Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rapture of the Deep

Chicago didn't get much of a summer this year. (Not that I'm complaining). But September more than made up for the loss. Imagine the most perfect day of the year. Now multiply it by 30. Take away a day or two for some thick morning fog or an occasional rain shower. September 2009.

The minute we flipped the calendar page to October, fall came in like a lion, and people are still struggling to adjust. It's sweater weather, and then some. The result is a kind of collective resistance: everyone sucking the marrow out of these last few weeks of outdoor occupancy. Restaurants refusing to dismantle their al fresco seating areas, families shivering through late-season yard sales. Our eggplant is fruiting again.

Yesterday the latest of our local community gardens held an art demo all afternoon. We got a fascinating paper-making demonstration and another on natural-dye techniques. The garden was partially designed to grow plants for the Columbia College Interdisciplinary Paper Department, and we got to see the process from day-lily harvesting to sheet drying. This season's milkweed was infested with aphids, so we even saw troops of ladybugs at work, destroying the attackers to save the plant.

The natural-dye process essentially involved placing a square of weighted muslin in a mason jar filled with warm water and marigolds picked straight from the garden. In two days, that small cotton square will bear whatever color is leached from the buds.

As one little girl shook the jar to distribute the color, she noticed a bee stuck inside, sloshing around in the water. 'Oh no,' the instructor said. 'It looks like he probably died.'
And then we all realized: A bath of flowers isn't such a bad way to go, especially if you're a bee.

1 comment:

tracy said...

I'll take that bath! Nice post.

I'm feeling the struggle and resistance along with you all up North. Yesterday I gloried in being able to work hard in the garden without breaking a sweat . . . but then I'm already having trouble staying warm enough. What will winter bring?!?!