Moon Lists.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The holiday rush now behind me, I've realized that again, several weeks have passed in a flash. I spent most of the last four with my family in California, doing everything we typically do this time of year: watch home videos; rummage through boxes of old photos; indulge in our signature rotation of classic Christmas meals and my mom's virtuosic Japanese dinners, which feature dozens of familiar dishes she (and we) grew up eating. Around the holidays, as always, there's so much of the past present.

2017, as I mentioned here, passed in a blur. This year, I'm making it a goal to focus attention on paying attention—and I'm very happy to have found inspiration in Moon Lists, a site created by writer, editor, and fellow FvF contributor Leigh Patterson. Inspired by a project by photographer Sam Abell, Leigh asks three women every month to reflect on the past 30 days with a short series of questions.

I've particularly liked entries from other writers, like Stephanie Madewell, whose experience of nature last April was punctuated with birdsong:

"...the staccato hops of a woodpecker moving deliberately up and down the trunk of the cedar tree; a swallow flying across the sky, wings out, then in, a swift and joyful looping like writing in cursive with a calligrapher’s pen; the racket of wings from a pair of doves kicked up from the brush; songs and calls in the trees, more and more all the time."

Or Marion Seury of Paris, who stumbled on a breathtaking read in June:

"...someone forgot the book 'à ce soir' by writer/journalist laure adler at my place. she is a marguerite duras specialist and you can feel an influence on her writing i think. a very personal and emotional book. I read it straight. It shook my heart."

Or Su Wu of Mexico City, who received a thrilling call in May:

"I’m pregnant, my best friend said into the phone without hello, and I yelled, holy fuck, on the street in another country. Some guy turned, rushed over and asked, are you okay?, and it was a new kind of joy for me, a whole joy running headlong into kindness, and I said, I’m okay, and really, more than ever this month, I was."

Each year seems to pass quicker than the last. It's easy to forget what happened a week ago, or three months ago, or twelve. I don't like the idea of holding on to the past, but I do like the idea of finding ways to preserve the moments, images, tastes, sounds, smells, and interactions that are the tiles in a year's mosaic—and that make reflecting on the past an act of staying alert, awake, aware.

This makes me think of something my dad wrote the day after drinking a 75-year-old wine in honor of his 75th birthday: "It took me back. And forward."

Find all of Leigh Patterson's Moon Lists (including those excerpted above in their entirety), here. Photo by Emily Johnston.

POV: Return.

Monday, November 20, 2017

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.

I got lost on election night, sometime between 11 and 12, before the results were posted. I was heading home from a friend’s apartment only a few blocks from mine, empty-handed—I’d brought wine, cheese, a box of chocolate cake mix but left it all behind in various states of destruction. It was cold and mind-bogglingly quiet save for the rattle of a beer can tumbleweed. In the dark, I considered prayer. I wracked my brain for mantras. I reminded myself of my insistent, if ill-defined, belief in magic. I traveled four blocks before realizing I was walking in the wrong direction.

I posted to this blog the day after; then not a single time again until today. To say that I was at a loss for words wouldn’t be quite right—it was more like a significant loss of focus. Truth be told, there were a number of things in the past twelve months that contributed to my absence here: changes in work, a transition to a new neighborhood, the blossoming of a happy relationship, travel, new friends.

But there was something else, too. I suddenly had a lot of questions. At first, post-election, I wondered if I had the skills—and the smarts—to be a useful member of what suddenly felt like a very different world. I wondered how to ask the right questions, do the right reading, respond effectively. Mostly, I wondered about how best to use my time—and ironically, a lot of time passed as I thought about that.

In the meantime, there were jobs to do, friends to see, a partner I fiercely wanted to stay present for. And still more questions arose: Was it possible to balance the personal, professional, and political, and still have time to myself—to write, to reflect, to rest, to do nothing? To give these kinds of big questions the space and attention required for them not to remain just questions?

Days, weeks, months flew by. Somehow—in a haze of city traffic, airplane flights, news headlines, deadlines—a year passed.

I had no plans not to post here, or to disappear without saying anything (I apologize for that!). I always assumed I’d write something tomorrow. Or the next day, or the day after that.

I’m still asking myself many of the same questions. But I’ve liked the process of working out the skills needed to answer them. I’ve learned that different times require different things—different ways of thinking, doing, asking. So that we can continue to grow. Meet new challenges. Equip ourselves to live the kinds of lives we find ourselves living.

