At ease

Racing in the Bucket

Racing in the Bucket

When I imagined the four months I was planning on spending in St Barths this year, I had a set idea of what these months would look like and what I would do at the the end of them. In returning this year I thought I would find a job, live cheaply so I could save some money and head back to the East Coast to work the summer before flying half-way around the globe for a year in New Zealand. Instead, I found a job, I am living very simply, and I have no desire to go anywhere. Where did this need to settle come from? I can’t really say. It came upon me in February with such insistence that it seemed that I should listen and let the dust settle around my restless heart.


So I find myself in my childhood home, in an industry I never envisioned being a part of, training for a position that I had not anticipated when I accepted my job at the hotel. Life is funny like that sometimes. Apparently having a diversified resumé means I am adaptable and an asset in an industry where people train in a linear fashion. I am “versatile.” I think this also means that excellence for me doesn’t mean being stellar at one or two things in particular, but rather having a wide range of moderately developed skills in a variety of areas. I’m a generalist rather than an expert. Sometimes that frustrates me, but right now I recognize the utility of being built this way and I appreciate the opportunity it has brought me here.

In coming back this time I’ve found that the people I meet are connected to me in a way I hadn’t experienced in any of my previous returns. The six degrees of separation have shrunk to one or two degrees here. Everybody knows or knows of everybody else. That has been a comfort in a lot of ways, mostly because I miss the community I had on Nantucket and the friendships that surrounded me there. As happy as I am here, I miss the intimacy and closeness of the people I’ve spent the past four years loving at close range. I know I will continue to make friends and that I will build a community of like-minded people here, but it is very much like starting from scratch.



One of the best things to happen since I’ve been back, is rediscovering this place through a new person in my life who has been here for many years. He is teaching me secrets about my island that I completely missed when I was growing up. I am grateful, so grateful that even in this place that I know by heart, there are still so many things I have yet to discover, so many secrets left to be pried from this little piece of rock.

Hiking the Grand Canyon

First view of the GC

First view of the GC

At first view, the Grand Canyon was wreathed in fog. Looking out over what should have been a startling vista I had the sensation of a vast space lying just behind a veil. Beyond the first three feet below us, nothing was visible. We started down a trail that hugged the rock face in tight, steep switchbacks. It was steep and the wind kept picking up the fine top layer of dust and hurling it at our faces. I was dressed in borrowed sweat-wicking gear and grateful for the boots with their gripping soles and solid ankle support. As we descended below the rim we left the cloud cover behind us and our eyes took in the grandiose spectacle surrounding us. P1020900 P1020905

According to one story I heard during my stay in Flagstaff, when the Spanish explorers stumbled upon the Grand Canyon their dispatch back to Spain said: “We have come to a great hole in the ground. We cannot get around it.” They should get an award for the understatement of the millennium.

The landscape both begs to be described and eludes description. It is vast, dramatic, and full of color ranging from deep reds to hazy greens and everything in-between. I found that I couldn’t focus on any one point, like my eyes were pinballs, bouncing from one feature to another, unable to keep still. Gazing just yielded more details to notice but the sheer amount of visual matter made it impossible to do so for any length of time.

P1020929If the South Kaibab trail was perilously steep on the way down I can’t imagine having to tackle it on the way up, yet we crossed paths with innumerable hikers climbing the torturous route. Several people ran the canyon in groups of 3 or 4 and passed us on their way down and their way back up. When it came time to face the vertical mile from bottom to top up the Bright Angel path, I kept thinking “I’m so glad I’m not climbing Kaibab right now.

I did ok for the first 6 miles up the Bright Angel trail when the incline was moderate and the trail was winding through the bottom of a side canyon. We saw a lot of deer and the cottonwoods in their yellow-leaved glory were a lovely distraction. But ss soon as the grade started to angle up and snake back and forth with switchback after switchback I regretted having opted for the boots over the sneakers Ryan initially suggested. The climb was grueling enough without the added weight dragging on my tired legs. P1020939

Before we set out I had told Ryan that I didn’t want to know anything about the hike. No distance, no time estimates and certainly no elevation changes. So I went in blind—I didn’t even know it was possible to hike the Grand Canyon until a couple of days before we did it—and until the last 3 miles, when my lack of fitness and sheer exhaustion caught up with me, that strategy served me well. P1020944

Fortunately that is a situation that Ryan shines in, displaying a seemingly endless well of patience, humor and silent support. We stopped a lot. We had to stop a lot. There were many moments when I could not physically make my legs take another step and I would stop in the middle of the trail, either too tired to bend forward to catch my breath, or braced with my hands on my knees trying to stave off the mounting panic that was my body’s response to being pushed so far beyond its normal limits. I cried about every other stop, clamping down on my tendency to hyperventilate and willing my heart rate to slow. Sometimes it pays to be stubborn as hell.

