We were going down the road, headed out for a bite to eat, Coco and I, and two pigs were out for a walk. No joke. Two pigs walking down the dirt road, sniffing around, headed toward us. We got a huge kick out of it.

“Well, it is the year of the pig,” I said to my lovely daughter.

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According to Raymond Lo the Year of the Pig, 2019, is symbolized by two Chinese characters – with Yin earth sitting on top of Pig which is water element. This sounds just like it is: unstable. Be on the lookout for water disasters, including heavy rains and flooding. Raymond also says that The year of earth pig does not have fire element. As fire is air traffic, the total absence of fire will also bring down airplanes.

Yee. Raymond might be on to something there, if you’re a fan of Chinese fortune telling. I’m a snake in the Chinese zodiac and snakes and pigs don’t get along, so tough year ahead for me, it seems.

But man were they ever cute out for a stroll yesterday evening, those pigs.

On the way back from dinner an owl flew in front of our car and landed on a post beside the road. I could probably root around the internet to find the meaning of an owl sighting. If I did I would keep going until I found the one that told me what I want to hear, the good news of an owl. I don’t know if you know this or not, but that crazy internet is loaded with stuff. So much stuff! You really can find pretty much everything your heart has ever desired there. And then some. You never have to be wrong!

Spring, Daisy.

Spring, Daisy.

I digress. So yes, I would want to read something about owls that tells me I’m wise or smart or we’re going to win the lottery on Thursday. Maybe … if you see an owl it means you won’t run out of half & half at breakfast. Something like that. Most def I don’t want the interpretation that says that the owl is the symbol of death. Blech.

I mean, let’s face it, it’s a little curious to encounter things we don’t usually encounter when we’re on our way to and from Archie’s for a cheeseburger. It is, indeed, the year of the pig and planes have, indeed, fallen from the sky recently. Pigs are … I don’t know, what are pigs … they don’t say much, grunt a lot, they’re friendly, they seem good-natured. They’re delicious.

Owls are usually associated with wisdom, also death. They’re gorgeous, stealth. Most of them are nocturnal, so to see one in the light of day is unusual.

Also, it’s the first day of spring and the moon is full.

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Does any of this mean anything? If I want it to, yes. It makes life interesting. And funny. I think everyone, or maybe most everyone, is searching for some kind of meaning on this otherwise strange and surprisingly challenging and very often disappointing and sad ride. I mean, you get on the Life ride and it’s not unlike the ferris wheel at the fair where you’re half terrified and certain you’re going to fall to your death and half shrieking with joy when you realize it’s way more fun that you thought it would be. Plus the view is great at the tippy top.

We’ve got all of those things: pigs, planes falling from the sky, snakes slithering through the grass, owls flying by saying “dude, you’re going to die,” or maybe it’s “dude I know you’ve had a hard day, rest your eyes on a pretty owl for a minute.” Will the Year of the Pig be good or bad for me? The Magic 8 Ball says … both! And then life says … look how cute these pigs are, taking their evening stroll! Life is nothing if not relentlessly entertaining.

I don’t know much. I thought I would by now. I think I thought I knew everything when I was like, 25. Probably still when I was 35, but maybe less. I think I was becoming less arrogant by then. I hope, anyway. The funny thing is, and no one tells you this when you’re growing up and expected to get all A’s all the time or when you’re a young adult and expected to be master of your fate, that it’s much better to go through life being curious and humble than thinking you’re right and have the whole thing figured out.

Here is what I do know: it’s the first day of spring. The moon will be full tonight.

Is there much else that matters today?

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Actually, hold on, there is. A special shout-out to Coco.
Coco you rock. You are the rockingest sockingist kid walking planet Earth today. Everything about you is miraculous. Full. Stop.

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I dropped my phone off at the tech repair place in Middlebury yesterday and the woman who works there and I had a conversation about flip phones.

I love it when this happens. When the pendulum starts its swing back to begin the process of righting things that have gone too far in one direction. I don’t think I have to explain that this is a woman who works with pieces of technology all day long, a woman who knows the game inside and out, literally.

I think I might have said something like, “Listen if this happens to fall in a vat of water, no worries …” to which she replied, “I know, I’m ready to get rid of my phone, too.”

It’s addiction, straight out. Try to leave the house today without your phone. You can’t. You won’t. That’s addiction.

