October 31, 2012

I’m all zen until the first cat pees

After a weekend retreat at a monastery, I always come home with all kinds of new resolutions. I’m going to be nicer to everyone. I’m going to make more time for writing. I’m going to eat more kale and be less sarcastic and stop whining about how long it takes me to grade papers.

On Sunday night, I tried hard to stay in monking mode. I greeted my family with the kind of loving cheerfulness that would make Carol Brady look like a grouch. I didn’t make a single sarcastic comment about the dried cat barf in the hallway and how I seem to be the only person in the house with the necessary skill to clean something like that up. Clicking onto my computer to see that a hurricane was heading towards the northeast did not snap me out of my zen mood. “I can’t do anything about that,” I told myself calmly as I looked at the storm tracker.

But then Gretel, our old grey-striped cat, wandered into my home office. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of her sniffing the lowest shelf of the bookcase by the door. I’ve got about thirty journals shoved into that shelf. This pile of spiral-bound books, filled with scribbled phrases and messy paragraphs, represents years of my life.

I had just risen from my chair when I heard an unmistakable sound, which broke me out of my peaceful mood. The damned cat was peeing right with what seemed like deliberate aim – right at my journals.

I think the whole household heard me screaming. And ranting. And using choice phrases that I didn’t learn at the monastery.

 At least I didn’t kill the cat. I guess she can thank the monks for that.

October 29, 2012

Weekend in the clouds

View from the cottage window

We drove to the monastery through a blue-and-gold evening, the cornfields and maple trees and old red barns shining with the very last bit of lovely autumn light. By the time we were driving up the winding road to the monastery, a chill was creeping into the air, and I could see that flowers alongside the road had been killed by a hard frost.

Retreat Friend and I took a few minutes to unpack, carrying our bags into the little bedroom we’d share, and then we sat down to eat the sandwiches we’d bought in at the Gorgeous City bakery. The little guest cottage is small, but one whole wall is a big window that looks out over the sheep pastures, facing the winding road we’d just driven up. We ate and talked while the sky above the treeline grew dark and then we walked over for evening prayer with the monks.

The octogon-shaped chapel has a stone floor, with plain wooden benches set in concentric circles around a simple stone altar. Four doors lead outside in the four directions. Retreat Friend and I came in the east door; monks in dark robes were walking in through the northern door. At night, the chapel is lit only by candles. In the dimness, Brother Tractor took his place by the big harp that has stayed in the same spot for the fifteen years that I’ve been coming to this monastery.

As the monks chanted and sang, accompanied by the harp music, I scanned their faces to see how they’d survived the summer. Brother Beekeeper gave me a smile; he’s always the same. Brother Silence, who celebrated his 85th birthday over the summer, wasn’t at the service so I worried whether or not he was well. I was happy to see that Brother Sculptor, who’d come from a monastery in Vietnam last year, was still here. The youngest of the group, a postulant the same age as Boy-in-Black, stood serious and solemn in the semi-circle of monks, most of whom are old enough to be his grandfathers.

When I woke up Saturday morning, a thick fog had descended on the hills of the sheep farm. Misty grey swirled across the chapel, the guesthouses, the barns, and the pastures. From where I sat drinking my morning cup of hot tea, cozy in the chair by the big window, I could see the blurred shapes of sheep climbing the pasture hill. The crooked old trees in the apple orchard looked like they just might come to life and start pelting apples.

The fog stayed all weekend, accompanied by a misty rain that touched my face every time I walked over to the chapel or up to the women’s guesthouse for meals. It was as if the hills of the monastery had risen into the clouds, and the rest of the world simply disappeared. I built a fire in the little stove in the guest cottage and spent Saturday afternoon doing a jigsaw puzzle in front of the window, watching the sheep as they meandered around the pasture.

 Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still at the monastery. Too soon, Sunday afternoon came. Retreat Friend and I packed our bags, cleaned the little cottage for the next guests, and drove down through the grey mist to find our way back home.

Hay barn in the fog

October 26, 2012

Gone monking

The monastery farmyard

I am going to visit the sheep! And the monks! And the sleepy river that winds through woods that will be golden with autumn.

Tonight after work, I’ll drive with a friend past cornfields and hayfields, past old barns and little towns, past white churches and old stone fences. We’ll talk as we drive, catching up on several months of conversation. We’ve been friends for a couple of decades, which means we are able to discuss pretty much every aspect of our lives.

It’ll be dusk by the time we arrive at the monastery. The monks will be pulling long dark robes on over their workclothes in preparation for the evening service. The sheep will be gathered near the barn, their white wool glowing in the dim light.

We’ll carry our stuff into the old stone house, turn on the lights, and sit down for a cup of tea before the bell rings for compline. After talking non-stop for several hours in the car, Monking Friend and I will be ready for some quiet. I’ll unpack my journal; she usually brings a whole stack of books.

When the bell at the top of the chapel rings, we’ll walk over the the octogan-shaped chapel that was built with stone from the monastery land. When I open the heavy wooden door, the familiar smell will rush out at me – the smell of incense and melting wax, the scent of prayer. That is the moment that my weekend retreat begins.

October 25, 2012

Bright and growing

The mural

This summer With-a-Why, my youngest son, decided to begin painting a mural on a wall upstairs. It's still unfinished. His schedule is pretty busy — he's got a part in the school play, he sings in the chamber choir, he takes piano and voice lessons, and he's taking a bunch of AP and college courses. Plus, he's got a girlfriend now, and romance takes time.

Even though the mural isn't not done yet, I'm enjoying the bright yellows and oranges on the wall. As the cold winds whip the leaves off the trees outside the house, I like having this brightness inside. I think I'm especially going to like it during the grey and white month of February. Of course, I'm hoping by then, the project is done so I'm not still tripping over cans of paint and the big pieces of cardboard we scattered on the floor to protect the rug.

A tree takes time<

That's With-a-Why in the top photo. That's his girlfriend, Shy Smile, in the bottom photo. Yes, she's been drafted to help with the project.

October 23, 2012

Twilfitt and Tatting's

My piano teacher, who is always dressed beautifully, with clothes that match (and accessories even!) keeps trying to teach me some fashion sense. When I appeared at my lesson last week in my favorite blue sweater, she took one look and said gently, “I really don’t think you should wear that in public.” 

My protests about how comfortable the sweater was did not sway her. She may have even used the phrase “shapeless and horrible.” We’ve been friends for years, and she knew I wouldn’t be offended.

Then she came up with the idea of dragging me into a clothing store and helping me choose a sweater. I say, “help me choose” but actually she did the choosing. All I did was try the sweater on. It was one of those long, drapey sweaters that looked like someone forgot to cut off all the extra fabric. But it was a pretty color and extremely comfortable.

“You like it?” she asked, pleased.

I nodded. “It’s like carrying around an extra blanket.” In this climate, that’s a plus.

“You have to wear it home,” Piano Teacher insisted. “And make sure you tell me what your family thinks. Send me a text.”

I wore the sweater proudly into the living room to see my family’s reaction. Unfortunately, my daughter was off visiting her boyfriend and my husband wasn’t home from work yet, so I ended up modeling the sweater for my sons, the three people on earth who know less about fashion than I do.

“What do you think of this sweater?” I asked. I knew that inviting my sons to comment on my clothing was a bad idea, giving their willingness to tease me, but I had strict instructions from Piano Teacher. She was expecting a text message.

But Boy-in-Black's reaction surprised me. He looked over and said, “Oh, nice. I like that.”

I looked at him suspiciously. “You do?”

“Yeah,” he said, looking up again from his computer. “It looks like some kind of wizarding garb.”

 I’m going to take that as a compliment.

October 22, 2012


Even though the weather has been warm, we’ve been getting ready for winter. Shaggy Hair Boy and Smiley Girl helped me stack a couple of cords of wood in the garage. My husband fixed the lawn mower so that Tall Boy could cut the lawn one last time before the snow. I put up a new set of shelves in our laundry room. I’ve been cleaning and re-organizing the house to accommodate the ever-changing flow of people who live here.

It turns out that my worries about empty nest syndrome were a little premature.

Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Boy-in-Black moved to a little house in the next town, but they sometimes spend the weekend here. Tall Boy and Blue-eyed Ultimate Player are living with us for the semester. We’ve been seeing a lot of Shy Smile, the girl who is dating With-a-Why: I think she’s officially an extra now. My daughter’s boyfriend will be moving back to the area next month, and Shaggy Hair Boy’s girlfriend is usually here whenever he is. I never really know who might be here on any given night. Luckily, they’re all fine with sleeping on the floor because we really don’t have many beds.

My theory about keeping the house clean with so many people coming and going is – well, mostly it’s impossible. The only way to survive is to limit how much stuff is in the house. So I’ve been going through cupboards and closets, packing up stuff and taking it to donation centers. This all sounds quite virtuous, but mostly it’s because I’ve had papers to grade. There’s nothing like a stack of student papers to send me on a cleaning binge.

The midst of all the busyness of fall semester, we’ve had some spectacularly beautiful fall days, with bright foliage and blue skies and sunshine. I’ve been savoring all this colour before the dark rains of November begin.


October 21, 2012

Some moments last forever

“I think I’m the oldest person here,” I said to Boy-in-Black. The concert venue, a bar in Gorgeous City, seemed to be filled with students from two nearby colleges. He looked across the crowd, over the heads of a whole flock of girls who were giggling and whispering at his presence. “Nah,” he said, grinning. “There’s a guy at the bar who might be older.”

We’d arrived ten minutes before the doors opened, and I’d claimed a spot right up front, leaning against the stage, with Boy-in-Black right behind me. He’s tall enough to look right over the top of my head.

It’s the first time I’ve gone to a show with Boy-in-Black, and having him along was a definite advantage. He’s pretty intimidating. The crowd of young people were jostling each other, spilling drinks and pushing in closer as more people came in, but Boy-in-Black didn’t move so much as an inch in any direction. He stood absolutely still, arms folded like a security guard. Usually, by the end of a Mountain Goats concert, the whole crowd is pressing me against the edge of the stage, but not this time. Boy-in-Black served as a human shield that gave me plenty of room.

John Darnielle began with the song from Sunset Tree, an album released back in 2005. When he sang the first line into the microphone, “King Saul fell on his sword when it all went wrong,” I looked around the crowd and thought, “Most of these young people were in about sixth grade when that album was released.”

Darnielle paused for just a split second, and the whole crowd sang the next line, “And Joseph’s brother sold him down the river for a song.” Darnielle grinned as his own words came back to him. Somehow even those young college students knew the song. That’s when I knew it would be a great show.

Of course, the Mountain Goats are pretty much always a great show. John Darnielle is charming and humble, and filled with frantic, happy energy, even while he’s singing the dark poetry he’s famous for writing. He did nine songs from the new album that was just released, and the crowd knew those words too. And of course, when he sang old favourites like, “This Year,” everyone in the room jumped up and down, yelling out the words.

Afterwards, Boy-in-Black and I decided to go over to the merchandise table and see if we could talk to Darnielle. When I walked over, he said, “Hey, Front Row!” and gave me a hug. That’s the cool thing about Darnielle – he manages to make every single member of the audience feel like he’s cares that you’re there. I sat down next to him and said, “This kid who looks like my bodyguard is my son.” He laughed and said, “Wow. My son is only 18 months old, and yours is towering above us.”

We only talked for a few minutes, but I passed along a message from a friend, and we managed to take a bunch of ridiculous photos with Boy-in-Black’s phone. It was past midnight when Boy-in-Black and I walked out to my car. I rummaged through the car to find the chocolate bar I’d opened earlier, Boy-in-Black hooked up his iPod to play some Mountain Goats music, and we talked as we made the long drive home past barns and cornfields and little country towns.

October 17, 2012

Birthday candles

Candle ceremony

Last weekend With-a-Why, my youngest child, turned eighteen. And Skater Boy, who has been an extra in our household since before kindergarten, turned twenty-one.

Such milestone birthdays meant that our house was filled with young people and extras all weekend. The gang spent Saturday doing crazy stunts outside in an old wheelchair that we found when we cleaned the garage. By evening, more extras had arrived to join the party. Philosophical Boy, on midterm break, showed up unexpectedly. Blonde Niece arrived with her boyfriend. First Extra brought lottery tickets, the same gift he gave to Boy-in-Black and Shaggy Hair Boy when they turned eighteen. It’s a tradition.

Boy-in-Black came up with a new way of gathering everyone for the candle ceremony. He pulled the living furniture into a circle and began batting a ball back and forth. No one could resist the “keep the ball in the air” game. The circle quickly expanded to a gang of fourteen young people leaping up, making dramatic dives, and knocking into each other to swat at the ball. On several occasions, the entire loveseat went tumbling over. You might say that we’re a little competitive.

By the time the room had gotten dim enough to light candles, everyone was hot and sweaty from competing over a little foam ball. I wondered whether Shy Smile, With-a-Why’s girlfriend, would find our noisy, crowded household a bit overwhelming, but she seemed to be handling the chaos just fine. It’s easy to find nice things to say about With-a-Why and Skater Boy, but of course as we went around the circle, there were also teasing insults and jokes. That’s the tradition.

October 15, 2012

Another naked woman


Last week was supposed to be “Photos of Naked Middle-Aged Women” week on my blog. After all, I have to keep up my google rating. I used to be the number one hit in that category, but recently a surge of creepy porn has tried to take the spot, so I was trying to be pro-active. But Blogger (the blog-publishing service I use) shut down when I was trying to post the photo above. Maybe all the naked photos were just too much for blogger. I gave up when I started getting emails from folks telling me they couldn’t post comments.

To be honest, most of the women I take photos are a bit past middle age. In fact, two of the last three women in my photos are grandmothers. Yep, it’s true. Grandmothers wear cowboy hats to celebrated their naked bodies and go skinny dipping in cold mountain lakes, even in October.

Now that Blogger seems to be working again, I figured I’d start the week with another naked picture. Here’s my friend Makes Bread. It looks like she’s all relaxed as she’s walking into the water, but the reality is that she was saying, “Hurry up and take the photo before those kayaks get any closer.”

It’s a weird thing about kayakers. When they see a bunch of women skinny dipping, they tend to paddle over just for the heck of it. It's happened before. I was all for waiting on the shore so we could introduce ourselves to the kayakers but my friends decided the skinny dipping was over. Makes Bread climbed out, dried herself off, and pulled her clothes on before any boats were within earshot.

For the history of the naked blog photo project, go to this page and click on each photo, beginning with the first. Each photo has a link that will bring you back to a post on this blog that tells the story of how the photo was taken.

October 12, 2012

Holding up the clouds

Holding up the clouds

Some of my friends are quick to pose naked while others need a few minutes — or even a few years — to make up their minds. The naked photo is inevitable, of course. Resistance is futile. Everyone gives in eventually.

Last weekend on our retreat, Signing Woman and Makes Bread decided to do some yard work and weed the wildflower garden during a stretch of sunny weather. The breeze still felt cool to me, but they declared after a couple hours of work that they were hot and sweaty.

“We’re going skinny dipping,” Signing Woman said. She smiled at me, and I knew she was ready to pose. I grabbed my camera and followed her out to the lake.

We’d been talking earlier about butterflies, how they are the messengers between heaven and earth. We’d discussed the possibility of Signing Woman’s ancestors’ spirits wandering around this lovely property where her family has come for so many years. Signing Woman herself has such a emotional and spiritual connection to this place that I could well imagine her coming back as a ghost someday.

As Signing Woman stripped off her clothes and stepped into the Mountain Lake, her body looked as natural as a tree or a rock or a deer, completely at home in the clear cold water. With her feet firmly on the earth, the lake lapping her legs, she reached up into the heavens to touch the sky.

For the history of the naked blog photo project, go to this page and click on each photo, beginning with the first. Each photo has a link that will bring you back to a post on this blog that tells the story of how the photo was taken.

October 11, 2012

Those long, elegant legs

Long legs

“I’ll pose for you,” said Dancing Woman. “But I’m not going outside naked.” Her concern, it turned out, wasn’t the neighboring camps or the cars that sometimes drove slowly past, but the cold breeze blowing off the lake. The obligations of friendship apparently do not include setting your bare butt on wet ground on a cold fall day.

“How about the red chair by the fireplace?” she asked. It was probably the warmest spot in the house.

I nodded. “Sure. We can turn it toward the window to get some natural light.”

Dancing Woman stripped off her clothes, tossed them aside, and sat down in the chair. None of my other friends even looked up. Signing Woman went on reading her book, and Long Beautiful Hair wandered back into the kitchen for another cup of tea. Denim Woman, coming down the stairs, didn’t even look surprised to find a naked woman sitting by the fire.

In deference to Signing Woman’s family, who own the house we were staying in, I moved the photos behind the red chair. I wasn’t sure if any of her ancestors, with their stern black-and-white faces, would like to be included in the naked photo. She comes from an amazing family of missionaries and Sunday school teachers, physicians and academics and ministers. I suspect many of them would be most happy to participate in my project. I mean, really, who in the world wouldn’t want to be in a naked photo and get that fifteen minutes of internet fame? But my own rules include asking folks permission before I include them, and that was impossible since the people in the photos are dead. I certainly didn't want to take advantage of dead people.

