Spices, Hobbits and Such Matters

A long time ago in distant lands a burgeoning and wildly profitable spice trade existed. Spices traveled all over the world, ordered by kings and queens and no doubt by some of the finest chefs in all the lands, which weren’t known as chefs then but “The Guy That Tastes The Food To See If The King Dies” or something like that. Which wouldn’t really be that bad of a gig as long as you were sure of what went into the pot and you weren’t very diligent or exuberant with your thrashings and practical jokes on your subordinates. The old standby, a snake in a garbage pail can get you killed. Literally. It’s not funny when you’re on the receiving end of such things and I believe that, back then, whenever then was, there was an “eye for and eye and tooth for a tooth” law. I know I would encourage killing someone if they put a snake in my garbage pot, or hole, or wherever they placed garbage in these distant lands such as Arabia, Persia, Greece and so forth. I’m also sure that law was applicable in my own heritage, as they were all Cherokee Indians and Scots, who enjoyed the opportunity for some payback any chance they could get. On the other hand, it was probably great fun for Native Americans to find a snake in a pot as they would be thankful for both and just eat the snake. I would probably go with the Scottish tendencies in my gene pool and kill the snake and the  person who put it there.

But that is a another matter entirely. Like Two Dimensional Space Theory and  Ping Pong. As I was saying, a large part of a nations wealth was measured in spice trade. Spice wars raged, navigation became more accurate and thrones were toppled due to the rarity of certain spices. Turmeric, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, ginger and pepper were only a few of the spices that were traded over great distances, and inspired tales of violence, theft, fire breathing dragons, and no doubt hobbits.

The books don’t go into the Hobbit’s love of spice, but they did smoke a lot, and opium was at the top of the heap while trading for spices, so I’m assuming that they smoked a lot of it in their journeys, hence their fascination with rings and all the lies they told of treasure and glowing swords. I don’t think anyone is really for certain they smoked poppy as we don’t know anything about their behavior except in movies where they didn’t smoke very much but they did eat most of the time. They also spent a lot of time with “Wizards” and “Fairies”  and it seems they did a lot of crying while stumbling around in the smoke looking for one another. Given these observations, their fondness for opium was undoubtable, even if it doesn’t come right out and say so in J.R.R.R.R.R.R.R. Tolkien’s books. I think he must have been rather fond of the “spice trade” himself, given the number of languages he made up and all the meaningless poems that his characters chanted. Told you they smoked dope. If they weren’t eating, they were crying and sitting, or crying and walking through fire and smoke, which sounds exactly like sobering up to me. Then they were chanting and jumping around a few minutes later about mountains, gold, dragons and food and shit, so you tell me they weren’t drug addicts!

Anyway, how long has it been since you cleaned out your spice cabinets? After watching “The Hobbit” or trying to, with Nolan, I worried about our stash of spice. Did anyone want them? A quick search of Google revealed that proprietors within the spice trade were often executed in Europe when a new King or Queen took over the throne to conceal their sources for such wealth. I was furthered worried about the three of us when I found out that the most common method of execution for “Trading in Spices without Order of the King” was beheading!

In the interest of simplicity, Nolan and I had one rule: If didn’t smell, dump it. So we did! We quickly found that this leads to a lot of empty bottle and a lot of excess, non-smelly spice. Upon an executive decision, we determined that there was no value in all these spices so we tried to feed them to the cat. The cat wisely disappeared during our search for old spice, so were at a bit of a loss.

We bagged all the spice in a leftover Ziploc:


As you can see, that’s a lot of non-smelly stuff that we had the potential to lose our heads over! We also found the main culprit, and disposed of him appropriately (by adding him to the bag, not by beheading):


Now enters the question: What on earth can we use these jars for? Nolan’s first idea was bowling, but his preferred ball was a rotten tomato:

IMG_0824[1]After we cleaned up the mess, we decided on Nolanball (similar to Calvinball, except there were no balls, just empty spice containers and a colander that doubles as a bath toy). The Colander offered little to no head protection against the potential for invading Turks and Hordes of Dark Lords, so that game was quickly banished.

