these days

lunarbabboon comic 'thINK'comic by Lunarbaboon

this winter break has given me the amazing gift of time. large swathes of it, largely uninterrupted, for reading and thinking and inspiration in its gentlest form. it’s also brought the seasonal jealousy of being bystander to happy families and cozy homes, friends’ and strangers’ alike… but that comes with the territory, every year. i’m getting more used to it, and better at wading through it.

so i refocus my attention as best i can to what i have and realize i have a lot of good work to do—catching up with myself, my thoughts, and what matters.

here is what i’ve been tucking into:

 

The New York Times’ Year in Pictures

i always hesitate with these, because i know clicking through will be painful. beauty always pushes right up against the horrific. but this year i’m glad i let myself be assaulted by the images. to feel every bundle of confusing, contradictory emotions that came with them. what an overwhelming year on this earth.

 

Mothering My Dying Friend

absolutely beautiful writing. the subject of enduring friendship has been on my mind lately, especially as i track like a spectator all the ways our lives have been changing, all the reasons we have for not staying.

 

The Friend

i promise i’m not seeking these pieces out like a morbid article hound. they are finding me — and helping me understand what it means to stare loss straight in the face.  to understand writing as an act of healing.

 

12 Signs You Accomplished More Than You Think You Did This Year

i usually go on autopilot when asked to take stock of my personal growth. ‘not much has changed,’ i’ll say. i’m still single, still living here, still working on this, still dealing with that.  but i’m ready to give myself a little more credit this year.  part of this season of hibernation and introspection has been realizing how powerfully i’ve changed, and how little of it i have yet recognized in myself.

 

…and some snippets of affirmation from around the instagram world:

Brene Brown The magic is in the mess

Brené Brown
Our City Lights
Momastery

’tis the season for imposed expectations of cheer and warmth and unfettered celebration. it’s nice to know there are big voices out there advocating for a reality that is more complicated than that.

the guest house

photo-10

here we are, at the last of november.  wrapped in bed, with the window cracked just a little bit, so i can feel the new winter wind come in, imagine i can smell the coming rain.

at the edge of this holiday season, i find myself wondering at so many different things. this is the time of year i lose my friends to their families, and i lose myself to mine.  every once in a while, it catches me: delight at the thought of a pretty new cake recipe, excitement over the perfect present idea, images of baking up a cozy dinner for everyone and settling in for the night, candles lit, twinkly lights twinkling, heater turned on full blast.  but then i remember: come mid-december, my friends will quietly scatter, houses will empty out, and it’ll just be me. the sense of home i made for myself will dismantle, like it does every year, because the truth is, it’s a mock-up.  a stand-in.

i have a family, they have a house, and  it’s not half-bad.  nice, even.  but it’s not home. and i have to return to it this time every year.

there is a lot of guilt mixed in with this grief. can’t i make the best of it? is it even really so bad? what do i know.  in the absence of others, this poem has been a comforting voice.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi
   translation by Coleman Barks

of sea and sky

over here, we’re riding that wonderfully hopeful transition of winter into spring. every few days the skies cloud over and the air stays cool and gray, but it’s never too long before a new wind blows through, bringing fresh warmth and delicious sunlight.

until spring shines through in all its most vivid hues, i’m finding myself dreaming in shades of blue – the color of these cool mornings and mild days.

 

tuxedo ruffle curtains at urban outfitters

 

 

linen “bardot” dress at talbots

 

 

“curve” teapot with mesh infuser
(at places like stash tea, paper source, and amazon)


 

clothbound penguin classics, covers designed by coralie bickford-smith

 

 

latte bowls at anthropologie

 

 

capri blue jar candle in volcano at anthropologie

 

 

japanese washi tape at urban scarlet

 

 

painted dot airgo chair at pbteen

 

 

“jubilant” – fine art photograph on etsy

for now, a book

it was perhaps not the worst year in my recorded history, but the job that brought on such bottled-up strife and which frustrated so many of my sweetest plans is quite over now. i really didn’t mean to be so vague when i alluded to it that one time; i meant to explain it all much sooner – but that’s what that was all about. i am unemployed free.

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it will take some time yet to figure out for myself exactly what went wrong and where this leaves me. in the meantime, i have a lot of things i have spent the last year longing to have to myself – time; my thoughts; and today, the house. i already spent a glorious afternoon yesterday sitting underneath an umbrella in the backyard reading reading reading, only coming into the house to bring out a lunch of leftover pasta and top up my glass of ginger beer.
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(ok, ok, it was actually a glass of ginger beer and rum. details.)

i have a growing list of things i’d like to reacquaint myself with now that i have the time and the peace of mind. it makes sense that reading was the one item i chose to start with: heading on back to the ballet studio requires some physical stamina i do not have enough of yet; calling up old friends takes a bit of emotional muscle; but picking out a book from the bookshelf is and has always been effortless.

i went to a used book store and found just the story i wanted to get into: atonement by ian mcewan. i had watched the movie and it had stilled me to the core, not just because of the story it told, but because the way it was shot was simply stunning. every scene was so gorgeously, deliberately composed. and when i turned open the cover to read through the pages of my new-old book, i found the words to be no less striking – so perfectly chosen and deftly placed among each other, so clearly the work of a writer who knew exactly what he was doing. in lieu of my own self-assured steps, i will enjoy the sound of his.

delicious

i spend a lot of time complaining about my job. i whine. i mutter. i grit my teeth and say mean things in my head. but one thing i get to do at my job that i really quite relish is read books. i canvass the internet for suggestions, compile reading lists in my excel spreadsheet, make morning trips to the library and check books out by the armload, and then stack the novels and picture books on my desk in the office.

and during those precious moments when i have the room to myself and there is but a slim chance that someone is going to pop in, i stop planning lessons and slide a story from the top of the stack and read – just for the pleasure of it.

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over the weekend, i stopped over at a used book store in town and picked up an old copy of james and the giant peach, “$2.50” stamped in ink on the inside cover. i had never read the story as a kid, and i’ve now only read the first 24 pages, but i know already that this is one i’ll keep close to my heart.

the edition i found had black-and-white versions of these original illustrations done by nancy ekholm burkert for the book’s first printing in 1961. little james himself, unfortunately, gets a rather disturbing rendering (don’t look too long into his black-hole eyes) but the other scenes are utterly enchanting.

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they are pen and ink drawings that have just the merest blush of color, but they are enough to bring my imagination to life – and likewise life to my imagination. what a bit of mercy on an otherwise mundane tuesday night.

{all images come from this lovely children’s illustration blog}