My Grandfather’s Guitar

My grandfather’s guitar sits in a corner of my study
untouched, gathering dust.
When I was young and he was already old, it could pull notes straight from the air
through his fingers and into my ears.
I can hear them, though he is gone and his instrument’s gone quiet.
When I was young, not even ten,
he’d pick it up and start to play and then I’d go still,
stuck to one spot until he was done.
My grandfather’s guitar in his hands made magic, but I was too young to understand
that music is magic made real for a moment.
A fret and a twang and he’d made something that didn’t exist before
and wouldn’t again.
I sometimes imagine myself back there, wearing muddy tennis shoes with tangled hair,
just listening.

I can hear it, but no song ever sounds the same twice.

095

Inauguration Day 2017

I’ve been trying to process the change that’s coming.  Today, I’m of two minds.  I am proud of my country’s peaceful and celebrated transfer of power, and I believe in the fundamental strength of our democracy.  But I am terrified, because President Trump does not represent me at all.  I find him childish, vindictive, and hateful.  I think he is a terrifying and dangerous combination of ignorant, incurious, and arrogant.

I am worried that he will be a poor steward of our economy, our safety, our reputation, and our relationships with our allies.  I am afraid that he will do lasting harm.  And I am sad that so many of my fellow Americans voted for a man who embraces, with zeal, the worst of our past – xenophobia, racism, and a bent towards isolationism that ignores the reality of the world we live in – in the name of “making America great.”

This man will move our nation backwards.  And if his administration proves otherwise, it will be the happiest I’ve ever felt to be wrong.

BUT

I still believe in the goodness of our people.  I believe that we can heal the wounds this presidential campaign has created.  I believe that we can build commonalities rather than walls.  I know, deep down, that we are a fundamentally decent people.  I know that fear comes from ignorance.  I know that power is finite.  And so I believe, with everything that I am, that together, with patience, kindness, and love, we the people will continue to build a country that makes us proud, keeps us safe, welcomes the oppressed, comforts the broken, and remains a shining beacon of freedom in this world.

This is my country.  This is our country.  Together, we will succeed or fail.  And I believe that we can succeed.  That we will succeed.

That we must succeed.  Together.

New Year, New House, Same Me

I’ll be honest – I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution that I’ve kept.  I believe that we should always strive to be more kind, more honest, more engaged, more fulfilled, and just happy, but for me, setting goals because the calendar’s turning over feels a little, well, artificial.

It’s 2017 – twelve days in – and I’m sitting in my same chair, writing on my same laptop, using my same brain, in my new (old) house.

house-overhead

I know that this house will become a project not just for 2017 but for life.  And I mean that in a couple of ways.  Graham and I will spend this year (and the years to come) making this charming old farmhouse everything it was ever meant to be.

And that is my hope, not resolution, for now and for always, for all of us in 2017 and beyond.  That we appreciate ourselves for who we are.  That we set the path for who we will become without fear or doubt.

That we embrace our flaws and build beautiful things with them and make our lives everything we want them to be.

I wasn’t perfect in 2016, and I expect I’ll be the same ridiculous person in 2017.  And I’m pretty okay with that.

19210928458_e412c25f80_k

But as I look ahead, with my same eyes, I am excited and a little scared, and hopeful, always hopeful, that I will keep working and writing, that I will keep singing and dancing and having fun, that I will learn and try and fail and succeed, and that I will do my part to make this world everything I believe it can be.

Censorship Isn’t the Solution

It came to my attention tonight that To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been temporarily removed from Accomack County school bookshelves after a parent complained about the use of racial slurs in both.  Here’s one of the articles I read, if you’re particular like me and you’d like to verify the facts for yourself: Virginian-Pilot Article.

Yes, folks, censorship right here in my beloved Old Dominion.  We’re starting the holiday season off right with some good old-fashioned book banning.

I don’t mean to be cruel or dismissive.  I understand a parent’s concern for the welfare and safety of a child – I’m not heartless.  Both of these books address painful topics, even for adults, and it’s important to be sensitive to how children might feel when they read such ugly, hateful words.  But read them they must, because erasing the history of racism in the United States doesn’t change the fact that it happened.  Glossing over our nation’s past in the classroom, or worse removing it from the shelves altogether, doesn’t help our children.

