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Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

spiky-purple-tulip

Like a lot of readers, I have a stack or two (or five) of unread books around the house at any given time. They are library books, advance copies for my review gig, gifts or loans from friends, books I’ve bought but haven’t picked up yet. And some of them tend to linger for months.

About three weeks into quarantine, when I was really missing the library, I decided to tackle one book from these stacks every week. I bought or borrowed all these books because I thought I’d enjoy them, and now that I’m not able to browse the shelves at the library, I can give them some attention.

I started with Ivan Doig’s wry, wonderful novel The Whistling Season, and moved on to a comics collection my guy had lent me. I tried a book of poetry (which did not stick, for now), and am slowly making my way through A Fine Romance, an illustrated travelogue my friend Kate sent me. I have been loving Mardy Murie’s memoir of her life in Alaska, Two in the Far North, and am hoping to find some other gems in the stacks as I keep going.

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This is good for my wallet, since I am just as tempted as usual to buy stacks of books from my favorite indie bookstores. It’s good for my brain, which relishes different kinds of books, and is particularly craving absorbing nonfiction right now. And it’s good for my sense of accomplishment – no small thing in these strange days.

What (and how) are you reading these days?

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tulips-pot-red

When the quarantine orders came down in mid-March, I thought: at least I’ll still be able to run. 

I kept running, mostly as usual – even a little more than usual – for five weeks, except when it poured rain. (Thank goodness for online yoga.) I live in a neighborhood with lots of public space: the Harborwalk, several parks and the East Boston Greenway. I love a three- or four-mile run through these spaces, and I was enjoying the chance to run nearly every day. Until my body mounted a serious protest to those weeks of working on a hard kitchen chair.

I panicked. Then I paid attention. Then I bought a foam roller and took nearly a week off running and did a lot of resting and stretching. The past week or two, I’ve mostly been back to running, though I’m taking breaks to walk more often, and sometimes shortening the distance.

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After several days of feeling good, I was expecting to go on a longer run this bright morning, but I woke up with tired muscles from last night’s long walk. So instead of the planned four-ish miles, I took a slow walk/jog down the hill, through the shipyard, down the pier and back, through the park. It wasn’t the longer run I had hoped for, but it had sunshine and movement and flowers, and it felt good to get out and move. I followed it up with some yoga, which was just what I needed.

I’m slowly learning to trust my body: though I’ve done yoga for years, running has both helped and forced me to inhabit these bones, muscles and tendons in a new way. I am learning to pay attention when my body says stop or wait or maybe not today. And I’m also looking forward to the day – maybe tomorrow, maybe next week – when she whispers Yeah. Let’s go. 

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Hello, friends. Happy Monday, and happy May.

I’m writing to you from my kitchen floor, where I sometimes sit for a bit these days to give myself a break from the kitchen table. (A couple of weeks ago, I started having serious soreness and muscle tightness – at least partly caused by weeks of sitting on a hard chair.)

I was a bit burned out after 30 straight days of posting stories from quarantine, but I’d like to keep creating and sharing with you during May. To that end: daily tulips, and a daily thought, at least on the weekdays.

It is tulip season in Boston (hallelujah), and I’ve been snapping and sending daily blooms to a friend in California (hi Allison!) who loves them as much as I do. Both the parks around town and my neighborhood are full of glorious, nodding beauties, and I want to share them with you. (I may switch to #dailylilacs or something if we run out of tulips.)

Today’s thought, like so many of mine right now, is related to connection. In this extended time of social distancing, I have been missing time with my people, though I still get to hug my guy, thank goodness. Several friends of mine are feeling the same way: those with kids/partners at home need some additional adult interaction, and those of us who live alone are dying for face-to-face connection, period.

As we head into the next phase of whatever-this-new-normal-is, I’ve got to make some shifts: I can’t count on one person for everything, nor can I spend all day, every day, alone with my own thoughts. We are all taking calculated risks, even if they’re small, and I need some of mine to include community.

So last week I took a (distanced) walk with a girlfriend, and made plans to check in regularly with another on the phone. I FaceTimed a friend from high school, and took a long, glorious Sunday afternoon ramble with a local friend. We stopped by Downeast to buy some cider, and we waved at a few folks I know. It might not be magic, but it’s helping.

My therapist expressed it well: how can I sprinkle in moments of being seen throughout the week? As we head into May, I’m keeping that in mind: how to seek out that space for connection, and create it for others.

Where are you this week, friends? I’d love to know. I’ll be back tomorrow, with more tulips.

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In these strange days of mostly working and interacting from home, I’ve been getting used to lots of Zoom calls.

I expected that, of course: we’ve moved our weekly team meetings online, and we’ve had at least one bigger departmental meeting and tried a couple of virtual happy hours. I’ve interviewed a few students and faculty for stories via Zoom (though sometimes regular old phone calls are easier). I’m also taking Zoom exercise classes regularly, and I’ve used it and other, similar platforms (like FaceTime) to catch up with friends, family, my boss and even my therapist.

