Weekly Roundup

A few things, from across the webiverse …

The most important year.

Cambridgeport for the win.

Why we fell for clean eating.*

Beware the open-plan kitchen.

A Trump poetry contest.

Beans instead of beef.

Gotta respect our biotechs.

Listening (weeping) to this.

What really matters.

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“This Moment”
by Eavan Boland

A neighborhood.
At dusk.

Things are getting ready
to happen
out of sight.

Stars and moths.
And rinds slanting around fruit.

But not yet.

One tree is black.
One window is yellow as butter.

A woman leans down to catch a child
who has run into her arms
this moment.

Stars rise.
Moths flutter.
Apples sweeten in the dark.

From In a Time of Violence. © Norton, 1994.

//

Love and light, readers,
Schuyler

*unapologetically v. pro-“squaffle”

Self-care for the non-believer

“Self-care” as this zeitgeist-y thing makes me, um, gag.

It is largely, I think, an affected iteration of “Treat yo’self,” and I’d much rather take my life advice from Donna and Tom than from a self-obsessed Brooklyn blogette.

That said, I’ve slowly come around to the idea that there is value in the concept, if not the expression—that it matters to care for yourself, with intention and routine.

In How to Be Married (which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone getting, considering getting, newly, or not-so newly married), Jo Piazza writes about self-care as putting on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs. It’s a simple metaphor, but one that I hadn’t before considered and that I think is just so right. It frames self-care not as a choice or a twee-dom of privilege, but as an imperative. Self-care as saving—of your own self but of others’, too. Before you can care for a co-passenger (a partner; a friend; a colleague; a child), you must first care for yourself.

It’s back-to-school season now, and perhaps because I’ve spent my entire life in schools, I’ve always thought of this—more than the New Year—as a time for setting intentions. (Another gag-worthy phrase; please forgive.)

And so this week, I’ve set a few self-care goals. I’ll leave them here, on the chance you’re looking to set a few for yourself, too, and that they may serve as some small inspiration.

Rebalance the scales.

Unless you are a surgeon or a firefighter, it is unlikely that someone will die if you disengage from your work. I say this as someone who’s been known to check Outlook while awaiting vacation flights; who currently has a second window open to a PowerPoint presentation; who has a decidedly very hard time leaving work at work—on weekends and evenings and times otherwise intended for sabbatical. Intention #1, then. This year, I will try to do just that. To add a few more grams to the “life” of the work-life scales, so that when I go to work each morning, I do so refreshed and reenergized and ready to give myself wholly to it.

Disconnect.

I know that I’m not alone here, but I have a hard time disconnecting generally, too. In fact, I’ve just paused this writing to scroll through Instagram, because, you know, a post of earth-shattering consequence may have gone up after dinner. Actually, though, it probably hasn’t; and all I’ve done is activate a weary mind, and unsettle what needs quieting. Another intention, then, is to put aside all gadgety things after 8 p.m. (Barring the one that’s currently allowing me to watch The Killing, that is.) After 8, my laptop and phone will live downstairs in a drawer, and I’ll see them again in the morning.

Always (or sometimes) be moving.

I’ve heard that running does wonders, but ever since Mr. Chadwick’s fifth grade gym class, I’ve had very little inclination. Walking makes me feel really good. Calm and energized, both, and strong. It’s when I think about things—a day’s occurrences and observations; conversations had or to have. It’s usually when the “writerly muse” visits, too. I’m lucky to live in a place that lends itself to long walks; and until deep winter, at least, I’ll take one each day after work.

Water your garden.

I don’t know that there’s any such thing as one true passion, but I know that there are things that we love, that give us joy and meaning beyond our daily avocations. For me, one is writing. After months pining for my high school Harkness tables, I started this blog in the summer, when I had some time on my hands. It’s a blip in a hugely oversaturated blog market, and I doubt that anyone has been reading beyond family and close friends, if that. For me, though, it’s been really special; and while summer hours are done, it’s a space I’ll continue to nurture. I’ll post less often, but I intend to write a little bit each day. To keep watering this very tiny garden that for me has been a kind of salvation.

Homecoming

The front door of our house is in need of repair. A pane of glass, cracked in a windstorm before we’d ever even moved in.

Ditto the screen (collided with said door); the garage; the basement; the deck. And not to forget the garden that needs tending; the weeds uprooting; the leaves raking, weekly (daily?) because suddenly, it seems, it’s fall. There are things to be done and dollars to spend and hours to give in devotion to this small plot of land, and the small house upon it.

Homeownership, in a word.

Recently, my husband and I spent a week in the Pacific Northwest, a place I’d never been and to which, once, I might have clung. Cancel the flight; send for the cats. To Seattle, especially, which felt like Boston and Chicago and San Francisco conjoined and flung out into some National Park. It was young and vibrant, and the geography every bit as gorgeous as Maria Semple describes it. Mountains abutting city streets spilling out onto a Sound that, much as I adore the Long Island iteration, was something special.

It was perfect, each day imbued with friends and food and so much Pinot Noir. We played tourist and flâneur at once. We mapped out where we’d live and work and how we’d spend our days. And the whole time we were there, I couldn’t wait to be home.

Years ago, Ann Patchett had an essay in The Times, which I bookmarked then and have revisited more than once since. In it, she writes (succinctly; sublimely; oh you’re good, Ann Patchett) of her home in Nashville. “I understand the world is full of spectacular things I’ve yet to see,” she says, “but I can’t imagine any of them would satisfy me as deeply as this house.” She continues that, “Home, once you find it, presents an inexhaustible set of wonders, a world that isn’t very wide but is endlessly deep.” It is “the stable window that opens out into the imagination”; and it is good not because of the porch or the floors—however lovely they may be—but because such is the life within it.

I’ve lived in many different real estates, seven in the last five years alone. (Which, when written out, does seem like a few too many.) There’s something amazing about that transience, about being able to dream up a life in Seattle and then, actually, realize it. But there’s something to be said, too, for being anchored to the earth. For having this space to which you and your love return from work each day. Where you’ll uproot a weed but not a self; where you’ll live and make life.

There’s so much that’s inconstant—in the world right now, especially; so much to fall apart, and break your heart. And as I look out from my writing desk today, onto the deck that needs fixing (or, more accurately, tearing down) and to the burnt-orange leaves falling on it, knowing that I’ll see the same tomorrow, I’m just…really glad and grateful for that stillness. For this house which envelops this life, in all its smallness and infinity.