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It’s Easier To Pine

I’ve been obsessed with A Fine Frenzy’s newest album PINES since it released in October. Accompanying the album is an interactive digital book singer/songwriter Alison Sudol wrote, titled The Story of Pines. The entire project is absolutely stunning. I’m a sucker for music that meets narrative; what can I say? I remember my friend Lily recommending a few songs from One Cell in the Sea to me, but I wasn’t a huge fan of A Fine Frenzy until this album. I emotionally connected to PINES immediately after the first listen, and I’ve come back to it a number of times over the past few months. For me, it’s a definitively winter album. It’s a little softer, a little sadder, a little more painful.

I bought the album the week it dropped, but just stumbled upon a track-by-track commentary on Spotify with Alison Sudol, in which she takes listeners through the sensory progression she imagined and where she was emotionally in writing PINES. It’s all very lovely and worth your time. If things like Spotify playlists interest you, I made one with the commentary and album so you don’t even have to go searching for it, which you can access here. I transcribed a short clip from the commentary for you all because I thought it was all around lovely, even on its own, apart from the song.

“Dance of The Gray Whales–I started writing this piece–it’s the first instrumental piece I’ve ever written, and I started writing it years ago when I was on tour during One Cell in the Sea, actually. And I used to play it for myself and for friends who were upset or who needed soothing, or I’ve played it for friends and they’ve just fallen asleep to it. And it’s just–there’s a moment that happens after a stormy or turbulent event in your life where there’s a quiet, and–a really deep quiet. And there’s a bit of pain left over, but not really pain, but the memory of the pain. And yet there’s this kind of peaceful sort of gray cloud that comes over you, which is healing and–not gray, not dark gray, not a charcoal, not a storm, but a softness.

And I love whales, I think there’s something so wise and ancient about them and I just imagined being in the sea and having been in a shipwreck and gotten in a fight with ghost ships and then being rescued by whales. I mean, how much lovelier could that get, even though that may not carry the same weight because you’d be a bit tired. But it’d still be pretty nice.”

From PINES (Spotify Track by Track) by A Fine Frenzy 

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Re-reading, Re-writing, Relevant

I didn’t want to come here today and write about her on the anniversary of her death. It’s too easy, too predictable.
But here I am.

I write about Lily all the time, in poems and stories and little notes scribbled in the pages at the back of my calendar. I’ve been living in a world where Lily lives and dies over and over in drafting an essay for my nonfiction workshop, which has been difficult and helpful and altogether frustrating most days. I make myself confront her death all the time in writing because it seems to be the only way I know how to begin dealing and continue to deal with the reality of a world where my friend lived and no longer does.

For just a moment, let’s have an honest conversation about living and dying, one that isn’t blurred by promises of faith and religion, which I understand is an impossible request of me for some of you. But let’s try, okay? Sometimes I wish I had some profound sense of understanding regarding her death. I think that making sense of her death would bring about some kind of peace and closure. But I’m not sold that it’s closure that I want, and I may just be coming to this understanding as I type these words here, so forgive the disjointedness of this post.

What does closure even offer us, or better yet, what do we think it offers us? Does it make it easier to go about our lives without this person, those people? Do we think it’ll bring about normalcy, will it bring back the easiness of our lives before grief and loss? Even two years after her death, I’m not sure I want the easiness, not because I think closure means forgetting or anything like that. There’s something vital that comes with the unsettledness, something that I hope will challenge me to be a little more alive every day for the rest of my life. Right now, I think that the reality of life can be horrifyingly tragic simply because it is defined by mortality. But it is also precious, beautiful, and significant for exactly those reasons.

I don’t know.

Every day, Lily manages to teach me how to live. She pushes me to work harder, to string words together more beautifully and gracefully. She teaches me to say “I love you” when I mean it, and “I’m sorry” when my pride would otherwise keep me from doing so. I don’t have any words for where I think she is and I don’t know how to answer when Victoria asks me if I ever feel her. I don’t know the answer to that.

But sometimes, when the leaves on the trees turn to copper and orange, the same colors of the sunset she took a picture of in Lima before she died, I like to think of her telling me she hears me through the wind that blows chimes hanging from trees in that sad garden where artificial flowers grow next to her red shoes. And I suppose that’s enough for now.

“I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man — he is a mushroom!”

“A what?”

“A mushroom!”

The little prince was now white with rage.

“The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know — I, myself — one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing — Oh! You think that is not important!”

His face turned from white to red as he continued:

“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened… And you think that is not important!”

He could not say anything more. His words were choked by sobbing.

The night had fallen. I had let my tools drop from my hands. Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms, and rocked him. I said to him:

“The flower that you love is not in danger. I will draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I will draw you a railing to put around your flower. I will — “

I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.

The Little Prince

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Lists and Promises

Those of you that know me well could testify that I’m somewhat obsessive compulsive about making lists. I write at least three or four to-do lists every day, sometimes even micromanaging my time scheduling what I will do in thirty minute increments. I promise this is the only thing I’m crazy organized about in life, my roommate can testify to that lovely truth. But there’s something truly satisfying about crossing items off of lists. I admit that I have been known to write already-completely items on my to-do lists just for the satisfaction of crossing something off. No shame. But today as I flipped through my to-do lists from the week, I noticed a one-word to-do item that was carried from each day to the next last week and was never crossed out: blog.

I hate when this space becomes bare and the gaps in between substantial posts widens far more than I prefer. I just crossed the midterm mark in the semester, which for you post-college cats probably seems like a cakewalk in hindsight, and I realize the real world is a grim place and that I should be thankful to sit in the coziness of my college life as long as possible. But this semester is demanding a lot of my time, which is why I haven’t been writing in my sweet little blogging space as much as I would like to be. I have been writing though, more than ever have before, actually. I’m two drafts into a couple of long-form nonfiction essays for workshop that are demanding all of my time and love. I’m not sure that I’ll share them here at any point; they’re really quite long. But I’m happy to be writing and writing a lot even if none of it is being posted here.

All this to say I hope to get back on track with writing for you cats. I appreciate you being patient and continuing to care despite my evident lack of attention to this space. You guys are the tops. I mean it.

And because I heard him speak last week and love his work even more than I did before, I leave you with a poem by Kevin Prufer to slow down your day a bit, to sit with, to get to know, and absorb the way it asks you to.

In a Beautiful Country
by Kevin Prufer

A good way to fall in love
is to turn off the headlights
and drive very fast down dark roads.

Another way to fall in love
is to say they are only mints
and swallow them with a strong drink.

Then it is autumn in the body.
Your hands are cold.
Then it is winter and we are still at war.

The gold-haired girl is singing into your ear
about how we live in a beautiful country.
Snow sifts from the clouds

into your drink. It doesn’t matter about the war.
A good way to fall in love
is to close up the garage and turn the engine on,

then down you’ll fall through lovely mists
as a body might fall early one morning
from a high window into love. Love,

the broken glass. Love, the scissors
and the water basin. A good way to fall
is with a rope to catch you.

A good way is with something to drink
to help you march forward.
The gold-haired girl says, Don’t worry

about the armies, says, We live in a time
full of love. You’re thinking about this too much.
Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.

 

 

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Thought Catalog at Its Best (IMHO): Second Edition

It should come as no surprise to you that many months have passed since my last list of this kind and I’m still just as dedicated to my time spent nearly every day reading Thought Catalog as I was when I had too much free time during the summer. With the changing of seasons comes a new way of approaching this whole living and breathing thing, and these pieces feel very different from the last set. I feel it in my own writing, too: a definite shift. Seems like a good time, so once again I bring you:

12 of My Favorite Thought Catalog Articles From the Past 30 Days

1. If You Were Looking For God
“If you were looking for God, I would tell you that if it’s spring, you’re in luck. If it’s the dead of winter, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled. I would tell you to wrap yourself in your loneliness like a thick scarf, to keep your distance and keep the curtains pulled shut.”

2. You Won’t Always be Stupid and Curious
“There are people who write rules — good for them. Let them follow their rules. The samaritans own the daylight, that’s never going to change. But the night is yours. No council can control your mind once the bars of the sun have been lifted.”

3. Old Friends And New Books: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
I added this one to the list because I loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower every time I’ve read it, I was my weepiest self when I saw the movie last week, which was brilliant by the way, and because I have been known to slip little notes and poems into books before giving them away.

4. Renunciation
“Leaving, we will see ourselves in the distance, since we are standing outside ourselves now, since we can see ourselves more clearly now. We will see ourselves in the distance — like a sail suddenly popping up at sea, a sail suddenly popping up at the horizon-line, where blue meets blue.”

5. All Love Ends in Heartbreak
I’ll ruin the ending if I include my favorite lines from this one.

6. I Am Afraid of Everything
“More importantly, though, when does it stop? Is there a time in life when you just magically grow out of your scaredy cat-ness and decide that you are, in fact, going to go skiing because the chances of getting caught in an avalanche are minuscule compared to the chances of having a sweet-ass time and learning to ski?”

7. How Long Will It Hurt?
Just, yes.

8. 19 Reasons I Painted A Wall Blue
“It never roars, bites, kicks, snarls, or commands. It only drifts.”

9. Will to Live Forecast

10. Chasing Authenticity 
“I’m a phony. And there is nothing I can think of, off the top of my head right now, that I hate more than phonies — and that includes traveler’s diarrhea.”

11. The Funerals I’ve Survived
“Death is raw. It jumps from the darkest corners of your day-to-day life and bares its yellow teeth at you. Once you quit vomiting from the sight, it slinks away and waits for as long as it likes.”

12. We Met At the Worst Possible Time
“There’s a quote that says people come into our lives for a reason, season or lifetime and I always hope you’re sticking around for the latter. But if you are a reason, it must be to show me that I need to fix the breaks and embrace the wounds.”

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On Repeat

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me”.

Of course you don’t do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with
a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,

with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this
world is dying
to hear?

Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

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Thought Catalog at Its Best (IMHO)

One of the things that I love about  my job (that I don’t imagine I would love ten years from now) is that I spend about fifteen hours a week sitting in front of a computer with little to no responsibilities at all. Summers in college are really the only time you can reasonably have a job where you are paid to do nothing where you don’t feel guilty about it. I mean, sure, I should have an internship or a job that might actually win me some resume points, but I’m totally content spending my mornings at work and my afternoons playing ukulele and making cool art and loving sweet summertime while I can. So, a huge perk of my current lifestyle is that I have hours and hours to spend looking at cool stuff, listening to great music, watching TED talks, and, most importantly, reading Thought Catalog. So great.  In hopes of proposing a solution to number four from this lovely list, I bring you 

12 of My Favorite Thought Catalog Articles From the Past 30 Days

1.  A Checklist for Summertime
Stephanie Georgopulos has to be first on the list. I’m a shameless fan-girl and her writing is consistently my favorite on TC. And for the record, Sublime ALWAYS makes my summer mix-cds.

2. I Am Broke (Because I’m a Writer)  or A Parable
I couldn’t choose which of these two articles should be on the list, so I put both. Not sure why they’re in the same entry on this list, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, whenever I read Oliver Miller’s writing I often feel like my life could very well be headed in a similar direction and that most people’s, not just writers but artists and passionate people of all kinds, do,  but he’s the only one that’s actually honest about it. Just when you’re about to criticize him for being too self-involved or selfish or biased or wordy or offensive, he beats you to it and throws himself under the bus in a way that is not looking for attention or sympathy, but just to interact with the world in the most authentic way possible. Maybe I’m way off because I’m a fan. You should read his stuff regardless. And if you choose to read “A Parable,” you should scroll through the comments as well.

3. If I Knew Where I Was Going

If I knew where I was going, I’d stop reading maps like they hold some special secret. I’d realize that they guide people toward a destination and not just away from themselves and I’d stop blaming physical boundaries and distance for all of my problems. I’d accept that the reason I always feel stuck is because I’m too afraid to cross the rivers and mountains that I’ve built up between myself and the people around me, between my actions and my ambitions, my muscles and my mind.

I love when writing makes you reconsider everything. I don’t know what else to say about this one.

4. We are All Made of Stars
Sometimes I read things and I find a sentence or two that I’d like to hang on my wall so it would reach people beyond a computer screen, so that someone would read it when they sit on the floor next to my coffee table drinking tea with me while I talk about baking bread and calligraphy. This would be one of them: “We hold remnants of long lost stars in our veins. That’s not an answer, but it’s still magnificent and nothing can ever be both pointless and magnificent.”

5. What You Can Do Instead of Loving Someone You Can’t Be With
SG makes the list again (but you weren’t really surprised were you?). I wish she would write a novel or even just publish a collection of her essays, something I can hold in my hands and underline and scribble little notes in the margins of so that I could remember where I was and who I was when I first read her writing, so that I could remember who I was thinking about that made it more significant than it is all on its own, so that I can come back and revisit her, so that I can come back and revisit me.

6. The Stories We Tell Ourselves

We tell ourselves stories to control the uncontrollable, to make sense of static, to organize decades and miles and bats of lashes into narratives that make sense but at the end of the day — at the end of the story — all that matters is that everything is okay.

7. 15 ‘Yeah, Me Neither’ Statements
Thought Catalog doesn’t always post funny articles; but when they do, they’re gold.

8. 10 Rules for Concertgoers
Although sometimes I’m the annoying camera girl (I promise I do my best not to be obnoxious about it and I usually have my large and in charge DSLR with me, so I seem a bit more legit), all of these are rules I hold truer than the ten commandments. In fact, let go, dance, and stop giving a damn are rules I think I’ll apply to all areas of my life.

9. Questions I Have For People in Relationships
I should have made this a list of SG articles that by appearing in this list make me look like a patheticlonelyloser. I guess I’m okay with that.

10. Thank You For Being There
I wish I could repeat this everyday for the rest of my life, just to be sure you know.

11. You Are a Short Story, He Was a Novel
Extended metaphors? Yes, please. I love when Thought Catalogers write articles like this (when they’re good, of course). I just think they’re super creative. The best of the best  is of course SG’s “You Are The Sun” which remains my favorite of favorite things.

12.  Existentially-Fraught Takes On Classic Picture Books To Teach Your Kids The Meaninglessness Of Life Before The Internet Does

Okay, if you are crazy/not at all sentimental and don’t want to read some of the loveliest things in existence, you should just read this one and laugh a lot.

Adapted from Shel Silverstein’s classic, The Giving TreeThe Non-Anthropomorphic Tree Devoid of Inherent Symbolism tells the tale of a tree that can’t talk, feel, or symbolize anything (because it’s a tree), and a teenage boy who regularly smokes marijuana under it.

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“…Maddeningly and simultaneously our finest strength and our most gentle weakness”

I snagged a copy of an Avett Brother’s album (along with a substantial pile of other cd’s) from Recycled books today. On the inside cover of the album is this brilliant piece of writing magic. Every once in a while I come across pieces of writing where I’m so overwhelmed and impressed by the whole thing that I feel a great deal of envy that I didn’t write it, that I wasn’t the one to bring something so beautiful into a tangible, shareable form to be a part of this messy world. This piece, which they’ve deemed the album’s mission statement, is one of those masterpieces. It’s worth your time, I think. It’s pretty perfect.

“The words “I” and “Love” and “You” are the watermark of humanity.Strung together, they convey our deepest sense of humility, of power,of truth. It is our most common sentiment, even as the feeling of it isso infinitely uncommon: each to proclaim these three words with his or her very own heart and mindset of reason (or lack thereof); a proclamation completely and perfectly new each time it is offered.Uttered daily and nightly by millions, the words are said in an unending array of circumstances : whispered to a newborn in a mothers arms; shared between best friends on the playground; in the form of sympathy – said by a girl to a boy, as the respect continues but the relationship does not. It is said too loudly by parents to embarrass children in the company of their friends, and by grown children – to their fading parents in hospital beds. The words are thought in the company of the photograph and said in the company of the gravestone. It is how we end our phone calls and our letters… the words at the bottom of the page that trump all those above it, a way to gracefully finish a message, however important or trivial, with the most meaningful gift of all : the communication of love. And yet the words themselves have been the victims of triviality, a ready replacement for lesser salutations among near strangers, burst forth casually as “love ya.” Truly? To what degree? Why, how much, and for how long? These are questions befitting of the stature of love, though not the everyday banter of vague acquaintance. The words have also been twisted by the dark nature of deceit : To say “I love you” with a dramatic measure of synthetic emotion; a snare set by those who prey upon fellow humanity, driven to whatever selfish end, to gain access to another’s body, or their money,or their opportunity. In this realm, the proclamation is disgraced by one seeking to gain rather than to give. In any case, and by whatever inspiration, these words are woven deeply in to the fibers of our existence. Our longing to hear them from the right place is maddeningly and simultaneously our finest strength and our most gentle weakness.The album “I and Love and You” is unashamedly defined by such a dynamic of duality. As living people, we are bound by this unavoidable parallel. We are powerful yet weak, capable yet temporary.Inevitably, an attempt to place honesty within an artistic avenue will follow suit. This is a piece which shows us as we are: products of lovesurrounded by struggle. The music herein is, in many ways, readable as both a milestone and an arrival. A chapter in the story of young men,it bridges the space between the uncertainty of youth and the reality of it’s release. The record is full with the quality of the questionand response. As far as questions go, there are plenty- normally residing within the tone and delivery of the lyrics themselves, which,ironically, are sung with so much confidence. Among songs and thoughts so driven and purposeful, the most basic relatable doubt comes through with a resounding clarity. Outside of the eternal theme of romanticlove, the album speaks thankfully upon a landscape of light-filled rooms, word-filled pages, time machines, forgiveness, singing birds,ocean waves, art ,change, confessions of shortcomings, and reasons to continue on. Hope and a cause for smiling follow naturally. In themidst of all this, there are allusions to the less-than-ideal conditions of life: the loss of memory, the inability to controltemper, insecurity, indecision, jaded indifference, and the general plague of former and current weakness. “I and Love and You” is an albumof obvious human creation, characterized by its best and its worst.Emotional imperfection is a reality for those who recorded the piece,just as it is for those who will hear it. The conclusion of the song from which the title is taken admits that the words “I love you” havebecome “hard to say”. And perhaps that difficulty is as common as its counterpart. Perhaps the inability to say these heaviest of words is asmuch a part of life as the lighthearted candor of those who say them without any difficulty at all. And so it ends with the phrase whisperedto and by those of us most defeated and most elated… I and love and you…”

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