Friday, July 30, 2010

along the road

I know that my chronology is all shot to hell her at 550. Apparently I’m not abiding calendrical time very well. But you’ll just have to take what I can offer in fits and starts. The start tonight is getting my “honeymoon” pictures a bit organized. And those aren’t errant quotation marks, either. Our post-wedding get-a-way wasn’t your typical drinking-sweet-cocktails-with little-umbrellas-in-the-Caribbean kind of trip. Instead we drove 420 miles north of the wedding to Jacobsville, Michigan, a nearly uninhabited hamlet on the Keweenaw Peninsula. My mom and her husband own an old strawberry farm—or at least the farmhouse—on the top of some pretty majestic red rock cliffs.

I’ve been there before, and in the past, I’ve found something to renew myself along the slow dirt roads and in Superior’s icy waves. This time, though, was different. I was different. I was so—so, so, so, so—anxious about the wedding that I had imagined once it was over, I would be able to blissfully relax, to let it all go. This is what J did and boy did it look nice.

I should have known, knowing me, that it wouldn’t really feel like that in my head. Instead, my wedding anxiety followed us, transformed now into a feelings of terror and guilt that I hadn’t thanked all the people who had helped us have such a lovely day. I just couldn’t let it go. All of these people, people I love, had given so much and I worried that they were seething with rage because I hadn’t thanked them enough or in the right way. And so here we were in the middle of summer’s awesome beauty and all I could do was draft appropriately conciliatory thank you notes in my head. Even recounting it now makes me worry about my sanity.

As J read on the hammock, alternating mysteries with “real” novels and catnaps, I had to find a way to redirect my anxiety (how else can I account for thirty years of handwork?). So I started looking, really looking at our place on Red Rock Road. In looking through the viewfinder of my camera, in finding parallel lines and brocaded landscapes, aging fonts and glistening steel, I started to unwind. I wandered through the little sleeping cabins and newly-painted sauna looking for vestiges of former visitors. I found yellowing Life magazines from the ‘50s and an alabaster Buddha perched cliffside. Mostly I found colors and patterns, traces of light and shadow. Looking closely around me, I started to feel the energy, the anxiety petering out. I just need about a month instead of a week. Next time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A woefully inadequate start

The last few weeks have felt like much of the last few years: quick, really, really quick. When I first met J—he was 33 at the time—he waxed on about wanting to press pause, to slow down. At 30—or was I 31?—I expressed complete bafflement about this notion. Why ever would you want to press pause when the next greatest thing might be just around the bend?

Over the last few weeks, though, all I’ve wanted is a pause button. Everything has happened so quickly, with such a force of energy and emotion that I hardly know what’s happened. J and I decided that it must be a mid-30s kind of thing, that once you reach the middle of that decade everything speeds up to the point of indecipherability.

This space, this modest little space, helps slow things down. Even now, as I sit on the morning train thinking about the 46 things on my To-Do List, I find myself slowing down just enough to reflect and remember, to stretch out all that’s happened into sentences and paragraphs. As my deadlines loom large at the moment, I’m hoping that my commute might be a kind of pause button, an iron horse trotting only so fast that I might have time to reflect inside its belly.

In any case, I have a lot to say and show from the wedding. The images are starting to trickle in and I’m hoping to post the readings and perhaps even our vows here over the next couple weeks. For now, though, I thought I’d begin with a more mundane kind of celebration.

On Sunday we celebrated my mom’s birthday (which is, coincidentally, the birthday of my ex-boyfriend turned close friend, his father, his friend Karen, and the mother of my high school boyfriend) with a perfect mid-summer dinner on the porch in Michigan. J and I made grilled salmon with lime butter sauce. We served iceberg wedges with homemade bleu cheese dressing and we drank mojitos with limes left over from the wedding. The fish was cooked just right, but the real cause for celebration—at least for me—was that wedge of lettuce.

Oh how I missed the humble lettuces of old! The perfectly watery crunch of iceberg lettuce, with its nearly flavorless modesty, reminds me that for all the nutritional bravado of baby spinach or spring greens or bibb lettuce or even romaine, they just can’t compete with that crunch. We chilled the iceberg in a bath of ice water and then let it drip dry in the fridge for two hours so that the crunch was a serious crunch, a loud and mandiblely satisfying crunch.

We ended the evening's celebration with a trip to Moomers, Josh's favorite ice cream spot, with my delightfully quirky aunt and cousin.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Last night my dear friend Tasha--and her husband Geoff--had their first baby. A girl. Her name is Haviland, which seems just about perfect. I can finally reveal the decidedly unfeminine--and unsummery--sweater that I'm hoping will fit during the coldest days of February in Massachusetts. I once again followed Elizabeth Zimmerman's belief in gray as the best color for babies...

Congratulations Tash. I hope you and Haviland find a beautiful rhythm in the days ahead.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


When J and I got engaged last fall he told me that he expected—and would tolerate—a couple infamous anne freak-outs. He was clear about this: I was allowed a total of two meltdowns. Meltdowns could entail my telling him that I didn’t want to get married, swearing that I was perfectly sure that I didn’t want to get married. They could—though probably shouldn’t—include my sending back my engagement ring and refusing to discuss it. J, who is patient beyond all measure with me, knew that I needed a very wide berth if I was going to get through the whole process of coming to this major commitment.

But a funny thing happened when he gave me all this latitude. I didn’t seem to need it at all. In fact, save for a very brief inability to talk about the engagement, I did just fine for months and months and months. I was doing so well with it all, in fact, that I kept saying to him, “I mean can you believe I’m this calm?” He’d smile and we’d go on our way to get shrimp tacos.

That was before.

In the last few days, my cool, my calm has broken. I had epic, loud, and writhing meltdowns each of the last two nights. The first was about my desire for a communal song during the ceremony—a kind of kumbaya moment of collective vocal embrace—which J thinks is a lousy idea. He’s probably right. The second was about my desire for a second white wine, an alternative to the cases of chardonnay that my father bought and that anyone under 60 will likely scoff at. Neither of these things is essential. Neither of them is even that important. Both of them are mostly ridiculous. And here’s the thing: I knew this as I screamed—really actually screamed—at J. But my whole body felt totally furious. At one second I wanted to belt him and at the next I never wanted to see him again. And this went on and on and on.

As I marched out of the apartment, I struggled to make sense of it all.

A conversation with a friend helped me articulate what’s been happening in the last couple days. The way I described it to her was as the feeling of being consumed bodily with tremendous emotion. Sometimes I could point intellectually to the feeling as that of fear or anger, but mostly it just felt like too much feeling in every cell of my body.

It’s ugly and people don’t really want to hear about it.

After all, so much of getting married is about matching and comparing—contrasting and resisting—your felt experience to all the models of blissful nuptials that come into your field of vision everyday. All the planning is about reconciling desire with reality, and now I have to fight to stay grounded. I have to struggle not to wallop the sewing machine repair man or J or my mother, all of whom are trying to help and all of whom hardly recognize me.

And mostly I have to make room to feel, whatever feelings they may be and try not to destroy J in the process. Getting married is a big step for me, a really big step. For the last decade or so I’ve lived with the belief that the next best thing is right around the corner and I’d better run as fast as I can away from the now to get to it. That desire has mostly subsided over the last few years, but letting go of it completely feels pretty scary but also like the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

I just need to remind myself of that.