Post-election action plan

 

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A candlelight vigil in Takoma Park days after the election

The presidential election deeply disappointed and shocked me and many other progressive people dumbstruck at the rise of a man who has exhibited disturbing bigotry, racism and misogyny, in addition to rejecting some of the foundational social services and compassion we depend on to make the world a more equitable place. There’s been lots of hand-wringing and chatter. What to do?

Thus far there have been vigils and rallies. A lot of people have given money to Planned Parenthood, or to environmental organizations or to the arts, anticipating a collective abandonment of the things we care so much about. There have been lots of facebook posts and petitions and op-eds and tweets of outrage.

But what will really make a difference?

The action plan

 

A few days after the election I actually made a list. I hadn’t shared it with anyone because the point was not to be all, “I’m on this, I’m going to save the world,” the point was to make a difference in whatever way I could. Also, I was acutely aware that my shock and dismay over the election was due to my ignorance, and I was a little embarrassed about that. This racism thing? It’s been going on for centuries. I don’t face it every day because I’m white. Boom: the definition of “white privilege.” It’s blinding. (Blackish explains this eloquently)

Anyway, I’m ready to share my list now, ready to admit I have so much to learn, admit that yes, I am earnest and naked in my desire to make the world a better place, and aware that my efforts are a drop in the bucket. I am sharing it because I want us all to think of everything we can to move forward during this time that so many people say is dark. I want to make it light, one tiny idea and one tiny action at a time.

I donated money.

I am lucky to have enough money to give some to organizations that need it. There are so many: Planned Parenthood, which may lose federal funding in the post-election climate. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a respected and focused leader in the fight against racial and social injustice. Locally, the DC Rape Crisis Center and Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, in Baltimore.

I am giving to my church, because it is deeply immersed in social justice action. St. Stephen and the Incarnation gave away the land next to the sanctuary to establish low-income housing, and now helps run services for the people there. It founded Samaritan Ministry, now a city-wide social services organization. Its program Loaves and Fishes has been integral to feeding the hungry. St. Stephen’s also provides meeting and office space for many support organizations, from the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project  to CISPES, supporting the Salvadoran community. I also celebrate Sunday services here, with music from a variety of cultures, multi-gendered prayers, a diverse set of ministers and sermons that frequently teach about supporting one’s community, being open-hearted and the importance of speaking truth to power.

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I am educating myself.

I am sadly ignorant of the lives and the history of the people of color who live all around me. And I know little about the great black scholars, philosophers and authors. They were not taught in the schools I attended, at least not in my classes. So I am building a library of African American-centric books.

Some favorites so far: The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander; Between the World and Me, by Ta Nehisi Coates; and Fire Shut Up in My Bones, by Charles Blow.

I already read a lot of books by women, but I skipped the feminism courses and could learn a lot from the founding mothers. And what about Latino authors? It’s been a long time since I picked up Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Julia Alvarez. I have so much catching up to do.

I am listening more broadly.

In addition to expanding my library, I am changing up my media diet. I seek out different voices: Not just the New York Times but also The Root. Not just Atlantic Magazine but The Grio. And I’m having a lot of fun with television series and movies: I like Madame Secretary, and Good Girls Revolt was fantastic, but my new guilty pleasure is Empire and I’ve just started watching Queen Sugar (Ava Duvernay, who hired only women to direct Queen Sugar episodes, is my new hero.) I can’t wait to see Hidden Figures.

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Dancer Patrick Casimir in What’s Goin’ On, Marvin Gaye Project at Dance Place, photo by Jonathan Hsu

I will spend more time at Dance Place.

Thus is a recurring theme on Mixed Ginger. Dance Place, my dance home for decades, is so much more than a place to take class, and it is open to everyone: the definition of inclusive. In addition to classes in African, Latin, jazz and modern, its full performance schedule encompasses all sorts of dance styles and histories. The after-school and summer programs support a huge community of young people who  not only dance – they learn about  computers, gardening, art and all the other things the generous people at Dance Place share with them.

I intend to keep attending class, see more shows, and invite more people to discover this gem of a place. Check out the performance schedule and come see a show with me!

What else?

 Many ideas. Some underway, some aspirational.

