Small Green Things

Small Green Things July 15, 2014

The growing light of day wakes me a little too early, and my first thought is that I’ve forgotten to put the blinds back up again. No matter. I’ll take this over the harsh beep of an alarm clock any day. A stretch, a yawn, and I walk on the balls of my feet (as I always have) down the hallway to the only bathroom in this small, vintage-carpeted apartment. There are few things to set one to rights like dumping a quantity of hot water over one’s head, but first I must catch the warmup water in a bucket. No water must leave this place without having done at least one job, and this may serve as a dye bath later, or a refill on the toilet tank.

I don’t remember where this particular towel came from. Good chance it was from Goodwill; after my divorce, I restocked a lot of my household goods that way. By then, though, thrift shopping had already become habit. Retail therapy is easier on the bank account if your tastes run more to Salvation Army than Saks Fifth Avenue. Plus it leaves me with more spare change to add to the grocery list (I notice that we’re low on toilet paper–made from 100% post-consumer recycled fibers. Looks like a Trader Joe’s trip is in my future.)

Slightly more coherent, I make my way around the corner to the kitchen. Breakfast, as it has been for the majority of 13,000 mornings, is cereal. Old habits die hard, and bacon and eggs (organic and free range) are reserved for special occasions warranting a more complicated cleanup. I bought the bowl on eBay years ago to replace one of the same pattern that broke; I had brought the original with me when I moved out of my parents’ home after college. I tend toward the sentimental, especially when it comes to kitchenware; it makes for a cozy familiarity amid chaos. Plus everything has a story; I remember when I found this spoon in a driveway in Pittsburgh, battered from being run over but still holding its shape. That symbolized something for me at the time, and I took it home, since who else would salvage it?

Time to lock myself into my computer for a little while. There’s writing to be done, and I haven’t written anything substantial by hand in almost a score of years. These keys can almost–almost–keep up with my thoughts, and scrawling with my sinister chicken scratch seems inordinately slow. Anyway, the less screen time I have today, the better, and transcribing written words to pixels seems an unnecessary investment of breath. Thankfully, writer’s block avoids me today, and with a quick click of the mouse I am finished.

Today’s mostly an artwork day. I’m preparing for two big vending events, one weekend after the other, and while I always keep making things while on site (having someone to mind the booth helps), the size of these events calls for preemptive creation. I give a brief thought to my poor Etsy shop, which will just have to wait until after I’m home for good before it gets an influx of leftovers from this artwork frenzy.

Leftovers–that reminds me, I need to see what’s left of last night’s soup. My cooking style can be characterized as “What needs et before it goes bad?” so meals are rarely planned in advance. I’ve thrown some pretty mind-boggling combinations of vegetables (and the occasional fruit) into a soup pot, sometimes with a little sauteeing or roasting beforehand to bring out the flavor. Side dishes are equally patchworked, and I am ever grateful that the Northwest taught me that a salad doesn’t only have to have green things in it. So last night was mushroom-carrot-canned water chestnut-instant potato flake soup, with a side of leftover pita bread garnished with olive oil and garlic, and another side of salad with bacon, hard boiled egg, and dried cranberries on top. Oh, and the usual sliced apple because it was there. That’ll be tasty for lunch later.

All this talk of food has me distracted, and while hand-stitching one piece of old leather jacket to another, I manage to jab my fingertip with the leather needle. It’s a common enough occurrence; I’d have to wear thimbles on all ten fingers otherwise, and I need my tactile senses intact for this work. Back to the bathroom, where a good dose of peppermint Dr Bronner’s stings the blood away. I consider leaving off the bandaid, hating to waste the plastic, but this time the needle cut a little longer, and the bleeding doesn’t want to let up just yet. Time to put a little pressure on it.

Back to stitching (and compensating for my right index finger being unable to feel correctly), with nature documentaries in the background since when the hell else am I going to watch TV? Scraps of leather and thread go into the pillow stuffing bag, though I set a larger hide trimming aside for later–it might make a nice little pouch if I design it right. A quick break to apply another coat of acrylic paint to a small cabinet; I can afford to be a little more liberal with the paint as it came secondhand from a free box on the curb down the street, and was only in need of a little mixing and a few drops of water when I took it home. A couple of recent finds like that have almost tripled the amount of paint I have now.

When I look up again from my work, I realize the sun’s made a long trip across the sky. I remember eating at some point, maybe three Attenborough documentaries ago. It’s cooled down enough outside that I can safely venture out to the garden to water it without scorching the tender new greens from seeds planted eleven days ago. Their older counterparts need harvesting, too; the kale has gotten positively gargantuan, and I think some braised leaves would be a nice addition to the last of the leftovers tonight. A few weeds end up on the compost heap, and I pick a couple of stalks of bolted, yellowed spring spinach to dry for the seeds for fall.

Walking back home from the community garden I briefly consider tugging a few young dandelion leaves from a neighbor’s lawn. Chances are they don’t spray the yard with pesticides and the like, but I haven’t had a chance yet to talk to them about wildcrafting on their little scrap of urban property, so I decline this time. As I arrive home, my partner’s just pulled up in the car we share. We’d briefly considered trading it in for a newer, slightly more fuel-efficient model (the dealership tried really hard to convince me this was a good idea), but we opted to hang onto Juniper instead. Thirty-two miles to the gallon versus thirty-seven isn’t enough to warrant the purchase of a brand-new car, not when this one’s still running like new at sixty thousand miles and change. She’s a Corolla, too, bought specifically to go well into six-figure mileage without much fuss.

Up we go, and we renew bonds with a session of snuggling and catchup on our days. I’ve a little more work to do on that cabinet, and the leather still needs a bit more stitching, and no doubt he has some tasks of his own now that errands are run. But for the moment, this is nice. Dinner and a movie can wait for some other time–at least until we can have leftovers and Netflix. Plus this mattress is still terrifyingly comfortable despite its age. A nap may be imminent.

We talk a bit about buying a house once finances are a little more settled and steady. A yard would be nice, and sharing walls with loud people is a constant stress right now. But the added insulation is nice, and makes it easier to stay on Portland General’s 100% renewable energy plan. And any house we could afford would be in a much less walkable neighborhood; Juniper would have fewer no-drive days. So for now our tiny apartment will do for our experiments in green urban living.

We pull ourselves out of the logey embrace of the all-too-comfortable old bed, and shake off the drowsiness. A walk before supper would be nice. There’s a bag of old food leavings and trimmings too far gone to salvage by the door. Our rental company won’t pay for a city compost bin, and I can’t put food scraps in the community garden (there’s fear of rats). So we take these left-too-far-overs down the street to Whole Foods (“Whole Paycheck”, I joke), where they have a giant dumpster just for compostables of all sorts. It’s sitting next to a sorting bin for all types of plastics, more than just the HDPE and PETE that we can leave curbside. Thanks to this organic giant, we’re able to reduce our landfill contributions even more–even if it does mean having to hand-wash the plastics before sorting them. They’re strict about that.

Home again; secondhand cloth napkins from last night are still clean enough for tonight’s supper. Food is heated or reheated as needed, plated on vintage ceramic and thrift store glass, with a hodgepodge of silverware of varying pedigrees. We enjoy each other’s quiet company at the tiny kitchen table; it’s the one I repainted a few summers ago when I lived alone and had a bad week and needed to cheer myself up. Dishes can wait for tomorrow; we never did quite escape the siren call of the bed.

It’s cool enough now with the window open that I can justify curling myself up both with my partner and the down comforter he brought with him when we moved in together. I turn on the ancient white noise machine that I got years ago when I worked night shift for a time; earplugs are much too uncomfortable, but this static works nicely, and he’s a heavy enough sleeper anyway that the static doesn’t faze him. This, right here, is one of my favorite things, this safe, snug, secure feeling where just for a moment nothing seems to exist outside of this one room.

I’m just on the edge of sleep when I remember that the blinds are still out of place; we never did get around to fixing them. I won’t let myself be annoyed. I’m much too comfortable for that. So I sigh, laugh to myself, and think, “Tomorrow. That’s a good day for that.”

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