Welcome to the Weekend Edition, a newsletter that will come to you twice a month, always featuring 4 objects worth keeping.
Pride Month continues on joyfully, and the team at Four is still full of ideas for how to celebrate. If you have your own ideas, please share them with us on Instagram, we’d love to see you!
Angel-voiced musician Anohni led the band Antony and the Johnsons (whose name was inspired by gay activist Marsha P. Johnson). The band appeared on multiple Lou Reed Albums, and went on the road with Bjork while also producing multiple stunning albums of their own. Now a solo act, Anohni continues to make music infused with passion and politics. Search around her extensive discography, both with and without the band, and you’re sure to find something hauntingly beautiful.
Photo of ANOHNI courtesy of her Instagram.
2. Pride Month with the Met Museum
PETER HUJAR. DAVID WOJNAROWICZ WITH A SNAKE, 1981 ©The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC
Each Wednesday this month, the Met Museum is partnering with the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project to offer virtual events available via their Instagram accounts, each one connecting an LGBTQ artist in the museum’s collection with historic sites throughout the city.
3. Loving Virgina Woolf
The History of Literature podcast is a treasure trove of great, edifying stuff, and this episode is particularly lovely–exploring the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West via a love letter, and addressing the very particular experience of loving a genius.
IMAGE SOURCE NOT FOUND
4. The Great Queers of History
We love this wonderfully diverse three-part list compiled by writer Rictor Norton. No doubt you’ll get lost for hours among its delights (we sure did).
Hope your month is rainbow-filled--
Peternelle and the folks at FOUR
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It’s the start of Pride Month and while FOUR aims to amplify what Pride stands for every day of the year, we decided to be especially joyful today. In that spirit, all of us at FOUR shared with each other–and now with you–what’s making us feel celebratory.
1. Transgender Day of Visibility
It can be hard to find anything happy-making in the news, but look at this: the Department of Health and Human Services became the first federal agency to fly the trans flag in honor of Transgender Day of Visibility.
Photo courtesy of the Health and Human Services Department
2. My Name is Pauli Murray
PAULI IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, NOV 1955. SOURCE: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray (1910-1985) was a Black activist, lawyer, and Episcopal Priest whose life and career were pioneering in every way. Murray (self-described as a “he-she personality” at a time when being openly queer was not only dangerous but illegal) participated in major civil rights struggles of the twentieth century from Jim Crow (and what Murray called “Jane Crow”) to co-founding the National Organization for Women–which Murray later left after noting the lack of attention paid to the concerns of Black and working-class women–to becoming the first Black person perceived as a woman to become an Episcopal priest. This compelling documentary traces Murray’s remarkable life and profound impact.
AsapSCIENCE is the brainchild of scientists, queer educators, and very funny people Mitchell Moffitt and Gregory Brown. They make podcasts and videos that they describe as a “colorful intersection of art, culture, and popular science.” Their content is so diverse and interesting (everything from “Is There a Gay Gene” to “How to Talk to Climate Change Deniers”) that there is truly something there for everyone/every age. If you want a good place to start, try their excellent video on greenwashing.
4. Pattie Gonia
Pattie Gonia is an environmentalist and drag queen with an eye-popping Instagram account that we highly recommend. But let’s start with this short and information and no doubt scientific video explaining why Mother Nature is obviously a lesbian.
Here’s hoping you find lots to celebrate this month–
Peternelle and the folks at FOUR
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I make a lot of lists: to do lists, grocery lists, packing lists, wish lists. I keep reading lists in my web browser with the hope that at some point I will make the recipes, read the articles, refer back to the advice… at which point I will reach a state of completion. But lists regenerate! There’s always more to do, more to read, and ugh, more to buy. So much pressure, so much expense, so much potential for failure. But this is a pressure-free zone, my friends, and here are a few entirely non-urgent things that you can take your time and enjoy–when and if you please.
1. American Top 40
Speaking of lists…this episode of Still Processing (Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham’s excellent podcast), features Morris in conversation with critic Daphne A. Brooks talking about the invidious allure of ranking art. The jumping off point is a feature of my childhood (and maybe yours): Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, which defined what was considered popular music, even as it routinely disadvantaged Black creators. The conversation broadens from there, and wow.
