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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rediscovering Home

Before it became official that Ev and I were going to move to Ohio, I decided I wanted to start a blog about rediscovering my "backyard" - that is, the region that has been my home for 24 years. Essex County AKA the North Shore is made up of 34 cities and towns from the suburbs just north of Boston to the border of New Hampshire. It's a diverse area with urban cities, quiet countryside, beaches, farms, scenic drives... you name it.
Motif #1, Rockport (photo credit: Jim MacAllister)
I truly felt that although I've lived here my whole live, and lived in several of these communities for that matter, I really haven't seen it or experienced it in a way that has been meaningful to me. The organization that I have been working for over the past 2.5 years is dedicated to marketing this region as a tourist destination, and throughout my time there I finally started to see this place a little clearer and appreciate all it has to offer.

Since it's pretty much a guarantee that I'll be homesick for a while, I think I'll start a little series of essays and anecdotes on the interesting places I've been to and local events I've experienced throughout the county. I realize now that I have done quite a bit in my 24 years here, now it's just a matter of racking my brain and hoping to have photo evidence to go along with it. So let's begin, shall we?

Cape Ann is one of my favorite places. Here's a little story about when Ev and I decided to explore a place within the city of Gloucester with a strange history, called Dogtown.
(photo credit: Essex Heritage)

Hearing the word “Dogtown” always made me think of those skateboarding hipsters out on the west coast somewhere. It never occurred to me that we had our very own Dogtown on the North Shore, and it had nothing to do with skateboards.

I like to refer to myself as an up-and-coming outdoor enthusiast, so I was eager to get up to Gloucester when I heard that Dogtown indeed existed, and it was a great place to go for a day hike and some quality time with Mother Nature. Plus there are some giant rocks there with words on them… cool, I’m in.

My limited knowledge of Dogtown was that it’s basically in the center of Cape Ann, an overgrown ghost town of its former self. According to its Wiki page, Dogtown was settled in 1693 because of its inland location, offering protection from pirates along the coast. Witchcraft apparently ran rampant in Dogtown, but the appeal of living in the middle of the woods diminished, and the last resident died in 1830, marking the end of an era.

Eager to try out my new Nikon I jumped in the car with Ev and we made our way up to Dogtown Common. With only a quick glimpse at the trail map we decided we would just head in, snap some pictures, and when we were tired enough we’d turn back around.

Keep in mind that neither of us did a whole lot of research before heading up there, so we didn’t exactly have any frame of reference as to which direction we were going, how many trails there were, or how long it would take to reach point x. We just figured a marked trail and our sense of direction would be enough to make this an enjoyable summer afternoon stroll. 

We encountered a couple with their dog who apparently lost track of the trail and tagged along with us for a while… until we finally admitted we didn’t know where we were going either. Suddenly I had images in my head of being lost in the wilderness without cell phone reception or anything to eat. A horrifying thought that I blame on too much TV. And all I had to show for this misadventure is a couple photos of the Babson Boulders, which are pretty neat if I do say so myself. 

Needless to say, Evan and I found our way out. Once we hit the MBTA train tracks by the reservoir (or is it a lake?) and lost all sense of a trail, we just backtracked our way to the car. 

It wasn’t until recently when I became increasingly curious about Dogtown that I sat down and did a little more research. I checked out a map of all the Babson Boulder locations and was disappointed that we didn’t have a plan to see each one. I learned the history of Whale’s Jaw, a giant boulder in the shape of an actual whale jaw which was unfortunately disfigured due to an out of control campfire back in the 80’s. It all played into my interest in history and seeing places with a past, a colorful past nonetheless.

Dogtown is back on my list of places to revisit, although now I have no idea when I will get the chance again. But it’s certainly worth the trip given your preparedness with a map, comfortable shoes, and some time for an out of the ordinary adventure into the heart of Cape Ann.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Year #24

At 8:34pm tonight I officially enter my 24th year. This one sneaked up on me (note: I wanted to say 'snuck' but the internet tells me that isn't a word.) I use to be one of those people who made sure the 10th of August was clear of any commitments, especially work. This year I'm writing this blog post from my desk at work because, well... I guess I'm too old to keep taking my birthday off. Time to be a big girl. Fortunately tomorrow the Fancy's and the Craig's will be gathering to celebrate not only my birthday, but also a belated wedding reception and a going away party all in one.

So one year ago today, I was here:
In the land of giant wicker elephants. Actually it's the zoo in DC. Now on to some gratuitous animal photos:

After walking around in the DC heat all day, Ev and I ended up here:
At a sushi restaurant for some drinking/noshing. Cheers!

Our stop in DC was at the tail end of our East Coast Road Trip, which looked a little something like this:

Today, we're 3 weeks away from hitting the road once again, except it's a one-way trip this time... to make this place our new home:

It's a little place called Cleveland. You may have heard of it. So as I spend the beginning of my 24th year finalizing details for tomorrow's party, scrambling to set aside as much stuff to sell as possible at next week's yard sale, tying up any loose ends at my job and subsequently sending out my resume to Northeast Ohio employers, hoping for the next best thing... I remind myself to smile because my life is changing at this very moment. Despite all that is unknown about what we're getting ourselves into... we're excited. The journey continues.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Hairy Story

Once upon a time I let my hair knot up into dreadlocks. Yes, you read that right. A white girl whose hair dreaded naturally. In 10 months. Without any products aside from baking soda. And patience. And an ever-changing frame of mind.
Le mustache
It (kind of) started back in January of 2011. Ev and I went to see a reggae band. The lead singer—a white woman—had dreads down to her ankles. I was sort of in awe of this woman. A white woman singing reggae with dreads. I loved it.

