Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Houseful of Wishes

I am being stared at, by hares, as the sun breaks over the horizon, jetting the entire dawn sky pink. I smile, staring at the hasenpfeffers, as I whiz by their early curbside breakfast, realizing how perfectly insane that view from my driver’s window would be, a couple of weeks ago, in New York City.

But these two weeks have been a whirlwind and a revelation. I think about this, as I turn the corner, the one with the old white-washed 1800’s house with the saffron robes hanging on the washing line. I smile, knowing that a week ago, I discovered a Buddhist Monk living their, the stark contrast of house and owner making me grin even more. Even here, it is New Yawka strange.

I turn a corner, the one with the small modern house which boasts a colonial barn that has been converted into a two-car garage. This sort of jumbled modern and prim living, the long rolling hills, the strange winding roads, are the charm that have plastered themselves into my heart. It is a ragtag world quilted into a bodacious world here, full of surprises and beauty amongst it’s everyday living. I am swooning with the atmosphere of it.

But mostly, I am happy about today’s journey which--unlike the past two weeks--highlights an unusual celebration; I am about to set down roots, if even for a short time. Indeed, this little car of mine carries a few humble boxes, half of my life. And for a year and a day, I will be ensconced in a teeny cottage, a temporary home.

Here, there will be work, but there will be other opportunities. There are wishes to be had here, dreams to continue and work on. There are bittersweet ponderings, too, as I wonder if my father would ever approve of this latest crazy scheme. I think of him, this past Father’s Day, fresh as a widow bride, and there is grief but small smiles as I realize he would have understood, for I was the daughter --as he would say--“as crazy as I am.”

And so my world is about unveiling small trinkets, pocketfuls of hope, old things I have acquired in journeys, and other sentimentalities...

           There is more wistfulness unpacking this little world than expected, as I realize I am
      doing it alone, and somewhere I hope that there is a man missing me as much as I miss him.

It is a far away and crazy risk I am taking here, there are parts of me that don’t know what I am doing here, and parts of me that isn’t surprised one bit by this capriciousness.

In the meantime, I am hoping so many little hold-your-breath hopes, during this year of so much stretching. They are big and small hopes, but all real and meaningful in my humble, furniture-less house. As with everything, there are so many possibilities,  these little ideas written in scrawl from so long ago...such as….

1. Planting a real garden
2. Preserving some food
3. Continuing folk art
4. Returning to some sort of performing arts
5. Finally playing the fiddle (Big Red did end up in PA, after all!)
6. Horses, horses, horses---of course(s)!
7. Starting a barter community
8. Writing, and writing some more…

And that’s just for starters. I know it sounds ambitious, but the clock never stops ticking. There is a life to be lived, in this House of Wishes. I only hope to muster enough courage and energy to do it all.

And so it is, the year of wishes…

So I ask you, my Friends: what are YOUR wishes?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Enchanted Town

If this picture reminds you of an enchanted forest, you are only half right.  Instead, this ancient greenery lives in a storied town..and that, my Friends, has always been Pennsylvania’s charm.  This bygone place celebrates roots as old as some of the trees here, it’s colonial history written in every settled place.
If you are an old-fashionista like me, this will make your antique-loving heart beat a wee bit faster. And mine does, for one such magical little town called Mechanicsburg, just a stone’s throw from where I reside.

From what I understand, this place was aptly named in its heyday, when it was considered the dead-last stop to go to have your wagon checked, before people headed out en masse out West, during the mass exodus post Civil War--to get land out there-- and to find gold during the gold rush era.

Mechanicsburg was the place to go to get wagon parts, check wagons, and other such notions, and the little town hints that some folks did, indeed, make small fortunes in the wagon business. I suspect other stores popped up around this hub, and my minds eye wanders to proper women in Victorian garb, business men and sweaty brow laborers, charm and ingenuity and commerce and etiquette. The tales of this town, the old stories, are here now, left by history to feed our imaginations….

Old houses line the streets...

                                                         One curiously named pub....

For those with a yen for the "mountain man" style...

                                              I suspect some of my Iowa friends would love this....

                                                      An old Victorian style mansion....

                              Old whitewash and lattice gingerbread work around the porch....