2. Lee Miller Archives
Lee Miller (1907-1977) was an American photographer whose life was so rich and eventful that I can’t possibly do her justice in a few lines. Miller’s career extended from fashion to photojournalism and I highly recommend you listen to episode 5 of Katy Hessel’s The Great Women Artists podcast for her full story. Just an easy click away on Instagram is the wonderful Lee Miller Archives, and I can get completely lost reading about each extraordinary image. Here’s a particular favorite of mine, taken at the Guerlain Parfumerie in Paris–it shows a manicured hand and the ghostly scratches of hundreds upon hundreds of diamond rings.
3. We Should All Be Playing in the Dirt.
According to this fascinating piece (an excerpt from a book by Lucy Jones), researchers have known for decades that a particular bacterium in the soil has an antidepressant effect on animals, including humans. Read the whole article if you can, because the findings regarding the extraordinarily low levels of chronic inflammation found in agrarian cultures such as the Amish will for sure make you want to plant something with your hands–or make a mud pie.
BLUEBELLS IN THE BROOKLYN BOTANICAL GARDEN
4. Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Olives + Thyme is a lovely cooking blog with a recipe for one of the very best cookies I have ever made–and I have high standards for baked goods and have made a lot of cookies. They’re thick, rich but not too sweet, thoroughly satisfying. A few notes: I browned the butter as advised, which was worth it, I didn’t let the dough sit out of the fridge before baking and I suggest you don’t either, and it felt unnecessary to set aside chips for topping the cookies, so I didn’t do that. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly as written, and these will be added to the permanent cookie rotation. Plus she offers vegan and gluten-free variations!
Wishing you ample time to ignore anything you don’t want to do–
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I wish I weren’t so interested in self-improvement, but I can’t help it–it’s in my nature, deep in my bones, this desire to be better. Of course I realize that I should really desire to do better, not be better. I’m working on it, I swear. In the meantime, I listen to podcasts while I vacuum, I try to read more and scroll less, I’m a sucker for baby animals, and I make a mess in the kitchen. Which I then have to clean. It’s the circle of life!
I did some major spring cleaning the other day and needed something to keep me company. I happily landed upon the American Hysteria podcast hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith, which kept me delightfully entertained for hours. This episode was possibly my favorite–a fascinating look into the evolution of the Fangirl (which goes back way farther than the crowds that screamed for Sinatra and Elvis) and how the passions of young women have pretty much always been simultaneously derided and blamed for the downfall of civilization.
IMAGE OF CHELSEY WEBER-SMITH BY MIRANDA ZICKLER
2. Are Screens Robbing Us of Our Capacity for Deep Reading?
The answer to the question posed in this article’s title is an obvious yes, but I found it really interesting that the issue goes beyond whether we have the attention span to read a book. Johann Hari makes the convincing argument that the more value we place on snappy judgments, the less likely we are to engage in more subtle thinking. And life is, in fact, complicated. But don’t take my word for it, read the article :)
3. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary
Reteti is the first community-owned elephant sanctuary in East Africa. Not only have they created a safe place for injured elephants to heal, they also provide employment opportunities for community members. But in all honesty, I started following them on Instagram because of their pictures (and videos!) of baby elephants.
PHOTO BY SIMON POCOCK
I used to think that making granola at home wasn’t really worth the trouble. Then I made my own granola and oh my, it is so worth the trouble. And it’s not even very much trouble! Kathryne Taylor of the excellent vegetarian cooking blog Cookie & Kate is the originator of this genius recipe. The best thing about making your own granola is, get this: You can put anything you want in it. Love dried figs? Hate almonds? The choice is yours! A few tips: If you like a clumpier granola, use honey (not maple syrup). I mix the fruit in before I put it in the oven (not after, as Kate does). I also let the nuts and fruit overflow the measuring cups. And definitely use olive oil. Enjoy!
