Thursday, March 26, 2015
Saturday, March 21, 2015
While visiting Tree Fall today we were essentially accosted by a small, middle-aged, very enthusiastic woman, apparently a docent for this particular work of art. As we walked in the door she immediately began to joyfully push other artworks in the park on us.
Do you have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure? You've seen Wood Line? You know about the eucalyptus overtaking the cypress? Of course, you must have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure. And you know about Spire? The For-Site Foundation video? Yes, we have seen it. I offer an inauthentic smile. Young trees will eventually obscure the sculpture. You have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure, right? Okay. Okay. Just let your eyes adjust. I love when you walk in and can't see anything at all and then your eyes adjust and it's like, wow.
But I saw Tree Fall clearly when I walked into the space. It didn't seem at all dark to me. My eyes did not need to adjust. I strain to smile again, looking up at the tree and wondering if she will leave us alone with the art, at all. Ever?
Next she pulls out a large hardcover book and begins rapidly turning pages and recounting all she believes to be highlights of the creation of Tree Fall. There were 40 volunteers! This is his daughter. They mixed clay with hair and straw. She points up. Here's a piece of straw!
Then she begins promoting the Presidio in general. There are these great talks on Thursday evenings, she gushes. There's a play they talked about recently, what was it...Ondine! My husband thinks he knows the play and asks if Ondine is a mermaid. No! Definitely not. She lives in the water, but she is -not- a mermaid. Okay. The play will take place beside the ocean, at the Sutro Baths. Outside! At night! It might be cold, but...
I decide this is her time, not mine. I look into her eyes. She's so excited. She cannot wait to see this play. I forget about Andy Goldsworthy and Tree Fall and leave with a vision of Ondine spotlit in the night fog.
Lithograph of Carlotta Grisi in the Pas de l'ombre from the original production of Ondine, ou La naïade at Her Maejesty's Theatre. London, 1843.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Space to Think, 2015
Have you ever gotten into your third or fourth reading of a poem and realized, although you liked it enough to return to it, you never really understood it, and your returns might not have been for pleasure, but for understanding? And as you continued reading and felt yourself slide into that perfectly shaped space the poet carved out of this world for you, did part of you rejoice in it being precisely what was meant to happen, while another part sunk down deep, dwelling on how close you came to missing it?
Monday, February 16, 2015
Blood Orange Valentine, 2015
When somebody loves you
It's no good unless he loves you
All the way
Apparently, when I was two years old, I liked to sing this Frank Sinatra song in the car, especially belting out the line All the way. I'm not sure if I actually remember singing it, the three lines above do feel familiar, or if it's just the story of my singing that I recall.
I still feel the same way about that line. The All the way part of love, it is very important.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
I found this leaf on page 36 of Memory Won't Save Me: a haibun by Mimi White. I don't recall placing the leaf there. The receipt was still in the back of the book. I bought it on November 5, 2013, 2:55 PM, at RiverRun Bookstore during my first and only trip to Portsmouth, NH. Rachael had written about Mimi White in September of the same year. She began with, "Mimi White's poems quiet me." Beneath the name of the store, address, and phone number on the receipt it reads, "Home of the Brave!" I really liked that little store. And now we have almost moved through January 2015. The sunlight has moved off the oranges and lemons, leaving them less enchanting than they were just moments before. Time...
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
A Place in the Country, 2015
Lately, I have found myself copying passage after passage of W.G. Sebald's work into my notebooks. First, from his novel, The Rings of Saturn, and most recently from his book of essays about place, memory, and creativity, A Place in the Country. Some of the passages I've copied from A Place in the Country are Sebald's own writing and some are the words of the creative minds that helped shape his work.
He drags me down and through what sometimes seems the worst of human existence and then lifts me up into some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read, leaving me feeling as Sally felt about Harry in the end of When Harry Met Sally, during that final New Year's Eve scene. Just when Sebald carries me to the point of feeling I must put the book down for a while, if not for good, he'll throw something like this out there.