                                             The budding fiddler in me will be visiting this joint!  

                                                     Olde world charm in the details!

                                                  Picturesque lovely scenes everywhere....

                The highlight of the place seems to be this scrumptious old house--splashed to the
                                                           10's with old details...

                                                 A view from below....................

                                          This was at a backyard of an herbal store!

                                                      And now we say goodbye....

Until next time, dear Friends!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The First Week....

t’s mad as hares, ‘round here; the world, or my tiny corner of it, roils with its own kind of busy-ness. Mind you, it’s not a big city type of run-around, that sort is more about catch up travel and hustling.

No. This is the the sort of busy that has one feeling productive, accomplished, and full of wonderment. Or, perhaps, there is time to just savor it all.

The highlights to my busy seven day adventure

The Never Ending Fruit Patch: People, I have never seen so much free (and tasty!) food. As I mentioned before, the boss-friend has generously allowed me to pick some of the beautiful berries on his little farmstead, and forty cups of strawberries later (not including those that magically popped into my mouth somewhere between picking and refrigeration!) I am awash in berry goodness. There have been strawberry jams, strawberry shakes, strawberry shortcakes…..strawberry overload, but I’m not complaining!

The Vegas Kitty:  Animal high drama ensued when boss friend’s  TWENTY year old cat disappeared for three days. Yes, Warren was upset (who wouldn’t be?) but having spent one of my own nine lives as a vet tech, I knew that felines were a wily bunch. Some part of me guessed that she actually was off taking a jaunt in the large great outdoors, and that she would probably be back.  Warren was sure she had been hit by a car, attacked by stray cats, or had gone off to die.

“No,” I assured him, “she’s like one of those little old ladies taking a road trip---they go to Atlantic City or Las Vegas and play the slots,” I joked.

This seemed like a good thought--but by day two of Missing Kitty, spirits were low. I had suspected the animal would be home by dinner time the night before, and the next morning without the cat brought a somber reality to everything.

Day three continued the grey mood, and the day echoed this by bringing rain and dark clouds. We slogged through work and ran back to the farm.  As we rounded the corner of the farmstead house, I heard a plaintive wail amongst the sounds of the downpour. Just as I put two and two together, Warren sauntered from the other side of the house proudly carrying one very wet, elderly cat. Shed been huddled up along the carport, having come from who-knows-where.

We were soaked, but I had to laugh. “I told you she went to Vegas, and the casino. From now on I shall call her Vegas Kitty.”

Run, Rabbit, Run: New York is known for many things, but cars dodging random rabbits on the road? Not so much. Yet here, on THREE different occasions, I had to truly test my granny driving skills in order to avoid smooshing fluffy bunnies. Toto, we’re not in…New York anymore.

Lost: Yes, I was, often, and usually while on a road. Or a highway. I’m afraid I’ve been spoiled by the steel machined world and the mechanics of the mass transit system of the Big Apple. It’s easy to not pay attention to where one is going, if a train or bus conductor does this for you. It’s much harder to then navigate a totally foreign system  in a different state, a never ending labyrinth of exits and off paths. There is no apt description to the hilarity (or panic) that ensues when one takes ONE hour to get to a location FIVE miles away.

Squirrel Adventures: The boss-friend is constantly trying to keep squirrels off of the farmette, but this is admittedly hard to do when one has nectarine, apple, and peach trees. The codgers love the food growing here, so boss-friend is constantly using humane traps to grab them. He then takes them off into another neighborhood to release them. On my excursion back to my place later, one day, he asked me to take the latest “prisoner” to release it in my area. I blinked. Stared blankly at him. I’d never released a squirrel before. He assured me that this was perfectly safe, even placed the cage in the back of the car with a brick weighing down the front to keep the squirrel from crawling out. Of course, there was a wee bit of concern when I made a drastic turn (on one of those maddening highways) and I heard the THUMP of the brick as it fell off of the cage.

However, all is well that ends well since the squirrel didn’t budge, and then made a mad capped flying dash out of the cage once I opened it. Happy Journeys squirrel friend--may you avoid being caught in the future!