MY RECENT BATCH
Hope your weekend is lovely–
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All kinds of stuff was happening today–all kinds of stuff that might have driven anyone to hide under their bed–but I didn’t have that option because I had a dental appointment. I have had very few appointments outside my home in the last two years and despite numerous reasons to be anxious and afraid, I had at least one blissful moment of feeling absolutely thrilled that my legs were taking me up and down subway stairs and that there was a brilliant expanse of blue sky between the tall buildings. The air was fresh and flirting with 60 degrees and I was outside and on my way somewhere! No matter how scary the world may get, we humans keep wanting to do that because we’re tough and resilient and stubborn. These qualities can get us into all sorts of trouble, but sometimes they’re worth appreciating. Here are some more examples of all of the above…
1. Spinario’s Thorn by Antico
This late fifteenth century bronze is unassuming in size and subject matter–a young boy quietly focuses on pulling a thorn from the sole of his foot. The thorn isn’t life-threatening, but it’s painful and it’s getting in his way. The two discussions featured here–an audio conversation between a Met Museum curator and a clinical psychologist, and a video examination of the small figure by novelist Min Jin Lee–offer a moving meditation on pain, mindfulness, and the metaphorical thorns that plague (and drive) each of us.
PHOTO BY METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
2. On the Origins of “Tree Hugger” and “Climate Change”
Maeve Higgins is a comedian, and there are some funny moments in this essay (an excerpt from her book), but what it’s really about, at heart, is figuring out where we exist in nature and how we can do less harm. Your answer may be different from hers, but I really do recommend you find your favorite tree and hug it. You’ll feel better.
3. Brooklyn Cat Cafe
Maybe you don’t need another cute animal account in your feed…but maybe you do. The folks at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe not only do wonderful work rescuing and neutering Brooklyn’s stray cats and kittens (spring is kitten season), they also write ridiculously endearing captions.
PHOTO BY BROOKLYN CAT CAFE
4. Andy Thorn
Do you know about the banjo player who serenades a wild fox in his backyard? If you do, you’ll still be happy to watch this video (again). If you don’t, you’re welcome. I can’t think of anything more soul lifting than the combination of a banjo, the great outdoors, and a critter who loves music and feels safe.
PHOTO BY ANDY THORN
Here’s wishing all of us safe travels–
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The weather is all over the place right now, and that makes me anxious. Number one, Weather, make up your mind. Number two, Weather, are you trying to tell us something? I have an older relative who’d laugh off climate change whenever it snowed. She’d say, “So much for global warming!” No matter how many times I tried to explain to her about extreme weather, etc., it was like throwing feathers against a wall. Our worries can feel like feathers as well–and our brains like big overstuffed pillows. In honor of Sustainability Month, here are some things to inform, inspire, and make some organized sense of all those worries.
1. How Bad Are Plastics, Really?
The planet is choked by plastic, this we know, and that’s not only a pollution crisis–it’s a climate crisis. In this crisply told Atlantic piece, writer and environmental sociologist Rebecca Altman offers a clear answer for why plastic took over our world and why the problem is bigger and more complex than you might have imagined.
2. Emily Penn
Emily Penn is one of the committed people doing something right now to spread the word about plastics in the ocean. She’s a skipper and founder of eXXpedition, a non-profit organization that organizes all-female expeditions to research the causes and potential solutions for ocean plastic pollution. Watch this short film about her work, which was made when she was eight and a half months pregnant with her first child.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY PENN
3. What Sustainability Means
FASHION REVOLUTION GRAPHIC
So what do you do when you realize that your underwear and workout clothes are all made of petroleum-derived materials that will never be recycled? Do you throw them away in a panic and buy new stuff? Um…no. This handy little graphic will give you some better, calmer ideas. Also check out FashionRevolution.org for more info about how to move toward a just and equitable fashion system for people and the plant.
4. Mary DeVincentis
Ready for something distractingly, evocatively beautiful? I know I am. Mary DeVincentis is a Brooklyn-based oil painter whose work often incorporates the natural world and invites you into the middle of an unfolding story. I especially love her paintings of dark forests and wild cats on the prowl, but this recent one called “When the Stars Are Calling You” is speaking to me today.
IMAGES COURTESY OF MARY DEVINCENTIS
Here's to looking up.
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The days are getting longer–yes! It’s still light when I finish work for the day–yay! In celebration of the sun, let’s look at some brilliant things that won’t at all hurt our eyes.
1. Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood
American photographer Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) began taking pictures at age nine using a Box Brownie camera. Hold that image in your head as you scroll through this online exhibition of her work. Her photograph Emine Dressed Up for Republic Day, taken in Turkey in 1965, so perfectly captures the scruffy, simultaneously poignant and intimidating bravery of girlhood.
