Sunday, January 18, 2015


One winter morning a few years back, I was walking with the dog on the foggy shores of the Puget Sound. We were alone and I was wearing a teal raincoat and drinking Cafe Fiore espresso. The dog was running like mad on the empty beach, barreling towards the sea gulls and crows perched on driftwood, sending them into the air in a burst of wings and noise.

I stopped when I found a piece of blue sea glass lying on the cold sand, just beyond the waves' reach. I stooped to pick it up and then studied it, rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger like a worry stone. It occurred to me, for some reason, that blue glass could make one lucky in love. The idea just landed in my head like a bird.

If blue glass brings good luck in love, what then will a blue gemstone bring? 

You can't know exactly until you're in it. So when I saw the dog bounding towards me on a bright, cobalt day in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a sapphire ring tied to her collar, I studied it the way I did the sea glass that morning on the beach. I held it up against the sun.  

 And then I said Yes. Yes, let's find out. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

blue fog

taking your cheerful suggestions: instagram @melinadream
You all were enormously helpful this past week with your suggestions on how to cheer up the dismal winter days. I know that some of you live up North or up high and you're treated to powder snow and boiled blue skies- not so much here. In the Blue Ridge, we've been immersed in fog and rain for five days straight; I swear I was almost hit by a runaway train. 

I wrote this article about where to go to keep your spirits up in Asheville. 

I've said this before, but after a decade in Seattle, I'm conditioned to think that the rain will be with us, stubborn at the doorstep, until late spring. But it doesn't work like that here: today the sun appeared, it was a bright, crisp 30 degrees, and I stood outside between biology lab and chemistry and I blinked. After school was out for the day, I put on my running shoes and did a loping, have hearted trot up to town, then treated my bewildered muscles to a hot bath, dark beer and a book. (Thank you Alice, perfect medicine.)

Lori, I found myself a vial of liquid Vitamin D, Mariel and Carolyn I keep my copy of Yes Please! next to my bed, stacked on top of Bossy Pants and Mindy Kaling's book.  Marie and Carolina I took your advice and started planning my March trip to Seattle, when the cherry blossoms will be in bloom and I can visit the islands and eat pho on Ballard Ave. 

Also, and you're going to want to pay attention to this, David and I came up with an invention. It's called Bed Cape. It's a big cape, multilayered, made of fleecy blankets that you wear around the house. When you want to nap, simply flop over- you're in bed! Dave added an attachable pillow like they have on life preservers to keep your head floating. He calls it the Patented Pillow Flop technology.


And now, the winner of this week's sunshine Mystery Prize!

Blogger Erin Macauley said...
Reading these comments! No joke...we readers are some sunshine folks. I love it.
This year it's taking my boyfriend's ole lady beagle (14 this month) for a walk every day at lunch. LORD was it a nasty day today...but I found a break in the rain to run home and walk her the quarter mile? Half mile? that her hips will let her, and the grin on her face became my own.
January 12, 2015 at 5:46 PM

Congrats Erin! Hometeam demands that I walk her nightly - the nerve - but thank goodness, otherwise my evenings might be crushed under the meaninglessness of my favorite activity: picking up the house while The Office plays in the background, and I wish I were kidding. Erin, email and we'll get you all set up.

Thanks for the hints everyone, I'll see you soon. I've got some partnerships in the works, very excited for what's to come. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

hatred of sound

2015 so far. 
Thanks this week to Stormin' Norman. For everything. 
School started today but it wasn't so bad. It's my third semester at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, so, you know, I'm a big kid on campus now. This morning I sat down next to Billy, my old friend from Anatomy & Physiology. "The parking situation is out of control right now," he whispered to me. "I had to park in a hole."

I thought about Billy and his wide grin, metallic with braces, emerging from a hole in the earth like a gopher, shaking dirt off of himself as he tromped to Organic Chemistry, and I began to feel better about the semester.

There is a man out in the country who is fixing my back. He twists me, cracks me, hooks me to electrodes and covers me with blankets of ice. Every day I make the long drive out to his office, and sometimes while driving I listen to one of the many Christian radio stations they have down here. Just to see what they're up to. I also wonder if the chiropractor is Christian, and whenever I'm at his office I look for clues. I know it doesn't matter. But being non-religious person in a such a deeply religion area, I'm always curious.

Yesterday David and I hiked to the top of Bear Wallow mountain in Gerton. I interviewed the author of a local trail guide for an article the other day, and this was the hike he recommended. The summit was bald and bleak, in a pretty way. I felt sort of sad at the top. Maybe because it's January, and as we decided one year ago: January is January, wherever you are. Maybe it's because I'm being driven insane by sounds. I'd write more about that, but I have to admit that I don't know how. It would come off as too strange. Maybe one day.