I picked asparagus for the first time.
I found a patch of wild garlic…and later scrambled it into an egg.
I went to a cute town made up completely of old historic houses…


Thursday, June 7, 2012

First Day in PA: The Strawberry Queen

It had already been a crazy morning.

I had just finished stuffing less than half my life into an obscenely overpriced little economy rental car (though it had great gas mileage!), and had nearly been flattened by mad traffic on the George Washington bridge off-ramp, on the way out of New York. That would be the LAST insult New York City would sling at me, though, because I was headed to PENNSYLVANIA.

Pennsylvania, she had been subconsciously calling me for some time, I guess. How can the old fashioned sort, like myself, resist the charms of such a place? Here was the antiqued state, beveled as far back as Revolutionary history, still steeped in nature, full of farmland, and old-world ghosts…and mostly, full of heavy horses and people who knew how to work them.

I was curious about that place. I wanted to be further out of the city, I wanted to learn old hand-me-down traditions and crafts. I wanted to explore forests, grow my own food, ride behind a round draft horse, and just breathe out. Nowhere in the Big Apple did I feel I could do that, and here was a grand opportunity.

But I surprised myself. I was packing, boxing up bits and pieces of ten years of my life. And I started to miss the godforsaken place. When could I go back to the Metropolitan Museum? Would this really be my last time on a subway? What about my community of friends?

But Pennsylvania…that was another story. There were artist friends, out there, somewhere amongst those verdant hills…but where? And would there truly be time to fulfill some of those crazy projects whilst holding down a year-long position. Heck, would they even LIKE me?

The answer lay within minutes of my crossing the border to that great state. My employer, also a roundabout friend of the family, promptly grabbed the myriad boxes and bags from my overstuffed car, helped me return the little cruiser to it’s rental agency, and off we went.

He first showed me his little urban farm. I’d seen it before--a curious establishment sandwiched interestingly behind a warehouse and car business. I found this to be the case in certain areas near Harrisburg--the odd mishmash of quaint houses neighbored up against warehouses and industrial businesses. It seemed rather jarring--old wooden historical structures against concrete, sterile buildings.

Nevertheless, my boss-friend seemed to make it work for him. On three-fourths of an acre, he grew an impossible array of things, a tiny mecca of farm goodness, out of nowhere. There were peach trees, green with peaches-yet-to-come. There were teeny pears on a pear tree. Raspberry canes shot out of one side of a shed. There were wayward grape vines, there were plots of lettuce, onions, tomatoes and basil. There was a mulberry tree, hanging with fruit. But mostly, mostly, there were strawberries. And they were ripe.

                    The ten foot monster known as the strawberry patch. Hiding amongst these leaves
                                              were   enough red berries to feed a small town

People, people:  I have never seen so much free fruit for the picking. A huge swatch of strawberry leaves stood along one stone railing along one end of Warren’s farm. That daft patch of strawberries was roughly ten feet long--a massive, long, corridor of sweet berries. When my friend told me that I could pick my own strawberries..that, in fact, he had THREE HUGE BOWLS of them still in his fridge, because he was so overrun with them…well, who could resist?

Folks, I can tell you that I think I picked half a quart right then. Tons of berries, obscene amounts of those tasty red treats--and that even THEN, there were still more on the vine(!), well, what can I say? I have NEVER had that happen in New York. Free food? Outrageous. But within an hour, I had enough fruit to dare to think up jam and baking recipes with them.

And the day was NOT done!  My boss friend then drove me around to get a feel of the countryside, and the countryside we did see. Within sheer minutes of pulling out of a suburbian alcove, we were staring at large postcard scenes--barns, bright fields, beautiful rolling trees, cows…the whole shebang. We turned down a curvy road, sped past a U-pick strawberry farm (oh, the irony!) and stopped into a cute country store that boasted an Amish type vegetable grocery setup complete with large home baked goods section, herbs, and tons of great produce. Without hesitation, I grabbed a whoopee pie. People, if you have not had a whoopee pie, you may not have lived, not completely, in my book. The thing is considered Pennsylvania country authentic--two soft cookie type cakes, with whipped filling in between…sorta like those oatmeal cream pie with filling in between, except mine was far, far better. I had the pumpkin pie with cream cheese filling. No, there weren’t even crumbs left when I finished polishing it off.

