Thursday, July 28, 2022


Something happened last Saturday morning.  It was as if I was breathing in wonder--though I couldn't explain why. True, we had altered our usual Saturday ritual by having breakfast at Brewed Awakenings downtown rather than French Press on south Albert, so I had an entirely different group of people to observe and wonder about.  And I had different things to notice, like all the fish made out of bits and pieces of machinery and gears.  There was one robot figure near the cashier that held up a sign reading "Peace."  I couldn't agree with it more. And the young, energetic barista was a delight all by herself.

Then Bill and I put away our books and got a bag out of the trunk for the short walk to the Farmer's Market for our first visit this year.  I bought fresh peas!  They took me half an hour to get them out of their pods, but every one that went bouncing around on the floor was fair game for my cats, who love peas and scurry for them crazily.  Go figure.  And I found tiny carrots.  Farmers' markets, I learned this week from one of my favourite e-newsletters, "Reasons to Be Cheerful," almost disappeared with the rise of supermarkets.  But it seems we can't resist buying produce--or mead, or doggie treats--from the person who grew or made it.  And I had to think of Farmers' Markets in the context of the time we're living through.  They are really important to our future.  We can't keep on with the high-carbon industrial farming that turns whole hillsides gold or blue--though I can't help admiring the sheer verve of fields of canola or flax.  And canola and flax together in the same landscape!  Still, we can't continue to ship wine from France in those heavy bottles or buy all our carrots from California. Local not only tastes better, it's always more carbon-efficient.  What you are paying for is labour, not an airplane ticket.  I couldn't help but look around and see the people at the Farmers' Market as the ones who will get us through once we really begin questioning what truly needs to be shipped thousands of miles.

Our Farmers' Market has a nice plaza downtown, but the Farmers' Market I grew up with as a child gathered on a huge parking lot we used during the school year for our early drivers' ed classes.  There were holes in the concrete where the farmers put in the legs for the old slanting wooden shelves that held their produce. I have such memories of going there with my mother.  I remember a farmer who happily cut a cantaloupe in half for us to smell, thinking I'd never smelled anything quite so rich.  He taught me to press the end of the cantaloupe that connected to the stem to gauge how ripe it is.  I remember the year--Michigan is known for its fruit trees on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan--red delicious apples arrived in farmers' markets.  Our favourite apple seller showed us the characteristic little bumps on the bottom of a red delicious and cut one to give us a taste.  So different from the softer, more mealy Spartans or MacIntosh that were the apples we usually ate.  Its crispness was a delight, a kind of clarity that echoed the late August sunlight.  Every year, Mother bought a peck of peaches and a peck of pears--so beautiful in their brocade skins--to can.  We would sit in the back yard under our elm tree, in our clamshell chairs, a roasting pan on our laps for the peels, and peel fruit for days and days, it seemed.  

Maybe memory was the source of my wonder?  The memories were rich and the crowds were heartwarming and varied.  There was sitar music, and the all the things people had made and grown created a colourful kaleidoscope. It was a delight to do out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye people-watching. The Farmer's Market was a feast for the senses.  But I didn't quite think the Farmers' Market was the source of my wonder.

When we got home, the groceries put away, it was time to fertilize the garden.  I do the roses and Bill does everything else that blooms.  I do the shrubs that don't bloom and Bill gives the ferns a good watering.  Then I do the vegetable garden.  Regina is greengreengreen this summer, thanks to the rain.  The roses were past their peak--I would deadhead them and the itinerant daisies the next day--but the liiles and the hydrangea were on their way and the clematis hadn't stopped blooming.  Maybe that was the cause of the wonder I felt?  Frankly, after hauling a dozen watering cans with their proper dose of fertilizer in them, I was simply tired.

So I went in the house and opened all the windows.  Saturday began cool and it would stay relatively cool.  We could have all the fresh air we wanted.  No closing drapes against the sun or closing down the windows in the afternoon.  And that was when it hit me.  It was the coolness that I'd been walking through all day that stirred something.  Maybe a hint of fall--my favourite time of year?  I think it was actually that I didn't have to work against Mother Nature.  We were on the same side all day, and the weather forecast, which turned out to be mostly right, though it missed a few periods of rain, projected cool days all week.

Solastalgia is the word we've chosen for the grief we feel as we notice all the changes in our environment, on our planet.  But a summer day that was just a summer day, not an argument about how hot I liked it or about how dark rooms needed to be to keep us cool or about how I would sleep tonight--that summer day rekindled wonder.

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