Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It Was How He Sang for Me

It was the idea that my holiday could be different; and it was waking up to the reality that it indeed was.

For that, I could give sincere thanks.

It was not a day with family, slaving in the kitchen and stressed to make sure that events unfolded smoothly. It was a sleepy smile and a heavy hand draped against my waist. It was the way he said, "Are you ready for some coffee?"

It was how breakfast was a conglomerate of fresh-lit smokes, creamy coffee and kitty meows.

And it was most certainly how, without hesitation, he sang for me.

It was like finding myself in some kind of blissful teenage dream where everything was romance and art and happy possibility. Cynicism and angst just didn't exist. It was a holiday full of beautiful things; of taste, touch and sound that took me back to a happy time. Back to a time where my heart wasn't so banged up and anything was possible.

"If you could only see the way he loves me, then maybe you would understand..."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Yes, I Like Piña Coladas

It was a brilliant day to walk on the beach. This girl couldn't ask for more. She had a brightly shining sun, a brisk and chilly sea-wind and the company of a dashing young man, an old friend.

It was the perfect escape - as it always had been.


As we made our way closer to the water, he talked of his experiences here on the coast, his recent adventures living and surfing in the area. And I thought of the thousand memories associated with this sand and water, and of the surrounding neighborhood. My own memories.

How many times had I come here for healing? To rest my soul and fill my heart?

He grabbed my hand and interlocked our fingers, and shortly after, tucked our clasped hands into the pocket of his wool coat. I smiled at him indulgently, but also knowing that I could never express how much this small gesture spoke an overwhelming kindness to my heart.

I felt warmed through. I felt at home. Even with the cold sand between my toes; or maybe I should say especially with it between my toes.

This is where I come to cut through the red tape and just deal with what is - and this time, I didn't have to face it on my own.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Freshness at the Market

While visiting my dad in New Jersey last weekend, we drove through Manhattan to run an errand. His wife wanted to drop in at her favorite salon to see if they had time to squeeze her in. He double parked and she ran out to make her inquiry.

(Well, "run" may not be the best verb choice. She's 20 weeks pregnant, carrying my half-brother. It might have been more of a waddle, since her belly is already round and prominently jutting out from the rest of her body.)

I looked around. New York is full of art. Everywhere you look, there are colors and shades and pictures  - more than my eyes can hold at once. And always changing, so I don't dare look away for fear of missing something spectacular.

And I saw something.
There was a market with flowers.
There are always markets with flowers.

But there was a color that caught my eye and dug roots in my imagination.

"Oh, wow," I involuntarily gasped.

"What is it," my father asked.

"Look at those flowers. Aren't they beautiful," I was only slightly aware how dazzled my voice sounded. I was still caught in a real life daydream where colors dance and build happy lives.

"Go get some," my father's resolute command snapped me out of the indulgent romanticism of the moment and forced me into pragmatic mode. I didn't want to buy them; I didn't want to be responsible for them. I just wanted to admire them, to love them from afar - to daydream after them.

"Uh, no. I don't think that's a good idea," I answered him. "We're going to be in the car for the rest of the day. And then I have to drive back home tonight. They won't survive all that chaos. Better to leave them where they are."

"It's worth you having them only for a moment, if they make you so happy."

He called out to the guys sitting in front of the shop, "Hey, who owns the shop? We want some flowers!" Then to me, "Go out there and pick the ones you want."

I walked up to the market, a little giddy and feeling like a princess. Oh my god, I thought. They are even more beautiful up close. I didn't even bother to look at any of the other options available. I pointed to the bouquet that housed the colors, the shades that sent me spiraling out of reality.

The men completed the transaction.
The flowers were carefully wrapped and handed to me.

I went back into the car and zenned-out in a moment of nuzzling up close to these brilliant, just absolutely beautiful blooms. They smelled amazing. Each one offering its freshness to the witness available: before to the exhaust-filled city streets and now, to me.

My dad was right. They were worth having, even only for a moment. But I would have them for many moments. And even though they were in for a hard 24hours of traveling, I would take as much care of them as possible so they could last as long as possible.

For such beauty, the burden of responsibility was lighter than I had originally given it credit for - and it made me wonder: how many times do we deny and reject beautiful things for our lives, because we're worried about the responsibility or how we many have to adjust, or possibly change for them?

Thank goodness the beauty exists - calling us, tempting us to step forward, to reach higher to improve our lives. Thank goodness its there, making heavy things lighter; providing smiles to counterbalance the tears; overwhelming us with love to overpower the hate.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Top 5 in Floyd

While in Virgina this weekend, I visited the small town of Floyd. And in fact, this is not my first time stopping in for a visit. When in the area, I try to make sure that Floyd gets on the itinerary. And I encourage you to do the same.

Floyd incorporates many attractive features that makes it a great place to visit. It's a place where artists of all kinds meet and mingle. It's populated by mountain folk, who - in my opinion - tend to be among the most friendly and independent of people. It offers a wide range of cultures and cuisine. And, you can get full bars on your 4G network in the heart of downtown!