I've written three articles so far for my new job. An interview with an adventure photographer, an interview with Courtney from Holdfast Outfitters (I like her!) and a peppy little thing about creative ways to stay in shape in Asheville over the winter. This week I'm interviewing a contestant from National Geographic's Ultimate Survival Alaska! My first reality TV star- maybe I'll be writing for US magazine one day. But I dream.

Today is wet and grey, which is a mercy because these are the days that were created for classrooms and books. Tomorrow morning Billy and I will be in chemistry lab, a three hour block of time that I will tick off in my notebook in ten minute intervals. I really know how to make myself miserable. But! Already this year I've seen Jerry Douglas play his dobroe live on stage, went mountain biking on a very warm day, slept the whole night through, read a book on the couch, watched Hometeam slide down a river of ice, saw Molly blow out the candles on her birthday pie, taught a friend how to roll a kayak and ate the best hamburger of my life. Small victories.
follow the make more mail initiative on Instagram @Melinadream
I have a few things to catch up on- if you're wondering where the post is about all of us and where we live, I'm still working on it. I almost didn't do a Mystery Prize today, but the truth is, your comments provide such good companionship that I didn't want to go without them during this gloomy week.

This week's Mystery Prize is designed to bring a tiny burst of sunshine to your winter. To enter to win, leave me a comment with your trick to cheer up your January days. Everyone has one hat trick- lighting candles, your favorite book, skiing, juicing; whatever it is, I'm going to try them all. Alternatively, you could tell us how your new years is going so far. Or both.

I read every comment. Actually, a lot of people read every comment. Sometimes they inspire brand new posts. Thank you for them. A winner will be chosen at random from the comments, and sunshine will be promptly sent their way. Good luck!!

Friday, January 9, 2015


Thanks this week to Elizabeth Q. Without you, I couldn't write this.
I try and give the house a good cleaning before the semester starts. The computer screen plays a looping clip of terrorists running through a supermarket in Paris. It seems that every room I try and clean ends up worse than before. I pull the couch across the room to sweep beneath it, then, satisfied with the block of newly clean floor, I lose interest.

I decide to cook. I have to make something really stunning. A recipe for Homemade perogies looks good, sufficiently complicated, nice and comforting for the weather we've been having. I roll out the dough with a bottle of red wine we've been given as a gift. I can't drink red, anyway. There's flour everywhere. The filling requires me to boil four huge baking potatoes, so I fill up our biggest pot with water and tote it over to the stove. It will take a while to boil so I wander to my room to wait. You know what they say about watching water boil.

When Dave comes home from work, he finds me tucked in bed reading a book. He looks at me for a moment. "Are you cooking?" He asks.

"I was," I say, and turn the page.

On the phone the next day, I tell my mom I'm thinking about dropping out of school. My new job is perfect, I explain, but it takes so much time. I don't see how I can do both.

A few seconds pass in silence. Then I hear her sigh. She's struggling to find a way to say something hard come out soft, and there's something about how earnestly she's trying breaks my heart a little bit.

"The money you're making," she says, "it's good. It's such a good start. But it's not nearly enough to support you."

"I know," I say, cutting her off. "I know that. But we've become really thrifty- now that we buy dry beans in bulk instead of cans, our grocery bill is a lot less."

The words come out so impossibly lame that I want desperately to separate myself from them. I suddenly feel like a third party in the conversation, someone floating on the ceiling looking down on us both. How do you respond to that one? I want to say to my mother. How old is your daughter again?  

My emotions don't seem to have much barring in reality. I can work all day writing an article, doing an interview in the morning, sending out emails and meeting my deadline, but when the evening comes I'll feel gripped by guilt, convinced that if everyone knew just how obscenely lazy I was, no one would want to associate with me.

Other times, I'll quell a rising panic about money and employment by reading some article about 100 ways to use coconut oil. This is the ticket! I'll think. We just need more coconut oil around the house! And I'll bundle up and head to the store to buy a third jar of coconut oil, and I'll feel absurdly productive.

Things can be confusing.

Then there's the news to consider, all those people scared and dead in Paris, an armed man wandering the parking lot of an elementary school in Washington. The new year starting off with a bang, but this is what's normal now. I drag the couch back into its place and pretend like it's not happening, and while I'm at it I pretend the climate isn't getting all screwed up. By lunch I'm playing a game in my head where  the continuation of our species hinges entirely on my floor being swept and dinner being ready at its usual time. The day seems more interesting when I think Big.
Now to choose the winner of this week's mystery prize, which I've refrained from opening myself so far, but if it doesn't get dropped in the mail tomorrow we're all toast.