Gerald May, Addiction and Grace: I am not being flippant when I say that all of us suffer from addiction. Nor am I reducing the meaning of addiction. I mean in all truth that the psychological, neurological, and spiritual dynamics of full-fledged addiction are actively at work within every human being. The same processes that are responsible for addiction to alcohol and narcotics are also responsible for addiction to ideas, work, relationships, power, moods, fantasies, and an endless variety of other things. We are all addicts in every sense of the word. Moreover, our addictions are our own worst enemies.

Cell phones.

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We are all, each one of us, addicted to our phones and we know it. The creators of the devices and applications intended for us to be this way. The experiment is working.

Look around you today. Notice how close everyone keeps their phone. It’s either in a pocket, in a hand or somewhere in reaching distance. And they have activated sounds, bells and whistles, to train themselves to respond to the phone all day long.

For what?

The hundredth meaningless text? The phone call from the telemarketer? The list of names of people who have “liked” something you did and would have done anyway, with or without all those hearts and likes? Why are you attached to what other people think about how you live your life?

When was the last emergency? How often last month did you actually, truly … come on now … need your phone?

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How often does it get in the way of your ability to have true human contact? When were you using your phone when you could have been talking directly to someone? When were you using your phone for text or email in a cowardly way, when you could have had a conversation with another person, looking into their eyes, seeing their face?

How often are you missing the world around you because you’re doing something with your phone? Taking a picture or video to post later?

How much time do you spend on your phone doing things that are meaningless? Looking at other people’s Facebook or Instagram lives? YouTube videos?

See if you can make an honest assessment of that. And if you’re not sure and you have an iPhone, you can activate Screen Time and it will track that for you. It will tell you how often you pick up your phone and what you’re doing with it. I guarantee you will be astonished and ashamed by what you learn.

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So let me place you in a little scenario today. You are dying. The doctor tells you you have cancer. Now you know how you’re going to die and you have a general timeframe: a year, maybe more maybe less.

Only you know how many hours a day you spend on your phone. Google the studies; they’re terrifying: the average American picks up their phone 52 times a day … the average adult spends 11 hours a day interacting in some way with media.

We won’t go there in our little scenario because that’s basically the entire day and that’s too depressing to contemplate, so we’ll imagine that you spend … 4 hours a day using your phone, which is actually very conservative.

That’s about 30 hours a week, 120 hours a month, 1500 hours a year.

What that means is that you’ve wasted 60 days of your year on your phone. Conservatively. If you’re OK with that then something’s wrong.

Let’s imagine you’ve been doing that for about ten years when the diagnosis comes. Now, I’m no math expert, but I think that means you’ve wasted 600 days of your life doing not much of anything of worth, looking at your phone.

So now we have the cancer diagnosis, the winding down of your days here on this magnificent planet filled with interesting, gorgeous humans, animals and plants, mountains, rivers, alleyways, barns, bugs, stars, babies, food I could do this all day this world is so captivating and amazing and you only get a little bit of time in it and I say this all the time so I’m getting really tired of reminding you about it although I will keep reminding you because you’re going to spend four plus hours on your phone today anyway.

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I bet you’d like to have those 600 days back now.

How would you fill your days if you could have them back? Sitting and talking with your mom. Walking in the park with your kid and talking with them. Helping someone. Eating a meal with your friend. Getting that project done. Looking at art in a museum. Talking to a stranger. Learning how to do something new. Riding your bike into town. Sitting quietly looking at the world around you. Sitting and talking with your mom.

You don’t need me to give you ideas about how to fill your days with meaningful stuff. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

There is good news: if you’re reading this then it’s not too late.

I could have gotten my repaired phone back last night. But I didn’t. I can go get it today, but I’m not. Will I grab it tomorrow when I drive through Middlebury? I’m not sure yet. That’s how great it is to have that largely unnecessary, expensive and intentionally fragile, designed to make us all into assholes device gone.

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First and foremost I need to congratulate the Sierra Nevada College Men’s Freeski team for becoming national champs this past week in Jackson Hole. Sam has largely taken over the coaching responsibilities for the team, so this was a nice acknowledgement, not only of the athletes and their tremendous talent, but of Sam’s taking his job seriously. Well done, boys.

And, too, several high-fives and warm hugs of congratulations go to the Sierra Nevada Men’s and Women’s Alpine teams and the Women’s Freeski team, who also took home top honors. That little school on the big lake (Tahoe) sure attracts some major skiing talent. Enjoy the moment, kids.

