Like the flukes

Things I have taken up lately, for general happiness

  • Reading while walking
  • Darjeeling tea
  • Not reading the news
  • Not looking at Twitter for more than 60 seconds
  • The Curly Girl Method, inspired by my mother

It’s been a very slow year for me with my calligraphy business, somewhat intentionally, and I’ve been really happy about it. It is a nice thing: To come home after working for eight hours and not have another two hours or more of work every night.

“The book was in her lap; she had read no further. The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers. She was excited, filled with strength. The polished sentences had arrived, it seemed, like so many other things, at just the right time. How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of the lives of others?” — James Salter, Light Years

End of October
Pyrrha, creeping.

Sweet, sad Pyrrha, my older dog, has been in a lot of pain lately, and it’s incredible to me how much this has affected my well-being. I feel this pit of dread in my stomach when I think of her, whenever I hear her whine, whenever I let her out in the morning or look over and see her ears pinned back to her head. (It’s probably her hips, which is almost an inevitable ailment with German shepherds, but I’ll take her to the vet next week for a more in-depth assessment.) Just today, I was trying to tell Guion I was worried about her while pumping gas, on our way to work, and these fat tears were rolling down my face. Ugh. She’ll be OK. It’s me that might not be. Emotions! Hate them.

With light from the sunken day

It’s hard to believe that it’s July, that we’re already in the final month of our sweet summer sojourn in London. This month, we have particularly enjoyed a bit less international travel and a bit more local travel: getting to see more London museums, parks, and neighborhoods. Despite my true nature as a small-town-loving woman, I have developed quite a fondness for this sprawling city. Some recent photos follow.

British Museum and nearby
Window boxes for the win.
British Museum and nearby
Decapitated beauties at the British Museum.
British Museum and nearby
The Molossian Hound at the British Museum.
9-mo.-old GSD in the neighborhood
A 9-month-old German shepherd in our neighborhood. Be still my heart.
High tea
Aunt Jane treated us (and Windy) to high tea at Brown’s Hotel.
Hammersmith
The Thames, in Hammersmith.
Hammersmith
Hammersmith.

Ways in which I resemble my dog

October
(c) Wei Tchou.

More and more, I find that I take after Pyrrha.

For example, we both:

  • Are wary of strangers.
  • LOVE playing with dogs.
  • Dislike having our routines disrupted.
  • Have sensitive stomachs.
  • Enjoy snuggling on the couch.
  • Adore walks.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We are also still adapting to the presence of the snuggly little baby Laszlo. He is adorable and all, which I think she acknowledges, but he can really be a pain sometimes. But he makes up for all of his crying and all of his antics by falling asleep on my lap in the evening — a joy that Pyrrha will, however, never experience.

In other news, my current obsession: Studying French style. What is the secret? How do all French women look so beautifully and effortlessly stylish all the time? Is it something in the cigarette smoke–filled air?

Today’s questions

Why is my hair less curly?

What is it about quiet novels about the interior lives of women that resonates so deeply with me? (See: Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, which I just started and I love. See also: All Works by Virginia Woolf.)

Is it possible to make quinoa taste like food?

What type of birds were flocked together in that tree, wailing and calling others to them? Were they starlings? I would prefer that they were starlings.

Why does Thanksgiving still feel so far away?

Where can I go where I can interact with more animals?

Are American politics becoming more and more dangerously polarized these days, or is it just me?

What do I have to do to make myself like yoga?

How do you know if it’s the Holy Spirit or your conscience or your latent desires?

When can I get a dog?

Catching newts

Newt
Source: Flickr, user madrat

I remember catching buckets of newts on the edge of the Van Eerden’s largest pond. We separated them into male and female buckets, guessing—rightly, I recently found out—that the males had the flared tails and the females had straight, tapered ones, like the tails of a Dalmatian. We planned to establish a comprehensive spotted newt breeding program, and wouldn’t our parents be delighted when we suddenly had thousands of baby newts hidden in the back of the garage?

While we were daydreaming, Samson, that great, lumbering black lab, would stick his head in the newt bucket, like he was bobbing for apples. He’d come up with a face full of writhing newts, squirming in his white teeth. We’d squeal with terror and try to pry them out of his jaws, but he’d take a quick gulp and they were gone. From then on, we made the littlest sisters stand guard over the buckets and block Samson from any more snack attacks.

