Hiking

One of our fun weekend activities lately is hiking in the forest preserve not far from where we live. There are several miles of trail, mostly easy for small people to hike, and it’s just so lovely this time of year.

It reminds me of all the weekends I spent doing the same thing in the park with my dad when I was growing up. He seemed to know everything about trees, leaves, plants, bugs, moss, and rocks. I wonder if my kids will feel the same way about me after I point out moss on the forest floor and eloquently compare it to a carpet? Heh.

This is one of my very, very favorite photos. I was such a goof! My dad was so young! My brother in that 80’s hiking backpack!

Nonetheless, I love to see the natural world afresh through their eyes. Being outdoors together is absolutely one of my love languages.

Would you, reader, indulge me if I share a relevant poem? I just adore Maggie Smith, who has a way of writing the things I didn’t realize I needed to read.

Year in Review: 2018

Look, we’re two full weeks into the new year and I’m sure no one cares. However, I have not missed a year of this annual survey since I started it in 2007 so buckle up!

Previous years’ answers are available here: (200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016, 2017). Over time I have modified and  deleted some of the original questions, but here’s what I’m working with this year:

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

I wore a bikini in public, made a child’s Halloween costume, joined a running team, and started an SSRI.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I wrote that I’d like to: “Get a general practitioner so I can stop going to urgent care, spend less on frivolous purchases. Keep up my yoga practice. Race in another 5K and a 10K, as I’m now in a new age group!” And although I didn’t think of it as an official resolution, I decided that my leisure reading would only include books by women authors. I did really well on these!

For this year, I don’t have a real resolution. I am going to sprinkle a few monthly challenges into my year, including Dry January (currently going on right now, yay?), a month of daily blog posting, a no-spend month, a run streak month, a decluttering month, and more to be determined later. My leisure reading will focus on the voices of women, people of color, and LGBTQ writers.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! Lots of internet ladies and a few work friends. So many little babies I need to hug.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not this year.

5. What places did you visit?

Atlanta (shopping), New Orleans (for a ladies’ weekend WHICH WAS AMAZING), Iowa (family visit), St. Louis (quick friend visit on the way home from Iowa), and Florida (family Christmas visit). I think that was it?

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I’ll repeat last year’s answer, which is still true: “A sane president, mainly. I would also appreciate more time alone and a more organized house.”

7. What days from 2018 will you always remember?

Nothing comes to mind as I sit here. I may think of a day later, but if I do, it wouldn’t really qualify as a day I’ll “always remember,” so.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Figuring out that my overwhelming anger might be a symptom of anxiety. This was news to me! I hadn’t been feeling “anxious,” but whaddayaknow? Anti-anxiety meds made me significantly less angry. I mean, I still have swarms of bees coming out of my mouth on a daily fucking basis, but life is better.

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9. What was your biggest failure?

Healthy eating continues to be a struggle, as I mentioned last year, but I feel like I have improved my thinking on this front. I don’t feel like I had any “failures” this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had some back problems off and on this year, which are awful when they surface, but I am doing better with strength exercises that really help. My biggest health issue was in October — STOP READING IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH — a spider bite (?) I acquired on a trip to the pumpkin patch that became infected and developed a huge, painful, horrifying abscess on the back of my leg. The doctor, ahem, took care of it for me and did a bacterial culture and it turned out to be MRSA and long story short, I still do not feel clean.  Thanks for nothing, festive fall family activities.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My trip to NOLA was pretty amazing. And daycare.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mine, frankly.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Daycare. I’ll just keep repeating this answer every year until they start kindergarten.

14. What did you get really excited about?

Traveling with my BFFs, having our new friends move onto our cul-de-sac two doors down, and running a fast (for me) 10K in November.

15. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Not a new song, but Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” got a lot of play on my running mix.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Happier.
b) thinner or fatter? Same.
c) richer or poorer? Same.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Socializing with local friends.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Eating my feelings.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

We spent the week-ish before Christmas visiting with family in Florida. My in-laws have a place there and the rest of the family came down and stayed in a nearby hotel. It was stormy the entire time, so we spent a lot of the trip indoors (or driving through insane rain and winds to visit an aquarium). For the actual holiday, we were back home with just the four of us. The kids can talk and ask more questions about Santa this year, and they were absolutely ALL IN on the Christmas magic, which was pretty great.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

I continued to love The Great British Baking Show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Good Place. I also enjoyed Marcella, Jack Ryan, Atlanta, and Mindhunter, which were new ones for me this year. Very excited for Game of Thrones to make its return soon!

21. What was the best book you read?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Just perfection.

Here are some other highlights from this year, which was entirely devoted to reading women’s words:

  • Hunger – Roxane Gay
  • The Turner House – Angela Flournoy
  • The Wangs vs the World – Jade Chang
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara
  • The After Party – Anton DiSclafani
  • The Witch Elm – Tana French
  • Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith
  • Why I Wake Early – Mary Oliver

22. What music did you get excited about?

Far too little. I kind of shifted from music to podcasts for most of my listening time this year. So…my favorite podcasts from the year were My Favorite Murder, The Ali on the Run Show, and The Popcast with Knox and Jamie.

23. What did you want and get?

Democrats in the House!

24. What did you want and not get?

Impeachment.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw and enjoyed: Black Panther, A Quiet Place, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I also saw a lot of movies I didn’t enjoy all that much and, I’m sure, many I’ve completely forgotten! No standout favorites this year.

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Went with the family to Krispy Kreme on the way to work/school, ran 12K (an almost-yearly tradition on my birthday) and got a manicure. My in-laws arrived that afternoon to spend a couple of days with us on their way down to Florida, so we had pizza and cupcakes that night. I turned 41.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

Lots of skinny jeans with blazers, for some reason.

28. What kept you sane?

Last year I wrote, “Coffee, running, and Twitter,” which is still true. This year I’ll add C3l3xa to that list.

29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I very much enjoy Celeste Ng not only for her novels but also on Twitter. Anna Friel. Still Lin Manuel Miranda.

30. What political issue stirred you the most?

What didn’t?! Jesus, what an absolute trashfire. But probably children in cages at the border. That, probably. I mean, unless it was Brett Motherfucking Kavanaugh. #angrybees

31. Who was the best new person you met?

I feel like I’m forgetting someone, but nobody stands out? Eeep.

32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Take that spider bite to the doctor POSTHASTE.

And, as I say every year, qui patitur vincit.

33. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Not sure I have a song lyric this year. How about a lyric poem? This may be more “aspirational” than summative, but here you go:

 

“I Worried”

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

— Mary Oliver

Quotation of the Day: Hate Destroys the Hater Edition

MLK

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. […] Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater. […] When you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.

— “Loving Your Enemies,” 1957

 

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

— Strength to Love, 1963

 

Previous MLK words of wisdom: on audacious faith, on love, and on toughmindedness.

Dirge Without Music

I intended to post something here this weekend, but after Friday’s events in Connecticut, it seemed silly to do my usual thing here. I didn’t know what to say about Connecticut either, though, so I didn’t say anything at all.

Saturday, my friend Emma shared her thoughts along with this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, who happens to be one of my favorite poets. I thought I’d post the poem here as well, since it seems right.

“Dirge Without Music”

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1928

Quotation of the Day: Toughminded Edition

Like last year and the year before, I’m bringing a few of the wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to you in honor of his birthday.

The strong man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites. The idealists are usually not realistic, and the realists are not usually idealistic. The militant are not generally known to be passive, nor the passive to be militant. Seldom are the humble self-assertive, or the self-assertive humble. But life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony. The philosopher Hegel said that truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in the emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.

***The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. The tough-minded individual is astute and discerning. He has a strong austere quality that makes for firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment. Who doubts that this toughness is one of man’s greatest needs? Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

***There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness. A nation or civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.
But we must not stop with the cultivation of a tough mind. The gospel also demands a tender heart. … What is more tragic than to see a person who has risen to the disciplined heights of toughmindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hardheartedness?
Strength to Love, 1963

String Theory

“The hardest knot is but a meandering string; tough to the finger nails, but really a matter of lazy and graceful loopings. The eye undoes it, while clumsy fingers bleed. He (the dying man) was that knot, and he would be untied at once, if he could manage to see and follow the thread. And not only himself, everything would be unravelled, — everything that he might imagine in our childish terms of space and time, both being riddles invented by man as riddles, and thus coming back at us: the boomerangs of nonsense… Now he had caught something real, which had nothing to do with any of the thoughts or feelings, or experiences he might have had in the kindergarten of life….”

— Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“It is as if the space between [them] were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before [them] in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between [them] like a looping string, the distance being the doubling accretion of the thread and not the interval between.”

— William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying


“If you could just ravel out into time. That would be nice. It would be nice if you could just ravel out into time.”

— William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying


“The spiral is a spiritualized circle. In the spiral form, the circle, uncoiled, unwound, has ceased to be vicious; it has been set free. I thought this up when I was a schoolboy, and I also discovered that Hegel’s triadic series (so popular in old Russia) expressed merely the essential spirality of all things in their relation to time. Twirl follows twirl, and every synthesis is the thesis of the next series. If we consider the simple spiral, three stages may be distinguished in it, corresponding to those of the triad: We can call ‘thetic’ the small curve or arc that initiates the convolution centrally; ‘antithetic’ the larger arc that faces the first in the process of continuing it; and ‘synthetic’ the still ampler arc that continues the second while following the first along the outer side. And so on.”

— Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory


 

[133/365] Finishing Up
Done

 

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

thread, n. 7. A thread in various mythological or legendary tales (esp. that of Theseus in the Cretan Labyrinth) is mentioned as the means of finding the way through a labyrinth or maze: hence in many figurative applications: That which guides through a maze, perplexity, difficulty, or intricate investigation. See clew, n.

thread, n. 8. That which connects the successive points in anything, esp. a narrative, train of thought, or the like; the sequence of events or ideas continuing through the whole course of anything; train. Esp. in phr. to pick (or take) up the thread(s) (of) , to continue (with) after an interruption or separation; spec. to resume an interrupted friendship; to lose the thread , to cease to follow the sense of what is being said.

clew, n. 7.b. With the literal sense obscured: An indication to follow, a slight direction, a ‘key’. See clue n., the prevalent spelling.

clue, n. 2.b. With the literal sense obscured: That which points the way, indicates a solution, or puts one on the track of a discovery; a key. Esp. a piece of evidence useful in the detection of a crime.

clue, n. 3. Any figurative ‘thread’: 3.a. the thread of a discourse, of thought, of history, tendency, etc.

denouement, n. A Romanic formation: Latin dis- + nodāre to knot, nodus knot. Unravelling; spec. the final unravelling of the complications of a plot in a drama, novel, etc.; the catastrophe; transf. the final solution or issue of a complication, difficulty, or mystery.

 

Like a Looping String

Quotation of the Day: Only Love Edition

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the U.S., and most of us have the day off. Rather than treat it as a do-nothing day, however, I plan to do some reading and research and work on the mind a little. I think Dr. King would approve. He’s always an incredibly inspiring person to me, not only because of his fight for justice, but also because of his dedication to non-violence, which is an important guiding principle in my own life. Today, of course, I have even more opportunity to be inspired — so many friends are sharing their favorite quotations and moments from his great speeches on Facebook and around the internet. Here’s the one I shared last year, and one for this year:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. … Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. — Where Do We Go from Here? (1967)