EMINE DRESSED UP FOR REPUBLIC DAY, TURKEY, 1965
2. Winter Cottonwoods
As an introvert I often find it easier to love people in the abstract. We humans are good & terrible and we’re everything in between and that can be quite the roller coaster ride. This Georgia O’Keeffe quote makes me feel that she and I would have agreed on this, and that we’d have spent a very happy afternoon walking outside in our sturdy, comfortable shoes, not talking to each other: “I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then.” While I wait for the buds to start appearing on the trees outside my window, this painting of hers reminds me to admire the bare branches just as they are.
WINTER COTTONWOODS EAST IV, 1954. © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.
3. Ninth Street Women
It’s ironic that the painters featured in this deliciously compelling joint biography–Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler–wouldn’t at all have liked to be grouped together as “women painters.” I recently visited an exhibit of Joan Mitchell’s work and it left me awe-struck and hungry to know more about her–I took pictures of her paintings, pictures of her paint brushes and paints, wanting to record the experience of feeling so thoroughly lucky. This book went a long way toward satisfying my curiosity about her and these other fiercely talented, ambitious women.
JOAN MITCHELL, HELLEN FRANKENTHALER AND GRACE HARTIGAN AT A FRANKENTHALER OPENING IN 1957. PHOTO BY BURT GLINN/MAGNUM
4. Cristina Mittermeier
I gasp at pretty much every image that photographer and environmental activist Cristina Mittermeier posts to her Instagram. Cofounder of Only One and conservation organization SeaLegacy, she’s passionately committed to capturing the beauty of nature as well as its fragility. She swims with whales, turtles, and sharks; she’s waited patiently for grizzlies, polar bears, and wolves to stroll past her lens. And she keeps giving the rest of us the gift of seeing what she sees. I can’t choose a single image of hers to feature here, you just have to look at all of them–instead, here’s a picture (taken by one of her colleagues, Paul Nicklen) of Mittermeier photographing a resting sperm whale. Did you gasp?
PAUL NICKLEN PHOTO OF MITTY PHOTOGRAPHING A RESTING SPERM WHALE
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We’re all watching what’s happening in Ukraine. Some of us have close connections there, some of us feel abject terror at what this might mean for the future, and all of us feel deep sorrow as we bear witness to the monumental suffering of the Ukrainian people. We’re all seeing pictures we likely can’t get out of our heads, and absorbing more news than our hearts can bear. None of us at FOUR wants to add to your pain–but we do join with you in wishing the world were a better, different place, and wondering what we can possibly do to make it so. We have no answers, but we offer up a few things that we’re turning to at this terrible time.
1. Ukrainian art and culture. Katy Hessel has been steadily posting the work of Ukrainian artists, and I found this one with images of Polina Rayko’s home particularly moving.
2. Women bearing witness. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario has been recording the invasion, particularly through the eyes of women and children.
3. Trusted news source. BBC Radio’s journalists are fully present and reliably knowledgeable.
4. Ways to give. There are many folks doing life-saving work in Ukraine, and we wouldn’t begin to tell you which to give to, if you’re able. One that I’ve given to, which has a four-star Charity Navigator rating and years of experience responding to humanitarian crises, is World Central Kitchen, which is delivering meals to Ukrainians, both those fleeing and staying.
and the rest of the team at FOUR
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Thank goodness it’s March–even the name of the month suggests forward momentum. Right now I’m looking for signs of spring (mud! yay!) while also imagining future adventures, a bit less bound by current worries. I want to move around, and I also want to sweep out some internal cobwebs. I want to take a trip to the woods while opening myself up to new ways of looking, listening, and thinking. Onward.
1. You’re Wrong About: Yoko Ono
I ate up every minute of The Beatles: Get Back, and I know I’m not the only one who couldn’t take my eyes off Yoko Ono whenever she was on screen. She’s magnetic. This podcast by Sarah Marshall, not only tells her fascinating personal history, but also gives her art its (refreshing) due, and confronts the myths–both misogynist and racist–around her relationship with John Lennon. I also recommend checking out some of her most iconic works here.
YOKO ONO BY PATRICK CASHIN COURTESY OF YOKO'S INSTAGRAM.
