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seasons

I like the turn from warm to cool. Fall, more than spring, makes me think of fresh starts somehow. I suppose it has something to do with my memories of school — how a new notebook and a fresh pencil can make every possibility possible. I love jackets and coats, wool socks and sweaters, curling up in front of a fireplace to read, sew, or watch a movie — I love big pots of soup and chili on the stove. I love to sit with an idea and think a while, with no sun beckoning me out of doors. There is no season so romantic and for some reason, no season that makes me more eager to hunker down and work.

But damn. There comes a time when my skin is parched and dry and too pale for even the likes of pale skin lovers, when all the recipes for heart and soul warming soups are exhausted, when the sweaters have grown limp and tired and need putting away, when I’m tired of dreading going outside because I don’t want the chill to get under my skin and wrap its metallic fingers around my bones, when I’d rather set fire to my parka rather than put it on one more time, when I need some space and air and a breeze instead of close quarters and gusts. There comes a time when I need a sliver of hope that I will see the sun shine again. By this time of the year, I’ve usually all but forgotten that it will ever come out and that I’ll soon be lamenting the hot, sticky, heat.

Then the turn comes. Finally.

This isn’t a post about the weather. Not really. Only one about there being seasons, in some way, to every situation. Micro or macro, they’re there, just as there are temperatures and colors. I am in a cool, grey/blue phase right now, for instance, incubating ideas and trying to take life as slowly as it will allow. Will my pink, orange, and red return as the days grow longer? Tick tock.

Tick tock indeed. I am not unaware of the season of my life. I’d say I’m somewhere in mid-July at the moment and I’m on my way back from vacation. Heat both rises and bears down, asking for permission to take up residence in my belly. I prepare to reach toward it from my head and my toes and to soak up all the inspiration it offers. The turn. There is always the turn.

 

Happy Monday,

AM

prime

 

Thinking about numbers for too long can make me dissociate. It’s not that I have a problem with math — I actually like math and the perfection and reliability of numbers — its the infinite that makes me nervous.

 

When I was a very young girl I started to drift away from myself in my mind from time to time, some sort of defense mechanism, yes, and did so by imagining, involuntarily, that I was lost in space and floating endlessly away from my physical body. Go ahead and have a field day with that one. The reason I mention it to you now is because I was thinking about prime numbers today and the more I thought about them the more nervous I got because there is no end to them, or any numbers really, and not every number can be accounted for, ever, and on and on. I started to feel that lost in space feeling and made myself turn away from the wormhole I was about to enter.

 

Then I thought that some people are like prime numbers. They aren’t composites and can only be divided by 1 and, of course, their very own self. They are contrary, uneven, known only to their group and don’t work well with others, especially not the rounded off, kind and agreeable numbers. Primes are hardheaded and inflexible. They are staunchly independent and never apologize for standing apart from the crowd. Can you imagine a regal prime number wishing it could shave a little of itself off so it would fit in? I can’t. Primes are beautiful and edgy.

 

I decided to turn away from that wormhole too. Shoot, it’s only the beginning of the week. But who knows? I am an admitted glutton for punishment. I may return.

 

Happy Monday.

AM

time

When the end of December 2017 came too quickly, I decided that one thing I wanted to do in 2018 was write something in this online journal once a week. I told myself I would do it every Monday — it would be a good start to the week or a good end to the weekend, a thing done, a message communicated, and a way to keep my writing muscles flexed if I wasn’t working on anything else.

I quickly decided, after becoming bogged down in post after post and trying to make them perfect, to only give myself 1 hour to complete the process from beginning to end.  That didn’t mean I couldn’t think about what I wanted to write about or how I would do it ahead of time — I make notes about topics that interest me on the regular and often look through them if for no other reason than to keep myself familiar with all of the things that run through my mind, and specifically the things that I feel are interesting or important enough to write down — but the writing process would only take 1 hour. I even set a timer to prevent perfectionism from taking over.

Yesterday’s to do list included, “online journal post,” as it does every Monday. But I didn’t ever get to my hour. I didn’t get my post written.

Mondays can sometimes be ridiculous days. One would think that the life of an artist wouldn’t be so dictated by what day of the week it is, but I suppose we’re somewhat conditioned, like most people are, to think we need to get a lot done, to think we need to get a jump on things or make a fresh start. Truth is, any day can be a ridiculous day.

I had a plan. Last week involved quite a bit of travel and stress for me so I wanted to do something grounding and comforting. I decided to delve into my new favorite cookbook, “How To Eat For How You Feel,” which is based in Ayurvedic principle, so I picked a few recipes yesterday morning and headed to Whole Foods. I normally get my groceries delivered because I can and because it saves me time and hassle, but I actually like picking out my own food and I decided I could devote myself to the whole experience — picking out a recipe, making a list, walking to the grocery store, unpacking my purchases at home, cooking, and then sitting down at the table to sample my efforts. Well, it took hours. I tend to cook a lot when I’m home, but I was reminded why I like the little app on my phone that allows me to skip a few steps on the way to supper, bruised apples or not.

There is so little time.

A text exchange with one person can suck 30 minutes out of the 18 hours or so that I am awake. Then I have only 35 30-minute increments left. Throw in all the emails, travel planning, business doing, laundry folding, bed making, suitcase unpacking, mothering, therapist and school communication, friendship keeping up, relationship maintenance, showering, dressing, hair brushing, moisturizer applying… good lord. The minutes seep out of the day. I look up to see the backsides of hours departing like high-speed trains leaving a station. Trains that will never be seen again. I want to shout, “Come Back!” at them. I want to tell them I didn’t mean to let them go. I want to tell them I’m sorry I squandered them on emoticons and pressing the delete key over and over, I want to tell them I’m sorry I didn’t fill up each one of them with deeper thoughts or at least some that would help me toward peace. I want to apologize for infusing even one of their minutes with anger or sorrow or tears or frustration. Those minutes do not deserve such treatment.

I did make some good use of the day, however. I did learn to make a delicious, warming, grounding vegetable curry and cooked my first mung beans. I didn’t use ready made brown rice to go with it but instead the kind you have to put in the rice cooker. Some things do take time. And sometimes taking time is worth it. The truth is I love to cook, especially for people I care about. I am lucky that I can cook for people I care about. I am lucky I have people to care about and that give that care back to me. But I beat myself up at the end of the day for never getting to this, this thing I told myself that I’d do, this thing that is important to me. So this morning I got up and thought about what I needed to change today to prevent my hours from leaving without having looked them dead in the eye, without them knowing I acknowledged them and gave them all of the meaning I could. And I’m not sure yet. Life isn’t like that. Just because I make a to do list doesn’t mean something unintended isn’t going to come sliding right into the middle of it, taking my focus away from what I’d planned. But I keep whittling away at it, always trying to work toward what matters, carving out spaces for the work that’s important to me and getting rid of what doesn’t serve my priorities. Yesterday I suppose my priority was cooking. It’s a good thing I have leftovers, because voila! My hour is up.

Happy Tuesday,

AM

 

PS – hourglass courtesy of The School of Life.

travel

If you see a pretty building from inside a van while it’s still dark outside and you’re on your way out of town, have you really seen it?

Happy Monday.

AM

obstacles

Don’t we all find our way around obstacles one way or another? I’m inspired, every day, by the persistence of those who know their purpose and pay it the proper attention. Stay warm. Love, AM

PS – Clearly my purpose was to practice alliteration in the second sentence of this post. And maybe even this post script. Okay, I’ve been inside for too long.

routine/ritual

For most of us, the days have a certain order. We rise, wake ourselves up through whatever means, and go about our lives doing what we do. I certainly have my routine. I go so far as to write it down in a big notebook that promises if I employ ultimate discipline to what I do with my minutes, I will see subsequent increased creativity and productivity. It promises me that if I don’t veer off the path I’ve set for myself then I will get all of the little things done and out of the way and my mind will then be clear to be my most creative and even loving because I’ll be happier that I’m not wasting my time. Of course, there are spaces for writing down what I’m grateful for, what I’m excited about, and at the end of the day I’m supposed to write down how I won (this is a little C. Sheen for me but I go with it) and also how I can do better the next day.

I like the notebook. It keeps me on track, aware of how I want and need to spend my time, and keeps me from getting bogged down in emails, little tasks, and the things that can suck the juice right of me and my day. I’d like to keep clear from the distractions of what can sometimes feel like a ridiculous, misguided world obsessed with the wrong things. It also allows me to see the shortness of every day and yes, life. Hence, I have started to not quite but almost obsessively protect my time and the notebook is my security guard. I block out time for meditation, exercise, writing, cooking, even thinking, and it all seems to flow better. But I wonder, have I become an utter bore with this mess? Am I becoming inflexible? Was I ever flexible to begin with? Is all of this necessary? Because I am a human with wide interests and a magpie soul, I think yes for now. I can imagine an older, wiser me that doesn’t need blocks of time allotted for all of the things I need to do in order to not be a failure at life, but I’m not old and wise yet.

