Archive | May, 2013


30 May

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“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” — J.M. Barrie

Hippies. Nature folk. Rasta. The Fae …however one would want to label them,  Neverlandish dreadheaded, colorfully clothed children in adult bodies came out in droves at Roosterwalk with only one common goal: living life moment by moment fully connected to the music and to the natural world.

After reflecting on my own three days in nature, albeit car camping, I can understand why they tend to live the way they do. Right now, Virginia is vivid vibrant green, soaked to the seams in rain and humidless sunshine. The air is packed with the perfume of life, fragrances I never really noticed before. Wafts of honeysuckle cloud move in warm drifts through the trees and tall grass, the flowers cast a veil  all around their wet nodding heads; the hay spread over mud mixes into a nutty earthiness which rises up from the ground as from a dark dough. Before this weekend, I didn’t really comprehend the value of fresh air before, of breathing with the plants in the elements, fully allowing the air and wet earth to engage with my own body. The value of an open window didn’t strike me as important as it does now. Sleeping in forty degrees and waking to sunshine and cows calling at dawn changes a person’s perspective. Simple exposure, reveals the Self. The weather changes so quickly that one HAS to be in the moment. I’d go down to a tank top and then in two hours, four layers, a sweater and mitts were standard attire.

These folk who travel festival to festival, live quite naturally. This urge to bind within a spiritual harmony of sorts…to nomadically drift, giving hostage to fortune and being completely who one is without shame is admirable. The sense of doing without the trappings of material culture is somehow appealing to me of late because to own an American life means to be tied to a great deal of nothingness. When a fire, a divorce, or an employment pause can take one to the brink of what seems to be the loss of everything, this way of letting go can seem the only way to understand that life and the Self are the greatest possessions the Universe loans us, for they are just as impermanent as the rest. In mud, tree, and moon, I found I just didn’t care anymore. This weekend changed me. When I was hungry, I ate. Body functions pretty naturally took care of themselves and I didn’t worry about brushing my hair or really wearing more than protective cosmetics against the sun. These people and experience in the elements taught me the real meaning of comfort versus necessity.

A group of free spirits erected a geodesic dome near my campsite, inside of which they hung a silk swing like Cirque du Soleil ala SWVa. I never traversed the field of mud to see inside it, but the laughter of children rang out from the white pendulum inside all Saturday evening.  I discovered that this troupe was  scheduled to perform fire dancing alongside the main band both evenings. Their Saturday night performance was most elaborate, each vignette a dramatic story of personified emotion. I was reminded of medieval morality plays, their characters, an allegory of the human experience. The dancers’ pantomime interpreted the tone of the music rather than song lyrics. Their small globes of fire left bright furrows of arching light and smoke in my eye. Likewise, colorfully lit hula hoops were spun by others in a ballet all weekend. Old or young, male or female, hoop dancing along the sides of the stages occurred spontaneously, some dancers so fluid and lithe the performance seemed choreographed.

One particular dancer caught my eye; a young blonde lad would mysteriously appear and then either dance or grab a hoop, and move in toward the music like a low rolling cloud, letting the wave of inspiration take and turn him in the airy surge. Every time he moved, the languid sinuousness of his body was beyond envy, his expressiveness a pure visual delight. But, as soon as my camera would begin to record, like sea foam he would let the wave pull him out into the ocean of others and the tide would calm. A lesson in his transitory performances revealed to me that this type of physical art, born of the moment and of human response to the symbolic isn’t to be kept or recorded, but merely witnessed. Like the Tibetan sand mandala the creative process and expression is the true beauty and revelation in the act.

Saturday night, several girls in faerie costume and wings flitted about the crowd, dancing together with a few lads in beach towel capes. Their playful innocence assured me that my own enjoyment of child’s play is not odd or in vain. Simply put, we were born awake and we still hear the call of creative abandon. Glow-in-the-dark bracelets were tossed about the crowd, several making their way into balloons to be batted around among the lot of us. A lad with a laser lit them up as they floated and glowed green like little eggs from Wonderland. Tiny pin points from his wand broke the leaves of the trees into shards of living light. In the midst of this playfulness, a point arrived where the dancing I had been drawn into all weekend, changed.

I let go.

