August 8, 2015


I left Mathews early the morning of July 29 and arrived at Ucross Foundation on the afternoon of August 3. In between I bought apple cider donuts from a roadside stand in Virginia, played pinball in Lawrenceville, drank smoked bourbon on one big rock, ate a famous fried fish sandwich at Nied's Hotel, biked the streets of Chicago on a road bike at night, sipped rose and Hibiscus Ale to the tunes of Old Crow Medicine Show and Brandi Carlile, ate fish n' chips sushi and a chocolate chip cookie swirled in custard, hung out with a cat named Minion, spilled jalapeno hummus in my lap on I-90, camped on a mound of Sioux Quartzite in Minnesota, grilled steak and mushrooms to lantern-light and fireflies, found a bison herd, saw more motorcycles than I have ever seen or will ever see again, hiked seven miles in the Badlands backcountry by myself, saw bighorn sheep and one mean rattlesnake, climbed a ladder to The Notch, at Chef Boyardee and felt ten years old, rock-scrambled at sunset and sipped a beer on top, looked at Saturn through a telescope, crossed the Black Hills, drove through Sturgis on the opening day of the 75th annual motorcycle rally with along with 1 million bikers, and sailed through Wyoming singing Paul Simon, right to the foot of the Bighorn Mountains. 

July 22, 2015


It has been over two years since I have left words on this page. Geographically, I find myself exactly where I was in my last post: still on Stutt's Creek, a creekrat. I went firefly hunting with Allie for the third time this June. She was nettle-stung in the Rappahannock last week; her shoulder is streaked with red beneath her chlorine-green and blonde hair. It reminds me of the scars of lightning-strike survivors, what are called lichtenberg figures. There was a thunderstorm Saturday that came on so strong the whole county lost power and I stood beneath the pines and let it soak me in chest-pounding bouts of rain. I still bike at night, a sweaty wide-eyed thing lit white in the headlights of lifted pickup trucks. I still drink Legend Browns and visit Southwind for jam night, though I haven't worked there in over a year. And I still love this county, its cornfields and marshes and left houses and honeysuckle. Its people, so many of whom are now my easy friends, my new-old friends, my Mathews family.

So what has changed?

In some ways my life more as it was than it has been in the intervening years. After living with a person for two years, I am alone again. My closet contains only my clothing, the fridge only my food. No more cowboy shirts and Coors Light. Back to dresses, back to grocery bags of cucumbers. It's strange and comfortable at once. I miss him without regretting the decision I made. I miss him without regretting the time I spent with him. But I was used to missing him, so that too is a bit of the same.

The biggest change, perhaps, has been to my body. In the early winter of 2014 I chose to make a change, to address an issue that has long bothered me: my weight. I've lost almost forty-five pounds to date. I began in the winter walking miles in slush and wind and snowdrifts. I'm now biking upwards of a hundred miles a week on the backroads through those marshes and cornfields I love so much. I find myself lean and muscled and tanned dark by hard hours under a hot sun. My closet is almost empty and my hair is longer than my shoulders. I still look in the mirror and startle: who is that? But I do not miss her, the person I carved this new me from. I do not hate her, but I am happy not to be her anymore. Not to live in a body defined by its trauma, its grief, its coping mechanisms.

But the real changes are about to happen. I often feel, these days, as if I am hanging my toes off the cliff edge, counting down to the moment I finally leap. In seven days I leave for Wyoming, to spend four weeks at the Ucross Foundation as a writer in residence. It is a scary, thrilling thing, and I am ready. I am ready, too, for all that will come after. After there may be a move to Austin, or back to DC, or to somewhere. After there may be all manner of decisions I can't yet imagine. After there will be changes, scary and significant and necessary. But that will all come after. All I can do now is plan, and bide, and enjoy what time I have here now.

May 31, 2013


I live on Stutt's Creek, where there are baby nettles and snakes that look like copperheads and two goldens who think they are deerhounds. I have a fern that's meant to live outdoors and a kitchen with empty drawers. The children next door call me Miss Carolyn and I have a date to look at some fireflies in the cornfield up the road with the eldest, Miss Allie, this Sunday night, her schedule permitting. We went on a bike ride and she showed me all the houses on her road (Miss Marlene, Miss Sally, Miss Kaykay who has a pool we can swim in). I work the floor at Southwind Cafe slugging unsweet teas with lemon and softshells and Terrapin ales. My shoes are different sizes. There are red, white, and purple flowers on the porch at Homagin and Joyce has died. The asparagus is past. Everything is strange and beautiful and I'm forgetting, forgetting.

November 12, 2012

Long Virginia Sleep

I started this blog intending to use it, in part, as a way to track my progress in writing the prospective novel from which Long Virginia Sleep takes its name. It really didn't turn out that way, and this blog became something else independent of my fiction writing. This became a means of confession, documentation, and more often than not, waxing poetic about the place that I love beyond reason: Mathews County. As I've come to know Mathews better and spend more time there, my need to write about it from a personal context has waned. I live there, in some sense, and though it remains utterly beautiful and magical and everything that made me fall in love with it as a child, it's also a real place populated by real people, many of whom I'm proud to call my friends, coworkers, and (of course) family. I spent the summer working the bar at Southwind in what I see as a sort of cathartic, circle-closing experience. To end up an employee at the place whose employees and customers were the first to welcome me, truly, into the real Mathews--one that isn't just herons and thunderstorms and bike rides by myself--means more than I can say. I met a boy who loves Mathews like I do, and he's real too. Though I remain inconvertibly a come-here, I feel a part of the place. It's my home. Even now as I sit in my apartment in DC with the National Cathedral rising from the red trees outside my window, I feel Mathew's tug on me, like tide.

