Road to Travelwriter – Hummingbirds, Pig Bodies & Bolognese

The air was fresh, a little damp, hinted at warmth as the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds that just hours before had delivered the steady rain that became my lullaby. A short walk later, I was sitting roadside sipping on French Roast, failing to access the internet in preparation for an important phone call a couple of hours later. Every day, minus the failure to launch wifi, should start out like this, I decided.


Hours later, I would be standing in my house host, Sabine’s beautiful writing studio, aka my bedroom while I’m here, when my totem animal, a red-throated hummingbird would buzz up to the shafts of delicate purple trumpet flowers for his afternoon snack. Another sign that I am where I’m supposed to be.


After over four hours of conference calls and coworking calls, my brain decided it had had all it could take and a change of scenery was necessary. A walk-in refrigerator full of pigs, cows and lambs at the butcher shop where Sabine’s boyfriend Sean works wasn’t exactly what had come to mind when my brain made that decision, but who was I to turn down a tour of the shop?! I was flattered to be invited! And a little shocked to my Buddhist core being surrounded by the very many pieces of animal, but it was a defining moment in my new path as a travel writer. As Don George said the night before in class, ‘You can only write about an experience as deeply and well as you have lived that experience. Live as deeply and keenly and fully as possible.’ So for that 60 seconds surrounded by bodies, I experienced it completely, said a little prayer in my head and was grateful to later learn that the owner of the shop visits the farms no further than 150 miles from Berkeley, where these animals were raised, to ensure that they are living in humane conditions. First test as a true travel writer to let go of my own trepidations complete – nailed it, I think.


Sabine decided to redirect her own writing creativity to another outlet and invited me along to participate in cooking Bolognese sauce for our dinner that night. Fresh on the heels of the butcher shop experience, a trip to the produce section was next on the list. Sounds boring, does it? Clearly, you have never been to a grocery store in a state where the produce is actually grown. As has been my experience with every grocery store on the West Coast, the brilliant colors and fresh smells of the produce section were a feast for eyes and nose. I wanted to run and buy a canvas and some paint and sit in the produce section, trying to recapture how beautiful and abundant it all was.


Cooking with Sabine, I fell into the role I had played so many times with one of my besties, Chef Stephanie Riley, as her assistant. With masterfully sharp knives and professional butcher block as my tools, I enjoyed an afternoon of chopping veggies, drinking weird Berkeley sparkling ale (Buzzerkeley – as odd to taste as it is to say), sharing stories about our dads, whom we miss so much, and also lots and lots of laughter, with the promise of face masks and ramen to look forward to tomorrow.


Have I said yet that I am falling madly in love with this place???

1 Comment

  1. Darryl H says:

    I think the pig is my totem animal. No joke. Pork Belly = Bliss and Harmony w/ the universe!

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