A promise made in the spirit of observation, stillness + record keeping: write + post one poem a week.
I’ll meet you
in that cave, the one
you dreamed of—stone,
cold, a memory of the sea. We
were born here, I’ll tell
you. Your eyes will climb
the walls, the
installation of time’s lapping
tongue. For a moment,
we will worry,
but be reminded that beginnings
(or endings or both) are void
of light until that instant
we transcend; the ocean
on the shore.
This is the start of a promise made in the spirit of observation, stillness and record keeping: write and post one poem a week.
Horns for Saint Augustine
On the rise and fall
of the cicada song I
ride the swells—
too hot black top driveway, a
fearlessness and lessons
in the distance.
The Room: Summer Deck and Viburnum Branches
One Saturday, with the house to myself, I took the opportunity to sit outside and let my mind wander. I looked at the lawn we’ve let become more woodland carpet than lawn. I gazed at the sky. I considered the clapboard siding and wondered exactly what color blue it was. My ears—a year after leaving the city now readily accepting sound—took in the direction of the wind, the distant shouts of neighboring kids and a steady, persistent chirp. Chirp. Chirp. In my periphery, a blur of wings.
Some instinct found me pulling a chair up to our deck railing. I climbed up and peered down into the belly of the viburnum shrub that grows there. Deep inside it, camouflaged by leaves and dappled light was a nest cradling three perfect bird’s eggs. I took in a breath loud enough for someone to hear, had someone been there. This was no miracle, I know, but something about those precious stone-like vessels put me in a state of awe. They were a painting on a wall at the Louvre, an artifact excavated from ancient soils; no, they were simply eggs in a nest and this was enough to make them matter to me, instantaneously.
And then I got terribly sad. It’s late in the season, I thought. I imagined the eggs abandoned, enduring fall winds and winter snow, never moving, never changing—spring eternal.
Better still not to touch them, I thought, in the spirit of their preservation. I took a photo and went back to my daydreams.
A few days later, after dinner on the deck, while dishes were being cleared, my eyes stopped at the chair, still out of place resting against the railing. Up I went and down I stared and where there were eggs were now tiny, fuzzy, hatchlings ribcages pulsing. My in-breath was heard by all.
In the mornings, my husband and I watch Momma and Poppa Cardinal take turns foraging, feeding and guarding. At night, we acknowledge their chatter through our bedroom window, picking out whose chirp is whose. Momma. Babies. Poppa.
It rained and poured and hailed last week—an angry summer storm. We worried. So I tiptoed into the downpour to find Momma, wings wide, spread out over her babies, her orange beak a beacon of parenthood in the gray gale. We kept checking on them.
This family of birds is part of our routine, now. They are part of what makes our home our home. Our land is their land and this makes us want to keep our land habitable and safe and sound for the other members of this micro-eco-system. It may sound silly, but they’ve given me a sense of community—the kind I can’t find at the coffee shop or yoga studio. I feel a bigger sense of belonging to our tiny parcel of earth.
And because we’ve fallen in love with them, the birds are also markers of time. This is now and will always be the first summer of the birds. And even if they don’t return, their story is preserved and my relationship with our home is forever changed.
The Room: Kitchen and The Great Outdoors
This is the comfort food of warm weather days. Of no shoes and longs dusks. Of fresh produce and sizzling grills.
These two, incredibly simple, foods make me incredibly happy.
May they do the same for you.
Red cabbage and green cabbage, ribboned.
Radishes, shaved thin.
Cilantro or mint or both, chopped coarse.
Toss all with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fold in, to taste, lemon juice or rice vinegar.
Grilled Sourdough (or any crusty bread of your liking) with Ricotta Cheese
Bread, sliced, brushed with olive oil and grilled.
Ricotta cheese, drizzled with olive oil and topped with a sprinkle of salt and a grinder turn of black pepper.
Serve side by side.
Mine usually appears with jar of olive oil, red wine vinegar and chopped shallots, shook up.
The Room: Mailbox, Dining Room + Medicine Cabinet
Last week, I got a beautiful package from my dear friends at Salt Cellar Shop. In it, was a hand-crafted ash serving board and a medley of botanical balms and salves.
Salt Cellar Shop is two people. Two. One wife, Milisa, + one husband, Thomas.
Aside from the wood slab being beautiful and smooth,
aside from Little Salve no.2 being so soothing and smelling like campfire,
aside from Little Salve no.3 imparting calm and conjuring the best of the garden,
it’s incredibly evident these things were made well and with incredible care.
In sight, touch and, especially, smell, they evoke earth and sea.
I cannot wait to put these goods at the heart of our household rituals.
Please visit their shop, and when thinking of gift-giving that signifies care, think of them.
