Not much to do with the title of this post, save that when I began writing it, the local classical station is playing Bela Bartok’s version of three Romanian folk dances. I was reflecting on how much fun it was, two weekends ago, to be with my books at the Folkfest in New Braunfels – to sit under the trees by the white building that houses the museum of hand-crafted furniture, listening to the music from the pavilion across the way … everything from traditional German songs, to country-western, and covers of rock music by a local teenage band. There were animals on display – a whole farmyard of them, and a pair of camels, as well. Reenactors came and went, demonstrating their craft, and their mastery of black-powder gun and cannon-fire, as well as simply astounding displays of bladed weaponry. It was all very reassuring, watching the families, the parade of children in costumes on Sunday afternoon, led by an accordion player in lederhosen and an honor guard of Scouts with flags. The children’s masquerade march was a custom first established by the schoolmaster of New Braunfels’ public school more than a hundred and sixty years ago. Life goes on in the Shire, from day to day; much has it always has done.
The very normality, the ordinariness of that weekend was refreshing, reassuring, even. Go away from the internet, go away from the broadcast news and especially the poison of social media; ignore the increased cost of things like gasoline and eggs, and packets of potato chips (and other items) that are fuller of air, or reduced in quantity while remaining the same price – and everything is still normal … sort of. There are increasing numbers of posts on the local Next Door about porch pirates, thefts from parked cars and front yards, terribly antisocial neighbors and drivers on the roads with reckless, Third World habits regarding stop signs and lights, courteous yielding, the necessity for maintaining insurance coverage and remaining in the area awaiting law enforcement after a fender-bender or worse. But all in all, still blissfully normal in the bit of the Shire where I live. One has the feeling of being on the edge of a smoldering volcano, though, wondering when – not if – it will all blow.
It makes the simple joys of two weekends ago all the more precious. My next-door neighbor has relished all the recent local news outlet coverage of the Fiesta celebrations – the parades, Night in Old San Antonio, and every one of the associated events. All those events were cancelled three years ago over the Covid panic; that was, I think, the moment when I realized exactly how panicked our local government was, over an epidemic which was not much more than the seasonal flu.
So now, life goes on in the Shire, much as it has always done, living on the edge of the volcano – one eye on the horizon, the other appreciating normality. Precious, fragile normality. I touched on this in the last novel, set in World War II, where earth-shattering events were going on … and yet the main characters were engrossed in simple, small, domestic things – shoes for the growing children, going to a movie or a dance, what could be fixed for the next meal, knitting socks, prepped for Christmas presents, or the next birthday party for children.
Life goes on in the Shire, much as it has done from day to day. Those simple joys are all the more precious. Comment as you wish.