Pot Luck Dinner
With the Queen of Wands
From my Instagram.
I am out with lanterns
looking for myself
- Emily Dickinson
My teenage son complained to me about unreliable friends. He said, she just wants to come over for the good food here. I was supposed to be outraged on his behalf, but I silently gave myself a little salute. Yeah, I’m a good cook.
Cultivating abundance and community through as much care as I can muster is how I am able to see the future, despite how down I am about climate, political, and economic news. I think about reframing the role of the food writer, where recipes become tools of care, of nourishment, rather than aspiration. I think about the significance of the commons. I think about Millicent Souris—a writer, cook, and manager of a food pantry and soup kitchen in Brooklyn—in our conversation for a future podcast responding to the question of whether cooking is a political act with, “I don't think cooking is but I think feeding people is, and I think that they're different.”
Yes. Interdependence as lifestyle.
Middle Age I
Now that we are a one child household I worry that we are getting too civilised. There’s no big moods, not much conflict, money to spare for my son’s whims. In the evenings we often all busy ourselves separately with our solitary pursuits and perfect contentment. Maybe that is why we agreed to a puppy, I suggest to my husband. To restore chaos.
Middle Age II
The house is full of masculinity. My husband, my son, three male dogs, a bunch of boys my son is friends with. I have become an anomaly. Even the female cat has left home.
My son is sleeping over at my mother’s so my husband and I can go out for the night and see a few bands. Send him with one of the dogs, my English mother says. He will sleep better with a dog.
My thirteen year old son sends me photos of antique crockery and a text message to let me know where he is: “ Down at the op shop. Totally up your alley”.
It is a fractious morning. My son is listless and preoccupied with a minor injury he seems to think will get him out of the basketball lesson, even though he requested the session from my husband. And my husband, a natural athlete, is quietly fuming and dribbling a ball. I determinedly look in the other direction and take the dogs off to walk another lap through the trees. My son wants very much to learn more about being a man. You can do this for him, I tell my husband. You’re one of the best men, share some secrets with him.
Later, I am away for almost a week leaving the two of them alone in a very cold, wet city. My husband spends all his money on D&D miniatures and he and my son sit at the kitchen table painting them carefully for hours. They are both delighted with one another’s company.
‘Lean into your strengths’ parenting, it is always such a revelation.
My friend and colleague, talking about all the work a high maintenance boss generates around them: “It takes a village”.
Same friend, talking about staff surveys and non-voluntary self-improvement programs: “I just want my employer out of my head”.
I dreamt I was being paid to write an interview with Princess Diana. I spent quite a bit of time thinking up questions for her before I remembered she was dead.
Then, I dreamt I was interviewing Nicole Kidman, who had come over to have lunch with Tom Cruise for the first time since they’d divorced1. He lived in an ordinary suburban house. She wore a tea towel on her head as a disguise to avoid the media, but one of the neighbours was staring. We’re all just trying to figure life out, aren’t we.
Simple Acts of Reciprocity
Before catching the tram with my father, we went into a cafe in Preston for morning tea. I had coffee and cake – a cream-filled lamington, my dad’s favourite. Enjoying the relative quiet of the cafe, I took my father’s urn out of the shopping bag and placed it on the table, where he had a good view of the street. I felt uncharacteristically peaceful socialising with him without the fear of an argument or being prodded by triggering memories of his habit of explosive violence, which would have shattered the truce between us. During that cafe moment our relationship was equitable to a degree that had not been possible when he was alive. I felt completely at ease with my dad, and he didn’t seem to mind. The waitress came over with the bill and politely asked me, as I expect she asked all customers, “Do you have much planned for the rest of the day?”
“Well,” I offered, “I’m taking my father home with me on the tram.”
She turned and searched the empty cafe. “Where is he?” she asked.
I tapped on the side of the urn. “In here.”
Parenting Tip with Teenagers
Don’t look at their baby photos. It makes you too emotional. And you find yourself either crying or yelling when they do something mean and unreasonable.
What you need to be doing is playing dead. Lovingly dead.
You would also know — if you were better at this than I am — that sentences are music.
And that both sentences and music are math. Equations. Beats separated by pauses. Microbursts of energy clustered and cut and culled to find balance. You would know that sometimes “ain’t” just fits in a way that “isn’t” or “is not” does not. Same with “them” instead of “those.” You would know that even the choice of “does not” at the end of the above sentence instead of “doesn’t” was intentional, because of the repetitious rhythm of “does not” existing immediately after “is not.” You would know that short phrases lead to shorter sentences, which punch in a way that longer ones sometimes can’t. Like this just did. You would know that “ain’t” ain’t a signifier of being “still in the street.” You would know that “still in the street” ain’t do what you think it did. You would know that writing a thing like that just proves you’re a living anachronism. But not in a romantic way, like a streetcar or a Ferris wheel. But like cigarette smoke indoors.
From Damon Young with ‘A letter to the man who emailed me to correct my grammar’ in The Washington Post.
Which is to say
I’m calling to my mother
to the moon
I’m calling home
through the clouds of a virus
that keeps me fixed in place
as I try to understand
I’m calling home
through the celestial objects I know
and through those I’m learning
I’m trying to say
I see you
which is to say
I see you through a computer screen
which is to say
I’m blinded by
- From Through the Moon by Jazz Money
Two Films I Saw Recently With My Teenage Son That We Both Enjoyed
Antoinette in the Cévennes - French comedy about hiking with a donkey and finding yourself.
Theeb - Jordian western/thriller about a bedouin boy surviving in the desert.
This article by Hannah Booth in The Guardian is an excellent essay on what it’s like to be in therapy, with a description of some of the phases you likely pass through as ‘you work on yourself’.
The early weeks zip by; I feel euphoric, my sessions filled with wave after wave of insights, revelatory eureka moments of “so that’s why I’ve always done that!”
But then things quieten down. Sessions sometimes feel like a waste of time; I feel grumpy and frustrated. This, I’ve read, is when the hard, unsexy work happens. A therapist is part detective, part archaeologist, scratching at the surface, finding something of potential interest and digging a little deeper. These quieter, less emotional sessions are where the deep excavation takes place. We start to work as a team, trying to piece things together, make connections.
It’s A Fact
A friend was telling me about a truly disastrous weekend he had experienced at home. His teenage son had thrown a party for all his friends. I won’t go into details, but it was terrifying, and my friend is a geezer, so when I say he was finding it scary you know it was too much. He’s the best kind of hard man, too. Hard and soft. Survived the streets, been to jail, hugs you tight, cries and laughs easily, now incredibly successful.
Me: So what happened afterwards?
Friend: I told my son - I love you, but you’re a cunt.
Me: How did he take it?
Friend: He didn’t like it. But it’s a fact.
Simply, One of the Best Motherhood Memoir/Novels Ever
Cheryl Dumesnil is right, you have to read We Were Witches by Ariel Gore, it’s a favourite of mine, too.
..let me tell you this: though she wrestles with shame—a struggle depicted in her self-doubt and the occasional practice of putting a cigarette out on her wrist—Ariel is never helpless against it. She’s never lost in it. In fact, she’s perpetually pulling herself up, brushing herself off, and clawing forward, often guided by her own inner wisdom and with the help of role models. These include both people she meets—her professors, a Solo Mom neighbor, the writer Mary Tall Mountain, a couple of mysterious witchy characters—and the books she reads.
This is one of my favorite mechanisms in the novel. Fictional Ariel combines studying and parenting by reading her feminist-theory textbooks to her toddler daughter as bedtime stories. This not only is a relatable example of ingenious Solo Mom multitasking but also enables Gore to knit into We Were Witches the words of groundbreaking feminist thinkers, such as Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Judith Butler, Diane di Prima, Kathy Acker, and one of my all-time favorites, Gloria E. Anzaldúa..
We Are Each Other’s Harvest
we all heard it,
cool and clear,
cutting across the hot grit of the day.
The major Voice.
The adult Voice
forgoing Rolling River,
Forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge
and other symptoms of old despond.
Warning, in music-words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
we are each other’s
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.
- Gwendolyn Brooks
Michael Chabon on His Marriage/Long-Term Monogamy
I’m seeing how reading something like that might feel discouraging or God forbid, come off as boastful. Please understand: we got off to a good - a lucky - start; that in itself was far from sufficient to carry us this far. Love at first sight is a head start. So is privilege. And, as I told a dear commenter yesterday, it has not been at all easy! It has taken so much luck, and all our privilege, and hard, hard work. Daily work. Work that we don’t or can’t always find the strength for. Both of us elder siblings, always having to be right. One a pessimist, one an optimist. Falling out of sync. Duelling insecurities. Hurt and remorse, and doubt, and pain - over decades! But also: forgiveness. Sympathy. Tolerance. Patience. Letting it go. Mutual admiration, mutual physical attraction, mutual engagement. And love, sure, but on its own, love is definitely not enough. And: turning to the story of that night [their first date], and some others along the way. Telling and retelling the story of our story.
Beautiful Album Cover For Kendrick Lamar2’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
When you have no stomach for it
The Thing Is
- Ellen Bass
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
My favourite novel recently is Love & Virtue by Diana Reid. A little bit Donna Tartt. The author has a philosophy degree, and it shows. She is going to ask you some difficult questions here. I was on a panel with her recently at the writers’ festival, and I got to ask her difficult questions. Hah.
Follow on Instagram @__chezmoi for slow country living in Northern Italy. Va bene.
I wish I owned this artwork by Atong Atem. I love it so much. You can buy her photographic book instead.
This One Goes Out to All the Parents Letting Go
Yes you can.
For the record, I’m about as likely to have lunch with my ex as Nicole is with hers.
I know the last person Kendrick Lamar wants for a fan is a middle-aged white woman, but I love his music. Sorry Kendrick.