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Eastlake residents marked the Summer Solstice with a celebration at the Eastlake P-Patch and adjacent Fairview Park on Tuesday, June 21.
The weather cooperated by actually providing summer sun. Neighbors enjoyed strolling the garden, listening to music, playing games and eating barbecue. Items donated by Eastlake businesses were auctioned to benefit the P-Patch's bee hives and other garden needs.
For the first time in two years, the Eastlake P-Patch is not the scene of construction work. The major expansion that added 23 more garden plots to the site is finally over.
Mary Jones, one of the organizers behind the P-Patch expansion, surveyed the finished garden said that after the thousands of hours of work that went into the expansion project, it was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the sun and the event.
The celebration included several musical groups performing in Fairview Park. There were slug races and hopscotch for the kids and a badminton set for all ages.
One of the group's that helped make the Solstice Celebration happen was the Friends of Fairview Park. Rain Gilman explained that this group of neighbors helps maintain the park and coordinates other volunteer groups who want to help keep it up. At a time of tightening city budgets, Gilman noted that it's important to have a group showing its support for the park and helping to maintain it.
To see captions on the photos in the slideshow, as well as larger images, go to the photo set in Flickr.
News from Nettletown, Christina Choi's wild food restaurant at Eastlake and Lynn:
One good thing about last week's hot weather: It pushed the blackberries into ripeness, possibly a little earlier than usual. Big, sweet, juicy blackberries are out there in the vines that gather along the lake or in alleyways.
It's not a perfect world. The ripe berries are mixed in with some that look ripe but aren't quite yet. You can test by giving a berry a gentle tug. If it comes loose immediately, it's ripe. If it needs a harder pull, leave it for another day.
I've been gathering blackberries in my alley for the last week, and nibbling them on my walks along Fairview.
Which patch will get ripe first? I try to think like a blackberry. Usually those with lots of full sun for much of the day seem to develop earliest. I've seen a lot of small, shrunken berries this year, victims of the heat and lack of rain.
When you find a group of ripe berries, the rewards are worth the occasional scratch (and you will get scratched and find your hands dyed purple with berry juice). You'll have to sample as you go to check for sweetness and because, well, what's the point of picking blackberries if you don't eat some as you pick?
A warm, sweet, ripe berrie is nature's most perfect expression of summer. You can taste the warm days that produced the sugar in it in every bite. Delicious!
Blackberries (ours are the Himalayan variety) occupy their own unique place in Northwest culture, both food and literary.
Deborah Gardner, writing last year in the New York Times' Bitten blog, talked about how "for ten-and-a-half months each year, these highly invasive blackberry bushes are Seattle’s enemy. ... But in August and early September, everything changes. Those canes we cursed and dreamed of obliterating in dark, wet December now lure us out to collect mouthfuls and bucketfuls of complexly sweet berries." Gardner offers a recipe for Pacific Northwest Blackberry Pie.
Forager extraordinaire and blogger Langdon Cook ponders how "under-utilized this resource is." He likes to combine gathering them with a swim in Lake Washington.
"Driving around the city," he writes on his blog, Fat of the Land, "I see them pretty much everywhere. It's not like you have to travel to some distant neighborhood park or outer suburb to find them.
Seamus Heaney also has written a poem about blackberries, "Blackberry-picking," that focuses on trying to preserve the time and the season in a harvest of blackberries. "Each year I hoped they'd keep," he writes, "knew they would not."
My favorite literary nod to blackberries comes in the opening chapters of Tom Robbins' "Still Life With Woodpecker." A family of European royalty, exiled to the U.S., are stashed by the CIA in the damp Pacific Northwest:
When picking blackberries, I notice that the best patch, the ripest and sweetest looking, always seems to be just out of reach, just like that grass that is always greener in the neighbor's yard, or the dream we chase but never quite attain. Blackberries are a food and a metaphor.
Go, gather and eat! And share your recipes or blackberry lore with us in the comments.
The heat has descended on Eastlake this evening like a warm, moist cloud. Sounds are muffled and people talk quietly as though the weather has sapped their energy to speak louder.
Fairview Avenue, never the busiest of streets, seems even slower tonight. Cars float by and people are seen drinking a cold beer or exiting Pete's with an ice cream bar.
Anna Lawton, whose husband works on a yacht on the lake, was carrying supplies out of Pete's, including sacks of crushed ice, one of which she balanced briefly on her head. Did it help? a passerby asked. Yes, she said. It made her feel cooler.
Many are drawn to the outdoors and, especially, the lake in an effort to cool off. Dogs are seen chasing sticks in the water or just standing and panting as their owners splash them. People jump off houseboats for a quiet swim or slowly paddle a canoe or kayak out in to the lake. Boats drift languidly by. The sun sets behind Gas Works and the Aurora Bridge. Everything glows briefly orange.
Windows are open. You hear the occasional whir of a fan and disconnected voices. The clatter of silverware on plates echoes, the indicator of a late supper.
People are waiting for a breeze and hoping it cools off so they can sleep. Tomorrow's forecast: even hotter.
We ran into Curt and Tim yesterday at the Bouledrome. Turns out all 3 of us shutterbugs had our cameras at the ready. I think we have a photo club in the making. It's been a lovely summer in Eastlake. Hope you enjoy the pics. If the full-screen feature isn't working, you can get them bigger at http://tinyurl.com/lgzy3m