I woke up wondering where unresolved dreams go. That was my first thought this morning … what happens to the early morning dreams that inevitably get interrupted when it’s time to wake up? Few of us have the luxury of starting a day when we’re ready. There’s usually a dog that needs walking, a baby that needs feeding, a kid that needs to be taken to school; an appointment, a job. Imagine a life in which you get to fall asleep and rise awake according to your own rhythms. Wouldn’t that be something?

Why do we live in such weird ways? Who decided a work day should be 9-5 or that school should start at 8?

Oh lordy. I’m headed down a rabbit hole I didn’t intend to enter this morning.

So yes, I went to the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York on Saturday. It was a terrific concentration of furniture and arts and lighting, decorative stuff, electronics, appliances. It was overwhelming, of course, to try to take it all in in a few hours, but it was hugely inspirational and fun. In part because of the stuff there, but mostly because of the people.

You know me; I’m mad for people.

I wanted to know everyone’s story: what inspires you? How did you get started doing this? How do you make this thing? Is the show going well for you? What I found was that people were more than happy to answer my questions. Which is why I know so much now about the field bed that Riley, the brains behind Hinterland, is making. Also, I very much want one, not because it makes any sense in my life or I need one, but because I met the person who makes the thing and he told me about what inspired him and who he is and how long he’s been making things and what he loves the most about all of it.

The thing has a story; the story is meaningful.

Field bed by Hinterland.

Field bed by Hinterland.

It wasn’t … well, it’s my job and so usually I sit at a computer and futz around, stealing ideas from other people, and then someone else in the back of the building makes the thing and … voila! We really want you to buy it because we’re hoping to make a lot of money!

The guy standing there had come to New York from British Columbia and when I asked him what inspired him to create the field bed he told me a story about army camp beds and his relationship to the woods where he lives and how those things manifested in his idea for this beautiful little bed. Suddenly the bed sitting there in the middle of a huge warehouse in the middle of a huge city meant something.

I think that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I really believe that things we make aren’t all that meaningful unless they matter to us in some important way that has nothing to do with making a living. When the heart is in the object, the object matters. Otherwise it’s just taking up space in an already-overcrowded, filled-with-crap world.

If you’re going to make something, make it timeless. Make it because you can’t not make it. Make it because it looks like all your dreams.

The woman who makes the very cool jewelry told me that she is inspired by the night sky. She was wearing all-black with one of her gorgeous necklaces around her neck and could easily have been a constellation herself. Karen Konzuk told me she’s been making jewelry for almost her entire life … thirty years? The pieces she’s making now, from concrete and diamond dust, are about simplicity and architectural elegance. I cannot stop thinking about them, in large part because I was so enchanted by Karen, so impressed by her commitment to her art and her continual growth and development in that realm, over a long period of time.

Of all the things I saw, it was the furniture of Campagna that went straight to the marrow for me. I saw the both from a short distance and it took my breath away; I had one of those moments I’ve described here before, when something resonates with me on a level where words don’t make sense or even matter.

Chair, Campagna.

Chair, Campagna.

The young man whose work it is was humble, almost invisible, really. I stood with him, mouth agape, I didn’t take any pictures because I wanted to touch everything; I wanted to know as much as I could about the person and the work. The lines of his chairs and tables are clean and elegant and reminded me of the work of architect John Pawson. Nothing fussy. Nothing to detract from the purpose of the piece: this is most obviously a chair meant to be sat upon: this is most obviously a table, meant to be used for work or eating. Nothing frivolous. I loved it so and I told the maker as much: “Your work touches the heart.” To which he responded with gratitude, “That means everything, thank you.”

“You’re welcome; you have earned it.”

It was a lovely encounter and it sits with me still and when my dream of creating a small chapel in the woods comes to fruition, I’ll be contacting him.

Where do unfinished dreams go? Maybe they become chairs and tables and beds. Maybe they stay nestled in our subconscious and when we encounter a part of them in the world, in the day, something in us wakes up and we feel that strange sense of déjà vu, of belonging somewhere or meeting someone that we have known before. Who knows?

I went to a really snazzy design show. I even met the dude who organized the whole thing, the AD person and his two sons, who are into skiing and head north out of the city all winter, to the mountains. You never know who you’re going to encounter when you put your hand out and say, “Hi, my name is Melissa.” Almost everyone has a story and it’s almost always a good one.

What surprised me about the people I met at that fancy show, the ones I found myself talking with, was how modest and grounded they were. How important their work was to them and how elegantly the pieces of themselves were reflected in the things they were making; how they faded into the background and the work, the objects, told the story.

The same thing had played out the night before at the restaurant called Gem. The owner, Flynn McGarry, has every reason to think himself something important. Because he is; he has been cooking for the public since he was about 12 and today he runs a successful restaurant in New York at 20.

One might expect Flynn to be … a little obnoxious, a young man with a large ego. One would have thought he would be hidden away in a kitchen, too busy or important to speak with diners at his restaurant … you know, that chef thing.

He was anything but. Flynn was humble and kind and completely present. He brought food to our table and cleared our plates. He took the time to answer our questions, he told Coco to keep cooking and his old friend and member of the staff, Nora, invited her back to work in the kitchen with him. Flynn was lovely in every way and already knows how life works: it’s not about him, it’s about the food. He is a magician, a scientist, an artist. Flynn himself is small, quiet and unassuming; his food playful, gorgeous, astonishing. In my 53 years here I have never experienced the fruits of this world done like that. In the hands of Flynn McGarry food becomes a vehicle, transporting the eater to another realm. The dishes were visually enchanting, colorful. The tastes … words fail.

It was funny. We went to some very fancy places in New York this past weekend. And discovered there some of the most talented, sparkling, humble, kind and respectful humans you can imagine.

There is hope, friends, there is. Amen.

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The Murats are always making something.
They made a Frida. Now maple syrup.
Sugaring on the full worm moon vernal equinox, Vergennes.

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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, water disasters, 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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Fortunately there’s always hope. It looks like this, five days old.

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Meanwhile … big sister and future influencer, Bibi, explains the finer points of portable cassette deck usage.

Meanwhile … big sister and future influencer, Bibi, explains the finer points of portable cassette deck usage.


Gretta + Nate ❤️(even and especially in hospital jammies).
Coco: If they have kids I’m pretty sure they’ll be superbabies. I’m pretty sure they’ll take over the world with kindness.

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You must go to Three Forks, Montana. The headwaters of the Missouri is there, which is terrific and important. The Missouri is the longest river in North America and it begins in a truly nondescript spot.

Not surprisingly, there is more than one reason to go to Three Forks, population approximately 2000. Another is Jim Phillips’ Horn House, visitors by appointment. Jim currently has 16,171 antlers. And at least as many stories. Words fail me here. This is something you just have to see for yourself.

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I have a friend named Marc. He’s an actor and you’ll see him in a show on HBO this fall, with Jason Bateman. Last year he was on Ozark as a character named Russ.

I met Marc on an airplane several years ago when he was heading from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard to see his girlfriend and I was going to pick up my kids. We stayed in touch in a very modern way: we send each other voice memos on a fairly regular basis—it’s pen pal-ing, with a phone instead of paper.

Marc will send me a memo from South Africa about all the people he’s meeting and all the funny things he’s doing while he’s shooting an episode of Black Mirror with Miley Cyrus and I’ll send him a memo about going to visit one of my boys. He’ll send me a memo about being in LA and shooting a thing for Gibson guitars (he also happens to be a gifted singer and songwriter) and I’ll send him a memo about visiting with someone who is dying; every voice memo I get has him in some far-away place doing something really cool. And I respond with the stories of my little life here in Vermont. We have a fun overlap: his girlfriend, Victoria’s, family has a house in Lake Tahoe and every once in a while they’re there eating at the places we go when I’m there visiting Sam, looking at the lake I look at when I’m there. We have yet to be there at the same time, but we love sharing stories of a delicious visit to the Char-Pit, the smell of the pines there, the way the air is so crisp.

