odds and ends / 6.21.2024


Albert Weisgerber: illustration for “The Seven Ravens” from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Kinder-und Hausmärchen (1912). Via The Public Domain Review.


Ad from a catalog issued by The Keeley Stove Company for Morning Light Stoves, Philadelphia, 1889.


Mosaic-decorated stove from La Maison Picassiette (The Plate-Stealer's House) in Chartres, created by Raymon Eduoard Isidore between 1938-1964; photographed by John Vere Brown for The World of Interiors, January 1982.


Albert York, "Figures in a Field," 1963. Via Peter Shear.


At the heart of the mysteries of the Vedas, revealed by the people of India, lies the Altar of Fire: a sacrificial construct made from bricks laid down in precise mathematical proportions to form the shape of a huge bird of prey—an eagle, or a hawk, perhaps. According to Roberto Calasso, it was a gift from the primordial deity at the origin of everything: Prajapati, Lord of Creatures. When his children, the gods, complained that they could not escape from Death, he gave them precise instructions for how to build an altar that would permit them to ascend to heaven and attain immortality: “Take three hundred and sixty border stones and ten thousand, eight hundred bricks, as many as there are hours in a year,” he said. “Each brick shall have a name. Place them in five layers. Add more bricks to a total of eleven thousand, five hundred and fifty-six.” The gods built the altar and fled from Mrtyu, Death itself. However, Death prevented human beings from doing the same. We were not allowed to become immortal with our bodies; we could only aspire to everlasting works. The Vedic people continued to erect the Altar of Fire for thousands of years: with time, according to Calasso, they realized that every brick was a thought, that thoughts piled on top of each other created a wall—the mind, the power of attention—and that that mind, when properly developed, could fly like a bird with outstretched wings and conquer the skies.

Benjamín Labatut, "The Gods of Logic," Harpers, July 2024. 

"I sometimes think," said Olivia, "from watching, of course, because I am not experienced, I think experience can be a—block." Again it was clumsy, but she knew what she meant.

"And why?" asked Angela, amused.

"Because if you think you know, you don't ask questions," said Olivia slowly, "or if you do ask, you don't listen to the answers." Olivia had observed this often. "Everyone, everything, each thing, is different, so that it isn't safe to know. You—you have to grope."

Rumer Godden, An Episode of Sparrows

It’s a persistent human error; we cannot resist trying to understand what we are hardwired not to. If anything, the death of God has left a conspicuously empty seat in the rafters that we keep trying to inhabit—that purely transcendent, objective vantage outside the totality of things. Spinoza called it sub specie aeternitatis. Hannah Arendt named it “the Archimedean point.” Thomas Nagel termed it the “View from Nowhere.”

Meghan O'Gieblyn, "The Trouble With Reality." The New York Review, 3/21/2024.

An ivory ribbon, a speckled lobster, blown poppies, a lascivious oyster. A hand mirror reflecting a whitish lake, a heavy key. These are seen to be her concerns, lacquerish, decorative, romantic. But the hand mirror fills with blood, the cabinet of wonders displays a skull. On the other side of the pomegranate, maggots like instinct pearls.

Patricia Lockwood, "Isn't that ... female?" The London Review of Books, Vol. 46 No. 12., 6/20/2024.

Stephanie remembered other libraries ... She remembered the sensation of knowledge, of grasping an argument, seizing an illustration, seeing a link, a connection, between this ancient Greek idea here and this 17th-century English one, in other words. Knowledge had its own sensuous pleasure, its own fierce well-being, like good sex, like a day in bright sun on a hot empty beach. She thought of these various lights, Plato’s sun, Daniel’s body, that first moment of Will’s separate life, herself in sunlight, and thought, as she had not thought clearly for some long time, of ‘my life’, of the desired shape of ‘my life’ as it had seemed so clear and so bright in that earlier library. She thought: this will not do, I must think about the ‘Immortality Ode’, I have no time, any more. And saw that she was thinking about the ‘Immortality Ode’, that the poem was about all these things, the splendour in the grass, the need for thought, the shape of a life, the light.

