Getting Ready

Disaster preparedness is a funny thing. When we got news that Florence was predicted to hit the NC coast and then storm its way across the state, I went to the grocery store. I wandered up and down the aisles, thinking, “What would I want to eat in a storm?” And then had to amend that with, “…that doesn’t need to be cooked/warmed/refrigerated?” I bought some canned foods, some peanut butter, a few apples, and some snacks. Snacks feel like a treat. I don’t usually keep them in the house (popcorn, potato chips, candy) and I quickly realized why. I work from home. Every so often I’ll wander into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. And then I’ll see snacks in the cupboard and think, “Oh! Snacks!” and then I’m staring at an empty bag of potato chips. So, basically, each day of sunny, gorgeous weather requires another trip to the grocery store to replenish hurricane snacks already eaten.

Having lived in San Francisco for so long, it’s second nature to have flashlights/batteries/candles/waterproof matches within reach. So I feel good there. I bought some bottled water and placed it strategically around the house. I’ve charged all my electronics and unplugged anything that doesn’t need to be plugged in.

I’ve cleaned – washed all the sheets, towels, clothes. I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea before a storm, but it’s almost like company’s coming. I’ve made extra pitchers of ice tea. I’ve taken out the trash and vacuumed the floors. “Gotta get ready for Florence! She may be here a couple of days!”

One of the nicest things, though, is how many friends who are not in the area have reached out. It feels funny to be talking about storm prep when it’s 75 degrees out and sunny, but I know the weather can change at any point. And it’s been lovely reconnecting with friends and catching up. So, thanks for that, Florence.

Joy

There’s a pottery place here in Asheville that I love, East Fork. Their pieces are elegant, beautiful, solid, graceful, a pleasure both to look at and to use.

And their email newsletters are a joy to read. They highlight a new product, sometimes an employee, and always end with a poem.

JOY  | by Carl Sandburg

Let a joy keep you.
Reach out your hands
And take it when it runs by,
As the Apache dancer
Clutches his woman.
I have seen them
Live long and laugh loud,
Sent on singing, singing,
Smashed to the heart
Under the ribs
With a terrible love.
Joy always,
Joy everywhere–
Let joy kill you!
Keep away from the little deaths.

One Year!

Today marks one year since I signed the papers and moved into my new home in Asheville. Home, not house. From the moment I moved in, this felt like home, like where I was supposed to be. I’m not sure how many hours I’ve spent on the front porch swing, listening to rain storms, watching lightning, reading the mail, chatting with neighbors, or simply being. I’ve explored a few mountain trails and made a few acquaintances who are now friends. I’ve eaten more fried chicken than I probably should have, and enjoyed the vinegary tang of NC barbecue once again. I’ve listened to some great local musicians and marched in protests. I’ve explored farmer’s markets and discovered the store I visit most is the local Ace Hardware, where the woman working the register greets me with puns on my purchases. I’ve hosted friends from CA, from NY, from GA, from FL, from other parts of NC, and have visited the Biltmore House so often that I can almost recite the audio tour verbatim. And I wouldn’t have changed a moment.

The Joy of Light

We stepped out of the car and I was overwhelmed by how noisy the night was. Armies of crickets, millions of them, participated in a call and response across the mountains, resulting in a continuous cacophony of chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, deafening in the otherwise quiet night.

We set up chairs and looked upwards. The sky was relatively clear, save for the thousands (millions?) of stars, the Milky Way visible, a cloudy arc above us. We waited, and chatted, and watched, our necks craned backward. We saw an airplane, blinking lights traveling quickly across the sky, but not quick enough to be a shooting star.

I remembered the last time I saw a meteor shower. I was eight years old and it was summer. A hot, humid summer at the beach at Ocean Isle, NC. Our family was on vacation and the kids were laying on top of the wooden pergola over the walkway to the beach. We laid there, staring into the night sky, watching stars zip and zoom and sputter and fizzle and fall to the earth. I remember thinking there would be no more stars in the sky after the night was done. They would all burn out. I was excited and fearful that I was bearing witness to the last night of stars.

