Some people walk this earth in delight, constantly at awe at the beauty that surrounds them, ever joyous of the wonder of nature. Mary Oliver, the poet,is one of those souls who marvels at the glories to be found at her feet, in the grass, in the air, on a fence. Her poetry delights me.
But I am not Mary Oliver.
When Iwas very young , there was a spot about 20 miles out of town called Fairyland.It was a lovely wooded area that was meant to capture the magic of some of the fairy tales we were all brought with- Snow White, Hansel and Grettle, wishing wells, witches… but to me it was not magic. When children had a birthday party it was the place to take all the guests to. From the highway you could see little houses painted in bright cheerful colors, paths winding enchantedly through the woods -all very sweet and mysterious. But once inside these woods the fanciful facade of mystery slipped away and it became a place of menace and darkness and cruel surprise- voices would cackle and no one would be seen, doors would creak, but not move, witches would jump out and come running at you only to run behind a small building and disappear. It was terrifying.
I think of Life this very same way and on reflection, I realize Fairyland has always been the perfect metaphor: life is a path through the woods that only appears to be lovely, only appears to be safe. Instead it is replete with claws and teeth and razored armor that is unleashed and unveiled sporadically, surprisingly and lethally. The good that happens is illusory, short-lived and without long term effect.
The Japanese have a word-sabishisa- which means an essential and pervasive sense of aloneness. it is a good word to describe Fairyland, to describe life… no matter how much we are able to cushion our walk through it, the reality is that we are alone. No matter how brightly the sun shines or how wonderful the air smells when it rains, the sun shines and the rain falls on individuals. Alone. No matter how many children accompany you on your birthday trip to Fairyland, when the witch jumps out, when the voices cackle, they cackle for you alone. and you are terrified.
It will probably be in the Hibbing Tribune one of these days. Most announcements are made after the event has taken place. And most ads are in a day or two after the sale has ended.It’s Hibbing… trying hard to come into the 20th century.
At any rate, it appears that there is a new venture in town. Actually, in the middle of town. Based on a daily visual inspection of the site, I have to conclude that what used to be the Memorial Building parking lot is now the site of the new Downtown Garbage Dump. Go Hibbing!! I knew you would be able to take a bad situation (high school kids dumping their litter-lunch bags, beer cans, liquor bottles, condoms, needles, shoes, ) and turn it into something that the whole town can use… another place to leave our garbage. Thanks Hibbing High School for your contributribution to the community. And I don’twant to leave out the Hibbing Police-thank you for ignoring the littering laws, and the laws prohibiting under age drinking. But, hey..I understand that sometimes you just can’t do your job. Don’t worry, it’s Hibbing and that’s O>K. Also I want to thank the previous mayor and the present one for never addressing this when it was a problem. But that’s o.k. , too.. time heals all wounds and now we have a growing trash dump in the middle of town. I’m thinking this will make it so much easier for the curlers when they come from out of town.. when they ask for directions to the Memorial Building, just say..”You can’t miss it! It’s right next to our new In Town Garbage Dump.”
Meg reminded me that it’s time to renew our passports.
So I stopped in at the post office here in Hibbing, Mn. and was told that they no longer have a passport center. I was handed a sheet of paper with two town addresses on it and was told to go there for help. Both towns were about twenty miles away… in one direction it was Virginia, Mn and in the other direction it was Pengilly, MN.
PENGILLY?Wait a minute! You have got to be kidding!! Pengilly must have a population of 200. Hibbing’s is roughly 20,000!! Virginia’s is about 10.000. What’s up? Does the Post Office know something about Hibbing that many here won’t admit?
I’ve been mulling this over and have concluded that this is just another indicator of the continuing downward slide of our town.
Hibbing used to be the jewel in the crown of the Iron Range of Minnesota.The largest city. The hub. The site of the largest open pit mine in the world.
But things have changed. And despite a new marketing push to get Hibbing back on the map, the glaring reality is that the Hibbing we used to know and love is fastly disappearing.What remains is a mere shadow of it’s former self.
I awoke thinking of this and decided to have a slogan contest for the new Hibbing. Here are some of the mottoes I came up with. … I think i can see these as bumper stickers.. or on the water tower.
Hibbing- Uncomfortable with Excellence
Hibbing-Ore and not much more
Hibbing-Striving for second best and proud of it
Hibbing-going, going, gone
Hibbing-what’s a “Hibbing”?
