"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Friends and Hymenoptera

Memorial Day weekend. Old friends came in from out of town. I've been down to see them - Portland, Oregon - fairly recently, but they had not visited the farm since our housewarming party nine years ago, when it still existed mostly as potential.  

They arrived Saturday afternoon, in the middle of a cold rainstorm. We hugged, and ate tacos, and commiserated about the weather. They had been planning to camp, but decided to take advantage of our commodious and dry RV instead. Having made preparations for a barbecue the following day that including buying three dozen local oysters, I hoped and prayed that the weather would change.

It did. Yesterday, Sunday, was an absolutely perfect Pacific Northwest day. There has not been such a perfect Pacific Northwest day yet this year, or perhaps ever. The sky was mostly a clear cerulean blue, but decorated with impressive and towering cumulonimbus clouds that bore watching and incited speculation. The temperature was high enough to be hot on the shoulders and brow, unless you deliberately sought the breeze, which was cool and sea-scented and right there waiting to be found. 

After a breakfast of sourdough pancakes and our own ham, I took their 9 year old daughter with me to do chores and she learned how to milk a goat. She and Paloma, my 11 year old, hit it off quite well and spent the next little while looking for eggs in the hayloft and jumping on the trampoline. 

Later I took them to Lynden. Lynden has lately been undergoing a sort of renaissance and has some very nice new shops and bookstores to explore. In the beautiful Lynden city park, our children played while we sat by the stream and watched ravens bathing in the cool, quick moving water. A pileated woodpecker landed a scant ten feet from us and began hammering for his breakfast, until the ravens chased him off. 

On the way home, we stopped at a U-pick strawberry farm. The five of us spent about twenty minutes picking berries and brought home twenty pounds of fragrant, beautiful fruit. Then my girlfriend and I spent a leisurely afternoon drinking beer and preparing side dishes. The menfolk drowsed in the shade and the children took turns falling on their backs, arms spread wide, into the head-high grass. 

Around five o'clock, we roused ourselves and wandered slowly about gathering chairs and folding tables and tablecloths and firewood, setting up for the feast. Homero did his usual fire-starting trick involving a blowtorch and a little bit of home-brew biodiesel. My sister and her family arrived bearing tofu-dogs and corn on the cob. 

A long afternoon slowly faded into evening as we shucked oysters and gnawed on corn and drank local microbrews. The adults talked about everything and nothing: politics; philosophy; the pressing minutiae of our lives.  The children ran about and hollered. The fire leaped high and orange as the sun set and the stars came out. I saw an amazingly bright meteor in the southeastern sky that nobody else saw. My sister and her family drifted off. The ice in the cooler melted and the shells and the empties piled up. The beers became lukewarm and unattractive. Eventually we turned a hose on the fire, and staggered off in various directions to sleep. 

This morning dawned fine and hot. Not a cloud overhead. My friends wanted to get an early start home, so I only brewed coffee and used the leftover steak from last night and some canned ranchera salsa to make a quick breakfast, folded into hot corn tortillas with a smear of goat cheese. Farewell. Happy Trails. Drive Safe. 

Back to bed. A while later, leftovers and more coffee. Netflix. Too beautiful to stay inside. Out with the goats and the last beer. It's hot, really hot. All the blackberry blossoms are open, and the smell of the vines is strong after the rain. As I sit in a folding canvas chair, book opened and turned upside down over my knee, I close my eyes and I can hear the thrum and the buzz of hundreds of bees. It seems to me that I remember this sound from a dozen occasions of my childhood. 

The apple tree in full blossom, and the blue sky seen through the young leaves as I lay on my back underneath.  A lone hawthorne in a neighbor's field, alive with bees in the snowy blossom. Red clover; bull thistle with its fine purple hairs; the climbing roses behind the garage, a bee in every pale pink rose's heart. Such a hopeful sound, a hundred bees, somehow both soporific and energizing. 

I think this will be a weekend long remembered.