I love being tasked with writing about the women I love and who inspire me.
Amanda Griscom, Amanda, Mandy, Mandy Pants, Amanda Little and Sledge are the many names, nicknames and incarnations this week's muse has had during the time I've known her. We met in high school (she went to a different school), but we found each other quickly (thanks, Ricky Stokes). She was a tall drink of water, smart as a whip, passionate and fiercely hilarious. I loved her at first sight. During our New York City years, she moved in the writers/magazine circles and I in design, but we always found our way to each other again. We even became sisters-in-law when we married brothers and moved to Nashville! Although one marriage didn’t survive (mine), our loyalty and love for each other did. There are very few people that I have held so near and dear for so long. She is and has been my greatest cheerleader, and I hers. My late father adored her in a way that still moves me. It’s hard not to be totally enthralled by this lady.
Amanda just finished her second book, The Fate of Food, in which she discusses the climate change issues we are facing using fascinating and solution-based stories because she is also our planet's greatest cheerleader. This could be a dry and gloomy subject, but it isn’t with Amanda. We need more Amandas in this fight. I am so proud of her meaningful work. She also, while researching her book, started a group called Kidizenship that brings young children together to discuss how our government works. I am so proud of her and grateful for our enduring friendship.
Now I leave you to delight in her words and beauty.
What is your idea of happiness?
Deepest happiness for me is that quiet, still, completely receptive feeling you get when you inhabit a state of wonder. My kids take me there. Wilderness takes me there. Technology, science, great novels, and music and movies and art and food and travel take me there. My friends take me there. My husband and his humor take me there. I'm happiest when wonderstruck.
What trait do you most love about yourself?
I do a lot of things that scare me. There's plenty about myself I find disappointing, but I've got tenacity. I regularly, willingly, maybe obsessively, enter the discomfort zone, which pushes me to adapt and evolve.
What trait do you most love in others?
Kindness. And I totally admire people who seek and tell the truth, their truth. Finding, knowing, telling, and accepting the truth--there is no braver act.
Name one thing you're proudest of.
There is something--often a lot of things--that fascinate or excite me about everyone I meet. I'm lucky to have met people who inhabit the full spectrum of power and influence, from Barack Obama to subsistence farmers in some of the most remote regions on earth. They all light me up. I fiercely love my friends, who are also a light source, human fuel. I don't believe in gossip, or in denigrating people, because there is so damn much to learn from and love in everyone. Cultivating that ability to love people without restraint or constraints makes me feel the deepest gratitude and pride.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
She who gives light must endure the burning (a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, paraphrased).
Tell us your best beauty secret.
Sweat, laughter, meditation, and rib-sticking food.
What is your favorite thing to do when nothing is being asked of you?
What fragrance can you not live without?
Human. I like the way people inherently smell.
All photos by Heidi Ross.