A.S. Byatt, Still Life

imaginary outfit: summer trend report


Here, in no particular order, are a selection of key trends emerging for summer 2024, sample size (n) of one:


Ratty Retired Banker: Well-worn khakis fraying gently at the seams; oxfords, tees, and sweatshirts laundered to within an inch of their lives; busted leather loafers; boat shoes and grubby canvas sneakers that were white once upon a time; rumpled hair a few weeks out from a trim; a penchant for carrying things around in reused plastic shopping bags.  

Garden Pajamas: Wearing whatever you slept in out in the yard to do a little light weeding amidst the morning dew.

Poplin: Crispy cotton ftw.

Tomato plant as color palette.

Enormous pants: Must billow, sail-like, in summer breezes. Small children and animals should be able to hide in their capacious folds.

Constant sunhat.

Bag-in-bag: A makeshift coping mechanism for an accessory category notable for a shocking lack of pockets.

Beaded flowers, as adornment and craft.

Silver nails—fingers and toes.


Single-Use Device Ascendency: Wristwatches, film cameras, turntables, print magazines, and old books in lieu of smartphone.

Phone calls > texts.

The mute button.

Suspended reality: Widespread adoption of hammocks and swings.

Endless scroll: Watching clouds and water move.


Opportunistic drive-by: Stopping at any sale indicated by a temporary yard sign, especially if hand-made.

Used book sales in libraries, cafagymnatoriums, parking lots, etc.

Shops in barns.


Tomato sandwiches, made with white bread, Kewpie mayonnaise, and copious amounts of salt and pepper. Influencer campaign led by Harriet the Spy.

Homemade pie.

Fruit on ice in silver bowls: Chill whatever fruit is in season. Pile ice in metal bowl, preferably silver. Heap on fruit in artful mountainous display. Serve.

Bitter sodas and salty crunchy chips: Every day at 5 o'clock.

Everything in a tortilla. (The lazy person's preferred salad format.)

Abundant pickles.


Haunted hand-claps, doo-doo-dums, and sha-la-las: Songs with ghostly echoes of mid-century pop. (Ex: Cindy Lee's Diamond Jubilee, Jessica Pratt's "World on a String," and Amen Dunes' "Purple Land.")

Ecstatic Eno + Cale/"Spinning Away."

Guitar solos.

Scuzzy shimmer.

Outdoors listening opportunities.


The death-rapt (and life-filled) films of Alice Rohrwacher: Namely, La Chimera, Happy as Lazzarro, and The Wonders.

Italian neorealism.

Movies watched in movie theaters, as often as possible. Popcorn (butter mandatory), Coca-cola mini-cans smuggled in.


Allergen paperbacks: Will likely elicit sneezing; notable for brown, crumbling pages. Ideally sourced from a library sale or Little Free Library.

Old magazines, local newspapers, and crossword puzzle books.




Rose-garden tourism. 

Band-based roadtrips.

Micro-excursions: Small outings to unfamiliar places nearby.


odds and ends / 5.25.2024


Fairfield Porter, "Path in the Woods," 1968. Collection of Smith College.


Pati Hill photocopying daisies on an IBM Photocopier II, Stonington, Connecticut, 1980. 
The objects Hill chose to copy, which she could not fully ascertain until the machine had seen them, are visually transformed yet convey their intrinsic properties, as well as those of the copier. "It repeats my words perfectly as many times as I ask it to," Hill wrote, "but when I shot it a hair curler, it hands me back a space ship, and when I show it the inside of a straw hat it describes the eerie joys of a descent into a volcano."

Richard Torchia, "On Pati Hill (1921-2014)," originally published in Artforum, 12/18/2014, but found via Picpus Press Issue 32, Spring 2024. Hill used the copier to make images of a dead swan, heads of cabbage, thumbtacks, cobblestones, and "an espaliered pear tree, including its roots and the ants living inside them."



Tacita Dean, "The Book End of Time," 2013. The book itself was just acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


“When I look at the world, I feel that something is being lost or actively undermined,” she told me. “Sometimes it feels like attention. Sometimes it feels like imagination. Sometimes it feels like”—she thought for a moment—“that thing you wanted when you became an English major, that sort of half-dreamed, half-real thing you thought you were going to be. Whatever that is: it’s under attack.”

Nathan Heller, "The Battle for Attention." The New Yorker, 4/29/2024. 


I found myself continually occupied with the thought of how often, through not realizing the nature and strength of their own desires, men have been wrecked by them.