2. Rahawa Haile
It’s heroic enough for anyone to walk all 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail, but when the person doing the walking is a Black woman, that feat becomes even more monumental. Haile writes movingly about the entire experience, the contrasts between her and the white hikers she encountered, and the books by Black authors she read and left for others along the way, “their photos often the only black faces I would talk to for weeks.” (Definitely keep an eye out for her forthcoming memoir.)
RAHAWA ON MT. KATAHDIN, COURTESY OF RAHAWA'S INSTAGRAM
3. The Heroine with 1001 Faces
If you’ve ever picked up a book about story structure, then you know how pervasive the male hero’s journey is and how thoroughly it’s dominated what we read and see. In her new book folklorist Maria Tatar takes aim at this tired trope and shines a light on the heroines who’ve always existed in our shared stories.
4. Liana Finck
Finck is a frequent New Yorker contributor and I really enjoy her work there, but I love her Instagram even more. It’s no less brilliant, but feels more intimate–like we’re being invited inside her wonderfully eccentric, observant brain. This is one favorite of mine (I have many), and new mothers will especially love her series about the weird and consuming experience of having a child.
SELF AWARENESS CARTOON ON LIANA'S INSTAGRAM
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We’re nearly through February, thank goodness, and I’m feeling in need of some help to get me across the finish line. What do I do when I need energy? I listen to music, I read, I make a big pot of something warming, and for inspiration, I look to those who don’t let short winter days keep them from doing good deeds. So here are some things to keep us all going.
1. Marty Woess
In New York, if you see an animal in need of saving, you’re supposed to call 311. And one of the people that 311 calls is Marty Woess. From swans who’ve swallowed hooks, to raccoons who’ve gotten themselves perilously stuck, to kittens and turtles that have been dumped by their owners, Marty answers all calls with bravery and good humor. She’s a wonderful photographer, too.
RACOONS BY MARTY @MARTYBAST
2. A Children's Bible
A storm is coming, and the children are on their own to survive it. If this sounds like a metaphor for the climate crisis…it is. Lydia Millet combines craft (each sentence is spare and perfect) with suspense (that storm) and a mission: She holds a master’s in environmental policy and works for the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity. If you’re looking for something gripping to wake you up when the sun still dips too early in the day, this is your book.
3. Lost & Found: America's Black Classical Music
I’m a big fan of the NPR program 1A with Jenn White. I was on a long drive when I caught this one and it was the perfect surprise gift that NPR so often provides. I hadn’t set out that day to learn about composer William Levi Dawson and the history of classical music composed and performed by Black Americans, but I found it so fascinating that I hoped I didn’t arrive at my destination too soon.
When I told my son that I planned to include recipes in this newsletter every once in a while, he said, “Mom, you have to do your beans.” And I will admit that I do make really good beans from scratch. You can, too! On these beans you can put anything, including a luxurious pool of olive oil, because beans are so otherwise virtuous that they’re a bed for all things delicious. I love topping white beans or garbanzos with garlic, onion, and whole or halved grape tomatoes that have been cooked down until they’re jammy. Toss on any herbs you’ve got. There has also been no bowl of beans that a fried or poached egg didn’t improve. Beans: they’re inexpensive, sustainable, healthy, and delicious. You know you need more of them in your life.
You’re going to have to soak your beans first. You will read various opinions on this, but trust me that I’ve tried not soaking and they’re just not as good. Even if you use the freshest beans, soaking will help them get that creamy inside that you want. I would start soaking garbanzos the night before you want to make them—those little guys are tough. Any other beans you can start soaking in the morning if you plan to begin cooking them around 4PM. (I’d leave yourself two and a half hours to cook any bean. Some will take less time, in which case you can let them sit till you’re ready for them. Others will take longer and I don’t know about you, but I get cranky when I’m hungry and the beans aren’t done.)
Rinse a pound of any sort of dried beans in a colander. Look for pebbles or bits of dirt. (This step is worth it, trust.) Place the rinsed beans in a large, heavy lidded pot. I really like a ceramic glazed cast iron for this. Now pour in ten cups of water, a teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and a pinch of baking soda. This is your soaking water, and it is also the water that you will use for cooking the beans. Do not pour this out.
