Sometimes life gives us grand, easily-recognizable landmarks. Moments when even a total stranger could look in and immediately understand why something is important, why it is good: A new job, the birth of a child. But it’s too easy to be on the lookout only for those, and to lose those quiet, subtle moments of magnificence. Those moments you have to sit with a while and look at just right to appreciate their beauty. Poking a fork at the blueberry-stained remains of my paper plate yesterday morning at the Grange gave me the time to indulge in just this appreciation.
I’ve spent plenty of time down at the Grange Hall. Meetings on county land use policy, pasture management workshops – even a low-key, family-friendly midwinter rave. Along with Finnriver and the Corner Store, the Grange helps define the heart of the Chimacum Valley.
So pop quiz: how many of you actually know what a Grange is? No shame in that: I had no idea, either. Short answer is that it’s a meeting hall for the The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Wait – what?!? Yeah. But unofficially, Granges offer a place for rural communities to come together. Our local Grange has been that place for a hundred years now, and decided to commemorate it this past Sunday with a celebratory pancake breakfast.
Now, on the surface it was pretty much what you’d expect of a pancake breakfast in meeting hall. Except, of course, that the blueberries came from across the way at Finnriver, the pork sausage from the Egg and I Farm down the road and… you get the idea. Aside from the maple syrup, I’d be surprised if any of the ingredients traveled more than a dozen miles to make it to our plates. But at the bottom of it all, it was still that pancake breakfast that we’ve all been to in a hundred different guises.
Except. Except. Once you stopped and looked at the conversations percolating down the long tables, you saw connection. You saw curiosity, you saw laughter, you saw love. You saw the bloodstream of a vibrant rural community making their own communion with each other. Little kids dancing to the old-time fiddle music, old stalwarts waving their forks like scepters, holding court on bottom land management. Old friends and total strangers rapt in conversation.
It was a beautiful thing to observe, like watching one of those tiny see-through fish through a microscope, where you can see everything working together: tiny gills taking in oxygen, a transparent heart pumping blood through miniscule arteries.
It was an even more beautiful thing to be a part of.
You see, I finished my pancakes pretty quickly. But even before I had, I was lost in conversation with Angela and Chris from in town, who were canning buddies with Tia and Katie. We waxed rhapsodic about pickles, I think. And when I started to get up I got caught up in conversation with Katherine from the Land Trust, about…oh, I don’t remember. Then there was the gang from Mozaic, renovating their turn-of-the-previous-century farmhouse. And the rest of the Natembea crew, straggling in after a long night at Off Center.
Of course there were raffle tickets to be bought – I was pleased to see that two of the prizes were being donated by Natembea folks: Lacey’s Sweet Seed Flowers and Meghan’s Hopscotch Farms CSA.
But every time I said goodbye, I found myself stumbling over yet another friend, another farmer with whom our own farm has become inextricably bound up. Keith and I promised each other that we would talk Real Soon Now about the tractor work he’s offered to do in our lower pastures, Martin and Charlotte coyly ‘fessed up that little Eli was going to have a new sibling soon. By the time I made it out to my car, it was nearly lunchtime and I’d been at “breakfast” for two and a half hours.