“I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.”
— Tracee Ellis Ross
In this post, our newest collaborator Percival shares her HIGH-5 – the 5 things she loves best.
In high school I made some bad choices: I count my habit of waking up at 5 AM to flat iron my already strait hair among the worst of them. What makes it so embarrassing is that, with all the effort I put into making my hair look neat and lifeless day in day out, I didn’t even like my hair all that much. On the day my flatiron finally broke from overuse I decided to sleep an extra 30 minutes and accept my messy hair. Since then, my life has improved dramatically. It could be that my flatiron braking coincided with my graduating high school, or that messy/unmanaged hair gives me something in common with Alison Mossheart, or maybe it’s only a matter of 30 extra minutes of sleep. No matter what the actual cause, I believe messy hair to be an agent of good.
I fell in love with turmeric my first year of art school when I learned how to use it to dye natural fibers a supremely beautiful, vibrant yellow. Besides that, it’s really good for you! This colorful, aromatic spice helps boost your immune system and make sore muscles feel better. Along with adding a little extra to curries, I’ve been enjoying turmeric in tea form, like this: mix ¾ tsp. of honey with ¼ tsp. turmeric, add a pinch of cayenne pepper, a slice of lemon, some hot water and… that’s it! Delicious turmeric tea! I recommend drinking it out of a clear glass for aesthetics.
Color gives me energy and happiness (observe, my love of turmeric), but whenever I try to draw with color I feel incapacitated. For this reason I tend to stick with my trusty graphite pencil set or a ballpoint pen whenever I work on a drawing project. Recently though, I’ve found a way to get around my neurosis and apply color to my drawings: tissue paper. How it works is a make a pattern with the tools I feel comfortable and familiar with: just a regular pencil or pen. Then I add some colorful tissue paper to my composition with a glue stick. That’s it, this is what it looks like:
It’s a good time, people.
Blank Paper Notebooks:
Just because notebooks without lines are so much less confining than notebooks with lines: you can sketch, make itemized lists, collage: whatever you do with your blank notebook, you can do it without having to think about lines. Line-free notebooks are just better for creativity, okay? Trust me.
Taking a cue from Gorge Perec and paying close attention to your surroundings:
Step one—look at An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. The title is long, but it makes for fairly quick and charming read. For Perec, the date is October 18, 1974. The time: 10:30 am, the place: Tabac Saint-Sulpice. He then goes on to describe everything he looks at; he mentions a lot of bus routes. Step two—go somewhere. Anywhere is fine as long as you remember to take a pen and a nice line-free notebook with you. Find a comfortable place to sit and cast yourself in the same role as Perec. Be an observer, write down what colors people are wearing, describe how they move, whatever catches your eye—the most important part of the exercise is to not edit yourself too much and have fun, because it can be really fun to step back and enjoy what the world, your world, looks like (even if only for a few minutes).
The best way to get the pulse of a city is to find a way to link yourself to its history, its stories, and its coffee. When I travel, I relish the chance to visit the neighborhoods where writers or iconic figures lived their lives. I also like to experience the best local haunts.
Eat This Poem blog has brought together writers from all over the world to share their best recommendations for coffee, food, and books in the cities they love.
Look up a guide today for your next travels or to rediscover a city you already know.
Those who know me know I tend to collect quotes, print them out and tape them to my walls. This is why my walls are covered with post-it notes and sticky tack residue. I’ve always felt that a well written sequence of words can be the best guidance for life. But lately, I look at my wall of quotes and wonder at the advice I’ve been following for years. It seems I’ve reached an age where I can’t rely on the same optimistic promises.
In my journal, I’ve scrawled a Henry David Thoreau quote. One that seemed to epitomize everything I feel in my daily life. The tension between plodding through my work day and the liberation of day dreaming on Sundays about my future.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life . . . – Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
This quote seemed like such a short yet accurate description of a very big feeling. Concise enough to be repeatable, a mantra. I have sprawled this quote across my bedroom walls, in my journal and on my computer desktop. But am I actually succeeding in living deeply?
What does this quote mean to me? It’s served as a catch-all sentiment that I can cram many concepts. Broadly, I want to develop as a individual and learn a great deal over my life. At the same time, I don’t want to be so occupied with my development that I miss out on life itself. I want to be deeply engaged, always striving, and taking risks but all without losing sight of enjoying the day to day. Sounds like the secret to life doesn’t it?
This means a long list of work for me now. To develop professionally, to find a job I enjoy, to hone skills. It also means figuring out my mental state and being able to exist as a fully formed individual, to accept myself, and be alright when alone. I also need to know how to live with others and to be there for people without letting anyone take more from me than I should give. Perhaps most importantly, living deeply would mean being constantly learning, whether about myself or about the world. Challenging, critiquing, and forcing myself to take on difficult lessons.
Examining my life now I find that while I am enjoying myself and averaging a healthy balance of work and living life I don’t feel I am living deeply. My brain and senses aren’t exploding with new thoughts or experiences. I’m not discovering myself with epiphanies. While I do feel I am settling more into accepting myself and understanding who I am this is a very gradual process and not one that has reached a critical turning point. Really, I feel like I may be ignoring the most important part of life. Deep learning.
If I am not living deeply am I just wasting my time?
