Holiday Digest: The Gardener, the Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker

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Susan Heiligman.

By Susan Heiligman

The Laguna Beach Farmers Market was bustling as I walked across Third Street: young couples with babes in strollers, lady friends who’d gathered to mosey around together, the single fella on a mission for all things organic. People were out for a leisurely morning of shopping, eating and enjoying the cool temperatures and sunshine. I had signed up for a volunteer shift to help staff an information table for my writing group and marveled at the signs of autumn all around downtown Laguna. Summer tourist madness had died down and the long, hot days were giving way to milder weather. The days of autumn are when sunlight’s aperture slows – moments captured by photographers bear witness to nature’s reflection. Sunlight infuses soft filters of celestial light and shimmering rays of illumination. Golden hours begin to emerge with long shadows and the senses are awakened once again. The parched earth welcomes occasional rain showers. The crispness of this morning was like the miracle of renewal. 

Two friends and I sat at the table, which was spread with our leaflets and publications. We sprang into action quickly when a passerby lingered for half a second at the table, hoping to entice them to donate to The Artists Fund, but mostly we chatted, catching up on one another’s lives. We took turns to check out the lush, fresh produce in every color of the rainbow, bright red, orange and yellow peppers, purple potatoes, even farm-fresh eggs in caramel browns and creamy whites. Steaming homemade tamales, full with green chilies and chicken as well as hot-off-the-griddle crepes drizzled in chocolate sauce and piled high with strawberries and whipped cream, were irresistible. Shea butter soaps and soy candles beautifully bundled in twine with essential oil-perfumed choices from coconut and tea tree to eucalyptus were like an aromatherapy session. Fragrant smells were everywhere, enough to fill my head with dreams of street markets in foreign lands. It was a wonderful time, totally negating the early rise and out the door on a Saturday morning. Yet, there was more to the morning besides the fellowship of friends and the beauty of Laguna on an early fall morning. Unfolding was a sensory experience through the lens of the market’s neighborly entrepreneurs. 

The abiding spirit of community of Laguna was on full display, vendors performing ordinary tasks with passion, making the world a better place one bushel of corn and a peck of apples at a time. The gardener bringing a variety of greens from kale to spinach, the butcher offering grass-fed beef, the baker showing off beautiful breads rustic and covered in sunflower seeds, and the candlestick maker enticing shoppers with choices ranging from lavender lemon to pumpkin pie spice, all adding power and grace to small acts of kindness. Collectively they are hard-working entrepreneurs fostering brightness to the task of shopping. These small-business “mom and pops” goods were set before us with pride and thoughtfulness. Sharing healthy foods, handmade soaps and candles, and homemade goods was the highest form of belief in loving our neighbors. 

The sense of this season of giving thanks was truly a feast to enjoy. The cornucopia of the Laguna Farmers Market was indeed abundant, not only in harvested produce and small batch foods and products, but also in the personal power of goodness in humans. My cup overflowed with a blissful glow of joy all day long. 

Susan lives in Costa Mesa and is a semi-retired educator. She studied travel writing for several years at the Taos Writers Conference held in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. 

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