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  • Writer's pictureNora Koch

Do you want some?

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

May 8, 2018

“I just made dinner. Do you want some?”

The young volunteer canvasser for a now defunct Wisconsin environmental group was at the door at the bottom of the steps, and I had made plenty of tomatoes, onions, fresh basil, Parmesan and pasta.  Accepting my offer, he launched up the stairs into my second floor apartment, we shared dinner, and conversation. He went off to finish his rounds; I never saw him again.

I started Gravel Pit Publications in that second story apartment of an old house in River Falls. I used my bed as a surface on which to lay papers as I worked on my computer across the room sitting at an old library table. As a designer, typesetter, sometimes illustrator, and producer of books, I worked freelance; I could accommodate spontaneity. I loved the lifestyle, but it was very precarious. I was frugal, had no health insurance, making a lot of money over a month or two, I'd live off it for months.

Leaving the apartment, I purchased a hundred year old + house across the road from the Rush River in Western Wisconsin. I worked part time at the Co-op in River Falls, initially to keep from being completely isolated while still living at the apartment. Being an introvert, this was an easy situation in which to find myself if I didn’t consciously take steps to avoid it. Living alone in the country made it even more essential.

Cashiering was my favorite job at the Co-op, though I also served as a manager. I loved helping customers figure out what they were having for dinner. I had a regular set who came in counting on me to give them ideas. Because I was there several times a week, I rarely went to a regular grocery store and even in the winter always had fresh food on hand. I’d figure out what I was making for dinner  based on random conversations I’d had during the day and what produce, no longer suitable for sale was just about to go bad.

I had a kitchen garden out the back door of my house, including asparagus and berry bushes. Raspberry pie served to neighbors because they stopped by right when I took it from the oven, avgolemono soup shared with a young friend who often happened to be driving by at supper time, this was the kind of random hospitality I loved. Living alone for over twenty years, it happened frequently.

One of the hardest parts of getting used to being married (at 52!), was to accept not being as spontaneous. My husband, though generous, is a private person. I struggled as I learned to be hospitable toward him. Back in River Falls, we still have people drop in; our friends Jerry and Barb often found themselves at our house unexpectedly as they were out for a walk while they were courting. Just last night a neighbor who we don’t know was driving by on his scooter with his little dog in the basket attached to the front. Our cat, sprawled in the front yard, attracted their attention. Peter struck up a conversation with him over our fence, and we ended up getting to know him in the setting sunlight.

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