Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bottle Digging and Bourbolade!

Growing up on Indian Wells in Amagansett my parents had a great big piece of property. Well, maybe it was only an acre and a half, but to a little tyke the rolling yard seemed like such a vast expanse. Slowly over the years they would transform the yard of overgrown brambles into sweeping lawn with magnificent specimen trees. But one area would never be cleaned. It was down in the back of the property, between our back yard and Joel and Bette Jane's place next door. This was well before people felt the need to fence and delineate their private spaces in what was then still a small fishing and farming community. Under the grove of junk cherries as my dad would call them was all sorts of buried garbage beneath the weeds and vines and wildflowers. This was from back in the days when people would just bury their trash in a portion of the back yard, and honestly by the time I was poking around in the early '80's most it had broken down and decomposed back into the earth. But there were some things that obviously hadn't broken down, like the bottles. So, this began a funny little family tradition that we called "bottle digging". On a day with little else to do we might go into the back with some old garden trowels and see if we could find some old relics. Of course mostly we would just find chards or pieces of things, but occasionally we would be lucky enough to uncover an entire bottle. Throughout the seasons and over the years we would find a number of them, all shapes and sizes, ranging from dull green to opaque white to rich cobalt blue. They would be cleaned in the big sink in the kitchen and put on display around the old 1808 house we called home. Writing this all these years later I have to laugh at myself. Clearly my life as an anthropologist, artist, and horticulturist originated there. Looking back I am so thankful that my parents allowed us boys to be free and curious and creative, even if it meant wielding rusty trowels in a bramble thicket of who knows what. Today I can't help but be so glad that we grew up before this overly cautious, modern day hysteria of a million signs and fences telling you what you can't or shouldn't do, and this nonsense idea that kids today have to grow up in a world coated by antibacterial everything. But hey, for my generation that was what it was like to be a kid growing up in the country.

My wife Krissy was also fortunate enough to grow up in a beautiful piece of country, and this idea of returning to the country has been pulling at our heart strings heavily the last number of months. So when we were invited by our friends Erika and Keith to their place up in the Hudson Valley we hopped right on the opportunity to see the land through their eyes and hear their pitch as to why we should consider moving north.

After we sat and caught up for a while the four of us decided to go take a short hike in the woods before the rain would drive us back inside the picturesque little cabin. We grabbed some beers and disappeared into the forest of oaks and ash and mountain laurels. As we neared a magnificent rock outcropping covered in rich green mosses Erika got excited and told us about a recent discovery she wanted to share with us. She took the lead and we forged past the unmarked property line into the realm of the unknown. Some months earlier she and our friend George had been taking a similar walk and after getting slightly lost stumbled upon the craziest collection of old abandoned things. We found it, and instantly all of our inherently rural eyes lit up, wondering what it was we had found. Before us was the greatest bottle digging spot I'd ever seen!

Erika admitted that the first time she found them they were all carefully buried upside down in the soft woodland soil, in such a way that water and debris hadn't filled them and made them so grungy. This find was clearly more intentional than the old bottle digging site on Indian Wells but instantly we were all transformed to curious, inquisitive kids again. We had to dig in and pull apart as Erika had before some of these beautiful old pieces of the past. In no time we got wondering about how these bottles got here and who came before. The shack nearby was dilapidated and surrounded by rusty old pieces of machinery and we gave ourselves a good fright thinking about the freaky old man that might emerge at any second and chase us away. Hopefully he wouldn't have a shotgun, or a basement with four sets of iron shackles affixed to the walls!

Our visit would be short, our beers now gone, so at our hosts devilish urging we grabbed a few trophies and together ran back to the safety of the other side of the woods.

Back at the cabin the rain began to pitter-patter on the skylight above the dining table and we settled in for an evening of silly conversation and laughter. Spunky the dog ran his little heart out and was now cozy at our feet, and Louie and Fitzy the two cats couldn't believe their luck with four people to get their pets from so they were front and center, all purrs. The beers were long gone but Erika had an idea. She wanted to introduce us to yet another fine Hudson Valley discovery.

A few weekends before we were east visiting my family and after a morning at the beach my virtual sister-in-law Frosty introduced Krissy to her favorite latest creation, the Beermosa! Well, this weekend up north in Pawling we would meet and quickly learn to love the first cousin of the Beermosa, Erika's prized creation known as Bourbolade!

That's right people, watch out! Mix your favorite bourbon with you favorite lemonade and simple as that you have it! Bourbolade!

You can see here that in this instance master mixologist Erika opted for Red Stag, Jim Beam's black cherry infused bourbon, and let me tell you, it was a mighty tasty move. Overall the weekend was such a treat. We were reminded that happiness and comfort for us means enjoying the simple things. Life is an adventure and constant discovery, and the best things in life don't necessarily have to come in a sterile container or plastic wrap. It's about friendship and love and focus, working hard and staying on task but also taking the time off to laugh and be silly and act like a kid again, because maybe from there we remind ourselves of what it is to live life to the fullest.

Thanks to Erika Hanson and Keith Moore for such a wonderful weekend. We will definitely be back to visit you guys again soon! xoxoA&K

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