Morning in Adventureland. The campground silent and serene. Stef & Amy out for coffee and I've got Maude all to myself to write. How the headline news has started to creep in - a downed plane over the Ukraine, the ground assault in Gaza. The paradox and incongruities and ironies and how I don't want to be ignorant but I also don't want to get plowed under. How to hold two kinds of stories in your arms, in your head, in your heart.
Blueberry scones and the sweet drive to Grinnell through lush, gently rolling countryside. The pass through Newton and wishing we had time to stroll. Arriving at the 4-H fair and something that sounded like a rodeo but which really was goat contest. Kids in cowboy boots and club t-shirts. Funnel cakes. A dunking booth. Barnfuls of animals. Roosters and rabbits and cattle and horses and sheep. The variety of manure on the fairgrounds. Fifth-wheelers in the back. The surprise and delight of teenagers taking farm animals around for a walk. Prize ribbons of colors and sizes. The Exhibition Hall. The smell of hamburgers on the grill. Tilly Woodward, arriving in her glitter truck, and the beautiful circus of art that she unpacked from the truck bed. How in moments the picnic tables were full of supplies, and like a swarm of ants around a dropped picnic sandwich, the kids arrived. Adding typewriters to the mix, and a table where tiny books could be made. How two hours sailed by. The boy who wrote the story about God in the form of a boy. Max and his bow tie. A new wave of daycare kids arriving. This is how you use a typewriter. This is how you make a tiny book. Taking breaks to see the kindergartners and their baby goats. The proud strut around the ring. The sound of another successful dunk. Lunch at Prairie Canary. Chicken salad from the heavens. The perfect lemonade.
A downtown stroll and more antiques and a typewriter for $5 I did not buy. The Faulconer Gallery and the brilliant photographer. The ritual of afternoon coffee. Coming back to 12th & Park. The glitter bicycle in the garage. The words "keep curious" on the fridge. Tiny animals in almost missable places. A nap on a hammock interrupted by mosquito bites. Returning to the fairgrounds to look for a lost credit card. Not finding it. Watching the horse show instead. The poise and grace of early riders. Picking up a six-pack of Summer Shandy on the way back.
The beautiful dinner at Relish. How it felt like Western Massachusetts, or Portland, but really it was Iowa. Downtown all lit up but empty. The evening easy, full of that good kind of laughter that tucks you into bed, kisses your cheek, and sends you into deep sleep.
We were late, and I hate being late. Even a few minutes makes me very anxious. So when we were driving to Grinnell to meet Tilly at the 4-H Fairgrounds and it was clear we were going to be five minutes late, I was panicky. “It’s okay,” Maya said. “It’s just a couple of minutes and no one is going to be upset.” I knew that, but I was picturing the scene, all farm animals and fences and cowboy boots and dust and a maze of barns and people and how would we ever find her? And then we still had to set up and we weren’t even quite sure what we were walking into. Ugh.
We pulled into the fairgrounds and it was exactly what I pictured. We began wandering around the barns. I glimpsed kids playing some form of soccer in a small ring. A dunk tank. Grills. A funnel cake cart. A teenage boy cleaning the already-squeaky clean ears of his goat. Parents and kids and horses. An entire family dressed in tiedye. A haze of dust billowing up from the ground. No Tilly. I called her number. “I’m not there yet,” she breezed. “Five minutes away, see you soon!” Relief. She was late, too.
And then she pulled up next to the picnic pavillion with her shock of white curly hair and her black glasses perched on her nose, peering out from behind the wheel of her amazing Glitter Truck. She and her assistant jumped out and started pulling out plastic tubs filled with paper, pom poms, beads, paint, markers, brushes, pipe cleaners, stacks of magazines, wood, a saw, a log covered with nails. They threw down a huge paint-covered tarp and rolled the Glitter Truck onto it. Kids buzzed around immediately. They grabbed supplies and plopped down and started painting and cutting and threading and drawing shapes on wood for Tilly to cut with her saw. They were marbling paper. They were beading necklaces. One girl made a popsicle stick sled for her toy horse to pull. They slapped Elmer’s glue on the truck and blew clouds of glitter. A small boy wearing a bow tie sat down at the typewriter and wrote, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I disagree. It was clearly simply the best of times.