Friday, 11 November 2011

When She Visits

Did I hear her right? I think she said the name but I’m not sure. It’s only Thursday. Two more days of being alone and then I’ve got my folks for a few days, and maybe... Just maybe... My best friend is coming. It kinda stinks in this room. Not sure why I follow Laura in every time she sits on the big white bowl but I just do. I don’t like being alone.

Actually, this time it’s not so bad. Nnhhhsnffff..snff... no, not so bad this time. Ok, let’s go downstairs. Wait she forgot her slippers. Ok go. I like to descend the stairs right beside her, my right side grazing her calves. I go on the left side – there isn’t a banister yet.

Back to the matter at paw... Lesley. Did she say her name? Only when Lesley comes do I get all my needs looked after, 85% eye contact, head constantly patted, ears silky from stroking. Laura is ok, but she’s not Lesley. She isn’t my best friend. The one that opens my cabinet whenever I ask. The one that replenishes the stock of canine chocolate and biscuits shaped like bones. Why do they do that? They don’t taste any different. They must think we’re idiots.

Then again, I do ask myself if I am an idiot after a sheep poop snack. What a horrible aftertaste! But it tastes so good at the time… I admit, I lack self control. I can’t resist the urge to chase my tail. Often it seems amusing to others, especially people I’ve just met. The urge that never dies. My oldest addiction. Perhaps a vice, but it has provided me with many hours of enjoyment. And also a way to deal with social anxiety!

I should write an autobiography like those celebrities – “My Life So Far” – except, most of the book would include details of tail chasing and attempts at copulation (several times painful) with my cushion. I think that might be good enough for chart success these days.

I’m good at swaying off subject. So. If Lesley comes, I will be happy. Simple as that. I will wait for her by the gate on Saturday, and when she arrives, I will be on her like white on rice. First I will piddle on her shoes, because I just can’t help it (she forgives me, unlike some) and then for a week my life is complete. I had her at first bark.

This dog’s best friend is on her way. I hope. I’m sure I heard her name.

I’ll just sit by the window.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Becoming Mrs. American Pie

My August ended with quite a production. I have a tendency to dabble and feel that my difficulty with completion is one of my most frustrating flaws. This summer, however, I did complete something and the question is now – what next?

Basically I signed up to have a stand at the St. John’s Chapel Agricultural Show, and to this end I became Mrs. American Pie, selling American-style sweet pies by the slice, with cookies as the supporting act. For me this was an accomplishment for several reasons.

First, I often feel my creativity gets left on the back burner, because like many I need a paying job to earn money with which to pay bills - student loans, and so on. I don’t work in a particularly creative environment, which leaves part of me to wilt.

Second, the idea of selling pies in my corner of England came to me following a series of moments in one 24-hour period. These were moments that, if examined independently, wouldn't amount to much, but as a sequence became fruitful! 1. A tearful conversation with my dear sister about fears of not living up to my full potential. 2. An issue of Our State magazine (our state being North Carolina) with a feature on food in every county. 3. A midnight sit-up-straight-eyes-wide-open epiphany. Pies! Why not? The British love them, albeit in a slightly different fashion.

Laura the Dabbler decided (with help) not to let this one go, for better or worse.

I spent the summer months preparing. I tried recipes, tasted, chucked out (a local way of saying, threw it in the trash), and developed the pies I wanted to sell. At one point I nearly cost my mother-in-law her teeth with my attempt at Lemon Shaker Pie. I ended up with three – Dark Chocolate & Pecan, Key Lime Pie and Mississippi Mud. I figured these choices were distinct when alongside each other and especially recognizable as American.

As the day approached, I became organized and increasingly nervous. Despite the fact that this was not one of the bigger country shows, poor weather was posing a threat and turnout was questionable – I had stage fright! This was my pie debut! What the heck did I know? No formal culinary training. Had I missed something? Would I poison someone? My stall would look amateur and uninviting. What if I don’t sell one slice? Laura with Sense kept saying, however, it doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail. The important thing is that you are putting yourself out there.

