On the Solstice, Contemplating Home

On the longest day of the year, one week after leaving Playa, I’ve been thinking about all that “home” means to me. I loved Oregon’s pristine natural beauty. But I couldn’t wait to come home and walk the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood. Taking my dog Marley for a walk was high on my list on my first morning back.

It’s not perfect here. There’s litter, unlike in Lake County, OR, and sadly many of the neighborhood ash trees are not treated for emerald ash borer, so they are dying—a distressing sight. Poison ivy is rampant in untended corners. Plus it’s really damned humid. But I still walk along with my heart singing “home,” loving the big sycamores and tulip poplars, enjoying all those daylilies and clematis vines, sampling a mulberry here and there.

And getting the latest scoop. Down the street, my big softie neighbor still has the pit bull who wandered into his yard—the one he swore he wouldn’t keep. Farther on, the retiree who always complimented me on my dog (Lord, how that poodle can prance) tells me he and his wife are moving to a condo after 47 years here, but a young family up the street will be moving in. I learn about another neighbor’s dog’s bout with pneumonia. And so on.

Walking is one of the ways I savor my neighborhood, but it’s not the only way. About the second thing I did that day was ride my bike with Judy to the kickoff of the Irvington Folk Festival, a weeklong extravaganza that opened with an outdoor bluegrass concert. I’m no bluegrass aficionado, though I love a good Rocky Top as much as the next person. What I went for, and got, was the people.

In the crowd were Rosemary, and also Laura, two women who helped me found the Irvington Green Initiative years ago. Also our neighbor Pat, who told us of a possible grant for a native plant/foraging project we’ve been scheming.

We sat with Heidi and Mike, longtime gardening buddies who happened to bike up at the same time as we did, midconcert. Behind us were Jerome and his family. That was fortuitous, because I could update him on our sweetgum tree. (Arborist Jerome has a business called Tree-Centric, which I’ve blogged about before. A few weeks ago he assessed our ailing sweetgum, taking soil samples and cutting away girdling roots. The cost of his professional expertise? A loaf of homebaked bread.)

Jerome offered both his strawberry patch and serviceberry grove for picking. Though the strawberries were done, here's the lovely haul of serviceberries my friends and I made that morning.

Jerome offered both his strawberry patch and serviceberry grove for picking. Though the strawberries were done, here’s the lovely haul of serviceberries my friends and I made that morning.

Somehow, over the years, my roots have grown deep in this place. I grieve with friends who lost their 13-year-old German Shepherd, one of a gang of Marley met in the park as a pup. I pick mulberries and serviceberries (some from Jerome’s yard) while chatting with good friends. My yoga buddies welcome me back vociferously. I barter for Thai massage from a neighbor.

All that, plus (last night) hearing local musicians rock out, after eating at the new deli that sources everything it can locally.

How did I get so lucky? I don’t know, but I’ll contemplate the answer while biking to the park for the folk festival’s finale (and, bonus: alternative gift fair).

A Week in the Life, Irvington-style

Last week, I realized how much I rely on my neighborhood for commerce, entertainment, exercise, and other essentials. To wit:

Tuesday morning I took part in the Writing Habit, a weekly mini-retreat for writers put on by Urban Plot in the library of a local church. With two other writers tapping away on their keyboards, I cranked out some verbiage.

Kitley finds writing more taxing than stalking sparrows. Sometimes I agree.

Kitley finds writing more taxing than stalking sparrows. Sometimes I agree.

In the evening I walked two blocks to Dairy Queen (OK, it’s not locally owned, but a business in our own little plaza). My neighbor had called a meeting, sweetening the deal with ice cream. We were there to explore teaming the Irvington Green Initiative and a budding arts initiative with local organizations like Trade School Indy to share admin/event/classroom space sometime in the future. An intriguing possibility.

Wednesday, before sunup, I went to earlybird piyo (Pilates/yoga fusion) at Irvington Wellness Center, my favorite place for yoga and other such pursuits. In the afternoon, I biked over to meet a writer friend at Starbucks (because our old haunt, Lazy Daze Coffeehouse, tragically closed this summer).

I walked from there to Help My Mac Plus, where I found a refurbished MacBook Air with my name on it. A stunning development, given how terminally conflicted I am about gadgets and the resources they require. I had just begun to put out feelers for a lightweight laptop for my upcoming research trip/ writers’ residency. I’m thrilled with my find, awarding myself double bonus points for supporting a local business and avoiding buying new.

Thursday evening it was back to Irvington Wellness for yoga class, taught by another Irvingtonian (I inquired after her hens, as one does here).

Friday evening was the highlight. First we went out to eat with a friend at local eatery Legend, where the owners know us by name and the food is delicious. Then to see Delta Duo and friends perform at Bookmamas in the Underground 9.

JJ plays a resonator slide guitar in the style used by Delta bluesmen of the 1930s. Irina's violin accompaniment is haunting.

JJ plays a resonator slide guitar in the style used by Delta bluesmen of the 1930s. Irina’s violin accompaniment is haunting. Photo courtesy of the Delta Duo.

Two local singer/songwriters kicked it off, after which the headliners laid it down. Delta Duo pairs JJ the Chicago-born bluesman with Irina the classically trained Russian violinist for a sound like none other. Suffice to say this monthly show will be a priority from now on. (Bonus: no cover charge.)

But the weekend wasn’t over yet. Saturday after supper, Judy and I rode our bikes to our new neighborhood ice cream shop Wyliepalooza, then popped in on old friends to catch up.

And Sunday was the farmers market. Judy and I biked over, bought bread and produce, and ran into several friends, including the aforementioned JJ and Irina.

This is the third mention of ice cream in this post. Confession: I actually can't eat ice cream! Wish I could!

This is the third mention of ice cream in this post. Confession: I actually can’t eat ice cream. Wish I could!

In short, it was a great week to be an Irvingtonian. What’s new in your neighborhood?