Today is the second day of the new year and you know what that is good for? LISTS – Here is my year in review.
Random THINGS (but actual tangible things) that brought me joy in 2022.
I’m going shallow here…. these shop-able items that gave me an inordinate amount of satisfaction.
A short box spring for my bed – My house is old, with low ceilings in the bedrooms. There’s something weird about sleeping above the median height of the room after you are too old for a bunk bed.
The Worcester Art Museum – As good as any of the other more famous New England art museums. But closer and with slightly better parking options.
A new sofa – with flannel sheets. When I bought our previous sofa, the sales lady told me that sectionals really only sat 2 people (same as a regular sofa). So, she argued, why pay for and use all the extra space when you don’t get extra seating? She was so wrong. All four adult sized humans, a 50lb dog, and at least one cat regularly cozy up together on the new sofa, and no one feels too close. It is extra deep – which is the best part. The twin sheets fit well over the seat cushions and are a near perfect color match and (because, dog) I wash and change them at least once a week.
My under the lawn spring bulb garden. I equally loved the persisting grassy knoll under the apple tree. (the result of waiting much longer than I needed to mow down the whole spring bulb display). I can’t wait for the wild, easy, unexpected, beauty of it all to emerge again.
I’m a little more out of the box (pun intended! Ha!) with the shoes. But do feel I have to make a 2023 resolution to NOT morph into a DJ Kahlid – Imelda Marcos love child.
*(Yes, I wear pants and skirts too, I’m not a walking around in a nightmare!)
My ideal lip pencil (combined with a tinted Burt’s bees balm) is perfection. I mention this primarily because I also recently had the clarity to just throw away all the other lip-ity doo-dahs that I never reach for. Ahhhh.
Tomatoes from Matt. I have a breakfast food uniform now too. A poached egg (this pan makes them so easy – mine is over 20 years old and still good), garden fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. I shamelessly lick the resulting oily, salty, eggy, tomato-water sauce from the plate.
A long camel coat for less than $80 (I had a coupon code!). I thought it was a fast fashion moment of weakness. How good can a full length $80 coat possibly be, I thought? But it is so good. My cost-per-wear (a way too un-romantic a way to talk about clothes?) is pennies. You can’t buy the long coat anymore – but I’d guess this shorter version is just as good.
The plant-y part of the random things list
I also have a short running list of plants I extra-adored this year –
- Calycanthus (so elegant and a native and mine is huge and full of blooms now)
- St johns wort (a true 4-season plant in my garden. After becoming an adolescent plant, it’s now making baby plants and I couldn’t be happier to make room for transplants)
- Foxtail lilies (umm… wow. My newish favorite bulb type plant. I need more. And I will never have enough)
- Bloodroot (I’ve been growing have a less common double variety** that I was brave enough to split this fall. Now, I am anxiously awaiting its reemergence to know all the splits took🤞. I’m adding more singles to my garden this year (they cost about 1/10th the fancy doubles).
- Petasites (ridiculously huge leaves. You can see them in satellite images – I bet Russian spy guys wonder what I’m hiding under them)
** Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’ is the only collector level plant I have in my garden. It cost more than most trees. But worth it.
Happiest moments of 2022
The morning after my aunt’s funeral, my sister and I decided to ditch the Super8 for breakfast buffet for something better. Our family is many generations deep in Lewistown, MT and my great grandfather was one of the original town grocers. In search of coffee on Main street, we wondered which building was his grocery store. (none of our living relatives could recall)
One muffin and one coffee refill later, our internet detective work was done and we figured out the grocery store and butcher shop (they were together but separate) were in the “Greene Building”. Which the owner/ waitress told us we were sitting in! We even found some old pictures and when we walked outside and we could pick out the faint remains of the original painted sign on the brick. The cafe owners were game to let us restore it… maybe in 2023…
Have you read The Overstory***? It will deepen your understanding of just how sad and awful it is that we all but lost the American Chestnut Tree to disease.
***(I liked the book – but it’s a little slow and heavy – if you aren’t looking for that – you can check this out instead)
There’s a walking trail near our house that my daughter and I love. We’ve dubbed it the “makeup trail” (because it goes very close the back side of a house that is owned by a very famous, very attractive man, that you all know. And what if we happen to run into him and his dog?… neither of us wants the story of randomly meeting ‘that guy’ in the woods to include feeling less than cute… so we only walk this trail on makeup days). Call us shallow, we don’t care.
The makeup trail also passes a curious field that I’ve wondered about for years. Obvious science-y/ horticultural/ tree things have been playing out in this field for a while.
It turns out, the field is part of the American Chestnut project and the 10,000 tree challenge (you should read about it).
Finding this out seriously made my day, week, month… heck its been six months and I’m still blathering about it. The American chestnut is coming back and this new population of trees has been nursed just down the road from my house! The treekeeper there says that it’s possible some blight resistant Chestnut trees from this project could come to market this year. I can’t wait – I’ve got at least 2 perfect spots to plant them. It is a major garden goal for 2023.
