Korčula is a 20-mile long island an hour away from Hvar by high-speed ferry. It is also newly one of my favorite places on earth. There are 6,000 residents year-round on the island, and nearly all families have their own wine grapes. I fell in love with the island and its people.
Korčula alone is worth visiting Croatia. As fas as logistics go, getting to the country from Arizona is not the easiest. However, beginning next month, there will be direct flights from the East Coast of the US to Dubrovnik, the major city to the south. This would take considerable time off of the trip considering my route involved three flights each way. (I’d do it again tomorrow given the chance! What an adventure!)
Next up: Dubrovnik and the Game of Thrones nerds I was traveling with’s delight.
Hvar is pronounced “War” and is a large island. We took a high-speed ferry from Split (where we landed) to Hvar. It took a little more than an hour to arrive. Hvar is one of the most charming places I’ve ever visited. A few photos, to remember the details:
Tomorrow: the island of Korčula, where I’m trying to convince Jason to move.
I’ve found a lot of joy during the pandemic in “perfecting” my crafting. Since joining the Phoenix Modern Quilt Guild, among the many things I’ve finally learned is how to sew a consistent 1/4 inch seam. Come to find out, there is no artistic give in a seam allowance for quilting if you want points to line up.
I’d gotten lazy, thinking that the rules of this craft didn’t apply to me. I was going to do it my way. I didn’t need to wash my fabrics, use a seam allowance, or starch. I didn’t need to use iron to press seams after sewn. I wanted to do it my way.
I was WRONG.
Reading the books, listening to the teachers, and following the rules produces a much prettier and sturdier quilt (leaving improv and art quilts out of this.) If you are making a quilt for someone, especially a baby quilt that will be washed often, sturdy seams are critical.
I don’t know why our natural tendency is to think the rules don’t apply to us, but watching how cultures have responded to the pandemic, it’s hard to see this as anything other than stubborn Americanism. Why do what others are telling me when I know. I can figure it out. I am smarter.
Am I? Are we?
Most other countries immediately put community before self. They closed borders, limited infections and deaths, and recovered much faster. Not in the great US of A where we made sure to prioritize our freedoms. Our freedom to get sick. Our freedom to die. And now, our freedom not to be vaccinated.
We lost more than 18,000 people to COVID just in my state. That’s a small city in one of our rural counties, completely gone. 18,000 families now eating dinner with a seat empty at the table because we couldn’t get out of our own way and follow basic, well established public health instructions.
Working in public health, the tool of motivational interviewing has never been more useful. We can’t just create the tool and have enough of the tool on hand to save the nation, but we also have to be salespeople and get you to want it, too. We have to get you to believe in science, in truth, when falsity has never been more popular.
God bless America.
God, please bless everyone. If you’re giving out favors to our country, give us intelligence. Give us critical thinking. Give us the ability to better see when we are being hustled.
Teach us to follow the rules when it is in our best interest.
I’ve always been a creature of habit. Chalk it up to being raised in a home with a steady schedule, I find comfort in knowing what the day will look like. For many years, this daily habit included running. For an hour or so before every work day, I’d meet a friend and run along the canals in Tempe. Eventually, this routine caught up with my joints and left me hobbling. There wasn’t a huge physical change when I stopped, but the lack of endorphins caught up with me quickly. I still miss the running high, enough to foolishly try to run a few miles here and there every now and then. (If I thought I hobbled before, you should see me the day after one of these optimistic outings. It is not pretty.)
My new routine, thanks to having yet another terrier who won’t sit still, involves an hour or so of walking. We live in a “hilly” area and after 4-5 miles in the heat, both Dolly and I are ready for the day. By the time I’m showered and ready for work at the kitchen counter, she’s conked out on the couch. This time walking allows for listening to books and podcasts, so it isn’t all puppy dog tails and hot sidewalks. We’ve also become friends with all the other neighbors who walk at this time.
