Today’s post isn’t a book, or a poem, but rather an article I saw this morning from Harper’s Bazaar 14 Famous Love Letters from Celebrities and Historical Figures. Love letters are my weakness, naturally, but oh my this is quite a collection. Some of them you may be familiar with (F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda’s exchanges are frequently featured in these types of articles.) A few years ago on a weekend trip to Montgomery Alabama (random weekend spot, I know but it was a good meeting point between Tennessee and Florida,) I was dead set on visiting the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald home (which is now a museum) downtown. Some of their writings were even on display there. Despite my fascination with this celebrity literary couple, in this article it was Orson Welles words to Rita Hayworth that most deeply struck me. If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out the rest of these in the linked article above.
Tuesday was World Poetry Day, and since it’s still the week that celebrated this day I thought I’d share one of my favorite poems with you. Clementine Von Radics “mouthful of forever.” The moment I found the line, “i will love you when you are a still day. i will love you when you are a hurricane.” a few years ago, it found a spot in my heart and mind and has been there ever since. The poem reads almost like a vow, and I just think that’s beautiful. Plus, “I know sometimes it’s still hard to let me see you in all your cracked perfection” it just strikes a chord…every time. You know when you read something, and it feels like you’re reading your own thoughts back to yourself? That’s “mouthful of forever” for me. I hope you enjoy it, and dig into some poetry this week – Mary Oliver, Shel Silverstein, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Nayyirah Waheed, Atticus, Tyler Nott Gregson, Nick Miller, Andrea Gibson, Derek Walcott – I could go on and on, whatever your fancy…just read some. And without further adieu mouthful of forever:
I am not the first person you loved.
You are not the first person I looked at
with a mouthful of forevers. We
have both known loss like the sharp edges
of a knife. We have both lived with lips
more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
unannounced in the middle of the night.
Our love came when we’d given up
on asking love to come. I think
that has to be part
of its miracle.
This is how we heal.
I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
will bandage and we will press promises
between us like flowers in a book.
I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
of your nose. I will write a dictionary
of all the words I have used trying
to describe the way it feels to have finally,
finally found you.
And I will not be afraid
of your scars.
I know sometimes
it’s still hard to let me see you
in all your cracked perfection,
but please know:
whether it’s the days you burn
more brilliant than the sun
or the nights you collapse into my lap
your body broken into a thousand questions,
you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I will love you when you are a still day.
I will love you when you are a hurricane.
A few weekends ago, I finally got my hands on a copy of Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can. I was really excited to read this one. Of course, I loved her as Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls and Sarah Braverman on Parenthood, and in anything else I’ve been able to watch her in. When I’ve read interviews, she seems so personable and real. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine parts of her own personality come shining through her characters in certain moments. Since middle school (yeah, I named characters in my short stories for English class Lorelai,) I’ve admired her. We know she’s an incredible actress but she’s also a phenomenal writer. I thought about this a lot while trying to figure out how to put into words the way reading her book made me feel. Lauren Graham’s writing is like sitting on your best friend’s bed in one of those just absolute down in the dumps moments, and knowing there’s not another single place you could be that would provide that level of comfort. (You know, the ultimate look of understanding your pain even if there aren’t any words for it? And how there’s a spot just for your head on their shoulder while they listen to you cry, or tell an angry story, or whatever it might be, and the way their pillows seem so much fluffier and better than yours in that second because you’re just not alone?) Lauren Graham being real about her own struggles is so refreshing to read. But the thing is – she’s not complaining, it’s just life, and she’s just putting it out there. She worked her ass off for any piece of success that has come her way, but the cool thing is – she didn’t do it for the success per say – it sounds like she carefully picked projects where she felt connected to the characters and wanted to invest in something beautiful with the cast. How wonderful is that? I firmly believe this book found me very specifically at the time that it did (or I found it, and I’m not just saying that because I was cooped up in the house for the weekend feeling gross not being able to shower for almost 60 hours) because when I reached the hundredth page, there’s a passage that spoke to me so loudly it brought tears to my eyes and I re-read it a few times. I wouldn’t normally include an excerpt, but I am sure there are others out there that may need to read this right now:
Because here’s the thing: I was fine on my own, and so are you. But it can be hard when you feel ready for Happy Couplehood and you seem to have missed the train. As my friend Oliver Platt used to say to me about hopes and dreams I’d share with him: “It’s coming, just not on your time frame.” I find this a helpful reminder in any number of ways: not only when you’re hoping to meet someone, but also when you’re waiting for a better job or some relief during a bleak time. When Peter and I held hands that night all those years ago, I had no idea we’d end up shopping at REI together one day. It might have been nice if he could have turned to me and said: “Look, tonight isn’t the right time, but we’re going to leave here and learn a bunch of things that are going to make this work approximately five years from now – see you then!” But life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would be called vending machine.
It’s hard to say exactly when it will happen, and it’s true that whatever you’re after may not drop down the moment you spend all your quarters, but someday soon a train is coming. In fact, it may already be on the way. You just don’t know it yet.