“Put your legs up,” I said as I looked through the camera, “I want them in the picture.”

Pretty much every woman in the room looked up then to chime and say how much they loved Dancing Woman’s legs. That’s the fun part of taking a naked photo in a room full of women friends: they all start saying things about how beautiful you are. That part of this project never gets old.

For the history of the naked blog photo project, go to this page and click on each photo, beginning with the first. Each photo has a link that will bring you back to a post on this blog that tells the story of how the photo was taken.

October 09, 2012

Naked. With a cowboy hat.

The kitchen was filled with women. Quilt Artist stirred a pot of soup on the stove. Makes Bread knelt on the floor in front of the refrigerator, re-arranging everything to make more room on the shelves. Long Beautiful Hair waved a jar of pickles. Denim Woman pulled out a big bag of Dark Chocolate Bark and handed it to Signing Woman. Everyone was talking excitedly, nine voices echoing against the wooden cupboards and high ceilings.

Under the swirl of conversation, I said to Quilt Artist, “You going to pose naked for me this year?”

“Of course,” she said. “I’ve even brought a hat. To use as a prop.”

I love this about my friends. They are so very cooperative.

We decided the stone steps of the old house we were staying in would be a nice backdrop for a naked photo. The fact that the steps faced a public road did not phase Quilt Artist. “I’ll just duck down when a car goes by,” she said. Several cars did go by, and I snapped some photos in which she looked like Indiana Jones, slinking stealthily behind the stonewall.

Back inside, I pulled the photos up on my laptop, and friends gathered around to help vote on which photo we should use. “I like how the brown hat is repeated in the brown stones,” I said, pointing to my favorite. “And I like the curve of your body."

Wearing her cowboi hat

Almost everyone else voted for that photo, but Quilt Artist kept pointing to a photo in which she’s sitting on the edge of the steps. “I like how you can see all the silver in my hair. And I like how the wrinkles in my stomach are reflected in the stones. I know women aren’t supposed to like all those lines on their body, but I do.”

She and I smiled at each other. We’ve been friends for a couple of decades now, and I know the long journey she undertook to accept her body and love her self.

So I’m putting both photos on my blog. Readers can choose which one they like best.


For the history of the naked blog photo project, go to this page and click on each photo, beginning with the first. Each photo has a link that will bring you back to a post on this blog that tells the story of how the photo was taken.

October 08, 2012

By the fire with a bowl of hot soup


Every October I drive to the mountains with a group of women friends for a weekend retreat. Signing Woman’s family has a beautiful camp on a lake, and they generously let us use the place. Nine women came this year, bringing with us more food than nine women could possible eat in just a few days. When we arrived at the beautiful old house we were to stay in, we found a bra hanging on a hook by the back door. We took that as a good sign.

Soup is my favorite thing to eat on a cool fall weekend, and my friends know that. They came carrying pots of homemade soup. We had pumpkin-garlic soup, black bean-kale soup, potato-leek soup, squash-with-carrots soup, split pea soup, and several kinds of chili. I ate soup for breakfast, soup for snack, soup for every meal. I always say that I can never get enough soup, but I admit that this weekend, I may have come close.

We spend hours talking by the fire, walking along the lake, and admiring the fall foliage. Saturday night, Long Beautiful Hair cranked up the music, and we danced, sliding around on the hardwood floors in our socks. The next day, we walked to a labyrinth to spend some time in quiet contemplation. When the sun came out, we went skinny dipping in the lake and took naked photos. We played cards by the fire, sang songs, drank cup after cup of hot tea, and held a ceremonial burning of a hydrangea wreath. All in all, a perfect weekend.

The burning of the wreath

October 04, 2012

Waiting Woman

I had decided that this conference’s naked photo should be of a man, just to help even out the gender imbalance. My friend Philadelphia Guy is having a great year — he got engaged to the woman of his dreams and then got a book contract soon after. I knew he’d be easy. Other male friends, when we talked about the naked blogging project, nodded and said, “Sure, I’ll pose.”

So the men did offer this year. Really, they did.

