It 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.
Just 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.
Well, 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…
Today it’s far too cold to show you the myriad of outdoorsy goins on that got tackled over the weekend, so, as often is the case on these blistering March-is-certainly-coming-in-like-a-lion-clear-and-bright-and-face-hurtingly-cold days, I thought I’d turn inward and share a few little spots around the house that have been giving me pause with their loveliness. First, the orange-red tulips Miss Rav got for the kitchen, the primroses with the compass Mama just brought me (and necessary Rosebud salve) on my bedside table, and the littlest mortar and pestle, just waiting to grind up the cumin seed that lives in the bird jar.With spring on its way, the house is in too much (eternal?) chaos for room tours, but I do so love these little glimpses. More to come, every week I think.
Yes, those are my painted wood farmhouse floors. Yes, that is my pink poinsettia. Yes, they were both waiting for me when I returned to the country from the city this week. The floors have been here since 1890 or so, the poinsettia, since just last week, but my how I love them both. My mama has been getting me a pink poinsettia for my birthday every year, as long as I can remember, since before I wore a fur muff and a cape (like this) and took three very special friends to Richmond for a tea party and to see The Nutcracker (this was my deepest desire as a girl turning 8 and, frankly, that STILL sounds totally awesome). Also waiting for me upon my return, a parcel from dear McKay, with a new story (hers) and moon vine seeds to plant in the spring (mine), and a big ‘ole box from Jay and Katie Rose full of JARS (!! how well they know me) and, among other affirmations, this quote:
Time and tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of 30.”- Robert Frost
Now, I realize that there may be a bit of a mid-century jibe lurking here, one about lying about your age, but that literally didn’t occur to me until just now… rather, I read it as something powerful, as if, at 30, a woman has a certain hard-earned-sense and now-finally-trusted-intuition and faith-in-the-weight-of-her-own-truth to slow down from the head-long gallop of 16, the jittery glitter of 21, and the loud, mouthy, wisdom of 25 and take a deep breath, at last, and be comfortable in quiet, in time, in her own skin. 30 years of living may not magically afford us the ability to weigh what we need and want and love and craft a life of purpose and beauty out of them, but I turn 30 on Sunday, and I’ll celebrate it at Home, with wood-smoke and family, with Sweetheart and music, with friends coming down from the cities and coming in from the farther-out-country mountain hollers, and with love. And fried chicken, oysters, and champagne. So.
So, I know this isn’t the best picture…. but I couldn’t NOT share jar system 1.0 with you! This is what I was doing at 1am with a glass of wine, happy as a little clam, when I should have probably either been sleeping or trying to locate any.other.pair of shoes in the packing melee besides these painted clogs that I’ve been wearing everywhere because they were inexplicably packed in the box with the jars and so got unpacked first (top priorities, people):I’ll be slipping these puppies on and heading down to Williamsburg today to get some Colonial style pine and magnolia and boxwood swag for my banisters (!) that my Ever-Lovin Mama ordered for me in anticipation for the simultaneous arrival of a) me here and b) Christmas everywhere. Merry Merry!
Oh My. What a time it’s been. One week after our arrival, I am now solo in this house. Sweetheart has gone back to Brooklyn to work and I’m here with the woodstove (which I am learning to master, stoking and banking with purposeful and beautiful and ancient tools, waking up to a bed of coals still gleaming after the long night) and the cat (whom no one will master, especially not Buster, who he met for the first time yesterday). In the intervening seven days, we settled, nested, unpacked, corralled, toasted with funky local cider and fancy champagne, cooked up a storm, danced in the kitchen, and in the midst of it all, hosted 18 people for Thanksgiving dinner. Hooo-eee! Sweet Family, together again, bringing laughter, stories, recipes, and a plant raised from clippings from the one my Great Grandmaw always kept in her kitchen, to be kept now in mine. Dear friends bringing pink bubbles and aprons and trout-sent-by-mail and the best dishwashing hands I’ve ever seen and smoked ducks and jars of apple pie moonshine and mandolins. And Loves, bearing burdens and brunts and just now taking a deep woodsmokey breath and settling down here in the dusky twilight, the night coming on cold and clear through the bare trees, the sun setting over our darkening field, our little house a bright jewel on the hill.Such a wealth of thanks. So much heart full and deep and almost beyond words. Home. And just like the third and final page of the localist paper: news, recipes, and crop reports to come.
It’s been a pretty big week for pizza (when is it not a big week for pizza?): we went to Grimaldi’s new location in an unspoken celebration of Ann Marie’s return to the East Coast, and today I’m leaving to meet my Mama to take a pizza making class as part of her ongoing JUBILEE celebration. We’ll stay with our town mouse friends, have much wine and lots of food, and generally make merry in the best of ways. On a related note, did you know that a standard baking stone is, like, $30? I’ve been under the illusion that they’re hundreds of dollars and that’s why I don’t have one. GET THEE TO A CHEF SUPPLY STORE! In love and pizza, have a wonderful weekend.
Grimaldi’s image from here.
So. I just finished reading The Grapes of Wrath for the first time. Seeing as how it’s Sweetheart’s favorite book and taking into account how much I loved The Red Pony in my girlhood, East of Eden in James Dean-tickled high school, and Travels with Charley in my burgeoning, adventure-loving adulthood, I have no idea how it slipped through the cracks. But, oh my, it’s been a long time since a book tore my heart up like this, made me wistful and lonely, chest-full with beauty and loss, and angry over how little some things have changed. If you haven’t read it, the changing of the seasons is a good time, and if you have, then you’ll love these incredible Dorothea Lange photographs of the Dust Bowl Migration (from the really fabulous Oakland Museum Archives). Because you wish you could pick a guitar, it’s a gracious thing, because you walk for the family and hold your head straight for the family, because you get use’ to a place, gets use’ to a way of thinkin’ it’s hard to leave. Because home is the center but not the boundary of affection. Home.