I didn’t care who saw me or what they thought. I moved how my body wanted to move. That letting go created an openness in me but also, now that I think back, a vulnerability. To physically express so publicly opens a person to judgment of what is most precious within. It is still an intimate act to invite eyes into that sort of artistic baring of Self. And perhaps what I learned is that in areas of creativity, that which we fear to put to public view shows us our own vulnerabilities. For me, it is my body. And to express physically is something I know I need to do more in order to grow. Even though a gentleman behind me approached me after Yarn’s rendition of Simon’s Late in the Evening, thanking me for dancing, I was slightly embarrassed and instantly apologetic.

He laughed loudly. Don’t apologize! I’m complementing you.

Can I learn to simply say thank you as with the other forms of creativity in which I engage?

In the days that have followed this festival, I have dreamed in images of green rushing trees and banjos. Beloved is speaking again, mostly in poetry that I can’t wake up enough to catch. She left me with this line early yesterday morning.

In leaves and seasons, so it is with the music of the world.

And I think this means to keep moving…to turn and turn again, like the circular swaying of the hooper, like the swinging arc of the fire dancer’s flame. In the ballet of the symbolic, we turn like the earth, singing its song, leaping between this world and Neverland.

This Instant

27 May


I’ve just returned from Roosterwalk Music Festival 5 at Blue Mountain Festival Grounds outside Martinsville, Virginia. Attending this event was a first in many ways, as it was not only my first three-day music festival, but also my first solo camping experience. From mid-day Friday until this morning, I had access to cell service only if I walked the two miles to the highest hill near the festival site. The catalog of experiences which made their way into my tiny journal and cell phone voice recorder as well as the over 577 photographs I took in the last three days are a testament to the beauty of music and its power to bring people together in harmony and in fellowship.

Roosterwalk Festival was begun in memory of Edwin “the Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank who both unfortunately passed away in their 20’s. Friends created this memorial event, celebrating the two young men’s love of music and of the outdoors. Proceeds benefit the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship at Martinsville High School. One of the greatest gifts I received this weekend was the good fortune to camp beside some of Walker Shank’s immediate family who were so kind and gracious to me. The connections I made and all the experiences will take some days to sort and to write about fully, but I wanted to give a preview of some of the things I learned from my first music festival/ camping experience.  Most prominent was the highly unusual weather. All weekend the temperature dropped into the 40’s. Friday night’s low was 36 degrees.  The site had seen a torrential storm on Thursday and so the mud was nearly six inches thick…everywhere.  But the days were in the low 70’s and not a drop of rain in the sky. The full moon made for some incredible pictures and I will be posting them soon. Strangely enough, the music isn’t what moved me so much this weekend. It was the people and the connections made.IMG_8160Saturday night, walking back to my car and it’s tent appendage, I looked up to see a tiny light in the sky right by the checkpoint into the camping area. I asked one of the festival volunteers, a gentleman probably in his sixties. . .

“Oh, what’s that?!” my eyes opening wide.

“It’s a Chinese lantern”, he said. “You light this tiny candle in it and the air heats and it flies.”

“It’s so beautiful” I replied, looking upward.

“Yep, sure is…” he smiled.”There’s a lot a beautiful things to see out here at night…includin’ you.”  He chuckled a bit. “Be careful walking back…you got your light?”

I held up my tiny red Maglite.

“Okay then…be safe young lady.”

People are so amazing…they just are.  There is kindness in the Universe. You don’t really need to even look for it.

Things I learned from Roosterwalk 5:

1. No cell service can be a blessing…the sky is so blue…the moon so bright…Chinese Lanterns float at midnight.
2. Honeysuckle really does smell that good. Virginia is the most beautiful place.
3. Cows…they moo… at sunrise. And moo. And moo. And then. . . moo some more.
4. People are incredibly generous and kind… the high ones are groovy…the drunken ones, not so much sometimes.
5. There are children in adult bodies left in the world…the lost boys still exist. Ragtag clothes and dreadlocks and hula hoops and balloons from Neverland.
6. Peeing in a cup…got it.
7. Stuff doesn’t matter…people do. Listen to stories.
8. Belly dancing to bluegrass?…. who cares. Let it shake and roll!
9. Port-a-pottie and body functions…beer helps.
10. Head lamp…must acquire.
11. Coffee….Instant is still coffee and when the neighbors make it for you rather than walking a half mile for it, it’s better than Starbucks.
12. Earplugs or … how long I can survive without sleep?
13. Mud doesn’t hurt you, everybody smells bad after three days, and by then…you’re family or in love.
14. Those rubber garden clogs that you just threw in the car at the last minute? Priceless.
15. Prepare for weather ranging from snow to jungle heat all in one day…sometimes within the hour.
16. Sleeping while camping alone takes practice…relax.
17. People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and stages of undress…be prepared to see it all bobbling around unabashedly.
18. Hot food is gold.
19. Musicians are just people …stars are in the sky.
20. Keep in mind one principle: “This instant is everything”

