Sow There! Common ground through fresh eyes, March 6, 2020


March 6, 2020 

My current job with International Education and Global Engagement has included several weekends out of town with 22 teachers from 22 different countries. I know, I know, you’ve been reading about this for weeks. However, even my most loyal readers must admit this repetition is more interesting than column-after-column about green tomatoes.

After weekends to Northern California attractions, our group learned that a stay-cation can be as satisfying as traveling to and fro.

I won’t claim that Chico is as postcard picture-perfect as San Francisco or the steep, snow-covered peaks of Lassen Peak, but I can certainly tell you I’ve had some amazing weekends in my common stomping ground. If you want to give your old town some new sparkle, try showing it off to someone new.

The plastic wheelbarrow transformed into a portable salad garden. These aren’t weeds, but arugula. Some seeds may have been dumped last year, or the plants scattered seeds all on their own. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)

The first week the visitors were in town, our Chico State campus tour came to a long pause at the footbridge near Holt Hall. Half a dozen visitors stopped to take photographs of squirrels. Normally, I call squirrels “tree rats,” but when someone else is fascinated by that bushy tail and the wiggle of a cute, furry nose, it’s easy to see squirrels in a new way.

Self-check at the grocery store — using credit cards at the gas pump — free perfume samples at Sephora — these are all delights many locals have grown to overlook. Spending an ordinary day in my long-trodden town suddenly felt like the Madison Avenue scene in the movie “Splash,” only without the quirky love interest.

A mural on the side of the parking structure! Wow!

In some ways, being a hometown tour guide provides the same joy we receive from spending time with children. A child sees something for the first time, and loves it, and so should we.

Hello Patrick Ranch Museum, pinball at Woodstock’s Pizza, the second visit to Shubert’s Ice Cream, the overwhelming feeling of wandering through Winco — suddenly new and amazing.

Alas, my new, international friends will soon be packing their bags. I regret they’ll miss the wildflowers at Table Mountain, concerts in the park and the hush of the town in summer. I’ll try to remember to experience all these things as if I had a traveler by my side.

Something new

With all of these busy details, I found some time to unwind in my yard.

Mostly, this was required because it hasn’t rained and if I did not water, things would die.

I like walking around my yard with a hose in hand, or my rusted red watering can. Maybe it’s my utilitarian version of yoga. If I stand still, remember to breathe, and have a task to do, my mind goes quiet for long enough to remember what quiet feels like.

When I remember the quiet, I remember that I’m not that important and that my problems are as trivial as dryer lint.

Thank you Mark Carlson for finishing the job of pruning my Thompson seedless grapevine. I started the job mid-winter. It was several weeks before I noticed Mark had stopped by to hack the vine into fine shape. He may have even hauled away the twisted clippings. Yet if the gnarled branches are in a pile somewhere near the tree stumps, I’ll find them later.

When I remembered to breathe and look around the yard, I noticed the poppies have sprouted in the cracks of the pavement in the alley. It only took a few more minutes to yank the common groundsel, a weed that was just about to spread seeds.

The big surprise was the transformation of my plastic wheelbarrow into a portable salad garden. Apparently, I had harvested some compost and put the good soil into the green resin garden cart. Was that in November?

When I noticed the garden cart this week, it was filled with greenery. Nope, they aren’t weeds, but arugula. I may have accidentally dumped some seeds when I planted arugula last year. However, I’m betting the plants grew, and bloomed and scattered seeds all on their own.

Imagine that. This all happened while I was looking somewhere else.

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