Tag Archives: sunset

This is for Anyone who has Ever Lost Someone

10 Aug

This is for anyone who has ever lost someone:

You do not own the leaving.
You share loss
because you are loved.
spreads it’s watery wake
like a quilt over a coffin.
Too little comfort over a container
of what
needs answering before it’s buried
to dissolve.
It’s not that people really tire
of your long grief,
a slow low dissonant hum of unraveling.
It’s that the fraying of this patchworked shroud between us
reveals edges of other coffins,
slowly decaying in the corners
of their own heart’s attic.
They’d rather not see.
They’d rather not feel.
You do not have to get over it.
Only wait for there to be
nothing left but holy dust
on the shrine of your soul.
One day a gentle wind
will shift ever softly
and be enough.

Roots and Vine

22 Feb

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Winter is wearing me way thin these days, and I’m not the only one it seems. So many of my friends are in the “bring on the great one or let’s get on with spring” mindset. The days are cold, my hands perpetual briquettes. I brave the air every day at 5:15am on my nighttime jog with Clar. It’s dark…that still qualifies as night in my opinion. So, I get up at the end of the night and run before the day begins, thinking all the while,What am I doing out here? Sane people weren’t meant to be out in this …exercising. Yesterday, though, I noticed in the predawn blue under the sterile halogen of the street lamp, tiny purple-white croci pushed up in my neighbor’s yard, their little buds tight, braced against the winter air, holding their little breaths.

“It’s coming”, they say. “Hold on.”

And I’ve noticed that I’m tired of holding my own breath. Seriously, I need some real fun. Cut it loose, laugh my ass off, dance till I’m out of breath fun. The past few weeks have been soft and reflective, like a shifting snow but underneath, the creek is beginning to run like a mountain thaw. The ground never sleeps for long beneath its frosted blanket of white.

So Sunday morning after my run, I knew I couldn’t stay in the house all day grading papers. I had get out and go some place warm and fun. I’ll take my medicine. I’ll grade my papers like a good little underpaid, under appreciated school marm, but I will have some fun while I’m doing it. A quick on-the-fly Internet search revealed that Tara Mills and Yankee Dixie would be playing at DuCard Vineyards in Madison County up above Charlottesville. Listening to the tracks on her website suddenly reminded me what a Virginia gal I really am. Bluegrass is in my roots, both from my Roanoke upbringing and my Irish heritage. And in my love for the vine, any winery is a fine place to be. The concert was free and DuCard has a fireplace…score.

As I drove north to Madison County, I actually thought to myself with as many wineries as you are visiting Cyndi, your readership has got to be making some judgments. Let me unequivocally state that while I love wine, I can go to a winery without lolling around in inebriated reverie or purchasing a case for my cellar, really.

. . .Stop smiling at me like that, I already have a wine conscience named Paul, thank you very much. Every time I go to a wine festival, he texts me,  “And what’s our spending limit for the cellar today? Are you being good?” and I have to stick to it. Brothers are like that.

So, I rambled up the road searching for this tiny vineyard at the base of the Shenandoah National Park. It had snowed Saturday evening in a wild draping pattern over the cedar and pine speckled mountains and through rocky valleys. I ran into white, then gold,then white. Rocks and black trees appeared amid the dusting. On the last leg of the drive, I actually laughed out loud. Ruby Thewes began to echo in my head. “Waaaaaay up in the hol-ler”, describes DuCard’s location precisely. The vineyard is situated amid open fields and cow pasture, mountain ranges and winding rural state roads. As I pulled up the drive, I knew it was worth the trip, a tiny little tasting room, nestled in a modest sized vineyard. Next to it, a tiny creek, in thaw.

DuCard has one of the warmest, most open tasting rooms I’ve experienced yet. The ceilings are high and the walls are nearly all glass, revealing the view of the mountains. In other seasons, I am sure it’s even more magnificent and I plan to go back in spring with a picnic basket. They have a lovely patio area and small stage adjacent to it. Inside, though, it’s leather couches and small garden tables aside the long tasting bar, like a great room of someone’s mountain getaway. All are invited to a nice Sunday afternoon gathering, except we don’t have to bring a dish, just ourselves.

