Longing For Childhood Friends

Rachel's Birthday Party July 1969I woke up this morning very lonely. Although when I had that feeling I was snuggled closely to Andy and my kitty, Anubis, was settled on top of me purring away. But nonetheless, I felt lonely. Images of my childhood friends from Roosevelt, NJ haunted my dreams last night and I awoke longing to see them and have long conversations with them. Long and deep conversations with them. Sure, we had conversations when we were kids. I remember some of the talks got to a deeper level though many were everyday conversations. It didn’t matter because simply my friend’s company and my ability to be with them and talk about anything was so important to me. But now, I envision heart-felt connected conversations with them as adults as if I inhibited my childhood existence with my adult mind. I long to talk to Peri and Elan and Dawn and Kirsten and Nathalie. I long to stroll down the streets of my hometown to one of my friend’s houses. To be able to walk into their home at any time unannounced.   To be able to hang out whenever and wherever. Because that is what you do when you are a kid in a small town. That is what you do with good friends who aren’t so busy with life and work and everything that is so planned these days.

Deep connections with friends are different as adults. If you are in a couple relationship and are lucky—like me—you have deep meaningful connection and conversations with your spouse. I am grateful that I have that. And yet I want and need more. I want the connection to girlfriends with whom I can connect without having to schedule days in advance to meet, or schedule weeks in a advance to get coffee together, or schedule even for just a phone call! Spontaneity is difficult. The complexity of everyday commitments gets in the way of relationships. Perhaps this is the reality of adulthood. Perhaps this is the reality of these times in general so therefore also true for kids. We are so busy. Our access to community is so structured.

I live in a small town again like when I was a child. However, I am on a dirt road not directly in the village so walking over to someone’s house is not so easily accomplished. And even if I was in town, could I just stop by someone’s place? I lived in New York City for many years and in a way I felt very connected though again, no one stopped by just to chat. I find that as I read books that take place in small towns—of course they are deeply romanticized stories of big families with gatherings of many generations and lots of friends—I feel deep longing. That is the essential word here. Longing. It is a simple word and yet it conveys an intense emotional feeling of needing to be seen and needed and wanted and connected to others. A yearning, and aching, a desire that I feel deep in my core of being. I itch to wander over to one of my childhood friend’s house and plop down on their couch and talk. I miss you.

XOXO Rachel


Cross-Country Skiing Our Way Through Snowy Winters

Rachel Andy Skiing VtAs I look out upon the snow covering that we are experiencing in the northeast this winter, I am reminded that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in this case, when weather brings snow, go skiing. I didn’t really understand this variant on the dictum until Andy and I lived in Ohio during our first cold-weather winter together in 1989. We were living in Oberlin where the world is very flat and fields and roads go on for miles. During the warm weather months we found that the terrain was well suited for taking long bicycle rides. During spring and summer we became very devoted to weekend bike outings. Once the snow arrived, we had to rethink our outside game plan. Enter skiing—cross-country skiing to be precise.

Rachel Skiing VTAndy had some experience cross-country skiing but I had never been on skis of any kind before. But given our athleticism at the time, we didn’t bother with lessons and found a local golf club that rented skis during winter. I’ll never forget when the guy at the ski-rental booth said something like, “you must be cyclers.” Apparently all those months of biking long-distances had made our thighs quite clearly built up and toned. And so began our life of cross-country skiing through snowy winters.

Andy Skiing Lake Louise CanadaWe didn’t stay in Ohio very long, so we only went skiing there a few times. Nonetheless those early years set us up nicely for many years of outdoor fun—now based out of New York. One of my favorite memories of cross-country skiing was not long after we moved to New York. We took a weekend trip to Ludlow Vermont, a town most known for its proximity to Okemo Mountain for downhill skiing. We had no experience with downhill and didn’t even consider it an option (later we did learn to downhill ski and enjoy it). Instead, we went to Ludlow because it was near the well-know cross-country ski area Viking Nordic Center in Londonderry, VT.

Black River Inn Breakfast in BedThe weekend was planned as much for the eating as the skiing because we had read about a bed and breakfast known for gourmet meals. The Black River Inn is no longer open but at the time they not only provided yummy breakfasts, they also served formal gourmet dinners. The food was indeed divine and plentiful which was just what we needed because food is burned very quickly when you cross-country ski. The way I think of cross-country skiing is essentially “running on snow.” Except that usually when you go for a run it is only a half hour to an hour run. Whereas typically we would head out and ski for two to three hours at a time. I’ll never forget how exhausted we were on that trip when we got back to the B & B after a day of skiing. We’d barely make it to the shower but we were determined to get dressed and make it to dinner. The food almost evaporated in our stomachs as we chowed down. We had no problem putting everything away including the heavy and deadly but delish caramel cheesecake for dessert. Those were the days.

Skiing Lake Louise with birdThese days we still cross-country ski but we don’t stay out as long and we don’t eat as much afterwards. We are fortunate to live just a few miles from Fahnestock Winter Park  where they have miles of groomed trails and ski rentals. We had our own skis for years but they recently died so we have been renting when we go. So given that it’s snowing again, I think it is time to embrace the weather and go skiing!

XOXO Rachel

The Magic of Mom and Dad Celebrating 60 Years Together!

Diana & BobThis year is already turning out to be a positive and joyful year. Last week my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. It is hard to imagine that so many years have passed, but not hard to imagine that my parents are together and in love after all these years. Here is their story. At least here is their story as they told it to me many, many years ago. I could ask them now to repeat it to me, but what’s the fun of that? I prefer the version that I have cultivated over the years in my head. I am sure that I have at least some of it right.

My dad went to MIT as part of the GI bill, having served as a naval communication officer in WWII. His amateur ham operating experience in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri came in handy in the Navy. After getting his electrical engineering degree at MIT, he went to New York City and worked on any number of interesting projects like cathode tubes and other technical stuff.  My dad had been painting (and writing?—I don’t really know when he started writing) since the war and he decided to pursue his art by getting an esthetics degree at NYU. One of his roommates in the city went home on weekends to visit his family in Roosevelt, New Jersey. My dad, then 24 years old, joined his roommate to get out of the city every now and again. And that is where my dad first saw my mom. She was a 13-year-old dark haired petite beauty playing table tennis (ping pong just doesn’t sound right for the 50s) when my dad couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Fortunately not much more happened at that point because she was so young.

My mom finished high school very young (those days skipping grades was not uncommon) and she went to Bard College at age 16. She got her bachelors degree in dance and then went to New York City to dance professionally. She joined the Henry Street Playhouse and studied and performed modern dance under Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis.

Mom and DadMy parents continued to see each other and actually lived together for a short time before they were married—if I remember correctly. Then on January 13, 1955, just a month before my mom was of legal age to marry (that would be 21 in those days), they were wedded. With the approval of her legal guardian—her mom—my mom and dad got married at the courthouse in New York City. My parents lived in a couple of places including Greenwich Village and the infamous “cold water flat” in the Lower East Side—way before it was so fashionable to live there. Then they moved to Roosevelt, New Jersey, were it all began, to start our family.

Community of family circa 1960sRoosevelt was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and 70s. Because it was my mom’s hometown, I had the luxury of having my grandmother and great grandmother living just a street away. And I also had a kind of second grandmother, my great aunt Ellie, who lived just around the corner. I loved to drop by their houses and get fed yummy food. Roosevelt became the spot for all of our extended family to visit for holidays and other events. I have fond memories of my many cousins and aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles and more partying in Aunt Ellie and Uncle Jack’s back yard under the cherry trees. That is the definition of community to me. I really haven’t had anything close to that since I was a kid.

Mueller Family Late 1970sMy mom and dad raised us in such a wonderful way and our house was filled with love, books, art, music and the political activism of the 60s. We even went on peace marches in DC. And together, my mom and dad were also puppeteers.  My mom became interested in women’s rights and decided to go back to school to get a bachelors degree in history before she went on to get her law degree, both at Rutgers. She was one of the only woman law students there and she got to study with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also probably the only female professor.