Yesterday, I wrote the 100th page of the novel. This too feels like a circle closing. I am nervous and tired. But as much as I'm afraid, I'm ready.

July 8, 2012


A report from the summerland. My shins are scratched and bruised and stung and my soles are hard as pine. I am burnt and bleached, all salt-cured skin. I find I think of myself as a summer critter. It is very July now, with scorching hot days and air you can see. A family anchors their sailboat offshore, and under the boom boom of far-off fireworks we float out to it on dark water. Revolutionary War re-enactors camp at the Civic Center, wool-clothed in 100 degrees, and I wonder whether they snuck into air conditioning overnight, or sweated in their side-by-side cloth barracks. I have a party, and neighbors arrive by kayak to eat sweet and sour grilled chicken and crookneck squash from the overflowing garden. The fireflies are thinning now, replaced by the daytime static of cicadas and horseflies. Somehow the flies get in the house and I hunt them, swatting at AC-cool air. I bike to the next point with a chocolate pie in one hand and a cooler of beers under my shoulder. Envoy, a band made up of four nineteen year olds, play live on the porch as people dance beneath sparklers and morning glories and a boy who looks like a centaur fishes croaker in the shallows beyond. A Good-Natured Riot rocks bluegrass in the corner at Southwind while I pour sweating Ranger after Brown after Wolaver Wheat and the banjo player is stony-faced-cool as his metal-tipped fingers fly. I buy an antique glass lamp at Holly Hill and rewire it as old paint flakes. Wild thunderstorms tear branches from the maples and blow the tomato cages over, scattering half-ripe fruit. Friends gather on the porch to watch the lightning. We paddle after dolphins at sunset, following them up the Haven as their backs break orange water, too fast to catch. The nettles are coming, and blackberries burst on the vines. 

April 20, 2012

Candid + Weary

The short of it is that my grandfather is dying. Our family became aware of his oral cancer's resurgence a few weeks ago. Operation was not an option worth considering given his age, physical strength, and mental condition. We were told he had somewhere between one and three months. Then, last weekend, a consulting hospice nurse projected two or so weeks. As we are a family of planners, this information was helpful; as a family of variedly emotional family members, this information was difficult. As much as we're able, we're adjusting to this new time frame. I was in Mathews last weekend, am back this weekend, and am planning to return every weekend until, alternatively: Granddaddy's death or the end of my semester, when I'll be coming down full time. I know full well that death, or the possibility of death, can make daily life feel crazy. A crew of nurses are seeing to my grandfather full time now, and everyone else is keeping busy in their own way, but there's this undercurrent of near panic to everything any of us endeavor to do. It's unavoidable; we know what's happening, or what will happen soon, and planting watermelons in the dingle and redecorating our bedrooms and stalking wild asparagus and eating pound cake (so much pound cake) isn't about to make us forget it. I'm glad I can be here, but I feel weary. Candidly weary or wearily candid, as Aunt Lynne and I debated last weekend. Grandmother is weariest of all. And we're all just getting ready, getting ready, getting ready.

March 2, 2012


It is pouring like it's summer--like I could step out the front door barefoot into rain warm as the Chesapeake in August. Hop on my bike and ride soaking to Tin Can Alley to float on my back in the waves. A thunder-thick afternoon. I am islanding for the weekend, happy to get out of DC, get an eyeful of the new jonquils, and see Blue Line Highway play at Southwind. I've decided it's Spring, and no one can convince me otherwise. Even if the rain is freezing and the bay too cold for swimming.

I'm finding it difficult to focus on all of the many things I should be doing now, versus all of the many things I plan to do soon. For example, what I really need to be doing is: 1. Writing fiction. 2. Writing poetry. 3. Writing the two stories I've pitched for my Lit Journalism class. And I have been doing these things to some extent. For whatever reason, poetry seems to be drawing a lot of my focus. I found myself diving into a research wormhole early this week while writing a poem about ginkgo trees (which, incidentally, are even more awesome than I had previously thought.) Ginkgo biloba trees, or something very very similar to them, have been growing on earth for 250 million years. Dinosaurs ate these trees. The first mammals probably did too. And now we walk around complaining about how smelly the nuts that fall off them are. Suffice it to say that somewhere in researching ginkgo trees I found myself researching the entire history of life on earth. A wormhole, like I said. Anyway, I should also be devoting more of my energy to researching Put-In Creek and Old House Woods (Mathews readers: if you have opinions or stories concerning either topic please get in touch with me).

I find, however, I am more invested in planning my summer garden. I'm growing persian cucumbers and radishes this year; thrilling, I know. Other summer things: I want to learn to drive the boat finally. I'd like to take an art class or two at the Bay School. I want to entertain more. I also, more seriously, want to put myself on an intensive writing schedule for my thesis. A terrifying prospect, but I'm kind of excited about it as well. But for now, dreaming of radishes.