Posted in Writing

Input versus Output

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

November is traditionally a month of me trying to sit down and write some more. This is mostly because of Nanowrimo, which I’ve attempted half a dozen times — always unsuccessfully. This month I’m instead trying to publish a blog post every day (and not doing that well so far).

Last week a very clever writer friend mentioned that she works to balance her input and output, so that she spends roughly the same amount of time reading and watching and taking creative works in as she does writing and making things, a very broad definition of creative output.

This is a brilliant idea, but so hard to do! I’ve been thinking about it every day now, making note of when and how I take things in. I’m not embarrassed about my inputs; as social media has gone to the dogs, I’ve been careful to make sure what I read is of good quality. I read the New York Times every morning, with occasional flips through the Wall Street Journal or the Financial TImes (thank you to my workplace for offering me free access). I have carefully curated Feedly content that include blogs and reviews of books, some relating to financial inclusion (my work), the obituaries from major news sources (love them), cooking and nutrition blogs, and feeds on motorcycling and art. Even my Instagram is pretty good these days. I stopped following people I knew who posted lopsided political commentary and filled my feed with wild swimmers from around the world, my favorite authors and artists, and lots of outdoor enthusiasts. When I look at Instagram, it makes me want to go do things.

That said, I have been in a creative rut. I’ve stopped working on my sketchbook (I’m blaming the fact that all of my exchanges are in other people’s hands right now, but that’s only an excuse), and have only had little fits and starts of art projects (I was so excited to start a little zine on surviving winter, and got so far as to bind a custom sketchbook and gather a long list of ideas on what to include, but I fizzled out then). I’ve written very little, although this post is part of a month-long attempt to kickstart that, and I continue to read way less than usual this year. Why is that?

One thing I’ve noticed is that as soon as I get up and have my coffee, I reach for my iPad. It’s so easy to use to read the news in between playing with the dogs and staring out my back window at the birds. But it’s a machine that I use almost exclusively as input. It’s not comfortable for writing more than a sentence or two at a time. It got me thinking seriously about buying one of these crazy devices — a single-use device that only allows you to write/type. Very little room for editing and no browsing the internet or texting your friends. Too bad the Amazon reviews were horrendous.

Posted in CPB

NYT on Digital Commonplace Books

I just noticed a piece that the New York Times published back in February on creating digital commonplace books. It’s not very good, or thorough, but I like it whenever the topic comes up, as I think it’s a really underappreciated idea.

In short, the author defines what commonplace books are, provides some links to them, and then a few tools you might employ to create your own, none of which have a real review or recommendation.

I’d started searching on digital commonplace books because I’ve been thinking it’s time for an update here on how mine is going. I’ve kept up with it for almost 5 years now, regularly adding to it as I read. But I haven’t really thought about the process or potential improvements in a really long time.

And then I fell down a rabbit hole on note-taking, knowledge retention, and time management. I started collecting a bunch of notes and drafting some thoughts but I want to take a bit more time to process before sharing them here, so that’s it for now. More to come soon.

Posted in Interesting Stuff, Non-book CPB Stuff

Paper Cutting

@annabrones’ beautiful paper cut, from her instagram

Last week, my husband and I took an → in-person ← paper cutting class at the Nordic Heritage Museum. It was the first time we’ve gone on something approaching a real date since the pandemic started 19 months ago. It was taught by the lovely Anna Brones, a local artist I follow on Instagram, and who I have so much in common with (PNW nature-loving, wild swimming, bicycling, sketchbooking, fika-obsessive) that I feel like we’re already friends. It was really lovely.

The class was celebrating a paper cutting exhibit that the museum just opened, and to inspire the group we started by walking through the dark room full of giant cut white sheets of paper sandwiched between big sheets of glass. They cast beautiful shadows on the floors and walls.

Since then I’ve been falling down a gorgeous internet rabbithole of paper cutting. I hadn’t known that Chinese paper-cutting was such an ancient craft, and I love looking at the gorgeous red pieces that range from super basic to crazy elaborate.

Rogan Brown creates these amazingly intricate organic-looking paper cuts, sometimes with subtle colors that make me think of sun bleached coral reefs.

Kiriken Masayo creates unbelievable paper cuts from a single piece of paper.

