Travel at Home

 

wanderlust

Best paired with Eyes on the Prize – Julia Easterlin. (make it through the first minute, you won’t regret it)


 

Yesterday, I wanderlusted myself sick.

Thinking about the world and all its roads and caves, mountains and people, all the spices I’ve never tasted and languages I’ve never heard–Mother Mary, it was like suddenly I was standing in a glass box. I held that ground for a while and ate up all the air. When I exhausted the exhales for inhales, I got up and got out, to Starbucks of all places, for a change of pace.

I sat in a dark chocolate arm chair figured maybe eight inches from its twin on the side wall and wrote for hours. In the time spent seated, the world came to me through a string of serendipitous conversations with strangers. One by one, they warmed the chair next to mine, and each offered me unsolicited advice.

1. Travel

He wore a faded polo, medium blue jeans and the kind of sensible New Balance shoes men wear after fifty. He thumbed through the Wall Street Journal, tilting his head back and lifting his brows, his lips split slightly as he followed the story down the page before flipping it. He looked over at me, his skin tan and narrow mustache grey. He  asked, “Are you a student?”

I said no, I’m a writer.

We talked about my job for a bit and he asked, flippantly,  if working in advertising is sexist like it is on Mad Men. Before we finished sharing our laugh, he told me about his daughter who was a freshman at Tufts University, how she was an incredible writer–so great, in fact, that NPR called her to read a piece she wrote on air.

“She has trouble with research papers though. Her writing it too literary, she loves to use metaphors.” Then he proved his point by telling me when she was writing college essays, her professors asked her to “dumb them down” in order to be accepted anywhere, that her audience wouldn’t appreciate, let alone understand, that she was describing her parents heritage through surgery tools.

“I’m jewish, grew up in New York. My wife, she’s German. If you know anything about the Germans, they’re very black and white. I met her through a brazilian friend when I was traveling the world at 18. I started in Greece, beautiful country, walked all over the Parthenon–in those days they didn’t have much security or construction, spent a month in Crete, went up to Mykonos, and finally hitched my way to Switzerland.”

He liked to talk, so I leaned in a bit from where I listened.

“Now, i’m 62, I’d look like a bum if I hitched a place. But you, you’re young. Go now. If you wait, kids and family and things get in the way and you never end up going. Travel. I always tell my girls go travel.”

For a few more minutes, we talked about his daughters, his quest to get them to Israel on birthright, and his PHD in physics. I didn’t have much to say, but I didn’t need to. I heard what I needed to hear, and as he stood to go, he shook my hand. At the same time we said “pleasure meeting you” — I laughed and said, take care.

2. Help

A self-described business woman, in her late sixties, with a Ringo Starr haircut looked over to me and said,

“Your shoes are darling. Where are those from?”

“Thank you. Oddly enough, they’re from Target. Can’t tell, though, they’re actually pretty comfortable, too.”

“Oh I hope they still have them, I want a pair like that. I’m a size 3. See? I have to order all my shoes from Italy, and they’re $800 a pair. I try to buy them on sale, but then they’re still $500–from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep, I’m in grotesque pain.”

She unfolded her hands and flipped  her palms up, then down, like a magician showing a successful trick, and said with a slight break in her voice, “the arthritis is killing me.It’s all over my body, I’m in constant pain.”

I sympathized the best I could, and I think she felt comforted. Maybe not comforted, but comfortable–comfortable enough to ask me if I’d write copy for her website once she found out that I write.

“I need the site to help me fundraise to sue the FDA for not allowing me the right pain medication.”

I listened as she spoke poorly of her doctor, and about her ugly ugly pain. It was clear that she was arrested by aches and just needed to be heard. For about five minutes, she combed through her mind’s files to deliver me the right adjectives for her life. Filthy words. All of them. And as she said them, tears came and left her eyes quick as a Denver storm. She clutched her heart as she whispered to me,

“I’ve even thought about jumping out of a building.”

At which point my thoughts spun and I tried to pull at the right selvage to say the right thing–only to realize that in this case, the only right thing was to show I was  listening and to make her feel less alone. Occasionally the espresso machine overpowered her, so all I could do was hold eye contact. Before leaving, she wrote down her name and phone number on a paper for me and asked that I get in touch to write her website for her. All she wanted was help.

