Reasons it sucks when it’s hot out, # who-knows-how-many-by-now

(Challenge, day 6)

So, this week I ordered some chocolates as a present.

They are from a local place that I love very much and they are typically straight-up delightful in that “I will break your arm if you prevent me from taking that one” way. Also, they are beautiful to look at, and I would happily place a little tray of them in front of anyone I was looking to impress, or just wanted to express my affection for (so long as the person in question likes sweets, of course.)

Unfortunately, it looks as though my order met with a misadventure:

…oh dear.

Given that these were meant to be a present I’ve reached out to contact the folks who make them, and they’ve been very gracious about offering to replace them – and since there’s plenty of time I’m not overly worried about missing my window to present them or anything, I’m happy to do that.

I also feel rather guilty for reaching out. It’s not THEIR fault that it’s ludicrously hot out there (I wonder if the courier’s AC was out in their vehicle or something like that.)

Be that as it may, they’ve been lovely, and seriously, when there hasn’t been a misadventure of this kind the chocolates are beautiful AND delicious; chocolate fans who might be reading this and live or work in Toronto, check them out.

Some day I will master the art of asking if there’s anything that can be done without feeling like I am somehow overstepping my bounds. Today might not be that day, but at least I did try to do it – so I suppose there’s that?

Bright pink tenacity (Challenge, Day 5)

Ages ago – over a year now – I had some friends over.

This was of course back when one could still do such things, before we all found ourselves isolated to our little pockets of spacetime.

Anyway. The evening was pleasant, a little boisterous even in the way that sometimes happens when someone brings along a box of red wine; but that is not why I mention this now.

I mention this now because one of those friends brought me a little hostess gift, in the form of a ferociously-pink orchid. I am not a Plant Person, you see; I have an absolute genius for doing something or other that just…murders the poor things. Watering too much or not enough or planting things in the wrong places or…well. You get the idea.

So I didn’t have high hopes for its longevity, but found it a little pot and put it on a windowsill and fed it an ice cube every so often and hoped for the best.

Its flowers dropped off, and I assumed that meant it was dead, and then (shameful admission time)…I did nothing to it, for quite some time. The leaves wrinkled up a bit, but that was all otherwise; just the bare stalk and the leaves and the windowsill.

I did not water it. I did not feed it. I did not trim it. I just left it on the windowsill, wondering how it hadn’t yet gone completely black and/or died on me.

I felt faintly ashamed of myself whenever I looked at it, thinking I should really throw it away.

And it got cold, and dark, and began to seem like a terrible idea to be outdoors.

And nothing continued to happen with it, and I kept on thinking I should throw it away and…not doing it, for some reason.

And then, this spring, as it started to warm up outside, I decided okay, really, enough was enough, I should toss this thing, and I walked over to it full of determination to resolve this particular awkwardness once and for all –

…and there was a new stem growing, unobtrusively, split from the original, stretching out toward the glass where it was a little hard to see.

If you looked very closely, there were buds on it.

I stood there a while and just stared at it. How? How on earth was it possible that after being completely neglected for an insanely long time by somebody who is really dreadful at taking care of plants in the first place that this orchid wasn’t just completely toast?

And then I thought: Well. If you are tenacious enough to try to blossom after all that, you deserve a little more attention, I think. Let’s see what we can do to fix you up.

And I used the little clips the plant had come with to “train” the new stem into a similar arch to the previous one, and I fed it some ice cubes once a week, and I waited.

Sure enough, the buds became blossoms, and they are as ferociously pink as before.

They are ferociously pink today.

This is extremely pink.

There is probably a metaphor in this, somewhere.

Another kind of hungry (Challenge, day 4)

Today I had the rather interesting experience of looking for something interesting and/or cultural to do in an age where the place where I live isn’t really open yet; not all the way.

Here is what I learned:

There are an abundance of interesting places to go and do a little online class or something. Take local bakery Le Dolci, for instance; their catalogue of classes makes me crave cake, but there are also courses focusing on goodies such as homemade bagels or scones and lemon curd (yes please.)