My dad worked at RCA for a number of years as an engineer and inventor (he holds several patents) and then at Bell Labs as a technical writer. Once my mom began practicing as an attorney, my dad became a househusband—again they were trendy before their time. Although these days we would have said he was a stay-at-home-dad. Throughout, he was always working as an artist and writer and always considered the intersection between science and art.  I loved woodworking with him in his basement workshop (see The Wonder Of Woodworking).

Mom & Dad's 60th Wedding Anniversary!My mom worked at The Legal Aid Society and then went out with a partner before she left and worked on her own legal practice. She was an early female entrepreneur, a feminist and worked on the counsel for the Black Panthers. Her work and perspective had a huge impact on me. I read Ms. Magazine from its inception and I have never wavered in calling myself a feminist and seeking equality in the workplace. Looking back I can see that that both my mom and my dad have had a tremendous influence on my whole life journey from education and political views to need for right-brain and left-brain work. I love structure and spontaneity, I am equally comfortable with business and science and arts and writing. I thank them both for that. And I thank them both for showing how to love and stay married for 60 years.

XOXO Rachel

The summer of love—cross-country ramblin’ with my man in 1985

They said if we could manage to not hate each other after spending the entire summer in a car driving cross-country, we surely were bound for marriage. And so begins the tale of our road trip. While I was in grad school, I desperately needed a break from my studies and decided to take the summer off. Generally speaking that is unheard of while you are working on your PHD and my advisor wasn’t too happy about it. Nonetheless, I knew that it was important for me so I went ahead with big plans. Andy—my boyfriend at the time—and I decided to take a long road trip across the country.

SunocoI have gone back and forth about what I feel about road trips over the years. I hadn’t really been on many road trips before that summer. There was the time when my parents and my brother and I drove in our green monster—our pastel-green van—to visit Grandma Dora in Florida when I was very young. I recall enjoying that childhood trip though I am not sure if my parents would say I was a happy camper. But I was game for a long trip with Andy and it was a cost-effective method to see the sites of the country. My parents made it even more cost-effective by giving us their Sunoco gas credit card and paying for all the gas we needed.

Good thing my parents gave us that credit card because at one point it turned out we needed to use it for another purchase at Sunoco—a new car battery. Yes, we had quite a few amusing and some not so amusing ventures on that trip. The car-battery tale worked out fine in the end and I remain grateful to my parents that they bankrolled the gas and the car battery.

Mount RushmoreWe began our trip from the west coast in Santa Cruz, California where I was in graduate studies. With maps from CAA (California Automobile Association) in hand and a pink highlighted route that we had marked before we left, we took off on the defining road trip of our lives. Because our plans were for a round-trip across the country, the route we selected was across the northern part of the US outbound and the southern states on our return. Along the way we intended to see important sites that we hadn’t visited before—like Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park—and cities that perhaps we might live in one day—like New York, Seattle and Chicago. Our destination when we left California was my parent’s place in New Jersey where we knew we could remain and regroup for some time before heading westward.

I could probably write a novel-length memoir of the trip, we accomplished so many firsts and we experienced so many highs (and some lows). Several things remain vivid in my mind all these 29 years later. We thought to bring a bunch of long and gripping novels to read on the never-ending stretches of interstate highways. What a great idea! While one of us was driving, the other read aloud to pass the time. Not only did it pass the time, but also I don’t think I have ever enjoyed reading a book more. We took our time and discussed the characters and the plot live while we read together. There was Travels with Charlie, Lust for Life, and The Fountainhead. (For years afterwards, Andy read books to me in bed but we gave up when I kept on falling asleep—his voice just lulled me into slumber.)

About the size of our tentEach day we made plans for where we would stop and camp over night. CAA also supplied us with a book of camping locations of all varieties from private to park-operated. Remember, this was before anyone had mobile Internet access—actually this was before there was much in the way of the Internet in general, let alone mobile cellphones and Internet. When we arrived at the intended camping area, we’d give it a quick look to see if it seemed safe and then put up our teeny tiny backpacker’s tent for two that we purchased at Sierra Designs in Berkeley. We certainly could have used a larger tent since we had a car to lug it in but—no—we were somehow cooler for using the modest Flashlight II. Setting up a tent every night for weeks on end made us experts at getting that thing up in no time at all, even if it was dark out. Most of the places we stayed were good enough and not very memorable. But several spots stick out in my memory as simply amazing—and several as truly horrendous.

