What to do when we’re all monsters

Inspired by the horrors and paradoxes of our current cultural moment (and a Paris Review article by Claire Dederer), I wrote a short piece for Mockingbird: “Love the Art, Hate the Artist?

An excerpt:

When a politician misbehaves, it’s easy (in theory) to wave our hands and say, “Politicians! They’re all filthy.” But when our favorite novelist or comedian or musician misbehaves, we feel conflicted. We feel like we’ve been implicated ourselves. This is how I felt when I learned that Virginia Woolf, one of my all-time favorites, dressed in blackface to a party and was famously cruel and anti-Semitic. We want our artists to be as blameless as we think we are. Our beloved artists made something so good, so beautiful; shouldn’t the end product match the content of their souls?

This is the tricky thing about art: Great art can be created by terrible people.

Read more at Mockingbird.

In other news, we had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday with my family. Full of sincere, deep gratitude for these people (and pups)!

Thanksgiving 2017 Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 Thanksgiving

More family times Thanksgiving 2017

On a quiet holiday season

Thanksgiving in the Pines

I still can’t read the news, because it makes me queasy, so it was nice to remove myself from a screen for a long weekend. We retreated for the Thanksgiving holiday to spend the time with Guion’s family, and it was very nice.

Thanksgiving in the Pines

One supreme benefit is Georgia. This is Georgia. She belongs to Guion’s parents, and she is probably the best dog who has ever lived. She really likes holding hands.

We enjoyed long conversations and memory-sharing at the dinner table; ate sumptuously; and took extensive warm-weather walks.

Thanksgiving in the Pines

(Guion also continues to be very good-looking.)

We are at peace, despite our increasingly doomed country. I let him get his first Christmas tree* of our marriage this year, and he is very happy about it. The morning after we put it up and decorated it, I found him sitting in the dark living room next to it, lights on, drinking his tea. I felt a surge of guilt for being such a Scrooge, for having crushed his childlike spirit for so many years. But we have it now. And Christmas joy permeates the house.

(*”Tree” is a grandiose term; the thing is barely 3 feet tall. My wifely generosity has limits.)

Thanksgiving in the Pines

Thanksgiving

There is a lot to be thankful for this year, even amid the sadness. I am so in love with my family and so full of gratitude for each of them. A few photos from our week at home.

Thanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in DavidsonThanksgiving in Davidson

Thankful for

Playing in the yard with the girls

Today, I am thankful for:

  • Guion
  • Gorgeous spring weather
  • Toiling in the earth alongside my helpmeet
  • Maddy, Sallie, and Tara
  • The fact that Rachel has kept up her blog; equally thankful for her gift of expression
  • This town
  • Dog-savvy people who bring their dogs to play with our psychopaths
  • Cherry trees in bloom
  • Everything in bloom, actually
  • Not going to the forum on the church and homosexuality so that I could have a long brunch instead
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Dirt under your fingernails
  • Our house
  • Books in translation and being able to trust that the translation is good
  • Dogs chewing on sticks
  • Open windows
  • Smelling like the earth after a long day working in the yard
  • Men who listen
  • The Wire
  • Annie Dillard
  • Family and friends who don’t ask me when I’m going to spawn a child and why I haven’t yet
  • Journaling again
  • Not having to moderate Facebook for the shepherd rescue anymore
  • Mom, Dad, Kelsey, and Alex coming to visit this weekend

Remember when Thanksgiving happened?

Just getting around to uploading these photos now, because, you know, moving.

We are a provocative and weird family.

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson
Whose idea was this? Why are we all on my parents’ bed? What demigod are Grace and Sam worshipping?

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson
Awkward Family Photos to the MAX!
Everyone stands around while Guion demonstrates the technicalities of the sorority squat.
Everyone stands around while Guion demonstrates the technicalities of the sorority squat.
Thanksgiving in Davidson
At least someone had a great manicure.

(Many thanks to beautiful Cousin Emily for many of these spectacular photos.)

Pyrrha wanted no part of any of it and was instead content to patrol my parents’ neighborhood from their bay of windows.

