1. Long Shadows
A moment before sunset, the sun hangs at just the right position to cast long shadows of trees across fields and roads. Before the rich hues of purples and pinks splash across the horizon, the once-blue sky transforms into the kind of gold I imagine paves heaven’s streets. I love to take walks during this perfect hour, yet even when I am driving I find myself caught up in the way the long shadows dance across my car windows in an exchange of black, gold, gray, yellow, and some fleeting shades of green and blue. It’s the calm before the storm, the underappreciated work going unnoticed in the shadow of its sunset successor — and it reminds me to always be thankful for the present while looking forward to what’s coming next.
2. Rocking Chairs
There’s something about slowly swaying back-n-forth on a porch that brings things into perspective. Whether it’s a solitary morning when I’m wrapped in a blanket with coffee mug in hand, or a mid-summer’s evening with friends —fireflies decorating a dusty evening with golden flecks of light — rocking chairs stop the world for moment enough to breathe deep. Rocking chairs create space for meditation and prayer, for sweet conversation and laughter. The rocking chair symbolizes slowing down in a place where there’s movement without actually having to go anywhere. This, to me, is dwelling. A place to be still, yet make progress. I’ve spent a lot of time in rocking chairs lately: in the mountains and on the beach, at restaurants and friends houses, even on my own balcony. Every time, I come away with a fresh revelation and a full heart. And an empty mug once filled with hot, mint tea.
3. The Kitchen Bar
My family has a home in Winter Park, Colorado called the Fritz Lodge, named for my great-grandfather. This cozy mountain cabin has a kitchen bar made to fit about four to five people comfortably. At any time you may find 10+ people gathered around sitting on barstools, standing, leaning, even plopping right on the countertop. If the granite could talk (and, boy, would we be in some kind of trouble if it did), it would tell stories of New Year’s nights and Christmas mornings, sibling rivalries, college weekends, new babies, and old friends — all between servings of sizzling bacon, Greek salad with my grandmother’s dressing, pizza from Hernando’s, and the many champagne toasts celebrating engagements, business endeavors, and surviving another year. We’ve laughed, cried, and worked through the real pain of life around this bar. Every time I stand there, I am reminded of the gratitude that exudes from that countertop, the countless friends and family members who have come and gone, and the way this bar feeds my stomach and soul.
4. The Perfect Summer Playlist
I have long desired to be the person who creates soundtracks for movies. Since I can’t actually do that, I create soundtracks for my life. Lord Huron, Sleeping at Last, and Vampire Weekend: a few of the bands making the soundtrack to road trips, beach days, cook outs, picnics, long evenings in rocking chairs, and times when I really need to get writing. If Bon Iver created a Spaghetti Western, it would be Lord Huron’s Lonesome Dreams album. I’ve been tuning into Sleeping at Last for years, but the latest rolling release of the Atlas EPs has captivated me all over again, and inspires me to create. If you want to be taken to the streets of Europe with a baguette in your bicycle basket, stream Vampire Weekend’s latest album – but be sure you pair it with a gyro and your bestie.
5. Love Stories
In an age of instant gratification and a time where nothing seems to last, I am fascinated with love stories weaving a heart narrative of couples and best friends who have seen dark hours and long nights, yet stuck together for morning’s light. I’ve always been one to ask couples how they met, how he proposed, who cooks, and my favorite “when did you know” question. Lately, I’ve been extra taken with the stories reaching back 50, 60, even 70 years — and how rare these beautiful stories are. We live in a culture simultaneously obsessed with youth and modernity alongside maturity and antiquity. We want the latter, but we want it right away (hence DIY tips on distressed wood or crackle paint filling Pinterest boards everywhere). Infatuation is easy, true love takes work. Relationships that have seen it all — the sickness and health, the richer and poorer — those are the ones with the greatest value, and only time and selfless love can create something so beautiful.
Carrie Hokanson is a silver-lining realist, both dreamer and doer. A writer from Houston, Texas, she’s a threadbare traveler who’s been around the world and back again, making jokes and telling stories along the way. She also believes in giving a voice to those who have been silenced. Check out her blog here and stay tuned for the upcoming launch of her latest project, The Heart Narrative.