Poor Hibbing. Instead of cleaning up its streets, tightening up its standards, it chooses to use a smoke and mirrors campaign to lull the already slumberous inhabitants into thinking that black snow is the true color of snow; that a Memorial building parking lot so thick with trash left by the high school students that it spills over into the street and the adjacent homeowners yards is totally alright;that holes left in the street after work is done by the public utilities is not only acceptable but the industry standard ;and that a downtown “retail” district with 5 stores is a bustling hub of commerce.
Poor Hibbing, where every block has a 2 or 3 houses for sale and just as many sex offenders.
What’s not to love about our little burg.
Hibbing, the town that closed its eyes, turned its back and insists that it’s moving forward.
Alex said, “Did you used to plant Blue Hubbard squash? I seem to remember some knobbly, large squashes in the garden when i was young.”
Really? Sometimes I fear I can barely remember my name ..and what day it is passes me by easily.
We chat abit more about gardens and ordering seeds and soil and he says, “Why don’t you go out in the garage and look at the journal you used to keep. I think it’s still there.”
He’s right. It is still there and the first entry is marked, May 29, 1982. A lifetime ago.
I have kept meticulous records. Amazingly precise. Amazing considering that I had two very small children and a house in the process of being dismantled and
reconstructed. But I had been brought up to know the pleasure and need of eating and growing your own produce.I knew the smell and taste of carrots fresh out of the ground, washed under the hose and eaten leisurely was superior to any found in a grocery store. And the same could be said for just about any other fruit or vegetable. My mother had turned over our backyard to a huge garden that was a riot of any vegetable she could squeeze in.
I brought my diary in to the house, poured a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table to read it. I had titled it “Garden Plots” hoping i’m sure that someday someone would see it and mistake my recordings for the musings of a true artist, a true writer.
May 29, 1982. Meg was almost 4 and Alex was about 1 1/2. In fact, Alex was little enough that i recall perching him in the rigid frame baby backpack and digging my garden with him peering over my shoulder. Yes, I did. I dug the whole garden from scratch-cleared the grass out, and “double “dug it- which was the Mother Earth approved technique, also known as French Intensive gardening. And then I planted it. And planted it. And drew it all out in my journal.And notated and annotated every single seed type or plant that went in the ground. I reported on the weather conditions, the soil conditions, and , of course, how it all turned out in the fall.
And i did plant Blue Hubbard squash and they weighed between 10 and 14 pounds each! But the Sweet Mamas out shone them all.. they were firm and sweet and grew in only 50 days which was a wonderful thing asour growing season being so short.
I have done the math also on how long ago that was. Long enough ago to almost have forgotten. Had I not received a phone call from Alex propelling me back, back to a slim young mother with a bandana on her hair and a baby on her back. And another standing by asking, What’s this one, momma?” And me saying, “your grandmother used to plant raspberry bushes just like this when I was little. .Wait till the berries come and you taste them.” And the berries did come.
And those children did grow up. And it was 30 years ago.
We no longer celebrate Christmas. One good reason is that no one is a Christian anymore. Christ’s birthday just doesn’t resonate. We’re heathens. This knowledge didn’t just dawn on us-we’ve seen it coming for quite awhile. It’s just that this year we said it outloud. As in, “happy solstice!!”. Lots of talk about the shortness of daylight and the longness of dark….we went on about the simultaneous lunar eclipse..quite the heathens. But the reality is that what with the grown kids work schedules and their living out of town, we just can’t get together on December 25th anymore. So we meet when we can and call it “the holidays”. Which got me thinking about that word: holiday. Of course it means “holy day”… that’s the easy part. The hard part is what makes a day holy. Certainly it should take more than to be on the liturgical calendar of some religious organization. Quite possibly something miraculous should be associated with it… fire, birth, death, blood… something more than enforced gift giving. Something along the lines of commemoration …that would make it holy..
So instead of going on about the fanciful acts of some equally fanciful fellow purported to live 2K+ years ago, we’re commemorating ourselves…our lives, our pasts, our people.. great and small. those here and those there.We told stories, laughed, had moments of silence when we all couldn’t help thinking about those who made the fires, birthed the babies, died too young, and gave their all..
Each year those crowded around the fire laugh and hold back the hands of time.. this year the clock actually stopped at 2pm.. what power in our little circle!!But we knew that it was only a small reprieve-new batteries confirmed what we all knew already: time marches on.
Celebrate what you have now. Remember the good things that have passed. Our own lives are precious enough to celebrate at least once a year.
It was so good to have you here.. thanks for making the journey, for lighting the fire, for keeping this small tradition going. for telling the stories, eating the food. for loving.