At night I sleep with a hat on my head. Very Mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap. I’ve grown to really love this, even, sometimes, in warmer weather. I have a few different ones that I alternate: one is gray and another is green and orange stripy. I got both of them in California on trips to visit Sam, so they hold good memories. Another is a black Carhartt, which I bought at a hardware store for eight dollars on the first day it snowed this year. Then there’s the one that’s cotton with black and white stripes that’s very summery and sort of French-feeling. Truth be told, it reminds me of my friend, Julianne, who always looks like she’s in a fabulous French film and understands the importance of stripes.
All of these hats make me happy because they invoke good thoughts and memories. And, too, they keep my head warm at night. I have learned that wearing a hat at night makes for a kind of mini cave into which I can crawl and dream. I pull the hat down over my eyes so any light from the windows doesn’t wake me, and in there I have my cozy Sleepland.
Very often when I awake in the morning stories are tumbling out of me: memories of something that happened recently come flooding and connections form from one person or event to another. Some days I can’t get to my laptop fast enough. I think, though, that these hats are not only keeping me warm and cozy at night, but they’re also doing a good job of holding my stories in just a little longer in the morning so I can stoke the coals and get the fire going again, make my tea, possibly walk Daisy if she’s ready and then hunker back down to write. These hats are helping me hold on to not only my heat, but my thoughts as well.
Hats! Who knew?
Last night at our church board of trustees meeting we talked about raising the tree. So now the season is officially upon us. It’s a big deal because we put up a really big tree and we’re all very proud of our tree. One of the board members cuts it down on his property each year and then we all spend an evening raising it with a system of pulleys and hoists. It’s decorated very simply, with red balls and white doves and lights. And then we get to spend several weeks in total awe of our tree.
Last night one of the board members shared a story about how one year on Christmas Eve, while the pastor was talking, the lights on the tree started flickering on and off. So the tree is not only majestic and impressive and beautiful, but it’s also a place where the spirits of Christmas come to play.
OK so this new place in Charlotte called Philo Ridge Farm is really so great. The food they’re selling and serving is raised or grown right there on their land. The bakery treats are so delicious, the hot chocolate is perfect and the handmade goods they sell are quite beautiful. It’s visually appealing for many reasons and it has a warm and inviting atmosphere. What I like about it is that you know there are all these people very close by doing all this work to bring the food to us: there is a butcher and a baker and gardeners and farmers and you see them, sometimes, in their practical working clothes, walking through the space. There is a nice hum about; it’s really quite special and the food is terrific.
Recently there was some kind of zoning/septic snafu there and so they had to remove their chairs from the great room. At first I think some people were put off by this, but then it became the new norm and people figured out other ways to deal. There are benches along one wall and folks sit there; there are stools at the counter that are often filled; there is seating by the fireplace where I often see young parents with babies. And, too, people sit on the floor, picnic style. I love this, how people learn to accommodate, once the griping subsides, how we get creative and move on.
I think that when they bring the chairs back people will be like … huh …and then go back to having a picnic over near the fireplace.
I did something I haven’t done in a good while yesterday. I photographed my friends, Lauren and Thad’s, new house in Manchester for their Airbnb page. They bought this terrific house and then they decided not to move into it for a year so that their daughter could stay and finish 8th grade at the school she currently attends. So they’ve done all this work getting it ready to rent and Little, as I call my Lauren, asked me to take some pictures.
Strangely enough, I had been noticing this thing lately: that when I go into people’s houses, people I know, there is often a photo there that I took. It sort of dawned on me recently that I’ve taken a lot of photos of people and places that are on display in the homes of people I care about. There is something truly, deeply satisfying about that.
I took a hiatus from photography long enough so that my hands really started longing to hold a camera. I took a lot of photos with my iPhone, long enough so that I missed the feeling, the weight of a real camera, the pleasure of looking through the lens, the satisfying sound of the clicks.
So off I went with this magical bulky black thing to photograph Thad and Lauren’s house and it was really fun. Very quiet, I moved things around, staging, I guess. I liked how being in photographer mode makes me look at the world differently. I was very happy to be connected with a real camera in their sweet little house in Manchester, Vermont.
So I’m going to tell you something, with a slight bit of trepidation that it might jinx things, overridden by my desire for your good thoughts and prayers.
Several weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a message: I was in Kansas at a conference over the weekend for the organization I volunteer with (she is a doctor). I heard they needed a photographer and I thought of you.
My skin got all prickly and my heart sped up. I have long wanted to join a crisis response effort as a chaplain, but the thought of going into a hurricane-ravaged area or a refugee encampment with a camera is actually a dream come true for me. It feels as if it’s the culminating piece in all the work I have done up to now: pastoral care, firefighter training, writing, teaching, the degree I’ve almost completed at Fordham, clinical pastoral education in the hospital, taking hundreds of thousands of photographs over the last 40 years. Being with people, hearing their stories, and taking photographs of them; it’s a blessing and an honor. To go to the places of need with a camera, as part of a humanitarian effort, to be a loving presence and to document the people and the situation there … I cannot think of anything I would rather do more.
I read about the organization, Heart to Heart, after my friend, Jean, told me about it, and discovered I have a close friend who is a close friend of one of the board members. I filled out the pile of paperwork and next comes the interview and then, fingers crossed, stars aligned, deployment. You may need to go on short notice, is what they told me, with a commitment of two weeks internationally and at least one week domestic, all expenses covered.
Send some good thoughts, if you are so inclined. 📷🛫❤️