There are also some nifty cultural offerings, like this socially-distanced outdoor presentation, or the upcoming Toronto Fringe’s digital offerings (…again, yes please; I miss theatre so much) or perhaps for those who are so minded the free nightly stream hosted by The Metropolitan Opera.

I also learned that I am absolutely starving for things to do. For intellectual or aesthetic stimulation of any kind, I suppose. How much of the apathy I have been feeling about…life, generally, really…is due to a lack of this? It has been so long since I have seen or done anything that felt truly novel.

I’ve had so many daydreams of Things to Do.

It is early autumn, and I tuck my scarf into my coat as I explore a series of little vintage shops and bookstores and perhaps even wander about aimlessly in that archetypal music shop where I am not really cool enough to browse, where the obligatory hipster behind the counter gives me the side eye – but it doesn’t matter, because in a little while I will meet a friend for a coffee and a slice of apple pie, and already I can feel my fork crunching through the top layer of crisp-golden pastry.

It is high summer, and I prepare a tray of Red and Blacks to take to the little group in my back garden to ward off that last little bit of the heat as the hours melt and pool into a long drawn-out evening of conversation, the kind that could as easily turn into breakfast, if we let it.

It is pelting rain outside, but that doesn’t matter; we can all dine inside at last, and so I have assembled the biggest group I could muster to come with me for dim sum. If the table does not groan under the weight of feeding our pent-up appetites, it is only from its own long service; dumplings of every description are piled everywhere, and we fall upon them like an army of oddly dainty orcs, our chopsticks battling it out for juicy morsels. It is so loud that we cannot hear ourselves think, but who cares; we are loud in response.

I have found that rarest of beasts, a legitimately quiet bar, and work my way through a cocktail a little too delicious to be entirely safe, savoring it in anticipation: later I will go to a show. A real one. I will sit in my very favorite kind of darkness, that lovely moment of anticipation between the house lights going down and the stage lights coming up, and the play, or the dance, or the opera, or whatever it is, will begin, and I will devour it, taking in every word and flicker and fold.

I visit a museum, at one of the slowest times, wandering quietly amongst the little bits of art and history, unhurried and savoring. It is cool and dark and even in sneakers one’s footsteps seem to echo a little in such big, glossy rooms.

Perhaps I just go to a library and find a stack of books and a comfortable chair and read for hours, somewhere that isn’t my living room.

I suppose all of that will have to stay as daydreams for a little longer, at least.

A contradiction in the weather (Challenge, day 3)

The weather outside is beautiful.

The sun is out; fluffy clouds drift overhead. In the back garden the clematis and lilies are blooming. There has been at least one honest to god butterfly; I haven’t seen one of those in so long it’s a bit like encountering a mysterious new species on a remote island one’s been shipwrecked on.

Oh, right. Nature. I keep forgetting about aspects of you after a year and a half of time shut up in my house, with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Oh, right; when it rains sometimes little snails appear on the sidewalk.

Oh, right; if you drop food outside there are ants.

Oh, right; squirrels.


It is moving toward high summer, and the world outside is alive. I should relish this. It seems that everyone else is doing so; I see people walking by outside.

Instead, I am inside re-making all of the beds and washing all of our linens and thinking about death.

How, some day, I will not be here any more, and someone will be doing this for the last time, as they clear out all the remnants of me to make way for whatever will be there afterward. And I will be forgotten about entirely. Maybe that will take a while, or maybe it will happen right away. I have no way of knowing.

When it actually happens, of course, I won’t be able to care about it; I will be dead, and therefore not likely to give much of a damn about anything.

But I hope that not everything that I was gets thrown out with that week’s trash, whenever it happens. This is not a very new or original thought, I know. But it does have a way of bashing at your brain.

It feels positively unjust to be preoccupied by such things on a day like this.

Is it a terrible thing to put this kind of thing forth on the internet? It feels so much more perilous to express anything to the world than it did ten years ago, eleven years ago, more years ago than I like to think back when I was barely out of kid-hood and too naive to read the intentions of people I chatted with but did so anyway.

It seems so easy to say or do the wrong things.

I suppose one day all of that will be forgotten about, too, for all the comfort one can find in that.

The weather outside is gorgeous; the weather inside, not so much.

I suppose I should try and find something to do to relieve these feelings a little. I wonder how successful I will be.

Perhaps writing it down will help a little.

Recent read: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Challenge, Day 2)

There is a place where all the stories are.

It is underground, ostensibly, but it is an Other sort of place. A sprawling labyrinth where seekers and finders once congregated, set about with mysterious rules and guardians and keepers. It contains all of the stories, every story; it is a Harbor on the shore of a great and starless sea.

Once, the son of a fortune-teller found a door to that place and did not know it. And he did not step through.

Not yet.

I haven’t read anything of Erin Morgenstern’s before now, but found The Starless Sea rather charming (it probably does not hurt that as a massive library fan I am squarely in the target audience.) It’s a bit magical-realism to begin with – shades here of Charles De Lint – and gradually turns into a sort of…kaleidoscopic collection of fragments. As though someone had made up a Tarot deck of elements of the characters’ stories and assorted fables and then played 78-card pickup with them, placing them back into the book in the order they were collected.

There’s a real knack for description here, in my opinion – lush without an excess of enthusiasm – and I particularly enjoyed exploring the more mystical locales in the story; if a few bits of the narrative didn’t really crunch in that satisfying way for me that’s forgivable in favor of hanging out listening to someone’s imagination firing on all cylinders. Fans of tightly-plotted narratives may struggle here, I think – this reviewer over at the NYT certainly seems to have done. (I think I agree with them that as an aesthetic the book is bloody fantastic, though as a story it has some troubles.)

This is also one of the only books I think I have ever read in which a male protagonist has a crush on another man. (I am informed this just means I am not reading the right sorts of books. ;)) The crush, too, is charming; it’s sort of refreshing to see queer folks in stories where their queerness just is.

Honestly, though, if I were to choose a character in this book to be I would pick the girl whose most notable contribution to the world is at the very, very, very end. For reasons that will become very obvious if you read it yourself.

A challenge, day 1

This is not for anything.

That is a lie, of course; I would not set my challenge without a purpose.

But this is not for anything.

I am not raising money for a Noble Cause (not now, not with this) or embarking on a Grand Project or setting forth on some sort of Quest.

…Maybe I am doing that last one, a little.

But to name what I am trying to do seems to me like a way to threaten it as well, and so I will keep that to myself for now, and instead say: Hello again. How are you?

How have you been?

That last especially seems like a bit of a silly question, doesn’t it; I disappeared from here and from everywhere for over a year because of the Great Sickness that upended everything, and I still cannot decide whether things going “back to normal” seems like a good thing or not.

And yes, I am among the legions for whom it hasn’t been entirely great. I have held up well enough, I suppose; things have gotten done around the house and I have grocery shopped and done laundry on the regular and I have tried to be assiduous about keeping in touch with isolated friends.

I have tried to be supportive, and I have tried to be kind, and I have tried to look after myself, and oh I am not so good at that but I have tried. Honestly. With my inconsistent routines and my wavering but earnest attempts at healthful eating and my persistent failure to sleep enough because sleeping seems to steal time from the precious chunks of free space that aren’t consumed by the minutiae of adulting.

Soon, within the next few months, I must prepare to re-enter the World. To be in places with more than five people. That will be hard, I think.

Perhaps in a way this is training for that.

And perhaps it is just self-care, of a kind. Set a modest goal, try to meet it regularly, without judgment for one’s failures. Sustaining exercises for the voice.

That’s all right.

Isn’t it?

I may be rather timid at first. I beg a pre-emptive pardon for that.

And now I suppose we see what happens next.