December 22, 2023

I want to be a rose woman.

Grimoire Girl
By Hilarie Burton Morgan

Towards the end of the summer, I found the most delicious, luscious, fragrant pink roses. I have been searching for roses as fragrant since to no avail. In an unexpected turn of events, I discovered the same potent fragrance today...via a Yankee Candle in a Houston, TX mall. It'll do for now. 

In searching for photos of the original bouquet, I remembered my friend gave me Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "Con Un Sogno in Testa" (which I have yet to read but can't wait to) and this excerpt from Hilarie Burton Morgan's "Grimoire Girl," whose magic spells and stories I devoured on a recent trip to the Dominican Republic. In it, she describes cutting roses from her garden and discovering a dying bee in one—admiring the flower like the Little Prince did his rose till its death—while she reflected on passing of her dear friend, life cycles, being your softest self.

August 31, 2023

August is a sunset, a Sunday, the last hour of the best party.

Plump and sultry summer August night featuring the Chrysler and the full moon

My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night, and All the Times in Between
By Mari Andrew

Sweet & perfect summer 2023; feverishly nodding 'yes' to Mari's ode to August.
For many creative people, regret and longing is what we live for. We love limitations, especially the wistful ones. August is a three-week foreign love affair that you can't bring back home. August is a beautiful person who just got off the subway, or a tomato whose prime you may miss by a couple of hours. August is a sunset, a Sunday, the last hour of the best party.

It is one of my favorite months. Every year, like clockwork, I begin to see summer's charms when its days are numbered. I get preemptively nostalgic for the nights that feel as plump and sultry as an overripe plum, and I begin to miss the sundresses I haven't even worn yet. It's like living the last days of a relationship you know is about to end, and there's magic in that ache.

August 20, 2023

When we create this space within ourselves—a space of calmness that is undisturbed by the storm—the storm tends to pass more quickly.

By Yung Pueblo

A few reminders from Yung Pueblo.

Changes in the external world can cause great misery when we do not know how to engage and heal ourselves. Moments of pain and discomfort, or encounters with ideas that may break the mental images we have created of the world, are normally things we not only run away from but also things we build walls to defend ourselves from. These walls we build in our minds and hearts make sense when we don't know any better. We all have the right to protect ourselves from pain, but be aware that these walls can turn from protection into prison—the more walls we build around ourselves, the less space we have to grow and be free. We have a harder time releasing the habits that cause misery when we are surrounded by the psychological walls we have constructed, causing us to stagnate and fall into a rhythm where we are always running within a space that is slowly growing smaller.
(p. 15)

There is an important difference between dwelling in misery and understanding that on the path of healing things will come up that sometimes cause us to feel the old emotions and patterns that we are working on letting go. There is great power in honoring the reality of our current emotions—not feeding them or making them worse but simply recognizing that this is what has arisen in this present moment and that this will also change. When we create this space within ourselves—a space of calmness that is undisturbed by the storm—the storm tends to pass more quickly.
Practicing such profound honesty within ourselves helps in all facets of internal and external life—there is no real freedom without honesty, and without honesty, there can be no peace of mind. Healing ourselves isn't about constantly feeling bliss; being attached to bliss is a bondage of its own. Trying to force ourselves to be happy is counterproductive, because it suppresses the sometimes tough reality of the moment, pushing it back within our depths of our being, instead of allowing it to arise and release.
(p. 81)

August 13, 2023

I couldn't imagine ever being studied and known like that.

By Dolly Alderton

Time to pull a handful of posts out of the drafts folder...

As desired, I re-read Ghosts earlier this year, in the middle of winter (again). It made me cry (again). It also made me feel tinges of hope and empathy as I further dissected the parallels in Nina George's journey to mine and those of the people I know, as told via Dolly's delicious prose and metaphor.

Ongoing: I continue to contemplate the ghosts of my friendships, romances, and family.

