#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.

Yass Kween

2015.4.20queencenterIt’s been a whirlwind spring full of adventure and blossoms (and yowza is it summer already?). Tales of THUNDER to come, but in the meantime, a little shout out to my girls in Shangri-La who we thought requeened themselves last fall and now we have proof. In short (just to blow your mind if you don’t know too much about bees/love Shakespearean-style epics): a beehive always knows how their queen is doing. Much like in any period drama, a small scrim of bees called the “retinue” surround the queen at all times and groom her and feed her and generally worship her. Only a few bees at a time comprise the retinue and they swap in and out so many bees have a chance to get close to the queen. Once the bees closest to the queen have swapped out, they then are able to send the pheromones of the queen to every ladybee in the hive in a complex game of telephone, so that every bee in the hive knows exactly what the queen is up to at all times. This is super important to all bees, as the health (and fertility) of the queen is necessary to the hive’s survival. If something happens to the queen, the hive can immediately tell. If the queen dies, if she gets squished by the beekeeper, if robber bees kill the queen, if her pheromones start to get weak, if the queen is just getting old, the hive will know. A very strong and intuitive hive (disclaimer: beekeepers are infinitely desirous of anthropomorphizing their hives. I do it, like, one million percent) will get the sense that their queen is failing and they will pick a part of the hive where the current queen seldom goes and they will start grooming a replacement to overthrow her. I put this Shakespearean cloak-and-dagger impulse in italics because it is truly incredible. Various factors (brood pattern, queen cells) led us to believe that we had this exact “re-queening” situation in Shangri-La last summer. Like her sister queen in our other hive, the old queen in Shangri-La had a red mark on her, so the only way to be sure that the hive had, in fact, re-queened itself, was to spot a new, unmarked queen in her place. This spring, we saw her, in all of her huge, beautiful, un-marked glory. Proof. Proof that these crazy divine bees know what’s best for themselves and proof that (on however small a scale) by keeping bees we are helping the species overcome the obstacles that we as humanity have set up for them. She’s in the bottom right corner, with a shiny exposed thorax (where a store-bought queen would normally be marked) about twice as long as the worker bees and surrounded by cells of larvae. Long live the Queen.2015.4.20QueenSideAnd in case you have trouble spotting her, here’s an image with an arrow:QueenArrow

Le Petit Déjeuner Sur My Lap

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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.rosefordays

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.cheesepeppercornsresearchpeachplateaucarchampagnefromagethreecheesemountainbreakfastpicnic2baguettedejunerdegorgeabbeypicnic

 

Les Filles Américaines Nage Tous Les Jours

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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.

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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.

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

Toujours.

tentvacheBACK. BACK. BACK. BACK. Oh la la and oh my my, mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left home! Back in a whirlwind to New York, picked up by Sweetheart at the airport, immediately to New Park Pizza for the city’s most iconic slice (when you find yourself in Howard Beach…), and home to Virginia on the wings of a sailing sheepskinned jet lag, home to find the house totally overturned in anticipation of “holy moly we’re getting married, like, NOW, we’d better get this joint fixed up!”, the garden: NOT DEAD! and yielding 1 tomato, 1 yellow crookneck squash, and 1 costata romanesca squash. Heir. Loom. Cukes and Peppers greening and golding up, weeds and dust and vines covering everything like a redneck Miss Havisham. Infinite adventures to recount between now and then (and we’ll get there) but in the meantime, just want to send L.O.V.E. to this cow that McKay hired to wake us up in the Haute Pyrennes so that we could go swimming in that utterly freezing glacial snow-melt lake before coffee (watch the video here. BON JOUR!). photo 3As Ann Marie says: If Lac, Then Nage. And L.O.V.E. to these ladies, these women of adventure and grandeur who are at once so different than I and also so very much the same. It is one of the most sincere joys and pleasures there is to crease the map against its folds (I promise), eat the red diamonds, run through the crowd holding hands, be re-taught stickshift, receive energy barefoot in the farmer’s field, cover the car in flowers and honey, and make bread and wine and saussicon in the crumb filled scarf strewn backseat of a Fiat 500 with you all. Nage. Tour. La. Jours, ma biches.