It is.

This Instant

Tasting Karma

23 May


I like to lick
candied anise in
it’s bitter darkness.
To suck the sweet sharp
rock of it smooth
to the candy core,
letting a lump linger,
and then,
to click the backs
of my bottom teeth
in half sweet – half sickening repose.

In every rasp of
my tongue,
the paradoxical pleasure
I get
from the dissolving
of your parodied intimacies
my lemon lavender
you once devoured
in thoughtless instants,
like a complementary mint
pulled from an old jacket pocket
in soon forgotten surprise.

I like to savor
the painful justice
in my sugar sanded maw,
to bathe
the high roof
of my mouth
in echoing arias
from my stinging tongue,
lying behind
a smile
you once wore,
a sardonic lipped curl
watching your heart
hit the floor.

Under the Breath

20 May

Poetry was my first written medium of artistic expression and my first muse, a teacher in elementary school. Her love of words became my love of words and I learned to escape into them. As a child, my subjects were innocent and simple, my lines rhythmic and rhymed. As a teenager words exploded out of me. Poem after poem, most quite terrible. Melodramatic angst filled lines with little in the way of figurative language or craft filled my journals, not so much art. One element remained constant though.Poetic language would only come with a muse, someone to spark a flame that smoldered the incense of my soul.

Poems are arriving again but I find muses elusive and transitory. I feel slightly naughty in my literary infidelity. A selfish gleaning fixation creates sensory image and once created, I live in it for days, lost in a word world of sound and sense. My work is better now after years of teaching and study, but I also realize that with every one I write, image will become more defined, a slow focusing gaze that will become more rich and crisp with each line turned.

But what is needed above all is…a muse. Energy. And I’ll confess,  male is best. Men have obsessed over and then had their way with the muse for centuries. So I don’t feel guilty at all rolling in my thoughts, stretching the fabric of possibility until the line between reality and fantasy merge into one. Manipulate my own emotions? dreams? words?



Regret it?

Not one bit.

When Beloved speaks her love language. . . le belle italiano sussurra la musa .

A simple phrase rises like scented smoke, and then, a fire alights.

sotto voce. . .

sotto voce,
a rosined note
drawn low
across the hollow
of my backbone…
rung by boned rung
to curl into
the shell and lobe,
there is always more.


The 116th Dream

16 May

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One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. —Bob Marley

As the end of the academic year is nearing, the natives are restless in their anticipation of freedom. I’m restless too walking the floors of my tiny windowless classroom. I count minutes and graded essays, all the while trying to lose myself in the discussion of students until the bell that signals unlocked doors and … the sun. In the bleary mornings, hot coffee and the promise of acoustic on the airwaves propels me toward the car, their soaring edges framing the brightening sky once I am on the road. On these chilly spring morning commutes, roots and folk harmony send my spirit skyward nearly like a gospel witness. Songs these days seem to deliver messages to me in synchronous drifts. In both the high harmony and in lyric simplicity, the sharp edge of voices challenges the riddles of my soul. Insight then somehow appears like a cool cloth upon this sleep-deprived head of mine before I walk past the locks on my brick cell in English Literature.

Last week, I broke the rules. The road called on a Wednesday and I acquiesced. Usually I never heed the call when classes come so early in the morning. But these days, musical intercession is needed and so upon the camino I went to see Sam Wilson from the Sons of Bill and Vandaveer. As I strolled the downtown mall of Charlottesville, only a banjo busker’s tale paused my post dinner walk toward The Southern Cafe and Music Hall. The place is relatively small, the stage and audience area a dark protected cavern of quiet, almost confessional in mood. Seated in the front row, a local stout in hand, the night and the space curled around me while Sam Wilson began to sing.

