All (abridged) summaries taken from Good Reads. Notes are my own.
#1: Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith
Summary: From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids and M Train, a profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year.
Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland with no design, yet heeding signs–including a talking sign that looms above her, prodding and sparring like the Cheshire Cat. In February, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing with it unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. In a stranger’s words, “Anything is possible: after all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.” For Smith–inveterately curious, always exploring, tracking thoughts, writing–the year evolves as one of reckoning with the changes in life’s gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America.
Notes: - "My logic may have been full of holes but so was Wonderland," (82). - "The Virgin kneels within a kaleidoscope void ornamented with her words inverted in burnished gold," (144).
Personal Rating: 8.5/10
#2: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Summary: Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.
Notes: - "How can you love somebody and yet want to manage the amount of happiness that person is allowed?" (153).
Personal Rating: 7.5/10
#3: Honeybee: Poems by Trista Mateer
Summary: You will meet people in your lifetime who demand to have poems written about them. It’s not something they say. It’s something about their hands, the shape of their mouths, the way they look walking away from you. Honeybee is an honest take on walking away and still feeling like you were walked away from. It’s about cutting love loose like a kite string and praying the wind has the decency to carry it away from you. It’s an ode to the back and forth, the process of letting something go but not knowing where to put it down. Honeybee is putting it down. It’s small town girls and plane tickets, a taste of tenderness and honey, the bandage on the bee sting. It’s a reminder that you are not defined by the people you walk away from or the people who walk away from you. Consider Honeybee a memoir in verse, or at the very least, a story written by one of today's most confessional poets.
Personal Rating: 6/10
#4: Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin
Summary: Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities.
From nineteenth-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to film-maker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time.
Notes: - Infraordinary: what happens when nothing is happening (idea from Georges Perec) (5). - "I had an astonishing immunity to responsibility, because I had no ambitions at all beyond doing only that which I found interesting," (6). - "She is going somewhere or coming from somewhere; she is saturated with in-betweeness," (22). - "saucer eyes..." (219). - "wallow," (220).
Personal Rating: 10/10, genuinely one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in years!!
#5: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
Summary: Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.
Notes: - ""If I or she should chance to be/involved in this affair,/He trusts you to set them free,/Exactly as we were,"" (Lewis Carroll, 135).
Personal Rating: 9/10
#6: For The Time Being by Annie Dillard
Summary: From Annie Dillard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and one of the most compelling writers of our time, comes For the Time Being, her most profound narrative to date. With her keen eye, penchant for paradox, and yearning for truth, Dillard renews our ability to discover wonder in life's smallest--and often darkest--corners.
Why do we exist? Where did we come from? How can one person matter? Dillard searches for answers in a powerful array of images: pictures of bird-headed dwarfs in the standard reference of human birth defects; ten thousand terra-cotta figures fashioned for a Chinese emperor in place of the human court that might have followed him into death; the paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin crossing the Gobi Desert; the dizzying variety of clouds. Vivid, eloquent, haunting, For the Time Being evokes no less than the terrifying grandeur of all that remains tantalizingly and troublingly beyond our understanding.
If you’d like to see other books I have blogged about in the past you can view those posts here, here, here, and here. Please be sure to comment below and let me know what books you’ve loved this year (:
📖 Hippie by Paulo Coehlo
“Hippie” is a slightly auto-biographical account of Coelho's life during the 1960s. The story follows Paulo as he travels from Amsterdam to Nepal on a magic bus. The story is mostly told from Paulo’s perspective, but the supporting characters provide a lot of depth. While the main focus of the novel is on getting from one destination to the next, the journey taught me a lot about love, introspection, and the importance of finding purpose.
My Rating: 8.5/10
📒 An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
This book was a lot more intense than I had anticipated after reading the summary. “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” was a fast-paced, action-filled novel that touched on a lot of hard hitting truths our world currently faces. When 64 unusual sculptures pop up in every major city on Earth, the protagonist (April May) becomes famous overnight for filming a YouTube video. What happens from then on is insane.
