Monday, January 7, 2013

happy, new.

On New Year's Eve morning, I woke up early and knew immediately that it was going to be a rough day. I had a splitting headache, which was soon followed by (sorry) a whole lot of retching. Food poisoning just in time for our last days of holiday. Boo.

Happily, Christopher was home this time, which meant I was in good, comforting hands with a steady supply of hot tea, cold compresses and ginger ale. (And if you don't yet have Morris Kitchen ginger syrup and a bottle of fizzy water around for just this sort of situation, what are you waiting for?) It meant that we didn't spend the last day of the year as we often do, talking about the year past and planning for what's next, but instead tenderly and simply (if sickly) resting around the apartment.

By afternoon there were books and reading. By evening, I was better. We made our annual New Year's Eve feast of mushroom bourguignon and popovers and drank a bit of bubbly, and I even made it to midnight (must have been all the morning dozing - that never happens). It worked out fine.

In the morning, we woke up to mimosas with pomegranate seeds and made Heidi Swanson's delicious spinach strata from Super Natural Every Day (do drizzle with olive oil, as suggested - it's perfect). Then we bundled up and embarked on one of my favorite of our traditions, a long walk in the woods to ring in the new year.

We talked about our work, about what we want from the next couple of years before kids enter our lives. We talked about trips we most want take, friends we want to see more of, how to better balance our contrarian city mouse-country mouse natures. We brainstormed about projects we want to begin, reinforced support for each other's goals, considered whether we should live abroad again next year and wondered if and when we'd ever settle in one place. It was just the cleansing sort of chat best had on a long meandering walk and we are lucky to have Rock Creek Park right in our back yard to enable it. When we came home late in the day, the new year felt begun, and our hopes and plans for it aired and mutual.

I love to set New Year's Resolutions, and especially ones that push me to learn new skills or grow creatively. In 2011 I resolved to start knitting, and have since found so much pleasure there that each year since I've decided to dabble in another new craft. Here are a few of my resolutions for this year.

Read more short stories
My preferred narrative format has always been the novel. I typically don't decide whether I am enjoying a book until I hit page 100, which seems to be just the right length to gain a feel for the story's gait, the character's potential and past, the author's language. I like a long, slow story that I can savor, and it's the kind I prefer to write, too. That said, there is so much skill involved in trying to develop a character and story in just a few brief pages. I'd like to learn more about it.

Read lesser known authors
More often than not I work through books that have been nominated for or won major prizes (the Booker especially - I'm trying to read them all) or books by authors I've already enjoyed in the past. I'm aware though that this method exposes me to a group of writers with considerable approval already and there's little risk or surprise in reading them. I'd like exposure to authors who are lesser known (to me at least) with hopes of learning something new.

Journal again
From 2001-2008, I wrote in a journal almost daily, and now have an incredible and treasured record of my twenties. Once I met Christopher, however, and we started our relationship at a distance, I gradually stopped journaling and replaced it with long emails and letters to him. Journaling faded. As much as I treasure that correspondence, I also regret those missing years and that daily introspection and hope to return to it again.

I've always been a confident writer, but never an even slightly brave visual artist. Nonetheless, it's a talent that I envy and so admire. I want to conquer that fear this year and begin to sketch, perhaps as a part of my journaling. Some new pencils, a special Italian notebook and some guides, all from Christopher for Christmas, seem the right beginning.

There are others as well - drink more water, write more letters, de-clutter more regularly, cook with less common ingredients - but, for this space, for now, these seem just right.

Happy New Year. May you continue to learn and grow in 2013.


  1. Happy New Year! Your walk sounds like a perfect way to begin a new year. I look forward to seeing your sketches and all your creative work in the months to come.

  2. Happy New Year, and best of luck on your resolutions! Glad to see you're taking up sketching. Protip: I've got that same exact sketchbook, and it is gorgeous and the paper is immaculate and I I NEVER draw in it. I'm a professional artist, but I never feel my sketches live up to the book. If you start feeling like your stuff isn't good enough, try getting a slightly less awesome sketchbook and just go to town.

    Also, in terms of lesser known authors, Paul Harding's Tinkers and Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate are both recent favorites of mine and (criminally) underread. Might pique your interest. Oh oh oh, and Breece D'J Pancake is unthinkably brilliant (and a short story writer; twofer!)