This is the quiet music of the soul, I thought.

In listening, memories opened of nights from over a decade ago when local folk musician Brian Hall prompted the yearnings of my heart. In Wilson’s songs, almost instantaneously, the depth of lyric blended effortlessly into the dissonant strings, and the body of the guitar echoed the notes. Voice, physical body, and soul became one in the instrument, a trinity of sound. I thought of the troubadour. the wandering bard… a human song offered to the heavens.

Vandaveer quietly took the stage soon after, their understated stage presence revealing that this music isn’t really about “performance” but a relaying of the simple life of common folk. I began to understand that songs of this genre are about expression and artistic connection to an old body of art. Their newest collection includes traditional ballads which recreate and celebrate the richness of American life, romantic ideals in the truest sense. Mark Heidinger’s guitar and vocals reminded me of the old mountain singers I heard as little girl with a healthy dose of Dylan thrown in. Reminiscent of Patsy Cline, Rose Guerin’s low powerful tones intertwined to prompt some of the strongest inspiration I have felt at a live musical event. The tremendous emotional harmony in the lyrics had me sporadically scribbling away in my little book. Starting the set with Pretty Polly, one of my new favorite songs, cast an energy which never dissipated over the next hour and a half. Song after song became a quiet conversation between audience and artist, a sense of meditative reflection even in the merrier moments. Some of my favorites? Beat, Beat, My Heart; Concerning Past & Future Conquests and the tango-ish Spite.

The idea of the beauty in sorrow echoed in several songs especially in Everything is Spinning.  In the chorus, the dark sorrow of loss cut against the laughing melody. And in the chilling The Murder of the Lawson Family, the dissonance between the sing-a-long quality of the tune and the narrative of murder had me wondering about musical function and form within community.  I was reminded of common folk tunes like Ring Around the Rosy and Weelia Wallia, their sad subjects masked by cheerful repeating verse.

Near the end of the set, my heart was completely captured by the childlike Beverly Cleary’s 115th Dream. I opened my book mid song and wrote —

Art is the highest form of consciousness …an expression of the energy of the spheres. Artists are conduits for the divine. When I die, I want to be as beautiful as a song. I want my passing to be a song to the Universe. How much more beautiful could that be?

The balm of note and verse comforts me. It has begun to accompany my walk like a second voice, a harmony to my own musings. Each morning, I wearily slide into my car and songs carry me to work. Each evening they carry me home. I write to music now seated at one of my new writer’s spots or on my screened back porch in the warm afternoon light. And I wonder how I could have lived without it for all this time. Because there was a long time where I simply couldn’t listen to it without pain, and not during this journey. Before it.

But each walk from my library to the kitchen forces a gaze at my grandmother’s piano, a family heirloom and iconic image from my childhood. She has played naturally, by ear, since she was four years old. It’s amazing to think what she would have done with lessons and the proper training. Her piano it a constant reminder of the connection music can bring. Comfort and home in each note.

grans piano

Pieces of Gold

12 May

Learning the delicate balance of solo experience versus a shared one has been part of my path for a while now as my gal pals are starting to wander some with me. After hitting the road every weekend, there’s always something new to tell them when I come back and they’ve been incredibly supportive. Their worlds  seem much different from mine. While I am wandering in museums and attending film festivals, restaurants, and concerts, they engage in family building and loving mated connections alongside their own personal journeys. One can’t deny that there’s a bit of envy on both sides, I for their warm nests and they for my unencumbered gypsy-ish rambling. I’ve been graced by being able to slide into their family life, enjoying their children, homes and nurturing strength. However, during May’s first weekend, it was my turn to take them into a tiny taste of Wayfarinlassland.