This morning, I got out of a cool shower and realized I feel like myself. For the first time in a very long time, I feel happy and at peace. Give it to endorphins, getting the exercise out of the way first thing, or being back to a normal routine — but I feel good in my own skin. All this walking has my clothes fitting more comfortably and my skin tanner by the day. But more than anything, I’m not crying as much. For many months, I felt a heavy weight of sadness. I carried it with me constantly, and the only way I knew to make it feel better was to make fun of it. I’ve made far too many people I love uncomfortable by cracking jokes about my barren body.
Making friends laugh has been the only way through this; looking at how terrible the situation is and going, “Wow, man. This is awful. Let’s find the funny. Help me find the funny.” And because I have great friends (and spouse), they all have.
Let me tell you, it take a long time to get all of those fertility drugs out of your system, the extra weight off, and to feel like you can watch a sappy commercial or anything on the Hallmark channel without having to wash your face. But this morning, dear Reader, I got dressed and was like, “DAMN GIRL. YOU GOT THIS.” And that was the first time in a long while that I laughed at and with myself, all while screaming Taylor Swift songs to the dogs.
I know how to paint a scene, right?
I’ve come to a place of acceptance that I won’t be a mother, but instead am called to be a great aunt. I have more maternal love and energy than I know what to do with most days, but the neighborhood children, animals, garden, and friends receive this instead. (Thank goodness for the patience they all continue to show. My sister in law, in particular, is the best.) When the occasional moment or day is dark, I find comfort in my faith and the hope that one day, in the next life, there will be children waiting for me, wanting my love.
In the meantime, there are so many people to love and to make laugh here.
A few things we are celebrating and grateful for this week:
Time with friends: This weekend I had a chance to have lunch with a girlfriend, and later to visit other friends at their home and swim with their children. At the lunch, I hugged my friend and she said, “Oh! I think this is the first hug I’ve had from someone outside of my house in over a year!” She squeezed me with intention. I looked around the small cafe to see many others doing the same. People seemed so truly happy to be together.
Swimming with the Mason boys was a delight. Their hunger to learn is constantly bubbling up around them, as they hear words in conversation and ask for definitions. “What does ‘vocabulary’ mean?” They remind me how the simple things also delight little boys. “Aunt Kelli, I just pool burped! That’s when you burp after drinking too much pool water on accident.” And so on. It was fun to listen to them laugh and splash.
Travel: I’m preparing for a trip to Croatia with friends. We leave next week. The closest I’ve been to this part of the world is Israel and Palestine, and they aren’t exactly neighbors. I’m nervous to be gone from home for a spell without Jason, but also delighted to dust off my passport. I can’t wait to see the sea.
Watching: I’m enjoying “Atlantic Crossing,” on PBS. The costumes alone are worth watching, but the storytelling and portrayal of the the Roosevelts is entertaining.
Growing: the tomatoes are starting to wind down. We’ve had bags and bags full this year, which has been nice. I’ve canned and frozen some and given away more this week to friends and neighbors. I’m reminded that once it gets over 100, it will be nice to close up the vegetable beds for a few months and not have this outside chore. The roses, on the other hand, will need more attention. They are still blooming and starting to climb up the trellises. I’ve always wanted a rose garden, so it makes me happy to see this come to life.
I had a new approach to growing tomatoes this year, namely: try everything. I planted a dozen plant starts from the nursery in our two wicking beds in January. I also started several in pots, and one pot from seeds I’d saved. And I had two pots of tomatoes that didn’t produce a single fruit last year, but made it through the summer and were ready for another try.
They are all doing well. We are swimming in tomatoes that truly ruin us for the rest of the year, they are so delicious. I’ve put away 12 quarts of tomato sauce (that I’ve been sharing with friends and neighbors) and have been reluctantly handing out small plastic bags of these golden beauties. (Reluctantly because while a small plastic bag of tomatoes may not look like much, it is the equivalent of years of work coming to fruition.)
Two significant things changed from years prior:
I am here. All the time, I am here. I water, prune, and baby these plants every day.