We sponsored our former aupair Ira, and her family to escape the Russian invasion of Ukraine and come to the USA****.
It was mostly straightforward, except for the real-time saga of her husband, Vlad, safely getting out of the country. It’s a long story, but it was like living in a (high suspense) movie – complete with (my own) tears of joy at the moment he was found and retrieved from the side of the road in some remote mountainous corner of Slovakia in the dark of night by his wife (who had not seen him in 8 months). He was “smoking like a chimney” (the stress!) but ok – two days later he was living in my basement.
Can you imagine the whiplash of that? The whole drama played out over text, obviously.
****(If you happen to have donated to the fundraiser for them, Thank you – you were also a huge source of joy).
If you didn’t donate (but would like to), they could still really use the help.
Also, we’re helping to bring over another family too – they arrive in a couple weeks (Jan. 18, 2023) and we are welcoming donations to help them here.
My Biggest Mistakes This Year
We became rental property owners this year. In Portugal. I’m so excited, but at the moment, managing the subcontractors is requiring more specificity and patience than I’m accustomed to. In hind sight, I’m wishing I’d sent more, and more extremely detailed emails. I wish I’d over-communicated. I’m not sure it would have solved things. But at least I’d be able to say I did everything that I could to make things run smoother and faster.
(Of course, I might also have come off as an extremely annoying overbearing obnoxious American too – and the whole thing would be the same, or worse).🤷♀️
I didn’t manage to get off the news cycle soon enough. It ate my happiness for too long.
And I am still not sure if I understand that I cannot change the world (my optimism, sometimes, is not my friend).
I am, however, much better now that twitter has lost its magic (is it me or does it feel like wandering through a shopping mall with no anchor stores?).
And I’ve managed (through the disruption of unexpected travel)***** to reset my morning routine. I am back to regular writing, instead of letting the background noise of morning news shows and twitter scrolls blur my mind. I wish it had all happened earlier. Humor has been my antidote and I’m continuing to tweak my news filters. Less stuff gets in my head now – and I’m generally starting to feel much better.
***** My grandmother passed away at Thanksgiving and her services were in Colorado a week later. The up side is that travel always helps me break bad habits – I see this as her last gift to me.
This is her and I and her hair in the early 70’s:
A Christmas Specific Mistake
Also – I will never not tie up the Christmas tree again. I have cats.
Related: Has anyone ever had any luck with the West Elm/ Pottery Barn conglomerate’s replacements department? I’d really like to get new globes for my chandelier. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are a mythical ministry that reside on the 13th floor of branch offices in never never land.
Things to improve in 2023
I need a long walk every single day. I’m like a hyper active puppy – if I don’t, I can’t be blamed for chewing a hole in the wall. I lost my walking habit when our town shut down the track for covid. I’m finally getting it back.
When my brain thinks of something, it also thinks of at least 5 other things that it tries to connect to the original thing, and then for each of those, 5 more, and it goes on until my brain can’t handle the giant blob of interconnected things. It is so annoying.
The word ‘simplicity’ has been stuck in my head for weeks now. It just keeps popping up when I think about pretty much anything and blob plaque starts to form.
If I was a ‘woo-woo’ person, (which I am not) I might think this was some sort of divine mantra given to me by the universe as my “word of the year”. But since I’m me – I can only say, lately I am obsessed with simplifying everything. My greatest talent is to overcomplicate things but some sort of switch has been flipped in my brain lately – and when the blobs start to form it seems there is now some new counter force that starts lobbing word bombs like ‘simplify’, ‘simple’, ‘simplicity’, ‘pare it down’, ‘come on already -does this really all have to go together all at once’, get a grip. And it is kinda working.
A few years ago, when TV studios shut down and all show guests started doing punditry and live TV from our homes (which also meant no more hair and makeup helpers!), I Youtubed my way to decent makeup application and hair.
Now I need to do it with my nails. Holding plants up to the camera requires something other than gross gardener fingers.
Did you know that a good gel manicure can actually really make the whole destroy your hands in the dirt thing much better? But all these gel manicures are expensive and I always get the tech who insists on leaving me with bloody cuticles. (Is cuticle cutting even healthy? I think not). So it is back to youtube university for me. Santa brought me the whole kit, it’s practice time.
I still suck at tree pruning. I’ve got to figure that out.
Epiphanies from 2022
I don’t have to love gardening to love gardens (and garden design). Benjamin Vogt said it in his Garden Makers Lecture Series Talk and it struck me sideways. He says he hates to garden – but he loves his garden – and he is a great designer – his design style is to make things that are subsequently less intensive to build and less intensive to maintain.🤯🤯🤯 (not sure why this was such a revelation).
I don’t actually hate gardening (but I don’t love it so much I wanna marry it either!). Being a “gardener” is such a particular persona – especially on social media. I’ve always found this label flattening and borderline cliche but I never questioned it. Now I am. Weird how one, off-handed comment can be so liberating.