Aghhhh, so much beauty in such a simple art form. Check out more artists here.

my amateur contribution to the art form

Posted in Books, Reading

Behind Schedule

I have not been reading very much this year. Or rather, I should say that I’ve not been reading many books. I am spending an inordinate amount of time surfing the internet, scrolling through Instagram, and reading a ton of online newspapers and blogs. All fine things to do in moderation, but normally I spend a lot more time happily lost in thick plots and fascinating narratives. I’ve been very aware of this lack of progress because of my Goodreads Reading Challenge, which loyal followers will know normally keeps me motivated and engaged. But not this year.

I’m just ….tired. This is not a year of great progress for me on any number of levels, but focus in my leisure-time especially. This will be my fifth or sixth time to reset and start over this year, and I am hopeful that it finally sticks, but the truth is that it’s OK if it doesn’t.

I’m just going to keep pushing myself to read, especially when I find myself doing something less satisfying than getting into a good book, which is really quite often. I have such a great backlog of promising books on my kindle, too, so really there’s no reason not to be reading every chance I get. I mean, look at these beauties!

Posted in Books, Reading

Vic’s Top Ten Books from 2020

2020 was a shit year for me, for almost everything except for reading. I blew right by my goal of reading 75 books and ended the year having enjoyed 86. You can see everything I read and rated here but perhaps more interesting is my list of the ten best.

  1. Hollywood Park: A Memoir by Mickel Jollette: I only read this one because my book group (LONG LIVE QUITTERS CLUB!) picked it but I’m so glad I did. It was pitched as a cult memoir, and it is to some extent, but it’s even better when Jollette, the lead singer of Airborne Toxic Event, starts talking about the complicated process of forgiving your family and about how the best music is both terribly personal and universal.
  2. Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth by Dan Richards: What a great read in a year so many of us spent stuck inside. Dan travels to the very corners of the world and writes eloquently about those wild experiences. I particularly loved the bits about fire towers in remote Washington State.
  3. Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui: Perhaps it’s because I was so obsessed with swimming this year, but I really enjoyed this memoir/history of swimming around the world.
  4. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker: Fascinating account of one family bearing the burden of six of its twelve children suffering from schizophrenia sharing not only how that affected the family but how it helped advance the science of treating this devastating disorder.
  5. Untamed by Glennon Doyle: I want to be too cool to love Doyle but I’m just not. She talks about her feminism, her religion and her family in a way that I’ve never seen anyone else, and I aspire to her honesty.
  6. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan: Let’s just say I’m now obsessed with doing mushrooms. Great read.
  7. Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby: She’s funny and she’s kind of into being gross and I love everything this woman writes. Fantastic essays.
  8. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh: This is Brosh’s second book and as soon as I finished this one I went back and re-read the first. She’s got this amazing knack of being funny and poignant and her ridiculously simple illustrations couldn’t be more perfect.
  9. All Adults Here by Emma Straub: I love novels with imperfect families who find ways to still love each other and this is a really good one.
  10. Afterlife by Julia Alvarez: This is the first book I’ve read by Alvarez and I’m so happy to have such a big backlist to dig into now that I know she’s so wonderful. This is a good one if you’re feeling like the world is too polarized for us to ever fix it. Maybe one person at a time is a good approach.

Posted in CPB Quotes, Poetry

That Poem

If your Inauguration morning was anything like mine, you had tears and coffee all over your face, especially after Amanda Gorman read her gorgeous poem. What a poem. What a poet. I can’t wait to see more from this powerhouse, starting with her first collection of poetry due out this autumn.

Here’s the full text, just in case you can’t get enough of it like me.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade.

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.

But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain.

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Posted in Non-book CPB Stuff

Keeping 2020 Goals Simple

I normally get really carried away with my New Year’s Goals — most years I have upwards of a dozen of them, and I make a point of making each one Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant and Time-based (SMART). My lists often span a few journal pages and get pretty complicated. I think it’s a remnant of my overachieving days in tech.

This year I keep reading advice about taking it easy on yourself with goals given the pandemic. The New York Times has suggested making tinier resolutions or even down-sizing them. Given this, a simple approach like illustrator Julia Rothman’s More/Less list is pretty attractive. She has a drawing exercise for this in yesterday’s NY Times, but I prefer to stick to her earlier written word format, the one she shared on Instagram back in 2017.

