"And so he sang of the love that is not so fearful of ending
that fear ends it       love that admits the flavor of pain
the pulling apart of ivy-tendrils ripped from a tree
love that lays itself in the grave of another body
sweetened by loss       as we lose ourselves in our lover’s arms
given completely over to pleasure        the dark flower
that opens petal by petal        unfolding us to the utmost
pitch of surrender        lost in the joy of self-forgetting"
-Craig Arnold, "Hymn to Persephone"

"The people there had an expansive, natural, spontaneous relationship to God that made his own faith feel intellectual and disembodied by comparison. This, he thought, was a function of how they lived: to really know God, one had to feel as much love as possible, and to really feel love one had to live among loved ones."

-Joshua Rothman's New Yorker profile of Rod Dreher
"Olive, on the edge of the bed, leans her face into her hands. She can almost not remember the first decade of Christopher's life, although some things she does remember and doesn't want to. She tried teaching him to play the piano and he wouldn't play the notes right. It was how scared he was of her that made her go all wacky. But she loved him! She would like to say this to Suzanne. She would like to say, Listen, Dr. Sue, deep down there is a thing inside me, and sometimes it swells up like the head of a squid and shoots blackness through me. I haven't wanted to be this way, but so help me, I have loved my son."

-Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge


"Now I must tell you this much more, dear Gloria: whenever I smell fresh lemons, whether in the market or at home, I look around me — not for Gweneth Lawson, but for some quiet corner where I can revive in private certain memories of her. And in pursuing these memories across such lemony bridges, I rediscover that I loved her."

"I want to remember that she smiled. I know I smiled, dear Gloria. I smiled with the lemonness of her and the loving of her pressed deep into those saving places of my private self. It was my plan to savor these, and I did savor them. But when I reached New York, many years later, I did not think of Brooklyn. I followed the old, beaten, steady paths into uptown Manhattan. By then I had learned to dance to many other kinds of music. And I had forgotten the savory smell of lemon. But I think sometimes of Gweneth now when I hear country music. And although it is difficult to explain to you, I still maintain that I am no mere arithmetician in the art of the square dance. I am into the calculus of it."

-James Alan McPherson, "Why I Like Country Music"


I think at this point Blogger is completely obsolete but it's nice to look back at 6.5 years-worth of posts here, the very first being on November 28, 2010, when I was a junior in college, studying abroad in Florence, Italy. The picture I posted that day is of a bread platter at a restaurant in Rome. I remember that day so clearly. Our Michelangelo art class led by a grouchy mustachioed old man—he was thin and wiry and narrow-shouldered—had traveled to Rome for a two days. The day we arrived—actually it was night—we had a private tour of the Sistine Chapel. The day after we ran around Rome frantically trying to cram in as many Michelangelo-related stops as possible before heading back to Florence: the Campidoglio, St. Peter's, Santa Maria deli Angeli. And then finally, in the afternoon, we stopped for lunch somewhere, and the first thing they brought out was this platter full of hot, steaming bread—all different types: breadsticks, rolls, sliced baguette. In my head I remember the platter resembling a flower arrangement, each thing artfully placed, but when I look at the photo now I see that the bread was haphazardly strewn. Time and memory distort even the most trivial of things.

And I remember how nervous I felt then, at that meal, when the bread platter arrived. I was so hungry, yet so fearful of what I might to do to myself. I started this blog when I was at a very low point: abroad in one of the most romanticized cities in the world, and yet completely depleted of life. Starving myself. Unhappy. Lonely.

A lot has changed since then, but I'm not ashamed of that time of my life. It is very much a part of me, and I know, when I look at that picture, exactly what it meant to me at that time, and what it means to me now, even though those meanings have shifted. Nothing here is literal. Personal significance is embedded in everything—every quote, every photo, every word. A compendium of buried meanings.

Two years ago, I started working at a small magazine—not exactly a traditional magazine. I would call us a story production company. I have learned a lot about how to tell a story; my instincts for what constitutes good writing have certainly been sharpened. Yet working here has also made me, perhaps excessively, self-conscious of my own writing—so much so that when I sit down to write, I begin to criticize myself before I've even put words down on the page. I kill any thought, any idea that arises. I demean even the quietest whispers of my own mind, constantly.

As a remedial measure, I began writing "morning pages" a few months ago. This is a practice from Julia Cameron's The Artist Way. I'd tried it now and again, after hearing about it back in college, but I'd never abided by it as a strict daily practice. But after months of being exasperated by my own inability to produce any work, and by my lack of confidence to try, I knew I needed an exercise small and trivial—but consistent—enough that would help release some of the inhibitions, mental and emotional, blocking my way. My morning routine now takes much longer than it has ever taken, and consequently I am the last one in the office, but it has all been worth it. The goal all along was to turn "morning pages" into a compulsion, and now it is.

Begin small, and up the stakes as you go.

I've lately been inspired by the blog of film director David Lowery, and this cross-section of David Sedaris' journals, to write on this blog more often. The writing here is slightly more polished than that  of my morning pages, but it is still rough and inchoate, which is not a bad thing, I think. I like Lowery's blog as a chronicle of his process, and perhaps this can serve as that too. David Sedaris practices sharply wrought observation and narration in his journals—something that does not come naturally to me as a chronicler, but that I want to practice. I tend to be chronicler of feelings, rarely writing a sequence of events, but recapitulating how I felt in the wake of those events.

But sometimes those feelings can become more powerful when not stated so explicitly: left intact in the action, the dialogue, the silence. Leave them buried. Say what you see, and say no more.


"Willfulness is a strange optimist. It turns the inevitable into the desirable. If aloneness is inevitable, I want to believe that aloneness is what I have desired because it is happiness itself. It must be a miscomprehension—though I have been unwilling to give it up—that one's life could be lived as a series of solitary moments. In between, time spent with other people is the time to prepare for their disappearance. That there is an opposite perspective I can only understand theoretically. The time line is also a repetition of one's lapse into isolation. It's not others who vanish, but from others one vanishes."
-Yiyun Li,  Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life
"I did not know what I was doing, and what I also did not know, facing my computer screen and a white wall, slowly turning pale, was that I was becoming a writer. Becoming a writer was partly a matter of acquiring technique, but it was just as importantly a matter of the spirit and a habit of the mind. It was the willingness to sit in that chair for thousands of hours, receiving only occasional and minor recognition, enduring the grief of writing in the belief that somehow, despite my ignorance, something transformative was taking place.  
It was an act of faith, and faith would not be faith if it was not hard, if it was not a test, if it was not an act of willful ignorance, of believing in something that can neither be predicted nor proved by any scientific metric.

At a time in which the demand for productivity and the measuring of outputs has increased in the university — indeed, everywhere — it is important to acknowledge how much of what is crucial in the work that matters to us, no matter what our field, can neither be quantified nor accelerated."
-Viet Thanh Nguyen, "In Praise of Doubt & Uselessness"


They say the universe is expanding,

not staying in one place.

I, though, have a small rental room

somewhere in it.

-Bill Knotts, "Poem"
And he woke up alone in the other world     and he was
walking down a familiar street      and it had been raining
all night       and the boughs of the trees were black and heavy
and the first cars of the morning passed       with their tires hissing
over the blacktop        and under his feet he felt the pavement
slither         a carpet of petals battered down by the raindrops
and each puddle swirled with a slick of green-gold pollen
and though he couldn't remember how or when it happened
his heart had been spilled        and at its quick was planted a wet
seed that he'd never known before          and it was spring

-Craig Arnold, "Hymn to Persephone"
"Myth deals in false universals, to dull the pain of particular circumstances."

-Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman