downright smug, sitting in the rocker. “It’s quiet,” I told him. “Good,” he said. “I called in five parties about twenty minutes ago. I thought it quieted down.”

This last week, when all of the freshpeople are in the dorms and the frats are back cleaning up their houses, is notoriously bad. They have nothing to do, so they begin shrieking on Sunday night and do not stop for the entire week. It reaches a crescendo on Saturday. Mark and I went out around ten o’clock on Thursday. People were everywhere, but all heading for the townhouses. You could hear them several blocks away. We walked down the alley, making note of noise, then headed over to the park complex—the passage through the Catholic Church was a highway. Worse by the park…we started for home, when, suddenly, it grew very quiet…”What’s up?” Mark muttered—then we saw the police car in the alley—and another on the street—and three police officers going down the row, knocking on doors while several drunk students climbed over the balcony railings, broke a light fixture, and ran. Clearly underage…

This week, we will hang our fliers about noise and talk about setting up a system to inform landlords about loud party complaints. I’ll probably bake some oatmeal cookies for the night shift. And I’ll go to a meeting about a new development being planned near-by, because the balance between partiers and sleepers in my neighborhood is just way off.

Over the weekend, we fled Loud Week and headed for the Metolius for three days of car camping, day hikes, and the sound of the river at night. I love campgrounds; they feel like home. I spent a year of my childhood living in them—several months traveling around the country then the winter in Florida, raising money to go home to New England. For years after, we still lived in the camper in the summers, first with my cousins by their lake then at another campground. I love the scent of a campground—the fire smoke, the whiff of outhouse occasionally, the damp mulch under the trees. I love the sounds—dogs barking, kids riding bikes in circles for hours, someone attempting to chop wood, the wind in the high branches, the sound of the river at night. I love the lights that hang off of awnings in Old School set-ups, the flashlights like fireflies heading to the bathrooms at 9:30, right before bed, the huge variety of rigs and rigging that people who camp regularly develop, the old guys who like to swing by and chat when you are sitting by yourself at the table, the network of little trails that like campsites with the surrounding woods. I like campground with no amenities—just a water pump and an outhouse, a wooden table at the site—and with hot showers in white tiled bathrooms, electricity for the hotpot, and ice cream sandwiches down the road. There is a place for all sorts of campgrounds…and they all call to me when I climb into the Ark to run another round of errands, when I just want to flee my life here and hit the open road, seek balance somewhere else for a little while.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Signs of Hot Weather in the Back Yard

1. Panting chickens

2. Cats stretched out on the grass

3. The bees are all over the outside of the hive, not inside

4. The kitchen lamp has been moved out to the backyard table, along with all of our books

5. Steam canner is full of salsa

6. Tomatoes are wilting, even though they were just watered

7. The rhododendron has folded its leaves

8. The world is quiet

9. The hammock is the perfect place for a nap

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Canning Mantras

There’s one of those ubiquitous nylon grocery bags hanging in my back hall. It’s the wrong size to fit in my bike basket and rather flimsy, too, so it’s been relegated to the bag that catches the reused clear plastic bread and bulk bags that we need when shopping at the co-op. A few weeks ago, I looked more closely at it (it was a gift…). There’s a quotation along the bottom—You don’t have to do everything, but you should do something – implying, I suppose, that taking a reusable bag to the grocery will save the planet. It won’t. It might, however, reduce the number of larger bags full of bags that you have hanging in the back hall…

.After grumping about greenwashing for a few days, I realized that it was becoming my mantra—but for food preservation, not global warming. One day last week, I had tomatoes that needed roasting, plums to be pickled and dried, AND apples for sauce all lurking in the back hall. It was getting crowded out there. You don’t have to do it all tonight, I muttered, especially since you have to sit in six hours of school meetings tomorrow, but you should do something. Tomatoes, I thought. Most likely to gather fruit flies over night. Four racks of tomatoes went into the oven and then into half pint jars. Pizza and pasta sauce and soup stock is now done. (There are 60 half pints on the shelf.) The next night, it was applesauce—eight pints. Friday night was plum night—pickled and dried. Tonight, the last of the dried plums… and peaches are waiting on the dining room table. Canned peaches, dried peaches, peach chutney for Christmas presents…You don’t have to do everything, I assured myself, but you do have to do something with those peaches tomorrow.