August 20, 2015
Jim is about what you'd expect from a man nearing sixty living alone down a three-mile driveway in Fumbuck Nowhere, Maine. He's soft-spoken and somewhat shy but friendly, full of stories and awkward silences, shorter than I had realized at first. He gave animal attributes to humans and human attributes to animals, particularly his wolf-slash-border collie Angel, who he thought the world and more of. I stayed on edge the entire week, irrationally convinced I was not going to leave the farm at the end of the seven days. As he got friendlier with me, I became less worried about being murdered and more worried about being held hostage. Every compliment he gave made me more uncomfortable, and on Wednesday before I left, when he told me I didn't need to leave so soon, I actually felt my stomach clench. The truth of the matter is that he was perfectly nice and very much so wanted me to have a good time, I just have an overactive imagination and had been reading too much Game of Thrones. He sent me off with two jars of string beans and a blanket his mother had crocheted, for goodness' sake.
So. Last Thursday, when I got to Greenbush, I followed Jim's SUV as best I could down the driveway, poor George Weasley the Hyundai Elantra bouncing through the potholes and puddles. We pulled up to the house, a strange little thing made out of new wood, old doors, and maybe some magic. It almost could have been gingerbread. (Jim is a carpenter, and he'd built it himself from the ground up, except a man with one arm had laid the foundation. The kitchen and dining area and living room all shared one high-ceilinged space, and the library and bathroom and a couple bedrooms were down a short hallway. Above the smaller rooms was what Jim called a loft, but it was walled off from the rest of the house. For a week, I lived up the tiny stairs behind a moon door, where there was a couch and a bed and some leftover furniture and brand new hardwood floors. It was a sweet little room, shaped like a trapezoid because of the slanted roof, warmer than the rest of the house.) I hadn't eaten dinner, and Jim said he didn't have much food, so he sent me off into the garden to pick whatever I wanted. Bixby promptly ran away, and by the time he'd come back he'd lost most of his off-leash privileges. I ate nothing but vegetables that night, green beans and snow peas and cucumber and tomato cut up and salted next to squash I sauteed in a wok. The next morning, we went to Hannaford, where Jim handed me six twenty-dollar bills and told me he'd wait in the car while I got food for the week. I spent $64 on beans and rice and spaghetti and veggie burgers and sandwich materials, all the things I eat at home. When we got back, the routine started.
Every day, I'd work a few hours in the garden, eat lunch, work a little more, read, maybe take a nap or go for a run, shower if I ran, cook dinner, watch a movie, and fall asleep. We went to town a couple times, but otherwise the routine was unchanged. I made it through two-thirds of A Dance with Dragons, watched nearly all the movies I've got saved on my laptop, and found out I could run for twenty minutes straight (although I could not outrun the horseflies). My favorite chore was weeding; you'd start with a messy row and end with a clean one, and all you had to do was know which plants were the good plants, because all the others were bad. It's a very cut-and-dry task, no wondering if the beans are big enough or the paint is smooth enough. I'd start with a row overgrown with dandelions and horseweed and a million other weeds sucking the nutrients out of the soil and finish with a row of happy vegetable plants working very hard to make peas or broccoli or zucchinis. My second favorite task was picking blueberries, for obvious reasons, and my third was painting the Queen Anne headboard for the bed Jim had bought on one of our trips to town.
That was the week, really. It was slow and fast at the same time but more than anything it was quiet. Bix and I drove to Pennsylvania a week ago today, which I'll post about shortly cause HELLO I'm a little behind, to a bed and breakfast, and I am so excited to be here and talk to people and take a real shower. The skies are so big.
August 5, 2015
August 4, 2015
We rolled into Occoquan on Sunday afternoon and Erika and Danielle greeted me with cheese and cherries and Nutella (I love them). We all lazed around the apartment and took Bix and Erika's greyhound Millie on a walk until Daniel got home and we ate Mexican food with Erika's family, and then we rounded out the day by watching The DUFF. It was a lot like college, honestly, but without the homework.
Monday Bixby and I were mostly on our own, and I was dead set on visiting the heart of DC. Parking downtown is obviously kind of a nightmare, but some things you don't really appreciate until you experience them. Two of the garages I went to told me they'd valet park my car in the deck and therefore would need to keep my key, and this small town girl in a big city was not a fan of that idea, so I found a deck where I could park my own car and proceeded to leave my window completely open all day. Without getting robbed - high five, DC! We were getting lunch with my uncle's girlfriend (partner? she's basically my aunt, they've been together my whole life), so Bix and I took the morning to tour a neighborhoody area. We found a pet store, lots of dog dishes filled with water and ice, and a dead squirrel. That was probably the highlight of Bixby's trip. Donelle and I ate at a place called Lincoln which was ohmygosh good and also legit fancy. I've been watching too much Iron Chef, but the dishes were actually plated, and I was impressed. I had blueberry watermelon lemonade, a peach salad with blue cheese and pistachios, and buttermilk pie which didn't look much like a pie but came with sweet corn gelato (?!?) and more blueberries. Long story short: it was delicious and everyone was super great about Bix and the waiter gave us water for him to drink in a big old napkin holder.
With clear eyes and full bellies we headed for the monuments. I got slightly turned around, so our first stop was accidentally the White House. Hello, Obamas! Bix was a big fan of the pigeons. (Dogs = children in a whooole lotta ways.) We got back on track and saw the Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and, of course, good old Abe Lincoln. Quick FYI to dog owners - we didn't have a problem at the WWII memorial or obviously the Washington Monument since we didn't try to go up in it, but a guard at the Lincoln Memorial did ask if Bixby was a service dog. Bix also tried to chase some ducklings through the pool, which seemed a little taboo, but maybe not, since I personally have walked through the pool (when they had emptied it), and so has Forrest Gump. I thought it was strange that we didn't see a single other dog around the monuments, but I guess most people don't bring their pets on vacation with them. Missing out, y'all.
We got to see a less touristy side of DC when we met my high school friend Jack at the Colonial Heights metro station. Bix rode an escalator! And he will probably never let me talk him into riding an escalator again. It was an experience. We had to dash a couple miles back to the car to get it out of the garage by 7 (6:55, PHEW) and then we toured Jack's new house, which is hella cool, and we set out to find a restaurant with outdoor seating. We wound up at Yamas on U Street, which was Greek food and very good. I had a gyro type thing, and Bixby ate his first falafel. Look at me, eating falafel! More importantly, it was so, so good to catch up with Jack. We hadn't seen each other in years (how??), but he's the kind of friend who you can pick up with right where you left off. As of sometime this month, we have been friends for ten years. Not sure how it's possible that I was 15 ten years ago, but there you go.
And then goodbyes, and back to Erika's, and the tail end of Sixteen Candles, and now we're just being lazy before our drive to Pennsylvania to see (drumroll please) Lauren! And Ryan! And Piper! We've got Netflix and wine on the menu for tonight, and maybe we'll check out Philly tomorrow, who knows!