Back in the sun-drenched wilds of August, I met my dear friend Jennis at the brewery just up the road for a beer. It was one of those slant-light-hot-in-the-sun summer’s end late afternoon that feels endless and magical and lovely and surrounds everyone who basks in its light with an aura of possibility. Jennis had brought a friend and her partner and we spoke passionately about the proposed natural gas pipeline that will probably be destroying our valley soon and about history and land and watersheds and adventure and how to ride in a truck with dudes so they’ll take you seriously (good advice to have in one’s dungaree pocket) and somehow the conversation wound its way around to the family business in the wilds of the valley west of us: a Christmas Tree Farm! What an enterprise, what a place to grow up… what magic! So, we sat in the setting sun surrounded by good vibes lifting our glasses and saying: when it comes time for Christmas (which is most certainly impossibly far away) we’ll have to go to your farm to get our tree this year. And, as time moves ever swifter, this past weekend the moment was nigh, with a chill drizzle in the air, for us to hit the roads and head to the great river’s headwaters and grab bow saws, hanging all in a row from wooden pegs, and walk the fields full of soft-needled, bushy white pines (my favorite, and somewhat of a rarity), Jennis and her sweetheart and two excellent children, adept with saws and ideas and silent stalking like ninja-elfs (see below), discussing the necessary merits of the ideal tree: must not have too many holes (but cannot be too perfect), must be somewhat scraggly (but not too scraggly), must have adequate spots for larger ornaments, must also have adequate room for many presents, bonus points for a birds nest. Geese overhead, the air grey and misty and magical and lovely in its own blustery right, merry Christmas, and god bless ye hairy gentlemen, it’s time for hot toddys.
Every morning Sweetheart makes his way downstairs before me, puts on coffee, stokes the woodstove, blends a thick green juice the color of cedar boughs that is undoubtedly very good for you, and then he puts on the radio. WNYC streaming at us live from his hometown, just like we used to do in our Brooklyn apartment every day (except for the part about having a downstairs, a woodstove, and space for a blender). We are such oldballs. We love the radio. One of Sweetheart’s most mystically endearing qualities is his utter mastery of the radio in modern times. Using the TuneIn Radio app he mines for hours of perfect programming. Weekends it’s music. We spend Saturdays with the Rhythm Revue (WBGO, classic soul and and motown from 10-12), then WKCR funk + soul from 12-2 with Across 110th Street, then Sunshine Daydream on WTJU (the Grateful Dead Hour) at 6pm. On Sundays we take WKCR’s Moonshine Show (old time bluegrass), into The Tennessee Border Show (Early country), and then onto WFUV, which has American Routes into Rich Conaty’s Big Broadcast. For us, because we’re pretty much 137 years old, Sunday nights mean making dinner listening to big band music and doing the Sunday crossword. We pretty much live by the radio like it’s 1923 and we really like it that way. Weeknights, it’s cooking to WWOZ out of New Orleans. Weekdays, it’s talk. Move over, Ira: We LOVE Brian Lehrer. Today he did a thing (that got me thinking about how much I love the radio, see above) where he asked all of his listeners to take a picture of the morning sky wherever they were at 7:10 am and post the shot with the hashtag #BLS710 (Brian Lehrer Show 7:10 am). What a simple pleasure to capture that moment, all of us, radio lovers under the same sky, what commonalities we share, and what perfect evidence of what a great humanizing (and unifying) force the radio is. Lest we not forget. My shot started out the post and here are just a few of the hundreds of shots taken this am at 7:10 (beginning with Sweetheart’s):
Strange and marvelous and dark and still and starry like last nights new-moon-ness this last month has been. The most exultant, extroverted, celebratory, look-at-us (no, literally, we require you to actually witness this thing) show-me period of my entire life followed up immediately on its star-spangled-coattails by the most quiet, peaceful, introverted, don’t-even-think-of-leaving-the-farmhouse country respite of a month. Like nothing has changed: we make the broth, we bake the bread, we stoke the stove, we don’t leave the one room that holds its heat, we lavish attention on the cat when his woodstove-fired-stupor yields exceptionally impressive languors. BUT like everything has changed: namely the absolute electric thunderbolt of telling the guy at the Stihl workshop that “my husband dropped off the chainsaw, I’m here to pick it up” which tingles to my very fingertips with strange wonder and that Tony in the shop doesn’t even notice. Having a husband isn’t something to tingle over, I guess, Tony? Except that IT IS. And. Is this what it’s like to be married? Well, I suppose it is for me at this minute by virtue that it is. That everything is. What does this MEAN? Every winter begins with me figuring out how to live within its quiet confines again, yet this one is hugely different, and, of course, eternally changeless. Luckily, I’m not in it alone.
