21 April 2018 § 1 Comment
21 April 2018
Today, I decided to go for a slow run. I had clinic in the morning, walked to lecture, and then walked home. There were a few hours before I had to walk to the hospital again. It was cool outside, and sometimes it is possible for me to remain perfectly clean if I keep cool enough whilst running. So I decided to run as slowly as necessary to keep clean. The sun was bright, the sky so blue that it looked like a brilliant flat paper pressed up against the branching trees and telephone lines. Everything was bright. The dogwood trees had grown their bracts to a whiteness nearly shocking. The greenness of the grass hurt my teeth. My retinae absorbed all of the colour and were saturated.
I always run in short shorts, with my shirt tucked in, my hair tidy, and my shoes fastened with minimal elastic bands. Today, I untucked my shirt, let the wind I created with my body billow it a bit and rush around my skin. I slid the elastic from my hair and let it swish on my shoulders every step. I ran slowly, lightly—airily thoughtful, I floated through the park, under the trees, up and down hills, past flower bushes of brilliance, on sidewalks and on grass, past the church, by dogs and their walkers, and past children playing in their front gardens. Each step, I was between strides, drifting forward in the slowing of time as though by a puff of wind. The sea of my mind calmed as I focused without effort on the detail before, behind, above, below.
A deep breath, a direction of thought and energy away from oneself and to all that is around and about, an acceptance of each colour, scent, sound, and shape—these are required to live in one single moment.
[written on Tuesday]
1 April 2017 § Leave a comment
31 March 2017
The rain poured this morning. Rain calms and comforts, makes it easy to rest in hygge, encourages reading. I took a long exam and by the time I finished, it was well into the afternoon, raining a bit less with the sun shining through the clouds, and time for a walk.
Rain- and cold-proof, except for my toes.
These will probably always be my favourite sunglasses. I found them in a tiny shop in Cape Town.
There are so many daffodils round now, although they are slowly disappearing.
When I got dressed, I did not realise I was transforming myself into this tulip, who is alone and hanging round daffodils of the exact same shade of yellow.
Thanks to mother for investing in this Moss Brown suit decades ago (I like the photograph on their website—bleak). It will probably last long enough for my children to wear.
30 March 2017 § Leave a comment
30 March 2017
It is a rainy, grainy, grey day. Usually I go for walks in the afternoon, when I do questions and see which flowers are newly bloomed. Today, since it was supposed to start raining at 10 o’clock, I went for a walk this morning, and the air was quiet and fresh, with a hint of anticipation of rain.
I bought this cotton ikat skirt last summer at Toast in Oxford, and it always feels wonderful to wear, especially with my collared linen shirt, which gives comfort and freshness. This combination of softness and structure lends a balance of calm and focus, which is ideal for long hours of any kind of work that requires concentration. Perhaps its power is in making me feel like Karen Blixen working to save her coffee plantation.
I like Toast. They use cotton, linen, wool, and not much else to make lovely relaxed clothes that lend beauty in a quiet way, being reliable garments without calling attention to themselves. There is little of the self-importance of the maker movement, at which George MacDonald would likely balk—how far removed from self-conscious expensive artisan-ness are his fairy tales, sermons, and Lilith. They have a ‘coat’ which I think would be a good alternative to a robe, and if I needed a new actual coat, I would buy this one, whose sleeves are the best thing about it, ideal for walking down a street in the cold and then reading the newspaper with an espresso. I don’t need a new coat, though, because my grey cashmere coat will probably hold up until I die.
A closing thought. I have been puzzling over why it is much easier to focus when my hair is tied back. Putting it out of my way has the mysterious effect of clearing my mind. I suspect this is a universal experience, but how to know?
25 March 2017 § Leave a comment
24 March 2017
Spring is here, and my afternoon walks have been a cool stream of water cleansing my mind. The colours seem particularly bright, the leaves saturated with deep green and the flowers slumbering deeply each evening to turn out ever bolder each day. Chill has returned, though, demanding versatility. As I relayer clothes, I reorient my mind.
I have been wearing plaid wool trousers, because they remind me of Christmas and, thinking about Christmas is an exercise in hope. They are a bit tricky to pair with things in a springlike way, but it’s been fun to wear them several times over the past few weeks and resemble a cosy blanket.
I initially shied away from any sweater whose colour would make me feel like I was embodying Christmas and chose this beigey cream cashmere sweater. I was on my way to vespers, though, and I dislike showing skin at church, probably an effect from a few years of wearing voluminous, blanket-like robe and cotta. Giving in to my true nature as an elf, I chose a green but kept more to spruce than pine.
Unfortunately my hair was still drying, so I ran out of time to weave that yellow scarf on the doorknob into a diaphanous halo.
On St Patrick’s Day, I donned a green cotton blazer, sat down to study, and probably saw no other human that day. Cheers.
My clogs wanted to play, and their burnished brown complemented the greyish background of the trousers.
Then, I turned into a latte.
That was an especially chilly day, yet it soon warmed up again.
Wearing monkey socks made imprisoning my feet more acceptable.
I recently dreamt that I was taking the boards, and it required that I invent and write the questions and their answers, choose the correct answer, and then provide explanations of all of it. This would actually be a less nightmarish version of the actual thing, and I could even get some writing practice. I have amassed many facts, most of which are boring by themselves, but there are a few things that actually make me think. One of these is proposagnosia, caused by a stroke in the posterior cerebral artery and resulting in the inability to recognise faces, even if they are quite familiar. Patients afflicted with this post-stroke gift often use clues such as clothing, hair style, or voice to determine who is in front of them. Their sight is unaffected; it is the interpretation that is flawed.
When I read this in a question explanation, it fascinated me. Imagine having no idea how the people around you relate to you, wondering if the person standing in front of you could be perhaps your spouse of half a century or a complete stranger, seeking any hint that might help you grasp the reality of the people around you. Summoning this state of mind is impossible, but in some ways it seems an exaggeration of what we already do every day. Of course this is untrue of people we see every day, whose faces are as intimate to us as is the geography of our own thoughts, but think of someone who is an acquaintance, walking into work with a new haircut—and you scarcely recognise them. Or think of the singular experience of leaning your head back against the wall and closing your eyes after having a few glasses of wine whilst out with friends; your auditory sense, elevated almost to hyperacusis, drenches the landscape of your senses. And everyone knows the experience of enjoying a meal, especially in the company of friends, to the exclusion of the entire rest of the world—sometimes so complete as to produce surprise when realisation of the outside world returns.
How do we allow our environment determine which senses rise above others? Is this an essential part of dealing with almost limitless stimulation to all of our senses? I wonder how our brains decide which details to rise to the surface of a picture we examine or a room into which we walk. How, too, do we study others, and which parts of them impress us enough to stay in our memory and to be drawn up again when we next see them? The scientific answers to these questions are, I am sure, numerous and possibly intriguing, but I think the questions, and most of all the act of this questioning, will always be more interesting.
To accompany my thoughts, I started drinking a new coffee. Dark and delicious, it exudes richness and silkyness, and it reminds me of the French roast I picked up last year at Porto Rico, an excellent unpretentious wooden closet of a tea and coffee store that feels like wandering into the store room of a ship that has visited distant lands. Giant burlap sacks of coffee beans lounge on the floor, veritable robber barons who seem to be discussing which tea lady on the shelf is the finest. Back to the current bean: often, after I have finished my one very strong cup—more than one cup would probably throw me into a panic attack—my French press keeps the scent around for an hour, and it smells so good. If someone made a Frenchy French candle, I would consider buying it, but I will probably just tape a coffee bean to my upper lip instead. If I manage to make it to the Sylvan Esso concert in Pittsboro this summer, I will stop by their roastery and take a nap on a pile of beans.
Usually after that coffee, I must drink plain green tea, but I am running out of that and oolong is quite gentle, so here is a note about a particularly good one.
