Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Vacation: Part 2, Matrimony

On June 23, 2013, my cousin Haley married her best friend, Greg.  It was perhaps the loveliest, most fun wedding celebration I've ever attended or been a part of.  I love Haley and Greg dearly, I look up to them in so many ways, and I was so honored to be involved in some very special aspects of this wedding.
 The festivities and celebrating started here....
I am so thankful that I was asked to join Haley at the Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikvah as she prepared for her wedding.  (Fun Fact...Anita Diamant, the author of the Red Tent, is the founding president of this beautiful facility).  Ritual immersion in a mikvah is a long held tradition in Judaism and is a requirement under Jewish law for brides.  After Haley emerged from the mikvah, the afternoon was spent celebrating Haley.  We talked about family, women, our ancestors, and the hard and joyous work of marriage that lies ahead for her.  Women from Haley's family and Greg's family were both present at this peaceful, small, gathering, and I will always treasure that I was able to join her. 

As people started coming into Boston from all over the country for the weekend, the celebrating really got up to speed.  Manicures and pedicures for friends and cousins...and my little flower girl too!  She felt very special to get to join the big girls (and her favorite cousin Michael) for this event. 

The rehearsal dinner was a perfectly lovely evening.  Great food, funny and touching speeches, family slideshows, and a very special challah made by my Great Aunt Sylvia, my grandmother's sister. 

Sunday morning was a whirlwind of getting ready to head to Camp Kiwanee, about an hour outside of Boston, for the ceremony and reception.

There's always a fair amount of anticipation, excitement, and even nervousness when someone near and dear to your heart walks down the aisle.  But those emotions were a bit (who I am kidding...a LOT) amped up this time around.  I had some big jobs associated with this particular wedding.  Jobs I was BEYOND honored to be asked to do.  But I was a bit nervous....

First, my little Sadie was asked to be the flower girl.  She was so excited about this role; she loved her dress, her pretty shoes, her new haircut, and the fact that she'd be walking down the aisle with her cousin Chloe by her side.  But she'd also been dropping comments fairly regularly about how she didn't want everyone looking at her, and she didn't like having her picture taken.  And I was having nightmarish flashbacks about the last time she was a flower girl.  She and I walked down the aisle, hand in hand, at my brother and sister-in-law's wedding.  All eyes were on us...and then people started oohing and aahing and taking pictures.  And Sadie couldn't handle it.  She dropped to the ground and tried to disappear.  And I somehow bent down in a short dress and very high heels and proceeded to carry her down the aisle, all the while whispering reassuring comments in her ear and telling her to just close her eyes and hold onto Mama.  Not so smooth.  Needless to say, I was the teeny tiniest bit nervous this second time around.  And I wouldn't be holding her hand this time.  But she's two years older, so I kept telling myself she'd be fine.

Then there was the chuppah.  I think once upon a time I sewed an apron for Haley on my 100-year old sewing machine.  And my mom and I, of course, have gifted her with plenty of handknit items.  But we are not, by any stretch of the imagination, seamstresses.  But despite that small fact, when she asked us last November to create a chuppah for her wedding ceremony, we leapt at the chance.  I'll do anything for this girl.

Well, that sent Mom and me down a long, winding, sometimes stressful path to the final product....this patchwork chuppah, assembled from panels contributed by members of both Haley's and Greg's families....

It's clearly handmade....I didn't want anyone looking too closely.  But I do feel immensely proud of what my mom and I accomplished with this chuppah, and I hope that Haley and Greg can feel all the love and well wishes that went into it. 

But all this really felt like small potatoes when up against what was really making me nervous.  Haley had asked my dad, my husband, and I to play music during and after the wedding ceremony.  As in....during the processional and recessional!  Like....as a beautiful bride was walking down the aisle on her wedding day, I would be playing my mandolin.  WHAT???  I'm the mandolin picker who won't even play in front of other people in the comforts of my own home.  I prefer to hide in a dark closet where no one can hear me.  But again, I'd do anything for this girl.  So I have been practicing my ASS off!  I have played more mandolin in the past 6 months than ever in my life.  There's nothing like the looming threat of having to play your instrument in front of more than 100 silent and listening friends, family, and strangers, on your dear cousin's most important day, to put the pressure on you to pick up your instrument and practice.  So that's what we've been doing.  And I was sweating, and fidgety, and feeling a bit panicked until the moment I got the thumbs up from the wedding planner to strike those first notes.

And we pulled it all off just fine.  Nothing was flawless.  I hit some weird notes, Sadie walked down the aisle looking at the ground, and the chuppah certainly has a few (more than a few) "oops" spots.

