On the In Between

The interwebs are abuzz with a conversation of the in-betweenness we are now experiencing.  Summer is not quite over and fall is not yet in full swing, and these weeks of limbo seem to provoke an almost existential response.  And even though the daily forecast dips and swells from day to day, I don’t feel at all in between.  I feel squarely in the center.   I’ve adopted as my uniform yoga leggings, extra long and swingy tees, and my Hayward sweater.  I’ve been picking up easy reads and difficult knits.  I’ve switched from easy salads to easy soups.  (This one looks rather delicious). I’ve embraced the seasonal change, despite all indications that it is not quite yet here.

Here’s a bit of ephemera for you:

For your walls.

For your couch.

For your belly.

Etceteras | 9/6/2013

Classes have commenced and I’ve been running around DC (home, work, gym, school, repeat) in heels dragging around backpacks and bags and groceries that dwarf and burden me.

When you shuffle out of the more crowded parts of the city in the evening the buskers are still circulating through “Killing me Softly”, “Yesterday”, and “Amazing Grace” on panflute or synthesizer or stereo and microphone.  But when I leave class the streets are quiet and dark.

I bought a packet of heirloom kale seeds from Monticello and poked them into our tiny back garden before the bus came in the morning. Even though the partially-shaded, infrequently watered little space has yielded about 10 cherry tomatoes and 20 green beans, I remain hopeful.

Each morning on my walk to work I pass a giant rosemary shrub that spills through an iron fence onto the sidewalk corner. The corner is occupied by other herbs, many of them flowering now. The herb containers go halfway down the block and I always wonder if someone put them there for the benefit of the entire street. Nobody needs that much rosemary.

Shifting Season

This is my last week of freedom before every evening will be spent in a dingy classroom and all my free time will be dedicated to schoolwork.

This past month has been a Sabbath of sorts.  I’ve read six books in the past two weeks, including The Fault in Our Stars which had me up late into the night, consumed and consuming, tired and hungry and exhilarated.  I love it when a book like that comes along.  It’s a move I’m not sure I would have pulled had I not been only half-employed.

Matthew and I have been slowly brunching our way through DC (and some parts of Virginia) and have stumbled upon several pleasant and tiny Farmers Markets.  These things feed my soul.

I’ve been working furiously on this project.

It’s been remarkably cool and cloudy this past week.  I CANNOT contain my excitement for BOOTS and SWEATERS and LEAVES.

I’ve been enamored lately with DC life, friends old and new, and possibility.

When I woke up this morning I was convinced that a smoothie sounded like the perfect dinner but then I read this post, so cake it will be.

The season is shifting in every possible way.

On Music and Dilettantism

I have lamented often in the past few years that pieces of my personhood have gone missing.  I spoke already about jogging, but the same has happened with writing and especially with music.  I was a pretty isolated adolescent, and I would spend hours alone crafting playlists, playing my guitar, and reading Pitchfork.  Goodness, what an era.   I even considered following my brother to study music in the land of screaming insects.

But I remember quite clearly that I considered it a selfish pursuit.  I thought of the hours it would take to perfect the craft.  I thought of performance as a praise-seeking venture.  I thought of the kind of environment needed to nurse a muse.  Self-serving, is it not?

And so when I left high school I left behind the lessons and the band practice and pursued other interests entirely.  I knew that there would be consequences to this decision: that music could not always take such a central place in my life.  But I always expected it to be a kind of anchor. That, ceteris paribus, music would remain a hallmark of my nature.  People who knew me would say “Oh yes, she loved music.”

But it hasn’t been an anchor at all.  To take the metaphor to a silly extreme: it hasn’t been a lighthouse, guiding my way.  It hasn’t been a giant whale that I’m pursuing.  It hasn’t been uncharted land I must explore. It’s been the ocean itself.  All around me, swelling and calming and raging for me whenever I decide to take a swim.


Dilettantism, rather, has been the true anchor of my life.  Instead of studying one language and gaining mastery in it, I studied four different languages in high school and college (German, French, Swahili, and Norwegian).  I studied abroad in four different places (not all of them corresponding to the aforementioned languages) to fill my ‘intercultural experience’ requirements when one would have sufficed.

Even after I learned the terms ‘marketable skills’ and ‘technical expertise’ and attempted to remedy my unfocused studies with an uber-focused post-college five-year plan, I seemed to take on more little hobbies and interests in my personal life.  In addition to my voracious readership, jogging, and music-love, I added interests in cooking, gardening, and knitting.  And let’s not forget about the brief affair with bookmaking.

Music has returned to a central place in the past months, and I am more confused than ever about the changing tide of my affections.  Is there no balance?  No small space available for each pursuit?  Will they always push and pull and fight?  Will I always mourn for passions lost while ignoring passions gained?  Can I ever truly be talented at anything if pursuing it so irregularly? How can I hope to have a work-life balance when I can’t even balance the small interests vying for my free time?