Sooooooo tired.

Sooooooo tired.

7.5 hours after we set out we crested the top of the Bright Angel trail, to my never-ending relief. With absolute certainty, those last three miles were the hardest physical thing I have ever done and it is an experience that will stay with me for a long time. I was extremely sore the 2nd and 3rd day afterwards but it tapered off pretty quickly. I guess the overexertion and recovery model from my Ultimate Frisbee tournaments in college is paying off after all. It always feels good, in a way, to be really sore. It’s a great reminder of this body that carries me everywhere, a great opportunity to be grateful for all that it allows me to do and for all that it can do in spite of my brain yelling at me to give up, to lie down, to renounce the effort.

Ooh Aah Point

Ooh Aah Point

 I’m glad I kept going. I’m glad I finished the hike in one day and that I got to do it with Ryan, who knows me well enough, even after all this time, to know that I could (even if I had many doubts about it myself!). It is something to be proud of and looking at it now, a few weeks after the fact, I think “That was fun. I could do it again.”

My November Travel log

I kept telling myself when I was traveling that I would write at a later date, the morning after or in lieu of an afternoon nap, on the bus on the way from one place to another, but somehow that never happened. I spent a lot of time daydreaming and staring out of windows. A lot of time noticing the landscape change and wondering how the coming year will play out, but very little time committing any of my thoughts to the page. When it became clear that I was never going to write anything on the road I told myself I’d have time once I got back to South Bend, forgetting to take into account how fast the day goes when you’re looking after a toddler. It is a brutal change of pace from my self-oriented life, and the the luxury of sitting quietly with my thoughts belongs now to a month of traveling that feels long gone.

the view from Brooklyn

the view from Brooklyn

I left Nantucket November 1st, bound for New York in Mariah’s overstuffed car. We stayed the weekend with the Irish and had a fabulous dinner at Prospect where our friend Nathan has been working for the past year. On from NYC to Wilmington, NC where Mariah and I finally parted ways. The past four years have been full of change and growth and innumerable adventures. We will no longer be each other’s partners in crime and we may end up having to grow up after all. It is very strange and very difficult for me to think of not spending next summer with her, of not having the riotous season on Nantucket as my playing field. I’m still not quite ready to face my decision to leave in real terms.


walking the dog with Freya

From Wilmington I took a bus to Tuscaloosa, where Freya has been in  grad school for the past few years. We hadn’t seen each other since I left Boston, ages ago, and the reunion felt like both a rediscovery and a sinking back into something sweet and familiar. We have changed in the intervening years–Freya more drastically than any of my other friends. In my journal after my visit I wrote that she seemed like a more condensed version of herself, less nebulous, more concrete. Like is is taking shape in a way that will hold, that she can trust. She is in the middle of writing her thesis, a collection of poems focused on the self, identity, self-discovery, and will graduate with her M.A. in the spring. Her life in Alabama feels settled in a way that I hadn’t experienced with her before. She has a dog and a man, friends and a set of goals to focus on. Beyond that she has a sense of what she wants for herself in the next few years–something that I envy. What would it be like to really know what you want? How would that kind of certainty feel if you could sustain it over any length of time? Admittedly, I have only the vaguest sense of what that would be like.

