To the marsh!

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My husband grew up in many places, one of which was basically the swamp. He knows all about swimming with alligators, or timing visits to friends’ houses so you can jump in the river and let the tide carry you conveniently to and fro, depending on which dock you needed to clamber upon, murky and wet. (This was easily one of the most romantic stories of his youth that delighted me in our early days of getting to know each other. I still enjoy telling others about this.)

I did not do any of those things. Any kind of water worth having comes with waves, I always thought. I still sometimes think this is true, but now I have been to the marsh.

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This particular marsh really is The Marsh — The Marsh Studio, the aerial dance home created by Susan Murphy, founder of Canopy and mentor to many of us. When she invited Canopy’s Rep company to drive down from Athens to Darien to perform last weekend, we heeded the call accordingly (and dearly missed the company of those who couldn’t make it, of course). Fittingly, the show was called “Reunion.”

Susan and her husband, Don, live right on the marsh. As in…you can hear the baby alligators chirp to their mother in the water below your deck right-on-the-marsh. We were surrounded on all sides by water and heavy salt air, made pleasant by a constant breeze. I could open the French doors of my weekend bedroom and see nothing but lush green all around me. It was wonderful.

IMG_0466Oh – do you want to see a video? I bet you do. It’s really short. You can practically feel the breeze!

The studio itself is a marvel: a modernist cube stacked two-stories high, with living areas wrapping around the interior aerial space. (That’s Susan in the green shirt!)

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Anyway, the show was pure joy, and I am pleased with how my piece went. Most of all, I will remember watching my friends perform, and the surge of love I felt for them in each moment. It was almost exhausting, all that love! What a family we’ve built.

I hope to share some of the show night videos sometime – I know the video of my piece is still on a camera somewhere in south Georgia. But there is one video I can share now. The next morning, after coffee but just barely, some of us gathered in Susan’s studio to revisit our pieces, share skills and break down moves and combinations, teaching and learning. Susan requested some reprisals. I tied the corners of my pajama pants so they wouldn’t flip up, taped my wrists (that last slide-down is a long one), and prayed my glasses would stay on. It’s not the perfect run—I am sure my fellow aerialists will note fussy moments here and there — but it reminds me of a near-perfect morning. If you’re so inclined, you can watch it here.

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I’m Old

Oldness is relative, of course.

Sometimes I want to join in the chorus of “Kids today!” while waving my invisible cane at youngsters wearing their Nirvana T-shirts and what-not. Remembering my high school journal entries written on the day Kurt Cobain died makes me feel old. Trapeze show weekends make me feel young, though the day after a trapeze show weekend makes me feel old. Riding my bike makes me feel young. Rediscovering favorite movies and books with my son makes me feel young. The start of each new school year makes me feel old.

There’s a part of me that, no matter my age, stays old.

This is my grandmother.

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This is my dad.
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My grandmother was the real deal—a 1920s flapper and dance instructor who taught the Charleston while living in Charleston. My dad, a long-time university professor, was almost in his mid-50s when I was born. Surprise! 

So, I grew up with a shorter distance to Ye Olden Times than most of my age cohort, which surely influenced my upbringing and everything else. At the risk of getting too precious about this sort of thing (too late?), I will share that some of my childhood favorite leading men were Jimmy Stewart and Dick Van Dyke. (Not to worry—my mother, who was significantly younger than my dad, balanced things out with a healthy appreciation for early 80s synth pop and new wave. That might be another blog post. For now, let’s just say that not everyone’s mom showed up for volunteer lunchroom duty dressed up like Boy George with a bunch of Swatch watches on each arm. Well, maybe yours did, but she wasn’t at my elementary school.)

Anyway, I self-identify as a progressive and liberal and all that, but somehow I still ended up being the kind of person who says “Oh, crumbs!” and dresses like a very unfashionable grandpa. I think a preference for old cardigans and plaid pants is in my DNA. But sometimes…I like to pay tribute to my inner grandma.

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That’s me (on the right) and my dear friend Emily. She recently moved to Seattle, and I’ve been missing her, and I just came across these photos taken after a trapeze duet we performed last summer. I loved that piece, and the way we collaborated to create our story: We were dusty carnies, we decided, always on the road, exhausted by the act of giving ourselves over to clamoring crowds each night…but finding solace in our partnership and the comfort of each other. It was so sweet, and full of swings, and I got to sit in her lap – twice! For the full experience, feel free to listen to our song – “Grand Canyon” by Timber Timbre.

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Photos by Michaelian Ennis. Costumes by Emily, who is a very talented lady.

I love these pictures because they make me think of Emily, and also because I almost don’t recognize ourselves in them. It looks like they were taken a long time ago, and the women in those pictures maybe knew my grandmother—maybe danced with her—and then I remember: that’s us. Young and old.

Drinks for the swamp

O summer, you are so crummily hot and muggy and sweaty and mosquito-y right now. And yet—can’t you stay just a little bit longer?

I mean, meteorologically, you have plenty of time to go before autumn arrives, and with it, the Very Best Holiday of Them All (that would be Halloween). But the first day of school for both me and the kid is right around the corner, and there’s a lot of clinging to the last shreds of summertime freedoms and feelings.

