The following is a blog post written by Cameron Ottens. He is Lorraine's son and has just returned from serving two years with the Peace Corp in Bulgaria. I wanted to share this with you all.... Nigel We woke up early and watched the sun rise over the plains, the moutains unbelievably huge, but distant, the sun a red line and then an orange disk you could look at with naked eyes. The morning cool turned into noontime perfection and people started to come to the secluded farmstead. They cooked chili and drank beer and met each other. Working people in their few moments stepping outside of responsibility, necessity and the constant demand of their no doubt important, professional careers - worry, concern and stress whispering in their ears just loud enough to remind them how important these moments, 70 mies away from The City were to them, to their mental health and to the development of their young children whom they worried about growing up in the city and not getting enough fresh air.

The air gained a little more dust from the wind and activity about them, it’s dry this time of year after all, but that makes the tomatoes, drip-irrigated, all the more delicious, plumb, exceptional, and impossibly delectable by City standards. “You can’t find tomatoes like this on a shelf,” they would say, literally tasting what their urban living normally sought to deprived them of. You can find the most ingenious and mouth-watering combinations of food, spice and herb in The City, but you will find purchasing something fresh much more difficult. Even the air here had a taste. Dirt doesn’t exactly taste good, but it’s real, and it didn’t come out of the back end of a car. They added soaked beans, onions, spices, ground meat and peppers to their tomatoes to make each of their own special recipes of this American Mandja come to life. They showed their children how to do it, planting the smallest seeds of verbal tradition and history in the minds of slightly larger seeds of human life. They drank beer and tried not to curse too much, but they still had a good time. The sun approached the Western horizon just as quickly as it had left the Eastern some hours before and as the light turned to dark those one-time strangers came together to share and to feast; to sit around the table first and then around the fire in a place so far from home, but quickly becoming a new one. They brought their liberal sensibilities, concern for humanity, and sarcastic humor, rarities in these rural parts and it was a treat to share drinks in the open-air intimacy of new friendships under the stars. And there were so many stars - more, they would swear, than there usual are.

The kids, the adults and the youths finally rested, some in tents, some in sleeping bags only, all of them under the moon, huge, full and glowing, making the night a grey-day for all to enjoy. When they woke they packed and ate breakfast as a family. The unfamiliarity between them had been slepted away and friendship could be witnessed not just in the change of tone, but also in the tighter seating, as people seemed to need less personal space to be comfortable. They were at ease with each other. No chit chat, no alcohol needed to warm their budding affections.

They toured around the grounds, learning about production, crop growth, harvesting and what strawberries, red to their core, plump and gushing with flavor, taste like when you pull them off the vine yourself. For a moment they apprecaited it. A moment is all they dared ask for, any more than that would be to shout what could only ever be a whisper. Any more than a moment and they’d have to tell each other how afraid they were about this or that, how much they loved their parents and their children, how much they missed the dead and regretted their mistakes. Any more than a moment and they’d explode. Or implode, or maybe it was the universe that would. It was impossible either way. It couldn’t be done. You just didn’t do that. You never asked for more, you took you’re 2 seconds being alive and thanked the clock that it had finally ticked its way through the work day and you fell to your knees in your mind, in the darkest part of it so not even your mind’s eye could see it because there can be no witnesses. If there were a witness, then it’d be real, and you’d have to quit the job you hate and do what you love and never look back and who knows what that would do to the social fabric of society. It would tear itself apart and your family would be so disappointed in you.