I remember the large puddle that was packed with wiggling black commas: tadpoles squirming for life. We would scoop up handfuls of them, dump them in other red buckets, and wait for them to turn into frogs. They never did. When the sun went down, we would trek to their house up that long, winding driveway, tired and content, feeling like conquerors. We hardly ever saw our parents.

Monday Snax

Today, importantly, is Guion’s 24th birthday! I wish I could have just stayed home to celebrate with him all day long. I love that man very much and I think I love him more every day, as totally absurd and romantic as that sounds. He’s the best. I hope his unsurprising birthday present, Bon Iver’s LP, comes in the mail today… G., love you forever and always. Happy, happy birthday!

On Saturday, we went adventuring in the gorgeous wilderness of White Hall with a band of friends. We bought a wheel of gouda from a Trappist monastery and then went to a forbidden but wonderful swimming hole on the Moormans River.

Sam
Sam in the very green Moormans River.
Band of trespassers
The band of trespassers.

After we’d had our fun and settled down with some gouda and wine, we were discovered by a pair of old and understandably grumpy farmers, who kindly asked us to leave and stop trespassing on their land. We complied. Although we won’t be going back there again and felt bad about clearly violating their “no trespassing” signs, it was definitely worth it.

Snax with Trappist cheese and wine on a rock outcropping:

Catching the Bouquet. Here, Emma gives prime advice on how to catch the bouquet at any of the zillion summer weddings you’ve probably been invited to. Heed her wisdom, friends. She “caught” my bouquet and saved that moment from an otherwise awkward end. She’s a pro. (Take Two)

Finally in English: The World’s Best Type Reference Guide. Oh, want it. (The Atlantic)

Brooklyn Moms Now Need to Get High to Play with their Kids. This is sad and funny. I love the comparison in the last paragraph between a high mother and a toddler. (Daily Intel)

Gay Talese: What I Read. A day in the life of the Internet-free human. How nice! (The Atlantic Wire)

The Mind and Fog. So gorgeous and haunting. As you can probably tell by now, I’m a sucker for foggy field photos. Can you believe this woman lives here? Jealous. (La Porte Rouge)

Sebastien Galtier: Beautiful Friends. A collection of dark and dramatic photographs of modern ballerinas. Love. (The Ballet Bag)

Yann Gross. Fascinating photographs of high-fashion models with unusual animals. (Wolf Eyebrows)

Please Have a Seat. A collection of pretty place cards from calligrapher Barbara Kua. (Barbara Kua Calligraphy)

Stereotyping You By Your Favorite Rapper. I don’t know enough about rap to verify these generalizations, but it’s a funny catalog nonetheless. (Flavorwire)

Good News! I’ve reached the point where Etsy just makes me viscerally angry. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. (Regretsy)

Dog and Orangutan BFFs Are Today’s Reason for Living. Um, yes, please. I can never get enough inter-species friends (we’re not kidding, mac!). The dour expression on this hound’s face in all of these photos is priceless. (Best Week Ever)

Monday Snax

All filled up
NC State University graduation at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
We love him!
We love Win! So proud of the graduate.

As you can see, we had a very happy and Wolf Pack-y weekend in Raleigh celebrating Win’s graduation. We love hanging out with Win and with the Tillman-Pratt family and we got plenty of time to do that this weekend. Win’s the best bro-in-law ever and I’m excited to find out what he’ll be accomplishing next year! More photos on Flickr.

Snax with sweet tea and North Carolina-style barbecue:

People of Pharping. I can’t believe my little sister has been hanging out with these people; these photographs look straight out of Nat Geo to me. (Grace Farson)

Welcome to Pyongyang. To the great surprise of many, photographer Charlie Crane was granted unique access to the capital city of North Korea. His photographs of Pyongyang are chilling; the place looks just as cold and artificial as you would expect, and yet the faces of the North Korean people he captures are haunting. They appear so starkly alive in this superficial atmosphere. Highly recommended. (Behance)

Spring: Strawberry-Picking Season. It looks like all of the gorgeous young moms and their babies from our church went strawberry picking last week. The photos, and the babes, are delicious! (Cramer Photo)

Let’s Live Here. I mean, duh. Lush French chateaus for everyone! (Miss Moss)

