Category

U.S.

Food, U.S.

A Picnic Revolution

I’m starting a picnic revolution! Here’s how it came about:

Yesterday, my friends invited me to an outdoor concert at Lincoln Peak Vineyard (about 3 miles north of Middlebury, VT). After a busy day at work, this seemed like the perfect way to spend my evening.

Sunlight dripped like honey into the Adirondacks on the horizon, and its warmth melted away the constant action of the past few days of work. Vibrations lifted from violin strings. Blades of grass sprouted between my toes while Bluegrass music washed over my nose. For the first time in some days, I felt totally at peace. (I’m realizing that I need to step back from work, ‘other work’ and other ‘other work’ far more often.)

Due to my new-found engagement with social media, I snapped photos of my friends, lively grape vines, and, of course, our new picnic innovation and the subject of this post…

Naturally, Lincoln Peak Vineyard offers glasses of wine for sale during their outdoor summer concerts. Now, my parents, and probably many others, own special wine stakes meant to hold your wineglass in place while you use your hands for other things, like eating your beautiful picnic food. These stakes are somewhat unruly, however, and regardless, I don’t have any.

Feet, I discovered yesterday evening, are equally, if not more, effective, and you never run the risk of leaving them at home! How had it taken me so long to stumble upon such a simple solution? In no time, all four of us were holding our glasses up with our toes while we feasted on tomato basil and feta salad, millet bread muffins, chicken, cherries, and chocolate.

I suggested that this idea could revolutionize picnics, and I was only sort of kidding. Rise up with me against the tyranny of wineglasses over our picnic fun! Join my picnic revolution and take back your two-handed freedom! But seriously, give this a try and you may never picnic the same way again!

~

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Poetry & Fiction, U.S.

Snapshots of Living

Snapshots in words and pictures of the last three weeks of life in Middlebury– plant, animal, and human.

(Disclaimer: All photos were taken yesterday, when I couldn’t resist the sunshine and the realization that things were changing every day out in the garden, and I had better hurry up if I wanted to capture some of the journey. And so, as I am wont to do, I went on a photo-shooting spree after a month without touching my lovely Nikon. Really, it would be more accurate to call these “Snapshots of a Day at 56 High Street, and an Unconnected Assortment of Words.”)

Green tomato today… what will tomorrow bring?

New bean stalks rear dinosaur heads out of the cracked earth.

Love spills out of my ears.

Green tomato. Yellow flower.

Rabbits and foxes and hedgehogs, oh my! They eat everything except the chives…

One lost, baby-size sneaker sits on a windowsill outside a Main Street shop.

An abundance of thyme. No pun here. 

My neighbor, Mr. Cardinal, sits on his perch in royal ruby splendor, presiding over my morning commute along High Street.

Snow pea spirals to get lost in.

A vine explodes along the back deck. Green exuberance.

Dreaming already of fiori di zucca!

I notice two red glitter hearts stick to the pavement as I walk to work. They leave a smile in my thoughts that lasts the day.

A teenage boy on a bicycle shouts at me as he zips by. His words are unexpected: “Have a good day!”

So much green. An abundance of green. A superabundance of green! Green green green.

Watermelon in Vermont? You bet! Gifted to me today at the Middlebury co-op, and planted by my neighbor’s granddaughter in a sunny patch of ground.

Welcome summer.

     Vibrant

          Fresh.

              Green.

                  Joyful.

                 Abundant.

~~~
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Food, Nature, U.S.

Waiting for the Invisible

I expect this garden will teach me many things this summer. Though garden is perhaps too tame a word to describe it– too civilized. No tidy rows or neat squares here. On all sides of my house the land extends outward and upward in near vertical lines, and the eye loses track of the boundaries between the cultivated and the wild. Pockets of arable soil dot the landscape, reclaimed from the hill by sheer determination. Vines tangle with maples and violets fraternize with garlic chives and clover. Beans that were planted in one patch willfully assert themselves in the neighboring one– “volunteers,” as my friend Rae calls them.

Nine days now have passed since I planted what remained of these plots. (The owner had already planted beans and peas, chives and thyme some weeks prior.) I contributed squash and zucchini, cucumbers and collard greens, turnips, parsley and arugula. Nine days later and I begin to lose patience. Where are they?

The herbs and tomatoes I bought as starters stand strong in their pots by the driveway. Turnip shoots emerge from the earth in droves; the zucchini begin to display a few shy leaves; and the rest… the rest remain hidden, continuing along a mysterious, underground journey that I can only guess at. Well, thanks to high school Biology I can do more than guess, but even so, where are all the rest? I ask, exasperated. I don’t even like turnips!

Calm down, I remind myself. Breath. In and out. These are seeds, not magic beans, and they don’t in fact grow overnight. When I ‘woofed’ (worked on an organic farm) in Sicily, I arrived in June, at the start of a lengthy harvest season. Zucchini already a foot long and figs falling off the trees. There was no waiting; I enjoyed an instant gratification of food production matched only by… supermarkets. And fairy tales.

But in the real world of dirt and seeds and seasons and cycles, there is a germination period: 4-12 days for cucumbers, 7-14 for squash. That’s a lot of days. Nine days in, and I have to remind myself to have patience; to quiet the pessimistic, doubtful voice in my head whispering, they’re never coming.

Where are those darn plants? They’re coming. Are we there yet? No, but we’re on our way.

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U.S.

Next Stop World, First Stop Vermont

Dear readers, friends, internet… I’m back in Blogland.

I think I have for some time now unconsciously defined The World as “that which is not here.” There is The World, and then there is Brookline, MA (my hometown). There is The World, and then there is Vermont (my current home). The title of this blog, begun as a travel blog in autumn of 2012, reflects this mindset. I was Here, and I was going There.

Always reaching waiting longing for There, I think I have sometimes inadvertently obstructed my experience of Here. Of Vermont. I only kept a journal when I traveled; only blogged; only wrote poetry. As if only that stimulation– of the new and the changing Elsewhere– only those inspirations, merited contemplation. Here was the place I settled for when I could not be There. Here, the mountains were Green, but There, they were Emerald.

But from where I sit presently– dappled sunlight prickling the deck of my new house (I moved this past weekend) and wrapping me in its warmth; birds singing about today, only today; wind chimes punctuating my thoughts– Here seems Emerald-bright. Last I wrote in this blog, my focus was on movement, wandering, physical musings through space. And never fear: the wanderlust burns steadily and I will travel again soon. But for the next few months, I hope to focus on finding stillness in stillness, as well as in movement. I will tend my garden, practice yoga, work my five jobs, and I will write. About the food I grow, prepare and eat, about the woods I explore, the mountains that pulse beneath, the people I meet. About the abundance of adventure, inspiration and daily wonder to be found Everywhere– Here included.

I don’t know how often, but let’s try for every week or two. And please, hold me to that. Remind me if I forget. Welcome to Here. Fasten your seat belts, and enjoy the ramble.

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U.S.

On Going Home


Here I am. London Heathrow International Airport. 1:11pm. Twenty-three degrees Celsius. Gray skies.  Eleven months, 21 countries, one visa problem and one stomach bug ago I set out for my “year”-long journey. My goals? To explore. To learn. To play.  I didn’t want to change the world. And more importantly, I didn’t want to change.  I wasn’t seeking enlightenment, wisdom or self-improvement.  I didn’t go abroad “to find myself” in the Himalayas, and I didn’t travel to discover the secret of life in that elusive elsewhere.
Nonetheless, I did search. And in the clear blue skies of the Himalayas, in the phosphorescent seas of Cambodia, in the jagged black rocks of Sicily and in the cosmopolitan bustle of Berlin, Bangkok and Belgrade I found answers.  Truth, beauty and joy. In the winding, tangential, abstract manner beloved of Buddhist scriptures and Beat poetry, the world answered me. Like a garrulous friend who prattles on without encouragement, the faces and places I encountered over the last 11 months have taught me so much more than I could or would have asked of them.
I will return in much the same condition I left.  Zero piercings, tattoos, or drastic hairstyle changes. A few barely-visible scars. I don’t know if I look or sound like someone who has spent the last year traveling.  I don’t know what such a person is supposed to look like.  I don’t have any brilliant conclusions to offer.  I am less certain of what I want to be doing than I was before starting this trip—whatever I found, it wasn’t direction.  At this moment I mostly feel bewildered. Where am I going now?
I’m going home. I guess. I’m flying to Boston, where I grew up. But since my parents moved to London while I was away, one could argue that I’ve actually just spent the last two weeks “home” here in London. Since I’ve lived and studied in Vermont, and spent a good portion of my summers there, I generally call it home now. And yet it doesn’t feel quite complete.
Home is wherever there are people who love and care about you, and those people are spread out across the globe for me. Home is where you feel welcome and comfortable, and I have felt at home after one day at a Rainbow Gathering in the mountains of Sicily, after one evening with an old friend in Hamburg, after two days with like-minded people in India. When it came time for my parents to sell the house I grew up in, I was somewhere in Southeast Asia and I felt… indifferent. As much as I had loved that house, it was only that: a house. Walls and a floor, paint colors I had helped choose and rooms upon rooms of memories, yes, but just wood and paint after all.  I realized that I had begun to carry “home” with me.  Home was my body. Home was the network of friends, family and strangers that stretched out in a shimmering web to catch me where and if I needed them. Home was laughter, handmade bread, and warmth—home was everywhere and anywhere I wanted it to be.
You could say I’m going back, then, I suppose.  But back to what? To “normal” life? As if this year were somehow removed from the rest of my life, a collection of adventures on which I will look back with longing and nostalgia, which will sustain me as I spend the next several decades sitting behind a cubicle desk speaking with belligerent self-importance of my year abroad. Hate to break it to you, but this is my reality. Truth, beauty, and joy are not temporary ideals, applicable only to some fantasy alternate life with an expiration date; they are a worldview, an optimism and a set of values by which I will, hopefully, continue to live, be it traveling abroad, studying, working, at “home” and “away.”
So no, I am not going back.  I am continuing a journey that is not defined by national boundaries, a search that is not defined by questions, and an adventure that is not circumstantial, but inherent.  This life is an adventure and a journey, full of the potential for truth, beauty and joy. That is neither a secret nor an answer; it is my own personal conviction.
I am going back to the United State with a broken backpack full of dirty clothes and not much else.  I am going back to one of the many places I choose to call home. The answers and the secrets can wait; I have never felt more content—full of joy and gratitude—and that is enough for me.
“Home”-made pizza in Sicily.
Home on my mat.
Feeling at home in my hammock, Don Det, Laos.
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