On my 30th birthday, I took my first and only solo vacation—a few days in Elk, a little town up the coast of California. I stayed in a whimsical cottage with wooden angels on the walls and a cherub fountain in the garden. I walked on the beach every morning. At night I’d build a fire in the little fireplace and read. Away from everything, I had the stillness of mind to read poetry. I sketched, which I hadn’t done for years, buying oil pastels and a sketchbook, and sitting on the headlands trying to capture the exact blue-green-gray of the ocean. I wrote in my journal. I took luxurious baths in the soaking tub. Since I was staying midweek, as the days went on, the inn emptied out. One morning when I was the only person staying, I got a piece of French apple pie instead of the usual scone or muffin delivered in my breakfast basket. Magical.
Besides poetry and drawing, I had another subject on my mind. A few days earlier, a coworker and I had met for lunch, and over tacos we’d confessed that we were attracted to each other. Wary of an office romance, we decided to think about it before dating.
It didn’t take me long to decide. If an uncomfortable situation developed, I reasoned, I could always find another job. I liked this guy enough to risk it. I thought about him as sat on the tiny deck looking out at the Pacific.
A few years later, that man and I got married. We spent part of our honeymoon in Elk, at the same inn, though in a bigger cottage perched at the verge of the cliff overlooking the ocean, a place awash in light and the sound of the waves crashing below. We came back for our first anniversary too.
On one of those trips to Elk, I bought this hat woven of ribbon on a rough framework (straw? Jute?) and trimmed with a spray of artificial flowers--one of several hats I've bought on vacations. Because it had an elastic chin strap to hold it in place, I’d sometimes wear it driving in my convertible on slow city streets.
To me, this hat has always had a 1920s vibe, so I paired it with a retro dress and wore it to the local ukulele festival. Here I am, about to join the others in my ukulele club on stage.
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Ann Hillesland writes fiction and nonfiction and collects hats. In this blog she vows to wear (not just model, but wear out of the house) every one of her hats, blogging about their histories and their meanings for her.