It was supposed to be centered around the cob oven.
We had already held one cob oven pizza party event, and the oven proved a very magnetic attractor. We were excited to show it off, and to eat from it, be warmed communally by it, for a second time. Two days prior to the event, however, the cob oven part of the party was nixed. All I can say now is that there is a neighborhood issue with smoke.
The neighborhood issue has, in turn, propelled the GANG garden itself into the limelight of both Planning Department and City Council. This is either fortunate or not, depending on your point of view. At the end of August, I will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals in an effort to render the garden, and as many of its current and future activities as possible, fully on board “legal” with the city of Bloomington. (BTW: the cob oven is legal, as are neighborhood gardens. As usual, the devil is in the details.)
I will need help. Help writing the proposal, help with statements of support, help from neighbors and others who love the GANG garden showing up at the meeting and speaking for it.
The head of the Planning Department told me, “What you’re doing will be commonplace in ten or fifteen years. You’re the pioneer. So you get the flack.”
“Yes,” I responded, “that’s the role I’m playing, and I understand yours as well. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes!”
This drama is one small local scenario that typifies the kinds of “conflicts” that arise during this, the final act of our post-industrial civilization that has, without anyone really understanding the consequences, put us on a me-first collision course and led us to forget about our heart and soul connections as neighbors on this one small planet in this one small solar system in this one small Milky Way galaxy — and so on, and on out to infinity. (See my exopermaculture site for more on exploring the larger context of our efforts here below . . .)
“Okay,” I told the planner, “So this meeting is to be the next educational activity of the GANG garden!”
Meanwhile, back to the party.
As usual, we had no idea how many people would actually show up. We had sent a notice to the neighborhood email list, and to those who’ve been students or teachers in garden workshops. We made up flyers for all three events (Children’s Workshop, Earthen Workshop) and my son Colin dropped placed them carefully in the doorways to every house on nearby streets (about 50 altogether). Click Garden Party flyer. But there were no guarantees.
Two years ago, we made up a flyer for a GANG Harvest Party in November and six neighbors fanned out to cover the entire neighborhood (ca. 440 homes) . . . and only one person came because he had seen the flyer.
My son Colin, who had just moved here from Massachusetts, was bitterly disappointed. Now he knows better. What’s important is the process, how we go about doing whatever we do. The results of our efforts vary over time. Let go of expectations, and you’ll not be disappointed!
I told him to view the flyers themselves as educational materials. Almost as if giving a flyer to someone is its own event. It puts the idea in the person’s mind of having a neighborhood gathering. Maybe they won’t come to our gathering, and they’ll most likely move away within a year or two from this highly transient university community. But someday, maybe years from now, something might joggle their minds — they won’t even remember what — and they will say, “Hey, how about having a neighborhood get-together”?
In fact, when we sent those flyers around, I had warned everybody, “This probably won’t get much of a response. Don’t worry about it. The flyer plants seeds.”
So, imagine my surprise when this time, at least 35 people showed up, with about 2/3 from the neighborhood itself. I was especially surprised to see two older people whom I’ve not met before, and a number of IU students new to me from streets in the hood that are not so nearby.
We spent less energy than two years ago, and we got more return. How’s that for evolution? Clearly, the seeds of community are sprouting.
I especially like this little photo series. First, neighbor Kathy walks up.
Then, her husband Al.
Then, their neighbor Abby from across the street joins them — Abby remembers Kathy and Al from when she was a little girl.
Now Abby’s back in the hood, and she and her partner Mary are making a beautiful little flower garden on the corner of their property that is also graced by a gorgeous, giant rock pulled up from underground and placed there by Vectren workers during street repairs.
Mary is one of the GANG garden regulars, and brings not only her labor, but her skill and certification as an organic gardener. Here she is, with two of “the cutters” (no, not of the movie “Breaking Away,” but of the pizzas, which, in lieu of the cob oven, were coming out of the oven in my house next door), my niece Megan’s boyfriend Brian and my son Colin.
Brian, my son Colin, with Mary
BTW: the young man below, whose name escapes me, but he is a single dad neighbor and a Tom Cruise lookalike! —
had no idea that twenty minutes later he would be sent back home to fetch his pizza cutter (the thingamajig that rolls).
Two days before the party, a neighbor whom I have not seen or heard from for at least a year, walked up onto my porch, where I was eating dinner, and asked me how she could help. I was both surprised and thrilled.
Valerie is one of my favorite people, ever since I asked her, when I found out that she lives with a husband and seven children in a house not much bigger than mine, how she does it, and she answered, simply, “We like each other”!
I did have something for her to do. I had promised to provide all the pizza dough, and the tomato sauce and the cheese, suggesting others bring pizza toppings as their contribution to the meal. Of course, I could always buy the dough, but my instinct was to make the pizza dough from scratch! However I had never done it.
Wouldn’t you know! Valerie used to make all her pizza dough from scratch. She would help me. I would get the flour and oil and sugar and salt and yeast, and she would come over Friday at 2 p.m., and stay for two hours. We would make it together then.
So, what had been causing me stress, the anticipation of having to make the pizza dough, turned into its own kind of fun as the two of us, plus one of her daughters, Noura, sat and stood around the kitchen table kneading and punching dough for the next day’s party.
At the party, Valerie turned out to be the chief dough roller as well. I doubt she had planned on that.
Valerie, with Todd in the background, and the "cutters" beyond
We ended up making about twelve pizzas. This size:
Lots of toppings, e.g.
And even one vegetarian, after student Katrina (on the right) shyly asked if that was possible . . .
At different points in the evening — it went on for four hours— people were lined up for another piece of pizza. So glad it was not one of our hot days . . .
People sat on my porch to eat.
Or, they wandered out to the garden, passing the day lilies . . .
and entering the gate to the wonderful mellow music by neighbor Jelene and her partner David (who, BTW, will be playing at the Farmers’ Market with their band tomorrow morning!).
Jessica and John, who until very recently, walked the neighborhood together every single day, sat in the garden with John and Susan, a workshop student, and Mary.
Some took an opportunity to wander the garden with their children (notice cob oven in background) . . .
And I, of course, took the opportunity, whenever possible, to recruit new student blood into the garden . .
Wish I could remember this beautiful young man’s name! And I forgot to get his email. But I did get Taylor’s email (the guy with the hat below). When I got it wrong, he corrected it at the party . . .
There’s Valerie, rolling yet another one . . .
Lots more pictures, lots more people, don’t have them all here; a few, including Stephanie from the Children’s Workshop, arrived too late for pizzas! The party finally wound down to about ten of us sitting around the table in the garden until the sun went down and I announced it was my bedtime.
Looking back, I think that what made this evening’s event so easy and comfortable, even among people of widely differing ages and interests, was the atmosphere set by the music; Jelene and David’s sweet, slow harmonies harmonized us, made it fun and simple just to be sharing food and talk on an absolutely gorgeous summer evening in and around the GANG garden.
We didn’t forget about the cob oven. My son Colin said that a number of people looked crestfallen when they walked up and he told them we were not going to be cooking the pizza there.
But we did fine without it. In the end it’s we, the people, who count, not our various props.