Patagonia, February 2015
My shoe wears a blister on one of my winter feet and Sam notices the slight limp. I tuck a leaf into my heel, a trick that sometimes work. He laughs and thinks (I think): you. But the autumn leaf I found is too brittle. I look up and see its spring sisters emerging. I think (I know): it's too soon to go sock-less. Remember, next year, wait until the leaves are out.
Sam takes a shoe off on the sidewalk, removes one sock and I slide it on. Happy one-year anniversary.
I was walking near the lake last weekend when a woman stopped me for directions. "Which way is the church?" she asked. I asked her if she was attending a wedding. A friend of ours was attending one nearby, I knew.
"No, a funeral. The other end of life, I'm afraid."
Sam has a line he uses, a line I like: "Life. It's just so . . . linear." But, really, it's all much more like the above. Up and down and around and back from where we came.
Sunday bloody mary,
Sunday conveys leisure as an adjective. Happy Easter Sunday.
Today: I thought about hiking a segment of the Appalachian Trail and getting a second bachelor's degree; I ditched my bike to read the Dalai Lama's autobiography on the train; I had two cookies for dinner instead of cooking.
Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who have never lived, as strangers you never met.
The usual I we are given has all the tidy containment of the kind of character the realist novel specializes in and none of the porousness of our waking moment, the loose threads, the strange dreams, the forgettings and misrememberings, the portions of a life lived through others' stories, the incoherence and inconsistency, the pantheon of dei ex machina and companionability of ghosts. There are other ways of telling.
-Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby, p. 248
- Keep pancake mix in your pantry for days like this. I've been making the recipe from Megan Gordon's Whole-Grain Mornings—enough for four batches. We rarely have milk, but yogurt or nut milk do just fine as a replacement.
- Limit your cleaning supplies to an all-purpose cleaner, a glass cleaner, and some baking soda. If you make your own supplies, tape the recipe to the outside of the bottle (because you're never going to remember where you put it, otherwise). Along with a few brushes and cloths, place everything in a bucket—and keep it there. Tote around for easy cleaning. Voilà.
- Don't just assume that your tile grout is black, because it just might be white.
What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
–John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
You're either going to be miserable and go jump off a bridge, or you gotta embrace it.
–Taxi driver from last night
Dear loved ones,
2014 began with a trying, cold winter—in an old apartment whose radiators sang like birds. Sam and I traveled to the California desert to escape. Then we married in the spring on my parents' farm in Missouri. Friends and family made trips from Chicago and Germany and Panama and elsewhere to celebrate around a meal, and then a dance floor, and then a bonfire. We moved a week later into a little rental house in Logan Square with a porch and a yard. Sam practiced banjo to such an extent that I was constantly humming tunes of gun fights, drowning women, hunting groundhogs, and the like. He developed an obsession with waves—a joke among our friends—and perfected his coffee. I learned about herbalism and aromatherapy; spent days in the yard and nights designing a new independent magazine; and didn't read as much as I'd wanted. We felt overwhelmed by life and work, and frustrated with the city. We questioned staying in Chicago long-term in hope of gaining a quieter existence.
Then we traveled to Iceland for two weeks in the fall, and I visited Oregon and New York to see a few of my favorite people in two of my favorite places. The weather cooled and we both became busy with work. I designed an exhibition catalogue and Sam brewed the late shift. We joked about become professional hobbyists. We felt happy and fulfilled and productive. We loved Chicago. We loved our friends. We loved our family. It was a good, hard, important year.
Wishing you love and light and growth,
HYPOTHETICAL NEW YEAR LETTER FOR 2016:
Gah, 2015 was THE BEST. (I'm writing this from ______—can you believe it?—a surprise trip from Sam!) I read 50 books and learned conversational Spanish. Sam and I trekked 100 miles in Patagonia and I felt strong with my yoga-toned arms and bicycle-toned legs. I was very thoughtful—remembered everyone's birthdays, wrote thank yous, and always brought a hostess gift. I often woke early to meditate and work on projects. I spent less time at work, and with my extra hours—wow!—was able to (re)learn how to knit, crochet, and weave. Sam became an excellent banjo player.
We fermented and preserved throughout the growing season and I became more of an intuitive cook. With our help, the yard became more beautiful than ever, and our friends gathered there on the weekends—there was so much love and laughter. I finished my courses in herbalism and gardening, and felt great about my contributions to the community and to the world.
I kept things busy but took things slow. I paid attention. I created—not for an end, but for the exploration. Oh, and Sam was awesome. This year was awesome.