Oh, Paris! How could I forget Paris?

Apparently, I forgot to do a Paris recap. It is worth doing to me only because of my strong need for consistency in a series. Like comma usage or list styling. The week must be documented.

So, with all of our luggage in tow, we went to Paris for a week before we came home. And it was grand. It lived up to all of my (already extremely high) expectations. The thing I’ve been telling people, when they ask about my impressions of Paris, is that it felt simultaneously a lot dirtier/grittier and a lot more beautiful than London. Perhaps it is not fair to compare cities so directly, but this comparison kept rushing to mind as we strolled along the Seine and stepped in feces. It seems to always be both, in Paris: beauty and excrement.

Photos, commence!

ParisParisParisParisDay one in ParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParis selfiesA day trip to the utter madness that is Versailles:

VersaillesVersaillesVersaillesVersailles

Whew. What a magical city. Merci beaucoup, Paris; let’s meet again soon.
Last day in Paris

It is idle to fault a net for having holes

Home, August 2016
Japanese print in our dining room. Formerly hung in my beloved grandparents’ home.

“Am I disorganized because I lost something I didn’t need? In this new cowardice of mine—cowardice is the newest thing to happen to me, it’s my greatest adventure, this cowardice of mine is a field so wide that only the great courage leads me to accept it—in my new cowardice, which is like waking one morning in a foreigner’s house, I don’t know if I’ll have the courage just to go. It’s hard to get lost. It’s so hard that I’ll probably quickly figure out some way to find myself, even if finding myself is once again my vital lie. Until now finding myself was already having an idea of a person and fitting myself into it: I’d incarnate myself into this organized person, and didn’t even feel the great effort of construction that is living. The idea I had of what a person is came from my third leg, the one that pinned me to the ground. But, and now? Will I be freer?”

— The Passion According to G.H., Clarice Lispector (translation by Idra Novey)

Clarice Lispector is blowing my mind right now. I don’t know what she’s on about 50% of the time, but I am so in. I’m committed to whatever game she is playing.

“Don’t you try to Ryan Lochte your way out of this one,” Guion said to me, during a recent disagreement. Normally, we both would have laughed at this off-the-cuff cultural appropriation, but we were too deadly serious in the moment to even crack a smile. I think we can laugh about it now, though, now that “to Ryan Lochte” has become a verb.

No one is ever at the same “life stage” as anyone else and that is OK. (A recent realization.) I used to think “same life stage” was a precursor to deep friendship. It certainly makes it easier to forge a connection with people who are in the same general social/relational place as you (e.g., single, dating, consciously not dating, married but childless, married with just one child, etc.), but I’ve ceased to believe that it is a prerequisite or even preferable. It is silly of me to think that (a) people will always be around who map their lives to my life stage and (b) when they cease to share my life stage, this occasions a natural breakdown of the friendship. Neither is true. When a life stage changes, we may have to work harder to maintain that bond, to find time to see each other, but it is not a moment for grief or an ending. It is good to have people in one’s life who are not consumed with exactly the same things. It is good to be around people who know nothing of your life stage. It is broadening, deepening, humbling.

Charlottesville 2.0 (our post-Europe life) so far has been a continual lesson in patience. And a reminder of the rich, unspoken joys of our community here.

Even amid the oppressive heat and the skunks residing under our shed, everything about my daily life remains good and solid and happy because Mom gave me an e-cloth mop upon our return to America, and it is all I ever dreamed about and more.

*Post title comes from The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson, which she (apparently) lifted from her encyclopedia.

Home again

Front yard, Aug. 2016
The front yard has grown very green in our absence.

It is good to be home. We are settling back in to old routines and creating new ones.

I am so happy to have the dogs again, but I think they regret being back with us (there is no Jak to play with them every day, take them for rollerblade runs or swims in the river, etc.). I’ve been trying to walk them more than usual and play Frisbee with Edie at least once a day to make them love me again. Hard to tell if it’s working.

Things I had forgotten to miss while abroad but am so pleased to have again

  • Our public library. I put 10 books on hold the first week we were back, and now I’m swamped, but I am so happy to be back in the swing of reading and to have every conceivable book at my fingertips again. (Our London library, while quaint, left a lot to be desired.)
  • Vast American grocery stores
  • My calligraphy studio
  • Our house, dingy as it now appears in certain lights
  • The local art scene and the people who curate it
  • The subsidized cafeteria in my office
  • Watermelon
  • Our basement
  • The little Wednesday farmers’ market around the corner from our house
  • The loony neighborhood email group
  • My sprawling, mismanaged house plants

Latest reading obsessions:

History of domestic American architecture. Once you see (and learn how to see) a properly and stylistically restored home, you can’t unsee it. I see spindly porch columns and bad banisters everywhere in and outside our house, and now my eyes burn. I suddenly loathe the asbestos siding, the structural incongruities. Would that I had a cool $100K to re-do the entire exterior of our circa-1959 house. I am chock-full of renovation ideas that I utterly cannot fund.