From there, we went to the local giant nursery/plant wholesaler, Ashcombe. It was a giant place full of all things garden-ish, but super-sized---greenhouses held plants of every make, size, shape, and flowerage possible. The main store was a large and long place that held all sorts of magic--the outer section had birdhouses, birdbaths, a plethora of seeds, watering cans in various styles, whirlygigs and stone statues. We could have been there forever, in this Eden maze, but we were there to see bees!  There was a glass bee display--perhaps you've seen them? A few frames from a hive are sandwiched between glass--so that one can see the inner workings of bees. These were a pretty strong colony, full of brood (babies), pollen (no honey yet!) and a small army of bees. We didn't see the queen, which wasn't unusual, but overall, it was a happy little colony.

Whilst still at Ashcombe, my boss friend met with a young girl he knew, who told him about a local festival at Boiling Springs, a few towns over, and it was happening that day. Which meant, of course, that we must go over!  After whizzing around for a few minutes, we stopped at the most picturesque town I'd ever seen. Historic buildings, ones with Olde English overtones, stoned and chimneyed, flanked every curvy road. Hedges and trees boasted colorful birds, crows and jays calling. The focal point of the place aptly named the town, for indeed, there was a large lake that wended back to a creek and then an offpoint where a spring bubbled forth.  In the creek were various ducks and, enchantingly, swans, which seemed to be there of their own volition (though I have yet to see swans in ponds, anywhere lately).

There was an outdoor arts festival afoot, and we managed to wind our way past happy family crowds, up hills and down around historic districts to visit with vendors parked in colorful rows along sidewalks. Their wares were impressive--most were small artisans with pottery, woven rugs, stained glass, amazing painters, wood workers, and more. My FAVORITE was the older couple whose booth was nothing but beeswax ornaments. A large variety were amassed, in various colors, and some obviously scented with oils. The whole place was perfumed delight! I spoke with them briefly, and hoped to catch up with them another time.

Finally, finally, we went home. If this was the FIRST DAY, in Pennsylvania, what could possibly lay AHEAD??

Sunday, June 3, 2012

May You Be On the Road...

You are here to live your most authentic life. I say this to those who question why I'm bandying about on this strange adventure. I say this to those who have told me that they DREAM about doing the same sort of things they read at this same small reading spot. And I say this to remind myself, whenever I am scared, that this is one heck of a ride.  Life is short, My Friends.  Do not wait, do not talk yourself out of, everything you love. It took me a long time to learn this, myself.

I sit here between two worlds--one leaves the Midwest, it's beautiful faces, it's kind hands holding one up, it's strangers so willing to become family. I leave it's long golden acres and old, staid farmhouses. I leave friends with names and histories, of animals, husbands, and children of some remarkable women that I consider kin.

There are old stories there, great homemade food, and vast vistas that will burn my eyes, and break my heart, forever. There are funny moments and moments resplendent with deep thought. It has been a beacon to my small sorrows and urban-phobia. It saddens me to know it may be some time until I return here to this charmed place again. Somewhere in the last part of my chest, I will remember a million beautiful old barns, placid cows, winding roads. Illinois and Iowa will haunt and inspire me--they are beautiful twin ghosts. Like something or someone who has just saved my life, I will never forget them, and those goodly friends that I have met on their calm and dusty roads...I could go on and on thanking them, the gratitude in my heart over-pouring, and still feel it were never enough.

Meanwhile, the new kid on the block lives out East. With wild green hair, dress of colonial stone, accessorized in Revolutionary history, and all quilted together, Pennsylvania is my new mistress. She is a year-long opportunity to do many things unheard of in New York, and a chance to challenge myself to be more independent. I tremble out of excitement and fear, equally, a near-ingenue to this game.  I have no idea about this marriage between that state, and I, but I am looking forward to this extended honeymoon, despite so many trepidations. I leave one table full, but still wanting dessert. This, so far, has been one amazing feast...

And so hereI am on this road..still. And my hop is that you be on the road you wish, forever...

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Neverwas House...

