Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Ordinary is Cause for Celebration!

Today, I was heading up the driveway after my walk and off in the distance, I could hear the little campanile at Reiman Gardens playing its tinkly version of God Bless America. I had to laugh because it sounded so laborious. At first, I wasn't sure what I was hearing, but when I stopped to really listen, sure enough, it was God Bless America. Why was I hearing that song? Then, aha!, it was the 4th of July. Why not that song?

Several years ago, I was taking a course at Iowa State, and as I was walking across campus, I heard a playful, and vaguely familiar, tune coming from the campanile. This is the real campanile on Central Campus, the one in which a professor from the School of Music climbs the stairs daily at 11:45 AM to hammer out a recital for all to hear. I was struggling to name that tune and when I looked around, everyone seemed to be listening, walking just a bit slower with head cocked, trying to identify this song.

B-I-N-G-O! That was the tune, B-I-N-G-O. After a few refrains, there was this collective realization, a true Aha Moment!, where it clicked for all of us standing there on Central Campus. Something so ordinary and familiar from our childhood changed our demeanor as we continued on our way to class. We allowed our silly grins to show on our faces and we stepped a little brighter in celebration of this much beloved music.

With that moment of recogntion in my driveway this morning, I also realized something that I heard Garrison Keillor say the other night on "Prairie Home Companion". As he walked through the crowd in the closing moments of the show, he commented that he loved this country. At first I thought it kind of hokey, but then realized what he was really saying. It didn't have anything to do with politics, or religion, or flag-waving, or patriotism. It had everything to do with the people sitting there in his audience, listening to him spin his stories about Lake Wobegon. It had to do with the good people who live on the farms, in the cities, and everywhere in between.

For me, it has to do with the people we meet at the Highlandville Dance on a beautiful summer's evening in NE Iowa, or at the church service on Sunday morning at the Presbyterian Church Camp next to Lakeside Lab in NW Iowa. I love this country because of the people listening to the Nadas perform on this 4th of July in Bandshell Park in Ames, IA. It has everything to do with my family, friends, and neighbors who play such an important role in my daily existence here on Friley Road.

When the neighbors all got together tonight to drink beer and fresh strawberry margaritas!, to roast weenies, then watch the fireworks explode over our heads in celebration of the 4th of July, I sat back and relished how we all clicked, having been together just like this many times over the years. When I (the oldest) was holding the baby (the newest) so Mom and Dad could sit down to eat their food, I realized how good it felt to be part of something as simple as sharing food, drink, and stories. I also realized how important something as ordinary as B-I-N-G-O, or God Bless America is always and truly cause for celebration.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Highlandville Waltz

Last night our neighbor, who had been wringing his hands for days over successfully making home-made ice cream, finally gave in to his 2-yr old and whipped up some extraordinary strawberry ice cream. And he shared with us!

That first spoonful of fresh strawberry flavor was um,um good. It brought back some special memories of Highlandville, a little hamlet in NE Iowa, the summer dances, and the Big Canoe Lutheran Church Strawberry Festival and Ice Cream Social. Several days back in a post about the Sattre General Store, I promised a story about strawberries. This seems like a good post for today since people are again sharing fotos of their fresh harvest.

When I lived in Decorah, every Saturday night during the summer, there was a dance at the old Highlandville country school. The youngest band member was in his late 60's and the oldest, the fiddler, was pushing 90. The Highlandville Players had entertained those attending these dances for years. I had the time of my life, dancing with strangers and with friends, with my doctor, my dentist, and my accountant, all in one night! All that dancing generated a lot of heat, so cold beer from the coolers strapped in the pickup beds and moonshine passed in quart jars were welcomed refreshments during the stroll outside to cool off.

In late June, Big Canoe Lutheran Church would hold its annual Strawberry Festival and Ice Cream Social. Again, there was music from the Highlandville Players. There were beautiful white tents set up in the gardens around the church. And there was strawblicious home-made ice cream, strawberry shortcake (with home-baked biscuit cakes), strawberry angel food cake, strawberry-rhubarb pie, big bowls of fresh, whole strawberries, and strawberry pop from Spring Grove Bottlers.

Those church ladies sure knew a thing or two about fresh, home-grown food and how to throw a party. People came from far and wide to this little church out in the middle of nowhere to celebrate the goodness of this earth.

I checked the church calendar this year, hoping maybe to catch the festival when I journeyed up to NE Iowa for BioBlitz 2009. They still have their ice cream social, but no mention of strawberries. I caught a note on their website that the membership numbers are at their lowest ever. It seems that all those church ladies are no longer in their strawberry patches, or in the church kitchen serving up their strawberry-rhubarb pie, but perhaps out back in the cemetery, watching over all those who came to socialize and eat their bowls of plain old vanilla ice cream.

Happy Birthday, July Babies!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Energizer Bunny Hits Home!

Boy, have I been busy in the garden. It's like I have a new set of eyes and I am seeing so many things that need attention. I guess the beautiful June days might have something to do with it. No heat, no humidity. Just bliss outdoors!

Yesterday I was talking to a friend across the street and seeing my house from her front yard, I noticed how the low-hanging branches on the trees blocked the view to my house. So I got busy. With heavy-duty pruners, a hand saw, and my Felco #8's, I went to work and carved out a space that now reveals the white picket fence, the front entry and the colorful window boxes.

Early this morning I met the garbage men to purchase yard waste stickers. Then I rode my bike out to Lowes for a sprayer hose attachment, so I could hose down the screened porch. Once that task was complete, I left it to dry in the breeze before moving the furniture back in. I headed back out to the front yard to bag and bundle the trimmings from the shrub- and tree-pruning.

I headed back inside for a few minutes to start my bread dough. Once I had that assembled and left to rise, I gathered, sorted, and started the first load of laundry. Then I headed back out to empty the compost bucket and ended up in the veggie garden for some major weeding. Gigi's four hours of pulling weeds yesterday left me feeling a tiny bit neglectful of the tiny plot I farm. I found a pepper, 3 kohlrabi, some radishes, and 4-5 smallish onions. I have tiny beans growing and the cilantro is scrumptious!

Once I had that finished (sort of ;{), I decided to mow the back yard and the way-back garden. I swept the patio, sawed some broken tree limbs for the fire pit. By now the porch floor and furniture were dry, so I carried everything back into the porch, and headed inside to clean up.

Tess needed a ride to downtown to meet up with some friends B4 swimming, so I showered, then started a list for groceries. As we were pulling out of the drive, a white BMW pulled up beside us and asked where a certain street was in town. He was on the wrong side of town, so I told him to follow me; we were headed that way. He followed us into town and found his business, so I guess I did my good deed for the day.

I stopped by the bank, then headed for the grocery store, where I ran into 2 of my best friends. We chatted as we shopped, which made for a delightful passage of time on a rather mundane task. The second friend suggested that we get together on Thursday for some kayaking on Ada Hayden lake, Ames' newest city park. I look forward to that. (She called when I got home and asked if we could kayak tonight instead; something was already scheduled for Thursday. I just got back and it was awesome!)

Once home, I put the groceries away, and here I am recounting my day, but need to wrap this up and start supper. The troops are going to be home shortly! Oh, I forgot, I made the rolls and baked them, so we have fresh bread for supper tonight.

It feels good that I got so much accomplished today. It has been pretty lazy around here this last week. But it's late, so I think I'll call it a day. Good night.