At the Bookstore, Dreaming

It’s a cloudy, drizzly Sunday, and there are 30 people in the check-out line at Barnes and Noble. There are 12 in the cafe/caffeine line. I head for the second, mostly because I perused (and occasionally bought) everything in the first line a few weeks ago.

One of those heavy gray days with crows flying about, and the sky so wet that dribbles of moisture keep sliding down the sides of me like a cold bath. It’s dreary, and no one looks quite normal as they hunch this way or that trying to ward off discomfort.

The young girl across from me sits in the cafe section by way of the cash register section, and the belongings that cover her small table and quite a bit of the floor include giftwrap (a roll of gold and a roll of white with gold stars), a furry stuffed cat (orange), a science kit on Climate Control, nine record albums whose titles are sadly just beyond my view, a black purse, Monopoly (with Hello Kitty gracing the box), and two hefty hardcover books. The girl is midway through an even heftier paperback. I like her.

Every person in the cafe is wearing black on at least half of their body, with the exception of one girl wearing pajamas.

I got here just before the crowd. I get here every day just before the crowd, no matter what time I arrive. I’m lucky that way. I love bookstores, probably because they’re filled with minimally comfortable humans making their way in a world that generally includes few and excludes many, most of whom love to read.

I used to read. I pulled back when so many novels suddenly became harder to handle, and indeed happy books seem not to be in style these days. There were decades when I could handle the murders and loss, mostly because there was always a happy enough ending, and of course the good girl or good guy in charge of it all always saved the day. Now just as often, the good guy dies. Realism, they call it. It’s the third Saturday before Christmas. I’m in no mood for murders. Or much realism, for that matter. When I started writing, I devoured books until they began to hurt — when books came too close to reality.

So now I write. Growing up, I had no use for fiction and was all about truth and evolution, or as close as you can get from a carefully selected book chosen at least partially because you liked the cover. I still tiptoe around fiction a bit, but I love the process and the character creation. Those girls live with me always.

I envy the girl with the hefty book and the orange cat. I miss the days when I could read a slightly disturbing book, find the silver lining, and move on with a bit of new understanding enlightening my brain.

Cleaning Day

I’m not sure why I call this “cleaning day” when in fact it’s been 9.2 days of non-stop rip-everything-from-the-closets-the-kitchen-and-any-room-in-my-way-and-strew-it-all-over-the-bed (step 1), sort it (step 2), wash everything in the house (step 3), sort it again because my priority list has changed (step 4), fold the giveaways (dear god, please let there be many) (step 5), hang the keepers (step 6), repeat.

Yeah I’m a keeper kinda girl. I get attached to stuff, and not only the stuff but the memories that tag along. If there’s any sentiment attached, I’m keeping it. I understand that stuff is just stuff, but is it really? Because I have a really long memory.

And now, quite surprisingly, the day has come when it seems I really DON’T need that, and instead I have a sudden gasping urge to throw it all out, and by that I mean carefully consider each piece (can I wriggle into it?), judge the need (gasp), and evaluate the style (just because I wore it with glee in the 70’s doesn’t necessarily mean it’s still swoon-worthy (but of course it is)).

And then there’s the rest of the process. Clothes are one thing — the kitchen is another. Let’s just say there’s no real personal attachment to mixing bowls and platters. If it’s living in my kitchen, it’s not only easier to toss psychologically, but physically. I can cram five dresses into the space reserved for one, but a can’t really smush metal racks together.

But of course even in the kitchen, the place farthest away from my lifelong love affairs, there are must-keeps. Even if I stopped cooking at least a decade ago, I can’t toss the potato masher that my grandmother used throughout her entire life, which was long, or the blue tray that my mom pulled out so often that it’s frayed at every age, the wooden trivet that my dad hand-carved, my son’s inherited porcelain baby dish complete with a water reservoir to keep his pureed sweat potato at just the right temperature, or my daughter’s delightfully hand-scribbled notes to let me know each feeling that passed through her days youthful.

