Fog and secret bloodroot haunt me, a dream I’ll create if it doesn’t exist. A South I insist upon, one far from this screen. One where herbs are ground in mortar & pestles to the tune of murder ballads and gospel music. I want it. I want the phosphorescent foxfire, the rattlers, and cast iron. I want the hoodoo blues, and the strings. God, I want the strings. I want to know this place that informs my I, snake handlers and all. It is this part of me—Tennessean—of us, that Home & Hill magazine—a gorgeous quarterly devoted to this fair state—celebrates. They’re as enamored of Tennessee as I am, and I couldn’t be more proud to share some outtakes of my contribution to their second issue as well as some photos of the dinner I hosted with them for all the contributors of Issue #2 right here in Chattanooga.
I live in a relatively small town. That means that most of my treasures come in one of two ways: second hand or in parcels by way of mail. The unopened box is a chief pleasure (as is my impatient & inefficient tearing into them) topped only by the joy of discovering something as precious as this book inside. Containing well over 125 vegetarian recipes, Feast by Sarah Copeland of the blog Edible Living instantly earned a place on the kitchen shelf. The kitchen shelf is the spot, the coveted spot. I’m a voracious cookbook collector, always searching for inspiration, and that means that much of my impressively (embarrassingly?) large collection lives on the bookshelf in my office (/guest room/room where my personal organizational failures live). I keep a small, curated collection in my kitchen. They’re the ones I actually cook from (which is saying something as my even loosely using a recipe is a rare occurrence), the ones that I thumb through in the evening, reading like novels.
Yesterday I awoke to a letter telling me I was that same girl from two autumns ago. The letter said it saw me: saw me listless, saw me trilling & giddy, saw me working to the bone. The letter was a tender apology. The night before, I’d skittered up and down the stairs, out into the frigid driveway barefoot in nothing but a slip look, look, looking for my damn phone. I needed the alarm on it. I’m trying to become a morning person, you see. Current status of that project is abject failure. I’ll keep you posted. So I skittered around looking for the phone only to finally find it tucked neatly by the detergent on the laundry room shelf. I’m also trying to do more laundry. It’s one of those ambitious weeks. Still haven’t run yet. But I did 100 lunges, and I can’t walk or sit without almost falling down. I, evidently, succeeded in breaking my legs. So there’s that. Anyhow, I found the phone, crawled beneath the covers shivering the driveway chill off, and then the phone looked at me and wailed my battery is dying! It was exactly 17 minutes before midnight, and I reached for the charger only to remember I’d left it in the living room. It was mostly downhill after that. You can read about it. Or just scroll down to the recipe link at the bottom of the post. I won’t hold it against you.
I wanted to run today. I wanted to run so badly. Run in sneakers. Not my usual bi-seasonal existential crisis sort of run. I mean, like, jogging. Pavement pounding, lung burning run. I wanted to listen to arguably lousy, inspirational pop music. And run. I wanted to run off my anxiety. Run off my fear. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to build the fibers that my feeble frame is stitched of. I felt, sitting at that stop light, so determined. So fragile and invincible at the same time. I was jangling. And then it hit me I want to run off my…anger?! This came as a surprise. I’m not usually any more of an angry person than I am a runner. I see anger, as a general rule, as a middle man emotion. Might as well just skip to being hurt & afraid and get on with it. Anger always seemed a little cowardly to me—but maybe that’s because I’m a coward and anger scares me. Either way, I have a strong distaste for the stuff. But every now and then in my life I’ve found it very cathartic, dare I say healthy, to just get angry. Usually that’s when there’s no recourse, when it’s a situation where talking it out isn’t an option. Like if the person has passed away, or you’re completely estranged. Sometimes to say, if in front of no one other than myself or a trusted friend, this is not ok & they can seriously…insert various wildly creative expletives here is the first step to wanting to want to forgive.
In my dream you were there and you’d always been there. We’d known each other for a very long time, but I couldn’t recognize your face. You looked like me, beneath a wide brim hat in a cocoon. You looked like a man I once loved in ink and leather. You had so many faces and long curls and were so kind. And you were all my family in a different life. So I made you biscuits when the sky was clear, and when it was dark, again. My sisters were there (you don’t have any sisters), and the air was blue and green too. A trike sat out front. And so many pine cones. Pinecones like I’d used to try to sell the neighbors when I was a kid in the suburbs. In Fairfield. In North Georgia. Our house was stucco. I wasn’t supposed to touch the peachy pink walls, and I’d slide down the stairs in a sleeping bag. I can’t remember if anyone ever bought any pine cones. Maybe they did, to be kind. I was wearing a parka and kept my head down. Eyes on the oven, eyes behind the lens. Doing the things I like to do. I like to hide behind the things I do. I like it very much. I don’t know how to be a guest. But you were my guests, and you were there and you’d always been there. We’d not known each other for a very long time, but I recognized your face.