Small delights: flowering oregano and coneflower. Two ripe blueberries. Chickadees chatty in the bushes. The air still cool. Kimiko Hahn, Billy Collins, and Ross Gay in my head. Huck working out percentages in an absorbed murmur as he comes down the stairs. Bees in the lavender. Pens in the jar.
Archive for July, 2020
My fountain pens all got leaky, and I can’t embroider with ink-stained fingers—too risky. So sometime during the past few months I shelved my beloved Hobonichi planner (acquired in the Before Times) and shifted back to recording my daily “done” lists in Evernote, where I can easily search them later. I very much rely on these daily lists, which capture what I need to do and what I actually did, and lots of other things besides.
At some point in my paper-planner years, I tried out a Panda Planner and loved a lot of things about the format of its daily pages—especially the way each day begins with a Morning Review section: What I’m grateful for; What I’m excited about. When I set up my Evernote daily template, I folded in those items. It does me good to sit a moment at the start of the day, cocoa steaming beside me, birds waking up in the bushes outside my studio window, to make these small lists. Over time, they paint a picture of the things that brought me joy in a particular season—even the difficult seasons. And when I start filling the page with checkboxes of things I absotively posilutely must get done this day, the Happy Things lists keep me from feeling overwhelmed. There are so many small good things that make up a day.
Today’s gratitude list was simple:
And under Excited About, I wrote:
—Brave Writer Summer Camp tomorrow (I’ll be reading a Nerviest Girl chapter to the attendees’ kids—there’s still time to sign up, and it’s free!)
There’s so much troubling me at this fraught moment in time, and it’s easy to get caught in an agitated doomscrolling/info-sharing loop. Those concerns find their way into my poetry notebook but I try to keep the daily task lists focused on concrete actions I can actually take—and moments I can savor. The giant pink lilies my neighbor brought to our porch. The fringed nasturtium seedlings my friend Ron gave me. The song sparrow tossing leaf litter under the hedge. My good bread, baked now and rapidly devoured by my beloved horde. An eight-year-old blog post I was reminded of this morning in a lively conversation with dear friends—and the pleasure of revisiting its rabbit trails. The welcome news that our favorite pediatric urgent-care doctor has added primary care to his practice, and he’s in network. Kids laughing uproariously at dinner. Evening walks with Scott, wearing masks handmade by a bighearted friend. The cheerful check-ins at my daily Patreon coworking sessions. My son’s bird photos. The cream soda bottles on my windowsill painting rainbows on the wall.
I’ve been updating little bits of my website all week—home page, blog sidebar, booklists—a never-truly-finished job but generally a low-priority one. The higher priority task is updating my school visits page (which looks straight out of 2008) and recasting it into a Covid-era Skype visits situation. That’s a thornier chore than the busywork I’ve been doing, which explains why I’ve done the busywork instead.
In the course of updating my 2020 booklist in the sidebar, I bumped into a discrepancy with Goodreads: there’s a book missing somewhere and I can’t be bothered to track it down. I noticed that I’m reading a lot less this year, which surprised me: it feels like I’m reading a ton. Then I remembered I’ve been working on slowing down, savoring books, not gulping them like they’re Halloween candy. Listkeeping has its perils: the numbers next to the items begin to steal focus from the items themselves.
Why do I number them anyway? When did I start doing that? Maybe I’ll go back through and delete the numbers. Anything to put off revamping that school visits page!
Six months ago, I thought I’d be spending this fall traveling, making lots of school visits. I was mildly agitated that San Diego Comic-Con, which Scott and I had planned to attend, was too early for my book to be out—it would have been fun to plan a couple of local events while I was in town, given that the book is set in a fictional version of La Mesa, the small suburb just east of San Diego proper where I lived for eleven years. Now, of course, that agitation is irrelevant, almost comically so. SDCC will take place online this year, and I’m not going anywhere at all. Like, not even to the grocery store. (Scott handles the shopping. Portland moved to a Phase 1 reopening two weeks ago, but our family is staying home indefinitely for the protection of our high-risk kiddo.)
What I’m doing instead is: planning virtual events via Skype and Zoom, and hoping to give the book a hearty shove out of the nest and into the hands of readers. I’ll be a guest author at Brave Writer’s free Summer Camp on July 21-22, giving a sneak-peek readaloud of Nerviest Girl at 1pm EDT each day. More info here if you’re interested!
What else am I doing this month?
—Writing Arrow literature guides for Brave Writer
—baking bread (sourdough and honey wheat)
—watching Breaking Bad (finally)
—reading How to Be an Antiracist; Greenglass House; The People Could Fly; and revisiting Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing
—enjoying my daily Patreon coworking sessions
—practicing drawing cartoon figures thanks to Eva-Lotta Lamm’s “Little People” tutorial
–playing lots of Animal Crossing with (and, let’s be honest, without) Huck—we got our longed-for blue rose yesterday!
—working on a stitching project (always)
—reading Sara Pennypacker’s novel Pax to Huck & Rilla
—trying not to spend all my time following COVID statistics and wincing at pictures of maskless crowds
—eating Rose’s homemade almond biscotti (very heaven! the best biscotti I’ve ever had)
—waiting impatiently for more Emily St. John Mandel books to hit my Overdrive account (I savored The Glass Hotel last month and may have to read Station Eleven yet again very soon because it haunts me)
—trying to decide which topic to sift my blog archives for and compile into a book—tidal homeschooling? Funny parenting stories? Reading notes/literary essays?
What is your July looking like? (Here I am at the end of this post asking myself: it is still July, isn’t it? It’s all a blur these days.)