adventures in petersham

11 Apr

John says that I do remarkably well during truly stressful situations (not so much the mild stuff…then I just cry).  He says that he can literally see me get calmer as the surrounding stress level increases and that, if it weren’t for my “processing issue,” I would do well as an ER doc.  (As it is now, he tells everyone, in front of me no less: “She would be terrible at emergency medicine!”  Thanks, babe; love you too.)

Anyway…more than once in the last 24 hours, I’ve felt my stress level get to that annoying mid-level that’s not enough to be productive but just enough to be debilitating.  I hate that; what a waste of energy.  And so I’m taking the rest of the night off to do something that will make me feel better, productive even, without forcing me to think more about brain trauma (note to readers: wear your helmet, and maybe splurge on one with a newfangled crumple mechanism to minimize gliding contusions).  I’m going to finish a post I started writing in January and never finished.  Please don’t get your hopes up; it can’t possibly live up to the woman I’m trying to encapsulate.

*  *  *  *  *

There’s a simple Nickel Creek line about “a girl who shown with beauty and light,” which I heard while making my way from Boston to Petersham.  An oversimplification of a complex woman, to be sure, but it struck me as a fairly apt description of Emily.

I met Emily during my first concert with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Boston in October 2008.  Although I like to think we were always friends, it was only this past summer, while we were roommates out at Tanglewood, that we became close.  (To give further cred to the Nickel Creek description, when I tried to describe her to John a little over a year ago, trying to jog his memory of the woman he had only then met briefly, he finally responded, “Oh!  The really beautiful one.”)  Some of my favorite moments of the summer were while sitting in the passenger’s seat of her car, bopping to and from rehearsals and concerts around the Berkshires.  She just opens her mouth and the most fascinating things spill out…for example [not a totally precise quote]: “I was vegan for a long time.  Then I had children.  But I had a hard time finding meat and poultry that were raised in an environmentally and morally conscientious way.  So I learned how to raise and slaughter my own chickens.”  Emily is a business woman, co-owning a successful bike shop with her former husband who remains her close friend.  She is also a singer, a farmer, and a yoga instructor.  Most importantly, she’s an awe-inspiring mother, daughter, sister, and friend who thinks kindly and frequently of others…and I’m only brushing the surface.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet some truly exceptional women in my life, but Emily is one of those rare individuals who can simultaneously be on the pedestal and by my side, be my mentor and my close friend.

In December, we had a girls’ night at her farm in Petersham with Addie, her youngest.  After Addie fully glamorized us using the make-up she received for Christmas (I think I was left with one purple eyelid and one pink, and Emily with two bright teal circles on her cheekbones), she went up to bed (the same bed where Emily and I would later settle in to make an Addie sandwich), and Emily and I stayed up.  We sat by her wood burning stove, with potbelly pig Celeste on one side and Olive the dog on the other, glass of wine in hand, enjoying homemade cheese (yes, that is her solution to having too much milk from the goats in her backyard: Emily makes cheese, and damn good cheese too).  We talked about our careers and school and love and music and the moral character of her children and city versus country life, to name a few.

It felt like our heads barely hit the pillows before we were up again at the crack of dawn (I had insisted that Emily wake me up for her morning rounds [I think maybe it’s not called “rounds” on a farm?], and she had gently talked me awake).  We checked in on the chickens, horse, pony, and new goat kids, and then she let me try my hand at goat milking.  Thank God she has patient mother goats, poor things.  I had to leave shortly thereafter to pick up John from his overnight call, but Emily sent me on my way with a fresh cup of coffee, cut with fresh goat milk.

I wish I could eloquently tie together these thoughts and experiences with some over-arching theme or take-away message, especially since I get pissy after lectures that fail to do just that.  But I’m tired now, and I don’t want this memory, rambling as it is, to sit in a draft pile for another three months, at risk of further specifics obliteration in favor of tighter writing.  To conclude: I am thankful that people like Emily exist.  She’s about the least hypocritical, most insanely intelligent and kind person I know.  And, although I haven’t gotten into it so much in this post, if you were to ever see Emily interact with or talk about her children, you would understand fully why I say that, someday, I hope I can be half the mother and woman she is.

(With three other fabulous singers/friends/mentors who let me tag along with them for a few beautiful summer nights.)


One Response to “adventures in petersham”

  1. Emily Anderson April 11, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    Mt dear Anna, what a lovely post to wake up to! You too are a true source of inspiration, warmth and light, and I am so happy that our paths have crossed. I just took a cheesemaking workshop this weekend — I’ll be excited to share with you some of my latest experiments (double cream brie, gorgonzola!). Looking forward to our next visit. Well, I’m about to wake up the kids for chores (I love that you called them rounds). Happy Monday morning! xo

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