I’m not going to lie, I desperately needed to read that. The last six months have tried my sanity and strength so hard, and that was the most appropriate reminder. Reading can be a portal to escape, but it can also be a bridge of understanding between author and reader and that quiet whisper of, “I know.” Don’t get me wrong though, you don’t have to be in the throws of a life crisis to appreciate this book. Aside from Graham’s words of wisdom on timing in life, she also has great anecdotes of friendship, and quirky stories that will make you laugh out loud. Plus, I think she gives good advice about acknowledging the time we have with people we hold dear, and not taking it for granted. She shares parts of her own journey, which I think is important because she didn’t wake up one day as the star of a TV series that ran for seven years, without putting in work to get there. (And she had her own series of disappointments and speed bumps on the way.) Beyond that, she’s like your cool older sister reminding you not to waste time on people who treat you like crap. Obviously, easier said than done but it never hurts to remind people of having positive self-worth, and not to settle. Somehow she conveys all this with a gentle subtlety, and firmness. One of those where if it were in person, you know you’d be disappointed in yourself if you didn’t heed the advice. Plus, any Gilmore Girls fan will love the insight into the re-boot. I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you appreciate the little things – read this.
There’s a reason All the Light We Cannot See won a Pulitzer Prize. It took me a few weeks to work my way through this one. In early January, one afternoon it was a surprise waiting for me in the mailbox from one of my favorite teachers. Over the weekend I was bound and determined to find out how this story wrapped up. Sometimes while reading, I had to take breaks because my stomach was in knots and my thoughts would wander (not out of boredom, quite the opposite – this book gave me so much to think about.) The story alternates view points, and points in time throughout the novel, later adding on to the character’s perspectives you’re seeing through, and eventually (as may have been expected), intertwining these character’s lives. There is so much to digest here, so much to take away. We have Marie-Laure a young blind girl living in occupied France during WWII. Marie-Laure’s father Daniel LeBlanc is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. You have orphan Werner Pfennig living in a children’s home in Germany with his sister Jutta, with their kind care taker Frau Elena. As you can imagine in war-time, all of these character’s locations change and their stories expand and they encounter more people who become essential to their stories. I’m intentionally being vague because I would hate to ruin the beautiful way this story unravels. I think some of the key points I was reminded of is the way art, music, books, and imagination can be threads of hope in the darkest of times. I was reminded that although we know what’s right and wrong, people who do bad things, are still capable of doing good things. Recently, I saw a tweet that said “Historically, ‘I was only following orders’ has not been a solid defense.” How true this is, and some people only come to the realization after so much damage is done. Friendship can sprout from curious places. Fear makes people do evil things. It’s never wrong to do the right thing, even if it means you’re going against the current. Doing the right thing takes a tremendous amount of courage sometimes. People can be very impressionable, it’s important to remember to think for yourself and not be a follower. We have a responsibility to maintain a knowledge of the past, so we don’t repeat history’s mistakes. This story tugged on my heart strings, and these characters will stay with me for years to come. If you haven’t read this novel yet, I highly recommend you do so immediately.
I don’t know about my readers, but personally – I am profoundly disturbed by current events over here in America. On so many levels. Every day feels like I wake up with baited breath to see what new disgusting news report there is to read about what happened while a lot of us were sleeping. Unfortunately, some of the time I’m awake in the middle of the night and I see it. (I decided to do something (that felt) productive with those insomniac hours and signed petitions, and called survey lines, and sent my words of displeasure to our senators. Stay informed.) Anyway, I think we have an obligation and duty as citizens to pay attention to what’s happening right now, to speak out when something is wrong (there’s a difference in disagreeing with someone about something, and lies, hate, and an attempt to silence people and stop the spread of fact-based information.) Who knew that in 2017 we would be waking up to “alternative facts” – we cannot let this become the “new normal” in this strange, bizarre alternate reality we’ve found ourselves in – which is unfortunately the only reality we have. Let’s call alternative facts what they really are by the way: LIES.
Okay, enough of my rant – my point of today’s post is that while we need to stay informed, and not turn our heads because the absurdity is overwhelming, I wholeheartedly believe we also need to give ourselves breaks from this as well. (Would we not lose our minds if we didn’t?) For me the main outlets that comes from, other than conversation, and getting together with friends when I can? Reading, music, movies, and finding material that makes me laugh. I fell asleep listening to the Arctic Monkeys the other night, after I watched a few episodes of re-runs of The Office and Parks and Rec. Both of these shows make me laugh until my eyes tear up. They’re witty, they’re well-written, the acting is fantastic, and they’re real. The laughter is a temporary escape, but a healthy one.
You know who else makes me laugh? Aziz Ansari. Whether it’s in his own show, Master of None or on Parks and Rec, or watching his standup comedy, or reading Modern Romance, or listening to a podcast he’s featured on he always makes me laugh. Not only is Ansari hilarious, but he’s brilliant. I think some people underestimate him, but read a chapter of his book and tell me otherwise.
Last weekend Aziz Ansari hosted SNL for the first time. The opening dialogue was insightful, but humorous. I think we can agree that sometimes, you have to laugh so you don’t cry. Like always, Ansari had me in stitches. See the clip below, and if not that – at least check out his book, or other work- I hope his brings you as much enjoyment as it’s brought me.