The Room: The Bedroom
It has taken many adult (and not so adult) bedrooms to get to this point… I love our bedroom. Love being in it, love going to sleep in it, love waking up in it.
The last three bedrooms were close, but there something more I wanted out of them that never quite came into being, until now.
Four things have brought me here.
1. Defining space.
We—me and the husband—decided what the bedroom is for.
Our Bedroom is a sanctuary; a place for sleep and love, peace and quiet, and finding ourselves and each other.
We spend our days out in the world—working, writing emails, sharing our ideas, meeting expectations, giving away time, hitting deadlines, driving, making lists, cooking, expelling energy—and at the end of it, our bedroom is the place where we can come back to ourselves, relax and reenergize.
This brings me to the second thing.
2. Keeping fewer things that mean more.
The things in our room foster that unification of self and sense of care that come from our definition of Bedroom. Everything serves a simple purpose, promotes mediation and reflection, and reminds me of who I am and what matters to me. So the Bedroom is less cluttered. And everything in it has either great meaning (our first flea market art, my grandmother’s suitcase) or is highly functional (a dresser for clothes, a lamp for light). The beauty of this, is that there is no right or wrong way to fill a Bedroom, as long as you fill it in a meaningful way. The things that instill peace and meaning for one, are different than the things that instill peace and meaning for another. Design liberation.
3. Letting sleep matter.
Once we knew what the bedroom was for and the environment of the room became imbued with that purpose, sleep became more sacred. Sleep is a gift to ourselves for all the work we do—in our jobs and in our relationships and so on. I genuinely look forward to retreating to the Bedroom at the end of the day.
4. Kicking tech out.
There is no room for tech in the Bedroom. No tech. Absolutely none. No TV, no laptops, no iPads or iPhones. No exception.
In the beginning, it was hard to break each other of the habit. We fought to make no exceptions to this rule. And now, it’s easy. We’ve adapted. We’ve defined what our bedroom for, and it’s not for Instagram or Facebook or work emails or any of the other things we turn to our screens for during the rest of the day.
Some items of note:
- Alarm clock. No cell-phone alarms aloud.
- Books. If not quite ready to fall asleep, but ready to slow down, I bring a book to bed.
- Notebook. I keep a pen and paper near by to jot down any to-do list items that are keeping me up, and to record dreams that stick until morning.
- White. I’ve found that the white walls let the natural light work its magic. Color comes from plants, rugs and things. And who doesn’t want to sleep on a cloud.
- Rocks and plants. My favorite ways to bring the outside inside and feel connected to nature.
- Oils. My go-to comforts are on the windowsill. Aroma-therapies for easy breathing, for calm, for relaxation. Tinctures to quiet the mind, to soothe the belly and to release headaches.
- A few things that mean more. That braid hanging by the window was woven together by our parents and siblings at our wedding. The wooden box on husband’s side of the bed is one he’s had for as long as he can remember. My mother made that tiny, stained glass sailboat hanging in the window. A friend from Oregon sewed the hot water bottle cover, knowing I need it. The lunar print was a birthday present. The black and white mandala was New Year’s gift. The porch door is a bulletin board of photos, love notes and mementos from friends and each other—a road map of the relationships that matter most.
- Space. I’m now a believer in leaving some—for light to fill, for air to move through, for filling with dreams.
- Lamps. No overhead lights. Just choice illumination.
Thrilled to have this post be a part of Team A + J’s Feel Something More campaign and blog tour. For more on meaningful food, health and lifestyle, check them out.
The room: Easter Kitchen and Family Table
There are no wee family members yet, no nieces or nephews, tiny daughters, sons or grandchildren.
But this year, for the first time in at least 15, we—me and the husband, my sister and brother-in-law and my loving parents—dyed Easter eggs.
I’d heard that boiling, then simmering, the skins of 5 yellow onions in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes then adding a splash of white vinegar made a fine, rust-colored, natural dye.
I’d heard that one could press plant material against an egg, wrap it in gauze or cheesecloth or nylon, soak it in such a dye for a several hours, and end up with Easter egg beautiful, magic and real.
This was all but legend, until this Easter.
And because I haven’t been saving my onion skins, and needed to peel 5 fresh ones, a new tradition was born.
Make egg dye. Laugh over egg dying. Eat onion soup. This is and will be Easter.
The Room: The many places spring resides
Breaking ground this season are new flowers and a myriad of possibilities and projects. All coming soon, here are some of the things I’m looking forward to sharing in words, photos + moving pictures:
Plans for my first garden and the lessons learned in it.
Why I love our bedroom.
Being a part of the Feel Something More campaign by Team A + J.
