Wednesday, July 31, 2019

On outhouse treasures and stolen ashes, aka: Things I Learned on My Summer Vacation

In no particular order:

1. That antique store in Selma, North Carolina where they only sell old glass bottles and you ask the owner, Hey, where did you find all of these old glass bottles? And he goes into a very detailed explanation about examining old maps where there used to be neighborhoods with outhouses and how he sneaks into those areas at night and digs (because did you know that people dropped all kinds of things when they were going to the bathroom?) and you

very carefully sidle away from the shelves to keep from touching any of the bottles as he continues to describe his digging methods. Side note: he has a YouTube channel, Southern Searcher, in case you don't believe me.

2. At the Edgar Allan Poem museum in Richmond, Virginia there are two black cats, Pluto and you can't remember the name of the other one.

Pluto? Or the other one
3. There are 18,000 confederate soldiers buried in Richmond's Hollywood cemetery, including the traitor Jefferson Davis who may or may not have donned women's clothes to escape capture. Also, there may or may not be a vampire buried nearby.

4. Rules for falling out of a raft when whitewater rafting:

--Hold onto your paddle!
--Keep your head and feet up!
--Believe the guides when they joke about how your raft will never make it over a particular rapid without someone falling out.

5. In Wilson, North Carolina if you get to chatting with the artist at a downtown gallery about -- I don't know what led to this conversation!!-- you will learn that recently her house was broken into and the only thing stolen was a baggie filled with the ashes of her dead father and obviously the thief was a drug fiend and he snorted the ashes and now he's in jail.

6. Drinks are more fun with giant ice cubes.

Also, umbrellas

The end.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The River Wild

I didn't sign up for this

but my more adventurous friend, who is acting as the cruise director for our vacation, found the Level Three Whitewater Rafting Trip through an Urban Setting online, and cut to:

I am sweating it out on the shore of the James River in Richmond Virginia on a 100 degree day, listening to the river guide explain rowing directions as if my life depends on it. My life does, apparently, depend on it, because there's so much How-to-stay-in-the-boat and What-to-do-if-you-fly-out-of-the-boat directions, coupled with "Let's sign a waiver in case of Permanent Paralysis and/or Death" that even my adventurous friend is starting to get nervous.

But we all climb into the raft-- my husband (who has been whitewater rafting before and has fallen out of the boat and survived) my friend and her husband-- and our guide, twenty year old Kate, who I am skeptical about at first, but by the time this ride is over I will be singing her praises.

Kate is all business, shouting out when we should row forward and back, pointing out points of interest along the way. An old bridge that collapsed in a hurricane, the Hollywood cemetery on the hill where 18,000 confederate soldiers are buried, the Richmond skyline, the various rapids that we'll be rafting through.

The river is low and we immediately get stuck on a rock. Bounce up and down, Kate tells us, and we do, but it doesn't help in the slightest. Kate hops into the water, heaves us off the rock and then hops back in. She does that several times while the four of us bounce middle-aged-ly.

Do you ever feel like you're a sherpa? I ask her. You know, like one of those guides on Mount Everest who's paid to get people who should not be climbing Mount Everest up to the peak?

Kate just laughs, but I notice that she does not answer the question.

We slide and turn and bounce through rapids. We stop and eat trail mix on an island and talk about our bucket lists. Side note: whitewater rafting was not on my bucket list.

But I have to admit that I am enjoying this excursion until we get to the end and Kate asks us if we want to go back to the last section of churning water we'd just successfully made it through and do it again. There's this thing called surfing, which I still don't quite understand, where you row directly into the churning water until the front of your raft gets sucked down and then it's supposed to pop back up. My adventurous friend says no

and climbs out of the raft. Weirdly, I stay in. My husband and my friend's husband, with Kate's direction, row toward the churning water. The front of the boat gets sucked in. The two guys immediately flop out and the raft tilts straight up. It's a strange long moment watching them disappear into the foam, waiting for my turn to tumble out,

but I don't. As soon as the guys hit the water, the raft snaps back up and there's a few tense moments of looking for their heads in the spray and then a few more tense moments as my friend's husband swims to shore, but my husband loses his paddle and has to ride the next bit of rapids on his back. He makes it to the raft and Kate tells him that she's going to pull him in and I think, there's no way in hell this one hundred pound, twenty year old girl is going to be able to pull my husband onto the raft, but Boom,

she hauls him up.

We eat popsicles on the bus on the way back to our car. The next day we hike around the Hollywood cemetery and watch the white water from the shore. Would I do it again?

Nope. Am I glad I did it?


Sunday, July 21, 2019

I can't find my sneakers

Or the Q-tips. The house is a maze of still-unpacked boxes. Books, mostly, because we have no built-in bookcases in this house. But also, bins of cooking supplies because we have a quarter of the kitchen cabinet space we used to have. The rolling pin. Muffin pans. The Insta-pot. Where do I store these?

For now, the dining room floor. The landing upstairs. The third bedroom--eventually, (hopefully!) my office-- is now a closet for extra furniture, pictures and Christmas ornaments, musical instruments, (why do we have three violas?) crates of my old manuscripts. I have more of these than I realized. I have more of everything than I realized. And here I thought we'd done such a good job purging.

Spoiler alert: we didn't. Apparently, when you lose 800 square feet of living space, you're going to end up with some clutter.

It's driving me nuts. For months, readying our house to sell, we lived in a pristine, monastery-like space. Now, at the snap of a finger, we've become candidates for the TV show Hoarders. 

And still figuring out the idiosyncrasies of a circa 1926 house. The dryer works! The air-conditioning vent in one of the bedrooms does not! There are no overhead lights in any of the bedrooms. Outside, a koi pond with we're not sure how many koi. An overgrown garden choked with weeds and... ugh is that bamboo?

But there's lovely glass on the front door. Rounded archways leading into the rooms. A front porch with a swing.

I sit here in the mornings to write, my dog at my feet. This is her first move, but already, she's settling in.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Move Moving Moved

One day to Moving Day and I am writing for the last time on my back porch. The house is mostly boxed up, except for the kitchen. That's my job for the day. I know the drill. How to pack. How to say goodbye to a house. 

But for now I am delaying it. Listening to the cicadas. Watching the tree branches bob in the breeze, the hammock we set out for the summer. We're leaving it behind.

The last house we lived in I walked the empty rooms one final time, snapped a picture of the kids' heights we'd marked on the kitchen wall. Another house, I said goodbye to a nursery never used. We moved before the baby came and we had to scramble to fix up a room in the new house. That house we left behind the curtains my mother made. A rose bush in the backyard.

This house we're leaving an herb garden. An asparagus patch. Silver knobs on the cabinets. A bookcase. The metal bar our son used to do chin ups. Iris bulbs. Blackberry bushes.

Yesterday I cleaned the bathrooms for the last time. The new owners were coming for a final walk through and I ran around the house cleaning and straightening. Why? my husband asked me. They've already bought the place.

For the same reason he was mowing the lawn. For the same reason I was out there with him, weeding the front flower beds. Because for one more day it's still our home. Because we love this place,

even when it's time to let it go.