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  • evanitallie

Things I Did (and Didn’t) Do This Summer (and late Spring).

In early May, I got an eyebrow piercing. I had it done at a wonderful place in downtown Durham (Clarity Piercing). I had been mulling the possibility of some sort of more than just clothes change for a long time. I thought about a tattoo, a new hair style, and different piercings, but I couldn’t quite settle on anything. When my friend Will visited last March, I talked with them about the heart of the issue, I wanted to present queerer! And with their encouragement, I made an appointment for the piercing - the earliest opening was May. As the appointment approached, I told myself that I should really think hard about it, I should find an eyebrow piercing filter on SnapChat and see how it looked, I should think about which eyebrow to pierce, but I didn’t end up doing any of this.

A woman with an eyebrow piercing and sunglasses on her head smiles for a selfie with a backdrop of a brick wall with flowers.
Can you spot the piercing?!

The appointment happened, a close friend who has their eyebrow pierced came with me, I let the piercer choose the location, and it actually didn’t really hurt. I LOVE it! As someone who has always struggled with achieving the volume of clothes and accessories that seem necessary for personal style, the constant-ness of a piercing - especially one that you actually can’t really change yourself - is perfect. Every time I see it in the mirror, I am happy. My major concerns were that my mom would be very upset and that it would impede my ability to enjoy my favorite summer activity - swimming. My mom got on board quite quickly, but not being able to submerge my head to swim - or if I did pay for it with inflammation around the piercing - was a bummer, but manageable.

I didn’t really cook. A goal for myself this summer had been to use my farm share from the Duke Campus Farm to cook more. I started off strong, for the first time in absolute ages I made a chicken dish using a lot of the cilantro that I got in an early share. I did cook bok choy and eat it with rice and baked tofu, and I did make a yummy swiss chard stir fry. But what really happened was that I kept making leafy green salads and appreciating the mix of lettuce I received, and, inspired by bountiful cucumbers and tomatoes, ate a lot of both with Kalamata olives and mini mozzarella balls (and whole wheat toast).

The big change in my food consumption was that I broke out of a longtime breakfast routine! For the past many years I have had Greek yogurt for breakfast, but this summer my interest in it started to wane. Inspired by a friend, I started making smoothies with frozen banana, frozen blueberries, sometimes spinach, and almond milk. In a testament to the effective sound proofing of the walls in my building, the neighbors haven’t complained about the noise. It is more work though, and occasionally I stop on my way to work for a breakfast burrito at the Durham Coop. I did sign up for fall farm share which should be starting soon, and I have hopes for doing some hosting this fall. I will keep working on this goal.

I did a lot of the travel. I spent Mother’s Day weekend in New York City, the following weekend in Asheville, the first weekend of June in DC, two weeks hopping between Florida and then New Jersey and then Massachusetts and then New York City, again, in July, a week in Connecticut in August, and Labor Day Weekend in Vermont. All of it was in the service of spending time with people - family and friends - whom I love, but it was also interesting to visit places - many of them deeply familiar to me - from the perspective of living in, and now being almost settled in, Durham. A pattern that emerged was that I deeply appreciated getting to be near water.

In Florida, visiting my friend near Pensacola, I got see the inter-coastal waterway and the gulf itself. In DC we went on a boozy boat cruise on the Anacostia River. Driving to DC and then up and back to Connecticut (!), I crossed the James River in Richmond, the Susquehanna in Maryland, the Delaware River, and the Hudson. My second trip to New York City was for my brother and Hannah Grace’s wedding that took place in Long Island City. The venue and the hotel were right next to the East River and the Queensboro Bridge was always in view. My aunt and I went for a run along the East River, crossing over to, and running around, Roosevelt Island. And then in Connecticut, I got to be very close to favorite water, the Long Island Sound.

I had never really thought about it before, but I have largely lived places that are near water. When I was growing up in New Jersey we never went to the Jersey shore, but the water of the Atlantic and the rivers emptying into it were always present. Houston, where I went to college is an hour from the coast, but the city is oriented around bayous. The second summer that I spent in Houston, I lived south of Rice campus and on my daily bike commute I crossed Brays Bayou. I would look down at the outlets where water entered the bayou and see catfish waiting to find something to eat, and often see Great Blue Herons. Living in Boston brought me closer to water, and although all of the place I lived felt very far from the Boston Harbor, for my first seven years I crossed the Charles River twice a day to get to my lab, and crossing the Boston University Bridge was my favorite part. Once I moved to Brookline, I no longer did this commute, but I lived right next to the Emerald Necklace which traces the Muddy River. My morning run was around this path two times. And even for those years when I was living inland, there was the drive along the Connecticut River near Hartford on the way to my boarding school, and a dam on the Timbertop campus.

My awareness of my connection to water came to a natural climax in August when I spent a week in Connecticut at the Long Island Sound. It is easy to take things that are constants of one’s life for granted, and it took me until recently to realize quite how orienting this precise water has been for my life. It is also, upon reflection, the single thing that I most closely associate with my father; him piloting his boat on the Long Island Sound, or on the mouth of the Connecticut River, was, to use a phrase he never would have used, his “happy place.”

A man wearing sunglasses piloting a boat with a railroad bridge in the background.
My father piloting his boat in the mouth of the Connecticut River.

In Durham, water feels far away, or at least not, with an exception (the retaining pond on the Duke Campus), part of the places that I routinely visit. This sense that water is part of how I understand my connection to place is something that I want to figure out for myself in Durham. There is plenty of water not that far away, the Eno River and its walking trails are very close, and I could make the effort to drive a bit further to Falls Lake. Last winter I took a wonderful bike ride on the Neuse River, and I need to get back there.

I haven’t written in a while which I think is because I’ve been a bit unsettled by all of this travel. And struggled to maintain a sense of peaceful integration of this travel with my Durham life. But, now that my travel schedule is much less hectic, I’m looking forward to re-nesting into my home - my apartment, my city, my community,


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