Best wishes my dear Brightstar from someone contemplating taking down some old mantras.
I traveled to Banff earlier this month as a gift to myself for my 30th birthday. Although it was much too short of a visit, it was the best way to spend the last week of my twenties. A lot of our time in Banff was spent driving through mountains (see photo above), which was a joyful way to spend the first leg of our trip. We sang out loud to the Beatles, Muse, and Michael Buble (somehow all these songs become more epic with mountain backdrops); discussed philosophies about life and work and travel (I was reading Roman Krznack’s “How to Find Fulfilling Work,” which I recommend to you without reservation) and took lots and lots of pictures.
Our first evening– after helpful lessons in fire building and wood chopping, courtesy of my brother– we circled around the campfire drinking tea, roasting marshmallows, and softly singing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.” The next morning we shared the trails around Lake Minnewaka with Japanese and German tourists, stopping to try out yoga poses in front of turquoise waters and grey mountains. In the afternoon we meandered around downtown Banff marveling anew at the stone architecture, flower boxes, mountain views, the Bow River, and Evelyn’s coffee (which now has not four but five locations–in a town of under 8,000 this is a true testament to Banff’s tourism!). On the way back to our hotel we paused for several friendly mountain goats and a lookout point that gave incomparable views of the Bow River valley crested by several mountain ranges and right below us, hoodoos–arguably the best view in Banff. That evening after taking in the invigorating sight of rushing water at the Bow Falls, I opened some presents and dipped into the hot tub with M before midnight. Our last day included a full breakfast buffet, lots of Evelyn’s coffee, and a picnic lunch outside where I tried hard to imprint the sights of mountains, fir trees, and glacier lakes on my mind before we started the long drive home.
I was thankful that although my trip in Banff was amazing, I was not flying home just yet. I spent the rest of the week in our hometown, which while delightful and restful, paled in comparison to those few days in Banff. I hiked along the Red Deer River with my father, did yoga and shopping with J, coffee and a movie with my mother, a vegan restaurant and long drive with C, and celebrated my birthday with college friends over Indian food.
I’ve been back from my trip for only two weeks and I am already longing to return. I take comfort in the fact that it won’t be long before I travel again. Until then I will revel in the memories and leave you with these words that sum up the philosophy of travel so well:
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
There is something transcendent and majestic about spending time in a such beautiful place and the buoyancy it gave me still spurs me on weeks later. All we needed was the sky, mountains, air, sleep, and dreams.
Yours with Love,
We traveled to Locarno, one of the sunniest towns in Southern Switzerland, only to find it wet and overcast. Sometimes life obscures the Alps with grey clouds and your day is not what you expected. But you can always choose … Continue reading
Thank-you so much for your letter of advice. It was timely, appropriate, and most of all it made me think deeply about my perception of time and the progress I am making. Inspired in part by your letter, I have embraced a new mantra, ancora imparo, Latin for yet, I am learning.
The Urban Dictionary captures it’s spirit perfectly:
A reminder that mistakes are a learning curve, that every first, second, third….time provides opportunity for improvement, that you are always ancora imparo.
Ancora imparo frees me from the crushing sadness and shame of failing yet again, replacing it with the realization that I learned something new this time around, and that however small it may feel, it’s progress. And in the absence of required perfection, mistakes allow us to grow.
And now for a short but true story to put this mantra and last paragraph in context. Recently, Keatsway I decided to embark into the dating world again. I had never deliberately decided to leave it, but opportunity struck and thus I became an active member again. I went on a variety of creative dates with someone I will only call L: from climbing the monkey bars at a playground to climbing a ladder to a rooftop at night to watch the city skyline to playing the demo of a video game in it’s very early stages, it was an exciting few weeks. However the very act of dating brought up a lot of past hurt and fears. Fear of love, fear of betrayal, fear of rejection, fear of being hurt again. Sometimes these feelings came on so strongly that I couldn’t fully process what was happening in the present. Every step of the way I second guessed myself, my feelings, the guy, and whether I would hear from him again, fearful that I was about to be dropped at any second. This prevented me in the end from being fully present. Now, thanks to the maddeningly socially acceptable 21st century tradition of never returning a text or an email, as far as I know what never truly was is now behind me. Therefore today I need something new to embrace, to keep me moving forward. So I have decided to embrace ancora imparo, yet, I am learning. And I am. Learning to let go, let it be, and be fully here now.
A fortnight ago, I felt encouraged by the heartbreaking, life affirming film, Now is Good. In the film’s last few lines, 17-year-old cancer patient Tessa says perhaps the wisest words I’ve ever heard about embracing the present, and letting go:
Our life is a series of moments.
Let them all go.
towards this one.
–Jenny Downham & Ol Parker (screenwriters), Now is Good
To be fully here now, I have to let go of what was and what will be, freeing myself to transform through the reality of constant change, letting go and breaking forth, the life cycle of death and rebirth. Someday soon I will not let these fears control me or thwart new possibilities. I will let them go, learning to trust myself and the process. I will lose my fear of failure, rejection, and vulnerability; no longer holding back and protecting myself so much that I cannot truly give. But until then, all I can do is repeat ancora imparo, yet, I am learning. The ground is tilled, a new bud is opening, and I can’t wait to see where this new knowledge will take me.