I woke this morning to a fat orange moon melting into Mount Tidbinbilla like liquid metal, then I went for breakfast at a cafe in the ‘hood and watched new leaves on the plane trees flickering against the spring sky. I’ve been trying out a different caff one day a week, ordering breakfast and getting to work later. The decadence! Last week I found a place that serves fried arepas with your poached eggs. I was reading when the waiter brought my breakfast. “Darling,” he said, as he put down the plate, which was a lovely surprise. Fried arepas and endearments from South Americans: not a bad way to start the day.
The book drought has broken. I’ve read three good books in a row. Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men is about horrible teenagers, deviant old ladies and a middle-aged poet who realises she’s spent far too much of her life being an accommodating enabler. How many men have read this book, I wonder? I really enjoyed it.
Nicholson Baker’s Travelling Sprinkler is sweet and whimsical. Nothing much happens, but the main character is very endearing. (He’s also a middle-aged poet. How did I manage to select, at random, two books from the library on the same day that feature middle-aged poets?)
A friend pressed Elissa Schappell’s Use Me into my hands and said, “Trigger warning,” because the main character’s father dies, but I’m so glad I read it. Yes, some of it made me cry, but the writing was exquisite and acerbic and horrifyingly funny. It’s basically about family, sex and death. Sometimes it felt like I was reading my own life, which really just points to the universality of these things, doesn’t it? This paragraph, in particular, I loved:
I was moving on. I didn’t want to. It was as though I was a refugee being chased from my true home, prodded into the future with the stick of forgetfulness. Turning my head, trying to catch a glimpse of something I could never see again, the lights of a place I’d never wanted to leave, a place I’d never return to, a place that in memory would become more beautiful, more irreplaceable the longer it was out of my sight.
Today I sat in the garden in the warm breeze for hours and got covered in confetti. The plum trees blossomed this week and I’ve been tracking petals through the house and shaking them out of the washing. Have you ever bathed in petals? I tried it once. In Bali, after having a massage from a farting masseuse, followed by ayurvedic oil being dripped on to my forehead (which I hated and asked them to stop after 10 minutes), I got into a bath of rose petals.
It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Except the thing is, rose petals stick to you. It feels quite unpleasant. Also, it’s boring. As I lay there, a gecko suckered his way across the window pane and made kissing noises. That bit I enjoyed, but mostly I thought about what a waste of time it was and wished I’d gone on a walk up the volcano instead. While I was having the icky oil-dripping procedure just before that, I lay waiting for the profound thoughts that it was supposed to inspire and here’s what came to me: “I really must buy a juicer.”
Some friends came to dinner the other night and we remarked on how much has happened since we met, a year ago. For both of them it’s been a year of breakthroughs, significant progress, personally and professionally. I felt a little envious. “For me,” I said, “it’s been The Year of No.” I was thinking of a few big targets I’ve aimed for this year and missed. But one of my friends saw it differently. He pointed out that it’s also been the year when I’ve finally learned to say no to those things that don’t sit well with me. I’m so glad he reminded me of that. It’s real progress and incredibly empowering.
I’m making the Aideen wrap, by Annie Design Crochet, which is thrilling because I’ve never tried a moderately complicated lacy pattern before. For the first few rows I really wasn’t sure that I was doing it right, but I followed the instructions and kept going. Stitch by stitch, the pattern appeared. Row by row, the colour started to change. Trust, perseverance…and here’s progress and deep satisfaction. Crochet as a life lesson! (You knew I was going to throw one in here somewhere, didn’t you?)
Have a lovely weekend.