This is one of my favorite moments from the novel. I had never consciously considered the ways loved ones (could) hold hope for one another. We've said prayers, but this beautiful exchange felt different. There have been times in my love journey where I lost hope and all I needed was for someone to hold it for awhile. I think some people have.
(p. 296)

There was the evidence, in all these profiles, where who we really are and who we'd like everyone to think we are were in such unsubtle tension. How clear it suddenly was that we are all the same organs, tissue and liquids packaged up in one version of a million clichés, who all have insecurities and desires; the need to feel nurtured, important, understood and useful in one way or another. None of us are special. I don't know why we fight it so much. 
(p. 32)

The sexiest, most exciting, romantic, explosive feeling in the world is a matter of a few centimeters of skin being stroked for the first time in a public place. The first confirmation of desire. The first indication of intimacy. You only get that feeling with a person once.
(p. 39)

"Big night?" I asked, the note of judgment in my voice as bright and sonorous as a middle C.
(p. 96)

Being a heterosexual woman who loved men meant being a translator for their emotions, a palliative nurse for their pride and a hostage negotiator for their egos.
(p. 98)

There was a daftness that I shared with Joe, and a seriousness that I shared with Max. Both were parts of me and both were true, but both seemed so in conflict with each opposing representative present. I hadn't anticipated that this merging of people meant this merging of selves—it made me think anxiously about myself in a way that was unfamiliar.
(p. 102)

I felt myself lean towards his praise like it was the warmth of sunlight.
(p. 113)

My body responded with more than my senses—I felt it in my cells. It was biological and visceral, prehistoric and predetermining. There in the middle was the garden square, perfectly kept in accordance with every angle my memory had captured.
(p. 116)

In the predawn hours of the next morning, unable to sleep, I went to Dad's bookshelf and picked up his dictionary of English etymology. I sat on the floor, cross-legged, with my back pressed against the sofa, and flipped to N. 
Nostalgia: Greek compound combining nostos (homecoming) and àlgos (pain). The literal Greek translation for nostalgia is "pain from an old wound."
(p. 138)

I stayed in front of Marie-Thérèse in her red armchair and examined every part of her exquisitely scrambled form. The impossible positioning of her breasts stacked on top of each other, the surreal placement of her mismatched shoulders. How her face split into two parts, one half of which could be another face kissing the other in profile, if you looked for long enough. Was the second face that Picasso saw symbolic of Marie-Thérèse's hidden multitudes? Or was it his profile—did he imagine he dwelled within her, his lips on her cheek wherever she went? What would it be like, I wondered, to be seen through such adoring eyes, that they could not only capture you in a painting, but rearrange you to further exhibit who you were? I stroked the rounded right angle of where my neck met my shoulder like it was the hand of a lover and thought about being put inside a Rubik's Cube of someone's gaze. I couldn't imagine ever being studied and known like that.

My solitude was like a gemstone. For the most part it was sparking and resplendent—something I wore with pride...But underneath this diamond of solitude was a sharp point that I occasionally caught with my bare hands, making it feel like a perilous asset rather than a precious one.
(p. 185)

As I watched him surrender to the silly, untamable joy of hysterical giggles, I realized that while the future might strip him of his self, something mightier remained. His soul would always exist somewhere separate and safe. No one and nothing—no disease, no years of aging—could take that away from him. His soul was indestructible.
(p. 269)

May 14, 2023

Credo che ciò che può cambiare la vita esista sempre al di fuori di noi.

with cherry blossoms @ the brooklyn botanic garden

In Other Words/In Altre Parole
By Jhumpa Lahiri

Vorrei scrivere questo “review” en italiano. 

Temo di aver dimenticato quasi tutto quello che ho imparato quando studiavo l'italiano e abitavo in Italia ma l'unica cosa che posso fare è provare di nuovo— studiando, leggendo libri, ascoltando podcasts, guardando film, viaggiando in Italia, etcetera.

In Altre Parole è pieno di metafore che mi hanno colpito. Ciò che ha fatto Jhumpa Lahiri con sua vita e con questo libro è un esempio di coraggio forte che mi ispira. A volte mi sento triste, pensando a tutto il tempo che ho perso in questi anni—durante la pandemia particolarmente—ma poi, imparo di esperienze come la sua, e ricordo che non è troppo tardi per riscoprire me stesso e di fare tutto che desidero.

I would like to write this “review” in Italian. I fear I've forgotten almost everything I learned when studying Italian and living in Italy but the only thing I can do is try again—studying, reading books, listening to podcasts, watching movies, traveling in Italy, etcetera. In Altre Parole is full of metaphors that moved me. What Jhumpa Lahiri did with her life and with this book is an example of a willful courage that inspires me. Sometimes I feel sad, thinking about all the time I've lost over the years—particularly during the pandemic—but then, I learn from experiences like hers, and I remember it's not too late to rediscover myself and do everything I desire.


