The little myth

September
Tree, from a recent hike.

On the precipice of 30, I am learning how to enjoy for enjoyment’s sake. L’art pour l’art.

In my youth, I felt I had to master anything I loved. But then, inevitably, my inability to master a thing diminished my passion for it. For instance, I loved ballet. I loved watching ballets, studying ballerinas. I took ballet lessons as a girl, and then, as a young adult, read Apollo’s Angels and took two beginner’s classes. I was, and still am, a terrible dancer. I am neither strong nor flexible and I have none of the free courage of movement that dancers require. My inability to master ballet itself dimmed my love of the art form. My ballet slippers collect dust in a drawer upstairs; I have forgotten all of the warm-up stretches I used to try every morning. It is a sad and frustrating conclusion to a brief flicker of interest. I never thought I’d become the next Margot Fonteyn, but I expected more from myself. I let myself down quickly.

I’ve been thinking about this false exchange in one particular realm lately. I have loved fiction since I was a child and still do. I read, on average, 50 to 60 novels every year. I study novelists; I drink up their Paris Review interviews; I am obsessed with the craft. And yet, despite all of this, I do not think I can write fiction. I keep trying and loathing myself.

Maybe I will get over it; maybe I won’t. Maybe I will finally write that thing that has been rattling around in my head for years. But either way, I am now repeating to myself the fact that love and mastery do not have to go hand in hand. I can love a cello concerto without ever having to pick up or know anything about the instrument itself. I can adore Italian film without having to learn key phrases. I can devour fiction without having to write a novel. It’s a little freedom I am giving myself.

“Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.” — Robert Penn Warren

I do not think I will ever be in the mood to read Don Quixote. Can I take it off my to-read list, where it has been languishing for seven years?

A month after the rally of hatred, our parks are still in turmoil. The Confederate statues are covered up with gigantic trash bags in the morning; in the evening, an unauthorized group of men is tearing them down (which we witnessed last night, walking back to our car). Insipid tourists pose for photos, cheesing in front of the Lee statue, which irritates me to no end. (It’s such an insensitive and weird impulse, to want to pose with this now-infamous statue, which you never would have cared about, much less noticed, before a woman died in the street.)

One thing that has comforted me lately is the presence of excellent local journalists—namely, Jordy Yager. We heard him speak in a panel of other journalists on the topic of race and racism in the news, and I was so impressed with and grateful for his deep grasp of Charlottesville, its history, and the white supremacy that controlled and still controls so many of its institutions. There is still much to be done, but there are many who are fighting the good fight for the long haul.

Monday Snax

Big city living. Davis, West Virginia.
Matt, Liz, and Ross, surviving switchbacks.

We took a very short weekend trip to the tiny mountain town of Thomas, West Virginia, so the boys could visit Mountain State Brewing Co. (Liz and I were able to find a coffee shop, to our amazement, which provided some respite from the bar.) We narrowly survived the seemingly endless switchbacks and hairpin turns and the little Versa even trucked it up there. A fun and very different way to spend the weekend; more photos on Flickr.

Snax:

Longform’s Best of 2011. The best long-form journalism from last year. I really want to read all of these. I love a good, thorough, and fascinating article. (Longform)

The 25 Greatest Epigraphs in Literature. I love a good epigraph! This is a great and comprehensive list. Have you read any of these novels? Do you agree? (Flavorwire)

World’s Biggest Websites at Launch, 1990s. Wow, Amazon. Looking pretty rough. And Google, that exclamation point? Garish. (Retronaut)

Best Correction in New York Times History. This takes the cake. You have to admire their commitment to accuracy. (Best Week Ever)

Christmas Time with the Family. Grace’s touching recap of our (lovely and goofy) family holidays. (Como Say What?)

Most Anticipated: The Great 2012 Book Preview. Wow. Apparently, there are a lot of great books set to come out this year. I’m looking forward to reading many of them! (I’m especially excited about Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child, I Read Books.) (The Millions)

Dallas Calligrapher: Fabulous Forty. Now that is impressive calligraphy: Flexible nib with white ink, slanted, on a hot pink envelope. I’m jealous of her skills. (The Lefthanded Calligrapher)

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Cary Grant’s Intimate Bromance. Thoughts on the beautiful and peerless Grant and his versatile loves. (The Hairpin)

The Abby alphabet

Remember when you were 12 and you and your friends would exchange e-mail personality quizzes? Or you’d post them on your baby MySpace or Xanga pages? Well, this is kind of like that. Except for semi-grown-up bloggers. (Found at the lovely blog The Lighthouse Keeper.)

The farm! That is one stylized, serious-looking farm. Source: Pinmarklet

Ambition: To live on a small working farm with my husband and raise a few children and a pack of dogs. I would also like to continue my education as a writer and editor, whether that includes graduate school or moving up the publishing industry ladder.

