14 September 2009

a place for everything (and everyone)

i may have mentioned that cosmo likes to put things where they belong. i wouldn't say he is obsessive about it (yet) but he seems to find great satisfaction in knowing where an item lives, and returning it to its home. i like that too. every time i move into a new place (which i have done a LOT of in my 40+ years) i have a renewed fantasy of finally having a place for everything. i know i could manage all the stuff i drag around, if i could just get it organized. and, i must say, over the years, and moves, i have made great strides. my art supplies, for instance, are compartmentalized. i have a bin labeled "glue and glue guns" one called "small paints and ink" a bin dedicated to "tape," i have a drawer with only small boxes, to be decorated, or otherwise crafted into something wonderful. so, it is not all fantasy.

recently, i have found an activity for cosmo and i that puts these "everything in its place" skills to use. we have been going to mother hubbard's cupboard one afternoon each week, to help stock the pantry shelves. MHC's food pantry is a wonderful place. the premise is to offer food to people in need, in a grocery store-like environment, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. the criteria for shopping there is simple: you can shop if you don't have enough money to eat, and it operates mostly on an honor system. they serve an average of 1,878 people per week.

they also offer workshops on nutrition, gardening, and food preservation, and host an in-store lending library and resource shelf. many customers are also volunteers, and the result is an inclusive, close-knit, supportive community.

i wasn't sure, at first, if cosmo would enjoy it or not. i should have guessed that he would quickly get into the groove of taking items out of boxes, and placing them neatly on the shelves, in perfect rows, with the labels facing out. sometimes he likes to create elaborate systems of handing things up to me (if the shelf is too high) which may not be as "helpful," but it is cooperative, and engaging for both of us. he also likes to sort the recycling, and help tidy up before the shoppers arrive.

i thought he might get distracted by the food, and only want to taste things. this is often what happens when he "helps" me cook. but he understood early on, that we are just organizing the food, for other people, and he's fine with that. i also worried his interest would wane after a half hour or so, but he really likes being there, never wants to leave early, and cries if we can't make it to our shift. i am not sure if he gets the concept of "helping people," i think he just likes the idea of working, and of being needed, in a setting that is not his home. the staff are so welcoming, we both felt like part of the family right away.

it has been great for me too. i'm forming new friendships, and i had the chance to share my passion for local food preservation, by co-teaching their canning and jamming workshops last week. we've also passed on some of our excess produce from the garden, as part of the plant a row for the hungry program. i am grateful to live in such a vibrant community, and to have the opportunity to contribute.

10 September 2009


Homemade Baby Food Making Workshop
Presented by cake

Saturday, September 12, 2009 @1:00
at Barefoot Herbs
$8.00 per adult
615 W. Kirkwood Ave. Bloomington
Phone: 812.339.5090

New parents often don’t believe they have the time or energy to make food for their baby. But homemade baby food is easier than you think. It costs less than store-bought, and is certainly more nutritious. We will discuss the benefits of making your own baby food, demonstrate techniques for preparing, preserving and storing your homemade baby food, share simple recipes and more.

Lap Babies Welcome! Must register and prepay in advance.

06 September 2009

spirited away

i was weeding a flower bed last week, when i came across a monarch caterpillar. not a huge surprise, since the zinnia bed my landlord planted before he left, has been attracting many species of butterfly, including monarchs. but from what i understand, monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed, and milkweed is the exclusive source of nutrition for the monarch caterpillar. we have no milkweed in our yard.

so, i put the caterpillar in our old aquarium (minus the water, of course) and went down to our neighborhood stand of milkweed to pick some. i ran into ria, the one who stewards the community garden beds that run along brayn creek. she told me about the milkweed stand, and said she thought many of the caterpillars that hatched there this year didn't make it due, perhaps, to wasps. so, i felt it was important to do what i could to help my caterpillar make it to butterflyhood.

the little striped thing went to town on that milkweed. for two days, all it did was munch, sleep and poop. then carl and cosmo and i headed down the street for fresh milkweed, after dinner, on the third day. we left the caterpillar in the aquarium, inside the screened in porch.

when we returned, about an hour later, he had vanished. seriously. into thin air. i was baffled. first off, there was no reason for him to wander, and he hadn't been interested in exploring anything but leaves the whole time he had been in there. it wasn't like he was constantly searching for a way out. there were a couple of holes in the lid that were big enough for him to fit through, but it was difficult to imagine it happening. even if he did escape, how far could he get, in such a short time? i searched all around the immediate vicinity. not a clue. nothin'. nada.
my emotional response to the caterpillar's disappearance surprised me. i was devastated. cosmo seemed slightly bummed, but he clearly was not as invested in this little project as i was. carl was as confused as i was, and comforted me at first, but then, ya know... there is a kid to bathe, read to and get into bed...life goes on.

but i could not let go. and i had to fight back tears for the rest of the evening. that night, i dreamed the caterpillar returned, and i swear, i left some leaves out on the table, just in case.
but the next morning, he was still gone, and i had to face the facts, even if it didn't make any sense.

there is a larger life lesson here, i think, for other things that are currently bringing me down. someday soon, i'm afraid i am going to wake up in the morning, realize that this beautiful opportunity for meaningful transformation of our broken health care system has been hijacked by the heartless, misinformed, right-wing fringe. i won't understand it. there won't be a rational explanation for it, i will be devastated, and...i will have to except it.