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Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

tulips-public-garden

Back in early April (which feels like ages ago now), I posted a spring list. I’ve been working on it since then – so here, an update for you.

  • Bake my favorite strawberry-rhubarb crisp. I made it for a Sunday night potluck, and we all but licked the baking dish clean.

strawberry rhubarb crisp

  • Read some poetry. (Spring makes me long for Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.)
  • Watch the Masters. It was a great tournament, as always. 21-year-old Jordan Spieth blew everyone away.
  • Reread Jane of Lantern Hill, the perfect spring book. Love love love.
  • Knit something pink for my friend Abigail’s baby girl, who will arrive in May. I made her a sweet little dress.

pink sproutlette dress

  • Savor the new season of Call the Midwife. I’ve enjoyed it, though this season is heavy.
  • Go on a getaway with the hubs. We had a fabulous trip to San Diego, about which more soon.

katie jer beach san diego

  • Keep buying flowers from my local florist – tulips and daffodils, delivered with a smile. I’m in there twice a week.

tulips

  • Participate in Susannah Conway’s April Love photo challenge. I posted about a dozen photos. So fun.

Looks like the only thing I need to do is read some poetry. But that’s never a problem.

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red journal chai darwins

A good journal entry – like a good song, or sketch, or photograph – ought to break up the habitual and lift away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought to be a love letter to the world.

—Anthony Doerr, Four Seasons in Rome

As a longtime journaler (I have boxes of old journals stowed away in a closet, and a stack of more recent ones teetering on a bookshelf), this passage from Doerr’s lovely memoir positively made my heart sing.

Happy Friday, friends. Hope you have a lovely weekend.

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magnolia tree tulips pink boston spring

I loved Ali Edwards’ post last week about 39 little things she’s thankful for right now. We are in the middle of a full, messy time of year – the end of the semester is approaching and there’s a lot going on, both at work and at home.

This is, as Ali noted, one of the best times to stop and take a look around. So here’s a snapshot of my life right now, with several snippets of gratitude thrown in.

Right now – in early May 2015 – I am:

  • walking around Harvard Square on my lunch breaks, enjoying the (sometimes chilly but no longer brutal) spring air.
  • sitting on the steps of Memorial Church and watching the world go by in Harvard Yard, when it’s warm enough.
  • snapping photo after photo of flowers and blooming trees. (See above.)
  • buying tulips twice a week (one bouquet for work, one for home) from my favorite florist in Brattle Square.

tulips

  • texting a friend or two about what is saving my life, what’s driving me crazy, and everything in between.
  • looking forward to (and soon, packing for) a trip to San Diego with the hubs!
  • still eating lots of soup, but mixing in some dishes that include spring veggies.
  • wearing dresses (most of them are striped) with black leggings and my jade green coat.
  • switching between silver ballet flats, black booties and the green loafers that match said coat.
  • reading a fantastic history of the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon (out June 2), and all the cozy mysteries I can handle.
  • drinking David’s Cream of Earl Grey tea by the quart, and ginger steamers with honey and lemon from Crema (the best cure for a sore throat).

crema cup table pussy willow

  • fighting a lingering cough from that cold I caught a couple of weeks ago.
  • watching episodes of Mary Tyler Moore on some evenings, and Call the Midwife once a week.
  • blasting Taylor Swift while I cook dinner or clean.
  • celebrating my husband’s 31st birthday, which is tomorrow.
  • keeping up with the daily duties of church and work and home.
  • hanging out in the Public Garden about once a week – where the trees are blooming and the ducks are quacking up a storm.

public garden tulips may 2015

  • missing my Texas family and wondering when I can get down there next.
  • prepping for the end of the semester and the attendant Commencement craziness.
  • sorting through piles of review books, and curating a short stack of vacation reading.
  • sipping a glass of red wine (usually Cabernet) about once a week.
  • scribbling in my journal when I can.
  • stretching out at yoga class on Monday nights, and doing an occasional at-home session with the app.
  • thinking about making summer plans.

What does life look like for you right now?

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budding tree green blue sky

After what felt like the longest winter ever, the piles of dirty snow have (finally) disappeared. We’ve had quite a few brisk, chilly days and some damp, depressing gray ones, and a couple of unexpected torrential downpours. But spring is – finally! – here in Boston for real.

The trees are budding, clothed in red and white and even electric green. Last week, I was delighted to see the tulip magnolia trees burst into bloom. (I’d been watching a few of them for weeks, waiting for their lipstick-pink buds to open and reveal creamy petals.)

tulip magnolia tree

The crocuses and snowdrops are nearly done. The daffodils and the tiny blue scilla (an awful name for a lovely flower) are out in full force. I spotted a few pink hyacinth in a raised bed on Garden Street the other day. And soon, the flowerbeds in the Public Garden downtown will be a riot of tulips – my favorite. (A friend sent me a photo of the still-green buds this week, with the message, “Tulips are close to popping!”)