So, here it is. My 2021 goals, super simplified: MORE doing stuff that’s good for me, LESS ingesting of things that aren’t. More reading, more writing, more making, swimming and exploring. More walking and biking. Less alcohol and less junk food.  Easy-peasy. Now let’s get those vaccinations done so we can do some of these things together!

Posted in Non-book CPB Stuff

Top 100 Things About a Shit Year

I love Austin Kleon’s yearly top 100 lists and I was determined to do my own for 2020, almost as a kind of penance for the dismissal we’ve all had for this fucked up year. It was a hard year for me, just like it was for many, many people, but there was also an awful lot to be thankful for and I don’t want to let any of it go unappreciated.

So, here goes, in no particular order:

  1. Even though my husband Keith felt like crap much of the year, he did have consistently good test results, and his cancer has been hanging out close to remission.
  2. Some of the people we love got COVID, but no one had it too bad. Hopefully this trend continues into 2021.
  3. I was surrounded (in a socially-distanced way) by real friendships this year. Friends checked in on me, and I on them, and we all made it through this trying time together. Circumstances of the pandemic prevented surface-level relationships from taking up more than their fair share of time.
  4. I reconnected with my college roommates, and enjoy regular Zoom check-ins now. When we talk it feels like no time at all has passed since we were together, and I hope that lasts for a long, long time.
  5. My sister and I have had what feels like one long ongoing text this year, and it’s nice to have her always checking in and sharing little parts of her life.
  6. I had a Zoom call with my sister-in-law and two nieces the other day and I remembered just how much I love them. I’m so lucky to have gained great people when I got married.
  7. I made our friend Joe a photo banner for his birthday in October and it reminded me of all of the great times we’ve had in our long friendship. So much laughter. The same (but also different) experience making a banner for Brooke’s birthday.
  8. Hanging out in the backyard with a fire and some cocktails isn’t the social life I expected this year, but it’s the one we got, and it was pretty awesome in its own way.
  9. I started swimming in Seattle’s Lake Washington in August, spurred on by my friend Shelley. Then I got really into it and made myself a goal of swimming outside all year round, at least once a week, and have been keeping to it. I AM NOW CERTIFIABLY OBSESSED.
  10. I find great inspiration on Instagram following #wildswimming. Those Brits are really into it and waking up to their new posts every morning is the best kind of social media experience.
  11. Swimming in Puget Sound is exhilarating and COLD and amazing. The temperature on Monday was 48.7 degrees, which is brisk to say the least.
  12. I went swimming in the rain for the first time in Lake Washington and there is something magical about watching the rain drops from underneath the water.
  13. Swimming at high tide at Alki, when the water comes all of the way up the steps and it feels like a giant wild swimming pool.
  14. Making new swimming friends, especially Shelley and Rachel. They are both brave and hard core, each in their own way, and I love having people to push me to try harder simply by their actions.
  15. Being welcomed by Mary Sue at Edmonds beach. I was shy and alone and she was so wonderful and welcoming — what an ambassador for a group of crazy delightful people.
  16. My favorite way to swim these days is just before sunset at Golden Gardens. If we get any sun at all, it’s pretty damn magical. I wonder how many of these winter sunsets I have missed in my time in Seattle.
  17. I went night hiking three times; the first by accident, and I hurried along without really enjoying it. The next two with Krystn and Shannon, and we ended with a big fire and some hot toddies, and it was so beautiful. I want to keep doing it throughout this winter.
  18. On my birthday trip to Palm Springs, we discovered Wyld pot edibles. They’re fantastic, make me laugh and laugh, and have the loveliest packaging.
  19. After four years of trying to get an appointment with the talented Alice Kendall, I finally got my gorgeous new tattoo. I love it so so much. Totally worth the wait.
  20. This summer I got itchy for a little road trip and took Doris out to the Pacific coast for two days of driving and swimming, and a night in a tent at Kalaloch. This place where I live is so beautiful.
  21. I discovered Itchy Boots on YouTube and then Keith and I spent many hours watching her ride her motorcycle through Asia and Africa by herself like such a badass.
