Sunday, March 28, 2010

A new compass

Last week put a bit of a quiver in my reality. We found out that the owners of the house where we pick up our summer CSA share are moving. To Portland!

And when the family goes, so goes our vegetable box. With a neighborhood as vast as ours, this could mean a pick-up site far, far away, certainly farther than I could manage on foot.

Box pick-up has become very ritualized for me. I build a slight detour into my Saturday morning jog so I can pop over, grab the box, exchange some niceties with other shareholders over zucchini or kale, and walk the three short blocks back home. This appeals to my sense of efficiency, as well as my commitment to using the car (which is actually John's company car, and not something I ever really think of as my own) only by necessity.

Of course there's a simple solution. We could offer to be the drop site ourselves. We'd save $100 on our annual subscription and end up with all the extra vegetables left behind from week to week.

Easy, right? Not so fast.

There are lots of reasons not to pull this particular trigger. The farm drops off the boxes at 4am, and I worry about my insomnia, knowing that truck's arrival is looming, bound to wake the neighbors. Then there's the security risk--having to leave our gate unlocked every Friday night. You never know who might roam through or what their intentions might be. And of course there's the dog. What if we let her out midday and she scares someone's kid? What if she leaves a parcel of her own near the boxes?

But can I tell you a secret? My biggest worry, woeful as I am to admit it, is other people judging the place we call home. There are a lot of folks who consider this the wrong side of the tracks. We're on the west side: More multicultural, more working class. The houses are more modest, the yards more wooly, and the litter more abundant. You're a lot more likely to come across a broken bottle or condom wrapper than you would a couple blocks east of here.

On hot days there's a rank odor from the underground sewer system. A rat's been known to scurry across our yard. Cars idle on our street, often blasting rap music that shakes the pots and pans in the cabinets.

And I realize that my house and block are like so many things in my life: flawed, imperfect, easily misunderstood. A lot like Inez, our beloved pitbull--gentlest creature in the world, but one who strikes fear at a superficial glance.

"She's a good girl!!" I want to yell as she lunges at an unexpected dog behind a fence. But it's of no consequence. There will be those who walk by with an understanding nod. There will be those who avoid looking at us.

John and I recently went to a training demo sponsored by the Humane Society. They're working to redirect the bad intentions of dog fighters, teaching them and their animals how to respect each other. We watched the session for over an hour, mesmerized as those dogs would sit on command, frozen in place with a meaty treat on the floor just two feet away. There was incredible pride and love in those guys as the dogs responded to their commands.

As we were leaving, I told the training director that I'd love to bring my own dog sometime, but she's just too aggressive.

The woman urged us to bring her along. "You should have seen these dogs when they came in. Every one of them wanted to kill another dog, and most of them probably had. Besides," she said, "sometimes it's nice to be around other people who understand."

Exactly, I thought.

Bring on the empathy and community. I'll take my chances on drop-site roulette. Heck, maybe this'll be the summer I finally outfit my bike with a trailer.

In the meantime, I'll consider how to climb up to my rooftop and yell out the world: "This is a good neighborhood!!" But I guess, in a way, I'm already doing it.

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