Thursday, May 12, 2005

Farmer's Market

I have been having a rough couple of days because the Farmer’s Market was so good. I’ve made this decision to wrap up my life here in the fall and go back to Chicago to live with my brother Daniel and maybe our friend Alan. But there was so much community and so much joy at the Farmer’s Market that I’ve been a little conflicted. I worry that I won’t ever find community like this again. I also miss that time in my life (3-6 months ago) when I didn’t think about the future or have any plans. The resting I could accomplish in that state and the sense of freedom were intense.

This is the lay-out of the Farmer’s Market:

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Notice the little red circle that is my position all the way around the corner at the back away from all the action. Since I don’t have an income at stake, I’m actually OK with my spot. Also, any drop-in vendors are placed around me so I’ll get to meet lots of different people. This first week, a woman named Jane was selling her rocks that she’d made designs on by sandblasting them. She’s got this great Southern accent and has an extremely powerful-looking frame. It turns out that she’s a bodybuilder (and a vegan!) and that a year and a half ago, she won the title of Strongest Woman in the World in the 50-55 age group. Pretty impressive, huh. She’s also a lot of fun. I like listening to her talk to the people that were drawn like magnets to her table of rocks. It seems that there is a large populations of lithophiliacs out there. I heard one person say that he really liked flat rocks and that he spent most of his outdoor hours looking for just the right spot to have worked the rocks to flatness. Another woman liked perfectly spherical rocks. She kept bowling balls in her living room as decoration because she liked the shape. Another woman said like she was giving out a reluctant secret, “You know where I find the best rocks: Whiskey Creek.” To which Jane responded excitedly in her deep Southern accent, “That’s my favorite spot, too!” These conversations always ended with an agreement that the hunt was the best part of collecting rocks. I hope Jane’s stall is next to mine again this upcoming weekend.

Because my booth is set so far back, I get front row seats to the entertainment that people bring. A woman in her forties with great long grey hair named Nancy brought 6 giant marimbas. They looked like giant Orff instruments like we had in elementary music school and at church choir: big wooden xylophones with PVC pipes cut to different sizes below each bar of wood to resonate the sound. She announced that all four of her grown children were home for Mother’s Day to play music with her. It was phenomenal. I can just imagine their house while they grew up, with one picking up the mallets to play tunes so that others would be called in to join the fun. Nancy had such joy in her face as she bounced around, counting off the beat for the crowd to clap along and yelling, “One more time!” to keep a particular song going. The music of different sized xylophones played together is extremely complex. I liked picking out the individual note patterns of each instrument, then fuzzing out my ears to listen to the combined sound the way you fuzz out your eyes to look at the Christmas tree to see if the lights are evenly distributed. This Von Trapp family of hippies played for close to two hours off and on. At other times, the Slappy Tubbs band played at different parts of the marketplace. Slappy Tubbs is four guys who are good musicians and have taken on hillbilly characters. It is true environmental theatre like you would find at the Renaissance Faire. They have bits that they do to play with the crowd, like stopping in the middle of a song to pose for a picture if someone is aiming a camera at them. They wear mullet wigs and bright orange mesh-back caps with camouflage vests. However, they have created these costumes and characters so convincingly that they do not seem like a parody; they seem like just a blue-grass band with a sense of humor transplanted from Kentucky to Orcas Island. And, since the music was good, the performance had depth, rather than just being a silly show. The entertainment continued a little further over in the empty part of the field. One of the local blacksmiths had created a giant see-saw that, in addition to going up and down also spun on an axis. It was entertainment because the seats were a good 4 or 5 feet off the ground and the plank was a 10 to 12 foot long log of driftwood. Precarious would be an understatement. I don’t think anyone lost teeth while holding the log in a bear hug while they whirled around and up and down, but it certainly looked like a few people came close. No one paid Slappy Tubbs or Nancy or Zacharya to be there. They didn’t put out hats. They were there because they wanted to share what they loved doing with the community.