And so it goes. We buy, we use, we become attached. We fall in love with things because they’re so much more than things. They are our lives kept in drawers and used for a lifetime.

Women are a sentimental brood, and I consider it one of our best features.

This one I kept. I have no idea what it is, but it will always hang in my kitchen. Imperfection = beauty.

In the Dark

Last night we walked across the quiet street in the almost-dark and settled onto the dock to watch the mullets jump. I can promise you with all my heart, fingers, and toes that these are words I’ve never said before, and also that even as a beach girl, I have no clue what a mullet looks like. I DO know that they’re out in force in the dark, twisting and flashing across the night, sometimes solo and other times in groups large enough to turn every head on the docks.

Or in some cases, gigantic splashes from a passing school that wants to show off their sass and leap all at once in a shimmery flicker.

I don’t know. There’s something rather Deliverance-y about this story, but totally without the pig parts. Lots of stars, lots of dark, lots of magical splashing, lots of howling laughter.

And then I stepped a bit to one side and there — standing in mud up to his ankles with a look of quiet, intense focus and surrounded by a bevy of laughing, midnight beauties, I suddenly saw him — a huge blue heron just standing there waiting to pounce.

As far as I could tell, he never did manage to grab a late dinner, and as we walked away, he was suddenly nowhere to be found. But we shared a moment in the night, even though I’m not sure he enjoyed it as much as we did.

I can tell you this, though — we’ll be back.

Addendum: We did return — same dock, same night filled with stars — and not a single mullet, not a single splash, not a single heron.

Bliss

Yes, I’m “home” — wriggling my toes into the warm, soft sand, rejoicing as each wave curls and arcs and reaches and throws herself, once again, onto the land. Watching the legs, whether long and stick-like or almost invisible, of miscellaneous creatures that call both land and sea “home.” We are each one of them in mysterious ways, don’t you think?

But mostly, I’m a total captive to the wind. No city air can compete with the endless and ever-present breeze that brings her bounty across the sea and takes me whole.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pawleys is one of our staples at Wild Hair Adventures (girl trips!), and I have no doubt that our significant others would be surprised to get a peak at what we do. We create, we talk about the things that we’ve discovered in life, we cook, we eat, we dance (sometimes wildly), we watch the seemingly endless motion of swaying sea oats sending down their roots to stabilize the land, and we take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Yesterday I watched cranes catching fish with their big scoopy bills, seiners casting nets again and again and again, and night fishermen settled into the dark in peace and solitude.

But mostly, we breathe. We breathe the salt air. We breathe roadside flowers. We breathe the marsh grasses. We breathe the colors of sunsets. We breathe in time and love and space, and it fills us with everything good in life.

I think I was born with sand between my toes, and it has nourished me well.

Clean Freak

I’m not a clean freak. Never have been and never will be, because there’s way too much to grab and enjoy in this life. But some little switch flipped itself in the past couple of weeks and all hell has broken loose. I can’t stop cleaning.

So far I’ve emptied, considered, purged or kept with a stronger hand that I ever thought possible. I’ve gone through everything that comes under the heading of “what happens when you inherit from both sides of the family, their spouses, their parents, their children, their children’s children, nieces, nephews, visitors, and a dog or two. Kidding about the dog, but we now have a GoodSized GoodWill pile, all of which I washed today. 

Sterling candle snuffer well over a foot long, statuette of a cherub riding a dolphin, miniscule ashtrays, a lovely blue cut-glass boat headed by a cherub and two oars she could never handle on her own, a globulous set of pewter cream and sugar servers that appear to be posing as five inch tomatoes (and still have decades, and I mean DECADES, of sugar inside them, a sterling bed warmer (honestly, how old could that be???), and 175ish sterling baby spoons marked with happy slogans from travels around the world. Yes, you read this correctly. It’s interesting learning the guts and bones of your families, isn’t it?

