#johnmillering

Meags came to visit last winter and we went to the dark old bar in our quiet small town which had polished up its mahogany and learned a new trick: live music on Friday nights. Sweetheart was sitting in with the band, and Meags and I were together at the bar in a golden pool of light, the dark beers of a dark season in front of us, trying to fit months of what had happened (a move! a marriage! a thousand dinners and tiny stories and facts and wonders!) into the companionable space of one jukebox evening. Somehow we lighted on the topic that though we’ve had many adventures together we’ve never traveled just the two of us, that though I’ve been cross country a few times, she hadn’t ever taken a road trip majeur, and, that after moving from New York to DC to Florida to Colorado and most recently to Portland, Oregon she really wanted to explore the volcanic wonders of the pacific northwest, as outlined in a science book called “Living With Thunder” given to her by her own sweetheart (GEOLOGY=ROMANCE). A few beers, Townes covers tinkling from Sweetheart’s banjo up front, and the wanderlust spark: let’s do it.2015.6.12PictureGorgeDates were picked, flights were booked, docs were shared, maps were drawn up and carved down, we discussed what we really wanted to do (put our naked bones into every hot spring we possibly could=me/drive donuts in the deserted desert listening to Kyrie by Mr. Mister=Meags), what we wanted to see (geologic evidence of THUNDER/birds), how we wanted to travel (fritos + road rosé starting everyday promptly at 3pm), a meeting of the minds (camp when it is safe and comfortable), a clearing of the schedules (see ya). Oh, ain’t life grand.2015.6.12ChangingaTireA thousand miles later, on a deserted stretch of BLM road paved with, of all things, obsidian shards (great idea, Nevada, pave your road with arrowheads), we got a flat tire, which we changed, pas du probleme, but which did flip our trajectory from “camping another night in the deep wilderness” to “limping into the next town we can make it to and treating ourselves to a motel”. 70 miles back to the nearest paved road, 45 more to the next little town. A motel with a hot spring inside it. Dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Margaritas as big as our heads. Shangrila. We sat next to a super talkative older couple, traveling together from Idaho to see their daughter in California, and they asked us the usual, where we were from, what brought us here, what we were doing. And we told them of the night at the bar with the spark and that, lo and behold, here we were. And the man said:

Let me tell you a secret. You think you have all the time in the world, that there’s lots of room for someday. But the future will be here before you know it. Someday is basically today. You can say you want to take that trip, see that person, someday. You can’t just say it, though, you’ve got to do it. And you know how you do it? Put it on the calendar. Any given day there are a thousand reasons why you can’t do or go or see, but if it’s on the calendar, then there it is. Now, you ladies ever find yourselves in Idaho Falls, you look us up. The Millers. John and Sally. You girls have a nice night.

We were doing it. This was someday. There will be a thousand other somedays. And we’ll put them on the calendar. #johnmillering.

Things I didn’t even tell you

findsHoly Moly, fizz bang oh gee oh wow here we are January, the new year fresh and slick and new and bold and damp and chilly and begging us for a little introspection and respite, a rest from the rest (which I think technically means DOING), the ever-so-slightly-longer twilights an invitation to remember what takes me by surprise every year, the full-against-the-skin feeling of Spring that you get when you can finally sleep with your windows open. But I’m getting ahead of myself, that’s still a long ways away. Darling Rav reminded me today of our joint resolution, the one that we made hand in hand last year at midnight in Cleveland, just the two of us in the fat falling snow drinking bubbles out of impossibly tiny pink glasses. Not a New Years resolution, per se, but a general resolution buoyed by January’s optimistic fresh-startness. The resolution is one you might hear a lot around here: Just Say Yes. Say Yes when it’s easy, Say Yes when perhaps you ought to say No, The world needs more Yes. The world also needs more of this polaroid of me and sweetheart on a ferry in Delaware three days after our wedding. polaroid

Just sayin. This year has been an incredible one for the yes-saying. The doing. The VALHALLA of it all, the grabbing onto the reins and holding on for dear life (which is dearer every moment). And in light of it all, in the trying to do and breathe and live it all the most, I just feel like there are just SO many things I haven’t even told you. For example: did you know Sweetheart and I bought a 1978 tow-behind 13 foot Scamp Travel Trailer for our Honeymoon?scamp