Most successful people have a routine, we know that. Even creative people need one in order to be ready to be creative when the notion strikes. We must keep in good practice with our skill sets — for what good is lightning if you have no bottle? Good work is more often than not steady work. One of my favorite books is Mason Curry’s “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.” But today I’m wondering about the difference between routines and rituals. Routines are thought of as boring — activities we do by rote that carry us mindlessly through our days. Ritual is imbued with religious and spiritual connotation. But can routine and ritual meet? I ask myself if I might dig deeper into every activity in order to first, bring real meaning to it and second, figure out that if something doesn’t allow for real meaning if I should really be doing it. Maybe all that is needed to bring meaning to something is to be fully present while in the process of whatever it is. If I am making a cup of coffee or washing a dish or writing this sentence, can I keep the same level of awareness from one thing to the next? Can I have a present spirit and mind while I’m feeding the dog? And if I’m reading a newsletter from some “improve yourself” website because it came to my inbox and I’m zoning out, then shouldn’t I hit unsubscribe?

I’m going to get to my early afternoon ritual of making my favorite winter health tonic and maybe think further about this. If I’m thinking about it, am I doing it?
Oh, how the mind spirals.

Here’s the recipe for you:
Combine the juice from a lemon, about an index finger’s length of peeled, sliced ginger, a tablespoon of bioactive or local or raw honey, a teaspoon of turmeric, and a little cayenne pepper if you please with as much hot water as you want. I usually make a teapot full and sip on it all afternoon when I’m home. It not only tastes good but will also, I think, ward off the scurvy and whatever cold is waiting to jump on you. The cayenne will rev you up in all kinds of ways.

Happy Monday, Y’all.
AM

growth

H. gave me Ursala K. Le Guin’s “No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters,” the other day. We’d arrived in Nashville for a short holiday break together, so I put it in the small stack of books I’d planned to investigate during the time we were there. I was intrigued — I’d never read her before. LeGuin is primarily a science fiction and fantasy writer, and since I’m not particularly taken by either of those genres, I’d only come across her name.

I don’t know why he chose to buy it for me, he couldn’t remember, but I’m glad he did. It’s a collection of Le Guin’s blog posts, a forum in which she apparently finds freedom to air her concerns, thoughts, often very funny opinions, and obvious truths. Somewhere in the first 10 or 20 pages she off-handedly and elegantly suggests that the idea of economic stability co-existing with economic growth is laughable. That you can’t have both. We have a saying in my family for overlooking something that’s right under your nose. “Well, I’m glad it wasn’t a snake ’cause it would’ve bitten me.” I don’t know about y’all, but I love almost nothing more than someone showing me something that I was missing for whatever reason. Even though I’m often embarrased by my obliviousness, it’s such a relief to finally see. In this case, something I’ve heard on the news or read in the paper all of my life, and something that I accepted as a real possibility because the words were familiar, changed. I silently thanked heaven for the ability to read and remembered that’s why I do it. So that I can see a new way to think, so that my world opens up.

I then immediately applied the concept to personal matters. You can’t be stable and grow. You can’t stay the same and change. In this season of resolutions and declarations to improve, it strikes me why it’s so very hard for anyone to stick to consistent forward motion. We cling to what we know, and what we know is often the most comfortable thing. We want what feels safe, even if it’s not good for us, even if it keeps us stuck, even if it tamps down the spirit and ultimately makes us loathe ourselves for not risking happiness and fulfillment and instead taking the well-worn path that might not allow us our complete potential. I don’t happen to think the well-worn path is wrong for everyone. Somebody’s gotta stay at the house. But why are we sold a notion that compromise is spritual death and also told that adult life is, at bottom, about compromise? How can we live as if we’ll die today and also plan to live forever? The cake and the eating it too… (Le Guin also examines this saying later on in the book but that’s another topic…) Do we accept stability and growth as suitable partners because the language is familiar? Do they really go together? Can they?

