If you love home—and even if you don’t—there is nothing quite as cozy, as comfortable, as delightful, as that first week back. That week, even the things that would irritate you—the alarm waahing from some car at three in the morning; the pigeons who come to clutter and cluck on the windowsill behind your bed when you’re trying to sleep in—seem instead reminders of your own permanence, of how life, your life, will always graciously allow you to step back inside of it, no matter how far you have gone away from it or how long you have left it. — A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
We spent a delightful weekend in DC with Kelsey and Alex, who are splendid hosts. We saw lots of old friends and spent time with new ones, and we didn’t want to leave their pristine urban paradise. But we have a Kelsey-and-Alex-filled fall, so that assuages us.
After leaving DC, I grew pensive and even a bit sad as I thought about my professional life. Alex just started a graduate program at Georgetown; Cristina is about to become a lawyer; Russ is starting a graduate program in California; Kelsey is seriously considering an MBA from New York University. And me? What am I doing? Reading lots of books and still schlepping around in the same job I’ve had for five years. I enjoy my work, and I am really grateful for my job, which provides me with a genuinely superb work/life balance. I am extremely happy on a day-to-day basis. But I would love nothing more than to go back to school. My graduate-degree ambitions are hindered by three major factors: (1) lack of sensible degree (I really just want a PhD in English, as deeply, heartbreakingly foolish as that is); (2) lack of money; and (3) lack of desire to move to another city. I feel stuck. I don’t have any answers, but I felt like confessing that to the void. I feel that I am getting old, and I don’t want my career to atrophy.
What’s new in your life?
Are the dogs happy? I wonder this frequently. It’s a question that is more applicable to Pyrrha, because Eden—as you can see from the photo above—is always ready for action, which gives off the appearance of constant verve and joy. The corollary to Eden’s constant need for play, however, is that I believe she is often mentally and physically frustrated, because we cannot keep up with her and her playful demands. Very often, if denied her request to play, she will fix you with a look that says, in no uncertain terms, Screw you, old lady. I’ll make my own fun. And then she tries to destroy something in the vicinity (the door, a forgotten shoe, a pillow, et hoc genus omne).
Pyrrha, on the other hand, is happy about 50% of the time, by my best estimate. Owing to her deep-seated anxiety and psychosis, her qualifications for happiness are strict and precise. Pyrrha is happy when she is eating food, begging for food, or sitting in close proximity to food. She is happy when she is playing with Eden or with other dogs. She is happy when I come home and when she can see me at all times. She is happy when Alex is petting her. That’s about it.
Fumiko and Mayumi are recovering after their sister’s murder. For about a week after Chiye’s death, they refused to peck around in the open and instead would spend the entire day in cramped darkness underneath the shed. I don’t blame them for feeling this way. Once you know that death can swoop down from the blue sky, you start treading a little more carefully outdoors (I daresay our hens understand what a bit of what it must be like to live in a country terrorized by US drone strikes). But as of this week, they have resumed parts of their normal routine, and it brings me joy to see them puttering around the garden again. Our illusion of farm peace is shattered, however, and we wait with bated breath every day for the next assassination.
If you ask me about my family, be prepared for an earful that borders on excessive, gleeful boasting. I love them all so much. I want to talk about them for days.
It’s time to take the calligraphy business a bit more seriously. By way of a small step in that direction, I now have an Instagram account dedicated solely to my work: @bluestockingcalligraphy. Follow along.
New favorite things:
- This face oil
- Tailoring clothes
- Concord grapes (got the best little bunch from this local farm, via Relay)
- Using an iron for once in my life
- Homemade granola (thanks for the inspiration, Tara!)
My front-yard landscape is filling out in a clumsy kind of way, but its advancements since last year are noteworthy. Almost everything survived the long winter, which made me supremely happy. And we harvested about five cherries from the cherry tree in front, which I also consider to be a success. The plants are happy and thus I am happy. It is a simple formula.
One mistake was underestimating how crazy lamb’s ear is. It is taking over the tiny plot I naively stuck it in. It’s time to divide and conquer.