We used it as a photobooth at our wedding. Then we took it on the road. It’s amazing. Details… to follow? Also, did you know: if you get married some people will give you money as a gift? I didn’t know this and was incredibly surprised. But lo and behold, after our wedding we had a small nest egg and that we wanted to do something awesome with it (like, not just pay our bills with it). So, we bought a special Japanese woodstove and a 300 gallon tank that you use to water cattle and built ourselves a wood-fired hot tub and put it back in the woods by where we got married. I don’t have a good picture of this because we only soak in the witching hours of night by the light of the moon (or the fairy stars of the disco ball that our dear Jay hung in the forest for our wedding before he up and married us). But here’s a dark picture of my very pink post-soak feet in Rav’s hobbit shoes and my tie-dyed bathrobe and my so-curious-he’s-blurry-cat (or maybe that’s bigfoot):woodfiredfeet

Also also also, I made fire cider, a crazy herbal remedy that made my mouth sweat but cleared my sinuses, and I made boiled apple cider syrup, and I made gold leaf oyster shell salt cellars, and also also also did you know we harvested FIVE GALLONS of honey from our bees this year? And did you know (unrelated to the honey harvest) we also lost one of our hives? And I sprained my ankle and got a new pair of work boots and gloves. And I fell in love with my littlest cousins. And my oldest cousins. And Sweetheart and I dressed as Annie Hall for Halloween. AND BONIN’ (which is its own story). And I also learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and how to fix a trailer hitch and how to make a flower crown and how to smoke a turkey and how to wire a battery and how to make ramen from scratch and how not to stall out driving a stick shift at a boite diabolique aka toll plaza (ok I only kind of learned that) and how to order a crepe and how to navigate using a baguette and how to cook piquillo peppers and how to get to South Carolina the slow way and how to sell smoked trout and how to pour txakoli from very high into a glass and how to bone a chicken and how to make peach jam and how to tie dye and how to bless a day and how not to cry when you’re singing in someone’s wedding but it’s just so everything you cry anyway but how to hide it pretty good I guess and how to replace studs and rebuild a floor and just how damn good the movie Mannequin is and how to light a menorah (not all at once, one candle each day) and when to plant a peach tree and how to show up and how good my people are and how to do a medicine card reading and consequently that I need to get my frog buns submerged into water every day if at all possible (see: wood fired hot-tub) and how to stay on the chair when you’re actually in a horah dance (knowledge never to be needed again) how to really shuck an oyster and how to write wedding vows that are so true and electric they make your heart swell up to bursting with pride and fierce passion and how to try and live that way forever and and and… Well I guess I’ve been saying yes. Success. Here’s to another year of it. And. I’ll try and share better, yes?

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.

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.

The Clouds of Michelangelo

michelangeloskyJust stumbled upon this wonderful never-before-seen video one of my favorite (wanderlust) songs, Joni Mitchell’s “Refuge of the Roads”, directed by Miss Joni herself and interspersed with super 8 home movies and awesome Joni-in-the-80’s fashions. Click that ‘ol link. It won’t let me embed the video for some reason. Do it, if you know what’s good for you. Ok… now that you’re listening: For me this isn’t one of those songs that you put on when you’re actually on the road (unless you’re stopped at a strange new cottage in Berkeley and it’s rainy and there’s coffee and they happen to have Hejira on vinyl), but rather one that you listen to in the darkening twilight once you’ve finally made it home. The exact right space between wishing you were travelling again, bittersweet you’re not, and quiet and triumphant and content that you’re home. And here at home, as it gets dark earlier and a stream of fall storms cross over the mountains, twilight has been getting out of control. These are some Michelangelo clouds (muscular with gods and sun-gold) if I’ve ever seen ’em.

