wind of the old days.

It’s 5:30 in the morning, pitch dark outside, and I’m in my yoga pants and hoodie. Before I even get my coffee, I rush out to the beach. to walk. in the dark. among the stars with the water crashing at my feet, because this is where God is these days. He sends me love through here. this is where my heart is. I wake up thinking I am the luckiest girl in the world, I am an Ocean Girl, which is not at all a strange thing to think at a time like this. these last months have seen me wandering.  or maybe just meandering.  taking the long way whenever I can, when there is a chance.  savoring moments.  sitting still with a soggy heart. since 1971 I have not seen so many back roads. winding ways. fields of corn.  meadows so full I could take my shoes off and tiptoe for miles. once I was rushing to get somewhere.  I moved swiftly and gracefully around the others, who were also rushing. wanderlust.  freedom. total abandon. serendipity.  I followed them all. not staying on any marked path.  stacking these perfectly placed qualities one in front of the other to serve as my road map.  laid out before me like the world at my finger tips. and then I prayed that instead of the roads unfolding along the horizon, in typical fashion, that I would find my hearts desire in the middle of nowhere.  that I would be sent in a different direction. and I would be home. 

Oh, Ocean. After so many months away from the only spot I've ever called home, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I had a hunch there would be good times, with people I love.  Maybe a few good bites to boot.  And if I was more nice than naughty, a whole lot of sunshine.  And boy, did you ever deliver.  But to surprise me still, after all these years?  How very clever. I must say, I was awfully pleased with the way you fulfilled pretty much my every hope and wish.  And a minor miracle to witness, the way we pick up where we left off, last month, last year, last time our deeply varied lives crisscrossed. Extra credit, big-time.

 Coming  home, however.  Coming home's another matter.  Back to work, back to everyday, back to "to each his own". And so, in the space of one day's drive we arrived. It's not especially news worthy, as these things go. It's really more old cozy cardigan than tailored silk taffeta, this place.  But then again, so am I. I don't know what it is about coming back home but it always brings my heart to its knees, at some point or another, with nostalgia as thick as honey.

It's a good thing. It's a bad thing.

It's a good thing.

Truth is, wherever I go, I miss it.

Though I might still be considered by many as relatively young, the truth is, youth is behind me.  I’ve had an encroaching suspicion that this was the case, but with another birthday this past summer, that fact became officially official. I'm more than "halfway" through. as was true in my twenties, I am once again at an age where my follies will be forgiven. and zigzagging from dream to dream need no longer graciously be known as  figuring things out.  the modifying middle no longer requires a clear path and I have no explaining to do. When I first started spending time by the sea, I felt a certain aesthetic and philosophical homecoming.  It was unexpected.  It was expected because the ocean was unexpected.  I never meant to love the ocean so much, never intended to know it.  But life will do that to you.  it  comes with suitcases full of unexpected. There is significance built into every detail by the sea. Metaphors are not just reserved for books and illustrative explanations.  They are woven into the actions and interpretations of each day.  I like that.  A lot. By the ocean there is a lingering reverence for the authority and experience of age. respect for nature and the patina it brings, is celebrated.  A sunrise is worshiped. a storm feared. along the way, uncontrolled accidents are encouraged.  A weed isolated among stones in a garden; Occurrences of luck and beauty for the very fact that such a thing could not be called forth at will.

It’s a softer way to live, to accept the accidental, to see beauty in the flaws, to value the marks of time and circumstance.  After all, who we are, what anything is, is the result of a world of forces bumping into each other.  It’s simply a good reminder that we are not alone. I am approaching vintage milestones with only slight trepidation these days, and the roads that once diverged to the sea now lead directly there. I never took the road most people do. it was well traveled. safe. but I was going somewhere else.  now.  my thinking has changed.  and my pace has slowed.  I sometimes go right when I know left is the way.  and I find myself nowhere near rushed. spending time with people who knew me straight out of high school. wondering what has become of the girl who scrapped the road all together?  the one who found herself sitting in the middle of a sunflower field just to know what the sun felt like on her face.  the girl who found herself surprisingly comfortable behind the lens of a camera. more so than at a desk.  the one who would write on a napkin or the back of her hand if that was all there was.  what do you think about a girl who just realized she was always where she was meant to be?  effortless and free.  avoiding the rush of movers the entire way.  wandering down a country road in the middle of nowhere. walking the beach for miles. walking through my days connected to all this and all that is around me. tied with strings woven from my heart. working towards a life that looks a little more home centered and less scattered to all ends of the earth.  but for some reason it still forces me to be scattered at the end of the day.