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OK, so yes, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never really had much use for this day, in regards to the whole being Irish thing. It doesn’t mean that much to me and I’ve always been confused by the weirdly widespread participation. Green rivers, green beer, green hair. Please. It’s kind of gross and I say that as a Sherlock O’Brien. I’m pretty sure my ancestors were poor potato farmers who came to this country to become poor factory workers and then middle class white collar people and now the new generation is driving Audis and BMWs, so it looks like the Great American Dream project has been successful. ✔️

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March 17 holds significance for me but not because of leprechauns or a fifth-century missionary. Something really cool happened to me eight years ago on March 17 and it has become one of my life’s truly good stories. I’ve told it many times. Have a seat.

Eight years ago on March 17 I was in the Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska with my sister and her then-husband and kids (still her kids). We were staying in this funky little resort, if you could call it that. The dude who owned and ran it had come to Alaska in the 70s — there were photos of him climbing the high peaks in jeans and a wool sweater (swoon). All of the buildings were A-Frames and the place was nestled near an abandoned gold mining encampment.

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It was the kind of place where you just slapped on your skis or snowshoes and went out and did it. No lifts, no tickets, just hills and lots and lots of snow. And then in the evening you would go back to the main lodge and have some fondue and the guy would ask you what you want for dinner and then he would cook it for you. No frills, outdoor adventure the way it should be.

The place was stunning, captivating, breathtaking. And at the time I was thick in the reeds of being a stunningly, breathtakingly enormous jackass. My marriage had tanked and I was the very worst version of me I have ever been. My exterior and interior lives were coming undone simultaneously; I was the master of my hideous fate.

Fortunately something about those mountains and that place caused a shift in my soul. Hatcher Pass provided the backdrop for a turning point in me. I think it’s important to acknowledge those kinds of places and moments when they occur.

On March 17 that year in the Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska it snowed. It snowed as if every single snow god and goddess was putting the full force of their efforts into one place. It snowed and snowed and snowed. There was too much snow and no visibility; we really couldn’t do much except be in our cabins that day. I was still kind of on eastern time when I woke up very early that morning, read a little, then went back to sleep. As is often the case with me, the dreams that I have in that very early morning sleep time are vivid and powerful. That morning I dreamt of someone I hadn’t seen in many years. In the dream he was wearing a backpack and glasses—two details that have stuck with me for some reason. I was sitting on the floor of a cabin and he stood in the doorway with outstretched arms. He came to me and gave me a big, warm hug. We didn’t say anything to each other.

When people show up in my dreams out of the blue I wonder, first, if they’re OK. So it was my inclination to try to get in touch with him. At the time he had no online presence at all (for which he should have received some kind of award). I Googled his name and nothing came up. His sister, however, had and has a strong public presence, so I tracked her down and wrote to her. I knew these folks because we all grew up together.

Kim (sister) sent my message to her brother (Kris-jon) who wrote to me a week or so later. I was happy to hear that he was alive and well. We caught up and decided to go for a hike. The day after his birthday (March 27) we met in the Adirondacks and climbed Sleeping Beauty.

I know.

We fell in love.

Like a lot of people who fall in love later in life, there were complications around family and place. Logistics and responsibilities made it hard for us to be together. We are both strong, independent and busy people; we lived in different states.

But there was something about the snow and St. Patrick’s Day and Alaska (which we visited together in 2012) and Kim’s generosity in sharing my message and the mystical energy that flows around and through us all the time that brought us together and has kept our hearts intertwined ever since.

Kj helped me get sober. He taught Coco how to tie her shoes and how to use a bow and arrow. He is the guy who shows up. When my car breaks down, when I need more wood. Not only does he show up, but he always has a box full of everything I need: tea, gluten-free cookies, yogurt, a hatchet. He knows how to celebrate everything: Halloween, Christmas, Easter, a new day. He sits at the heart of a big, crazy, devoted to each other like nothing you’ve ever seen family. I’ve watched with great curiosity as becoming a granddad has transformed him in all the good ways.

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

It is with great measure, I believe, that the universe offers to us what we need when we need it. Recognizing, accepting and allowing those offerings to flow takes practice and often a great deal of humility. Kj came to me at a time when I needed help and apparently I was ready and willing to say … this ain’t working about the life I was living. I was ready to take a little responsibility and do the work. He was my guide, my teacher, my friend, my partner. I loved him then and I love him still. The whole thing is a mystery. A really beautiful, snowy, A-Frame, dreamscape, Sleeping Beauty March mystery.