My Rating: 7.5/10
📙 Fashion Forecasts by Yumi Sakugawa
Fashion Forecasts was a concept, turned into a zine, turned into a book. In Sakugawa’s signature illustration style she predicts outlandish fashion trends.
My Rating: 8/10
📗 Pocket Frida Kahlo Wisdom by Hardie Grant
I love this mini book of wisdom full of quotes from Frida Kahlo. I keep this on my desk in my studio.
My Rating: 8/10
📖 Fashion Legends Alphabet by Beck Feiner
This picture book goes through the alphabet using the names of various famous designers and influential people from the industry. From Anna Wintour to Zuhair Murad, the minimalist graphics in this book are great.
My Rating: 6/10
📒 Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
I read this novel for a class at The New School and it wasn't my cup of tea. It reads more like an author's notes and ideas rather than a fully fleshed-out story. Amazon describes the book as "a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all."
My Rating: 2/10
📙 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguri
I read this book in a novel writing workshop and I have been trying to block it out of my mind ever since. Ishiguro's dystopian science fiction style was haunting and incredibly disturbing. The novel was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award but despite critical acclaim, it really freaked me out. If you enjoy novels that instill a sense of psychological fear or gravitate towards the creepier side of sci-fi—this book may be better suited for you!!
My Rating: 0/10
📗 The Bookshop by Penelope Green
"In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop - the only bookshop - in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors' lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence's warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one (GoodReads Description)"
My Rating: 6/10
📖 I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson
"From the co-creator and co-star of the hit series Broad City, a "poignant, funny, and beautifully unabashed" (Cheryl Strayed)bestselling essay collection about love, loss, work, comedy, and figuring out who you really are when you thought you already knew," (GoodReads Description). I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and always love collections of personal essays like this!! I find writers like Abbi Jacobson inspiring for my own work and would definetly recommend this book (:
My Rating: 9/10
📒 See Your Way to Mindfulness by David Schiller
"See Your Way to Mindfulness is a gift book of inspiration and instruction to help readers open their eyes--and their "I's." Written by David Schiller, author of the national bestseller The Little Zen Companion, it's a collection of quotes, prompts, exercises, meditations--married with photographs and drawings that bring the words to life,"(GoodReads Description).
My Rating: 8/10
📙 The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
"Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 2/10
📗 Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwige Danticat
"At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti--to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people," (GoodReads). This was another book I was assigned to read in school and it was beautifully written (think Toni Morrison or Jamaica Kincaid) but incredibly sad.
My Rating: 2/10
📖 Now, Now, Louison by Jean Frémon
My friend Alé selected this book for our book club. "This brilliant portrait of the renowned artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) shows a woman who was devoted to her art and whose life was also that of her century. The art world’s grande dame and its shameless old lady, spinning personal history into works of profound strangeness, speaks with her characteristic insolence and wit, through a most discreet, masterful writer. From her childhood in France to her exile and adult life in America, to her death, this phosphorescent novella describes Bourgeois’s inner life as only one artist regarding another can," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 5/10
📒 Bring The Funny by Greg DePaul
If you are interested in screenwriting this book is a great resource!! I read this for school and my professor is the author. GoodReads describes Bring The Funny as "A sharp, funny book about comedy screenwriting from a successful screenwriter that uses recent - as in this century - movies you've actually seen as examples."
My Rating: 7.5/10
📙 The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
"Hilarious and thought-provoking, with a brilliant cast of characters and an ending that will have readers cheering for joy, The Rosie Result is the triumphant final installment of the internationally bestselling series that began with The Rosie Project," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 8/10
📗 Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
This short story is phenomenal. Ted Chiang is such a talented writer and his other short stories, like The Merchant and the Alchemists Gate are just as enchanting and captivating. Story of Your Life was the basis for the film "Arrival," so if you enjoyed the film it could be fun to read the story that inspired it.
My Rating: 9/10
📖 How to Set Yourself on Fire by Julia Dixon Evans
This was another book chosen in my book club and I really enjoyed it. It was a fast-paced story written by a local author. The novel focuses on Sheila, a woman in her mid-thirties living a turbulent life. "Her only friends are her mysterious, slovenly neighbor Vinnie and his daughter Torrey, a quirky twelve-year-old coping with a recent tragedy. When her grandmother Rosamond dies, Sheila inherits a box of secret love letters from Harold C. Carr―a man who is not her grandfather. In spite of herself, Sheila gets caught up in the legacy of the affair, piecing together her grandmother’s past and forging bonds with Torrey and Vinnie as intense and fragile as the crumbling pages in Rosamond’s shoebox. As they get closer to unraveling the truth, Sheila grows almost as obsessed with the letters as the man who wrote them. Somewhere, there’s an answering stack of letters―written in Rosamond’s hand―and Sheila can’t stop until she uncovers the rest of the story," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 8.5/10
📒 Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"Coates takes readers along on his journey through America's history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings -- moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago's South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America's 'long war on black people,' or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot down by the police. In his trademark style -- a mix of lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, essayistic argument, and reportage -- Coates provides readers a thrillingly illuminating new framework for understanding race: its history, our contemporary dilemma, and where we go from here," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 7/10
📙 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This was definetly my favorite novel I read this year!! GoodReads describes Where the Crawdads Sing as "an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 10/10
📗 A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I love Chimamanda Adichie and I bought this book as a gift for Katie. As I read it I left little notes inspired by what I read along with quotes from other feminists. The book serves as a guide on how to empower girls and it is wonderful and well written.
My Rating: 9.5/10
📖 The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in Graham's Magazine in 1841. It has been recognized as the first modern detective story; Poe referred to it as one of his "tales of ratiocination,"" (GoodReads).
My Rating: 1/10
📒 Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown
"Wieland, or The Transformation, was written by Charles Brocken Brown (January 17, 1771 - February 22, 1810). First published in 1798, it is considered the first Gothic novel written by an American author. Brought to America after the French and Indian war with their family, Clara Wieland and her brother Theodore are the children of a German immigrant. When their father dies in a mysterious manner, the children divide his property between the two of them. Clara's letters detail the dark events that follow," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 1/10
📙 The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
"A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...An estate haunted by a beckoning evil," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 0.5/10
📗 The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
"A coolly glittering gem of detective fiction that has haunted three generations of readers, from one of the greatest mystery writers of all time," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 1.5/10
📖 The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
"Paul Madvig was a cheerfully corrupt ward-heeler who aspired to something better: the daughter of Senator Ralph Bancroft Henry, the heiress to a dynasty of political purebreds. Did he want her badly enough to commit murder? And if Madvig was innocent, which of his dozens of enemies was doing an awfully good job of framing him? Dashiell Hammett's tour de force of detective fiction combines an airtight plot, authentically venal characters, and writing of telegraphic crispness," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 1/10
📒 The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society was my favorite series as a kid. Trenton Lee Stewart decided to create a fourth book in the series a decade after the third book had been released in which all of the characters had aged ten years. I loved this concept because I was able to enjoy the same books I had been obsessed with all over again. I felt like I'd really grown up with those characters and it was cool to revisit them (: His writing is excellent and the fourth book had just as much magic as the first three.
