|Hiking in Grandview State Park, Grandview, WV|
There's something I love about a walk in the woods, particularly in autumn with the leaves thick beneath my feet and the air chilly and sharp around me. Shining through the high branches, the sunlight is softer, more forgiving of imperfections. My steps are slow but steady and I can feel the rush and stress of everyday falling away. I notice fungus on a tree, quick rustles up high, rich green ferns tucked behind gray rocks. It is quiet here, but alive with small things - ants, brown chipmunks, butterflies - and more rarely with larger ones - a deer startled from the rhododendron and a hawk launched from a cliff. The earth is rich and pungent and somehow smells more like home than any other place I know. I am present and centered without even trying. This walking becomes my meditation, my best prayer of the day.
"Botox could really help that 11 between your eyebrows." So said a lady at the salon to me the other day. I'm sure she's right, and I didn't need her to tell me that those two little lines are getting deeper with each passing year. It's no mystery why it's happening either. My brow gets a lot of work in a day, moving to varying degrees to show that I am confused, angry, sad, compassionate, worried. Now in my mid 30s, I'm also developing "parentheses" around my mouth from smiling, and "laugh lines" at the corners of my eyes. A few injections could take care of all that, I suppose, and help me look years younger. But here's the thing -- I don't want to lose any of that. Those lines on my face are evidence of a life lived and deeply felt. My emotions have always been an easy read, since I have no "poker face." With Botox or plastic surgery, I could get one. In my 20s, I used to fantasize about liposuction, rhinoplasty, cheek implants, but not anymore. Now I just want to be healthy, to take care of what I have and make the most of it, with no needles or scalpels involved. This is my face, and one of the gifts of getting older is that I've finally grown to love every line, freckle, mole, and blemish because they are mine. If I ever have daughters, I hope I can help them get to that place of self-acceptance much earlier. It's taken me 35 years to realize that I don't want to look like anyone but me.
Not to miss an opportunity, a coworker and I tagged on a few days to a work conference in San Francisco to see the sights of Mill and Sonoma valleys. We particularly enjoyed touring Benzinger winery, which takes an environmental ‘biodynamic’ approach to its farming. Part of that involves elaborate gardens or insectaries or bug cities as they are called, chocked full of plants pleasing to healthful insects and birds. We meandered through the pathways, ducking at the darting hummingbirds, their whir of wings creating a throaty purring.
We watched the sun set on the rolling farmlands as we drove back, reliving our repeat visit to the restaurant ‘the girl and the fig,’ where we feasted on three types of goat cheese, one drizzled in lavender honey, a taste sensation I can only describe as decadently delightful. We sucked down lavender creme brulees that were too good to split. As we headed back to the city and neared the Golden Gate Bridge, the traffic slowed to a crawl. We noticed how people here rarely honk their horns. They are polite drivers, respectful of pedestrians. What is it about a region that creates such a culture?
All I can figure is all the Innovative taste sensations keep everyone sated. Though stuck in traffic, I can't even work up a good ill temper. It's as if the rich textures of the land and sun-baked hills of the valley run in my veins like wine. What are a few backed up cars when you've had the likes of lavender honey?