Maggie Nelson. Maggie Nelson! Reading The Argonauts very slowly and drinking it all in. The past year has been filled with these utterly breathtaking women writers who are simultaneously under-read and deeply revered by those who have found them (see: Anne Carson, Lydia Davis). Up next in this vein: Clarice Lispector. Just bought myself a copy of The Passion According to G.H.

Things to be happy about: Donald Trump seems to be trying to tank his own candidacy. We might get to save America from itself after all! Also: So many new babies in town. And dear friends getting puppies and kitties. And today was only 90 degrees, so it felt almost cool.

Saying goodbye to London

London has been our temporary home this summer, and even though I have the first flutterings of homesickness for dear old Virginia, I will miss the joys of this great, sprawling city.

Night in West End with the BushesThings I’ll miss about London/the English way of life

  • All of the glorious, beautifully maintained public parks. Really. I don’t think any city wins at the park game as much as London does.
  • Pubs and pub culture
  • Well-behaved off-leash dogs everywhere
  • Tea! It’s ubiquitous and well made and consumed on a near-constant basis. Unlike in Virginia, I don’t have to explain to anyone what I want when I order tea.
  • Walking everywhere, the preservation of walking culture, the delineation of trails and country paths
  • Preservation of history, architecture, and art throughout the city
  • Endless variety of things to do, see, and eat
  • Every imaginable international cuisine right at your doorstep (or, at least, an hour’s walk away)
  • The friends we’ve made (and reunited with) here

Out with W and T

Things I won’t miss about London/the English way of life

  • Fish & chips. So overrated.
  • Sweltering daily rides on the Tube
  • Having to ride the Tube every day in general. (Although I vastly prefer it to the NY subway system! So much cleaner and quieter and more reliable)
  • Feeling like you are breathing in black clouds of toxins every day on the street. I am eager for that clean Blue Ridge mountain air.
  • The weather! (We had a gorgeous sunny, 80-degree day in Wield; then the next day, it was misty and rainy, and the Brits we were with literally walked out the door into the cold fog and said, “Oh, thank God, the weather is back to normal.” They’re insane.)
  • Walking behind people who are smoking and being unable to pass them
  • Slow walkers
  • How outrageously expensive everything is (we can’t really complain, compared with actual Londoners, but it still was shocking)

Guion and I have been talking about London customs we want to adopt in our life when we get back to Charlottesville. For instance, we realized that we are really lazy about walking places. We live very centrally to many things, and yet we’ll choose to drive instead of walk 45 minutes. A 45-minute walk in London is no big deal. Other aspects to adopt: taking advantage of all of the hikes and parks around us; training the dogs to behave themselves better in public; and acting like tourists in our own city (e.g., we have lived in Charlottesville for six years and have still never been to Monticello. I know).

London, you’ve been grand. We hope to come see you again soon.

Up next: A week in Paris. And then home!

The magical village of Wield

In which we escape to the English countryside for a weekend with friends and are able to avoid our phones and (temporarily) forget the enveloping darkness that our homeland is lurching into…

Wield weekend(Everything about this village = dream life to the max)

The Yew TreeDogs in pubs, dogs everywhere! #heaven

Wield weekend

The beautiful Kate with lots of pups:Wield weekendWield weekendWield weekendWield weekend

And a glorious day at Manor Farm.Wield weekendWield weekendWield weekendWield weekendFinnWield weekendWield weekendWield weekendWield weekendWield weekend

Being laid out like a mist (Ireland)

This past weekend, we took a long-awaited tiny pilgrimage to Southwest Ireland, traveling mainly to visit Guion’s old friends, farming mentors, and beloved haunts. As you can see, it was an enchanting weekend in one of the most beautiful parts of the known world.

County ClareWe started in County Clare and stayed at the most charming B&B ever, and then journeyed from there to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

County ClareCounty ClareCliffs of MoherCliffs of MoherCliffs of MoherThe next day and a half were spent on Mizen Head, which is the southernmost point in all of Ireland, and it feels like the gorgeous end of the world out there. We stayed with Guion’s dear friends Tim and Laurence, who generously hosted and fed us for two days. Look at their amazing garden!

Mizen HeadThey also have this delightful one-eyed cat named Peewee (she was badly injured while sleeping in the engine of a friend’s car). She’s like a dog, and so I loved her. She would sleep in my lap for hours while we ate dinner and talked.

Mizen HeadMagic all around:

Three Castle HeadThree Castle HeadWe strolled along the beach at Barley Cove (where kelp abounds):

Barley CoveBarley Cove

And enjoyed the charming seaside village of Crookhaven:

CrookhavenCrookhavenCrookhavenPerhaps my favorite afternoon was taking a short, secluded, foggy hike to see the 13th-century ruins at Three Castle Head. It was especially enchanting because we were almost entirely alone there. If more people knew about it, it’d be swamped with tourists like ourselves, but it’s so far off the beaten path that we had it in almost perfect, eerie solitude.

Three Castle HeadThree Castle HeadThree Castle HeadThree Castle HeadWe also ventured off the grid to visit Guion’s other farm mentors, Dan and Pika, at their truly wild spot on the north side of Mizen Head.

Mizen HeadPika is a sculptor and potter, and her kiln room is Tolkien inspired. They call this shed “Middle Earth,” appropriately:

Mizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadDon’t forget us, Ireland. We’ll be back.