Two weeks ago today, Sweetheart and I got married. I’ve been feeling like one of those old fashioned towers of champagne glasses, where the top one bubbles up, full to its very brim with joy to the overflowing and then it’s a giddy cascade of beauty and glittery light all the way to the bottom. And repeat. I’ve thrown parties before and I know what a great party feels like and our wedding was a. great. party. But I couldn’t have ever known how the wedding part of it would make me feel because holy moly who could ever know? How to even begin to describe it? As a lover of words I’ve been searching for both a way to put into language this giant feeling, this overcoming overflowing, this electric joy and abundant love that at once floats our little boat and also eddies around us like a current…but I also kind of don’t want to put it into words. Like: I don’t want to name it or to look directly at it, it’s too bright or maybe it might be too fleeting…it is at once a giant thing of celestial proportions and also something small and private like a delicate clockwork. Something to shout? Something to hold dear above all else like a fluttering bird against your beating heart? Something to whisper oh-so-quietly about in the half-dark with the leaves finally coming down against the tin roof? All of the above? Fortunately for me, since I can’t even really begin to explain it in words, my dear sweet cousin Charlotte (who is a brilliant filmmaker in addition to being an excellent human, lucky me) shot the day on film with an old super 8 camera. She made this movie for us (with help from her own sweetheart, Jesse), and it says absolutely everything I can’t even begin to speak. It is perfect. You watch it, and I’m going to go and let my heart explode. Again.
First picture taken by the incredibly talented and dear Kate Reeder who has an eye like an eagle and a heart like a unicorn. More to come.
I have a confession to make: I am a kickstarter impulse-supporter. I usually impulse-buy/support to get things: the quilt with the October sky’s constellations stitched on it in gold, a “finally a flattering well made maxi dress!” (which still really wasn’t that flattering… I was really hoping…but at least it served as the final confirmation that maxi dresses are not for these hips. It’s not you, it’s me, clingy tube of death), a folding origami hanging wall planter, an ergonomic laptop lifter (which if it ever arrives, SPOILER ALERT AMR: I backed enough to get one for Ann Marie too… among many other things, we share laptop posture fatigue), a tiny magnetic thing that wrangles your iphone cords, a cat calendar of a cat that looks a lot like Nipsey Russell dressed up in a different costume every month, viking lawn games, an obscure typeface, support for a band who never made me the mix CD that my backing earned me (ahem ahem, SWEETHEART), a present for Daddy and a present for Mama that must not be named before Christmas… mostly it’s actual things, bizarre and beautiful creative ephemera. I get the emails, I click through, I drop $10-ish dollars, I get something weird months later in the mail. It’s just my kind of esoteric delayed gratification retail therapy. But I recently took part in a different kind of project, just as impulsive. I paid a dollar to have a stranger execute my portrait in 5 minutes over gchat. His plan was to sketch each of the backers in order, all in a row, in real time, and be done the same day. Things I learned a) the internet is amazing b) it is impossibly hard to sit still even for just 5 minutes. No wonder Las Meninas all have those crazy looks on their dwarf faces. This is me, second from the right on the bottom row:
This is the view of the table from this past hen weekend. Birds, feathers, leathers, crystals, palo santo sticks, essential oils, craft supplies, champagne, and the dear paws of my best friends. Perfect timing for this, from Mama:
“The best friendships are like mirrors that show you in exceptionally flattering lighting.”
Thank you, dear ones, for always being my 6pm golden hour sunlight and never being a compact fluorescent.
Ann Marie will be here any minute and we will depart today for the southlands. We’re heading to the deep lowland coast, hoping to find it dripping with Spanish Moss which will in turn be dripping with Champagne. I find myself, ahem, a Bachelorette. When we celebrated dear Meags, she sent us this article, comparing the British “hen do” with the tequila-shot-fueled furor of the modern American bachelorette party. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love tequila, I love the vibe of that article, and, most of all I love the thought of being able to use the fact of my bachelorette-hood as a fulcrum with which to reunite my most favorite ladies, to draw my dear ones like tides from various corners of the world to swell up together towards the moon and crash against the sandy shores of the low country. And the ladies got together without me and made a manifesto. So we will surround ourselves with wildflowers and crystals and bones and cook and eat and revel and wear feathers and eat peaches and swim and tie dye and anoint ourselves with oil and celebrate love and each other and, well, me I guess. We will hold the lion’s paw:
I hold the Lion’s Paw
Whenever I dance.
I know the ecstasy of the falcon’s wings
When they make love against the sky,
And the sun and moon
Sometimes argue over
Who will tuck me in at night.
If you think I am having more fun
Than anyone on this planet
You are absolutely correct.
Is willing to share all his secrets
About how to befriend God.
Indeed, dear ones,
Hafiz is so very willing
To share all his secrets
About how to know the
I hold the Lion’s Paw whenever I dance.