So this is how my brain works:

I had been fascinated with dreadlocks and wanted to know more. I had taken quite an interest in 60’s counterculture and “hippie” culture so-to-speak. I liked the music, I liked the positivity, I liked the people, and most of all I liked the love. No, I loved the love. And somehow dreadlocks seemed to represent this alternate state of being, or coming into being I suppose.

So with a quick Google search I ended up stumbling upon an online community of people in various stages and methods of growing dreadlocks. Each had a story to tell. Most all of them seemed to mirror these newfound beliefs and ideas I had. I decided then and there I wanted to experience something different, so growing dreadlocks would be a great place to start.

In late February 2011, after moving in to a tiny little studio and beginning this new path to… something, I put a few knots in my hair then decided to let it do its thing.

To be completely honest, I was rather amused by the whole idea. I was going to let my hair grow into crazy, messy, frizzy, unruly ropes of knotted love and people were just going to have to deal with it. My boss, my mom, people in line at the grocery store. I didn’t care who you were, this was me. Take it in. Soak it up. Look away if you want to, and if you question me I’ve got a mouthful for ya.
Business in front, party in the back.
No one really did. My mom did look at me sideways a few times, but that was okay. My boss at the time was surprisingly cool with it, and my future boss would feel the same. Other relatives and friends would be inquisitive, but not judgmental. I actually received a compliment here or there, depending on the setting I was in… like an arts and crafts store. I liked the thought that my hair was literally an art project on my head. I always wanted to get more in touch with my artsy side, so here it was.
10 months
I embraced it. The use-to-be shy, self-conscious young adult who was bothered by what she thought everyone thought about her suddenly wasn’t any of those things. It was glorious.

Even though, without a doubt, my hair looked ridiculous I still was amazed by its ever-changing form and therefore it remained fresh and interesting. Although I wasn’t happy as it slowly but surely shrunk a good six inches to a new “bob” haircut that I honestly didn’t want. I’ve always liked long hair and always wanted long hair. Before giving up on my comb and conditioner, my hair was long-ish and I wanted it that way.

But I kept telling myself that wasn’t what it was about. It was about the journey. Life is a journey, and now my hair is on a journey. And I just have to be patient. So I adapted that train of thought for a good 10 months. Sometimes I wonder what I would look like with long, blonde dreadlocks, and then I remember the hardship of combing those suckers out and all the wonders that were found inside…

No, I’m not going to confirm any ridiculous rumor that dreadlocks attract bugs or anything like that. They don’t. But I am going to say that no matter how natural and simple your washing methods and no matter how thorough you think you are at rinsing, soap is a pain in the ass to get out of thick, dense ropes of hair. If you don’t care what’s building up inside of those ropes, fine. But if you’re like me… you friggin care.
That wasn’t what made me comb them out, though. After 10 months, I felt that I had gotten what I needed out of the experience. I went into this whole process knowing that I would keep the dreads for as long as they suited me. I will repeat no one person influenced my decision to comb out the dreads. Not even me. It was just the right time because I knew it was.

Once I realized that I realized the dreadlocks really did give me something incredibly valuable. It did help me dig a little deeper and try to understand what was really important to me by allowing me to be patient. Patient with myself and patient with things I cannot control. At the end of the journey I decided to regain control of my hair and it felt right to do so.

The process of de-dreading took me FOUR days. Shaving my head wasn’t an option, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it. NO, shaving your head is not the only way to rid yourself of dreads. Don’t believe it.

But yes, for four long days I parked myself in front of the bathroom mirror with a few sets of combs, a fork, some detangling spray, scissors, a lot of conditioner, and my camera. I finished on January 1, 2012.

I didn’t plan the timing of it, it just happened that way. It was the new year and I felt refreshed and renewed.

I forgot to mention all of the things that happened in those 10 months. Ev decided to grow his hair out too, except his curly locks decided two skinny little dreads was all he would get. He kept his hair long even after I reintroduced myself with my brush. But he ended up chopping and donating because we were getting married and he wanted to look a different kind of sexy. Not like caveman sexy is a bad thing. Needless to say I was happy when sharp, clean shaven sexy Evan returned.

We also moved out of our tiny studio and into my grandfather’shouse where we planted tomatoes and harvested his famous sweet corn and chopped and stacked wood and learned how to live more closely to the earth.

We trekked into NYC to Occupy Wall Street and took part in our own counterculture.
Oh, you wanna take over the Brooklyn Bridge? Okay!
We hiked the same mountain that we ascended 3 years prior to celebrate our anniversary (and get engaged).

We drove all the way to Key West and back and did lots of cool stuff on the way, like attend our first music festival and drink moonshine in South Carolina. We also celebrated my 23rd birthday in DC.

So I would say my dreadlock journey turned into something much greater, and I started 2012 building on all of the new knowledge that I’ve found and continue to experience life with eyes wide open. I credit some of this to the fact that in letting nature take over, I learned to relax a little bit more, become a little more aware of myself and my environment, and be grateful. Thanks hair, that was fun.