Butterfly of Taiwan
If the Satemwa oolong smelled like hay, butterfly is like someone washed the hay, lined up the strands, set it on a Delft plate, and brought it to the parlour for me to sniff. Pure, clean, and bright, this tea may be the perfect oolong. It is the colour of honey and probably what honey would choose to be if it were a tea. The tasting notes aver that the tea liquor has an aroma of ‘waxed wood’, which I do not understand, but otherwise I agree with the seemingly random adjectives that somehow make perfect sense after you taste it. In this way, tasting tea differs from tasting wine. If someone told you that a wine was redolent of ‘quince cheese’, you would look askance at the dotty and possibly intoxicated speaker, but I am sure there is a quince for every tea, or something like that. Another advantage that tea has over wine is the various entities—the leaves, infusion, and liquor all demand their own description, and thinking about them separately gives insight, perhaps, into my habit of sniffing tea. (I am not sure why I am bashing wine, except perhaps that it is absent from my table these days.) The tea notes also say that it pairs well with pies, quiche Lorraine, and plum desserts, so I will be waiting if anyone wishes to drop one off for safekeeping.
15 March 2017 § 2 Comments
15 March 2017
Yesterday was pi day and I did not make time to bake a pie, which was sad. Today I am also not making time for much beyond studying, but it is cold and I rummaged round for warm clothes to wear on a walk.
I normally wear this silk shirt to bed, because it is cold in winter, because you can see through it, but mostly because I am not much of a lace person. With just a bit peeking out, though, it makes for a warm and pretty layer over which to swathe myself in cashmere.
I found a scarf shortly after this, as my neck has dependent personality disorder and needs a blankie to be wrapped round it at all times, or else it cries/catches a cold. My head feels similarly and requires a lamb fur topping whenever possible.
Robbins is saying hello from the far right. Snagging a coat, bye!
8 March 2017 § 1 Comment
8 March 2017
It seems last week was a happy one; I was happy even in the solemnity of Lent beginning. On mardi gras I went to Spring House for the first time. I had been meaning to go there for a while, even just for a drink, but the idea of being a gold dust woman or sipping smoke signals whilst sitting across the road from the shambly communist-industrial skeleton of the destroyed public library depressed me. On a warm rainy spring evening, though, the fast caught up to me and I was ready for a real meal.
My green trousers (and their best silk friend) made their first appearance of the week. I’m surreptitiously wearing earrings, but you can’t see them.
I studied the wine list ahead of time to let the choices decant in my mind and was already looking forward to the Crossbarn pinot noir. Ordering pinot always feels a bit risky, but this one was fruity and quenching, and structured enough even for a cabernet devotee. (I also tasted the Atlas Peak cabernet, which was good, but I wanted that pointed pinot to go with my pork…)
This sweater has been my favourite over the past few weeks. It’s rabbit angora and feels like wrapping a sleepy pet bunny round my neck. It also happens to shed rabbit hair everywhere like an actual pet. I think I acquired the headband sometime in college; it is a good way to wear flowers in the winter and is a sort of everyday fascinator. Zigzag socks are an important antidote to feeling saccharine.
I ordered bread with pimento cheese, although the real star was neither the cornbread nor the miniature buttermilk biscuits nor the stretchy incredible foccacia but rather the beraisined bran bread with butter, small shy slices humbly sweet and dense. Next, the wild mushroom toast was a rich, figgy mess masquerading as a salad; a thick slice of (again) foccacia with mushrooms and bits of leaves strewn over its surface would have amused me, but the taste of goat cheese and the fig sauce lured me into a caramel dream.
I was already pleasantly satisfied by the time the pork tenderloin arrived, but I took a rest and a sip of wine and dove in. It was the best kind of southern: wrapped in bacon to create porkception, with thickish mango-rum-ginger-macadamia ‘sauce’ in artful blobs here and there, and broccolini proud in its slender tenderness waiting patiently to provide a solid salty counterpoint—whilst somehow also flirting with the airy cloud of sweet potatoes. The roasted tomatoes were little and quite the jester of the meal, jaunty dots just making a waggish honest living on my plate.
At this point, the redolence of my meal had displaced my perfume, which floated out of the window, into the aerosolised rain that hovered, each minuscule drop suspended, outside. Swirling the last of my wine, I listened to the conversation of three men dining at the other table in the room. They were discussing their trips to New York, their children…they sounded relaxed. I was, too, for the moment. Regardless of any frenetic burden that could descend the next day, nothing could disturb the soft rest that enveloped me after a lovingly made and slowly eaten dinner.