Personally, I felt like my contribution was successful. I took my worm bin and made all sorts of eye contact with people when they looked at it and asked if they wanted to see my worms. Only one guy turned me down all day. I had conversations with people and got a good sense of what additionally things I should have available next week. I was amazed at how easily my Renaissance Faire skills came back to me. Being in that environment made me want to give people the experience that they came to the market for. That meant making eye contact and simply saying hello. That meant drawing the interest out and asking questions. I loved it. I felt a great sense of contentment and connection with this community. On Monday, though, I looked back at that pure joy of participation and worried that I won’t find that so easily or at all on the mainland. I know I can’t stay here because I still have ambitions for my life and those can only be fulfilled in areas of larger populations. I know that I want to be with my family. But, damnit, I also want to be part of this fantastic community!

So, for two days, I accomplished absolutely nothing. Monday, I slept in because I had worked almost every waking morning of the weekend. I actually went back to the Doe Bay Café to work out some logistics regarding a potential field trip we were going to take to get food handlers licenses. I drove Bisquan into town and hung out with him for a little while and then met up with Marissa. By the time I got home, I only had enough time to work out, eat and shower before I had to go get the ferry to pick Jeff up from the week and a half long trek. Tuesday was similar in its total lack of accomplishments, despite the dishes that needed to be done and the grantwriting that my father needs. Without really engaging in any one project, it was time to go to choir rehearsal. I really didn’t want to go to Rhonda’s today. I really wanted to spend a third day moping. But, I had promised and it really sucks for her when people back out. So I went. And the first part of the day went slowly. I yawned a lot and did routine tasks like cutting drip tape and writing on plant stakes. However, at the end of the day, after fertilizing furrows with crab shells and organic fertilizer and digging my hands into the composted manure to put another layer in the furrows, then actually planting the broccolis and cabbages and kohlrabis into the furrows with the drip tape, I realized that I was feeling pretty good. It ended up being only Rhonda, Faith and me and we had a great day of girl talk and quiet in equal measures. The girl talk was good for me; I don’t get a lot of that since I spend a lot of time with Jeff or with mixed groups. It’s amazing how often farming can lead to conversations about sex. All that fertility and fecundity. So, I feel better. I haven’t resolved the cognitive dissonance of wanting to move back to Chicago and wanting to stay on Orcas. Of course, I don’t need to. But I believe that more now that I’ve been making the world a better place for a day. Funny how that works.


Phyllis said...

Hi Rebecca dear,
I drank too much coffee tonight and now I am up at 2am looking for things to do. Loved your response to the Farmer's Market. I have always fantisized about making baskets to sell at the Orcas FM. Maybe someday. We never miss it when on Island. Sounds like you are moving in a new direction with your future plans. New directions are good and they don't mean you can't ever return to former places to enjoy and rest. When I loose a piece of my life that I love or move onto something else, I always remind myself that nothing is forever nor does it need to be. Once we've had something, we always have it in our memory. Doesn't mean we always have to have it, keep it, whatever. It's always there for recall and re-enjoyment.
Was the Market in a new place?
It didn't look like the park.
I assume you were able to scoop Jeff up at the Ferry Dock and that he is home safely with great stories to tell. I'll try to catch up with him this weekend.
Our garen is looking good and I'm enjoying the work it takes. Fountain is back in working order and lovely sounding.
I'm not sure what "choose an idenity" below means.
Much love, Phyllis

PrincessMax said...

Hi Phyllis, (Phyllis is Jeff's mom. She has also gone by the names Pidge and Nana in my life.)

Faith has actually started making baskets and she's pretty territorial, so you'd have to tough it out with her for awhile. :-) The market's not in a new place, but they;ve changed the set-up of the stands to accomadate the large number of participants this year.

Jeff was successfully retrieved but I had to go over to Lopez to get him. He had been sick (he's still milking that one) and left the trek early. Since the whole group was being picked up on Lopez, it was easy to go get him.

I'm glad you found your identity. I'm still looking. :-)