I wondered if tonight would be like that. After about a half an hour of staring at the majestic, beautiful sky, full of stars, but void of shooting stars, I was okay with the knowledge that it would not be like that. We saw the Big Dipper. And the North Star, twinkling brightly. And Mars. Which really did hint red. And then,

Swoooooooooosssssssshhhhhhhhhhhh!

Across the sky, it burned a thick path, scorching the width of the sky. It was magical. We waited patiently and many minutes later another shooting star followed in its path. We waited patiently, hoping for a storm of shooting stars.

Our hopes were tempered by the fact that we were an hour drive from home, and had to wake up early for work the next day. After many minutes of not seeing any more shooting stars, but still dazed by the beauty of the night sky, we reluctantly packed up and drove the slow and winding road of the Parkway back towards Asheville.

A day later, I close my eyes and see the shooting stars across the sky, mesmerized by their light, their power, and their intensity. The same way that I’m mesmerized by fireflies, with their soft pulsing glow, never quite where you expect them to be. There’s something about seeing a surprising burst of light in the night that brings joy to my soul. And makes me believe that life, indeed, is magical.

Celebrating the Fourth on the Third

The kids said, “Let’s go this way!” as we snuck around the end of the fence through the ground cover, down the hill, to the golf course. We positioned our blanket on the edge of the course so that we wouldn’t be in the path of the night sprinklers that tapped an arc of water this way, then that. We settled in, watching the fireflies light up the golf course. And then, the fireworks began.

It was spectacular to actually see the fireworks. For years, I’ve walked down to the Bay, or to a friend’s rooftop, or boarded a boat, to see the fireworks in San Francisco. Each year I had high hopes that *this* would be the year that it was clear. And each year the fog never failed to roll in, making the spectacular fireworks show more of a muted colored cloud cover. Still lovely. But not the display I was hoping for.

This year was different. We watched as fireworks shot into the air, whizzing then bursting, sparkles fluttering down to earth. The boom echoed against the mountains, a cacophony of timpani filling the valley. And it was hot. The humid hot of the south in the summer. The hot that makes you sweat just enough so that when a gentle breeze blows you think, “Ahhhh, that feels divine.”

We oohed and aahed and commented on the beautiful designs. We clapped and woo-hooed when they were done. We sat quietly, secretly hoping for one more round. The fireflies appeared again, twinkling in the night, offering their own encore.

Abundance

Today I turn fifty. I’m not really sure what I expected fifty to feel like, but I don’t feel much different than before. In no way was I dreading this birthday; I’ve loved birthdays that end in “0”s in the same way that I’ve loved birthdays with the same double digits (11, 22, 33, 44, etc). They feel more special than the others. I love that my birthday is the same day as Loving Day (and off by just one year from the actual pronouncement). I like to think that I was born of a generation that recognized equality for all (I know that we haven’t, though). I’m saddened that two years ago my birthday was the day of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida. For the past three years, it’s made me reflect on how much work we still have to do with regards to gun control, tolerance, and acceptance. These feelings mix with each other in a fabric that can only be described as human.

The overwhelming feeling that I’m feeling this year, however, is grateful. So incredibly grateful.

I moved back to North Carolina in September last year. I looked forward to moving to a smaller city after living in San Francisco for twenty-five years. I looked forward to quiet, to calm, to a slower pace of life, and to being closer to mountain trails. And I’ve found all of those. And more. I’ve found community, and kindness, and friendliness. As I planned to move, though, I did think to myself, “I’m kind of sad I won’t be in San Francisco to celebrate my 50th birthday.” San Francisco is where my friends are – the ones who I’ve known for twenty plus years. When I was moving, I envisioned having dinner at a nice restaurant in Asheville by myself on my birthday. A lovely birthday, but perhaps a lonely one.

Yet that’s not what happened.

Earlier in the year, a few friends said that they wanted to fly to Asheville to celebrate with me. I was taken aback. Flying to Asheville isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s a tiny, charming, regional airport with very few direct flights to anywhere. So I planned a few events – a lunch at a favorite local restaurant, Rhubarb, an evening at Biltmore to see Chihuly’s work, a bbq at my house. And the weekend so far exceeded any expectations I could have imagined.

