Lincoln is coming alive again. This morning I was woken by an announcer’s amplified voice invading my dreams and the clapping and cheering of a crowd. When I finally woke and peered out into the beautiful morning light, it was to see the Capitol block ringed with onlookers as hundreds of kids and teens in white tee’s pounded down Sixteenth Street. I don’t know what the run was about or who it was to benefit, but the crowd teeming on the Capitol lawn indicated it was a great success.
After coffee and a few chapters of a good book, I headed northwest, towards Downtown and the Haymarket. By that time, the crowds had vanished with on the last few stragglers packing up strollers and kids into their shiny SUVs. The streets were quite, the weather perfect, as I rolled on down towards what had once been the wholesalers’ warehouse district by the tracks. The fire engine was in its usual spot, blocking off the lower half of P Street, and the stalls and booths and tents were up and bustling. The bicycle racks were full so I chained mine alongside another to a No Parking sign. I had warmed and so I left my jacket and scarf in the basket. Trusting, I know, but it is an attitude I prefer.
The farmers market had no produce to offer this early in the season. The butchers and bakers were out in full force and every other stall had plants and seedlings for sale. The crafters and jewelry makers were doing a brisk trade. I heard the thumping music and the rhythmic chimes as I approached the old depot, where a crowd had gathered to watch the gypsy dancers in the square.
These are beautiful women, young and old, in colorful layered skirts and scanty tops, chains jingling, fingers chiming, with bright head scarves and henna tattoos beneath plenty of shimmering jewelry. Real women these, with hips and breasts and bellies that actually move to the undulation of their bodies. They danced in a circle, with smooth graceful steps, and one or two would break out into the center, dancing her own dance and challenging the others, who would laugh and reply with swinging hips and rippling stomachs and sinuous arms.
I paused to say hello here and there to people I know. These little talks about summer plans, when and where and why for. I chatted with the farmers who sold me eggs. They have been coming up from Bellevue, Kansas, for the last eleven years. Farm fresh eggs are good for three to four weeks, I learned, but I shouldn’t try to hard boil them for at least ten days. I didn’t know that fresh eggs won’t hard boil.
I got the last baguette from one of the bakers and a jar of apple butter and one of grape jelly from the stand where I usually buy fruit, since it is still too early in the season for anything but last year’s preserves. I picked up two sage plants to add to my little window garden. From another baker I got a peach pie to take with me to Omaha tomorrow. We are celebrating mother’s day a little early. I stopped in to one of the boutique shops for a bottle of the local red wine I like and a bag of bakers chocolates. On the way back to my bicycle I passed by The Mill, a semi-famous coffee shop. The loading dock was full of talking, smiling people, and they had set up a second barista’s station outdoors. Crossing the street in the opposite direction we the poet laureate of the United States, in simple jeans, a tweed blazer, and wisps of grey hair. Ted Kooser is one of those rare people who in person looks just like his photograph, like everyone’s wise and gentle uncle. My jacket and scarf were right where I’d left them. I chatted with a young man who liked my bicycle.
I looked for a mother's day gift at the local fair trade store, but nothing inspired me, nothing called out "Mom," so I left it for later. On the way home, I stopped at a local resale shop and found the perfect light jacket, just what I had been looking for. It is light enough for spring and summer, short enough not to tangle in my bicycle, elegant enough for nights on the town, and professional enough for interviews. Why anyone would ever had sold it is beyond me, but I’m grateful nonetheless. I used to dislike shopping, because it only reminded me of the things I wanted and couldn't have. I don't want as much anymore. I even managed not to crack any of my eggs on the way home.
Now, it’s time for lunch – two fried eggs and toasted baguette with apple butter and grape jelly. Then I can look forward to an afternoon interspersed with cleaning and reading. Tonight, my Focus the Nation crew is meeting for dinner to celebrate, then we are coming back to my place for drinks.
The thing I find interesting, is not that I am enjoying this day, this wonderful day, but that it is not the highlight. It is not the epitome of my week or month or semester, but not because there is something else I am looking forward to more and not because there is something unseen dragging me down. I’ve been of fairly even keel lately, enjoying both the “good” days and the “bad” days. That means, amongst other things, that I can find a kind of calm contentment, without the anxious urge to savor these times “while they last.”
It’s a bit of peace in which I can just be, rain or shine, work or play, good or bad or any other artificial distinction.