Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When You Need It, It Appears

I've never been a churchgoer. I used to joke that hiking was my church, partly because I did it almost every Sunday, partly because it was what made me feel closest to God. I've always found that my connection to source, spirit, whatever you want to call it, feels strongest when I'm communing with the natural world.

It always seemed to me that it was the nights when I was lying on my back looking at the stars and the days when I was marveling at hummingbirds that brought me closest to a connection with the Divine. It's during those times that I'm most aware something greater is at work in our world. Something beyond any of our finite human capacities. It's holding us. Keeping us joined to it and to each other.

I needed that feeling today. Stuff is going on.

I went into the backyard to dump the compost I'd collected in my kitchen and as soon as the sun hit my face, I felt the need to sit down and look for it. The connection.

I rested on the concrete steps outside our sliding glass door and let the light warm my cheek. I listened to the trees rattling their leaves. I watched the stillness of my lawn.

And then I heard church bells singing a song, telling me it was twelve o'clock.

I've never heard these in the two years I've lived in this house. Hearing them today felt like a sign. A reminder. 
I'm here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Decorating Adventures, Wine-o Style

What do you get when you mix a house in the Santa Barbara wine country with one crafty wife and one absent husband? Lots of quirky kitsch and a strange abundance of turquoise. 

As silly as it may be for me to decorate our house in Santa Ynez before we live there full-time, it's nearly impossible for me not to do it. It's like an addiction. It's like a wonderful blank canvas that I just want to keep painting and repainting (I recently rearranged bookshelves in the hallway 3 times and intend to do it probably 5-100 times more). I cannot help myself. And the fact that Mr. W isn't there to steer me makes it even worse.

For example, when I was up at the house a couple weeks ago with my sister and her daughters, I bought these AMAZING vintage lucite grapes at an antique store.

My sister and nieces (and Mr. W) thought I was crazy to pay $39 for these suckers, but look at how much something comparable sold for on One Kings Lane! I think I'm in the wrong business...

Once I had those gorgeous puppies up on the mantel, the little picture I had hanging above them just didn't cut it. So Friday night, I set out to create a new piece of art to put above the fireplace. I started by tracing some printed cardstock letters and sketching out a wine bottle.

It took for freaking ever to get the whole thing painted. Much longer than I anticipated. But I guess this is what people do when their husbands are in foreign countries. They sit on the couch drinking wine and painting and watching Say Yes to the Dress on Friday nights... Here's what it looked like when the job was done: 

It probably won't last up there once we move in permanently, but it makes for a fun conversation piece now. And it's a good indicator of life right now. I didn't have Mr. W with me this weekend as I painted molding, scrubbed floors with a toothbrush, and lined some more shelves in the kitchen with contact paper, but I did have a tall, dark, handsome bottle of Tobin James 5.

I also had a sort of neat "local" moment when I went to one of the local tasting rooms where we're members—it was my first time going in to pick up our wine club shipment instead of actually having it shipped to our house. I was excited to be able to just walk in, and was even more delighted when my favorite little wineista (Wine barista? What do you call tasting room servers?) greeted me by name and wished me well when I told her we were in the process of moving to the area. 

Hopefully living up there won't cause us to become to one-dimensional. Or wine-dimensional. Maybe it doesn't matter. Que Syrah, Syrah, right?

Monday, January 21, 2013

January in the Hollywood Hills

One of my favorite hiking trails near our house in Hollywood starts in a park called Fern Dell, and winds through a grove of redwood trees and up a fire road to the Griffith Observatory.

Although I was a little sad to be doing it without Mr. W on Saturday, the weather made up for it pretty quickly.  

January is one of my favorite months in Southern California because so often we have 70°+ temperatures and crystal blue skies. (Yes, that blue strip in the picture below is the ocean.)


And to think in 6 or 7 months I'll be living somewhere even more beautiful than this. Even though I'm missing my man, there are lots of things making me feel like a lucky girl these days.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Many Blondes Does It Take to Build a Fire?

 Evidence that one time I did build a fire...

I was never a big connoisseur of blonde jokes, but this past Saturday, I was fairly certain I might be living in one. My sister and her two girls joined me in Santa Ynez for the night, and after a nice long day of antiquing and wine-tasting (with my 18-year-old niece as our chauffeur), we settled in for a quiet evening of spaghetti and Bridesmaids.

