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Posts Tagged ‘seasons’

Thirty-nine. Almost 40. I’m still amazed by that reality, especially since I sometimes feel 17 or 22 or eight years old inside. But as I say often (quoting Madeleine L’Engle), I am every age I’ve ever been.

Thirty-nine is getting up and going for a run most mornings, even when I don’t feel like it, because I know I’ll be a better person the rest of the day. Thirty-nine does her best to hydrate, moisturize, make the bed, wash the dishes – all those acts of self-care that sometimes seem boring but are actually so important. Thirty-nine does a fair bit of yoga and walking, eats a ton of yogurt and granola, drinks black tea like it’s my job, indulges in a cider once a week or so.

Thirty-nine moves more cautiously, these days, after some serious shakeups the last few years. Thirty-nine does her best to lean into the present, to be here now, living with heart and commitment, while also realizing that things can change drastically at any moment. Thirty-nine loves her current life and is starting to dream about making some changes. Thirty-nine is grateful – as a teacher of mine once said – that not only have I survived through great upheaval, but I’ve thrived.

Thirty-nine has seen her life and world shift in ways she never imagined a few years back. Some of those changes she chose and orchestrated; some came out of nowhere and left her staggering, for a while. Thirty-nine is still healing, still grieving; learning to name and acknowledge the wounds that linger longer than we think they will, while also making space for new and vivid joys.

Thirty-nine still writes for Shelf Awareness, still texts a few stalwart friends nearly every day, still loves chai from Darwin’s and flowers from Brattle Square, still reads piles of books and still needs a dose of Texas once in a while. Thirty-nine is trying, always, to live with grace and courage and wisdom. Thirty-nine knows it’s important to be both brave and kind.

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If you know me, you probably know that I usually have several books going at once: at least one for review at Shelf Awareness, a fun or meaty novel, some thoughtful nonfiction, a middle-grade or YA novel, maybe a memoir or some poetry. (These categories often overlap.)

I love reading this way: I have maintained for years that different books feed different parts of my brain. I’m a fast reader, and can blow through a medium-sized novel in a day or two if I want to. But I’ve been thinking lately about another kind of reading: the slow kind that creates space.

Earlier this summer, I picked up What Comes From Spirit, a collection of short selected pieces by Canadian Ojibway author Richard Wagamese. I’ve been lingering over it, reading a piece or two in the mornings, trying to let the words sink in before I dash off (sometimes literally) to start the day. It isn’t always Wagamese, of course: sometimes it’s Mary Oliver, or a piece from an essay collection, or flipping through a beloved book on writing.

I like taking my time with writing like this: slower and contemplative, with more spaces between the words. I am (generally) in no rush to finish these books and check them off a list; I find the slower pace helps them sink in more deeply. And it’s a nice contrast, sometimes, to racing through a fast-paced spy novel or YA romance.

Do you read books at different speeds? I’m curious to hear!

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It’s suddenly August (how??) and between work, a couple of weekend getaways and serious summer heat, here’s what’s saving my life right now:

  • Poetry Unbound. I had missed the most recent season, but am catching up, and it’s a joy to hear Padraig’s lilting Irish voice and discover new-to-me poets.
  • Daylilies, echinacea and sunflowers – it’s hot, but these beauties (like me) are hanging on.
  • The teeny tiny cherry tomatoes I’m growing on the back patio.
  • Sitting out back in the evenings with a book and some lemonade, when I can.
  • My favorite denim shorts, my trusty Allbirds sneakers and a few new tops from a friend, which amounts to a mini wardrobe refresh.
  • Lots and lots (and lots) of water.
  • Tea, always tea: MEM ginger peach, Trader Joe’s watermelon mint, the occasional iced chai.
  • Texts from a couple of lifesaving faraway friends.
  • Planning a couple of August adventures.
  • Watermelon facial mist from Trader Joe’s, which sounds ridiculous but is very refreshing.
  • Ukulele fun at my workplace: “Ode to Joy,” Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me” and assorted other tunes.
  • Fun books: rom-coms, mysteries, middle grade, a super nerdy nonfiction book about blurbs.
  • An occasional walk to the neighborhood park to watch the sunset (see above).

What’s saving your life in these deep summer days?

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We’ve arrived in mid- to late July, and thus the annual summer heat is here. June was dry but temperate this year, with most evenings falling to the 60s overnight: what my New England friends call “good sleeping weather.”

