Misc for September 8, 2014

We’re experiencing the first cool weekend that forecasts delicious autumn—the kids are in school, football season has started, the gardens are winding down. It is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Thoughts start to turn to homesteading for the coming winter, all marking the often unwanted unfurling of time’s relentless ribbon.

Time on my mind, I’ve been on a deliberate quest to slow it all down. Hence no letters the past couple of weeks. Justin Lancy uncovered a great Haruki Murkami quote the other day, which describes my motivations well:

Spend your money on the things money can buy. Spend your time on the things money can’t buy.

I appreciate the handful of you who noticed my absence, and wrote in to inquire about it. I’m here, and well.

For a bit, I found myself in a familiar habit of absorbing far too much of the world’s misery, forgetting to make time for family, love, beauty.

Molly Crabapple said it well, when she wrote “It’s been a summer full of monsters.” She concludes:

The world is connected now. Where it breaks, we all break. But it is our world, to love as it burns around us. Jack Gilbert is right. “We must risk delight” in the summer of monsters. Beauty is survival, not distraction. Beauty is a way of fighting. Beauty is a reason to fight.

For all intents and purposes, I’ve set aside Twitter and abstained from Facebook. And I’m happier. I’m better connected to my home and my family, and closer to some of the passion projects I’m pursuing. I really identified with Patton Oswalt’s commentary on his three months away from social media:

Slowly weaning myself off of social media has, ironically, made me feel younger. At least, I have the habits of a much younger person now. I used social media—at least for these past 90 days—at the frequency of a 20 year old. Occasionally, like it wasn’t some exotic novelty, and didn’t need to be consumed like a wine whose supply was finite.

Some of the most arresting prose I’ve found recently has been in the food writing of Tamar Adler. Her book An Everlasting Meal is a revelation—part meditation, part memoir, part cookbook. In all ways it is one of those books that came along at exactly the right time for me, and has helped give focus to my slowing down, to my deliberation. A lovely Believer interview with Adler addresses this aspect of her writing and is also worth reading.

Strangely, I’ve also found that as I have been slowing my thoughts down I have found even more pleasure in being present with material things. I’ve enjoyed walking more, tending to our small wild prolific garden, cooking with attention, and reading physical (as in, printed on old fashioned paper) books. Along with everyone else in literary circles, I’m particularly excited by David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and Ben Lerner’s 10:04.

Have you been listening to Serious Business? Episodes two and three of my podcast with Toni McLellan have hit the webwaves, with lots more fun stuff to come. If you like it, do us a favor and rate or review it on iTunes? Thanks!

This isn’t even my final form.