There are many, many things that I like about Floyd, but I'll stick to my Top 5. That way, if you get a chance to go, you'll still have the chance to adventure for yourself.

1. Friday Night Jamboree 
The Floyd County Store is the home of the Friday Night Jamboree. But the whole town comes out to celebrate in the festivities of the evening. It's true - you can go to the Country Store (get there early to find a seat) and sit a spell to enjoy the music that's being played right there on the stage in the back of the store; but you can also just walk down the main road through downtown. Musicians (and dancers) set up in the little nooks and crannies on the sidewalk and set to collaborative playing. You'll see any sort of instruments; and hear bluegrass and hillbilly tunes that span from twang to a kind of renaissance flair.

All the shops stay open a little later to take advantage of the crowds. Take advantage of their availability. You aren't going to want to miss out on the treasures that fill up the shops to overflowing. Floyd is the perfect place to find a gift for that hard-to-shop-for person. The items are unique and range from hippie-punk to delicate and flowery - there's also a little sturdy and reliable thrown in there for good measure. We are in the mountains, after all. Check out the New Mountain Mercantile - it's one of my favorite shops!

2. Dogtown Roadhouse
Not your ordinary pizza place! At least, to be truthful, I didn't expect this kind of place to exist somewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the middle of Virgina. Dogtown specializes in wood-fired pizza with creative toppings. I had a pizza there once that sported a Butternut Squash sauce topped with Arugula and Green Apples (among other tasty toppings). I am assuming that you can order the regulars (cheese and pepperoni), but why would you when you can adventure a little further from the safety of the beautiful Sun Music Hall?

Did I mention they also have beer? A variety of taps with some really great local offerings. Come to eat and they stay for the music. They often have performances going on a little later in the evenings. Check out their Facebook page to stay on top of the latest news!

Visit Dogtown Roadhouse - 302 South Locust Street, Floyd, VA

3. Red Rooster Coffee
I learned of Red Rooster Coffee through their Kickstarter project. They were raising money for a new roaster, which would come in handy for the annual Floyd Fest event. Check out their website for more information on the specific kinds of coffees they roast and share with the community (meaning right there in Floyd through their small shop and around the world via their online shop).

They have a Facebook page as well. I follow it and can't help but wish I was in Floyd more often to get my hands on some of their small batch roasts that always sound so good. I read their updates and can't help but smell coffee on the brew.

Visit Red Rooster Coffee - 117 South Locust Street, Floyd, VA

4. The Bread Basket
This jewel of a bakery is a little ways past the downtown area on HWY 8. I would say about 5 minutes, although it always seems longer to me. I think that's only because I am always so darn excited about getting there.

This little place is run by Mennonite women who are stellar shop-keepers. The place is always neat and clean and filled to the brim with tasty things to eat. Check out their fresh baked corner - I would HIGHLY recommend the Snickerdoodle cookies. (Ehem, you may be counted a fool if you don't add them to your basket.) They're also known for their deli (you can order a fresh-made sandwich) and their shelves of bulk items (the veggie chips are the BEST IN THE WORLD). They also house a variety of locally made items: soaps, creams, carved wood items, knitted goods, etc...

Now, I might be a little biased (not that you couldn't tell by my wording), but the best way to know for sure is to visit it for yourself. I would say around lunch time. Order a sandwich, grab some chips (the veggie kind, that way you won't feel guilty when you eat an extra Snickerdoodle) and a drink. If the weather is nice, sit out at the comfy picnic tables in front. A local craftsman made them.

Visit the Bread Basket - 2167 Webbs Mill Road North, Floyd, VA

5. Chateau Morrisette Winery
This is a little bit of a stretch since it's not located in the town of Floyd but in the county of Floyd - ah...details, details. This winery is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway not far from Floyd proper and it is definitely worth the extra traveling, so make sure that you add it to your list of must-sees.

There's isn't anything I don't like about this winery: the tours are interesting, the tastings are generous, the variety of wine types is plentiful, the grounds are lovely, the people are friendly, the restaurant is both beautiful and offers tasty food that highlights local produce...

Oops, my description ran away from me. The point is, if you like wine, take a minute to stop and enjoy all that Chateau Morrisette has to offer, because there's plenty. Stay in touch with them on Facebook to hear about their upcoming events and make reservations online through their website

If I lived closer, they'd see me every Sunday at their Sunday Sounds events. If you're in the area on the day of rest, sit a spell and jam-out to any sort of talented local musicians.

Visit Chateau Morrisette - 287 Winery Road Southwest, Floyd, VA 


And so, that ends my Top 5. I would love you to tell me what makes it on your Top 5 list after you get a chance to visit this awesome place.

Adventure on, my friends!

Friday, May 18, 2012

revisiting mountain zen (with mom)

My friend's family owns property in Meadows of Dan, Virgina. For the last year, I've had the pleasure of visiting the cabin on a handful of occasions and have really come to love the area.