And so I turn to those beverages my brain has compartmentalized as Summer Drinks. To be fair, they’re not just for summer, because that would be weird, but they are particularly cold and refreshing and very often fizzy. For instance…

LA CROIX (or, as it is known among my favorite fellow pre-school teachers, “a water.” As in, “Do you want me to get you a water from the fridge?” We all know that means a La Croix). This may seem like a cheap shot, given the drink’s current rise in popularity, but I won’t deny I was especially excited to pack some on our recent trip to the beach. I didn’t anticipate how attractively the drink would match the beach umbrella, but sometimes we just get lucky in this world.

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HIBISCUS TEA. It is certainly delicious on its own, though you could also add some seltzer (I added some rasberry-lime to this particular glass, seen here).

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FIZZY WATER & ACV. One more fizzy-related drink, and yeah, you heard me. Apple cider vinegar is good for what ails you, and taking it diluted in water can soften the soul-killing edge until you develop a taste for it. Diluting it in seltzer can make it seem more “fancy” (er, if you’re me) and if you choose a flavored seltzer, it can be a semi-enjoyable experience, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to drink vinegar-based shrubs. I actually have grown to really love ACV, even though it disgusts almost everyone in my family. I’m OK with that. (I found that Miss Piggy glass at the Goodwill and was very pleased.)

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ICED COFFEE. So good. I like mine with a little almond or coconut milk. It’s really cheap and easy to make your own cold-brewed at home – I use this recipe and my French press to strain it. I highly recommend making a lot of it and taking it to a child’s birthday party and drinking it with grown-up friends while the children happily slide around in snake-infested shoals. Be sure to turn your back on the children and enjoy the sense of peace that surrounds you.

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ICED TEA. Which, around here, is Ice Tea, and that really means a Sweet Ice Tea. Except here’s the thing—and I hope that my fellow southerners won’t eviscerate me for this—but I prefer unsweetened ice tea. I know I’m from Georgia, but I was raised by a woman who sprouted her own mung beans, baked with carob and made tofu stroganoff far before it was fashionable. I also married a man who has been known to go through the drive-thru at Carey Hilliard’s in Savannah just to buy gallons of the sweet ice tea to-go. When I tried some, I thought my teeth might fall out. Anyway, sweet ice tea is just too sweet for my delicate sensibilities. I drink hot tea almost daily and prefer that to be plain, too, so maybe that has something to do with it. Sugar or no, it looks nice in a glass, doesn’t it?

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FROZEN BANANA SHAKE. It is ridiculously easy to make. Peel, slice and freeze some bananas. Once they’re frozen, blend with the milk of your choice (we usually do rice or almond) and feel free to add some peanut or other nut butter, as I’ve done for the one in this picture here. Add a little less milk, and you have something approaching soft-serve ice cream. You can really change it up however you want, but this recipe’s success depends on one detail. Listen, I try not to upset people, but let me be frank: if you don’t freeze the banana first, you may as well toss the whole thing in the garbage. Also, if you use frozen and very ripe bananas, there is no need to add any extra sweetener. Trust me on this – even if you like your ice tea sweet!
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This is more of an immune-boosting supplement that I make myself throughout the school year in an attempt to stay healthy. I periodically order the dried herbs and follow the instructions to brew it overnight in a mason jar. It’s another one of those acquired tastes, I must admit. I find it quite refreshing, though—and I’m happy to report that if you leave some out in the open air, it will turn a beautiful deep blue-green color that you can then use on watercolor paper.
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Enjoy!

Fixing holes

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So, I had hernia surgery back in May.

I had to take 6 weeks off from trapeze – couldn’t teach, couldn’t even lift over 10 pounds.  I worried about my brain, of course. One of the bazillion reasons I love trapeze is because of its profound effect on keeping my anxiety and depression in check. I thought that perhaps I could gird my mental health in advance by gathering new hobbies and activities for my little break. I would have plenty of time, too – my other job at a preschool has summers off.

During my recovery, I put together 1,000 pieces of a cupcake-themed puzzle. (Thanks, Ann!) I knitted an impressive amount of dishcloths. I reorganized the cookbooks and wrote down recipes from Pinterest on recipe cards and put them in an actual recipe box. (It was ridiculous how satisfying that was.) I read about that KonMarie Method and tried folding my shirts a new way. I made some watercolor paintings. I started taking long walks around our hilly neighborhood. I read books. I enjoyed seeing all the people I love, and they took very good care of me. I tried not to feel too sorry for myself.

My 6 weeks were up. I went to the beach, one of the most glorious places in the world to me, and swam and rode my bike and felt healthy again. I couldn’t wait to get back to the trapeze studio and my students and prep for the next show! Surely everything would be back to normal!

Ha ha ha. Ha ha.

I couldn’t do a single pull-up. I couldn’t even get onto the bar without tremendous struggle. I had lost so much core strength, of course (my hernia was abdominal). It is such a disconnect when your brain knows exactly what to do and your body simply won’t budge. And it is so frustrating.

My wise friend Mel W asked me how I was doing recently at the studio. I told her fine, and she waited for the rest to pour out. She listened patiently before laying some spirituality on me.

“It’s like there’s a thicket surrounding an oasis,” she told me. “And you have to fight your way through the thicket to get there. You wouldn’t have had this experience of fighting your way through any other way. It’s an opportunity to grow.”

I’ve been carrying this image around in my mind ever since. I think you can apply it to so many things – for me, it’s certainly my return to trapeze, but it’s also my journey in getting my fiction published. In a broader sense, it’s a reminder of the struggle taking us somewhere and teaching us at the same time.

I am right in the middle of the thicket, and I’m OK with that, because I’m still moving through it toward the oasis.