So I did. And it went pretty well.

I sold most of my pies. I had around 120 slices to sell and had less than 15 left at the end of the day. Only one person walked away tutting at my prices. I did have samples to charm people and I suppose charm is what they did! (Thanks David for prodding). I even had a few enquiries about selling them in stores and an invitation to be interviewed for a local newspaper.

When I got home that evening I was wearing a smile, I had a profit and by George did it feel wonderful to sit down.

My next gig is in November, and this time, we’ll see how the Brits respond to pumpkin.

Fancy a slice?

xx Laura

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A Few Frames From the Garden

"I wonder if a wild tree planted in the middle of an ordered landscape can make the reverse happen, can unstring this taut garden, I mean, and allow the cultivated plants all around it to sound the clear note of their own inborn wildness, now muffled. There can be no civilisation without wildness, such a tree would remind us, no sweetness absent its astringent opposite."

--Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

This week, instead of reading more about the phone hacking scandal, debt ceilings and the Greek bailout I fell into my garden. My tended area was beckoning -- a despatch at dusk.

I’ve been monitoring a poppy that I didn’t plant. It has grown nearly as tall as me and is now forming seed heads. This drifter found it’s way to me through the wind and now I’m going to collect what it has to offer. It has bloomed into deep pink and purple and next year I plan to help it put down roots and stay for a little longer. This one’s brother has come up about ten feet away but must not have inherited the height gene. (I can relate).

My feline housemates seem to think the garden has been planted for their pleasure. My beloved Foo is fascinated by many things – a full bath, bullying, cameras, toilets flushing and here the Green Fennel. He appears to have mistaken it for catnip!

I get strange looks at work when I describe my peas as beautiful. I am checking on them daily for signs of fattening.

Here are some marigolds that have grown from seeds self-scattered and sown after flowering last year. I was tempted to intervene in their life-cycle by pulling them up but resisted. I let the seeds put on their show for me.

All this gardening means the housekeeping is neglected. I always say that if I were to win the lottery I would hire a housekeeper. You can imagine my excitement when my friend gave me this one!

Although I can't even have five minutes of peace on Sunday while this cleaner is busy...


Friday, 17 June 2011

Spread-thin Sentimentality

[Musings upon taking job #2, getting swallowed into an MFA program (!!!), and preparing (again) to forward my mail.]

Something happens when you pull a plant from its roots. Soil scatters; what once securely clung to familiar earth and worms is now dangling in clear sight: we spot the underbelly of what's grown. And can't look away.

I'm a bit like that dangling plant as I dismantle my life in Raleigh into boxes. First the books I know I won't touch in a month's time, then the winter clothes: the scarves with stale Chanel perfume buried deep in their weave, the unraveling hat that I've put off fixing. I keep meaning to grab some gray yarn. The little things we sweat for up and down stairs into trailers and trucks to carry into vacancy.

At work, I open my desk drawer. A bag of vitamins I never swallowed. (Sorry, mom.) A Lilly's pizza menu. A 2009 Calendar. Great pens I never used. Oh, what we could've had if only I would've looked deeper into the drawer for you. Seashells. Rocks collected from the North Sea shore. I remember that long walk in May, my dear sister.

It's easy to get romantic. I'll be writing poems amongst great poets and writers in a town conducive to doing so. I'll be hot with only an air-conditioning unit. I'll walk most places. Eat simple food. When we paint our dreams, how often do we expect them to pop from the page?

Meanwhile, I'm knitting a washcloth I've been knitting for a month. You just can't do it all.


Corrie Lynn

Friday, 27 May 2011

Love and The Waitress

After five years of marriage and six of living together, it sometimes seems that David and I can sit in the same room and read each others’ thoughts. This can of course be advantageous. It can even save face when one of us needs to be reminded not to mention that thing! You must know what I’m talking about. It isn’t always as effective as a swift kick under the table however.