 

3. Write Your Book

About 15 minutes before I was about to pack my things and head home, a middle-aged man took the hot seat. He wore a light blue shirt with opal snap down buttons tucked into working pants above working boots.

“I normally don’t dress like this. I was at my ranch with my wife and the students. She’s an AP environmental science teacher, so we took the kids for field research to prepare for their big test in May.”

He turned out to be the Mathematics Department chair, and before that, the Principle of his school for 12 years. Our conversation started by him leaning over to joke about how he has to carve time in his day just to answer emails. At which point he closed his computer and we spiraled into a web of shared sentiments on the topics of:

  • technology in the work/place classroom
  • attention spans and instant gratification
  • perseverance
  • family and traditions
  • how to be neighborly
  • travel
  • being greek (him half, I full)
  • the Oakland church where he grew up and my parents were married
  • Book themes, the best ones showing how adversity is overcome
  • His accidental children’s book about mice
  • My upcoming book about (stay tuned!)

I mean really, I was dumbfounded. The ease of conversation, the instant sense of trust and familiarity–this man was so animated, and so eloquent–his thoughts left his mouth like golden ribbons. And I sat there, with the sun in my eyes listening to a perfect stranger tell me,

“you have a gift.”

How does he know? How can he tell?

And then he said something that gave him away. He said,

“Honor differences, validate similarities.”


 

After I packed up, I walked home right at 8 o’clock. The sky was still full of leftover light. Rounding the corner to my house, I saw a single deer, strutting in the high grass. It was out of sight as quickly as it fell in, and I smiled to myself knowing the significance the deer has for George’s girls ever since his passing.

Maybe we see what we want to see, and hear what we want to hear. Maybe our senses compensate for a mind in need. Why and how my evening happened doesn’t concern me. That it happened is enough to break me out of that glass box and renew me.

9

9

This one’s a good month. A bountiful month, a  proving month. A glittering crimson and jeweled month, filled with chance and truth month.

On September first, I stopped then started. It was a needed reset, and eight days in, I still feel more or less revived.

It started in Eureka when Drew and I escaped to the North Coast for labor day weekend. My first time in a puddle jumper plane started a domino effect of firsts –in a matter of days, I met droves of his family and friends, experienced cabin life in Willow Creek, hooted and hollered at small town folk in Big Foot suits, saw a night sky tightly polka dotted with stars, and witnessed a scorpion try to sneak its way into a suitcase.

We hiked and explored and played and wandered and sat by the firepit with his parents. We squeezed hands every time we saw deer minding their afternoons like they mind their babies. We drank Troublemaker and ate sliders with childish class, uninterested in time or texts or responsibility.

And I got to bring my dad to a new place. His birthday anniversary was yesterday, and like every day this month, I toasted to his life. In warm company, I remembered him as I always do. Happy birthday dad, this month’s for you.

Here’s a playlist I’ve made to soundtrack this new and ninth month. Enjoy the songs and these below sights.

20130905-212133.jpg

20130905-212153.jpg

20130905-212218.jpg

20130905-212235.jpg

20130905-212322.jpg

20130905-212354.jpg

20130905-212433.jpg

20130905-212523.jpg

20130905-212538.jpg

20130905-212602.jpg

20130905-212617.jpg

20130905-212631.jpg

20130905-212658.jpg

20130905-212713.jpg

20130905-212745.jpg

20130905-212803.jpg

20130905-212822.jpg

20130905-212850.jpg

20130905-212904.jpg

20130905-212918.jpg

20130905-212933.jpg

20130905-212953.jpg

drew

20130905-213007.jpg

20130905-213018.jpg

20130905-213030.jpg

20130905-213101.jpg

20130905-213114.jpg

20130905-213131.jpg

20130905-213147.jpg

20130905-213200.jpg

20130905-213219.jpg

20130905-213239.jpg

20130905-213250.jpg

20130905-213310.jpg

20130905-213319.jpg

20130905-213335.jpg

Bridesmaid Day

There’re no two ways about it, Laura and I were high school choir nerds. And the more time that separates us from those hormone haywire days, the more evident this truth becomes. What else do you call kids who’re excited about spending 3 out of 7 class periods a day in the Music Building? Who else comes home from school and sits together in front of the piano to sight sing and make up harmonies?