The temperature was pretty chilly for us wimpy Californians, so one of the first things we aimed to do was start a fire. When Mr. W and I were up at the house a few weeks ago, he had a local guy deliver a giant load of firewood, so as far as I knew, we had everything we needed to stay warm.

For the record, I DID start a fire on my own when I was at the house in December, so I know it is possible. But as I piled my logs on the iron grate and crumpled my newspaper and watched the flames travel upward from my ignition spots, the end result—again and again—was a pile of ash.

A former girl scout, I suddenly remembered that I needed to build a little tee-pee with kindling under the bigger logs to really get things going. So I retrieved the axe from the closet and set out to split some smaller pieces of wood off the big chunks.

Have you guys ever used an axe before? It seems like it would be really simple, right? Totally not. I could barely get the damn thing to stick in the wood, let alone split it into halves or quarters. Mega fail.

My next best option was to use cardboard from some of the moving boxes. So I started again—sister and nieces gathered around, also trying to help—and this time, I caught one of the bigger logs on fire. As it burned, I noticed it was resting on the floor of the fireplace, so I grabbed the poker and tried to prod it back up onto the grate. As I did so, it split in half. And then the fire went out again...

It was around this time that Mr. W texted, so I had my younger niece pull him up on Skype to counsel us. He quickly became irritated with our ineptitude and told me to, "Go get some fricking pine cones and light those under the wood."

My sister headed out into the night (I'm not sure where exactly) and when she returned, she said, "I couldn't find pine cones, but I found this!" and held up what looked like a single piece of straw. One stick. After being outside for several minutes. Good work.

After we berated her heavily, she went back outside armed with the flashlight. This time, when she returned, she had an armful of pine cones and needley branches. But according to her, something—perhaps a bird of prey or a wee mountain lion—growled at her from up in the tree while she was combing the ground. So she had to scream and run back to the house before she could collect more kindling.

We tried to light the pine cones and they just fizzled.

Starving and frustrated, we gave up and ate dinner. But I couldn't stand the fact that we hadn't been able to make it work, so fueled by another glass of wine, I began trying again. I built another cardboard tee-pee and kept feeding it until the big logs caught fire. Mission blondely accomplished.

We made s'mores and all was right in the world. 

Having lived through this treacherous saga, I know now that four blondes does not equal fire-building abilities. And that kindling should be gathered during daylight hours when the racoons and turkey vultures are less likely to bite you in the jugular and carry you back to their nests.

Good lessons for country living, I think.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Long Division

Math has never been my strong suit.

When I was in third grade and learning long division, I often feigned stomach aches so I could stay home from school and avoid exposure to the evils of mathematics. When I had to take placement tests for math and English senior year (Yes, for financial and maturity reasons, I went to a junior college instead of a university after graduation, thus the placement tests) I scored a 90% on my English exam and a 41% on math.

What can I say—numbers are a bit befuddling to me.

Yet as I went to bed last night, and again this morning when I woke up, I found myself trying to crunch them. One visit per month for five months times an average of 4.5 days equals Mr. W and I seeing each other twenty-some odd times from now through June. 

Tomorrow morning, Mr. W leaves me for a movie shoot in Vancouver.

This isn't our first rodeo. We were apart for more than two straight months in 2011. And in 2009, our average gaps between time together was about 6 weeks. Because this latest location is just a 3-hour flight away, travel will be easier and more frequent. But I still have a sinking feeling about his departure. I want to fake a stomach ache so maybe he won't have to go.

When I force myself to see the upsides of this long division between us, I recognize that I'll get to do some great traveling and have some delicious Canadian seafood and maybe even hit some of Washington's hotspots for wine-tasting. Being apart means a little adventure is inevitable. We'll even get to meet each other in Hawaii when part of the shoot moves south. And it's likely I'll be able to keep the house a little cleaner and have more time to work on coaching endeavors over the next six months.

But oh, the hundred-plus days we'll be separated by a country's border feel like too many. The spans of time and distance feel so vast, I'm not even sure my fancy Texas Instruments graphing calculator could accurately compute them.