Thanksgiving in Davidson

We did have a lovely meal. It was so good to be with everyone. I really like these people that I happen to be related to.

IMG_4884

Thanksgiving 2013

We had a lovely holiday with my family this past weekend. It was nice to escape from the life/work/moving madness and vacation in Davidson for a few days.

I haven’t uploaded any pictures from my good camera yet, because my house is in utter disarray, but I’ll get around to it eventually. In the meantime, here are some Instagrams.

Edit: Grace has a sweet recap of happy moments from Thanksgiving Day, and her photos are, as always, much better than mine.

P knows what Thanksgiving is all about. #napping
Pyrrha does some hard-core napping.
100% bro. #grace #punksister
Grace is slowly turning into a teenage boy.
Shepherd on guard at her grandparents' house. #gsd #thanksgiving
P on guard.
Favorite people. #thanksgiving
Saturday night, post-feast meal: Potato chips, BBQ, and wine.

Hope you all had peaceful breaks!

Thanksgiving

Dusk in the neighborhood
Dusk in the neighborhood.

Tomorrow morning, Guion, Pyrrha, and I are setting off for Southern Pines for a long weekend with the Pratt family. I am looking forward to seeing everyone, taking long walks with Pyrrha and Windy around the neighborhood, and stuffing my face.

On the eve of this great American holiday, here is a preliminary list of things I am thankful for right now:

  1. Guion, everything that he is now and is becoming. And those blue eyes of his! Like an ice dragon! Have you looked at them lately? His eyes are a seriously unreal color, much like Jack Donaghy’s.
  2. Mom and Dad.
  3. Mike and Windy.
  4. Kelsey and Alex.
  5. Grace.
  6. Sam.
  7. Win (and Tracy, by extension).
  8. Pyrrha, our sweet and neurotic little baby.
  9. Our community in Charlottesville.
  10. Christ Episcopal Church.
  11. The women in my small group.
  12. A fenced-in backyard.
  13. Kind-hearted, attentive landlords.
  14. My job.
  15. My coworkers and bosses and the camaraderie we share.
  16. Louis, my new camera, inherited from Grace.
  17. The poetry of the Bible.
  18. The public library system.
  19. Used book sales.
  20. Ballet.
  21. Skype.
  22. Tea. Always and forever tea.
  23. All the dogs!
  24. Old friends.
  25. New friends.
  26. Maxi skirts and dresses.
  27. Makeup samples.
  28. Marcel Proust.
  29. The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed.
  30. The trees in Charlottesville in the fall.
  31. Marilynne Robinson.
  32. Our cars, that they run.
  33. Poetry.
  34. Sufjan Stevens.
  35. Japanese vocabulary that still comes back to me.
  36. Art museums.
  37. The Virginia Museum of Fine Art.
  38. The Atlantic Monthly.
  39. The New Yorker.
  40. Calligraphy.
  41. Pyrrha’s dog friends.
  42. Handwritten letters.
  43. Nettles.
  44. Joanna Newsom.
  45. Friends’ babies.
  46. America.
  47. Pyrrha’s ecstatic jumps in the air when I come home.
  48. Peace.
  49. Eyeglasses.
  50. Long walks around town.
  51. Enormous clouds of starlings.
  52. Virginia Woolf.
  53. Great restaurants.
  54. Brother Beer Works.
  55. Japanese ceramics.
  56. UNC-Chapel Hill.
  57. All of my beloved former English professors and even the journalism professors who scared me into a job.
  58. Boots.
  59. High-quality writing utensils (especially pens from Japan).
  60. Childhood memories.
  61. Horses.
  62. Letters from Aunt Lib.
  63. The Chicago Manual of Style.
  64. Soft leather leashes.
  65. Editing.
  66. Fonts.
  67. Vladimir Nabokov.
  68. The Eucharist.
  69. A community of artists.
  70. Little notebooks.
  71. Relay Foods.
  72. Ample storage space in our tiny hovel.
  73. Pie.
  74. Memories of the Compline service at the Chapel of the Cross.
  75. A new Trader Joe’s in town, even if the parking is apparently atrocious.
  76. Anton Chekhov.
  77. Tights.
  78. My beautiful rings, from Mary Windley.
  79. Cut flowers on the kitchen table.
  80. Homemade oatmeal.
  81. Journals, which I have kept for about 18 years now.
  82. Solitude.
  83. The Book of Common Prayer.
  84. A priest who loves William Faulkner.
  85. The view of the mountains as I drive home from work.
  86. Talking about film with Jonathan.
  87. Rabbits.
  88. American literature.
  89. Alphabetization.
  90. Sex.
  91. Grapefruit.
  92. A warm home in the winter.
  93. Forgiveness.
  94. The Virginian countryside.
  95. The person of Jesus.

