Endless Summer: A Place in the Sun

Summer is my favorite time of year. An invitation to breathe, relax, explore. After living in Morocco and the Dominican Republic, I don’t dread winter as I once did. I appreciate changing seasons.  And yet… when the cicadas’ song crescendos from a low hum heralding summer in May to a hiss screeching summer’s end in September, I have trouble letting go.

This is my salute to the longest day of summer where I escaped to a beach house in Asilah, south of Tangier. The ocean is where I feel God’s power most intensely, especially on the northern African coast. 

IMG_6790
Road between Asilah and Tangier

I returned to Marrakesh in June to see students I’d taught graduate, reconnect with old friends, and collapse for a reset. Sleeping on a mattress on the floor at my friend’s place grounded me again.

My first year back in the US had been harder than expected. Everything had changed. I’d come back focused on writing my memoir about the time away, feeling positive about getting a full time university position for which I’d applied, and expecting to buy a home near work and my daughter. When the position didn’t happen, I continued job searching though thankful for adjunct positions in the fall and an interim position in the spring. Housing prices in Nashville kept rising; my kids were busy with lives of their own (as it should be but as a Stage 5 Clinger I felt lonely at times no less); and Mom became ill and moved from Kentucky into my apartment with me. At times we both felt lost (more on podcast), but God, as always, never let go. 

Mom made a miraculous recovery and celebrated her birthday in April in a new apartment. We’re all so happy she’s finally living in Nashville. One day after the summer term ended, I boarded a plane. I met my Spanish friend, Moni, in Madrid, then headed to Marrakesh.

After resting until mid-month, I headed north with my Aussie friend, Kate. We stayed in the old city of Asilah, the cleanest town I’d ever seen in Morocco.  Whitewashed in preparation for the annual Moussem Culturel International d’Asilah, a mural/art festival, the medina was as quiet, pristine, surreal as a movie set.  

Below was the Airbnb respite —a dream writing space. I felt protected within the 15th century ramparts built by colonial Portuguese. I fed on seafood. I felt free. From the rooftop I watched the waves rumble. On the second floor, I wrote as the sun rose and fell with the tide.  I didn’t know then that I’d teach full time for a university this fall. That I’d have benefits again and a schedule that would give me time to write.  But I knew the One telling me not to fear. I recognized the way He moves–the way He moved me while I lived in Morocco. The unforced rhythm of grace. I remembered a promise that led me here in 2014. A promise extended to all…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”—Matthew 11:28-30 

Smoother than Nora Jones, He’d again called, “Come away with me.” I did, and though I had no idea what fall would bring, He knew. And it was enough. I knew my only job at that moment was to give thanks in the summer sun.

IMG_6755

IMG_6785

IMG_6764

IMG_6766

IMG_6763

IMG_6787

IMG_6752

IMG_6788

IMG_6753

IMG_6751

IMG_6744

IMG_6745

IMG_6746

IMG_6749

IMG_6750

Asilah
Photos of me by Kate Woods at https://www.moroccobespoke.com/. Other photos by me.

IMG_6715

IMG_6712

IMG_6713

IMG_6721

IMG_6741 (1)

IMG_6719

IMG_6742

Asilah Rooftop
Asilah’s white and blue rooftops reminded me of breezy shoreline escapes in Greece.

IMG_6725 (1)

Asilah
These guys, sure-footed as cats, played and sat along the fortress wall watching the sun set and a friend swimming below.
Asilah
A really good day

 

 

7 Cool Things to Do in Nashville Before Summer Ends

IMG_4477

From summer garden cocktail parties to getting a jumpstart for fall picnics and fashion, the remaining days of August in Nashville have a lot to offer…

1. Cocktail Crawl at Cheekwood

August 16, 5 PM-10 PM

Cocktail-Crawl-640x459
Photo from Cheekwood website

At Cheekwood

Tonight is the last chance to enjoy this new-to-Cheekwood event. Stroll the summer gardens; tickets include drink tickets to redeem at each stop along the crawl. Must be 21+ to purchase tickets. Details and tickets here. Food trucks, live music, and lawn games.

Advance Ticket Pricing (must be purchased by one-hour before the event)
$15 for members | $25 for not-yet members

*On-site Ticket pricing
$20 for members | $30 for not-yet members (includes admission to Thursday Night Out)
*On-site ticket sales end at 8:30pm. 

2.  Watermelon Night Market

August 18, 2017, 5:00 PM – 9 PM

Nashville Farmer’s Market

NFM-Night-Market-Watermelon-square
Photo from Nashville Farmer’s Market Website

Fresh watermelon cocktails, watermelon eating and seed spitting contests, free samples, live music. 80 local and regional food artisans, craftspeople, artists, food trucks, and international restaurants. 3.

3.  Big Band Dancing in the Park

8/18/2018, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM, Rory Partin & His All Star Big Band

8/25/2018,  7:00-10:00 PM, Music City Swing

Centennial Park Event Shelter

This summer is the 35th anniversary of Big Band Dances in Metro Parks. Bring a lawn chair  and get ready to TANGO. Free lessons at 7 and 8:30. Swing dancing for all ages till 10.  Food trucks on-site. If wondering if cancelled due to weather, check Twitter at  www.twitter.com/bigbanddances.

4.  Shakespeare in the Park presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream

August 16 – September 9, 2018

NSF_Midsummer_NashvilleSign

Thursdays through Sundays and Labor Day Monday at  Centennial Park Bandshell. 

More info here.

Celebrating its 30th Anniversary Season, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival  presents this beloved play. This production asks, “If we’re in love, are we ever in control?” Bring a blanket and watch Puck do some fairy magic and mischief.

