I look up and suddenly it’s the end of June. I’m on the east coast; it’s hot, and feels like summer should feel, and at the same time, I miss my coastal town. Those cool breezes, the demands for sweatshirts and warm things, give a totally different interpretation of this season.
I haven’t written much because it has been a busy time with work and with travel. As I sit waiting for a train now, I’m struck by the possibilities and unknown in the months ahead. I have a break from work, and very little scheduled, and it feels like a time for reflection and clearing-out. I want to go off of social media and pay attention to important things. I want to read books and write words upon words. I want to cook and clean and make my home a nest of only things I need.
One of the first blog posts I ever wrote here was about being on a train. I remember watching the world go by and diving deep into my introverted thoughts. This kind of travel invites that; I sit and wonder about the world and my place in it.
Lately, though, I’ve realized that perhaps in my life I’ve sat and observed too much, sometimes at the cost of actually getting things done. There’s a way of marrying the two, and my way of doing that is writing. As I consider how to translate my experience of being just one person, alive at this time and in this place, I find that I am also craving action. Perhaps they are the same, played out with fierce dedication.
For now, I’ll wait for my train. I’ll watch others board and disappear, our time of knowing of each other already over. We head to different places. We head to different worlds, in this singular one.
When I moved out to California almost five years ago, I told my mom that I just wanted to live in a beautiful place for a while. Then when I got here, I wondered if I would grow immune to nature, being surrounded by it all the time and whatnot. Would I casually look at the ocean and yawn? Would I walk past poppies or lupine or wild blackberries and not even register them?
It hasn’t happened. And with these days stretching long – sun streaming in the window at 5:30, sunset walks well past 8:00 – it just seems like there’s so much to soak up. I take pictures all the time, wanting to capture something I can preserve. It’s not really necessary. Being in this area helps me feel at peace. Whether it’s the ocean or the redwoods or the rolling hills or the pop of floral colors, I breathe easier here than almost anywhere else I’ve been.
So hopefully, if you know me in real life, you find that peace present in our everyday interactions. And if you don’t know me in that way, these pictures are for you, to share a bit of what my world has been like in the last couple of weeks. I believe wholeheartedly that there is beauty everywhere; I do not take it for granted that it’s at my fingertips here.
Let me just tell you how much autocorrect wants to change the spelling of the title!
I’m refusing it, though, for it is no mistake. It turns out that Echium candicans is the name of a plant I’ve long loved here on the coast yet never knew the name of. One day this week, on someone else’s post, it popped up in social media, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled. It seems that the plants – so Dr. Seussian, so otherworldly – go by the shorthand Echium or Pride of Madeira as well.
Though I’m planning a social media break this summer, it’s nice to know that it’s got its place in my world. Echium, indeed!
I’ve written many times about one of my favorite places: a farm, on a river, that introduced me to Northern California and all sorts of good things. I was much younger when I first arrived, and yet returning – even now – still helps me feel whole.
Occasionally, I’m lucky enough to visit for a weekend. It’s stunningly good for me to work in the garden for a couple of hours, to get into the river for a quick dunk, to bask in the bright sun and cloudless blue sky. It’s surprisingly easy to forget the stress of my life as I pull on my wide-brimmed straw hat and get covered in dirt.
Spring was in full celebration of itself this weekend. We snapped asparagus off its stalks and spread compost around tomatoes. I noted the tiny white flowers of strawberries and the full, sweeping branches of a willow tree. The days started out cool and warmed quickly, so that we pulled off sweatshirts and rolled up pants, and at night, without lights to dull them, the stars pinpointed the dark sky like jewels.
It’s so important to have these corners of the world that help us tap into parts of ourselves that aren’t always on display in our everyday lives. I had no idea, when I first visited almost two decades ago, that this farm would be one of those dear places for me. Yet it is.
Each time I smell that unique potpourri of pennyroyal, dirt, and sunshine, my whole body gives over to something I cannot name, something I only recognize deep in my heart as exactly where I need to be.
Recently, I’ve been obsessed with the length of these spring days, enjoying every early sunrise and each delayed sunset. I’ve anticipated it for ages, and yet somehow it is a sudden transition.
There’s no doubt about it now: it’s late April, and we’re headed towards summer.
This time of year feels to me like an invitation. I’m pulled outside again and again, simply to notice the world in all its glorious awakening. There are blooms everywhere, from those cultivated in tailored gardens to those that push their way up through cracks in the sidewalk.
It all feels a bit wild, in the absolute best way, and I find that I want to be part of it. I want to be bright, shining, and colorful. I want to move my body in the sunshine and feel the wind on my arms.