I set up shop with papers at a table near the front, the fireside being coveted and occupied. Confession time: I had a quick tasting session beforehand. Okay, no chuckles there. DuCard has a small list of about eight wines and I directed the pourer to make sips tiny. Papers need grading. My picks include their Cabernet Franc Reserve, super smoky oak, deep and well balanced blackberry notes. The Petit Verdot will store well, as its quite hearty and full-bodied. Surprisingly, their Rosé was good even though it had a bit of bottle shock, dry with a slightly strawberry edge. The prices are somewhat high for me, though. So I obtained a glass of Cab Franc and settled back into enjoying the music of Tara Mills and Yankee Dixie for the next several hours.

Second confession: bluegrass music is my long lost love. It’s like an old flame you meet again at a highschool reunion and realize you still have it bad after all those years. You know the notes, you know the dance, no matter how long ago you heard it last. So almost immediately, I was enjoying myself way too much to grade papers except during the set breaks. The trio featured Mills on guitar and vocals, John Howard on mandolin, banjo and harmonica, and Turtle Zwadlo on upright bass. That upright bass gets me every time. It’s funny, I began to remember words to songs I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. Their blend of bluegrass and folk is like a Sunday afternoon drive on a well- traveled road. You know where you’re going and it’s warm sunshine all the way

Their rendition of Ain’t Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone, had me singing with Tara’s low and steady vocals. John’s joined hers in what I call the perfect “bluegrass wind up”, both voices twining around each other, stringing the notes out low then up like the long road outside. Tapping my feet to original tunes like New Year’s Resolution and What I Need…and even The Cat Song was what I had needed to shake off the winter cold. Letting out a few Irish yips at the end of songs felt fantastic, like being home.

There was a time and I think it’s true for nearly everyone when we want to escape our roots, where a young person thinks, “I live in the most uncultured uninteresting place on the planet”, especially if one happens to be from the rural south. I had always viewed my Southwest Virginian status as somehow less cultured than others, especially in college. My friends from all parts north or even places like Texas and California, I felt were “cooler” than me. Nothing exciting happens in a cow field or in the woods behind my house. So I left bluegrass behind for rock, punk, and jazz and other musical forms, just as I left my grandmother’s home cooking for cultural delicacies and foreign wine.

But as I sat there singing and tapping my heels to familiar songs, I began to realize that like a vine, I may have grown out, curling away from where I began, but that home ground still feeds me, still attaches to my core. The roots are where I truly lie and where I will eventually return at the end of my days. John Howard even mentioned playing in a punk band for many years and now he’s back to playing his roots. Seems like we all come back home from our journeys.

As I drove that evening down the mountain, I stopped to notice the landscape in its last breath of winter, the sun setting over cold mountains with the faintest glimmer of spring, a ghost of a rose hidden under the frosted fields.

Our love was like a burning ember
It warmed us as a golden glow
We had sunshine in December
And threw our roses in the snow

In old time bluegrass, those notes of home echo a slight longing, even the happy songs, and that’s a good place to start spring. That slow movement away from the still, quiet, and deep of the sunset, toward a longing for and a stretching out in the morning to the sun.

Living in Shadow

15 Dec

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis

This morning, Beloved woke me early.


Why are you in love with words instead of real people?

The play Shadowlands and the life of C.S. Lewis has been running the perimeter of my brain for weeks and since,  I have been contemplating connection through language. Lewis and his wife Joy Gresham met and came to know each other primarily through letters. Their peculiar relationship has struck me for years. This great man, with the imagination and heart of a child, was perceived through his philosophy and writing by a woman who then took the initiative to pick up a pen and communicate. She saw something in him which intrigued her to the point of action. And in her unflagging patience, they came to know one another, love one another, and then part through her death. Her presence transformed his life, his faith. She was the greatest love of his life and his greatest loss. I have been thinking about the nature of love..What is love? It seems so huge…so immense…so varied …so complex yet again, so simple.