First Friday belonged to one of my best friends, Karen, as we attended the Victorian Fusion Bellydance Beledi at Riverviews Art Space during Lynchburg’s monthly art and culture celebration. Karen was my friend long before teaching me in bellydance last year, her spirit and gypsy leanings endearing her to me in fae sister fashion. Also a Joe aficionado, she is always ready to listen, advise and encourage. The balance and camaraderie of her family clan has been a safe haven in some rougher spots along the journey’s path, so to speak. Karen is a quite accomplished dancer and the event’s Steampunk theme derived from the sponsorship of WarmStreets Gallery made the adventure extra enticing. Friday afternoon, we were like teenagers in my bedroom, sifting through clothes after a Goodwill trip, putting together the best sci-fi high Victorian looks we could muster. Doing the girly getting-ready-for-the-show injected a high energy anticipation in us both, but walking around downtown Lynchburg in bare midriffs, jingling coins off our fannies was enough to unnerve anyone. The solo wayfaring has taught me a lot about confidence and personal freedom, though. At one point before Karen’s solo performance, I could tell she felt a tiny bit apprehensive about the structure of the show and perhaps the attitudes of some of the other dancers. We stopped outside the gallery, shared some breaths and some positive energy.

“You got this.” I said. “Shoulders back…breathe. If there’s any judgment that energy needs to stay with the judgers. Right?”

Needless to say, her performance was spot on. Afterwards, still dolled in our costumes, Rivermont Pizza became the destination for a celebratory dinner. As we stood in the bar area of this trendy hipster-ish Lynchburg restaurant, I shared with her something I’ve learned about wayfarin alone as a woman.

“When you walk into a place, know that you have a full right to be there, occupy the space, and enjoy yourself no matter what because if you believe it, it shows. Everyone else will believe it too.”

And I began to think about how fearing judgment, which ultimately comes from others’ ignorance or misunderstanding, shapes women’s actions to the point that we begin to assume what others think before we act. We limit our desires in response to imagined scenarios rather than do what we want and let others take the responsibility for their own emotions. That’s something both of us are working on recognizing more in our lives, just in different areas. Friday gave me the opportunity to show her an arena that I have somewhat mastered. Karen has walked a unique path spiritually for quite awhile and she teaches me daily what it is to be calm and connected without really even trying. We are each able to mirror opposite sides of a piece of gold, that’s the beauty of our connection. Together we can see the whole.

Sporadic arcs of sun chased a chilly Sunday afternoon as my gal pal Laura and I motored up Rte. 151 to Cardinal Point and Afton Mountain wineries for tasting and talk. It’s been a winter full of changes for us both; her children, once students of mine, graduated from college this month. As I caught her up on funny or more personal moments from my ramblings, she shared with me tales and video of her daughter’s graduation celebration the day before. Many of my more personal wayfarin moments obviously don’t make it into this space, but my friends are gracious enough to put up with the catalog of tales when we are finally able to chat at length. And in listening to their stories, I reconnect to the daily details of a “normal” home life. Sometimes I see my way of living through a narrow lens. While I try to use the space of solitude to pause in the moment, attempting to wring out some wisdom in any particular experience, I often envy simple coupledom…grocery shopping, coordinating a dinner out, the random kid text. “Mom, will you pick up…Mom, where is my…?” Even the absent energy of a physical body sharing home space is noticeable.

During our first tasting at Cardinal Point, the weight of my accumulated experience over the last few months really hit home. Laura’s presence prompted a mindfulness of how many places I really have explored solo. A co-partner in the experience refocuses the introspection; contrasts often give a greater gift of insight. In wines, she tends to prefer those with more residual sugars and without oak. I’m directly opposite. But her opinion helped me see the value of the whole line. Cardinal Point whites are quite good, especially their Quattro, an off dry blend, and The Green which is reminiscent of a Portuguese Vinho Verde. Laura preferred the Quattro and I, the crisper Green. We traveled on to discover Afton Mountain’s incredible wine offerings; literally, I liked every one I tasted. Their tasting room and grounds are almost resort like as well. We were both quite impressed. However, while both of us thought the place was beautiful, she naturally saw an amazing spot for a future wedding celebration. I saw an American winery wedding Pinterest style: white designer dress, trendy hand-tied flowers, giggling bridesmaids having manis and pedis all around. A great deep thoughtfulness seemed to well up in me that needed un-bottling.