I love summer, with its fresh produce, abundant bright flowers and long, light evenings. But even for this Texas girl, a true heat wave can be rough. Here are some of the signs:

  • I’m running both box fans in my apartment 24/7, and pulling down the shades when I leave for work. At night, I turn on the tiny green fan next to my bed for an extra breeze.
  • I’m sleeping on top of the covers, and remembering childhood summer nights at Neno’s, when my sister would flop onto the bed dramatically and exclaim, “It’s too hot to live!”
  • I’m still running in the mornings (yes, I am), but I can wring out my headwrap in the bathroom sink when I get home, and a cool shower sounds quite appealing.
  • It’s iced chai weather – I’ve been frequenting Travelmug, the local coffee cart, and also getting a weekly smoothie from my friends at Eagle Hill Cafe.
  • I’m trying not to turn on the stove, except to boil water for tea, or to make that chickpea thing I’m eating almost every week lately.
  • I’m tending my cherry tomatoes (in pots, on the back patio) carefully, which right now means watering them almost every day.
  • I’m sipping Trader Joe’s limeade (in addition to lots of water) and eating raspberry sorbet in the evenings.
  • I’m strategically seeking out air-conditioning: at work, of course, but also at the yoga studio, the library, the grocery store or indoor cafes.
  • I’m trying to catch a sea breeze wherever I can: in the park, by the waterfront or even in my own backyard. It helps.
  • I am (of course) reading fun, summery books: YA and mysteries and lighthearted fiction. Preferably outdoors, and/or with a cool drink to hand.

How are you beating the heat this summer?

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Hello, friends. It is June, somehow, and the world is purple and green: tall ruffled iris, big puffball alliums, flowering catmint, leggy delphiniums. And the pink is splashing out, too: rhododendrons, fluffy peonies, bright sweet beach roses overflowing with bees.

The weather is up and down, as it often is; the headlines are heartbreaking, as they often are; and some evenings I’m so exhausted I can barely see straight. But, as always, there are a number of things saving my life in this season. Here’s my latest list:

  • Pink fluffy peonies from Trader Joe’s, in addition to the ones in my neighbors’ yards.
  • Petting Gigi, our sweet office dog, who’s always so happy to see me.
  • Jenny’s maple-pecan granola. Making it for myself, when I can, feels like the sweetest act of self-care.
  • Moisturizer, which sounds boring but is also vital self-care (see above).
  • Friends who respond to my (frantic or joyful or silly) texts, and keep me going.
  • The occasional zoom with my writing group: class is officially out for the summer, but we’re still meeting once in a while.
  • Batch after batch of Molly’s ratatouille, which is just about the only thing I want to cook/eat these days.
  • A recent adventure to Portsmouth, NH, with a girlfriend, which included trips to Book & Bar and Auspicious Brew.
  • Bike rides with my guy, including a hop down a new trail the other week.
  • Piles and piles of good books: incisive nonfiction, immersive novels, fun mysteries, joyous middle grade.

What’s saving your life, these days?

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Earlier this month, I joined a running club – the newish, informal, neighborhood group that meets at the foot of the Golden Stairs, mere yards from my house. I’d been seeing their posts on Instagram for months now, and seen them running in a pack through the neighborhood – but I’d hesitated to try it out. I usually like to run alone, plus 7 a.m. sounded a wee bit early…plus (and this is the real thing) I hate walking up to groups of strangers. I’ve never enjoyed that moment of being the odd new person, but like so many things, it’s gotten worse with two years of isolation during the pandemic.

But. It’s spring (tipping into summer this weekend, with 90-degree temps on the way). The mornings are lighter; the lilacs are blooming; the azaleas are a blaze of pink and the rhododendrons are right behind them. And in small ways, I can feel myself opening up, too: finally unclenching after months of clinging to all things safe and familiar.

Don’t get me wrong: I still need lots of nights on my couch with a book, or morning runs by myself with the Wailin’ Jennys or Martina McBride in my ears. But some things feel more possible, less scary, than they did a year ago. I’m seeing it all around me: people are traveling again, eating in restaurants and gathering with friends. I went to the movies last night for the first time in a year. It all feels like training wheels for being back in the world, a chance to try out – in a safe context – the things we used to do and the things we want to do, and decide which (if any) we’d like to keep.

