Unanchored by seasons, I forget constantly how long I’ve lived here. The masochistic part of me misses grim New Jersey winters (salted sidewalks, the undying mound of blackened snow in the mall parking lot), if only to locate myself in time. I’m writing this on the last day of the year in a coffeeshop with the doors flung open and it could be any month at all. I miss the inwardness of winter and the promise of a blank January. But I’m still a list-maker, a Resolution Person, trying to impose order upon myself with lofty commandments.
So, like a marathon trainee who announces her weekend runs with the intention of shaming herself into completion, I will say that my resolution for 2017 is to become a better notebook-keeper, to take the project seriously, and to turn those scraps into writing. I used to be good at this, but then my compulsion to document spiraled; my sentences grew into unwieldy chunks of text, dense with run-ons and arbitrary descriptions of sky and slices of sun I was afraid I’d forget, conversations I wanted preserved in amber. Eventually the prospect of recording each day became so overwhelming that I quit altogether. So I bought a new notebook. (“First try to be something, anything else.”)
December was a long and full month, carried on a wave of leftover surreality (enhanced by a guilty avoidance of news). But it was a good one. I shared a house with eight friends in New Orleans, drank Hurricanes on a ghost tour, pretended I knew what I was doing in jazz clubs, twirled down the street with a Christmas parade, ate oysters and beignets and po boys with creole mustard. I found a signed copy of Bark and bought H Is for Hawk at my favorite bookstore (“Perfect if you like grief and birds,” the cashier said.) My family came to stay in my apartment — two dogs, five adults, one stolen air mattress and one acquired by legal means. My brothers and I rode roller coasters and ate theme park churros, built a doomed sandcastle, made games out of everything. On Christmas we raced to the beach for sunset. My brothers and dad ran around the beach throwing a ball and I read on a blanket with my mom until it was too dark to see.
I keep a small, hot pink post-it on my desk at work. “OR YOU CAN SUFFER THE MOLTING,” it says, a fragment of a poem that reminds me how I want to be now and in the year to come.
“The trees in wind, the streetlights on,
the click and flash of cigarettes
being smoked on the lawn, and just a little kiss before we say goodnight.
It spins like a wheel inside you: green yellow, green blue,
green beautiful green.
It’s simple: it isn’t over, it’s just begun. It’s green. It’s still green.”
On resolutions, Plath, things done and undone.
I really really love this Kathryn Schulz piece on the dailiness of running and where the mind goes, especially her look at a professor’s running log. "Very early on in the book, in the entry for February 29th, we learn, without preparation or preamble, that Gardner’s younger brother died of a heart attack the day before. As both writer and runner, the author retains his form: 'Cold rain this morning, 45 degrees, crying hard by the time I hit the pond.' For the rest of the book, grief will trail him just off one shoulder, the way his brother used to do until, always the faster runner, he pulled ahead at the end."
This very heartachey poem about home and Americana. “You never forget / how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.”
I loved Girls on Fire, which I read because of this essay: "It is this ragged edge, this blurriness of the teenage self, that makes Girls on Fire a more reliable guide to the lived dystopia of adolescence than the melting masochism of Twilight or the righteous fight of The Hunger Games. Because in my experience there is really no clarity or meaning to be made of a misspent youth. Girlhood is there, and then it is gone."
Molly Wizenberg’s coming out essay made my heart light up. "I thought then, and for a long time after, that each of us has some kind of essential self, a core or foundation, and that foundation is sturdy, dependable, unchangeable. There would be things that we could always count on, a sense of me that would be constant over a lifetime. ... But a year and a half ago — something in me shifted without my permission, and it wouldn’t go back to the way it had been, no matter how hard I wished it would."
Do you have kids? Do you have plans? Do you have regrets?
“All my life I’ve had goals to go after, goals / in a molten distance.” This poem!
The way a library makes you feel / Best maps and best book covers of the year / Every literary plot ever / Here’s what helps / HOPE.
Choosing a school for my daughter in a segregated city, a deeply reported story of a writer torn between the “right” school and the just school in a city (and a country) that can’t get integration right.
Generation Adderall. "This was sublime, these afternoons I spent in untrammeled focus, absorbing the complicated ideas in the texts in front of me, mastering them, covering their every surface with my razor-like comprehension, devouring them, making them a part of myself. Or rather, of what I now thought of as my self, which is to say, the steely, undistractable person whom I vastly preferred to the lazier, glitchier person I knew my actual self to be, the one who was subject to fits of lassitude and a tendency to eat too many Swedish Fish."
I loved this Nathan Heller profile of the new campus activism at Oberlin because it managed to gently skewer some of the more outlandish demands of college kids while also making an undeniable case for their convictions.
Tab hoarders / Eating alone in Toyko / Ends of top 10 lists / Ariel Levy’s book! / The Annihilation movie! / A residential library / My other life / “It arrives like twilight, and at first the eyes adjust.”
I’ve started thinking of this as “the daily poem” because it so exactly captures that endless tide of to-do, to-do, to-do.
These won’t always be so long. Thanks for reading.