Giving thanks

While for many of us today marks the beginning of the holiday rush, I’d like to encourage a moment to reflect, give thanks, and maybe even give back.  May I offer a little nudge towards The Citizenry for some of your holiday gifts?  Not only do they offer incredibly beautiful items that support artisan communities all over the world, but today your purchases also help support their Black Friday Fund.  All profits today — yep, all profits — go towards building schools for migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.  While their families wait to seek legal asylum in the U.S., these children have no place to learn and play.  Education is a fundamental right these children are being deprived of, and today we can do a little bit to change that.  Every $120 we spend funds a week of school for a child: a real life magic school bus mobile school providing teachers, a psychologist, uniforms, and supplies.

Here are some of my favorites to bring some warmth to you or someone you love this holiday season.  Each is handmade, beautiful, and sure to be treasured for years to come.

Paloma alpaca throw  Oro cacao cups  Cuño accent pillow  Nublado wool throw

So thankful this year for family, friends, warm fuzzy cuddles, and the beauty of sharing.

Don’t forget!  Giving Tuesday is coming in just a few days!  It is a great opportunity to support causes that lie close to our hearts.

Matter

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Bleu II, Joan Miró

Matter

 

I could really fuck myself up over a boy like you

(and by “I could” I mean “I am”)

with that slow crooked smile,

that kindness, that quick-witted humor that makes me smile

until you shatter me with silence.

Those stupid beautiful eyes twist me up, make me ache,

make we crave/need/want

as only a book-loving writer of a boy could (and can, and does).

 

A constant state of yearning is de rigueur as long as you’re here

yet not here, as present/absent as a quantum reckoning.

Oh, honey — you’ve fucked me up bad and I’m off to the races,

off-kilter, off in dreamland as I wait wait wait for you to wake up,

to love me, to make me feel like I matter, am matter, am solidly a part

of that life you keep close to the vest that I so desperately want to inhabit.

Thumb is out for this hitchhiker, this will o’ the wisp black-hole-dense dreamer

who loves you and might even gift you her smile

if you would only open your eyes.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Something green

This morning I took a bit of time to putter outside, and it was so nice to focus on green growing things.

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I am a renter, and for years I just let the gardening service take care of the (very basic) landscaping outside our house.  I figured it wasn’t “our” house, so I shouldn’t change anything or put any of my own money into plantings.  Well, over a decade later we are still in this house.  We love living here, and along the way I finally began to carve out a space of our own.

It began with a couple of tiny succulents.  I work at an archive with a large botanical garden, and the biannual plant sales became more than I could resist.  A couple tiny ones could live in a pot, I reasoned, and come with me if we moved.  Something about extra-tiny things makes them irresistible, no?  With each plant sale I added one or two more, until I had a nice little stoop  garden outside on our patio.  Then the camellia sale came around and a pair of those came home with me, plus one for my mom.  She had a glorious oasis of a garden at the time, and always loved a new plant addition.  I got a large pair of pots for the camellias, excited for the blooms that their slender stems promised.  Also one summer my mom house-sat for us and cared for the dogs while we went on vacation, and to surprise me for my birthday she got me a beautiful plumeria and refinished our hand-me-down patio chairs while we were gone.  It was such a sweet surprise, and it got me that much more excited to actually use our little outdoor space.  A few years later when she moved, I inherited some beautiful staghorn ferns, aloes, and her little camellia is reunited with her sisters.

Fast forward to now, and my little patio is full of green, growing things.  I hauled a weathered pallet left on a curb back home and have it propped up against one end of the fence, where it makes a lovely spot to hang planters.  We acquired a hammock as a lounging solution that takes up surprisingly little real estate, and it has become my older pup’s favorite spot to curl up with us and watch the world go by.  A petite pink bistro set makes me smile every time I see it, topped with my collection of little succulents and pots.  And even though life is usually hectic, every so often I’ll get to have a morning like today, where an hour can be spent re-potting, watering, puttering, tidying, and nurturing something green.  Something living.  Something thriving.  Something content with only the most basic of needs, and flowering all the same.  Somewhere in there is a lesson about stillness and contentment — but for now, I am grateful for a few moments to breathe.

