Shelter and place

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing truly luminous readings from an incredible line-up of California poets: Dana Gioia, Garret Hongo, Robin Coste Lewis, Luis J. Rodriguez, David St. John, and Gail Wronsky. Cartography of Poets, a virtual poetry event presented by Visions and Voices at USC, centered around the ways history and place shape the poetic experience. The idea that writers and their work are shaped by their environments is certainly not groundbreaking — what would Henry David Thoreau be without Walden Pond? — but this event got me thinking about things in a more contemporary, more personal way.

Fires are still raging in the West. California is on fire, breaking records and breaking apart lives. Amidst this landscape, this small reflection by Dana Gioia reminded me of the beauty of our summers:

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.
An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.
. . .
And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

from “CALIFORNIA HILLS IN AUGUST”
by DANA GIOIA

We continue to shelter in place, and meanwhile, I am contemplating shelter and place, and the way we inhabit both those spaces. Our shelters — the homes we have been confined to and seek succor in. Our places — the solidarity of New York on 9/11, the orange glow of San Francisco’s skies, the hazy rain of ash in Los Angeles, and the ways we shape and are shaped by them. I think of how we are all nesting, all trying to make our homes work better for us — dining rooms becoming offices, offices becoming playrooms, kitchen tables becoming classrooms — and how beautiful the adaptability of the human spirit really is. The way we keep working, toiling, and finding joy in between.

I put up new lamps this week that I love. Something to bring a small joy in a small way. I think I am puttering, not doing much of import, and yet my friend exclaims over how productive I have been. And I think, well yes, I suppose I have. To shelter and find small joys is no small thing, today, yesterday, or tomorrow. I am here in this place, California sunshine streaming through my windows, and I think, I am lucky. I am of this place, I have shelter, and I am learning to find joy.

Exorcism wanted

Brugge, Belgium July 2019

Wanted:

an exorcism of the heart.

A friendly spirit has come to stay 

settled in

made me home

made me

     restless 

     ache

     long for

     wonder.



Imaginings 

haunt me daily,

while this little spirit of mine

stays on

uninvited.



Time to go,

to set me free.

I’ll always remember you fondly

even though

it would hurt less

to forget.



One exorcism

wanted. 


Wonderful small things

This is becoming a year of wonderful small things.  The big things have been overwhelming, to say the least: we are still in the middle of a worsening pandemic, our government continues to make our country a hateful and divisive place, Black Lives Matter is still not considered a universal truth, police brutality is an ongoing issue… there is so much for us to cope with.  To remind myself that it is still worthwhile to get out of bed every day, I am trying to remember the small things.  This way I will always have something to look forward to, to enjoy, or to revel in.  A particularly good lunch.  Snuggles with my pups in the morning.  The way the light filters into my bedroom on a weekend afternoon as I lay down for a nap.  A package out for delivery.  It’s these kinds of tiny daily joys that help me keep perspective, and keep me fueled to keep fighting for a better world.

Each time I venture out to Trader Joe’s for much-needed groceries, I buy a bunch of silver dollar eucalyptus leaves. I love having fresh greenery in my home, and it feels like a luxury even though it only costs $4. Plus, they last forever compared to cut flowers!

The new perfume I ordered arrived this week.  ‘REPLICA’ Lazy Sunday Morning is a unique scent that somehow perfectly captures the feeling of fresh crisp sheets on a breezy, sunny morning.  I sampled this perfume on my last outing with friends before the pandemic really hit, so it carries thoughts of dear friendships as well as idyllic lazy mornings.

Also, I was so happy to receive the Rain + Bow necklace I ordered a few weeks ago.  It is weighty and so well made, the packaging was so sweet with it’s little extras, and it is a wonderful daily reminder that I am always in the process of overcoming.  Also I am thrilled that a $10 for every necklace sold is donated to Mental Health America.

Be well, stay safe, and don’t forget to wear a mask. We’ll get through this. Little joys are there for us to find, even though it may seem bleak right now.

We are not free

Image: REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

This week has been hard.  Another man is dead for the crime of being black.  George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and Minneapolis is reeling, seething, hurting.  A CNN crew was arrested and detained last night by Minneapolis police as they reported on the protests, despite their every effort to cooperate and do the right thing.  How can we be the home of the free?  It is not freedom if all of us cannot walk safely.  It is not freedom for our press to be locked up without cause.  It is not freedom to be killed for the color of one’s skin.

This is so beautiful and so heartbreaking.  Thank you, Keedron Bryant, for sharing your song.

Here is a guide to white privilege by courtneyahndesign, with some small ways to be a good ally.

And here is a statement by Barack Obama, who said so eloquently what we all need to hear:

Tiny moments

Over the weekend I took my older dog to the vet for some blood work, and as I waited in the car, a young-ish gentleman parked a couple spaces from me. He spent several minutes getting his wheelchair out of the car and then easing himself out and getting himself situated. All to take his little chihuahua to the vet early on a Sunday morning.

