Holy 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.
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?
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):
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?
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.
Four 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.
On the wings of a mixtape and to the sound of the rain, we are OFF to New York.
The cucumbers have not been happy. And, as we all know, the most surefire cure for a little malaise, when your roots are in a twist and you need a little sun on your shoulders is a ROAD TRIP. So we packed a wagon with all of their earthly possessions and have gone on a little adventure, all the way across the yard. We’ll see if they like it.
After a weekend of bossing around the men with machines, Mama decided that we would spend Sunday roadtripping down the lusty curves of our favorite country roads to Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat, Poplar Forest. The destination proved totally appropriate as the removal of a bunch of junk trees in our own backyard has revealed our own small tulip poplar stand, ringing a clearing in our woods. TJ himself called the Tulip Poplar “The Juno of our Groves” when he sent some seeds on to a friend in Paris, and we too are enamored of them since their yellow flower will be a favorite nectar source of our beloved yet-to-arrive-due-to-ongoing-unseasonable-cold-weather bees. The afternoon, glorious, our little family borne about the grounds of the old estate like seeds on the breeze, and we are certain Jefferson would have approved of our continental picnic of crusty bread, various charcuteries, olives, a ripe pear, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses- favorites Mt. Tam and Red Hawk, and, of course, cold rosé. In short, a perfect day for Mamas and everyone. Poplar Forest is to Monticello what Rockaway is to East Hampton- more casual, less people, a little rough around the edges, but if you know what you’re looking for and enjoy simple pleasures, it’s just as good (if maybe not a little better), vegetable garden small and do-able, serpentine wall in elegant decay, slightly falling down.
This Saturday, after knocking about the flea for a hot second and trying our hands at brunch, we decided we needed to get out. The city felt like it had a lid on it, and we needed to break away. We headed out to Rockaway, the world opening up for us, turning from grey and stifling still to open and cool the farther we got down Flatbush avenue. It was sweatshirt weather, jeans rolled up, swimsuits stuck into our bags as afterthoughts, hopeful necessities included by our road trip habit (swim every day, just in case). We headed to Fort Tilden, drove by the abandoned barracks and strange decaying outbuildings, and crested the dune to find the beach deserted, the sun slinking sideways, the wind whipping the sand low along in that autumn way that is at once beautiful and a little lonely. After a summer of sun, the water was warm, much warmer than the air, and we decided to go for it. Slipped our sandy feet through our skinny jeans, shimmied into our suits piecemeal, shucked our work shirts and infinite necklaces and went for the double-figure-8-high-five-run-in (if you’ve never done this it’s the best way to get into a chill ocean: start back to back, run half of a figure 8 back to your starting point, meet in the middle and high five, run the other half of the figure 8, meet, high five, and then sprint into the ocean). It was perfect. The air cool, the water warm, the wind blowing rainbow spray back from the ocean crests, the wheeling gulls, the JFK 747’s coming in every 10 minutes.
Getting out, goosebumps and shivers, heartbeats and the golden sun. When we got back home, the sun had gone down, the temperature dropped to 40 degrees. Just like that, it was over. We had gotten the last possible swim of the season, the end of Indian Summer, the start of whiskey weather. But we still had the feeling of wind in our hair and salt on our skin. Perfection.
It just so happened that a late model pickup truck needed to get from the fresh and salt-blown Maine coast down to Virginia for the gilded fall. It just so happened that the last lobstery gusts of New England summer were blowing us south too, so we volunteered to drive it down. We leave in a bit, and since the truck only has a CD player, we’re sitting on this rock, where The Checkley no longer stands, making mix CDs to take us into fall like it was ten years past when we didn’t know the preciousness of adventure, but we certainly understood well the value of a good mix.
fabulous Checkley image from here.
Early this week, the starry pull of New York and the stronger gravity of possibility and serendipity allowed for the four of us— two far flung wanderers and two of us still tethered to the C train— to be all together in the same place at the same time. We ate well and stayed up late after making music, drinking wine, laughing and talking and filling in the gaps around the bullet point plans of our futures until we had to force ourselves to go to sleep (and—in the wisdom of our years— decided against our 24 year old selves’ standard midnight whiskeys). The next day, the plan was for the wanderers to continue wandering, to leave in the morning for adventure unknown. Their departure happened to coincide with alternate side parking, so as they left my block, scarves flying, horns tooting farewell, I went to do the mundane city things: drop off my laundry and move my car from one side of the street to the other. When I came back to the block to see, if in the intervening minutes, a parking spot had appeared, they were back, something forgotten, something lost in the shuffle, a phone in the wrong pocket. So, instead of trying to find parking, I just ran in, kissed sweetheart goodbye, and followed them into the wilderness. On our way out of town, we passed this billboard on the BQE, crookedy typeface graffiti: I bet you wished you… Open ended, something there wistful, maybe unfulfilled… but not for me, not right then.
So, we’re off, drafting on the winds of the power of yes.
picture from first mate, navigator, red-shoe wearer, and ultimate wing woman Ann Marie, via Instagram.
Coco Chanel tells us that we must remove one bauble before leaving the house in danger of perhaps becoming tacky, or worse, vulgar. Mlle. Coco, we beseech: what if we aren’t leaving the house, per se, but rather have left home for adventure and are now streaming up from the hot spring, leaving the safety of the outcrop for the plunge of the cliff, emerging from the tent, slouching towards sunset, or craning up towards the heavens? On the road, I think, you’re free to bedeck yourself in old Moroccan corals, jet black beads of lost traders, turquoises from Santa Fe, feathers of all shapes and sizes, gilded ropes, chains, abalone strands, and shining winking bangles that ring like bells when you walk into your destiny. I think Coco would be down.