I know the ecstasy of your heart’s wings
When they make love against the Sky,
And the sun and moon
Will someday argue over
Who will tuck you in at
ever lovin’ Mama found that amazing image of the fairy party, I think it will be exactly like this, drinking out of flowers and toasting to the sky while a bug brings us refills.
40 years ago this week, these amazing children were married. Eight years and four months after this photograph was taken, they became my parents. I say they were children because Mama was just 22 and Daddy would turn 22 in November after, and when I think of myself at 22 I think what a child I was. Barely able to keep an orchid alive or make rent much less “hold-hands-with-the-love-of-my-life wearing-kid-gloves-clutching-a-bottle-of-champagne-and-walk-through-a-hazy-scrim-of-thrown-rice-into-a-certain-future”. Children they were, perhaps, but there has always been a feeling with them, a sweet electricity that they put out, like the subtle hum of a vast star-crossed-machinery with all of its tiny parts in harmony, a feeling that they know. That’s the thing: we are all still children, and, to be honest, I think we always will be. The only thing that hints that we may be being grown-ups (and that they have in this picture and every moment afterwards) is this: knowing what you want and taking its hand and walking heart-full with it into the great unknown. I will get married in 43 days, and, though I feel I am still a child in many ways, thanks to these kids, I know what I want and I’m going to hold onto it like a comet’s tail into the future. Thank you for that, sweet children, and congratulations.
After we piled the insane amount of things we brought across oceans into our absolument tiny Fiat Canc Cent (yes, people of Cannes, we too travel in a Yacht, a Fi-Yacht), our very first stop in France was one of those crazy-Euro-mall compounds that sells absolutely everything. Though these stores are sort of nightmarish and not at all the authentic-ancient-crumbling-stucco-boulangerie feel you hope for in France, they also have everything you need in one place (excellent if you require camp stove gas AND saussicon) and boast 500 foot long aisles of nothing but rosé.
Our first shopping list was this: camp stove gas, corkscrew, sausage, cheese, bread, peaches, a strange spicy watercress, water, wine, and 4 small tin mugs for morning coffees and sodas de route. Armed with our tin cups, the corkscrew, and my trusty opinel, we proceeded to picnic our way across the countryside, spreading the tie-dyed towels Rav had sent us in a gay ladies care package to precede her arrival, breaking out the bread and covering absolutely everything in a fine scrim of baguette crumbs and sausage ends. Slanted sunset mugs in the backseat full of champagne and an antire wooden plateau of honeyed peaches in les Hautes Alpes, brimming with funky cider at 10 am, the perfect breakfast with the three cheeses in ascending pungencies (le goute!) purchased straight from the farmer in Erveden, dusky red wine with the hazelnut sausages of Dordogne, and all the beautiful baguettes we could stuff in our baguette holes. Nage tous le jours y Vive le pique-nique.
A very good song to sing when you are dipping your toes for the very first time into the surprisingly warm bright turqouise waters of a clue in the Hautes Alpes Maritimes or when you’re doing the run-in-a-figure-8-high-five-then-book-it-into-the-freezing-ocean that we first perfected on the beaches of Maine (but is equally as necessary in the chilly waters of Bretagne) or when you’re in a valley of waterfalls flowing under an old Roman Bridge or diving into a saltwater pool above Cannes or crossing a river of blooming flowers to get to an Ophelia cave… a good little chant to do with your ladyloves is this: Les Filles Américaines Nage Tous Les Jours. Sometimes chanted to the tune of Citizen Cope, sometimes spoken lustily in the style of Serge Gainsbourg, this is our mantra: The American Girls Swim Every Day. An ode to our friend, Daniel Start, who wrote the best book, Wild Swimming, that dictated our route every morning, our map annotated with places to swim and to sleep, the resting locales of ancient megalithes anointed with red wine and confirmed with a finger trace.
Les Filles Américaines Nage Tous Les Jours. When your agenda is only dictated by whether or not you have time to go to the farther swimming spot or not before it gets dark (at 11pm) to get to the bar on the ancient stone square in time before it stops serving its savory crepes filled with caramelized onions and topped with an egg (at 10pm) and you need to set up your tent while there is still a shred of light (12am), then that is a day dictated by the good and pure impulses of the world indeed and you thank your lucky stars that you’ve chosen to live by the mantra (Nage Tous Les Jours) and that you’ve surrounded yourself with those of like mind (Les Filles Américaines) who are on your same page, who are most happy when wet bathing suits and plateaus full of ripe peaches and tin cups full of vin rouge festoon the backseat on the way to adventure. Les Filles Américaines Nage Tous Les Jours.
many of these photos are from Mlle. AMR and Mlle. McKay, immortalized here.