for the information age
some of these things sustain me. others are extra.
keep reading stories
I am a slow reader and can only finish so many books in a year. So they'd better be good. They better be beauty on the effing page.
Devotions by Mary Oliver
I can pretty much open this collection of poetry to any page and be moved. Mary Oliver is the boss when it comes to reminding us that we can return to nature again and again for sustenance, for beauty. RIP.
True Stories by Sophie Calle
This is a tiny book of exacting paragraph-long, auto-biographical stories that cut to the chase: life is a perplexing, heart-wrenching, hopeful experience. Our minutest moments amass to take on a weighty form. Calle pairs text with photographs and the juxtaposition of language and image creates a sort of scrapbook of the psyche. It is beautiful.
Crudo by Olivia Laing
Something made me pick this slim book up in the bookstore. Well, thank you, something. This work of fiction is working - Laing weaves modern angst, love, and the female journey into a sharp-toothed commentary on the State of the Earth. At first we do not like our protagonist. She is selfish and nasty. Then we start to kind of love her. She is us.
The Gift by Hafiz
When you turn 50, people give you the coolest gifts - one of which for me, this year, was Hafiz's The Gift. Hafiz was a Persian mystic-poet and this collection seems to hold the keys to life. In one poem, he says, "This sky, where we live, is no place to lose your wings." Enough said.
the pocket Pema Chödrön by Pema Chödrön
Need fast relief from suffering and despair? Chödrön, a Buddhist nun, shares practical, no-nonsense, guidance. Now, especially, read passages When Things Fall Apart, The Path Is Uncharted, Now Is The Time. They wake you up out of this stupor. This book is so tiny it will actually fit in your pocket (in case you get to go somewhere).
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
The devastation and aftermath of an epidemic is artfully examined in this beautiful novel about the onset of the AIDS epidemic and how it touched countless members of a young Chicago community. Read this now - it has particular relevance as we navigate the wily and unpredictable manner in which a global health crisis effects how we live and love. Too much is lost, but what remains is all we have.
5 minutes of poetry
This Poetry Foundation podcast's sole purpose is to bring you "five minutes of poetry a day". Slowdown host, the poet Tracy K. Smith's voice is hypnotic - her poetry curation ranges the gamut from nature to parenthood, to belonging in this ever-changing world. The brief context she provides leaves us feeling embraced, moved, alive. Induces a sense of unity, compassion. We are all in Slowdown mode now, so this is just working.
the oral tradition
I do both high-tech and low-tech book reading. On walks, I love listening to stories. Being read aloud to harkens back to childhood, to caveman times. I don't know the science behind it, but stories seem to enter the brain differently though the ears. I still mostly read "actual" books because I like to dog-ear and underline; listening is 100% pleasure.
music for mind expansion
Kip Mazuy's musical creations, for at-home meditation, are less songs and more experiences - they soothe, inspire, open. If talk meditation is not for you, try 10 minutes of Kip. You don't have to do anything but sit back and listen. Find him on Spotify.
Anna Karenina performed by Maggie Gyllenhaal
I guess at this point, I've read Anna Karenina three or four times in my life. But this one got me. Here, in an audio recording, narrator, Maggie Gyllenhaal, extracts breathtaking and particular beauty out of each character's being. That sounds dramatic - but it's just that - she breathes intimacy into a tale that is 150 years old. She brings each character so close to us, that we see ourselves. This got me through a month of lockdown.
use tech that helps
Some tech is addictive, anxiety-provoking and a waste of time. Other tech is moving, helpful, wise.
see what you see
We all suffer from image overload. Art and curated art experiences, which you can self-create, can offer mind opening, healing, compassion.
Take a moment, if you are able, to look at works that help you understand and process what we are experiencing.
kysa johnson - diseases and cures
Kysa Johnson's paintings, drawings and installations explore how microscopic organic forms shape our universe. In this body of work, she employs the shapes of both disease molecules and the vaccines molecules that defeat them. These shapes, which are invisible to the naked eye, take on profound meaning as the building blocks of gorgeous landscapes. The disease and the cure are omnipresent, helping shape our moment.
luchita hurtado - time as healing agent
When I saw this show at LACMA, the 99 year-old Venezuelan artist was in the house. Her art spans decades and she painted her way through it all - the Depression, the Sexual Revolution, to the present where she has taken up environmentalism. The sweeping nature of the show, the lucidity of Hurtado's eye seemed to say, this too shall pass - but not without some pain, some change, some courage, some hope. To craft the 1966 piece pictured here, Hurtado "traced outlines of herself and her youngest son." Exactly.
leonardo drew - elevating the ordinary
Leonardo Drew is a sculptor and an installation artist with a mind into which I'd like to climb. This piece entitled Number 19S, is contrived of toilet paper and thread. Here, a thing of intoxicating delicacy crafted from a thing of necessity, something we took, until recently, quite for granted.
julie mehretu - what it means to be human
Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and lives in New York. Her jaw-dropping paintings employ intense and seemingly mathematical layering of geometric shapes to question capitalism, colonialism, globalization. Enter a piece stage left and you will be violently swept into the human saga. Pictured here from her recent LACMA retrospective, Being Higher II, eludes to the human form, to explosive change, to a new perspective of what it means to be human.