One gray October afternoon, I sat with Emily in the living room of her rented upstate farmhouse and watched her build a fire—a skill, having only known her as a city dweller, I wasn’t aware she possessed. Crouched at the hearth in this drafty house, she told me it was something she’d learned out of necessity and had grown better at with practice. I watched as she layered wood and paper, erecting a structure that looked a lot like the “houses” I built from leaves and sticks when I was little, anxious to attract the sorts of small animals that lived nowhere near Los Angeles: hedgehogs, chipmunks, prairie dogs.

I remembered something else from that era of my life, too. It was the feeling of seeing fire, wondering what it was and deciding that it existed only in the realm of magic. If I’m being honest, as an adult—with limited knowledge of science, in a city apartment far from the wilderness—it still does. It’s a skill that’s always struck me as otherworldly—and yet here was my friend, blowing air through her fingers, building fire slowly, the room growing brighter with every breath.

You can find my previous POV entries, here.

To whoever is still out there—thank you so much for reading! I’m sorry, again, for disappearing without explanation for such a long time. Starting after Thanksgiving, I plan to post more often—perhaps not every day, but a few times per month. I'm so grateful to the community I’ve found and connected with here. Thank you for your time, and your notes and emails over the past few months! I’m so glad to be back.

Truth / Love.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's how to make a difference.

Seeing Double.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I last wrote about French curator Sandrine Kerfante—whose blog, Twin-Niwt, explores themes of symmetry and twinned identities—three years ago. Last week, I received an email from her announcing the release of a book of images based on her finds. (Chronicle Books says that it's just right for friends "who feel as close as sisters, actual sisters who feel as close as twins, and actual twins who will see their duality reflected ways.")

"I hope you'll like it," Sandrine wrote in her email. I do.

POV: Waves.

Monday, August 29, 2016

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.

Weeks ago on a Friday, I took a bus out of the city to visit Emily, who’s rented a house upstate for the summer. My journey to the station was a mess of near-misses that began with a mad dash through Chinatown in midsummer heat and ended with a six-stop subway ride that deposited me at Port Authority moments before my bus was scheduled to leave. I jumped aboard as the door was closing; my seat was the last available.

Five hours later, I arrived in Emily’s town, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hamlet in the Catskills. She picked me up outside a convenience store in a rattling Jeep, and we drove another twenty minutes to the house in stock-still darkness. I could see it as we approached from a distance, its many windows glowing amber. Inside, I marveled at its halls and wooden staircases, its permissive size that allowed for art, music, cooking, apartment-weary visitors.

We had dinner at midnight; then, before bed, a tiny canele each. Emily ate hers from the center of an enormous dinner plate. For a moment, I thought I knew what she must have looked like as a child.

Recommended Reading / 62.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Words to start the week. 

This week, from The Atlantic: reflections on the resonance of Arnold Lobel's 1970s children's book series Frog and Toad—a mainstay at my house growing up, and a current favorite of my three-year-old nephew's.

Writes Bert Clere on another of Lobel's masterpieces, Owl at Home: "Probably the most unique story in Owl at Home is 'Tear-Water Tea,' in which Owl makes a special tea brewed from his tears. To produce the tears, he thinks of sad things like 'songs that cannot be sung because the words have been forgotten' and 'pencils that are too short to use'...Owl’s tears come from those broken and disjointed parts of existence that make no sense, so all that is to be done with them is to accept them, and drink them with a pot of tea."

Read more at The Atlantic. Illustration by Arnold Lobel.

Three more, just because: 
-Violent rabbits.
-"Brief raptures in deserted places."
-Loved doing this interview with industrial designer Todd Bracher: "A tree is the result of an ecosystem. And the way I design is to consider what something’s ecosystem is. There are loads of things that define any given project: the market, financial constraints, client needs, et cetera. But tie all those things together with a singular solution—the way a tree does in its ecosystem—and you have, in my opinion, something that’s truly timeless and universal."

More recommended reads, here. Wishing you a very happy Monday—and more to come!

Douglas & Bec on Sight Unseen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thrilled to have been able to interview Bec Dowie of Douglas + Bec, a New Zealand-based furniture and lighting design studio, a few weeks ago for Sight Unseen. Bec, who founded the company alongside her father, Douglas, lives 45 minutes outside of Auckland in a converted barn designed to serve as both home and studio.

With bedrooms on movable pods, the space transforms in minutes flat. Not surprisingly, it's furnished almost entirely with family-made pieces—but only just as many as the trio need. During the renovation, Bec says, “We lived with very little for a long time, and [that experience] really ended up informing the design of our home. We had a lovely education that we didn’t need a lot. So when we built the house, everything was very simple. The design shows a lot of restraint.”

Find the full interview on Sight Unseen. Beautiful photos by Pippa Drummond.

More from my Sight Unseen archive: Group Partner / Todd St. John / Material Lust. Thanks so much, as always, for reading.



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