There can scarcely be a brighter eulogy than Heinrich’s funeral oration for his young cousin Anna, who passed away long before her time. When the carpenter is rubbing down her newly finished coffin with pumice, Heinrich recalls, it becomes “as white as snow, and only the very faintest reddish touch of the fir shone through, giving the tint of apple blossom. It looked far more beautiful and dignified than if it had been painted, gilded, or even brass-bound. At the head, the carpenter had according to custom constructed an opening with a sliding cover through which the face could be seen until the coffin was lowered into the grave; now there still had to be set in a pane of glass which had been forgotten, and I rowed home to get one. I knew that on top of a cupboard there lay a small old picture frame from which the picture had long since disappeared. I took the glass that had been forgotten, placed it carefully in the boat, and rowed back. The carpenter was roaming about a little in the woods looking for hazelnuts; meanwhile, I tested the pane of glass, and when I found that it fitted the opening, I dipped it in the clear stream, for it was covered with dust, and clouded, and with care I succeeded in washing it without breaking it on the stones. Then I lifted it and let the clear water run off it, and when I held up the shining glass high against the sun and looked through it, I saw three boy-angels making music; the middle one was holding a sheet of music and singing, the other two were playing old-fashioned violins, and they were all looking upward in joy and devotion; but the vision was so thinly and delicately transparent that I did not know whether it was hovering in the rays of the sun, in the glass, or merely in my imagination. When I moved the glass, the angels instantly vanished, until suddenly, turning the glass another way, I saw them again. Since then I have been told that copperplate engravings or drawings which have lain undisturbed for a great many years behind glass communicate themselves to the glass during these years, in the dark nights, and leave behind upon it something like a reflected image.”
And he makes it impossible for me to put the book down and leaves me wondering if I will ever find another who sees the world quite the way he does.
In the passage above, from A Place in the Country, Sebald quotes a character Gottfried Keller created for his 1855 novel, Der grüne Heinrich.
Friday, January 9, 2015
Or Tea, 2014
"I will cast this shadow into the air, where it may never be seen, or where it may be seen at a great distance, and only by one person, someone I will never know. The point is to cast the shadow out into the air."
Excerpt from How I Get to Write by Roxana Robinson
I saw a notification that someone named Sarah pinned my Woolgathering by Patti Smith photograph from Instagram onto one of her Pinterest boards. I clicked on "Sarah" to open her Pinterest profile and see, Sarah who? Oh, Sarah from Edge of Evening blog. Yes, she's written many literary posts I've enjoyed. I notice her "cook" board. Tasty. I see something called Jacked-Up Banana Bread. I'm intrigued. I'm already following her "writers" board, but as happens when one gets into such a hopping mood, I begin scanning all of her past "writers" pins. I see Michael Ondaatje, Marilynne Robinson, Mavis Gallant, and all the way at the bottom I find this little treasure from The New Yorker. I read it (read, not scan), every word, and I wonder if I have read it before. I believe I have. No matter. If I have read it, fine, it was clearly time for me to read it again. And I think, all time online is not lost, there is much to glean, and I might start drinking instant coffee.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Proof Copy, 2014
I recall my long exhale after releasing a certain post into the world earlier this year. What would follow was still unknown.
There have been friends and family who have read After the Sour Lemon Moon and shared their thoughts about the story with me. There are those who quietly peruse this blog that have purchased my book, curious to see how I would write in book form. And there are the people who stumbled upon a book by an unfamiliar author and decided to take a chance, open that first page, and enter Sophia's world.
You have all made me very happy.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Day Seven, 2014
There is a clarity that reveals itself when I am alone for an extended period of time. It's like shaking the sand out of a blanket after a day at the beach, so all that is left is the blanket itself.
I recently saw Marilynne Robinson interviewed. She spoke of editing and how she had little need for it. She rarely changes what she writes. She nails it on her first pass. I knew in that moment that my process had nothing in common with hers. Her blankets are always clean. And I don't think this is something that might change for me after years of practice. It's not just my writing, it's my entire life, unlike Marilynne Robinson, I never begin clean. All of my starts are covered in sand.
It's taken me ten days of being alone to remember what clarity feels like. My decisions are less hurried. Priorities seem to sort themselves. Nothing important is missed.
This was what it was like when I lived alone. I never understood why my boyfriend at the time had to keep such a tight to-do list (or why he was so specific about the way each piece of his clothing should be folded). I felt what needed to get done got done. It happened naturally. Why fret? Why feel that weight of the dreaded list? He lived alone too. Apparently, we were very different.
I've found living together often means carrying around a sandy blanket. I get distracted by the presence of another. Some of those distractions are pesky, but most are good distractions that add layers to my life. I see and do things I might have otherwise missed. It's messier, but my life gains dimension.