Open car door and twist around, pull out wheelchair from behind driver’s seat, unfold and assemble. Stop and rest. Lean out to straighten it. Pivot and ease out of the car into the wheelchair. Put on mask and adjust it. Take a deep breath. Tell pup to stay in the passenger seat, that daddy is coming around the other side. Close door and wheel around, retrieve little pup from other side of car, settle pup onto lap, wheel back around and go up ramp to get to the office door.  Pull door open and prop it with wheel while wheeling inside one-handed, deftly and with ease.

I was struck by a wave of gratitude as I watched him. Gratitude for good people quietly going about their lives. Gratitude for responsible and kind pet owners. Gratitude for my own imperfect body. Gratitude for another day.

Musings on that kind of Friday

white_face_mask_on_green

Today I am hitting a personal little blogging milestone of 200 posts, and with all the weirdness that is going on, I thought maybe we could just chat.  May we?  I’d love to.

I started using Prose hair care several weeks ago.  You know, kind of right after we all wound up sheltering in place and wearing nothing but sweatpants?  I LOVE my new hair regimen and this is not at all a sponsored post but hit me up, Prose, your stuff is amazing, but please let me say my fine and thin but also curly hair has never looked better with such minimal styling.  And you know what?  I am a little bit bitter within my I’m-so-lucky-to-not-be-sick cocoon that no one gets to see my cute bouncy hair because we are all staying the eff home to flatten the curve and keep our fellow humans safe.  Zoom meetings don’t count, I’ve decided.  We are all so grainy looking via video chat that my hair could be a frizz ball and I could probably still look mostly decent.  The one thing I still do on a daily basis is put on lipstick, because that DOES show up on Zoom, and also I feel put together and much less like a zombie when I do.  But I feel guilty that I feel bitter.

Really, we are terribly lucky.  My husband and I can both currently work from home.  We are healthy and trying to stay that way, staying home and only venturing our to walk our dogs and pick up our groceries from the front step.  Oh, and to buy a bag of coffee every week or so, masks donned and properly secured.  But what a time to be alive.  My goodness.  Our generation is currently wading through our second “once in a lifetime” economic crisis.  We exited college and grad school just in time for the 2008 recession, failed to get jobs that paid anything decent even though we were fed the American Dream of bootstraps and college and careers to be proud of, and then have been half-walking, half-crawling towards financial solvency ever since.  Now that most of us have finally gotten jobs, we have crashed headlong into the COVID-19 pandemic — with very little savings, moderate job security if we are very lucky, and rent to pay because none of us have been able to even dream about mortgages, considering our longstanding lower-than-average pay and high-enough-to-crush-your-spirit student loan payments.  So where does that leave us?  Working from home if we are lucky, filing for unemployment if we are less lucky, and urging our aging parents to please please please stay home, because pandemic.  What a time to be alive, huh?

There are so many emotions for us all to sift through right now.  Gratitude.  Despair.  Grief.  Fear.  Compassion.  Anxiety.  More gratitude.  We do our groceries on an app and tip or delivery drivers well as they risk themselves to make a living.  We donate masks and don our own, ache for the sick and simultaneously ache for anything we can call normalcy.  It’s such a tough time.  I’ve been thinking a lot about stress and suffering.  How we all have loads to bear.  The news felt like it was crushing me, an onslaught of constant bad news at all hours of the day, so I am learning to limit that consumption.  I read the news, just not all day every day.  And I have been reminded by a dear friend that just because other people are suffering doesn’t mean I have to feel like I am not allowed to feel bad.  Also, allowing myself to suffer doesn’t do anyone else any good.  Put your own oxygen mask on, girl, and then you can help others.

In short, I’m trying.  Me and my bouncy curls and my tight chest full of anxiety keep getting up every morning and doing our best.  It’s really all anyone can ask for right now, right?  I am not a nurse, not a first responder, not a medical manufacturer, but I can stay home and help those heroes have the best shot they can against this virus.  I can donate masks and treat those around with me respect and compassion, and also allow myself room to be sad that this is the world we live in right now.  We are not working from home, we are trying to work from home while a pandemic rages around us, desperately trying to be productive while desperately trying to survive, okay?  Maybe it sounds trite by now, but take care of yourself, I’ll try to take care of myself, we’ll take care of others as we are able, and we’ll make it through this.  Trust.

On my radar

As the days continue to blur into each other, I thought I would share some things that have stood out to me amidst all the sameness of sheltering in place.  It is such a strange clump of feelings we are experiencing — gratitude to be working from home, concern over friends and loved ones, guilt over never being “productive enough,” tiny joys found in a daily homemade latte or a dog nuzzle midday, and a foreboding sense of anxiety suffusing everything (mostly) under the surface.  It’s a relief to turn all that off even for a little while, so please enjoy!

