The Hungry Minnow is Hibernating

1 04 2019

I miss The Hungry Minnow, or The Minnow as I sometimes call her. The Minnow is my snack bar at Children’s Beach in Nantucket.

She came to me almost by accident in 2017. I was spending another daunting winter on Nantucket trying not to completely freak out due to the lack of a winter job when I heard that the town was requesting bids to operate the snack bar concession. I figured what’s there to lose… I also never imagined I’d win.

I spent a good chunk of time writing up an engaging proposal and even basically pulled an all-nighter to get it done. Despite all my years working in restaurants as a manager, waiter, sommelier, host and of course wine director, I’d never wanted to own my own place. I knew better from seeing how hard my father had worked with his restaurant. I also had all the knowledge from my years getting a BS in Beverage Management at Cornell School. I remember vividly a lecture to us new students, perhaps it was Professor Chase? I can’t remember, but what I do remember so very vividly was their admonition to us.

“Most if you are going to want to open up a fine dining restaurant with your name on it and that is just not profitable.”

So I knew better. But this little snack bar had potential! At least to me. When I toured it I could see past the linoleum floors and the cracked ceilings where now I know former staff almost fell through while trying to get cups from the attic. I saw past the green AstroTurf lined track that bordered the walls, apparently there as a surface for balls so that they wouldn’t roll away (huh?! I still don’t get it). Instead of the peg board that was at toddler eye level covered in cheap plastic toys from China, I saw windows opening to the porch and the sand covered playground and just beyond that the beach and harbor.

Where there was a gravel pit I saw a sandy dining area with wood tables, umbrellas and a sofa and lounger. I saw summer breezes, hot dogs, chili, fresh brewed iced teas and Ritual coffee, organic snacks.

By the time I’d written up my proposal and submitted it something fascinating had happened. I’d envisioned things so vividly that I felt that The Hungry Minnow already existed. I’d breathed so much life into it, I’d written my PowerPoint as if I was there looking at it. It was so strangely real suddenly, and then there sitting in my car I’d left my dream in a Manila envelope on a desk in the office of the Town Manager.

I burst into tears because all of a sudden I realized what I’d created and how much I loved it.

I had no idea what to do and ended up reaching out to friends on Facebook for comfort. I wrote that I had just submitted a proposal for something that I really thought I wanted.

Still sitting there in the car not knowing what to do with myself I looked down to see a notification. It was curious as I’ve never gotten a message from Elsa before, but it seemed timely and important, and I know she is wise.

She said,

“Hi! Just read your post

Quick! Restate it! Instead of I think I want this opportunity or I think anything about it, restate it as if this is meant for my highest good, I ask for this with all my heart.

The Universe responds to specifics 😘”

So I did.

And The Hungry Minnow was born.

I won’t say it’s been easy, actually that first year was one of my most challenging ever. That said I absolutely love the place. It’s a happy place and I’ve made it mine. It’s become all that I’ve dreamed of in many ways in its quirky kitschy way.

I’ve been able to work with an incredible crew of teenagers and I’m watching them grow and learn. I’m interacting with my tiny human customers in a way I never thought I could have, and I like them in limited doses though I’m still glad to be able to be without the responsibilities of a child of my own.

I am now a line cook, or the octopus as Suzy my Camino partner called me last year when she’d work with me there. Making ten things at once in the 98 degree kitchen when a year prior I didn’t even know how the fryer worked.

There are long days and hard days and all kind of frustrations but I love it all.

I really do believe I was meant to take on the place, to shepherd it into a place where kids can have fun and families can make memories. In my tiny way my work really is for the greater good which is why I was granted this opportunity.

So as you set off on life’s journeys I implore you to think carefully about what you want and why. Don’t worry about the how, that’s not your job.

Just two weeks ago i was cleaning up and Came across a dream board I’d made a long time ago. I was pretty astonished by what was on it as it had sat forgotten and languishing for a few years, or so I thought because many of the items had been “delivered”.

There was a bag pasted into it from my favorite Spanish T-shirt Shop with a blue bull on it. It was so old that it was crumbling and when I went to clean it up it hit me. The store is called Kukuxumusu! When Suzy and I were in Pamplona weseparated for a few hours while Suzy looked for money. I ate a plate of Spanish anchovies and meanwhile Suzy was off looking for cash. When I got back to our Albergue Suzy had bought me a T-shirt to thank me for lending her money! It was from Kukuxumusu, and she didn’t know that it was my favorite brand of Spanish gift items… I even took a photo with this character in front of the store! The same bull was on the crumbling bag.

Inside the bag there was a realtor listing of homes in Nantucket, another thing on the board that the universe has graciously provided me. Photos of boquerones, (see above) my favorite white Spanish anchovies in oil and vinegar that were my staple food along the way. (I’d literally eat an entire container for breakfast!) and a photo of Jamon. A crocus on the cover of Spain Gourmetour Magazine. In the top right hand corner is the crest of the Town of Nantucket who is my landlord and technically my partner at The Hungry Minnow as they own the building!

There’s even a scrap of paper that says American Songwriter magazine… in 2017 I received an honorable mention for my lyrics of my song Carpe Diem whose word have totally foreshadowed my 2018 Camino de Santiago.

I wrote, “Well I can’t tell you where I’m going, I don’t remember where I’ve been, storm clouds seem to be blowing… I’m walking straight into the wind. I feel just like an apparition, a pilgrim in purgatory, on the way to the next Mission, seeds to sow and crops to reap.

But you can’t put me out to pasture, I’ve got many more miles to roam, there’s rosebuds yet to gather, days to seize ‘fore I go home.”

I need to start a new dream board but first I must implore the universe to help me finish my taxes tonight and get my papers and life organized so that my mind may be free and uninhibited and I can get back to the creative pursuits that I know in my heart are for my greatest good and can benefit others.

Find an intention, be specific and believe it’s already yours and see what happens. What’s the harm in believing in your dream if you know in your heart of hearts it’s what you really believe you should do?

