Peace and planning in 2020

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Hiking at the Pinnacles, Dec 2020

A few weeks back I re-read Getting Things Done. It’s a classic of productivity, and I’d been feeling overwhelmed: not by big things, which happily have settled down, but by daily life’s minutia. I needed to wrangle things into place, and make space to move forward.

Getting Things Done is interesting. The core idea involves capturing all the things, getting them out of your head and into some other system so you can free up your brain for other tasks. This resonates with me. I tend to shy away from looking at what I’ve signed up for – I just don’t want to know. But really, I do know, and that knowing drags at me.

As I made my list, beginning to clear the clutter in my head (and make things actionable: it’s not “clean up office,” it’s “put away shoes & makeup”), I started to think about how similar the ideas are to other practices of mental clarity. From Marie Kondo’s “does this spark joy?”, to the early Arts & Crafts movement & William Morris’ “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” to traditional rhythms of spring cleaning or breaking or burning possessions at various celestial or cultural milestones, to cleaning up one’s desk before beginning work – the notion of streamlining, getting things in order, creating a fresh start by creating a fresh sense of place is fundamental. As humans, we tell ourselves this story, these instructions, over and over again.

And so. It’s New Year’s. I don’t have New Year’s resolutions; I’ve learned I don’t think in years. Instead, I have a short list of goals for January and some habits I’m banking on to get me there. I’ve cleaned out my closet and the pantry, and detailed out the spreadsheet that tracks the house remodel. Tonight I’ll celebrate with hot cider and fairy lights on a rosemary tree, and watch my breath steam up in the outdoor cold.

What does your fresh start look like?

Gratitude

Trees

My baby nephew-by-friendship

A whole bunch of people I’m glad to see

New York not changing half as much as everyone says it does

Libraries

Books

My parents

My husband

Did I mention trees?

A friend from far away visiting this city at the same time as me

The subway

Interesting weather

An old friend who knows what I mean about things

Her awesome husband

A really great set of restaurant recommendations that coincidentally sent me into some parts of the city I usually don’t visit

Beaux Arts architecture

Walking

The familiar and comfy sounds of New York city streets

Goodnight!

Homesick

Earlier today, I read this article about trees in Louisville. It made me homesick for the city: golden leaves in fall, immense-trunked ancient trees, older than most of the buildings in the town I live in now, sweeping down broad lawns of summer green.

I was only in Louisville for a few months, from August or September of one year through April or May or June of the next, but I fell in love with Ear X-stacy and Zteca and a coffeshop that offered the best cardamom team I’d ever drunk. I clomped amazedly through crisp and shattering snow on my way out for coffee and the paper on weekend mornings, ran down big green hills in the park in spring. Sometimes at night the drifting blue of the Union Pacific’s infinite train whistle kept me up, and I would lay peacefully awake, shoveled in amongst blankets, between the chill of the never-quite-shut-tight historic single-pane windows and the barrelling warmth of after-add central heating in my carriage-house apartment.

It wasn’t really Louisville, after all that – my place was across the river in New Albany, Indiana. But I went to the hemp store on Bardstown Road when I started to miss sewing and California-ness (I bought the softest, silkiest hemp fabric I could find and made a bathrobe), and when I went out for drinks with the crew after work the places we drank, when not raised high above the river on stilts, were all in Louisville. It was the nearest big city, the center of gravity, and at that time I still generally gravitated toward cities. Louisville was a graceful one, and lovely.

I miss it sometimes.

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