Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happy Blue Scorcher Day!

The Temple
Sometimes when I'm working with little kids I give them this writing prompt: Invent your own holiday. I tell them to imagine the traditions, the food, the songs, the anticipation, all of it. Recently I was talking with a friend of mine who's experienced so much loss in her life that she pretty much skips the traditional holidays-- they're too much a reminder of all that's missing. I, too, for my own reasons, eschew those big days on the calendar that seem to me more apt to instill disappointment and sadness than the sort of joy promised by all the related ads. (I'm talking to you, mofo Christmas).

Just as my young writing students create their own holidays, my major-holiday-skipping friend compensates by inventing her own events, designed whimsically to honor those she's lost. Well last night, as we pulled into Astoria, OR, it occurred to me that without consciously realizing it, for the past five or six years, I've been shaping my own invented holiday. As of today I am giving it an official name: Blue Scorcher Day. 

Self-portrait. Blue Scorcher Day commences.
The way this joyful day has come into existence ironically enough has its roots in sorrow. My very first trip to Astoria was in 2006 when I was on a honeymoon road trip celebrating a marriage that would only, it turned out, last a few months before imploding. I came to this place with my then husband and his brother, who has a house in Astoria, the same place Lewis and Clark finished up their little walk. I was instantly smitten-- with the view of the Columbia (this is where that river spills into the Pacific), with the evergreens, the weather, the artists and an amazing coop bakery called The Blue Scorcher.

You might think, given that association thing of mine, that after the divorce I would skip future trips to Astoria, that it would trigger copious amounts of pain. Instead, I returned the very next year, on one of a series of healing trips I took that summer to both avoid and face-off with all that my divorce stirred inside me. See, I got to hang onto my brother-in-law and his partner despite the split, and they invited me back, and I accepted.

Twas the night before Blue Scorcher Day.
I continued to return to Astoria just about every year since. I'm usually only here for a couple of days, and so I have to inhale the experience like Uma Thurman doing a line of smack in Pulp Fiction. That's okay, I'll take it how I can get it. Here in Astoria I have these once-a-year friends who I see, catch up with in a frenzy, then disappear from for another twelve-month cycle. I am always welcomed back like a local-- this is one of my favorite parts of revisiting places year after year, a feeling of acceptance.

So last night, as we pulled up to the house, and as I stepped out into the cold air (before going inside to sit in front of a roaring fire), I realized this is my alternative to Christmas. This is the one night of the year where I go to bed almost too excited to sleep, knowing that when I wake up I can run down the hill to the Blue Scorcher and grab a still-warm cardamom almond roll and a cup of coffee. I know I'll see Joe, one of the founders, who that first year I came back after the divorce, invited me to work for a day making bread with him, an experience I think every brokenhearted human might try as a means toward feeling the crack start to mend.

I also know I'll see Iris, who is another founder, and married to Joe, with whom she has two sons, one of whom bears an uncanny resemblance to my own boy. Iris is a fiber artist and a go getter and a get shit done kinda gal like me, and so we have no shortage of topics to explore.

This is the Columbia River. Though I meditate with my eyes closed, I know that just beyond my eyelids lies this view, waiting.  
This is my bedroom in Astoria. It's on a deck, it has heating and cable TV and I am five steps from indoor plumbing. 
And I can hope to see Shannon and Margaret, also fiber artists. And we can just sit here all day long with the light pouring in the huge windows (for this is the short beloved sunny season) and we can shoot the shit and knit and knit.

I might wander out for awhile to explore the thrift stores and little shops, watch people, admire architecture, fantasize about moving here, and wonder if the dogs will be pissed if I drive them in the car for 2500 miles straight to this, our new home in the Pacific Northwest. Then it's back to the bakery for an afternoon beverage and contemplation about the healing powers of certain places and people that we stumble into accidentally (or perhaps not).

Cardamom Almod Rolls. Worth the pilgrimage. 
I set up shop in the corner and wait for my old friends to pop by.
And then, bleary but satisfied, I trudge back up to the hill, and watch Blue Scorcher Day fade into dusk, as the sky and the hills and the trees all blur into barely distinguishable shades of green-black, like something Rothko might've painted, like the shawl that I am knitting. And I know next year, if I am very lucky, I'll get to do Blue Scorcher Day all over again.

I had the curry lentil soup for lunch.

I also had the tempeh reuben. 
This sign on the community board speaks to my heart. 
After lunch we strolled over to Marie Antoinette's Cupcake Parlor which is full of the most bizarre and whimsical art ever. 
Monkeys at Marie A's remind me of Warren and me.
If Rebound were a sculpture and if she lived in Astoria at a cupcake shop.
Back to Blue Scorcher for a Hibiscus Tonic with agave, ginger, lemon and cayenne. I LOVE THIS PLACE!!

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