  22. The excitement around Ian MacEwan’s long-awaited Long Way Up, and getting to discuss it with my friends as it came out — even though it ended up being not very good.
  23. Keith and I watched all of the BDR (Backcountry Discovery Route) Documentaries and I got good and obsessed with learning to ride my motorcycle offroad.
  24. Keith and I talked for months about which motorcycle would be good for me to learn riding offroad, and I went to try a few out, and then all of the sudden one day Keith showed up with a 2015 Honda CB500X for me in the back of the van. And I love it! Can’t wait to start riding next spring.
  25. Ended up camping twice with the Shifty Clams, my ladies motorcycle gang. It’s so lovely to ride with a group of people, especially knowing that they’re the kind that will never leave you behind, and never force you outside of your limits. It made me want to be better and faster.
  26. My Go Fast, Don’t Die t-shirt. It makes me feel brave to wear it.
  27. My dog Claire is getting old and she is really showing her age. On the days that the other two go to daycare, Claire and I have been going on very special walks, any way she wants, as slow as she wants. She also gets to eat anything out of the fridge that she wants and snacks all day long.
  28. Our youngest pup Doris has become a super snuggler, and curls up in bed or on the couch with me, laying partially on top of me, often with her chin pushing down into me.
  29. My special needs dog Connie has finally learned to play. She now does that adorable play bounce every time I walk in the living room or any time I’m making the bed.
  30. Connie also jumps up on the bed and crawls on Keith’s chest for a good pet. This isn’t really new to 2020 but because we’re home so often, and Keith has spent so much time in bed, she’s done it a lot more than ever before.
  31. I watched a ton of online art classes, mostly at creativebug.com. I think my favorite has been Oil Painting Daily Practice with Erika Sears, who I also ended up buying a fantastic painting from for Keith (kind of but not exactly this one).
  32. So much time for reading. I read 86 books this year to a goal of 75. I’m going to work on my Top Ten for the year, and will post them soon.
  33. I found a new favorite poem, The Girl Who Goes Alone by Elizabeth Austen.
  34. I watched so much good TV, too: Ted Lasso. Queen’s Gambit. Bob’s Burgers. Bojack Horseman. Uncle Frank. The Watchmen. The Crown.
  35. I loved watching “late night” TV during the pandemic — a little bit loose, no stupid audience interactions, very little band playing. And I could always just watch the monologues (although I did realize this year just how similar Trevor Noah’s monologue is to Stephen Colbert’s is to Jimmy Fallon’s, etc).
  36. Two new Taylor Swift albums and especially that track with Bon Iver on folklore.
  37. Listening to Toxic Airborne Event after reading the amazing Hollywood Park by the lead singer.
  38. Rebecca’s list of cover songs. I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the Spotify playlist.
  39. Year six of the Quitters Club Book Club. I didn’t finish a few this year, but that was mostly because my interest in books was pretty specific this year, and I didn’t seem capable of forcing myself to read anything that wasn’t capturing my attention.
  40. This was a really good Cutie season and we ate upwards of 100 little clementines. So far. I just bought another 5 pound bag today.
  41. With all of the hoopla about Washington’s new Cosmic Crisp apples (disappointing), Keith and I had a couple of apple taste tests at home, where we bought one of every single apple at the fancy grocery store and rated each one. We very clearly prefer Envys and then Kikus, but also like a good Fuji. I love the Honeycrisp, but he does not.
  42. When we were camping with the Parkers at Dosewallips, Keith felt really terrible, which sucked. He went home as soon as the sun came up, and I hung out with everyone else for a few more hours. Even though I was worried about Keith, I went for a nice hike with Allison and then we found a wonderful swimming hole with deep cold water and two otters swimming nearby. (A month later I’d take the Shifty Clams swimming in that same place and the otters would hang out with us for much longer.)
  43. On Christmas Day, Keith and I drove up to Marblemount, with Matt in his car behind us, and we went eagle spotting along the Skagit and Sauk rivers. We saw nearly a dozen, and just enjoyed the beautiful views and socially distant company. When you free yourself from the traditions of the holidays, you can really enjoy some special times.
