Croissants and Siberia

It wasn’t enough that they’re paying me to fly upside down in planes, bounce along in a big rig down rows of sugar beet plants and fly over my handlebars while mountain biking. Okay that’s actually more than enough and all I could’ve dreamed of in landing my first big girl journalism gig.

But see, somehow I still want more. While I am at work writing about coffee shop owners crooning after hours in nun habits or covering a court case about a spurned lover and his descent into madness, I can’t help but think about baking pan au chocolat and croissants this weekend and becoming the next Julia Child.

Or I find myself casually looking up rates to attend the Iditarod and as an aside learning to become a sled dog musher. Do I have enough time in life to learn to mush sled-dogs, get adequately good at it and enter The Last Great Race? Maybe I only have time to cover it as a journalist? I suddenly wonder about taking time off, spending upwards of 15G’s and fulfilling a lifetime dream while dressed in furs worthy of a Russian czar.

And speaking of Russia, why haven’t I ridden the Trans-Siberian Railway yet? Why, why, why, why, why? I mean, all fanciful, croissant loving girls-about-town surely fantasize about steaming ahead through wintery Siberia in a historic train-car. That can’t just be me right?

I won’t wax poetic on how I have wanted wild and outlandish things my whole life, how as a child I gave serious thought to the logistics of digging my own swimming hole in our backyard, until I broke ground, saw a worm and ran. Or mused about whether I could actually jump a train, from the tracks nearby. The way I saw it I probably would’ve befriended a wolf while singing hobo hymns with a snappy if not disheveled gentleman who’d teach me railroad wisdom and share his canned beans.

Honestly if I had a nickel for every time I dreamt about croissants and the Trans-Siberian, I could’ve paid for both tickets to France and Russia easy peasy. If I expanded that notion and had a nickel for every time I’ve thought about fancy bakery and riding the rails in general, well I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation with you, because I’d be too busy tending to my grape vineyard/snooty sandwich empire in Italy and flitting to Switzerland at a moment’s notice with my husband the mustache twirler and cigar smoker.

Ah, but to dream. It is sincerely my favorite pastime. I dabble with my wild fancies so much so, that I oftentimes have sleeping dreams of places I’ve never been, doing things that only Peter Pan can do—ahem don’t you fly in your dreams—and sometimes I even howl out and thrash like a wild thing, because some otherworldly figure is trying to swoop me out of my boat and take me to his underground lair. My boyfriend becomes nearly jarred right out of his drawers when I do that and shakes me awake informing me that I was having a nightmare.

I shrug and say, “not really, though it was alarming and he almost got me.” And then I casually try and go back to bed while he looks at me suspiciously, while eyeballing my neck for suspicious marks that indicate some sort of possession.

All fanciful dreaming aside, those of you who have followed my journey as Adventuredame, know how seriously I take adventurous living, but I am in my 30’s now and it was time to become a grown-up professional. Naturally Cassandcastle the Dreamer was an obvious choice to encompass my new decade of life. As if I ever do become too old to be a dreamer well then someone or something has taken over my mind and I am not to be trusted.

This was really all to say, I am still here just more sophisticated and thirty-like. Except 30-year-old me still wants to stuff her face full of Parisian-esque sweets—although Parisians would surely turn down their noses at face-stuffing, so I promise to be more dignified when I go there—and run away on the rails.

So I guess I am not more professional, dignified or sophisticated. But I still want you all to be in the loop when I run away with my mustachioed love—for the record my love really does have a fabulous mustache that he refuses to twirl, but lets me twirl when I have a hankering—and start a bread and chocolate shop while contemplating buying a team of sled dogs.

xo

-Cassandcastle

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Eyes on the Mountains (Part 1)

I used to fancy myself a city girl. I sat in my humble house in the country, located in a small farm town in Lower Michigan and dreamed of getting out. I envisioned bigger and better. To me bigger and better was New York City. I watched When Harry Met Sally as a teen, and seeing Sally aimlessly walk through Central Park with Harry, or drag her Christmas tree down twinkly streets was so picturesque and vastly different from Fowlerville, Michigan that I latched onto that place and vowed to get there.

All my thoughts orbited around New York City. How to get there, how to make it there, how to have what Sally had. So easy and simple. She moved there as a hopeful writer and voila, she was a writer. She had this friend that kept coming back to her and he fell in love with her. She watched Casablanca and had lunches at the Boathouse with her girlfriends, while bemoaning men.

I moved to New York City, fresh with my newly minted writing degree, down ninety-two pounds from working my arse off on The Biggest Loser and ready to take on the city streets, writing and love with all my know-how from When Harry Met Sally. Imagine my surprise and dismay when the only jobs I could find were waitressing and Starbucks. The only men looking my way were gay (fabulous, but not interested in any sort of lip-locks) and the city streets, while magical in their own right, were also fraught with a lot of trash and noise, making me realize that maybe making it there wasn’t like the movies at all.

I am sure a lot of people could’ve told me that. And there’s a reason Frank Sinatra croons, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!” This is true. NYC is not for the faint of heart. I don’t believe myself to be faint of heart, but I think I gave a lot of credence to my city love (based on a movie and a couple class trips to Chicago as a youngster) and zero credence to my country love.

I was having the worst anxiety of my life while living in New York City. While she was a dreamy place full of fantastic culture, art, cupcakes, architecture and wonder, I felt closed in and manic. I never slept while I lived there. This isn’t one of my dramatic exaggerations. I really didn’t sleep; at least not at night. I had insomnia that wouldn’t go away and I utilized this the best I could by training for my first marathon in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning in bed, fitful with worry and damp with sweat.

I lived in Brooklyn Heights and I would leave my apartment in the middle of the night and start running: across the Brooklyn Bridge, weaving through Manhattan’s skyscrapers, past policemen milling about, fishermen fishing off the pier, kids skateboarding, and the homeless sleeping against fence-enclosed graveyards. And then I would run back and sit on a bench looking at the sun coming up across the Manhattan skyline while rats scurried beneath my feet. I would amble home, shower and lay in bed in utter exhaustion until eventually I dozed somewhere around five, or sometimes as late as seven.

I remember talking to my friend once as I walked to work in the Village, telling her that maybe I overestimated how much of a city girl I was and underestimated how much of a country girl I was. This troubled me, because I wondered how I could be so wrong about a place I had planned on loving for over a decade.

A need for nature kept hounding me, a need to escape to somewhere quiet where I could gather my thoughts, which were as rampant and erratic as the New York City rats. I would look at the skyline and wish it were mountains. I wanted all the hustle and bustle to be forest-still silence. I wanted the murky concrete puddles to be cloud reflected lakes.

My mom blamed all of this on a love who had recently broken my heart and then up and moved to Alaska while I headed for the big city. She thought the reason I saw mountains instead of skyscrapers was because of him. And that the whole heartbreak thing was ill-timing, ruining my NYC experience. And maybe to a certain extent it was. But I think it was more than that.

I think the mountains were in me long before that love came along and broke my heart, long before I saw When Harry Met Sally, and perhaps long before I even knew which way to go.

When things began to promptly fall apart in NYC, around the time I was due to fly back to the Midwest for my marathon, I didn’t much feel like going back. I was in between apartments and without a place to live. I was sleeping in a hostel in the fetal position and sniveling, wondering how in God’s name Madonna had done it, and starting to unravel in a most disheartening way. I would wander into churches and cry alone in a back pew. Or find parks to sit and do yoga-style breathing techniques and then get mad when I heard an ambulance blare on by.

When I told my mom after my marathon that I couldn’t go back, I just couldn’t, she seemed distressed, thinking I was giving up on my dream and that I had to just stick it out—the anxiety and insomnia and noise. My mom wasn’t being pushy, she was being supportive of how bad I had wanted this one dream.

I couldn’t do it though. I loved New York City and truly always will, but I knew what I needed and it wasn’t skyscrapers and bustling streets. In fact a guy I had started dating around this time took me out one day when I was visiting a friend in Maryland. I was still living in New York and was wildly shaken up. He asked if I wanted to go see Washington D.C. and I all but screamed, no! I didn’t want to be in the city. I didn’t want to hear traffic or see people. I wanted him to take me into the country. “Where?” he asked. I told him where the pumpkins and apples grow.

It may have come as a shock to everyone who knew me and knew how badly I wanted the city-girl life when I abandoned ship and ended up moving to Virginia. Granted I was living outside of Washington D.C. in an urban metropolis about as busy as NYC, but I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t care where we lived as long as I had a view of the mountains and easy access to them. Suddenly the mountains became my new focal point.

They were my obsession and I wanted my eyes on them at all times. On my way to work they were on my left; on my way home, on my right. I wanted to talk about them constantly and found myself in a continuing state of awe over their grandeur. I must admit not many people in Virginia seemed to share my amazement. I got a lot of people giving the Blue Ridge Mountains the ol’ brush off and saying, well have you seen the ones out West? I had not, but I thought it was a little disrespectful to discount mountains right in front of us, for even bigger ones far, far away. Clearly these people weren’t mountain lovers.

And with my eyes on the mountains I started rerouting my belief system. About what I really wanted and questioning where I really belonged. I considered that maybe I belonged in Virginia because I had fallen in love with her and the man that lived there. And yet… there was still a displaced restlessness deep down that haunted me. It didn’t keep me up quite as badly as it had in New York, but it was there lurking in the shadows all the time.

To be continued…