Six years later, we still geek out over choir music, (King Singers on repeat, anyone?) but I think it’s safe to say that Laura and I are a comfortable distance away from the enthusiastic crescendo-circling  Chamber singers we used to be.  As we’ve grown, we’ve managed to keep a strong bond and friendship, and I am so happy for her as she enters the next chapter of her life as a happily married homeowner.

 

Meet Laura & Raffi. Newly engaged, total babes.

Laura & Raffi

Laura & Raffi

Laura & Raffi

When I received this (quintessential Laura) pretty-in-pink invitation to stand up at their April wedding, my heart did a somersault inside my chest.

Bridesmaid Invitation

My answer: OF COURSE. My first “duty”: Bridesmaid Day!

 

it. was. amazing. Low key, low stress, and extremely hilarious, sweet and thoughtful.

20130825-114820.jpg

20130825-114841.jpg

20130825-114907.jpg

20130825-114924.jpg

20130825-114943.jpg

20130825-114958.jpg

20130825-115020.jpg

20130825-115036.jpg

20130825-115054.jpg

20130825-115111.jpg

20130825-115123.jpg

20130825-115142.jpg

20130825-115158.jpg

20130825-115219.jpg

20130825-115243.jpg

20130825-115303.jpg

goals

I consider myself a hopeless romantic for two reasons: 1. Tom Hanks 2. Meg Ryan.

They just knew how to make rom coms in the 90s.

K, glad that’s out there. The two real reasons: my unapologetic crush on 1. sappy love stories 2. Chopin’s Nocturnes. I’ve been a Nocturne girl all my life, until one fateful day in November when I set a goal for myself to learn Prelude in C# Minor by Rachmaninoff. To answer your question, yes, it felt a bit like adultery to flail my loyalty so, but for the sake of accomplishing a goal, I did just that.

I openly and proudly give you an imperfect 5 minutes and some odd seconds of what I have spent the last 5 months learning, unlearning, relearning, forgetting, remembering, and loving. It is full of unplanned pauses, abrupt tempo changes, missed keys and ‘whoops’ notes. I considered recording it again, when I was happy with the result, one that didn’t resemble such a work in progress state. And then I realized, life is beautiful because of its snags–so may you see them all in happy wonderment.

(sidenote: I hired my main lady love to turn the pages for me. This role was a complete shock to her senses, as momma dearest is not only completely sheet music illiterate, but also swimming in a sea of pain meds for her recent knee replacement. You’ll hear us laugh after I mess up from a premature page turn. I love her.)

And for my next goal…

Get more Sleep

Deer Sounds

Deer Sounds

The day my father died became the day his girls saw deer differently. They became less prancy, less skiddish, and more spiritual. Omens, but positive. Do they call that a symbol? Or is it a sign?

It’s a story for another time, but deer are now spiritual animals for George’s girls. When we see them, alone or in pairs, our hearts stop but our blood rushes. It’s this inexplicable instant connection that manifests in four-legged form, and it happened tonight to 66.67% of my dad’s true loves. My sister saw two standing in her court as she came home from work. I saw two on my walk home from Trader Joes. And to be frank, I’m convinced that if my mom wasn’t cooped up with a bruised leg the size of a Costco bag of pretzels, she’d have seen two too.

Dear deer, thanks for bringing him around.

And when he comes around, which is a welcomed often, I think of things that double knotted our laces–his and mine. Music. It tied us together.

Download this mix of my recent repeats here.

Deer Sounds Playlist

all music is for sampling purposes only – please go out and buy the artists’ records & support them at their shows!

Floored

 

After a ten hour work day, I wedged my yoga mat under my arm and set off in pursuit of a great Tuesnight.

Tonight’s Shavasana was so quiet that I heard my cells dividing. I heard keys fumbling in apartment doors across the county line. I heard saliva pooling, smoke rising, split ends fraying.