  44. All of the holidays were quiet this year, starting with my birthday, which happened right before the COVID lockdown. We were lucky enough to be in Palm Springs, the last trip we’d take for a long time.
  45. While we were in Palm Springs, Keith and I rented some three-wheeled scooters and rode through Joshua Tree National Park. The roads were just gorgeous and it was so fun being on the scooters together.
  46. The pandemic reinforced the fact that I don’t find cooking enjoyable but I did learn to make potato pancakes from my mom’s Marco Polo video, which I really love.
  47. I made the simplest dip from Bon Appetit — greek yogurt and Chinese chili crisp. YUM.
  48. I discovered the Camano Ridge Trail, my new favorite day outing. The hike can be a good six miles, nearly all flat but also feels deep into the forest pretty quickly.
  49. I went to Carkeek nearly every day in November, and I tracked the spawning salmon. There are few natural things I’ve seen that make you appreciate the cycle of life so clearly. So sad, and so beautiful, and so amazing.
  50. I used the excuse of the travel ban to get to know Carkeek park better. It’s my local park, just under a mile from my house. I know every single trail in the park now, and there is so much in a pretty small package — the beach, the forest trails, occasional natural art pieces, the streams with the salmon, and the big open playing fields. Also lots of mushrooms.
  51. Early in the pandemic, and before I had a job, I dyed my hair blue, like I’ve wanted to just about forever.
  52. I’ve actually been dying my hair myself all year, just like I did when I was in college. They’re not the best dye jobs but who cares? There’s no one around to judge them. I’ve saved a ton of money, too.
  53. I went for some (but not enough) bike rides with Krystn this spring and summer, and we christened ourselves #teamcamobutt since we were both wearing camouflage leggings. Riding my bike always makes me feel so strong and I love every minute with my adventure buddy.
  54. This spring Keith and I went up to the University of Washington to go see thousands of crows roost for the evening. I’d read about this years ago but it took the restlessness of the pandemic to actually go check it out.
  55. Once I was back at the foundation, I started regular Friday walks with two of my favorite coworkers. Every week we go somewhere new and they never fail to teach me something about the work we do. They’re better at their jobs than I am, and I try to soak up everything they have to share with me.
  56. Speaking of the foundation, I’m back there as of September. For some reason I wasn’t that excited about going back but I’ve ended up really loving it this time around. I feel more confident in what I’m doing.
  57. I took lots of after dinner bike rides this summer, with my electric bike, down into the neighborhoods west of us, in search of a great sunset.
  58. The new peony I planted in 2019 had its first bloom. It only made two all season but they were pretty spectacular.
  59. July 4 weekend at Lake Chelan: fireworks, playing our favorite songs for one another in the dark, and a gorgeous sunset drive with Keith.
  60. I bought a backyard swimming pool ostensibly for the dogs to cool off but Keith and I enjoyed many afternoons back there cooling our feet and enjoying a frosty beverage.
  61. I spent a good amount of time exploring tide pools this year.
  62. I went on a few sea glass excursions with Rosemary up in Edmonds, but didn’t make it back to Pt Townsend this year like I hoped.
  63. The motorcycle camping trip at Mt Rainier was great from start to finish. That area is so beautiful, and it was a blast to explore it with my girls.
  64. Floating on my back at Cascade Lake on Orcas when I was camping with Sarah. All I could see was the blue sky and the tips of the pine trees. It was a calm moment of heaven.
  65. The next morning, when Sarah and I rode our motos up to Mt. Constitution for breakfast.
  66. Buying dahlias from our neighbors down on 112th.
  67. Learning about the u-pick dahlia farm from Gracie and spending a very hot afternoon out there picking dozens of beautiful flowers.
  68. Delivering those flowers to some people that I love.
  69. Went for a long walk/mushroom hunt in the rain with Krystn and Kha on Camano Island.
  70. Ate the four chanterelles I scored the next morning in some scrambled eggs. So delicious.
  71. Learning to use a GoPro. I still kind of suck at it, but I’m slowly figuring it out. I love learning new things.
  72. Finding natural art works in walks, especially in Carkeek, Shoreview, and in Boeing Park.
  73. Dipping into the Poulsbo bay with Allison twice. She’s so tough.
  74. Seeing Tom Skerrit take a boat load of photos of his dog down at the lake.
