Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Journey to the Center of the Mirth (Part One)

It has been a largely unbloggable week here as we deal with the "joys" of farm refinancing. To remind myself of life's more celebratory aspects, I'm taking some time to chronicle our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest.

After doing the morning chores, grabbing a hurried early lunch, and laying things out for the farmsitter, (including three pages of instructions, a sixpack of local ale, and our entire library of Celtic tunebooks for his perusal), we departed for the airport. Both of our flights were happily uneventful, though the second flight became a bit more interesting when the captain came on the loudspeaker and announced that we were in the care of an all-woman crew, from captain and co-pilots to flight attendants. Huzzah!

We were greeted at the Sea-Tac airport by my father, who whisked us away to the island on which I grew up. We admired the last lingering sunset light over Puget Sound as we made our way to the ferry dock. Dad flashed two little cards at the dock-worker, who zapped them with a handheld scanner. I felt wistful for the plain paper tickets of my youth. Then it was over the Sound, up the hill, and along the winding island byways, under the looming evergreens, to my parents' garden-encircled house. We were greeted by the rescue beagle's shrill bugling, the tumbling, lolloping boisteriousness of two Gorden Setter puppies, my little brother's laughing attempts to corral them, and my mother's welcoming embrace. With my father still spinning stories, my mother playing games on her laptop, and my brother chuckling at sitcoms, we stumbled off to bed in my sister's old room, tripping over puppies on the way.

We woke at five o'clock. The place felt eerily silent. It felt foreign. Something was wrong. The Piper and I looked at each other in the dim pre-dawn light. "Er-a-er-er-oooooh!" I crowed, as quietly as I could. "Ah, that's better..." The Piper murmured. We willed ourselves back to sleep for an hour, then woke up again, fighting the urge to rush out and do chores. I was afraid this would happen. I don't remember how to have a vacation!

Mid-morning, we accompanied Mother on her delivery rounds for her organic cut-flower business. She and her friend run a handful of flower stands around the island with ready-made bouquets from their gardens, as well as selling subscription bouquets to a few local businesses. When we stopped to deliver a bouquet to my childhood chiropractor, Mom treated me to a much-needed adjustment. Our chiropractor is worth the trip cross-country! (I'm uninsured and the ones in Maine charge three times as much, so I rarely use their services, regardless of how much I need them.)

We headed back out of town. It was comforting to see some familiar sights--the old hardware store, the community art center, (a revamped Odd Fellows Hall), the "village green" where the farmers sell their wares... In between the familiar storefronts, I was surprised by a thick crop of new restaurants, including one with the words "sushi bistro." My goodness!

Mother walked us through her sprawlingly beautiful, outrageously productive gardens that afternoon. From the island's glacial till, with the help of abundant compost and added topsoil, she has coaxed an amazing variety of flowers and edibles. There were ripe strawberries and tomatoes. There were heathers and heucheras and hellebores. There were sweetly fragrant roses cascading over the old copper-pipe arbor I built for her years ago. There were bold dinner-plate dahlias and delicate sprays of my favourite flower, Love-in-a-mist (Nigella).

At suppertime, The Piper and I headed a few miles down the road to Holmestead Farm. There we were introduced to the family--and farm--of a childhood friend. We toured their massive restoration project: an orchard full of heirloom-variety trees, all carefully and lovingly pruned and tended according to biodynamic principles. We peeked through high deer-fencing at their bountiful berries and other garden crops and watched their children race and tumble as chickens strutted confidently around the grounds. It would have been enough, that educational and inspirational tour of another farm family's endeavors, but there was more to come: after The Piper treated them to an impromptu concert on the smallpipes, our hosts reciprocated with a phenomenal dinner of (island-grown Scottish Highland!) beef carpaccio and a lovely fresh vegetable soup with white beans and shrimp, followed by just-picked raspberries and sliced peaches for dessert. Fueled by such excellent food and such nourishing company, we talked until long after all farmers should be in bed-- especially an island farmer who has a long sunrise commute to an Off-Farm Job on the mainland! (Sorry about that, Toby-- hope you got off to work okay!) We'll savour the memory of this visit for years to come. We look forward to the day we can return the favour and host them as guests at OUR farm.

The morning's agenda was laid out for us: set up several buckets full of hot water. Add a bit of sugar and a splash of bleach to each bucket, then stir until dissolved. Take the buckets into the garden and pick all the good blue, purple, green,--yes, green--white, pink, and peach flowers with the longest stems you can manage. Plunge the stems into the hot water. This helps "set" the petals and extends the vase-life of the flowers. When each bucket is full, take it to the Cool Room (Mom's flower-processing room in the garage). Early the next morning, these buckets would all be packed into my mother's Scion for the long drive to Portland, Oregon for My Big Brother's Wedding!!!

The rest of the day, we eased ever-closer to vacation mode, ambling out to stuff our mouths with wild blackberries, perusing my parents' bookshelves, watching the puppies play, and cooking. My little brother coached me through his favourite enchilada recipe. How lovely, to work together in the kitchen! Then it was off to collect The Piper's Son (with sweetie in tow) from the ferry dock so they could join us for an island potluck and music session. Ah, the glorious of late-summer potlucks! Smoked salmon spread! Paroxysms of Pie!

The music was hesitant at first, but The Piper played smallpipes for a while as the gathering made its way from lawn to deck. A couple of people thumbed idly through a copy of "Rise Up Singing" and called out lyrics and tunes. We managed "Bright Morning Stars" just as the sun went down.

(Tune in tomorrow for Part Two: comida a la Kelso, deck repair on-the-fly, and my Big Brother's Wedding!)


Noni said...

Gee, sounds wonderful! WIsh I was there...Oh WAIT! I was! "Island Life, Island LIfe...."

Mama Pea said...

Gosh, I am feeling homesick and nostalgic (for you) just reading about this.

Eager to read more . . .