How can you come to love someone through the written word? Are you coming to love a reality or an illusion? I suppose it depends upon what is written. Here lies the difference, I think. In writing of the self there is intimate honesty, a more vulnerable revealing that might be made in the spoken word and therefore, for me anyway, more precious, more deep and sensitive, more honest and ultimately more free. However, words are symbols. They represent a reality that has to be lived eventually. You can’t have a relationship with a text or a letter. Physical presence defines a mature relationship. Otherwise its just too darn easy. There’s not a lot of real investment in a piece of paper or a SMS. You can’t sustain a complex mature relationship when the balance of it is on a page or a screen. But its written word still, symbol, communication from behind the social wall. Is there really an intimate revealing there? Or is it just a manipulation of thoughts and patterns for gain? It is openness or masking?

I think what I have come to realize about love, is that real love does not seek to use someone for itself. Love requires effort and reciprocity. I haven’t come to the point of feeling grateful yet for this crisis. Coming here has put me on a unknown path. I am not thankful yet, but I am sure I will be one day.

So, in coming to learn the nature of connection through the written word I have found a key, sharing. It’s the only thing that replaces loss. Being open and real, holding on to the spirits of our dear ones and feeling their physical nearness. Because life is a gaining and losing, a loving and nothingness, dancing and crying. A dear friend texts me as I write this to tell me of his dancing with his lovely wife to the music of the spheres as the meteors fell last night.

Love is simple. I know that now.

Night She Comes, Cloaked

9 Dec

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Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.


Here I sit, in a tiny vintage 30’s cottage on the main street of Ocracoke, at the corner of Howard Street and Fig Tree Lane. I am home. That is the only way to describe this feeling. Home. The trip was a blur. Driving to music entirely wrapped in my thoughts, I could not discern where I was in space. My mind wandered and dreamed. I remembered how I had become used to reading aloud as a passenger on long drives, and had never really noticed the trip. But with every mile, my mind became more clear, my heart filled with a deeper conviction. As Clarence and I boarded the ferry, I knew I want to be fully in the moments as they pass. I have no plans. Furthermore, I don’t want any.

I just want to be…and be fully.

I don’t think I even realized that I would be witness to a sunset until the ferryman said to me, “Should be a nice sunset tonight. You’ll get some good pictures”. So I fished out my camera, got Clar settled, bundled up against the wind, and began to learn how to balance savoring and saving. That has always been a problem for me, trying to record the experience, yet being in it fully at the same time.

The perfection of this night crossing was so overwhelming that I struggled NOT to share it with others via phone. To stay unplugged and keep it within me and let it embrace the edges of this fear. How many pictures of a sunset can you take? And then I thought of the day of the 44 sunsets in the Little Prince.and I asked myself, was he truly sad? How could he be while looking into the face of the Universe? Each sunset, each one is never truly lost. I struggled to watch this beauty, to understand that I was witnessing the Divine.

My words here seem so trite and cliche, so ill befitting this splendor of fire and water. To my left a flock of seven sea birds flew into view, wing to wing, spirit to spirit. And when the great sun, like liquid red gold, dissolved into a wide expansive blue bay, I knew…it is all One. An answer to my pondering of disconnection came. Words and social constructs don’t matter; we are all one in our humanity and we must love one another above all else. It is all that matters. Love is what we take with us into the next world and the next and the next. Yes, humans fail. Yes, they slumber in their souls. Yes, all have turned inward to petty fears and vanities at one time or another. But we must open and allow, letting fire and water balance within us.

I have seen the hand of the Universe today, and it is kind and loving. I know now how Keats may have felt when he wanted to die in the nightingale’s song. Tonight, I could have died without fear in the face of that sunset. All of the sliding planes of the sky in azure, indigo, black, gold, orange, pink, peach, rose, mauve, red, white. All sliding planes of existence.  All of these layers upon layers of light.

Time past, time present all melted into one. Nothing to separate us.

And in the night crossing upon the ferry into the buried world of home, there is now hope in an eye “made quiet by the power of harmony”. There is hope.


