Snapshot

A beautiful day in July.  Not too hot, with a strong cool breeze.  It is meat pick up day.  We got our postcard and friendly call from Polyface farm last week telling us it is time to come get our order.  T&E meats had called to ask us how we wanted our beef butchered.  I recalled mom and dad doing this, but as an adult I was bewildered.  I checked their web site, and found that the Salatins had been behind the resurrection of T&E (the former owners had been past retirement age and needed to sell).  Local butchers have largely gone the way of many animals in the world- extinct.  The folks behind Polyface and some of their friends knew this was a mistake, and managed to save one of the last in the area.

So we blundered our way through a cutting order with the help of a funny and kind young butcher.  Then we waited. We got the call, and this morning we loaded kids and coolers into the van.  The quality of the sunlight bouncing off of the cornstalks as we drove the “back way” was amazing.  The coolness of the streams and woods blew into the open windows when the road curved into a hollow.  The buzzards were out- garbage men for the road kill, and the bright yellow tits moved so fast in front of the hood that all I would see were flashes of yellow and black.  The farm itself does not distinguish from any other on the road.  There is one small sign, nothing else.  No fanfare, and to get to the shop one has to drive around back of the farmhouse itself.  Evidence of the recent conference, confab/shindig that drew over 1600 people from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, France, and other points on the globe was no where to be seen.  Two beautiful, tow headed boys bounded of the shop screen door and stopped short eyeing my boys.  They were the same ages, and struck up a quick conversation about the white mountain of a dog panting on the concrete porch.  After a short sizing up, all four boys took off.

We walked in and let the folks at the counter know we were there for our order.  As usual, a friendly conversation was struck about the success of the shindig, the abysmal small organic farm rules, how the Valley is a lot like Napa before it became overhyped, and getting local farms to cut back on pesticides and the like to lower the skyrocketing nitrogen counts in the rivers.  The pork and chickens got loaded first, then the side of beef.  Once in the van, the boys could not be found.  All four were seen playing near the house after some searching, and ran up to announce that they were going to see the new chicks.  What could we do but follow?  The boys gently held the chicks, and laughed about their behavior.  Then it was time to see the bunnies.  Off they zipped, and again we followed.  The impromptu tour was wonderful.  The boys were gentle and kind to the small creatures they got to hold and observe, then off again to some new site.  Rocks HAD to be thrown in the stream, and old baguettes that were intended for the big brown chickens became quick swords.  We had to leave or the meat would begin to get warm, but walking toward the van was not without some wistful whining.  My eldest quickly invited the Polyface boys to come visit when they were in town saying, “Like city mouse and country mouse!”   An airplane toy gotten last year at the Smithsonian, which had fascinated one of the Polyface boys all along the tour, was spontaneously given with a “You can keep it”.  I nodded in agreement.  Thank you’s and waves, and we were off.

Right now the smell of cooking coq au vin fills the house, the basement freezer door will just close, and we are off to pick up grandpa for an antique car show and antique tractor parade.  The zucchini and tomatoes need to be picked, and I have given over a patch of parsley to the monarch caterpillars.  The pumpkin vine almost spans the whole length of the garden, and tiny pumpkins have sprouted. The new pop-up camper sits waiting for a last summer trip to visit to relatives, and the creeping morning glory has made a full assault on the lavender bee garden.   Robotics camp has another week, and the pool still echoes with screams in mid-afternoon.  This is mid-July, 2011.

Time

We measure time in segments, equal segments of varying types that represent an imagined progression of events.  But we experience time much differently.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has made a public reputation from his book “Flow”, which covers both creativity and satisfaction/happiness, pleasure; how we experience time when we are fully engaged in an activity.  I have found his ideas useful, if often difficult to adequately research or measure. There have been more recent theorists of the experience of time, and they have ponderous insights.  Colloquially, people speak of how they experience time frequently.  I find myself reflecting quite a bit lately on how time seems to have changed for me.  It is as if it was in a holding pattern for a while, a slow stream rambling along.  The suddenly it accelerated, and wham!  I feel as if I suddenly entered a new stage of life.  It all started with my Grandmother passing this past winter.  Then like falling dominoes multiple events occurred in quick succession (See? A sensation of “quick”= a few months). This week feels like I woke up and am now symbolically much more gray haired.  We are caring for my father in ways we never had to before, and saw his much-loved sister in a state of fragility on a visit.  As I said to husband, we have moved into a new generational slot.  I felt it coming last fall when I got to spend time with a cousin’s adult child whom I like very much.  My youngest starts formal elementary school this fall, and that adds to the sensation.I have read that time does not really exist.  It is a construct we use to describe experience, but in physics it is not really a useful idea.  Change occurs in matter, but the meaning of that change is up for debate.  There are so many points of reference on this topic, just thinking about it leads my hands to stop typing, and my brain to wander.  Perhaps it is not a useful blog topic at all.  A clock metes out 60 second slots.  I need to get up and do things before the sun sets again, before my children’s bellies growl.  All sorts of ways to measure change, time.  It is the reacting to the measure that makes all the difference I suppose.  I can watch the change, passive, or I can act.  The change happens, and I participate.  That it sometimes feels utterly out of my control, and in sped up fashion; that I feel the need to react quickly, that is a perceptual problem.  I have no more time for this today.  Maybe more time tomorrow.

Waiting for the Plumber

Nothing to be done.

He should be here.
He didn’t say for sure he’d come.
And if he doesn’t come?
We’ll come back tomorrow.
And then the day after tomorrow.
Possibly.
And so on.
The point is—
Until he comes.
You’re merciless.
We came here yesterday.
Ah no, there you’re mistaken.
What did we do yesterday?
What did we do yesterday?
Yes.
Why . . . (Angrily.) Nothing is certain when you’re about.
In my opinion we were here.
Well?
That makes no difference.
You’re sure it was this evening?
What?
That we were to wait.
He said Saturday. (Pause.) I think.
You think.
I must have made a note of it. (He fumbles in his pockets, bursting with miscellaneous rubbish.)
(very insidious). But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? (Pause.) Or Monday? (Pause.) Or Friday?
 It’s not possible!
Or Thursday?
What’ll we do?
If he came yesterday and we weren’t here you may be sure he won’t come again today. 
 
Let’s go.  Yes, let’s go. 
 
My apologies to Sam Beckett.  But he had it right about life.  He also had it right that in the pathos, there is comedy.  
 
We met with the plumber.  We needed to take down the cabinet.  When did he say he would come again?  I thought you were supposed to call.  No, I think we said two weeks.  No, I think he said we should call this week.  We still need to take down the dry wall.  Yes.  Let’s take down the dry wall.  We can’t go camping if he comes.  No.  We need to make clear when he is coming.
 
Yes.  This was a real conversation with Husband.   Completely unintentionally parallel.  Oh, Beckett.  We hardly knew ye.  But we know of what you write.
 
A first weekend in July, 2011.  We wait for babies to be born, a brother to become a father, a father to become a grandfather (again, if he does not pass before), myself to be an aunt; the tomatoes to ripen, the sun to set and temperature to fall.  A plumber who said he would come.  We can not leave, we dare not leave.  We do not leave.  The waiting is all.