thankful

Beautiful Things: The sun and the smell of a book

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Another Friday afternoon, another seat in the sun. This week I am not sitting at Powell’s (although yes, I did stop by there this afternoon) as I write this blog post. I am sitting on the seat of our tiny little front “porch” and the sun is still out even though it is almost 7:00pm and I do not hate it this time. I do not hate it at all. I am a delightfully normal temperature and the sun along with the recent spring weather has been kind of a life changer. IMG_4287IMG_3260
Although it snows a lot more in Maine and rains in Portland, I have decided that I think Maine and Oregon winters are more similar than most would like to think. There is the same grey weariness. The same feeling of extreme jubilation when the sun does finally come out again. I remember sitting outside on Colby’s campus soaking in the sun during the spring not just because it felt warm but because I actually felt as if my body was absorbing some much needed nutrients. It was regaining life again.

As I was sauntering back to the bus stop after my Powell’s visit on this beautiful, sunny, spring Friday afternoon I was feeling the usual “I’m-Leah-and-I-just-bought-a-new-book” self-satisfied smugness. I just get unbelievably excited to open a new book. There is so much anticipation, so much build-up. So much potential. I feel jittery inside.

I am realizing now, as I write this, that these are all things most normal people might use to describe their feelings about a new relationship. Unbelievably excited. Anticipation. Potential. The jitters. The fact that I equate these feelings with the relationship I have with my books is potentially extremely odd but also speaks to the magnitude of my feelings for them. IMG_3259
A new book is just a beautiful thing. As I was standing at the bus stop waiting for the 8 bus to arrive (another inanimate object with which I have a relationship, albeit one that is not nearly as clear cut and adoring), I pulled out the new book to start reading. I just couldn’t help myself. It was at this moment that I realized that whenever I start a new book, I do four things.

1) Run my hands across its cover. Look at the front, look at the back. Take a moment to feel its sheer physical presence in my hands.
2) Quickly glance over a few of the quoted reviews featured on the back cover or the first couple inside pages. This really helps add to the build-up and anticipation.
3) Do you remember way back when we learned about using books as resources in the library at school? There is this little index on the page with all the publishing information in a book and there you can find a section that has numbered categories specifying the different genres or themes that that particular novel fits into. I don’t know why this is something that I even remember exists, and I really don’t know why I always read it but I do.
4) I always always smell my book. Today at the bus stop I had a brief moment where I thought “maybe you should hold off on the smelling since you are in a public place and there are people around” but I did it anyways. IMG_3270 IMG_3271
Sometimes we just need to sit in the sun and say thank you for existing, thank you for coming back into my life. And sometimes, you just need to stick your nose in a book and inhale. It’s the little beautiful things.
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11 Abbreviated Love Poems

 

 

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On one of my most recent expeditions to Powell’s books, (a place that calls itself a mere bookstore but really, is a mecca for all book-lovers, a cavernous, multi-floor building with books practically seeping out of the shelves) I did my usual routine. Walk in. Stand in awe and complete bliss for a brief moment. Commence making my way around the store, saving the poetry and fiction sections for last – like saving the last bite of your meal, to truly savor it.

I inevitably always end up walking out with one or two extra books in addition to the one I went there with the purpose to purchase. What can I say? I have a serious addiction. During this last trip I picked up Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language. More poetry to fill my bookshelves and my brain. What can I say? Another one of my addictions.

While I am still making my way through this beautiful book, her series “21 Love Poems” struck me in particular. The honest mix of lyricism and inquiry strike me as completely human. I fall into these words, I bathe in them:

“Sleeping, turning in turn like planets
rotating in their midnight meadow:
a touch is enough to let us know
we’re not alone in the universe, even in sleep:
the dream-ghosts of two worlds
walking their ghost-towns, almost address each other.”