It is such a lucky thing, to have the chance to welcome another spring, to stretch into these longer days. In the midst of so much noise and stress that can pop up in our everyday lives, it’s a good thing to remember that the world offers up its miracles without cessation.
I don’t know that there’s every been a day in my life that has not been improved by time spent in nature. So wherever you are, I hope that today is a Friday that pulls you outside to experience the world as it is, to allow yourself to be part of it, in all your stunning beauty.
I wonder what miracles you might find, if you grant yourself the gift of pausing, looking around, and just for a moment, really seeing this amazing place.
Tonight, of course I am thinking of Paris. I’ve walked by Notre Dame so many times on trips I’ve taken to my favorite city, though it’s been a few years since I’ve gone inside. More often than not, I go to watch the crowds gathering in the square out front. Together, the space and the cathedral draw people again and again, including those who come for the architecture, the art, the detail, the religion, the history, the grandeur, and the marvel of it all.
I find myself considering how, whenever something bad happens in Paris, I want to be there. Like a lover who is hurting, my heart is pulled towards it not only when times are good, but also when the city reels. 5,000 miles away, I discover anew that a part of me is always there, wanting so badly to belong to this place that I love. I will never be French, yet like so many others, I left a corner of my heart in Paris years ago. I’ve never been the same since, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
And so my heart – reduced though it may be – goes out to the people of Paris, with enormous gratitude to those who fought this fire, and tremendous faith in those who are already working to rebuild what has been lost.
Years ago, my aunt introduced me to the food and liveliness that dances through the culture of New Orleans.
She’d traveled there on her honeymoon in 1960, and it remained one of her favorite places for the rest of her life. Each year for several Decembers in a row, she treated my sister, my cousin, and me to a long weekend of food indulgence. She made reservations months in advance and we’d saunter from one meal to the next, filled to the brim with good bread, inventive drinks, and rich desserts.
I know how lucky I am to have had that, and the memories from those trips will live forever in my heart. This visit to New Orleans was my first since my aunt passed away and so even though I was there for a conference, I made sure to enjoy the tastes of the city, too.
I was not disappointed. I ate standout meals at Pêche, Couchon, and Jewel of the South, a newcomer where veteran bartender Chris Hannah talked expertly through drinks and then presented them with sugared rims, with garnishes of flowers and fruit.
At Turkey and the Wolf, I had a sandwich so delicious – the Collard Green Melt – that I nearly laughed out loud after taking the first bite.
I made a customary visit to Mr. B’s, and toasted my aunt with a glass of champagne at the Polo Club Lounge, in the hotel where she liked to stay.
I had incredible vegan food at Seed, including a smoothie I can’t stop thinking about, and enjoyed my morning caffeine from French Truck Coffee, where I sat outside and enjoyed the gentle springtime humidity of the city I’ve grown to adore.
There’s no doubt that New Orleans holds a particular corner of my heart. Though it is a little bittersweet to be there without the person who taught me to love it, I’m always happy to make that journey, carrying on a treasured tradition even in between conference sessions, even only after a day’s work was done.
I think there probably isn’t much to say about this city that hasn’t already been said. It’s sultry and musical and resilient. It’s got amazing food, and drinks like you’ve never experienced. It can be raunchy and unforgiving; it is also gracious and lovely.
I’ll write about what I ate, and perhaps about some other things I noticed, in future posts. Today, though, I just wanted to share some of the pictures I took as I walked around during breaks from a conference these last few days.
As always, New Orleans invited strolling, and lingering, and watching. It is unlike any city I’ve ever visited; it’s a place of possibility and heartbreak; a place for desire and indulgence. A place for the past, and a place to dream of all the things to come.
I meant to write this morning – fiction – but am instead deep in the throes of wishing to be somewhere warm. So rather than sheer creativity, I instead found myself looking at plane tickets and Airbnbs, and remembering places I have loved.
Barcelona, with air so ready to dissolve thoughts of things that might have been, is at the top of my mind.
Hawaii, with its dense jungle-forests, plants greener and more fuchsia than anywhere else I’ve been, would also be wonderful.
Sometimes I forget to put Galveston into this category, just because I know it so well, but it belongs there too, the humidity curling my concerns away.
I don’t think of myself as someone who craves the beach. Perhaps, though, it’s only human to wish for such things, when March has stretched long, when the temperature dances briefly again towards the chill of winter, when June – really now, so close – seems like a temptress we’ll never reach.
It is coming, though, I remind myself. Summer is out there, calling.