Saturday, August 29, 2020

Point & shoot photo album: July 2020


  My mother took me paddleboarding on the bay as a belated birthday gift. 



And she also gave me my first wrapped present of the year. (Of course, given the times, the rest of my birthday gifts came by mail directly from the manufacturers.)


A small but treasured garden near my work.


Some nice signs that appeared in my neighborhood ahead of Independence Day. I don't know if they stopped anyone, as we still had fireworks galore around us, but I appreciate them anyways. The one above inspired my girlfriend to make the one below.

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Luscious pink hydrangea giant.


Does anyone know what this fruit is?


Gigantic magnolia blossoms - heavenly to me.


Twilight walks.


And morning walks, with admiration for these glories.


The seeds of a yellow watermelon I ate look like this.


Lovely cat neighbors.

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Asian pears growing in the neighborhood - among so many other fruits. Persimmons, apricots, artichokes, grapes...!


There was a third cat who ducked away when I approached with my camera.


My CSA has been showering me with heirloom tomatoes. Here: Purple Cherokees and Solar Flares.


So: fresh incredible tomatoes (can't remember if this was a Purple Cherokee or an Early Girl) with salt, and nectarines, both raw off the cutting board.


Neighbor kitty. Margo.


Gorgeous skies. Afternoon walks too.


Glassblower's mural.


Summer evening vibes, shadows, light.

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Cape gooseberries. So cute! And interesting taste.


Overflowing bougaivillea.


The nectaplum. Incomparable.


Then for my mother's birthday, I baked this cake to eat outside, socially distanced, with her and my girlfriend, graced also by the company of such trees as below.

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My first hike alone, ever.


There was a lot of climbing, and a lot of view (and wind) to enjoy.


Potatoes for breakfast.


And the other neighbor cat (or kitten, really)! Asoka.

(I lost track of time, and now it's almost time for the August p&s photo album!)

Monday, August 17, 2020

Books read in July 2020 (part two of two)

Fairly entertaining and provided a number of "oh!" moments. Not as systematic as I would have liked it to be, more conversational in its flow and structure. One thing that bugged me, which to be fair is not the focus of the book I found her happy-go-lucky perspective on social media (something like "it's just social interaction, like we've always had, looking a little different from the last generation's social interaction, like always") to be lacking. I would say that social media is unique and mostly unprecedented, and there is some really wild sh*t going on design-wise and data-wise. Be informed if you're going to speak to a subject, even lightly!

7. Womonseed, by Sunlight (1986)

What a mystical lesbian feminist vision. I opened this thinking it would be all stories from a womyn's land in a future time (ironically now a past time), and was surprised when some were stories of women's lives prior to their coming to the land, but quickly I found that most of the book was exactly what I thought: imaginings of life on a rural women's commune, some time after mainstream US society went drastically downhill due to resource scarcity and environmental degradation. What rituals would the women and girls there have? What would their lives be like? How would they establish such a place, and what would its young history look like? Told one character at a time, around a fire on one of the holidays of their sacred calendar.

8. Elske, by Cynthia Voigt (1999)

The first two-thirds of this young adult fantasy were so, so striking. It has quite a special tone to it, dark, fierce, simple yet vivid. I think this has a lot to do with  the protagonist's experiences and way of looking at the world - she is a fearless and intensely pragmatic girl who escapes ritual death in her home country and proceeds to follow her feet into adventure's path (adventure taking the form of an exiled young queen seeking to regain her throne). Toward the end, it petered out and became rather typical. But gosh, this has stuck with me and I wouldn't take back reading it.

9. No Matter the Wreckage, by Sarah Kay (2014)

Spoken word poetry translates onto the page with varying degrees of success. I didn't dislike this book, or reading it, but it wasn't quite my cup of tea as poetry goes.

10. The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson (2006/2009)

 Ah, it's been so long since I read the first book (and watched the Swedish trilogy a number of times through). Suspenseful and easy to get sucked into - which is exactly what I need from a book right now.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Morning melons & pandemic mood swings


I had one of my random minor pandemic-era meltdowns today. Have you been having those too?

Today is my Saturday. I got nine hours of sleep, cut up a melon for breakfast, and then the listless feeling overtook me. Almost all of the time I feel fine, often quite well indeed, but spurts of low-grade depression hit me randomly: days (or more realistically, hours) when all my usual desire to savor and do and enjoy feels crushed out of me, and nothing seems particularly worth enjoying. 