Any sleep is good sleep

Any sleep is good sleep

The 32 hours on a bus from Tuscaloosa to Flagstaff were not the brightest moment of my cross-country adventure. I had dreaded that leg of the trip since I booked it but the other options were just too expensive for a girl on a fixed budget. Although comfort is somewhat lacking on some of the Greyhounds, traveling by bus is always an interesting experience. It’s no secret that bus travel in the U.S. belongs to a certain class of people, but aside from the obvious, it is also more personal in many ways than air travel these days. People talk to each other, the drivers crack jokes, at rest stops everyone pours off the bus and people stand in groups, smoking and commiserating about aching backs and cramped knees. The range and complexity of human interaction is truly fascinating and having a job that involves paying attention to physical cues and the subtlety of physical responses has made me more sensitive to non-verbal cues and body language, which makes observing people that much more interesting. The people I encountered in my bus travels were richly entertaining and their faces and skin colors shifted the further West I got. Some were wise and kind and sweet, sincere for their appreciation of what they had. Some were anxious, some annoying. Many looked older than they should have, the results of stress, rough living, poor diet. Very few were young white women traveling alone and I had conversations with more than a few curious strangers, although none of them asked me why I was traveling alone as a young white woman. It was kind of refreshing after the astonishment that such a choice engenders abroad. It also highlighted how privileged I am to be a white woman living in a first world country. I have much less to worry about than women of other ethnic backgrounds. Add to that they way I talk and dress and the most difficult situation I faced on my trip  was figure out how to answer people who asked me where I was from. It seems I don’t know what to say to that anymore.

We pulled up to the Flagstaff bus station well past midnight a day and half after I left Alabama. The futon that served as my bed at Ryan and Lucy’s felt like the lap of luxury after such a long stretch of sitting. In the morning I celebrated my arrival with an enormous (and excellent) breakfast at MartAnne’s, a famous local joint known for supercharged coffee, chilaquiles and gigantic portions. I gorged on chilaquiles and was well into my third cup of coffee before my heart started racing and I realized I was short of breath. Whoa caffeine overload! Fortunately the weather was beautiful so I spent an hour recovering in the sunshine outside the library before wandering through the shops in downtown Flag.

In Sedona

In Sedona

Northern Arizona charmed me in ways that I hadn’t really expected. Flag itself is a cute little town (parts of it, anyway) nestled at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks. A university town (it’s the seat of the NAU campus) brings a youthful energy to a place that is at a perfect crossroads for any number of outdoor activities in the Southwest. On my second day I drove Ryan’s truck through Oak Creek Canyon down to Sedona. My first view of the canyon caught me completely off guard. I was following a road over gentle hills lined with pine trees when I rounded a bend and all of a sudden found myself staring down through what felt like miles of a deep and winding canyon. It was so unexpected and so spectacular that I burst into tears. I didn’t grow up with mountains on a large scale and the sheer amount of space encompassed in between the sheer walls on either side of me was astounding. I drove through the canyon hunched over the steering wheel, craning my neck to see through the top of the windshield, wishing someone else was driving so I could lose myself in my surroundings without becoming a hazard on the road. I stopped at nearly every pull off to take pictures, knowing how little such shots would be able to convey the experience.

Red Rocks

Red Rocks

I arrived in Sedona shaken, a little overwhelmed, and again unprepared for the views the city afforded. I never think to research places online before I get there. As a result I am always surprised. I had no idea Sedona would be so spectacular or that the Red Rocks would so bright or so RED or so damn exciting! Hot-air ballooning is a big thing in Sedona and I would love to go back in the warmer season to see it from above, although it is hard to imagine more exhilarating views of that place. I had lunch at a gluten-free Arizona italian chain restaurant (PIZZA!!!) and then wandered through the art galleries at Tlaquepaque. All of the shopkeepers I spoke with when I was in AZ were exceptionally friendly East Coast transplants. There is something very special about that place which people recognize and explain in different ways. Like Nantucket, many people go and then never leave.

Hiking the Grand Canyon with Ryan

On the South Kaibab Trail

Seeing Ryan again after so long felt like a bit of a milestone. Six years is a long time to go without seeing someone, let alone someone with whom you were once very close. The invitation to visit had been standing open for a while but it never felt like I was in the right place to take it up until this year. I was nervous at first that we would have changed too much, that there would no longer be any common ground, that our connection would have been a tenuous one borne of youth and circumstance. I was so relieved when those fears proved to be unfounded. It felt like finding a brother, and my affection for him, although of a different nature now, is as profound and as comfortable as it always was. Hiking the Grand Canyon together (separate post about that to follow soon) played a big part in reestablishing a bond frayed by time and distance, as such experiences are wont to do. I am so glad that the visit went well, that he is happy, so well-loved and so in love. It was good to see his life there and to see how well it suits him. I felt very emotional when I left. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was ending a chapter, closing the book of the life I’ve known, turning to face whatever is coming next. It was unsettling and very eerie for me.

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier

I flew from PHX to LA and spent ten days hopping around California, never staying in one place for longer than 2 days. Francie picked me up from the airport and I got to experience the infamous LA traffic. The next day we walked down Venice Beach and all around Santa Monica, stopping at boutique shops and drinking fancy coffee. I spend a couple of days in San Clemente enjoying the sleepy coastal town and beautiful California coast. Chipp’s roommates were a brother and sister in their early 20s, transplants from Utah, who were living the California beach life to the fullest. They were certainly an interesting pair. From Southern CA I headed north to an ashram in Grass Valley for what I had hoped would be an interesting class on energy and marma points–the Ayurvedic acupressure points. Life on an ashram is extremely regimented; from 6am until 9:30pm you’re always scheduled to be doing something. Meditation, kirtan (chanting), lecture, yoga, brunch, workshop, yoga, dinner, meditation, kirtan, lecture, sleep. I followed the rules the first day, but the next day I played hooky and did my own thing (big surprise there, I’m sure). I was more than a little disappointed in the course. I expected something very different and I didn’t connect with the man who was leading the workshop so I didn’t get out of it what I had hoped for. In the end, that’s alright. I got some good books on Ayurveda, I had some interesting conversations, I spent time in a beautiful and relaxing space, and San Francisco more than made up for the let-down.

View from Jenn's rooftop

View from Jenn’s rooftop

I’ve never been in a place where I felt like “Wow, I want to be here” until I landed in SF. I’ve certainly been in places I’ve enjoyed and I have loved some of the places I’ve been, but never has any place exerted any kind of pull like what I felt in SF. Inexplicable, baseless, unexpected and yet completely undeniable. I don’t have plans to move there for now: rent is exorbitant and I am accustomed to a certain quality of life which I couldn’t have there doing what I currently do, but hopefully someday…

Jenn lives right on the border of Chinatown and Nob Hill in a gorgeous 2-bedroom with access to an awesome roof. We did a bunch of touristy things on her day off: Ghirardelli chocolate, Irish coffees at the Buena Vista, and an afternoon picnic at Crissy Field where we were randomly interviewed for a documentary about being white women in the United States, something I hadn’t really had to think about up to that point. That night we appetizer hopped in the Mission and after stuffing ourselves to the brim with tasty bites we crawled into bed and watched The Heat. The next day we had brunch at Brenda’s (hello shrimp & grits!) which I walked off after dropping Jenn off at Tosca for work. The best thing to get it all in seemed to be catching a tour of the city so I opted for an open-top tour bus, which turned out to be a stroke of genius. I’m probably a huge nerd for loving those things but not only is it a great way to see a city but they tell you all sorts of cheesy factoids which I love. After my very enlightening and educational experience I felt even more strongly like SF is the city for me and I capped the day off by seeing Catching Fire (which I loved) on the big screen before meeting Jenn at Tosca for a fabulous end-of-my-travels meal.

On the tour bus!

On the tour bus!

It was a wonderful month of solo travel, although there were very few moments when I was actually alone. I crossed the country from one ocean to another, witnessed astounding changes of scenery, spent time with a lot of people I cherish, made countless resolutions and started to nurture my dreams for the coming year. I wish I could stay on the road always, that I could resolve my internal conflicts about making such a choice (not to mention my financial obligations), that I could release myself from the things that pull me back. I’m not there yet but maybe one day this wanderlustful girl will have her heart’s desire.

Until then… travel on!

A time to stay, a time to go

“Aw, I luh you so mush,” Henri said to me this morning when he crawled into bed with me. He tucked his hands under his chin and snuggled closer, wriggling deeper into the covers piled high above us. “You wanna play games?” he asked. My life for the past ten days has been filled with moments like these. Al and Henri flew in last Sunday and head back to Indiana tomorrow afternoon. The rhythm of my days have taken on the necessities of diaper changes and nap time. The loss of freedom is quite astounding but the trade-off is worth the price.