Mizen Head

Black in America: Essential reading list

We read to broaden our minds, and nowhere does this seem more vital right now than for white America to read black America. Following is a list of books that have challenged, enlightened, and inspired me.

Have read and heartily recommend

James Baldwin. Creative Commons license.
James Baldwin. Creative Commons license.

Nonfiction

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
  • White Girls, Hilton Als
  • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, Beverly Daniel Tatum
Toni Morrison. Creative Commons license.
Toni Morrison. Creative Commons license.

Fiction

  • Go Tell It on a Mountain, James Baldwin
  • Another Country, James Baldwin
  • The Sellout, Paul Beatty
  • The Chaneysville Incident, David Bradley
  • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • Passing, Nella Larsen
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  • A Mercy, Toni Morrison
  • Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  • Sula, Toni Morrison
  • Cane, Jean Toomer
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  • Native Son, Richard Wright
Malcolm X. Creative Commons license.
Malcolm X. Creative Commons license.

Memoir/Autobiography

  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
  • Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley
Rita Dove. Creative Commons license.
Rita Dove. Creative Commons license.

Poetry

  • Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems, Robin Coste Lewis
  • Selected Poems, Rita Dove
  • Thomas and Beulah, Rita Dove
  • Head Off & Split, Nikky Finney
  • Against Which, Ross Gay
  • Totem, Gregory Pardlo
  • Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith
  • Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey

And I still have a good many books that I want to read, including the following.

Audre Lorde. Creative Commons license.
Audre Lorde. Creative Commons license.

On my reading list

  • Collected Essays, James Baldwin
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
  • Going to Meet the Man, James Baldwin
  • Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
  • Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, James Baldwin
  • Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball
  • Blacks, Gwendolyn Brooks
  • The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. du Bois
  • The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, bell hooks
  • Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama, Peniel E. Joseph
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Audre Lorde
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde
  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, Diane McWhorter
  • Freshwater Road, Denise Nicholas
  • The Street, Ann Petry
  • Citizen, Claudia Rankine
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson
  • Black Boy, Richard Wright

What would you add to either of these lists?

That leaf-encumbered forest

We feel the darkness of America from afar, but we are still enjoying our last month in London.

This past weekend, we were able to visit two green spaces I have long wanted to see—Richmond Park and Kew Gardens—and see Buckingham Palace for a hot second, Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery. Photos ensue.

Richmond Park

Richmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond Park

Kew Gardens

Kew GardensKew GardensKew GardensKew GardensKew GardensBuckingham Palace/Trafalgar Square/National Gallery

A Sunday in LondonGuion is so over Buckingham PalaceA Sunday in LondonA Sunday in LondonTrafalgar SquareA Sunday in LondonA Sunday in London

Husband poses with his favorite painting, “Les Grandes Baigneuses” (Cézanne).

On whiteness, silence, and complicity

I don’t know what to do about cops who keep murdering black people.

But I do know that I live in a bubble of white ignorance. I am ensconced in privilege because of centuries of racism, building up like a geological shelf in this country. We add a thin layer of progress and then cover it up with more hatred, more fear, more terror.

I have the freedom, in America, to live in this awful blindness. I am not afraid to pass a police officer when I walk down the street. I am not afraid to drive, anywhere; I do not have to wonder, when I drive to the grocery store or to my office, if today is my last day. I am not afraid that my brother will be mistaken for a criminal and murdered in the street on a sunny afternoon. I am not afraid that my sisters will be arrested for an imaginary traffic violation and then be found dead in a jail cell. My life is not under constant threat from my fellow citizens. I have the undeserved freedom to not fear these things.

I do know that I am afraid to talk about race. I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. I am afraid of being misinterpreted. This fear seems to characterize most white people. And so we stay silent.

Our silence is what helps keep racism alive and well in the United States.

White people, we have to talk to each other about race. We have to stop pretending that we’re not racist, that we don’t know anyone who is racist, that we have X number of black friends. Stop.

We have to eliminate racism in our communities by starting these conversations with each other. We have to rebuild bridges that we have been aloof and indifferent enough to watch burn. We have to help each other overcome our collective lifetimes of bigotry, brought on by comfortable ignorance and comparative freedom.

The quieter we are, the more complicit we become in this evil.

With light from the sunken day

It’s hard to believe that it’s July, that we’re already in the final month of our sweet summer sojourn in London. This month, we have particularly enjoyed a bit less international travel and a bit more local travel: getting to see more London museums, parks, and neighborhoods. Despite my true nature as a small-town-loving woman, I have developed quite a fondness for this sprawling city. Some recent photos follow.

British Museum and nearby
Window boxes for the win.
British Museum and nearby
Decapitated beauties at the British Museum.
British Museum and nearby
The Molossian Hound at the British Museum.
9-mo.-old GSD in the neighborhood
A 9-month-old German shepherd in our neighborhood. Be still my heart.
High tea
Aunt Jane treated us (and Windy) to high tea at Brown’s Hotel.
Hammersmith
The Thames, in Hammersmith.
Hammersmith
Hammersmith.