A notebook entry.
A mini essay written as part of Project 1,825 Things.
The watered down daylight begins in a small patch of sky over the neighboring rooftops. The rush of the cars going by on the large street nearby rises up out of the quiet like the slow crash of waves. The brief sounding of a car horn is the squawk of a seabird. In the distance an alarm, or a vehicle backing up, and there my littoral metaphor ends.
For a while now I’ve been obsessed with velvets. I would think, that if only I could get to a place where I had the space and resources to hang a really wonderful velvet curtain, like the kind you might find in a boutique hotel somewhere in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, that maybe everything would be alright. I scanned the pages of Etoffe.com for cotton velvets and silk velvets, for velours ciselé in the tone on tone patterns of pomegranate flowers, and palm fronds, and honeycomb. I peered into the Nobilis showroom window on the rue Bonaparte at settées, upholstered in brown velvet speckled white, like mythical fawns in a glade. I still want to reach back to my teenage self, to find her on her saddest, loneliest, coldest day, and deposit her in this room that I’m designing.
About ten years ago I got tired of everything I owned and depended on always fading and cracking and falling so spectacularly apart. Apartments, suitcases, shoes, furniture, hair brushes. I’d always just made do, never having the right thing, or a good thing, or a thing that lasts. I couldn’t stand it. The thrice reassembled Ikea bed that was bought secondhand in the first place. The suitcase I acquired, quite cheaply I’ll admit, that shed its wheels and handle on the very first outing, like a vaudeville gag, as I pulled it down a bumpy London street. The plastic hairbrushes losing spines like dying porcupines. I was tired of the flimsy, the breaking, the breakable, the inadequate. I became obsessed with anything that came with a lifetime guarantee. I wanted things that worked, that were sturdy, that lasted, that I could depend on.
A few days before New Years, I had the idea that I might run away somewhere. That I might pick up and take a train or a short flight and find myself…somewhere else. In Italy, or the Cote d’Azur, in a cliffside hostel or an old world hotel, in a strange bed, walking strange streets among strange yellow buildings, eating some unknown pastry or semolina cookie, or something like that. But we’re discouraged from doing those things, a woman traveling alone. Mostly it was simply the New Year, with plenty of people wanting to escape somewhere. All the places were double-priced or booked. Naples? Milan? Nice? Grasse? Closed, or unavailable, or three hundred euros a night.
It’s been too long since I’ve seen the ocean. Some lack in me swings like a window on its hinges, the wind coming through in places where it shouldn’t.
Safety seems so simple, and yet always so far away. All I need is to double what I already have. All I need is to be twice as good as I already am. That old saw. I tell myself I’m just trying to reach the bare minimum, the starting mark, the basics. To be a person who’s clothed and housed and fed and healthy. But is that really the starting mark? Is that not really the dream?
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While working on this newsletter the past few years, I haven't found something that really works to do on a consistent schedule, but this practice is looking like it could yield a certain regularity. Writing five things every day means 15 or 20 paragraphs or sets of paragraphs that I can sit down and work with, work through. I often feel like I'm not really writing anything when I sit down to do the exercise each day, but then at the end, something does accumulate.
Wonderful piece - very thought-provoking; thank you.
Restless as the sea;
Feathering the nest -
seeking the finest;
The wilderness awaits,
“All serious daring starts from within.”