Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On a Trip to Montague @PureMichigan, Wilbo Finds Everything from Wreaths of Radishes to Rainwater Tea.

Montague has a quirky slice of life all its own. Checking into The Book Nook & Java Shop for a coffee and computer time, I noticed a man working on a laptop, and he wore the insignia Rafaill and Associates on his golf shirt. That's really all I need to strike up a conversation, a clue. I knew he had kept the Howmet Playhouse website up and running for going on eight years, and I wanted to thank him for that. William Rafaill is a hearty, strong looking man, and he drives down from his cottage on Stony Lake to use the good wifi at the bookstore. One can't tell that he's a cancer and a heart attack survivor too. The two conditions run in the family, and he defeated each. He could afford to retire completely, and then he would be horribly bored. His wife and he have Fitbits, and making ten thousand steps takes only the morning. Like many older people who have taken to the Fitbit, pressing on twenty-thousand steps has become a daily achievement. One of his friends just hit ninety and the ninety year old loves his Fitbit too. He does great web work, and he wished me well when his client sat down for a consultation.

A fellow named Richard has played guitar and sang at the bookstore for years, and its an amazing feat. He retired early from his career with a heart condition, and that's proceeded to the point where he brings an oxygen tank with him to the Muskegon Museum of Art, where he volunteers as a docent. When he performs, he takes the oxygen clip off and sings full throated, from jazz standards to blues numbers. He picked up the harmonica and wailed on it, again without assistance of oxygen. He hadn't tired out by the time a woman showed up with a guitar to sit in with him. Some days he tires. When he tires he calls the show over early. Six years ago, a young photographer took a black and white photography of him in performance at the old Book Nook, and I bought that from the old location of the art council gallery. Framed it and gave that to the new owner. I have no idea where it went.

My head was hazy with the unreality of researching facts on the internet, and I knew I could leave my backpack and laptop on a table and go walk about in Montague. I was delighted to see, down a hill and closer to the lake, a few straggling tables at the farmers market. I was excited to see a table for Schneider Hills Farm, staffed by a woman. She had flowers out on her table and boxes of garlic cloves, and I greeted her enthusiastically. "I'm so glad to meet the person behind the farm stand at Duck Lake and Scenic Drive". "How can I help you"? I often wonder about that. I often say a conversational starter and the person is all business. Thud. She was busily packing up to leave, explaining her curtness. Luckily, she had the washed bag of greens in a cooler she was about to load into her truck, and I scored a bag. I asked if she had a hoop house, meaning she would be selling greens into the cold weather. "I have two, but when the weather turns cold, I'll turn to all the other work I rather not being doing". I didn't ask. I had visited the farm stand past Sunday, and a man had scraped the side of the well-kept farm house and was beginning to paint the exposed wood. He muttered a few things to me as I searched the hutch and found only heirloom onions, dollar a bundle.

I offered a woman a dollar for two pears; she accepted. I had left my iPhone with my laptop, and I asked her to take a picture of the wreath of radishes she had made. She didn't think it was exceptional. I was thinking how to keep it fresh to put on my door for Christmas. She snapped the picture and posted it to her Facebook site, TerAvest Farms, LLC. She started running her fingers around the keyboard and out popped the words, "Radish Wreath". I was pretty stunned because I had failed at using Swipe and she could make words appear like magic with the keyboard app. I called her a Renaissance Woman and she pushed back. "How can I be a Renaissance Woman when I'm this many years old"? She said an age. The age she said was only four years older than my age. I could have said, "Being a Renaissance Woman has little to do with your age", but I thought I would take my pears and greens back to the Book Nook. Sir Thomas More had lived the life of a Renaissance Man, and he died one at age fifty-seven and yet, what did it matter?

Paisley Place, a British tea house, had closed for the season early last year, and I missed it by a day, wanting to have high tea on one of its alleyway tables, nice table clothes covering round tables, circled by orange chairs. This year, she opened and set out the round tables and the matching orange tea cart, but she opened only to sell the china and antiques. A bulletin board titled, "Happenings" had fliers and announcements for the Summer of 2015, a hopeful sign. When I visited, she gave me a tour and shared all the historical documents she had collected on her building, once a store selling tools and supplies to lumberjacks. This was before July and she had listed the building, with apartment upstairs and outdoor deck, for a mere 130 thousand dollars. The realtor's sign still on the door, now locked, price had been slashed ten thousand. By handwritten sign, she had offered all the tea cups for a donation, no tin or canister set aside to collect money. All the cups had filled with last night's rainwater. Three chairs leaning against a wide door painted green were available for two dollars each, and I saw no way of dropping off the money. All the orange chairs around the orange tables in the alley had been marked with a sign, "Not for Sale".

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