I need to cut it out with the dark rim glasses. Since officially becoming a needer of the reader, I’ve thought I can be some sort of Iris Apfel/ Rachel Maddow eye-glass icon. But after much experimentation – light colored glasses are my jam. Clear, beige, tan, maybe a gold wire, are the right choices for me and my paler skin and light hair. I’m glad I sorted that out and moved on. You can see my current favorites from caddis.
I’ve also finally sorted out the source of the itchy welts that pop up on my face all too often. Turns out I’m allergic to some preservative (that is in tons of makeup stuff). I’m relieved its not face-eating bed bugs, or some gross thing living under my finger nails, or the next lesser known Covid symptom.
Things I’m most Proud Of
I’ve always thought I would be able to do the right thing in the right moment. I think I have good reflexes and quick instincts in an emergency situation. Or I hope. Like I imagine, I’d be able to not freeze – but do the unexpected heroic thing when needed. Like grab someones hand who is falling onto the rail tracks. Or possess the quick thinking, clarity and bravery to stop an attack on someone.
But you really don’t know for sure if you have that right combination of reflexes until the time comes to actually step up.
My time came in Maine and when all of the sudden a bunch of Nazis (with swastikas and doing the heil hitler thing, and carrying grotesque signs – but all wearing cowardly face masks, obviously) were suddenly swarmed on the sidewalk of a busy intersection in Kittery.
I’m proud to say, that in a flash, I had the window down, both middle fingers in the air and I and was screaming back at them calling them cowards and other entirely appropriate names. It was so fast I didn’t even think. It was so fast that my friend in the passenger seat was disoriented trying to grab her phone to capture the whole thing on camera. It was so fast that I stopped driving immediately – sort of – I mean the car was still progressing through the intersection and I was still in the driver seat. 😆
I need to work on that part – thankfully there were no cops there to pull me over… but also where the heck were the damn cops?
But now I know for sure – I am really the person I think I will be in a real situation. Proud.
I survived a 3-day long music festival (Beach Road Fest) that required camping in a tent for 4 nights with with my teenagers. Immediately, I was sunburned, my back ached, and I quickly moved passed ringing ears to sound induced stupification all on day one. I considered fleeing by foot on the ferry or just diving into he harbor to drown it all out. But I stuck with it and, at some point, actually started to enjoy it. Except for Wilco – I’m not a Wilco person. But I can still do hard things.
What I’m looking forward to in 2023
Renovating our kitchen – I hope (finances allowing). It is 20+ years past due.
I want to paint murals on the side of the barn and the shed. But talk about fear of the blank canvas! I’m looking forward to actually painting big this year.
One of the great joyous secrets of working in the landscape industry is that there is a natural seasonality to it. I believe that one of the reasons most people in this industry are so nice is because they flow with the weather. They often shut down completely (in north America) in December and January and can find things very quiet in July and August. But these times help them to prepare for the furious flurries of spring and fall – the crazy busy times.
As I’ve moved into teaching online, I have listened to all the experts about how to be an evergreen business. By which they mean always ready, always selling, always on, even while you are sleeping. It is enticing – and also exhausting. And unnatural. And I long for the flow and the seasonality. I made some changes in 2022 that will get me back into a better seasonal flow in 2023. More like a garden designer again – and I’m excited to start forging a path that works for me in my online business.
Does anyone want to loan me an ebike for a few months? I want to do an experiment. My home is not in a walk or bike friendly place – but maybe it is not as bad as I think it is? I want to see if I had an ebike if I could realistically modify my lifestyle to reduce the need for a car – even in my rural-ish town. I’m so excited to do this – I just need the bike – and I’m worried to buy one in case the experiment is a total failure.
Things I wish for you in 2023
I can’t say it better than one of my favorite essayists (Garance Dore) – “Softness and kindness and forgiveness and a lot, lot, lot more sense of humour. Stop taking yourself so seriously, world!”
Things that have happened since I wrote the first draft of this note
My uncle died (On New Years Eve) – he was a cowboy. Tough, brave, obstinate, and an absolute independent individualist – a person throughly forged from the landscape and the animals that he cared for.
My family suffered more loss in the last 8 months year than ever in my life (An aunt, a grandmother and now an uncle) and I am hoping we are done for a while.
These are my favorite pictures of him and I and my cousin.
Ira made me my own shuba for New Year. Shuba is Herring under a Fur Coat (sounds delicious right?). If you think boiled carrots, mayo, beets, pickled herring, eggs and a few other ingredients might be disgusting – you’d be wrong. I’ve already eaten half the bowl. And I honestly don’t know why this dish hasn’t taken instagram by storm – It also the prettiest Ukrainian food ever. A pickled fish sunset – with mayo! Absolutely gorgeous!
Goodby 2022. Happy 2023.