IMG_0829[1]After all this fun, we decided that the empty spice jars would make excellent containers for small cars, leftover olives, screws, bolts, and other such important treasures that boys and their daddies collect in their adventures as non-hobbits. Really, in versatility, they can’t be beat. Just don’t put any rings in them, smoke opium, or collect treasure. Nolan and I have to go get a pizza. All this Hobbit talk has made us hungry.



Words of Advice for the Budding Mycologist

Mushrooms in the field.

Mushrooms in the wild. Wily suckers.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods


Mushroom hunting can become rapidly addictive, even if you don’t find anything but an occasional rabid bat and a possum in a trash can. I can tell you this about foraging for mushrooms: If your natural environment includes possums in a trash can, then you are probably not going to find many mushrooms, at least not the edible, good for you versions. You may find the slightly edible, hallucinogenic cousin of the edible wild mushroom, but don’t let that deter you too much. Tripping on mushrooms is probably (I wouldn’t know, honestly, but I’ve witnessed it) rather enjoyable with few side effects other than not realizing you are cold, wet, or hungry. If you find yourself in a Nazi prison camp, which is very unlikely, unless some of the new trippy scientific theories mean anything whatsoever, (http://motherboard.vice.com/read/why-government-researchers-think-we-may-be-living-in-a-2d-hologram).

Superior race and alternate history theories aside (I never understood the math behind either one of those concepts anyway) mushrooms are good. Excellent, even. After decades of being in the dark, mushrooms are exploding in popularity as never before in the United States. Chef’s will pay extortion level prices for them and not even blink, as they are in turn selling them to their customers and clients for even more outrageous prices.

When I was young, when the concept of a superior race and a flat earth wasn’t really all that new, but still feared in the aftermath of WWII and its associated horrors, foraging for mushrooms was something that the “hill folk” did. More specifically, the act was usually associated with witchcraft, magic, spells, lights of the moon and craziness. Mushroom tea was very popular, as it is now, and believed to cure most anything, much as research is showing now. Mushrooms in supermarkets such as Whole Foods and more discreet specialty shops and Asian markets have become not only popular, but very expensive.

It’s no surprise. Foraging for mushrooms isn’t really all that easy, but it’s not that hard, either. You have to accept before you attempt the endeavor that you may or may not be successful. We are talking about harvesting a very small portion of a giant living organism that never really dies, mates with itself, has the ability to generate alternate states of reality and can kill you on the spot if you make a mistake.

It’s a little overwhelming to sell them, barter with them or give them to anyone you may or may not know. After all, it would be terribly embarrassing to have one of your guy friends hallucinating while sporting the effects of other, ahem, “benefits” of the fabled mushroom.

Some of them are indeed slightly phosphorescent, much like phytoplankton at low tide on unpolluted beaches. Or the sand itself on polluted ones. This probably furthered the myth of witches and ‘shrooms, as it is a little unsettling to find an old lady mumbling to herself on a remote rocky outcrop in the dark of the moon with shiny teeth. Not that I would know, of course. Such a sight would be so rare now that I would have to at least talk to her and probably share her mushrooms. God help me the next thirty hours or so.

My Great Grandmother was famous for her molasses stack cake, her foraging abilities (she grew up in WV, so that was no joke back then), her ability to put up with my Great Grandfather and her uncanny ability to navigate and care for a house after she went completely blind. By all accounts, she was loved by everyone, even though, kidlike, I was a bit afraid of her as a young child watching black and white Tarzan movies on her monstrous T.V. Grandpa White was famous for a whole other set of reasons, one of which is rumored to be the best moonshine in the mountains, often laced with the mushrooms that Grandma would never eat, no matter how blind she was. I can’t imagine what a pint of that kind of ‘shine would go for these days, or what it would do to you. I would no likely live through the experience, but I can’t imagine a better way to skate into death if an asteroid was about to hit earth in an hour or so, or in one of the Nazi Prison camps.