To which I will always and forever say Amen.

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Coco and I do this thing, and quite frankly I’m a little worried to tell you about it because it’s a little … odd, but I thought maybe you might like to know.

In the morning we clear the duppy dem out of our beds. Throw the pillows on the floor, the bedding, too. Not the bottom sheet, but the other stuff. And then you have to air it out by shaking the bottom sheet a bit. You know what I mean: you grab one side and fluff it up.

Then you can put the whole thing back together again, but a lot of times I just like to leave it like that, really air it out.

We learned about the duppy dem when we watched a documentary about Bob Marley, whom I adore not because of pot or reggae, but because he was a kind of prophet, a wise and peaceful leader who cared little about fame or fortune and a lot about improving the conditions of the world. He used his gifts to address issues of social injustice; I wish he had dealt with his cancer and was still alive today. The world sorely needs more people like him.

When we do this, the airing of the bedding, (or, I guess I should be more honest here: when I do this; Helen Cooper Hood Eyre is usually in some phase of school preparation which, as far as I can tell involves a lot of looking in the mirror, adjusting things and then some more looking in the mirror) what I say is that we have to clear out last night’s dreams to make room for tonight’s dreams. The duppy dem, to us, are the dreams we had, maybe the bad guys, if there are any. Basically we clear the spirits of yesterday’s dreams to make room for the new ones that will come in the new night.

I wanted you to know about this because I recommend it, highly: clearing out the duppy dem as a way to start a new day.

Somewhere in the world yesterday a man woke up, packed up his guns and then went to a place of worship and killed people, sharing the action through live-streaming on social media.

Somewhere else in the world a man woke up and posted something about what he was going to do later that day. And then watched as the hearts and likes started racking up.

That’s our world. We are living in that world. Oh? You shot children this morning? Well hold on a sec while I let everyone know that I’m headed to Alabama later today.

There is probably no correlation between what I do with my bedding and the really shitty choices that people all over the world are making every single day, really, but if you know anything about me by now you know that I believe that everything is connected to everything in one way or another. A couple of weeks ago Coco and I were driving somewhere, talking about life, our favorite pastime, and I said something truly profound (polite applause here, but not too much). I said, “life is basically a series of opportunities to make good choices.”

I think maybe we were talking about quotes for her eighth grade yearbook and I really thought she should quote me, so I was digging deep (I think she ended up going with something from Parks & Rec).

A whole bunch of opportunities to make good choices.

I realize in writing in this little storytown of mine here, in my little corner of the WWW, that I can point out all the garbage in this world, I can shine the light on the terrible choices people make, shout as loud as my fingertips will allow, but … bah, who cares? A storm with wind and snow is now a bomb cyclone. The socialist democrat presidential candidate is a millionaire with four houses. Kids are getting killed in church; the girl whose heartwarming story about a homeless man giving her twenty bucks for gas fabricated the whole thing. Rich people can buy anything they want, including admission to Yale and the pharmaceutical giants own everything. In fact, they’re probably paying off the weather reporters to insure that levels of anxiety and fear continue to rise.

The world is melting and burning at the same time. Our souls are exhausted; our brains are misfiring. People are getting weirder all the time; it’s impossible to know whom or what to trust.

I don’t have any answers, but I do think it’s a good idea to start your day by clearing out the duppy dem. Shoo away last night’s dreams so there’s space in your world for new ones. It’s a good place to start.

And really, truly, try to make good choices today. Happy spring.

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Hi Friends.
This is something super duper important.

Emily Metcalfe, beautiful soul, gorgeous woman, kind and true, suffered a life-changing event this past fall and has lost the use of her legs. She has been in rehab for many weeks and is now ready to move into a new living space in South Burlington, one that quite miraculously appeared right when she needed it.

We are working to raise money so that Emily will have the things she needs moving forward into her new life, navigating the world very differently. Emily is going to need our love and support, our time and sense of humor, but right now Emily needs financial help.

Please donate to the campaign and share this link: https://www.gofundme.com/the-emily-fund

And come to The Barn Restaurant in Pawlet on Tuesday, April 9. Twenty bucks gets you all the tacos you can eat and the very great music of STIG.