with my love at the BroHo

with my little love at the BroHo

This morning I took Henri to Monomoy to fly a kite–with moderate success. The wind was strong, but gusty and the pocket kite I picked up from Island Variety didn’t quite have the structure to stay aloft. To an almost-three-year-old, it didn’t really matter. The adventure lay in racing down the beach, kite string in tow. We jumped over seaweed, picked up sticks, dared the rising tide to catch us as we ran towards and then away from the lapping waves. The world takes on a different quality when you hang out with kids. I have missed the constant sense of discovery this summer. I have thought a lot about kids in the past couple of years–since Henri’s arrival in my life, really. I watch my sister with him, the relationship they have. I am awed by the incredible bond they share. There is something tremendous and also terrifying about that level of connection. It is such a huge responsibility to love a child, to provide for it, to raise it well. It is an incredible challenge and she is doing it so much better than I had dared imagine–so much better than I could envision doing. They are such a part of each other that sometimes there is no telling where one ends and the other begins. I wonder if parents always feel that with their children. I only know what it is to be the child and to struggle to separate, to self-define, to forge a distinct sense of personhood. When you’re in the midst of that it is difficult to see the ways that parent-child relationship changes. In so many ways it feels like it always stays the same… Like last night when I hugged my mom goodnight. She wrapped her arms around me and suddenly I could no longer keep in all of the feelings I’d been pushing aside. She squeezed me tighter as I told her why I was sad and I felt the way I did as a kid when I’d come home from school in tears because someone had picked on me. She never promised to fix it and she wouldn’t try, but she’d hold me and stroke my hair until I was ready to leave my upset behind. I had a lovely man this summer: a true Irish darling. But seasonal work makes such involvements difficult in that there is always an end date in sight. It is easy, at first, to enjoy each other’s company with no requirements or expectations. It was refreshing to be treated well, to be with someone who was kind and whole and balanced. To have something easy and completely free of struggle. I had no idea it was possible, or that I could ever experience such a thing. I guess it took a year of emotional hell to convince me relationships could be different… In the spring I started saying “If I don’t get to keep this one, then then next one must be really awesome.” I’m 1-0 so far. As I prepare myself to leave Nantucket this year, sorting through my things, deciding what to get rid of, what to ship, what to take with me on my travels, I am grateful for the discoveries of this summer, of the sweetness and self-reflection that have marked this season of island living. What a relief to be in the upward swing of things.

Dynamic Transformation

“Our bodies are always speaking to us–but at first in whispers. If we don’t listen and respond to these whispers, eventually our bodies will begin to scream.”         -Tracy Gaudet, MD

I have been doing a lot more listening, recently. It is becoming something of a habit. After becoming aware of the issues with my thyroid I have been much more conscientious with myself and much more attentive to my well-being. The experience has been filled with surprises.

A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues lent me a book called Radical Healing by Rudolph Ballentine, MD. Ballentine has decades of experience studying Eastern and Western medical traditions and spent a good portion of his career synthesizing the two to form a radical and cohesive approach to whole self healing. This book is a tremendous resource and I have found it to be accessible, informative and intuitively coherent with my observations about health and wellness. It is, above all, a wonderful guide for anyone looking to take their health into their own hands and develop a grounded and caring relationship with their entire selves. Any such undertaking, if done honestly, must take into account the idea that “authentic healing with often involve radical changes in how you live” (Rudolph Ballentine). But as I’ve discovered in the past year, change will only happen when you’re truly ready to give yourself permission to do so.

182807_10101195708063458_1586976705_n “You never know                 what opportunity                          is going to travel to you,             or through you.”                             -Mary Oliver

In the mind/spirit/body approach that I ascribe to, illness and pain are physical manifestations of emotional imbalance or un-wellness. There is no point in treating the physical body if you aren’t prepared to examine and restructure your emotional and spiritual one. I had been struggling with myself for months. I was depressed. I felt emotionally shattered and kept swinging between unbearable apathy to bursting bouts of anger. My internal landscape didn’t feel like my own–there was no refuge in my thoughts–I kept replaying scenarios, both exactly as they had happened and as I wished they had. I began to doubt whether I would ever return to being my own light-hearted, easygoing self. I couldn’t find a bank to crawl up or an edge to haul myself over. I lost all motivation to look for a way out. When I became aware of what what happening with my thyroid, it scared me. It brought me face to face with the ways I was making myself ill and I recognized that something needed to change. It was time to get myself back together.

I started with acupuncture. I knew I wanted to take care of my thyroid with alternative medicine and I knew the acupuncturist could recommend herbal supplements and dietary changes that could support a return to internal health. After 4 weeks, all of the emotional turmoil that plagued me for months is gone. Let me repeat that: GONE. No more anxiety. No more insomnia. No more night sweats or hearth palpitations. No more obsessive thinking or yearning or grief or rage or upset. It is gone and it isn’t as if I got over it. It’s more like one minute it was there and the next minute it wasn’t. Poof! Like magic. The incredible thing is that it happened without my even noticing. One day I was this miserable wallowing mess and the next I woke up fully and whole and solid again. At my third session my acupuncturist asked me how I was doing emotionally and it took me a minute to even remember what she was referring to.