Some hints for foraging:

  1. It’s more fun at night, in the dark of the moon.
  2. A cat, preferably a black Manx cat, is the perfect companion. They can see in the dark and are afraid of witches and hippies.
  3. If you fall in the forest in the dark of the moon, does it make any noise?
  4. Baloo is cool at night. Very scary though.
  5. Tree stumps are fun to sit on and contemplate two-dimensional, black matter inspired, computerized existence.
  6. Keanu Reeves starts to make a little sense, especially with the right mushrooms. Preferably red with white spots.
  7. Mushrooms are more active at night, holding mushroom séances, usually in reverence to the cat.
  8. If you have a sudden urge to go swimming, just close your eyes and hold your breath. The mushrooms will take over.
  9. If you happen to have happy ‘shine, only trust the shrooms the shine recommends.
  10. You will nap very well the next day.

All of this is just for fun, of course. Foraging for any wild plant has the potential to be a deadly experience. It also has the potential to be the most rewarding experience of your life, as you proudly return home bearing the fruits of your wandering about in the woods. It’s great exercise, puts you more in tune with nature and all that most people miss, and being glued to the ground makes you more aware of your surrounds than ever.

There is also the added benefit of trading mushrooms for produce, eggs, pie, and nearly anything else you can think of. Dress strangely during these days, don’t get much sleep and keep dirt under your fingernails. It gives you more credibility.

Happy Foraging!




Thanks to Georgia Pellegrini, author of “Food Heroes” and specifically her chapter “Seeing the Forest for the Fungus.”

Nightly Wanderings

Stubbs keeping watch.

Stubbs keeping watch.

Evening Mist

Evening Mist

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

I turn my headlight out and I’m plunged into darkness. My ears, legally deaf, immediately take on that familiar change. It seems that I can hear everything in the familiar surroundings of the mountainside outside my home. My sense of smell gets sharper, all of which are nothing more than phantoms, memories of my childhood, when I used to slide out of our single-wide/shack of a house and fade into the night to be alone.

My eyes don’t adjust to the night as they once did. I wait impatiently, my sight fixated on the darkest point I can find, which is, at this moment in the dark of the moon, the ground. Out of habit, I count of the seconds in my head. “Nine, ten.” I look around and can still see nothing, just the glow of the campfire, built of habit and nostalgia earlier this evening, when the air took on the familiar chill of the oncoming autumn. I wait. In the darkness, I feel around for my log, which no doubt carries my scent like a beacon to the local wildlife. I hardly need to feel, for I have been here many, many times.

Night blindness fades to a dull gray, then to shades of black and white. The sounds of tree frogs and rustlings of small creatures enjoying their nightly freedom from the sun dulls slightly as my eyesight improves. “Nineteen, twenty.” My eyes are definitely getting a bit worse. Years of welders flash, the reflection of the sun off snow in the mountains of the west, coal mining and too much time in front of the computer and in the confined spaces of various office buildings have taken their toll. I could never hear anything to speak of anyway, and I spent most of my youngest years nearly deaf.

My sense of smell doesn’t betray me though. I can smell the leaf rot, the faintest scents of the hickory fire, now some distance from me, the topsoil, the mushrooms, flowering nightshade and the soft Appalachian mist. I wait.

As he always does, my cat Stubbs materializes into thin air beside me. In some ways he’s better than a dog. He’s more dependable, less distracted by unimportant sounds and smells and most importantly, he is an instant beacon of something amiss. If he suddenly vanishes during these nightly meanderings, something is not quite right.

One night it was our old friend the bear, whom I have started calling Baloo. We didn’t exactly chat, despite our familiarity. He knows more about me than I will ever know of him, and I wonder sometimes what will happen to him. Will he live out his days in the peace and solitude that he enjoys now? Something tells me he will not. He’s too big, the perfect trophy bear for something unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable. I avert my eyes and wait until he wanders away. Woofing once as if to say, “I saw you first.”

