One of our friends called Eric’s cellphone once when we were in the grocery store. This was when Eric’s cellphone still worked. Now his phone is broken. He can only talk on speaker phone. I hate speaker phone. When Eric flips open his phone (yes it flips open, which probably accounts for most of the problem.) I wave him away like he’s a giant fly. I hate trying to pretend that he’s talking into a normal phone. One where I can only hear half of the conversation at hand. I imagine that the person on the other end of the phone is about to tell him some big, deep secret. Like: They’re going to ask their girlfriend to marry them. Or: They were just arrested for trespassing. Whatever it is, it would be a secret that no one but Eric should know about. A secret that later, when he got off the phone, he would tell me. But it just doesn’t seem fair to the secret-teller that I would be listening-in at the moment of confession.
Back when Eric’s phone still worked our friend called him while we were in the grocery store (as I was saying). And even though everyone in the grocery store could only hear half of the conversation Eric said “Can I call you back? I’m in the grocery store.” and our friend said “The grocery store!?” Like Eric had just said he was in Timbuktu or on the set of Baywatch. When Eric called him back our friend admitted that he didn’t think we went to grocery stores. And that he was a little sad to know we did. It made me both laugh and feel an incredible sense of pride that people thought we were living a sustainable life so expertly that we didn’t need to go to grocery stores.
“I know you guys don’t have animals,” our friend reasoned “so I guess I should have realized that if you needed cheese or milk or something you’d have to go to the store…” He continued to elaborate “And other stuff like cooking oil, or toothpaste -although Jen probably makes toothpaste, but you’d still need to go to the store to buy the ingredients…”
I do not (for the record) make toothpaste.
When we got back from Thailand I used to have panic attacks in the grocery store. It took me months…probably five or six months before I could go into a grocery store without having a panic attack (I realize I sound crazy). There was just so much stuff. So much food, so many products. It was so clean and so bright. It was overwhelming and I couldn’t handle it. We started shopping at the Asian food market where it was dark and dingy and cold. In the winter they never turned the heat on. Instead everyone who worked there wore hats and gloves and jackets and it made me feel better. Also what made me feel better was the fish section. A wall of small tanks loaded with strange fish. It felt more like a really bad aquarium than a fish market, except that sometimes there were dead fish alongside the living fish. Completely dead, upside-down and swaying. To be clear, we never bought fish here. But the chaos of the place calmed me down.
People always ask us why we don’t have chickens. Or goats. Or a dog. (Not that a dog could provide us food but everyone that comes here instantly feels that a dog belongs here. This is especially true of people who own dogs.) But for now we are a fruit-vegetable-herb-and-flower-only farmstead and that is more than enough for me to handle at the moment. Does any one want to come over and harvest lavender? I’m serious.
For now we go to the grocery store for bread and cheese and cooking oil and toothpaste. We do not go to the grocery store for produce. Except for oranges. I am a sucker for oranges. And avocados. And mushrooms. (We tried remedying that, but our first attempt was unsuccessful). Aside from that we eat what’s in season. Right now it’s lettuce and spinach. Strawberries and last season’s dry beans. I am appalled that we are still eating butternut squash. Frankly I am sick of butternut squash. But soon I will be sick of tomatoes. So it goes.
Today is the last day of spring and I’m a bit sad. I’ve already rearranged my routine so that I get my daily chores out of the way before the afternoon sun and heat make me feel like I’m going to keel over. But with the heat of summer there comes something that is even more difficult for me to do, and that is: Let Go. The plants start to grow up and take care of themselves. With the exception of squishing a stray three-lined potato beetle, or smearing out squash bug eggs clinging to the underside of the butternut leaves, the plants won’t need me any more. On the one hand it is nice to be able to focus on other things: the music, the soap, the home projects. On the other hand it’s sad to watch them grow up.
PS Happy (almost) Summer Solstice to my best friend, my husband Eric, who I married all those years ago on the longest day of the year.