Babies and such

This past weekend, Kathryn and I went to visit Catherine and her sweet new baby, Auden.

Visiting baby Auden

Visiting baby Auden

We had such a lovely visit and were so excited to finally meet the little nugget! It’s still surreal to see Catherine as a mom, this dear friend from years past, with whom I used to roll around in the grass with on the quad and steal food from the dining hall. And now here she is, a graceful, competent mother.

Visiting baby Auden

Visiting baby Auden

As you can see, Auden is a complete doll. Can’t wait to see them all again soon!

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Last night, we had the fabulous Meredith Perdue, Michael Cain, and Orvis over for dinner. Meredith, as you may recall, was our super-gifted wedding photographer, and we are HUGE fans. Dinner conversation was lively and fun, and the dogs were full of adorable antics.

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After being ruined for all fiction by Infinite Jest, I have finally found my reading stride again, happily resurrected by the cheering power of Anna Karenina. It has been years since I read it, and I am enjoying Pevear and Volokhonsky’s translation immensely. So funny, so witty, so readable! Preliminary thoughts: Vronsky is not as villainous as I remembered him, at least not yet. Tolstoy can write women fairly and completely, without the masculine censure that so often creeps into 19th-century narratives by male authors (lookin’ at you, Dickens). Anna is just so human and real. Anyone who judges her should take a good, hard look at themselves first.

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Looking forward to a weekend at home to do chores, acquire houseplants, and walk the dog. Pleasant sigh.

The books we need

Epigraph to Anne Sexton’s book All My Pretty Ones (1962):

… the books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation — a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

— from a letter of Franz Kafka to Oskar Pollak

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Frightening and lovely!

Thinking about: how I really need to get serious about training the dog, all-black outfits, how much I dislike the word “outfit,” courgettes, lemonade, North Korea, if I will ever read fiction again, mantis shrimp, and the farmhouse smell and feel of our house (hovel) in the summer. (I am calling it summer now, since we hit 90°F this past week.)

Looking forward to this weekend: Kathryn is coming to stay with us, and then we’ll be traveling to see Catherine, Russ, Ava, and new baby Auden!

House full of animals

Catching up

Newlyweds Kathryn and Jeff came to stay with us this past weekend, along with their furry children, Scout and Sadie. We had a great time together, spending lots of time outside with the dogs, and the weekend only reinforced my desire to have a house full of animals. Our tiny, tiny home was filled with the kind of fun chaos that only three 50-80 lb. animals can bring! I also think Pyrrha really wants a canine sibling. She was noticeably depressed when she realized that Scout and Sadie were gone.

On Sunday morning, we took the dogs up in the woods and hiked up to Carter Mountain Orchard. The weather was ideal, and even though there weren’t any great apples ready yet, we had a lovely morning and met lots of dogs, kids, and other humans.

I love having guests from out of town, because it’s always an opportunity to be reminded of what a truly gorgeous area we live in. I’m perpetually convinced that we have the most beautiful countryside in America. Thomas Jefferson knew it, too.

View of the city
View of the city from Carter Mountain.

Some more photos of our weekend together (mostly dogs romping and being adorable).

Part of Eve’s discussion

Part of Eve’s Discussion
Marie Howe

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like
the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only
all the time.

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Since we were just talking about her, here’s a great thing from Marie Howe.

Kathryn, Jeff, and their pups Sadie and Scout are coming to stay with us for the weekend! Here’s to hoping for lots of good time outdoors with the dogs and many enlightening conversations! Hope you all have peaceful, autumn-transitional weekends.

The unchanged kernel

Kathryn gets ready for her wedding
The dress is on!

(I don’t have a good photo to illustrate this thought, so here’s a photo of Kathryn in her perfect wedding dress. Isn’t it IDEAL for her? She looked so lovely.)

This past weekend, we traveled back to our homeland of sorts for my dear friend Kathryn’s wedding. The wedding reception was like a mini-college reunion, getting to see all of these people who composed my essential community for four years. I left the wedding feeling very content and fulfilled.

I was amazed at how much everyone had changed, how different we all are from the noxious freshmen who met at InterVarsity. Jonathan is so fit and handsome and his hair is long enough for a perfect top knot. Matt seemed taller, talked about his job with authority and expectation. Catherine and I had husbands with us. Anthony is in grad school in Georgia. Sheila is going to seminary in Colorado with her husband. Nick got a job at a prestigious law firm in Manhattan. And we were all there, watching our beloved Kathryn get married. Our meek freshman selves would barely recognize us now.

And yet. I was pleased to realize that, in everyone, there remained this essential, unchanged kernel of personality, the thing that attracted us all to each other in the first place. Matt still dances the same way. Jonathan is still the person you go to for a deep conversation–or to get your bowtie properly tied. Catherine is still quietly observant and yet full of a surprising, absurd humor.

We’ve all transformed drastically; we live in different states; some of us barely speak to one another anymore. But we were all there, for a few hours, happy and content, as if nothing had ever really changed.

