You Have to Believe We Are Magic

As the rain poured down Monday night, I felt a shade of deep, inky Blue and closed my eyes listening to Joni Mitchell…

and eating local peaches and muskmelon the next morning (the latter my accessory fruit of choice), I remembered fragments of my dream, in which I was a damsel with a dulcimer—an Appalachian dulcimer, to be precise.



On the first of September, I bought unakite at the market. Found in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, the small sign indicated this “stone of vision” would “balance emotion with spirituality.” Paying my dollar, I slipped Virginia’s state stone into my pocket; now I dream of Appalachia…


and find beauty in the weeds on my morning walks I never noticed; I have named them firecrackers, pink bells, and jupiters.

firecracker weed

pink and white bells

satellite weed

As I walk, I look up at the leaves that are beginning to change, readying for my favorite season.

My friends Annie and Andrew were over last week helping to ease the transition into fall as we grilled some of the last of the summer squash to go with raw milk cheese quesadillas and before local Moorenko’s pumpkin ice cream.

andrew pratt and annie schutte

We shared summer travels, upcoming trips, and the benefits to working long hours for companies you believe in as we dipped spoons into the carton, deciding pumpkin ice cream season had officially begun.

pumpkin ice cream

I pause to note the apples at market now,

apples at market

but remain determined to use the remaining tomatoes, especially the charming Striped Germans that remind me of rainbow hot air balloons like the one I glimpsed two Saturdays ago in my Charlottesville backyard.

rainbow balloon

striped german tomato

Colorful and unexpected, hot air balloon sightings are much like large, gnarled tomatoes—delightful and fleeting.

On the other side of the market, two little girls holding hands in black leotards and tights were eying a swaying pink tutu.

pink tutu

And I smiled to see my department colleague Z’Etoile behind a stand selling bold jewelry and printed dresses.

z'etoile imma

I left the market, picking up a dozen sticky buns from Albemarle Baking Company, and drove out toward Barboursville at the invitation of my friend Jessica Smith, who once made morse code jewelry and continues to make beautiful poetry and book artistry.

Jessica’s boyfriend Mark’s parents own a farm with old vines;

old vines

I learned this means the grapes continue to improve, but the yield grows smaller—and smaller still this year, factoring in the grapes eaten by deer unafraid of protective netting stretched across the rows.


Mark’s father surveyed the new vines, explaining the young plantings in cheerful blue grow tubes and the plans to take out the old vines.

surveying vineyard

The clear sky made for perfect picking weather; while good for crops, rain can mildew grapes. Jessica and Jonathan snipped quickly at the Chardonnay bunches that seemed to glow,

picking grapes

glowing grapes

while Lisa picked with a purpose on the other side of the row.

lisa picking

A few flats short of last year, the contents of the many containers still glistened on the back of the truck as we all took a break before pressing.

grapes on cart

Up past the wildflowers, twenty alpacas live in a barn behind the house.

little daisies

Will was a little overwhelmed,

will alpacas

and I laughed at the alpaca, meditatively chewing, similarly confused by Will’s presence.

brown alpaca

These three alpacas seemed to share secrets as they ambled to one side of the barn, reminding me of the way I silently communicate with my sisters.

three alpacas

I returned to find the group discussing Jessica’s paper hat and other matters,

crowd grapes

and Jonathan graciously let Jane peer into the wine press before we started production.

jane press

(Jessica did say we might bring significant others, and I should think Jane Austen is significant.)

jonathan zorn holding jane

While we moved the press onto the truck bed, Will decided to sample the Chardonnay grapes (the rest of us thought them delicious),

will grapes

and then we began stemming.

stemming grapes

Cranked by hand, this stemmer allows you to watch as the grapes are slightly squished and loosened from their stems. Slower is better with the stemmer, as it is with many things food-related.

stemming grapes

After stemming, the grapes go into bags placed inside the press.

grape bags

wine press

A good deal of cranking later, Mark measures the amount of alcohol

mark measuring

and Jessica helps test the pH level before the yeast is added to the final juice (Mark intended to make grappa with the pressed, stemmed remains).


And this is how Virginia wine is made—under the trees, with friends and colleagues, acknowledging that winemaking is a craft worth pursuing, come hungry deer, late summer showers, and age.

When I was younger, my favorite Silly Symphonies’ moments were the transformations of butterflies into flowers and flowers into butterflies. Perhaps it was a trick of the unakite, but I caught them at the market in transition—

butterfly flowers

before the butterflies, or birds, or piano keys had completely turned into dahlias or celosia,


the floppy, complicated stems from the Twin Oaks commune I chose for the Xanadu party Ben and I hosted Saturday night.


We celebrated Stewart and Michael’s birthdays with an angel food cake topped with roasted peaches, figs, red and white rasberries and a berry Cointreau sauce or a drizzle of honey, and belatedly nodded to Empress of Ice Cream Steph’s birthday with olive oil ice cream.

angel food cake

I cycled through three Kira costume changes, beginning with this roller disco look with puff sleeves and ending with a ruffled gown,

blonde kthread

while Dana brought electric blue eyeshadow back,

blue eyeshadow

Stewart and Steph posed as if in a Lanvin ad,

stewart and steph

and Steph worked a dramatic eye and satin sheath. (These three images courtesy of Michael.)


More magic afoot, while Olivia Newton-John serenaded in the background and Gene Kelly skirted the edges of the bizarrely wonderful cult flm, I asked guests to define their Xanadu.

Below, in the first episode of the new kthread show (that also lives in the new video tab in the menu and on, are Ben, Steph, Eric, Will, Helen, Lindsay, Walt, Scott, Michael, John, and Stewart’s personal and perhaps prophetic Xanadu wishes.

(Hat tip to Brian Oberkirch for suggesting I start vlogging already, Cameron Nordholm for convincing me to buy a nicer camcorder and appropriate peripherals, and Zadi Diaz and Steve Woolf for advice and encouragement. Production values will improve.)

Four years ago, I picked up my first camera with a separate lens and walked behind my house to shoot the first roll of film I developed in a photography lab. The most focused image on the roll was of a spider web, and kthread was born.

Tweaked, that image stills sits as the header image for this blog, my first image and continued source of inspiration.

Before I looked up and glimpsed the hot air balloon two weeks ago, I turned on my new camcorder and looked through the lens to see this spider web:

spider web

The spider’s body flashed as she continued to weave, approving the new section of kthread I intend to develop; thank you, dear readers, for reading, commenting, and visiting. Here’s to the next strands…

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