“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Part II, Day 10: Errand

I used to squeeze errands into the beginning or end of a work day, and I rarely got to savor them.  The long line at the post office would make me worry I would be late for class, and the even longer line at the grocery store would make me grumpy about how late dinner was going to be.

Sometimes I'd pack all of my errands into a Saturday, and then I'd rush through them so that I'd have more time to grade papers and exercise and, if I was lucky, write a page or two.

Writing was the transgressive thing I would wake up at 5 AM to do before the day's demands took me hostage.

Now that writing is my job all day, running an errand is a sweet escape.  It's so lovely to take a break from the search for words. 

Today I set out in the rain to deliver our tax materials to our accountant.  The sky is blurry and gray like a big rheumy eye, and it's hard to believe that the shiny, brown not-planted-yet fields will bloom in a matter of weeks.   

My accountant lives on a country road around the way from a diner named Mom's.  It's an old-fashioned country diner with an ice cream cone drawing on its sign, and I promise myself that next time I drive out here, I'll stop in the diner and have a snack.  That old adage, you should never eat at a place called Mom's, is one of those axioms I love to prove wrong. 

At the house, my accountant's three huge German shepherds bark and jump and try to break through the door.  If I were scared of dogs, I would surely be scared of them, but I just say, "Hi sweeties, I love you," and they do eventually back off.  It helps when their male person, my accountant's husband, pops his head through the door to thank me for the package.  "I think they think there are bones in there for them," I say, and he laughs.

When Zoe was younger and I brought her everywhere I went--I explained to civilians that this was her much-needed socialization, but it was really separation anxiety: mine--I once asked my accountant if I could bring her to our appointment.  The first time, when she was a puppy, I left her in the car.  But one time she came in the house with me, and I thought my accountant was going to cry.  "That's Maggie," she said, her voice trembling with emotion.

Then I looked at the photo above the desk, in her office.  A Zoe-clone.  We got talking and realized that her dog, Maggie, had to have been one of Zoe's litter mates.  It was the same story.  Puppies brought to the Postdam Humane Society in May of 2003.  Eight puppies from the same litter.  Some looked like golden retrievers.  The others were tri-color, wolfy dogs, mostly black with white bellies and brown highlights.

"Maggie was the best dog we ever had," she said.  "She was so nice.  So peaceful.  So easy to train.  Just a good, calm presence."  But then the dog got out one day and ran into the road and was hit by a car.  She was only about two.

"I knew I couldn't live without dogs in my life," she said.  "But I wouldn't allow myself to try to replace her.  There could be no replacement.  So I go out of my way to find difficult dogs now.  My dogs--let's face it--are jerks."

When she told me this story, I assumed Zoe would live to 16.  I vowed never to let her near a busy road.  That was always my worst fear--that she would get hit.  More than once, she had sprinted out of our house to chase dogs she spotted across the street--I think it was the herding instinct gone wayward--and once a car screeched to a halt an inch from her body, but we were always so lucky.

Zoe isn't with me today.  I still bring her on many of my errands, but never to my accountant's.

Next stop is the pet supply section of Agway.  My friend Rebecca read my post about bunnies from Sunday, and found out that I can buy rabbit in a can.  I'm excited at the prospect.

Inside, there are too many cans and bags to choose from.  It's all so overwhelming.  So I meet with the pet food expert at the store.  He tells me that it's hard to source rabbit in the states, that you can't trust where it comes from.  He's vehement that he doesn't want to sell pet food that comes from outside the U.S. and Canada.  But he knows one supplier that he trusts, and he's on the phone to order it for me.  I'm going to be bringing Zoe her bunny next week.  Not in a can, but in a carcass, as raw meat.  I'm so happy.  On this errand list, I'm two for two.

Just before I leave, the heavens open.  The steady rain becomes a violent downpour and the sound, over the plant annex's greenhouse ceiling, is like marbles spilling on tile.  It's such a rich, wonderful sound, of life and freshness and change, and the air is electric from it.  I take a stroll around the annuals that have just come in: my favorite flower pot varieties, peonies, are in force.  The room is perfumed with so many flowers that I feel a little giddy.  I could stay here listening to the rain and taking in all these colors--violet, scarlet, pink, orange, and yellow--for hours. 

