My #FridayReads: Bright Dead Things

by Rachael on January 29, 2016

Bright Dead Things

This year the gap between the end of L’s school day and the end of the Gnome’s is long, so most days L has about an hour to run around the playground. Sometimes I bring work to do, and sometimes I space out, but usually I have some time to read. Lately I’ve been reading Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things at the playground. I was lucky enough to discuss the first poem in the collection (a Pushcart Prize–winner) with other Writers Studio students when I taught Craft Class for the first time earlier this month. The title of the poem is “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” so of course you want to read it, right?

(Next month, my Writers Studio colleague Lisa Bellamy will be teaching the whole book, so yay.)


Signal or Noise?

by Rachael on January 28, 2016

Clearing the Brighton Line express tracks

Although I did enjoy the coziness of staying indoors on Saturday as snow buried the city in its temporary beauty, I’m otherwise cranky about this past weekend’s storm. Trying to get a three-year-old over the barely passable piles of soot-and-trash-encrusted snow that accumulate at the corners of every block exhaust me, and I’m enraged at the filth. “We are garbage people living on a garbage island,” I mutter to myself, which (briefly) comforts me by turning my sense of responsibility into a joke.

And I do feel responsible. Indeed, there seems to be no limit to my sense of responsibility. Even as a little girl, I had a dream of cleaning up the world. I wanted to sweep up all the cigarette butts and straighten out all the cracks in the sidewalks. And my grownup self often has a hard time accepting that I will never be able to collect all of the plastic bags blowing around New York City. The best I can do is take care of my own little cluttered corner of the world.

Even here, though, in our not-terribly-large apartment, my sense of responsibility just might be outsized. In a recent interview with Dr. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind, Note to Self host Manoush Zomorodi mentioned a study (cited in Levitin’s book) that found that clutter triggers the production of cortisol—particularly in women. This finding is unsurprising. Whether or not we consciously take responsibility for the messes in our homes, our culture is certainly glad to give the responsibility to women. Just look at the language that is so often used to talk about the division of labor in the home: housekeeping and childcare are typically said to be things that mothers “do” and fathers “help with.”

One enlightening moment occurred when I saw what was happening with notices from the public school. The notices come home in a folder along with L’s homework. On nights when I supervise homework, I pull the notices out of the folder, sort through them, drop most into the recycling bin, sign the ones that need to be signed and sent back, take note of upcoming events, and so on. Whereas in the past, on nights when Brian supervised homework, the notices would get sent right back to school, still in the folder, unread. Until I made a fuss, I don’t think he even noticed what he was doing. To his mind, they were only just so much noise—nothing that required his attention. Mostly they didn’t, it’s true; but why should I have to be the one to sort through and decide that they all just belong in the recycling bin?

My insight from this isn’t that I am virtuous and Brian is not, nor that I am too fussy. It’s just to see how differently he operates — and that part of me is jealous. I have never wanted to be an art monster (though I am beginning now to see the appeal), but I would like to be a little less responsible.


And Then Comes January

January 7, 2016
Thumbnail image for And Then Comes January

The return to ordinary time used to disappoint me, but every year now I love the beginning of the year more. January may be colder and less glittery than December, but it brings more light (already noticeable in the evenings) and relief from the bustle of the holiday season. Even with work deadlines pending, I […]

Read the full article →

O, Christmas Tree!

December 24, 2015

My favorite addition to the home! May you enjoy a blessed holiday, however you celebrate it (or don’t) . . .

Read the full article →

Both And

December 17, 2015

Though it is true that housekeeping may be taken up as spiritual practice, I certainly don’t want to do all of it myself or be seen (by myself or by anyone else) as the one responsible for getting it all done. I keep trying to resolve this tension, at least in my mind. However, perhaps […]

Read the full article →

Within the Pots and Pans

December 10, 2015

In her critique of Walden, published in The New Yorker earlier this fall, Kathryn Schulz writes that subsistence living “attracted Thoreau because he ‘wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.’” Schulz continues, “Tucked into […]

Read the full article →

Caught Up in Details

December 3, 2015

With the holiday season now upon us, I’ve been seeing how quickly my mind gets caught up and snarled in details—gifts to track down, address lists to update, etc. I remind myself that I need to take care of only a bit at a time, but there are so many bits and pieces to take […]

Read the full article →

My #FridayReads: Faithful and Virtuous Night

November 20, 2015

And in the middle of the sky, the immodest god. Things are, he says. They are, they do not change; response does not change. How hushed it is, the stage as well as the audience; it seems breathing is an intrusion. He must be very close, the grass is shadowless. How quiet it is, how […]

Read the full article →

The Only Way

November 12, 2015

Though the leaves have mostly fallen from the trees and holiday lights have already been hung along Cortelyou Road, I spent much of the last few weeks working through the remaining karma of summer. I often go through such periods in which all my time and efforts are given over either to meeting professional commitments […]

Read the full article →

Something That Suggests Grace

October 8, 2015

It appears that “what must have seemed like grace,” according to Ruthie’s imagination, probably was. Said Marilynne Robinson in a 2009 interview with Andrew Brown: “One of the things that has really struck me, reading Calvin, is what a strong sense he has that the aesthetic is the signature of the divine. If someone in […]

Read the full article →