Posts Tagged ‘little happy lists’
This is the poem that carried me through this year, more than any other. “One Poem a Day” by Olav Hauge, from his lovely book The Dream We Carry. Those last lines especially—
I get up. It’s lighter.
Have good intentions.
And see the bullfinch rise from the cherry tree,
There have been so many days during the pandemic (and before) when I’ve walked around thinking: Have good intentions. Look for the bullfinch, the buds.
In her wonderful book Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life, Twyla Tharp urges us to “make sharing delight into a daily occurrence,” or, as she puts it a few pages later, to find “the Daily Miracle. Find something that pleases you greatly first thing every morning when your mind is fresh.”
Mary Oliver puts it like this:
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
(From “Mindful” in Why I Wake Early)
What, for you, is the bullfinch rising from the cherry tree, stealing buds, today? Your ‘daily miracle’ for this last day of November? What little thing, ordinary or extraordinary, has more or less killed you with delight?
My notebook is full of the Delta variant, the wildfires, the worries. How is it possible I have so many unvaccinated friends?—none local, but scattered across the country in counties with spiking rates, and I’m wondering what losses the next ninety days will hold. I sent out a few Cassandra-like texts last week, and got back gentle rebuffs or silence. Don’t worry about us, one friend replied, and I groaned—it isn’t something you just turn off. I listen to the epidemiologists, and I know what’s rushing up on us.
I write this here because I don’t want to chronicle the celebrations and joys, the beautiful richness of life, without also acknowledging the dire state of the world outside my doors—the people in peril. The planet in peril.
Here, in this house, in this room? Not peril. Peace, sometimes. Contentment, often. Helpless laughter, frequently. A busy thrum of activity, constantly. I document all this, too, in various notebooks, and, when I can, here on the blog. I keep a ridiculous number of lists. Lists of work accomplished, housework done, books read, television watched, podcasts and audiobooks listened to; lists of small moments that sent gratitude or delight surging through me.
—aeschynanthus blooming at last
—two sunsoaked tomatoes in the big black pot
—chickadees and bush tits at the feeder
—how much Huck and Rilla loved Nine to Five
—The Firelings, richer every time I read it
—Thomas A. Clark’s poems
more light on the branch
more light on the leaf
than appears to fall
on light or leaf
—Holly Wren Spaulding‘s posts like manna in my mailbox
—my studio, the daily rush of appreciation I feel for this lovely space
—a piece of aqua-colored linen in my hands, a vision for what it will become, a salamander in ferns, the meditative pleasure of handstitching the raw edges so they won’t fray
—on green quilter’s cotton purchased long ago, a pink chrysanthemum blooming
—my Aunt Genia’s recipe for inside-out chocolate cake, baked for no reason at all except that I was thinking of her
—the new mop bucket, the satisfaction of gleaming floors
—Rose’s long quest for an apartment, successful at last
—the smell of morning, the expectant crows, the clatter of peanuts on the patio
—dulce de leche ice cream
—kids playing Zelda for hours
—my friend Kyleen’s viola, Allen’s upright bass
—my candy-colored socks
—the Seam Finishing 101 class at Creativebug, a true gem
—the free Bystander Intervention training at Hollaback
—the Sister Act 2 finale, which will never get old
The celebration lists, and the Cassandra letters. That’s what I’ve got for the world right now.
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.
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:
—cool morning air
—the Linda Gregg poem Holly Wren Spaulding shared on her Patreon
—my nice clean studio (I did a major overhaul on Saturday)
—the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap (related)
—the Portland “wall of moms” at the downtown protest
And under Excited About, I wrote:
—fresh bread soon (I had a loaf ready to go in the oven before the day’s heat set in)
—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.
At long last, hitting send.
Chickadee at the feeder! First one we’ve seen in weeks.
We finished our readaloud of Through the Looking Glass and today we began a new one: The Wee Free Men. My first Pratchett, can you believe it?
This baby turned ten. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT.
I posted an explanation on Facebook today:
A wee reminder. If you are looking for my discussions of books, art, nature, pop culture, homeschooling, and joyful family life, you’ll find that at my blog and on Instagram.
Here on FB, I write (since 2016) almost exclusively about current events and policy. (Occasional book-related announcements, and sometimes quips that later make their way into a real post elsewhere. But 90% policy discussions and political commentary.)
If you prefer my rhapsodies about pine siskins and Betsy-Tacy books, they’re still happening, just not here.
It was HARD to pick just two items for rhapsody examples. 🙂 It’s a long list, my enthusiasms. Fountain pens, Pacific Northwest skies, Cybils books, Lisa Congdon, Cozyblue Stitch Club, sketchbooks, Creativebug, Scott Peterson, poetry, Ritter Sport Bars, Portland adventures, Journey North, Chronologically LOST, the northern flicker at my feeder this very moment, Holly Wren Spalding, Small Meadow Press, raisins raisins all we are is raisins, the Snoopy cast album, the Bravewriter Arrow I’m writing (Harriet the Spy this time), historical fiction, cherry cobbler…you Bonny Glen readers know better than anyone what lights me up. I could link almost every one of those off-the-top-of-my-head items to a post (or many posts) here. I won’t, because that takes too long.