We visited an alpaca farm last summer in Prescott Valley; one of the weirdest and most exciting souvenirs I’ve ever brought home from a trip: a giant bag of alpaca fertilizer. The rancher told us it was gold for a garden because the pH won’t burn plants. Reader, I think that $5 was perhaps the best money I’ve spent in the last year. Any time we are in the area, we’ll be buying more. (Aren’t you sorry you didn’t marry me? Related: my husband is a trouper. He didn’t blink and eye when I told him we’d be spending the next two hours in the car with a 20 pound bag of animal feces.)
This week we’re enjoying tomatoes in tacos, meatball subs, quesadillas, and I’ll make homemade pizza this weekend. I may not have the farm I always dreamed of, but we are definitely making the most of this urban garden life.
Also, I think I’ve grown out of my need for chickens. I spent 15 years wanting chickens and now that I have a dog that needs a 5 mile walk daily and constant attention, I cannot fathom having one more animal to care for, clean after, and feed. I would still like to find a local duck/chicken egg producer to buy from regularly. I can find them at the farmers’ market, but we don’t go every week and we eat a lot of eggs.
One of the magical parts of writing novels is discovering bits of history that make me want to learn more. Several years ago, we traveled through Winslow and I learned about the Harvey girls. The novel was essentially done, but I went back to the story to add these details.
On this trip, we bumped into a woman who told us about the Winslow Historical Society. Our meeting felt like kismet; she shared that many of the buildings in downtown Winslow, by the railroad, had tunnels originally connecting them. No one knows why, and the tunnels were filled in during the 1970s because the foundations of the buildings were slanting and starting to fail. However, in the cellars and basements of many of the buildings, there is reportedly Chinese writing from the workers who built the rail (and likely had to dig the tunnels.)
Another little gem of Arizona history that I am tucking in my pocket for a future story. It does make me wince that there are photos of white pioneers to be found in multiple places in Winslow, and yet the Chinese workers aren’t mentioned, and nearly all the service staff are American Indian. I’m guessing the history of the land for the northern Arizona tribes is told differently.
A few photos of the grounds and the weekend. Even if you don’t take the time to stay at the hotel, if you are ever in Winslow, make time for the corn and black bean soup at the restaurant. It is among the best dishes I’ve ever eaten.
I have several friends who publish weekly newsletters that I look forward to. They update what they’re reading, what’s happening on their farms, the shows they’re watching, the patterns they’re knitting. You get the idea. (Yeah, I know. I follow a lot of like-minded folks. Don’t you?)
On Mondays, I plan to do the same. The categories may change, but here is what’s happening at our hacienda this week:
Reading: I’m reading and very much enjoying two novels. The first is for a bookclub that met last night. I’ve only got 300 pages remaining. (Whoopsie.) The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is funny. This book is like sipping a great glass of ice tea in a rocking chair on a porch with a cool breeze. It’s delightful. The second book I’m listening to thanks to the Libby app is “The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.” It is set in Ireland during the potato famine. The main characters are sisters who discover the magical power of their hair. Again, a delightful, easy listen.
Watching: Homeland. I never caught this series when it was on and we just started season one. It is intense and reminds me why I love Claire Danes. (And good Lord. This entire series is an advertisement for Latisse. Her eyelashes are WOW.)
Knitting:The Weekender in Cascade 220 venezia worsted for a Christmas gift.
Cooking: Oh, snap! It isn’t my week to cook. I’m not cooking a thing, other than my lunches because I’m still telecommuting. Jason and I split cooking duties when we got married. I cook and shop for two weeks and then he does the same. Once I was sent home to telecommute full time 14 months ago, I took over the cooking. I was home, and it was easier. (Let’s get honest. It wasn’t really easier, but it gave me something to do every afternoon when my professional calendar had unexpectedly emptied.) Now that there is no return to the workplace for me in sight and that schedule is busier than ever, it is time to return to our previous schedule. We cook different recipes. This is a much needed and appreciated break.
Playing: piano! Tomorrow is my final recital for my first college course in piano and I’m nervous and not exactly ready. I can play a piece perfectly at home a dozen times. Put me in front of a small crowd and my fingers become noodles. We’ll see how it goes. I’m glad to have had the time to take this class and learn to read music.