Books aren’t, and were never meant to be, safe.  Literature helps us confront the darkest parts of ourselves.  Stories should challenge us, inspire us, and arm us with knowledge and perspective as we live every day in this world.  To be uncomfortable, to be sad, to be happy, to be angry, to be frustrated while reading is to learn, and learning is a beautiful, difficult, maddening, absolutely and vitally important thing.

Nasty words in books don’t hurt us.  The world hurts us, and books help us process that pain.  We shouldn’t, must not, deny children that opportunity.

Thanksgiving 2016

I am thankful every day – for amazing family and beautiful friends, for the choices I have the privilege to make, for opportunities and new days and sunsets and ice cream and adventures and wine and every good thing in my life.  I’m not happy to be thankful.  I’m happy because I’m thankful.

And today, I’m happy to celebrate at home in the mountains.  But, you know, it’s good this holiday only comes once a year, because it’s not even noon and I’ve already eaten more than my weight in delicious things and I don’t know if I could handle this much thankful every day.

Happy Thanksgiving from our (smoky) little corner of Virginia!

Graham

Today is Graham’s birthday.

27773085422_445d73e456_z

I went to bed last night feeling like I live in a country I no longer recognize.  I was sad.  I was shocked.  My fellow Americans have elected as our leader a man who clearly views women as inferior, as objects, as fun little toys meant for his amusement.  To me, and to many American women, and humanity as a whole, his election is a frightening reminder of the ugliness and hate that festers in this great and proud nation.  He is a dangerous man.  He will be a scary leader.  And I am terrified.

As the gravity of this reality hit me last night, Graham wrapped his arms around me and reminded me that he loves me, and that I am not alone.  This morning, he made the coffee and sat with me as I stared at the wall.  Today, he will check in on me whenever he gets the chance, and he will send me interesting articles to read and funny pictures to lift my spirits.  Tonight, he will head to the grocery store so that I can spend the day with my thoughts and my blank pages and write until I feel whole again.

He will spend this day, his birthday, making me feel loved.  That is the kind of man he is.  He is kind and thoughtful, he is patient and respectful, he is empathetic and full of love and all the other good stuff that makes us human.

14043227878_c8966194fd_z

Graham is a good man.  I’ve been fortunate to have many good men in my life, and he is the best of them.  I am encouraged by the strength of his character and his tireless drive to do right.  I am heartened by his genuine smile and lifted up every day by his gentle spirit.  The depth of his heart and all the love that it can hold inspires me and gives me hope for a better, brighter, happier, kinder future.  Because he is a good man, I know that my country is not lost.  It is there, in the steadiness of his temperament, the power of his convictions, and the goodness in all that he is and all that he will become.

This beautiful soul is my guiding star, and today is his day.  I am proud of Graham, proud to be his wife, and proud to call him my husband.  Happy birthday, wonderful man!  I love you.

14044169099_826c2ed2b1_z

Election Night 2016

I voted today.

20161108_133434

I’m proud of my vote.  I’m also grateful I have the right to vote, and more than excited to exercise that right.  No one fought for my right to vote so that I could complain about the choices and then stay silent when it matters.  I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to history, to my country, and to myself to stand up and be counted.  I’m fortunate to live in a great and proud nation where I have a voice, and it is a privilege to use it today.

I voted today.  I’m relieved, on the one hand, that this election season is nearly over.  On the other, I’m sad for our country.  It will take time for us to recover from the hateful, xenophobic campaign messages, from the astounding lack of kindness and empathy, that we have endured this election cycle.

I voted today.  But the picture is bigger than what happens today.  The future is not one candidate.  The future is the people of this country choosing to work together.  The future is building relationships, respecting differences, and listening, and compromising.  No one person, alone, can shoulder that burden.  No matter what happens at the end of this night, we have to wake up tomorrow morning and, as one nation, united, move forward.

Together.

Something for the Writers

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month.  I won’t be officially participating, but I admire those who will be, and I’m in awe of their bravery and confidence.  Hats off to those wonderful, crazy few starting the journey today.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  I used to write stories for my parents (scrawled in pink crayon with illustrations and morals at the end) that I’m pretty sure they’ve still got tucked away in a box somewhere.

I’ve wanted to be other things, too.  I’ve wanted to be an actress, a singer, a lawyer, a teacher, a librarian, and sometimes all of these things on the same day.

But more than anything else, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  Even before I really knew what it meant, I wanted to be a writer.  And what does it mean, to be a writer?

Being a writer is lonely hours with a laptop or a pen and paper.  And sometimes not so lonely hours, too, because being a writer is creating new best friends every day, bringing to life on a page people you wish you knew (and some you wish you didn’t) in real life.

Being a writer is rejection and ridicule, from agents and publishers, from people you’d like to interview for a great story, from random strangers who ask what you do but really mean what (can) you do (for me), and (never, in my case, thankfully) sometimes from friends and family.

Being a writer is incredible, exhilarating achievement, because writers create something from nothing and build new worlds and new people and new life out of coffee and thin air.  It’s amazing, inspiring magic, no wand required.

Being a writer is simultaneous risk and reward, madness and genius, dark places and illumination.  Being a writer is powerful and humbling, and to walk the path of the written word is brave and bold (and crazy, and scary, and fun).

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, because I’d rather live a thousand lives than just one, and I’d rather open doors than close them, and I want to create those beautiful, heavenly little things called books, because they make life better.

So, to all those taking the first step in a journey of a thousand today, good luck, and enjoy, and make sure you’ve got plenty of coffee very close by.  And to those thinking about it, dreaming about it, and wondering when’s the right time to start, why not today, and why not now?

26596642316_15ab1c2c8b_k

The Privilege of Catching Up

Where did I leave off?  Bristol, I think.  Yes, when last we met, I was all about Bristol.  That’s been more than a month ago now.  I’m ashamed of myself.  Bad writer, very bad writer.

And no wonder I’ve been so moody these last few weeks – too many words and ideas floating around in my head with no place to go.  Bad writer.  Very bad writer.  Very, very bad.  I’d give myself a time out, but that would be counterproductive.

Not that it’s an excuse, but this last month has been busy and stressful and full of surprises (good and not so good).  We’ve had quite an adventure, trying to buy our dream home and sell our current home at the same time.  So far, the process has been nerve-wracking but successful, and with whatever luck we have left after a full month of small miracles, hopefully everything will work out and we’ll move into our own little Virginia farmhouse by mid-December.  If that happens, we’ll be among the less than 100 official residents of the historic village of Aldie, VA, and we’ll be the newest stewards of an 1820s charmer sitting on a Civil War battlefield that I suspect has lots of stories to tell us.  I can’t wait to sit and listen.

My point is, I’ve not been writing, but I’ve not been unproductive.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  This process, though, has been illuminating for me.  A little introspection goes a long way, and in this long and trying slog of offering on one home and preparing our current home for market, I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been thinking a lot, actually.  My mind hasn’t really stopped.  And most of what I’ve been thinking is this:

I am so lucky.

I have the privilege to choose between my current beautiful home and another beautiful home.

I have the privilege to focus pretty much all of my energy on buying and selling, since I don’t have a job with set hours and demands.

I have the privilege to sleep in and take some time to rest when everything becomes a little too overwhelming.

I have the privilege to catch up on all of the things I’ve fallen behind on since this whole crazy whirlwind roller coaster ride started.

I am so lucky.

I can’t believe how much I’ve let everything get to me.  I feel like I’ve looked Fortuna in the eye and spit in her face.  Do you think she’d prefer chocolates, flowers, or wine by way of apology?  Or, perhaps, she’d just like it if I get back to celebrating my life instead of focusing on the many reasons I need more coffee/wine.

I am so lucky.  And I won’t forget again.

*I realize I didn’t include a picture in today’s post.  So, for the purpose of completeness, here’s one of our Annie-dog relaxing, since she’s the only one doing much of that these days.

26017092534_ea06539d96_z