Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fresh Flowers

Last week, a friend of mine gave his girlfriend (and our mutual friend) a bouquet of tulips.  Because her heat wasn't working and she spends tons of time in my room anyways, she let them live in my room.  They died a couple of days ago, but I loved having fresh flowers in my room, so yesterday I went to Trader Joe's and got hydrangeas to replace them.  Unfortunately, the hydrangeas aren't doing too well, but it's nice having living things around - aside from the seven (I'm not kidding) potted plants in the room already.  Do you keep fresh flowers or houseplants?

(Van Gogh painting from here)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Apology

On Wednesday for humanities we talked about the Apologia, which, while it was interesting and important and raised a ton of questions about what matters and what is just and when authority is important, also reminded me that I should apologise.
I've not been posting much at all this past week.  It's been the first week of classes, and I've been bogged down in work that I want to do - that I love.  It's my first time really properly choosing a class that isn't a requirement, and JS Bach is changing my life, step by step.  I'm even enjoying biology thanks to the incredible lecturer, and we're reading Maupassant in French.  Life is great - it's just a lot of work, and the university I attend requires a strong sense of discipline and a strong work ethic.  Reed makes you work - it makes you love to work and it makes you compete with your friends about who has the most to do, but I love it.  I go to classes I want to take more than anything, so this week I haven't really been posting because I'm not focused on anything in the future or onwards.  I'm focused on being present, on losing myself in music and in Plato and in French comedy.
I hope everyone's had a lovely week thus far.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Spring Semester

Today was the first day of classes of the spring semester.  I have eaten breakfast at the corner table in Commons, looking out at the bare trees covered in moss, I have compared Aristophanes to "The Daily Show," and I have watched a surrealist film on sea urchins for biology.  All in all, not a bad day, I must say - I am excited for the rest of the semester!  There will be lots of work and rainy days when I don't want to get out of bed, but there will be beautiful days and incredible lectures, and I can't wait to get into the thick of things.
Have a lovely Monday, everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wanderlust: Camping Edition

I'm not sure why, but on this morning, looking at the drizzle and the cold outside my bedroom window, I want to go camping.  Every year my family spends a week in Acadia National Park, camping in Mount Desert Campground, right on Somes Sound.  We bring our kayaks and explore the sound and the islands some afternoons, hang hammocks between the trees and lie out across the rocks and the sea, reading "One Hundred Years Of Solitude."  We bike the carriage roads and hike Mt Penobscot (every year!) and visit the Azalea Gardens.
This past year, I didn't get to go.  I was at college, but I missed it.  I missed waking up in cold Maine mornings to bacon and hot chocolate from Swiss Miss packets in plastic camping mugs.  I missed singing around the campfire with my family every night.  I missed that one restaurant in town with the toy trains circling the walls.  So on this rainy January weekend, right before I start my classes, I would like to go back to August, to kayaking and hikes and woodsmoke...
Happy weekend, everyone.

(photo from here)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beautiful Portland Days

Yesterday was one of them.
My friends K and L brought back all of my plants (K, who stayed in PDX over the holiday, generously agreed to take care of them - I have lent her the espresso maker in return) and played cribbage with me and talked to me about music and piano and World War I.  I watched Castle with Willamae and conducted Beethoven's 5th Symphony in my bedroom.  I went to a party (appropriately called Nerdfest) and played Bananagrams and piano and talked to my friends.  I walked home in the snow that coated campus and changed the way the world looked that night.  I watched the ground become pure and clean and Eliot Hall looked hallowed and European.  My friends took a video of it that night...
I hope you all have a lovely day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bach Cello Suites

The Bach Cello Suites remind me of mornings in our kitchen at home.  My father did (and still does) play classical music through the house on weekend mornings when he's making breakfast, when my mother and brother are talking about an essay or a physics problem, when we congregate by the woodstove to attempt the crossword.
Listening to them now, on a morning by myself in Chittick, watching the snow outside the window and melt onto the green grass and soaking pavement, I miss my family.  Sometimes there are pieces that are so reminiscent of moments that it's hard to bear, and I didn't realise it five minutes ago when I put it on, but this is definitely one of them.
Family, I miss you.