So, we reclined on a couch out in the sun with glasses in hand viewing the growing vines and spoke of our own growth as women. Laura is so incredibly strong. It permeates her energy. She has backbone. Its flexibility and resiliency has held her family together for over 25 years. The flowering of full womanhood is so powerful and beautiful. In my experience though, men tend not to value it, preferring instead the feminine flowering of the physical rather than the soul. Marriage in modern social terms seems about stages of life rather than evolving life. The relationship focuses around the task of family building and income securing so much that a mutual supporting connection which encourages individual growth, in which child rearing becomes a part rather than the point of the endeavor, seems to be a fantasy. The construct is …a white dress and giggling bridesmaids. Then, the first apartment. Then, jobs. Then, pets and children and then…. Are social benchmarks taking precedence over the evolution of self? And then, when the steps stop, especially for women, they look around and wonder…now where did I put that self of mine? I let my eyes graze the lush green lawn, the vines trailing the training wires over to the twinkling white lights hanging in the marquee and honestly, I felt slightly bitter.

I will never wear a white dress again, I thought…and moreover, was it even real to begin with?

This thought and our conversation lead me back to thinking about mated relationships over all. I’ve gone back to question whether a person’s important needs truly can be met by just one other after a certain point in life. That reshapes the meaning of what intimacy really is from my perspective. End of the romantic ideal? Maybe. As I talk with more and more women and I observe their relationships and attitudes toward their partners…yes, perhaps. The idea that at this stage in life one’s needs may not be met in only one person is pushing me into a new way of thinking about love and connection. To be honest, I’m beginning to tacklea profound disappointment in the social fabric, for that is where I think a great unfairness in romantic relationships lies. But I live in culture, more free than in the past yet not free enough. And as Laura and I talked about needs and desires, responsibilities and freedoms, I began to see more clearly the two sides of the same piece of gold. But its so valuable, this feminine life…and in reflection, the vision of our worth becomes more whole .

At the Home Bar

7 May

May arrives and suddenly, the weekends strangely dissolve too quickly for the lack of activities. Places to explore and events to attend are making way for graduations, holidays and garden work. My wandering seems to be making a seasonal change, too. Saturday morning I awoke, shuffled down to the kitchen to fix coffee and really saw my house again along the way. A slight pet hair stuffiness and thin layer of dust signaled a long stillness. I live here, to be sure, but I haven’t “lived” in this space in a while. And while much needed coffee brewed in my little pot, the prodigal daughter returned to the refrigerator only to discover a few assorted jars of mismatched condiments, olives, a half empty carton of soy milk and a few stray shriveled beets lying about, long past loneliness and well into languished repose. Sigh…. Yep, it’s time to start balancing home time with the road.

First order of business? Go grocery shopping, which I haven’t done in a major way in many months. Preparing food and creativity in the kitchen is something that makes me enormously happy, but whipping up the type of bells and whistles meals that are at the heart of that joy isn’t something I have mastered for one person at all. It seems useless to concoct a gourmet meal just for me. From scratch  cooking means quantity and merriment, which is what I love about food just as much as the dining aspect of it. However, this  something I am in short supply of, along with the cupboard items. As events slowed a bit this weekend, it was the perfect time to go to Charlottesville to some grocers I used to frequent many years ago. Since the trips of those days, my town has acquired an organic butcher, a fishmonger, organic bakeries, and believe it or not, Big Lots has foreign brands that may offer a gourmet score or three. The local Kroger has become more diverse and Anderson’s, the Amish bulk grocer features spices and grains of all variety for a most modest price. However, the day taught me truly how narrow my cupboard had become in the face of in-home solo dining and a starving lack of diverse culture ans acceptance in my area.

List in hand, up the road I went to my first stop, Foods of All Nations for a new love, Cafe du Monde. However, the primary emotion upon entering was the uselessness of the idea of picking up just one orange can and moving on to the next store. Four varieties were lined up on the shelf and the sheer availability of other gourmet items as well as organic and non-typical Lynchburg ingredients, lured me into idea after gustatory idea. My new “enlightened” grocery list began to stack up in my head while wandering each aisle. Oh, how I had forgotten “real” food.