Les Flaneurs. This looks like such a charming place to live. (My Funny Eye)

A Pool with a House. I’m not much for houses with backyard pools, but I could definitely make an exception here. (Wide Open Spaces)

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. This is one of my favorite blogs. Designer Matt Dorfman shows the different book and magazine covers he creates for his clients. So fascinating, especially to see the final design that’s chosen and why. I think this cover is genius. (Matt Dorfman)

Sketchbook Series: Mattias Adolfsson. If I could draw, I’d fill up notebooks like this, too. Beautiful and fascinating! (Book By Its Cover)

Tea Leaves Ready for Harvesting Are Yellow-Green. Fun tea fact! This blog is great. Short little entries with great photographs from all around the world from a man who’s discovering the greatness of tea. (Discovering Tea)

Franklin and Gob’s Formal Portrait. Just because it’s awesome. (The Bluth Company)

The Mighty Fruit Bat. I’ve always wanted one for a pet. So fuzzy and so aerodynamic! I bet she would gently eat papaya from my open palm. Just like Stellaluna. (Folkloric)

In High Cotton. Speaking of fuzzy! Sheep are pretty cute from a distance. (Boulderneigh)

Dog Wants Statue to Play Fetch. OMG. So much laughter. Poor puppy just doesn’t understand! (Paw Nation)

What Your American Girl Doll Says about the Rest of Your Life. Hilarious. I had Kirsten and Kelsey had Felicity. I definitely judged girls who had Samantha; Samantha was the worst. How about you? How does your prediction match up? (The Hairpin)

Week 12: Daily walks

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Welcome to Charlottesville
Walking around town.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve completed twelve weeks of challenges. They’ve ranged from serious to silly, but they have all been fun and often enlightening. I’ve learned a lot of little facts about myself and about my process of making and following ritual. Some of the challenges have been incorporated into my daily life and I hope I’ll continue some of them in the future.

For this final week, I wanted to take a stroll. Now that we’ve skipped spring and gone straight into summer, a week of daily walks has been really enjoyable, if occasionally sweaty.

If I was a good blogger, I would have taken pictures from all of these walks, but I’m not, so you’ll just have to deal.

DAY 1.
Guion and I walked downtown to meet our Bible study friends Mark and Christina for Chap’s ice cream on the Downtown Mall. It was a hot and breezy afternoon and a little cup of Chap’s made it feel like heaven. I love strolling around the Mall and we walk there often. It’s less than a 10-minute walk from our apartment and it’s always packed with dogs. What’s not to love?

DAY 2.
I had to do some research for my boss at SNL Financial, which is also downtown. I parked the Jeep at our place and then walked over. Got there a bit early, so I strolled around the blocks behind the building and looked at all of the historic houses that now feature the offices of real estate agents or lawyers.

DAY 3.

Watching "Gosford Park" with my bestie.

My weekly walk with Bo turned out to be something of an exhilarating misadventure. I head over to Liz’s to pick him up and we chat about how silly it is that her team’s soccer game was canceled because of a thunderstorm/tornado warning. Yeah, absurd. I walk Bo downtown and we’re having a fine time until I feel a spattering of rain. Then I look at the sky. It is not gray. Or dark blue. It is black. Slate. Full of doom. Bo and I then run–sprint!–across the Belmont Bridge and make it back to my front porch right before the sky bursts open. We had amazingly good timing, because a second after we got inside… thunder, lightning, torrential rain, minor flooding, wind howling, the whole deal. Thankfully, Bo isn’t thunderstorm-phobic (like Emma was) and so he chilled with me in our apartment. He helped me do the dishes and then started watching “Gosford Park” with me until it cleared up enough to take him home. I think he’s the perfect dog. I confessed to Guion and Liz that I am now worried about getting a dog because he or she may not be as amazing as Bo is. I love him.

DAY 4.
Despite starting out rather rough, it turned out to be a very beautiful evening and so I took Bo for another walk. Guion joined me this time and we went wandering through the charming and eclectic Belmont neighborhood. We daydreamed about houses we’d buy and dubious ways we’d coerce current residents to move out and give us their gorgeous homes with manicured lawns and sprawling gardens.

DAY 5.
Guion joined me on a walk to the Downtown Mall to buy cupcakes from Cappellino’s for Cate’s royal wedding princess party. He was a bit astonished at the price of gourmet cupcakes. Aren’t we all.

DAY 6.
Our lovely housemate Hannah joined us on a late morning walk to the Charlottesville farmers’ market. We ended up buying delicious mint tea, baklava, and a babe in the wood, and therefore nothing really healthy or valuable for the rest of the week. Oh well! From there, we wandered over to The Garage, where Stephanie and Emily were hosting a tag sale. Guion went off to brew day for the rest of the afternoon; I went to Mecca, aka Target. When Guion got home, we walked downtown again to eat at Miyako for dinner. Quite excellent, if I do say so.

DAY 7.
Win came! We walked downtown with him and went to church and it was awesome. We’re crossing our fingers that he moves here…

That’s all, folks! It’s been a fun way to welcome spring. To be honest, it will be kind of nice to not worry about weekly goals, but I think I will try to keep some of these habits on regular rotation. Thanks for reading; talk to you soon.

Monday Snax

Birthday lilies from my lover!

I just have to say, I had such a wonderful weekend. I spent most of Saturday with Anna. We met at the farmers’ market, which just opened for the season, and picked up food for brunch. The highlight of the market, though, was the farmer who had a truck bed full of 10 week-old shepherd mix puppies. SO wanted to take one home. Of course. But I resisted. After brunch, Anna and I picked up her family’s young German Shepherd, Heidi, and took her to the beautiful Pen Park, where we roamed with Heidi, who swam in the Rivanna River, chased some deer, and carried a huge log for about a mile (like this, except the log was even bigger). We also got caught in a freak hail storm in the middle of a giant field. It was exhilarating. I want to do it all again tomorrow.

Saturday night, Guion and I went to dinner at the lavish Tavola as a belated birthday event. So good. And then on Sunday, we got a great (albeit short) visit from Dad, Sam, and Sam’s hockey teammate. They passed through Charlottesville on their way home from a tournament in D.C. We had burgers outside on the downtown mall and reminisced about life back home. It was great to see them, even though Sam is HUGE. I am not used to that child being six feet tall.

Snaxy snax with snax sauce:

Myths: From the Rise of the “Model Minority” to the “American Decline.” A very thoughtful and insightful piece on the subtle racism and expectations that Asian Americans face today. (Serenastyle Blog)

The Allure of Rue Montorgueil. Let’s go to France. To this street. Tomorrow. (Lost In Cheeseland)

The Rough Guide to the Waste Land. A travel guide through Eliot’s epic. (McSweeney’s)

Map of the USA from a Californian’s Perspective. Haha. At least we get to be the “Fashion Bloggers” state! (Delphine Ephemera)

Drop-Your-Jaw Embroidery. This has been heavily circulated in the lady blogosphere already, but it’s still pretty amazing: embroidered classic book covers. I think Black Beauty is my favorite. (Little Is the New Big)

Three-Year-Old College Student Really Wants to be New Jersey’s Governor. OMG. I love children. (Daily Intel)

Solid Bond in Your  Heart. Japanese children kill me. This photo, too. Tears! (Hamada Hideaki)

On patience

Spring is the hardest season to wait for. Especially here in the low-lying mountains of Virginia. Spring showed its lovely face for a few days back in March and then retreated. The sun has been rare for weeks and the high every day is barely over 40. This is depressing, but I am trying to be patient. (It is the worst.) However, this weekend promises better days! Tomorrow, it might even reach the 50s! And the Charlottesville Farmers’ Market is opening again. Anna and I are going to meet there, make brunch, and then take her German Shepherd for a walk around town. These are all nice things. See, Spring, don’t you want to come visit now? Doesn’t it sound pleasant here? It would be even pleasanter if you would grace us with your presence.

Waiting for spring is hard. Waiting for things in general has always been hard for me. Having freshly turned 23, I have decided that this will be The Year of Patience. The year of waiting for a dog. The year of waiting for life plans to materialize. The year of just waiting, not expecting anything, but waiting with contentment.

Something I’ve been doing that has helped increase my store of patience and contentment: Every night before I fall asleep, I write down something I’m thankful for on an index card. I’m saving them in a fat photo album. I started doing this on January 1, 2011, and plan to continue it until the year is over. It’s hard to be sad or anxious when you realize that you have literally hundreds of things to be thankful for.

Have a patient weekend. I will be trying!

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience…