Mary Oliver "Starlings in Winter"

Chunky and noisy, 
but with stars in their black feathers, 
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly 
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air, 
they swing over buildings, 
dipping and rising; 
they float like one stippled star
that opens, 
becomes for a moment fragmented, 
then closes again; 
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine 
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause, 
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing, 
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again, 
full of gorgeous life. 
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us, 
even in the leafless winter, 
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it; 
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground, 
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want 
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, 
as though I had wings.

(Image: source)


I'm reading two good books right now. The first is, of course, a mystery - "Silent Voices: A Vera Stanhope Mystery" by Ann Cleeves. I remember watching and liking at least one episode of the Vera Stanhope series on BBC, and I'm enjoying the book so far (even though it's not the first in the series - oops, started with number three). Cleeves has a great sense of a humor and a straightforward manner that matches Vera's attitude. I'm also reading a very different book - "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" by Ayana Mathis. It's been on my "to read" list for a while but I admit that I deprioritized it probably because it's an Oprah book. Even though I'm personally a fan of Lady O, I still get embarrassed seeing that emblem on the cover of books. Anyways, I was a fool because "Hattie" is incredible. Sad, and unusually structured, but powerful and readable and just incredibly written. It was hard for me to stop reading it this morning!

Image: source.

The Importance of Sadness: "Sadness isn't necessarily something to be avoided. In fact, Susan Piver says despair can be the consequence of fighting it. Compassion is what happens when you don’t."

Now We Are Five: A poignant essay by David Sedaris.

Fit & Feminist nails it, yet again: What Does Domestic Violence Have To Do With This Blog? Everything: "This is why I fight so hard against the social constructs that say women and girls are weak and inferior, and why I refuse to accept a model of fitness that is adamant that women should want only to be as small as possible. (This is why I cannot abide Tracy Anderson!)...As you can see, the belief fitness is a feminist issue is one that is very personal to me, and not just in the sense that I can critique mainstream fitness until my fingers fall off, but because I know first-hand of the way that the pursuit of fitness can be a force for positive change in one’s life. I’ve seen how it can be used to keep women anxious and weak and vulnerable, but I’ve also seen over and over again how it can accomplish the opposite, how it can help women learn to take up space and to be courageous and to believe wholeheartedly in their own personal power."

"The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door." - Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Thanks, ELM xo)


I recently finished The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. It was intimate yet expansive, well-constructed and satisfying. Yes, the characters can be a little precious and precocious, but it was a great read, and by the end of the (not short) book, I was entirely trusting of where and how Wolitzer was leading me. Next I read "Me Before You," which I also found very readable. It's not as well constructed or complex as "The Interestings" but it was a great long weekend read.

Really thought-proviking, and I love the interview with her: "Hannah Price’s series, City of Brother Love, features portraits of men in Philadelphia captured just moments after they’d harassed her on the street."

Yes yes yes, a thousand times yes: The Insidious Power of Not-Quite-Harassment.

Image: “I Want Everything to Be Okay chronicles a year in McNinch’s goal to live a sober life. The 98 pages are filled with updates on her life: her interaction with roommates, friends, her cats, and her work. This is no 12-step tract, her life is as imperfect as everyone else’s. I Want Everything to Be Okay is this artist’s diary, with some days filled with dialog and others a landscape or simple sketch. I am not surprised that McNinch is revered as a founder of the autobiographical comic. Her style is impressive and unflinchingly honest, whether she is discussing her yearning for alcohol or her acupuncture treatment for depression.” Can't wait to read this. source.

A powerful, important personal essay: Coming Out Again: The Politics of Shame, Silence and Story: "[A]lthough I had offered a tight narrative arc -- from self-hatred to self-acceptance -- I had left out how often and easily I am rendered powerless and in danger just three blocks from my own home. I had left
out the part about how, when this happens, there remains a small but powerful voice inside me that insists that this is somehow my fault, that it's me and not the bigots who are wrong, that somehow my difference invites danger, that I am a burden to my partner and the people who love me. I had left out the part about how, even today, I still carry with me pieces of the lies that I learned very young. I know that isolation is the thing that keeps these lies in place and grants them power. I know that telling our stories, breaking that isolation, is the only way to transform that dynamic....we must tell our stories to change the minds of strangers who might do us harm, so that one day we'll be safe to walk down our streets, but that we must keep telling our stories, wholly and completely, to those who love us, so that they can hold and support us and sustain us today."

"Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason." - Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (I haven't read this book yet, but I'm really looking forward to it)


From Seinberg Holistic Health Coaching: "What if it wasn’t a problem?" I've used a version of this ("What if everything is already perfect?") myself over the last few years and have been amazed how it can just snap me out of certain moments, give me a little space in between fears and anxieties to be present.

