Wednesday, August 21, 2013


It's raining in Asheville, with a heavy breeze blowing through the open window into the kitchen where I'm sitting. About 2,000 miles to the West- that's approximately four days of driving- wildfires are burning out of control in the Lolo wilderness, just outside of Missoula.

I was in Missoula just last week- in fact, I spent a day with Nici and the girls in the Lolo hot springs. Before the fire erupted it was just another warm summer day, arid but calm; we played and swam for hours and I took a lot of pictures of the girls as they floated about in a nearly hypnotic state of bliss, the kind reserved for little kids on summer break.
I experienced a little bit of that bliss myself, when I drove down from Whitefish after weeks of nonstop work, packing and logistics and loud, sleepless nights in a tiny apartment across the street from an all night karaoke bar, and finally landed in Nici's kitchen. There were kids running in and out, chickens occasionally strutting through, and, as always when I'm in that kitchen, a chilled martini in my hand.

"So," asked Andy, coming in from the back porch and taking a seat next to me. "How long are you staying for?"

I'm completely guilty of this- showing up at friend's houses with two hours warning, hauling a huge backpack with no set in stone plan of departure. This family, in the midst of their own swirl of summer trips, just seem to roll with it.

"I don't know," I said, leaning back and adopting Andy's placid demeanor. "Probably just a few weeks."

"That's cool," he responded, "the guest room is all yours."

I was kidding, of course, but in that minute I actually considered it. Half an hour later, their friends came over for dinner, streaming through the door hauling ice cream and wine and a watermelon. With her typical, unbridled enthusiasm, Caroline tried to convince me to rent their spare apartment- "Cheap, gorgeous, pet friendly! Why not!"

And why not?  I didn't say anything, but instead sunk deep into that moment, the untethered existence I'd brought about by dropping all my things off at Goodwill, kissing my best friends goodbye and just leaving.

I could. I could live in Missoula for a few weeks, or months, or the rest of my life, why not? I loved Missoula. I loved this evening, all of us around the table, these families I'd once known only through writing and photos.

A pretty, curly haired woman wrote a blog that I started reading years ago, when I was worked as a nanny in Seattle. When the perpetually cantankerous three year old slept, I'd lie on the living room floor, bored and agitated with my own life, and sink into the world of this woman in Montana with the toddler and the blue eyed baby, the big garden and the art gallery.

Now I'm sitting at their table, and the garden is even bigger than it was, the toddler and the baby are little kids running around, begging their mom to let them jump in bed with me at 6am. And now, over rounds of dangerously delicious homemade margaritas, they're inviting me to move next door.

And I could. I can't get over how funny life is.
Still, it's Asheville that pulls at me, like an undertow across the Midwest. It's been Asheville for so long now. I'm so curious to see what in that rainy Southeast town has been so insistent.

The next morning, I woke up in pink flowered sheets with two girls sneaking in. I put an arm around each one and sighed back to sleep. For a little while, they were content just to whisper into the dog's huge ears. I was grateful, as last night's margaritas had turned to beer, had turned to tea and telling stories on the couch that crept farther into the night than anyone had intended.
When I finally hauled myself out of the bed and into the kitchen, Nici spun around and put a mug of espresso in my hand. She sewed a while in her studio while the girls and I read books outside and ran up and down the hill before setting off for the Lolo wilderness.

I didn't stay for weeks, of course. Just a couple of days. Not long enough, but we all had things to do. I could always go back, it's mostly just one long stretch of 1-90 that separates me from Montana. I'd live there, I really would. But only if I ever wanted to leave Asheville, and only if the wildfires ever get tired of burning the world and extinguish themselves.


Shannon Griggs said...

I am a WC stalker, and have never commented - but after reading the Lolo post and seeing "no comments yet" at the bottom, I figured today was the day! You ROCK, and I live vicariously through you. Much love from Indiana, and good luck in your new adventure!!!

Anonymous said...

Those photos. So Dreamy.

Erin said...

And we all wait to discover what pulls you there, too.

mountain girl heidi said...

A friend in Missoula said a friend's parents lost their house a few nights ago, so lots of prayers have been said for the area. So much on fire this year. I'm glad you made it to Asheville, and I wish you the best in discovering the reason for the pull.

dig this chick said...

Well Missoula is always here for you! If (when?!) you change your mind. :) xoxo

s. Maiolo said...

I love to read about you both and when you are together it is the best.

Sara at A Mixed Media Life said...

I live in SC but Asheville has been pulling at my soul for over 2 years. My family of 5 is ready to go but my upside down house and housing market have different opinions.

I am completely envious that you got to move there! It is a special place. For now I just continue to plan, dream, and day...

Rachel @ Existation said...

Even being able to thinking "I could" sounds glorious. Love Nici's blog =]

The Mahlke Chronicles said...

Loved this, of course. Beautifully introspective writing at its best. Can't wait to see exactly what that Asheville pull is.

Jess B said...

I love that the maple syrup and pancake mix are out along with the margaritas. That's my kind of household.

Check out Hot Springs, NC if you haven't ever, (off season though, get's busy). It's 1 hour east of me and I think 40 min. west of Asheville. Great little water town with secluded camping. Enjoy this time, Melina. It can feel so messy and big and unending and out of control but it's LIVING.

S & K said...

Welcome to NC! We are so glad to have you here, just another reader in Raleigh.

Jillian22 said...

How funny life is. I love Nici and I love you. Ain't it funny how this intangible place connects us more fully than we thought possible? There are many I know who don't know me (you and Nici included... how funny!), while there are a few who have become my sisters. There are always so many people and places to discover, in whom we actually find ourselves. Good luck in Asheville! I look forward to your new stories.

Catherine said...

So awesome!

Drey said...

As a single kayaking/climbing/skiing female transplant living in Seattle, I found it easy to relate to your stories. But in many more ways than that. Reading your blog feels like reading my own unwritten thoughts. Following your stories over the last several months has awoken my sleeping self. I too have been itching to leave this city and follow my gut again, despite sound warnings from friends and family that it’s time to settle down….But while 401(k)s and insurance are smart things to have…happiness is too. So is adventure. I hope to follow behind you shortly and hit the road myself to a destination unknown.

Thank you for writing, for writing so well, for having a sense of humor, and putting it all out there.

cindy said...

i think i need to buy myself sunflowers. maybe that will do the trick