But it was all perfect for the occasion.  All this work and effort was worth it.  We succeeded in helping Haley celebrate her marriage in the way she wanted to.  It was personal, and intimate, and all about family and friends and love.  And although professional musicians certainly would have sounded better...no one other than her Uncle Jon (my dad) could have written a song, Haley's Waltz, JUST FOR THIS OCCASION.

And obviously, playing music alongside my two favorite pickin' buddies, but husband and my dad, made it that much less scary, and that much more fun.  And it was all about the giant love I have for these two beautiful people, Haley and Greg, as they start their married lives together.

The wedding reception was one of the more fun that I have been to.  They had a great live band, that played songs that filled the dance floor the entire night.  I danced with my husband, my mom and dad, my daughter, my brother and sister-in-law, and the rest of my extended family.  Such fun...


And it was SO cool that after the wedding festivities were over we stayed the night in summer camp cabins, after continuing the party around a bonfire and skinny dipping in the lake.

It was such a joyous celebration and I felt so thankful and blessed to be able to celebrate the marriage of Haley and Greg. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer Vacation: Part 1

I usually find myself wanting to call her my soulmate.  But then I keep it to myself because I don’t want to hurt my husband’s feelings.  Because of course, he’s my soulmate too.....just a different part of my soul.

I’ve never had a friend like Rachel, and I don’t expect to ever have any others quite like her.  She knows me better than mostly anyone.  It recently it occurred to me why that might be....she was by my side when I found myself.  There in the beauty of the Alaskan interior, during my impressionable early 20's, I figured out who I was becoming, who I wanted to be, what's important to me, what to not be ashamed of, how to be honest with myself and others, how to love my body, and how to strive to truly live life to the fullest.  And so much more.  Wow those were some formative years.  And she was with me the whole time, and together we figured a lot of that out.

So, because of all the love, support, intellectual stimulation, smiles, understanding, and big belly laughs that happen when we’re together….it was pure luxury to spend a few days with her in her current home city of Boston. 

 Every time she and I have been together since we left Alaska 12 years ago, we’re in the midst of a larger adventure, project, festival, or my family.  This time it was just us, a few friends of hers sprinkled around the edges, and some uninterrupted, mostly unplanned, days together.
We ate, drank, laughed, and walked our way through her lovely city….

And of course it was a total treat at the conclusion of these few lovely days to be with my family, who all consider Rachel family too.  Together on her porch with cold beers, instruments, and pizza.  Perfection.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pagosa Folk and Bluegrass Festival

My favorite festival of the year has come and gone, but I find that I’m still carrying its loveliness with me, a month later.  

Pagosa Springs is a beautiful, small, quaint town nestled on the western side of Wolf Creek Pass.  This part of Colorado is, in my opinion, the most beautiful in the state.  I always love the drive to Pagosa Springs.  It’s only a little ways further to Durango, a town where I spent a lot of time back in 1996 when I attempted to maintain a long distance relationship during my first year of college in Boulder.  Every other weekend I would load up my trusty Toyota Camry with all my favorite CDs, leave Boulder at some point after classes on Friday, and drive as fast as I could (surely faster than I should have) to Durango.  I was running from my dissatisfaction with what I found that first year of college in Boulder, and I was running to what I knew (the boyfriend) and what I wanted (outdoorsy, adventurous, accepting, interesting hippies who weren’t cliquey and judgmental like they seemed to be in Boulder).  It was all there in Durango, and I spent as much time as I could there.  Needless to say, I did the Boulder to Durango drive a lot!  And I knew those roads like the back of my hand.  

These days I only do the drive once a year, and although the actual music festival is my favorite part of the adventure, oh how I love the drive…lots of memories flooding back while driving that pass.

We’d parked the Scamp for a few short days after returning from a festival the previous weekend.  Those few days were full of grocery shopping, cooking, prepping, packing (oh and working too…).  We woke up early Thursday morning and were on the road to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument by 9 a.m.  It felt great to have the Scamp out on the open road, and we were feeling confident after a local trailer/RV mechanic had given us a shining report card the previous week.  
We anxiously pulled up to the park entrance, crossing our fingers that there would be a camping spot available for us that night.  We found a spot on the main campground loop, set up camp, had a nice lunch, and after some pickin', reading, and getting to know our neighbors, we packed up for a short hike to the sand dunes.  It was great fun to play in the creek at the base of the dunes.  Another setting that was bringing lots of childhood and young adulthood memories back, and so much fun to share with my family. 
Dinner and a campfire followed, and then a short walk to the campground pavilion where we were treated to modified folk songs and a slideshow teaching visitors about the history of the sand dunes.  It was a relatively early night to bed for all of us since the wind was blowing too much to make sitting around a campfire enjoyable.  