If you’ve been wondering how you might be able to help someone who needs your help, look no further.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


I think I was in my early 30s when I learned that you could spend your life doing projects, that you didn’t have to have a job, necessarily. I mean, obviously the bills have to be paid if your parents aren’t doing that for you, but I remember reading something that had this sort of visual evolution of what you could be doing with your life: work for someone else … work for yourself … do projects. Which is actually a kind of return to childhood, if you think about it. If a kid is lucky he or she has a nice creative lab, with toys to muck around with and art supplies to create with. Kids’ spaces are usually messy with that genius at work flair, which kids are if you let them be.

I mentioned already the film about Flynn McGarry I’ve been a little obsessed with his story lately and have told everyone to watch it. I absolutely love the part where he gives a tour of his bedroom where he has all of his cooking implements and out of which he is creating gastronomic excellence for his paying guests. At the age of twelve.

Next week we’re going to New York to eat at his restaurant, Gem. I love the aesthetic, the colors, the kind of mellow elegance the place seems to have. I love that he named it for his mom (Meg, backwards) and I cannot wait to see what that guy serves to us, what he does with the ingredients of early spring.

But more than anything I can’t wait to meet Flynn, to experience who he is, firsthand. I assume, given that the restaurant only seats 18 people and there are two seatings a night, that he comes out from the kitchen at some point.

Gem.

Gem.

I think this is very important in life, to go to places and see things for yourself. To encounter with all the senses the places of curiosity in this world. I look forward to the chance to enter into the story of Chef Flynn, if only for an evening. (Be forewarned if you are reading this Flynn, Coco Eyre may have plans to propose marriage.)

We’re going to visit the Architectural Digest Design Show while we’re in New York. Kj’s cousin, textile designer Stevie Howell, is showing her work there. I can’t wait to see what people are doing in the design world these days, what new shifts and shapes furniture is taking; what kinds of fabrics, wallpapers and lighting are being created. The new ideas, materials, vision.

A Stevie Howell piece.

A Stevie Howell piece.

I have been thinking a lot about who the prophets of our time are. And by prophets I don’t mean the people who are talking about God or spreading any kind of religious message. I mean the people who are creating things of worth and beauty and building up a community of people as they go.

The ones who are doing good things, making the world more beautiful by virtue of their efforts and who are happy to take the time to bring others along, to share in their expertise and wisdom, no matter how high their star seems to have risen.

I am a fan of Tina Roth-Eisenberg. She has a design firm and a blog called Swiss Miss that I’ve followed for years. I like her way of seeing things; the things she deems interesting … I agree. Also, she started Tattly Temporary Tattoos and we’ve been users since day one. Tina spoke in a TED Talk about her divorce recently and I was moved to write to her, to share some of my experience in that department. A few days later she wrote back, thanked me for my insights, told me a little of what was happening with her and her family and sent “a big hug.”

#1 Tattly fan Coco Eyre.

#1 Tattly fan Coco Eyre.

Tina has something like sixty thousand Instagram followers, she runs a couple of different companies, she’s a thing in a lot of different realms. And yet she took the time to read my email and to write back. She considers herself not so important and not so in a hurry and not so above the fray to take the time to write to plain old me. Prophet.

Inspired by the story of the Trappist monks I am going to visit in the Czech Republic in a few weeks, how they talked John Pawson into working on their project; how he said, “they had no idea where the money was going to come from and they were never worried … somehow it always arrived,” I wrote to Pawson in London. He is an internationally famous architect and very busy, no doubt. Still I asked him if he would consider building something like the chapel he built in Germany in Vermont. A few days later he wrote back: “the opportunity to create something as special as the Wooden Chapel in Vermont would be very exiting.”

John Pawson, who has designed stores for Calvin Klein and Jil Sander, houses in Montauk and Saint-Tropez and Ian Schrager’s NYC apartment thinks my little Vermont chapel project would be exciting.

I do this all the time, in case you were wondering. I reach out to people I find intriguing and ask … how is this done? Do you have time to speak with me? Can I come and see what you’re doing? I have an idea … what do you think?

What I’m essentially asking is … is there room for me, nobody, in your story?

And the good ones, the prophets of our time, always say yes. Because the good ones know. The good ones maintain their humility no matter how famous they become. The good ones are grounded in an understanding that all of this matters.

The good ones remember that they started somewhere and they don’t take themselves too seriously. The good ones don’t pose for photos all that often because they get that the work, not the costume, is what’s important.