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc all around us, I was reminded of this thoughtful article from The Atlantic from 2018.  It rings just as true as it did then.  If you are a young child, be comforted by looking for the helpers.  If you have the autonomy and ability to, be a helper.

mr_rogers_helpers

 

Clare V. is having an excellent promo for Mother’s Day.  Now through 4/26 spend $200, and get a free webbing strap with code FREESTRAP.  Even better, 10% of all proceeds go to Every Mother Counts in support of safe pregnancy and childbirth for every mother, everywhere.  I have been eyeing her adorable Midi Sac for ages and finally took the plunge, along with this excellent Masculin Féminin strap for a nice graphic punch.

 

 

I’m still “nesting” now that we are home so much more, and currently I am focused on small tweaks to make our kitchen feel more pulled together.  This retro little microwave couldn’t be cuter.

daewoo_retro_microwave

 

Speaking of home decor, I am crushing hard on Nicole’s sweet pink Stardew Valley-inspired kitchen.  I’ve been playing quite a bit more of late, and I think I might be ready to dive into some modding for this game — especially if I can create a kitchen even half this cute!

And for a tiny dose of levity, here’s a video explaining the pandemic to one’s past self.  Ah, to remember the good old days…  four months ago.

 

Take good care of yourselves, and (at least try to) have a relaxing weekend!

 

 

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swallow it whole

vintage_portrait_eyes

swallow it whole

 

I’m not eating much

want to be thin

fragile

wanted

and yet

I want to be 

               reach 

               touch 

               have

      it all

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

Stayings and doings

cb2_crescente_copper_duvet_cover

It feels like this week has lasted half a lifetime, no?  Our lives are becoming very different, day by day.  After several weeks of will-they-won’t-they, I am now working from home for at least the next five weeks.  The state of California has issued a directive to stay home except for essential errands.  All non-essential businesses are closed in Los Angeles County.  And around the globe, many, many people are sick.

It is easy to feel helpless or despairing at times like these.  A global COVID-19 pandemic is certainly cause for concern, alarm, caution, and consideration.  That being said, with an abundance of care, we can make it through this together.  Some tips and musings below:

  • Stay at home as much as you can.  If you need to get groceries or take-out, delivery or no-contact pickup options are available, and currently many business are offering these services at no extra charge.
  • Don’t hoard things.  Supply chains right now should be keeping up with needs just fine, put people panicking has some shelves empty.  Containing this virus depends on ALL of us washing our hands and disinfecting around us.  Buy only what you’ll need for a few weeks, and leave some for everyone else.
  • If you can do so comfortably without straining your own household expenditures, consider buying gift cards to support your favorite local restaurants and small businesses.  Your purchase will help then through a difficult period, and you get a treat or a meal out later.  Win-win!
  • Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.  I have been coping by cleaning and organizing areas of my home when the mood strikes, for example.  I cannot help overburdened hospitals in Italy from my living room per se, but I can stay put and clean out my refrigerator.  So far over the last couple weeks I cleaned out my closet and sent a bag of items to thredUP to be sold or recycled (get $10 to shop when you click here), cleaned out my pantry and refrigerator, replaced my duvet cover with this beauty, and got these excellent bins to organize my newly-clean fridge.  Some people have joked this is stir-crazy fifth-week-of-quarantine level stuff, but I figure if I’m going to be home all the time, I might as well be able to enjoy a tidy space!
  • Find a balance.  If you live alone, make sure to keep yourself connected by reaching out by phone or online.  If you are suddenly working from home with a partner and/or kids, carve out time for yourself as best you can.  We live in a smallish apartment, so my husband and I are trading off using our desk space at home.  I need to keep more regular business hours, so I use our area during the day.  He needs to keep in contact with his job but has more flexibility with when he does his work, so he’s been using our work space in the evenings.  We do have two desks, but this way we aren’t on top of each other in a small space all day every day.
  • And lastly, go easy on yourself.  We have so much to worry about right now that it can feel all-consuming.  Cozy up in bed for an extra few minutes.  Take things a day at a time.  If that feels like too much, just focus on your morning.  Then your afternoon.  Then your evening.  Give yourself time to rest, make sure you are nourished, and maybe try to take joy in small things as best you can.  We are all in this together, even while we stay at least 6 feet apart.

Friday links

acs_0197

Happy Friday everyone!  We made it!  I just had to share some really excellent links from this week — happy reading and please enjoy.

Why you should rescue a dog.  This will make you teary at the very least.  Maybe make you sob.  But in a good way.

Women are still being punished for being unapologetically competent.  If we don’t apologize for being good at what we do, we get punished.  Elizabeth Warren is only the most recent.  Bonus: a poem on this topic by the ever-amazing Kate Baer.

Coronavirus advice for kids (and all of us!)

It’s going, my friend.  Yes! Exactly.

So so happy for Henry James Garrett for getting his book published!  I cannot wait to read this book on empathy and kindness.  Also, if you are not following him and his delightful comics on Instagram yet, here you go, and you’re welcome.

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

 

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