Guess.What.Day.It.Is?

camel


Notes:

Truth.

It’s the nuances of desire that hold the truth of who we are at our rawest moments.

~ Lisa Taddeo, Three Women (Simon & Schuster, July 9, 2019)


Notes:

  • And another passage by Lisa Taddeo from her new book: “I think about my mother’s sexuality and how she occasionally used it. The little things, the way she made her face up before she left the house or opened the door. To me, it always seemed a strength or a weakness, but never its own pounding heart. How wrong I was.”
  • From Amazon.com: “It thrills us and torments us. It controls our thoughts, destroys our lives, and it’s all we live for. Yet we almost never speak of it. And as a buried force in our lives, desire remains largely unexplored—until now. Over the past eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo has driven across the country six times to embed herself with ordinary women from different regions and backgrounds. The result, Three Women, is the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written and one of the most anticipated books of the year.”
  • NY Times Book Review by Toni Bentley
  • (Early Review 50 pages in: Exceptionally well written. Page turner. Raw/Emotional.)

Sunday Morning

Last year, as often happens, my mood waned with the autumn light. At work, I stared blankly at my computer, inexplicably on the verge of tears. At home, I counted the minutes until I could sleep. I still woke early, intending to read and write, but instead lay on the couch, idly thumbing at my phone. I felt numb to the world. My psychiatrist adjusted my medication and suggested I invest in a light-therapy lamp. “Winter is coming,” he said without a hint of irony…

The darkness threw me over the edge. Over the next few days, as I began a free fall into despair, I was surprised to find a quiet comfort in the birds flitting about my friend’s window. Suddenly, I grew envious of his yard, a seeming prerequisite for a feeder. Then it occurred to me: I am not the first apartment dweller with this predicament. I opened Amazon, where I’d been browsing for light-therapy lamps, and discovered feeders that could be attached to our apartment windows with suction cups. “I bought myself a Christmas present,” I told my wife when I arrived at my in-laws’ house.

When we returned to Brooklyn, a house-shaped plexiglass feeder and four pounds of Deluxe Treat birdseed were waiting…Three days later, my wife texted me a picture of a blue jay. More soon appeared. So did sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, mourning doves and a single red-bellied woodpecker. Within two weeks, I was ordering 20-pound bags of birdseed, Eastern Regional Blend, and filling the feeder’s trough daily.

Initially, it was the sheer novelty that caught my attention. My phone couldn’t compete with a woodpecker eating two feet away. Then I started to actually notice the birds, the peculiar rituals and particular charms of each species. I saw the nuthatches creeping down the window frame vertically, like awkward thieves, and dashing in for single sunflower seeds. The fat, insatiable mourning doves gorging themselves on white millet. The cardinals loitering shyly in the pear tree, waiting for them to finish.

The novelty has faded over time. But the beauty of the birds continues to draw my attention. In the tableau of blues gridded across the jay’s wing and tail, I see patterns of a Mondrian. More than once I have begun to scare away greedy doves only to stop short at the gleam of iridescent plumage. In these moments, and in the daily routine of filling the feeder with seed, I forgot my anxieties.

That something as simple as bird-watching could release me from the confines of my mind came as a surprise. When I began to struggle with depression, at an evangelical college, the faithful proffered a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” This provided exactly zero comfort. I wasn’t sure I still believed in a benevolent father. And besides, I’d seen enough dead birds in my cat’s maw to question their value in his eyes.

If the birds still don’t fill me with any divine reassurance, they provide something far more valuable: a respite, a chance to turn my attention away from myself to the grace and beauty of the world. I don’t know if God is feeding them, but I am.

~ David Michael, from “Letter of Recommendation: Bird Feeders” (NY Times, July 9, 2019)

Riding Uptown. In Soft Rain.

3:25 pm. I step out of 111 Wall Street, downtown Manhattan.
30 min to get to midtown. Tight.
Rain sprinkles.
Uber: “Car unavailable at this time.” Wow.
I walk up the block to the intersection.  Look in all directions. No cabs. Please.
Walk up another block. Nothing.
Walk across the street. Nothing.
Walk across another street, and he rounds the corner, my right arm flies up. Bam.

“525 5th please…”
He doesn’t repeat it. Did he get it?
He has no smartphone. No GPS. No smart re-routing around traffic.
24 minutes.

No radio blaring. No TV screen behind front seat shouting ads.
No water bottle or coffee cup on console.
No crucifix on thin chain hanging from rearview mirror. No patron saint. No Jesus Saves.
No pics of loved one(s) on dash.
No ring on his finger. None on his ear or his nose.
No sunglasses on visor. No eyeglasses.
No NY Post on the seat.
No box of Kleenex or NY Mets baseball cap in door pocket.
12 min and 3 miles out. [Read more…]

T.G.I.F: My body was an ark once. And you ask, would it still float?