But this does not mean I should forgo the one solo trip I take each year. Every year I get attached to the way things are. I think, I don't really need to go anywhere by myself. I spend enough time alone writing. But I'm wrong and I'm thankful to share my life with someone who cares about what's best for me and tells me to go off on my own and uncover that true self, who isn't really so far away, and bring her back home.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Last night, deep into twilight, I was walking along the shoreline. It was very near dark and I thought of how I always tell Chris that I don't like walking over sand in the dark, how holes could get camouflaged and lead to twisted ankles, or worse. As I looked down, unable to see much of the sand or the steps I was taking, I realized I am less careful when I'm alone.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Salsa in Green Bowl, Upper Left, 2014
Have you read Laurie Colwin's essay, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant? I have, multiple times, and I just heard it read in a late September episode of Selected Shorts from PRI, the Next Stop, Greenwich Village episode.
"People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam."
I love this essay. I listened while eating breakfast, a simple and lovely plate of food I posted on Instagram. My photo showed an apple, a few pieces of sharp cheddar cheese, and a long slice of bread neatly cut in half. What I did not post was the last of the bag of Tostitos and the salsa that I ate after I finished the lovely plate of food, when I was still hungry.
It was perfect timing, listening to Laurie Colwin reminisce about washing arugula in her bathtub, eating the same toasted cheese dinner for six months, and her failed beef fondue, laughing at herself as I laughed at myself and finished off the tortilla chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
When I was younger I wasn't really aware of good light, no more than aligning my beach towel with the sun for the best tan.
It has me thinking of this song. I thought it was new, not from 1973.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
Friday, October 10, 2014
My View, 2014
I sit here in this large empty restaurant, contentedly eating my bowl of fruit and looking out at the bay.
A man with greasy hair and excellent posture walks in and sits down at the table directly across from mine, his back to the bay. He looks into my eyes while purposefully arranging on his table, a small paperback copy of Irrational Man beside a paper cup and a rumpled brown bag from another eating establishment.
Leaning back in his chair and crossing his right leg over his left, he opens his book and bites into his pain au chocolat. No one seems to mind.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
I'm sitting here inhaling the crazy delicious scent of the almond cake I have baking in the oven. I listened to a Dorothy Parker episode of Selected Shorts while pulling it all together. Earlier today I read two essays from Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and Lena Dunham's excerpt from her new book in The New Yorker.
I've been reading and writing and listening and thinking all day. A little baking too. It is and isn't as luxurious as one might think. Too much time wandering around in one's own mind is dangerous, yet so often where I find myself.
Yesterday, like Monday and Tuesday, was incredibly different from today, but I did make a point of visiting Browser Books to see if they had Dunham's new book. I wanted to buy it. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone.
I decide to read a few pages before bringing it up to the register. I don't love it. I'm not even sure I like it. It makes me uncomfortable. Part of me still wants to buy it, the part of me that hopes I’ll absorb a tiny percentage of what makes everyone love her so much. I leave the bookstore with Joan Didion instead.
I wake up today haunted by Dunham. I listen to her chat with Terry Gross. As mentioned, I read the excerpt from her book in The New Yorker. It's long for online reading, but I don't even pause. She can write. I consider buying the audio version of her book. She reads it herself. Finally, I request her book from the library. I simply don’t want to miss out. I would be missing out if I didn’t read it, right?
What is my problem? I like her, but maybe I selfishly want her to be different. I don’t want her to do things she’ll regret. I want her to stay away from crappy people. I want her to like herself more. I want to protect her in some way.
Dorothy Parker and Joan Didion certainly make people uncomfortable. What's the difference? Well, Dorothy Parker died a long time ago, she's beyond protection, and there's something about Joan Didion that makes me think she'd give me a sharp little slap in the face if I said I wanted to protect her.
Dunham's life is really none of my business, but she’s made it my business, she’s made it everyone’s business. Is there anyone who hasn’t talked about Lena Dunham this week?
Strangely, my feelings for this person I do not even know are awkward and stressful, but I’m realizing they shouldn’t be. She’s found a way to charm people by sharing her foibles, mistakes, and humiliations in a way that makes her feel better about them and leaves us all wanting to give her a big fat hug. Maybe I will buy the audio book and cancel my library request. Maybe I'll listen and read. I don't know. Maybe I’m the one who needs protecting.
Monday, September 22, 2014
"But we continued to talk, concluding that if wilderness was a state of mind--a perceived rather than actual condition of the environment--why not write a history of the wilderness idea?"
-Roderick Nash thinking back to the autumn of 1960 in his Preface to the Third Edition
I saw a reference to this book in the latest Orion. I'm just at the beginning, very intrigued by the author's original inspiration.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Have you ever felt off kilter, searching, hoping to put yourself back on track and feel at ease again, when you stumble upon the perfect something? For me it's often something I read, but it can also be a memory, a photograph, or passing a contented old man on the sidewalk. I'm sure you have your own collection.
Today I found a quote from Marilynne Robinson's novel, Housekeeping, at the top of an article in The Atlantic. I read it, paused, looked up, saw the few wonky little ceramic pieces I made as a young girl resting in my bay window, and I was again in upright position, restored.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Off the Shelf, 2014
I was flipping through a magazine today, came across an article titled On Privacy, and just stopped and stared at the title, for a long time. I'm not sure if I was originally questioning the meaning of the word privacy, trying to figure out what privacy means to me, or wondering how privacy fits into our culture today, but soon all of these questions were darting about in my mind at once.
So much has changed so rapidly. What we can do with our phones, all we've so quickly learned to take for granted. It's mind boggling.
I know some of it is beneficial, but at what cost? What have we lost?
I cannot stop thinking about Mildred's parlor walls in Fahrenheit 451, her way of distracting herself from the outside world and engaging with others at the same time, all in the privacy of her living room.
Then I think of what I always think of when I'm feeling overwhelmed, the simple mud cabin in The Temptation of Saint Anthony, the pitcher, loaf of black bread, and knife, the description of the sky as the sun sinks. I think of Saint Anthony sitting cross-legged and weaving mats. Flaubert took thirty years to write this book and I think it's time I read it again. In solitude, Saint Anthony does have to deal with his demons and his doubt, but isn't that as it should be?
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I bought Teju Cole's Open City after reading this blog post and finding out he had a fondness for Michael Ondaatje. What has lingered with me most is the end of the main character's visit to the American Folk Art Museum.
I lost all track of time before these images, fell deep into their world, as if all the time between them and me had somehow vanished, so that when the guard came up to me to say the museum was closing, I forgot how to speak and simply looked at him. When I eventually walked down the stairs and out of the museum, it was with the feeling of someone who had returned to the earth from a great distance.I love that.
I honestly do not recall how I learned of Stoner by John Williams, but I do know it was mentioned by someone online. Thank you, mystery reader*. I borrowed Stoner from the library. It is one of those heavy books worth the weight. It left me contemplating my life, and all of the lives that have touched mine. There is a quote in the introduction (read after the book, as always...) from an interview with the author that I've been thinking about. Williams is disenchanted with the way literature is taught.
"as if a novel or poem is something to be studied and understood rather than experienced."I'm with Williams on this one.
I found Rachel Zucker's The Pedestrians on the poetry table in Point Reyes Books. I almost always find something appealing in their little poetry section. The Pedestrians was published by Wave Books, and after reading Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, & Honey (Thanks, Shari), I had good feelings about Wave Books. Standing beside the poetry table, in a sort of up-for-anything mood, I opened The Pedestrians to the first entry in the fables section, jumped to the center of the page and read:
"Yes," she thought, through the haze of jet lag," there should be no limits placed on the value of a very fine cheese."I decided I wanted to read more. Done. What stayed?
"The mountains looked as real as a photograph."This sentence is a door into so many conversations. The way one perceives photography is endlessly fascinating to me.
Before bed last night I was trying to decide what I would read next, Lorrie Moore's Anagrams, or Sam Shepard's Great Dream of Heaven. I'd pulled Anagrams from a pile of books someone left in the entryway of our building. A few of the tenants do this, place books on the hall table to see if another tenant might be interested. I found Great Dream of Heaven while wandering City Lights several months ago. This is the first sentence in Anagrams:
Gerarad Maines lived across the hall from a woman named Benna, who four minutes into any conversation always managed to say the word penis.Although I found this beginning sentence fairly entertaining, I decided to end my day with Sam Shepard.
What are you reading?
*Mystery solved on August 13, 2014. I learned about Stoner while reading a post about poppy seed bread. Carina mentioned being lost in a book and I had to comment and ask what book she had been lost in. Stoner was her answer.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Someone I Met Earlier This Summer, in Palm Springs, 2014
I've been thinking about a phrase my friend Tiziana mentioned in an email. She wrote this email back in April. I know I have something to say about it, but it is still percolating...
"In Italian we would say "ha un suo perché" (it is a slang that we use when something unusual has its own reason to be)."
Thursday, July 31, 2014
- not finding the "debris and organic matter" in my dried beans and breaking a tooth
- stepping on a piece of broken glass while wearing espadrilles
- getting salmonella after eating raw eggs in cookie dough and cake batter all of these years episode-free
- walking between two cars with running engines, that happen to be blocking a crosswalk, when the rear car accidentally accelerates and crushes my knees between the two cars
- losing my memory
Posted by Denise Parsons at 1:49 PM
Monday, July 28, 2014
This is the second to last printed page of Michael Whitt's book of poems, La Ventana. The copyright is 1975.
It's such a beautiful book.
I poked around a bit and found that he began a general practice of medicine in a small town in Northern California 45 years ago and has remained a country doctor, writing poems, and watching birds.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Wednesday Poems, 2014
I found this slim weathered book of poems a little over a month ago. They were published in 1974. Ten poems. No page numbers. One blank page in the front, one in the back. I like that the price printed on the back is $1.50 and I was charged $10.00.
I sat down with these poems this morning and decided I would read each one before doing anything else. They were exactly what I needed.
Later, I typed the title and author's name into Google to see if I could learn more about the poems or Robert Bly's time in Point Reyes. I wondered if he ever actually lived there. The first return was Amazon. There wasn't much there. I read the one and only customer review.
these poems didn't work for me. I found them to be depressing and odd. Anyhow, it is a nice historical piece
What you see above is precisely what I found. She didn't capitalize the first letter of the first word of the first sentence and she did not punctuate the end of the last sentence. They didn't work for her. They were depressing and odd. She found her copy to be a nice historical piece.
I decided not to look any further. I didn't need to know more. I found peace and comfort inside this pale blue cover, on these numberless pages.
Monday, June 23, 2014
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Friday, June 6, 2014
Book on Table at 2:15 pm, 2014
I cannot read two Joan Didion books in a row. She's intense, often dark, and just really reaches in and grabs hold of me. I know I'll surrender and let her take me wherever she wants me to go. It's an endeavor that requires preparation.
After some random wandering in Browser Books on May 24th I bought Play It as It Lays. On May 28th Sarah brought the Literary Mothers project to my attention. This is where I found a short essay by Ashley Farmer that confirmed it was time to get started. Still, I waited. I wasn't ready.
I woke up today, June 6th, knowing I wasn't going to finish the current book I was reading. I started Play It as It Lays with my morning cappuccino. Damn she's good.
I'm only on page 26. I skipped the introduction because it is something I decided to do a while ago, with all art and writing. If possible (sometimes you learn of a work through another person's description), I don't read or listen to what anyone else thinks of whatever work I'm about to see until I form my own opinion. After I view the paintings, sculptures, photographs, or finish the book, I might look at what's been written about the work. I might not ever look. This is what works for me.
On pages 1-25 I've been introduced to Maria (Mar-eye-a) and a few other characters, but it is clear, it is Maria she really wants me to know. I'll share a bit of evidence:
From my mother I inherited my looks and a tendency to migraine. From my father I inherited an optimism which did not leave me until recently. page 5
So that she would not have to stop for food she kept a hard-boiled egg on the passenger seat of the Corvette. She could shell and eat a hard-boiled egg at seventy miles an hour (crack it on the steering wheel, never mind salt, salt bloats, no matter what happened she remembered her body) and she drank Coca-Cola in Union 76 stations, Standard stations, Flying A's. pages 17-18
The reception room was full of glossy plants in chinoiserie pots and Maria had an abrupt conviction that the plants were consuming the oxygen she needed to breathe. page 22
See what I mean? Okay, I'll say no more. I'll share no more. You might want to read this novel yourself, without first knowing too much of what anyone else thinks of it.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Yesterday evening someone else sat in my chair at my desk. I sat on the other side, in a rarely used chair meant for guests. We worked, argued a little, pouted, listened to birds and wind, watched shadows dance, accomplished some important tasks, and then quietly walked amongst the eucalyptus trees in the dark.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Still Going, 2014
We paid $5 for these garlic scapes. We ate the bottoms and put these tops in a Mason jar over three weeks ago.
you get what you pay for (according to Wiktionary)
Monday, May 5, 2014
Thursday, May 1, 2014
tiny flower, 2014
I remember her telling me I must spend time alone each year. Not an hour or a day, but a week, or even two. It was, she told me, essential to my remaining whole, and not losing myself in a relationship. A creative person must remain an individual. She had, and believed it improved her sense of self, her relationships, and her work.