MM, MO, NYC

MM, MO, NYC

We saw each other in December when I went to New York with Nate to see the Lone Bellow at the Bowery Ballroom. The band members are his friends, of course, so we got to meet them, hang a bit; we got the total VIP treatment. It was so much fun. I think, besides the great music and getting to spend time with Marc and Victoria, my favorite part was when the band circled up before the show and I said a prayer about warmth and song and sweetness. Totally awesome pastor moment.

You have to admit, what Marc and I have is unusual. In a world of fly-by-night encounters, short-lived relationships and nanosecond attention spans, Marc and I have managed to cultivate a friendship of meaning and lasting worth, even with lots of space and usually a couple of time zones between us. And we know this and so we continue to honor it but putting time and energy into our friendship.

When I first met Marc he was a classic struggling actor, living in New York and barely getting by. I’ve watched as he’s made his way, persevered. I sense that’s it’s a combination of talent, tenacity and genuine kindness that have propelled him forward to where he is now, with his first recurring role in a major TV series. I couldn’t be more proud, nor less surprised. Marc is one of the good ones and I like to believe that the good ones eventually have their day.

I’ve been helping Marc work his way through a challenging situation at the moment and yesterday we were sending messages back and forth, processing that. He paid to me what I consider a great compliment. He said, “thank you so much, Melissa, for all of your help. You say things that make sense.”

It was a kind of relief, actually, to hear that I may actually be spewing some gibberjab that is helpful, that somehow my life experience is paying off for someone else … you say things that make sense. Phew!

This is a hard world we live in and we’re all trying to figure it out as we go. It often feels like it’s getting weirder, more complicated. It feels like people are struggling more and more with mental, physical and spiritual issues. It often seems like the things that befall people are truly profound: the cancer is stage four, the mother and the father have died, the loss of not one but two sons; the daughter is starving herself to death. The needs of the humans I encounter have great depth while at the same time it feels like people are alienating themselves from each other, more and more.

I adore Marc Menchaca. I adore his lovely partner, Victoria, and I am incredibly honored to be along for the ride, to be part of his story, to bear witness. He feels the same about me and we tell each other this all the time. We have a plan for our memorial services, by the way, so you’ll get to meet him when I die.

The night we went to see the Lone Bellow, Nate and I walked home, back to the hotel, very late. It had been such a fun evening, one of those classic New York nights. Nate said, “Mom, I can’t believe you get to have experiences like that just because you’re kind to people.”

Take the just out and what you have is a map for your life: be kind, care, pay attention, be helpful, let the right people in and keep them in.

When I wrote about V Smiley and her miraculous preserves yesterday, she countered by writing a little Instagram blurb about me: Melissa has been an utterly warm and inspiring force of support, notes, jam buying and general cheerleading. So much so that I’ve re-focused my energy on writing and have started these weekly meetings with my sister where we share work back and forth.

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to hear that I have inspired in someone a reborn desire to write!

This is what we want for ourselves and each other in this life: to lift each other up, to care about each other’s dreams, to share in our stories and to bear witness to each other’s triumphs and sufferings.

One of the things I loved about V’s post was that there was no @ or # in front of my name — it was just Melissa O’Brien, stand alone me. I’m not hashtagable anymore and I will tell you that the world is a very different place when you’re no longer concerned with likes and hearts. You’re just … in it. It’s really nice.

But that’s another story for another day. Thanks for coming, reader. Thank you for your eyes, your heart, your time and attention. Believe me, I can feel the love and I am deeply, infinitely grateful.
Amen.

Your holiness shall consist of being truly human, not angelic. God has plenty of angels.
The Kotzker Rebbe

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