Summer movies

Poetry on the Marquee at my local theater

I have been to more movies this summer than the past five years combined, I think. Although I loved going to the museum of the moving image in our old neighborhood, it was rare that a desirable showing would line up with my schedule. When the new Nitehawk opens, walking distance from my home, I will go weekly. 

Last night I watched The B-Sides, a relief from the violence and heavy gender and racial politics of summer blockbusters. 


Gateway National recreation area, NYC

Personal chef hard at work
these are meatless hot dogs

Instead of a solo expedition to the Appalachian trail, I brought my spouse and stayed in the national park in Brooklyn. There were birds, bugs, a dirt bike rally, party boats on the bay and we slept in a tent. In addition to cheffing, Nick was my personal bicycle support service after my tube popped in Sheepshead Bay. Barely slowed us down. 

I was awestruck by the dawn chorus of birds singing and using my rudimentary skills I heard and then spotted the Eastern Towhee, which had alluded me in Prospect Park this spring. Where are the photos, you ask? I didn’t bring my camera. Too much equipment to keep track of when packing for a trip with multiple goals – camping, cooking, biking, birding, and the beach. 

Second only to the dawn chorus is the thrill of arriving at Jacob Riis Beach before 8:30 in the morning. We staked out the best spot and set up our tent for shade. I saw my first American Oystercatchers and the elegant Terns (common, I think) fishing in the surf. Unfortunately I had just read an article about Coney Island water quality and was therefore not swimming, but the breeze and sound of the surf did their soothing work. 

Once the beach started filling up around 11:30 it was time to eat two tacos and bike home. By three we were showered and napping in our own bed.

I am eating peanut butter and leftover marshmallows on hotdog buns for all meals until they run out.

Living Bird Magazine

Kirtland’s Warbler- cover bird

New hobby means a new periodical. Living Bird is published quarterly by Cornell Ornithological Society and true to its name is focused on birds in all their variety and keeping them alive. The content gives me much to consider. New travel ideas (not necessary,) new equipment (also not necessary,) new friends (probably needed for those 4AM twitches,) new vocabulary. 

So far in June and July I have taken a casual approach to nature study, getting into the park every day but not camped out in one spot, tracking nestlings or studying bird song. I like the idea of a slow romance that leaves plenty to learn each season  I am not cramming for a self imposed test. 

Last night the Brooklyn Botanic Garden stayed open until 8:30 for picnicking. Swallows swooped over the ponds and fountains and lightning bugs were just beginning to rise under the cherry trees as I made my way home.

There are so many ways of being. Happily, unlike the Kirtland’s warbler who can only nest in immature jack pine between one and four meters tall, I am adapting far from my home forest. Thanks to the trees. 

Silence, Solnit

Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art

My camera phone catches all the details but flattens them.

I’m reading and reading but when I sit down inside to write this I can think of nothing to type. I’m in the middle of Rebecca Solnit’s essay “A Short History of Silence” from the book The Mother of All Questions. Her tight paragraphs, devastating observations, and judicious quotes build a foundation of feminist rage at all the different ways silence is maintained.

Solnit writes about the reception of Suki Kim’s book of investigative journalism, which her publishers insisted on marketing as a memoir, as a silencing of her through relegating her to a women’s realm where she could be an expert not on North Korea, but only on herself. Kim’s own essay is even more poignant, ending with the lament that “As a woman of color entrenched in a profession still dominated by white men, I have been forced to use my writing not to explore topics of my own choosing, or to investigate the world’s complexities, but as a means to legitimize myself.”

Perhaps there are many forms of art that serve their creators as a way to say things that couldn’t otherwise be heard – poetry, painting, novels, film. All provide a way for humans who may be limited by their culture’s sad and rigid form to transcend their proscribed gender, sexuality, religion, race or consciousness.

Last night I watched an episode from Tony Bourdain’s recent series where he goes to London in the days after the Brexit vote. He dines at St John, where my brilliant mother took me for her last wonderful meal in 1998, right before I went to my JYA and she went to the hospital for the last time.

Bourdain was born in New Jersey just a year after my mother and I thought about how much she would have loved watching him and reading him and arguing about him, if his star had risen before she died. Then I had the treacherous thought that she could’ve been Tony Bourdain if it wasn’t for the limitations of her gender in America, and marrying at 19, having kids at 22, and being a mother instead of going to the CIA and being a chef and writer. Of course many women have taken the opportunity for a second act writing and new career, after the kids have fledged. My mother only lived long enough for one and a half acts. No one who knew her would think she wasted a moment of her time.

As I enter my forties, I can see more clearly how training, chance and culture have shaped my individual choices and opportunities. Solnit’s conclusion is that we must use “any privilege we may have been handed to undo privilege or expand its scope”

My privilege this morning is writing here, and I endeavor to tell more and be less silent.

Staten island ferry 

The view last week, on my way to a reading carnival in St George. 

As usual I am starting my week with a menu packed and dense as a Greek diner’s, so many things I want to do, people I want to talk to, changes I would like to begin. With tomorrow off from work I could do nearly anything! 

I need a fixed special.  Small portions of just the best and freshest. 

Independence weekend, 2017

Gratefully grounded in rural Brooklyn, my dog at hand and the graceful boughs of the American Elm shading my window from five stories up. Like at home, I took a walk around the neighborhood this morning and picked up some little zucchinis from the community garden and a very large stack of books. Reading is a glorious summer activity, curled up on a blanket until the light is inarguably too dim. On Thursday I sat outside the bandshell and listened to mariachi and Mexican ballads from Lila Downs while devouring Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, the glow from my phone no doubt as annoying to some as the guy smoking tobacco. But it is a great book- romantic and timely.