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img_1410-version-2We trudged upstream against a tide of chattering youngsters who were carrying treats and projects in their hands, rushing toward their parents with a mild and sunny Sunday afternoon awaiting them. Jennifer and I were headed in the opposite direction, indoors, to partake in a local endeavor to raise funds to fight hunger.

We purchased our meal tickets inside Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard and entered a room filled with welcoming warmth and graciousness. Volunteers generously ladled hearty soup into disposable bowls, inviting us to take some bread and directing us to where we could help ourselves to drinks. We balanced our food – along with our chosen ceramic bowls – as we searched for empty seats, taking in the tantalizing aroma of hot soup amid the din of conversation.

My soup choice, minestrone, was flavorful and filling. Jennifer and I chatted, as mothers and daughters do, and we shared casual conversations with good folks around us who were participating in this worthy fundraiser whose mission is to fight hunger in Du Page County.

The ceramic bowls were hand crafted by local artisans and children of the temple. I believe they were made at Congregation Etz Chaim then taken to be fired in a kiln elsewhere. Every bowl was unique and personal to the craftsperson who made it. I imagined experienced potters and young students trying their hand at pottery for the first time. Our ticket purchase allowed each of us to select a bowl from a colorfully unique array of choices.

The green bowl was my choice. Actually, I think I was the bowl’s choice. It seemed to call to me to pick it up, run my hand along the rim, and take it as my own. I know I will cherish it and that it will remain a tactile, visual, useful reminder that there are those among us who suffer with hunger – and those among us who strive to eradicate it. It will remind me of the blessings that are the hearts that conceived this fundraiser, of the hands that prepared the meal, of the hosts and hostesses who welcomed diners to Congregation Etz Chaim and of the supporting local organizations that have a hand in shepherding this project. It will also be a reminder of my own blessings and of the urgent need to feed all God’s children.

The Garry Gardner Memorial Bowls for Hunger Project is an “Empty Bowls Project”. The “Empty Bowls Project” is an international grassroots effort to raise both money and awareness in the fight to end hunger. The mission is to create positive and lasting change through the arts, education, and projects that build. community. *

*From Congregation Etz Chaim’s website which can be found here.

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Sprite:statue:Bacon gardenAround the second Tuesday in July, the weather channel becomes our viewing choice. The weather feature on our very smart phones are clicked more often than our text messages, often while on our knees praying to the garden gods for decent weather. There is always a storm with thunder and lightning and downpours during the second week of July. This is actually appreciated on Wednesday or Thursday, for the storm (as long as there aren’t strong winds) affords free and much-needed moisture and the lightning does whatever the magic of lightning is. It charges leaves to grow bigger and greener and stronger.

By the second Friday, we are on a first name basis with our favorite weather person (mine is Tom Skilling)  and we really start to fret and fuss. An unspoken cone of silence hovers around the members of the Elmhurst Garden Club as bubble balloons of barometric thoughts hover over our heads.

The gardens are checked by committee members, and the chair of the Faire in the park grows anxious as spaces are marked, and remarked, and the hope of a good day increases with the summer heat.

The homeowners are on high-anxiety; visiting garden centers for one more (or ten) plants to put here or there – and what about the weather?  The rain, if it comes, is good early in the week and it does provide free watering, the soil is wet and soft so weeds are easier to banish from the landscape (at least until they turn their backs, for every gardener knows how weeds like to hide and then poke their impudent heads when IMG_8773someone comes over) – just no rain, please, late in the second week of July.

By the second Saturday in July, the die is cast – hopefully not overcast – and we do, in whatever our manner, pray for good weather for the second Sunday in July.

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This Sunday, July 10, the garden gods truly did shine upon us! It dawned a most perfect day for the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire.

The vendors, club members, vendor chair Georgia and Elmhurst Park District employees were already busy as the clock showed 6 am. Have you ever seen an outdoor fair arise at the crack of dawn? It is really a sight to behold.

By the time the bells tolled nine from the churches along Cottage Hill and surrounding streets, much of the Faire was readied, while at the seven featured gardens, the homeowners were putting the last finishing touches in their gardens, as well as setting tables, tuning in music and working the most amazing garden magic, while members of the club set up ticket tables, and cars began to arrive, ticket holders eager to see what there was behind the garden gates.

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Oh, yes, dear readers, this year dawned with the best weather imaginable for the 21st Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire. It was an amazing event, with gardens large and small, whimsical and romantic, from resort amenities to urban farm. Most of these photos are from the day of the Garden Walk, though a few are from the preview walk (for homeowners to see each other’s gardens and members of the club to see the gardens if they are working on the day of the event).

These are two friends I admire and have learned so much from, on the day of the preview walk. They look like they know a secret, just inside that lush arbor.

 

This entire garden (right) is vegetables, anaerobic and aerobic composting, and more.  Much more. The family is involved in the entire operation – a truly remarkable farm to table cottage industry – all in their city-sized back yard. This photo was taken two weeks prior to IMG_8439the walk. The corn was several feet taller on the day of the walk. The bed to the left is potatoes of several varieties, now underplanted with arugula. Turnips, carrots, garlic, leaf vegetables, tomatoes . . .  and they sell their produce curbside once a week.