(The WordPress SEO plug-in is constantly yelling about my failure to include internal links. It also berates me for writing long sentences. I laugh and ignore it. I can’t remember the last time I looked at traffic stats for this blog.)
When I was assessing my lapses here last fall, I realized I knew exactly how I wanted to use this space—the way I always have: a chronicle of my enthusiasms and the hilarious or thought-provoking things my kids say. Those are the things I want to remember, and to lavish words upon.
Two years ago, when I became compelled to do some writing about policy and advocacy, I decided Facebook was the best space for that—the place where I seem to connect most directly with the largest number of people. (I have more followers on Twitter, but I seldom tweet anymore. My FB connections are almost always people I actually know, and therefore the chances of a real discussion are higher than in the Twitter flood.)
A while back, I started compiling these little happy lists—the sorts of things I’ve been posting here in the past couple of weeks—in my notebook at first, and now spilling onto the blog. Two years in a row, I had the Flow Magazine “Tiny Pleasures” page-a-day calendar (I miss it!) and it was easy to jot down two or three or ten tiny pleasures of my own on a planner page. But I write to share, and I believe in habits. It’s a habit worth cultivating: recording those little happy lists here where we can talk about them. I mention something, and you mention something back, and next thing you know, Isabella Tree’s Wilding is on my nightstand waiting its turn…that’s what I always loved about blogging, those sparks flying back and forth.
It does feel, sometimes, like half a picture, or an indulgence. Serious and dangerous matters require our urgent attention. I’m doing my best to further discourse (especially around practical policy solutions) and spur compassionate action. I’m…just not doing it here. My kids love to tease me about my passion for containerizing. Show me a jumble and I’ll give you a nice basket. When things heated up after the 2016 election, I realized I needed online containers, too, in order to maintain balance and composure. In order to do the work, but not be consumed by it. In order to keep noticing and celebrating the many riches all around me—those pine siskins, this beautiful book. The way Scott keeps me supplied with specially extra-caffeinated cocoa so I can get up before dawn to write. The way the sunrise begins with deep blue, not the pink or gold you expect. The delight of seeing Bean and Rose walk down the street to have lunch at a favorite café. The broad expanse of crocuses that will bloom in Wilshire Park only a few weeks from now.
The happy jolt I get—still, a year and a half after the move—every time I see Klickitat Street on a sign.
So. Little happy lists here, and serious policy discourse there, and occasional light snark on Twitter, and whatever it is I do on Instagram. (It’s seasonal, I guess? My Stories tend to be a mix of day-in-the-life homeschooling glimpses and Portland adventuring. My grid is 85% swooning over nature. I guess it’s like when I sweep everything off the counter into a pretty box to be sorted later. People who’ve helped me pack for a move know what I’m talking about.)
Do any of you compartmentalize your social media this way? I’d love to hear what balance looks like for you. I know some of you don’t do FB or IG at all, and with Facebook especially I see the wisdom in that.
As a postscript I’ll add that lately, my favorite thing about this blog is clicking the ‘related posts’ button at the bottom. It keeps tumbling me into moments I had no memory of, and I’m grateful for the archive.
Early-morning chat with our Jane before her flight back to California. But oh, we miss her.
Huck in my writing chair, reading me the day’s entry from what has become, these past three months, our favorite poetry anthology: Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year. “Mom, listen! This poem describes exactly how I feel about January.”
a clean white sheet, newly ironed;
an empty page;
a field of freshly-fallen snow
waiting to be mapped
by our footsteps.
The moment this tome came to us last fall—a review copy from Nosy Crow edited by Fiona Waters and gorgeously illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon—Huck claimed it as his own. He has announced his plan to enter his name in the “This book belongs to ______” blank as soon as he can write it in cursive. (This melts me. The tattered copy of Alice in Wonderland I read to Huck and Rilla in December is inscribed, in the handwriting of a young Rose, with: “To Rose from Mommy, July 3rd, 2007, With Love.”)
Four frenzied squirrels scrambling across the pergola and flinging themselves into the overhanging magnolia tree. Clearly they don’t have a seasonal poetry anthology because their antics were straight out of spring.
Ron stopping by with a delivery of homemade chocolate chip cookies so delectable they would make a hobbit weep.
This fun art tutorial by Lisa Bardot: part of her Making Art Everyday series. Rilla perched beside me and taught me how to get around in Procreate. Boy am I glad I’m homeschooled.
(I had a little trouble with the blending. Rilla’s was one thousand times better. But hey, baby steps!)
While I worked on my orange (with much merriment and coaching from my daughter), Huck worked on the cursive letters he learned yesterday. How beautiful is that u, I ask you?
