I’m reading Robert Reich’s book, The Common Good, and I skipped to the end to see the call to action. I found it in the final paragraph, “We have never been a perfect union. Our finest moments have been when we sought to become more perfect than we had been. We can help restore the common good by striving for it and showing others it’s worth the effort.”
It is time we start asking all of our institutions–our work, our schools, our government, and measure them against this standard once again. I was particularly struck by his use of the Broken Window syndrome and how he lays out how our trust in our institutions has been eroded over the past five decades.
“Marsh is not a swamp. Marsh is a space of flight, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace–as though not built to fly–against the roar of a thousand snow geese.”
Delia Owens, first lines of Where the Crawdads Sing
Abandoned by her family, Kya Clark, lives alone in the North Carolina Marsh. Kya learns to survive and thrive on her own. This is that classic fantasy tale of the wolf-boy who survives on his own in the wilderness, apart from man and society. Or really, it is the tale of the witch–the woman who lives apart and is shunned and ignored by the community. Kya has a love of nature and is a collector of shells and feathers. As with any fable of the siren, two young men from town are drawn to her with tragic results. The town will sit in judgment of her.
Where the Crawdads Sing will be the book of the summer. I had hoped to wait until my copy at the library came up (currently number 1290 on 382 copies), but then I passed an autographed copy on a table at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and had to pick it up. I decided to read a few pages, and then the book drew me in and I read it over the weekend.
Kya Clark is one of the most fascinating, strong characters created that I’ve read in a long time. Delia Owens makes her crafty, interesting, and yet always so wounded and shaped by the isolation and tragedy in her life. Despite that, Kya finds her own purpose. She dedicates herself to learning the world of the marsh around her. There are other characters (all interesting in their own right) who give her gifts–they teach her to fish, read, and eke out a living. In the words of Kya, “nudging her to care for herself, not just offering to care for her.”
I also like the way the book was plotted. There is a murder mystery at the front of the book, and the book jumps between the time before and the time after one of the town’s young men is found at the bottom of the Fire Tower. The stories move forward until they meet and merge.
There is also the naturalist piece to the book as well as poetry. Owens herself is a wildlife scientist and the author of several non-fiction books that sound equally fascinating to this, her first novel. As I mentioned, Kya is a collector and a naturalist. She’ll go far with this–but I don’t want to spoil that. The book also contains poetry, some Dickinson, and one other regional poet. The book reminded me a bit of one of my favorite collection of short stories, The Shell Collector, by Anthony Doerr. Others have compared her to Barbara Kingsolver. I hope to read more from Owens.
When we travel or golf, we usually meet other couples, and it has become our habit to ask them for restaurant recommendations. A few years ago, we were in New Orleans and met a couple over sazeracs at Muriel’s in Jackson Square. This couple from the Midwest had recently visited Seattle and ended up giving us a recommendation How to Cook a Wolf in Queen Anne.
How to Cook a Wolf has since become our favorite spot to celebrate our relationship including our engagement two years ago. We went the other night to celebrate the anniversary of our first date. We’ve been inseparable for six years now thanks to eHarmony’s algorithm.
Their menu changes and the emphasis is on fresh food–the restaurant is an homage to food writer MFK Fisher who wrote a cookbook of the same name and from the cover has a 1,000-yard stare. The food is always spectacular, and the presentation of every portion of dinner from drinks to dishes is theater-worthy. We had the sea wolf sourdough with fennel-honey butter and roasted garlic, along with our favorite Polenta Fritters with ricotta and chestnut honey butter. We then shared the San Juan Island Spot prawns, Ravioli with nettle and ricotta, and pine nuts. And then we finished off by splitting two desserts, a lemon berry tart, and a malted mousse.
There is no evidence here of the famed Seattle Freeze. The restaurant is tiny–and the tables close, and it promotes interaction as people “ooh!” and “ah!” over other’s drink and menu choices. So in a way, it gives us that giddiness we experience when traveling, suddenly becoming extroverts, asking complete strangers what drink they ordered.
I was so eager to eat my dinner that I forgot to immortalize it with my camera for later sketching, so instead enjoy this sketch of our almost empty dessert plates.
All in all, a fun evening. Before dinner we popped into Blue Highway Games and put our name down for Wingspan, and then bought a couple of other board games, because we may eat well, but we also nerd well. Afterwards, we popped into Hilltop Ale House.
I have a plan for us to try every single Ethan Stowell restaurant with John. I’ve been to a couple, but I want to complete the entire list. Maybe we’ll get a badge! Up next is Staple & Fancy.
If you haven’t yet, check out the Artist’s Way course I’ll be teaching at Cloud 9 Art School in Bothell this fall. Food is art, so chefs and foodies welcome!
Do you have a morning routine or rituals to get you started for the day? I’ve always been a morning person, and I’ve learned that in starting a business I need to guard that morning time with all I’m worth. I recently started to guard that schedule by avoiding any appointments or meetings before noon. There is no way to work around that completely–right now I have a Wednesday morning class at Cloud 9 Art School on sketching which gives me joy, so at the moment, that is the one exception.
I usually wake up between 5:30 and 6:00. I really hate alarm clocks, and so I’ve managed to train my body clock to wake up on its own. I feel like waking up to an alarm is the worst possible thing for your body–to be jarred awake from whichever sleep cycle you are in.
That first hour is for me. I get up, take the dog out, and then fix my first cup of coffee in the morning. I then take a long bath with a book or the latest New Yorker or Vanity Fair. Me-time. Me, glorious fricking, me-time. People always ask how I find time to read as many books as I do, and this is it. I don’t meditate, this is my meditation.
I love the smell of book ink in the morning.
After getting dressed I head back downstairs, feed the cats and dog, and then open up my journal and start a new page for the day. On one side I write up my schedule for the day. I learned this trick from Cal Newport’s Deep Work. By hand, I write down the times of the day and then I first pen in appointments and meetings (allowing travel time), and then I block off time for deep cognitive work–for me right now, that is focusing on getting my new business off the ground. I’ve always been a little absent-minded about my calendar, so the act of writing out appointments from my Outlook schedule into this notebook is a way for me to acknowledge each scheduled item. Since I’ve been doing this routine, it is rare to miss or be late. I try to leave open space in the schedule for changes and to work on my “action list.” I also list out my morning routine.
Around this time is when I have to wake up any kids in the household for school prep and then drive them to the bus stop. A good day is when everyone makes it to the bus on time, and if I have to drive them in, they owe me an hour of my lost productivity.
After the bus stop I pop in at the Starbucks down the hill for a latte or flat white. Some days I bring my journal with me (no laptop), drink my coffee, and write my Artist’s Way morning pages. That is three whole pages of writing. For me, I’m usually acknowledging the work and schedule for the day ahead and sometimes musing and recording what has happened in my life since I last wrote in the journal. I leave the laptop at home because if I have a screen near my morning pages and journal, I can easily be sucked into the black hole of lost time. And I don’t like email to be the first thing I deal with in the morning–another black hole of lost time.
When I return home it is time to hit the list. I strive to work non-stop until noon. I work on my business, and alternate it with my morning routine around the house. For the business I usually have one or two priorities for the day. For example, today I’ll be working on a mini-marketing plan for an upcoming class I’m teaching and then want to get started on planning a course around Digital Minimalism.
The business work is always changing, but my morning routine is fairly stable. It involves: *morning pages *clearing my desk *a load of laundry *cleaning the kitchen *anything else
Afternoons are for appointments, errands, meetings, sketching, writing, and whatever suits my fancy. Sometimes that involves a nap after lunch. So refreshing and I may sneak in another chapter or two in the book I’m reading.
My morning routine is never quite finalized. What I need to work on next is completing a couple of items before bedtime, so I have more time in the morning to hit the ground running. The two I need to work on are making sure the kitchen is clean before bedtime and clearing my desk. I hate a messy desk, but I always seem to make my desk messy.
