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I went home this weekend, to to be with my family and to see friends. I needed a mini-break, as they say in England. A small vay-cay. Some R&R.

I traveled home to remember what wide-open spaces look like when you’re driving on a lonely highway and you can see that point way out in the distance where the earth meets the sky.

And to remember what the cool, clear, fresh air smells like, almost minty and piny and cold in your lungs, but then warm. Spring in Wyoming means five different weather patterns in four hours—pouring rain, gale-force winds, blizzard snow (it didn’t stick, but it came down with a fury), beaming sun, and sad grumpy drear.

It felt good to be there, surrounded by things I know, people I love, small moments here and there that reminded me where I came from and why I am who I am.

I am eternally grateful, and immensely blessed.

But on my way back, I caught myself saying I was going home. “Oh, it will be good to be back home,” I said. But hadn’t I just come from home? Is Massachusetts now my home (say it ain’t so!)? Can I have two homes? Or three? Or four? Not actual buildings, but spaces—or feelings of all-is-ok-ness, one-ness, whole-ness. Is that what I meant by “going home”?

What is home? Where is it? Or who?

Before leaving for college, my parents told me no matter where I roamed, Wyoming would always be my home—Wyoming, my native land of the vast sky and big prairie. Snow in all seasons and drive-up liquor stores. Fly-fishermen and eagles on fence-posts. Mountains, streams, and antelope. I left Wyoming to see something new, to go someplace with “less dirt”. To widen my mind and my purview.

When I got to Mount Holyoke, home was where my bed was—

every year in a different place on campus, each room a special place for me and my thoughts, my books, my music. I felt good there, like I belonged. Like I was intrinsically connected to the place and the people there with me, those who came before me, and those who would come after me. Each year was new and different.

shannie, 1st year roommate. we broke the light. thelma & me.

But every late August, when I stepped back on campus, I felt like I was right where I needed to be. Soon I’d see my friends and we’d fall right back where we left off the previous year. It was a place of shared experiences, of self-seeking, of togetherness.

Then during the summer I went back to “home-home” as I called it. Back again to Wyoming, to my family, my room, my bed, my dogs.

My first job out of college was really when I first set up my own space that was really and truly mine, my new apartment. My walls, my kitchen, my art space.

And now Mark and I have a home here, in Watertown,

with our dog, our bed, our pictures.

I’m at home with Mark, in his hug. With his laugh and warm smile.

We feel good here, all together, “at home” in our 1200 square feet of room, and beyond that space the life we’ve shaped with one another.

All of this, and yet still I’m not certain. What IS home?

Is it a warm blanket? a friendly hug? where your family lives? where everyone knows your name? Could be… Surely it isn’t only the things around you, in your life, or the space they fill. Is it the people? Or is it just where you are, in that moment? And there, could it be many places?

Perhaps the answer is that home is where you are, where I am, where we are together, and that home will be ever-changing, ever-moving, because life is ever-changing, ever-moving. And in that movement will always be a constant space where we feel good, we feel like our true selves, we feel like we’re whole. And all those spaces will always be there, waiting for us.

I feel good knowing this. I feel calm. I feel at ease.

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I love Starbucks.  Sorry.  I do.  Ok. Coffee houses generally.

But Starbucks particularly because it’s near and frankly, I haven’t found a coffee house in town (Belmont or Cambridge) that is 5 minutes away from my home or workplace AND isn’t full of jerk-face judgmental hipsters or super-yuppies (ok… I’m definitely being too judgmental myself and I know that any Starbucks at any point in time can also be full of, or run by, jerk-face hipsters and/or super-yuppies, but whatever. It’s my blog I can say what I want, believe what I believe, and like what I like. And come on. You know what I mean, right?)

ANYWAY.

This post is not about hate.  This post is about love.  The love of coffee.  The love of getting EXACTLY what you want and experiencing pure happiness for just five minutes of your day.

Really.  Can you think of any other place where you can, for $5 (more or less), get happiness in a cup?  A pick-me-up.  A sugar fix.  A cool treat.  A warm ……. hmmmm 🙂  And you can get ANYTHING you desire, come to find.  There’s nothing they can’t/won’t make, and they aim to please.  Step inside your local Starbucks (or awesome local non-hipsterfied coffee stop–try Tunnel City Coffee in Williamstown, MA or The Metro Coffee Company in Casper, Wyoming) and just listen to the requests, all served up quickly and with a smile (mostly):

“Tall non-fat caramel macchiato frappucino, EXTRA caramel.”

“Grande soy vanilla latte with two shots of espresso.”

“Three shots of espresso in a large cup with ice.”