The really good ones understand the interconnectivity of everything and know that to do harm to something on one end will mean some version of retribution on the other—that the karmic energy of the universe is always seeking a state of balance. The good ones are keeping it in check, effortlessly.

But more than anything the good ones just don’t see themselves as that important, even though they are. Pawson is making some of the most beautiful buildings on the planet and has been for about forty years. Eisenberg has created Friends Work Here, CreativeMornings, TeuxDeux and Tattly. She doesn’t have time to read Melissa O’Brien’s email about divorce, much less write back, and yet …

When you make a reservation at Gem they ask you … is there anything we need to know? Is this a special occasion? Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions …

Humble, kind, funny, lovely, curious, grounded. Look for these qualities in people. And then sidle up to them. They make life interesting.

I’m looking forward to meeting Flynn and to seeing Stevie’s work. I want to know what inspires them. I want to know what they love. I’m looking forward to talking more with Pawson about my little irrational dream of a chapel made of wood and filled with nothing but light. The world is full of these kinds of beautiful humans, people who are taking ideas and vision, the love they carry in their heart and in their bones, and transforming that into things that we can sit on and things we can pray in and things that we can eat—things that we can love.

I think that this is the trick, really, the whole wheat from the chaff thing … to develop a good sniffer, to know one when you see one. And then to follow the trail, to ask questions, to say thank you. To get close enough so some of their goodness comes home with you. The prophets of our time are not standing at pulpits, they are walking the streets, making stuff, talking to people, and eating and drinking and going to bed, just like you and me. The difference: their heart. The good ones, the ones you want to know, their heart is genuine and pure. They understand that it’s not about them, that they are the conduit, that this is a remarkably fleeting moment in time and that we are all connected to each other as parts of a larger and very important story.

John Pawson, Wooden Chapel, Unterliezheim, Germany.

John Pawson, Wooden Chapel, Unterliezheim, Germany.


And a PS today: Congratulations to our Mišel for being the fastest GS and Slalom skier at USCSA Nationals in Wyoming. And to Sierra Nevada College for sweeping pretty much everything in the Alpine and Freestyle competitions. Nothing like a new generation of fast and graceful skiers. Safe home, kids.

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March is a hard month. It’s a weird month, weather-wise. We change the clocks, we welcome the season of spring. I have long thought of March in terms of death—several people I know died in March. Also, some good friends were born in March. March seems to be about opposites: it swings us back and forth from life to death; from a blanket of snow to the first flowers popping through the earth.

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Smack dab in the middle of March (or so) is the anniversary of something important that profoundly influenced me and gave me the centering point around which my entire life revolves: twenty-seven years ago, on March 13, Kris-jon Klopstock chose to live a sober life. I wasn’t there then so I’m not at liberty to describe the circumstances of his life when he decided to live a whole new way, drug and alcohol-free, but I am one of the many beneficiaries of his decision and so on this day we raise a glass of ginger beer to this wise man.

I met Kj when I was twelve years old. We went through elementary school then junior high and then part of high school together before he left Saratoga High for boarding school. Over the past forty-two years we have come and gone from each other’s lives, checking in, catching up, moving on, looking back, dating, not dating. It doesn’t even matter what we call it anymore; our lives and families are inextricably interwoven. We have depth of history, friends in common from when we were kids and a shared love of the town where we grew up. We know where all the secret alleyways are; we get the draw of the smelly mineral water bubbling up out of the ground there. We remember the original Mrs. London’s, Mabou, Image, the original Adelphi Hotel and we have a wealth of terrific stories about our high school years.

Eight years ago I was in the depths of a truly shitty phase of my life and it was while I was in a remote place in Alaska, on St. Patrick’s Day, when Kj came to me in a dream and then he returned to me in real life and then he helped me get sober. He came into my life exactly when I needed him and he offered to me precisely what I needed, which was to clean up my act, and that began with my choosing sobriety. I had tried to do it on my own; I had tried to do it by going to AA meetings, nothing was working. It was Kj’s love, compassion and empathy, his story, that gave me the courage and strength to turn away from booze and toward life.

Today I offer to the heavens a prayer of gratitude for one man’s decision to stop drinking, to live clear and clean, that led to this woman’s decision to stop drinking that I hope might inspire someone else toward a similar path one day. This is how it works, we hope.

