Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Market Daze

I very rarely make posts like this but I suppose that, since I was referred to as "bubbly" today [probably for the first and last time], it's fitting and I can make an exception.

Today was the second Allen St. Farmers Market of the season. I volunteered at the market last fall semester for a class and was entirely smitten with it, and then volunteered at the Allen Neighborhood Center this spring. I decided to continue volunteering there this summer [and for the season], without the parameters of a class. Not limited by a class schedule or other school-related commitments, I told my boss that I would need Wednesdays off and plan to be at the market from set-up at 12:30 until tear-down at 7:00 for the summer.

Today was a fabulous day. It frosted last night and thunderstorms have been predicted each day for the past couple days, but today was clear, sunny and probably 70 degrees. Set-up only took an hour, and then I helped the East Lansing Food Co-op [where I also volunteer] set up their tent. As the market got underway I took a seat by one of the entrances as a greeter. The day flew by. There was a steady stream of people all day, some attending for the first time, some with babies, some with dogs, some I knew from previous markets. You just couldn't ask for a nicer day, and everyone was all smiles. You can buy everything from herbs to milk, flowers to brownies, and people came with cotton bags and woven baskets to carry their purchases home. Many people walk or bike from their homes or work, picking up ingredients for dinner that night.

I love the conversations you have with strangers. There's just something so intimate about a market, especially this little one, that you feel like you know the people around you already. You say "hello" as they come in and "see you next week!" as they leave. It doesn't matter that you don't know their names or where they work or anything about them. You know enough.

The more involved I get with things like the Co-Op, the ANC, farmers markets, yoga, local restaurants, the more I realize how big the circle of people involved really is. When I talk to people about things like why I buy local milk instead of organic, sometimes they look at me like I am the strangest alien creature they have ever attempted to communicate with. And yet, in the food/social justice/hippy circle that I've found myself in, I see many of the same people in all of my favorite haunts. Sometimes I can't tell if there is a growing momentum towards this kind of lifestyle or if I just go about my daily life in a comically large eco-bubble.

I rode the bus home. The bus driver commented on the single flower I was carrying, an iris. I sat down to smiles from other people, a rarity on any bus, especially in the early evening. Flowers are disarming. I helped a couple figure out which bus stop to get off, and they asked if I had been working at a grocery store close to the bus stop where I got on. I was surprised they had paid any attention to such a minor detail, and told them where they could find the market next week. Maybe I'll see them there.

Far from feeling tired, I feel energized by today. I'm lucky to afford the luxury of an entire day to volunteer, and I know from experience that there are cold, rainy, miserable markets down the line. But the sun and the people and the hand-painted signs fluttering in the wind today... it was all perfect.

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