Saw this crocus the other day… it’s going to be a great season. The Hungry Minnow will come out of hibernation soon and all those great ideas just now taking root will become fruitful and grow.

Mere Coincidence or Confluence?

31 03 2019

Today is my anniversary of Day One of walking the Camino de Santiago. It wasn’t very epic. Not that it was bad but it just was. I went to work setting up my new retail space after a gift shop renovation where I am working here on Namtucket. It was a beautiful day and half of me relished the sun while a little but of me registered concern. This warmth means summer is coming. To most that’s a welcome respite from the winter, but this island life is very unique and the height of the season is exhausting. Add the fact that this year I need to find a new Suzy. You see my Camino walking partner came to live with me and my husband post Camino to help with my other endeavor, The Hungry Minnow a snack bar at Children’s Beach and she also helped with our Airbnb rental unit. I don’t know what I’ll do without her. Both of us spoke last night about what it meant that is was the eve of our first day walking…

Our connection is strange in some ways but clearly meant to be. Suzy lives in Morocco and we met after our mutual circumstances had already swirled together cosmically I like to think. She must be a sister from another lifetime I think, because our lives intersected in such an interesting way.

I first went to New Orleans after Katrina to sell wine as a national wine rep. It was my last stop on a multi city tour… Dallas, Houston and then NOLA. I remember how the city seemed to fit me. I had never been one of those people that was interested in going to New Orleans, and I’m not really all that into the south. I hate heat and humidity, and all the foodie talk about the best cuisine down there was still confusing to me as I’d only tasted shoddy attempts at jambalaya or gumbo. It was so strange how upon landing at the airport I was welcomed by the swampy slightly moldy smell and feel of the air, yet something about this place as I walked it’s streets seemed familiar. I keep referencing previous lifetimes, and I don’t know what I really feel about that, but sometimes there are coincidences in life that are too much. Sometimes you’ll see a face and know them I instantly, basically recognizing another soul intimately. If they do exist then I lived in New Orleans lifetimes ago. She welcomed me back. That first trip was so poignant and difficult. I sobbed in the airport heading home after viewing the devastation on a private tour with my taxi driver. More than two hours of him showing me what happened and my heart ached for the city and its people I felt so tuned into.

So I went back, as much as I could, and eventually a plan was hatched to go for Mardi Gras. We were a group of older folks, mostly close friends from San Francisco but also my brother and some local friends were part of our mini “krewe” as well. We planned on walking with the krewe of St. Anne. My dear friend Jane heard I was heading down and has a lot of friends down there part of the Society of St. Anne so she told me I needed to go to the Purple Party, a fete on the Monday before Mardi Gras. We all made plans to bring purple clothing in addition to our Mardi Gras zodiac themed costumes. Another friend, Reby, separately told me I needed to attend the Purple Party as well. Jane also made me promise to visit her artisan hat maker friend Tracy Thomson at her coop during the trip.

I landed after everyone else that Sunday around six breathing in that swampy airport air, happy that my purple peacock feather tail for my party costume had made it on both legs of the flight. I headed into downtown in a taxi not knowing that parade traffic is a big deal. He had to drop me a long way from my hotel and I had to avoid all sorts of debris to get my suitcase around.

I dropped my things and got distracted as a parade was just ending but eventually got into another cab to meet my friends outside of downtown. By the time I got there some had already called it quits as they’d been at a parade, the rest were nicely buzzed. I grabbed a six pack of Anita from the liquor store next door and set in to enjoy some pizza at this BYOB place. Andrew started in on me first.

“So what’s the deal with this purple party?” He promoted.

“Well we just have to wear purple.” I said between bites and gulps as I tried to catch up to their level of exuberance .

“But where is it and when? What are the details?!”

I was getting slightly irritated. I’d been traveling all day and wasn’t even through one beer and frankly I had no clue about the details and now I’d made this stupid purple peacock costume that was probably better than my Mardi Gras costume and how was I even going to wear it if I didn’t know where the party was and I’d told about eight of my friends that we could go to this party and…

And that’s when the woman approached our table.

“I’m sorry but I overheard…” of course they were the only other group in the place and my friend’s voices had been elevated by the Bacchus parade, “but were you talking about the Purple Party? That’s my friend Stuart’s party!” She pointed to a tall man with glasses at their table and he held up his hand and waved.

My face immediately flushed as I addressed her. Now I’d done it. I’d managed to invite an entire group to a party I had not technically been invited to and I’d been caught. She didn’t seem upset with us, but I felt ridiculous.

“Um my friend told me I should go?”

“Really? Who was that?” She asked in a non threatening way.

My brain went blank for a second.

“Well, this girl Reby in San Francisco…” I started to say. It didn’t ring a bell with her and suddenly it struck me. “Oh my God are you Tracy Thomson?! It was Jane who told me too and she said I had to go see you!”

And lo and behold just an hour or so after landing all the information was provided for us. Tracy and Stuart said it was absolutely great if we wanted to join the Purple Party and that was the first of four Purple Parties and Mardi Gras for me. The tight little group embraced me and my friends and even when I’m not near them I feel their connection often.

Fast forward a few years. I was heading to Nashville for a songwriting conference with Darrell Scott who I met back in the day here in Namtucket and once again Jane had a tip for me. “You won’t believe it but Suzy is going to the same conference!” Suzy was part of the circle of New Orleans Purple People. An artisan as well she had never been there on all my visits because she was living in Morocco.

I loved Suzy from the moment we met. Only five days spent together but she has an infectious energy. We, like the rest of those NOLA friends, keep in touch on the book of Faces, but never met again.

I’d been hearing about the Camino for years, but it happened more often and became more urgent. And winter in Nantucket can be rough. I felt like I needed a reset but couldn’t make the connection as to the solution until my bleary eyes squinted at my phone to see Suzy’s post. Something along the lines of, “I’m walking the Camino this spring. Who wants to join me?”

It was like crickets out there but I chimed in.

“Me. I want to go. I’ll do it.”

Last year’s post:

Hiking with Toddlers

30 03 2019

If you are worried about the Camino de Santiago, I would recommend an outing with a 27 month old child in Big Sur. It will make the Camino seem like a cakewalk.