Marilyn Milner, from An Experiment in Leisure. 

[Marilyn] Milner was unable to tell what made her really happy, beyond a few blips of joy that quickly faded after the new purchase or minor accomplishment grew a little stale. So she fished around for ways to find an answer. It seems like a minor problem to have, this not knowing how to answer a simple question. And yet it’s a foundational issue: what you like, what you should do with your time, where you should pour your energy. It’s a problem that feeds into every other tributary of your life, from your job to the way you raise your children. Suddenly you realize that not knowing how to answer the question (beyond a few superficial remarks like “pineapple on pizza” and “those little gold ballet flats at the boutique”) leaves you on the surface of the Earth, easily blown around by the wind or led astray by outside forces.
Jessa Crispin, "What Makes You Happy?" The Smart Set, 3/1/2012.

...Rereading the book this month, I was unnerved to discover how many fantasies, desires, impulses that I had thought my own were in fact informed by it. I saw that I had, for instance, unconsciously interpreted a number of difficult and very real events in my own family through its fictions; I saw too that several people with whom I’ve fallen in love share a glimmer of psychic resemblance to the girl Adam loves. I was unnerved to discover, in short, that a YA novel could be the source of a greater portion of my instincts and reflexes than seemed at all appropriate; that it could make desirable—so desirable, in fact, as to seem outside of desire—a whole array of emotional tendencies: toward shame, melancholy, irreverence, estrangement.

Timmy Straw, "Child Reading." The Paris Review, 11/7/2023. 

... a recurring image that Rohrwacher turns to is that of persons suddenly, and for no apparent reason, filmed upside down. When they fall, they fall up. It’s interesting to learn that Rohrwacher, writer and director of the work, rewrote her script after she had cast the 33-year-old [Josh] O’Connor. She said she had shifted away from the topic of a person in ‘the sunset of his life.’

But where to? Why would the younger person specialize in death, so to speak? The place where these people live is not exactly haunted but it is old, full of Etruscan ruins. Pirro and a group of local men are tomb-raiders, digging for treasures to sell. Arthur is very helpful in this venture because he has a special gift: he can divine hollow spaces underground the way others can divine water or gold. The film’s Italian phrase for this is ‘feeling the void’ (‘sentire il vuoto’) ...

Michael Wood, "At the Movies: La Chimera." London Review of Books, 5/23/2024.

What am I looking for in contemporary art? Now it is very difficult to tell what is beautiful and what is not beautiful. For example, when I did La Chimera, it was very clear that the treasures hidden under the earth were beautiful things. It’s very different from the time we are living in now. There is no longer a common sense of beauty. And so, what is art for me? It’s a view, an eye, a point of view on reality from a perspective that I couldn’t imagine. The art of the past was a magnet for the eye. For me contemporary art is the opposite; it is one eye that looks at the world.

Alice Rohrwacher, interviewed in Gagosian Quarterly, fall 2023 issue. 

Have you ever bitten into a piece of fruit so delicious, so ripe and perfect in its flavor and sweetness, that you vibrated, just a little, with pleasure? The Franciscan beggar Salvador de Orta did. He sliced into a pomegranate and—seeing in the multitude of tiny seeds a microcosm of everything beautiful in God’s perfectly ordered world—rose into the air in ecstasy. God was there in the fruit.

He was in the kitchen, too. Teresa of Ávila told her spiritual daughters that “God walks amidst the pots and pans, helping you with what’s internal and external at the same time.” So when the nuns found Teresa suspended in the air, transfixed in ecstatic union with God, a frying pan still clenched in her hand above the cooking flames, they may not have been surprised. It was God, helping her with both the internal (lifting her soul up to heaven) and the external (the frying of, perhaps, an egg).

Erin Maglaque, "Wings of Desire." The New York Review, 4/4/2024.

The point is, dammit, that they did have, as Iago griped about Othello, a daily beauty in their lives that makes ours ugly. In one of the stories in Pig Earth, a little old peasant lady goes out and gathers wild things in the mountains—wild cherries, lilies of the valley, mushrooms, mistletoe—and takes her booty into the city, where she sells it in the market for vast sums. She is selling not only delicious wild produce but glimpses of some lost greenness. She is the last remaining vendor of wild things, she is a kind of ghost.