We were up and out by 7:30 a.m.  This set-up and take-down thing with the Scamp continues to amaze and delight me with how easy and efficient it is.  That early departure would have never happened with a tent.

We enjoyed a peaceful morning drive to Del Norte, and a stop at our very favorite eating establishment in that part of the state, the Peace of Art Café.  It’s part of our Pagosa tradition, and we look forward to it all year long.  After filling our bellies and hearts with the goodness of the café, I jumped into the driver’s seat, full cup of coffee in hand, and we were on our way up Wolf Creek Pass.  I couldn’t have been happier with how the Durango performed pulling the Scamp up and over the pass.  We’d been wondering how this part of the drive would go, and I was so proud of our old truck!
We pulled into the line to enter the festival just before noon, jumped out of the car to greet those around us, and rejoiced that we’d finally arrived!  Once it was our turn, we carefully drove the Scamp up the bumpy, dirt road to the festival grounds, and pulled right into our preferred camping spot.  Within an hour, camp was set up, and we were snuggled up in the Scamp with lunch while we watched the first (and only) rainstorm of the weekend pass overhead.
After the rain had cleared, I grabbed a chair and headed up the hill for the mandolin workshop.  Perhaps I'll talk in another blog post about the huge amount of mandolin-flavored inspiration I got out of this festival...but suffice it to say, I came away from the workshop and the festival in general feeling a renewed excitement about my mandolin playing!
Brian got Sadie to take a nap, and waited patiently to greet our dear friends, the GreenHills, who would be arriving from Arkansas for the weekend.  

Back in 1996, when I was driving to Durango every other weekend, I spent the opposite weekends at Bay’s house in Parker, Colorado.  Bay and I have known each other since we were 15, and she’s one of my very dearest friends.  We’ve seen each other through love, loss, heartache, adventures, marriage, motherhood, and more.  I love her like a sister, and I love her children like they are my own.  And yet, we never get to see each other; the last time was when Sadie was less than 9 months old!  Her two oldest have grown so much since I’d last seen them, and I would be meeting baby Hazel for the first time.  Needless to say, when the text came to me at the mandolin workshop that they were at camp, I couldn’t get down the hill fast enough.  And I love a good reunion…one where you can’t help but just cry and cry as you hold each other.  Nothing better. 
And once all the hellos, how was the trip, oh my gosh look at the beautiful children, etc. was done with, we did what we do best.  We settled into festivating and camping.  
For me, the weekend was invigorating, rejuvenating, relaxing, joyful, peaceful, and idyllic in every way.  Brian, Sadie, and I slept peacefully every night in the Scamp…I woke up each morning feeling rested (which isn’t always the case at festivals).  Bay and I got to spend a lot of time chatting, catching up, and even had time for one of those sit-down-around-the-fire-and-settle-in-for-the-night conversations that it’s so hard to find time for these days.  
The kids were SOOO great together.   
Sadie and Mosely are the closest in age and played so well.  Mosely is funny and fun and rambunctious and sensitive.  A perfect little boy.  
 Stella has grown up so much, and I treasured the opportunity to get to know her more.   
She’s a big kid with thoughts and ideas and interests and plans of her own, and it was so lovely to get a little glimpse into her world.  She sure has changed a lot since she preceded me down the aisle on my wedding day 7 years ago!

Oh, and that baby Hazel….what a joy it was to hold and cuddle her for a few days.  
 And before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head home.  The Petersons were surely feeling the effects of 3 straight festivals in a row.  By the end of the Pagosa festival, we had slept in the Scamp more nights than in our own beds over the prior few weeks.  We were loving it, but we were dirty, and tired, and run down.  

So, we sadly hugged our friends goodbye, promised to do it again next year, threw our newly purchased CD from our favorite set of the weekend (Della Mae! Yeah!) into the stereo, and hit the road.  As we drove back over Wolf Creek Pass, Sadie sang quietly in the back seat while Brian and I took some time to talk about the weekend.  The good parts, as well as the emotional/sad/difficult parts.  We didn’t talk about what waited at home yet.  Work, and laundry, and groceries, and lists.  Those conversations would start up as we got a bit closer to home.  But for now we just soaked in the beauty of the pass, and soaked up the afterglow of three weeks of festivating.  One last stop at the Peace of Art Café, another cup of coffee, and we headed home.

Yesterday brought the beginning, tomorrow brings the end, and somewhere in the middle we became the best of friends.  ~Author Unknown