Watch out Bill Cunningham. Now that I work on Fifth Avenue, time to design some fashion.
Whenever I start a new job, I lose a couple weeks to the adjustment period. This job also has a completely different rhythm than my last 6 jobs. I am no longer personally responsible for a physical space and sizable staff. I leave work when the work is done, not when my shift is over or when the building closes to the public. I’ve also cut my commute in half so that I am home much quicker in the evening. So far so good.
Now it is summer and I want to do everything at once. It is hard to pace myself and focus on one project at a time. Nick and Caper spend most of the weekend napping, restoring themselves for whatever will come next week, but I am up at seven with a to do list, dreaming of getting everything done in preparation for delicious meals and a tidy home for the next 6 days.
I’m reading again, I’d given up in the winter, wanting only to knit and brew. Now I want to do all that and read real books in bed at night. The glow from the screen is not restful in the way reading oneself to sleep has always been for me. Ebooks are good for traveling, but I have reverted to paper for reading at home.
Jane Smiley has a travel piece in the paper this week about Northern England. We are planning to go back there next year for a Coasts and Castles bike tour. A side trip to Durham. Dreaming and Scheming for Sunday afternoon.
Another slow travel title. Ms. Horowitz explores city blocks with twenty different experts, seeing her neighborhood from new angles with geologists, artists, dogs, botanists, bird watchers and toddlers. Before I married, I was obsessed with long distance travel- the Appalachian trail, the Camino de Santiago, round the world bicycle adventures. I had a yearning to flee and to suffer while doing it. The stories of physical transformation and toenail loss seemed very important and I read perhaps a dozen, reading and rereading guidebooks and making packing lists for my future pilgrimage.
Now I am far more interested in how to bring all those fantasies home. Last week I visited Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for the first time and indulged my Italian pastry lust without a plane trip. Yesterday I worked on making our home more like my favorite Caribbean cottage. And today I did my Agriturismo by carrying 15 gallons of water out to my precious pin oak.
I do love to read about travel and the stories writers tell themselves about their personal transformations on the road. But it feels like I can have that Pacific Coast Trail feeling for an hour in Jamaica Bay and I am not sure that the long, arduous months long journey can offer so much more than that. At least for now.
In approximately 48 hours I’ll be starting a new job. Last night I said goodbye to my branch with an appropriate Peking Duck feast. I’ve been reflecting on Trying Not to Try by Edward Slingerland. He has studied Chinese philosophy and modern neuroscience and written an erudite self help book with plenty of scholarly footnotes, describing the chain of thinkers starting with Confucius, Laozi, Mencius, all the way up to our pop western Buddhists and the paradox of human effort. He identifies two strands of practice- one promoting strict practice and the other deriding structure, that people have followed to reach the same goal. Authentic spontaneous right action, thought, and speech.
Slingerland concludes a bit limply that different methods work for different people at different times- the strict need to loosen up, the loose need to focus. I enjoyed the descriptions of the ancient Chinese arguments between protohippies and protosuits. It seems that humans in all recorded history have faced the same conundrums. Our current culture (especially perhaps in NYC) is so dominated by desperate strivers (me) that we need someone to explain to us that more work is not better work, that pushing and pushing won’t get you a date, and that the best way to be persuasive to others is to relax and speak about something you genuinely believe in.
In the Chinese section of our library we have a portrait of a cheerful, fat, sandal wearing Confucius. The Library is itself a paradox, home to so many seeking self improvement, but resolutely remaining open and loose to whatever it is our patrons seek.