The other night I watched a film called The Waitress, starring Keri Russell and written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly. A friend lent it to me after I shared with her my musings of selling pies at the farmers market. From the cover I thought I had it pegged – cute girl in waitress uniform meets dishy guy who walks into her life exactly when she requires and he falls for her irresistible pie-making prowess and blah blah blah...happily ever after. So many times a version of this has been sold to us, this postcard love story.

(This is why I mentioned that I can read David’s mind)

Laura inserts DVD into player. David’s mouth is shut, however this does not betray what seeps into the air.

“I know what you’re thinking”

“I haven’t said anything!”

For those who want to see it, too bad, I am telling you now that she does NOT end up with that cute guy on cover and thank GOD for that. I will not rave about this movie, but I will walk away from it satisfied that someone has told us a story with a greater resemblance to real life, in that way at least. Why do we fall for the people we do? We can spend our lives trying to build a narrative for the decisions we make (and we do) but at the root of it all is something we cannot grasp. For some this might be worrying but examined from a different angle it can be beautiful.

Experience reveals the complexity of human relations.

At the behest of romantic comedies I spent my teenage years packing relationships into neat boxes. I expected all arguments to end with haste and hugs. Days of marriage would ooze with cuddles, agreement and endless understanding. Families lived together like they did in Full House and every other sitcom packaged into a 30-minute blissful resolution.


Love (or the love I have in my life) is powerful, but like the waves of the ocean love it has peaks and troughs. You wade through difficult periods and then something awakens inside and you once again realize why and how much you do (indeed!), love this person in front of you, beside you, behind you and with you.

And yet it is never that simple.

So thank you, Adrienne Shelly for giving us a quirky piece of art that reminds us that life, relationships and we humans are imperfect, and the best we can do is march uphill towards our dreams and love the ones around us while we go.

Tragically, Adrienne Shelly was murdered in 2006. Her husband, Andrew Ostroy established a foundation in her memory.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Tables, Houses, and Storms on the Move

Perhaps the World Ends Here

by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,

we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the

table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe

at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what

it means to be human. We make men at it,

we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts

of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms

around our children. They laugh with us at our poor

falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back

together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella

in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place

to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate

the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared

our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.

We pray of suffering and remorse.

We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,

while we are laughing and crying,

eating of the last sweet bite.

Last night, my early-to-bed attempts were interrupted by what sounded like a mean and drunk gorilla knocking holes into the sky with a big flickering flashlight. I commenced the curl-into-yourself-and-think-of-safe-and-pretty-places method of returning calm to my mind. Thunder and lightning danced the finale of their dispute right above my head until a turning earth pushed them elsewhere and I got to sleep again.

I got to thinking about disaster, about the recent earthquakes, tornadoes and floods. About how very little we actually control, but still hold tight to the illusion that we can. I thought about the impermanence of our stuff, how every time I walk into Crabtree Mall and see the dire, frenzied look on the shoppers' faces, I'd like to pick up their pretty bodies and sit them on a mountain, inside a canyon, or by a big fire next to a rugged guitar player. Then, for kicks, I'd smear some dirt on their nose and say, "Who needs Abercrombie, anyway?" I also want to do this for myself when I sink into ruts of worry. Call up a hellicopter and plop into a place where I can say everything by saying nothing and smile big while the Robin builds her nest.

That's what I love about this poem. It reminds me that no matter what: no matter what disaster, what worry, what heartbreak, there's a table (or a place) we can go to receive love, nourishment, healing, and acceptance. I think that's the point of love, however imperfect the outcome, to at least try, at least get the people around the table and do the best you can. I love how the author personifies dreams. "They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves," because sometimes, when we've tried and tried and tried and still, NOTHING: We
feel fallen apart, broken. And it's okay, because "we put ourselves back together once again at the table."

I think "the table" has different names. Tom Waits sings about "the house" in this song, and I think we can agree, Tom Waits knows what's up.


Corrie Lynn

Friday, 29 April 2011

Domestic Bliss and a Housekeeping Hiss

I have lived in Goldfinch Barn longer than any other abode, apart from the house I grew up in on Kluttz Road in North Carolina. Since 2006 it truly has been a love/hate relationship as a result of our choice to renovate from scratch. A work colleague once thought, when I told her we had no windows in our bedrooms, that I meant we had large gaping holes, letting the elements in so snow would accumulate at the foot of our bed. It never was that bad, but it was close.

Yesterday before work I looked out the window and noticed the late April frost which seemed to creep up the hill and stop just below our fence. It looked as if it had spared our little section of land. This made me think of the idea of "ownership" and how 5 years spent in one house engenders a marriage between human and habitation. It made me think that ownership, in the big scheme, is an illusion because none of what we "own" has any real permanence.

When I moved to the UK I heard more than I ever did before a description of someone as being "house proud". I heard my mother-in-law describe how her auntie would diligently sweep their section of sidewalk because woe betide! it appear the slightest bit untidy. On one level I understand -- this is a small island and people like to show pride in the parts of themselves and what is theirs that are on display. "Cleanliness is next to godliness"... and all that.

For anyone who knows me well they know tidiness is not one of my virtues. I usually have a frenzy before any expected guests arrive where I have to meditate and invoke my inner Mitzi (I love you Mom) to guide me to the messy places. My car has been known to house over long periods of time strange things such as brooms, socks without partners and a lone bag of rice. My mind does not work in an ordered manner. I find it very difficult to view a room in my house and decide what needs done to make it look ordered. Intense concentration is required in these situations.

After spending a number of years in one house you do come to know that house like the back of your hand. I know which room is the warmest, which one holds the smell of cooking longest and how light travels through rooms as the day passes. My time in Goldfinch Barn has taught me how sandstone feels to the touch and how it traps heat. I learned where dust collects and how long spells of rain swells the wood. I adore the Spring in these parts and Winter fills me with a faint dread coupled with a determination to endure.

For now, I am on the right side of the Summer equinox so I will go sow some seeds and get my hands dirty. I may find some time to tidy up later too. (Mom will have her fingers crossed)

Lots of love,

A stately photo of Georgie, quite unlike him.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Taking Courage to the Corner

Habits form whether we want them to or not. Take hot yoga. Each week, I walk barefoot into a mist of stale sweat, reacquaint myself with the smell of adolescent feet, and roll out my mat just steps from the door. This one door into the heated room separates us from the reality of fresh, cool air. There is a crack under it and if you angle your mat just right, you can catch a hint of its heaven during the hell of the full locust or the respite of savasana. Sometimes, when you're lucky, and when your face spells "H-E-L-P," the instructor will crack it open or wave its gifts into the depths of our very own rainforest. Therefore, my first pitstop upon arriving to hot yoga, is the dumping of my mat to this spot, this crutch of cool air.

Reminds me of the time I took a trip to Mission, South Dakota with a
church youth group in high school. To engage with the Native American culture we were serving, a group of us took part in the sweat lodge ritual. We sat shoulder to shoulder in a canvas tent around a pile of burning hot lava rocks. The Chief poured water over them, let steam permeate the congregates, and sang traditional chants. I had never coveted cold things so badly: orange soda, ice cubes, a brick wall-- anything! Because it was utterly dark, I found the cool earth with my face and rooted like a pig. Talk about humbling. And fifteen minutes later, I exited the tent, dirt-faced, drenched, and about the happiest I can remember. Talk about moving mountains.

And just last week, m
y friend Vanessa and I showed up to hot yoga fresh after an 8 hour work day. Many others had a similar notion. The lobby was full of first timers signing waivers, asking questions through their jitters, and as we piled into the room, I found my usual spot full of freshman yogis. So, we took to the dreaded back corner, the corner that couldn't see the horizon, the first daffodil of Spring, the infant's first smile. The muscular man with many tattoos laid his mat beside of me and I suddenly felt ill-equipped. Maybe I needed a barbed wire chain around my bicep.