The Grace Year

I preordered Kim Liggett’s new novel The Grace Year as soon as I could, and was riveted the moment I had it in hand to devour.  There is simply no other way to consume this book — heart in hand, fully devouring this tale of girlhood and womanhood.  Liggett’s speculative fiction expertly weaves a world where women have no power or agency, save the magic they must be rid of in their sixteenth year, the grace year.  the_grace_year_coverIt is a survival story, a modern fairy tale, a coming-of-age, a resistance manifesto, and a terrifying horror yarn all at the same time, deftly told and hauntingly realized.  I could not put it down.

There are so many ways that women and girls tear each other apart and lift each other up by turns, and this novel  explores those dynamics in interesting ways.  What does power come to mean when you are entirely deprived of it?  How do we define ourselves within the rhythms of family, society, friendships, and love?  What does that mean for our self-hood?  How can we push for meaningful change?  All of these are questions I turned over in my mind as this story unfolded.

Besides a fascinating macro look at a society described by some as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies, I thoroughly appreciated Liggett’s attention to small details.  The language of flowers in particular made for a beautiful leitmotif, further strengthening her world-building.  Flowers make for a common language, but they also prove to be a perfect metaphor for the girls themselves.  Fragile, beautiful, unique, prized, just as easily crushed as admired — the Grace Year girls and their story will haunt you long after Liggett’s last page.

balance point

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Paris, 2019

 

balance point

 

In some ways you are good for me
these turning twisting wider horizons
in which I can feel myself opening
broadening, stretching,
a cat just awoken.

And yet,
it pains me to be in your world and not of it
a phantom voice without sound, only words
adrift in maybes and if-onlys
hopes dashed
feelings bruised
hands bereft
of the warmth
of you.

My heart smiles and aches.
Two sides of the coin
that is loving you
from the sidelines
of your life.

They say perspective is everything.
Perhaps I feel I am haunting your margins
but in your world
I am writ large…

And yet,
there I am
falling into the trap
of maybe,
with steel jaws to crush me
if I dare hope.

I struggle in that vicious in-between.
I am too much and not enough.
You would think I could be enough, be just right —

And yet —
I am both and nothing.

If only I were to find the fulcrum,
that razor of a balance point,
I might finally
be your perfection
writ large.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Optimized?

At this point I think it is safe to say I have become a total Jia Tolentino fangirl.  (Jia, you’re amazing!)  Her articles are thought-provoking and so on-point, I can’t help but share another.

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A couple weeks ago her essay Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman was published in The Guardian, and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I highly recommend taking a few minutes out of your day to read and ruminate.

“Figuring out how to “get better” at being a woman is a ridiculous and often amoral project – a subset of the larger, equally ridiculous, equally amoral project of learning to get better at life under accelerated capitalism. In these pursuits, most pleasures end up being traps, and every public-facing demand escalates in perpetuity. Satisfaction remains, under the terms of the system, necessarily out of reach.”

–Jia Tolentino

With the expectations of womanhood becoming more insane at every turn, in this era of Instagram and curated feeds and “lifestyle” branding, have we optimized ourselves out of the possibility for genuine contentment?  I myself find it very difficult to feel satisfied and contented, but perhaps it has less to do with any personal failings to “choose happiness” and much more to do with the insidious all-encompassing hamster wheel society has convinced us is necessary.  And at the particularly insidious intersection of capitalism and patriarchy, it becomes even harder.

If capitalism didn’t ingrain in us that we always need more, better, pricier things to signify success, or if the patriarchy didn’t force us to gauge our worth by our attractiveness, youthfulness, and willingness to accommodate, aka our “fuckability”… what then?  Tolentino is correct, I think, that the ultimate question is to ask what we ourselves really want, whether within or despite the systems we live in.  What will make us content?  What will let us feel whole and happy?  Perhaps that becomes the most difficult thing of all —  to find out what our own real desires are, rather than simply wanting to be desired, admired, and optimized.

 

 

Tuesday

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Sonia Delaunay, Colored Rhythm, 1946

 

Tuesday

 

I’d like to package up my life

all the bits that make it up

and place it on a shelf

in a white box

tied up with a golden satin ribbon —

leave it there

safe

for a while

while I try on something 

new.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra