Category: Musings


Fresh Scratch, Elizabeth Gilbert

Welcome to 2016, buddies. This year, curiosity is riding shotgun in my front seat.

I’m a big fan of having a word of the year. Like my friend Emily says, resolutions just get broken.

But…a word? It’s like a guide. It’s like reading a choose-your-own-adventure novel (remember those?) and making every choice based upon how well it fits with your word, only the novel is your life.

Embrace. Freedom.

Those were my words the last couple of years, and they steered me straight. Embrace got me a writing job, and Freedom got me a lot of adventure and empowerment.

Fresh Scratch, Elizabeth Gilbert, Big MagicAnd this year? Well, this year I had fully intended up until five minutes ago to Create. Last week I read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear in two afternoons at the beach, and I was – and still am – high on the importance of creating.

But then I sat down to tell you about that, and realized what really turns me on, and what houses the word create so beautifully, is curiosity.

It is lately the trait I find most appealing in others, and so I want to cultivate it in my own life. Because curiosity? Well, curiosity will get you everywhere. It will get you to all the other words of the year you may have chosen instead.

The people I like are curious. They might be curious about one thing or curious about a zillion things, but they’re always chasing something. And that means they have energy. Life hasn’t yet burned them out. And that, I think, is a good thing to strive for. I’m just going to follow what interests me and see where it takes me this year.

Right now I’m curious about what a little solitude will do for me sometime soon. Perhaps some time with nothing but some books and my journal. I know it’s something I need, but I also loved recently re-discovering in an editor’s note from Cook’s Illustrated a year ago that knowing how to be in your own company is sort of an old-fashioned, dying art. And y’all know I like the folksy stuff. Give it a read. It’s gorgeous.

I’m also curious about photographing the North Cascades when my leg (and the snow) will cooperate to get me to Diablo Lake. Because this little gem from Edward Abbey has me fired up:

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast…a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there…..and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate awesome space.

And if you have the time, this talk on the importance of curiosity versus passion, by Liz Gilbert, is the bomb dot com. It inspires me to the max. What are you curious about? Tell me! Nothing intrigues me more.

And if you need a little magic, might I suggest:

Very curiously yours,

mrs. fresh scratch

the first snowfall.

snow, chai, & bridget jones

This was first nervously published on the blog two Decembers ago, when the story finally escaped from my hands early one morning, leaving me powerless to stop it. We’ve had two afternoons of float-y, heavy snowflakes in the last month, both of which sent me straight to the memory of this night over twenty years ago. Sharing this with you this winter feels like the right way to start the new year.

the first snowfallI was seventeen.

The sky was that misty purple color and pressing down on things – the way it only can get when it’s snowing those big, float-y flakes at midnight. It was the kind of cold that’s almost bracing, when you are foolish without your mittens.

Our school buses had just returned from some small farming town in the far-reaches of eastern Washington, where we’d been since after school that day. They dropped off the basketball players and…me, the score keeper for the boys’ team {a heavenly job for a 17-year-old girl if ever there was one!} in the parking lot behind our high school’s gym.

I started up my step-dad’s red car, though I lived only a block or two away. I brushed the snow away from my windshield slowly. Ever notice how time becomes thick and everything is so quietly muffled in a snowfall like that?

When I turned to go back to my door, he was blocking the way. Cars filled with our friends were emptying the parking lot, taking their weary bodies home, but he stood there – hands shoved into pockets; a big, sloppy grin across his face; dimples in full-effect; a twinkle in his eye.

My stomach flipped over in what I can only describe as the. best. way. ever. I took a slow couple of steps over. A bare hand reached out for my mittened one, pulling me into a hug.

I was seventeen, and I’d spent the last year as the new girl at this little high school in the middle of no where, wearing my flannel shirts and steel-toed Good Year boots {because they were way more hard-core than any pair of Doc Martens}, listening to Courtney Love on my stereo up in my little room.

Our friendship had started with me helping him with his geometry in the hallways sometimes. It had grown with nights on the phone, watching “90210” together-but-separate, me up in my room and supposedly doing homework, but really just listening to him breathe on the other end of the cordless phone, then chattering away during the commercials. I’d sat behind him on countless bus rides to basketball games for two seasons now, passing notes back and forth that I still have to this day. I would decipher his terrible spelling and giggle over his silly questions, and we’d take turns listening to the Guns n’ Roses mixed-tape I’d made just for those long, desert rides.

He loved baseball.

And his dog, Blaze.

And his big sister.

He’d get little crinkles at the corners of his eyes when he smiled.

He’d mow funny designs into his lawn and tell me about them.

I’d break up with girls for him over the phone when he couldn’t do it.

He visited me every day after I had my wisdom teeth out.

He was my very favorite thing about my new town, thousands of miles away from the fast-paced east coast where I’d grown up.

And there we were in that parking lot, hugging that kind of hug that comes after the hand-holding at the movies had started weeks before. The kind of hug where you just know if you pull away you’re going to have to kiss him.

And then it happened.

And the one secret I’d been keeping from him finally could be set free. If I had been Taylor Swift, I would’ve written the best song about that moment, but instead it burned into my memory. A memory to be relived every year for the twenty-plus years that have passed, always when the moment’s anniversary rolled around, or every time I heard Pearl Jam’s “Vitalogy” album, and on every first snowfall since.

The memory of falling in love for the very first time – you never forget that, no matter how old you become. The memory of how it really felt like soaring instead of like falling. The memory of snowflakes in our hair the moment after everything changed.

Every year, I wake up on that morning, and it’s the first thing on my mind. And I’m so glad it’s the part of our story my heart has held room for; the part I always remember first, above all the bad stuff that happened later –

The breaking up and getting back together.

The tears {his} after my graduation.

The time he handed me a heartbreaking wad of love notes written on a little memo pad – the kind with the little hole at the top of each page? – when I was dating someone else.

The times I called him after nights out drinking in college and didn’t remember what I’d said by the next day.

The letters written that I had never sent.

Because everything ends messy. I know that now.

But I’m so glad for that one, beautiful, snowy beginning.