I have always said and I stand by my words: I have yet to see alcohol improve anyone’s life. No one gets funnier or smarter or nicer when they’ve been drinking. My grandfather died when he was 27 years old from alcoholism. I have a hundred stories of how booze has screwed with people’s lives, made a fucking mess of things, ruined relationships, burdened children and caused loss of life, work, love, bodily parts, hope, dignity and on and on and on.

I don’t want this to be a soapbox moment about how much I hate booze and its insidious effects in our lives. I came here to pay tribute to Kris-jon Klopstock, a proud, present and adored grandfather now, for his bravery, for his strength and for his compassion. Because I have reaped the rewards of his awesome choices and so have my kids. Everyone who means anything to me has benefited from my sobriety which I would not have if it weren’t for Kj’s sobriety and I would imagine he can trace the lineage back further, too, but that’s his story to tell.

Thank you, KjK; 27 YEARS is a THING. ❤️

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I’m going through all my photos trying to figure out what the heck to do with them, thousands of images. We all have so many images! Remember the days when you sent your film out in the mail and waited a week and the photos would come back and maybe two or three out of twenty-four didn’t suck?

I think the first camera I ever had in my hands was my dad’s. It must have been. I remember owning a small instamatic, I think they were called, and you would attach a flash cube and that freaking bulb would blind the hell out of everyone in firing range when it went off. You threw that thing, that fried, melted cube, right in the trash and started all over again with a new one. Then came the cameras with the built-in flash. The Polaroid arrived sometime before I went to college because I remember having one there with me. I learned how to use a darkroom … when I was teaching at Emma Willard, maybe. But my love affair with photography had begun many years earlier, the day I stepped into George Bolster’s studio in Saratoga to have my high school senior portrait taken.

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When my brother came back from his two years in the Army, in the late 80s, he brought a big, beautiful and lightening-fast camera. It was a game changer and I borrowed it a lot; he was very patient and generous with me. And it was probably 2001 when Richard gave me a DSLR for Christmas. I took a workshop with Me Ra Koh in Tacoma, Washington a year later. I have no idea why I needed to go all the way to Tacoma to learn how to use my camera, but it was lots of fun and I came away no longer afraid to fiddle with the manual settings. I learned how to really use the thing.

I took pictures of kids and I took pictures of families. I had no idea what I was doing, but people hired me to capture their family for holiday cards, for framing, for Granny. I took lots of photos everywhere we went back then: New Mexico, California, Miami, Mustique, Bequia, New York City (not long after 9/11 I photographed the crowds there staring up in disbelief), Anguilla, Martha’s Vineyard. My camera went everywhere with me.

Along the way I fell in love with the work of the greats who came before me: Senaca Ray Stoddard, Dorothea Lang, Vivian Maier, Bill Cunningham, Diane Arbus, and those still alive: Sally Mann, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman. I went to museums and galleries to see their work any chance I had. I’ve always been drawn to the ones who have photographed people on the streets and in their living rooms, regular everyday moments. People who aren’t afraid to record our decay, our sorrow, the exquisite strangeness of the human condition.

I have never been much of one for Photoshop or heavy filtration. I believe that good photography captures life just as it is. That, to me, is the work and the reason why we use a camera at all: to record what happened and to share the truth of who we are as people.

 At times I worried that I was missing out on actual life because I was photographing everything. Which maybe I was, but I think once you develop a photographer’s eye it’s hard to not look at the world that way. You see pictures all the time, you see light, you see moments.

I photographed weddings, which was a huge mistake, for lots of reasons. It made me hate photography. It made me hate weddings. So I drew back and took pictures of only the things I loved. That was the right thing to do. I remember once talking with my friend, Standing Deer, a Tiwa Indian, in Taos. He told me to “shoot from the heart,” which has made all the difference. It seems obvious but it wasn’t then.

Shoot from the heart.

Life took me on a wild ride away from my camera for a time. At one point I divested myself of all of my photography equipment; I wanted a break from the whole thing; my eyesight was getting really shitty and taking pictures became really frustrating.

As with most things we love with any true depth and meaning in this life, photography eventually came back around; I knew it would. I found a camera I wanted to try—a terrific little Sony, so I played with that for a while. Then I came to know two really beautiful and creative souls, Carolinne and Dylan Griffin. Dylan is a hugely talented professional photographer, using our old Abel & Lovely space in Charlotte as his studio and one day I asked him if he had any old rigs he wanted to sell. He did: a Nikon, which I bought and then added a lens. And there it all was again. Home.