To The Feast

 

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Back in November, dearest Ann Marie, fresh off the heels of tumultuous autumn that precipitated a few enjoyably feisty red-wine-nocturnes at my old kitchen table, got an invite to her friend Jerome’s wedding. A Frenchman she met in Oregon, a bon vivant and adventurer of the old school, she introduced Jerome to his future bride and now got the tap to come to Bretagne for the wedding, to loll on the beaches and drink apple cider from tin mugs and listen as the crackle of drippings from fatted pigs with Norman apples in their mouths sizzled over ancient spits in soaring castles plunked down in the middle of lavender fields buzzing with bees and honey and love and majesty and romance. PLUS ONE. Taking into account all of that+wanderlust+roadstripping histories, and after much discussion about the quickening turn of years and pulling apart of our orbits that we fight against tooth and nail, Miss Ann Marie asked if I’d be her plus one. I consulted the oracles (Mama said DO. IT.), backed into that math (don’t know how I’ll swing it but I’ll figure it out), put on some red lipstick and a beret (obviously), and pulled the trigger. If not this, what? If not now, when? The yes, the spark, the setting into motion a butterfly tumble of good-vibes ripples that actually finds us now, on the eve of departure, a whole clan of women ready to move and meet and join in joy on the gilded coasts of SOFRA (the SOuth of FRAnce), to dance and leap and swim and wrap ourselves in scarves and memories and chilled rosé and funky cheeses and celebrate the living of it because, if you hadn’t noticed, that’s the way that you’ve got. to. do. it. Because, honestly, what else is there? As Daddy says: Life is a Banquet and Most Poor Suckers are Starving To Death. To the feast.

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Get Out In It!

crabtreetrailSomeimes you just have to get out in it. Even it it’s chills bills and the woodstove is so cozy and you might just make yourself a ham sandwich with the seemingly endless linen satchel of Virginia ham that has been magically refilling itself since late November. THAT, in fact is EXACTLY when you need to get out in it. To the mountains, to the chill, to the frozen longest-waterfall-east-of-the-Mississippi in all its thundering glory, to the frost misted mosses and cantilevered rock faces of the world, full of wonder and ancient magics and secret caves and perhaps-hidden treasures and a few necessary vistas of destiny. And when it’s over, you can make yourself that ham sandwich.frozenwaterfallcrabtreemossicecicleslounginghikefaithwomanofdestiny2014.1.8FrozenWaterfall

Thanksgiving in Snapshots

thanksgivingcidergravyYou know it was a good time if you literally only took one picture of the whole shebang and it was this total WORK OF ART (I suppose I decided that the vision of dear sweet Ravenel deglazing a skillet of aromatic and reducing roux that becomes the base of her incredible cider gravy while a boozy put of mulled cider bubbles in the background and Nick tears bread for apple and herb stuffing and a pecan pie cools off slowly by the woodstove was worth saving for posterity’s sake, and I suppose I’m not wrong). Out here in the world of the internet, though, while one hand laments decorative gourd season and the other pins gilded pumpkin tablescapes that could/should never exist outside of Martha, I sort of like that this was the only snapshot I thought to take. When you’re dancing in the kitchen, there’s no time to stop and stage photographs. But, because you asked, here are a few shots I scooped up from a few dear ones who thought to take a moment and capture some loveliness while I was making sure everyone had enough wine. And that the bird was ready at the same time as my hairdo.susturkeysuspieIMG_1276thanksgivinglatkeshooraykitchen

Montauk

moonriseAnd then we packed up the F-150 with surfboards, bikes, lounge chairs, coffee, guitars, scarves, whiskey, tents, necklaces, and bahn mi’s and headed out to Montauk. We judiciously used our lack of showering and/or anywhere with a roof to go to avoid becoming embroiled in any of the overarching Montauk sceneyness, and pretty much spent all of our time gazing at the ocean, getting into it, surfing/watching the surfers, eating fried seafood, and drinking beer. That, singing songs, killing a Thursday NYT crossword, and waking up to infinity stretching off into the distance and it was an alright time indeed.montaukcampsiteditchplainssurfboardssunsetThank you to AMR for the snap of the surfboards and for inviting me along for a little tag-team-third-wheel.