She was my tutorial instructor one semester during my MFA program. We often ended up discussing life more than work in these one-on-one courses. When making art is the work, separating work from life is difficult. One becomes the other and vice versa. So she instructed me in living an artist's life, although I believe she thought any person, man or woman, artist or not, should live this way.
When she traveled, she took the long way. She avoided airplanes and liked to drive instead, feeling every curve and bump she traversed, watching the landscape change, rolling down the windows and feeling the weather shift.
She wanted to feel the space between home and where she was going. She took the distance seriously. She believed in this ritual wholeheartedly. It was how she cleared her mind and made space for the new.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Dipping back into Greene, I've been noticing how much you can tell about a person by observing the smallest details.
Just as I had expected my new lawn-mower was wet all over: I dried it carefully and oiled the blades before I did anything else. Then I boiled myself two eggs and made a cup of tea for lunch. I had much to think about.
-Graham Greene, Travels with My Aunt
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Rose in Mailbox, 2014
Human communication, it sometimes seems to me, involves an exaggerated amount of time. How briefly and to the point people always seem to speak on the stage or on the screen, while in real life we stumble from phrase to phrase with endless repetition.
Graham Greene, Travels with My Aunt
Thursday, April 17, 2014
View from Lounge, 2014
I have decided to refer to my writing room/office as my lounge. It somehow removes pressure. The difference between saying I'm going into the office and I'm going to the lounge is immense.
You see, I sometimes need to play psychological games with myself to make things happen. It is what it is. It's like my dad says, is it really a placebo if it works?
Lounge. It's a good word. Say it. Did your mouth form a sly little Rat Pack smile? You know it did.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
It could have been better, but isn't that always the case? I just wanted something out there. A small piece of myself.
Why? Am I afraid of being forgotten? Maybe.
It was simple. Simple things speak to me. Simple isn't the problem.
Unrefined is the problem. But crude can work, on occasion. Usually not.
And I'll do it again. I know I'll do it again, and again, and again.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I've been picking up and putting down Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch for quite some time now. Although I once started and stopped Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, I decide to give his Big Sur book a look. I like the title and think I might enjoy reading about Big Sur in the 1940s.
Perhaps strangely, what I find most appealing is his epilogue. I read it word-for-word. No skimming. In short, it is about distractions and how dealing with them can become a way of life.
While living in Big Sur, Henry Miller has no email, blog, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram, but he receives letters, newspapers, books, magazines, and pamphlets by mail, three days per week. And although Big Sur is very remote at the time, he has visitors--many.
So it seems there is always something to distract, no matter place or time. He does not need the internet to get lost in consumption, know he should get to work, and look up to find the moon rising.
Despite his entertainment of distraction, the ideas continue to arrive. He jots down words or phrases to jog his memory later, but returning to those notes is always a challenge.
He plans to work at night, but then decides rising early is a better idea. When he rises early, going for a walk seems more productive. Walks always produce new ideas. After walking he looks at the beautiful day and thinks it is too beautiful a day to write something that will only leave him open to unwanted criticism. He paints instead. And what about meals and time with family. He enjoys his family. Then the mail arrives.
He considers chucking it all.
Just live. But what does that mean, to just live?
There is the pile of letters and all of the people who require his help. And the books he has not read and the places he has not yet visited. And then he hears the horn. Mail day, again.
He admits a large part of his problem is in his fondness for the act of writing letters. He thinks back to the many letters he's written, before finding himself in this predicament, selfishly awaiting a response. How wonderful it would have been, had I known it then, to write and say: "Don't bother to make an answer. I simply wanted you to know how indebted I feel to you for being alive and spreading creation."
Eventually he decides to devote himself to his works of creation. From now on I intend to devote the best hours of the day, the best part of myself, to the best that is in me. And to enjoy a few hours of leisure, to loaf in peace. No letters. He will no longer sacrifice his work, leisure, family, and friends. Yet it is clear his devotion is not complete, he is still open to a better solution being proposed. If, however, you can propose a better solution, I shall not spurn it.
He ends his epilogue in an apparent state of acceptance--walking, thinking, dreaming of the future, and enjoying the beauty of Big Sur, the place he calls home.
After writing down these notes to share with you later, knowing I have a tower of books at home, and a variety of other things requiring my attention, I decide purchasing Grace Paley's Fidelity is vitally important. Simply reading a library copy in 2012 is not enough. It is a book I need to own, now.
I'm not sure how Grace Paley popped into my mind, but I toss my pencil and notes into my tote bag and march straight to the bookstore, up the stairs to the poetry room, find the only copy of Fidelity on the shelf, and buy it.
A wave of tiredness washes over me. All of my weekend work has left me depleted. I think a walk will wake me up. So I walk. I decide to make a quick call to my father and see how he's doing. One hour and twenty minutes into my "quick" call, lost in my father's world, his phone battery dies. I start to think about dinner, tax documents, several words I want to look up in the dictionary, email, and all else waiting for me.
I sit on the sofa and write down these additional notes. I realize I am still wearing my jacket and take it off. The best hours of my day are gone.
Is this living? I think so. For now.
I look at the bold new tulips on my table, the fading ranunculus in my bay window, and smile at the good light bouncing off the windows across the street and landing in my apartment.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Berry Farm, 2013
Rusty had a few questions for me. Here are my answers.
What is your favourite journey?
Coming home, from anywhere. I love my little corner of the world.
What was your best read of the last year?
Fair Play by Tove Jansson. More on that here. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle was a close second.
If the sun is shining, where do you go?
Toward the ocean, or any nearby body of water. But that's always my answer. I gravitate toward water in rain, sleet, snow, and sunshine.
Where’s next on your ‘must visit’ list?
I'm really not sure. We've pondered so many options lately: Norway, Alaska, Greece, Brittany. I'm open to suggestions. One thing I know for sure, I'll be returning to the berry farm* above in 2014 with my husband and eating strawberry shortcake. (*May 2014 update... We visited the berry farm again. I was so excited and the shortcake was the worst. Very sad. Hopefully it will return to delicious the next time we pass by.)
What are your words to live by?
Is this really what you want to do?
Tell me a joke.
What did the grape say when the elephant stepped on it?
It gave a little wine.
If you find this concept entertaining and want to answer these questions yourself, I'd love to read the results. Link to your answers in my comments section.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Black Book, Yellow Flower, Gray Day, 2014
I was first drawn to Asunder by Shari's photograph of its cover, then by its author's Ph.D. in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows from Oxford, but now (p.16) I am most captivated by the characters and the writing.
He still occasionally dreamt of finding someone but over time had started to feel like the last remaining individual of a species, he said, a highly evolved bird with a highly evolved cry, his song unheard since he never shared it with anyone, and he'd started to wonder whether perhaps the right female for him had become extinct, preceding him by days, decades or centuries; anything was possible, a tragic error in chronology or biodiversity.
Chloe Aridjis, Asunder
Shari has introduced me to many books. One interesting tidbit I learned during her book series was that someone had begun reading novels on her iPhone. I found this so intriguing. I've experimented with reading a book on an iPad but didn't love it. I still read my novels in regular old physical form, but I believe I am becoming part of a smaller and smaller minority, and I'm okay with this shift. I used to believe I'd never use a digital camera and now I take all of my photographs with a phone. Never say never.
It is the reading that I find most important, the stories, not simply the physical book. I do own an iPhone now and use it more and more, and I certainly do a lot of reading on my laptop, just not novels, yet. I adore traditional books and find it difficult to imagine a world without bookstores and libraries filled with such books, but who knows how I'll be reading my novels next year. Our world changes. Sometimes we surprise ourselves. How do you read your novels?
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Owl Towel, 2013
I stumbled upon a list yesterday, 10 Simple Things to Make You Happier at Home. It was one of those moments when I couldn't stop opening new tabs. Anyway... Read the list if you like, but the main takeaway is the bit about doing dishes at the end of 5. If you can't get out of it, get into it:
Crank your favorite album at an unusually loud volume, do a couple fist-pumps while shouting "Can I get a hell yeah for the dishes? Hell! Yeah!" and pretend you love it.
Ridiculous enough to be worth a try, no? Fist-pumps and pretending. And buying an owl towel.
Monday, February 3, 2014
When I'm Alone, 2014
What are you doing?
I was taking a picture of a tangerine.
What will you do with a picture of a tangerine?
I'm not sure, maybe post it on my blog, or look back at it later to remember the light.