Sunday, May 24, 2020

Some favorite links of late

Poems for a pandemic, from Leonie Wise.

This article on the process of translating Harry Potter into Yiddish was fascinating and delightful, and I recommend it to anyone who likes Harry Potter and/or languages at all.

"Lavender Beringia" - I'm so glad Em is still blogging and making things like this five-paragraph little magic/imagining.

I have really been digging Not Buying Anything's thoughts in general on the lockdown life, and this post, "Will We Stop to Save Mother Earth?" particularly stirs me:

"Right now the world has stopped doing lots of 'extra but nice to have' things to save ourselves. I wonder - will we do the same to save Mother Earth, and ultimately ourselves?
"We will do it to save ourselves an loved ones from a virus, but will we do it to save the Earth? Will we stop to save ourselves in the long run?
"We will have regrets if we don't take advantage of this time in history when things are ripe for turning things toward simpler, slower, and more sustainable ways."

"How Dancers Maintain Their Well-Being in Quarantine" - Some things interesting about the economic and business realities of dance, and some things poignant about how dancers are persevering in making dance art. I really recommend the two SF Ballet videos.

I ran across such a nice, practical, useful answer to the question: "How can I read more?" It is especially for people who used to read more than they do now.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What I miss and what I don't (nine weeks into lockdown)

One of the hills I miss.

A reflection on some of the small ways my own small life has changed due to Shelter In Place, as food for thought on what I'd like to hang on to when this ends, what I might feel ready to let go of now that I've realized what life without is like, and what I'd like to enjoy with renewed gusto and gratitude when this ends.

I miss:
  • Being able to go the movies or to a live performance
  • Being able to have a normal birthday celebration
  • The positive office atmosphere my coworkers and I made for each other - the jokes, the advice, the customer stories, etc.
  • Looking at and tasting the produce at work
  • Some favorite items from my normal grocery store of choice, which has way, way, way too long a line for me to face now
  • Being able to shop from bulk bins
  • Generally being able to choose lower-waste/lower-plastic items as often as I used to
  • Sunglasses. Sounds silly, but mine broke and even as a hardcore "shop local!" type I didn't realize how much I would miss brick-and-mortar retailers until I needed something that sort of needs to be bought in-person (i.e. so you can try it on)
  • Being able to donate and resell things I don't need anymore
  • Being able to visit my local family members
  • Hiking in the hills and being able to visit other beautiful outdoor places that are not close enough to home to justify right now
  • Being able to get film developed

I am happy that:
  • I have no commute
  • There is much less noise in my life
  • I get to walk around my quiet, pleasant neighborhood streets on my breaks
  • I have time to run more often
  • I have time to cook much more often
  • I am talking on the phone more with my family
  • I am living with my girlfriend (because we are sheltered in place at her apartment)
  • I am not living with my official roommates 
  • Going outside to walk and get fresh air and sun and see trees has become a very on-purpose and precious-feeling practice
  • I am living with few possessions and way fewer items of clothing (while away from my home)
  • Working remote means I can do a lot of homey things in the quiet moments during my workday (e.g. empty the dishrack, or start lunch cooking for myself). No longer is all the housework crammed into the last four "free" hours of my day.
  • I am buying from our wonderful local vegan mini-market more often
  • Not being able to easily return online purchases is steering me away from online ordering of items I'm not sure about
  • I am spending less money generally buying things for myself
  • I am actually reading through some of the books I own and haven't read, rather than adding to their numbers 
  • Watching movies at home has become a bit more of an enjoyable pursuit and less of a lazy-feeling pursuit, and I'm spending more time searching for really good movies 
  • I am going grocery shopping less often (and thus spending less time on it)
  • I have gotten back in touch a bit with one old friend

No doubt I'll think of more things - and when I do, I probably will add them here, so that this stands as a record for me.

If you have any list items of this sort and also find this type of reflection meaningful, you are invited to share yours - I'm curious to hear.

    Saturday, May 16, 2020

    "If you're wondering how I'm still standing/I have the sun to warm me..."

    A graceful, slow, bittersweet little Saturday evening song for you - if you, like me, are spending your Saturday evening peacefully introverting and watching the spring light slowly lowering.

    This is from Mary Glenn's self-titled EP, which is a bit of a breakup/post-breakup album, but all tastes like this, which I think is the ideal way for that post-breakup period to taste - something not without ache, but also infused with a quiet curiosity about one's own self and a heightened sensitivity to the beauties of the wide world.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2020

    Point & shoot photo album: April

    Jasmine continued to find me wherever I go.

    I have mentioned this neighbor.

    "I miss you," says the flowerpot. A lockdown message?

    Infant peaches.

    Weekend bed inertia.

    Walking by our estuary as often as we can.

    These gracious trees and gracious shadows.

    My hometown a dream across the water.

    Ice plants, always.

    Me and my best company.

    Playgrounds are, of course, still closed.

    A wonderful surprise - wild turkeys. See the male in the back?


    "Temporarily Closed."

    Vegan nachos, made in the oven. (I grew up microwaving nachos, but oven-made is even yummier.)

    Sights from my runs...


    Dreamy Japanese maple.

    The mystical peacock and the even more mystical white cat. She has light green eyes and is fairly skittish. I didn't even realize she was in this photo until I was looking at it later.

    Vegan grilled cheese, yum yum yum.

    Spring evening light.

    Late-season tangerines.

    A gift from a restaurant I work with.

    Estuary again.


    Strange ramp into the water. For small craft? Mermaids?

    Weekend breakfast on the porch of a vacant unit.

    I love this cat! She came right away to hang out and get pets, as soon as I called to her.

    And then she jogged along with me for a while, trying to persuade me to give up running in favor of some more quality time with her.

    An excellent way to use up asparagus and overripe cherry tomatoes. Grated asparagus, vegan mozzarella, burst cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and then baby greens added after baking. No sauce.

    The mini cactus decides to flower!!!

    More lockdown messages.

    Sweet peas - my birth month flower.

    Paper butterflies.

    What remains after making mango lassi.


    April was the month of adjusting. I had my strange birthday. Lockdown continued; lockdown was extended (now through the end of May). As an aside: "Shelter in place" does sound better, doesn't it? My girlfriend and I figured out pandemic grocery shopping, to my relief, and I got more adjusted to the permanent working-from-home lifestyle. We watched a lot of movies and TV. I settled into a few daily/weekly habits and routines to help things feel more normal and less stressful. Walking, jogging, walking while reading. Now instead of my days feeling alarmingly open, I sometimes even manage to feel like I don't have enough free time.

    I received a wonderful cooking-related gift for my birthday: a very nice chef's knife. I've been using it a lot as, of course, I've been cooking...a lot (probably more than I had cooked in the previous 31 years of my life, combined). I have a weekly farm box I get to pick up and I've been learning from that. Not wanting to waste that produce has been making me branch out, learn new dishes. Nothing complicated, but I feel pleased with being more a slightly more able home cook.

    I also started to be able to concentrate on reading again (something which I couldn't do much of in the first few weeks of shelter-in-place). Thank goodness.

    How was your April?

    Wednesday, May 6, 2020

    Books read in April 2020

    1. Daughters of the Great Star, by Diana Rivers (1992)

    High fantasy novel with lesbian feminist themes, about a scattered community of young women born with magical powers for self-protection - but those same powers mark them as fugitives living under an edict for their death. They must come together for their own safety and begin to build a nation of their own. Prequel to the wonderful Journey to Zelindar. A bit more grim and trudging in parts simply due to the plot and the narrator's misery, but lovely writing and interesting story, and I cherish the series overall, so I enjoyed getting the back story.

    2. The Hadra, by Diana Rivers (1995)

    This picks up where Daughters of the Great Star leaves off, but takes place still before the events of Journey to Zelindar. We find ourselves with the same character, Tazzi, narrating. Now that her people have escaped the borders of the empire that put a bounty on all of their lives, they have a chance to build peaceful villages of their own - and, as Tazzi's dream directs her, even a great city of women. A happier volume dealing with the questions of a nascent nation.

    3. Atlas of Oceans: An Ecological Survey of Underwater Life, by John Farndon (2011)

    I love me a big photo book from the ocean section. This is definitely neither a textbook nor a photo book, but a photo-heavy survey that is accessible to a layperson with just a little will to concentrate - each two-page spread is one topical mini-chapter, so it's easy to read in spurts. A lot of discussion of environmental degradation - appropriately - though granted, some of how it mentions climate change make it sound 10 years old, which it is. I also found a couple odd typos (best one: accidentally gives the measurements of an Antarctic crustacean as 1000 times its actual size. My stars! I said to myself. Are they not going to comment on the fact that this is an actual monster?). But still good. I learned a lot, including from the repetition of general concepts across various specifics. And enjoyed the immersion, no pun intended, into this world that is mostly invisible to me.

    4. Gifts from My Grandmother, by Meiling Jin (1985)

    A very slim volume from a small feminist press, the work of a Chinese-Guyanese lesbian living in England. Simple, direct first-person poems dealing with themes of poverty, family, immigration, and white supremacy. A melancholy tone suffuses much of the book. Most of them were not like the poem I posted a few days ago. *If anyone would like my copy for the cost of media mail shipping ($2-3), let me know and I'll pass it along to you when things are slightly more normal.*

    What about you - any books you've read recently that you would recommend?

    Sunday, May 3, 2020

    Radiant winter morning/good morning, radiant






    On our anniversary trip in January, the hotel was kind enough to upgrade us to a room with a balcony, I think because they were underbooked. It was too cold to sit out, but goodness, it was a treat just for the morning fresh air and photos alone.

    Saturday, May 2, 2020

    “One for the storehouse"

    The fading evening light;
    Your face
    deeply engrossed
    in a book;
    The stillness
    and the noise
    of the sea;
    All this,
    will I put
    in my storehouse
    of good memories.
    And hold it
    against the coming storms.

    - Meiling Jin