A few weeks ago I took a trip to San Francisco for some rest and relaxation. I’d been working way too much during what us normally for me a quiet winter.

As luck would have it, a friend was finally invited to walk a privately owned area in Big Sur. This 8,000 acre parcel at Big River is only open to scientists and researchers but she had joined the Pacific Grove Museum in the hopes that one day she would be invited to visit. And she was able to have me join her! I was thrilled since B. had also helped me in one of my training walks for the Camino. And I was going to see her little daughter M. who upon our last visit at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was an utter angel. I don’t like kids honestly, but from the moment I held baby M. we had a special bond…

So I was excited. But with my “Camino mind” I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what this trip would be like. This is good practice I found because all along the way you have expectations and most often things do not turn our how you think they will.

I set out from San Francisco super early so I could meet the duo in Salinas, we would drive down together. Upon entering the house I was greeted by baby M. running around naked, their big dog and my friend’s husband thrust a very welcome cup of coffee into my hand while they tried to wrangle the kid into some clothes. This is apparently the stage where everything is “too tight!” And baby screamed and protested, really all she wanted to wear was a pink faux fur vest. Eventually the couple coerced some stretch pants and a shirt on her and then the battle with the car seat began. It reminded me of the Turtle man (“live action!) wrangling a writhing possum. She flailed and screamed as if her father was stabbing her and B. Just looked at me saying, “This is my life. Every. Single. Day.”

I sang to her a bit as her parents desperately tried to find the Choo choo. But it was the Choo Choo (train) book she wanted not he train so there were more tears and frantic searching. After singing a bit she stopped sobbing and once we hit the road she was an angel. It’s so great being a passenger sometimes. I also love driving down winding Highway 1, but it’s relaxing to really be able to look out the window rather than have your eyes peeled on the road and take furtive glances… sometimes the scenery is so mesmerizing I wonder if I could get so caught in its magic that I drive right into the Pacific, Thelma & Louis style.

We had plenty to chat about and soon we pulled into a turnout across the highway from the private parcel of land. The coded gate was opened for us and in we drove, parked and met the other eight or ten people who’d been able to join the walk.

The weather had been frenetic along the way, lots of downpours but I kept envisioning the mists and clouds parting for us and lo and behold they were. Bright sunshine was dappled by the redwoods that still dropped a bit of water from the rain. The area was infused with the fresh smell of that ozonated air and their needles and. Hint of the saline sea so close by.

The group was mostly park managers, scientists and the like, all very smart it seemed as we introduced ourselves but meanwhile a debate was going on in the trunk of the car over the clothes. Baby M. was tearing at her pants and shirt, while one would go on she’d be pulling the other off. This went on for a while as she continued to scream “too tight!” Making it hard to hear the guide introducing the hike.

Eventually we got her distracted enough and she took some interest in some of the people for a moment… but then it was time to put her into the walking pack carrier. Let’s just say it seemed as if B. was torturing her and dropping her into a bag of stinging nettles. The shrieks seemed to shake more raindrops off the trees. The birders of the group clutched their binoculars in terror as every avian creature no doubt shot out of that forest. The Big River was swollen from an incredible amount of rainfall recently and was rushing and flowing loudly and fiercely, but it couldn’t drown out the shrill high pitched sound of her fury. Her face was red and tears streamed down as she kicked and fought, using all the effort of her 30 pounds. This kid was strong! We got her in the pack and got the pack on B.’s back and headed on a few paces behind the group.

I tried the songs again hoping to distract her, and that worked for a second but soon she was writhing out of the straps in the pack threatening to leap off it and pummel onto the ground. We had to stop. Now it was full on tantrum time. She dropped into a pile of mud and once again focused her energy on tearing off her clothing. Shoes, socks, pants and than the diaper all strewn onto the soft damp trail. She wouldn’t go forward and tried to go back to the car. She stood in puddles left by the rain. We tried reasoning with her. B. walked away and I tried to sing with her as I held her hand and walked her barefoot and naked through the trees.

No matter what we did she refused the clothing. Something like “abble” was screamed hundreds of times. An apple was offered and promptly thrown on the ground. B. Begged M. to behave. “Mommy really wanted to come on this hike! She’s been on the waitlist for this for years.” Then she tried threatening, “Mommy is considering leaving you for the condors.” I just stood there in awe. I opted not to become a parent this lifetime. I was trying not to be smug but I was really feeling good about my life choices at that moment. That said I was in it now, there was no way out, I was in this battle alongside my comrade.

Finally a lunchbox was offered and there was utter rage due to the lack of cheese in the metal provision box. “Cheese! Cheese!! Cheese!!!” She wailed. “M. You told me to take the cheese out.”

Negotiations ensued and a half sandwich was offered while the naked baby was hoisted again into the carrier. “Please tell me before you need to pee…” Mom begged.

We tried to strap her in but with her now bare shoulders thrusting against the straps she was hurting herself, her tender skin growing red and angry. If I latched one side she was unlatching the other. So we made her promise to just sit and left her loose in the pack.

We met two of the team at the fork in the trail. . Thankfully they’d waited because this is an unmapped area. Our only other option was to go back to the car but we would not have been able to get out the gate. With no cell service there was no way to let them know if we’d wanted to bail, so we had to keep on going.

Luckily the sandwich distracted her enough for the steep ascent on a narrow and somewhat slippery surface up from 0 to 1000 feet elevation. She liked the scenery and was even laughing and smiling and reached out to give me a hug from her carrier as if she was the best behaved girl on the planet. At the top we all rested looking out on the Pacific to have our lunch and snacks. She sat her bare bum on the bench gazing out on the ocean as we looked for whales. We saw whale spouts off shore moving North on their migration. A few birds even returned so the birders breathed a sigh of relief. Mind you everyone else was in sweaters and windbreakers and such.

