Issue No. 3
Homage to the ordinary
Homage to the ordinary
I pick up the well-loved, well-worn copy of Writing Down the Bones and read the words underlined in black ink.
“A writer is a visitor from the Midwest to New York City for the first time, only she never leaves the Midwest; she sees her town with the eyes of a tourist in New York City. And she begins to see her life this way too.” - Natalie Goldberg
During my sophomore year of college, I had checked out the book checked from the campus library. I finished reading it within a few sittings. I renewed it all semester, re-reading several times through. I wasn’t taking any specific writing classes at the time, so it was my own little escape and lecture in words and craft. I remember sitting in the library, sneaking in a few pages before my French class. One time a woman came up and told me how she loved Goldberg’s words too. When it finally came time to return the book, I was sad enough that I used some money I’d saved to buy a copy of my own.
This is the copy in which I have words underlined with black ink. Once I transferred to a different college, Writing Down the Bones was one of a pile of books on writing and I slowly made my way through. I never forgot about it, but it definitely collected dust on the shelf for some time. This week, while shuffling through some books on my shelf trying to find something to read that I already owned, I found Goldberg and started flipping through her words once again. It’s interesting re-reading a book that you loved so much at one point. I’m reminded of the self I was several years ago, I’m still here, but slightly different at the same time.
When I was in college, I underlined these two sentences because I always wanted to travel but never had the opportunity. Stuck in the Midwest, I made the most of my surroundings and loved the idea of viewing my city through the same lens I would if I were on the trips I dreamed of. Now, during the pandemic, I realize this is still prevalent. Many of my plans to travel outside the state and country are canceled or on the back burner for unknown amounts of time. But I’ve gotten to know my home state well. Without even thinking, Goldberg’s words have stuck with me. I see the town I live in daily but I’ve reached to see it with a fresh pair of eyes, ones of wonder, curiosity, and attention. I know that the stories here are important. Indiana is known as the crossroads of America, a place that people pass through without second thought, on the way to more important places or things. But the ordinary things deserve homage too.
Here’s an homage to the local grounds I make into coffee in the mornings; the country roads and highways that carry me from my house to my boyfriend’s house; the sun that is rising over then frozen snow that graces the ground in its glittery glory. To the empty coffee cups that litter my desk and the kitchen sink.
Here’s an homage to wandering through Kroger, looking for shallots and ripe tomatoes, bay leaves and garlic, leeks and ham hocks. Then strolling down the isles, having found the things on my grocery list but stopping every once in a while to take in how many brands of butter there are, or flour, or salt. Or paying attention to how many local products are stocked. Maybe stopping by the flowers and getting a bouquet of yellow daisies or peonies because life is too short not to.
Here’s an homage to hikes through the wilderness. Having a picnic at Brown County State Park, eating poutine from a local restaurant in the middle of the wood. Getting wet in the unexpected rain at Turkey Run. The waves of Lake Michigan that grace the small corner of northern Indiana. Breathing heavily in the muggy air of summer or the frozen air of winter. Recognizing that the best hiking weather is always a little less than perfect.
Here’s an homage to the stories that are right here in my town. The ones of the people that have lived here all their lives and have seen every inch of the city grow and change. To the ones who just moved here, transplants from out of town, out of state, or out of the country.
The point is to pay attention, no matter where I am. There are objects and places and people that deserve to be recognized and written about from where I stand.
I still long to travel, to see new sights, and grow in understanding of other places and cultures. But this is where I am right now. I’m opening my eyes, to the moments in front of me and try my hardest not to take them for granted. Viewing what’s right in front of me as just as interesting, intriguing, and important as if I was in Dublin, Reykjavik, New York, or Rome.
“Learn to write about the ordinary,” says Goldberg. And in the middle of a pandemic, I’m learning to do just that. I’m glad I found this book underneath the pile of other words on my shelf. Actually, I’d like to think that it found me. Reminding me to be a writer that notices the things that others don’t pay much attention to.
Things I’m into RN
Making an Effort podcast with Gabby and Mel — This podcast launched on February first with three episodes. I listened to them all within a day. Making an Effort is like the times you’re sitting on the couch talking with your friends. I’ve followed Gabby Llywelyn on Instagram for years now and though I’m just now discovering Mel Wiggens, their conversations are funny and relatable, my favorite being their conversation on minimalism and maximalism. I’ve always thought I was sort of a maximalist and after listening to them chat I’m fairly confident in saying that I am indeed one. Anyway, go give their podcast a listen.
Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg — I’ve obviously been re-reading this book, so I have to suggest it. If you’re into books with digestible but profound essays on the life and art of writing, I suggest giving this book a read.
Brooke Lauren Davis’s newsletter — One of my great friends, Brooke, has her book, The Hollow Inside, being published in the next few months. While we wait for the book to grace our bookshelves, I want to suggest her monthly newsletter. I just received the first issue which consisted of an essay on beginnings in the writing process, an update on her book, and her top picks in the listening and reading categories. Go subscribe if you’re into that kind of thing!
1 second Everyday: Video Diary — I’ve had this app on my phone for a while but I just started using it at the start of the year. All you have to do is upload a notable, one-second video clip or photo every day. At the end of a week, month, or year, the app compiles your memories into a video. It’s an easy, manageable way to document your memories without taking too much time or space. The app is free, with some in-app purchases.
Spoon and Thistle Antiquities — My friend Jess of Spoon and Thistle is the ultimate curator of gorgeous antiques. I purchased these dreamy indigo blue candlesticks that complete the mood on my desk at the moment. If you love Instagram antique stores, you have to give her’s a follow.
A new month, a new mixtape! I honestly can’t believe that we’ve already turned our calendars to February. I’m excited about the songs that are on this next mixtape. I’ve been listening to them over and over again in the past month. (And no, I haven’t worn them out yet.) You can expect tunes from Norah Jones, RYVOLI, Dustin Tebbutt, Mumford & Sons, and John Lennon.
Finishing up the week like Lorelai Gilmore…