best of alpha // whiskey // foxtrot

2015, in Five Favorite Posts: a Year in Review

Moment of honesty?  For me, 2015 was a disorienting 365 days — full of deep heartache and astounding joy…

I lost.

I lost a lot.

I lost relationships and social circles and beliefs I thought I was destined to keep, and yet somehow, I gained a hundred times that in new friends, new opportunities, rich community, and more goodness and grace than I could have imagined, twelve months ago.

{And maybe I’ll tell you about it someday, but for now … this is enough.}

In the end, all I can say is this:  2015 was sometimes kinda terrifying … and also, it was breathtakingly beautiful.  And I think the tension between the hard and the beautiful shows in my writing.

I’ve spent this first week of 2016 in quiet reflection, and it seemed right to me to distill all my 2015 journal entries into a brief “Best Of” list.  If I had salvage just five little scribblings from the previous year, these are the ones I’d choose:

1.  The Day the Light Overtakes Me

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Last October, WordPress surprised me by selecting this personal essay for its Freshly Pressed lineup.  No one ever told me that this (very personal) post would be hitting the big-time; all I knew was that, one afternoon, my stats spiked like never before, and a quiet little blog that had previously seen a few thousand readers per year was now attracting about a gazillion readers per day.

(Clearly, gazillion is an exact number.) 

All kidding aside:  the unexpected attention completely freaked me out.  I felt exposed and vulnerable in ways I hadn’t before … but in the end, it was good for me.

I’m enjoying a return to normalcy these days, but the five minutes of fame (sort-of) was a solid exercise in self-confidence and stamina in the spotlight, and I’m grateful.

2.  Oh, God, give me the words

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I’m still a little startled by how deeply people connected with this little poem, which I composed in about ten minutes of tinkering in front of the screen.  I received some truly touching e-mails from readers after posting it, and it’s my pleasure to share it again.

3.  On Shadow & Light, Sunshine & Silhouettes… & Seeing My Own Magic

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Sometimes, it’s the little moments…  This post is small, but it’s important.

4.  Sleepless, Under Shooting Stars

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I circle back to this diary entry once in awhile, if only to let its magic rub off on me all over again.  Here’s to sparkle, spirit, and everyday wonder… Raise a glass of stardust with me, friends.

5.  When Eating a Peach is an Act of Transcendence 

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I won’t say another word.  Just read.

*

And last but not least: If you’re a woman and you’ve ever struggled with insecurity and negative self-image, please, please, please, check out my photography series Same Body, Second Glance:  A Body-Image Project.  The forty days I spent compiling these images changed my life, in deep and profound ways… And then, when I shared them on my blog last spring, they changed my life all over again.

Who knows?  Maybe they’ll change you, too.

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*

Thank you — sincerely — to all the sweet loyal readers who helped make my 2015 so beautiful in the midst of the hardship. I’m believing we all have some very special days ahead. ❤    

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Sixteen

This evening, I asked T if he would take a few simple, spontaneous photographs with me …

Not all of us, of course.  Just our hands:

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And at first, I think he felt like the whole thing was a little strange… 

But then this happened:

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Sometimes, the photos say it all. ❤

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Fifteen

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The thought comes to me yesterday while I am sitting quietly in the hairdresser’s chair, listening to the wet locks fall against the mat below me: those frayed ends have been around for awhile.

They’ve seen things I’d like to forget, and they’ve also stuck with me long enough to watch me build a better version of myself.

(I’m still working on that … and always will be).

Meanwhile, new hair is growing:  soft little baby wisps that frame my face, reminding me that, cell by cell and bone by bone, the body has a way of beginning again:

My skin cells slough off and are replaced every four weeks.

My taste buds are renewed every ten days.

Six years from now?  I’ll have an all-new head of hair.

Ten years and I’ll have a totally new skeleton.

*

Oh, friend … Maybe our bodies are telling us something.

 

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Fourteen

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This evening, I stand in the kitchen and chop.

And saute. 

And stir.

And smile.

There are friends coming for dinner, and that makes me happy.

These days, food makes me happy, too.

*

There was a time in my life where food didn’t make me happy.  In fact, I was downright afraid of it.  

And that fear persisted long after I made my recovery from my eating disorder.  It persisted so long that, one day, I decided to do something about it and just plain fall in love with food.

If love is an arrow, I wrested the bow out of Cupid’s hands, took aim and fired.  

I didn’t miss.

*

In the absence of new photos on my reel lately, I’ve been scrolling through some of my older shots.  I scroll all the way back to 2009, when my love-affair with food began, and I find lush, shockingly colorful images like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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My mind takes me back to that season when a love of eating was new — a rich, wildly sensory experience — and it just plain makes me happy.  