There is no sign of Baloo tonight, not fresh anyway. Stubbs is giving the “All clear, now can we go?” look that only cats can give. Black as ink, he fades away, staying just within sight, following me, relentlessly curious of these occasional outings. I’m not feeling my best, and it’s unseasonably cold. I’m in search of mushrooms tonight, which have exploded out of the moist soil everywhere in response to the late season rains and cool weather. I have to be careful not to step on them, slightly glowing with phosphorescence in the black night. My goal is the top of the ridge, but it is a loose goal. I’m not out for physical exercise, but mental peace.

Not that I don’t have or am not at peace normally. My time in the mountains this past year have rolled years off my life. My mountain stride has returned and while I am by no means silent to the occupants of the forest, who normally give me a wide berth, but I have no doubt that few humans could follow me in the damp leaves and soft soil. I leave as little trace as I can out of habit. One person who could follow me, always, was my brother James.

He is the king of old school, chaffing at the bridle of work and bills, longing in his deepest soul to be free. Not free from family – he is the most family oriented person I ever met. Free in the sense of our ancestors, who poured their soul into the livelihood once available in these mountains, now as unoccupied in places as they have ever been. I feel the same, more often than not. My son wanders these hills with me in the early morning and afternoons, when our trips are much shorter, and more wondrous than I ever imagined. He and Stubbs are constant companions, never complaining, always seeing what I don’t. At a year and a half, every spot of soil, every insect, every rock, every growing thing is something wonderful to be experienced. He can discover more in a square foot than I can in an acre.

My hope is that these early experiences imprint upon his memory. No matter where we go, travel or live; I want him to feel free in these mountains. Am I greedy? Selfish? Perhaps. But I want him to remember the sounds, the feel, the terrain, if not consciously, then emotionally, on a deep level. The splash of mountain streams, still full of trout if you know where to look. Berries and mushrooms and wild apples and found pear trees are our greatest discoveries, which we then lug home to his Mom, who worriedly praises him for his catch. She, naturally enough, worries that he may eat something that could cause him harm. Or that I may fall and leave him alone. I do carry my phone on these outings, but not at night.

This night I only carried my standby – my old knife. It was given to me, as most of my knives were, by my Dad, who recognizes that there is still something unsuitable to modern life within me. My mother feels it most, I think, as she sometimes watches me gazing into the mountains with pure, unadulterated love.

I locate pounds of mushrooms and leave them be. I talk with Stubbs quietly of the magnitude of the night sky, unrestricted by light or particulates still in this part of the world. Before I know it, we have reached the top. I’m still working into my stride, making too much noise. I’m limping a bit, as older men who have cheated death too many times are wont to do. I tell Stubbs I’m sorry about the noise, but he seems to think it’s ok. He rubs his head on me as I flop down to enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains, the stars and listen to the river run below. He stands aside though, no begging or attempts to be held. He’s confident in his world here. It’s his. He is more at home in the night than I will ever be.

Sweeping the day aside, my stride returning, I make my way home. I am not as silent as the cat, but I’m not exactly noisy. I leave no tracks that I can see, although I have no doubt that James could.

I sit for a bit on our swing on the outer edge of the clearing, where the tentative yard meets the forest. Our house looks warm and inviting and the fire is still glowing softly.

As my headlight blinks on, I return with a thud to the present and to reality. I turn to look at the mountains once more, and catch the light from Stubbs eyes briefly as he heads back into the forest, his real home.

Our house seems cramped and too warm. I slide up the steps to Nolan’s room and listen to his soft breathing. All is still and I am once again content. The pain of the day is purged and I will be able to sleep, eventually.

I shed my jacket reluctantly, putting it back in the shed so that less smell will carry from it. I hang my shapeless hat beside it and place the knife on the bench. Just like that, I have shed the night and answered my own call of the wild. Until tomorrow.


So, You Think You Should Be A Chef?

Authors Note: Another one of my favorites, written right after I was hospitalized for overwork 🙂

The most exhausted I've been in a long time. Three doubles, one day off, five doubles, up at daylight making cookies. Whew.

The most exhausted I’ve been in a long time. Three doubles, one day off, five doubles, up at daylight making cookies. Whew.