We are saying thank you

Stairs Photography
Photo by: Flickr user dolfi.

Thanks
W.S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

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

We have been talking about gratitude lately. I read this poem at small group this past week and it made me feel hopeful and sad and focused all at the same time. I think it is a beautiful one. It always hits me right where I am.

I made a list of the 100+ best novels I have ever read. Feel free to voice your objections, opinions, etc.

Rose and Kemp are coming this weekend; we are expecting bouts of busyness and cold weather; apples to be picked, dogs to be walked, farmers markets to be visited. Have a good one, y’all!

Monday Snax

Family + Dublin
My family + our surrogate dog, Dublin.
Thanksgiving girls
Girls of Thanksgiving. L to R: me, Dana, Grace, Emily, Kelsey, and Nicole.
Proper Pratt siblings
Pratt siblings on our best behavior. Win is so stoic.

Ah, Thanksgiving. It was so ideal. The weather was divine; the food, miraculous; the company, perfect. As always, it is difficult to get back into the weekly routine, but I feel sufficiently rested and hopeful. I left ineffably thankful for our families. And I got to spend plenty of time with dogs, which was naturally another thing to be grateful for. Photos from the holiday weekend on my Flickr.

Snax with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce:

The Extraordinary Syllabi of David Foster Wallace. Kind of thankful I’m not taking a lit class with DFW. Although I think it is totally wonderful that he assigned The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (Slate)

Women Who Write Like Men and Men Who Write Like Women. A somewhat interesting corollary to my thoughts on this matter? So, it turns out that men and women do actually use pronouns differently, and so we can overgeneralize and say that there are some “men who write like women” and some “women who write like men.” Haven’t processed the implications of this, but it’s still interesting. (Full Stop)

Joan Didion on Stage. More Didion (because I’m reading The Year of Magical Thinking right now, probably). And because she is snarky and cool. (The New Yorker’s Book Bench)

Living with (Millions) of Books. Houses without books look soulless. (English Muse)

Jonathan Lethem’s Alphabetical Absolutism: How Writers Keep Their Books. Photographs of contemporary writers’ bookshelves. I liked Junot Diaz’s thoughts on the matter of buying more books than one can read in a year. (The New Yorker’s Book Bench)

Peter Jellitsch Draws the Wind. Now that’s a crazy endeavor. But how cool is this? Very. (Fox Is Black)

Bicycle Portraits, Part III. This looks like a beautiful book. Would make a gorgeous gift for the avid cyclist in one’s life. (Miss Moss)

30 Tech Gifts Under $100. It seems all people want these days are gadgets, so this is a small but helpful gift guide for design-friendly digital-age presents. [Side note: Can I talk about how much I hate the asterisk in the Design*Sponge title? I always want to leave it out, even though copy editor rules tell me you’re supposed to punctuate a title the way a firm punctuates it. Still. I think it is stupid, Bonney. Even though your gift guides and your general website are great.] (Design*Sponge)

Constellation Calendar. Ooh, love. Even though I can’t identify a constellation to save my life (except probably Orion’s belt). (Unruly Things)

The Class Comforter. The sweetest. I would like to have that job/get someone else in my office to have that job. (Sweet Fine Day)