This is my third spring working in Cambridge, the beginning of my third year in this job, this building, this neighborhood. By now, I know not only where to find the best chai latte in Harvard Square (Darwin’s) or where to go for a French dip (Grendel’s Den), but where to find the first, faint, shy signs of spring.

I’ve built up a store of knowledge through observation on my frequent walks. And when the snow started to melt – or, let’s be honest, even before – I was watching for the crocuses to poke up through the earth. I knew exactly where to look: a triangular flowerbed in the yard of a house with a purple door. My vigilance was rewarded – those purple blooms made my day when they finally appeared.

purple crocuses flowers spring

There’s something lovely and gratifying about this ritual – a small, quiet reward of my constant attempts to pay attention to my everyday life. This time of year, you can almost see the trees budding, watch the leaves uncurling, measure the progress of a rising daffodil stem from day to day. Or – just as often – a tree or shrub will lie dormant for months, then burst into bloom overnight. In both cases, the joy is deeper, the colors brighter, if you know where to look.

red tulips flowerbed

I read a line from John O’Donohue years ago that always comes to mind in the spring: “beauty likes neglected places.” The damp earth under still-bare trees, untended corners of vacant lots – these places are splashed with new life and color, just as much as the carefully cultivated flowerbeds. Forsythia bushes are spraying their fountains of gold all over the neighborhood, seemingly out of nowhere. And even the dandelions are adding their cheerful note to spring’s symphony.

We’re not quite in the full glory of spring just yet – lots of branches are still bare, and the nights still have a nip in them. But I am savoring every bud and leaf and scrap of color. I’m giving thanks for every flower, like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. And I am watching – always watching – for more signs of spring.

How is spring showing up where you live?

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darwins chai journal scone orange cafe

A couple of months ago, Stephanie tweeted the following:

Underneath the hustle of the productivity cult, it seems to me what we’re really aching for is liturgy. Small, sacred things on repeat.

I love that definition of liturgy, and I’ve been pondering it ever since. I especially like the idea of liturgy as daily rhythm: the small routines that give shape and meaning to our days.

I’ve written before about the liturgy of dinnertime (and, more broadly, of marriage) in my life, but I started wondering where else liturgy shows up in my days. What small routines, performed over and over, pull me back to the present moment, until the act of doing them becomes a kind of prayer?

My morning tea is the first thing that came to mind. After my shower, wrapped in my robe, I walk into the kitchen and hold the red teakettle under the tap, counting to seven or eight as the water splashes in. I turn on the burner, measure looseleaf tea into my favorite cobalt blue mug (or grab a tea bag, if I’m super rushed).

tea mug scone

I move around the apartment, tending to other details of the morning, until I hear the kettle whistle and rush in to take it off the burner. I pour the tea, let it steep while I get dressed and blow-dry my hair, then sit down (if there’s time) to sip it at the dining room table, with a scone or a bowl of cereal.

Sometime during the workday, or on my lunch break, I slip away to Darwin’s for half an hour with my journal and a cup of chai. This routine, too, has its own shape: I walk in, join the line by the front counter, greet the barista and order a medium chai (sometimes adding a scone or my favorite breakfast sandwich). I snag a table if I can, or perch on a bench or barstool if I can’t, and alternate between sipping and scribbling until it’s time to go back to the office.

When I get home after work, my brain is often fried – and even in our small apartment, there are always chores to do. Often, after walking in the door and dumping my bag, the first thing I do is sort laundry or tackle a pile of dirty dishes.

It doesn’t always feel sacred, and I sometimes grumble about having to deal with all this on top of a full-time job. But making dirty things clean is satisfying, as Anne Shirley often noted. And folding the warm, dry clothes, or lining up the shining dishes in the dish rack, brings a tangible feeling of accomplishment. After a day of clicking and typing, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

I worry sometimes about getting bogged down in routine, going through the motions of my life without really paying attention. (It’s so easy to do that when I’m clicking from email to website to Word doc, all day long.) But repeating these daily acts helps ground me – even if I don’t always realize it.

I also have a few daily “liturgies” that involve other people: blowing a kiss to my husband as he leaves for work, checking in with a friend or two via text message, greeting colleagues as we start the morning. And several weekly routines also help save my life: buying fresh flowers for my desk, yoga class on Monday nights, talking to my mother on the phone.