And then I see something I've never come across in my life.  I've been to flower shows and greenhouses and rain forests and I've never seen these fuzzy pink flowers that look like caterpillars on steroids looming before me.

"What is this?" I ask the woman.  "I've never seen a plant like this."

She looks at me like I'm half-witted.  I can't tell if it's my excitement--Hey, I want to say, I'm running errands, isn't that the greatest thing, ever?--or that I don't know the name of this flower.

"Chenille," she says, and when I ask her to she spells it for me.
I must confess I snagged this photo from the web page from one of my favorite plant stores in the North Country, White's.  I hope they will forgive my theft if it brings them customers.  Don't you want one of these?

Next stop is the Potsdam co-op.  The co-op is one of my favorite places to run errands.  I love their homemade soup and their sandwich wraps and their bakery's baguettes and their customers.  I often run into my friend Anne, the historian/gardener, near the vegetable section of the co-op.  This is where we were when we talked about blogs for the first time, and now she's got her own, about gardening, and it's a wondrous thing.  (Go to this link to read it, and today you will learn more about composting.)

It's 2 PM and I forgot to eat lunch.  The soup today is tomato blue cheese, and I dig in as soon as I arrive, which gives me time to wander around and see what's new.  More new brands of coffee, more kinds of cheese, more local meats, and the thing I need for tonight's dinner with my husband, who is slow-roasting his signature ribs: collard greens.

Next stop is Purple Rice, a few doors down, the Asian grocery.  When I walk in the woman who works there looks at me and says, "You're going to be disappointed."  Because every time I go in there, I buy baby bok choy, but sometimes she runs out.

Today, though, I'm on such a good streak that I won't let this set me back.  "What do you think I should try instead?" I say.  "Something that's good with duck.  For tomorrow."

"I know just the thing," she says, and she sells me a bag of yu choy.  "It's a cross between spinach and bok choy," she says.  "I hope you like it."

"I know I will, because I like everything," I say.

I think about this as I drive home.  Do I really like everything?  Well, of course not.  I won't trouble you with the predictable list of things I loathe: war, cruelty, bigotry, reality TV, organ meats, chocolate malted milk balls (only because I overdosed on them when I was ten and got sick), bad music from the 1970s.

The rain lightens up when I get home and Zoe is very happy to see me.  She doesn't care that it's raining.  It's time for our walk.  I tell her she's going to eat bunny soon.  Not bunny in a can, but bunny that looks like bunny, and was frozen in a slab.  I tell her that if I don't owe the government a lot of money, I'll buy her another plush toy.  And I tell her that we'll have a box garden soon for her to lounge beneath on the deck, full of scarlet and violet peonies, but probably not the chenille flowers that for now I will admire from a distance.


  1. I think my favorite topic is the little things, the (not really so) ordinary things--like errands. Blog titles like "life and death, meaning and purpose" make me shy away a bit, but I just love blog titles with apples and errands in them! Also, I want to thank you for mentioning the blog "spa of the mind", I just love it, and I have told several friends about it. I was struck by your phrase "a break from the search for words". I've been reading and writing words all day so far. Your blog post, (as usual with your essays) has the effect of making me lean back, take a few slow deep breaths, and just take a pause from words (ironic, isn't it!) and let life ... settle. I notice the rainy grey beautiful light coming in the window, the sounds of people outside in the hall, the snug feel of my feet in my sturdy leather hiking boots. And...Sorry I wasn't at the coop to chat over sweet potatoes and beets!

  2. Dearest Anne,
    Thank you so much for these savory words. You have given me (and readers) much to chew on, and now I am picturing those co-op vegetables with deep roots.

    You always are such a master at articulating what I'm trying to do when I write--much better than I could--and this inspires me to keep going. And your own writing (through your blog) is rich and textured and inspiring. Thank you so much, Anne. xx N