“Medium iced coffee with two pumps of peppermint, leave room for cream.”

“Venti sweetened green tea.” (Yes, not coffee, but you can have tea too!)

The combinations are seemingly endless.  And it’s such a simple business plan:

Give the people what they want.

For me, in the absence of a Tunnel City or Metro Coffee, I’ll take a good friendly Starbucks any day.  Like today.  And believe me, I’m not against the local coffee spot and I fully understand the impact Starbucks has had on the world.  I DO.  I get it.  I love the community feel of local coffee places–how you can run into people you know, or how if you go enough your barrista/o will know your drink.  They might play music from area bands and serve local bread or desserts.  And I would go to one if I could find one I liked.  And Yes, I’ve tried Darwins in Cambridge and it just doesn’t do it for me (although they do have good sandwiches and Iggy’s Bread of the World there… MMM… the bagels are especially fine and they toast ’em up right and give you a nice schmear of your favorite cream cheese–but I digress, this is not about bagels, it’s about coffee etc.).

If you live/work in Belmont or Cambridge (Harvard Square area) and have suggestions for coffee places to try, let me know.  I’m open so  long as they give the people what they want.  Happiness in a cup. Their way.  With a smile.  (And maybe some free internet too!)

This past weekend, Mark and I traveled out to the wild, wooley west to see Marcy, my oldest friend from growing up, get married in a four-day wedding extraveganza.  Wyoming is truly beautiful this time of year… if you can escape the snow, which unfortunately we didn’t.  But we had an enormously fun time seeing everyone, attending parties, and participating in a beautiful ceremony that took place inside the warmth and love of our childhood church while the wind and snow blew in heaps outside.

We flew in to Casper, an oil and gas town of about 60,000, elevation more than 5,280′ in the mountain plains of Wyoming, on a beautiful fall day.  I’ve actually never flown in to Casper during this time of year when the prairie cottonwoods and grasses have turned bright golds and oranges, contrasting against the evergreen junipers and lodgepole pines.  By the time I get home it’s already winter and everything is dead and frozen over, or during the summer fresh in bright green.  As we flew over the bluffs I was struck with the colors and how the flora stratifies just like the rock it grows on.

It was a 60 degree day, but much like New England–all we had to do was wait a minute and the weather would change.

Casper is home to many things, from one of the largest oil and gas industries in the lower 48 to Lou Tauberts Ranchwear with FIVE FLOORS of boots and hats and chaps and wranglers and lassos and bolo ties and big buckles and carharts and all kinds of western awesomeness.  The city is surrounded by ranches and farms and cattle, and more North American antelope per square mile than people.  But the one thing I suppose one could say Casper is famous… or infamous… for is… the Beacon.  A bonafide cowboy bar.

And yes, that’s right.  It says “Where the cowboys go SNEAKIN'”  And OHHH MY… do they ever.  And not just young cowboys.  Old ones too.  And cowgirls.  And cowladies.  They do the two-step to live music and then dance the night away to a DJ.  This is an incredible site to see.  Believe me–I am not making fun of this, the moves these people have are amazing.  One dance in particular they do is called the “Casper Slide.”  I don’t know exactly how it became the “Casper Slide,” because the dance doesn’t have anything characteristically Casper in it… just some kicking and stepping and twisting around.

I tried to catch a video of my friends doing this special dance (they are in the background… the girl with the veil is my friend Marcy), but a woman who was very in to her Casper Sliding stepped right in and stole the limelight… anyhow.  Watch and you’ll get the idea… both about the dance and about the awesomeness of the Beacon.

All Sneakin to the Beacon silliness aside, the wedding was beautiful and sweet and lovely.  We laughed and cried.  We took too many pictures.  We watched our friend become Mrs. Marvel.  We ate salmon caught by Marcy’s father and bacon-wrapped cheese-filled jalapenos (well, Mark did in any case–I stuck to the cheesy potatoes!).  We danced and drank too much wine.  And did I mention it snowed?  It did.  During the wedding and the reception and all through the night until more than a foot blanketed some areas and we all threw rose petals at Marcy and her Eric as they bundled into the limo and we all slid home to our warm beds.

In the morning, I awoke to this:

The snow kept us home one extra day due to a late flight and a would-be missed connection.  It was nice to be home, even for what only seemed like a minute, where the old dogs still love you and your bed is made just the same way it used to be.  The smells are there–for me it’s cider and something good cooking on the stove mixed with something I can’t categorize but that feels so familiar.  The colors and the weather and the dogs and the smells… they all remind me that no matter where I may be, Wyoming will always be my home.

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