This garden, below, was a delight – and the gardener delightful.  I am always in awe of those who learned Latin – and remember it. In June, he had more than 250 Allium bulbs in bloom – and yes, he could properly name them all.

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It was a good day for gardeners, nature enthusiasts, artists and art buyers alike. The garden gods shined down upon us on the second Sunday in July and it will keep on shining as the actual proceeds are counted and we allocate the funds from this year’s walk with scholarships and local endeavors.

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IMG_2009Sunflowers, and their kin.

They always give me the urge to glean the seeds and preserve their petals, and capture all the sunshine within them.

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The photos are my own gleanings, taken at Mettawa Manor during a recent Open Day for the Garden Conservancy. The owners of this estate graciously open their property every year for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.

Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra have a gracefully determined respect for the land and the presence of place. In the 25 or so years they have called Mettawa Manor their  home, they have reclaimed prairie and ponds, added new features and gardens, and have enriched and enhanced those already growing. They are the epitome of what garden conservation can and should be.

Folks go to Mettawa Manor in hopes of seeing Bill Kurtis. They return, again and again, because of the lure of the prairie, the stillness of the ponds, the majesty of the woods, the history of the area, the exquisite formal gardens, and even the hope of a small ice cream cone or tasting of grass-fed beef, one of Bill Kurtis’s many ventures.

You may know who Bill Kurtis is. If you don’t, you likely recognize his voice. He was a reporter for Chicago’s local CBS news for decades and is well-recognized for his investigative reporting for which he has received numerous honors, including a Peabody award. He has reported and anchored news from both coasts, as well as nationally. Bill Kurtis also reached wider audiences through programs he conceived such as “Cold Case Files”, “Investigative Reports”, “The New Explorers”,  “American Greed”, and most recently  “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!”, for public radio on PBS. I love hearing his voice on Saturday mornings on a radio show I’ve long enjoy.

I admire Bill Kurtis and his partner in life and in business, Donna La Pietra. Ms. La Pietra has an impressive resume and career of her own and is well known for her charitable work. You might be interested in reading about them here.

It is Kurtis and La Pietra’s collaboration in the 65+ acre  Mettawa Manor estate for which I personally have my greatest admiration. At this historical country estate they have shared a vision of what it means to be good stewards of God’s good earth. They have also shared the gift of hospitality as they frequently open the garden and even their home for good causes.

I came home on Sunday renewed, anxious to inch our little prairie forward, seed by seed, and to plant more trees along the way. I have a book on harvesting to read, for the owners generously gave visitors a book from their personal gardening library. Really, dear reader, the gift of gardening and conserving comes in many forms, especially at Mettawa Manor. What more can I say?

Well, I really can say much more, but, this is already getting long in the tooth, and I did want to show you some photos of sunshine. I hope to share the book I brought home with you soon, and to share more photos of this garden and another we visited in future posts.

For now, I’ll just glean a few photos of flowers.

Black Hollyhock:Mettawa Manor Lily:Mettawa Manor

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I’m not sure exactly when I first met Anton Cobb. I do know it was in the Chocolate Moon, a congenial coffee shop in Elmhurst that I frequented.

I do remember the first time Anton served me in the Moon; decaf, skim, vanilla latte, in a mug. He had grown from the young boy I first met to a young man in what seemed like no time at all and there he was, one fine day, brewing everyone’s favorite coffee beverages.

In even less time he was off to college, though he would spend time in the Moon when home on break. A cordial and good-natured person, Anton would always acknowledge what our Katy christened as “the Moonies”; a gathering of “regulars” who became friends there, including Anton’s mom. The Chocolate Moon had a life of its own. In fact, it probably has a book of its own; stories for another time.

Eventually, Anton moved away. Far way, in fact. His endeavors led him to Oregon, and that is really where this post leads as well.

Anton set a table, a chair, a flower and a tablecloth in a bustling park in Portland during his lunch hour. There he sits, each week, giving up his lunch money so that children will not go hungry. He invites passers-by to join him in his goal to help feed boys and girls who might otherwise go unfed. His efforts have not only helped the Oregon Food Bank feed children, but they came to the attention of media.

I could tell you my version of Anton’s hOUR LUNCH, but, he does it so much better, with passion and enthusiasm, that I would like to invite you to hear more about hOUR LUNCH from Anton Cobb himself,  on TED, perhaps while you are sitting down to eat your own lunch.

Well done, Anton. Well Done.

We are all proud of you – and inspired as well.

(I originally wrote this post after seeing Anton’s Ted Talk with the intention of publishing it today, unaware that today is Anton’s father’s birthday. It is interesting how the stars seem to align at times. I know that Anton’s mom, Janet (Blogging from the Bog) is very proud of  him, and I am sure that his dad, Fred, is looking down from above, equally proud. ) 

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