And then I cleaned out the no-man’s land under the sink and found all kinds of treasure, which I tossed anyway, mostly because it comes under the heading of Very Old. I did however, keep a dried up tub of Wrights Silver Polish, which I was able to re-hydrate, primarily because I used to date Mr. Wright, who was not at all dried up at the time.

In the happiness category, I came across an old dress which had once been floor-length with a looong ruffle at the bottom. I had (some decades ago) whacked it off a bit below the knee and placed pins for hemming and then tucked it away for another day, which was apparently this day. I’m not quite sure how I got that side zipper closed, but I did, and I proudly wore the dress for most of today, AND soon I’ll be raising it up to well-above-the-knee level and flaunting it. You gotta make cleaning fun, right?

And then I decided to tackle the 12 sheets of 2” thick PINK insulation foam that I had leftover and which has graced our living room for the past year. Sigh. I did well for the first 10 sheets, but then my ankle (also known as styrofoam-snapper) rebelled just as Vernon walked in the door to hear my scream. It’s not broken, but now it’s looking at me with that I’M DONE FOR TODAY kinda look. And yeah, maybe I am.

Wandering Paris

So. What do you do with a week in Paris? Everything you can, right??? I’ve written about it more than a few times, and you might be surprised that my previous posts have usually focused on details — a clock above the road, the beautiful patina of a fish-themed, french bulldogs and food markets so enticing that you swear never to eat in America again … you get the idea.

But today I’m going to wax less poetic and dive into clothes shopping. Oh who am I kidding? It’s Paris and it’s clothes from Paris. Poetic to the max.

I’m pretty sure you can find anything, and I do mean anything, at the Paris vintage shops. But as much as I love them, there are days when I find that cruising the booths is very much like discovering an old pile of my own clothes that I somehow forgot to drop off at Goodwill. Years ago. Maybe decades.I’m drawn to them, sure … but do I really want to wear them again? 

Or more to the point, could I?

I can picture a well-coiffed woman wearing this dress or that floppy skirt, and indeed she does look fabulous. But alas, the It Girl in the body-clinging frock is 22 and weighs (almost) 95 pounds. Let’s face it, she’d look great in a roll of paper towels. Me? Not so much. I long for a dress that slinks its way over every bulge, crushing lumps like ice cubes in a blender.

They say that Paris women are sleek because they eat only when they’re hungry, and even then they manage to stop at a normal amount quite devoid of gorging. Can that actually work? What if you’re always hungry? What if you’re nervous? What if you need some extra energy? In a city with fresh croissants spewing their buttery breath at every corner, and I do mean EVERY corner, who can resist? 

French women, that’s who. Don’t ask me how.

I wonder if they teach a class in that . . . . And will there be treats?


Well Hello There!

It’s been a while and, honestly, quite a bit more than a while. It’s been a good busy, a hectic busy, a screaming into the pillows busy, a glorious busy, an explorative and enriching busy. But I feel like I’m at the edge of a new day, and I’m feeling more capable of grasping it than I anticipated.

Life changes haven’t always been my favorite thing. I’m one of those who stands on the precipice with gritted teeth and eyes squinting. I take baby steps. Achingly scream-worthy baby steps, and that’s okay. The slower you go, the more you examine yourself and your reluctance, the stronger you become. It’s what we all want, yes?

But somehow I’m okay with this change, and here’s the thing.

I thought I’d fall apart, and I got stronger instead. I saw the situation and merged pretty seamlessly into a mode I never thought I’d face.

Life is like this. As the man said, “you just might find you get what you need.”

Beaching It

This Thanksgiving broke beautifully clear with swirling breezes, ample sunshine, smells of the salt marsh, and the patter of much-adored toesies.

So of course we adorned ourselves with swimsuits, baby carriers, snacks, sacks for shells, and the all-important shovels. P.S. How do you know when you’re a grown-up? You no longer have a plastic shovel at the ready. That would be me.