What is your morning routine? Have you posted your morning routine on a blog? What tips do you have for getting your day started right? What about tips from night owls?
Make sure you check out my upcoming class on the Artist’s Way. It starts Fall 2019 at Cloud 9 Art School, but registration is open now.
Ever since my husband and I first met, we’ve spent May and June evenings out on our side deck. We fix a fancy drink–the first year it was Mai Tais from scratch and this year it is an Old Fashioned. We sit out on the deck with our drinks in hand and watch the sunset over Seattle in the distance.
When we set up this year, John noted that we haven’t spent much time since the Election. But this year, we say, “F*ck that. Life goes on and we are going to enjoy it.” We will sit out every nice evening until Batty flies erratically by to tell us it is time to go in.
I used to draw all the time when I was an adolescent. I drew endless horses and copied pictures from my Teen magazines. I sketched all the major actors (quite badly) in Gone with the Wind. I created fantasy house plans and fantasy pets. Since that time I may have doodled a little during meetings. I had some faces I liked to draw and I would also sketch animals in their purest five-year-old sense, barely better than a stick figure with thick legs. And lots of spirals. I think the last time I had truly sketched was one afternoon at the Ashland Oregon Festival. I bought a journal and sketched an ink drawing of Shakespeare while sitting on a blanket in the sun in the park. I must have been in my mid-twenties which puts that a couple of decades in the past.
Not that I haven’t wanted to quit being creative. I kept busy with other crafts like needlepoint and quilting. But now, that was over a decade ago.
I’ve wanted to get back to drawing and I’ve also always wanted to try watercolor. For the past few years, I can’t tell you the number of sketchbooks and pen & pencil sets I’ve bought intending to start. Then I would sit and stare at a blank page not knowing where to begin. Eventually, the journals would be absconded by the kids and the pencil sets would be broken apart and doled out to be found broken and crammed in the corners of the SUV right where the vacuum wouldn’t reach.
Needing an outlet for my creativity, I took the Artist’s Way workshop offered at Cloud 9 Art School with Charlene Freeman and that class changed my life. I had been searching and needed to uncover that side of myself again that made room for art. While that class allowed me to explore through my morning pages and my Artist’s Dates, I started making some changes in my life and my appearance. First, I chopped all my hair off. That act was simply liberating. I bought a new pink purse and tied a cherry blossom scarf I bought to it because sometimes you have to look the part to find your muse.
Next, I decided to take a sketching class at Cloud 9. Since Charlene is such a fantastic teacher I signed up for her Nature Sketchbooking class. I bought all of the class materials–which were listed on her site. A proper mixed media journal, some paint brushes, and a Field Artist Pro Travel Watercolor Set with 12 half pan colors.
What happened next was just as liberating as getting my hair pixied. The first day of class Charlene had us pick a natural item to draw and paint. There were feathers, and other items, but I chose the small leaf. Charlene had us fill in a title page in our sketchbook and then we were to go to town with our pens and the watercolors.
That was it. That was all I needed. Someone to tell me, “Here is a leaf. Sketch it and then paint it.” That simple leaf was the push I needed. I started taking photos of nature around me–other leaves and started drawing them. I grabbed an illustration from a Pinterest board of a Stellar Jay and I painted that. I captured flowers in my garden and in my kitchen window. I found an image of a pinecone tattoo, put it to paper and colored it in how I thought it should look. A jaunty duck strolled past me at Chateau Ste Michelle and demanded to be memorialized. Postcards, book illustrations, Sunset magazine photos, everything has become fodder for my sketchbook. Mr. Squirrely Squirrel (or Doug the Squirrel) decided the kitchen windows birdhouse was scalable allowing me to get in close enough for a couple of character studies.
I’m waiting for the paint to dry on the last page of my first sketchbook– some mushrooms from an old botanical print. I’m taking another sketchbook class and I’ll be facilitating the next session of the Artist Way at Cloud 9. I hope you’ll join me there. What sort of push have you been waiting for? What kind of creativity have you been putting off in your life and you are ready to say, “Now is the time.” Let’s do this together!