I don’t know if I can ever really pin myself down to one or two pursuits.  The world is entirely too various and interesting for that.  But I think I may be able to arrive at a healthier perspective on how these interests fit into the composition of my identity.

Music is a god for many, and I think that for a long time it was my god.  The fact that it has slipped from my grasp is probably a healthy thing.  Competency is another god, and oh do I want to be competent.  I can cook!  I can make that! I can sing that! I can work hard! I read that! I’m a reader!

When I think rationally about it, I can recognize that I’d much rather be well known for more substantial pieces of my identity.  My faith. My character.  My relationships.  My work.

My more rational thinking also leads me to gratitude: that life is so full that my current struggle is how best to fill it.  


PS–Listen to Rayland Baxter‘s description of his dream encounter with Jesus.  “Thanks for having me. I really love your world.  Your dad’s cool.”

On Jogging

It started in college. I have my friend Emily to thank for any display of athleticism in my life. She was a jogger, and she suggested I go jogging with her. So we did an easy two miles around the college track. It was a failproof way to begin. My path was easy and flat, the weather cool, and the trees autumnal.

It soon became a regular fixture in my life. I stuffed it into the smallest spaces. Forty minutes could always be siphoned off from my day, just as long as it wasn’t before my morning coffee. I ran in the woods around campus. I ran in the fields where the Amish lived. I ran in the snow and the rain and very rarely in the heat. During the summers, home in California, I ran alongside a structure that was called a river but was really a sad concrete wash, where water occasionally pooled around piles of trash and where the blue herons gathered after a rare downpour. I even managed to run while abroad. I once set out with a friend to conquer the 8-mile expanse of dirt road that ran between our campus of huts and the expat farm. We ended up lost in an unfamiliar village. Our thirty words of Swahili were useless compared to the indications made by our arms and appearance, which said without fear of mistranslation: lost sweaty female wazungu. We couldn’t say how many miles had collected under our feet when we finally returned to campus, soaking wet and hungry. I ran in Norway, through the cleanest streets I’ve ever seen and in the late summer evening when the sun was still hours from setting.

But college ended and the life transitions abounded. Matthew and I, not married more than two weeks, moved to Atlanta and gracious was it hot. All morning and all night and nearly all year. I learned the paradox of the physical exhaustion at the end of a day spent entirely on a chair, staring at a screen. Tired and hot, I let the running habit fall from my interest. I still managed to run around Piedmont Park on a fairly regular basis, but it was decidedly less enjoyable and considerably less frequent than in my college years.

And though the weather began to cool at a reasonable date once we moved to DC and I seemed to be fitting more than ever into my schedule without sacrificing sleep, I did not squeeze the habit back into my day, as it had once existed. Weeks without exercise turned into months, which soon enough became a full year. Oh sure, there were singular moments of motivation when I made it to the school gym or took a few turns around the neighborhood, but the habit of it was completely lost.

While I’m a big believer that people can change habits and behaviors at any time, I felt like I was at an important juncture. I could begin again, or I could let one year turn into ten.

So I set out. I felt the blood rushing to my head and the air to my lungs. I did an easy two miles, just like at the beginning. I came back to a hot apartment and a cold shower. Another tiny victory. Rejoice.

On Volunteering

Yesterday afternoon was spent in the garden. It’s not the idyllic haven of new life you might be thinking of, though the Jerusalem artichokes and sunflowers were towering over me. There are certainly glimpses of the mother-earth-loving vibes that propel the functioning of the garden, but most of the time it’s just chaos. The tomatoes were in a crisis of desiccation after several days in scorching heat without water, and so I spent the better part of two hours racketing up the parks and rec water bill to ensure the plants were revived by a healthy soak. The kale looked small and pale. There was nothing happening over the in okra bed.

But the chaos imparted by the summer heat was nothing compared to the havoc being happily raised by the kids.  Warnings of, “don’t eat those grapes, they’re not ripe yet” were ignored. Someone was spraying my feet with the hose for reasons not understood, and ten kids were under the arbor, pushing their way to the end of the table where the lemonade was being stirred, calling out the injustice of not being given a turn. When the herby lemonade was ready to be tasted, the kids screamed out for “Mo sugar!!!!”. I sipped at my dixie cup, thinking that the mint added a nice subtle flavor and the drink was neither too sweet nor too sour. But the kids complained about the the dirt (er….chopped up mint), the rice (actually that’s lemon pulp?), and lack of sugar in their drink. The staff finally consented to ‘a little more’ but the result was nevertheless declared ‘gross’ and discarded secretly into a nearby flower bed. After a shocking amount of sugar was dumped in by a poorly supervised 7-year-old, the product was finally deemed drinkable, and several dixie cups were filled and refilled.

The whole scene made me depressed about humans, and the little ones in particular. I thought about diabetes and mineral depletion and aren’t these kids soaking up any of the veggie-loving vibes? And then a sweet kid asked if he could take home a crooked cucumber. “What will you do with it?” I asked him. “Make salsa,” he replied. Ok, that’s a little weird but it works. It counts toward the growing tally of tiny victories.