Bad habit: Judging people or things extremely quickly. Flying into microscopic rages when tiny things don’t go my way.

City: Well, Charlottesville, because we love it here, but I think my spirit city is Denver. I adore Denver. I think my body gets a rush of endorphins whenever I remember my summer there.

Drink: Tea, of course!

Education: B.A., summa cum laude, English and Journalism, UNC-Chapel Hill. Currently engaging in wishful thinking about a master’s degree in English.

Food: Mainly fruit. Not enough vegetables, but I eat them daily (lately, we’re into asparagus, kale, potatoes, and bell peppers). I could also live on a steady diet of pasta and cheese.

Justin Timberlake. Source: Bing

Guilty pleasures: Trawling breed rescue agencies for dogs I can’t yet adopt. And Justin Timberlake.

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina, although I tend to claim Davidson, because it’s more interesting and it’s where my parents currently live.

Ice cream: The Four C’s from Chaps Ice Cream on the downtown mall (chocolate, cherries, chocolate chips). Or anything that involves chocolate.

Jonesing for: A dog! Or an unlimited supply of perfect watermelon.

Pure kryptonite. Source: Pinmarklet

Kryptonite: Puppies.

Lookalike: Hm. I don’t know. My theory is that people can’t really differentiate the faces of women with curly hair, and so that’s why people tell me I look like Emmy Rossum or Keri Russell. It’s just because we all have curly hair. We don’t actually share a resemblance. I wish my lookalike was Gwyneth. Or SWINTON.

Still from "The Royal Tenenbaums." Source: Google images

Movie: The Royal Tenenbaums will always have my heart, 100 percent.

Nicknames: Abba, Shabbage, Shabbarge, Flabby, Shabs, Abigail, Abberini, Abs, Bob.

Obsession: Making lists. Dogs. Reading, reading, reading.

Perfume: I don’t wear it that often, but my sisters got me a bottle of perfume from the Tokyo Milk line called French Kiss. I like it. It makes me feel glamorous.

Quirk: Pulling my ears back like a dog when someone makes me angry.

Regrets: Not being more open-minded and generous in high school.

Starbucks: No, thanks.

Talent: Reading! I can read real good.

225/365
Upper quad, UNC campus. My heart sobs a little when I look at this photo. I want to go back! Source: Me

University: UNC-Chapel Hill.

Vacation: Anywhere in the mountains. We live in the Blue Ridge mountains now, but I still can’t get enough of them. My perfect place is a great field at the foot of a row of folded mountains.

Wine: Malbec or a dry white wine. I still can’t remember the names of the white wines I actually like…

X: X to living in fear.

Years: 23.

51/366
Chapel of the Cross, where we met and were married. Source: Me

Zen: I have a few notions of zen. 1) Outdoors with my husband and my (future) dog; 2) Reading or writing in a room of my own; 3) The Compline service at the Chapel of the Cross.

OK, now it’s your turn. Go! See, isn’t it fun to be in middle school again?

Monday Snax

Mallory walking down the aisle. Didn't she look exquisite?
Us!

This weekend, we enjoyed the beautiful wedding of our friends Michael and Mallory, who tied the knot at James Monroe’s gorgeous estate, Ash Lawn-Highland. Photos on Flickr! Warmest congratulations to Michael and Mallory!

Snax with an enormous wedge of watermelon:

God Caught Backing Multiple GOP Candidates for President. Haha. God needs to make up His mind; it’s getting confusing. (Daily Intel)

The Hyena and Other Men. These photos are mind-blowing. Photographer Pieter Hugo became interested in a group of Nigerian men who capture hyenas and then keep muzzled on huge chains. Why? Not really sure. My best guess is because these animals are TERRIFYING to look at. These photos are astonishing. I also recently learned that hyenas are not from the canid family; rather, they are more closely related to cats. So bizarre. (Pieter Hugo)

Whales Have Regional Dialects. Yet another reason to be totally in love with whales, especially the idea of whales. (Broken Secrets)

DIY Wedding Hair: Chestnut Bun. I don’t know if this would work with curly hair, but I’m inclined to try it. (A Cup of Jo)

Flowers A-Z: O Is for Orchid. I love orchids so much. They’re the only plant that I seem able to keep alive for an extended period of time. I’m inspired to buy another one from the Charlottesville farmers’ market to put in our bathroom. (Design Sponge)

Interview with Christiane Lemieux about Her Book Undecorate. I really like the idea of this book. I would really like to have it on our coffee table. (Bloesem)

A Tribute to N&O Copy Editors and Page Designers. The Raleigh newspaper, the News and Observer, closed its local copy desk this past week. A sad day in journalism. (The Editor’s Desk)

Bundle of Joy. A+ on the execution, fellas. (Young Me, Now Me)

Forest Spirit. Moss-covered trees are always so enchanting and eerie. (The Lighthouse Keeper)