  • Volunteer once a month for Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop. At Write Nights I can write encouraging notes to young prisoners who compose poetry and send it in for feedback. Free Minds creates connections with people who have few supports inside a prison system that is incarcerating a disproportionate number of young black men (see Ava Duvernay’s 13th for more on this) and it reminds us of people of all colors who have been tossed aside, sometimes for minor transgressions, sometimes for regrettable but changeable behavior.
  • Stay more abreast of local and state politics and urge my representatives to advance progressive policies that serve all people. Here’s an example: bail reform. There is an effort underway to scrap bail requirements that keep poor people—who have not yet been convicted, only arrested, who are often innocent—in jail for little reason other than they cannot pay the bail. Here’s a compelling story about it and a description of how it could change. What else is coming up in Maryland? Montgomery County? Takoma Park? I have to do my research.

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  • Spend carefully. My next bike repair or purchase will be at Gearin’ Up  bike shop, where local kids learn bike mechanics and get bikes if they build them themselves from the parts around the shop. I’ll shop locally – that means Politics and Prose book shop instead of Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I’ll continue to enjoy Denizen’s, the only woman- and minority-owned and operated brewery in Maryland. Their Southside Rye IPA is my fave.
  • Broaden my circle of acquaintances and friends. This can be as simple as approaching strangers at a party, and instead of choosing a middle-aged white woman like myself to compare notes on how to parent 20-something children, for example, finding a young person, or a man, or a person of color to talk about, well, anything – what we did last weekend, whether you got the flu that was going around, how crazy it is that Metro closes at midnight. My hope: these connections could blossom into real relationships. But even if they create just a momentary connection, that’s better than another conversation that I’ve had multiple times with people just like me.

And I’ll keep talking about these issues.  They aren’t the only thing. Our lives go on, we go to work, we make dinner, we see our friends and family. I want to do all of that AND stay true to a commitment to make the world a better place, at a time when my core values are really being challenged. If you are on the same page, use the comments below to share what you’re doing. Or to tell me I am a naive and over-hopeful fool. Or to tell me this is an overblown reaction and we’ll all be fine. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Counting on good

 

****************2016****************

At the end of 2016, many people couldn’t wait to move on from what felt like a disaster of a year. The election of a man who represents the antithesis of so much of what we hold most dear –equity, dignity and respect, for women, people of color, immigrants and people of all faiths—was bruising, and fresh. The campaign, full of disappointing and shocking behavior from people who were supposed to be our country’s leaders, had dragged on for months before. Many beloved public figures had died, and some of us lost our own loved ones.

But a friend posted a query in December: What was good about 2016? It’s not all darkness. Right?

This appealed to my Pollyanna nature. So here are four bright spots from my 2016. What are yours?

I got a job.

Well, I have always had a job. But now, instead of scraping together a living as an independent writer and editor, I have become a permanent, full-time writer and editor at the American Federation of Teachers. Job security. Benefits. Meaningful work. Peace of mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret one minute of the “freelance” work I did for years. The flexibility allowed me to spend more time with my kids, and later to do my errands or go for a run in the middle of the day. The variety was fun (well, mostly — it could be challenging to switch from an article about the city budget to editing a recipe for a country newspaper and then writing a piece on a high-end home renovation in Potomac, but it never got boring).

Now that I have regular hours, health care benefits and paid vacations, I realize that having to pay for my own health insurance, never knowing if I’d have enough work, and working many nights and weekends to keep things going was more stressful than I knew.

Also, I still love my work. I get to write about faculty and staff at public colleges and universities, and lift up the power of the collective voice that unions give their members. I get to work on social justice issues, because high-quality public education is meant to be the great equalizer and we work to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or zip code, has access to it.

How lucky is that?

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 I found a church home.

 After years of not attending church, I have found a place that moves me so profoundly and feels so much like home that when I recently discovered it, I cried through nearly the whole service.

I first encountered St. Stephens and the Incarnation when I slept among the pews in the sanctuary on my first-ever visit to Washington, D.C.: I was a college student attending an anti-nuke rally. And then I forgot about it. But it kept popping up in my life: a close friend told me she attended when she was a girl. My son told me he’d gone to a hip-hop youth program  there when he was a teenager (guess I wasn’t much of a helicopter parent). My honey, who is a contractor, did some renovations there.

I had been looking for a more spiritual element in my life, so I gave St. Stephens and a try, and it has to me. But it is also refreshingly updated. We pray to a female-pronoun God and Holy Spirit and sing spirituals and Spanish-language hymns along with classically-based hymns in English; we are a multi-racial congregation. There is incense and a crucifix, but we also stand in a circle for much of the service. Last Sunday, we blessed our cell phones, to indicate we were giving up our obsessive calendaring and scheduling to a higher power.

St. Stephens is the most activist congregation I have ever encountered, with a strong feeding and housing program for homeless and low-income families, political affiliations with activist organizations, and intentional connections with a diverse range of causes and people.

It gives me so many opportunities to be a better person and to appreciate the person I already am.

I discovered Audre Lorde.

Last year, my son gave me “Sister Outsider,” a book by Audre Lorde, a black feminist well-known to many but new to me. Just as I was renewing a commitment to social justice work I got to immerse myself in the thinking and perspective of this leader of the movement. I read some of it (as a book of essays, it is easy to pick up and put down, reading bits each time) and then life took over and I put it aside.

Recently Gesel Mason, a choreographer I have long admired, announced a dance performance informed by one of Lorde’s essays. I returned to the book and dove in to “Uses of the Erotic.”

Lorde uses “erotic” in an unconventional way, carrying it beyond its usual sexual connotation and giving it deeper meaning. “When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the life force of women; of that creative energy empowered.”   Lorde gives us permission to tap into our deepest core and revel in it. Even if it is something like emotion, considered feminine and “weak” by a society dominated by men. Embrace that depth of feeling, she writes.

The work empowers me.

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I visited my big sister on her farm.

My oldest sister and I have lived miles apart since she left home when I was 8 years old. We keep in touch by email and phone but we seldom get to visit. She’s come to my house a handful of times, but I haven’t been to her home since the 1990s.

“Why?” I thought. Just make this happen. So this year I drove up to her place in upstate New York (yes, that’s it above). What a treat. It was just one weekend, but we laughed and visited and reconnected in the best ways.  I am so grateful for all my sisters.

More of that, please.

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I hiked solo on the Appalachian Trail

I can count on one hand the number of times I have been backpacking, and the last time was just over ten years ago. But I’ve felt the lure of the AT since high school and I finally had some time to plan another trip. Hiking solo would give me a chance to unplug from everything and everyone, to get to know my own self, apart from all the familiar day-to-day surroundings, out in nature.

I borrowed gear (thanks, friends!) and hiked for four days just south of Harper’s Ferry. I used a campstove by myself for the first time. I learned that an 11-pound, 2-person tent is way too heavy for backpacking, and that I needed only about half the (heavy) food I brought. Also that 12 miles with 45 pounds on your back feels a lot different than a day hike. But I did it! And I loved it. And I can’t wait to get out there again.

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I ran a 5K

I am an enthusiastic but casual runner. It’s as much about being outdoors as it is about building endurance—I alternate between running and walking, and take the wooded path, slowing down on the dicey bits. I have no ambitions to run a marathon, and I ran a 10K just once, in the 1980s.

But Takoma Park has a great 5K that benefits Safe Routes to School, a program that encourages kids to walk to school (among other things). And 5K is not much farther than I run/walk anyway. So I signed up.

I didn’t really train. So I was pleased that I didn’t come in dead last. I liked the comradery of running in a group more than I thought I would. And I loved that this turned out to be a reach for me – I had to work at keeping up my pace. But I didn’t walk once. And that was empowering.

I hope that 2017 brings more bright notes for each of us, and that we remember to take time to notice them.

Riding the train: standing for good

The train car is is standing room only at the first stop. All seats filled, and several people standing. I am disappointed that I’ll be hanging on to the straps the whole way in to work. But not nearly as disappointed as a hugely pregnant woman who has no seat either.

I am incredulous. All these people — able-bodied men and women of all ages — are oblivious to the big lady in the middle of the train car. Or if they’re not oblivious, worse, they are not willing to get up and give her a place to sit. She is not giving them stink eye or sighing like a martyr — she is busy with her phone. I imagine she is texting friends, outraged that this well-dressed man is comfortably seated in the handicapped seating, that a put-together woman is snoozing next to him, that a young man is lost in his earbuds — also seated. Every seat taken. Every seated person ignoring not only all the people around them, but in particular someone who would clearly be more comfortable taking a load off.

MetroPrioritySeatsWe stop at the Fort Totten station and the passengers rearrange themselves as a handful of people disembark. A seat comes open, the pregnant lady moves toward it. It is snatched up quickly by a middle-aged woman. Who is not pregnant. Or disabled in any visible way.