But as most things go, we got started and we breathed deeper. We stared into our own eyes for the half-moon, the eagle, the tree. When the door opened, I couldn't feel the cool, but I knew it was there. When I quit expecting it, I gave more attention to my breath, to how happy the pigeon m
akes my hips, and how falling into child's pose after the camel is a lot like seeing the horizon. And then, I realized, the corner is okay. The cool air was how I remembered it the whole way home.

This photo has very little to do with my blogpost, but I found it so striking. Imagine being chased by a tornado of cotton candy! I suppose it's a little like hot yoga. A little scary and A LOT sweet.

And here's my lovely lady pal, Vanessa. We also ride swings at the fair together.

xo Corrie Lynn

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Germination and Spring Agitation

It’s happening again, and I can’t seem to stop laughing. (Warning – this post might be manic). Oh and in case you and wondering my new shade of nail polish will be called (trendy, I know) "Dirt".

First of all, my Rainbow Chili seeds have germinated. Each morning I come downstairs much too early for a progress report on germination (having only checked 6 hours before). I read on the seed packet that germination for this particular variety of chili can be erratic, so sow them all. Apparently they are a wild sort of chili, moody and choosy about when and where to show up, and I’ve been successful in convincing them to show their faces in Weardale, in the boiler room of a barn on an exposed hillside of all places. Oh the excitement!

Meanwhile, my cat Annie is highly annoyed that I’ve taken over her warm space on the boiler for seed planting.

Second, I should point out why I have the giggles. I recently watched an episode of An Idiot Abroad starring Karl Pilkington, the one where he travels in India and visits the yogis. If you are so guided to seek this out, do look for the part where one flexible fella wraps and manipulates his manly member in a most astounding manner. My mind’s eye would not expel this image during my yoga class as we were prompted to close our eyes and breathe deeply. The laughter was bubbling out and I felt called to explain this incredible feat to my classmates. What a man did with his “willy.” I'm sure some of them wished I had kept my mouth shut as they were imagining waterfalls and birds chirping.

So that being that, I just consumed the last of my 2010/11 harvest by chomping on an unexpected crop of flavour-packed parsnips. When I said above that it was happening again, of course I meant the second birth of my green fingered frenzy. The temperature is ever so milder here, the daffodils are aiming for the sun, and my fingernails just will not come clean due to my love affair with soil. Crumbling it, shifting it, conditioning it for the children it’s about to accept into its fold.

I should also add that RuthandLucille is about to celebrate birthday UNO! Shall we sing?

Thank you so much for stopping by!

My little tomatillos. Their overbearing mother has pushed them into the best spot for sunlight.

The new plot, which came with bigger biceps.

Pretty In Purple Rainbow Chili Seedlings - arms open!

P.S. If you're interested in where I purchased my seeds, see

P.S.S. The title of this blog makes me think of Michael Jackson's song "Black or White". Am I alone here?

Laura xxooxxoo

Monday, 14 March 2011

Give Ridiculous Some Light

Last Thursday, I stepped out my apartment door and looked up to see my gentleman neighbor also stepping out of his. His face spoke all kinds of shock. On this mid-March, rainy afternoon, I was wearing nude panty hose, a ruffly black skirt (with unseen gingham bloomers underneath), white leather Mary-Jane tap shoes, and a bright yellow rain coat. He'd caught me on my way to clog.

I turned the key to lock my door, giggled through our expected "Hello," and followed with a simple request: "Don't ask." So down the stairs and to our cars we went, chuckling for different reasons. I'm quite confident I gave him a colorful quandary to solve. Maybe he thought I was planning to pop from a birthday cake or that I was the entertainment for a Civil War Reenactment. Maybe he reconsidered his relocation to the South or wondered how I got my legs so tan.

Little did he know I was on my way to meet a group of people dressed just like me, geared-up to clog (and for those of you unfamiliar with what clogging is, take a look at this video for a room of red-faced, inexhaustible elementary schoolers. It was Heritage Night at Harris Creek Elementary school, where Latin American, Irish, and Appalachian folk dancers were to show these little ones vintage ways to bust a move, which they did without hesitation around and around a cafeteria-sized circle.

