RBG | the movie you need to see ASAP

RBG is a documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the icon, the human. And it is everything we need right now; it does what stories at their best do. It affected: emotionally, intellectually, and in some other, more subtle, more human way. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to go see it.

I laughed. I cried. I applauded. I felt such pride and inspiration. As a girl who was raised on the belief that I can do absolutely anything with my life but who has struggled so much with the emotional toll of pursuing a field still so close-minded at times about women, this movie was an absolute inspiration, a reminder that we can. A reminder that all of us, regardless of gender, can be…the best of humanity. The best. That we can strive for our dreams. That our ideals, our towering hopes need not be lost even in these trying times. I am sitting in my car as I type this, just after watching this movie, and I still feel the urge to cry: in joy, in wonder, in an overwhelming sense of emotional resonance and inspiration. The sheer conviction that things can and do improve but only if we require them to do so. Only if we give our best to the world no matter how trying it can be. I hope this movie inspires people to step up and be the best they can be, to resist the pull of an era that tells us all quietly to give up and give in. Be lawyers. Be engineers and scientists. Be artists and writers. Be business-people. Be the best you you can be. It’s worth it.

I could not have planned a more perfect, more fitting way to celebrate this fourth of July.

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rush

The wind in my hair…

The ocean looked so much better up close, tangible and vital, pulsing and lapping, crashing and dipping below my feet. Now unfathomable and a blue so dark it was almost black. Now reflective, prismatic, silver breaking and mending among diamonds of wavering navy. I hadn’t felt this happy in a while. Scrambling and awkward amongst the pitching and sandpapery roughness. An unsteadiness steadying my mind. It was a rush in my bones nobody could take from me.

Who could know from the outside which of us lives for moments spent teetering on edges?

The slaps of cold sprays reminded me of a book I’d read: “It’s a tango, don’t you find? Sometimes dramatic, sometimes quiet, but always with a few good hard slaps thrown in.1

1The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

loneliness | 8 PM & the fog

Arms draped… in the fading light. The gray hits the back of the kitchen walls and
slides down dully. Here… and then there again… waking up from a too-long
slumber of the mind.

The ocean does not end, nor does the sky begin. Somehow, the street lights still crisp on the water dance out. Seagulls smudge into the clouds.

Loneliness stifling my heart. The yellow incandescence bleeds. Heartbeat out of sync and haunted.

The road is invisible in the darkness and the fog, but we still ride it.

 

the Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

“What is it like, we wonder at each meeting, in shared meals and secrets and silences, with each touch and glance, to be you?”
~ p.29

I had not been reading the Soul of an Octopus long when I began to slip between its words into another book, floating just beneath the surface, exploring not the secret lives of octopuses but of humans from a distinctly not-human lens. It was then that I realized this book was going to be so much more than a romp through octopus-land.

Of course, the book, by its own declaration, involves much octopus-romping, great, fun octopus-romping. I learned so much about the mysterious, dazzling, fantastical eight-armed alien-wizard-shape-shifters of the oceans. I’ve never been terribly fascinated with octopuses and certainly have never wished to touch one if I met one, but this book has challenged all of that. Befriending an octopus suddenly seems intriguing, adventurous, and possibly worth the risks. That’s partly thanks to the octopus, as a collective set of creatures, for being awe-inspiring and awfully good subject material. That’s also largely thanks to Sy Montgomery, our intrepid author, for being good at writing. Through her beautiful use of language and personable narration, Montgomery takes us by the hand on a trip to the New England Aquarium and Beyond. She vividly portrays the personalities and quirks, the decisions and actions of the octopuses she meets and slips biological trivia in amongst the romping. Thus, the ordinarily dry and vibe-killing business of factual information kills no vibes. Cleverly, Montgomery structures the narrative around meeting and getting to know individual octopuses and parallels the octopuses’ arcs with the lives of the people she meets in the process. Thus, for all of the barriers separating us from octopuses (they live in water; we don’t. they have eight arms; we don’t. they have dexterous suckers; we don’t.), entering their world in the Soul of an Octopus feels easy, natural.

For me, The most fascinating, eye-opening moments were when my view as a human and as a creature on this planet were expanded simply from thinking about humans and human life from the perspective of the non-human world.