I often give the benefit of the doubt to the folks seated in handicapped area; they may seem able, but not all disabilities are visible. This is different. I can guarantee that not every person in those seats — and the rest of the dozens of seats on this train car – was disabled. Not. Every. One.

I think about this on the way to the next stop and consider saying something to my fellow passengers. The authority of (my) middle age should be good for something, I think. The poor woman is probably too embarrassed to speak up for herself, I think. So I plunge in at the next stop: “Do you want to sit?” I ask the still-standing pregnant lady. “Yes,” she says gratefully, as if I can magically conjure up a seat for her despite my also-not-seated status. “Can someone give up their seat for the pregnant lady?” I ask, looking around. at the dozens of seated passengers. And finally the magic happens. There is a shuffling and squirming, and a frail-looking woman sitting in the nearest seat gets up and offers her spot. She apologizes for not having done it sooner. Meanwhile the men, every one of them, and all those able-bodied women too, remain seated.

“We all get in ‘the zone’ on Metro,” says the woman who moves, looking at me in a way that implies that the other people in the car were simply not paying attention, that they should be forgiven.

It’s a poor excuse. Come on folks. Be present. Engage a little. And give up your seat for someone who needs it.

 

Good traffic

Traffic on my commute to work this week was amazing.

On the lower spur of Woodland Avenue, Jonah had a great story to tell from the front stoop. Something about a girl with a dress and, well, I didn’t quite hear the whole thing — there was an interruption for tears when Jonah’s mom got into the car to go to work, but it was short-lived, and soon the rest of the story came out and I was on my way again, waving goodbye to Peter, Ben and Jonah (from left).

PeteJonahBenOn the Old Town speedway, just where morning coffee traffic lets out of Capital City Cheesecake, an incident involving gasoline-powered leaf blowers created some rubber-necking and chatter: nothing but a local activist observing a city contractor using the pollution-spewing machines despite a ban on use by the city’s own crews.  The incident meant pulling over to the sidewalk for a chat. “Hey, those are illegal!” the activist called to the contractor moving the blowers out of the back of his truck. The contractor just looked confused.  More neighborhood list serve traffic can be expected in this area later in the day.

At the intersection of Carroll and Laurel avenues, there was a slowed bicycle and subsequent review of last night’s conversation between friends –spurred by the movie Suffragette — on the link between the the right to vote and contemporary women’s freedom to own property and have custody of our children. Could we even link my ability to ride my bike to work to the vote for women? Anyway, I am so grateful for those risk-taking women who came before me. So grateful, and so adamant about expressing that feeling, that the delay on the street stretched long.

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Finally there was a back-up at the bike racks, trying to find a spot where I didn’t have to wiggle in between one bicycle’s kid seat and another’s extra-wide front basket. I don’t mind though. All those people biking to metro. It’s great.

It’s the best kind of traffic.

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Pedaling out, paddling out

This morning I had great ambitions. Leave the house by 7 a.m., get to work an hour before everyone else, take care of my editing first thing, catch up during a week that has been jam packed with deadlines.

Then: The shirt I put on is too short for the low-rise pants. The cat needs to be fed. Four times. Even without breakfast it takes me a half hour to get out of the house.

I know, tune up the violins, #firstworldproblems. But it continues.

At Metro I realize I forgot my keys and can’t lock my bike, so I ride back home. On the way my bag falls off the back of the bike. With the laptop in it.

I finally get on the train and it is panic-attack crowded. When I decide to treat myself to a coffee at Pret a Manger, to try and turn this day around, all the self-service urns are empty. When I eventually pour a cup, I spill it on my jacket.

Walking down the sidewalk to the office, I go through the litany of calm. No fear, I think. Visualize the third eye. Relax your neck, relax your skull, look at the sky. Be grateful you can afford Metro, a bike, a laptop.

And my favorite: Imagine paddling out into the surf. Feel it in your bones.  Right now, somewhere warm, someone is skimming the surface of the water, slicing through a wave to get out past the break, sitting up on the board and surveying the next set. Today I am paddling out through mass transit and city sidewalks. Another time I will be the one on the board, floating.

Some days, paddling out is easier than others.

Bicycles and cowboy boots

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It’s a pretty good bet that when I’m 99 I’ll still love my bike, especially if I get to pedal it around at the beach.

The last cowboy boots I owned were a gift for my 30th birthday. They were one of those things I’d wanted for a long time, and so when I finally had them I loved them. I wore them everywhere, to work, to parties, dancing, even horseback riding (the two or three times that happened), until I wore right through the soles.