My Rating: 10/10
📙 The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
"This work established Chandler as the master of the 'hard-boiled' detective novel, and his articulate and literary style of writing won him a large audience, which ranged from the man in the street to the most sophisticated intellectual," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 0.5/10
📙 The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yavanoff
This was a book I read in my Writing for Young Adults class. The book contained three stores from three different authors along with their notes and suggestions, mainly pointing out different devices they were using in their work. Of the three stories, I mostly enjoyed reading "Ladylike" by Maggie Stiefvater which GoodReads summarizes as: "In an unassuming corner of Brooklyn, a young woman learns to be ladylike, to love context, and to speak her mind from a very curious sort of tutor," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 6.5/10
📖 The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
"Cain's first novel - the subject of an obscenity trial in Boston and the inspiration for Camus's The Stranger - is the fever-pitched tale of a drifter who stumbles into a job, into an erotic obsession, and into a murder," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 1/10
📒 Calypso by David Sedaris
"With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories are very, very funny--it's a book that can make you laugh 'til you snort, the way only family can. Sedaris's powers of observation have never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 5/10
📙 Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
"Tautly narrated and excruciatingly suspenseful, Double Indemnity gives us an X-ray view of guilt, of duplicity, and of the kind of obsessive, loveless love that devastates everything it touches. First published in 1935, this novel reaffirmed James M. Cain as a virtuoso of the roman noir," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 1/10
📗 The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali
I loved this novel!! It's heartbreaking and heartwarming and the novel takes you on such a compelling journey alongside the main characters. "The Stationery Shop is a beautiful and timely exploration of devastating loss, unbreakable family bonds, and the overwhelming power of love," (Amazon).
My Rating: 9/10
📖 High School by Tegan and Sara
I loved this autobiography by Tegan and Sara Quin (even though I wasn't very familiar with their music). It reminded me a lot of Just Kids by Patti Smith which is one of my favorite books. "High School is the revelatory and unique coming-of-age story of Sara and Tegan Quin, identical twins from Calgary, Alberta, who grew up at the height of grunge and rave culture in the nineties, well before they became the celebrated musicians and global LGBTQ icons we know today...Written in alternating chapters from both Tegan's and Sara’s points of view, the book is a raw account of the drugs, alcohol, love, music, and friendship they explored in their formative years. A transcendent story of first loves and first songs, High School captures the tangle of discordant and parallel memories of two sisters who grew up in distinct ways even as they lived just down the hall from each another," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 9/10
📒 Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham
"Nightmare Alley begins with an extraordinary description of a freak-show geek—alcoholic and abject and the object of the voyeuristic crowd’s gleeful disgust and derision—going about his work at a county fair. Young Stan Carlisle is working as a carny, and he wonders how a man could fall so low. There’s no way in hell, he vows, that anything like that will ever happen to him," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 0.5/10
📗 The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
"George Stroud is a hard-drinking, tough-talking, unscrupulous journalist working for tyrannical Earl Janoth's media empire. And he's involved with the wrong woman - his boss's mistress, Pauline Delos. One day, as Stroud escorts Pauline home, he spies his boss returning from a trip. The next day, Pauline is found dead in her apartment. Janoth knows someone saw him enter Pauline's apartment on the night of the murder; he knows it must have been the man Pauline was seeing on the side; but he doesn't know his identity. To get his hands on the man and pin the crime on him, Janoth assigns his best investigative reporter and most trusted employee to track him down: George Stroud..." (GoodReads).
My Rating: 2/10
📖 Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith
"In this complex portrayal of a dangerous psychosis emerging in the most unlikely of places, Highsmith examines the chilling reality behind the idyllic facade of American suburban life," (GoodReads).
My Rating: 0.5/10
📒 Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
This book is so funny and simultaneously heartbreaking. I felt inspired after reading Jenny's work because she breaks so many writing norms. Her short stories are as short as a few sentences and others stretch on for pages and pages. Her way of viewing and interacting with the world around her is so specific and I really appreciate that as well as her attention to detail and brilliant observational skills. If you haven't already watched her stand up special on Netflix I would also recommend that.
I spend the majority of my week generating creative content for class. Whether I am writing an essay, workshopping with my peers, submitting manuscripts, or analyzing stories there is always a focus on idea generation.
Where do ideas come from? And how, exactly, do authors find their inspiration?
When I’m not writing for a class, I gravitate towards creative nonfiction. This genre is fun because it’s based on facts, but you can also lie. For some reason, I hear that definition in John Mulaney’s voice, don’t you?
This past week I have worked on consistently collecting material. I have been jotting down my observations whenever I can, treating my sentences like sketches. While what I am sharing today is by no means polished, this post is meant to demonstrate how I find inspiration and generate ideas. Blank pages are intimidating, but by simply recording the world as I see it, I can easily generate material to refine and explore further in the future.
These little notes are like excerpts from a field journal—they are initial observations, judgements, and thoughts all jumbled together. This is just one example of my process as a writer. I am always curious to read about how artists come up with new ideas and I hope you’re curious too (:
THE STORM AND THE LAGOON:
The gradient of grays across the sky are reflected in the once blue lagoon. The black ducks wade like isolated islands on the water’s surface, all spread out. The cold doesn’t seem to bother them like it bothers me. It’s oppressive. I pull the sleeves of my thrifted gray sweatshirt over my goosebump covered wrists. The yellows and browns in the marshland look bright in contrast to the sky. The clouds shoot up from behind the mountains like summits made of mist. Droplets of water cascade onto my water bottle and stick to my eyebrows. I veer left towards a tree, a sanctuary for a few seconds as I continue to walk. I don’t know why I chose to hike in the rain.
Maybe it’s the smell of damp dirt or the omnipresent sound of an unseen family of frogs croaking.
Orbs of water cling to the bridge of my nose and drip onto my upper lip mimicking the droplets of water hovering on the rounded edges of tree branches.
The plants seem much happier in this season than I do. The water doesn’t weigh them down, it allows them to grow taller. Maybe the reason I’m not in bloom is because I’m moving too fast through the landscape. Maybe, if like the saltgrass, I stayed grounded in one place under the rainy sky, I would manage to grow too.
I don’t even stop long on the thought. I’m mesmerized by dried strands of wet red and orange bark that look like thick silk ribbons on the ground. Lost goldfish crackers swim on the muddy path—a murky brown river. The ground smells like vanilla cake batter.
I leave the lagoon and once I’m driving through the rain, rather than walking, I remember the first time I drove through a lightning storm. It felt like the whole world could crumble away into unbearable whiteness around me and only my denim blue car would remain precariously perched on a road with no end and no beginning.
As I approach a red light next to a school bus full of kids, I imagine them all slugging each other at the sight of my car. I’ve never seen anyone do this, though.
I drove to the beach in the rain. A flock of a hundred black birds in silhouette darted across a glowing opening in the sky. To me, they looked like the flecks of blueberry left behind inside the blender the day after I made a smoothie. I get out of the car and the particular kind of cold in the air surprises me. It’s the kind of cold that stings my knuckles and turns my palms pink.
In the café I order mint tea and a warmed chocolate croissant. The tea is served in glass pots with metal filters inside holding the loose tea leaves accompanied by matching glass tea cups. They recently changed the glasses from traditional looking tea cups with curved handles to these shot glass shaped ones. They remind me of beakers for a science experiment. I haven’t been in a science class in three years though.
I like watching the different people who come into Lofty despite the rain. It takes a lot of effort for people in California to leave their homes if the weather isn’t shining. I know this because I can hardly believe I left my house. I guess it’s because my outfit is cute and I never get to wear layers. And by layers I mean there’s a cardigan, mostly unbuttoned, over my bralette. And I’m wearing socks!! I mean, come on.
There are only seven other customers here. Three of them are clustered together talking in a language I don’t understand. Maybe Italian? The rest of us are spread out, isolated at our own tables like the ducks I watched at the lagoon. At least I don’t have headphones in. Unlike everyone else, I can hear the weird jazzy elevator music they’re choosing to play today.
I don’t get why people go out in public just to put headphones in their ears? I could do what I’m doing here at home, but the ambiance is different here, and it requires all of my senses to fully experience the benefits. I tasted the mint tea and the buttery layers of dough. I can smell the coffee and rain. I can feel the grease on my fingers tapping on the keyboard. I can hear everyone’s accents over the music and the whir of frothing housemade milks—coconut, cashew, oat—you name it.