I am not one to leave things bottled up.  my thoughts topple out. my words find a way. one way or the other. or else.  I guess I realize what or else is, now.  not writing leaves me feeling off center.  wonky. cranky pants. and at the same time, giving myself the time to sit down and write seems like too much of a luxury for a girl in my shoes these days.  especially when I have gardens to put to bed, laundry full of sand, planned day trips, puppies who need attention, a kitchen floor that needs to be addressed, and seasons that just won't quit turning. these are some of the things that keep me up at night.  that and the howling wind. the wind of the old days. that postscript may be on the verge of hugeness.  or.  it may just be some fleeting thoughts scattered by time. I  have forgotten, if even just for a moment, what the thrill is.  how excited I always was to find the box marked "fragile".  the anticipation of being able to walk away from the edge.  looking forward to sitting on the back of a horse.  meeting new friends.  climbing a grand rock face.  traveling to lands unknown  so that I may meet Fuji San at sunrise.  lifestyle changes, baby. just taking the time to sit down and let the words pour out.  it always makes me feel so much better.  if I could just explain...Oh, sweet mother of I-don’t-know-how-to-deal-with-this, so again, I look around, take a deep breath and take out my pen.

 The peak of summer has passed and my affair with sunshine has about run its course for another season.  But the cold dark days are wandering in and I’m completely enamored.  They are like the dark handsome stranger who arrives just as the party is winding down. His dry papery shroud rustles about like a pile of autumn leaves raked up in the yard.  he excites me in a strange way. Yet I know that he too will soon disappear as quickly as the day has come. On a warmer, brighter day, I might have gone with the suggestion of being outside. But this cold, drizzly day calls for something warmer so I opted for a day indoors, on the couch in front of the fireplace. Give it a go.  You’ll likely find yourself equally smitten.

I am convinced that there is truth to be found in pondering the mysteries of life, of trying to unravel them. just the fact that there are mysteries. I like that.  I like when my past and present collide and it  makes my head spin. especially when the hours are slowly creeping into a new day. I should know better by now than to get up before dawn. in a house that is so quiet. it starts me thinking. But honestly, this is the time I like best.

I am so different, and so unchanged. I hope the years have sanded off and smoothed the edges. shined me up. I hope I have learned. This world of mine swings on the hinges of all that I love, with a heart that always ends up getting stepped on. and bounces back. stronger. The days are strung together with clothespins that have been neglected into a driftwood-like existence, but dude, the air sure does smell good. Dinner is usually an after thought, but dessert is award winning. The sheets are wrinkled, but the pillow cases are ironed, leaves decorate the lawn. and there is an extra kick in the salsa today.

Life is complicated and boring, it's magical and mundane. It's scooping up memories and holding them near. It's figuring out life and contemplating the future with a friend. Taking the grand and the iffy and mixing it all up. Spiking it with two shots of gratitude and a garnish of something decadent. Raising your voice only to sing. Wearing your special occasion underwear. Yep, there's no better time than the one we're in ~ this one ~ right now.

Shrimp and Grits

2 servings cooked grits
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced tasso ham*
2 tablespoons diced leeks
2 tablespoons diced onion
2 tablespoons diced green peppers
20 medium to large shrimp, peeled and de-veined, with tails on
1 to 2 tablespoons white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Green onion tops, chopped or chives

*Cook's Note: Tasso is a Cajun ham and is often hard to find outside of Louisiana, but you can find it at some specialty gourmet shops or by mail order. If not, you can substitute bacon, salt pork, pancetta, or prosciutto, but you will have to beef up your seasonings, as tasso is very flavorful.

Cook grits according to package directions; set aside and keep warm.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tasso and saute until crisp. Add diced vegetables and saute until onions are translucent. Add shrimp and saute for 30 to 45 seconds, or until pink. Remove from the pan and set aside. De-glaze the pan with a little white wine. Slowly add the cream and let reduce until thickened. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Divide grits among 2 serving plates. Line plate edges with shrimp (10 shrimp per serving). Pour sauce over grits. Garnish with green onion tops.

hush puppies
      5 cups  flour
    1/2 cup  vegetable oil
    1/4 cup  chopped onion
    1/2 cup  buttermilk
    1/2 cup  chicken stock
     1 1/2 cup  self-rising white cornmeal
      1 cup sugar
      2 eggs
      1 cup milk
      1 tablespoon baking powder

Mix all ingredients well. Drop by spoonfuls in deep oil heated to 350F.


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