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.

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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.

Effulgence

chocolate avocado ice cream from New City Microcreamery, Hudson, MA

Glow place with the strung bulbs and the hexagonal tiles. All chic and fun. Toddlers sprint to too tall chairs and stumble into them. I’m an ice cream lover with a lactose problem; that’s a tragic romance right there.

But this place has a spot for me, this place with its bright lights, its effervescent warmth. A dubious but intriguing proposition of coconut milk wizardry: chocolate avocado.

Creamy brown with soft ridges, dark ravines. All the beautiful textures of a well-made ice cream. I can, in fact, taste the avocado, but it’s good, a subtle, earthy note that slowly emerges on the coattails of the rich but restrained chocolate. Not overly sweet, not dismayingly bitter.

I said it was funny how we stop asking each other the simple questions once we really get to know each other. So we sat and ate ice cream and talked about our passions.

Outside, the night air was cold, but the stars above were crystalline. Beauty in the universe coming our way.

at New City Microcreamery

Morning Musings | 10:25 AM

Today is a sweatpants and t-shirt day. Late start and a messy bun because doing up my hair was too much work for staying in. I’m staring at the fish in the tank, luminous textures flitting in place, neon blue against pebble gray. The colors of the world have bled back into my life, and I’m cautiously reaching out to touch them again.

Outside, the cold sunlight has turned the trees, the dried, crinkled leaves into earth-toned, high contrast frescoes. I’m okay with that.

My brain is back.

I know it’s not something we talk about much, or maybe we talk about it too much, know it, in the back of our heads, glossing over eyes, we forget it. Either way. I‘d like to tell you about it one day. Not today, though.

Today, I start my day at 10, plan to ramble my way to the end.

I’m not important enough to make anyone’s social media feed, I notice.

That’s okay, really. I’m happy to just be here breathing free for the first time in what feels like eternity.

2017

And so here I am. Me and a computer screen. And I’ve not much to say to you that you want to hear.

Or so I hear.

From your choices. But let’s be real. The loudest voices aren’t always the
most honest. They let you down.

And so here I am. Me and you. And all I have to say to you is

I’m glad your year was great and perfect if it really was all that
but mine was tough
rough and tumultuous
the embittered outer scrapes of a tumbled
dropped
kicked
forgotten rock
that had to go back and build
fill in the holes
and will a museum back into existence
and be very careful it didn’t become
a mausoleum.

I suspect
many of your years were much the same,
so all I’ve got to say to you is
That’s okay.

It’s part of the process. It’s living. We don’t all get to have years that blow minds away. We don’t all have days to envy.
But every moment is beautiful
and the beautiful thing is
you’ll look back and you’ll see
the pain
but also the beauty
the love and the friendship and the glorious exulting moments when you broke through a gloom so thick you thought maybe were sleeping beauty in a coffin
and you lived.

And you fucking lived.

That’s all I have to say to you.
Thank you and good night.

The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

This book. THIS BOOK. Everyone needs to read it. It’s amazing. Just actually amazing. This book speaks to the soul.

The Book of Joy, written by Douglas Abrams as a record of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, explores joy, the cultivation of joy, and the relationship between joy and suffering. I picked it up at the recommendation of one of my professors. As someone who has struggled with happiness, I found this book really resonated with me. There was so much that I read and went “yup, I know how that feels” or “yeah, that roughly sketches a pattern that occurred in my life.” And wonderfully, I related to their suggestions for ways forward, their approaches to generating positivity in a too-often negative world.

I also appreciated that The Book of Joy is not pretentious, as perhaps one might be inclined to fear. As the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu say through Abrams in the prologue, “You don’t need to believe us. Indeed, nothing we say should be taken as an article of faith. We are sharing what two friends, from very different worlds, have witnessed and learned in our long lives.” The Book of Joy does not aspire to tell you how to think or live; it does not claim to have all the answers. It wouldn’t translate very well to an inspirational TED Talk or smartly written blog post or clever YouTube video about 10 Ways You Can Increase Your Happiness TODAY! Rather, The Book of Joy invites you to think for yourself and consider the ideas presented and hopefully to find a better way forward yourself.

So please read this book. But don’t just read it. Read it and contemplate it. Take your time with it. Marvel in it. Slow yourself down with it. It won’t entertain you like the internet will. It won’t kindle passion, anger like the news can. You won’t feel a battle cry erupt within your throat.

But you will find in this book the seeds of a better you, a happier you, a more joyful you. And the seeds of a better us, all of us. The seeds of a better humanity through better humans. The seeds of a more joyful humanity through more joyful humans.

The only remaining question will be what you want: joy or suffering.

 

 

 

Silver

The trees today are flecked with silver. Red and silver. Green and silver. Gold and silver. Tossing in the wind, raining down color on the world.

The air is warm and wet and welcoming. Vast and close at the same time. I can’t breathe enough of it in.

I’m a desperately happy Earth child today. I want to capture every moment, freeze it forever and live in it over and over. Create little dioramas of every flutter of every leaf, of every breath of damp wind. I want to bottle up the glowing gray clouds brooding cheerfully above me. I want to box up the leaf-carpeted roads, so I can take them with me, carry them around.

But I can’t. It makes me sad. That even this moment will recede into memory, nothing more than bright splashes of color and texture. A glorious painting fading in my museum mind.

So I retreat to my common abode, sitting in coffee shops, running away to large windows, tea in hand. Always carrying piles of books with me wherever I go; I need a library.

I need pages and pages and endless images. I need to stare for hours, but I can’t. Life presses on, ever on. Injecting me with happiness, recording my sad longing as footprints, disappearing with the next flow.