I lied lifeless on the ground with my limbs loosely stretched to starfish attention. Still as a stump. Accepting as I’d ever been.

I guess Great happens when you let your guard down. Well I’ll be damned  floored.

floored 9 floored 8 floored 7 floored 6 floored 5 floored 4 floored 2 floored 1

George’s Girl Takes 5

Here we have it: The First Edition.

A recap of the week’s sounds, smells, sights, touches, and tastes from a girl who lost her father but not herself. 

Let it be said that I had my first date with Photoshop this weekend. These images are my notably novice creations. What’s the phrase, Rome wasn’t built in an hour?

Feel_final

Taste

See

Smell

Feel: 

  • Grateful. Under a grey sky, someone new took me somewhere new.
  • Surprised. A beautiful stranger left this anonymous note, and a book titled “50 paintings you should know” for me. Whoever you are, Thank You.

Nicole, You inspire me everyday. I hope this brings you some more inspiration to fuel your mind and soul.

  • Able bodied. Started my running regiment for my Israel half marathon. The lungs and buns are burning.
  • Shocked. It’s been almost sixth months since I’ve seen/heard/spoken to the greatest man I’ve ever known.
  • Progress. I finished the prelude this week – now to polish, and polish some more.
  • Relaxed. Been going to acupuncture. I haven’t a clue if it’s working, but if it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Taste: 

  • Gluten Free Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I spent Friday night baking these bad boys. They tasted like a somersault, back rub, sun salutation, and bear hug all in one.
  • Gin. Which is one letter away from grin. Which is what happens to me when I drink it.

See:

  • The skies in San Luis Obispo. They explode at sunset.
  • The hills, the valleys, the stretches of road, the glittering tides, the rows of vines.
  • More chances to grow.

Smell:

Scentless Sunflowers,

when I close my eyes, my nose

detects your brightness.

  • Stables. I visited a friend in Atascadero this weekend. Helped her feed the horses (!!) and enjoyed a night in with plates full of salmon, and ears full of John Coltrane.
  • America. Beers, Bean dips and everything in between, Super Bowl XLVII wasn’t won by the Ravens, but by Pinterest. Thank you, pretty little push-pinned site for exposing so many finger licking good recipes to taste and taste and taste some more.

Hear: [this week’s repeat offenses]

  • Beethoven’s Appassionata
  • The Head and the Heart
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Gregory Alan Isakov
  • Blue Foundation
  • Gustav Holst
  • Trampled By Turtles
  • Passion Pit

And there we have it, friends. An overview of a week in the life of a girl who plain and simply is not fatherless.

If you’re so inclined, a sneak peak behind the serious curtain:

February 3, 2013

It dawned on me yesterday as I was driving down the grade.

Foot off the gas, heat expanding my pores and drying out my hands. It’s February, I thought. I’m entering the sixth month without my father.

Alone in my car, plunging into the valley, my breaths became shallow and my shoulders caved. I realized I didn’t cry once in January, and I panicked.

Was I forgetting about him? Am I okay without him? I don’t want that; I can’t possibly be.

And as if cued in by an omnipotent conductor, tears fell, dropping in time to a song I had on repeat. Some shot down like pellets, some lazily serpentined down my cheeks. Some stung more than others. All blurred the construct of reality I had unintentionally crafted for myself during the previous month.

January was busy. Filled with progress and opportunity, newness and fondness, it arrested my time and attention in such a way that I hardly noticed the handcuffs. If not people, then things. If not things, then thoughts, if not thoughts then work, if not work then something. I was always surrounded.

But in my car, with this song on a relentless loop, the message drilled into my every cavity and I found my solace.

I realized how in grieving, my mind demands expansive time to itself. That crucial exploration of self via sensations or wonder or the complete absence of the two.

I cried for my father’s short life, for mine, and for the uneasiness I feel when my alone time is chipped and chiseled away.

Tonight I am reflective about my week. About this month, about my father. About the way I choose to spend the time I’m gifted. It appears as though this little series is becoming my own little prescription pad. Just by seeing the writing on it, I already feel better.