2019 (abridged)

Excerpts from a well-loved journal on its final pages, from a well-lived year.

January 1 | Cleveland, OH | renewal

a breathless transition, the world waits and watches. some wave this tradition away, not wanting to lean into the night and its expectations. i adore it.

the clasped hands and building anticipation, the promise of encircling the sun once more. vibrance, reflection, hope, the death and birth of a year. the top of a sky-scraping roller coaster, dizzying to look too far behind or ahead but a thrilling pause to take it all in. glittering champagne flutes and swishing sequined numbers – it’s not every night you can look like the drink bubbling away in your hand.

old glamour, toasts risen high and orchestra matching a roomful of good wishes. unrestricted youth, flashing lights and a floor-shaking beat.

a birth, a wedding, a first kiss, a moment drawn in black ink and never forgotten. the sunrise greeted by more eyes than usual, awake to let in the coming year. promise, prayer, resolve, a story begun.

March 14 | Asheville, NC | I’m grateful and I’m listening

Finn and Cris flung open the door to their tidy brown condo, shattering the film in my mind about what the week might hold. I had pictured maybe a few spare couches and a couple who begrudgingly agreed to have us, and instead received soft, rolled towels, a private room and a new pair of friends who wanted to pour Brazilian liquor out nightcaps and talk late into the small hours of the night. Finn and Cris live at a different speed, their circle a free and easy orbit of musicians and climbers and artists. Sitting at dinner the first night in Asheville with Madeleine, Cris, Finn, and their friends, I was dazzled. Portuguese whirred around the table, a doorway into their thoughts left sitting wide open if we only had the matching set of keys to listen in with.

Madeleine, Cris and I just wrapped up a dinner of salad, pea soup and cornbread, followed by a long and filling conversation about astrology, energy, our souls and all the rest. We operated so well in that high frequency together, tripping over words and refilling wine glasses and stretching out to pet the black cat, Amelia, as she watched over us with luminous green eyes. Meeting Cris at this crossroad I stand upon – between 22 and 23, on the edge of winter and spring, emerging out of college and into whatever comes next, felt so fitting and comforting.

She explained in her bright, wise way that we are all born with a map in our hands. The outcome of that map can change because we have free will as we choose, but if you can listen in to that inner compass, you’ll find yourself in a more authentic place. Having her read our charts and talk for hours afterwards left me feeling seen, energized and open to the unseen sides of life. How beautiful and strange that it unfurls each day, with routine but also with room for things you’ve never felt or seen before. I don’t always feel alright amidst the uncertainty, but I’m grateful and I’m listening.

July 4 | Providence, RI | American Pie

Getting ready together in a tiny apartment after a sun-soaked day. We shower and run combs through our hair while Johnny Cash and Taylor Swift serenade us from the record player perched on a stack of good books. Fireworks pierce the night air, 40 minutes of the boom in our chests and and soft crackling light over the crowd. Back home again for apple pie and vanilla ice cream by candle light, then whiskey and wine and polaroid pictures that become instant classics. Winding up at a karaoke bar so small and strange that all we can do is laugh and join the queue for a song. “American Pie” will always be linked to this night, to this bar with the sticky checkerboard floor. We walk back home, heads swimming and happy, through the empty, stately streets of this faraway city that none of us knew we’d be in a year ago.

August 27 | Saranac Lake, NY | The 6-Pack

My family lives scattered across the face of our heart-shaped state like the freckles that dot our skin. We’re a mixed bag, united in our Midwestern fear of confrontation yet distinctly different from each other in so many ways. We’re slamming screen doors and lemonade stands for “10 cents or free.” We’re sock-matching parties in the living room and epic showdowns over sketchily-borrowed shirts. We’re creators – of watercolor paintings, dance routines, poems, acoustic guitar songs and games of Pioneer or Town that lasted for weeks.

We’re the ones stifling back laughter in our favorite church pew over the tiniest look in our brother’s eye. We’re the single line of footprints, 12 boots and 4 paws marching through snow and up mountains and across freshwater beaches. We love Jack Johnson and this tiny soft serve ice cream store in upstate New York. We’re a little green house and a big world of people – if you know one of us long enough, it’s just a matter of time before you meet the whole 6-pack.

September 28 | Columbus, OH | the lady in white

her voice washed over me like a floodlight, drenching my weary thoughts in technicolor clarity. i walked here to see her on aching feet that long to walk over this world but also bound through the door of my parents’ house. one note sung achingly over the crowd and the hair on my arms stands straight up. three notes and i start to cry. my body knows the sound of these words, her song a lighthouse for my ears out at sea tossing in the waves of self-doubt. i marvel at the shimmering stillness of 2,000 souls catching their breath. she holds each one of us in rapture, wearing a gossamer cape like the rest of us wear the warm september air. we’re all here but we’re far off in the places these lyrics take us, on beaches and mountaintops and in fire-lit circles of friends. i close my eyes and wade through sound, visions and feeling that the melody brings to life. the color song pouring out from the lady in white.

December 12 | Columbus, OH | Look Forward

Delight in all the unknown, in all the things you’ve yet to meet in life. Today is what it will be; you’re not meant to dwell forever on what can’t be changed. It’s such a privilege to wake up and inhale and look forward and wonder and wander. We may be fearful of the future, but we can also greet it lovingly, fearlessly, like a parent who knows nothing about the child they’ll have, but accepts her joyfully just the same.

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