“Can you tell what bird it is, Lori?” I asked.
Like many people here, I have not just a mailbox on the road but also a white open mailbox for newspapers. The only one I subscribe to is the local Montague Reporter, which arrives each Friday morning. Subscriptions are a measly $40 a year so it depends on volunteer labor and community effort to put together this weekly labor of love summarizing civic engagement, town hall meetings and police logs in 5 different towns, concerts, exhibits, school budgets and sports, and historical features on the Native American people that lived here and the old mills that were the backbone of the economy 100 years ago.
Only this time I was leery of picking up The Reporter because of the nest a bird had built inside.
Lori strode up the hill and texted back: “I think it’s a phoebe.” Then added: “Strange bird.”
At first, I thought it might be abandoned because I didn’t see a bird anywhere near there, but then an egg appeared. I wrote out a request to put the newspaper in the closed mailbox so as not to disturb things, and we’ll see what happens.
The whole thing still looks iffy to me, but one never knows. What will spring to life? What won’t?
A few weeks ago, I decided to visit the Stone Soup Café in Greenfield. Zen Peacemakers began those Saturday community lunches some 15 years ago at the Montague Farm, with organic food, activities for children, music, various healing therapies, and council. When we had to leave the Farm, the Café moved to Greenfield, under the tutelage of Ariel Pliskin, where it found a home in the basement floor of the Unitarian Church and will soon be celebrating 10 years there.
Trouble is, after 10 years, it’s outgrown its home in the Church. During the pandemic they couldn’t let people eat inside, so they bagged their multi-course meals either for pick-up or delivery. Now they still can’t let people eat inside because there are too many of them.
“We prepare at least 400 meals every week,” their new director and head chef, Kirsten Levitt, said. “We don’t have the space to feed everyone at the same time.”
Instead, volunteers stand in assembly lines where spring greens salad, garlic greens, vegetable medley, yellow rice, chickpea/fish curry, and lemon cookies and cheesecake (tomorrow’s meal) are put into boxes, which are then put into large paper bags and brought outside (see below). Outside there’s a line curving around the corner to pick up the bags, as well as a line of cars waiting to load up the bags for delivery to individuals in different local towns. There are also long tables with free food (much of it organic and fresh) to be given out.
Stone Soup has also begun a culinary institute to train people in cooking and serving food. In their words, “we especially are looking to grow a cohort of students who are currently in recovery, formerly incarcerated, people living in poverty who need a new career path, and all other community members who are interested in culinary arts.”
The Café is starting a capital campaign to buy and renovate a larger facility so that they could once again have hundreds of people eating together a gourmet hot meal, made from scratch and served with joy and dignity. And consider this: Each week they need some 35 volunteers to cook, set up, package, give out, deliver, and clean up. And—they get them.
Who would have thought it? Back around 2005 when the meal began, under the generous supervision of Karen Werner with cooking by Rosalind Jiko McIntosh, who would have thought it would flower like this? Since it took place in a rural farm, people had to come by car and we often had to pick up and bring folks who didn’t have cars, then take them back home. There was enough space, inside and out, to feed people and we had woods for the kids, but the place was clearly not very convenient. Even then, I don’t recall we fed more than 100 people on any given Saturday.
I remember talking about this with Bernie, but he didn’t care about whether it was the right fit or not. He wanted to do something to serve people.
Now the Stone Soup Café prepares 400 meals every week. And with their new facility, they hope to serve meals every single day. On June 12 they’re celebrating ten years since they began in Greenfield with great food, music, art-making, and other activities.
Who knows what takes on more life and what doesn’t? I hope a chick comes out of the egg. “Just start,” Bernie used to say. “The universe will take care of the rest.”
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