Yard Sale Report for 7/20/12 and a Reminder to Go To The Woods!

She was an older woman, a little worn around the edges, like an old paperback romance novel sitting in a discount book bin in front of a forgotten bookstore. Her colors were a little faded and her cover was a bit scratched and folded. Maybe, once, there was a passion there, a wild undignified story line, but she had become stout and distracted by three generations of underage motherhood and lost potentials. She sat there on the cement stoop of a nondescript rental while her great grand baby struggled apathetically in her arms and I wandered through her yard sale, looking futilely for something worth buying.

“Do you have any box fans?” I asked without much hope. “Might have.” She replied vaguely, “What do you want it for?” I said, “ I use box fans to make beef jerky. I make some of the best jerky in town.”

Best Beef Jerky in Town

The making of beef jerky is one of the manly arts, like sharpening knives or smoking ribs. It’s one of those mysterious processes that command respect no matter what kind of group you happen to encounter. Not as politically charged as, say, hunting Griz, or packing a gun, but way better than joining a drum circle or… ahem, taking a writing class. The magic of barbecue and the ritual of smoke is right up there with the great mysteries of life, even the name of Pit Master has a certain panache that bridges the gap between urban and rural, between liberal and conservative.

Beef jerky itself entails some strange form of magic. You see it in the stores all wrapped in plastic and pressed into uniform strips like weathered and blackened playing cards, but that has nothing to do with the ancient twisted and random character of the home made stuff. When you hold it in your hands like a little black talisman it stretches back a hundred thousand years, to hand prints and cave paintings. It’s one of the defining acts, like chopping wood and building the perfect fire.

So I tell her I’m looking for box fans to make beef jerky, which usually elicits interest and respect and gives me the chance to brag a little and to establish my bona fides as a, manly man, but she surprises me and asks, “Do you kill you own meat?” a process for beef, so complicated and problematic that it has never even occurred to me, but before I can recover and try to tell her about my chicken killing experience and expound on the various techniques of neck wringing and head chopping, she looks up at me and then slightly tilts her head down so as to peer thoughtfully over the top of her glasses and says quite calmly, “You need to go to the woods.”

At first, I’m caught off guard and am not sure exactly what she means. Is it something about the beef jerky process that I’m missing? A gap in the smile of the manly man? I think maybe she’s telling me I’m not doing it right, or that she sees through to the part where I’m not as secure as I want to appear and I try to tell her about time spent in my jungle of a garden… and she says again… “You need to go to the woods.”

“I work too many hours. I spend time with my dogs. My garden is my sanctuary. I don’t have time…” She just sits there, distractedly fussing with the child in her lap and then, in exactly the same calm steady voice she says, “You need to go to the woods.”


My wild Garden in the Rain.

“My feet hurt. My wife doesn’t like the woods. I have a hot tub in the garden…”

“The woods.”

Suddenly I feel a shifting of the earth, a subtle draining away of the foundation. It’s exactly like standing ankle deep on a long flat beach, just as the water turns and you feel the sand begin to melt from beneath your feet, your balance is thrown off, your center of gravity changes, sinks.

I need to go to the woods. I remember, the hollow tumbling sound of the small creek that ran through my childhood. I remember, the perfectly round circles of redwood trees that grew up from the blackened stumps of giants that burned when my father was only a lad. I remember, running through the woods along winding deer paths and jumping from smooth water worn rock to rock as if I were a part of the steep hills and the moving trees.

I remember, the hot pungent smell of the Bay Laurel, the fresh green frothy taste of the Miner’s Lettuce, and the long bright shafts of light that found their way to the forest floor like arrows shot from the sun.

Yes I thought, she’s right. I need to go to the woods; to step off the path and listen to the sounds of being alone, to touch the soft submerged hardness of moss on stone and feel the ice cold creek slip past my feet on its long journey to the sea. And I wondered, why I wasn’t listening, and how interesting the universe is and how messages come in so many forms, and you too… You should all go to the woods.

The rest of the day at the yard sales was also productive. I found 10 plastic buckets with rope handles for .25 each, a sweet hand made walking stick for .50, a new oscillating fan for the bed room for $3., a rubber floor mat for my workshop for $2., and a globe for Mindy that lights up for $3. I found a new and unused Mac iSight web cam for $2 that is destined for eBay.

Hand made walking stick for .50

Toward the ends of the day I found a jumbo turbo fan for $5 bargained down from $10. I had looked at it earlier, but the owner didn’t want to bargain, and I circled back on my way home to see if he would change his mind. I came into his housing complex from a different direction and when I pulled up at his space he looked confused, so I rolled the window down and said, “How do I get out of this place? I’ve been driving around for 45 minutes.” He came over to the car and started to give me directions, “Just drive down to the end of the street and turn left.” But when I started laughing he realized I was teasing him and gave me the fan for $5.

Turbo Fan for making Beef Jerky for $5.

I got a new meat slicer for $2 for making beef jerky (which is still the best in town), a set of Mexican ceramic demon heads for my sister, a virtually brand new 7.1 digital Olympus point and shoot camera for $5, a palm sander for $2, a pair of brand new soft plush purple throws for my wife for $1 each, a rival grill for melting wax for encaustic art projects (thanks Danilla Woolf for the book), and a miniature Buddha head for my wife’s office.

One of the primary things I was looking for over the weekend was a monitor for our security system since our had burned out last week and not only did I find a perfect  Sony model for $3, but the owner was pretty and charming, one of the nicest people of the day, she also gave me her kitchen knife to sharpen, so I made a new customer as well. I found an interesting copper sprinkler for $1 and for $5 I got a new string chair for the back porch. The prize for the day was a beautiful antique stained glass window for $10. and I also found a couple of smaller modern cut glass windows for $2.50. each.   The latter will go into the new enclosed porch project out in the back yard , but the former will probably hang proudly in the living room over one of the French doors. Weather was perfect, the people were nice and I’ll see you in the woods.

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