I’m going to listen to “Always on a Mountain when I Fall,” and wonder why Merle thought climbing wouldn’t be a risk. I’ll just leave this right here.

quiet

I enjoy this time of year, when there is space to sit still, to think, and to breathe. I took this photo last spring while in Colorado, a place that inspires thinking and breathing for me. I was compelled to look at it this morning after I woke from a thankfully lengthy and much needed rest, probably so I would go through my day with a reminder of how much I need quiet in which to do that thinking and breathing from time to time. I hope you all are enjoying some quiet as we look toward a new year. 2017 has been a devil. But aren’t they all devils in some way?

format

Yesterday, I took a photograph on my iPhone of a stack of polaroids I’ve taken recently and posted it on Instagram. It struck me immediately as an exercise in some sort of redundancy, a picture of some pictures, but I humored myself and let my Sunday morning dalliance in art monsterism slide. I captioned my post by saying I was thinking of all sorts of new formats for 2018. I do love the polaroid as a format — it is immediate, but cool in a way that a digital image isn’t and just can’t be, no matter the filter applied. I am no photographer and don’t know the science, but I have eyes and I see that the light is captured differently. And I do think of the polaroid as a harbinger to the instant gratification that is at our fingertips now — except — the images are not deletable. We cannot say that the captured moment didn’t exist just because we may not like it. We can throw away an image we find undesirable, but it will still exist somewhere, even in the trash.

This isn’t about digital versus analog. But what I am thinking of this morning is change, and how much we have to do with deciding what is kept and what is thrown away. I’ve changed so many times in my life I’ve spun my own head around, and not always by choice. It’s ultimately been a good practice, though, and I appreciate having honed the skill, because at this point, I find that I am able to adapt, to pivot, to make it work, whatever it is, most of the time. However, I am no shapeshifter. I am also blessed because there are parts of me that have been so forged in fire, they are as solid as steel. I think about what those things are. The things I like — such as my capacity for love, my curiosity and tendency to ask why, my strength — I hold close. The things that I consider less desirable — my sharp tongue, my impatience, my tendency to isolate in a bid for self-protection — I try to work on losing. But like the polaroid, even if I try to trash an undesirable image of some feature of my personality, it will still exist, somewhere, even if it’s been bagged up and ferried out to a waste dump barge.

Joan Didion said in her famous essay, On Keeping a Notebook, that, “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” I suppose that has something to do with staying honest with yourself, not getting above your raising, keeping it real. Sometimes it’s interesting to go back to read an old journal or letter, just to remind yourself who you were, where you’ve been, and who you’ve become. Are we not all moving forward, whether we want to or not? It helps to keep perspective, to sometimes take in the broader picture while we do it.

In my constant quest for improving this or trying to keep up with that, I sometimes forget to keep perspective. So my desired format change for now is, as I realize I am looking at the end of what has been yet another rollicking year, to take things in as more of a whole, to consider every experience and every facet valuable, to quit trying so hard just to get to the next thing and make it all look like I planned it. Even if I don’t like something about where I’ve been, what I’ve done, or who I’ve become, those things can’t be discarded and shouldn’t be. A format is how something is arranged, how something is presented, or made available, right? So ultimately, I have to think that how I feel about something is all about the light in which I see it.

Not Dark Yet coming August 18 on Silver Cross Records/Thirty Tigers

The best relationships between singers are symbiotic yet mystical. They bear the demands of the song and revolve around what it needs without discussion. Whether it’s a shared sixth sense or finely tuned intuition, no one has to ask who takes what part. It doesn’t matter anyway — they are of equal importance when two voices nestle seamlessly into a melody, almost imperceptibly gliding across each other when it’s time to switch. It’s not a trick but a sacred dance.

Sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, now with twenty-four albums and Grammy, Oscar, and many other kinds of awards and nominations between them, share that kind of transcendent musical bond. It’s as deep, haunting, knowing, and beautiful as the Alabama woods they once called home. Both sang as soon as they could form words, but music is the only language they have ever needed to communicate with and understand each other. “Not Dark Yet,” offers a glimpse into that understanding for the first time and finally, after years of trying to get it made, at the right time. Produced by Teddy Thompson and recorded in Los Angeles during the summer of 2016, the album provides a potent look at their individual and collective artistry through eclectic song choices from writers ranging from the Louvin Brothers, Nick Cave, Kurt Cobain, and back to Jessie Colter. Shelby and Allison wrap their arms around the past, plant their feet in the present, and nod toward what’s around the bend with a co-written “Is it too much,” to close out the ten-song set.

“Not Dark Yet,” is not a duet record. It is no ordinary collaboration. It is not a creation, but rather a celebration of something that has always been, two voices becoming one and finding home within each other.