Finally I gave up on those boots and replaced them with a pair of more conventional, professional-looking ones. Square toed, slightly heeled, relatively comfortable. Until my feet decided that heels are no longer something they wanted to wear, and the shoes were no longer so comfortable.

What a great excuse to go back to cowboy boots! No sooner did I think about it than voila! they appeared, an unexpected gift (thank you, Emily!!).

This is the magic of your own true self.

Cowboy boots. Surfing. Biking, dancing, baking bread. Writing. Singing.

If you stripped away all the layers and details of my life, the job titles and paychecks, the house and car, the places and even the people, these core elements are what you would have left. This is who I am.

Is it this way for everyone? The child becomes the adult, but the favorite color is still blue, the nose is still in a book, the baseball game will always thrill?

From first grade, when I decorated my bike with baseball cards that clacked through the spokes, through my teens, pedaling along the beach road in my bathing suit; from the North Carolina mountain roads I muscled up and down to get to college class, to the bike trip through England and the Netherlands in my early 20s and on to my rides around Takoma Park today, I have always had a bike. Nevermind that it sometimes sits idle for a few weeks. When I climb back on board, it feels like climbing back into my own skin.

Ditto with dance class. Out for nearly a year with a shoulder injury, I recently returned to the studio. It was such a gift to move again. It felt like coming home.

Once when I was a young mama I visited an old friend back home: as a high school kid I’d babysat her little ones, and helped host her holiday party. It was great to see her, still bubbly and fun and smart. She said I hadn’t changed. “You still wear dangly earrings,” she said. As if I would grow out of such a thing.

Maybe riding my bike and wearing cowboy boots and dangly earrings, surfing every summer and going to dance class makes me feel like my younger self. But mostly these things make me feel like myself.

In the shadows

I’ve been in the house all day, a rainy day so I’m not complaining – cozy and warm and dry. But by 5:30, it’s time to bust out and get a breath of fresh air. I vowed I would spend some time outdoors everyday anyway – good for my head, mostly.

I think of these must-get-out-of-the-house walks as dog walks, without a dog. When I had a dog, this was one of the best things about her – she got me out of the house every day, twice a day, for at the very least a walk around the block. And I’d see all the other dog walkers out there. We all had a purpose. But for those of us without dogs, why not walk by ourselves? I am taking myself for a walk.

I wear my gloves and hat for the first time this season. It’s cool, but in a nice way. The leaves are wet, but not sopping. It’s lovely out, really, lovelier with every step. Since it’s already dark, I avoid Sligo Creek Park, several blocks away, and just walk the neighborhood. But I do decide to get off the sidewalk for a minute and take the little path into little Forest Park, a corner green space with plenty of shrubbery and plantings and trees around a little playground and picnic area.

I wonder if it is officially closed after dark. I decide I don’t care. Uncharacteristically (in case you are reading this from the hereafter, Mom) I don’t even put my urban radar up, it doesn’t occur to me that there might be someone lurking in the shadows. Even though, this close to the city, there certainly could be. Even though there was a carjacking just two blocks away last summer. La-la-la, I’m on my evening walk. Without a dog.

And there, just inside the park, is a movement in the dark. There’s the sharp intake of breath. I’m startled. I look up.

And just 10 feet from me stands a big buck, complete with many-pointed rack. Staring.

Wow, you startled me, I tell him. He just looks. Where are your peeps? I say. Because he doesn’t care how corny it is to say that, “peeps,” and he doesn’t care that he has no peeps anyway, just other deer. But there aren’t even any does around, or at least I can’t see them. Too many shadows.

I stand there in Forest Park with this buck, taking him in, standing so casual and so near. There is no one else around. Only us animals. And here, at the end of my day, I am deeply connected to the natural world in an entirely unexpected way.

Back on the sidewalk, I take the long way home.

Teamwork, or work is like a potluck

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The AFT work team: not just publications and potlucks, but this year a Halloween zombie walk. How fun is that?

Today as I edited the story about high school football rivalry in the Urbana Town Courier (on the front page! I love small-town journalism), I noticed the little note at the top: “Lauren, please run the photo big! Thanks!”

I could never put this paper together by myself. But with writers, editors, a designer  and a publisher, we manage to do this thing. Every. Month. And every month I am kind of amazed. Look at this! We did it! Again!