After the break clothes were once more offered but to no avail. A diaper luckily was agreed to and baby began the remainder of the walk barefoot on what was now a rocky service road. At a certain point baby decided she needed to be carried, but refused to get in the pack. I had her right leg and shoulder and B. had her left side. We tried to gently wrestle this 30 pound child who was writhing and screaming as if we were taking her to the gallows. With all my effort I could not hold her in there. It crossed my mind for a moment how frustrating a two year old can be and how they could drive you to the edge. I looked at my friend trying to hold it together with a mixture of incredible respect, pity, and amazement. Parenting is not for the faint of heart or will.

I’m 98% sure that if we’d been in public at a mall for example we would have been arrested for child endangerment. Her screams were so blood curdling. We did everything we could but to no avail, and once again we were lagging behind so B. Just picked her up in her arms and carried her in front of her body, The now empty pack on her back and body completely off kilter. Luckily I wasn’t quite as steep or narrow as the ascent , but consider carrying a case of wine in your arms for three miles. She tried to explain to the child how heavy she was and that Mommy couldn’t possibly carry her the entire way but M. was not sympathetic.

We stopped a few times to debate with her and I even took a turn for about 20 minutes. The kid was HEAVY and awkward! I kept telling her to pretend she was a monkey and I was the banana tree. “The banana tree is swaying!! Hold on tight! Cling!” And she’d laugh. She rested her head on my shoulder, meanwhile I was just trying to be sure I didn’t trip and fall and drop her off a cliff or into the rushing rapids next to us.

The dappled sun was fading a bit and baby M. was finally starting to shiver but no clothes would touch her body until we reached the car and she grabbed her beloved pink faux fur vest. The hike ended up to be about six miles and six hours!

We bid adieu to our co-hikers, nice people but they honestly seemed relieved to say farewell. We headed back north, exhausted both mentally and physically.

A stop at Nepenthe, a plate of hot French fries and shrimp BLT and things were looking better. The sparkling Anjou and warm hugs from our friends who work there made for a large sigh of relief as we eased into the atmosphere of that comforting scenic restaurant. Whales in the distance were once more spouting. The best part was the feeling that you get after easing in after a long day’s hike. I had a big smile on my face. It was between the lunch and dinner shift there, mostly empty so it was fine that baby was walking around the tables near the banquette.

B. was engaged in conversation when I noticed a quizzical look as the baby said two words that instill horror in us non-parental types. “Poo poo.” She said quietly… and then repeated it once more.

In disbelief I got B.’s attention. “Um… I think she just said ‘poo poo'” I said. B. finally had a chance to relax so she calmly told baby how if she’d just told us in time then she could have gotten her star and maybe a gummi bear or whatnot and then said, “it’s ok, we are going to take care of it.” But she didn’t immediately jump to the task as she was finishing up her chat. Just to provide confirmation baby M. thrust her a hand into the stretchy leggings and held it in the air as if for a timid high five saying those terrifying words once more…

I backed away from the scene up as if negotiating a hostage situation. “Stay where you are!,” I implored the tot. I tried to create a barrier from the whole situation wielding the burgundy napkin attempting to protect myself from a charging bull. Our friend the manager, had just come over to check on us. I kept the suspect firmly in my sights and muttered from the side of my mouth, “Adam, I think we’ve got a Code Brown.”

Needless to say the day wasn’t exactly as I’d imagined, but the funny thing was it was great. I let almost everything roll past me. I didn’t get hung up on expectations because I didn’t have any. I let life happen and adapted as needed. This is how I try to live daily. Sometimes it is harder than others, and of course I don’t mean to say that you should just let life “happen to you” without intentions and trying to create goals and aspirations, but if you can realize when and where your efforts can be fruitful and when they cannot you’ll be much happier. And seeing the fun in a difficult situation is part of that.

I look forward to when baby M. Is sixteen and her mom and I embarrass her with this story. I’m so glad I was there to share this day with them but I think I will wait til she’s four before we try this kind of excursion again.

Fresh Paint

29 03 2019

Stories about my father and his unique and infectious personality still linger many years since he has left us. I don’t know if it’s true, but he once told me about the time he painted his apartment in NYC. He didn’t have a lot of money and it may have been during the time he worked at the doll factory where the caustic smell of plastic filled his senses daily as the newly molded doll heads came off the line waiting to be united with a body.

As the story goes when it came to painting his apartment he painted right over the crunchy carcasses of cockroaches that had died clinging to the stucco walls. Put up a fresh coat of paint and ignore the nubs.

I am this kind of painter.

At my new job as a gift store manager here in Nantucket we have been undergoing a major renovation and I’ve been watching the maintenance team carefully. Apparently this is not the preferred way to paint. Proper preparation prevents poor… something, they tell me. And it’s fascinating to watch. They tape up around the wall or item and then they spend time filling little grooves and holes where there has been damage. Then they sand all that down and then prime the item. They wait till it dries which is surprisingly not that long. Then they paint and paint maybe another coat. Voila! A blue cabinet becomes white! A wall is transformed from white to red and then back to white once more before my eyes.

I don’t think my father painted over the roaches because he was lazy, I think he just had a different way of looking at an obstacle than most would. Maybe that is how he was able to process his childhood as a migrant farm worker.

I don’t remember him ever complaining about the hard times. He was matter of fact about it. He told me that lettuces were really hard on your back because you had to lean over so far and if the foreman looked ‘cross the field and you were upright you’d get in trouble. Cotton. That was the worst. The rough husky leaves and seeds would tear into your hands and chafe and cut them.

He told me about the time he and his brother saved all their money to go to the movies and snuck into the white section of the theatre. It was a big day out when normally your dollar a day for labor would have gone towards food for your family of fourteen. My father struggled to keep up with the storyline whispering furtively to his older brother trying to understand what was going on. Someone overheard the boys talking in Spanish and they got kicked out of the theatre.

He didn’t belabor these hardships and he never seemed to carry a grudge. He just carried on. He was the only one of that generation to finish high school and then went on to the US Air Force stationed in Germany and through that he and his friend opened up Pancho Villa’s Mexican Restaurant in Manhattan eventually growing it to a chain of for restaurants.

