October 2, 2012

Bright Spots

Happy fall, says the sign at the Locktown Grange, and so say I.

Today was the kind of day when city rain soaks through your shoes, leaving your tights damp. Beating a few eggs for dinner feels like therapy. Now, zucchini is cooking on the stove, and a pot of water is set to boil. That zucchini, sizzling away in a cast iron skillet, is my bright spot today. So, too, are those eggs, soon to be scrambled, as is the scoop of ricotta that will go with the whole mess of it. Then the couch, and Parks and Recreation, and every other little joy that comes from closing the door on the wet, rain-soaked world and coming home.

These photos are from a walk I took over the weekend while I was out at my mom and step-dad’s farm. That’s a horse, up there, who lives around the corner. Leaves floated onto the blacktop every time the wind blew, and dry, brown-stalked dandelions stood by the side of the road, tall and scraggly save for the clusters of seeds, dense and puffy as cotton.

Before my walk I searched my high school bureau to find a pair of socks. Among the mismatched pajamas and flea market half-slips was, to my great delight, a note and a stack of tea bags from my beloved high school English teacher. She wrote:

How often, in a poem, do we mangle the real beauty we were moved by? How poorly in our art do we reflect our world…and yet, we cannot stop trying. We are driven to create, write, sculpt, and share our crude reproductions of the fine and perfect stuff of our lives.

They were words unearthed at just the right time. I thought about them all through my walk, looking up at the changing leaves, at the blue jay that stirred inside a thicket, and at the vast overcast sky. I hope her note might be a bright spot for you, too, whatever your (fine, crude, perfect) creation may be. It is always worth a try.

There are two tests in life, more important than any other test. On Monday morning, when you wake up, do you feel in the pit of your stomach you can’t wait to go to work? And when you’re ready to go home Friday afternoon, do you say, ‘I can’t wait to go home’? If you can say yes to both those tests, God has been good to you, don’t complain.

— Charles Schumer

September 20, 2012

Against Reflection

Have you ever stopped caring about something that used to mean the world to you? It happened to me in the spring, maybe in the early summer, and it was the weirdest thing: I stopped wanting to reflect. I know! My daily bread and butter, the very way that I approach the world, rejected! Whatever kind of seeker’s quest I had been on for the past, oh, seven years or so, I gave up, for no other reason than I was sick of myself. What had once seemed like a rich topic of investigation suddenly seemed like the most boring material on earth. Who cares why I do things the way I do or how I can do them better, what I want or what the future holds? Certainly not me!

I like to think that it began at first because I was so happy. I was so happy, in fact, and for such a long stretch, that I stopped fearing it would slip through my fingers. I stopped reflecting why it was so. So I gave up yoga (too much tuning in!), tarot (whatever!), Buddhist podcasts and all my stacks of books about a considered, conscious life (boooooring!). Turns out, I thought at the time, when you stop thinking about how to get more contentment and joy, it just appears! Maybe the secret to feeling good was to stop thinking about yourself so goddamn much?

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The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life

— William Morris