Times of Quiet…

mistymountain

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.

The Beautiful Buzz

ASinwoodsTwo 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.

SUSANNAH & ANDREW from Charlotte Hornsby on Vimeo.

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.

Portraits over Gchat

gchatportraitsI 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:
gchatportraits2 gchatportraits3

 

The Good Light

artsandfartsandcrafts

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.

 

The Hen Do

Fairy-Party

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.

But Hafiz
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
Beautiful
One.

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
Night!

Hafiz, 1389

 

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.

Children on Love + Time

1974.08.24

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.

Les Filles Américaines Nage Tous Les Jours

georgedemeouge

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.

francemap

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.

stjeandeluzDCIM101GOPROclueallosgeorgemeougemckaydivingravinbrittany ophelia boulevardbeusoleilbeachentrance hautepyrrenese waterfallpool photo 3dordonge romanbridgeclimbingawaterfall brittany

many of these photos are from Mlle. AMR and Mlle. McKay, immortalized here.

From Blossoms

freshpeaches

It couldn’t seem like better timing, just as the bee knows when the nectar flows and the hummingbird passes by in his yearly stride, to simply take an impromptu left instead of a right and go down the beautiful winding road that takes me to the peach orchard. As if guided by an unseen compass, the call of the peach, the country song on the radio “Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars/Pointing me on my way into your loving arms/This much I know is true/That God blessed the broken road/That led me straight to you” GAH what is this…country music radio is KILLING it these days for me.

It’s peach season, and it’s wedding season, and it’s adventure season, and it’s firefly season, and it’s baseball season and I am surrounded by love. Coming back from another sweet + heart-full trip south, seeing one of my dearests free to be true and honest in sorrow and joy and held up, that honesty celebrated, by the love she chose (a goosebump, a boom, a fist pump, a blossoming garden, full of possibility and hope, this is just right)…and now packing for the great trip north, kicked off by a celebration of one of the greatest loves I’ve ever seen, pure and fierce and kind and smelling of sage and wildflower honey… So. In with the enamel coffee cups and the scarves and the horizontally striped shirts, go a gallon of peach cider, six impulse peach donuts, and two pecks of glorious dusty skinned peaches. Coming with me to spread their southern sweetness, to hold in our hands and adore, from blossoms to the sweet improbability of something so perfect in spite of everything else. So this. This poem seems to be just the heart of it. The. whole. shebang.

From Blossoms

by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

On Wholeness.

afterthestormWell, here we are. Just a toe dipped into June and all of the requisite tropical afternoons that birth amazing thunderstorms and the gift of cool breezes that come after. Everything in a cycle. Happened: my annual sunburn, a few gardenias blooming on the plant that made it through the winter, a lot of fresh fish and white wine. Yet to happen: fireflies, peach picking tomato sandwiches, the honey harvest, fully conquering this fierce melancholy. Here, right on time, to support the few weeks I’ve been taking to breathe deeply and make balance, some thoughts on happiness vs. wholeness:

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life

From here (duh).

I’ll consider this point of view an indulgence for the next two weeks and then I’ll be back to my relentlessly positive outlook. I will say: Sorrow, I acknowledge you, I honor the realness of pain, and the truth and necessary aliveness of the feeling of it, and, thank you, but I’m not going to be spending any more time with you today. These watermelons don’t grease themselves.

 

And an epic thanks to the beautiful Raphaelite-curled Kaitlyn from Once Upon a Stiletto for including this nest in her Leibster roundup…when the melancholy clears I’m overdue for a link roundup. Le Swoon, Le Sigh.

The Wild Loveliness

WildBouquetIt has been a wild time. The winter that wouldn’t end ran headlong into spring, stopping only for a moment to catch its breath, send out some delicate green shoots, and deliver some crushing news. Everything here springing up wild and wick, the bees finally hitting their honeyed stride, just in time to get left in a hurry, coffee still on the stove, the needle poised above the record, the bounding radishes and collards and kale unthinned… to head south and attend loss. Then a quick accounting, a slapdash suitcase, and a whirlwind trip out west, full of joy and light and adventure. A perfect time. Then home again, which, after weeks of absence, looked like something out of The Secret Garden or Grey Gardens or Mrs. Havisham or Miss Honey’s House… some lovely testament to elegant decay, but also probably garnering some judgment from the neighbors. Vines and blooms and ripening, peonies bent over double, canary roses full of promise, about to burst, irises sprung up seemingly overnight, grass in the meadow at hip height. Just enough time to gather this hasty bouquet, improbably, the pale yellow broccoli that bolted into unruly flowers in the unexpected heat, the wild spreading white Cherokee roses that make me repeat my grandfather’s mantra (“it’s only a weed if you don’t want it there”), and the sweet buttercups in the yard that I knew would be falling under the scythe in a few day’s time. A funny wild bouquet plucked accidentally, almost out of necessity (leaving the fancy flowers where they were), delicate and dropping petals and perfumed with a sweet fragrance that, for essentially zero reason, always makes me think of Emmylou Harris. Put in the center of the table with a happy sigh. Just in time for more crushing news. And again, we leave the coffee on the stove, the compost in the bin, the laundry on the chair (at least clean and folded if not put away), the bees in the clover, the cat in the window…all to head south and attend loss. It’s what the living do, care for each other in this great yearning, and rejoice together because we must, absolutely, celebrate this wild loveliness that is the. thing.