Adventures in communityThis column has morphed, of late, into one involving my family’s adventures. This one is no different, but will demonstrate that adventure is a concept and attitude that can and should be viewed broadly.
This column has morphed, of late, into one involving my family’s adventures. This one is no different, but will demonstrate that adventure is a concept and attitude that can and should be viewed broadly.
The weekend I wrote this involved the release of seven amphibians back into the wild, a front-yard dinner party with many of our neighbors, and the digging of deep holes. All are interlinked much like the knee bone is connected to the leg bone.
Today I wrassled seven frogs from the heart of my daughter, and succeeded in convincing her to willingly return them to the natural world. We gathered them exactly one week earlier at Indian Lake
in the Brimson area 55 minutes north of Duluth. That day an afternoon of swimming was capped off by the discovery of these creatures.
While the capture of wild critters from their natural environment may certainly be somewhat controversial, I must say that it certainly helped nurture a love for the creatures that so often go unseen. If it’s something Huck Finn would do, I generally tend to give approval.
Thankfully we were able to keep them alive for the week that they were in our care. You would have thought each one was Prince Charming trapped in the form of a frog, given the reaction of all the neighborhood girls to them.
Putting them back was the right thing to do, however. It helped teach our daughter that not everything in nature can be owned, to be content with the pets we already have rather than hoarding more, and that part of caring for creatures is thinking of their wellbeing above our entertainment.
The night before, we enjoyed a dinner party with various neighbors in our front yard, following yet another frustratingly hot day where the sun bores through your skull and melts the brain down in layers. On this day I had started moving a portion of our fence in order to make room for a rhubarb plant so we could make way for a coming playhouse some neighborhood boys wish to build. Yes, it all makes loads of sense.
It would be necessary to dig holes to a depth of four feet through especially pernicious Lakeside clay. With the sun shining brightly all day, I decided to chuck it and enjoy a barbecue with the neighborhood in the relative shade of our front yard. Completely unplanned and imperfect, the impromptu gathering proved to be the best, because there were no expectations involved. The surprise of an informal gathering is a treat in and of itself. The best part was watching nine kids all excitedly devouring a fairly healthy meal together on their shared picnic blanket. They were all particularly excited to share a meal together (evidence that it’s not done nearly enough, of course).
My wife was even more excited, because none of this involved the usual stress of making sure the house was cleaned perfectly, and that all the food was impeccable in taste, presentation, and quantity. Ducks were not in a row, but nobody cared. We didn’t have enough food for everyone, but our neighbors all brought extraordinarily tasty and healthy options (beautiful bowls of fresh fruit and vegetables primarily) that caused our meager supply of loaves and fishes to multiply. On a hot day, it seemed that nobody wanted to go through the effort of putting together a full meal, so this impromptu potluck was just what the doctor ordered.
The front-yard barbecue is a fantastic party that I commend to you, because it sends a message to passersby that everyone is welcome. Formal invitations be damned. Just stop by and enjoy a little camaraderie and leave whenever you wish, or don’t stop by at all. There are no expectations.
When darkness closed in, not only were we fortunate to have help cleaning up and rolling the table back to the backyard, but one helpful neighbor helped me dig my holes in the coolness of the evening.
Living in an actual neighborhood is an exciting adventure for us. Neither my wife nor I grew up anywhere like this with such well-travelled sidewalks and neighbors who don’t insulate themselves from each other as a matter of course. It’s a genuine community that is exciting to experience. Given that the art of hospitality and neighborliness has largely atrophied in our culture (and therefore ourselves) it is a very real adventure as we explore the contours and possibilities of close-neighborhood living. You have similar opportunities, no doubt, so I encourage you to not take it for granted. Very few cities offer such neighborliness.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.