Every day, give yourself a little present

If you had asked me three weeks ago whether I was looking forward to our trip to New York and Vermont I would have carefully said “…yes?” and then burst into tears, so nervous was I about the logistics of cross-country travel, meeting up with around ten people, attending two weddings, and trying not to get Covid. Not to mention leaving Paul behind—even though he’s always very well taken care of, in the days leading up to departure I can never quite wrap my head around how he’ll feel when we’re gone, and whether he’ll be ok.

I left him an old t-shirt of mine, hopefully awash in pheromones, and he shredded it at some point, so either he was searching for my scent or he found it was just feeling salty.

But the trip was incredible. A perfect balance of eventful, lethargic, and louche, beginning with steak au poivre in a French restaurant in Brooklyn and continuing through over a week of various cheeses upstate and in Vermont. I got to be a bridesmaid for my dear, dear friend Lyndsey and her wonderful husband Ryan; we went to Storm King, which I have wanted to do for years; I saw friends I’ve been missing since the beginning of quarantine, met their child, and cried; there was a hot tub. My friends Sam and Stella got married at a gorgeous Vermont estate. We ate the world’s best macaroni and cheese. And none of us got Covid, somehow. A summer miracle.

No one really needs to know that I had a nice vacation, that we went swimming in a stream where little fishes nibbled non-threateningly at our toes. No one needs to know about the delightful sour candy I bought, the many farm breakfasts cooked in our shared house, the enormous couch where we all spent every evening talking until we fell mutually asleep. No one needs to know how it felt to be surrounded by greenery, the trees enormous and daunting and beautiful, like ancient magicians. No one needs to know about the eagle that screamed above us in a summer garden where we ate perfect Reubens and drank what we think was lemonade spiked with just a hint of pickle juice (yes, it was excellent and to be desired). No one needs to know how quickly and easily it’s possible to fall into rhythm with one’s best friends even after years apart; how it felt like we woke up one morning in a world where we had always and would always live together, washing the dishes and laughing after eating duck eggs fresh from a farm.

No one needs to know it, because that’s vacation; we all like vacation. It bends the brain and makes you think I should move here, it should always be like this, because on some level it should always be like that. I am telling you anyway because of the depth to which I believe it should be like that. Running your fingertips over the top of an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture while the scent of crushed grass and pine needles reaches your nose; looking up into the treetops and laughing hysterically while your friends make prophetic jokes and a dog (not Paul, alas, but another very good dog) runs circles around everyone snapping her jaws with joy.

It’s not always like that. But it can be sometimes. I was so afraid to leave my home and my routines after so long—it was an emotional hurdle just to abandon my Wordle streak. Some lizard-brain part of me must have feared that we were going to die, or at least face some mortal danger, and in some way maybe we did. We flew through the sky. We faced an ongoing pandemic. We had our flights home canceled and our bags lost. But then we didn’t die. We lived a little. We lived for food and friends and the actual peace of mind that comes from not expecting anything from one another except one another, and that is something I will hold onto until the next time I get to feel such a sublime, impossible, mundane, perfect thing.

End note: I saw that End of the World House was included on Harper’s Bazaar’s list of the Best Books of the Year so far, and it’s always nice to see the book is still out there finding people. Maybe it can still find you.