I wonder if simply naming these liturgies, becoming more aware of them, can turn them into a source of peace, a chance to truly connect with our lives as we go about our days. I love the idea of small, sacred things on repeat as a counterbalance to the to-do list and the relentless pace of modern life. I want more of that, please.

Where do you see this kind of liturgy showing up in your life?

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yoga mat bare feet

Back in January (which feels like years ago now), I read a post on Ali Edwards’ blog about her New Year’s getaway to Cancun. It was full of gorgeous photos – Ali’s posts always are. But the thing that grabbed me was a little throwaway paragraph about yoga.

Ali linked to a yoga app she’d recently downloaded, and said, “My goal is really just to do something […] I’ve had an all-or-nothing mentality for way too long.”

I couldn’t get those two lines out of my head.

A couple of weeks later, I went back to Monday night yoga for the first time in months. And then, when the blizzards began and I couldn’t make it back to the studio, I downloaded that same yoga app. I’ve been making an effort to unroll my green yoga mat in my dining room, a couple of times a week, ever since. Just do something.

The all-or-nothing mentality is a killer, isn’t it? For so long, I thought I couldn’t do yoga (or take up any other form of exercise) unless I did it every day. I worried (sometimes still worry) that I’m not a real writer unless I write every day. After a few unhealthy meals (like Saturday’s dinner of all the fried things from the local clam shack), I sometimes start to panic that my diet is going off the rails.

And then I remember: it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A small change – even a tiny effort in the right direction – can pull me back toward balance.

I’m not doing yoga every day – not even close. The past couple of weeks, I’ve only managed my Monday night class and one short session at home. But it’s something. It feels good to make that effort. I’m not writing every single day, but I am writing most days – and that’s something, too. When I end up on the mat (or come back to the page or cook a dinner involving vegetables), I feel healthier, balanced, more whole.

Just do something. In the spirit of being gentle with myself this year, that’s what I’m going for.

Does the all-or-nothing mentality trip you up, too? What are your tricks for subverting it?

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Rhythm vs. routine

red journal chai darwins

It’s no secret: this winter has been driving me crazy. You know the salient facts: blizzards for days. Record-breaking cold temps. Snowbanks higher than my head, ice and slush on the roads, more snow (always) in the forecast. (We’re heading toward a new record for Boston’s snowiest winter ever.)

I don’t love the cold (or the high heating bills). But this stretch of weather – unpredictable, intense and requiring lots of cleanup after each storm – has seriously messed with my routine. It’s taken me – and most people I know – nearly two months to settle into a winter rhythm. (Since I work at a university, I see it with our students too: most of them didn’t have a “normal” week of classes until Week 5 of the semester.)

I’ve been thinking about rhythm versus routine. I have a lot of routines in my daily life – some seasonal, some perennial. Right now, the morning routine looks like this: hit the snooze button, hop in the shower, pull on a dress and fleece-lined tights, brew a cup of Earl Grey in my favorite blue mug.

Some routines, like that one, are most productive when they’re well honed and I don’t have to think about them. (I haven’t had the energy for overthinking lately – which isn’t entirely a bad thing.) And some habits are truly life-giving: that morning cup of tea, calling my mom once a week or so, writing every day, catching up with my husband over dinner. I draw deep nourishment from those practices.

Sometimes, though, I get bored with an unchanging routine. I’ll eat the same thing for lunch three days in a row and then crave something new, stat. I’ll drink the same tea for a week or more and then decide, inexplicably, that I want something different. (Fortunately, I always have a dozen or so options on hand.)

tea keep calm mug pei

I’m a musician. I love a good rhythm. I like a certain amount of predictability, of comfort, of knowing what’s coming at the end of the next verse (or day). But I want room for variation, syncopation, a little color or spice. I want the freedom to choose daffodils over tulips, ginger peach tea instead of chai, a new recipe instead of the same old meal (though I rely heavily on our menu of favorites).

Sometimes I try something new and fall in love (like going to the art museum on Thursdays), so it becomes a habit, part of my daily or weekly rhythm. I am thrilled to be back at Monday night yoga, where the instructor and the poses are familiar (though Meredith does vary things a bit from week to week).

But I like having the option for change. I get bored and fidgety if I feel like I have to do the same thing, in the same way, every time. Sometimes I break the routine on purpose, just to shake things up. I like to think of it as that syncopation, an extra beat (or pause) that gives my life a bit of pizzazz.

Is it just a fear of boredom, or does it go deeper than that? Is there something life-giving about rhythms, like a favorite song or a good liturgy? Is there something soul-sucking about routines, like the dullness of an automated assembly line? Or am I just quibbling over semantics?

What do you think?

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