He didn’t live as long as we would have liked, but who does I guess. Maybe his heart knew he’d be ok with a quicker paint job. If he had lived longer I wonder if all the fresh paint would have eventually chipped away leaving the exoskeletons exposed. I’m realizing that while I’m a similar painter, it may not be serving me so well. It might be time for me to learn how to paint the right way. If I prepare things the right way I am told that the new paint will stick better. Suddenly the back stairs of my childhood home rush into my mind. They were metal leading from near the garage to the back door. I remember the sound of heavy feet up those stairs when my boyfriend would come to take me on a date… We did a ton of renovations at our home, maybe that’s why I feel so comforted by construction workers and enjoy watching this process. I came home from school one day greeted by bright orange stairs. My mother reassured me, “Don’t worry that’s only the primer!”

So my point is, with enough preparation you can change yourself. You can prepare yourself to undergo a complete transformation. You can change like a chameleon as you adapt to your life. But you just have to realize that if you change too suddenly and without preparation you may find that soon you’ll need to patch up those chips. The patching and spot painting becomes tedious. Eventually, if you’re lucky enough to have the time, you can give yourself the gift of renewal. Sand down those spiky bumpy places. Appreciate the cracks and thank them for making you who you are but then fill in those fissures.

No doubt the minute you’re fresh and painted clean someone will come and scrape a huge gash across you, but that’s ok.

a year ago today I was all primed and ready. I left behind those tenets that I held to be true about myself. Things others had told me and things I’d convinced myself.

“I’m out of shape”

“I’m not athletic”

“I’m afraid of falling”

“I don’t have good balance”

“Without my contacts I’m legally blind”

“I am used to fine accommodations and have never and couldn’t possibly ever stay in a hostel.”

“I’m not a hiker”

“I don’t backpack”

“I don’t have the right clothes”

“I can’t afford to be gone that long financially”

“I don’t have time”

“I don’t want to leave my husband and dog for so long”

“I can’t be without my computer that long”

“People need me I can’t be off the grid”

“I can’t possibly fit everything in just one backpack”

“I don’t travel light”

“I don’t know how to use hiking poles”

“I will probably get blisters”

You get the idea. This monologue ran through my brain for many years without me even realizing it, it hummed there barely audible when my brain would think, “Someday I’d like to walk the Camino de Santiago!” It would murmur under its breath.

As my walk grew closer and the signs no longer allowed me to deny I was going to do it the most amazing thing happened. Those misgivings and constant naysaying “voices” got louder and louder trying to change my mind.

It takes faith to do this.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you knew you could not fail. This is what you must believe to go forward on the Camino and then for the rest of your life. So if you want to go just know that you may find peace in the process but you’ll also never paint your life the same way again.

The Camino One Year After

28 03 2019

It’s so hard to believe that my Camino began one year ago today. One year ago today I finished cramming the last items into my backpack. Despite the days, weeks and months I spent hemming and hawing over what to bring, weighing and reweighing each and every item both literally and mentally, I had to finally bite the bullet and get on with it.

Despite all the weeks of prep there were still piles of papers and tax paperwork leaving their residual husks lying there on the table like a guilty secret that needed to be swept under the rug. But there was no more delaying the journey. No matter the best of intentions there were things undone, and these included my mental state. The stress of heading out for five weeks had been looming like the low hum of a light bulb about to burn out. The buzzing was audible but most of the time I could ignore it. But now it was making me anxious. The adrenaline coursing through me had me trembling as I rushed about the house trying to tidy it as much as possible so that my husband wouldn’t have to stare at the detritus strewn about for more than a month. There was excitement at the core of the anticipation, but it was iced with doubt and fear. Happy would not be how I’d describe it.

You would think taking the first steps of the Camino de Santiago would feel empowering. I keep hearing a running loop of quotes about steps, those you’d most likely find on a paperweight or inspirational poster at your doctor’s office. I cannot seem to think of the ending of any of them… “One small step for man…”, “The journey of a lifetime begins…”, but I don’t feel particularly inspired and I am sobbing as I walk to the first leg of my long journey. It feels more like I’m being ripped from the comfort of my daily life. I ponder why am I doing this. Where’s the “abort mission” button? How can I turn around? Maybe I’ll just fly to Barcelona as planned and spend a few weeks traveling throughout Europe. I’ve got connections from being in the wine business. I could just go visit all my winemaker friends, villas in Tuscany, chateaux in France.

But there’s my friend Suzy who’ll be waiting for me in Barcelona. Mind you I’ve only actually met her once at a songwriting conference in Nashville. And then there’s this pack and gear that I’ve spent countless hours collecting and obsessing over. Hours and hours of reading chats that debate how many pairs of socks and underwear I’ll be allotted (I’ve exceeded that with three each). And there are all my friends and supporters I never knew I had who I’ve been bragging to about this grand journey. I’ve told them I’d walk for them or their loved ones. Some have sent monetary gifts of support and some have sent photos of loved ones.

But most importantly there are those out there that I couldn’t promise I’d walk for them, at least not in person. I will walk for my loved ones who have passed so that they will find peace. I walk for troubled living souls so that they are soothed. Most of all I will walk for myself. May I find peace with these souls departed and near.

I understand that somehow I’ve found myself lost and must walk through the undergrowth and brush to get out. It would be easier to stay in the little fort I’ve created. Covered in spiny thorns and branches it protects me, but it’s dark in the safety of that cocoon. It gets tight sometimes when I struggle and sometimes hard to breathe. So I will walk.

I expect that the sun will warm me, the rain will cleanse me and the fresh air will fill my lungs and come forth with song. So no, it is too late to give up now.

I get some hugs from friends and compose myself as the ferry pulls back from the dock. I’m comforted knowing that there’s no turning back now.