Food & drink vendors open:
6:00pm
Talking Shakespeare with nightly special guest speakers begins:
6:00pm
Pre-show entertainment begins:
6:30pm
Performance begins:
7:30pm

Suggested Donation: $10

5.  Art Deco Affair

August 18, 2018 – 7:00 pm-10 pm

Frist Art Museum

Price: $65 per person
(includes open bar and light bites)

Fundraiser for the care and maintenance of the Frist Art Museum’s 1930s art deco building.  Exclusive access to the galleries and entertainment by Nashville’s DJ AyDamn. Dress: Cocktail chic

6.  Wine and Picnic Pairing At City Winery

August 23, 6:30-8ish

More info on City Winery and tickets Here.

Tastings with City Winery Nashville’s Beverage Director Jenelle Engleson who pairs four of their locally-made wines with light bites.

7.  Nashville Scene and Nfocus’ Fashion for a Fraction at City Winery 

8/25/18, 11AM-3 PM

For tickets and more info go here.

Nashville’s best designer boutiques under one roof for discounted apparel, handbags, jewelry, accessories. 

Tickets are $5 for a limited time and will increase to $10 closer to the date. Sales at the door are not guaranteed but will be based on availability.

 

Salute to a Southern Summer: On Nashville, a Surprise Guest, and Coming Home

IMG_5960

I read within a poet’s book a word that starred the page:

“Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage!”

Yes, that is true; and something more you’ll find, where’er you roam,

That marble floors and gilded walls can never make a home.

But every house where Love abides, and Friendship is a guest,

Is surely home, and home-sweet-home:  For there the heart can rest.–Henry van Dyke

Since moving home from The Dominican Republic in June, life has been a blur.  Two days after landing, I bought a car, braved Nashville traffic (the city has been growing by 100 people per day since I left three years ago), and began reconnecting with family and friends from Knoxville to Kentucky.  Trivia Night at ML Rose, Knoxville’s Market Square and hiking trails, movies, and malls…  Nashville’s live music of Santana, Phillip Phillips,  the Goo Goo Dolls and my guys at the Irish pub …an eclipse, a wedding, salsa… a nine- month job search finally ends.

Nine weeks after landing I’ve put 5,000 miles on my car.  Some days the journey home still feels long.  Expats warn that when we reenter the US after so long away we find everything changed.  Nashville is now a maze of high rise apartments and new restaurants and shops.  Everything, everyone seems different, including me, because life is fluid, and the only thing constant is change.

This weekend marks the official end of summer–my favorite season which is partly why I chose to live in two warm-weather countries for awhile.  But I’m also looking forward to fall–my first in a long time–to process all that’s happened.  Today… I’m simply thankful for what has been, for what is, and for what is to come.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An unexpected highlight of the summer was when an Australian friend visited me in Nashville,  allowing me to share southern hospitality.  When I left Africa over a year ago, Kate said we’d meet up somewhere in the world soon.   An empty nester like me, she arrived in Morocco a month after I did in the fall of 2014 to manage a riad. She’s still in Marrakesh in the apartment complex where I lived when she isn’t traveling the world or visiting her kids.  When she decided to come “see the South” and me, I first said to wait until I am settled in a home again so I can make her feel welcome.  But Kate, knowing what I had learned and already forgotten–that home is anywhere friendship abides and we are at peace…that we don’t put off for later blessings we are offered today–came anyway.  I’m so thrilled she did.

At our first Airbnb our host had written the poem above on a blackboard by the door. Truly home is where friends, family, love abides.  I’ve been blessed by family, friends, and strangers who  have opened their couches, cots, and rooms to me all summer as I’ve been seeking what’s next.  Likewise, what a blessing to share with my soul sister my roots. Seeing again where I am from through the eyes of someone who marvels at church steeples, Broadway, and town squares… at grits, gravy and cornfields… someone who danced for the first time in her life when two friends pulled her on the floor to merengue and now wants to take dance lessons… were moments like other summer pleasures and people who have given me wings again.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My next post, a downloadable Seven Days in Nashville: Homegirl Guide.

 

 

 

So Long Summer…

It has been a great weekend. And a great summer. Saturday I made a video for Classic Coup and saw Buckwheat Zydeco at the Franklin Jazz Festival with friends, April, Carole (her children Emily and Ewin), Emily, and Cheryl. I danced salsa at Mad Donna’s for the first time in much too long. Sunday I celebrated Bionic Woman/Best Bud Kim’s cycling 100 miles…and wished Happy Birthday to four of my favorite virgos on Sunday…Greg, Tonya, Sherry, and Beth. Today I lunched at Taco Mamacitas with friends, including Mayuresh who after cycling 62 miles Saturday helped me plan on Labor Day Classic Coup’s new website. Cole and I watched Star Wars and Big Daddy again. Still love that Scuba Steve.

Before the new week starts, here’s the remains of the day…
Favorite stores I discovered in Vegas at the trade shows for my Christmas wish list …and memories of a final summer trip to Kansas City.

In Blissful Company

Cara Lyndon Creations

Sora Designs

Ornamental Things

Hazel

This one is for my daughter, Taylor:
Alter Ego

Kansas City was full of surprises…the Country Club Plaza might have been the biggest. Designed after Seville, Spain and built in 1922, it was the nation’s first outdoor shopping center. Lights twinkling below the balcony of Brio Tuscan Grill reminded me of warm nights in Spain or Italy. KC even had great gelato at Balsano’s and… gondolas. I had my first experience at Fogo de Chao. Amazing. The Saturday Market and Middle Eastern lunch with Angela, Matt, and Haz was fun. I loved the live music, seeing Angela’s home, and planning the next phases of Classic Coup.

Check out the quilt Angela made and the place where the Magic happens…her studio…used for not only designing tees and sewing purses but also for “the dress.” No doubt Baby Muir will be the best-dressed boy or girl in the Midwest.