In my previous posting Vignette- Paula in Minnesota, I mentioned the “travelling dinner”. I vaguely remember some years ago a friend talking about a “neighborhood dinner”, where everyone from the neighborhood (a fairly small one I believe) shared a meal. However, instead of all coming to one house to eat, the families went from house to house eating a course here and another there.
So on one of the evenings that we spent at Sherry and Greg’s place in Minnesota, we were invited to participate in a travelling dinner. Two of the couples did not live in the immediate vicinity of Sherry and Greg’s house, but were great friends of all the people who did. So they brought their contributions to the meal to Deb and Crystal’s home.
On the appointed evening at the appointed time Sherry, Greg, Rich and myself walked down the driveway. It was a very pleasant evening so the walk was very enjoyable. We made a right-hand turn onto the road at the bottom of the driveway, walked about fifty yards, passing the driveway that led to Connie and Joe’s house (Sherry and Greg’s immediate neighbors), before making another right-hand turn into Deb and Crystal’s driveway.
No house could be seen, so I wondered how long of a walk this was going to be. I needn’t have worried. The driveway sloped upward for about fifty yards and as we crested the top we saw that it then sloped downwards for about another fifty yards and there at the bottom, slightly to the right, stood the house. From this view point it appeared to be a one-story building with beautifully cultivated flower beds on the one side, and a wonderful large fire pit encircled by brightly colored Adirondack chairs which in turn were surrounded by more raised flower beds. All this was then surrounded by lush green grass and trees. Another piece of heaven!
But the view of the house was deceptive because it was built on a fairly steep slope. It wasn’t until another day that I saw the other side of the house and realized there was a lower level which contained a spacious apartment where Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s sister, Paula, lived. It took me a while to actually go into the house because, being the gardener that I am, I had to check out all the beautiful flowers in bloom and the various plants that I didn’t recognize, plus there were lots of interesting and whimsical garden decorations to look at.
Eventually I made it inside where there were some delightful appetizers laid out. Once we filled our plates, most of us migrated through the kitchen and dining area to a lovely screened-in room located at the back of the house. The view was as delicious as the food we ate. As I mentioned before, the house was built on a fairly steep slope, so this room was was quite elevated and gave the impression that we were seated among the tree tops. (For me it was a small God-moment.) It was here that we got to meet the non-neighbors, Char and Frank and Doug and Deb.
After about forty five minutes of eating and socializing, it was deemed time to move to the next course. This was to be eaten at Connie and Joe’s house and we were told that we were going via the “scenic route”. So we all trooped out in Indian file and followed a pathway that they had created through the woods connecting the two houses. It was rather magical and I half expected fairies and pixies to jump out from behind the trees. The crossing point between the two properties was marked by a lovely vine-covered trellis archway that stood over a couple of steps down. My heart actually started beating a little faster right here because in a “deja vue” moment it reminded me of my Dad’s garden. (See my posting Vignettes- My Kingdom.)
All of these neighbors are avid gardeners, so we found ourselves stepping into another beautifully appointed garden where flower beds were in full bloom with lots of lush greenery everywhere and more whimsical garden features. We spent quite a bit of time checking everything out. A special mention needs to be made here about Joe’s “work shed”. I’m talking about a GIGANTIC work shed the size of a small warehouse. There were big tools and small tools, and every kind of small (and some not so small) machinery all neatly laid out. As you can imagine, the men folks in our party were in hog heaven.
After admiring everything, flower beds and the work shed contents, we all drifted into Connie and Joe’s where a second round of appetizers was laid out. More eating and more socializing took place and by this time a few glasses of wine had been consumed so there was lots of merriment and laughter. In the meantime some rain clouds had gathered and so we got sprinkled on a little as we made our way over to Sherry and Greg’s. Earlier in the afternoon I had helped Sherry assemble a huge bowl of a very colorful mixed salad into which we had put everything bar the kitchen sink! As people came in, we tossed it in a home made dressing and in no time at all that huge bowl was empty.
We were all beginning to get full tummies but the walk back to Deb and Crystal’s house must have helped our digestive systems because we were ready for the main course by the time we got there. Actually some of us rode in the car because of the rain, but we were still ready. I think the laughter and the socializing shook the food down nicely because we even had room for dessert after eating yet another plateful of food. It was altogether a very fun experience and I’m already plotting and planning to see how I can replicate it, even though most of my friends live in rather spread out areas. But maybe that will make it even more interesting. I’ll let you know when and how I make it happen.
I may not have written much in the last couple of months, but words have still been the centre of my life. They were not running off my fingertips through the computer but they were certainly filling my heart, soul, and mind. In the absence of writing I have been doing a lot of reading.
It’s as though words in some way, shape, or form have to be in my life. I love seeing them printed or written across the page. It fascinates me to think about what the words hold. It could be information about an object, a machine say, or it could be the description of a place.
Words have the power to fire our imagination. They can transport us to some magical landscape where we can "escape” for a few hours as we read. They can describe a character so that we think we can see them, smell them, hear them as they speak. The author Morris West (In The Shoes Of The Fisherman) has an incredible gift for this last talent, and this was what drew me to read all of his books.
In the latter part of 2009 I was introduced to the author Robert B. Parker. His style of writing attracted me immediately. He wrote a couple of series of books with different central characters; the Spenser novels, the Jesse Stone novels, and the Sunny Randall novels. They are all of the detective genre.
He used a short sharp yet easy flowing style of writing, especially when it came to conversations between people. Some of his sentences are just two words long! Yet everything is perfect in the moment. And he uses a form of dry, wry wit that appeals to my English sense of humour.
Over a period of about three months I think I read everything he wrote. Back in January 2010 I was devouring his last three or four books from the library shelf when I heard the news of his death. I remember my immediate thought was “Oh no, what will I read now!” as if he were the only writer producing books.
But he had very quickly become “my Robert B. Parker (RBP)”. He had entered my heart and my soul through his generously-shared talent. I thought of him as a friend who set out to entertain me with each of his books. The only positive thing that I can say about his passing is that he died at his typewriter doing what he loved most.
So having completed all his books I then had to find someone else. I love detective/spy books so I stayed in that genre. Checking along the shelves in the library I remember thinking, “I need to find a prolific author; someone who has as many books on the shelf as “my RBP”. And so Sue Grafton found her way into my book bag.
Her A,B,C books based on the character Kinsey Millhone are great. Her style is different yet just as interesting as RBP. Kinsey is a little off-beat, a little off-centre, and as a woman detective is just finding her way around the profession. I guess what attracts me to her is that there is a part of her that is organized and yet there is another great chunk of her that is delightfully, quirkily “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants”.
Her well-preserved and still very attractive octogenarian neighbour Henry and his other “just as old if not older” siblings add some unique interest to the story. But the spice is added, literally, by Rosie, of Hungarian origins, who runs a small restaurant/grill/bar down the road from Kinsey’s home. I can almost hear her speaking in her broken accent and can imagine the expressions on her face and in her voice the way Sue Grafton describes her.
So here I am having read the latest, U Is For Umbrella, and wondering who will be the next author that my eyes fall upon, that my nose smells out. One thing is for sure, I will not be without words in some way or another. They feed my soul and my mind. I will not go hungry!