"Credo che ciò che può cambiare la vita esista sempre al di fuori di noi."
I believe that what can change our life is always outside of us.
(p. 42)

"Cosa significa una parola? E una vita? Mi pare, alla fine, la stessa cosa. Come una parola può avere tante dimensioni, tante sfumature, una tale complessità, così una persona, una vita. La lingua è lo specchio, la metafora principale. Perché in fondo il significato di una parola, così come quello di una persona, è qualcosa di smisurato, di ineffabile."
What does a word mean? And a life? In the end, it seems to me, the same thing. Just as a word can have many dimensions, many nuances, great complexity, so, too, can a person, a life. Language is the mirror, the principal metaphor. Because ultimately the meaning of a word, like that of a person, is boundless, ineffabile.
(p. 86)
(I read most of this book out loud to myself.)

"Perché mi interessa, da adulta, da scrittrice, questa nuova relazione con l'imperfezione? Cosa mi offre? Direi una chiarezza sbalorditiva, una consapevolezza più profonda di me stessa. L'imperfezione dà lo spunto all'invenzione, all'immaginazione, alla creatività. Stimola. Più mi sento imperfetta, più mi sento viva.
Why, as an adult, as a writer, am I interested in this new relationship with imperfection? What does it offer me? I would say a stunning clarity, a more profound self-awareness. Imperfection inspires invention, imagination, creativity. It stimulates. The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive.
(p.  112)

"Sono una scrittrice: mi identifico a fondo con la lingua, lavoro con essa. Eppure il muro mi tiene a distanza, mi separa. Il muro è qualcosa di inevitabile. Mi circonda ovonque vada, per cui mi chiedo se forse il muro non sia io.
Scrivo per rompere il muro, per esprimermi in modo puro. Quando scrivo non c'entra il mio aspetto, il mio nome. Vengo ascoltata senza essere vista, senza pregiudizi, senza filtro. Sono invisibile. Divento le mie parole, e le parole diventano me."
I'm a writer: I identify myself completely with language, I work with it. And yet the wall keeps me at a distance, separates me. The wall is inevitable. It surrounds me wherever I go, so that I wonder if perhaps the wall is me. I write in order to break down the wall, to express myself in a pure way. When I write, my appearance, my name have nothing to do with it. I am heard without being seen, without prejudices, without a filter. I am invisible. I become my words, and the words become me.
(p. 142)

On Italian, English and Bengalese in her life:
"Penso che questo triangolo sia una specie di cornice. E che questa cornice contenga il mio autoritratto. La cornice mi definisce, ma cosa contiene?
Per tutta la mia vita ho volute vedere, dentro la cornice, qualcosa di specifico. Volevo che dentro la cornice ci fosse uno specchio capace di riflettere un'immagine precisa, nitida. Volevo vedere una persona integra anziché frammentata. Ma questa persona non c'era. Per colpa della mia doppia identità vedevo solo oscillazione, distorsione, dissimulazione. Vedevo qualcosa di ibrido, di sfocato, di sempre confuso.
Penso che non poter vedere un'immagine specifica dentro la cornice sia il rovello della mia vita. L'assenza dell'immagine che cercavo mi pesa. Ho paura che lo specchio non rifletta altro che un vuoto, che non rifletta nulla.
Vengo da questo vuoto, da questa incertezza. Credo che il vuota sia la mia origine e anche il mio destino. Da questo vuoto, da tutta questa incertezza, viene l'impulso creativo. L'impulso di riempire la cornice."
I think that this triangle is a kind of frame. And that the frame contains my self-portrait. The frame defines me, but what does it contain? 
All my life I wanted to see, in the frame, something specific. I wanted a mirror to exist inside the frame that would reflect a precise, sharp image. I wanted to see a whole person, not a fragmented one. But that person wasn't there. Because of my double identity I saw only fluctuation, distortion, dissimulation. I saw something hybrid, out of focus, always jumbled.
I think that not being able to see a specific image in the fame is the torment of my life. The absence of the image I was seeking distresses me. I'm afraid that the mirror reflects only a void, that it reflects nothing. 
I come from that void, from that uncertainty. I think that the void is my origin and also my destiny. From that void, from all that uncertainty, comes the creative impulse.
The impulse to fill the frame.
(p. 157)