                                                        What dreams would you write on this barn's bulletin?
s this leg of this peculiar little journey winds down, I find myself introspective. I know, already, that I will miss this remarkable land, these good people who have treated me as kin. "Why don't you come and live here?" is the constant refrain--from everyone, including myself, at times.

The irony of this nomadic journey is that my deepest interest lies QUITE tied to the Earth. Beyond the floaty and unreal world of performing arts, my heart flutters for FARMING--yes, that Earthy, dirty, do-it-yourself world of deal-making with Mother Nature, of nurturing plants, and animals, and ultimately oneself. Of humble rootings, and working an acreage of ones own. 

Perhaps it is madness--but what would one expect from a girl rummaging about a cross-country journey. And, conversely, it may now make sense why I have been galavanting about the visit farm country, of course.

My problem is that I haven't found the right spot--either it's quite out of the budget, or too far, or too small. Yes, this prom date is awkwardly mismatched, always falling short of lead dancer status.  Mostly, I worry about my little nest egg, and how far I can carry it towards a good and beauty parcel of Earth.  I've had several close calls...and Iowa was no exception.

See, it's all Dawn's fault (that Heffa). As I mentioned, she lived on a long gravelly stretch of road not far from one of the Bridges of Madison county. On one of my excursions in her well-loved SUV, I sailed past her turnoff and, unaware, turned onto the road immediately after hers. I quickly realized, by the strange landmarks, that I was off, and was set to turn around, when I noticed a huge FOR SALE sign in the driveway I pulled up into. 


Old rustic old red barn, old converted hog barn (into a garage), crunchy chicken coop, three sided shed. The whole thing screamed at me. Three acres of enchantment, and it was ALL on the same road as the Hogback Bridge. Immediately, I saw horse drawn wagons to the site, teas and picnics in pastures, a place for a heavy horse to graze, chickens and geese, a converted barn for dances or art classes...a million and one ideas for this property raced through my head...and NOW do you see why I can't be left alone by myself??

What eventually transpired was that I was shown the house (funny side note: the fellow doing the showing had ALREADY seen Dawn and I, because he had been in line AFTER us at the local icecream parlor the day before!), and this is what I saw:

The majestic old barn...

One of the side entrances of the Red's an old ladder that leads to the hayloft. When I climbed it, I was immediately shooed away by a family of swallows, that galliantly tried to swoop at my head.

Three sided machine shed. SOMEONE can see a large gypsy wagon fitting in here!

                                              Beautiful beams on the inside of the machine shed....

Another view...

Ancient chicken coop...

                                                      Still totally smitten with this farm...

Unfortunately, though this lovely was offered for a SONG, there were reasons, and these were in the many repairs from it's age. The old plaster and daub walls were falling in some places, there was no stove in the kitchen, parts of the house needed rewiring, and even the beautiful barn had flaws....

So for now, this is a dream house only....but where does a nomad set down roots? There are imagined places, loved and dreamed about, but which ultimately run like a figment for a person who feels at times, lost--overtly inspired--restless--and not sure it the idea of settling down is worth as much as exploring the vast, wild world.....

UPDATE: for quite a while I've been teasing you with NEWS and indeed, many things have been happening since I've returned from Iowa. Behind the scenes, I have been wrestling with the idea of more security and by luck, I've managed to get a job in the Mother Of All Folk areas in America: Pennsylvania.

Indeed, steeped in history that dates back to the founding of the country, PA also is home to the original Amish community, and the place is filled with antiques, old food, ghosts and ghost stories, and plenty of folk and farm ways.  THIS JOB IS FOR A YEAR AND A DAY, which seems quite olden-worldly and appropriate....and while I will expound on details later, I find this a perfect opportunity to get my hands on much more old-fashioned skills than one would typically find in the urban throngs of New York.

Of course, this new world is full of horses, and I consider this the crucial point for doing more Vagabond journeys!  I shall try to see if I can train with them on a daily (or more regular basis), plus I would love to be a part of the artistic community, learn all sorts of things I could only imagine doing in my head (quilting, and FINALLY playing the fiddle, come to mind), plus so many other things that I shall detail in another post, soon.

I shall call this part of the journey The Pennsylvania Year. Tighten your bootstraps folks, it's going to be an entirely different level of mayhem!