Incredible in retrospect to see myself that day, a mere child so naive to what was just around the corner, fresh and wide eyed and yes very scared. With one year under my belt here I laugh to myself thinking how different my outlook is. I know now that this journey will never be over, but the Camino was the realignment I needed. It’s like I’d been trodding along for 46 years until someone grabbed my shoulders from behind and turned my body 180 degrees towards them. They held me and looked me right in the eyes as I looked at them in surprise and they said,”Hey not there, there…” and pointed off to my left shoulder. A little reset that took 33 days and more than 500 miles. But really the hardest steps were those before I got to St. Jean Pied de Port. The fact that I didn’t turn to that spirit guide and say “No buddy, I’m all good” and turn back to my previously selected route.

That was the hardest part, to tell my rational, logical mind “So I had this crazy idea! A really quiet thought has been tiptoeing around up here and whispering to me and I think it’s my calling or purpose or something so you’re off duty for the next few months cuz we are dropping everything to walk across Spain.”

Some days it still feels like it was a dream. Or was I awake on The Way and in a dream now? When I can I try to bridge the chasm between Camino life and my life today as much as I can.

I wish all the peregrinos of 2019 the very best. May you travel safely and receive the gifts that wait for you along your journey. Buen Camino!

Read blog post from a year ago

Ebb and Flow

1 01 2019

Most people think that being in the right place at the right time is about luck, but it’s about destiny.  And we forget that being the in right place at the right time doesn’t mean that always happy or pleasant.

I was at the right place to deliver news to a woman whose life would be forever changed from that point on.  I like to think I was put there expressly to deliver that news, wearing the bear necklace I bought from her husband more than 15 years before, the one I never ever take off.

Whether happy or sad, those “right place right time” moments remind me that I am on the right path.  Over the years I have found myself wavering and trying to balance.  No doubt it did not help that I chose to live above the fractured trenches and faults of San Francisco and then more recently on the ever-swirling sands of Nantucket.  I think I secretly love this kind of life, I learned at a young age that life is fleeting and ever changing, so if you can’t beat that then why not embrace it.

I feel that for the most part I have.  I have taken some jobs that keep me tied down, but more often it was consulting, flying across the country, visiting wine regions, always moving, always busy.  Doing events that would come and go like the flowing tides.  I had times of quiet and respite where I would be terrified waiting for the tide to come back in, wondering how I had ever gotten so far from the water’s edge, and how could I be so low, and could it ever come back.

I envision that crazy castle where you see images of people walking out onto the flats but when the tide rolls in so suddenly it looks like a tsunami.  At times the universe would surprise me with some gift from out of nowhere, like a rogue wave tossing sand and spray into the bottoms of my rolled-up jeans.

SO it’s here at the beginning of a new year, with a whole new double challenge ahead that I reflect.  I am taking on a ton of responsibility but for the most part also intricately anchoring myself with some stability.  I expect it to be like tethered to a mooring, the tides will still roll back and forth and I will ride them, but I am creating a safe haven for myself from where I can look back and reflect.

I recently took a long walk through Spain, the Camino de Santiago.  Daily for 33 days I was surprised, no matter what you expected it is never easy.  Many have said the Camino is a microcosm for life, you expect a day to be uneventful, easy, and you may have a few of those, but inevitably something will pop up to challenge you.  You cannot prepare for that, but f you can learn to balance and ride the tides you can get over those waves.

The most important thing is to have faith and to know that you can do whatever you set your intention to do.  It’s just important to make that intention very clear and detailed and to truly believe it is in your best interest to do what you intend.

For 2019 my intentions are as follows.

I live with so much abundance, I have so much that sometimes it is a hindrance.  I will edit my possessions and streamline my life to create efficiencies that will allow me more time to attack the challenges ahead and to enjoy myself.

I will care for myself and give myself rest and reprieve.  I will find time to do this by delegating responsibilities and having faith and trust in others.  I have an incredible support system of friends both near and far that give me a huge amount of energy to do what I know I can do.  My staff are precious to me, and I know they will have my back and help me achieve great things.  My team and my tribe can do wonders together.

I will write and read more daily, play and sing more daily and that will bring me joy and more inspiration.

I will get my writings organized and submit them in some format by the end of the year.

I will cultivate my home and my family and cherish them daily.  I will be better at respecting my home and possessions by being more conscientious and clean.

I think that is pretty good for today.  Step by step or as Anne Lamott would say, Bird by Bird.

I wish everyone a very prosperous and productive 2019.  The year of the pig is coming and there will be great change in the world if we can ride out the tides for a little bit longer.

The Never Normal

9 10 2018

I started to beat myself up about not writing yesterday… only day three and already slacking, but it was a crazy day full of a great deal of stress and some terrible news. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert is over and all the friends I enjoyed for a weekend and myself are going back to our “normal” lives but for me my life has never really been that normal.

As a consultant in the wine industry and ironically a writer about wine (which by the way is much easier than writing about yourself or feelings) I made my own schedule. I have had very few really regimented jobs over the course of my life. Even as the Estate Ambassador for Rubicon Estate for a few years I mainly planned my own travel and worked out of my home. Hell come to think of it my very first job out of college at Windows on the World although my hours were scheduled I worked alone. So basically most of the time I’ve been my own boss.

Sometimes that is good but at times I feel like I need more structure. This whole diatribe is my excuse for not getting my writing done. It would be good if I planned a time to write and ate meals at normal times, had a set bedtime, but honestly that’s never really been “me”.

So today I guess I’ll write twice. And here’s where I may lose some readers because I can’t promise it’s going to always be interesting… but I heard at a songwriting conference once that sometimes it’s important to write to make way for the real story, to remove the clutter so you can see the important things. To get into it as a habit.

I fear it though because I’ve done such a great job at hiding those things. Stuffing the painful things way down. When you sweep up and clean you see the cracks and the shipping paint. You uncover those places where maybe you punched a wall or damaged the coffee table with a glass of wine. But I’ve committed to going there I guess.

Yesterday I found out that my mother is sick, pretty sick I think. This is terribly scary and it conjures up lots of memories of my father being ill. It puts me in a place of extreme uncertainty. It reminds me that little things are less important. That you only have today. I am still on route to Nantucket and back to my new job as interim gift store manager at the whaling museum, and I’m going to take it day by day. I’m thankful for my family that is closer and taking one for the team and I hope to relieve them as needed, but we still don’t have much news. So for today there’s not much I can do but be hopeful and grateful to have today.