Since I am no Adrienne Rich and since it is a Saturday morning I felt inspired to write my own abbreviated love poems. It may have turned into more of a list of things I love. Call it what you will.IMG_2247
1) Sunsets.
I know they are cliched but they never get old for me. As an avid-sunset-watcher I have learned two important things about sunsets which I will now share with you: 1) the best sunsets have more clouds, and 2) they’re always better after the sun disappears below the horizon line.

2) The sun on the wall in the morning.
It will always surprise you.

3) Friends.
Surround yourself with people you love and you will always be happy.

4) Hot dogs.
They are perfect and I love them. IMG_1098IMG_1101

5) Cookbooks.
They are a subset of my book-buying addiction and I think they are not only useful but beautiful.

6) Inspirational quotes.
As a product of my inspirational-quote-decorating mother and inspirational-sport-quotes father, I am a hybrid of all things inspiring. They’re cheesy and yet they still get me every time. IMG_2426

7) The state of Maine.
The lobster rolls. The coast. The fall. The way the air smells. The no traffic. Everything about it, I love. IMG_2396IMG_0139IMG_1147

8) The smell of garlic on my hands.
I don’t know what this says about me but unlike most people, I like the way the smell of garlic lingers, the way my hands smell like they’ve been in the kitchen. And I swear, I do wash them.

9) Large sweaters.
Another one of my buying addictions.

10) Eating. And taking pictures of the things I’m eating.
As if this wasn’t obvious enough already.IMG_2151 IMG_2161

11) A Saturday afternoon snuggled on the couch reading a book or watching a movie with something baking in the kitchen.
Taking comfort in the slow weekends and the blanket tucked around your legs.

What makes your love list?

 

An Ode To Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving morning at 11am I was standing with my mom in the kitchen.IMG_2998Light was filtering in through the windows, the cheesy Thanksgiving day parade was playing in the family room, and I had just come home from a “turkey trot”. This turkey trot was not the widely known 10k that most DC residents participate in but rather, a group of friends that gather early in the morning to get a little exercise in, catch up, and say hello before rushing home to be with family.

My turkey trot consisted of me walking about 2 miles and then eating a glazed donut. And it was perfect. Afterwards, I was happy to be in my warm home, happy to know that the rest of my day would be spent solely in the kitchen. IMG_3027
“I love that Thanksgiving is a time where everything stops in the middle of the week in the US,” my mom said. “Everything stops just so that we can eat and talk and spend time with friends and family.” What a resounding truth. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays we celebrate in the US that doesn’t have a lot of pomp and flair. There are no gifts that are given, no party hats, no countdown. There are no fireworks or free candy, no crazy costumes, and no explosion of all things pink, heart-shaped, and chocolate.

Instead, Thanksgiving is a holiday that exists simply – we eat good food, we spend time with dear friends and family, and we finally take the time to slow down and articulate what we are grateful for. The equation for a happy thanksgiving is almost so simple, it makes you wonder why we don’t take the time to infuse these things into our daily life more often. IMG_3065
My Thanksgiving vacation this year was a lot different than I was expecting. I was thankful for my amazing friends and family but I was also grateful to reconnect with some old friends, to be reminded of my past.

This Thanksgiving was also different because I successfully cooked my first turkey. When confronted with the impending threat of a turkey-less Thanksgiving (thanks to a vegetarian mom and a dad and brother who I love but were not about to spend four hours with a naked bird in the kitchen), I accepted the challenge. IMG_3057
And after six hours of cooking, I produced something that both looked and tasted like a turkey. Success!IMG_3062
(I can’t say the same for the gravy, that turned out to be more of a paste.)

Honestly, the thrill of tending to my bird and that pivotal moment when the internal temperature reached 165 degrees was unlike anything else. I was reminded again of how satisfying and pleasurable the simple act of preparing and sharing food can be.

Among other highlights of the day – delicious chocolate chip coffee cake for breakfast, spending time with two adorable puppies, and taking many many pictures of food. IMG_3055IMG_3048IMG_3037IMG_3020IMG_3016IMG_3003IMG_3061

“For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?”
― Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation