Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Bed Time

September 27, 2017

Fall garden at Red Pine Park
While some gardeners are putting their beds to sleep for the season, mine is just warming up! Yellow beets gave way to snow peas. Snow peas gave way to red cabbage. I’ve got a second, sweeter crop of carrots, new crops of broccoli and chard, and every other day I harvest a few potatoes. I tried to grow blue ones, but I must have picked up the wrong starts at Bainbridge Gardens! I made soup with them the other night along with a cup of dried nettles picked earlier this year at Suquamish.

We had a hot, dry summer in the Northwest, punctuated by bad air from fires to the north, east, and south. Some days were apocalyptically bad, with the worst air I have tried to breathe since leaving smog-filled San Bernardino in the 1970s. But the plants loved the days of endless sunlight, rare up here.

Fall means Harvest Fair on Bainbridge Island, where we can celebrate the abundance of the island with pie contests, livestock shows, and driving our children around in a hay cart, or racing them down open halves of irrigation pipe.

Fall also means it’s time to register to vote. Bainbridge Island is located at that interface between rural and urban. Its natural isolation means growth is slower here, but we are ½ hour by boat from the fastest growing metropolis in the country, and our real estate prices are rising to reflect that. Maintaining a balance of natural growth, human development, and agricultural use will become increasingly difficult, especially if we expect to create affordable housing for our service sector. There is no simple formula for maintaining this balance, only vigilance and long-range planning. Long-range planning is easily belittled by the outside observer, but respectful cooperation within the city, as well as with county-wide and regional groups, is crucial for effective governance. A new, fast ferry from Bremerton to Seattle will take off some of the pressure by redirecting growth to South Kitsap County.

Oh yes, and we live on the Seattle Fault, recently rediscovered, that forks up the length of the island. The Suquamish ancestors witnessed its last major slippage 1,000 years ago, as I describe in The Deepest Roots, so we are overdue for another one. Whatever drills we run, we will not be prepared. As we can see in Houston and Mexico City and Puerto Rico, we will be largely on our own to recover from that event. Even if you do not have relatives or colleagues in these areas, I hope you will consider donating to causes that support them.

I visited Centralia by train last week to finish my book tour with an in-service workshop for the Timberline Library System staff, and have now lost my voice. This is my body’s way of telling me to shut up and write. I have returned to the short-story form as I try to catch up with the ideas in my head. Rather than rework a collection I started earlier, I realized last night that I am writing a new collection called “The Deerdancer and Other Stories.” Three of the stories have been accepted for anthologies, and I am working on a fourth.

Enjoy the harvest.
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Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
Fiction
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
Booklist
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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