Mind: blown!

Photo on 6-20-13 at 9.46 AM

So that was the first part in a series of things. I can’t say that it was more important than anything else, but it was definitely significant and in the long run it cost me much less than it would have had I gone to see an allopathic doctor, gotten tests, been put on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds for my emotional ish and radioactive iodine and beta-blockers for my thyroid.

“Crises of the body are ultimately expressions of underlying crises of the spirit.” -Rudolph Ballentine

The second big change is that I have made yoga (which I have been doing sporadically for the past 4 years) into a regular thing. I have gone back to it numerous times during the course of my summers on Nantucket because after 20-30 hours of massaging each week with my arms forward and my body not always in perfect alignment, I needed the stretching and the reset that yoga provided. This summer I came back to yoga because, for the first time, I get it. I get the calm and inner focus. I get the connection to my larger self. I am finally ready to let yoga be an instrument in my transformation. Specifically Sivananda yoga, which is generally a more inward-driven practice. My friend Ieva teaches a class twice a week and it has become a reward instead of a duty or a chore. I look forward to my yoga practice the same way I used to hunger after my beach days and I am seeing my body change and my alignment shift as a result.

As my relationship with myself is changing, as I am becoming more grounded in the space that yoga has been opening inside of me, so is my body transforming into a stronger, healthier version of itself. I can see it happening–even my parents commented on the transformation when they were here a couple of weeks ago. I am standing straighter and walking differently. My shoulders are sitting more comfortably, my pelvis is shifting into a better alignment, my core is much, much stronger and I am paying more attention to how my body moves through space. That hyperawareness can be impractical at times, but overall I am enjoying moving through my daily activities with more intention and a higher sense of focus.


From albatross arms to blazing guns. Watch out world!

I don’t think these shifts would be happening so smoothly without the inclusion of massage in my self-care plan. Massage therapists are notoriously bad at taking care of themselves but last summer I started being really proactive about getting massage once a week. The biggest advantage of being an MT (for my pocketbook, at least!) is the ability to trade treatments. My friend Monika (who just opened her own business and I found that our styles work well for each other and without her work I would have a much harder time releasing all of the things I hold onto as well as the things pick up from my clients. Being on the receiving end of a massage is an opportunity for me to get back all that I have given others in my treatments and to show my body some appreciation and gratitude for the effort it exerts every day.

At 27 I am learning to invest in myself in ways that fit me. I am giving myself permission to experience profound transformation for my own sake, at my own pace, because I want it, because I know that I will be surprised by where it takes me, and because this sweet and gentle unfolding is such an incredibly enjoyable experience. I think I have been waiting for this for a long time. I am so thankful to finally be ready to allow it.

Namaste, everyone, from my joyful heart to yours.

Re: this whole food/body/mind thing



I found out recently that I have a problem with my thyroid. I don’t know when it started, but it appears to be hyperactive. This explains the night sweats, racing heart, mood swings, inability to gain weight and general blah-ness I have been experiencing with increased frequency since September (which I had been attributing to anxiety and emotional distress). On the Western medicine end of the spectrum it gets explained as an overproduction of thyroid hormones affected by iodine imbalances or genetics. Eastern medicine views it as an energetic blockage in the 5th chakra, which houses expression and creativity. Viewed holistically, it can be seen as a physical manifestation of all of the feelings I have been feeling and (apparently) under-expressing. I guess I need to learn to talk about my feelings when they’re happening instead of delaying the response forever and ever and making myself sick. No news there.

The recommended treatment? “Harnessing” my creativity, whatever that means…

Bottling kombucha

Bottling kombucha

Since the only area where I really let loose with no inhibitions is the kitchen and I’m a firm believer in the healing properties of food, I have begun a couple of what I like to think of as “creative” projects. After several plant casualties this spring I had to reluctantly admit that my green thumb has been replaced by my mother’s notorious black thumb (this might be something that develops with age). My roommates tell me I crush my plants with my love, so I’ve stepped away from any unsupervised gardening projects and have instead turned my attention to the joys of sprouting. At this point I will try to sprout anything. Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, black-eyed peas, and onions are only a few of my current undertakings. The best thing about sprouts is that I eat them before I have a chance to kill them. It’s perfect!

