Revived by elves
By Peggy Sturdivant
The highlight of Thanksgiving shouldn’t have been whacking a persimmon tree as though it was a piñata.
I don’t think I’d ever seen a persimmon tree before. Every bare branch shimmered with raindrops. The orange balls appeared to be suspended throughout the tree like decorations rather than fruit.
In order to help a friend harvest the out-of-reach persimmons I found a big branch and took swings overhead, creating more rain shower and sending some of the fruit to a pulpy death. Yet I knew my mother would be proud. My mother is a gleaner, always preferring nature’s free gifts.
Several persimmons are still stacked on my counter even though I don’t know what to do with them, but they remind of the sight of that tree, and the possibility of joy.
Shaking loose the fruit also shook something loose in me. Those of you who have followed my column know that I have been on a break since June 2017. (A majority of readers think I stopped writing when the Ballard News-Tribune no longer had its own print edition). I had been writing At Large in Ballard for ten years.
I was tired. I was also booked for six weeks of full-time writing workshops and completing a freelance assignment in addition to all my usual obligations. I was also feeling overwhelmed by a daily barrage of distressing news, personal, local, national, international. It had come to feel like my column deadline was always hanging over me. This could explain the elation I felt whacking at fruit that was indeed hanging over me.
When I first started writing At Large in Ballard it was modeled on a column for a small town paper. Ballard isn’t that town anymore and Seattle isn’t that city. The rapid growth spurt has caused growing discontent in a region that is both booming and failing. There’s economic growth for many and desperation for others, the confluence of mental illness with opioids, housing shortage with building (and demolition) boom. Perhaps I never really had my finger on Ballard’s pulse, or any one of its pulses.
Over the summer and fall it was time to unload my notes and journals, sift through the petitions and complaints, requests and resolutions. I wasn’t sure if I was tired of writing about Ballard, tired of writing or just tired of myself.
Others still had energy and optimism. One year after a double mastectomy and aggressive treatment for breast cancer Michele Bacon had more than persisted, almost doubling the Book Elf program at Secret Garden Books. Holly Gold had done the hard work of cleaning out her late mother Carrie Gustafson’s studio and was preparing to reignite the fires of the Winter Solstice Party tradition.
Yes, the Nordic Heritage Museum Gift Shop (along with the museum) is closed until the new location opens its doors next spring, but Yule Fest, what a send-off. The Ballard Civic Orchestra continues to shine yet another light on Ballard’s talent, featured at Benaroya last weekend for Encanto and presenting Las Posados at North Seattle College on December 9th and Columbia City Theater on December 10th.
So how can I resist sharing the good that others are doing so that we can share more hope? The family and friends of the late Regnor Reinholdsten and Carrie Gustafson are reconnecting the community at with potluck and arts on December 15th. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, at an Indies First day at Secret Garden Books I watched as customers came expressly to choose a Book Elf with the name and age of a child who would not otherwise receive the gift of a book. Childless couples fussed over their book choice as though they were making decisions about an entire nursery. As each suspended “elf” matched a child with a book the staff hung a paper snowflake in its place. Each snowflake representing an act of kindness.
We may not have a white Christmas in Seattle but there are already snow flurries at Secret Garden; that they hope will resemble a blizzard as all the book wishes are fulfilled before school break. Looking at the cut paper snowflakes I thought again about the persimmon tree. If you’ll have me back I’d like to be At Large again, taking on even more of the region, at least one whack a month at this crazy, changing, place we all call home.
Secret Garden Books is at 2214 NW Market Street. The Book Elf program runs through December 10th (so hurry).
Regnor & Carrie’s Annual Winter Solstice Party, Music, Potluck and Arts Sale, Saturday, Dec. 16 from 4-10 p.m. at Sunset Hill Community Association Clubhouse. 3003 NW 66th Street. www.projectfreeform.com.