Let the Fire Burn sounds like an incredible documentary. I knew nothing about this piece of American history in Philadelphia. (One of my best friends lives in Philly and I visited her there a few months ago and have been really interested in the city ever since.)

Image: source. Swoon.

Are We Fabulous Yet? "The tyranny of queer beauty."

Incredible article: Lampedusa's Migrant Tragedy, And Ours

Ugh. Is This the Grossest Advertising Strategy of All Time? "A new study claims to identify the times of the week that women are feeling the most insecure about their bodies, and recommends that brands 'concentrate media during prime vulnerability moments.'"

I recently finished watching Season 1 of the BBC series "Broadchurch," a mystery about the death of a boy in small town England. It was wonderful. Just great acting, great charecture development, kept me guessing. Definitely grey (sort of like "The Killing") but pleasantly not gory or too exploitative, in the way that so many current TV mysteries can be. Just sad and smart and effecting. Definitely recommended.

Fit & Feminist does it again. Great thoughts and tips and reflections: Five Thoughts On Body Confidence On My 34th Birthday


Really made me think: You Are Not Defined Exclusively By Your Relationships With Other People

This food blog is gorgeous, I look forward to trying out some of recipes: The First Mess.

What a woman, what a life: Once Alienated, and Now a Force in Her Husband’s Bid for Mayor, a profile of Chirlane McCray.

Image: frost at Walden Pond. Source.

Wonderful, there's so much to here love - office supplies, a 70 year long marriage, the wonderful routine of dining out: 103 year old man dines out alone, every night. I remember some of the first times I ever went out to eat on my own, as a teenager, and how incredible it felt to just read, watch people, and feel like I was treating myself. It always felt like a little bit of a challenge - to not feel awkward or uncomfortable - and also like a wonderful indulgence.

I just finished "Dear Life" by Alice Munro. Well, I can't lie - I didn't actually finish it. I'm not sure quite what to say about the book. The stories in this collection (the first I've read of the much-lauded Munro) are timeless in a way I don't know that I've experienced before. Timeless not in the sense of enduring classics that will outlast the ages (although perhaps they are) but timeless in the sense of seeming to exist outside of specific locations or eras (with few exceptions). It's a bit disconcerting - as I occasionally realized I had no idea what decade, country, etc I was in - but ultimately, in it's best moments, forces you to trust the author and simply be present in whatever moment you're dropped into, trusting the universe of the story to flesh itself out. In the end, however, I just couldn't seem to get my bearings. Maybe I just wasn't in the right place for this book. There was at least one story that I think will stick with me for a long time, but many of these others I just couldn't get my baring, they felt SO internal that they seemed unrooted. I will definitely try other Munro, and maybe even return to "Dear Life." As much as I am a fan of dropping books when they aren't quite working for you, I think there are some worth trying again.

“Nobody can save you but / Yourself / And you’re worth saving. / It’s a war not easily won / But if anything is worth winning then / This is it.” - Charles Bukowski, “Nobody But You”


The NYTimes on the mental cost of dieting. Thanks to (the always awesome) Fit & Feminist for posting it with this on-point quote from Naomi Wolf: "A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one."

Incredible commitment to love and peace in the face of violence: Harlem hate crime victim Prabhjot Singh: I’m feeling gratitude

Image: source. Hey, it's true.

This is one of the books I'm reading right now: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. It's a fascinating historical portrait of the time immediately before and surrounding the birth of Jesus. It's aims are primarily historical, not religious (although the author openly discusses his own religious experiences in the Introduction), and it's fascinating to learn more about Roman rule, the history of Judaism, and the birth of Christianity. The reviews have been mixed (see the link above to the NYT Book Review), but I'm enjoying it.

I really liked, and related to, this post about running by someone I went to college with. Despite the fact that the upcoming half marathons continue to be plenty challenging, I'm finding myself itching to train for a marathon next year, not really sure why (except, I guess, what a great experience I had with one in 2010....) Thoughts On Running

A powerful personal essay: When I Couldn't Feed My Family. "I’m here to testify that, for most of us, financial disaster is one or two paychecks away. Even today, if I were to lose my job, I would be in dire circumstances within four weeks. I wish that the Republicans who are waging war on the poor in this country could experience what it is like to find themselves in the position that so many of us face. That we’re all a small financial disaster away from not being able to feed our children. That punishing the poor for lacking money is bullying those who have found themselves weakened in an economy that is taking no prisoners. But I’m also here to testify that there is no shame in being poor."