Hi guys!
I'm back at school just in time for Paideia, the week of independent classes taught by faculty and students at Reed.  Today I'm going to a conference on Infinite Jest, hanging out with my girlfriends, and just enjoying my Portland life as much as possible before schoolwork catches up with me.
What are you doing this Tuesday?

(flowers in Paris, from here)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Leaving Home Again

On Sunday I head back to Reed.
On so many levels I don't want to go.  I haven't had enough time with my family, enough walks with Ursula to school.  I haven't played the piano enough, or read enough, or taken enough long luxurious baths.  I have not played even one game of scrabble with my family, and I have lost when we played Five Hundred.  I am not ready to get used to school again, to showers wearing flip-flops and Portland weather (which I love, don't get me wrong) and mountains of schoolwork (which I also love).  I just love my family, and the city where I grew up, and it feels that at this time I should be doing what I was doing last year, getting ready for my six miraculous months in Paris, not packing for college.  I want to spend long afternoons with the lovely Kuzu and Mike and Alexandra, talking, reading, cooking, doing the crossword.  I want to perfect my Chopin pieces until I can play them with my eyes closed, from memory. I want to write and sightread and arrange music and sing with my sister and dance around my brother's bedroom to French hip-hop.  I want to cook supper for my family and cookies for my sister's lunch.  There are so many things I want to do at home, so many things that I don't have time for.
At the same time, I know that school holds so much in store for me.  Paideia will occupy the first week of second semester, and I plan on taking classes on Infinite Jest, on reporting, and participating in a historical reenactment of the storming of the Bastille.  I miss my friends, and it will be nice to see them, to have late-night long talks in my bedroom and dance parties while cleaning the kitchen.  And I am excited for Aristophanes and Plato in the second semester of Humanities 110.
But I have not packed, because I do not want to leave.  We'll see where I am come Sunday.
Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

(Reed in the snow, from here)

Thursday, January 12, 2012


It has been two years since the earthquake in Haiti, the earthquake that took thirty-five seconds to change people's lives forever.
If you want to help, I suggest working with Partners In Health.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


This morning I took my music theory with me to Charles street, to sit in a café and look out at all the people on their way to work, writing in key signatures.  Boston is gorgeous in the morning - and I needed to do something besides sit in the house and play piano/be on the Internet/read all alone.
And today was a good day to do that.  Bright in a way that Portland is never bright, crisp and dry and cold, with salt bleaching the sidewalk in places, through the cold and dry Common down Comm Ave and Marlborough street and across the Mass Ave bridge.  I love walking through the city, through the Back Bay and down by the river - it makes me feel a million times more in touch with where I live.
Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hello World

Today I am nineteen years old.
It feels strange to type that, just like it was strange to wake up in the electric-blue gloaming morning light of New England to hear my family singing me "happy birthday" and bringing me breakfast in bed.  It's strange to check facebook and see a whole bunch of people writing on my wall.
Part of me wants this to be an exceptional day, a day where everything goes right.  But the rest of me is so happy with how it is right now.  I am sitting at our kitchen table, attempting bits of yesterday's crossword, emailing my friends, talking to my mother, who is working from home.  I have played a little bit of the piano (and failed).  I have not unpacked.
Today does not need to be filled with untold wonders and great surprises that make your heart sing.  It can be filled with charmingly domestic moments, like figuring out 105-across (Pass flying colors) and texting your best friends and Bach preludes.  And mostly, it's about being around my family.
Later today my darling friends (Kuzu and Mike and Edo and Alexandra) will come for dinner and I am ever so excited to see them.
Have a lovely day, everyone!

Lovely New York Weekend

Hi guys!
Last night I got back into South Station, courtesy of the Fung-Wah bus (which I was a little nervous about - a friend once regaled me with horror stories) just in time to attempt the crossword with my family at about ten-thirty.  I had an incredible weekend in Park Slope, Brooklyn with the incredible G, and these are some of the things we did:
We went to the lovely Café Regular du Nord, a coffeeshop that reminded me so much of Paris I almost cried...

We walked in the beautiful Prospect Park....

(It didn't look like this because it was winter, but still... via)

We ate (and spoke French at) Moutarde...

And did tons of other things, like walk the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and cross the bridge and see Madison Avenue with all the shops.  

