Afar, From the Archives, Home

Notes from a Wild Childhood

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My sister and I were feral throughout much of our childhood. My most vivid memories are of cooking food over a campfire by a tepee out in a far, often-frightening, wooded corner of our land; of running through the dappled forests around our house wearing a billowing, homemade gown; of climbing up to the roof by a precarious route that involved an old stone wall and electrical wires to read up in the treetops; of dancing barefoot in the summer rains; of falling asleep on the screen porch to the sound of cicadas; and of hours upon hours spent drawing, painting and writing.

I was, at times, a little careless regarding personal safety in my unguarded activities—I broke my arm, stepped on scorpions, and once jumped off a roof—but I shied away from the truly dangerous, and generally erred on the side of safety. I was rarely bored; I relished every moment of free time I had. I resented school immensely and loved nothing so much as the potential of early Saturday morning. My imagination ran even more wild than I did, and around the age of perhaps six I began to experience the endless flow of words and stories that has yet to abate.

When I was eleven, I somehow argued my way into home schooling. My weeks lost whatever structure school imposed. In addition to the usual subjects, I read voraciously, took art classes, and wrote my first full-length novel (a charming little tale of revenge and friendship). I worked, even then, with the sort of self-motivation that would have never been possible if my time had been entirely accounted for, and with the kind of imagination that can only come of rampant freedom, physical and mental. It was the same impulse that led me to Oxford and into freelance writing, and I believe the same native drive to create (born out of a similarly wild childhood) that drew me to my husband, who spent his youth fashioning exceptionally accurate period weapons and woodland forts.

Of course, we needn’t confine our free roaming to childhood. Plane tickets and passports are all very well, but yards and parks, not to mention blanket forts, suited our purposes then—so why not now?

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Home

Beneath the Tree

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I hope that this Christmas you experience the enchantment of standing alone by candlelight before a tree, of medieval carols more sombre and haunting than modern ones, of quiet moments of reflection as you gaze into a warming fire, of the beauty of steam rising from a cup of hot chocolate or spiced mulled wine, of the same sense of unquestioned magic that the day inspired in early childhood, and of true love for those you share the holiday with.

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Afar, From the Archives, Home

Hold On

Romeo and Juliet, in the Poetry Garden www.bluemesablog.com

I don’t lose things, material things, very often. Through countless travels and moves, I’ve kept a close hold on objects of meaning. Perhaps the rarity of the occurrence makes me regret the losing all the more, when it does occur. Certain things misplaced throughout my life still have the capacity to make me feel a little hollow when I think of them. Just this week I stood outside an airport crying, very uncharacteristically, over the loss of a confiscated pocket knife I had forgotten to remove from my purse. As I did so, I wondered why something so small and replaceable should result in more tears than the loss of things, people, and places of much greater significance.

Why, for instance, do I still feel guilty when I remember dropping and breaking a small animal figurine that I had as a child? Why have I been unable to let go of the memory of a pair of earrings that someone stole, a necklace I left in a hotel room, a tartan blanket lost in the mail, or that pocket knife?

Perhaps because the pocket knife reminded me of my father, the figurine of my mother, the earrings of a journey through Mexico, the necklace of my husband, the blanket of an old friend I haven’t spoken to in many years. The knife can be replaced, the figurine was lost in the jumble of childhood objects, I wouldn’t wear the earrings if I had them now, my husband bought me another necklace, and the blanket—well, that really is gone.

But it seems that even replacing the lost thing cannot efface the memory or effect of the loss itself. Still, why should a broken figurine matter more than a totalled car, or a lost blanket more than a lost friend? I don’t know. Perhaps because in losing these objects, I have also lost the memories they held in association.

Romeo and Juliet, in the Poetry Garden www.bluemesablog.com

Romeo and Juliet, in the Poetry Garden www.bluemesablog.com

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Afar, France, From the Archives, Home

Nostalgia

Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

I always catch a bad bout of nostalgia at this time each year. There’s something about the cooling air and changing winds that stirs up memories—not just images and words, but scents and feelings as strong as they were the first time around. It’s a beautiful, moving and troublesome sensation that never fails to leave me restless. It’s not exactly a yearning for times past, but rather the slightly overwhelming feeling of so many recollections arising at once. As my memories become more potent, my dreams become more vivid, and I find myself yearning for some intangible quality that falls somewhere between wanted to experience again and wanting to experience anew.

Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

This morning alone I’ve been back at my childhood home as warm sunlight comes through the windows, I’ve been putting on my school uniform, and pouring cream into my coffee. I’ve been wandering the cloisters of Mont St Michel, and exploring the standing stones at Carnac, walking through the gardens in Rennes, swimming in a chateau moat, rolling in the fallen leaves in Central Park, wandering the ruins at Tintern Abbey, and the climbing the stairs of Broadway tower.

Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

I’ve met a variety of old lovers and forgotten friends, I’ve wandered the quiet streets of Oxford and the ruins of Godstow Nunnery, walked along Aldeburgh beach, fled from a herd of charging buffalo, rested by the fire at Barnsley House, and even revisited old dreams in new ones. I’ve nodded to a variety of past selves, and feel content that they’ve more or less resolved into who I am now (with a few inevitable outliers).

Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

But then, this morning I’ve also woken up next to my husband, ground coffee, written a letter or two, and watched a misty sunrise over the California hills. I image these moments will also flavour future memories when they arise unbidden decades hence.Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

Nostalgia, Rennes, France www.bluemesablog.com

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Food, Home

Late Summer Jam

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

In a rare bout of domesticity I picked a bucket of figs from the tree, opened Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, and set about making fig and balsamic jam. The result was delectable, best enjoyed with fresh bread and ripe brie, or straight from the jar to the tip of your tongue. The process is slow and satisfying, perfect for languid afternoons as the weather turns cool.

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Mr. Keller’s Recipe:

2 pounds figs, preferably Black Mission or Kadota, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, tied into a sachet

Fresh lemon juice

Combine the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and sachet in a large saucepan and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring to break up the larger pieces of fig, keeping a chunky consistency, until the jam reaches 215 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the heat.

Remove the sachet and stir in lemon juice to taste. Spoon the jam into a canning jar or other storage container, cover, and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Makes 2 ½ cups

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Afar, Home, New Mexico, Texas

Happy Birthday, Blue Mesa

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

Blue Mesa Blog turns 1 today! The biggest thank you to all my loyal readers. I’d like to raise an imagined glass of your libation of choice to you for all the kind words you’ve shared this year.

In exchange, I’d like the share a few words by Edward Abbey that have always served as something of a guiding evocation for my travels…

May your trails be crooked, lonesome, 
dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. 
May your mountains rise into and above the clouds, 
May your rivers flow without end, 
meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, 
past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest 
where tigers belch and monkeys howl, 
through miasmal and mysterious swamps 
and down into a desert of red rock, 
blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, 
and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm 
where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, 
where deer walk across the white sand beaches, 
where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, 
where something more beautiful and more full of wonder 
than your deepest dreams waits for you – 
beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.

— A Prayer for the Traveler

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

A Prayer for the Traveler, Edward AbbeyBlue Mesa Blog, Texas, New Mexico, Big Bend National Park www.bluemesablog.com

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Afar, Home

Love Letters

love letters www.bluemesablog.com

(I don’t just write them to places.)

I did a little math recently and figured out that, since we met, my husband and I have spent more time apart than together. I can only advise you to do your best not to fall in love with someone from another country. The complications are infinite.

love letters www.bluemesablog.com

But when you travel enough it’s bound to happen sooner or later, whether you find yourself in a fleeting romance or a long-term commitment. I don’t think I need to say much about the downsides (what would you miss most during six months apart?), but there is one resounding benefit: love letters. Lots and lots of love letters.

love letters www.bluemesablog.com

You may begin with the occasional note or postcard, then sometimes you’ll write pages and pages. You’ll get sad, you’ll get angry, you’ll get cheeky. You’ll pray they’re never intercepted. You imagine, you remember, you anticipate. You’ll find words woefully inadequate, and then you’ll get creative. You’ll seal them with a kiss and send them off. You’ll run out when you hear the postman every day to check for more. You’ll get lonely, you’ll get desperate, you’ll get blissfully romantic. And then, sooner or later, you’ll actually get to see one another again.

love letters www.bluemesablog.com

love letters www.bluemesablog.com

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