"Credo che il potere dell'arte sia il potere di svegliarci, di colpirci fino in fondo, di cambiarci. Cosa cerchiamo leggendo un romanzo, guardando un film, ascoltando un brano di musica? Cerchiamo qualcosa che ci sposti, di cui non eravamo consapevoli, prima. Vogliamo trasformaci, così come il capolavoro di Ovidio ha trasformato me."
I think that the power of art is the power to wake us up, strike us to our depths, change us. What are we searching for when we read a novel, see a film, listen to a piece of music? We are searching, through a work of art, for something that alters us, that we weren't aware of before. We want to transform ourselves, just as Ovid's masterwork transformed me.
(p. 170)

"Si protrebbe dire che il meccanismo metamorfico sia l'unico elemento della vita che non cambia mai. Il percorso di ogni individuo, di ogni Paese, di ogni epoca storica, dell'universo intero e tutto ciò che contiene, non è altro che una serie di mutamenti, a volte sottili, a volte profondi, senza i quali resteremmo fermi. I momenti di transizione, in cui qualcosa si tramuta, costituiscono la spina dorsale di tutti noi. Che siano una salvezza o una perdita, sono i momenti che tendiamo a ricordare. Danno un'ossatura alla nostra esistenza. Quasi tutto il resto è oblio."
One could say that the mechanism of metamorphosis is the only element of life that never changes. The journey of every individual, every country, every historical epoch, of the entire universe and all it contains, is nothing but a series of changes, at times subtle, at times deep, without which we would stand still. The moment of transition, in which something changes, constitute the backbone of all of us. Whether they are a salvation or a loss, they are moments we tend to remember. They give a structure to our existence. Almost all the rest is oblivion.
(p. 171)

"Credevo, quando ho cominciato a scrivere, che fosse più virtuoso parlare degli altri. Temevo che la materia autobiografica fosse di minor valore creativo, perfino una forma di pigrizia da parte mia. Temevo che fosse egocentrico raccontare le proprie esperienze. 
In questo libro io sono, per la prima volta, la protagonista. Non c'è nemmeno un pizzico di un altro. Appaio sulle pagine in prima persona, e parlo francamente di me stessa. Un po' come la serie di Nudi Blu di Matisse, figure femminili tagliate, raggruppate, mi sento spoglia in questo libro, appicciata ad una nuova lingua, disgregata."
When I began to write, I thought that it was more virtuous to talk about others. I was afraid that autobiographical material was of less creative value, even a form of laziness on my part. I was afraid that it was egocentric to relate one's own experiences. In this book I am the protagonist for the first time. There is not even a hint of another. I appear on the page in the first person, and speak frankly about myself. A little like Matisse's "Blue Nudes," groups of cutout, reassembled female figures, I feel naked in this book, pasted to a new language, disjointed.
(p. 214)

February 12, 2023

How much—how little—is within our power.


December 2022

Envelope Poems 
By Emily Dickinson

Picked this one up on a whim during a gift shop visit, a gift for me. I'm gravitating towards poems in the winter and letting the words blanket me with comfort. Emily's envelope poems also remind me of my post-it note poems,  and more recently, my aqua-note poems & scribblings, capturing all the musings that fall with the shower downpour.

In this short life 
that only lasts an hour
How much — how little —
is within our power.

January 29, 2023

Recommendations for Repair


I asked Instagram for recommendationsstories, in any form, about repair. Suggestions could be very broad dealing with any and all kinds of reparations: in communities, structures, systems, relationships, self. Stories about broken dreams & changed patterns. Stories about items that have been repaired, healed or reconstructed in a dazzling or revelatory way. Stories about repairing a way of thinking, of being. Repair from an injury or an experience. Stories with levity and positivity. Stories about healing. 

My friends delivered. 
  • Finding Me by Viola Davis 
  • The Wreckage of My Presence by Casey Wilson 
  • The Old Place by Bobby Finger
  • Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian
  • One Night on the Island by Josie Silver
  • Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner 
  • Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams
  • Intimations by Zadie Smith 
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Happy to be Here Podcast by Vivian Nuñez
  • How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon 
  • You Made a Fool of Death with your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi 
  • Dream Out Loud: The Sneakerhead’s Path to Redemption by Rikki Mendias and Wendy Adamson
  • Mango & Peppercorns: A Memoir of Food, an Unlikely Family and the American Dream by Tung Nguyen, Katherine Manning and Lyn Nguyen
  • Pan de limón con semillas de amapola by Cristina Campos
  • Due sirene in un bicchiere by Federica Brunini
  • The Banshees of Inisherin
  • Spiderman: No Way Home
  • Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ecclesiastes, the Dao de Jing, and the Mandukya Upanishad (together)
My recommendation (and current read) -> Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. 

