I’ve been coming to my family’s beach house every summer since I was born. It’s a lovely, classically old-fashioned house, with old exposed wood beams and white-washed walls, a screened in porch with a swing hanging from the pale blue ceiling and a room in the front where you watch the ships and the storms come in and where, after air conditioning and, grudgingly, internet, the only real “improvement” has been the addition of the small fridge tucked into the pantry off the tiny galley kitchen to hold more wine. It’s the kind of place that feels at once incredibly special and hushed and totally broken in and comfortable. Coming into it for the first time every summer, upon opening the door it always feels like the house has been holding its breath, and woosh! It all comes rushing out with this very particular smell. This very our-old-beach-house-smell. What is it that’s so powerful about that? The heady undercurrent of the house smell is punctuated by the rush of summer exclamation points- the intoxicating-sweet of the bedside gardenia, the you-can’t-buy-it-anymore-but-it-lives-in-the-teak-drawers-here-for-forever pina-coco smell of ZERO spf tanning oil, the woodsy cedar of breeze-thin cotton blankets in the linen closets, the musky sand-and-sea smell of old surfboard wax. All of these conspire to make this smell, saved up in a summer of living, biding its time through the stormy winter, just waiting to waft out again next year. My brother once told me that he would steal one of the ancient navy towels with the birds on them from the house at the end of every summer just so he could have some of the the house smell until he came back. This year I might just try and take it with me when I leave too.
If you need me, I’ll be right here.
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.
Sweetheart and I camped right along the extreme tidal flats up where Maine becomes Canada and the water rises and falls 25 feet with every hi-lo tide. We were in Cobscook Bay, “cobscook” being the Passamaquoddy tribal word for “boiling tides”. Part of the allure of our state park campsite was that at low tide “adventurous campers” (said the park literature) were permitted to go out into the expansive mud flats and get very dirty in the search for heretofore unknown to me softshell clams. Clams so fat and juicy and salty-sweet they can’t even close their shells all the way. We arrived just at low tide and ventured out to secure our dinners, while all the while the incredible fast and furious waters chased us back to land. We pulled a bounty, put them in fresh water to let them filter out their grit while we prepared the fire and tended to our sore fingers. When the coals were jewels, we banked and stoked and roasted the clams over the new open flames. Their salty juices hissed and spit, we melted butter in an enamel coffee cup by setting it at the edge of the fire, and spooned from the jar of cocktail sauce we picked up in Lubec (it was the easternmost cocktail sauce of the United States). Washed all down with dark brown beer it was a joyous supper indeed. And for dessert? The berries we had picked along the hiking trail that morning. It may seem simple to say, but it’s a certain city epiphany: how honest and good it feels to catch, pick, or harvest the food you eat yourself. To provide. When the fruits of your labors are actual fruits, foraged in the open, free in every sense.
One of those nights of the incredibly full moon we all walked from the river’s edge inland to the no-lane road that lopes along the border of Canada to light giant sparklers and dance in our own circles to their woozy comet trails. When the last one burnt out, we lay in the middle of the road spooling out in either direction knowing, somehow, no one would be coming along and looked up at the stars, made almost dim by that huge moon. It was night magic.
Just got back from an absolutely incredible Jubilee! hiking trip out west with my Mama… we averaged 8 miles a day, hiking along misty river rainbowed canyon edges, skirting glacial freezing mirrored lakes, and counting infinite wildflowers along the trails. What a time… I’ll share more pictures tomorrow. Lovelove!
I got back to New York last night, cruising back up the Eastern Shore in the wake of an epic thunderstorm that left thousands without power, delayed my introduction to my P.N.F.B.* Miss Annabelle Mooney, and garnered the real-time headline: INCH LARGE HAIL BALL FOUND IN CHUCKATUCK. Man, oh, man. Upon my return the internet is out and the cilantro has bolted (see above), but— the flowers are lovely and small and delicate and make a perfect little cilantro-y nosegay. If she were here I’d give it to Miss Meags to celebrate her engagement! Lovelovelove.
Coming up this week I’ll have an all-you-can-eat buffet of American-ness for your reading pleasure: baseball, camping, adventures, fireworks, and, of course, a dog on a ferris wheel.
*potential new favorite baby
After glimpsing them in New York harbor during fleet week, and seeing them streaming sails across the mouth of the Chesapeake, Daddy and I cruised down to Harborfest to see the stunning tall ships in all their furled glory. I told you I love ships. Gilded figureheads in the golden hour, fireworks amidst the riggings at sundown, all the ships in the harbor sounding their horns at once, a rude and glorious symphony—as from Whitman:
Chant on, sail on, bear o’er the boundless blue from me to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
ps. and a very happy birthday to Sweetheart… I can’t wait to share the celebration!
When Sweetheart and I went down to Puerto Rico for his dear friend’s wedding to a native Puertorriqueña, we made the good choice to hang around for a few days after. Fortified with strange savory pastries dusted with powdered sugar and strong dark coffee on our way out of San Juan, we headed to the interior. Trekking into El Yunque rainforest to spend the night off the grid in a cabin perched atop a mile high mountain that used to be a tropical fruit farm=good plan. Upon our arrival, we each got a crooked walking stick and hiked up the jungle switchbacks, stopping along the way to pick camandula seeds (which the native Taina ladies used to string as necklaces) arriving at our cabin—tin roofed and on stilts—as the sun was setting. Our host- a sort of Apocalypse-Now-Roger-Sterling- showed us the machete (labeled “guest machete”), gave us this map, and melted into the underbrush. We made fire, cooked meat, peppers and rice, drank rum, played backgammon by candlelight, slept in hammocks, took rainforest rainwater showers and, when the nighttime thunderstorms broke into dawn, we followed the map to the Cubuy River falls. Not all those who wander are lost, but it helps if you have a map.
From the amazing team that brought you Murmurations, here is a darling little video about Rome’s “love locks”. A new tradition on a 2000 year old bridge, lovers write their names on a lock, affix it to chains spanning the TIber, and symbolically and grandiosely toss the key into the river. Ahh Rome, how I love you.
thanks to dear Sara for the heads up.