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Friends of a Long Year is a private mailing list bringing stories to your inbox like it's still 1995. It's written in the spirit of Mary Austin. It was originally called Place Without a Postcard, which does a better job of summarizing what I like to write about. Friends is delivered roughly twice a month.

Archive

Walking in the Woods

Athens, Georgia, U.S. It’s always struck me as strange that we have a separate word for walking in nature, hiking, as opposed to just walking. Is walking just too mundane?

Purcell Wooden Toys

Athens, Georgia, U.S. The evolution of toys in my opinion starts with what is still the greatest of all toys -- the stick. After that, I suggest my friend Chris's handcrafted wooden toys.

Sunrise

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Watching the sun rise, coffee on the stove, light in the world.

Hoppin’ John

Athens, Georgia, U.S. New Year's cynics are boring. What they miss is that, sure, the only meaning in New Years is what you bring to the table, but that’s true of every day you exist on this planet. So bring something to the table damn it.

Our New 1969 Yellowstone Trailer

Athens, Georgia, U.S. There are no real blank parts of the map anymore, to misquote Conrad, but there sure are a lot of empty spaces left. We intend to see some of them in our new (to us anyway) 1969 Yellowstone travel trailer.

The Night Before

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Every voyage has a night before. We tend to remember the excitement of the next morning, when our senses are on edge, hyper-aware and it's easy to be anchored in the now. But me, I like that night before. I like when you're still imagining what it might be like. Still trying to picture it all in your head, fit yourself into your own imagination.

Bourbon Bacon Bark

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Searching for what the Danes call Hygge in the sugar deliciousness that is Bourbon Bacon Bark. Because you rarely go wrong with alliteration.

Creamed Corn

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Creamed corn doesn't lend itself to showy food photography, but then neither do most Thanksgiving dishes. Strange holiday that one.

Colors

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Autumn in the South is never as spectacular as is in New England. The colors here are neither as intense nor as long lasting. But still, it is our autumn, our season, our reminder. And this is by far the most colorful year of leaves that we’ve seen in 15 years.

Muffins

Athens, Georgia, U.S. When you're two years old everything in the world is new every day. Even things you saw yesterday look different, feel different, *are*, inexplicably, different today.

Memorial Park

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Loons, Maine, Memorial Park. *What that sound is?*

Halloween

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Halloween with three owls, a Theremin-wielding ghost band and a zoo full of ghouls.

King of Birds

St. George Island, Florida, U.S. Watching birds teaches you to see the world a bit differently. You're always alert to flittering movements in your peripheral vision. After a while you start to scan the tree line, the edges of the marsh, the place where the buildings meet the sky, the borderlands where movement begins. You quite literally see the world differently.

Oysterman Wanted

St. George Island, Florida, U.S. The world of oystermen and local fishing industry is doomed. Even the people resisting the transition know they’re no longer fighting for their way of life, but avoid watching the death of everything they know.

All the Pretty Beaches

St. George Island, Florida, U.S. St. George is just off the Gulf Coast of northwest Florida and offers a seemingly endless amount of gorgeous white sand beaches.

Things Behind the Sun

Athens, Georgia, U.S. My grandparents left the home they lived in for 60 years today. I don't know how much of my life was spent in that house, probably well over a year if you added up all the holidays and family gatherings. And now I'm thousands of miles away and someone is clearing out the house.

Street Food in Athens Georgia

Athens, Georgia, U.S. Cheap food, made fresh, in front of you. Served hot, wrapped in newspaper. Street food is the people's food, it removes the mystery of the kitchen, lays the process bare. It's also the staple diet of people around the world.

The Worst Place on Earth

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia They aren't really the worst place on Earth (everyone knows that's Yuma, AZ), but the Gili Islands would top my list of places you should never go to. In the end they're not even a real place, just a collection of paradise fantasies culled from decades of hippie travelers, scuba divers, honeymooners, and the rich, lost children of the West.

The Best Snorkeling in the World

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia Drift snorkeling is like watching fish float by the window of an underwater train. And Indonesia has more marine life than anywhere I've ever been. Fish I have previously seen perhaps two or three at a time are swimming in massive schools. The blue depths are filled with dozens of Moorish Idols, schools of deep purple tangs, so dark they look black until you get up close, parrotfish in clusters, munching on the coral, bright, powder blue tangs, yellow-masked angelfish, countless butterfly fish, wrasses, triggerfish, pufferfish and even bright blue starfish that crawl slowly over the reef.

The Balinese Temple Ceremony

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia While Balinese temples look partly like Hindu temples in India, there are other elements that come from older religions. Bali is what happens when Hindu beliefs collide with animism. The Balinese seem to embrace the basic tenants of traditional Hinduism, but then add plenty of their own animist flourishes to the mix -- like frequent and elaborate temple ceremonies. We were lucky enough to be invited to a temple ceremony in Tegallantang, Bali.

Motor City is Burning

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia Awesome as it was to be back on the Asian version of a motorbike, it wasn't quite the relaxing riding I did in Laos and elsewhere. You can never recapture the magic, and I wasn't trying.... Okay, maybe I was, but it didn't work. regrettably Honda seems to have phased out the Dream in the last five years, replacing it with something called the Nitro, which just doesn't have the same ring to it. But the bike is irrelevant, was always irrelevant. I missed my friends. It just wasn't the same by myself. Debi, Matt, where are you? There are roads to be ridden, locals with ten people on a bike to be humbled by. Six fingered men to be seen, by some.

Cooking in Rome

Rome, Italy In the end Italy and I didn't really get along, but the food redeemed it for me. The restaurants are good, but if you really want to experience the glory of Italian food you need to head to the market, grab some utterly amazing raw ingredients and whip up something yourself. This is what food is supposed to be, simple, fresh and great.

Natural Science

Firenze (Florence), Italy There's no way around it; Florence is crowded. It may well be that Naples is the only Italian city that isn't overrun with tourists in the summer, but after three days of hardly seeing another traveler, I wasn't prepared for the crowds. Luckily it isn't hard to avoid the tourist hordes, just get up early and then when everyone else is starting to stir, head for obscure museums like La Specola, part of the Museo di Storia Naturale di Firenze.