Meyer lemons, fresh arugula in piles, cipolline onions. Black Italian kale, oyster mushrooms in heaped bins, blood oranges. San Marzano tomatoes, baby red lettuce and escarole. Kerrygold butter, clotted cream, crumpets, naan, lavosh, rusk. Swiss muesli, Scottish oats, rose macaroons, fresh baked fig bars, Sharwood’s curry sauce, Thai glass noodles, black sticky rice, fresh gnocci. Finnochiona, bresaola, pistachio romano. Cashel blue, Emmentaler, gravlax, fresh shad roe, wild salmon, duck breast, rabbit, cerignola and castlevetrano in vats. Sushi trays, Fentiman’s Orange Jigger, torrone, Cadbury flake, Belgian and Mexican chocolate, Ginger Chews, Ille Espresso. Vin Cotes du Provence…and on and on and onh… green tea ice cream. I am a foodie. I rest my shame.

The list began to become an overwhelming chaotic load of “anything you could ever want”. Every ingredient yielded an idea of something delectable, every aisle reminiscent of the complexities of the type of dishes I love creating. But so many choices, so many possibilities began to appear that I actually had to exit the store to gain a sense of direction and then go back in. Only daily items that could not be had at all in my hometown followed me out of this tiny specialty grocery. When a box of my favorite Irish cereal, Alpen, costs $9, I can really pair down my cultural food lust.

Driving through Charlottesville, I intended to stop in at Sam’s Club for the jumbo bag of raw almonds and baby spinach. But I noticed a new shopping complex and red lettered sign, marking a new grocery heaven: Trader Joe’s.

The first reaction to finding most everything I ever wanted at a decent price? Love at first sight, baby.

TJ, where have you been all my life!?

I wandered in awe, aisle after aisle, to the point where one worker finally asked,

“Ma’am, is there something I can help you find?”

Several ideas came to mind…

A new house closer to this store? A higher paying job so I can shop in this town without floating a loan? More foodies in my life who have time and inclination to eat and drink with me?

“Um…no thanks”, I said. “Just browsing.”

That sounded weird, I’m sure.

Fishing out my original shopping list curtailed my urge to plunder the aisles, while the fistful of Kroger coupons kept me from carting away basic items. Red peppers, proper Greek yogurt, cinnamon raisin crumpets, frozen potstickers and TJ’s Raisin Rosemary Crisps did make their way into the bag, though. While holding cans of turkey chili with white beans and mulligatawny soup, thoughts about why I enjoy preparing meals came to me. Yearning to cook is not necessarily because I love eating. The connection with others it provides is what I enjoy most. From the preparation to the sharing of it, I derive just as much if not more enjoyment in feeding others as I do myself. My grandmother’s nurturing influence shows in me quite a bit, I suppose. Those early years of life were spent around her table in communion with my most beloved ones and that feeling of connectedness surrounding food is what I most crave when I am home eating alone.


My shopping excursion ended at the golden Mecca of all grocery stores: Whole Foods. Traveling down the beautifully decorated and colorful aisles, the idea occurred that if all markets had such food diversity and opportunity, the cultural environment of a community would explode. But then again, a market reflects the patrons who frequent it, a recursive dynamic that is the “Catch 22” of culture. The needs of the community drive the marketplace, but more diverse needs and desires can’t engender without knowledge or funds to pay for them. Whole Foods is expensive. I won’t deny it. Premium prices are paid to support the carefully constructed displays, barrels of specialty coffee beans, stacked bins of foreign as well as local dry goods, olive oils as fine as wine, cheeses that span the globe from every milk producing domestic animal, grass fed meats, ultra fresh seafood, savory to sweet bakery and ultimately a commitment to organics and environmentally friendly products. And the employees are happy, it seems. I found loads of food knowledgeable helpful grocers there, not the typical high school graduate or retiree clerk who knows basically where the items are rather than what comprises them or how they can be prepared and enjoyed.

A paradigm shift will need to occur in this country as a whole before the joining of modern grocery needs and quality food products will happen, but I think it’s coming. Just last week I noticed that my town is building a Fresh Market, right around the corner. That’s promising. As I inconspicuously tried to shoot photos of the seafood department at Whole Foods, the lads there became curious, even when using the cell phone instead of the big girl camera. One asked, “Do you want to know about any of the items?” After a short chat about the salmon burgers they make there, he told me the feta, spinach one was best, and I trusted him. My dinner tonight will feature it alongside brown rice with an arugula, blood orange, pistachio, romano and oyster mushroom side salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. At my pop up counter in the kitchen, on a single place setting of 1920’s Japanese china I bought at an estate store, I’ll try to create a special place just for me. Dining at the home bar? I’m working on it.

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