Into the Mystic

30 Jun

Mystic Seaport has been on my list for many years, mainly due to one really cheesy 80’s film with Julia Roberts, Mystic Pizza. I don’t know why that film touched me the way it did, but its probably something to do with a romanticized yet pretty true caveat about women. From their friends to their mothers alike, women seem to understand each other infinitely better than men do. It must be our hormones. So, it made all the sense in the world to me that I would be going with my mother to Mystic Seaport to see what I could see and to go back to that land of the 1980’s. I hadn’t traveled with my Mom in years, and I mean YEARS, not since I was a teenager going on excursions to Myrtle Beach.  I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize how much about my mother I would understand on that trip. And about her connection to me.

Of the many moments we spent together in Mystic, one principle really made itself evident quite quickly. I am an introvert. As chatty and gregarious as I can be, I need alone time, even in the presence of others, to process my thoughts and my world. Especially in the morning. I am NOT a morning person.

Not.    At.      All.

My mom is an extrovert. Her entire world is processed verbally in connection with someone else and its pretty constant. She also needs the safety of plans. Firm plans. Assured plans, plans that are reaffirmed every five minutes so they don’t change. And she doesn’t trust herself quickly, or her ability to troubleshoot if the first decision goes awry. I’m much more relaxed than my mom, and I practice radical honesty which she isn’t used to. She micromanages because she doesn’t trust that even if something goes wrong it’ll all be okay. On our first day in Mystic, within the first two hours, I made her cry simply over trying to read the map to get to the Mystic Seaport Museum less than five miles from our Bed and Breakfast.

Our first dinner was a struggle. We were seated by the Mystic River at a lovely table. It was amazing and I tend to try to quiet myself and just allow. Usually when I eat with others, I’m so wrapped into conversation that a lot of the experience shifts to connection rather than the moment and my interaction with it. But I needed to feel the river, the sunset and attend to the smells, and sounds, and tastes around me. That’s nearly impossible with Mom when she is uncomfortable. The seating wasn’t right, so she moved chairs, twice. The oil and vinegar for the bread needed parmesan in it whether I wanted it or not. The discussion couldn’t lag. Car horns at the drawbridge were alarming, and scary and bothersome. And, I nearly lost my mind. I wanted that experience so badly and I was being prevented from owning it. When she went to the bathroom, the sun was nearly set. I breathed a sigh over the short reprieve and lost myself in a short thought.

The song came easily and I drifted my heart right back into Brian Hall’s voice and tried to send my spirit up and out onto the river.

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

I had to steal a moment just for myself.

And I suppose I was a bit angry about it and needed to let it go. We walked after dinner and then went across the bridge to an ice cream parlor. Mom has been the queen of “fat free this, sugar free that” for centuries and it took her that long it seemed to decide what she wanted. When she, for the millionth time, forewent the full fat ice cream for the “better for you” kind, when she obviously wanted the real deal, I lost it.

Out loud and in front of the ice cream clerk.

“Mom, I am buying this ice cream for you and if I’m paying for it, you are getting the full fat kind!

I’m not paying for something that has nothing in it, damn it!

Life is short, eat the ice cream you like.

I am not having this mess!…end of story.”

So I told the ice cream clerk to serve her up the full fat kind and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. When the clerk looked at Mom, who was mortified at my outburst, and then to me, she broke. She laughed so hard that all of us got the giggles and began to laugh. That’s all it took.

What I realized more than anything is that my Mom needs me to be the leader, because its in my nature and not hers. She is who she is and I have to love her in her faults and imperfections in the same way she has had to love me for mine. I can’t change her. I have to accept her the way she is. It doesn’t mean I have to drop my personal boundaries, though. My mother will never truly perceive me.  Its not possible. But, she can appreciate me and that will have to be enough.

