Threadbare and Beautiful

Every once in a while I visit An Apple a Day, the blog of Amy Merrick. Much of the time her posts are about her incredible flower arrangements, but initially I was drawn to her because of her relationship to her family’s summer home, “Elmwood”. The love she expresses for this place is in the same in tone and key as what I have written here about Maine. And her dismay and ambivalence at having to leave each summer, to return to New York City, is also achingly familiar.

In a recent post, she writes:

Last summer I naively questioned if I was a country girl or a city girl.  This summer, the answer came to me loud and clear as I collapsed into tears on the front lawn of Elmwood when it was time to drive home. If kicking and screaming were permissible grownup expressions of emotion, I would have gone that route. Sometimes it feels like New York is only good for 3 things- making money, spending money and eating Thai food in bed at 2am. After 10 years, it wears thin.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I’ve been in the midst of a major bum-out since coming “home” from the East Coast. I thought it would probably just pass as we transitioned back into our regularly scheduled programming. Instead, my authentic self is following me around, questioning me desperately, “When are we going to leave? Are we ever going to leave? San Francisco is toxic for you…you don’t have an anxiety problem…you have a city problem. When are we leaving?”

And the answer is still dependent on things outside of my control. So I’m doing what I always do, which is focusing on the present, on my daughter, on being grateful for what I can still manage to appreciate about living here, (mostly that I have consumer goods within a 10 minute walking radius, as well as access to activities for Fern…that is, if I can afford them…). I am aware that while forcing my gratitude can give me enough uplift to make it a good day, it also feels like a trick I’ve gotten wise to.

I medicate by skipping town whenever possible, so we went to Shasta County this past weekend. Which may have just exacerbated the issue, since my thin layer of adjustment peeled off like a fresh scab. When it was time to leave, I found myself with my head on my favorite oak tree, doing my own version of Merrick’s kicking and screaming.

I am grateful through clenched teeth and I’m heartbroken and I use these photos and this blog as a way of re-membering, before heading out into the concrete and fog each day.


There were major forest fires to the North and South-East of us. Which made for barely breathable air, and also for fantastic sunsets.


Smokey.


At vulture flats, everything has become a dry skeleton of itself, with one small oasis still holding out in the deepest pool.

We spent a long morning at Whiskeytown Lake, where we made a friend.



I have often wondered if Fern feel’s the difference, between our city lives and our excursions to rural areas. There’s an obvious shift to her rhythm when we are somewhere with an open door policy, a door that opens to a large yard and unfettered exploration. Which is one of the major reasons I want us to move. This time, when it was time to leave, she cried heavily, weeping, “I don’t want to go back to San Sansisco. I want to stay in this place”.

I buried my mouth and nose in her hair, whispering into her ear, “I don’t want to leave either honey. But do you know what makes it almost ok?”

The crying stops, she looks up at me, hanging onto my words like the illicit chocolate she steals out of my purse.

I offer her these cheesy-ass sentiments, which also happen to be true, “That we may have to leave, but I’m leaving with you. We’re together, and you are everywhere I want to be.”

She wipes her snot on my shoulder and says, “Yes, that’s right. You’re my mommy. And I’m your Sern.”

We also got squirrely on this trip, and drove home with lots of foraged goodies. Stay tuned for that on Friday.

P.S. I’m still wondering about the answer to these questions. I’m sure one of you can tell me…?

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8 thoughts on “Threadbare and Beautiful

  1. Thinking about how you must feel makes my stomach hurt, because for all my own difficulties with place, I’m still somewhere that feeds my spirit fairly well. I just don’t know what to say other than I’m so sorry, and that I’m wishing for you guys, with all my heart, that you find exactly what you need. I have faith that you’ll make it through the desert to find your heart’s bliss.

    Loving you and your bravery.

    P.S. Maybe the butterflies and moths migrate (seems a little late though, no?)? Or, there are some species that hibernate — at varying stages of development — though I’m not sure that’s really viable in a state like Maine… my best guess… is the latter. I’ll bet there are some tough guys that stick it out.

    If a butterfly can stick out a barren, harsh period, then you totally can. xo

  2. Oh sweet Mary, I wish I could make something change for you, just the way you want it. There is a children’s book by Jeannette Winterson, called the King of Capri, I also wish I could read that to you and Fern right now, and having just made you some toast and jam and tea (as I am having presently with such exceptional blueberry jam, i might add: ) we could all be so assured by the lovely washer woman, who end her day sharing her dinner with her cat, and saying, not to worry my dear, one day all this will change. We can be grateful till the cows some home and that practice is so perfect, super well done for keeping that going. And for listening to your spirit calling you so deeply, and knowing what’s for you wont go by you. You are doing an amazing job for one that feels not at home.
    Sending oddles of love and light E

  3. You and Fern are nature girls through and through, as much as that gorgeous little fawn! We have a couple of fawns living in our neighborhood (and even nursing on mama in our own backyard) and i feel blessed by their presence while lucy is my own nursing babe. I am so sorry for your dilemma and i feel you deeply even though i have the good fortune to live in the town and country that i desire…but i have so many friends who live in the city and would so much rather move back out into these dry old hills. but significant others, careers, connections…all these things hold them in those busy city streets. they, like you, cherish as many little getaways as possible. i think it is a good way to keep going for a while and i wish the best and most positive, loving luck to you in your continued journey toward the true dwelling of your heart. there is thunder crashing over our parched land just now and today has been sweetly cloudy; all the tangled vines and weeds are raising their tired september heads to catch a taste of rainfall. and i wish you that same sweet transitive freshness my friend.

  4. oh mary, i’m sorry. i just look at the positives and try and stay grateful for all i do have and where i live, as you are. things will change when the time is right. acceptance while still holding on to your dreams and desires is key i think. i hope you cheer up friend 😀

  5. Oh dear heart! This strikes me close just now, having just returned from the city, dirty, exhausted, over-stimulated, yet thrilled. How lucky we are to be able to have both these worlds in our lives, but ultimately we much choose, one or the other. I do hope and pray you get all your wishes and Fern her wide-open yard. You deserve it.

  6. oh dear, i am right there with you. a lot of my recent choices have been geared towards making an easier transition to relocate somewhere with fewer people and all the crap that comes with them (for lack of better words– the first week of school doesn’t just tire the kids…). i am thinking happy, sweet berried, wide-open space thoughts for you all. xo

  7. I love the photo of Fern blurred in the background, her red shoes all asparkle against the dry terrain. Aw, you and Fern and your words of comfort to eachother were so touching to read. I am hoping and visualizing with all my might for that new situation to come along for you guys. I’m sorry to hear that it’s been rough lately 😦

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