Recipes for warmer days.
Useful + beautiful tools and objects.
The Room: Christmas Tree Homes of Past, Present + Future
As a child, our tree sagged with ornaments. Brass, glass, child-glued-and-glittered, they hung where two sisters, two parents and one Grandmother chose. No color scheme. No rhyme. Among the many cellar-stored boxes of holiday trappings, the ones most special to me—as a child and still—were those that were most special to my mother.
Tin Santas. Silver and red, muted but magic. Santas that seemed to me older than Christmas Trees themselves, and belonged to a Great Grandmother I never knew. When hung, what they make is a Christmas tree, yes, but also what we call, “The Family History Tree.”
My mother says she doesn’t know much about those santas, except to say, “They were simply always there.” They belonged to her father’s mother. Because they were not breakable, like other ornaments of her youth were, she was allowed to play with them. And decades later, so was my sister and so was I. “I see every Christmas that ever was when I hold them and hang them on the tree,” she says, and I believe her.
As those Santas would pass from her hands to mine, I could see, in an instant, her Christmases past. I could conceive of her, a granddaughter, a daughter, a child and a mother, all at once. That silent moment endowed these Saint Nicks with a meaning I couldn’t explain, and still struggle to. I could see that my mother was a person, not just my mother. And if this was true, then my Father and my sister and me, we were something bigger than ourselves too. We were bigger than our family. And this meant something impossibly powerful. Just as soon as this realization would bloom into full color, it would fade. Santa was just an old piece of tin, simple and small, and that felt beautiful, too.
But in those Santas is an echo of time. They now pass between my hands and my husband’s. They are hung with four generations of ornaments, and new ones that mark the first Christmas in our house. And some day, they will fall from my hands into the hands of child, and to that child I will be at once old and young. Just like those Santas this memory is an unbreakable one. And so, I pass along this story in the holiday spirit of feeling something bigger than ourselves.
The Room: Roadsides + Railroad Tracks in Roxbury, NY
Love, I’ve always felt, is something made up of many parts. It is a synthesis of time and smells, snapshot memories, sounds, song and the impressions of many, many people.
Because Love always has room to incorporate more pieces, I feel honored to have picked flowers for the wedding of a Meghan who I love so dearly.
In fields, on roadsides and railroad tracks, we gathered Queen Anne’s Lace for her tables. And I know that the morning sun, new freckles, train whistles, honeybees and laughter helped make the love around her and her new husband a little bigger that day.
The bee emerging from deep within the peony departs reluctantly —Matsuo Basho
The Room: The Flower Garden
The peonies inherited with this house have begun to bloom. They are growing heavy with blossoms and beginning to bend. So, just before sunset, I thanked each plant and snipped the three biggest flowers.
These plants with ancient origins, with parentage dating back to 1000 BC, impart a welcome beauty, fragrance and something to meditate on from this bit of earth we now call ours.
The Room: New, Mostly Empty Ones in a House on Some Earth that we can Call our Own
In my time away from here, there has been much reflecting and decision making—on the past, on the future, on home, on partnership, on growing, on change, on what things make a home and a life.
What we (me and that man I love) decided was that we make a home, and we make a life. Not us alone, of course, but we with our love, with our friends, our family, with the meals we make, with the time we spend. And so, we realized, we wanted some more space in which to make those meals and spend that time. With very salty cheeks, I bid farewell to Carroll Street and the New York City borough that was a home for nearly seven years. We traded brownstone and Brooklyn for house and parcel of land in not-too-too-far upper Westchester county.
Boxes are being unpacked, some ground has been broken and meals have already been made. But mostly, in the two weeks since we’ve been in the house, I’ve just been taking the time to feel how I feel—which is truly and deeply grateful. Even though it’s nearly empty, this house is so full of the things that make it home. More regular posts soon to come, on all those things that make it so.
The Room: Crafty Kitchen of a Dear Friend
One book of old anatomical drawings / One book of old art
One black pen / One red pen
Two tins of crayons from a Waldorf School of yore
One pair of scissors / One paint brush
Some glue / Some red tissue paper
Two cups of tea / Two cups of Rose Lillet with fresh grapefruit
Two minds with love for loved ones
The makings of this year’s valentines. (thank you, a. stockwell)
The Room: Carroll Street Kitchen
My mother gives the best gifts. She hears the most quiet yearnings and un-uttered wants. This 1930’s hand-juicer was made as a promotional partnership with Sunkist, when no American kitchen was complete without a piece of jadeite. That thoughtful mother of mine, after reading my mind as only she can, waded through antique stores with eyes peeled to find me one. And so, all juice made with it tastes just a bit sweeter, with sentiments from Momma.