I saw them and, of one mind, hundreds undulated around the steeple in the pale, orange sky. A ballet of starlings. Traffic started and stopped around me, 5 pm on a Friday. I was trying to get to the damn, damn bank but road work and my stellar case of adult ADHD ended me up on the wrong side of the river. And so I saw the starlings crescendo around the steeple at sunset. I turned the radio up. Something about being high all the time or white t-shirts. Something about loss or love or sex or getting drunk, always.
Here August sits, frozen. But really it’s now months behind. These photos are a window, as autumn descends, into the Shenandoah Valley where Rebecca Gallop of A Daily Something & I hosted “Gathering From Scratch” a workshop retreat where we taught photography, styling, and the art of putting together a small gathering from scratch, from the food to setting the table. You can find Part I here. In a way, this retreat was an ode to tabletops. An obsession of mine. One of my favorite things in the world to style. One of my favorite things to photograph. One of my favorite places to be, sitting at a simple but beautiful table graced with food of the same sort.
I’ve cycled the streets of Eck en Wiel & past the thick green carpet of an algae covered pond and thought I cannot be unhappy here. I have woken up hung-over and disoriented in Bruges with a train to catch and thought I cannot be unhappy here. I have hidden beneath a pier with a British sailor in a Spanish port town and thought I cannot be unhappy here. Up all night in Hania, ouzo soaked. I cannot be unhappy here. Through a hundred terminals and terminals and buses and trains throughout my life. I cannot be unhappy here. Happiness in and of itself, the peripatetic life for me.
I have my mother’s hands, pronounced veins & tapered fingers. My hands are tools. They scratch and pry, knead and rub. They make. I too often use them as oven mitts. They’re devil’s hands & dirty. They like to touch and be touched, and I like to think my fingers would have been very good at piano. I, however, can’t play any instrument at all. In a different life, I’d be a pianist that spoke five languages. But I also can’t speak a foreign language. So. They aren’t pianist hands. They aren’t polyglot hands. They’re just kitchen hands. Kitchen hands that want to touch everything. The flesh of fruit and sandy almond meal. The smooth shells of pistachios, pried open for the meat. Eat one, toss one in the bowl. Cream the frangipane. Run a finger along the edge of the wooden spoon. And lick it off.
It’s coming, in this hemisphere at least. Autumn. I just returned from Australia last week. Life was trembling on the branches. We ate rhubarb & freshly shelled peas. Even broad beans. I wandered in gardens, and arugula flowers bloomed. It was cold and gray. But the produce and shivering buds on the trees gave it away: spring. The last day there was sun. Such sun. Metaphysical sun. I cycled around the Sydney harbor & sucked oysters out of their shells in the park. But then I flew and flew away from spring and back to muscadines and gourds and picking tart, firm apples alone in the orchards of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To roasted meats and before I know it smoke, leaves aflame, and that particular razor blue of a clear, autumnal sky.