Friends from college met friends from San Francisco met friends from Atlanta met friends from New York met friends from Asheville met friends from water aerobics class met family. Everyone loved getting to know each other. There was amazing food (hello, bbq!) and engaging conversation. There were bouquets among bouquets of flowers (my absolute favorite gift in the world). And there was love. So much love in the air.

A local friend told me, “Just enjoy the present moment. You never know what will come next. But you can love, and appreciate, what you have right now.” Great advice not just for birthdays, but for every day. 

 

Stormy

It has rained. And rained. And rained. And for the most part*, I love it.

I love:

  • the humidity
  • the plinking sounds of raindrops on my roof
  • the boom of  thunder
  • the occasional bright flash of lightning
  • the solid wind that warmly blows
  • the impending darkness in the early afternoon
  • the greenery, sprouting up everywhere
  • the coziness of being inside, watching weather
  • the brazenness of sitting outside, watching weather

Tonight, we were eating at Hemingway’s, on the roof, under a cover.

When we were seated, the skies were clear.

When we ordered a cocktail, dark clouds appeared on the horizon.

When we ordered ceviche as an appetizer, it began to sprinkle and the temperature dropped by a few degrees.

When our mains of crispy cerdo and arroz con pollo arrived, the skies darkened.

When we talked, the skies boomed.

When we sipped our wine, the heavens opened and massive torrents of rain fell all around us.

We sat and silently watched in reverence.

Storm.jpg

* I don’t love the flooding. Or the water in the basement. But that’s a small price to pay for the majesty of nature, no?

Surprises!

There’s a bookstore here in Asheville, Malaprops, that has a shelf of books wrapped in brown paper. It’s billed as a “Blind Date with a Bookseller.”

Blind Date with a Bookseller.JPG

Each book sports a short list of adjectives on its cover. There’s something thrilling about just knowing enough. I chose these two:

Covers.JPG

And opened the one on the left to bring with me on my trip. Looking forward to digging in!

West of Sunset.JPG

March For Our Lives – Asheville

I didn’t know what to expect when I wandered downtown this morning. The website said the march started at 11 am. Did that really mean 11 am? Or did that mean 11:45 am? Or even noon? Is this an on-time town? The skies were a dismal grey, and though the rain had temporarily stopped, it was still very cold. Would people show up? Would people stay in their warm houses? Would I show up? For about half a minute I considered staying home, and then I realized that was ridiculous. I had to show up. I had to show that I’m horrified by the amount of gun violence in this country. That I’m horrified that it was even *suggested* that teachers carry loaded guns. That I’m horrified that the two NC Senators who supposedly represent me, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, have accepted among the greatest donations from the NRA. I put on as many layers as I could and headed downtown. I walked to the meeting point and was heartened when, from over a block away, I heard a marching band. Life’s always better with a band.

I rounded the corner and saw hundreds, if not thousands, of people already there. I wandered through the crowd, looking at signs, saying hello, and making small talk with folks. As the time grew closer to 11 am, more and more people filled the square. And then, at 11 am, a few people took to the bullhorns. I kind of couldn’t believe it. The march was starting on time. A couple of students gave inspirational messages in both English and Spanish, and an organizer shared the rules for the march: stay on the sidewalk and don’t engage with counter-protesters. Neither instruction was necessary because the streets had been blocked off and there weren’t any counter-protesters.

We walked four blocks to a park, and by noon the speakers were speaking. Again, I was in disbelief at how organized and well run the event was. We heard from a teacher, from a student from Stoneman Douglas High School, from local high school students. Signs reminded us:

  • Guns DO kill people
  • Am I next?
  • Give Teachers Raises, Not Guns
  • No Sign Big Enough to List All the Reasons I’m Here
  • Harden Our Gun Laws, Not Our Schools
  • How Dare You Value NRA Money Over the Lives of Our Children? We Will Vote You Out
  • Your Right to Own an Assault Rifle Does Not Outweigh My Right to LIVE
  • All It Takes to Stop a BAD Man with a Gun Is A GOOD Legislator with a Pen!
  • If you support the NRA, you are not pro-life

I was so happy that I showed up (and on time!).

Home Improvement, One Color at a Time

When I first stepped foot into my home, I fell in love. There was a porch. There was a porch swing. There were hardwood floors, recently refinished very tastefully. There were plaster walls, with all their imperfections. There were big, old windows, that let in lots of light. There was just the right number of rooms. The interior had recently been repainted a neutral grey, which looked beautiful with the white trim and the bare rooms. Everything was so stark and so clean. I loved it.

And then I moved my furniture and artwork in. I still loved my home, but I didn’t love the grey walls as much as when I first viewed them in an empty state. So started the “color my house” project, back in November. I went to the hardware store and collected dozens of paint chips. I taped them to walls, imagining each room a different jewel color. A neighbor, who is an architect, ordered larger paint chip samples for me so that I could get a better picture of what the walls would look like. Each day I walked from room to room, trying to imagine what the walls would look like, painted in a color. 

so many colors

Yes, I really was considering all of these colors at one point

And then one night I had the dream. My walls were still grey and Rainbow Brite rang my doorbell. She asked to come in, and then immediately threw up. And each room was a different jewel tone color.

NO!

I didn’t want my house to look like Rainbow Brite threw up in it!

In January, dear friends from San Francisco came to visit. I explained my plan: paint the walls, buy area rugs, and then install funky light fixtures. Holly, an interior designer, kindly told me I had the order wrong. Focus on lights, then carpets, then paint colors.

I tried. I really did. But I just couldn’t get excited about light fixtures. So I focused on area rugs. And searched the internet. And by February I had ordered a couple. Honestly, there are just too many choices out there. And as soon as you visit one site, ads for rugs start showing up on every website that you visit. Paradox of choice turns into paralysis. But I fought the paralysis and obtained rugs for my living room, my dining room, and my bedroom. It was time to focus on wall colors.

I decided to choose a color for my office first since that was the smallest room. I had taped about a dozen samples of brown to my wall. My office in San Francisco had been brown, and I loved it. I loved walking into the warmness of cocoa each morning and starting my day. As I stared at the samples, I realized I was trying to recreate my San Francisco home in Asheville. It was time to let go. Brown was great there, but brown wasn’t the color for my new office. Blue. Blue was the color for my new office.

I chose two paint samples and painted patches on my walls. I immediately hated both. I waited a few days. I still didn’t like them. I held the paint chip up to the painted sample on the wall. Yep. It matched. I realized then I have no ability to imagine what a room will look like based on a 2-inch chip of paper. I went back to the paint store and ordered two more samples of blue paint, what I thought was closer to what I wanted. I painted and wasn’t immediately repulsed. But didn’t like those samples as they dried. So once again, I went to the paint store. They’re mighty friendly there. I ordered another two paint samples and came home and painted. When I applied one of them, I thought, “This is it. This is the one.” And the next day, after it was dry, I didn’t love it.

samples of blue

I tried to love them, but I didn’t

But I wanted my office painted! I had been applying sample patches for two weeks and I was ready to have a painted office!

I awoke on Saturday morning and went to the paint store. As I was walking in, I realized, “You didn’t like any of the samples. What color are you going to choose?” I looked at the book of chips and selected a color I hadn’t tried before. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Do I order another sample, or do I just go for it? Clearly, I didn’t have the gene that allows you to imagine the outcome of a whole room painted simply by looking at a paint chip. But I wanted my office painted. I bought a gallon of paint.

I came home, washed the walls, lay the drop cloths, and taped the trim. I was able to tape the entire room with one roll of tape. Except for the last six inches. This really annoyed me.

almost enough tape

So close!

I began rolling the paint. It was pretty. I had a good feeling. I hoped I would still love it once dried. I made a salad and read an Oprah magazine while I waited for the first coat to dry. I cam back in and still loved it. I applied the second coat of paint. I touched up trim. I pulled masking tape off and cleaned my brushes.

The next morning I entered the room. I still loved it. I started putting the furniture back in place.

The next morning, I entered it to work. I still loved it. The blue was so cheery and just made me happy. Three weeks in and I still love coming into my office every morning. I need to hang artwork, but for now, I’m enjoying four walls of Benjamin Moore Rendezvous Bay

And I don’t feel like Rainbow Brite has come to visit.

finished!

Still needs artwork, but I love it anyway