January 15, 2023

She has been unearthed.

Beautiful Country
By Qian Julie Wang

As determined as I feel to read 50 new books this year, I keep thinking about the books I listened to and loved last year. I'd like to revisit them, this time as hard copies with a pencil in hand to underline all of my favorite sentences. 

"Beautiful Country" is one; "Olga Dies Dreaming" and "Ghosts" are two others.

I started "Beautiful Country," read by the author, just before my trip to Thailand last April and I took it with me. I listened to the final chapter on our road trip to the island of Koh Chang and got teary while identifying with the emotion of Qian reaching out to her younger self. Many of us still walk with our littler selves within hoping to be acknowledged and freed.

As waves of peace washed over me on Koh Chang, I could feel I was at a turning point. That everything would soon change. I felt confident I'd leave my job within the year but I didn't yet know how. I only knew what awaited me would allow my current self to unfurl and help younger me—bright, joyful, fearless—rise above the heavier parts I carry. More on that some other time, but for now, I am so thankful to Qian and the permission slip her words formed.

"From then on, the little girl makes her home in my shadows, even as I make the move back to New York City to work in a top law firm. I know she is there, watching as I play my assigned role in my gilded American Dream, living my empty Manhattan life full of all the food and clothes and things I could ever want. You cannot know that some things are not enough until you have them. 
At first, I act like she doesn't exist. I try to kick dirt over her in my mind again. But it is too late: she has been unearthed. 
It comes to me clearest in the first seconds of every morning. Upon opening my eyes, I forget who I am and how I've come to chase this life. And then I see her in the corner of my bedroom, still scared, still starving. I look past her and out the window, my mind roaming beyond the Hudson River and into Jersey City, through the door of the condominium unit where Ma Ma and Ba Ba now live, apparently free and safe, but really behind bars wrought from trauma. And then I slide forward in time and see myself many decades older, hair gray and skin loose, behind those same bars myself, the little girl still cowering next to me.
I repeat the judge's words. It has become a daily morning practice, but this time, after almost a year, I feel the lies slip away through the weave of my mantra. My muscles lose a tightness I did not know they have been carrying, and against the backdrop of my truths I am at long last free to admit: I am tired. I am so very tired of running and hiding, but I have done it for so long, I don't know how to stop. I don't know how to do anything else. It is all I am: defining myself against illegality while stitching it into my veins. The judge's words are my blanket nest, and in its snug embrace I rediscover a safety I knew once, long, long ago.
I turn back to the window and see for the first time the little girl cast aglow against the light of the waking sun. And then I try something new. I look that wise little girl in the eyes and reach my hand out for hers."(pp. 296-7)

January 01, 2023

On giving in to the enchanting promise and possibility of a new year.

photos by Carol Guerrero

I admit to giving in to the enchanting promise and possibility of a new year. Today, I will gift myself flowers.

On the day after my 33rd birthday, I did a photoshoot themed to "Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches," to commemorate reaching a period in my life I've been dreaming about for years. It wasn't a perfect experience but it still felt momentous. We ended, serendipitously, near Strawberry Fields.

I'm reflecting on another year of learning, growing, loving, hurting, messing up, excelling, of good and bad and big decisions. Appreciative for it all. I never pick a theme for the new year but I thought this time I might, and the first word that kept surfacing from my mind's depths was Repair. I didn't like it because it inherently indicates some brokenness and it doesn't sound sparkly or profound, but it is persistent and it's stuck. As it marinates, the more it feels a reflection of some thrilling deep work ahead and a fitting conduit to the expansive and exploratory 2023 I've been working towards. I am a little nervous, but also confident and hopeful. And ready as hell.

I didn't reach my goal of reading 25 books in 2022, but I doubled the goal for 2023 anyway. I think I can do it. And even if I don't, the win is that I'll be reading more robustly and intentionally this year.