Work of the body

I love books, and I can’t imagine how I’d have ever gotten into woodworking, let alone kept developing skills, without libraries and magazines and television and the internet. But I can’t help thinking we’re hamstrung by relying so heavily on all these visual and intellectual means of instruction for what is, after all, work of the body.

“Some thoughts on learning together”

After googling something garden-related, I discovered the blog of David Walbert. There’s thoughtful writing here on a variety of topics — cooking, woodworking, history, and more. But this bit in particular has really resonated with me, as I’ve never been very good with my hands and making things on my own, and am learning each day while out in my vegetable garden.

Blind spot

I enjoyed this interview with Teju Cole in The Millions, in which he talks about Blind Spot, his new book blending text and photography. I always like his insights on photography, and in one part of the conversation he talks about his experience with Big Blind Spot Syndrome, which caused him to lose sight in his left eye for a time — and ultimately changed his photography process.

I was already looking intently, but I started to look more intently, more patiently. My photography got a bit more meditative and mysterious. I began to pay attention to the ordinary in a more focused way.

Having eye trouble made the ordinary glorious. It’s just the way the sun falls across concrete or, like you said, a hanging tarp. It’s almost like William Carlos Williams’s poetry.

“I exist, persistently”

I stumbled upon a post from 2015 on a blog, Chiller, that I’ve read and featured in the past. I remember the writing here to be always compelling, intriguing, bold. But anyway, this bit popped out at me, and now I can’t stop thinking about it:

I let go of the stories, too tired to hold them any more, and now most of them are gone. I don’t have a map of myself any more, there is just this moment. I exist, persistently.

Goals

I’m remembering the time when my husband and I first talked about living in a tiny house at the end of 2013. It was a baby step that would move us toward achieving longer-term, would-they-ever-happen goals — like living on a plot of land in the country, for instance. At the time, we were living in an industrial-style condo near downtown San Francisco, newly married and both working for companies headquartered right there in the city. Sounds comfy and convenient for two young professionals: why would there be a reason to leave? Continue reading “Goals”

Big thoughts on a tiny screen

It took me days to collect fragments and half-thoughts for a recent blog post. Stringing words together was, as usual, incredibly difficult. I usually promote new blog posts on Instagram, and when I typed up a caption about the post and how I’d had a hard time expressing my thoughts last week, those 206 words came so much easier there.

I think the tiny caption field on Instagram makes the process of writing less intimidating. I type deep thoughts on that small screen without any pressure, while here — on my laptop screen and WordPress editor — it often feels like my thoughts must be worthy of this big blank page.

Eudocia

From the Atlantic’s June cover story, “My Family’s Slave”:

To our American neighbors, we were model immigrants, a poster family. They told us so. My father had a law degree, my mother was on her way to becoming a doctor, and my siblings and I got good grades and always said “please” and “thank you.” We never talked about Lola. Our secret went to the core of who we were and, at least for us kids, who we wanted to be.

After my mother died of leukemia, in 1999, Lola came to live with me in a small town north of Seattle. I had a family, a career, a house in the suburbs—the American dream. And then I had a slave.

It’s a piece by Alex Tizon about his family’s secret slave in the Philippines, and who remained their slave when they moved to the US. Tizon, who struggled to write about Lola, passed away in March.

Cigarette paper

I read Chris Heath’s GQ profile of Nick Cave this weekend, while on a plane. I’d heard it was a good read. And it is. It covers a lot of things, including dealing with the death of his 15-year-old son Arthur, who fell off a cliff. One line in particular really got to me — just beautifully expressed:

“I think that Susie and I both just stepped into an alternate reality, you know, but that you could slip a cigarette paper between the two worlds, both in terms of the time that it took for us to change and its closeness to reality,” he reflects.

Sabbatical

It’ll be my five-year anniversary at my company, Automattic, this fall, and I’m eligible to take a three-month paid sabbatical — a benefit I’m very grateful for. It feels funny to compile a To Do list for time off, but a bit of planning will help me make the most of it.

Here’s a list of things I’ve thought of, so far, that I’d like to do:

  • Go to the gym at whatever time I want, even — or especially — those awkward times like 10 and 11 am.
  • Spend more time one-on-one with my three nephews and niece, who are growing way too fast.
  • Spend time in our soon-to-be garden, which should be planted by mid-summer, pending this still-rainy weather.
  • Cook a lot and try out new recipes, expanding beyond my comfort zone (aka my beloved Le Creuset dutch oven). Start baking.
    – Take a soft pastel class. Or get back into watercolors, which I enjoyed in middle school.
    – Take a surfing lesson — somewhere in California, if possible. (I plan to take a class in Hawaii this summer — this may be a better opportunity.)
    – Do a self-directed silent retreat at a Trappist monastery up north.
    – Attend a yoga and vipassana retreat in Marin County.
    – Continue with my taiko class and practice my form.
    – Restring my violin and take private lessons.

I’ll try to squeeze in visits to New York and Los Angeles to visit close friends and family, but for the most part I want to travel as little as possible — and enjoy being and doing right here at home.