Thank you, G, for an incredible weekend!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wanderlust: New York City Edition

I've been to New York once before.  I went in eighth grade on a school trip, and we visited MoMA and a tenement house and saw "Chicago" on broadway.  But this time I'm visiting a school friend, and I get to see her map of the city - her hometown, her favourite places....
So what would you like to do in New York?
(no pictures today - I'm just curious about your choices!)

The boots that taught me about investment

I have a pair of very distinctive shoes.  They are a pair of old Frye boots, and I wear them everywhere - so often that once a friend of mine could tell that I was at another friend's house because my boots were in the hallway.  They don't make them anymore, but these boots are some of the most comfortable - I wear them everywhere with everything - heavy leather boots that remind one a little of hiking boots, a little of paddock boots.  I wear them with dresses and jeans and skirts.
But here's a secret: they aren't mine.  They technically belong to my mother, who has had them since before I was born.  When I was quite young she wore them on hiking trips - I don't know how long she has had them but I imagine they've been all over the world with her - to Kenya and to Thailand and to New Zealand (I know they've been all across Europe with me, at least).
These are boots that are at least twenty years old - probably more like thirty or forty, if we're being honest.    I wear them almost every day, and they are the shoes that are in the best shape of any of my footwear.
I'm serious - trainers disintegrate after a while, the heels on my cowboy boots have been worn down, the linings of wellies rub away, and high heels are prone to all sorts of accidents.  But these boots persist - they are older than I am, and I could imagine a daughter of mine one day wearing them and quite possibly attempting to sneak them away to university with her.
I have no idea how much those boots cost at the time my mother bought them - £100?  Less?  More?  Anyways, however much they cost, I can almost guarantee that they were worth it and more.  If you look in your closet, how many items can you find that you can wear for twenty years and more - shoes that won't break down, that won't go out of style?  That's what an investment is - a pair of shoes that your kids will want to steal one day, that are comfortable enough to climb a mountain or walk around Paris in, a pair of shoes that your friends recognize.
I know I don't do this - I'm a university student and thusly don't really have that much money - but I think it's a good idea to "invest" in most everything you do.  Buy the boots that stand up to the test of time, or hardcover books that you'll love forever, or the overcoat that your granddaughter will wear proudly throughout her life.  Invest.

Today and beyond

Hello, dear blog readers!  Good morning!
Last night was bitterly cold so my mother made coq au vin - delicious!  Today I see the lovely Alexandra after a semester apart and tomorrow I leave early in the morning for a mini-break in New York City!  I'm super excited for both - so expect a couple more posts throughout the day!

(photo of ballet dancers from here)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Paris

Note the floors, and the fireplace, and the giant mirror, and the panelling

This must have once been a larger apartment's drawing room or something.  Also, my God, those windows!

Seeing these photographs makes me miss Paris so much...

(from here)

I Resolve

Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  My family does ours together, gathering at midnight with champagne or some other sparkling wine (or, you know, sparkling cider for those of us who don't like wine) and sharing what we hope to do for the new year.  In the past there have been resolutions like write music and get in shape and finally find the perfect lamp for the living room.  Mine this year were a little different.  
I resolve to go to every Friday at Four.  Friday at Four is a Reed College institution - a musical performance at the aforementioned date and time.  I've only been to one so far, and I think it's a good idea to get out and actually hear music for a change, rather than playing it on my computer speakers in my dorm room.  Besides, I definitely have half an hour a week.  
I resolve to practise the piano every day for at least an hour.  I have never been "the musical one" in my family, but my entire family is musical.  At school, I find playing the piano incredibly relaxing, even though I have to cross campus to get to the music building (soooo hard, I know).  It's lovely to play, and even lovelier to see myself making progress.  Practising piano also holds for sight reading and theory work.
I resolve to work harder in biology.  Biology is my hardest class, mainly because science does not come naturally to me.  I'm naturally a fast reader, which is helpful for humanities, but I find graphs and diagrams (which our biology textbook is full of) difficult to understand.  Still, I think if I can do all of the readings before lecture and really work, I'll do better.
I resolve to keep my room clean.  I'm usually kind of good at this at school - less so at home.  My dorm room is tiny, and letting it get super messy interferes with my studying and productivity, so it shouldn't be that hard to just make my bed and put things away.
I resolve to go running even when I don't feel like it.  Like an idiot, I left my trainers in Portland over the break, so that means that in the early Northwest mornings when it's chilly and my bed is warm, I get up and run through the canyon anyways.  Even when it's dark and raining.  
And finally, I resolve to brush my hair every day.  It's easy to forget about brushing, to just throw wet hair in a braid and go about daily life (what I do practically all the time) but brushing hair is good for it and makes it shiny.  Besides, making an effort is a good idea, no?
Do you have New Year's Resolutions?  What are they?

(Above: a clean room.  From here.) 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Almost skating

Today Ursula and I almost went skating.  It's something that she had been looking forward to for a while, a good motivator for me to get out of the house, and a beautiful day in Boston - bright, cold, clear.  But then we arrived at the Kendall Square Rink to find it horribly crowded - a line stretching out of the building and through the little park - and immediately called our father to pick us up.  That's what we get for going out on a federal holiday, I guess.
Hanging out with the family is my favourite part of being home for the holidays.  We can skate or not, it doesn't matter - what matters is that I was spending time with my little sister.
I hope you've had a lovely day thus far!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011, in retrospect

Today is a beautiful bright blue-sky day and the first day of 2012!  And my God, 2011, was an excellent year, no?  Last year I marked the year by months, but this year I think I’ll mark it by places I’ve been, by trips I’ve taken and things I’ve learned.
On February first last year I left my family behind on the icy tarmac and flew by myself to France on a day when it wasn’t clear that we would get off the ground because of how much ice and snow there was in Boston and I landed in Paris, a Paris with no snow but grey skies and long stretches of early morning without sunlight, a Paris full of café crèmes and buttery croissants and lectures on Hellenistic Athens.  I got lost in February again and again, turning down strange seventeenth-century streets, traipsing through the Jardin du Luxembourg, losing myself in Shakespeare & Company to novel after novel.  Caleb arrived, and we ventured further afield together, to the Marais and l’As du Falafel, to museums and little forgotten parks, to places that seemed scary or lonely by myself but were beautiful with someone else.  And finally the rest of the family arrived, and we started our incredible Parisian adventure (well, I’d already started mine).  The next couple months were French classes and public lectures and playing the big grand piano in the living room, venturing with James Joyce and David Foster Wallace to cafés scattered across the city, attending Fashion Week with my siblings and having picnics with my school friends.  Until April.
In April my family took two weeks off (part of the deal we made with the people whose apartment we were renting) and went to Morocco and Spain.  We went to Tangier and Meknes and the glorious city of Fès (one of the most beautiful and vibrant places I’ve ever been), and then to Andalucía – to Granada where the Alhambra is and to Cordoba, home of the Mezquita.  Those were a glorious two weeks, full of new places and experiences, and suddenly we were back in Paris.
In May the ever-lovely Alexandra and I left Paris and China and Istanbul behind for Budapest and our month-long train trip through Europe.  We started in the shining Budapest and went to Vienna (where we attended a concert in the opera house and ate at the café that Trotsky frequented), to beautiful and romantic Venice, to living-history Florence and to Milan with the incredible cathedral.  We went to the glorious city of Praha and to Copenhagen by way of Berlin, to Brussels and then back to Paris (with a short stop at the Catacombs) and onward to London and Oxford.  Alexandra, this May-June month has been one of the most incredible thirty days of my life, and I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone but you.
At the end of June we had to move from our lovely apartment in the fourteenth to the super-hip Marais, and we took a couple of weekend trips into the surrounding countryside, to Bourgogne and the incredible Bretagne, and all too soon it was August and we had to leave Europe.
We went to Nantucket for a week in August, as we do every year, and I got on a plane once again to Portland, Oregon, to go backpacking in Washington State (Mt Adams, in case anyone is interested) and to move into my new home at Reed College.
The past couple months have been all college.  I have read about Greece and Egypt and Persia, more David Foster Wallace, and biology-at-large.  I have gone to French conversation classes and come out spinning and dancing with happiness.  I have gone home for a week in October to a bright New England autumn and up to Seattle for a weekend on my grandfather’s birthday.  I have helped to capture the Doyle Owl and made chocolate-pecan pie for Thanksgiving with my friends.  And I have spent long nights studying alone and with friends, working on finals and finally coming home for Christmas with my family, for the holiday party and picking out a Christmas tree, for beautiful morning and afternoons like this one with the five of us in the kitchen.
Happy 2012, everyone!  Hopefully this year will be even better than the last!