February

Since I’m updating book reviews, I thought I’d post a little update about life as well. After coming to the stark realization that living halfway here and halfway longing for home isn’t sustainable, I changed some things.

I started off this tiny month by taking a barely planned trip to visit my friend, Diana, in New Hampshire. The snow banks were so tall I could barely focus on driving. This southern girl experienced “real winter.” Our impromptu adventure was spurred by Phil Kaye’s poetry reading (and book signing) at Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine, no matter the fact that he had a show a few miles from my house the night before. Diana also took me traipsing up some mountain to see more real snow. Being from Georgia, of course, “snow” means a couple inches at most and “be sure you’ve got groceries at the house” because everything will be shut down. Even in Boston it causes chaos, but somehow they manage to carve out (quite literally with plows and shovels) a normal existence in four feet of snow in New Hampshire. It was baffling. Snow settles on the boughs of evergreens in the most beautiful contrast. Untouched snow is other worldly, so of course I stomped through those parts because I could. It was both gorgeous and too damn cold all at once.

In the spirit of “experiencing real winter” several of us drove out to the Cape (for the first time). Why we decided that 35 degrees was “warm enough” is beyond me. Most of the businesses there are closed for the off season, giving the whole place a ghost-town vibe. We did stop in Wellfleet to see the frozen ocean. No, really, the ocean was frozen. It was mushy because the temperatures had risen and the ice began to melt, but we could walk on it without falling through (except the one time I did and did a split and felt it for the whole next week). I also almost got stuck in mud, but my Bean boots did their job. Next, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard – but preferably on a warm day…in summer.

No fewer than eleven people told me to “get in touch with” the Mangrums when I got to Boston. We had coffee once in the fall, but life and time happened. I finally made it to their sweet church just a few towns over. Southerners must flock together because several of their close-knit group are from Alabama and South Carolina. It was fun talking to people about landmarks and places that are familiar to me.
Church has been difficult for several years for several reasons. I’ve done a lot of wrestling, not because I forsake belief in who God is or who I am, but just because of growing up and being out of sorts (see Sarah Bessey’s book). It has been nice to be with a small group of people on Sundays.
Speaking of southerners, (this has nothing to do with church), we had several visitors at work last week from Atlanta. They noticed my BC paraphernalia (pre-new logo) posted around my office (somehow they missed the giant picture of Suntrust Park?) and couldn’t believe I hail from far up in the hills of Georgia. It was an enjoyable moment to be the second person to say “y’all” in a meeting rather than the first.

Also, thanks to Ginny St. Onge I am now getting involved with some American Cancer Society groups in and around Boston.
Pause while I brag on Ginny: She was the greatest ACS rep during college and quickly became a dear friend. She has kept up with my unending adventures since graduation and continues to cheer me on in whatever life season I’m in. Sometimes it’s months (years?) between our meet-in-the-middle dinner dates, but our friendship is one of those “pick up where you left off” kinds, plus there’s social media to keep up on the finer details. I distinctly remember dinner with her in Cartersville a little less than a year ago, mid “should I move to New England” panic. Her advice that night was a turning point in my thought process. Since then, her winter advice has been a life saver.
Ginny is just one example of the lifelong friendships I happened to gain along the way. My entire college life was purple thanks to Relay for Life (I’m still finding purple pens everywhere) and I’m not mad about it. ACS is an organization that is near and dear to my heart. I’m stoked to find new friends and new adventures.

Boston is full of places I haven’t visited yet, which seems outrageous because I swear I am always going somewhere. This place is so saturated with history and art it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant. (Aside: I’m learning I use so many colloquialisms in daily life that are “southern” so now I question every analogy I make.) Last Saturday was particularly sunny so I made my way to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum (finally). In synopsis, ISG inherited a lot of money and decided to buy a Vermeer (obviously). She then purchased a Botticelli (which I saw with my own eyes and could not believe it – the colors! the perspective!), becoming the first American to own one of his paintings. Thus her art collecting days began. She and her husband bought tons of art. When he died, she realized she (obviously) wanted to build a palace mansion in which to display said art. She more or less designed the entire house which revolves around a gorgeous courtyard I could sit in all winter long and never miss the sun. The rest of the house is quite dark, but exquisite. In the midst of all this, she became friends with all the authors (especially those from the New England area, which includes more names that you’d recognize than I can count). She has manuscripts from Emerson, photographs from Whitman, and letters from T.S. Eliot. I found, lurking in a dark bookshelf, a first portable edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy and practically needed a divan on which to swoon. I can’t imagine having held it. There are so many other hidden treasures like this throughout the home. You could go a million times and never see it all.
AND, lest I dare not mention it, two thieves disguised as police officers stole thirteen pieces of art including a Vermeer and a Rembrandt in March of 1990 that still have not been found. The giant frames still hang on the walls like ghosts. Watson, get my coat!
Their collection of amaryllis flowers puts my little bulb to shame. All the flowers are gorgeous – and such a breath of life in a cold New England winter!

This weekend I’m off to Chicago once again. I can’t wait to spend time with Liz in her big city again. We always find new experiences (and coffee) and I walk away with some challenge to be a better untamed version of myself and chase my dreams. Cheers to Champagne Thursday in Chi this week and counting down days ’til spring.

Post Script:
I’m getting new glasses. Endless gratitude to my pals who graciously put up with my deluge of selfies and indecision. You are the real MVPs.