Ramblin Ron

Chances are, if you are a reasonably good home cook, in that you own or aspire to own the finest of professional kitchen appliances, any pot or pan that is French, cast iron that is new and a chef’s knife that cost more than $150, you’ve had these words said to you after a successful dinner party: “You should be a Chef!” Your well-intentioned and undoubtedly tipsy dinner guest, after plying him/herself with your food, your liquor and the products of your work, and no doubt feels grateful for what you have done, jealous that their significant other is now attracted to you and irritated that your plates perfectly complimented the presentation of the meal and wine, down to the cocktail glasses.

You had all day, all week even, to prepare this feast and you are feeling pretty good about yourself. As you mingle with your guests, in your Williams…

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The Best Canoe Ever

Well, here we go. I’m going to repost a few favorites as we prepare to journey home tomorrow. Happy travels!

Ramblin Ron

Once upon a time, back in the olden days when dinosaurs such as the AMC Gremlin, the Chevette, the LUV truck, the original Subaru Brat and other such worthless vehicles populated the earth for a short time, I was married. Shocker, I know. I have since been divorced and remarried, and that original marriage has faded into a distant memory that only once in a great while comes to bear on something that is happening in my life, which, is to say, not very often. My wife often says that it’s as if I was never married before her, as I obviously didn’t learn anything during that ill-fated short marriage, which may be why it was so short and so ill-fated. In actuality, there could not have been two people less suited for one another than she and I. As a matter of fact, I actually even liked her as…

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In the Weeds: Wrapping Up and Moving On


Before – One of my best friends in the world, trying to sober me up. Thanks Nic. I owe you.


After: 100 pounds lighter and one year sober. With my greatest blessing in the world.

This has been a strange year, to say the least. The trip through and into sobriety has been sobering, pun intended, to say the least. I asked Laura if this year had been good or bad today. She replied, “A little bad, a little good.” I think that just about sums it up.

We’ve bought a new house in a new place and we’re in the process of moving. Moving is emotionally trying. I have mixed feelings about it. I love the mountains with all my heart, and there is and always will be the nagging realization that I have left so much undone in the area that I call home. I’ll miss the cold mornings and the bear. Besides eating all our peaches and scaring the cat onto the roof of our shed, he never bothered anything. He’d probably be mad to know that little Nolan calls him a “Kitty.” He’s the biggest kitty I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure. I hope whomever purchases our place will just leave him be. We’re lucky to see him once a year, although he takes care of all the termites and deadfall around our place.

I’ll miss the mountains and the river, the sound of people camping and the smell of campfires at night, when zero pollution renders the sky as my ancestors must have seen it, clear and startling in it’s immensity and majestic mystery.

I’ll leave with the fondness of a relationship ending on a good note. I’m looking forward to the future and I’ve stopped worrying about the past. I’m already in love with the Bay, the people, the sense of community and the opportunity to be close to Laura’s family. If luck has it, I’ll buy some land that I’ve been looking at for years near where we live now in Appalachia, build a small cabin on it by hand, and visit during the winter and spring with Laura and Nolan. We’ll pick berries and wild herbs, roast our food in the wood stove and allow Nolan to roam the mountains as I did. He’ll have the best of both worlds.

In the meantime, I hope that this blog has helped someone with their own struggles with whatever may be troubling you. I wish that I had some words of true wisdom, but I’m still finding my own way. Just remember to live for the day, make the best of every single situation, don’t worry about traffic and plan for tomorrow. Don’t be identified by your past. Ignore expectations from other people. Set your own goals and stick by them. You may fall down along the way. If you do, start over. Above all, be honest. With yourself and with others. Speak carefully. You don’t know who you might help, or hurt with an inadvertent judgement call that should be kept to yourself.

Keep eating!!