If you haven't checked out the comments, you ought to. Between us all we've had quite the year.

Liz Stout said...
"Something new... Falling into a good yoga habit. I've wanted to for so long and have many failed attempts under my belt, but I now seem to be in a good swing of things and it is so very wonderful. Side effect of good yoga practice = better headspace. I'm able to slow down and get out of my head and not beat myself up so much about things. Giving oneself the benefit of the doubt is so very wonderful. Happiness is much more present as a result."

Congratulations Liz! I commend you, as I've never been able to get into a yoga practice myself- I can't even touch my toes. I lack the discipline, but giving myself the benefit of the doubt sounds nice. Maybe I'll try it again this year.

Stay warm everyone! I'll see you here very soon. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

10 awesome things from 2014

Why does it surprise me when each year is so different than the last? My days feel so linked by routine that I barely notice things are changing unless I look backwards. 

This was 2012.
This was 2013

And here are the 10 defining phenomena of 2014:

1. Nicaragua
We barely glanced at a guidebook before we left, we just went. We didn't kayak, work, teach or do anything useful at all. For the very first time, I drank coconut water out of a coconut. It was monumental. 

2. Reunion
In June, on the outskirts of Yellowstone, the Academy at Adventure Quest had its first reunion in twelve years. Everyone who showed up was happy and healthy, with good jobs and pretty spouses and lives still filled with adventure. For the very first time, we talked about what happened there, why the school dissolved. We had a memorial service and kayaked the Gallatin river. It was strange and wonderful and a little eerie, like we had all suddenly found ourselves in the same dream. But that's how it's always felt with that school. 

3. Riding on Trails with Women

Mountain biking was a new phenomenon to me in 2014. This year was all about the women I rode with. They were my trail guides and technical coaches, and they fixed my chain when it broke. They knew more than me and I liked following them as they darted through trees.

4. The Remodel

David bought a house with holes in the walls. It was filled with shot guns and assault rifles. We emptied it, skinned it, wrenched the carpet off of the floor. Our friends stopped by to pull out hundreds of staples. We yanked out appliances as if they were teeth and replaced them with new ones, bright white and shining. The painting was the easy part, the crumbling kitchen was not. For a while we had no bathroom and no shower, but the work we did was so satisfying that for the most part we kept very cheerful. By the end of the summer it was fit for living, with a polished wood floor and new locks on new doors. I've never done anything like that before.

5. Cohabiting 

After the floors were done, but before we had an indoor shower, I moved in with David. Since then we've been living out that particular portion of life that older people look back on with nostalgia- we filled our house with second hand furniture, we're always happy to see each other and we make our own broth to save money. I've never done anything like this before, either. 

6. The Obed
Where the climbing is so good that my friends make the trek all the way from Seattle. 

7. Chemistry
I will remember exactly two things from the basic chemistry class at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College: one, I got an A, which felt, as my friend So so eloquently puts it,  like "sweet revenge." Two, my teacher spoke with such a strong southern accent that when he said "Flourine" for the first time I burst out laughing. It sounded like he was demanding the attention of a surly waitress at a Waffle House. It was the only time I laughed that semester.

8. The team that couldn't win 
My fall league ultimate frisbee team had the big idea of donating a canned good to the food bank for every point that we scored. It was a hungry, hungry season for Asheville. On the field we were a weekly disaster with flashes of brilliance; on the sidelines this was the warmest, friendliest team I've ever known. We became the kind of friends who would plan a pizza night and then actually all show up. This was as novel to me as the coconuts. 

9. Roots
In my first six months here, I don't think I got it through my head that I was really going to stay.  I felt like a happy tourist, always a few weeks away from flying back to my apartment in Seattle. Then one day I had a house, and a student ID, and a boyfriend who speaks with a heavy southern drawl. The ribbons of trails that surround the town were all of a sudden familiar. Then, as if to drive the point home, I got a writing job as the 'local expert' of the outdoor scene here in Asheville; the organization is called Roots Rated.  When I go out exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, bizarre thoughts float through my head, things like "This will be a good spot to take our kids in a year or so." 

10. Make more mail 
follow the make more mail initiative in 2015 on instagram @melinadream
I finally figured out the purpose of this blog. 

Speaking of. 

What's on your list from 2014? Tell me something new that you were introduced to in the past year, and you'll be entered to win this week's mystery prize. Which, I have to say, is so incredibly appealing that it's difficult to not open it myself and dig in. It will be the Best Thing Ever to find its way into your mailbox. And the brand 2015 Wilder Coast photo thank you cards turned out pretty well, too. 

Happy New Year my friends!! I can't wait to read about your phenomenal phenomenons.