But we’ve got the sacks and we’ve got ample cooperation from the sea, stretching out into the lowest low tide I’ve ever seen here. It’s a bit daunting — the possibility that the sea can just turn her back and walk away when she and the moon get a hankering, but we roll with it and begin the journey to the breakers by crossing a medley of tide pools alternating with sandbars. It’s quite amazing, actually.

My first treasure was a perfect hermit crab shell, and I was surprised to see it happily occupied, just as I was with the next twenty or so we spied and examined. Back they went into the sea.

I’ve collected shells over more years than I care to admit, and the change in my focus over time charms me. I might pick up a perfect shell here and there, but it doesn’t hold much interest. I lunge for those that have spent a lifetime tumbling through capricious tides, pockmarked and holy, or conchs that have given up their fancy fairy tale covering and continue to ride the waves naked, exposing that spiral twist of backbone that stays strong. Like me. Like you.

Mood of the Day

There are days when I’m In A Mood. You’ve been there, right? Some days I’m wary. Some days I’m bull-headed. Some days I’m that free-spirited 20 year old looking for a meadow to roll around in. Some days I’m afraid. But most days, most days, I’m everything at once.

I feel the bliss of quiet sunlight illuminating early morning leaves. The protective warmth of green tea with honey and milk. I feel the dread of an upcoming errand that requires leaving home and interacting with strangers. I feel uncertainty about tomorrow. I feel both joy and dread in possibility. I feel.

And you know, I’m lucky that way. Not everyone allows emotions to have their sway with the head and heart. It’s a risky business, no doubt, but would life be the same without that full-on face to face with the world? With myself?

It absolutely wouldn’t.

And so as much as I luxuriate in the morning bubble that allows me an hour to visit the realm of my choosing, I try my best to equally meet the rest of the day head-on. To listen. To learn. To honor. To allow the ups and downs. To close the doors that need closing. To walk through the doors that patiently wait. To honor both past and future. To give equal consideration to the skinny branch. To choose my path each day, be it safe and comforting or wildly (and perhaps ill-advisedly) experimental.

I think we’re all allowed a certain number of safe and boring days. They heal. Find the balance.

Flowers on a wall in Giverny, Photo by Pam Goode

In the Neighborhood

When we first moved in, we could sit on the porch and see nothing but green. No other houses. Rarely a human form. It was pretty amazing, considering we live smack dab in the middle of the city, or less so, realizing ours is the last on an unmarked dead-end street with only 5 houses in total.

We have no back yard, but the front runs for 120 feet and then drops into Briar Creek (aptly named), and thus began our soul-stirring relationship with nature. We could see egrets on the bank, training their eagle eyes on unsuspecting fish, hawks circling for daily joy rides, deer prints …. I drove home from the studio late one evening, and as I reached our short street, an owl appeared and flew alongside me not even two feet from my face until I pulled into the garage, my mouth hanging open the entire time.

And then as gardeners do, we began planting. Okay, mostly my husband, who cares nothing for temperature or insects or the clock or even food. And of course the more we planted, the fuller and more lush the garden became, transforming itself to a wonderland so deep and multi-layered that we could no longer see the creek or the egrets standing watch, and we assumed that “progress” in the neighborhood had moved them along. I missed them, but I also loved the banana and fig and mimosa trees that had magically sprung up in their place.

Or perhaps more accurately, the banana and fig and mimosa trees that had shortened my vision.

A few days ago we went for a walk along our winding two-lane main road, and I suddenly felt pulled to jump off the sidewalk and shimmy down the bank for an eyeful of our creek from a different point of view. And there, some fifteen feet below the level at which we pass our days, focused too heavily on where we’re going and whether or not we’ll be late, I spied a gorgeous four foot heron picking her long-legged way towards us.

Hang on Sweet Nature. You give me hope.