It’s funny to see people smiling into their phone screens.
I just heard someone ask the barista for the time. What an outdated question!
I feel like I could fall asleep. Like the weather is convincing me that it’s bed time and not 4:51 in the afternoon. A few weeks ago it would have been two or three hours until the sun would set. But I don’t think she even put the effort in to rise today. If she did, I have yet to see her.
The cold brew drips. Four glass contraptions are stacked one on top of the other. At the top there’s a cylinder a quarter of the way full of water that dribbles into a smaller cylinder full of almost-black coffee grounds. What looks like clear liquid drips into a spiral of glass tubes, like straws that come in novelty cups at the zoo, into a big circular glass vase where the liquid becomes coffee—brown as the dirt outside and the grout between the white morrocan tiles beneath the countertop.
People wear all different kinds of shoes. I have on black Doc Martens with black laces I had to take out of a pair of my little sister’s old Converse. A different woman is wearing black low tops herself. A young man, about my age, is wearing leather moccasins with grey crew socks dotted and bordered in blue. It’s 57 degrees outside but some people have fur-lined coats on inside or raincoats draped over the backs of their chairs. Okay, the raincoat I can understand. Nobody knows how to drive the first rain of the year either. Leaving my neighborhood, staring at the oncoming traffic like a stampede of horses, I saw a red car steaming with smoke from the hood facing traffic in a bush on the shoulder of the road. Sirens blared over Little Dragon in the car.
It’s so dark outside.
I like the guy working here and the girl too. He has blond scruff on his face matching his nest of blond hair in a bun at the top of his head. I’m not at all surprised by his Australian accent. The girls vintage Levi’s fit her perfectly and she has eclipses for eyes.
I hear the train go by before I see it.
The second round of tea is always grainier. Maybe the new round of hot water makes the tea leaves finer and they seep from the impossibly tiny pores in the filter? The little black specks dance and swirl in the glass before settling to the bottom as I pour the tree sap colored liquid into my glass. It reminds me of Coraline and I wonder what my tea leaves say. Probably nothing. They’re not really that kind. I drink them up.
A broom brushes the floor and it sounds like when horses or donkeys kick at dirt with their hooves.
We comment on the time change to remind ourselves that we’re all in this together. The Australian man (he’s from Melbourne) says he’s going to smash a bottle of red wine and stare into a crackling fire. It’s picturesque, romantic even. But I don’t have time to linger on the imagery. He clarifies, jokingly, that he’s going to smash wine into a trash can and light a fire at the beach.
This is what happens when I’m the only one still here.
AFTER THE STORM:
Scattered sticks decorate the sidewalk. I avoided stepping on the cracks. The soles of my shoes are still caked in mud from running in the rain.
There’s a piece of cauliflower on the ground. I’m less concerned about the littering and more concerned about whoever thinks cauliflower is a fun hiking snack.
The blue water is scintillating today as if homes with diamond roofs are just beneath the surface. I imagine that the lagoon is really a giant fish bowl. Instead of sand, the bottom must be decorated with translucent pink glass stones and fish are probably drifting through castles and pirates’ treasure chests.
Silver balloons in a tree.
As you can see, some of these ideas feel complete and others are mere fragments. I save all of it.
It’s easy to be honest when you’re an observer. You record what you see.
When I am working on a fiction piece or random project, it’s always helpful to have notes like this to refer to. It helps my characters to feel authentic.
From this particular set of notes, I am particularly drawn to the rainy settings, the imagery of the kids on the school bus, the thoughts about tea leaves, and the concept of the lagoon as a giant fishbowl. This is helpful for me to note, because when I have writer’s block or get stuck on a project, I can take some of this material into consideration. I keep a list of concepts on my phone as well.
If you would love to write more but can’t find the time, I’d recommend jotting down your observations like this. For me this is an effortless way to generate content and it always gets my brain working. When I am focused on feeling inspired I end up viewing the world with more clarity and attention.