New onions growing underground

It's been a while. Here we all are looking at our email. Everything is strange and I have the start of one of my own old never-quite-for-sure-completed poems stuck in my head, because it says

Fuck it. We need each other,
desperately or just a little

It's true, even if I haven't yet succeeded in making it into a beautiful or resonant whole. Nothing like a global pandemic to remind me that everyone is truly, deeply, and inextricably connected, that we depend on each other in ways visible and hidden. I rely on the warm presence of my neighbor with the three-legged dog who smiles at me and my dog, on the mayor who quotes Gwendolyn Brooks on a livestream, on bus drivers and garbagemen and grocery clerks and many, many people who clean and make and mend many things in the world. And, of course, on the friends and family who call and text and email, all of us saying We are here, we are still in this together. Not desperately, but just a little reminder.

Here are a few things I've found comforting in this time of social distancing. Send me yours, or just your favorite emoji. (This is my favorite Depression Texting Hack, by the way: if your brain doesn't feel up to composing a sentence, you can send one of those tiny colorful pictures that live in your phone and people know you're out there. Anyway, onward, to the comforts.)

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

My therapist recommended this and it was an auspicious purchase last weekend, when I naturally bought $[redacted] of books at the great local feminist bookstore despite having 5 books out from the library also. It's "essayettes" on things like taking live fig trees on a plane, giving and getting nicknames, whether "whoop de doo" is always sarcastic, and others. It's a more nuanced and time-intensive version of my own daily lovely things practice, which I wrote about here and which persists. At the end of an essayette on the delight of writing by hand — and the contrast between writing and typing — comes this bit that I've been musing over:

And consequently, some important aspect of my thinking, particularly the breathlessness, the accruing syntax, the not quite articulate pleasure that evades or could give a fuck about the computer's green corrective lines (how they injure us!) would be chiseled, likely with a semicolon and a proper predicate, into something correct, and, maybe, dull. To be sure, it would have less of the actual magic writing is, which comes from our bodies, which we actually think with, quiet as it's kept.

It really is so easy to forget that the mind exists within the body, and that the connection between mind, body and material (touching paper and pen; manuscript and ink; hot type and heavy letterpress) is a wonder. An available wonder, an actual magic.

"Onions", this one Moomin illustration it reminds me of, and the books of Tove Jansson more generally

"Onions" is the tenth track on the album The Coroner's Gambit, which is I think my third favorite of the four-track-era Mountain Goats records, which is the sort of thing you can say when you've been listening to this band for 18 years and you've been in your house for 15 days. Here are the lyrics, which are about the time of year it is, or is trying to be, in Chicago now. The "last white slabs of snow" have gone and the spring is working its way into being. The line "Springtime's coming, and that means you'll be coming back around" reminds me of Tove Jansson's character Moomin waiting on his best friend Snufkin, who comes back to Moominvalley with the start of spring:

Snufkin arriving

I somehow haven't written about my Tove Jansson obsession on this newsletter before, showing an arbitrary strictness with genre boundaries that I usually disdain. I flippin' love Tove Jansson, y'all. People know her work because of the worldwide popularity of the Moomin characters; I think if you've never read her you should start with The Summer Book and maybe then go to Moominland Midwinter (where that sweet Snufkin is from). Her writing has some characteristics I always love and seek out:

  • deeply, existentially funny

  • good descriptions of trees and water and fine attention to detail in general

  • occasional dips into aphoristic wisdom, like this bit from near the beginning of Fair Play: "Some people just shouldn't be disturbed in their inclinations, whether large or small. A reminder can instantly turn enthusiasm into aversion and spoil everything."

Also ultimately all of Moomin is about a bunch of gentle, bumbling creatures who share resources, have adventures, and solve problems together. What a balm for these times. (Also also: I took the Moomin personality quiz three different times with slightly different responses and always got Snufkin.)

A Samoyed and a cat who live together in Korea

Do you know Milky and GB? Well, they're cute, and their person puts pleasingly silly music and captions over videos of them stealing each other's beds, eating watermelon, and trying to understand ice.

And this cat video, also

I cannot tell whether or not it's an elaborate ad for cat food but who cares, this video rules. I watched it for the second time while I was giving blood for the first time yesterday (which, while not physically comforting, is something that those of us who feel healthy and helpless can do to help the collective, so that's something too).

I hope one or more of these things are as soothing to you as they are to me. May we all be like new onions, growing strong under the ground as it warms, ready to put out our green shoots in a new unknown world.