It’s the same with other publications I edit and manage and for which I write. For the Takoma Park Newsletter, city staff makes it possible for me to not only list the latest yoga classes and the schedule for city council meetings and library readings, but also note the latest development news (did you know Busboys and Poets is opening next month?) or arts project (Docs in Progress has a local film fest on the calendar). My designer is a hilarious and fabulous person with a knack for email banter. And each month we come out with this thing – it’s like a small miracle, every time. Even when I contribute just one article to a publication, like the piece about Tilghman Island for Bethesda Magazine, I love that someone else frames it with great photographs and design.

The reality of my work is that this teamwork concept is mostly virtual – the bulk of my time is spent sitting alone at a desk, rearranging words on the screen, and answering emails.

That’s why when the collaborative aspect of my job ramps up it makes me a little giddy. This happened recently at the American Federation of Teachers, where I write and edit newsletters and web content for and about public school support staff (think teacher aides, bus drivers, custodians and lunch ladies). Now, along with putting together articles about how poverty affects our schools (hugely) or improving school lunch nutrition (more whole grains and fresh veggies!) I get to meet with a digital team to brainstorm creative ways to push our ideas far beyond print and onto the web, social media, speeches and events.

I sit at the table with these fast-thinking, creative, funny people and feel as though I’ve just landed in the accelerated class at school, after languishing in some on-line, solo course. Everyone is engaged, ideas beget ideas, and I leave feeling energized and inspired. Then there’s the rest of the department, from copy editors, writers and designers through admin and production, steeped in years of institutional loyalty and knowledge—it’s a great combination.

Plus this good group of folks will hold a potluck at the drop of a hat. Which is really just teamwork that tastes good. I’m already planning what I’ll bring to the next one.

Patchwork living

I’m always struck when I visiseashellst Floyd County to see how people make a living in what is still a hard-scrabble place. Hard scrabble in a different way now than it once was – yes, literally the soil is rocky, but since most folks don’t make a living from the land anymore, they are scrabbling in different ways.

Driving down Highway 221 I see a hand-painted yard sign for small engine repair, “from ATVs to lawn mowers.” I imagine this evolved from a neighbor doing favors for family and friends, then deciding to make it a business. Ditto the hand-lettered “deer processing” sign – all those hunters, heading back to the city after a weekend, don’t have time to dress their deer. A business is born.

There’s also the woman who cuts hair at the back of the general store, and another who make barbeque sauce and apple butter to sell at the farm stand.

It happens in other small towns, too. Every time I visit Chincoteague, Va., I consider spending an entire summer there, growing tomatoes to sell from a table set out in my front yard. If I had a front yard, there. There was one farmer who drove his pickup truck to the island every weekend and sold watermelons from the back. And I love the tables set out with seashells for sale. Fifty cents each.

When my income dips – and, in my business, it can be like a roller coaster – I often comfort myself by the thought of all the things I could do if I needed to make money just to get by. I always think first of baking pie. I could sell it to busy friends and neighbors too busy to bake at Thanksgiving! One summer between college semesters, I baked three kinds of bread and sold it at the local health food store. I don’t remember now how much money I made, but I do remember being crestfallen when my father pointed out that I was getting the electricity to bake with for free, at my parents’ house. And I thought I was such a clever young business woman.

Today, I’m thinking of the big bag of chestnuts I gathered this morning from under the trees near our favorite country hideaway. If I were living near Floyd full time, I could package them in brown paper bags and sell them at the farmer’s market. I could gather wild nettles, a sort of gourmet foraging novelty, and sell those as well (they’re actually delicious, which I know thanks to a Floyd County potluck). Or hunt mushrooms for sale, or pick dandelions and package them neatly, the way French farmers do for the Paris market.

Instead of lattice-top pies, I could make hand pies, maybe team up with a mountain woman who could share her recipes, and we could pool our profits. We could sell to the tourists who come up the mountain for the fall leaves, we could use lard to appeal to the traditionalists, and vegetable shortening for the crunchy-granola vegetarians. I could write a book about baking with Esther, or whoever I find willing to tolerate my enthusiasm for tradition that isn’t even my own, long enough to bake with me.

Or, I could go back to the city and write more local news, more local travel, more education policy, patchworking a living together the way I’ve done for the past 20 years. Patchworks come in all different textures and patterns. I guess mine will remain, in some form, the written word.

Though if you really want a Thanksgiving pie, you know who to call.