Best Travel Advice Ever (duh)

NewOrleansThe last time that we were in New Orleans, we split our time between two sets of friends, the fabulous doctors-in-love completing their residencies and living in a gorgeous walk-up in the Garden District, and an amazing boho restauranteur couple who were savvy enough to snag a double shotgun in the Bywater ten years ago. As most hosts would do, they both gave us recommendations of their favorite places, seedy-wonderful dives and juke joints, po’boy shacks and wine bars, fancy oyster houses and music halls. Occasionally, the lists overlapped, and we saw (perhaps in a head-slapping-obvious moment) that whenever both sets of friends, very different and divine in their differences, both recommended the same thing that that thing was undeniably the best. We’ve followed this mandate ever since, and it’s taken us to Luke’s for 50 cent oysters, Robert’s and Jeni’s in Nashville, Cole’s in LA, Edo’s Squid in Richmond, the Tomales Bay Oyster Pound, Frank Pepe’s in New Haven,  the farmstand in Bolinas, The Tip Top in Bed Stuy… if two people recommend that you do something in their fair city, go out of your way to do it. Simple, brilliant.oysters

 

We Scream

JenisFour different people insisted that we go to Jeni’s in East Nashville for Ice Cream, so, obviously some totally-unnecessary-but-absolutely-necessary 11am ice cream snacks were in order. Oh, my, the flavors! Two scoops each, clockwise from Daddy’s (hiding behind the flowers): Brambleberry Crisp and Loveless Biscuits and Peach Jam, Mama’s Queen City Cayenne (a rich, spicy dark chocolate) and Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries, Sweetheart’s Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate and Bananas + Honey, and my Salty Caramel and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. Words can’t even begin to describe.

Music All Day

robertswesternworldIn Nashville the music goes all day. Every morning, the neon starts to buzz and the doors fling open with a gust of that very particular bar-beery-bleachy funk that quickly gives way the smell of cooking breakfast and the sound of a thousand honky tonks tuning up. From 11am, to 2am, music comes from every doorway, a buncha “Friends in Low Places”,  a few “Redneck Woman”s, and a whole lotta “Wagon Wheel”s. And while every place has a (pretty incredible) live band, only Robert’s Western World plays the old country music exclusively. Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams… the good old stuff. A recession special gets you a thick-fried baloney sandwich on white bread, a bag of chips, and a beer for $5, the walls are lined with boots, the floor is covered in sawdust, and from morning to midnight it’s absolutely glorious. robertsboots robertsband

Oh, Hello America

americamapWell, hello there. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, America. A long while since we’ve gotten down and dirty and traveled an expanse other than the I-95 corridor. A while since we’ve flown past cotton fields just starting to brown and jut out their soft fluffy whiteness, through soft old mountains and densely wooded hushed battlefields, across ancient migratory paths and deep silted deltas, sawgrass palmetto swamps with Spanish Moss overhead and small cool rivers gilded in a Miami-pink-and-aqua deco-copper palette sunset with geese reflected in the almost still water, heading to warmth as winter marches ever southward. It’s been too long since we heard your music, your mountain twang, your river strut, your slouching blues, your wealth of sound, as thick as the cicadas still are in October on the dark dirt byways of the Natchez Trace. It’s been a while since I’ve seen your moon from the road, watched it go from a tiny crescent over Appalachia, grand and slow over the big river, and foggy and waxing almost full over the Bywater. And, just as we were gone, now we’re home. The garden needs tending, the leaves are down, wood needs to be stacked, and America, you are here too.

map from here, it’s a very large file size, I’m thinking of maybe having it printed large scale? thoughts tousle at home…

Spy Rock

spyrockMiss Rav and Ann Marie and I had gotten a recommendation for a new hike: “it’s kind of a slog, but I swear it’s totally worth it when you get to the top. You’ll just have to see for yourselves” our sort-of-out-of-shape friend said, and that’s the ideal reference point for hiking advice for me. I don’t want trail-running triathletes to tell me something’s a walk in the park, especially if I’m of the mindset that the airbrushed alter-ego trucker hat that Rav gave me and a tribal necklace will be sufficient for “hiking equipment”. franOur friend was right, the hike itself was a relatively short (5 miles round trip) but insistently steep trek ending with a sheer-rock-face scramble up to a bald point of granite, Spy Rock itself… we were pretty sweaty, but when we reached the summit, took in the stunning 360 degree views of the Shenandoah valley on all sides, and felt the breeze through our hair, well, it was totally worth it. AMRSpyROckspyrockvistaRavSpyRockAnd here’s a video Ann Marie took because it’s awesome. “Do you think we can hike to that rock outcropping?” “Maybe we can fly there”.