One of the most magical places we camped was in Big Sky country—Montana. We found a small National Forest campsite and pitched our tent as usual. Because it was so remote, there were plenty of signs posted that warned of bears. So we took the suggested precautions and made sure that food was secured in the trunk of our car (we didn’t need to stow the food up a tree as we would have if we were actually backpacking). Even with no food present we were visited by a bear that night and in that moment I really wished we had a larger tent—actually a larger tent made out of metal is more like it. We stayed absolutely still lying in our tent and fortunately the bear wandered off. That was excitement I hadn’t expected. What I also hadn’t expected was the beauty of the surroundings. Big Sky is such a great term for Montana—the sky is immense and breathtaking. And that campground wins as my best memory of a beautiful spot in the world.

Some of our other camping experiences weren’t so lovely. We encountered a stretch of rain, rain, rain and after pitching the already wet tent for several nights in a row during downpours, we hit the el cheapo motel—again on Mom and Dad’s dime. And then there were the campgrounds in the Texas area that scared the crap out of us so we kept on driving. Though I do have a fond memory of armadillos making a racket looking for food in the metal garbage cans somewhere in Texas. I think I managed to snap a cute photo of one of the critters. What strange beasts they are. But all in all I’d say we did pretty well with our campgrounds, with great thanks to our CAA campground booklet.

BeignetsWe are foodies, so one of the things that is kind of surprising but I guess not unexpected given our poor financial state was that we didn’t eat at many of the wonderful road food spots available in the hinterlands of the US. Most of the time we bought groceries and had such marvelous—well marvelous when you are hungry and on the road—and easy to transport items like bread and cheese. Although it is true that even bread was taken to new heights when we toasted our bagels over an open fire in Yellowstone while it was flurrying out in an unusual July storm. (That fluke cold front was also when our car battery went kaput.) When we did enjoy a meal out, breakfast was the choice. My fav memory is of the cheapest breakfast to be found in a little diner in East Madison, Wisconsin. Of course we did eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and couldn’t miss the shakes and fries at The Varsity drive-in in Atlanta so food was not entirely ignored.

Dining in local joints while traveling gets greater attention these days and has for some time. But of all the trips I have taken with Andy over the years, our cross-country road trip remains most vivid of my memories and serves as an inflection point for our relationship. Yes, of course they were right—I did marry Andy and as that ramblin’ summer trip with my man proved, we were well suited for each other then. And we remain well suited and as in love today—if not more—as when we were young lovers on the road.

XOXO Rachel

The Moment My Taste Buds Came Alive

Rachel's school photos minus the year at Erehwon!I have always enjoyed food—and food is certainly a topic that fits into many of my memories of childhood. I indeed baked a lot as a little girl (see Ode to Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies) and I cooked many of our family’s meals. But I don’t think as a kid that I would have ever called myself a foodie (though the trendy term foodie probably didn’t exist then—maybe gourmand in that era?). Whatever you call it, I did not become one with food until I became an adult. Nonetheless, there are several events from my childhood that foretold that I would become a foodie. One in particular stands out as the moment my taste buds came alive.

Poems written at Erehwon when 10-years oldThe year was 1971 and I was 10 years old. This year was an important one for so many more reasons than my awakening to food. This was the year of many firsts: first learning some French, first reading and writing poems (see the photos of the index cards of my poems), first learning how to give back massages (I am still pretty good at that for a non-trained masseuse if I don’t say so myself), first really kissing a boy, and first riding a motorized mini-bike to name a few. This all transpired because it was the year that I went to a private “Free School” called Erehwon. Erehwon (nowhere spelled backwards) was located in a house in Princeton Junction, NJ where 50 or so children of all ages attended. The school was based on the famous Summerhill School in England,  an alternative open school where much of the learning was (and still is) experiential rather than entirely textbook trained.