Long before the pandemic, I was telling myself a story about meeting people in Boston: that it’s hard and scary and they probably won’t welcome me anyway. This was true at my first workplace here, and I’ve carried it with me, like a stone in my chest, for a decade. It has taken years to untangle that story, and the fear still rises up every so often. But the other week, I set my alarm for 6:15, ate some granola and drank a cup of tea, grabbed my keys and headed down the stairs. Just try it, I told myself. If you hate it, you never have to go back again.

Well. I didn’t hate it – as evidenced by the fact that I got up early this morning for the third Friday in a row. I ran a 5K last weekend in the sweaty, steamy heat with some of these people – and I didn’t even mind that much when I came in dead last. I’ve run into a couple folks already in the neighborhood. And most weeks, we walk to the new cafe afterward to grab coffee and chat.

It feels like community, like connection, like finding a new way to be in this neighborhood where I’ve spent three joyful and also difficult years. It feels like pushing off with those training wheels, learning to balance again. It feels – in a sneaky, surprising way – like joy.

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If they come in the night

Long ago on a night of danger and vigil
a friend said, why are you happy?
He explained (we lay together
on a cold hard floor) what prison
meant because he had done
time, and I talked of the death
of friends. Why are you happy
then, he asked, close to
angry.

I said, I like my life. If I
have to give it back, if they
take it from me, let me
not feel I wasted any, let me
not feel I forgot to love anyone
I meant to love, that I forgot
to give what I held in my hands,
that I forgot to do some little
piece of the work that wanted
to come through.

Sun and moonshine, starshine,
the muted light off the waters
of the bay at night, the white
light of the fog stealing in,
the first spears of morning
touching a face
I love. We all lose
everything. We lose
ourselves. We are lost.

Only what we manage to do
lasts, what love sculpts from us;
but what I count, my rubies, my
children, are those moments
wide open when I know clearly
who I am, who you are, what we
do, a marigold, an oakleaf, a meteor,
with all my senses hungry and filled
at once like a pitcher with light.

It has been a hard and heavy few weeks in the headlines, and this poem – found via Abby Rasminsky – made me think of Ukraine and also of my own life. I hope it moves you.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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flowers

here we are
running with the weeds
colors exaggerated
pistils wild
embarrassing the calm family flowers oh
here we are
flourishing for the field
and the name of the place
is Love

I found this poem in How to Carry Water, a robust collection of Clifton’s poems. I love its riotous exuberance, its verbs, its unapologetic flourishing. And that last line! As a flower geek and a perennial optimist, I love it all.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women of color – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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March ended up being a very full month – it included a trip out west to see dear friends in Tucson, the L.A. suburbs and (again) San Diego. Plus a hiring process for a new colleague; lots of running (still building my stamina back after having COVID); both snow and spring flowers, as is normal for March; and dinners with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Whew.

April is here now, with its blustery winds, sharp spring light and budding tulips (!), and here’s what I learned in March:

  • Sometimes granola needs an extra 10 minutes in the oven. (Jenny’s recipe is my favorite.)
  • I tried this recipe for Thai butternut squash soup – a yummy, spicy alternative to my classic one.
  • Delays can be a chance to explore – as when my Amtrak train in CA was an hour late and I wandered the main street of Moorpark. (And picked up snacks and a yummy burrito!)
  • I might be a legwarmers kind of girl after all.
  • Write it down. You’d think I’d know this, but especially at work these days, if it doesn’t get written down, it flies right out of my brain.
  • I need a bit of margin in my week – especially salient now that the pace of life is picking back up.
  • Just ask. (Still and always working on this one.)

What did you learn in March?

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A blue-walled loft bedroom in an old church converted into condos. A wide leather couch, piled with blankets, in a cramped but comfortable house. A two-level, wood-floored apartment filled with abstract art, dried rose petals, and light. And a cozy guest room in a college town that I still think of as home.

Most friendships involve a balance between space and attention, with both parties weighing the needs of the friendship against the other obligations and people in their lives. During the winter and spring leading up to my divorce, several friends gave me the gift of space in a very particular way: opening up their homes to me, whether they were physically present or not.

My essay “Space to Imagine” was published last week over at the HerStories Project! Click over there to read the rest of it, if you’d like.

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