My generous, stylish friend Cate bought me this beautiful vintage pair of Italian loafers. She gave them to me as a surprise gift, wrapped up in brown paper, before we sat down to dinner with friends. I am totally in love with these shoes, even though they pinch my gangly toes. I wear them to work as often as I can, in the (vain) hope that they will stretch. They are so perfectly narrow and charming; they make my feet magically look like the feet of a Russian novel’s desirable heroine, who always has two sexy, sexy qualities: (1) “tiny feet” and (2) “a soft, downy upper lip.” Ladies with barely-there mustaches were Tolstoy and Dostoevsky’s jam. Mercifully, I haven’t achieved that yet. But the shoes, ah, the shoes, they are perfect.
We are going on a brief summer holiday to Iceland next week; photos to come!
Also, this dog wants you to come over and play with her.
I am so eager for spring. I saw a photo of what our garden looked like last June and was nearly weeping with anticipation and desire. The sun dappling the barely fuzzed zucchini leaves! The warm earth! The gnats! The sweat beading your legs as you toil in the dirt! Today, I feel like spring will never come (we’re due for more snow this Thursday). But we spring the clocks forward this Sunday and that makes me feel the faintest stirrings of hope.
Today, to tempt myself in the 45 degrees, which now feels practically tropical, I stood out on the back porch in the sun, in my coat, and read Rita Dove on my lunch break. The dogs wrestled in the half-snow/half-mud slush. A blue jay dive-bombed into boughs of the giant spruce tree. I thought about Dove and her childhood, about her dancing with Fred, about her mystical economy of language.
My year-old orchid rebloomed over the weekend and I feel so VICTORIOUS about it. I want someone to congratulate me.
This past week, I was introduced to Penelope Fitzgerald, via her delightful and tiny novel Offshore, and I am going to call myself a fan. I am eager to read more. I was inspired by a recommendation from our lay preacher/the New Yorker‘s coverage of her recently published biography. Read her before? Any favorites?
I am trying to love and understand Eden more. She is still a baby with a ton of energy, which is why she is often so annoying. She also just has one speed: RUNNING. I’ve never seen her walk anywhere. (Except for when you call her in from the backyard, where she is patiently waiting by the shed for someone to come out and play with her. Then she really drags her feet. She slowly, slowly tiptoes to the door, looking so terribly disappointed in life and in you, especially.) Remembering that all she wants is to play with someone is helpful in moderating my patience levels. Also, she is quite sweet when she wants to be. And she adores us. Last night, two episodes of House of Cards were watched with her little shepherd head in my lap. So that helps.
… with the addition of three Japanese bantams, acquired from the Montgomery family, who also gave us their amazing coop.
Andrew is an architect by trade, so you know we’re getting a top-of-the-line construction here. Isn’t it great? These are very trendy hens with a high standard for interior design. I’d like to get them a Bauhaus era chaise lounge…
I’m pleased to introduce Chiye, Fumiko, and Mayumi!
Japanese names were chosen over Indonesian, once I learned their specific breed, which I am clearly thrilled about. I’ve been speaking to them exclusively in Japanese, so that they will feel at home. And I think it’s been working, because we got our first egg last night! Such a darling, cute little egg.
I was hesitant to jump on the backyard chicken bandwagon, because of the fact that we house two high-energy chicken predators, but our garden fence serves as an excellent barrier.
And we’ve positioned the chicken mansion behind the shed, so the dogs don’t have a clear view of them. We’ll let the ladies run around the garden fence when we’re out there and when the dogs are safely barricaded indoors. No plans to introduce the species.
We’re very grateful to the Montgomery family for jump-starting our chicken-rearing dreams with this magnificent coop and the well-reared brood. More to come, certainly, on our continued adventures in urban homesteading and gardening…
More lists, less post-like posts…
Things I’ve Been Enjoying Lately
- Improving my calligraphy website, by degrees. Next up: A new logo and some improved shoots of my portfolio and styles.
- Accordingly, buying lots of new calligraphy supplies, to take myself and my little practice more seriously. Paper & Ink Arts is the best.
- Cleaning out and organizing my studio; finding useful slips of pretty paper.
- Dr. Martin’s Iridescent Copperplate Gold ink. It’s magic. No other gold ink even compares.
- Reading! Always reading.
- Looking out every morning at my Japanese maple seedling, a gift from Kyle.
- Wearing pants, because the weather has been mild enough that they are comfortable again.
- Our weeknight regimen of “salon,” in which we cannot watch TV but must instead walk the dogs, sit and read, play guitar, and/or discuss ideas. (TV is permissible on the weekends now. On the current docket: “The Wire” (just finished season 3), “The Leftovers,” and “Peep Show.”)
- Monday nights with Maddy and Tara.
- Plotting what I’m going to plant in the front yard this fall. Front yard goal: Entirely landscaped; no grass to speak of.
- Eden’s new habit of leaning up against my chair while I read. She’s not begging for anything, just sitting with adorable closeness and cuddliness; it’s so unusual for her, and I love it.
Also: I’m really looking forward to seeing the family women this weekend. Grace is finally back in America!
What have you been enjoying lately?
Apparently, I haven’t had much to say lately. There are dogs to be walked and books to be read and friends to be moved, near and far. After a run of house guests and weekend travel, I have relished our recent weekends at home — even if the last weekend meant relishing by way of contracting this horrible fever virus that is worming its way around town. I was in bed all day on Thursday, fantasizing my death, sending incoherent e-mails to family members, letting Pyrrha lick my limp fingers as she made her rounds around the house. She is a very sweet nursemaid. I was going to say that she had such concern in her eyes while I was laid up in bed, but I think she might always have concern in her eyes, burdened as she is by her myriad fears. My dear troubled dog.
Eden, on the other hand, was quite put out with my laziness. She is merciless toward the weak.
Lately, I have derived pleasure from:
- Post-dinner walks with G. and the girls
- The wildflowers in our front beds (an Easter gift from Mike and Windy)
- The short stories of Paul Bowles and re-reading Pale Fire
- Looking up words I don’t know in Pale Fire, only to discover that Nabokov made them up
- A granite/Corian counter-top cleaner I made myself, thanks to the glories of Pinterest
- New jewelry from Tara Montgomery’s fall line
- Watermelon and peaches
- Going to bed before 10
- Teaching the dogs some (much needed) new behaviors
- The resurrection of family e-mail chains
- Not having any calligraphy jobs on the immediate/urgent docket
- Guion’s new melodies
- July days that top off around 81 degrees
- Orchid no. 2 re-blooming.
- This dog, who makes me laugh.
- Date nights with Guion.
- The fact that English is not a gendered (e.g., romance) language. This makes it a lot easier to be simultaneously politically and grammatically correct.
- Time to revisit Virginia Woolf (currently re-reading A Haunted House, a tiny collection of short stories).
- Family group texts.
- All the money my parents put into my teeth, so that I wouldn’t have to have the smile I was born with, which would have resembled that of a medieval kitchen wench from the British Isles.
- Weekends with weather that resembles late spring.
- A kitchen that is a joy (instead of a biohazard) to keep clean.
- Electric kettles.
- My calligraphy studio. Such peace in my Room of My Own.
- Wearing a skirt without heavy tights.
- Friends who still ask me to do things with them, even though I’ve been neglectful of them for months.
- How sassy Jesus is in the Gospels.
- A pen pal who got surprise-married in the snow.
- Men who identify as feminists.
- This weird organic face serum (mostly water, aloe vera, and coconut oil) that has made my skin look clearer and better than it has in years.
- America. No, really, I am.
- Seeing that your dog (in this case, Pyrrha) loves you for more than just being the Giver of Food.
- A great university education.
- Our church.
What are you thankful for today?
My sweet parents came up for this past weekend to help us with a handful of home improvement projects. We had a lot of fun with them (and the pups), and we accomplished a lot!
1: Dad installed a disposal
2: Guion replaced the hideous ceiling fan in the dining room with this giant paper lantern ($9 upgrade. Yeah, I’m going to brag about it)
3: Bought a mattress, and Dad and Guion built a platform bed for the guest room! With little bookshelves!
And I fed my houseplant addiction, which I also consider part of the home improvement processs. Lovely starlight ficus for the living room (so that the maidenhair fern can live in its desired shade elsewhere):
We also just had a great time hanging out, talking, walking the dogs, watching “House of Cards,” and laughing. How lucky to have such resourceful, fun parents.