I get stuck thinking about what is not right - I miss my home,* I’m tired of being inside, I have a family member going on a plane soon, TMJ pain is radiating from my ear today, I’m tired of cooking, I’m tired of working…

I put myself in a half-full bathtub with an old issue of the lovely Womankind magazine. It’s not really bath weather; I keep feeling sweat trickling down my belly and have to follow it up with a cool shower. My girlfriend steps away from final exam preparations, puts on her pancake music playlist and dances goofily at me for the entirety of “Little Bitty Pretty One” to see if she can make me smile.

She also suggests that if she felt bad, she might like to spend the afternoon naked in bed with a coloring book. I settle for curling up on top of the covers with my laptop and a container of morning melon left over from less despairing times.

I open Twitter, see the news and trends sidebar, hear the wheels in my head start screeching against each other, and decide to go find a Firefox extension to remove it from my view of the website. That change cheers me up a bit immediately. I find another extension to file away all the tabs I have open, which have been overwhelming me with silent cries of you should have read this/printed this/done something with this already. My browser now clean of should vibes, I take refuge in some blog reading, and notice that soon I have energy to bake up something small for lunch while watching Call the Midwife.

I love a mindful moment. I also have seen distraction work so well as a mental health tactic to not believe that sometimes it’s a good one. Sometimes a little bit of time just has to pass in which my gloomy or anxious convictions are suspended from wearing deeper tracks into my brain - and I’ll find that they dissipate while I'm not watching.


*I have been sheltering in place at my girlfriend’s since late March, which is - let’s see - coming up on five months. It’s not so much that I moved, as that I am currently not living at home. I miss my personal lair, my belongings, and the home-centered things that I can only do there.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Books read in July 2020 (part one of two)

1. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (2006)

Reread, because I found this in a Little Free Library. I was really in the mood for something silly and addictive (and it is - though I can't explain why!) and mindless. Unfortunately, the crazy-bad relationship dynamics and the ill-written hero made it less fun and did not permit my mind to stay on vacation.

2. The Green Book, by Jill Paton Walsh (1986)

Under 100 pages, a gentle children's science fiction novel about the first months of a colony of humans (the Earth is on the verge of death) on a new planet. It has an unusual vibe/tone - compelling, rather peaceful and childlike, with some beautiful imagery that remains in my mind.

3. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (2014)

Oh, it's so good to settle down with a book at the end of the week and know that you are going to spend the next day or so racing through it! Fast, interesting, clever, and suspenseful. To an extent, this is a book about straight marriage, via being a book about "the most fucked up [married] people" (to paraphrase a character), and I love that at the same time that it makes me slightly uneasy. I'd seen the movie before, but really enjoyed getting more insight into the characters.

4. Brave Girl Healing, by Colleen M. Werner (2019)

Well, this wasn't what I expected. I knew of the author from her lovely social media campaigning for more body positivity in ballet. I thought this would be a memoir, but it's more like a blog with journaling exercises. Oh well. I would still read a professionally edited memoir of hers, if it ever comes about.

Oh, me. I had this on my "to read" list for so long, and I am so glad I finally read it. What a useful and helpful book. I assumed for a long time that "highly sensitive" was an unsubstantiated pop psychology label -- but I discovered that it is not that, and that it describes a trait I have that I haven't known quite how to make sense of until now. I'm pleased to 1) understand that about myself, and 2) have the author's very useful thoughts on, as the cover says, how to enjoy my life more and be more functional in it given that trait. I really appreciate that she takes an eminently practical tone, never becomes overly insistent or specific in her suggestions, draws from all the variety of HSPs that she has met in her research, and doesn't stray into the land of overly precious identity-ism (e.g. "what unappreciated pure angelic wonderful creatures we are!" as some lesser books on introversion tend to go).

Monday, August 3, 2020

August sun

A moment from last year, from a land dedicated for the past 47 years to women.

Bare skin, hot sun, blue
sky, surrounded by
(no walls)
open meadow, trees
the snow-capped mountain
to the east, snatches of women's talking
and singing.
I didn't mind, for the first time,
the shower's cold.
No hollering or hurrying
needed for me to bear it,
warm as I was
from the work of packing up camp
under the midday sun --
conscious as I was of
the nearness of farewells

I wanted to leave that land with traces
of her water on my skin
still, in my drying hair.
I scrubbed myself to a glisten in
that warm sun, that soft breeze
with oil and sugar (gifts left by another woman)
feeling something of a ritual in it
feeling the air and the sun and the land all
intent on me, and
I intent on them.

All tumble of apples
wind bells
high yellow grass
and laughter.