  75. Good election results. Thank the fucking lord. I was so nervous the days leading up to the election, I was too exhausted to react on election day or even really that week.
  76. We got a new green carpet that the dogs love. They drag their bellies on it, and wrestle with one another more than ever before.
  77. Quilting with my sister, three thousand miles apart.
  78. Sketchbook exchanges with Daphne, Alex, Shelley, Lola, and Amanda. They’re all really good right now, and I’m looking forward to continuing them all next year, and maybe even starting a couple more.
  79. Zoom calls for Thanksgiving. They were frustratingly hard to get going but it was lovely to see everyone on the screen.
  80. So many naps.
  81. No more aimless shopping trips. Everything online with no guilt.
  82. Rachel’s Ginger Beer. I bought a couple of growlers early in the year and have been meaning to get more ever since. It’s so good and spicy.
  83. The surprising sense of relief from K’s end-of-life conversations. I feel so loved that K wants to take care of me as best he can, even when it’s so hard to do.
  84. The thick new wall-to-wall carpet we put in the basement. It’s luxurious on my bare feet.
  85. The new couch/bed set up for watching TV that Keith dreamed up. I love it.
  86. Finally getting rid of our oil furnace.
  87. My favorite massage therapist Marjani and the health insurance that covers them.
  88. Hoka One Ones! I bought a pair of these orthopedic-looking sneakers and they’re like walking on clouds.
  89. I made a decision to invest in two new coats so that I could overcome bad weather this fall and winter. Both ended up being heavily discounted at REI and they really do make a difference in how easy it is for me to throw one on and go for a walk/hike/bicycle ride.
  90. Ann Patchett, as annoying as I find her personally, continues to blow me away with her masterful writing. I loved Dutch House last year and this recent piece in the Atlantic.
  91. Lola shared her secret to enjoyable grocery shopping: headphones with either great music or audiobooks. I hate grocery shopping and this has made it at least bearable.
  92. Listening to Caitlin Moran’s More Than a Woman while walking Claire and snort/laughing out loud.
  93. Two words: athleisure wear.
  94. Cup-sized bralettes and the end of the underwire bra prison.
  95. Keeping in touch with my Justine, even though she moved away not once but twice this year. Thank god she’s agreed to come back to Seattle next year.
  96. Got off of Facebook (90% anyway) and cleaned up my Instagram so it’s full of posts that inspire me (to get outside, to be more creative) and keeps me in touch with people that I really love.
  97. This was my fourth year of keeping a daily journal, and it was the hardest yet. Somehow with all of the free time the pandemic gave me, it still got extra hard to get to dreaming up an entry for every day. I missed a few, but most of them are filled in with either text or drawings, or ephemera from the day.
  98. All of the Christmas lights that Keith put up on the house, including the colored ones in the front yard, but especially the six white trees in the backyard that light up in the evenings and make the yard look magical.
  99. Our morning ritual — waking up, making coffee and toast, and sitting together at the window reading the news, playing with the dogs, and staring out at the backyard planning the day.
  100. So much time with Keith. 
Posted in Poetry

The Girl Who Goes Alone by Elizabeth Austen

The other day I was doing some research for a job interview and I came across what is now my favorite poem. It is by former Washington State Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen and it is the answer to every person (and there have been many) who has ever asked me why I am ok hiking and camping in the wilderness alone. 

The poem is quite long (here’s the whole thing), but here’s my favorite part:

I walk into the wilderness alone
because the animal in me needs to fill her nose
with the scent of stone and lichen,
ocean salt and pine forest warming in early sun.

I walk in the wilderness alone so I can hear myself.
So I can feel real to myself.

I go because I know I’m lucky to have a car, gas money, days off
the back and legs and appetite
to take me there.
I go while I still can.

The girl who goes alone
claims for herself
the madrona      juniper     daybreak.

She claims hemlock    prairie    falcon    nightfall
nurse    log    sea star    glacial moraine
huckleberry    trillium     salal
snowmelt    avalanche lily    waterfall
birdsong    limestone    granite    moonlight    schist
cirque     saddle    summit     ocean
she claims the curve of the earth.

The girl who goes alone says with her body
the world is worth the risk.

-Elizabeth Austen