Me with friends at ErehwonAlthough there was some learning of traditional materials, for me the year was a year of learning about relationships and social rules and broadening of my mind culturally. I would have remained at Erehwon for more than just one year but financially the school couldn’t make it. I wonder how I would have fared academically if I had been schooled that way until high school. When I went back to my grammar school after one year and having only missed the traditional 5th grade, it was as if I had never left and I continued to excel.

More PoemsThe day in 1971 that remains vivid to me after all these years is our trip to BAM—Brooklyn Academy of Music. Well, to be honest, it isn’t really about the show at BAM. I can’t even remember what we watched (though I think it was dance). What I remember is the drive there. We were spread across a couple of station wagons and I got to sit all the way in the back—those days many station wagons had a row of seats facing backwards. From my perch, I waved to my friends in the other car of our caravan and tried to get strangers to wave back at me as well. And most of all I remember our pre-theatre meal in lower Manhattan at an Indian restaurant. Yes, BAM is in Brooklyn, but we took a detour via the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan for dinner before going over the Brooklyn Bridge to see the show.

Erehwon LogoI had never had Indian food before and I can almost conjure the experience of my first whiff of the aromatic surroundings in that restaurant. I remember the miraculous moment that I ate a piece of lamb in a creamy orange sauce (I am guessing now that I know Indian food that it was probably Lamb Korma). It was amazing! I didn’t know food could be so rich in depth in flavor and color and aroma. I was in a trance and that probably explains why the rest of the evening is barely observable in my memory. From that day on, I have been trying to recreate the experience of my taste buds dancing and singing and coming alive! I’ve had a lot of success finding divine eating moments in my life since then and I remember many of them. But none are as profound as the moment my taste buds came alive when I was just a sweet young girl coming alive to all the wonders of the world during 1971.

XOXO Rachel

Reveal Your Emotion—Reveal Your Magic!

Magical Celebrant RachelNot long ago I was listening to a keynote presentation at a conference when I was overcome with emotion. The weepiness was a gut reaction to validation of what I know to be true in my life: there is magic in emotion that must be revealed! I love poetry and was so incredibly moved while listening to David Whyte present to the large audience. I loved the cadences of his presentation and the way in which he was so real and vulnerable, even while standing in front of several hundred people. Sure, we were all life coaches so in general receptive to conversations of this sort, but David Whyte goes into corporate America and shares just the same way. He deftly facilitates big company meetings with all the usual bigwigs but he doesn’t dial down the woo-woo and emotion. He makes no division between who he is depending on the context. The weeping I experienced listening to the presentation was because of the realization of how many years in business I held back my authentic self and emotions more than I wanted to (and I did reveal a lot more than most others in that context). And the tears that my body released were in direct response to how David Whyte powerfully revealed his true self.

Magical flowers from my gardenThis speaker was unlike many in the world who put on a costume when they step into the business world. They play the part of leader, or of follower, wear the suit, wear the face and act the way they think they are supposed to act. Now, that isn’t to say that much of how they behave is unnatural and fake to who they are, but in all likelihood, they have held back on certain aspects of their personal style in order to fit in to the environment. David Whyte doesn’t do that in the least and he is doing just fine. Marianne Williamson is doing that too and she is just fine. Lately the list of successful people who bring their whole self—warts and all—to the world is growing. I think that trend is very exciting and I hope that more people—even if they aren’t big names—are catching on to the power of being authentic and not trying to put on a certain mask in different situations.

What I experienced too often is that people all the time—not just in the business world—too frequently hold back on revealing their full selves, all the mushy and awkward truths about their own experience in the world. It is all about being vulnerable so I know it is scary, but it is needed! I loved a post my friend Laurel just put on her Facebook page today where she says how grateful she is that she doesn’t have a Muggle job (for those of you not familiar with Harry Potter that would be non-magical jobs). And I know what she means—she gets to work with angels and do nourishing soul work and she gets to be true to her own voice. I am so grateful that I now do magical work too—as a celebrant creating love story wedding ceremonies and as a life coach helping people be true to themselves in their whole life. I think it is time that we bring all of the real emotion and softness of our real and best selves to the Muggle world too! It is so needed in every day aspects in life and work. Be silly, be real, be excellent, be magical, be whoever you are wherever you are!

XOXO Rachel

I Love Cosmetic Shopping

Hmm you think, “What a strange topic for Rachel to write about.” “Not at all,” I say. Because there is so much more to cosmetics than meets the eye. I love perusing cosmetics for so many reasons. And what I mean by cosmetics is anything that would be roughly categorized as health and beauty products in market research parlance. I love creams, lotions, potions, for face and body and hair. I love make-up too, though I use makeup so little that I don’t get to buy make-up that often. Or I should say I have less of a reason to buy makeup though I do find a way to shop for make-up anyway. I love everything about all cosmetics.

Face CreamsSo let’s talk about creams. Here is my ode to creams. Well what’s not to love about silky and smooth and caressing and dreamy creams? Maybe they will make you younger—not too likely—maybe they will improve the glow of your skin—possibly when they first are applied. But really who cares if they have no miraculous properties as long as I get to experience smoothing on the lotion or potion over my skin. It’s sensual, it’s self-care, it’s self love so I say go ahead and enjoy the process. Surprise—I love the texture of lotions (as I love the texture of everything—see Texture is essential).

And don’t forget fragrance! I love sniffing the bottles of hair care products because I love their fragrance. I love lotions and creams and even make-up because of their scent. Some of my most vivid memories are of the smell of lipstick. There are certain brands (including Maybelline) that have scents that take me back to childhood when I played with my mom’s make-up. And I love another brand of lipsticks (L’Oreal) because of a friend in college who wore that brand religiously (and she even handed down to me some shades that she didn’t like on her). Now that I think of it I also fell in love with a tinted face lotion (Ultima) because that same friend wore it and gave me a bottle (it’s been gone for years and unfortunately the brand is no longer available in the US—even abroad the product I love isn’t made anymore). It goes without saying that I love to shop for perfume.

But really, do I love shopping for the face and body stuff just because I am anticipating how it will feel on my skin or how it makes me smell? Those are fine reasons, but not the only reasons. I love shopping for beauty products because I adore the experience of looking at all the shapes and sizes and pretty containers. I love cosmetic packaging! Their packaging? Yes, I love design and I particularly love the design of cosmetics and make-up. These days, designers have gone bonkers with amazing designs for perfume.

Make-up!When it comes to face creams, I love jars more than bottles. Then think about all the various shapes of make-up—wands, sticks, round mirrored compacts, brushes, blushes, pots of gloss or balms. They are all so wonderful. Maybe they are made out of glass and have a nice heft to them. Or perhaps they have cool mechanical details like the Avon lipstick that opens with one hand (no longer available) or the Guerlain Rouge G lipstick that has a beautiful mirror built in.  Don’t forget the great packaging of YSL Rouge Volupte.  Or maybe they are really shiny packaging, or maybe the makeup is just adorable like everything from Paul & Joe including the one that got away—anything in their 2012 cat collection. I love the packaging of Soap & Glory, Benefit, Too Faced. What beautiful packaging!

Part of the thrill of shopping for cosmetics is seeing how much I can reduce the cost with using manufacturer coupons, and store coupons and any other kind of special pricing. I am a bargain shopper for sure. But probably the best part of shopping for cosmetics is that I can go to any store to find them. Yes, it can be fun to go to a department store for the upscale products or Sephora for a total immersion experience. But most of all I love visiting drugstores like CVS, Rite-Aide, Target or Walgreens that can be found anywhere and everywhere.

Beloved Eau De RosesI have been known to stop at a drugstore in just about every city I have visited on business. I will go up and down the aisles and look at cosmetics for hours (even if I don’t plan to buy anything). In foreign countries, I find that some of the best souvenirs are international cosmetics like those found at Monoprix in Paris and Boots in London (though now you can get Boots products at Target in the US). I still have a beautiful bottle of Rose Water from Prisunic (Prisunic was acquired by Monoprix and no longer exists).  So I suggest the next time you are in a drugstore, take a look at all the fabulous cosmetics. Maybe you will see the beauty of cosmetics as I do!

XOXO Rachel

The Sensations of Water

Rachel in Maui 1983I love all aspects of water. I luxuriate in the feel of it on my skin when it is hot (hot bubble baths, steam rooms, hot tubs and even drinking hot tea). I adore the cooling sensation to my body when doused in cold water (chilly babbling brooks, cold plunges at Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santé Fe, our chilly pool early in the season and of course an icy cold glass on a hot day). I even appreciate drinking plain ‘ol lukewarm tap water (if it isn’t chlorinated ☺). Part of this love of water is due to my fondness for its texture, (see Texture is essential). Water makes up much of life—quite literally—thus the quality of water is unmatched by anything.

Muellers at Jersey ShoreI love the sounds of water (see Magical Moment Mondays: Sounds of Water). From roaring waves to faucet streams, there is nothing I don’t love about water sounds. Today I am particularly enjoying the gentle rain. As I lay in bed this morning it was a most wonderful sleepyhead time. There was a gentle rain making noises while the early birds chirped (and got their worms, I presume). I was lulled into sleep and lazily woke up, then drifted back to sleep several times (unusual for me). I could hear the sound of my cat’s fountain flowing in the other room but mostly what I heard was the soothing hum of showers. The lapping of the raindrops formed different textural sounds depending on what surface they hit. The drops on the roof perhaps were the most comforting sound, though I also love the tinny sound of the raindrop on the metal air conditioning unit. There was no wind to speak of so the sounds of water were unmasked, raw, pure, gentle and loving.

I have always loved water; yes my astrological sign is Cancer the crab. My mom is also a water sign—Pieces the fish—and she loves water too. As a child, one of my favorite times was sitting in the bathroom talking to my mom while she took long hot soaks in the bathtub. We’d talk about anything and everything while she relaxed and heated herself in the therapeutic hot water.

Rachel and Andy Poolside at Westin Maui 1989Many of my most poignant memories, not surprisingly, involve water (See Walking around a lake for a great memory with my brother.) I have vivid childhood memories of trips to the Jersey shore with my friends and their families. Though I certainly did go to the beach with my family when I was very young (as proven by the photo above), most of my memories are with my childhood friends and their families when I was a little older. At Beach Haven on Long Beach Island with Dawn, I chased waves back and forth along the shoreline when I stayed with her family at their summer rental. Nathalie and I would take her father’s hand—one of us on each of his sides—and hazard the big booming waves at Island Beach State Park. I would come home from these trips sun kissed (well—sometimes sunburned) and feeling nourished from all the exposure to water.

Rachel at Seven Sacred Pools 1983As a young adult, I was fortunate to live on Maui one summer between college and graduate school with my friends Mary Lee and Amy.  I made magnificent use of the abundance of water. Hours sitting at the beach and jumping in the ocean waves, the road to Hana with stops by every waterfall and pond possible, and the magnificent Pools of ‘Ohe’o (aka Seven Sacred Pools) were indeed all sacred spots of water for me. I took my husband, Andy, to visit all of those dreamy locations as soon as I could. Together we visited Hawaii during our second year of marriage while we lived in cold and snowy Ohio. We made an escape to balmy Maui and Kauai for our second wedded Christmas and New Years. Now my main source of water is our pool during summer and bubble baths all year long. And if I am lucky, a gentle rain like today.

XOXO Rachel

The Wonder of Woodworking

I was working away at my computer yesterday afternoon when my husband Andy stopped by to give me a heads up. He told me he was going to be using the table saw and I said, “Great, be very careful” (I always say that when he is going to use power tools and he always replies, “I am always very careful.”). I was very immersed in my writing so I didn’t press him on what he was going to be working on. I went about my business while he went downstairs to the basement workshop.

In the distance I heard the table saw in action—a sound that I find incredibly comforting which is surprising given how dangerous blades are, but not unexpected given my history with woodworking. As a little girl, one of my favorite activities was working with my dad in “the basement”—his workshop. Together we used his jigsaw to create many different items from small to large.

