toby, train, tracks, dancing
Adventure, Travel Advice, U.S.

What to Do with a 10-Hour Train Ride

I’ve done that thing again.

That thing where I look at plane tickets, look at train tickets, enter all available data into an elaborate equation (something like, Value = Adventure / Cost + Adventure x Time + Cost/Environmental Cost) and decide to take the ten-hour train.


You see, adventure counts twice in my calculations… and I value my time a bit differently.

So I’m sipping on free hot water (having exhausted my ten-hour snack supply in just over seven hours), watching an obstinately rainy day pass me by—all the way from Vermont to Philadelphia.

It’s not a bad day for a train ride, I have to admit. The sky is a study in gray. Wisps of cloud catch in green hills, blur the horizon, put me to sleep.

I wake up quickly; I think my feet are getting frostbite. I set up camp in the cafe car. Consider diving into a pile of work. Think the better of it. Return to staring out at the nondescript, along-the-tracks landscape.

I’ve taken so many absurdly long train, bus, and ferry rides, keeping count lost all meaning a long time ago. Barcelona to London: Why go in two hours when you can take two days, via Paris and the Chunnel? Tangier to Barcelona: What fun is the plane when a thirty-hour boat ride gets you 100% there? Stockholm to Turku: Thirteen hours and no regrets! Goa to Kolkata: In hindsight, maybe forty hours was a a bit long…

A love of slow travel, a desire to lighten my footprint whenever possible, and a stubborn resistance to doing things the easy way all feed into these choices.

But I realize that whiling away an entire day—or more—on a train doesn’t come without practice. I haven’t forgotten my astonishment at my fellow passengers in Nepal, where I took some of my first twelve-hour bus journeys. They put me to shame, doing nothing for the entire journey, never complaining, and maintaining perfect serenity during the hours of touch-and-go traffic leaving Kathmandu Valley.

And so, if you have a ten-hour train journey ahead of you, or another trip just as daunting, I’d like to offer a few of my favorite activities to help you pass the hours:

  1. People watch. This activity could, without exaggeration, occupy all ten of those hours, especially when coupled with eavesdropping. The man in the seat behind me telling another passenger how he never learned how to read words, only concepts. The woman across the aisle discussing, at length, a petty workplace drama. The endless procession of human faces, voices, expressions—mundane and extraordinary at once. Yes, one could certainly people watch for ten hours.
  2. Crochet, or otherwise make things. When I traveled from Philadelphia to Miami by train in 2013, I spent about four hours of the thirty-hour odyssey crocheting a hat for a particularly odd and impressively drunk character sharing the cafe car with me. Activities that occupy the hands but leave the mind free to wander are ideal for long trips.
  3. Read. Bring a fresh book you know you’ll love. The longer the better. This time I brought The Wayfinders by Wade Davis, and it enthralled me. If you’d happily sit on the couch with a good book all day, you can stop reading right now; your ten hours are sorted.
  4. Write. Whether or not you’re a writer is beside the point. Write down observations, stream of consciousness, the funny things people said while you were eavesdropping. These words may serve some purpose later on, or you may never look at them again. Also not the point.
  5. Make lists. If you can’t think of anything else to write, there are always lists. I happen to love lists—the way they sit uselessly on my desktop after I make them, their satisfying list-ness, the irrational sense of efficiency I feel when writing them. Maybe you’ll be equally entertained by this activity… or maybe not.
  6. Eat. On travel days, I drop any preferences or pretenses I usually have about food. Today I feasted on cherries and leftovers, but sometimes it’s chocolate and chips. While normally I wouldn’t advocate for eating out of boredom, long train (or bus, or ferry) rides are a special exception. Entering a liminal space, free from the normal constraints of time and metabolic physics, is one of the advantages of traveling this way after all.
  7. Work. Just kidding—travel days aren’t work days! Be it a lack of reliable wifi or the soporific rattling of tracks, these journeys don’t usually support much work. But if you need to get things done, there’s certainly time.
  8. Do nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. Stare out the window and daydream about mountains that hold up the sky. Close your eyes and turn the rocking of the train into music. Lean back, put your hands in your lap, and just sit there. I think we could all do with a little more nothing in our days. A ten-hour train ride is a good place to start.

Additional uses of time that may inspire you: listening to music, meditating, talking to strangers, walking up and down the aisles, stretching, deleting old files off your phone, gobbling fresh air in the areas between coaches…

Think that just about covers it!

How do you pass a long journey? Please share your favorites with me!

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Waiting For The Invisible, Part III

I think I could write about autumn forever. Something about this turning of the season insists on words. I would like to complete the series I began at the start of the summer, ‘Waiting for the Invisible’ (though who knows, there may be more to come), on the process of planting and growing and mostly waiting…

The invisible has made itself known in a brilliant display of flowering trees, fruit-bearing plants, and a startling array of greens. Now, so soon, it begins again to slip beneath the Earth’s surface. Exuberant vines shrink and fade to brown; trees begin to shake themselves free of their leaves, laying a blanket down upon their roots; and the flowers drop their petals and turn inward, arming themselves against the coming cold.
Though we still have hot, Indian Summer days like today, which bewilder us with the promise of a winter-less year, the brisk nights and turning leaves belie the charade. Autumn lurks in the corners, and at her heels, Winter.
As the summer picked up, gardening mostly lost out to other, more insistent commitments in my week. The weeding got away from me, until I could no longer where the paths had once lain. My cucumbers foundered in poor soil, and the squash—I forgot to check the squash, so I don’t know…
You could say I forgot to wait for the invisible to fully unveil, and like an unwatched pot, summer came to a boil while my back was turned, my attention elsewhere.
Soon, a crackling carpet of brown will cover the evidence. The lively communities that kept me company these past months will settle once more to a nearly inaudible hum underground. The creature who rummages each night in the compost pile will go into hibernation (or maybe not… I can’t be sure since I don’t know what he is, or if his kind hibernates!).
The invisible, irrepressible clamor of life and green and growth will have come and gone, and I don’t know that I will be any the wiser for the waiting.

But I will remember its exuberance. I will know, next time, that whether I wait and watch or not, heeded or not, the invisible will wake and unfurl and rise again.
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I Went on a Vision Quest and All I Brought Back Was…

At exactly 3:00pm today, I passed the “Town of Middlebury” sign on Route 7.
I’m back.
Though it will be days, weeks, or perhaps months before I begin to understand the last ten days, I wanted to share with you my first impressions. A selection (hodge podge) of thoughts and verses from my journal. Some spiritual, but more not.
I will be recording more organized second, third and fourth impressions in the coming weeks, but I think this might actually provide a more visceral glimpse of my experience.
I could sum it up by saying nothing happened. Or everything happened. Reality is probably somewhere in between. But I would rather share the journey…
On Wednesday, September 17, the night before my departure, it takes me hours to fall asleep. Hours upon hours upon hours.
Thursday, September 18
I am searching for the cause of my searching.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt made guest appearances in my dream. Really?
Friday, September 19
It is becoming clear that I brought far too many books to fill very little down time. (I packed a stack of ten…)
Saturday, September 20
I have decided to leave behind my camera (Sorry, that does mean no pictures), and my yoga mat. I have a feeling I won’t need them…
I am leaving behind the known. Soon I will begin (or continue!) to walk my path into being. Yes!
Sunday, September 21
Today, I found my place of power (location for my solo time: 4 days and 4 nights). I hope. It is a solid 45 minutes, maybe more, from base camp… a little bit apprehensive about the walk out after four days of fasting. Close to the shore (Lake Sommerset, Southern VT), but back into the woods a little ways, and in a lovely circle of young trees that sing back to the wind.
[Frog is making me laugh, trying to be so stealthy as he walks past my sleeping bag.]
Today is Monday, September 22
How many kinds of blue have passed before my eyes today, rippling across the lake? Could I name them all? Aquamarine. Periwinkle. Turquoise. Navy. Sky reflected in lake blue. Blue within and upon blue. What do we call that? Sky blue. Royal blue. Midnight blue. Blue that flutters in the wind. Blue that reaches beneath the surface. Blue that reflects a sudden bit of sunlight and sparkles. Do we have names for so many kinds of blue?
Broken trees and branches are guiding me through the woods today.
Sometime this afternoon it hit me: Shit, days are really long.
Today is Tuesday, September 23
I just spent the entire morning doing absolutely nothing. I’ve been lying on the rocks trying to take in as much sun as possible. The sun is hot, but the air is cold—I’ve had to keep rotating to keep warm. I feel no desire to do any ritual right now, no restlessness… I could do with a slightly more comfortable “do nothing” spot, though.
No matter what, I’m telling myself, I will come out of this stronger, and knowing myself better—for that alone it will be worthwhile.
[I’m hungry at this moment.]
The sun may not have set yet, but I am ready for bed, and to move on to the next day. I let my stomach know that we still had 2.5 more days until food—best not to dwell on it.
Waiting for Dusk
As the water turns from shimmering teal to gray,
And the last drops of sunlight fade from sight,
I am here, waiting for dusk.
She gathers herself—slowly, slowly—
One wispy purple shroud at a time,
Like the longest dimmer in the world, lowered without haste.
And still I am here, waiting for dusk.
The wind never tires, but my body asks for rest;
The birds chatter on, and the flies collect around my tarp—
The sky holds on stubbornly to blue,
As I rest here, waiting for dusk.
[Definitely still hungry. Dreaming about breakfast Saturday morning!]
Today is Wednesday, September 24
When I finally rise, the sun is already high in the sky, and the last wisps of fog glide silently across the water until they vanish. Soon, they will be only a ghostly memory. Now, the lake is a perfect mirror with foggy edges, and the grass along the shore sparkles with dew, iridescent.
I have never felt so much doubt. I don’t feel any different; still have no idea why I’m here, what I’m trying to find. My mind holds on stubbornly, along with my stomach, to normalcy.
My journey thus far, from Mother Earth’s perspective (abridged)
I saw here wandering through my forest, so lost.
I heard her cry out for guidance, but she will find her way.
I listened as she lamented her doubt, her lost-ness to Tree, to Rock and to Lake.
The brown leaves on which she sat carried them to me.
I heard, but I did not answer…
Maybe I will appear to her in spectacular fashion. Maybe not.
This journey she finds herself on—the truth and vision and clarity she seeks—
Well, it is all within her, and I can only play a supporting role.
When she learns this, she will be ready to meet me.
For then, it will no longer matter.
Today is Thursday, September 25 (Last day of solo time)
I want a fucking steak.
(On the last night of a quest, many people choose to stay up from sundown to sunrise in something called a purpose circle. Inadvertently marooned on my chosen spot, far from my sleeping bag and other gear, I managed to stay up all night. Not because I wanted to in the end, but because I couldn’t make it back in the dark, and because I would have turned into a popsicle if I didn’t keep moving!)
On the night of Friday, September 26, back in my tent and with food in my belly, I wrote this about the experience:
The Darkest Night
Strange calls rise up across the water, break this eternal quiet.
A faint light hums at the horizon, taunting me with the thought of dawn, but that is far away still.
There is no moon, this night.
There is no rest, this night. No respite in sight.
Icy dew falls heavy upon the earth, chills me to the bone.
Geese honk through the sky, in a hurry to get where they’re going.
I, too, am desperate to return.
I, too, have called, unanswered, too long. Slowly my voice fades from song.
I know there will be no more fire, this night.
Any warmth must be my own.
This is the darkest night, and nothing will break it but dawn.
But I don’t see that Light has been there all along,
Because it was right before my own eyes.

 I don’t know exactly what I learned or what I am bringing back from my time away, but I intend to find out.
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Why I am Doing a Vision Quest

(This article was originally published here at elephant journal. I decided I wanted to share it on this blog, too.) It’s just settling in that I am leaving to do this tomorrow…

On the 18th of September, I will leave Middlebury for 10 days, 4 of which I will spend on a solo fast.

I have decided to do a vision quest.

Anthropologists coined the term “vision quest” to describe a particular Native American rite of passage. The practice of going alone into nature, fasting, and seeking vision, insight or clarity.

However, this practice is ubiquitous across human histories and beliefs. Jesus, Moses, and Siddhartha Gautama all completed “vision quests” of a sort. I’m not trying to say I’m like any of them, of course. My point is this: such a tradition has roots in so many groups and cultures, and belongs to none.

The program I have chosen to participate in strikes me as an archetypal rite of passage, following the classic anthropological characterization. There is a beginning (“severance”), a middle (“threshold” or “liminality”), and an end (“reincorporation”). There are, additionally, a fast and a period of isolation. The form, meaning and context of the ritual, however, depend on the individual.

The vision quest has a rich and varied history. Still, I find myself sheepishly telling some that I am “going camping” for 10 days. Others, I know will understand and support my intention immediately. And some, upon hearing my real plans, ask, “Why the hell would you want to do that?” An answer is never quick to reach my lips.

And so, I am sharing this letter of intent (requested by my program) for the first and the last category of people. For those whom I have not had the courage to tell, and for those who have not understood. Because I am proud of myself for choosing to embark on a journey that twines with the sacred and echoes across time. I want those people, and others like them, to understand why.

I want to do a vision quest because the prospect of going alone into nature, facing my fears, finding my path, and meeting my deepest self appeals to me on a primal level.

I feel that I am at a moment of deep transition. I have recently graduated from college, and stand with one foot through the door to the rest of my life. Not just the physical trappings, but also the emotional, metaphysical, and spiritual material of my life seem to be hovering in limbo.

I would argue, too, that physically the last 23 years have comprised a prolonged transition from total protection and dependence to total self-sufficiency. These shifts call for ritual. I believe we need ritual and ceremony to mark significant passages, and I have chosen that which speaks to my Truth.
I see my preparation for this journey as an opportunity to articulate for myself and for others the kind of transition I hope to undergo.

I want to bury frivolity, selfishness and vanity. That is not to say I wish to let go of levity—the six-year-old girl who laughs unstoppably at silly jokes and chases after bubbles can stay. That is also not to say I wish to part with confidence, for that is possibly the greatest strength I possess.

The 18-year-old woman who tested her power at the expense of others can stay in the past, though. So too can my high school make-up and gratuitous “selfies.” The pride that stops 22-year-old me from asking for help or accepting criticism may stay behind as well.

Every coin has two sides. I would like to exchange frivolity for meaning, selfishness for generosity, and vanity for humility. I want to discover the outlines, the shadow, even, of the path I am on—the underlying purpose of my actions, choices, and the work I find myself doing. I want to explore the gifts I have not had the chance to cultivate, and then I want to share them with those who might benefit. Finally, I hope to do this for the right reasons, to avoid both praise and confrontation. I intend to return quietly, with grace.

Moreover, I invite an abundance of joy, laughter, adventure, magic, spirit and stardust into my life. I wish my journey to be a never-ending pursuit of these things.

Now the hard part. What obstacles block me? What do I really fear? I am afraid I don’t know my weaknesses. I don’t know what I really fear. That in of itself seems a major lacking of knowledge. I cannot fully know myself without it. Maybe it is dangerous to wish for, but I hope to find my fears while I am alone. Until I know what they are, I can’t confront them. Until I know what they are, I can’t defeat them. I am, undeniably, afraid to find out.

Lastly, my strength. It flows from water. From the moon. From the earth and the stars. I do not connect with these sources often enough. That is, to end where I began, I do not spend enough time alone in Nature. When I stop to listen, though, the wind whispers secrets in my ears. The trees teach me to grow roots. The birds teach me to grow wings. The earth sets a rhythm for my heart to follow, and the rivers sing as they flow through my hair. They know why I am drawn to do this. I want to do a vision quest so they can tell me too.

I will, clearly, be mostly ‘off the grid’ for the next ten days. I look forward to sharing some of my experiences when I return.
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Culture, U.S.

Oh, the Characters of Middlebury

One of my favorite things about working in restaurants is the unlimited entertainment potential of observing the characters that pass through. Middlebury, Vermont does not disappoint.
Once, in High School, I took a class in Nonfiction Prose. The first week, the teacher had us walk around the neighborhood, observe the people around us, and write a few character sketches. A few descriptive lines that form a verbal portrait. They can be straightforward or metaphorical, humorous or serious. In what seemed an apt metaphor at the time, and in retrospect more like poor judgment, I distinctly remember comparing my teacher to a baboon. Better choices have been made. Regardless, I love this exercise, and I would like to present to you some of the characters of the – Café. No names, of course, will be named.
M— is a tall, odd man. He almost always comes alone and almost always orders a hummus salad to very precise specifications. It is shocking when these two things are not the case. He wears a bucket hat and leans slightly when he walks. Though a bit withdrawn at first impression, M– proves quite garrulous on any subject when engaged. He does not like ice in his water, and he eats very, very slowly.
G—worked in the foreign service, but I would never have heard it from him. It took a long time for him to decide I was worth conversing with at all. He must have his soup piping hot and immediately. He comes for lunch with various friends. Last week, he asked me if I had seen any sea monsters lately in Otter Creek. I suspect he is hiding an eccentric sense of humor.
Mr. and Mrs. – are my favorite regulars. They are understanding, appreciative, and very sweet. They always drink iced tea—many, many glasses—and sit for a while.
C— sits at the bar and has a Switchback beer with his lunch. He might be in his seventies. He speaks gently, likes golf, and has a wife that I have never seen. We don’t have many things to talk about, but he is kind, pays in cash, and tips well.
J—and A—, whether they come separately or together, are strange and, in my opinion, wonderfully entertaining. They have raised friendly banter to an art form, and on a busy day it is best to avoid them as much as possible. On a quiet day, a conversation at their table is a great way to fill up time. J—is tall with very short hair, and always leans in to speak. He likes Caesar salad and sometimes quiche. A—has curly hair and an old, lumbering dog who waits outside.
Mr. and Mrs. A— are always very nice, and they always order the same thing. Always. I could tell you their exact order, but that might give it away. Inside, they like the table in the corner. Outside, the table against the wall. They like straws and lemons with their water, but they only sometimes use the straws. They never tip over 17%.
The I—‘s would be lovely if they weren’t so troublesome. An order for two can be a foot long with all of their additions, substitutions and peculiarities. They usually come for brunch, order more food than I think a person could eat, and finish it. They think the — Cafe is their private kitchen, and we do nothing to disturb this conviction.
The lawyers are very important people. They never have more than 50 minutes for lunch. They like their soups and salads first, and M—with the blonde hair must have her soup extra hot. With all that, they are surprisingly agreeable, and they never linger.
Mr. D—owns something in town. He is also a very important person. He likes his iced tea with no spoon in it. His lackeys drink soda, sometimes; they defer to him in all matters. There are usually four of them; only Mr. D— orders an appetizer. As far as I can tell, only Mr. D— speaks. He takes up twice as much space as those around him, in every sense of the phrase.
When I was little, and we had to eat at McDonalds on family road trips, I would order a cheeseburger without the burger. We called it a Toby Special. Now that I am not six years old however, one, I avoid McDonalds at all costs (along with the rest of my family), and two, I order off the menu. I can make myself a sandwich with no bread and nothing on it at home.
When work is slow and I have time to, I often wonder how people come to have such exact, particular peculiarities. Likes and dislikes. Demands. Needs. Are they born that way, or is it a byproduct of aging? Are they raised to need straws in their water with no ice, to demand that their soup be hot enough to give third degree burns, and to require, absolutely, that there be no trace of onion on their burger? Are we all so peculiar in our tastes, only more self-conscious of demanding their satisfaction? Do I just have lower standards? Were our parents less indulgent? Are “characters” just average people whose idiosyncrasies have gone unchecked? Possibly.

Or maybe, as my experience as a server indicates, idiosyncrasy is the norm, and those without restrictions, requirements and specifications are the exception. Maybe this pattern is a unique result of American culture and values. That seems likely, for in all the time I have spent outside the U.S., I have never seen someone order a sandwich without bread.*

*That is not to say there is anything wrong, necessarily, with ordering a sandwich without bread. It is simply interesting, and  maybe indicative of something, to observe the frequency of such requests.
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Waiting for the Invisible, Part II

(I promised lots of pictures this time…)

Watermelon flower. I think I am a little bit in love with these plants.

It’s official, there is nothing invisible about my garden now. Two strapping zucchini vines are nearly two feet tall, competing with the flowers I didn’t know were already planted there. Tomatoes have turned from green to orange. Red is just around the corner. The turnips that I don’t want to eat and will probably give away are pushing round white haunches out of the earth. Even the watermelon vine (Yes, watermelon in Vermont!) displays one tiny fruit the size of my pinky nail, and several flowers. The haricots vert, too, are in bloom, with the scrawny beginnings of green beans dangling beneath.

Teeny tiny baby watermelon!

Soon we will be enjoying fiori di zuccha (zucchini flowers), stuffed with cheese and fried, fresh tomatoes and basil warm from the sun, and… something with turnips. (Maybe I will grow to love turnips.) Here they are, round two of garden photographs:

Purple basil flowers. I hear you are supposed to clip them, but they’re too beautiful!

Oh turnips, what will I do with you?

Tomato before.
Tomato now.
Zucchini before.
Zucchini now.
The haricots vert survived the rabbits, hedgehogs and foxes!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! Check back for Part III.
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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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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.






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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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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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