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.

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”

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.

Piercing through the fog

Shared this on Instagram and Facebook last month, when I got another tattoo:

For most of my life, I’ve been drawn to Sutro Tower, which sits atop a hill in San Francisco. While it’s iconic, it’s often overshadowed: not necessarily pretty, and certainly not golden. For me, it has a presence much like the fog, which is ever-present and something I’ve always felt connected to—and in my mind, one could not exist without the other. When the fog rolls in, it covers the city, yet the tips of the tower are often visible, piercing through the haze. Of all the structures that rise into the sky or span across the bay, Sutro Tower is at once a relic, representing what I once loved about San Francisco. And yet, as an antenna tower, it’s also a mark of now, of the future. Continue reading “Piercing through the fog”

The cursor

The cursor is many things:
a megaphone,
a friend who listens,
that space deep inside you.

It meets the blank page:
where you ignite,
and change,
and feel your power.

A tool to share your joy:
your highs displayed for all to see,
your lows swept off the screen.

Through it your selves appear:
the enlightened,
the wistful,
the proud,
the vain.

Such a slender thing
through which we are born
over and over again.

Ready for spring

After going on trip after trip after trip, my husband and I always say we’ll stop traveling for a time, so as we entered 2017, we had clear, travel-free calendars through the spring. And then somehow, I agreed to go on a work trip to Salt Lake City last week. And in a few days, we’re driving up to Lake Tahoe for the holiday. Then I’m off to Nashville for a team meetup in April and then a bachelorette weekend for a dear friend in May. That takes us into early summer, when we’ll be off to the Mediterranean.

This is what a travel-free 2017 looks like. And I’m not complaining, but it’s just funny how traveling just happens. There is no need to plan.

* * *

I’m looking forward to spring — these Northern California storms and atmospheric rivers from the Pacific have been surprisingly severe, and while it’s great we’ve gotten so much rain in the past few months, Mother Nature has dumped it on us all at once. Part of a tree fell on our house during one of the first big storms in January so we had to fix a hole in our roof, and we also dug a temporary trench in our yard to divert floodwater from our neighbor’s property. Fortunately, though, our little lot has held up relatively OK compared to all the damage we’ve seen throughout Sonoma County, caused by massive flooding, downed trees, and mudslides.

I’ve started a few posts here and there over the past month that I’d abandoned — mainly about how we adopted two adorable cats last month, or anxiety over the state of the US and the world, or the familiar feeling of apathy in my “professional” life, and whatnot. It’s gotten harder to string sentences together for a blog post, and I’ve noticed I don’t feel that urge to share my thoughts — or my life — online, with both people I know and don’t know. When I sit down at my laptop to post something, whether on a blog or Facebook, it increasingly feels like I’m in a phony, forced moment — like I’m siphoning what’s left of my thoughts, and the words that appear on paper are residual.

I have never really felt this way with Instagram, where I post regularly, which — I suppose — is a testament to its instantness. But even there I find my habits evolving — growing bored with pretty travel and tiny house snapshots and opening up to sharing simple moments around the house and during my week. Perhaps those more frequent mundane shots are a way to fill in the holes created by my thinned blogging presence, I don’t know.

Next

I’ve really changed in the past year, finding new ways to spend my free and personal time. I’ve surprised myself, actually. I’ve moved on from writing, which was once something I had to do. It used to make me happy. But at some point this year, instead of sitting in front of this screen, wondering where the words went, or feeling bad because I had nothing to say, I stopped questioning it and gave myself permission to pay attention to other things. It felt right; it felt like it was time. And so, as I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been working out regularly and absolutely love it, and I’ve also discovered that I enjoy cooking and potting.

And I really welcome these changes, these new habits. Parts of me have felt stagnant — the not-writing-and-feeling-that-I’m-supposed-to-be writing indeed contributed to that — but I’m glad that I’ve become curious again.

There are a number of other things I’d like to do, try, or get back into in 2017.

  • Taiko drumming. I watched a taiko demonstration several months ago at the Buddhist temple in town and grabbed a card for a free first class. I’ve yet to go, but it’s on my list for January. Watching and listening to the performance, I felt like I was part of it, just sitting in the audience; I can imagine how powerful the experience can be if you’re actually helping to create it. The blend of a physical workout, music, and the element of meditation and trance very much appeals to me.
  • Surfing. I’m going to the Big Island soon, just for a week, but I hope to have time to take a surfing lesson — it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but have been a bit scared. I have no skateboarding or snowboarding skills whatsoever — and in fact am terrible at both — but I love stand-up paddleboarding and love being on the water. I also plan to return to Hawaii in July, when my parents will be in Kauai, and am considering going to a surf camp (of course, this depends on if I enjoy the lesson).
  • Watercolors. I took a watercolor class in eighth grade, which was taught by my beloved French teacher. I learned so much, from stretching the paper to picking out paints and brushes to various techniques. I don’t think I was any good at it — much like how I’m crap at drawing today — but I enjoyed the process immensely. I remembered this class on a recent drive — a woman had set up her canvas at the edge of a vineyard a few minutes from my house, and she was painting a lovely country scene.
  • Gardening. I’ve recently started making soil and potting succulents, which are sprinkled around the house and on the deck. We have construction work beginning next week to excavate and level our lot, and I’m looking forward to having a big playground of planter boxes, raised beds, and all sorts of pots. I have felt so ignorant all of my life not knowing much about gardening and growing food. I’m excited to learn.

Current interests (or, recent browser history)

  • “potting soil for succulents”
  • “floating wall shelves”
  • “10×12 sheds”
  • “tall, narrow arc floor lamps”
  • “Westworld season 1 episode 2”
  • “Westworld season 1 episode 1”
  • “best-rated lounge and reading chairs”
  • “pendant lighting installation”
  • “what is NyQuil D?”
  • “how to make tomato cream sauce”
  • “origami squirrels”
  • “geometric acorns”
  • “Airbnb jobs”
  • “how to make cajun spice mix”

It seems I’ve been preoccupied with my house, cooking, my next tattoo, and Westworld, which we finally started watching last night.

After a lot of traveling in September and October, I’ve been recently enjoying a quiet existence mostly at home and — despite getting sick — finding happiness in new things. I’ve become indifferent about and uninspired at work, trying to remember what I’m passionate about and what I’m actually good at, if anything. And like many, I’m tired and terrified about this election — all the noise, all these things on the internet that are ultimately unimportant to me.

Focusing my attention on what’s in front of me. The leaves, my family, my friends.