Like so much of life under quarantine, it is similar but not the same. I like seeing my colleagues’ and friends’ faces, and it’s been fun to get a peek into everyone’s living spaces (and sometimes wave hello to their children or cats). I’ve been doing most of my calls either from my kitchen table or the bar cart that is serving as my makeshift standing desk. And here’s one thing I didn’t expect: they are exhausting.

There’s a human energy that comes from face-to-face interactions, whether it’s your best friend, the bank teller, or a work acquaintance. It’s really hard to recreate that dynamic over video, not to mention the vagaries of unreliable signals and dropped calls. It’s also hard to feel like I must be extremely focused the whole time – rather than shifting my attention out the window or to my notepad/laptop for a few seconds, the way I would do in a “normal” meeting. After one Zoom call, I’m wiped out; after two, I am done.

I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to connect in different ways, especially now – I’ve loved FaceTiming my friends in England and California, and the family Zoom calls have been sweet and hilarious. But it’s an adjustment, like so many things right now. And I need to go stare out the window (or take a walk) afterwards.

How are you adjusting to this new videoconferencing life?

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bookstore lenox interior shelves

One thing I miss, in this strange time of restricted movement: popping into my favorite shops (and restaurants).

A couple of my faves, like my beloved florist and the best taqueria in Maverick Square, have simply closed down for the duration. There’s not much I can do except look forward to the day when I can visit them again. (You can bet I’ll be hugging my florist, when it’s safe to do so.) But there are a few other small businesses I’m supporting with my dollars, during this crazy time. Here’s a list, in case you’re in need of books or tea or stationery, or other fun things, and have a bit of cash to spare.

  • Trident, Brookline Booksmith and the Harvard Book Store are my three favorite indie bookshops in Boston, and they’re all still operating online. (Trident’s cafe is still open, too, if you’re local.) If you’re a book lover, please support an indie bookstore during this time – they are such centers of creativity and joy, and they really need the cash flow.
  • My two favorite yoga/fitness studios, The Point EB and Savin Hill Fitness, are offering online classes via Zoom. They’re super reasonable – Savin Hill even offers one free class each day – and the instructors are great.
  • Mem Tea Imports, based in Somerville, is still shipping their delicious teas. I stocked up in mid-March, and I’m sure I’ll be making another order soon. They always stick an extra sample or two in each order.
  • I ordered some fun quarantine correspondence cards from 1canoe2, a small stationery business I’ve loved for years. They are hilarious and cute.
  • Jenny at Carrot Top Paper Shop is still bringing the cheer, even drawing some of her heroines wearing masks. Love love love.
  • Marathon Sports, my favorite Boston-based running store, is still shipping online orders. They’ve provided me with new running shoes and a much-needed foam roller since this all started.

What are some favorite small businesses you’re supporting right now?

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“By the way, that reminds me – I found a grey hair this morning – my very first,” said Mrs. Blythe.

“I have noticed that grey hair for some time, Mrs. Dr. dear, but I did not speak of it. Thought I to myself, ‘She has enough to bear.’ But now that you have discovered it let me remind you that grey hairs are honourable.”

—L.M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside

I started noticing my own grey hairs a few years ago, soon after my first layoff and the protracted job hunt that followed. First I found one, then three; then a handful more sprouted all at once and I stopped counting. My greys still amount to only a few silver threads here and there, which periodically turn pink when I re-dye my hair.

When the quarantine orders first came down, I remember texting a friend some version of “We’ll all get through this” (which I have repeated many times since, to myself and others). “Yes,” she responded, “with a few more greys!”

Sure enough, I’ve seen quite a few new silver strands pop up in the mirror lately. You can see several of them in the photo above, along with a rare red-lipstick day.

For now, I’m (mostly) choosing to agree with Susan Baker, the Blythes’ cook-housekeeper and voice of wisdom, speaking to Anne above. Grey hairs are honorable, and if their presence means I’m enduring this pandemic – and am linked in some way to the brave women of Ingleside – well, then so be it. I’ll wear them proudly.

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One of the strange gifts of this time in quarantine is the chance to reconnect with friends I haven’t talked to in a while. I’ve had several phone chats, FaceTime dates and Instagram exchanges with girlfriends from college, and am texting with my best friend from high school more regularly. And last month, I spoke to my friend Brent for his coronavirus podcast, You and Me and Everyone We Know.

Brent and I were part of the same friend group in college, and we followed each other’s blogs as I went back to Oxford and he went to the Peace Corps, and then I moved to Boston (after another stint in Abilene) and he found his way to Minneapolis, where he lives now with his husband and their kids. We keep up on Instagram, but hadn’t actually spoken in years. It was such a treat to catch up a bit and hear his warm, kind voice.

The episode I’m on includes two other conversations: one with Brent’s younger sister, Macey, and one with his friend Kedrin. Brent and I talked running, isolation in a one-bedroom apartment, social distancing with friends at the park, the approach of spring, and more. You can listen on his website, on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts. Enjoy!

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