Post title from: Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, “Other women don’t tell you,” published in Muzzle. Photo by Xenie Zasetskaya (via See More)

Lightly Child, Lightly

At Seventy-third Street I turn off Lexington and head for the Whitney, wanting a last look at a visiting collection. As I approach the museum some German Expressionist drawings in a gallery window catch my eye. I walk through the door, turn to the wall nearest me, and come face to face with two large Nolde watercolors, the famous flowers. I’ve looked often at Nolde’s flowers, but now it’s as though I am seeing them for the first time: that hot lush diffusion of his outlined, I suddenly realize, in intent. I see the burning quality of Nolde’s intention, the serious patience with which the flowers absorb him, the clear, stubborn concentration of the artist on his subject. I see it. And I think, It’s the concentration that gives the work its power. The space inside me enlarges. That rectangle of light and air inside, where thought clarifies and language grows and response is made intelligent, that famous space surrounded by loneliness, anxiety, self-pity, it opens wide as I look at Nolde’s flowers…

That space. It begins in the middle of my forehead and ends in the middle of my groin. It is, variously, as wide as my body, as narrow as a slit in a fortress wall. On days when thought flows freely or better yet clarifies with effort, it expands gloriously. On days when anxiety and self-pity crowd in, it shrinks, how fast it shrinks! When the space is wide and I occupy it fully, I taste the air, feel the light. I breathe evenly and slowly. I am peaceful and excited, beyond influence or threat. Nothing can touch me. I’m safe. I’m free. I’m thinking.

Vivian GornickFierce Attachments: A Memoir 


Notes:

  • Vivian Gornick’s book was named #1 in The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by the The New York Times (June 26, 2019. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • Fine Art: “Stillleben  – Emil Nolde, Expressionism. Watercolour, Gouache
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

#1, and belongs there.

“Where is it written that a working-class widow’s daughter should to go college?” one of my uncles said to her, drinking coffee at our kitchen table on a Saturday morning in my senior year in high school.

“Here it is written,” she had replied, tapping the table hard with her middle finger. “Right here it is written. The girl goes to college.”

“Why?” he had pursued.

“Because I say so.”

“But why? What do you think will come of it?”

“I don’t know. I only know she’s clever, she deserves an education, and she’s going to get one. This is America. The girls are not cows in the field only waiting for a bull to mate with.”

I stared at her. Where had that come from?

~ Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments: A Memoir 


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

You have to find this stuff, you have to find things, these fragments that you hold to yourself. They become like a life raft, especially as time goes on. As I’ve got older I’ve realised there is a thin line between surviving this life and going under and the things that keep you afloat are these fragments, these things that are meaningful to you. And what’s meaningful to you will be not meaningful to someone else. But whatever it is that matters to you, it doesn’t matter what it is, go and find them and find some way to hold them close to you. Go and get it. Because those are the things that keep you afloat. Whatever it is. These are the fragments I have shored against my ruins.

Michael Sheen, from “David Tennant Does A Podcast with Michael Sheen” (April 22, 2019)


Notes:

Miracle. All of it.

Some transfer of significance has occurred: I feel it, feel the air move, feel time begin to pour down a new tributary. The world adjusts itself. The doctors hold the baby up over the screen so that I can see her. She is livid and blue and her face is a rictus of shock and fear. I recognise her immediately from the scan. Only I knew the secret of her tranquillity, the floating world of her gestation. She is borne off to the far side of the room, away from me, and as if she were a light I fall deeper into shadow the further away she goes. The midwives crowd around her. I lose sight of her but her cries reach me like messages. Presently she emerges clothed and wrapped in a blanket. Her father takes her and holds her. His offers of friendship must suffice, must compensate for her lack of proper passage, for the clock of experience has started ticking and won’t wait for me. Her life has begun.

~ Rachel Cusk, ”A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother


Notes:

  • Rachel Cusk’s book was named #16 in The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by the The New York Times (June 26, 2019)
  • Post inspired by: “The boys don’t wear mittens anymore. Their feet are much bigger than mine… But I still miss their baby feet, and their patter, and the piffle of childhood. I reel at a baby’s cry. I swoon at strollers. I don’t understand why all the love songs aren’t about babies. ~ Jill Lepore, “The Lingering of Loss” in The New Yorker (July 1, 2019) (Thank you Sawsan)
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Photo – Hand-in-Hand by J’ ose
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