an open space

I love vacationing in cities where I used to live. It’s a special kind of homecoming, a potent reminder that home is like an ocean, far too wide and deep to be defined by a single shore.

Hello, Seattle. It has been too long.

Martha and Rich, two exceedingly generous friends of ours, invited us to stay at their house on Lake Wenatchee while they are away. Eli and I will be out here in the woods for a couple of weeks, and then round out our trip with four days in the city.

Our plane touched down, and we wasted no time in gathering provisions. Seattle welcomed us back as only she can, with a bag of Red Vines, a pound of cherries, and two of our favorite Beecher’s cheeses, Flagship and Honey Blank Slate. We filled a cooler with Copper River salmon, lamb, chicken breasts, and steaks for the grill, and sped east, into the Cascades.

This time away is a working vacation, for me. But out here, working hard feels like hardly working. I open my eyes each morning to the emerald stillness of the lake, and the blue, Pacific sky. We get up early. After a light breakfast, we hike halfway up a small mountain called Dirtyface. The higher we climb, the more stunning the view. We pause at the waterfall to take it all in.

Back at the house, I get down to business, studying for my remaining two exams. In design, as in life, Martha and Rich have their priorities straight. I love their understated style: the natural light, the exposed wooden beams and chattered wood floors, the smoky slate and muted earth tones. An open space like this opens me up. Studying feels luxurious and easy.

Eli spends his days climbing in the nearby Icicle Creek Canyon. In the six or seven o’clock hour, he returns home and fires up the grill for dinner. Eli is in charge of the protein and grilled vegetables, and I handle the bread, the salad, and dessert. Which brings us to the kitchen. And in particular, to a certain Viking range and oven that stopped me in my tracks when I first walked through the door. I never knew it was possible to have a crush – an actual weak-kneed, sweaty-palmed, woozy crush – on a kitchen appliance. It cooks with a gentle power, with the grace, precision, and economy of a gifted poet. It is also very handsome. Deep red. Martha, Rich, if you had lent us only your kitchen, I gladly would have camped out on the floor each night beside the Sub-Zero refrigerator. It still would have been a dream vacation.

After dinner, we enjoy a fire or a soak in the outdoor hot tub, and fall into bed a little earlier than we would at home.

Then, we wake up the next day, and do it all over again.

Thank you, Martha and Rich, for this tremendous gift.

The summer solstice is now behind us. Sweet Amandine enters her third season. I thank you, very dear reader, for traveling with me this far. Wherever you may be, I hope that your summer is off to a wonderful and restorative start.


Amanda said...

Your trip sounds divine. I've been dreaming about green mountains and clear skies. Sounds utterly refreshing!

Shannalee said...

I agree with Amanda - sounds divine!

koshercamembert said...

Your trip sounds lovely so far. Missing you and Eli and I want that recipe for the lovely ginger cake. I'm in lovely gray Cambridge. Enjoy the weather, the mountains, the fresh air, and THE KITCHEN! Be still my beating heart. I. Covet. A. Viking. Range.

- Gayle/Zahavah

Anonymous said...

Sounds lovely!! And I agree I want the fabulous ginger cake recipe!


Susan said...

What a great trip! I loved how you phrased visiting a place you used to live- I think about that every time I go back to Philadelphia.

Elishag said...

I have been eagerly awaiting your first post from Seattle and it was worth it. As I read this on my iphone in my kitchen this morning while stirring a pot of your farewell oatmeal I was transported to that lovely feeling of being on a long leisurely vacation in a beautiful and comfortable setting with food playing a special role. Thanks for taking me on a mini vacation with you through this post!

P.S. The rhubarb was delish.

Jess said...

Amanda and Shannalee - Yes, it's pretty dreamy out here.

Gayle and Aviva - Thanks for the reminder about the ginger cake! Every time I bake it, I intend to share the recipe here on Sweet Amandine, and then other things - broccoli salad and brownies, for example - inevitably crop up. I appreciate the gentle prod. In the meantime, check your e-mails for a preview.

Hi, Susan - Thanks for your note. Wonderful to hear from another home-hopper. I love your site, by the way.

And hello, Elisha. You really know how to make my day. Every writer should be so lucky to have at least one reader like you. The pacific northwest is glorious, but we are sorely missing a pair of lovely downstairs neighbors to help us with the important things, like eating our leftover rhubarb crumble. (Glad you liked it.)

Rosiecat said...

Lucky girl! How I would love a mountain retreat where I could write my thesis amid all that beauty. But at least I can stop by your blog for a vicarious mountain vacation ;-)

Good luck with your studying! Nose to the grindstone, in between hikes and kitchen visits, right?

Jess said...

Rosiecat - I know. I am lucky. Happy to provide a glimpse of cool waters and a whiff of mountain air. I hope that soon enough you'll get to enjoy the real thing!

bluejeangourmet said...

I'm new to the blog scene & I just discovered you. Can I just say that you are my blogcrush?

slightly jealous that you are Seattle, but thank you for letting me live vicariously through those cherries!

you're going up on my blogroll right.....now!

Jess said...

bluejeangourmet - Your blogcrush?! I'm pretty sure that this is a first. And I'm blushing! (No, seriously, I am.) Your very kind words mean more than you know. Congratulations on your fledgling blog, and welcome!

Julie said...

Who are these people, and can you introduce us??

Jess said...

Hi, Julie. Martha and Rich are just wonderful. We only wish that they were here with us on this mountain retreat! Rich has been Eli's rock climbing partner for a number of years. That's how we met.

Tea said...

Your writing is so wonderful and swoony, I just fall under your spell--but I must lodge one serious complaint. I can't believe you worked us all up about the stove and then didn't post a picture! That's just cruel :-)

Jess said...

Tea - What a sweet, sweet note! It means a lot, coming from you. The feeling is, of course, mutual. As for your compaint - I know! I'm terrible. The thing is, I just couldn't get a photograph that did the lovely thing justice. After several attempts, I opted to skip the picture altogether. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it that this stove was swoon-worthy, indeed.