(Authors Note: This is all that I am going to post in this medium from the nearly completed book “In the Weeds.” I’d like to think that it may be published one day, but that’s a one in a million shot. Who knows? I do know that it is time to put this away and move forward. I’m going to return to writing my normal stuff about travel, people, cooking, kitchens, babies and everything else. Thanks for following along!!! To all of you out there that were praying for me, thank you so much. Thank you, Laura, for being my wife. Thanks to my medical team, a truly wonderful group of women who bonded together to save my life. Thanks to all my family, my Aunt Lois, my Aunt Vickie, my Mom, my Momma Sue, my Dad, my Papa Friedel, the guys at UVA, my brothers James, John and Samuel, my sisters, Jessica and Sarah, the first great loves of my life. They were there every minute with me. Sarah, thanks for the squiggle fingers and berry picking! Jessica, I’m so sorry the road was closed! Keli Ratcliffe, thank you for believing in my sorry ass and helping me keep writing. Finally, to the one that allowed me the chance to get my life back: Chef Michael Rork. Thank you, thank you, thank you for hiring me when no one else would. For giving me the chance to redeem myself in my own eyes. For helping me remember the value of hard work and the love of great food. The day you hired me I could barely walk up the stairs for my interview. By the end I could hold my own on the line, albeit tenaciously. I’ll never forget 97 order in 45 minutes on Thanksgiving Day and your faith that I could do it. Chef Andrew: Thanks for daring to shove me and expect the best, even knowing my condition. Chef Kate, thanks for adopting me and watching after me when I was too sick to do it on my own. Chef Fidel, thanks for never letting up, never letting me quit, daring me to fail, and lighting a fire under my ass utilizing my greatest tool: Pure Rage. You’re good, my friend. Delores, thanks for every minute that you helped me and gave me advice. Rachel, Rihanna, Erica, Heather, Chef MJ and everyone else at Harvest, thank you so much for your faith and allowing me the mistakes I made. Everyone: Thanks.  Sincerely, -RM)

In the Weeds: One Year

Today marks my one year anniversary with sobriety. On this night, one year ago, I drank the last of the alcohol in the house and tried to sober up. That night was a nightmare that I will never again repeat. I don’t remember much of it, but my wife, unfortunately, does. My son was too young to remember, I think, although we will never know how soon the seeds of tangible memories and behaviorism are implanted. I do remember terrible pain, shakes, sweats, hallucinations and violent vomiting and writhing. I do remember being locked in a room, unable to get out. I do remember thinking I was going to die. I remember my wife yelling at me to be quiet, to stop bothering her and saying that I needed help. I tried to call 911 and couldn’t. I just could not physically or mentally bring myself to such an admission of helplessness.

The next morning I was literally dying. My liver had stopped working, my heart rate was off the charts, my abdomen had swollen to the point of bursting and my eyes and skin were the color of a pumpkin. I had aged twenty years overnight. I sweated through clothes, blankets and pillows. As the sun came up the next morning I watched from the ground, hidden in the trees of what used to be a sanctuary of trees in the forest by our home. I couldn’t bear to be seen.

I was bleeding and vomiting profusely and reminded over and over of my Grandmother, my beloved Grandmother, in a similar state. I was reminded of watching a man die in Reno, NV on the sidewalk outside of Circus Circus as traffic roared by, and pediatricians hastened by, as if they would be contaminated by his passing. I remembered finding a young/old man on the sidewalk in Washington D.C., only steps away from the glamor of our world leaders, dead or nearly dead, stained with blood, urine, vomit and feces with a plastic half-gallon of vodka still clutched in his hand.

Staring into the sky, wondering if I myself were alive or dead, I watched the late summer clouds float overhead on the first rays of sunshine as warmth dappled my face. I thought of my wife, the most wonderful, trusting, beautiful woman I have ever met, her hopes and trust and dreams smashed and broken by this illness, this horrible thing that I had become so dependent upon. The bottle that had ruined our dreams, dashed my abilities and stunted my ambition. I could see our small son, only eight months old then, trying to crawl and walk and already bonding to his Dad. I laid up on the smooth earth, breathed the scent of the forest duff, and made a difficult decision. I took my car keys, started the truck and drove to the liquor store.

The store manager would not allow me to purchase any more alcohol. She offered to drive me home, call an ambulance, call my wife, take me to a restaurant, anything but allow me anymore alcohol. I thanked her graciously assured her that I was fine, more than fine and left the store. She watched me drive away with her phone in her hand. I fully expected her to call the police. Apparently, she didn’t.