It's these little moments, these kinks in our chains, that cause us to look up and let the world surprise us a little. Too often we let our routines and expectations build walls around our imagination. Too often we let misfortune define our worth. But it's when I wear this ridiculous outfit into the light of day to see children absorb the elaborate dances of our past without an ounce of judgment, that the beauty of this world shines a bit brighter.

As for the neighbor, I look forward to the next time our paths cross. Hopefully I'll be wearing a pair of jeans and flip-flops.

Love and little jig,

Corrie Lynn

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Busy Fingers and Boiled Bones

What to do on a day off? I find it hard at times to relax at home. There always seems to be a job, and I don’t see it getting any easier as I potentially have things like motherhood ahead of me. Sometimes it can be tricky to continue caring for yourself as you pass into and through adulthood.

Yesterday I decided to boil some chicken bones. I had been planning this for awhile, the boiling of bones. I planned it when I roasted a chicken that my friend Lesley gave me, by stripping all the remaining flesh off the carcass and giving the bones to the freezer to hold steady for awhile. Hold steady until I was ready. Yesterday was the day.

Stock is a simple creation, so why do we so often resort to the shortcuts that supposedly simplify? Why do we buy it wrapped in shiny paper and condensed in little parched cubes? The powder dissolves in hot water. To me this always feels wrong and unnatural. Boiling bones, I discovered, produces the most evocative smell. It helped me recover from the cold I didn’t know I had. The stock graced my house.

And what did I do with that stock? I spread it out too thinly. I gave the whole pot of chicken-bone nectar to an even larger pot of minestrone and then I added water. The flavour stretched until I had to beg my palate to find it. Could this be…. a metaphor?

When we strike upon a thing golden in our lives, we should always try and keep some for ourselves.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Same Hands, New Tricks: A Brand New Knitter!

A few nights ago, I was sitting next to Sherry, a very fine chef and friend. Her fingers were tangled in burgundy yarn; her cats, Robert and Ash, convinced that anything dangling was free for swatting until napping in our laps proved a better option. The first lesson in knitting, casting on, came deluxe this night with giggles at stiff fingers and cat snores.

I had almost forgotten there was a time my fingers didn't know how to hold the yarn taut to produce the right tension of stitch, how well my thumb and forefinger work together to slide each stitch onto the needle, how our hands are tools at all! How often we forget.

My lessons in knitting came under a beach umbrella in the thick heat of July. Emolyn, the daughter of a mountain woman who spins wool from her own beloved sheep, watched over my crooked and confused first scarf with the specific patience of a well seasoned knitter. And then we'd run into the waves of the Oak Island beach, where we never heard a car run but saw and swatted more mosquitoes than I cared to know exist. Regardless, I learned to knit with salt and sand coating my hands. If I were you, I'd stick to the cliche of winter nights by the wood fire, but nix the image of an old lady wearing a tight bun. I quite like my hair down, a glass of wine, and the right to toss expletives when I drop a stitch.

But watching Sherry knit for the first time reminded me how hard it can be to teach our old hands new ways to hold, maneuver. Our fingers want to act like a bunch of over-caffeinated kids on the playground, but eventually, when we realize there's no gun to our head, we begin to trust chance-taking and the fact that no thing is perfect. So let me shove the needle into this loop and wrap it with this yarn and pull it through and off and WOW! A brand new stitch. When we finally divorce the unhappy couple, creation and perfection, we can get on with better things, like creation and play or creation and healing.

So I wish Sherry very much luck in her new, volatile relationship with knitting. I may request a trade-off: a couple lessons in the kitchen. After all, we must learn to share!


Corrie Lynn

PS. A poem I wrote about the Oak Island adventure with Emolyn:

PSS. A link to Sherry's catering business:

PSSS. Here are the precious Robert and Ash!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Poem for Winter

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

xoxo Corrie Lynn