When you’re ready to cook the beans, turn a burner on high, cover the pot, and bring the beans to a full, aggressive boil for ten to fifteen minutes. This is what the folks at Rancho Gordo (where I buy a lot of my beans) call “teaching the beans who’s boss.” After the boil, turn the heat down to a bare simmer—you want a little bubbling but definitely not a boil. Leave the lid off for the rest of the time you’re cooking the beans. Now add to the pot as many peeled cloves of garlic as you’d like. I’ve used as many as seven and never regretted it. Also toss in one or two small dried red chiles. If you don’t have those you could put in a quarter teaspoon of pepper flakes, but I highly recommend the chiles. Then add a nice big puddle of olive oil on top. That’s it.
You could, if you’d like, add herbs (dried or fresh), depending on the flavor profile you’re going for. Some rosemary in white or cranberry beans is nice. Oregano in black beans is always good. My mother would say a bay leaf is mandatory no matter what bean you’re cooking.
You’ll want to check the beans every fifteen minutes or so while they cook. The liquid should always cover the beans unless they’re pretty much done. If the liquid gets low, add boiling water, just enough to cover the beans again. Then keep adding boiling water over time as needed. You don’t want to add more water than necessary because it will make the bean broth less rich.
After an hour and a half, remove a couple beans and try smushing them with a fork. If they smush, then eat them and see if you like the texture. Keep doing that every fifteen minutes or so until the beans are cooked the way you want them—some beans are firmer on the outside (like black beans and garbanzos), but you always want the interior to be uniformly smooth, even creamy. If there’s any crunch or grittiness, they’re not done.
Serve those babies up in a bowl with their broth, slicked with more olive oil and some black pepper and whatever toppings you like. In addition to the ones mentioned above, I love a mess of spinach or kale sauteed in garlic and pepper flakes and yes, more olive oil. Shave some parmesan on top and add a piece of toast and that’s dinner. Add a poached egg and that’s my desert island meal right there, which I will eat while weeping with joy.
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February is the dreariest month. Sure, it’s the shortest month, so I guess that’s something. But it doesn’t feel short in a good way, it feels constricted. Tight and closed up. In February I crave some air, some movement—but where I live the air is too cold for my blood. And because I hate being cold, I’m stuck inside too much, and my brain looks forward to something…else. March may also be cold and even dreary, but the soil starts to dampen and smell of spring, and that makes all the difference to me. So while I sit indoors dreaming of other months, this newsletter is about discovery and rediscovery.
1. Bisa Butler
A friend wrote that he once had the opportunity to meet a hero of his and said to her, “I’m sorry. I can’t. Your work means too much to me. I’d just embarrass us both.” I feel that way when trying to write about Bisa Butler’s art. It moves me so much that I’m afraid I’ll be guilty of making her work smaller by trying to describe it. So rather than do that, I’m just going to tell you (briefly) who she is and where to find her: She explores the stories of African Americans via fabric, and you can listen to her talk about her use of quilting and her choice of fabrics in Katy Hessel’s always-excellent podcast, The Great Women Artists. In an act of extraordinary generosity, Butler has also created a website that allows you to take a virtual tour of one of her solo exhibits as well as zoom in on individual pieces in her portfolio to see her stitching. I’d love (love) to see her work in person, but until I can, I’ll be traveling all around her website. I’d recommend one of her pieces that moves me the most, but I’m sorry. I can’t.
IMAGE OF BISA BUTLER BY DEREK DUNDEK
BISA BUTLER BY GIANCARLO VALENTINE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
2. My Old Books
There’s a particular book I loved as a child, and what I loved most about it was how much it made my mother laugh when she read it to me. It was called Martin’s Dinosaur by Reda Davis, and it was about a modern little boy on vacation in Wales with his parents who discovers a dragon in a dungeon. Only the boy insists to the dragon that it's a dinosaur, and the dragon keeps insisting it’s a dragon. Marie Pascale-Traylor is an artist and pre-school teacher with a particular love of old books, and she understands that children’s books are windows in time for many of us, leading us back to more than just words on a page. She created an Instagram account for anyone who once loved a book but can no longer remember what it was called or who wrote it. Each post is full of folks helping other folks climb through windows and back again.
MARIE PASCALE-TRAYLOR (L), MARTIN'S DINOSAUR BY REDA DAVIS, ILLUSTRATED BY LOUIS SLOBODKIN (R)
3. Lucille Clifton and the Task of Remembering
This thoughtful piece about the poet Lucille Clifton opens by pointing out how often we try to reduce a great and complex person’s work to one inspiring quote. That alone is worth pondering, but there is so much more here. Written by Marina Magloire for The Nation, this is ostensibly a review of the recent reissue of Clifton’s memoir, Generations, but it stands on its own as a compelling look at Clifton’s life and the generations of women in her family to whom she gave poetic voice.