Undaunted, as alcoholics are, I drove the few short miles over to WV, bought a handle of something that would have undoubtably killed me, spent the rest of my money on toys for Nolan and flowers for Laura and drove back home, in all honesty, to die. I was planning to take a long hike with a big bottle of fine bourbon and be done with it. A cowards way out.

I carried the bottle all the way home in my lap, caressing it, wanting so badly to open it. At that point, between the pink elephants, hobbits and dwarves, it was hard to drive home and even more difficult to open the bottle while driving. I sat at the bottom of our drive, holding the bottle. I got out of the truck, pulled the cork, and poured the whole bottle onto the ground. I drove up our drive, mostly in the ditch and found my wife shaking in tears and anger and above all else, disappointment. She asked where I wanted to go. I talked with my counselor and my PCP and they both recommended rehab. Immediately. Right now.

So, I entered rehab. Almost numb with pain, vomiting every few minutes, I sweated and screamed for two days. No medication, no IV’s for fluids, no surgery to remove ascites. Nothing. A bed with no covers. A shower with no doors. A shitter with no lid. No belts, no shoe laces. No sporks. No alone time. No food save for a three ties a day buffet of microwaved, pre-packaged shit from China.

My third day there, I had managed the worst of the DT’s without dying and it seemed I might make it a little longer. Maybe. If I didn’t drink at all, ever again. Never. I agreed. I went home. Laura came to pick me up. We didn’t have much to say to one another. We were both broken, drained and hopeless. We both felt abandoned, betrayed and our trust was nonexistent.

Day by day, we carefully made our way forward. We were walking hand in hand tonight near our new home, enjoying the unexpected heat and humidity after our years in the mountains. We didn’t say much. We didn’t have too. She holds my hand now. I give her massages. Nolan has become the center of my universe, my reason for living. Support arrived from unexpected directions in the form of a famous Chef who took me in when no one else would. My wife’s aunt made me a prayer blanket. People started to read my blog and kind of cheer me on. I’m too private, stubborn and proud to make much of it, but I was thankful for every day. I was thankful to go to work at 4:00 a.m. to start breakfast. Little things began to matter and I slowly began to find myself.

One year later, is it better? YES!! Has it been easy? NO. Quitting is the easy part. Making amends and rebuilding faith is the hard part. Regaining your trust in yourself is hard, even harder than building trust in your loved ones. You are your own worst enemy sometimes.

Then there are those days: When it seems none of that happened. When your son, a toddler now, is “helping” on every project you are working on, from changing filters to canning to butchering to gardening to eating to everything. My son, Nolan, has become my shadow, my reason for sobriety. My wife, Laura, has become my loving wife once more, still wounded from years of lies and self-doubt and broken promises. My family is recognizing me once more. My wife is startled by my abilities that I though nothing of. I can hand split and hew rails. Shape rocks, mix my own cement, split all our own wood, take care of our son and keep him safe and clean and cared for.

Me? I’m happy. The past is just that, the past. Do I still have nightmares? Sure. Do I still crave alcohol? NO! That just simply does not fit into the new/old Ron’s life anymore.

Plus, while I was in rehab I saw an angel. Not a glowy kind. There were no wings or feathers or swords. But she knew me. My past, my childhood. The forgotten years. She KNEW me. She talked to me for some time. Out of curiosity, I followed her out the door, hoping to see her walk down the hall, stop at the nurses station and say hello. She was not there. I asked if anyone had seen her – my vitals were checked immediately. I was ok. Startling ok. Well enough to release the next day ok.

I returned home broken, barely salvageable. Nolan insisted on being held throughout lunch. I cried into his soft blond hair for things lost, memories gone, time past. I cried for the girl who slashed here wrists my last night there so she could avoid going home. I cried for the beautiful woman beside me, whom I married, the woman who loved me enough to have my child.

It was a long way back, and we’re not there yet. But we’re on a new road, one that is exciting and unpredictable and will undoubtably have potholes and rough patches. But we don’t care. We’re in this together now.

August 19th, 2014. Year One