The next evening we had a more informal dinner at Abbott’s Lobster Pound. I had turned Mom on to mussels and we ordered a big pile of them and crab rolls and corn, popping out a bottle of Riesling of our own at one of the picnic tables on the grounds. We ate and watched the water and talked deeply for the first time in a long time. I was able to tell her how much I loved her, how beautiful she was, and to identify the qualities in her that I admire…. like her ability to be friendly with just about anyone, her creativity in decor, her enviable ability to be just fine living alone, something I am still learning to master. And she teared up and told me how proud she was of me and how many talents I had like writing, teaching, painting, and as she puts it, “being smart”. At that moment, I could really see my mom. I have to love her for her honest attempt at living a good life more than anything else.

So we had great moments and not so great moments for the rest of our trip. I’ll never forget that night at Abbott’s, and how the water wove its way into my relationship with my mom, the past and the present all combined.

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when that fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float into the mystic……

How strange our connections to parents are…half person, half creator, deeply a part of ourselves.

The Sassy Ass Sportscar

28 Jun

062712185830     062712202644

“Just hold yourself in your core”, Laura said.

Yesterday, I accomplished another item on my bucket list, riding a motorcycle. I have always been frightened of them. Not because of their sound nor the speed, simply for the fact that I know you have to ride them correctly as a passenger or you will crash, scrape every bit of skin off your natural body, and possibly break every bone and die if you don’t lean correctly. Jesus Christmas, I have to learn to lean.

Anyway, my friend was being so supportive and her husband has ridden and motored forever, so I think, “If I don’t do it now, I never will. It’s my last day in the Vineyard. Stop being a baby and do it.” So, here I go as a passenger on a Repsol. I had no idea how unstable riding a motorcycle was and how much I’d have to use my thighs to balance myself. I told Laura, “I feel unstable. I’m not sure”, as I sat there in my helmet, engine roaring, while her husband waited for the order to go. “You’ll geddit”, she shouted and gave him the order to take off. I scrunched down behind him and held on for dear life, overly attentive to my leaning. My thighs were killing me two minutes in and I am really fit. It’s as hard as TRX hamstring bicycles. Even though the ride was short, not even ten minutes, it was enough to count. Up to 35 mph I went, and then I needed to stop. All the while I just thought, “Breathe…just breathe…you are doing this. Just be here…let go.”

After the exhilaration of the ride, I needed to be ready to go on the Fast Ferry out of the Vineyard. I had pre-planned to pick up the rental car at the ferry office and then follow my Google maps, all neatly folded and prepared, to the South Kingston Amtrak station to pick up Mom. That’s when the first call came. “Cyndi, its Mom. There were some branches on the tracks and we blew an engine, so the train is delayed in Washington DC. We’ll be a bit later to Kingston, maybe 8 to 9pm.”

Okay, I think…that’s cool. I just have extra time. Then, the text came about an hour later; high winds cancelled the Fast Ferry service. I would now have to take the state ferry to Wood’s Hole, then they would bus us to the ferry office in North Kingston, Rhode Island.

Wait.  Crap! That puts me in later than the rental office’s hours. Uh oh.

So I call the rental office and they begin to give me all sorts of grief. Without going into the minor breakdown that almost occurred at my friend’s kitchen table, she says in her fine Massachusett’s accent, “Gimmetha phone”. She calls up the rental office manager.

“Yeah, this is Laura . .I’m caullin’ for Cyndi. We need to werk out sumthin’ about this cah situation because it won’t do foar her to not have transpoartation.

No, I’m not her mutha….I’m her pursonul assistant and she’s a vehry impoartant and busy lady so lets taulk about what YOU are gunna do to to get her a cah!”

At the end of that conversation, ahem rant, all I needed to do was fax them a copy of my driver’s license, and credit card and the car would be waiting for me in the parking lot at the ferry office, keys in the possession of the Fast Ferry clerk inside. I could have kissed her. I actually think I did.

So I board the state ferry and endure the 90 minute bus ride, maneuvering myself at last to the office of the Fast Ferry in North Kingston. That is where the fun really began. I roll off the bus, go into the office and get the keys and back out into the gravel lot I go looking for the mild mannered Honda Civic that Mom had rented for us.

Nothing. The sole car was a gorgeous sporty silver and black souped up Ford something or other. Uh, really? Did Laura make them THAT nervous?