LUCILLE CLIFTON BY MARK LLENNIHAN
4. Audubon Society Native Plants Database
This is a fantastically helpful resource for finding plants native to your area. Planting natives provides essential food for bees, butterflies, birds, and other animals (read more about that here). Another reason to plant natives? Non-native plants are often invasive, spreading uncontrollably and driving out the plants and trees that our bees and butterflies need. (I’ve seen this in action, and yikes, it’s really tragic.) A bonus to planting what belongs in your part of the world is that it will likely require less watering, which is also better for the planet.
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK ON RED ELDERBERRY BY SHIRLEY DONALD
I hope your February is more cozy than constricted. I’ll be over here planting flowers in my head—
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As I ponder a series of things on my to-do list that feel big and multi-part and generally hard to wrap my brain around, I’ve also been thinking a lot about success and failure. It would be nice to believe that failure is a myth perpetuated by successful people, but at the same time life can often feel like a particularly treacherous test—and word is the teacher is a super-tough and arguably unfair grader. So today I’m thinking about the ways in which other people have handled the tests that are thrown at them, and what I can learn from them. Copying is very much allowed.
1. The History of Literature
I found this podcast when I was doing hours (and hours) of weeding last summer and it immediately became my favorite sort of multi-tasking. The episodes are wide-ranging, and there is so much to choose from. My favorite so far is the Sylvia Plath episode in which the host, Jacke Wilson, and his guest, Mike Palindrome, talk about five of her poems. The discussion is fascinating, but the truly miraculous-seeming part is the inclusion of readings of three of the poems by Plath herself. The brilliance! The ferocity! Listening to her voice, free of editorializing, feels like an extraordinary gift.
2. Field Projects
Most artists work their whole lives without ever becoming anything close to household names. I love that the Field Projects gallery is an artist-run exhibition space that finds new artists via an open call system. And I really love that it believes in 100 percent transparency with regard to who they exhibit —they even include pie charts showing the self-identified genders and ethnicities of all the artists across their various venues. Plus, they offer on-line exhibits—free and available to all. Pop on over and discover someone thrilling. I’m in love with this painting by Nigerian-American artist Abi Salami.
3. Your life choices are valid
The New Yorker’s best cartoons are often posted to their Instagram account, and I can’t stop thinking about this one by the brilliant Natalya Lobanova. Follow her on Instagram as well. She’s got her finger on my pulse.
SCREENSHOT OF FIRST PANEL OF NYer CARTOON
4. 20 Famous Writers on Being Rejected.
As a writer, there’s probably nothing I appreciate more than reading other writer’s stories of rejection. Is it just me? And I like to think that the writerly experience of rejection is pretty much universal. Rejection is rejection whether you’re on a date or submitting a manuscript. It feels terrible. My favorite of this assortment gathered by Emily Temple for LitHub is from science-fiction writer Octavia Butler. “When I was older, I decided that getting a rejection slip was like being told your child was ugly. You got mad and didn’t believe a word of it. Besides, look at all the really ugly literary children out there in the world being published and doing fine!”
PHOTO OF OCTAVIA BUTLER ©OCTAVIA BUTLER ESTATE
So here’s to doing fine and not believing a word of it (unless you want to).
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1.The Conscious Closet
In the words of author and sustainability expert Elizabeth Cline, “If you want to change the world, there’s no better place to start than with the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet.” The fashion industry thrives on making us feel inadequate just as we are, and The Conscious Closet is an antidote to that constant manipulation of our emotions. Cline teaches readers how to feel more secure in our own style, how to acquire smartly, ethically, and less, and how to give our discards a second life that doesn’t involve a landfill. I turned down many corners in this book.
2. Wild Bird Fund
Prepare to be enthralled, delighted, amused, inspired, and to find yourself suddenly deciding that your life’s purpose is to help rehabilitate wild birds. This has become my favorite Instagram account, guaranteed to take me out of any bad mood. I would like to make cookies for the angelic volunteers of the Wild Bird Fund, a non-profit NYC wildlife rehabilitation center that takes in all sorts of unwitting victims of our modern urban environment—birds ranging from great blue herons to ring-necked pheasants, as well as box turtles, dragonflies, and at least one very indignant-looking opossum.
