Even as we get ready for festivals, Fred and I are also gearing up for our annual vacation to Kiawah Island, SC. These beach trips are artistically productive for Fred - and so require arduous preparation, much like a climber about to summit Everest or a biker training for the Tour de France. He starts weeks in advance by combing through dozens of volumes to whittle his book selection to about 30. The books aren’t for reading, exactly. They’re for dipping in and out of the ocean of his imaginary landscape, kind of like the rest of us wade in the water or bask in the sun. (They are also drawn on.)

The books are packed in cardboard boxes from a long-age farmers’ market—boxes that take up approximately 1/24 of our 1,490 square foot house year round, boxes that have been saved for roughly eight years because they have very nice images of tomatoes on them and because they were inexplicably transformed on their first outing into The Boxes Fred Uses For The Beach—boxes that have been spared from repeated secret attempts, under cover of winter, to slip them unnoticed into the recycling bin. I’m pretty sure those effing boxes will cart my belongings to the nursing home.

Since Fred’s packing system is at best eclectic, the boxes are also used for other items. One year, these included, in addition to the books, scissors, shaving gel, chalk, allergy medication, and a comb. The foil container for the allergy medication ended up being used for glasses repair, an incident I prefer not to dwell on but which Fred sees as one of the great engineering marvels of the 21st century. And in addition to books, Fred also has to choose sketchbooks, select past artwork with ideas he may want to re-work, hand-tear watercolor paper in a variety of sizes and shapes, and pick out beer.

But once we get there, it’s as if our souls expand like the sea. Our toes dig in to the warm sand, and we forget about everything except the sun, and the sky, and the way the light hits the water late in the afternoon. I forget about the boxes. I forget to worry. I look at Fred, and remember how much I love him, and am grateful for what we create together every day.