Green tea kombucha batch #1

Green tea kombucha batch #1

I have also (finally!) gotten back into kombucha production. I dabbled in it a few years ago in Boston, but it never amounted to anything so when John told me he’d gotten a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) from a friend of his, I told him to hand it over. I read several blogs about making kombucha and I also bought Sandor Ellix Katz’s new book The Art of Fermentation (which is an easy read as well as a plethora of information)I bought gallon jars and fancy flip-top bottles for fermentation. I started my batch last week, and so far, everything seems to be going well. I bottled batch #1 and started batch #2 tonight and should be drinking the finished product in a couple of weeks.

As my curiosity expanded from kombucha to the possibilities of making other kinds of ferments, I started thinking that it may not be so much about eliminating foods for me anymore (and after cutting out gluten, dairy, processed meat, refined sugars and flours, and foods containing GMOs, what’s left to eliminate?!). Maybe I don’t need to do quite so much closing off, reigning in or containing in my life. Maybe in learning to nurture growth in one area of my life I’ll get better at nurturing myself. At any rate, it is an exercise in commitment and intentionality. I have started taking my friend Ieva’s Sivananda yoga glass again in the loft at Bartlett’s Farm one or two mornings a week and am finding a lot of joy and grounding in the practice. I would like to get to a place where I feel comfortable and centered enough to practice on my own since yoga is about the only time in my week when my mind becomes quiet and I can focus on the simplicity of being. Patience. Practice. Practice.

Bottled, labeled, ready to be abandoned for another 10 days

Bottled, labeled, ready to be abandoned for another 10 days

Yoga is also a great strengthening activity to prepare my body for surfing. I got a used board from my friend Tom last week and have been in the water for the past couple of days. My wetsuit is a little thin for the water temperature and between the cold and my level of physical fitness and the movement restriction that comes with wearing a skin-tight full-body adhesive outfit, I last about a half-an-hour at a time. It is enough to get slammed in the face by the choppy surf and tossed off my board plenty of times! This board is smaller than anything I’ve surfed with in the past and the first morning I was out I realized that popping up to ride over waves wasn’t going to work. After trying to put into practice my memories of what duck-diving looks like with no success I resolved to look it up at home. I watched a bunch of how-to duck dive videos, all showing deceptively easy-looking dives where the surfer effortlessly plunges the board under the water and comes up ready to paddle into the next wave. This morning I first practiced what I’d learned on the beach, going through the motions slowly and trying to ignore the persistent feeling that everyone on the beach was watching me. Then I got in the water for some live action practice. It turns out that duck-diving in 60 degree water on a 7’4 board with a strong current and waves is waaaaaaay more challenging than the videos make it look. After my thirty-odd attempts I have decided that duck diving is also much easier when you are actually heavy enough to get leverage on the board to sink it. My technique obviously has nothing to do with the ridiculous show I put on for the sunbathers at the beach this morning!

When I finally crawled out of the water out of breath and humbled by the great majestic force that is the ocean, it was 80 degrees and my trudge through the dunes back up to my car left my legs burning and my body aching to get out of the wetsuit. How anyone gets those things off with any amount of grace is beyond me. It’s a pain to get on but even more of a struggle to peel off. It reminds me of when Al and I were little and mom stuck us in tapered jeans with super skinny ankle holes. We could never get them off on our own so we’d sit on the floor, each grabbing hold of the other’s pant legs and lean back with all our might until we could wriggle our way out. It pays to have a sister sometimes! But now it’s just me, perched on the rear bumper of my van with one leg braced on the ground and my hands hopelessly trying to break the suction on the other wishing somebody! anybody! would come free me from my casing. Needless to say that after my considerable morning exertions an hour of laying in the sun felt like a heavily earned and very well-deserved respite.

Cheers to summer finally being here!

May these dreams leave me smiling

I’ve been having dreams again. Vivid and tangible and often very confusing. This morning I woke up from a dream with the press of an embrace still fresh on my skin. I dream of reunions, of the relief of returns but they don’t feel like dreams and waking up is this long disorienting trudge through shadows. Sometimes I wake up drenched in sweat, my heart racing, totally unsure of how I got to that state. It takes me a while to get back to sleep.