I went back in to check and the clerk replied, “Yes, that’s your car.”

I almost dropped the keys. I actually think I squeaked a tiny bit.

As a driver of an oh so practical soccer mom Matrix that I traded by new VW bug for,  I opened the door of a brand new 2012 silver badass sportscar and sqeeed for at least a minute straight. “Wonder how she’ll handle at 120?….THIS IS FREAKIN’ AWESOME!”.

I have an hour to kill since Mom’s train is delayed, but I have plenty of time. I make a command decision. Get car phone charger. My phone did not charge properly the night before and it was on its last bar, problem number 50. So, I see a Kohls nearby and I roll in and ask. No luck, BUT the Verizon store is right beside it. They hook me up with a charger and a ten dollar discount just because I’m nice. I’m thinking, “Wow, thanks Universe for helping once again!” Then, I see a Dave’s Fresh Market next door and the Verizon folks assure me they have cool deli case takeout, nice salads and such and the bonus is a package store right up the block. I think,”I’ll get dinner and wine for Mom so we won’t have to worry about eating late in Mystic, roll into the Amtrak station on time, and be the best daughter in the Universe. We’ll relax at 9 and it will be a golden evening. Yes!”

So, I’m rollin’ with my Google directions, listening to the pre-set pop/rap station. The car is so technologically advanced, I have no idea how to change the radio station or even find a new channel. I have GPS, but have no idea how to use it. No manual is there.

I am:  on. my. own.

But….it made me feel totally cool to listen to Whiz Kalifa, Rhianna, and Maroon 5 driving in that car. “Call Me Maybe” comes on for the gajillionth time and even though the music isn’t my normal listening pleasure, I start to feel, well, pretty young and sexy. And the car just seems to be the expression of something rising within me. I start to feel like I really never felt in high school: awesome. I begin to drive and wiggle and sing.

Take me by the tongue
And I’ll know you
Kiss me till you’re drunk
And I’ll show you
all them moves like Jagger
I’ve got the moves like Jagger
I’ve got the mooooooves, like Jagger

I mean my 2005 Matrix doesn’t exactly put a wiggle in my shaker if you catch my drift. And I start to feel really SAS-SAY. I take my new silver girl up to the limit, and a tiny bit beyond.

Speeding along,  I cross a huge expansion bridge and come to a toll booth. This is when I start to realize something isn’t right. I ask the attendant if I’m going the right way to the South Kingston Amtrak station. She says, no. I’m over 30 minutes in the wrong direction!  I pay a double toll ($4) and get a pass to turn around. Crossing back over the bridge, irritated and anxious I am suddenly witness to one of the most miraculous sunsets over water I have ever seen. Its been years. The sight stunned me out of my teen pop imaginative world and pushed me into a place altogether different. Flying into a sunset of pure freedom in a silver bird,  I had a moment, one of those  “this is my life and its absolutely perfect right this second” moments. Maybe this whole thing will turn out for the best. I’m feeling like it might. I want more of those moments.

Soon, however, that changes. I take the wrong exit off of the bridge and begin a drive through the BF backwoods of Rhode Island for over 90 minutes. I ask six different people at six different places how to get to the train station, including a pizza delivery joint and each gives me some rambling mess of instructions none of which get me anywhere nearer to Mom who is now at the station sitting in the lobby. I’m on the phone with her, practically yelling in frustration. The rap is now turned off and I’m getting low on gas in a high tech vehicle that I have no idea how to even put gas into.

There was one moment where I thought, Do I call the police? Will they even know where they are? Does anyone in Rhode Island know how to get anywhere?

Finally, I get on the right road and magically end up at the station. Bless my saint of a mom. She had real instructions to Old Mystic Inn from the owner. We roll into Mystic at ten, and the sportscar-sassy-ass woman feeling is all gone. I crack open the bottle of Relax Riesling, which I bought mainly for the name, and we finally eat our picnic at the bed and breakfast room coffee table.

It struck me at that moment that being on my own can have its great parts and its not so great parts. But I’m learning.

I’m learning.

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