Scallop season has started on Nantucket, so I’m hopeful I can get into the water and harvest some scallops. My cousin wrote recently of the book of faces (lol) that when she is fishing nothing else matters, time goes away and it’s a meditative practice. I’m really hoping I can do that tomorrow, getting in the water with my viewing box is so peaceful. I’m with nature and the sound of the water soothes me even when it’s rough. Looking through the viewing box I see the bottom of the sand and all sorts of creatures as they go about their lives knowing little about what is up above the surface. Maybe they’re similar to us, now and then getting a glimpse of something up above or getting swept ashore and then swept back into their mundane normal lives underwater.

My walk, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela felt a little like that. A few weeks steeped in a world that was completely not normal, not sane with a bunch of folks who were all on the same page. Leaving real life for a time to seek, well what I was seeking is still somewhat of a mystery.

The challenge becomes finding that peace of the journey in the day to day. Incorporating those lessons without getting swept back into the mundane. Remembering the magic that I experienced. Sitting here in a bus in the early morning darkness after a red eye with worries on my mind I struggle to find that peace. I do feel a little bit closer to it though and calmer. I pray that I may continue to seek and find serenity even if times are tough.

In other news SFO has decided to prep people for their inflight experience with seats positioned to have less legroom than the actual plane.

But they do have a super cool room for doggies to do their business.

And finally my etiquette tip of the day… “Sir it’s highly offensive for you to floss on the plane.”

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2018

7 10 2018

We are in San Francisco for what is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Due to the incredible generosity of Warren Hellman and his family this event continues to be free for the public even after his passing. Thank you Warren is always a message I send up to the heavens while soaking up incredible love and warmth of spirit from the crowd and bathing in the beautiful tones of the artists.

You may be thinking this is a small concert but it’s really massive in scale, three days, multiple stages, so many bands and lots of logistics. It runs annually without so much as a hiccup at least from the perspective of the guests, partly due to the organizational skill of my friend Bradley. We met while working on Eat Drink SF and it’s always great to see him each year.

We have a core group of Bluegrass goers who have done the festival yearly with us, it’s truly like a motley little family. The core are all people I’ve met at The Mint karaoke lounge, someone nearby we were chatting with called us a karaoke family. This group has grown quite a bit and includes people we went to college with, colleagues from the wine business, basically everyone is welcome.

Friday afternoon we usually keep simple with light snacks and not quite as much infrastructure. While some like to move around through the various acts, Daddy David holds down some real estate at the biggest “main” stage, the Banjo. There’s always room on the blankets for us. This year I was there to see Mavis Staples and my ultimate favorite Allison Krauss. From our spot slightly on the rise of the hill we have a perfect sight line.

Saturday and Sunday we go big. We take over a bigger footprint as my husband Mike bravely and tirelessly heads out during the overnight with tarps to secure our area. He returns in the morning with coolers, blankets,’chairs, cards and fake dog poop (to protect the perimeter of our area. He’s an expert… we usually have a space along the railing halfway between the stage and sound booth. From that base camp we can visit other stages and we welcome our friends who drop by.

Yesterday, day two, was truly special with bright sunshine followed by dappled shade and then bright sun again. I got into the park later than I wanted to but was happy to see our cheery group already munching on snacks. Hooray for the Riff Raff was first and gave a very passionate performance. The stage we chose was Star, a little easier to get in and out from… when we choose Banjo that’s always a big commitment and god forbid you have to go to the bathroom! That’s the one thing our camp doesn’t provide!

Star stage toggles with Towers if Gold which means when one act finishes they go directly to the next act and pipe that into the other stage that’s “dark”. Next was I’m With Her and then the highlight for me, the Wailin’ Jennys. Their harmonies were incredible, true siren song. I even bought a CD which they were kind enough to sign.

I took a walk, I like to be alone sometimes even though I really enjoy our crew sometimes it’s good to peel away, so I caught a little Rodney Crowell and then got back in time to hear Don Was and friends, including Bob Weir. After awhile we started to be swarmed with friends dancing among our piles of food and by the time Graham Nash played we’d gotten buzzed and teary-eyed. Just so much love felt here, the energy so uplifting in such a difficult time. Our friend Steph has three daughters who we’ve seen growing up at this festival and she was playing with our friend Katie’s two year old, throwing her up in the air to make her giggle. I was struck by the fact that the future for these girls is uncertain, and that for all the advances our mothers and grandmothers made, have we let these girls down? Or will we? Is it too late? Were we complacent and so comfortable we didn’t see what was slipping away? I don’t regret choosing to not have children. I’m grateful I had the choice to abstain from being a more traditional woman so to speak. I respect those that have kids but wow am I afraid of this world we are passing along to them.

Graham Nash closed with the perfect song, Teach Your Children.

Camino Continues

6 10 2018

I have really missed writing daily. I used the Camino de Santiago as a reason to write. Could I really have anything interesting to say in my normal life? Maybe or maybe not… but I was struck today by grim news that someone is met, she was only 58 years young, has passed away.

I met Audrey at the home of a friend on the edge of the Pacific. We seemed to click or else her dynamism was just so infectious she may have made everyone feel that way, no matter.

I told her of my interest in writing fiction (she was both a screenwriter and director). She let me tell her my idea for a book or movie, I’m sure she got inundated that all the time by aspiring writers, but she then told me she liked the idea. We moved on and spoke about lots of things, our families, my parents and my background. Later in the evening after listening to one of my stories she turned to me and said, “That’s the story right there. Why not write about you?”

Those words have haunted me since. I’ve done some of the work. Picked at those raw moments. Dig into the wounds and then bandaged them up again tightly. This Thursday I was in San Francisco and had friends staying with me. We spoke about Audrey and those words. I told them that now was the time for me to get to work. The slow season on Nantucket may be just the recipe for quiet contemplation and reflection. And I told my friends that now it felt like I had enough of a story where I could say the Camino is the end of the story, although in my heart I know that no story really ends.