The first part of this morning’s dream was actually pretty wonderful. I dreamt that I won a student loan write-off sweepstakes. The feeling was incredible. I kept shouting “Oh my God! Oh my God! Yes! Yes! Oh my God! Yes!” while I jumped and danced up and down the hallway, much to my roommate’s consternation. It was equal parts relief and excitement and pure joy. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were a foreshadowing of things to come?

Knock on wood, my friends!

I know that with all of the shifting I did in the past 12 months I am still in a state of transition. I went through a lot of changes and I am still eyeing this new version of myself with the wariness usually reserved for strangers, horses or wild dogs. The dust is far from settled. At the same time, I feel like I have stabilized in the ways that count. The rest is just a matter of fine-tuning.

Tonight I spent some time scrolling through my photos from the past 12-14 months and realized that I had a really big year last year. I did a lot of new things, had a lot of adventures. I went to Thailand. I traveled alone. I fell in love. I ate bugs. I worked an insane summer season. I ate hundreds of raw oysters. I recovered a lost friend. I went scalloping. I went to Mexico. I had my heart broken. I started a writing project that I am daring to hope turns into something big. I gave Nantucket a year-round shot. I walked away from a lover. I fell apart. I rappelled down and climbed back up my first cliff… Slowly, slowly I am putting myself back together. For the first time in years I’ve committed to being in one place for the next 8 months…That’s a lot of big things for this little lady!

Looking through those photos, I started smiling. Pretty soon I was laughing and after that I felt so happy I thought I might burst! It is really good to remember how lucky I am. There is so much love in my life, so many people bring me joy. I have so many fun and exciting experiences. I love my (mis)adventures! Not only am I smiling but I am grinning or laughing in almost all of my photos. I am so grateful for that!

Full moon for Carnaval

Full moon for Carnaval

We danced in the street for hours, my blue paint rubbing off on anyone close enough to touch me, drinking liters and liters of Planter’s Punch, losing and finding friends, casting votes for best and worst costumes. Loving every minute of  that joyful Caribbean party.

Wine sunset with Allison and Henri

Wine sunset with Allison and Henri

Sister time is for sharing, confiding, consoling, reassuring. Nephews are for teasing and spoiling and pure love.

Henri's first time playing at the beach

Henri’s first time playing at the beach

Mama is so proud of her big boy!

My most favorite little love

My most favorite little love

Loving water is in our blood. This kid could spend all day in the bath. I wonder where he gets that from!

Girls' trip to Koh Samet for Song Kran

Girls’ trip to Koh Samet for Song Kran

Two days of getting showered with water guns and blessed with floured cheeks. Happy, relaxed and ready for the next stretch of our Thai massage course.

Mexican mustache party: last night on campus

Mexican mustache party: last night on campus

Mustaches: check. Vodka: check. Tequila: check. Whiskey: check. Rum: check. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Return to ACK summer kick-off dinner

Return to ACK summer kick-off dinner

The comforts of habits and the ease of friendships known. It’s always nice to come home.

Taking the road less traveled

Gambling for happiness

You win some, you lose some. The road less traveled is always worth the risk.

Cariad's first tomato harvest

Cariad’s first tomato harvest

Cariad and tomatoes: two of my favorite things.

Parent's first visit

Parent’s first visit

Ze bee-yoo-tee-fool peepul ‘ave harrived. Ware eez ar waitress?!

Joy incarnate at the Box

Rosy cheeks and pearly whites

Like bees to honey for fall play-offs at the Box. Best-attended unplanned crew hangout yet.

Southward bound with my Mariah

Rough and Tumble ready to rumble

Mariah’s first “real” trip abroad. My first time traveling with a friend. Mexico bound and ready for adventure.

Mexico. Mexico...


Mexico is a sweet and wily temptress. We will both be going back.

Tatie and Mr. Big Stuff

Tatie and Mr. Big Stuff

The privileges of seasonal work: travel and time with my family. This one is the love of my life.

Lucky ladies on St. Patrick's Day

Lucky ladies on St. Patrick’s Day

A little nap in the grass to recover from the rigors of road bowling: miles walked, balls hurled, lots of Irish sass.

On belay!

On belay!

All of the things I love: the outdoors, challenges, a good adrenaline rush… Climbing is a blast.

"I love it!"

“I love it!”

Wine fest brings out the best in everyone… But let’s not talk about the morning after!

For this year, more smiles, less tears, lots and lots more laughter. Cheers my dears: shenanigans await!