It may help that the area is just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, too that it's near a handful of wineries; also that it nurtures a creative vibe that seems to breed around mountain folk - a creative vibe that's passionate about the land, the people of the land and the love of it all.

Talk about some of the best things in life coming together in one place! It's an area of the country that's full of beauty and creation. Even in the ugly-duck-phase of winter, there is still a resonance of lively things about to burst forth in joyful appreciation of the land and lives around it.

My friend's cabin sits on old family property that's still-green with life. There is an apple tree just in front of the cabin that is laden in the month of August. I made my first homemade applesauce from its harvest last year. There's a dip in the land just beyond the tree and the view from the porch opens up into a vast field. I've picnicked in this field, letting the bright sun and vibrant blue sky remind me of the dreams in my soul. At night, the field and tree line mix into a shared blackness, so that all your attention is focused on the sky chock-full of dazzling stars. On several occasions, covered by the darkness of mountain-night, I've made peace in my heart.

It's a quiet place. It's a perfect space to hide from the busyness of the world, from the insanity of your schedule and focus instead on the untapped creativity that simmers within. Being at the cabin and soaking in the creative vibe that suffuses the local communities is among my most favorite of experiences. I've nicknamed the experience "mountain-zen."

And I've come to crave and appreciate each new opportunity that may come with living through the experience of mountain-zen.


In a couple of days, I'm taking my mom to the cabin and introducing her to the pleasure that exists on top of the mountain.

My friend has been encouraging me to invite her to this place for some time now. And finally, the right time has come. The perfect combination of availability on many fronts has provided an opportunity for me to share this zen space with mom, and I couldn't be more excited. It's a belated Mother's Day gift, but it's a perfect gift and honors the idiom: "Good things come to those who wait."

If there's anyone I know who deserves zen, it's my mom. She works hard - all the time. In the face of roadblocks and cliff-edges, she carves for herself a new path. And she does it in her own special way, with grace and a resolute spirit. Her example continues to challenge me. She encourages me through her actions to join the matriarchs of my family who exhibit strong characteristics of determination, persistence, ingenuity, creativity and passion.

In the last several months, my mother has proven to me that her support in my development as a writer isn't just lip service, it lives in the actions she takes to provide for my well-being. In this way, she feeds the future of my dreams. 

And I stand in awe of her sacrifice; and I swear to myself that her investments won't be in vain.

We're leaving Monday morning to share in mountain-zen. I hope she loves it as much as I do. I hope that the juices of creativity will seep in and add its unmistakable spice to the already simmering pot of her soul.

Like many moms and daughters, we share a special connection - a consequence of both the nature and nurture of our relationship. I hope that we can share this too: the delight and renewed sense of spirit that mountain-zen is known to bring.

Monday, April 2, 2012

the colors of my dreams

This was the last picture I took during this past weekend's mountain-zen trip. It was a long overdue trip meant for rest and relaxation. I did a lot of drinking in the colors around me; the colors that brighten the sometimes (lately, often) dull-gray moments of the daily grind.

These are the colors my dreams are made of...

It's nice to leave home base and find a place to catch your breath.
It's nice to survey your daily routine from a different perspective.

Distance can often give us the opportunity to accept new bits of wisdom: it gives us new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with...maybe even a new heart to feel with.

I am thankful for this opportunity to recharge (because I also did a lot of sleeping); and it was nice to have a whole weekend of brilliant colors to enjoy, whether I was awake or asleep.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sometimes, Beauty Can't Travel

I recently roadtripped to Teaneck, NJ to visit my dad. He took me to Costco to shop for some of the lil man's favorite foods, so that we would be properly stocked for the weekend. It was a kind gesture. It's always nice to have some familiar foods on hand - a comfort-thing, I suppose.

I saw this orchid - and it stopped me in my tracks.
Now, I am not usually an orchid kind of girl, but it was lovely. And, keep in mind, it was only one in an entire display of them. It's beauty was powerful, overwhelming.

My dad noticed that I had fallen behind. When he looked at me, I am sure that he saw stars in my eyes. I felt like I had been hit with some kind of beauty-potion, a character paused-in-play until it would wear off.

"Let's get it. You can take it home," he said resolutely.

His words broke the spell...and in a way, my heart.

"Are you kidding?! This is beautiful. It would not be once I got it home. It won't survive the roadtrip back to NC. I promise."

(I have a small Saturn. It's usually packed to the brim with things to distract the kid en route.)

"Are you sure?" He really wanted to get me something. My birthday was close coming, and I could tell that he wanted to spoil me rotten.

I looked at him. I was sad. I would have loved to have admired this beauty for as long as it would survive under my care. But, 9 hours stuffed in a crevice in a car with a looney and careless Latina and a clumsy-though-well-meaning 6 year old. I sighed deep. It had no chance.

"I'm sure."

I snapped this picture to remind me of the beauty that exists in places that I cannot that cannot travel with me.