I have about a ream of paper here in SF that my obsessive side printed out. Many vignettes I wanted to have on paper in case my hard drive crashes. After we said goodnight I sat in bed and I started reading my own words. I started a particular intro piece I’d written a few years ago while in the very same home where I’d met Audrey. I wrote…

“Trying to write about your life, well, you’d think you have to start at the beginning. And then you get stuck striving to find out how things are going to end, and of course you were never there at the beginning and how can you know how (or if) it is all going to end.”

I also wrote

“Every sign in my life, in my mind, and in my body is leading me to write this NOW. This idea was spawned what seems like a lifetime ago. I was out here on the Mendocino Coast, in the same home. We ate abalone, drank amazing wines and we laid on the grass and gazed at the stars. Despite immense trepidation I made a walk out onto the spit of land that sits in front of me now, a tiny finger that reaches into the Pacific, a rickety fence on one side to add an element of security, but a deep abyss below. I almost crawled to the comforting bench at the lip of the Pacific plate and the world in front of me. At the brink you experience exhilaration and utter terror. Here this idea was spawned, that this story was not about everyone else, it was not fiction, but that I was good enough. THIS story is about me.”

Little did I know that Audrey died Thursday. I found out today. Coincidence that I was hearing her words in my ear? The urging to make sure that I know there’s no time to waste because time is always way too short. I know from the walk that there are no coincidences if you are brave enough to let yourself feel the magic that this universe is trying to remind us of. The magic that we need to bring back. These lessons from the Camino that are so hard to remember upon reentry into life where your only job isn’t walking.

I’m heeding Audrey’s words today. I’m going to challenge myself. I’m going to keep going and I won’t make promises but maybe if I can just do a little every day, someday I’ll be able to have that book in my hand.

No let me rewrite that. That’s wrong. It is my best purpose to write this book. It’s my job. I’m committed to doing that to show my gratitude for having had this incredible life. I have plenty to say, and I’ve got insight to share.

Will you keep walking with me?

Camino de Santiago:

12 05 2018

Today I finally had a full day to dedicate to my other jobs… oh did I fail to mention that I not only work at the Nantucket Whaling Museum (part time), but I also sell wine, beer and spirits to restaurants and retail stores for a distributor (part time) and my main gig (seasonally) since last year is operating a snack bar here in Nantucket called The Hungry Minnow.

And I have a few other things I do as well, Tannin Management which is my wine consulting company, for example I took on a project to help a trade group improve their mailing list this week, I teach wine classes at the San Francisco Wine School, and I have Ambergris which is my art and crafts company (I make notebooks out of VHS tape covers and Monopoly game pieces and sell them on Amazon) and I’m a singer songwriter. I paint sand dollars I harvest from the SF Bay, I paint watercolors… So yes I keep myself busy.

I’m pretty good st juggling these jobs but I’m also really good at procrastination. I’m not sure if the change I felt today was from the walk ir just out of sheer necessity (I have a ton to do!) but I felt like I attacked every task today with greater purpose. I used to like to overplan and outline the tasks in writing but today I just got things done.

I had to go get my car registration and out here on the island there’s only one service center. People know there’s a grouchy guy that works there and a nicer guy. Grouchy guy has always been nice to me, but I was nervous… what if he was in a bad mood? I dreaded it but could not put it off and I got less grouchy kinda nice guy! What luck!!

Rather than writing down who I needed to call (I hate talking on the phone, including even ordering takeout for some reason) I just called them. I ordered the dumpsters for the restaurant, scheduled the fire safety, confirmed the hood cleaning. I went and paid for and scheduled the health inspection. I ran errands and picked up my timecard for the museum.

For my sales job I had a rep from a wine brand coming in Thursday so I had to call, text and email every buyer I knew asking for appointments. I kept on it and tried to get more firm appointments and so many people were off island or busy! I even had to go and stage oyster shells on the wine bottles at the liquor store that sold their wines!

I started cleaning the house as much as possible because Friday we have our very first group of Airbnb guests arriving to stay in our home while we move to a downstairs apartment! I worked for a few hours on a mailing list project… and then I went to a community gathering at a private club, The Westmoor, which was finally a lively breath of fresh air after a non-stop day! It was so nice to gather with some like minded busy community members and drink a little rose. One of a friends from a writing workshop last year was hosting and after most of the people had left we really enjoyed talking about my trip and about focusing on writing more this summer. And I could really tell she understood my journey and my need to take it. We had a lot of parallel experiences to chat about and incredibly we really haven’t hung out since the first time we met. It’s interesting though, just like some friends met on the Camino, how you quickly can sense that there are certain souls with whom you have an innate understanding that has nothing to do with proximity or time spent together.

I returned home to get some more paperwork done feeling relieved to be back in charge of so many things that I’d felt were out of my control for so long and to have clear progress to show for my effort. And a little spiritual connection to boot.

I am a little sad to be behind on my daily musings but… I still want to try to capture some daily thoughts so I hope to catch up soon. I’m scared that soon the title may not be Camino de Santiago… and maybe it won’t continue to be appropriate or pertinent to the Camino groups I used to post on… but then there’s the weird thought that forever I’m now on this journey.

Forever I am now a part of a Brotherhood that DOES understand the Camino whether or not they are walking at that moment. If they are veterans or prospective walkers they may appreciate my emotions. How is my life journey tied the Camino? And how will it be tied to it in the future.. But, in some ways I’m wondering “Am I still a member of the club even though I am done with my journey?”

This is another weird emotion. In some ways I feel abandoned yet it’s only self abandonment…. that said no one out here “gets it”! And now I’m not “in it” so how can or should I still be a part of the group!?

I’ve felt this belonging for so many months but now I’m struck with the thought that perhaps it’s my time to go?! If my walk is over do I leave the group other than providing pertinent info on footwear and such?

I find it a strange and vulnerable spot to be with all the rest of the culture shock I’m experiencing upon return to the U.S.

So there ya go.