10 things, that is, that are inspiring me today. (Remember when we all used to write lists like this? Why did we stop?)
1. Being in the bowels of Columbia’s library system—my husband goes there; I get a discount on a library card but no one knows that when I’m in the stacks looking for all the world like a hapless freshman! JK I obviously look like a visiting professor—and walking past a book with an intriguing name, like Pirates of the Ancient World, or Rome’s Debt to Greece. I will probably never know the nuances (or even the basics) of Rome’s debt to Greece (wait, let me guess: male wrestling?), but I love that someone out there does.
2. Houses that are really full and lived-in but still gorgeous. Trinkets from vacations on the steps, stones from the beach in a basket, a dog in the corner that probably belongs to the neighbor but no one has noticed him yet. I am so-o-o-o sick of sleek spaces featuring not much other than a coy midcentury coffee table groaning under the weight of a minimal $3,000 hand-thrown ceramic ashtray. As in, I legitimately felt angry while typing that sentence. NO, THAT IS NOT HEALTHY.
3. Talking to my dad about finances and getting all of his old-school wisdom. (“This is the way people do things now, but this is how your grandparents did it…”)
4. Grabbing books at random from the library. I have no appetite for capital-L Literature lately; I only want books with titles like The Perfect Spouse or Summer in Amalfi, where everything is lovely, everyone is rich, and then someone gets murdered.
5. All the drama inside Marie Antoinette’s circle of friends. (She truly loved them!! But did they actually love her or were they just social climbers?!)
6. Flowers I can’t afford, for sale in the rain.
7. Looking at flowers I can’t afford at the same time as another girl caught in the rain. I suspect we were feeling a very similar emotion.
8. The IDEA, which I recently encountered but have not yet EXECUTED, of chopping up a grilled cheese sandwich into CROUTONS and using it on a SALAD.
9. Renaissance paintings. Isn’t it weird how they look so much more fresh and modern than a lot of more recent art?
10. Very old religious stuff, from Egypt, Byzantium (wherever the hell that was), and so on. I know the general explanation for the fervent belief systems of ancient peoples is a cynical, “Those rubes didn’t know what thunder was, scientifically-speaking, so they assumed the gods were angry at them!” Now, I understand what thunder is, scientifically-speaking. But I also think that ancient people were soooo much closer to the thin veil that separates our reality from EVERYTHING ELSE IS THAT OUT THERE. To put it in the finest of terms: they KNEW SHIT. And I think that’s really cool, and inspiring, and I like to look at their artifacts, as it gives me a frisson of sacred terror. I mean: can’t thunder be both things at once?