Appointment with my new primary care doctor today. She was awesome, and her office is all of six minutes from our house. For this I am profoundly grateful.
Overheard (Rose): “He’s the most boring serial killer, in my opinion.”
These lines from “Planet” by Catherine Pierce, from HERE: Poems for the Planet, a new anthology forthcoming in April from Copper Canyon Press, edited by Elizabeth Coleman:
This planet. All its grooved bark, all its sand of quartz and bones and volcanic glass, all its creeping thistle lacing the yards with spiny purple. I’m trying to come down soft today. I’m trying to see this place even as I’m walking through it.
The sunrise was bonkers this morning. Huck and I watched its first faint tintings together, and then he went off to do his Huckleberry things and went back to writing—or trying to write—mostly I was watching the streaks of scarlet and coral paint spread across the sky. Just breathtaking. And…a minute earlier than yesterday.
Water vapor billowing off our garage roof as the morning sun melted the frost on its mossy shingles. The kids’ delight at our very own cloud machine.
Northern flicker at the feeder—hadn’t seen her in a few days.
Huck’s beaming satisfaction at his first cursive letters. His three careful lowercase t’s especially—the first looking rather like a capital A, the second nicely formed but floating in mid-air, and the third one darn near perfect. He’s been very critical of his (print) handwriting, so it was lovely to see him feeling proud of the accomplishment.
Belly laughs from my youngest two at the White Queen’s backwards antics in our Through the Looking-Glass readaloud. Six impossible things before breakfast!
Lunch with Scott and Jane before she (sob) heads back to California tomorrow. I was captivated by the large black-and-white photo of the restaurant (circa 1941) on the wall above our table. Careful pincurls; a fur stole and plush hat (at a diner counter!); the skinniest watch-strap I’ve ever seen.
A walk to the library with Scott. Crisp air, pretty clouds, and the best conversation.
A 94-point word in a game of Words With Friends (acolyte/as, triple letter on the C, triple word score)
These lines from “Day One” by Franz Wright:
…We should really examine
your life, the one you bought,
and what happened when you got home
and attempted to assemble it:
that disfiguring explosion
no one witnessed, no one heard,
and which you yourself cannot recall,
and by whose unimaginable light you seek
to write the name of beauty.
—from Wheeling Motel
The Round 1 Cybils Award panels have made their selections, and finalists will be announced on Jan. 1st. My YA Fiction team read a total of 140 books (more if you count one or two titles we wound up shifting to YA Speculative Fiction). I finished with a personal tally of 63 novels read. Sixty-three! My eyes is tired. 🙂
I’ve fallen way behind on updating my Goodreads and the book log here on my site. Hope to catch up this week.
This page, which includes Cybils and non-Cybils reads, is about thirty books behind. Yikes.
My reward for finishing Cybils round 1 was setting up my calendars for 2017. I had to laugh when I realized that everything on my Christmas and birthday lists this year was a calendar of some sort. The Lisa Congdon wall calendar for my desk area; a Japanese woodblock print calendar for the living room (Rilla and I are obsessed with Hokusai lately); a 2017 Hobonichi Weeks to be my carry-with-me appointment book; and (swoon) new seasonal inserts and planner embellishments for my Wild Simplicity Daybook (which arrived as a gift from my treasured friend, Lesley). Anyway, I have started the task of entering upcoming events and work deadlines into my planner and appointment book, and I’m enjoying setting up my Daybook for a new season of high tide. (I use the Daybook to record our homeschooling adventures. It makes a truly gorgeous chronicle, and even more so this year with the earth-friendly “stickers”—lovely bits of artwork to cut out and paste in).
It’s a rare overcast morning here, so I’ll have to wait until later to catch photos of everything. Bit of a tease to post about plannery things without pictures, but what can you do?
A new year means new sketchbook plans. I was delighted to see that Lisa Congdon is offering a new class at Creativebug: the Creative Boot Camp. Rilla and I will be spending our Saturday nights this way for the next six weeks.
(Note: that’s an affiliate link. Creativebug was offering a holiday special of a $15 Amazon card with purchase of a gift subscription—as far as I can tell, this appears to be still going on. As I’ve mentioned before, I consider our $4.95/month Creativebug subscription to be one of the absolute best expenses in our homeschooling budget. Unlimited arts and craft classes, beautifully presented.)
I should have titled this post “what I’m busy with this week besides work.” The assignment crunch that kept my blogging sparse during the past two months will continue through January and beyond. But it’s all good stuff. I winced, though, when my friend Jenn mentioned that she’d seen so little of me here and on social media that she wondered if I’d given up the internet altogether. Not by choice, that’s for sure! I’m trying to work out a short daily formula of sorts that I could apply to revitalize Bonny Glen in the new year. The old listography daily happy lists, or Instagram-style with a photo and notes, maybe. And a return to my Booknotes of yore. I miss them! And after the Cybils finalists are announced on Sunday, I’ll have lots of YA novels to talk about…
What are you busy with right now?