However, if all you want is a fun, engaging read to pass the nights, the Soul of an Octopus delivers; there’s adventure, emotion, humor, the mysterious and unexpected. If animals or marine biology are your thing, this book is no let-down. If you’re like me, and you enjoy thinking about everything, turning it inside out and backwards just to see what you can glean from it, then, too, this book will be a joy to read.

The octopus the Myth has served as the basis for so many creators of fantasy and science fiction creatures throughout the years. The octopus the Cephalopod, observant inhabitant of the oceans of the Earth, is just as fantastical but, amazingly, marvelously, excitingly, real. So go ahead. Add the Soul of an Octopus to your list, even if you’ll only get to it three years later (like I did 🙂 ).

Happiness/Loneliness

I am sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops watching the rain drip from the edges of an umbrella and the wooden seats of a picnic table outside. Music floats gently over the warm light of the lamps. I could sit here forever, watching the water patter down and soak the asphalt, alighting with sparkling, popping splashes on the benches and puddles. I think I could live inside this moment forever, listening to the music, thinking about a little world I have dreamed up inside my head, set to the movements of the water and the music around me.
It is a distinctly happy moment, a little vibe wriggling itself comfortably into the infinity between one second, one minute, and the next. Breathing space into a confined place. Life is so beautiful. The Earth is so beautiful. It makes me wonder why we go around hurting each other so much.
Why do we cause each other so much pain?
Why do we dwell in pain ourselves?
What is it that compels humanity to continually choose pain over happiness, to choose hurt and stress, to create these unnecessarily when none need to exist?

I know. In my less blissful moments, I know the urbane, pathetic answers to these questions. Greed, power-hunger, fear. The domino effect of one person trying to displace their pain onto another person. I know. I also know that they’re still pretty pathetic and stupid reasons.

There is a woman eating alone, and I wonder at her. I have spent so much time at coffee shops alone, and I have spent so much time at coffee shops lonely. I wonder which she is. I hope she is not lonely, though I do not bother finding out. To me, she looks lonely, slightly hunched as she is in her seat, looking about without a smile, dressed in sweatpants and a sweater. I wonder at my own aversion to just asking.
When she leaves, I wonder if I have just seen and deserted another human to their loneliness. I really hope not, but I cannot shake the feeling that I have.

There is a melancholy to rain; there is no point denying that. There is also, however, a happiness to rain, rejuvenation. A coming back to life. Plants sleepily stir from their wintry sleep. Flowers blink new-born eyes. In this gloom, there is brightness. That is also true of our lives as humans. Perhaps that yearning for happiness is why nearly every religion has a promise: that if you try to live your life to the best of your ability, you will be rewarded by a release from this pain. Perhaps, there never really is an escape from it, though. Perhaps the brightness and the gloom go hand-in-hand, inseparable, complementary. Like loneliness and belonging. Like life and death.

16 April

The rain ebbs and roars.
I stand outside my door, filling for a moment with happiness. It steals under my coat and taps my toes on the cool, playful air swirling around the raindrops. I feel hopeful. Perhaps the feelings will come back to me. Perhaps today is my day.
Hope. Happiness. The singing voice of the Universe whispering its secrets into my mind.
Rain really is such a beautiful thing. Life-giver. So is the sun, yes. But without rain, the sun is like the coils of an oven: scorching, unrelenting. Rain, also, has two sides, but I have increasingly found myself a cloudy, rainy day girl.
It’s a witchy kind of day, I’ll admit. And I have long loved the witchy ways, too.
Long, languid streams flow over my car, accentuated by great, glumping globs of water from the sky. I will forever, futilely try to photograph this laminar looping beauty.
A woman walks across the bridge holding, rather than wearing, a jacket over her head. Bright pink flashing against the gray sky.
These moments slip away from me so quickly. I used to live in them. Find them and slip inside them, hide away and explore a secret place no-one else could see.
There’s a part of me that wants to sit on the asphalt until the water has soaked my bones quite literally and the fresh, clean smell has scrubbed me and clothed me. I wonder, as I walk across the parking lot, if my boots can hold out much longer. Fresh, fleeting rivers raging around curbs wash the mud and dirt accumulated on the black exterior. Not-quite-rugged-wear boots living up to my demands.
The mustiness of a library. I yearn for tea.
The rain pounds on my car roof, and I smile. It really is my kind of day.

Good Ways to Start the Day

I get that it’s afternoon and…well… I have no excuses. It’s afternoon.

