I took another trip to Philly for work last week. I love filming in cities, because the energy/people/sounds are so different from my daily experience. When I got home I noticed that most of my favorite clips were of some mode of transportation or other (with the exception of the part where I try to get my colleague Joy on camera and hilarity ensues), and so I combined them into one short little movie that makes me smile (and laugh at that silly part) every time I watch it.
“It cracks me up that you took pics of all of the messy places,” she texts.
“Those are all of the beautiful places,” I text back.
And it’s true. Every corner of her home held beauty. All things burst green with the late northern spring in the Oran Valley. We stayed at her place even though she was away, but her family members that remained at home were charming and perfect hosts.
Bruce gathered eggs from the hens’ favorite corner of the barn (why they don’t lay in their coop, no one understands, but chickens are complicated people) and served them up for our Saturday morning breakfast. Tilly had each of us (in genteel rotation) hurl a chunk of tree bark into the brush for her to retrieve. Monty caressed my girl’s neck with his? her? forked tongue and was a welcome, dense, comforting weight in her hands. Not about to be superseded by Thomas Merton, Jag pushed my book aside, curled up in my lap, and dug her claws into my thighs, teaching me something new about pain and pleasure.
(And then there were those chickens. I couldn’t stop myself–I took about 900 pictures of chickens that weekend. Why? I have no idea, but who wouldn’t take pictures of giant pet birds that wander around outside the house and inside the house and start making noise at 4:30 AM and keep going all day?)
When we were away from the house doing family things, attending the events for which we’d made the trip north in the first place, we talked about what Tilly, Monty, Jag and the chickens might be up to back at the house. And when it was time to leave, certain of us planted kisses on all things canine, feline, and anguine, and there were tears, and long pauses while taking one last look up the hill before closing the car door.
Weeks later, I stand in the kitchen while the tulsi steeps. I reach out and touch each picture and remember sweet birdsong, the squeak of trampoline springs, the crack of a bonfire, the quiet of a stairwell.
Thirty minutes to spare. The grounds are dotted with little houses, each one filled with whispering old objects.
Electric fans move the air inside the main building and I wander through three levels. A man browses through silverware on the ground floor. I see him again on the second floor, looking at a small wooden puzzle box. And then we’re on the third floor where the air is thin. We are spirits looking for lost possessions.
Eyes closed, my hand wraps around a small glass bottle that once held a tiny bouquet of buttercups.
All of the silver, all of the linen, all of the brass and the wood and the glass, every small and large thing wears a fragile coating of dust and soul and each thing wonders
who will ever love me again
I stand on the deck of the boat,
brow furrowed against whipping hair,
wind lashing my back.
I watch my heart trampoline hard on the wake,
tethered to me with the thinnest rope.
He swings wide, an inked stylus
recording a round swell of current,
then jerks left and right, scratching
thick and black the sharp spikes of my fear.
A final jolt, and he slips under the dark water.
Later, we thump hard and fast back to the marina.
His brown skin glows a life vest orange,
his blue eyes closed against fat rain drops.
He scratches his jellyfish stings.
Portland in July was a temperate, low humidity heaven on earth. Bungalows, restaurants, cape cods, bars, and flower shops are mixed together and spread out across the straight line of Southeast Division Street. I sat at a tiny outdoor table at The Woodsman Tavern, sipped a coa de jima and thought if I lived in that little house across the street, this would be my regular haunt.
Finding nourishing food while traveling in a new city is a challenge, but it’s important to me to not eat junk while on the road. I Yelped my way to Prasad for an amazing dinner of lightly steamed kale, cabbage, beans, avocado and quinoa. I sat at a high counter in the front window and enjoyed the bowl with a fresh green lemonade. Two guys passed by the shop, deep in conversation. One then stopped in his tracks, turned around, came inside and ordered a wheatgrass shot at the counter behind me, his skeptical friend watching through the glass.
The flagstone path leads me away from the main house, through dark undergrowth and past waterfall to a clearing. The cabin is made of stone, built before the American revolution. A sweet garden wraps around from side to back. The front door is unlocked, and I step inside. The room is stained glass, dark wood, thick and quiet air that smells of books. A side table holds a bottle of Grand Marnier and two glasses. I want to sit at the desk and write and write until my hand cramps and my mind is still but the sun is going down and I feel the pull of home. I close the door behind me and stand in the back garden, feeling the hot Virginia breeze lift my hair as all around me honeybees stir in the twilight.
We weren’t really lost; we could see the house just across the cove. But the fields were so very cold and muddy, and the winds came off the water and whipped stinging sand at our eyes and mouths, making the evening seem desperate and epic. And so our thoughts and conversation turned to fire and food and warmth and shelter. The Muscari pushed toward the sunset, unfeeling, insensitive to our struggle for survival.
As I watched this day end I somehow knew that I was really watching the end of a season. When we left the next morning, the air had turned much colder. The leaves that lined the turnpike with fire on our way down turned brown and curled in the wake of our speeding northbound minivan.
:: a pod of dolphins hunting for their breakfast in the waters across the cove
:: the smell of laundry that has dried in the salty bay air
:: laughing and carrying on with old friends over wine and clams casino
:: a funky haircut that heralds a new season in my life
:: rounded triangles of moonlight reflected off the backs of thousands of waves and minnows
:: linguine con le vongole made by my former chef of a husband using clams dug from the bay with our own big and little hands. so. very. yummy.
:: reading sonnets under blankets after the weather turned much colder