Back in the Triangle

This weekend, I journeyed to the Triangle to spend some quality time with some much-missed friends. We had a shower for Kathryn, the beautiful bride-to-be. I skipped back to Durham and got to see three great films at Full Frame with Jonathan; stayed up until 2 (super-late for me these days) with him and Brittney, discussing the beauty/terror of whales, Radiolab stories, and dramatic break-ups. They are great. Everyone is great.

A small selection of photos:

The rest of the weekend’s photos are on Flickr.

Keeping the company of old friends is so renewing. This weekend, I realized that I’ve known Catherine, Kathryn, and Jonathan for six years now. To date, their friendships are the oldest ones that I’ve consistently maintained. (Including Emily, who wasn’t there but should have been. Durham feels absolutely desolate without you, dear.) I posit that a large part of the joy of old friends rests in the lack of having to explain things. You don’t have to explain your background, your family, your fears, your aspirations. You laugh about the old inside jokes, of course, but what is almost richer is the moment where you forget those old jokes or stories and then a word or a gesture sparks something and you suddenly resurrect the old days together. Your eyes widen and you say, “Ohh, I totally forgot about that night,” and then you experience it all over again.

There is much more I could say about these people, about how we’ve evolved together and separately, but all I need to say now is that I love them and I am so thankful for them. It is a considerable mercy that North Carolina is not too far away.

Week 5: A letter a day

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.

I’ve been writing letters since I could scribble and I’ve had pen-pals (from Japan to Peru to all over the U.S.) since I was probably 8 or 9. As you probably know if you’ve spent any amount of time with me, I have a lot of love for the handwritten word. I think it’s a deep shame that its value is vanishing in the 21st century. I still write a lot of letters today and I am thankful for a great cadre of women who are willing to write me back! In tribute to them, I set out this week to write a letter a day.

(You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Day 1: To Windy

I’m always a little bit intimidated when I write my mother-in-law, because she is a legitimate calligrapher; she’s the real deal. But she’s always been 110% supportive of my calligraphic endeavors and I am so thankful to have her as a resource! I think it’s such crazy fate, that I would end up with an amazing mother-in-law who also practices calligraphy. Windy is one of the most optimistic and open-hearted people I’ve ever met. She’s also a lot of fun. I’m very thankful for her and for the ways she has welcomed me into her family.

Day 2: To Ma-Maw

My grandmother is probably my most faithful correspondent. I get her little letters and notes almost once a week and I always look forward to them. She fills me in on her busy schedule and other family happenings; I tend to get most of my family news through her. She’s spunky and sweet and I love her to death.

Day 3: To Mom

I don’t often write my mom letters–we tend to stick to e-mails–but I felt like she deserved a note, because everyone deserves a handwritten note in the mail! Mom also has excellent handwriting, even though she pretends like she doesn’t. She also possesses a great collection of stationery that’s constantly making me envious (and anxious to snatch some whenever I come home!). Writing her is always very smooth and comfortable, because I don’t ever have to justify or explain myself to her. She already knows. Moms are omniscient like that.

Day 4: To Kathryn

Kathryn was one of my first friends at UNC and most recently served as one of my bridesmaids. As our friendship has progressed, Kathryn has remained my rock when I struggle with life’s big questions or with doubts about my faith. She’s always been there for me. K.B. is now in law school in Raleigh and I’m confident she’s making a big splash there. We’ve exchanged a few letters since we swapped states and I always love hearing from her; I really want to make her handwriting into a font, too.

Day 5: To Emily

Emily overwhelms me with her sincerity, imagination, and laudable skill in self-expression. Her letters are gems. Somehow she always knows what to say and exactly how to say it. I’ve missed her more than I can say and my letters to her are mostly messy, rambling things about our lives and artistic ambitions. She’s always been so encouraging to me and I couldn’t do without her. I’m going to stay with her next weekend in Durham and I am absolutely thrilled about it. Can’t wait!

Day 6: To Catherine

Catherine is the classiest woman I know. She is not only a curator of finer things, but she is also experienced in the practice of finer things (e.g., she is an impeccable dresser, a gifted ballerina, and an accomplished violinist). She also has a heart of gold and seemingly endless reservoirs of sympathy. Catherine is also deeply hilarious and I love nothing better than a whole day with her.

Day 7: To Angela

Angela is my loyal, endlessly entertaining, and honest friend who is also a brilliant writer, programmer, MFA graduate student, Slate journalist, and Mary-Kate Olsen enthusiast. She can literally do everything. I love her so much and earnestly believe that my life would be comparatively dull without her. Her letters are bursts of energy and joy and always very creatively packaged.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Sometimes, starting a letter without the standard pleasantries (“How have you been? How’s the weather?”) is easier. Now, I prefer to jump right into a subject. My English correspondent Diane has always been very good about this.
  • Having pretty stamps makes me a whole lot happier about sending letters. I am loving these Chinese New Years stamps that G. picked up for me.
  • I think I’ve always inherently known this, but writing letters is a therapeutic experience for me. It is very calming to sit down and write a letter at the end of a long, hectic day. Thankfully, I have sympathetic listeners!

Next week, I will be attempting to write and edit those pesky short stories that have been lingering on my laptop for weeks…