The decision to spend my birthday away didn’t take much. While I love my family and friends, I don’t get energy from other people as an introvert. It’s all a drain anyway and it’s not anyone’s fault — it’s just the way I’m wired. Normally I sneak a little me time at a movie theater or a long lunch someplace and I’m good for a while. But there have been two big things that have shown up and taken up emotional space:
1. I sent in a letter of inquiry to the Open Society Foundation for their fellowship program asking them to fund work and to my amazement, I was accepted and asked to submit a full proposal! I wrote the proposal and sent it in, now left to just wait patiently for it to be read.
2. I’d been (tentatively) invited to visit Korea as part of a peace delegation! At that point, I had no details and no real plan for getting there or anything else. Again, I would just need to wait.
These are happy things that feel good, but they also command a lot of generative space. They require that I make time and room in my mind for things that may not work out at all or become huge opportunities for great things. Either way, my life will change a lot over the course of the next year and moments like these, pregnant with potential, can really disorient me.
Taking time away was about regenerating, to be sure, but also was about clearing space to dream without all the mental clutter. I wanted to wrestle with these big things without other people or ideas. Just me and some paper against the world, planning and dreaming away from others’ approval.
Friday, I left the house in the morning with the idea that I was going to set myself up on the first day, think and write on the second day, and take up space on the third. Anice gave me a reprieve from getting J out the door on my birthday, so I spent the morning packing clothes and my backpack. Inside the backpack, I had a few special items:
– iPad Mini from Pop
– all my Black Panther graphic novels from Katie and Dave
… and my special gift to myself this year, a Dreambook from Dragontree Apothecary with dreamy blue landscape cover.
I also brought along my robe and slippers so I could lounge in relative comfort, but packed those in a separate bag with my lymphedema equipment.
My destination was about an hour and a half away, so I settled in and took my time out of town. Normally I would listen to a podcast or something soothing, but I was so amped I ended up listening to Bruno Mars for most of the drive to my first stop: an Amish market in Berea, KY.
Old Town Amish Market was a place I remembered from a visit with a good friend, so I knew where I was going despite having never been inside. Reviews online were good, especially when it came to salt rising bread. For the uninitiated, salt rising bread is a dense bread that is commonly made out here in Appalachia, though it has other names in other places. The loaf I picked up was mildly cheesy in its taste. It makes for great sandwiches and toast.
I picked up some of the salt rising bread, fresh fruit, cheese, roll butter, and some cheese curds for Anice. From there it was on to a grocery store for the rest.
I hit a Whole Foods in Lexington and picked up the centerpiece of my plan for meals: lots and lots of fresh fish and a bag of baby spinach. I’d been starving for a decent piece of fancier fish and landed a massive plank of swordfish. The fishmonger saw what I was trying to do and pulled from fresher stock in the back to suit my needs, adding that he also had some nice salmon as well. I took him up on it and went off in search of a few treats. I finally settled on some New Belgium watermelon and lime beer and a few bottles of honey green tea and elderflower soda. The soda turned out to be a great choice for reasons I’ll explain in later posts.
Loaded up and ready to see what awaited me, I hit the road.
Bourbon County, in addition to being what remains of what was a larger part of Virginia with the same name, is also where some of the finest thoroughbred horses in the world are raised and maintained. Most of what you pass on Highway 68 is essentially one large retirement home for previous Derby winners (including the famous Secretariat,) left to sit around and get laid for the rest of their lives. Needless to say, the country roads that wind their way from Lexington where I started to my destination, Paris, were to be believed. Gregg Allman had passed shortly before my birthday so it seemed right to turn on some Allman Brothers as the speed limit decreased and my car matched pace with galloping horses in free fields.
I knew I was getting close when yard sale signs began popping up and the homes began to get closer together. The roads went from three lane, to two lane, to one way very quickly. When I arrived, I was a little overwhelmed by just how cozy the town actually proved to be. The main road was still one way and remained decorated from Memorial Day, flags flying everywhere. The town reminded me of old Archie comics with the quaint storefronts and people having conversations about whatever casually with firefighters and police they seemed to know intimately. Everyone (I mean, EVERYONE) waved and smiled as I drove past looking for the address.
The owner called at just the right time, waving to me from the window of the apartment above a store that sold women’s clothing. From the outside, the place was fairly hidden and plain. Inside, the home is truly a masterpiece.
The owner was fantastic, giving me a brief tour and showed me what needed showing. He then excused himself after wishing me luck, wasting no time as we both knew I had grand plans. He did note, before he took off, that the floor was nearly 200 years old (!) so I should keep my shoes off and generally take good care of the Swahili coast pine I was walking on. For the entire weekend I made sure to do so, mindfully walking with love and care for these floors that had seen so much.
I unpacked what needed unpacking, refrigerated what needed refrigerating, and put the different rooms and workspaces together. Once I had things where I wanted them and there was nothing else to do, I got nervous. I hadn’t been alone with my thoughts in this way for months and stuff started to rush into the vacuum. Old emotions from bad dates I barely remembered, oversimplifications and asinine decisions, bad reads of situations… it was all showing up. For once I took my own advice and got a glass of water to cool myself down. It helped to focus on the immediate need and after a minute or two of silence I could reposition and reach for understanding. I was there and everything was okay.
Quickly I decided that my first night would likely be a night to spend contemplating the next day with Chet Baker in the background. I ate well that night, knowing that tomorrow would be a solid day of personal work. Sleep came easy.