But actually taking the photo proved to be difficult. I wanted natural light, but our daytimes were packed with back-to-back sessions. I did carry my camera to sessions one day, offering to snap the photo out in the hallway, but my friends seemed to think I was joking when I asked them to strip amongst their laptop-carrying, coffee-drinking colleagues.

On Saturday, I returned to my room for a short break before the business luncheon, and found my roommate there, preparing what she needed to bring to the lunch. We began talking about the similarities in our lives. We both have sons who are seniors in high school, who will be going onto college next year. We have elderly family members — my mother-in-law and her mother — entering the last stages of their life.

“It’s a liminal stage,” she said.

“We’re both such caretakers,” I said to her. “I wonder what the next stage of life will be like.”

As we talked, I noticed that diffuse light coming through the window, striking her dark hair, and I said, abruptly, “Hey! Can I take a naked photo of you?”

I couldn’t remember, actually, whether or not I’d told her about the project, but I figured she might have heard about it from someone else. It’s a small conference. Word gets around.

“You get to choose your own pseudonym,” I said by way of a bribe.

She laughed. I took that as consent and jumped up to get my camera. She stripped her clothes off.

“I’ve thought of a pseudonym,” she said as she sat back down in the chair. “How about Waiting Woman?”

I snapped the photo. “That’s perfect,” I said. “Waiting describes this stage of life, but it’s also a verb – you’re always waiting on people.”

She nodded. “Exactly.”


(Readers who want the history of the naked photo tradition can check it out here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and  here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.)

October 03, 2012

By boat!

In our wake

Taking a ferry across the Great Lake was a fun adventure that gave me time to talk to my friends on our way to the conference. But more importantly, it gave me bragging rights. During talks between sessions, during lunch meetings and leisurely dinners, I’d drop the phrase casually, “Oh, we arrived by boat.”

Many of my colleagues were envious, particularly those who had taken the long drive around the lake. The fast ferry crosses in 2 ½ hours; the drive around the lake takes considerably longer.

On Sunday, after the conference was over and it was time to go home, we returned to the ferryboat. I’d come down with a bad cold, and we were all sleep-deprived from a conference where there are just too many good things to choose from. The wind generated by the movement of the boat was terrific, so we found a place where we could sit on the deck, out of the wind. The sunshine poured onto us, the heat relaxing our bodies, and it wasn't long before I noticed that my friends had stopped talking and drifted off to sleep.


And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence

 Self-portrait on the deck of a ferryboat.

October 02, 2012

It began with bourbon

The first leg of my journey to the conference began with a flight to Big Rushing Water, where my friend Philadelphia Guy and his fiancĂ© Medieval Woman live. (No, Philadelphia Guy does not live in Philadelphia. It’s confusing. But he’s been a character on my blog – and in my life – for years now, and I can’t keep changing his pseudonym every time he moves.)

Anyhow, Philadelphia Guy and Medieval Woman picked up at the airport, brought me to their home, and then took me to an Indian restaurant. By the time Artist Friend joined us that evening, my dramamine had worn off, my stomach was full, and I was happily lounging about in my sweatpants, playing with the two rabbits who lived in the house.

Artist Friend had been driving for six hours, but he was eager to start the party as soon as he walked in. “I brought five little bottles of bourbon,” he said. “Let’s do some bourbon tasting.” He insisted that the bourbon be poured into glasses of ice.

Medieval Woman quit after about two sips and returned to her knitting. And I don’t drink at all. But Artist Friend threw his whole self into the tasting. He picked up a glass, took a sip, and then went off into a long lyrical description based on that one sip. “Ah, that one has an earthy taste. Fruity almost. The melting ice is unlocking the flavor. I can taste wheat, perhaps corn, maybe something a little bitter. The smell – ah, it’s almost the smell of leather. But then there’s a lingering, pleasant aftertaste of oak. It might be aged just a bit too long. I’m noticing a mellowness that I didn’t notice before.”

Then Philadelphia Guy took a sip. He gagged and said, “That one tastes like shit.”

It was great fun. They drank up the five little samples of bourbon, then switched to wine. Eventually, Philadelphia Guy and Medieval Woman went off to bed, with Medieval Woman promising to set an alarm and wake us up in time to catch the ferry. Then Artist Friend and I stayed up late talking, catching up on our lives and all that had happened since we’d seen each other last.

Bourbon tasting

That's Artist Friend in the photo.