  • a crossword puzzle
  • meditate
  • yoga
  • read a bit of a fun book
  • stare out the window
  • breathe in the aroma of tea
  • or coffee
  • scrutinize other people’s cars (goes hand-in-hand with staring out the window)
  • listen to good music
  • make lunch
  • sit on the floor of the tub while the shower washes over you
  • pretend to sleep in the shower
  • don’t actually sleep in the shower
  • actually take a shower (supposedly this has the power to wake you up)
  • stare at yourself in the mirror
  • make another mug of tea
  • examine the sky for interesting cloud shapes
  • determine there are no clouds in the sky today; watch the squirrels
  • where the hell have the squirrels gone
  • appreciate the color of the sky
  • try some positive motivational messages on for size
    • believe in yourself!
    • work hard to achieve your dreams!
    • be yourself!
    • keep a positive attitude!
  • introspect
  • make another mug of tea
  • carpe diem (thank you, Dead Poets Society)

Start the day whenever you damn well please.

Spaghetti

All I wanted to do was put a pot of spaghetti on for lunch. Very doable. Very straightforward. I was pretty confident the packet of spaghetti had only one me-sized serving left in it. Turns out, I was wrong. I watched with quiet, calm panic as far too much spaghetti slid into the pot. I even tried to remedy the situation mid-slide, trying to hold some of the slender noodles back in the bag. They teetered above the pot, already 45 degrees into their slide. I’d have to destroy the noodles to get them back into the bag; I couldn’t do that. I watched as more than a serving of spaghetti swirled down into the water.

“Oh, dear,” I thought. “Oh, no.”

This was a catastrophe.

The mugs on the counter and the dishes in the sink and the wall peeking up behind the stove watched me impassively. A minor tragedy was occurring, and they couldn’t be bothered.

“Okay,” I thought. “I’ll just store some of it for dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow…at least the noodles are already cooked.”

Then, I contemplated the tendency of stored cooked pasta to get hopelessly stuck together. I turned away from the stove, figuring one tragedy was quite enough for me right then.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Moving is one of those magical experiences that eats up time like a black hole gobbling everything. Absolutely everything. Consequently, this post is a long time coming. At least, it’s longer than anticipated. I actually finished this book about two weeks ago and meant to yell from the rooftops, but the rooftops had to wait.

Many boxes and too many car rides and a few irritated cardboard box cuts later, I’m back on the roof.

Kathleen Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector is a beautifully crafted story about Grace Munroe, a young upper class Englishwoman who finds herself the recipient of an unexpected inheritance, and Eva D’Orsey, the mysterious Frenchwoman who has named Grace her sole beneficiary. Grace journeys to Paris, in disbelief at the news that a woman she does not know has left her a sizable fortune. Unwilling to blindly, mindlessly accept the money and leave, Grace seeks out anyone who might have known Eva. In a derelict perfume shop, she meets a woman, seemingly the only person left who knew Eva, and learns through three perfumes the story of a remarkable individual.

The Perfume Collector is an enchanting story containing all the crucial elements of a genuinely entertaining read: mystery, romance, glamour, tragedy. Although its reveals are perhaps not so surprising and its ending thoroughly predictable, the story itself remains compelling and marvelous because its real beauty lies in the details of the protagonists’ lives and in the development of their characters. The prose is elegant, visual and visceral, embodying the use of perfume as a narrative lens.

I loved this book for so many reasons. Of course, the writing itself. I absolutely will not slog through a blandly written story; I’ve gotten very picky. I loved the scents and visions Tessaro evoked with her narrative style. The protagonists were also marvelous. Eva is a brilliant individual whose intelligence, grit, and cleverness help her transcend the socially-constructed class and gender barriers placed around her. Grace is also intelligent; she is determined, stubborn, and inquisitive. Over the course of the story, she gains confidence, reclaims her intelligence, and discovers the thrill of autonomy. Both women transcend the societal assumptions and restrictions to live life on their own terms. The stories themes of self-actualization are uplifting and joyful, even as they underscore the not-so-joyful circumstances that must often be overcome in the process.

And yes, it’s nice to have a story where women can be fully human without it having to be a big deal (as though women being human first and female second were some sort of revelation rather than an actual, since-the-dawn-of-humanity fact) or a statement on the author’s cleverness/timeliness/genius/worthiness.

Ultimately, The Perfume Collector is a beautiful story told in vivid, gorgeous language. It is a tale of transcending challenges, reminding the reader to strive for the positive rather than wallowing in the negative.