Friday, February 10, 2012

Snow Day

When I went for my run this morning, a huge yellow moon hung low over all the houses, an ethereal visitation that made the boring old neighborhood feel like a magical city on another planet. It helped that it's been snowing a lot this week, so the neighborhood is prepped to feel otherworldly and strange. But it got me thinking, as I ran down Caley, trying to remember to watch my feet, about the spirit of place, the senseness of things.

I'm often mindful of the spirit of the place this used to be. I'll put myself to sleep at night imagining the grassy barren plains that used to stretch from horizon to horizon where my neighborhood is now. I'll think of yucca and Bouteloua grass and rabbitbrush and sage and how lonely and calm this exact spot once was; sometimes I'll pretend it's still like that, under the streets and the houses and the garbage cans out for weekly pickup. It relaxes me.

But I'm not often mindful of what's here now. That's partly because I don't have to: it's here, with that dog barking two streets over at five a.m. and the snowplows going through in the night and the vague distant hum of I-25, a mile away. It's neither lonely nor calm. It's here, and if I think of it at all I soon slip into particularities of specific people and specific routines and how I need to remember to put the recycling out in the morning and we really should have the neighbors over for dinner again and have I checked that spot on the front sidewalk that ices up, lately? I get distracted.

But with that moon hanging low and beautiful over everything this morning, I did start to sense the spirit of the neighborhood itself. It's a head-down, eyes-on-your-own-work kind of place, older and shabbier than most of the surrounding neighborhoods but still prosperous, with flashes of wild longing for something else. It's cozy and well-stocked, with an occasional need of a good airing. This is a neighborhood where half the people park on the street because their garages are full. It has a hive-y, warren-y, connected feeling. Not perfect, not idyllic, not the kind of place you'd dream of living if you were a kid growing up in Ohio--but comfortable. Not bad.

It's been a busybusy two weeks. While I was flopping all over the place bellyaching about Si and his lack of interest in a second language or possibly even a first (relieved/mixed feeling update: he accepted my offer of compensation for education and he will be taking Spanish in the fall), I was up to my panicked elbows in organizing a before-school Spanish class at school for my other child. This is far and away the most involved I have ever gotten as a parent in the affairs of the school; while I'm a genial attender of meetings and enjoyable school fundraisers and have even helped to "host" an event or two (this mostly entails following some other mother's pleasantly detailed instructions on which fruit to buy where), I'm the sort of parent who would really rather mop the floors of the school, twice, with a toothbrush, than walk in and ask a business to sponsor Muffins with Mom. And they already have a janitor, so.... Plus my eyes start to glaze over when other parents start getting excited about how many thousands of dollars were raised at the auction or how great it is that every child has a smart board of his or her own. But! A Spanish class. That I can get behind. I'm even talking about trying to organize a summer Spanish camp, which, I suspect, involves levels of organizational perseverance and salesmanship that I simply do not possess. However. Busybusy, and I can say with relief that the class has left the ground.

In other project news, I got all het up by The Wild Table and went foraging last week before the snow fell. I'm very proud of my haul:

That's at least 6 oz of premium January sour dock, right there.
I found some dock--sour dock? curly dock? some other kind of dock? not sure--growing on the sunny south-facing side of an irrigation ditch, and later went back and cut a bunch, along with some dandelion greens growing nearby. It felt reasonably back-to-the-land-ish and adventuresome, although also "I'm a forty-year-old-mom-trying-to-pretend-I-know-what-I'm-doing"ish. There was also a carpet of a delicious-smelling umbelliferae plant growing in the ditch, and although it smelled as though it might be addictively rich like arugula I thought it might also be deadly water hemlock. So I passed.

Dock was the first wild plant I ever went out and harvested and tried to eat--I think I was in college at the time, and I want to say I made quiche. Is that even possible? According to all the guidebooks, dock tastes like spinach and could thus be used, theoretically, in a faux spinach quiche. I don't even like quiche, though. I guess I might not have known that yet.

In any case, both then and now, I have to say: dock kinda tastes like leaf. Not like a yummy lettuce or spinach leaf, either. Just: leaf. Endlessly sourish and leafish. It's the kind of wild food that might make one abandon eating wild food for twenty years, in fact.

Not that it didn't taste great when stir fried in olive oil with garlic:

Those look like eggs but they're garlic.
But I think the take-home message from that recipe is that you could fry grass clippings in olive oil and garlic and they would taste great.

So. I haven't given up on the wild food yet, but I think I'll wait until later in the year, when there are plants that are actually good growing out there.


artemisia said...

I cannot imagine having to participate in school fundraisers and such. I am a HORRIBLE meeting-going-to-er.

Alien in CH said...

So true . . . olive oil and garlic make everything better. Or, in the case of rhubarb, sugar and strawberries.