Dig This

garden pics 2017 1

New York City offers seemingly endless ways to spend your time, but until this year I hadn’t spent much of mine growing plants. I am very lucky to have outdoor space where potted annuals rustle around me as I drink coffee on warm mornings, but it’s shady and not ideal for vegetables. Then this past spring, generous friends gave me the opportunity to garden 64 square feet of Brooklyn dirt in their backyard. I took notes and I took pictures and I grew things and I grew.

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LP 2016 (& LP-000)

luckypenny_2016
Found in 2016. (Photo by Mary Bakija)

On each of the final three days of 2016, people talked to me about lucky pennies.

“I thought of you recently,” Leah said as she dropped ice cubes into her wine, adding to the list of wonderful people who’ve helped me realize ice in wine is a fine decision. She told me she’d seen a penny, remembered my post from last year, and decided to pick it up.

The next day, Katie told me how she and Nicole have a separate jar for the coins they find, saving up for something for the cat. “Well, mostly I find them,” she said. “Nicole will only pick up folding money.”

Then on New Year’s Eve-ternoon, Gabrielle brought out her phone to show a photo she’d taken after she’d been reminded of lucky pennies by Paul. “A shiny 2016,” she said of the penny taped inside a Christmas card which had been stuffed with lotto scratch-offs, the coin’s luck noted in an inscription.

After another year of picking up abandoned change (and documenting it), these small exchanges helped reinforce something I’d spent the past year thinking about.

Value.

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HotASS

hotass_porch
Photo by Mary Bakija

During the winter of 2014-2015, I began to spend a lot more time sitting on my porch. In the morning, I’d pull on extra layers and drink tea while wearing mittens. At night after coming home from seeing friends, I’d linger a bit in the plastic Adirondack chair before going inside. Initially, I sat there for the thin, cool air, easier to breath than the stifling indoors, where oxygen mingled with memories. When roommates moved in, the porch was an extra room. And it was during this time that I began to read and listen to short stories exclusively on the porch — I knew I had limited time to spend there, or should limit my time there, and the length could create an endpoint.

So when, during the summer, Coach Ian West began asking on Facebook for American short story authors he should read as part of an upcoming personal project, I had several less obvious ones to recommend. Input came from several people, including a few locals, and at the point when his list had reached about 200 names, I asked when he’d get a book club going. Then one afternoon in July I ran into him at a cafe on Cortelyou Road.

“Mary,” Ian said. “Were you serious about doing a book club?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

“Great,” he said, opening a notebook packed with neat scribbles. “Because I’ve had some ideas…”

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Take Stock

Photo by Mary Bakija
Photo by Mary Bakija

You’re not making stock, and if I know you, I’ve probably given you a hard time about it.

“Look, it’s easy!” I’ve said. “It’s trash, then it’s gold! You are going to thank me so hard.”

Generally you don’t agree with me.

Photo by Mary Bakija
Photo by Mary Bakija

This past Thanksgiving, I forced my brother to lug the turkey carcass home with him from the host’s house. I shoved it in a pot with whatever he had in the fridge that worked with it, covered it with water, and turned his kitchen into a sauna while we had more wine and watched Master of None. Long after the time I’d strained and bagged it, it was still pretty hot, but also really late. I shoved it all in the freezer and went to bed. The next morning, there were gallons of slushy turkey stock in his freezer, and my brother groaned. By now they’ve frozen, but he’s a little worried about having food around too long, so I’m guessing he’s thrown them all away. That’s too bad, because we smoked that turkey, and even though I was tipsy and stuffed and high on road tripping and friends, when I tasted it, that stock was something special.

Or maybe it was just bony vegetable water.

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