The past couple of months have been filled with travel. Not international. Domestic. But travel, just the same. This week, I’ve finally had a moment to step back and reflect on all of my recent travels (personal and professional).
I finished off the summer by spending a beautiful Labor Day weekend on the beach of St. Simon’s Island with my family. The island is a familiar one that my family and I visited annually when I was growing up. It had been about 5 years since my return and the familiar smell and taste of southern salt did not disappoint. There’s something about returning to your roots that causes you to pause and reflect. The weekend was filled with salt in our mouths. My tastebuds were deliciously satiated by the sea. Oysters paired with white wine slid down my thoat like an ocean’s night swim. Crab bisque warmed my belly when the rain decided to spoil our sunshine day. The sea remained constant and I was home. Each night, we’d sip martinis and laugh as the cotton candy sky dipped into the chocolate night. Every day was memorable—especially the time I was given to sing, love on my nieces, and family. Salt of the earth. That’s the south. Sweet and salty all wrapped up into one. The weekend flew by, but my heart and soul were satisfied—straight to the core. The taste of east coast salt had begun. Next stop, Virginia.
I soon arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia. And though this isn’t a city along the seashore, it is on the east just the same. And there’s something about the area that is salt in my veins. My grandfather was born in Gordonsville, Virginia—about 10 miles from Charlottesville. Meetings for work took me there, but the heart of family was what spoke to my heart. History. Horses. Mountains. Countryside. At every turn, there was a memory. One evening was spent with my distant cousin and author, Barclay. He and I shared commentaries of ancestors past and the liveliness of their lives. Through differences, one thing that they all had in common was their joy for life and the courage to truly grab life by the mane and ride through it. Bedside moments at the local historic plantation, Clifton Inn, welcomed me with a hot shower and warm robe on a rainy night. Hot breakfast in the morning as I looked over the fresh dew perched atop the meadow, reminded me of the goodness that is found in home—even a home I’d never spent more than a few days. My heart jumped into my surroundings full force, as it did with the salt in the ocean. As I drove away, I peered into more of my story unfolding. And it was only beginning—taking me north.
I soon found myself along the banks of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A place where the Mayflower arrived and the deepest and oldest parts of American history began. As I walked down to the beach for my culinary experience along the seashore, my feet dug deep into the sand. It was if they were telling me not to depart—to soak in the moment I was in. The pull into the earth forced me to look up and look around. The waves lapped upon the seashore. The sun painted hues of pink and purple across the evening sky as it began to set. The faint sounds of laughter and conversation could be heard in the distance from the nearby Chatham Bars Inn, as well as on the beach. The dampness in the air mixed with salt filled my lungs and quieted my mind. My heart was full, but my stomach was famished—ready for the delights ahead. Fortunately, as I reached the table full of strangers, soon to become family, my wine glass was immediately filled with Flowers Pinot Noir. The taste of the earth filled my mouth and soon the sea would join it—mussels and peppers and a butter sauce that was unbeatable. As the sun set, candles were lit and thankfulness filled the night sky. I continued up the stairs to meet my friend for the rest of the evening. Manhattans, old fashioneds, and wine flowed freely.
The following day, we boarded the ferry to Nantucket and set our sites on the surroundings of this aristocratic island. Our afternoon lunch at CRU overlooked the sea. Oysters filled our mouths as we watched sailboats succumb to the dancing of the sea. We decided to make our way to Cisco Brewers and see what brews they had to offer the island and southern ladies, such as ourselves. The tour was informative and the pours were heavy. From wine to whiskey, we tasted it all. But the best surprise was when I turned around and home had come to me. Amongst all the northerners, I spotted my favorite Charleston, SC culinary establishment—a 167 Raw table—covered in oysters. As I chatted with the gentlemen at the table, they spoke of my family and of Charleston and their love for the south. Once again, I was home.
As I’ve now returned to Nashville (for the moment) before I head to the sea again next week, I can’t help but think of how the east and the coast and salt have such an impact on my being. Like an ocean wave, travel along the east coast has caught me by surprise and yet given me a sense of familiarity as well. And I am reminded again of the elements found only in the heart and I’m thankful for the ones I carry.