We made a jewelry box that we lined with purple velvet. We made a jewelry tree shaped as an arm and hand (I probably used my hand as a pattern).  We carefully selected the piece of wood and cut so that a prominent knot in the wood defined the palm of the hand.  And we used wood dowels for the fingers. We also made a desk and bookshelves. All items were for my very own use in my bedroom—my favorite place growing up. I still have the jewelry box and jewelry hand and I have used both to keep my jewelry all my life. The bookshelves are still in my childhood room though the desk is—well I don’t know where it is. 🙂

My appreciation of woodworking stems from having fun working with my dad—a wonderful reason on its own. But I love woodworking because the smell of fresh cut wood is incredible, the texture of wood is sensual and the art of creating something from a natural material is amazing. Working with a piece of wood that was living and growing before it was magically transformed into a new shape is magical (see my weekly blog Magical Moment Mondays).

I forged ahead with my work yesterday and several hours passed with Andy out of sight. He worked on the table saw outside his basement workshop (that he also uses as his trumpet practice room) in between sessions on his trumpet. It was an interesting sound of trumpet scales and pieces followed by saw noises, followed again by trumpet and then more sawing.

When he finally emerged from the basement (his practice is 1½ – 2 hours long), Andy came up to me and handed me the most beautiful piece of sculpted wood. He had made a cuboctahedron. The geometric form is a pleasing shape no matter the material, but this specimen was made even lovelier because it was hand-made by my husband out of a block of wood with particularly strong contrasting colors in the grain. Not surprising because he is structural engineer (and Garden Engineer blogger), Andy is fond of geometric shapes. Cuboctahedron Engineering is his company name and he has a nice collection of his namesake cuboctahedrons. None are as magnificent as his woodworking creation that now sits beside me on my desk. Lucky me!

XOXO Rachel

Perfect Day

BeforeI love the song “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed. I think I first got to know the song really well during the 2010 Winter Olympics when it was used in a promo where the snowboarder Shaun White is flying through the air. Yes, that looks like it would be the most perfect exhilarating experience soaring through the air and gliding on the snow. But that isn’t the kind of perfect day I am speaking about per se (though I probably would have a perfect day if I floated in the air on a snowboard as naturally as Shaun).

The perfect day I have in mind has to do with much more down to earth activities, literally. This past Saturday was one such perfect day. It was perfect first because it was a day spent completely with my love Andy. And another mark for perfection was the warm weather—as it turns out only a glimpse into the future of spring warmth because the next day it was frigid again. And it was perfect because we were in the garden all day enjoying mother earth. We finally had an opportunity to get into the garden to do early spring cleanup because most of the snow has melted (though not all).

The earth that was revealed was more ravaged than usual from the blistery winter we survived. So we got to work and nipped back overgrowth, snipped away dead growth from last year’s blooms and raked up all the miscellaneous detritus of the winter. We dragged leaves and branches and rocks and gravel and weeds to our garden pile in the woods. And we even groomed the Japanese maple and Hibiscus so that they will look perfect later in the summer. At the close of our session, we surveyed our work and beheld the before and after views of the garden. Yes, that was good enough to make it perfect, but it didn’t end there.

Amazing Yellow Bush Daisy!After a quick shower and a snack, we went to Stonecrop Gardens (http://www.stonecrop.org) for their early spring open house for members. Although very muddy, their outside gardens were already revealing some early signs of growth. Most of the spectacle, however, was in their conservatory and hothouses. We signed in and picked up the sheet that listed every plan on display with numbers so that we could follow along—all 627 of them! From tropical and unusual to just your run-of-the-mill garden plants like violets or begonia, the display was amazing (though nothing very ordinary about seeing violets or begonia in March). Yes, the perfect day continued.

To top it off, we had tickets to see for one of our favorite musicians, James Maddock (http://jamesmaddock.net/) at the Towne Crier Cafe (http://www.townecrier.com/). This is the third time we went to see James at the Towne Crier Cafe but this time the event was closer to us because they moved to nearby Beacon, NY. The venue serves dinner as well so we were seated at a table for two in a great center spot near the stage (the place is small enough that all the seats are great). After a little wine, a lot of great food and an abundance of shared conversation with my husband, we enjoyed the concert. As I listened to James sing, I felt so lucky. With the words of Lou Reed in mind and the actual voice of James Maddock in my ears—what a perfect day!

XOXO Rachel