Because that was the year I taught myself where food comes from, if it’s raised right — out in the fields or the woods, in places where light is plentiful and the soil is rich:

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I learned what it felt like to eat a blueberry or a blackberry straight from the brambles.  I discovered scapes, and I met my all-time-favorite food, Chicken of the Woods — a wood mushroom that magically soaks up whatever you cook it in (hello, chardonnay!) and transforms the flavor into something unspeakably divine:

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I learned to can and vacuum-seal and freeze and pickle.  I took a job as a baker’s assistant, and I learned to make meltingly soft scones, dense crusty artisan breads full of nuts and berries, and my personal favorite, galettes:

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I learned that food looks best in the sunlight:

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Most of all, I smiled a lot, and laughed — right there in the presence of the food that used to scare me:

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Today, I’m thinking back to those days and finding myself overwhelmed with gratitude…

I open the bottle of wine.

I let it breathe.

I toss the salad.

I wait for my friends to arrive. ❤

 

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Twelve

I find the rose almost by accident.

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It grows along the stairs to the backyard, struggling to bloom against the warmth of the concrete wall, right now, in the middle of December. I lean over the railing and finger its pink petals in wonder:  Could this be possible?  Now?

The rosebush is one of the ancient ones planted by our home’s original owner — its name a mystery, its scent headier than that of modern roses, so that the scent drifts through the yard like a cloud each June. But now … even now … it tries again.

I cut it and take it inside with me, into the warmth of the kitchen, where I stand quietly, stroking its velvet bloom down the curve of my cheek.  Its petals are crinkled by cold, darker than they should be, but still:  just a hint of that June scent.   I can’t get over it.

*

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It’s a funny thing — isn’t it — the way some gifts come not when you’d expect them, but when you need them most?  And that’s what my life has felt like lately: one rich out-of-season gift after another.   A bloom in the darkest month of the year.

This is what I am thinking as I trim the stem and fit my undeserved gift into a milkglass vase.  Set it under the kitchen window, where its half-furled petals can open slowly in the sun. I breathe in the scent and think: God — oh, my God — I am grateful.

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{Wonder what’s happening here?  For thirty days this December, I’m challenging myself to enjoy this body I’m living in:  to take pleasure in all my senses, to explore it and use it in new ways … and most of all, simply to cherish it.  I hope you’ll join me for the journey. <3}

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Ten

Tonight, we drive out of the city and into the mountains:  up a series of rutted gravel switchbacks to the top of the ridge.  There’s an A-frame cabin up here that belongs to a friend, and as we walk to the front door I can hear music and laughter — the giddy hum of a small crowd.  The house throws angular planes of light into the yard.

As soon as I walk inside, I find my body humming too — warm and happy and casting a light of its own. I smile.

*

I’m going to tell you something now that took me more than thirty years to figure out:  I really, really, really love people. And for the longest time — for a lot of reasons I won’t go into today — I didn’t really realize how much I needed them. Want to know how I figured out the truth?   It was my body:  the way a headache would disappear as soon I entered a roomful of people.  The way any anxieties, aches and pains dissolved into warmth whenever I was sitting at a table among friends.

*

There’s a little moment, halfway through this night, when I find myself standing out on my friend’s balcony and looking out over the valley.  There’s a glass of wine in my hand and a friend at my shoulder.  In front of me is one of the prettiest vistas I’ve seen in awhile:  the wide hollow in the blue hills filled with city lights far below, twinkling and shimmering beneath stars. At my back, there’s a room full of people I care about.  There’s a roaring fire, silly chatter, books and games and food.  And suddenly, a warm wind kicks up from the valley below and rifles over the porch, and I feel it kiss my face and think: I’m so lucky. I’m just so crazy lucky. The warmth of the moment radiates out from my chest and prickles down the length of my arms. All the cares of the day just fade away.

*

I carry that warmth down the mountain with me. I carry it down as we steer the car through the switchbacks.  I lean my head against the cool glass of the passenger-side window, and I think, again, about the depth of my gratitude. I carry it with me still. ❤

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Nine

Once upon a time, I was a little uncomfortable owning such a great-big pair of eyes.

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ve probably at some point seen my tiny Gravatar photo and realized that my eyes aren’t just big — they’re gigantic.  And the trouble with that is you can generally spot what I’m thinking and feeling from all the way across the room … even if I’m trying to hide it.  

Emotionally speaking, my face isn’t just an open book … it’s a big-screen projection.  Which, when I was younger and less confident, could sometimes feel terribly embarrassing.

Lately, though, I’m learning to be grateful for my great-big eyes … and especially for the small moments of magic that they find to enjoy…  

Like the tiger-striped shadows of the trees on yesterday’s trail:

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Or the subtle watermarks of leaves on the sidewalk, their brown husks long since blown away:

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These things may look simple, but I’ll tell you:  they bring me serious joy.

Today, I’m grateful. ❤

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{Wonder what’s happening here?  For thirty days this December, I’m challenging myself to enjoy this body I’m living in:  to take pleasure in all my senses, to explore it and use it in new ways … and most of all, simply to cherish it.  I hope you’ll join me for the journey. <3}

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