Angela Carter, "Wolfing It." The London Review of Books,  July 23, 1987.

Everything that she needed was already there: pencils and paper collected over the years, and the flowers she’d planted herself. She had chosen them to be hardy, to grow in the shade, a few for their strange forms.

Beatrice Radden Keefe,  "The Hortus Conclusus of Barbara Baum.Light Breaks, 11/24/2023. 


imaginary outfit: true colors

I can't quite remember when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I stopped having to pick out my kid's outfits. Now, at eight nearing nine, he is an inimitable dresser. He wears whatever he feels like and only what he loves, and because he doesn't really like most patterns or anything black, gray, or navy, he comes up with the best color combinations, like lavender socks and bright orange sweatpants with a red sweater. Some days, he tells me that he is dressing like the sky and earth, with green pants and a blue shirt, or like a flower, all pink and red with green socks for stems. 

It's a small labor of love to find the clothes that match his visions. The bright colors and simple shapes I could find when he was smaller are more of a challenge to source in big-kid sizes, where dull prerogatives of gender and taste are still stubbornly entrenched. And it is a joy and a delight to see that no matter what I supply him with, he always finds an unexpected way to put things together. He sees possibilities I did not know were there. 

Isn't that the point? That each generation comes along with fresh eyes that see what we've missed or chosen to overlook, that they take what we give them and experiment and discover? I don't think adults are honest, though, about what we want from the young. We tell them to change the world—but only, it seems, if it is not too inconvenient and nobody in charge ends up looking like fools or worse for the choices they've made. We tell them to speak up but don't like it when what they have to say isn't what we want to hear. They are relentlessly pressured into lives that follow old patterns, into the same compromises and accommodations. The message is to be like us, maybe a little better, but not so different that anyone's complacency is shaken, that any adult in the room has to stop and think and question. 

I don't want my kid to be like me, though. I hope as he grows, that he takes whatever I can give him and builds into something fantastic, beyond my limited imaginings. And I hope that I can keep changing, too, to be alive to whatever gets unlocked along the way, from little things like the way red and lilac and green sing together, to whatever radical futures might come into being.

Happy mother's day.


a scattering of leaves and petals and sharp and shiny objects / gifts for mothers

A globe for keeping flowers in water, by Jamjar Edit x Skye Corjewin.

A book that is like a walk in the woods: On Listening to Trees, by Albarrán Cabrera, via C4 Journal.

Cuff covers, for reaching into thickets, and Tajika scissors (for flowers or branches) to make strategic cuts.

Pencils that smell like evergreens, or Moro Dabron's Vita perfume, meant to conjure "the Elizabethan tower of Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s, where writer and poet Vita Sackville-West spent a great deal of her time writing surrounded by old books, period wood, fresh flowers and cuttings from the magnificent gardens which the room overlooked ..."

A key ring from Ark that says it all.


Other gifts some mothers may enjoy: 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 / 2022 / 2023

'eclipse was all we could see'

Johann Christian Schoeller, "Sonnenfinsternis, 8. Juli 1842." Wien Museum.


John Parker Davis, "Looking at the Eclipse (After Winslow Homer)," 1865. Clark Art Institute.



Joseph Cornell, "Portrait of Emily Brontë," 1962. The Hudson River Museum.


Emily Dickinson archive, Amherst manuscript #256.


Crescent-shaped shadows on the snow in the mountains in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, caused by a solar eclipse, photographed by Lee Russell in 1940. New York Public Library Digital Collections.


GIFs from Georges Méliès L'éclipse du soleil en pleine lune (The Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and Moon) from 1907.

At one o'clock almost half the sky was blue—two o'clock, and the moon had already bitten a small piece out of the sun's bright edge, still partly obscured by a dimly drifting mass of cloud.

A penetrating chill fell across the land, as if a door had been opened into a long-closed vault. It was a moment of appalling suspense; something was being waited for—the very air was portentous.

The circling sea-gulls disappeared with strange cries. One white butterfly fluttered by vaguely. Then an instantaneous darkness leaped upon the world. Unearthly night enveloped all.

With an indescribable out-flashing at the same instant the corona burst forth in mysterious radiance. But dimly seen through thin cloud, it was nevertheless beautiful beyond description, a celestial flame from some unimaginable heaven. Simultaneously the whole northwestern sky, nearly to the zenith, was flooded with lurid and startlingly brilliant orange, across which drifted clouds slightly darker, like flecks of liquid flame, or huge ejecta from some vast volcanic Hades. The west and southwest gleamed in shining lemon yellow.

Least like a sunset, it was too sombre and terrible. The pale, broken circle of coronal light still glowered on with thrilling peacefulness, while nature held her breath for another stage in this majestic spectacle.

Well might it have been a prelude to the shriveling and disappearance of the whole world—weird to horror, and beautiful to heartbreak, heaven and hell in the same sky.

Absolute silence reigned. No human being spoke. No bird twittered.

Hours might have passed—time was annihilated; and yet when the tiniest globule of sunlight, a drop, a needle-shaft, a pinhole, reappeared, even before it had become the slenderest possible crescent, the fair corona and all color in sky and cloud withdrew, and a natural aspect of stormy twilight returned.

Mabel Loomis Todd, from Corona and Coronet: Being a narrative of the Amherst Eclipse Expedition to Japan, in Mr. James's Schooner-Yacht Coronet, to Observe the Sun's Total Obscuration, 9th August, 1896.

It sounded as if the streets were running -
And then the streets stood still -
Eclipse was all we could see at the Window
And Awe - was all we could feel -
By and by the boldest stole out of his Covert
To see if Time was there
Nature was in an Opal apron
Mixing fresher Air

Emily Dickinson 

imaginary outfit: dressing like a rothko painting

Last week, desperate to escape the glum relentless invariable Februarieness of February (though bedecked with hearts, candy, three-day weekends, and friends' birthdays, the shortest month is always the hardest one for me), we hightailed it to Washington, D.C., to catch some mid-Atlantic sun and the Mark Rothko exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. I know it is time to leave town when I start researching yet again just how many days of sun northeastern Ohio gets in a year: a measly 168, and of those, only 66 are truly sunny (and it's been cloudier than usual this year).

We needed color and light, and we got it. Outside, the sun was high and bright, and in the windowless galleries of the NGA's East Building, the Rothkos vibrated with color-generated energy. These were all works on paper—none of the epic canvases—and most of the late works, the shimmering color stacks, were more or less the size of an ordinary window, creating the pleasing illusion of peering into portals framing some other, more intense realm. It was color embodied—not flat, but dimensional, moving and changing as I looked at it—and it was intoxicating; radiant magentas, biting reds, and acidic yellows, pungent deep greens haloed by rich blues that recalled to my mind the lapis brightness of Giotto's starry ceiling. Even the pale works, chalk-like and cloudy, held ghosts of pink and violet. My camera failed to capture any of these colors, and the prints and books in the gift shop did, too.

When I lived in Ireland, the interiors of the apartment I rented were painted egg-yolk yellow. The wood-framed furniture was forest green, with yellow, red, and blue cushions. I was appalled by how garish it all felt, but after a few months, it made a kind of sense. After days and days with no sun, coming home to bright color was unexpectedly soothing, restful even.

While I am not ready to repaint the rooms in my house (yet), I did buy a cashmere sweater that reminded me just a little of the magenta in this painting (which really doesn't read on a screen, sadly), and I am stalking resale sites to build a  different sort of capsule wardrobe for winters to come—a Rothko capsule, to wear when February gets to be too much.

Mark Rothko, "Untitled," 1959.


Trying to match the colors in this painting was a fun little challenge—these yam-hued silk pants caught my eye, but weren't quite red enough, though I am bookmarking them to watch for sales. And I thought about adding one of these wispy tees as a streak of white, but since this is all pretend, decided to go big with a fancy bag, though the Novella bag by Porto is maybe more my speed—they describe it as big enough to hold a small book, so, sold. And for more immediate hit of color, I ordered a bunch of jelly polishes from Cirque in colors inspired by another painting I love.


Pictured: J. Crew cropped cashmere sweater in magenta grape / Frame Le Slim Bardot jeans / Harris Wharf London coat / Caron Callahan Alfie flats / Bottega Veneta Pouch clutch / Faris Vero helix and stud / vintage Tiffany Hardware silver ball earrings (new here, though you can turn them up easily on resale sites).