Photography is different for me now, though. I use my camera as a way to introduce myself to strangers, and I am resigned to documenting, as much as I can, the honest circumstances of peoples’ lives and this world. As luck would have it, or fate or karma, late last year my friend Jean, who does a lot of volunteer humanitarian work as a doctor, asked me if I’d be interested in doing some photography for the organization she supports. Thus my great loves of photography and crisis response work begin to converge.

At the end of the month I go for training in Kansas City and then I can be deployed when they need me, anywhere in the world, to take pictures and write stories. This may actually be the dream I had for myself when I was the editor of my high school newspaper: to move toward some of the most difficult circumstances of this world and to record the truth. I am nothing in this life if not someone who will continue to try to bring your focus back to the places where your help is needed.

So this is why I’m going through my photos—to get organized and make room for the new ones coming soon.

While I was looking through the images I noticed all of these shots of me holding or hugging, loving people I have loved and do love and I realized how lucky I am, to have this life filled with all these beautiful souls. I absolutely love all the touching. This is what photography does: it holds us up, it shows us who we are in this world and in relation to others. It keeps for us a moment we might otherwise forget. I noticed how happy I look in these pictures; I noticed what a beautiful cross-section of humanity I have in my little tribe. And, too, I noticed how my hair quite frequently is a disaster.

Oh well.
Amen to all of it.

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Hello sunshine, blue sky, birds singing. Welcome longer days, springtime and celebrations. What a good day to walk a dog and love up a little baby and his mamma.

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This park holds almost 50 years of memories for me. Everything from swimming to ice skating, the mineral water and bathhouse. Playing tennis, my very first concert, ever, at SPAC—Sonny and Cher! And I have no idea how many shows since then. Mountain biking, frisbee, photo shoots, and my most favorite, secret but not really totally secret walk, the Grotto. Everyone should have a place they love this much.

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I am a person who cries easily in response to the beauty of this world. This past winter I stood in the very crowded Guggenheim looking at the Hilma af Klint paintings with tears streaming down my cheeks. There was the time when I turned around at the Clark Art Museum and saw John Singer Sargent’s Fumée D’Ambre Gris and burst into tears. Don’t ask me why; I have no idea.

I am readily moved to tears by acts of generosity and genuine human kindness. Perhaps because they are in such short supply in our lives.

When I first  saw the work of architect John Pawson, images of his home in London, it left me breathless. I got my hands on everything I could find to see more of his projects and often, staring at the spaces, unadorned and perfect, completely lacking in the usual clutter and debris of modern life, I cried. What he seemed to be saying was ... you don’t need much ... use beautiful materials, keep it simple, use common sense, reflect the beauty of the natural world, stop filling your living spaces with lots of crap. Something about that quite mysteriously touched something deeply embedded in me.

Several years ago I read that Pawson was collaborating with the monks at the Abbey of Nový Dvůr in the Czech Republic to create their living and working spaces. The story goes that one of the monks had seen photos of Pawson’s work on the Calvin Klein flagship store in Manhattan and had gotten in touch with him to see if he would help them. There’s something hilarious about that in the disparity between Trappist monks and Calvin Klein, but clearly they share a similar minimalist aesthetic.

When I saw photographs of the project I knew I would have to go; the thing gnawed at my consciousness with the tenacity of a tick. The confluence of a great love of God and sublime architecture and design in a rural setting ... this to me seems like something very close to perfection.

Two years ago I started corresponding with Brother Jan Maria, one of the twenty monks who lives there, in the hopes I might be able to make a visit.

There is so much I am curious about: what it is like to live a life so quiet (no talking at meals); what does it sound like when the monks sing and chant; what do they eat; what is the light like in the chapel; what does it feel like to wake up in a John Pawson building? I am deeply curious to see what kind of impact an environment like that has on one’s interior life.

I imagine it to feel like art and beauty and faith and love are all wound up together into a kind of very pleasant life experiece. I understand the monks make several kinds of mustard and some sort of luxurious hand cream and I can’t wait to see what that’s all about.

I have a lot of questions. Although, to be sure, I have no idea if the monks will engage in conversation.  

I will be “visiting clergy.” Also “pilgrim.”
I will be making a pilgrimage to Bohemia next month to leave this world and live with the monks for a while. I promise to let you know what I find.

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