PHOTOS BY MIKU OTAGIRI
3. New Year, same old you!
In case you need further convincing that self-acceptance is the key to any sort of happiness, this Guardian piece by Oliver Burkeman explains why perfectionism (as opposed to your inherent imperfection) is the real problem.
4. Summer of Soul
FILMIf you haven’t yet seen it, this documentary by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson will blow your mind. The same summer that Woodstock became legend, another music festival—the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival—provided a stage for Black entertainers such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, the Staples Singers, B.B. King, the Fifth Dimension, Nina Simone, the list goes on. But unlike what happened with Woodstock, the resulting 40 hours of footage of this festival languished in a basement for decades. Thompson interweaves recollections of participants and historical context, and the energy of the performances is goosebump-inducing.
FILM STILL OF MAVIS STAPLES AND MAHALIA JACKSON
Wishing you a gentle start to the year—
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With 2022 looking hazier all the time, I’m reminded that there is only one thing any of us can be even vaguely certain of: this one moment we’re in. And who better to look to for guidance at this fragile, unpredictable time than Georgia O’Keeffe. She lived 98 years on this planet (11/15/87 – 3/6/86), through pandemics and world wars, clinical depression and near-blindness. She certainly went through periods of despair. But ultimately she never lost her huge appetite for experience, for the earth under her feet, and the beauty she could make with her hands. So instead of sinking under the disappointment of hunkering down and canceling joyful plans once again, I decided to celebrate four things that GOK might have loved. They’re all both fresh and timeless—just like GOK herself.
1. The Slowdown.
Whether you read poetry every day or truly never, this is a treasure. Via the podcast and newsletter, host and curator Ada Limòn offers up a poem a day along with a brief and always-meaningful framing of the poem. If you’re looking for some hope in dark times, I highly recommend the December 10 episode, and the poem “Spell” by Emma Hine.
ADA LIMÒN BY LLUCAS MARQUARDT
MOBILE APPI’ve always wanted to be one of those people who could identify every tree and flower and bird and butterfly…but I am not. This app, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, lets you snap a picture of just about any living thing, tap a button, and find out what it is. Even better, every time you use the app, you’re helping to accumulate data for the scientists and environmentalists who also use the app. I’m a newbie gardener and it’s been essential for distinguishing between native species (keep) and invasives (yank).
3. Mending Matters.
Fiber artist Katrina Rodenbaugh’s first book is an accessible guide to transforming stains and tears in beloved clothing items into something beautiful. GOK was devoted to mending her own clothing, repairing the same items over and over. I like to think I’m emulating her as I learn to patch jeans, even if my stitches aren’t nearly as tidy.
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE BY TODD WEBB
Here’s what you need:
4 T (or more, to taste) olive oil
1 large onion, or 2-3 small, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 pound organic carrots, scrubbed well, no need to peel, roughly sliced into rounds
4 cups vegetable broth (if the soup turns out too thick for your taste, you could add more broth or water or milk at the end, but then be sure to check for seasoning)
¼ cup full-fat coconut milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
¼ tsp white pepper
Heavy pot (I used a ceramic glazed cast iron Dutch oven)
Immersion blender (If you don’t have one, you can use a food processor or blender but it will be a little bit more of a production. In a pinch, if you get the carrots soft enough, you could make a chunky carrot soup with a potato masher. I’m sure GOK would approve.)
Optional toppings: chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, because I had it, and I think some lemon zest could also be nice); mushrooms (I used shiitake) browned in a good glug of olive oil. Other ideas would be some caramelized onions with the herbs, and/or a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Here’s what you’ll do:
Over low-medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil and about a half teaspoon of salt. You want the onion soft, not brown. This could take 5-10 mins. Add the garlic and carrots and sauté a few mins more, until the garlic is softened. Pour in the veg broth and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for about a half hour. Check a few carrots for doneness and when a knife easily slides through, turn off the heat. Use the immersion blender to puree the soup to the consistency you like (I don’t mind a little chunky). Stir in the milk and white pepper and taste for salt. Top as desired or enjoy your sunny bowl just the way it is. Also though, toast makes everything better.