Fifteen hundred readers…

pomegranate kaleid 2

Come to the garden in spring. There’s wine
and sweethearts in the pomegranate blossoms.

If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.

— Rumi

WordPress Stats tell me I have 1,500 followers.

I am trying to be offhanded about it, but it’s actually pretty stunning news, the thought of so many people hanging around waiting for me to open my big fat mouth and say something entertaining/instructive/enlightening/inspiring/intelligent, so much so that it’s freaking me out and I want to just sit here, rocking slightly and keening, “eeeeeeeeeee!

*slap*

Sorry.

It’s hard to believe I was able to snag the interest of so many people with my erratic blatherings-on about whatever, and the pressure is incredible (a terrific attack of self-consciousness, here) to oh, I dunnoearn or somehow maintain your continued following? Repay you? Not let you down?
Spur this blog on to greater heights of garrulousness, a thousand more followers?

On the one hand, it seems like a huge thing.

On the other hand—and I laughed with the sudden realization as I told Kris tonight—the number is meaningless. Meaningless.

Because I think I would keep this blog, anyway, regardless of whether there were 10 or 1,000 readers. That even ONE person, a total stranger, reads and enjoys it, is amazing. Dizzying. Flattering. My readership is multiples of one, not some lump total number that homogenizes everyone.

It does not make me anybody important, it is not a reliable indicator of whether or not I am a person of quality, it cannot make my life any more perfect than it was five minutes before I found out about it. There’s the warm feeling of reaching some people, yes, who would deny that? Even made a few friends through the blog, and that’s the best part, the only part that has made a real change: half a dozen friends whose blogs I now read and comment upon.

It’s not like I planned to, or believed I would, keep a blog for three years. My main concern was coming up with something to say on a regular basis…never thought about followers, or getting chosen by Freshly Pressed, or any of that. I just sit here, writing, uploading photos of stuff I’m working on at the moment, sometimes I manage something a little more useful, like a tutorial or a signpost pointing you in the direction of someone who really deserves the attention…but it happens in the moment—whoosh!—it passes, and is gone. I never know what the next post will be about, or whether you will read it, or not. Whether you will like it, or not. Signing up for this blog’s posts has been a real act of faith on your part…I’m amazed that you are with me at all.

Don’t really know what else to say, other than

“Thank you.”

Previous Post

These spiritual reflections of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) show a leader trying to make sense of himself and the universe, and cover diverse topics such as the question of virtue, human rationality and the nature of the gods. In developing his personal beliefs, Aurelius created one of the greatest works of philosophy: a series of wise and practical aphorisms that have been consulted by statesmen, thinkers and everyday philosophers for almost two thousand years.

The four months of ceiling and kitchen renovations are over, and I am back once again at my old day job as a kitchen hand and behind-the-counter sandwich and salad flunky. It’s not bad work, in and of itself: I would quite enjoy wielding my knife in a quiet corner of the kitchen, running on automatic to do this simple work, and using the time to think about books I’m reading, projects I’m planning, something I want to write.

Unfortunately, the fly in this Zen ointment is the boss, as she makes this sort of quiet, peaceful industriousness nearly impossible. She’s had this business for years and years, you’d think that by now she’d have acquired a more placid and practical attitude to the little hurdles and challenges that, naturally, pop up when your business is food-related and relies on daily deliveries of fruits and vegetables, on the cooking gas getting delivered, on backpackers who sometimes don’t turn up for work, and where time and freshness are of the essence. These are the sort of wobblies that any seasoned manager or business owner learns to take in his stride—because having a cussing fit, or bursting into tears, or taking your frustrations out on the staff, or storming around the kitchen like a whirlwind because you’re running behind (and then usually dropping something, which slows us down more, and makes matters worse) doesn’t improve anything, and stresses everyone else out.

After three years on and off at this job, I’ve managed to become desensitized to the high dramas that rock the foundations of this little empire of yogurt and chickpeas, in that I no longer take anything she says or does personally (because, well, to put it mildly, she’s a headless chicken—when a problem turns up, she cannot follow any sensible line of  reasoning, reacts with her emotions, and lashes out nastily because it’s all too much for her. And then she takes you out for coffee at the end of the day, having forgotten everything, and talks about jewelry as though you were just two gabbing girlfriends on a shopping spree) but I still have trouble conducting myself as though she didn’t exist (because I am not rude enough to wear ear plugs in her presence) and I still struggle to maintain a serene and impassive countenance under the barrage of sometimes stupefying things she can carry on about.

After Day One at the job this week, I wearily betook myself to a bookshop and, browsing the shelves for A Sign from God, came upon Marcus Aurelius.

“Men seek retreats for themselves—in the country, by the sea, in the hills—and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well-ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. The doctrines you visit there should be few and fundamental, sufficient at one meeting to wash away all your pain and send you back free of resentment at what you must rejoin.”

—Marcus Aurelius, #3, Book 4 of Meditations

Meditations are a collection of passages that this much-loved Roman emperor wrote for himself...a diary, in other words, where he developed his personal philosophy and attempted to answer that eternal question, “How should one live?”

I have never read his writings before, though I’ve known about him for 14 years because Kris considers him a major influence in his own life. “One of my teachers,” is what Kris calls Marcus Aurelius. My little Popular Penguin edition of Meditations is like a deep-tissue massage for the soul. I carry it with me like a talisman these days…dipping into it during my 15 minute breaks, before heading back into Hell’s Kitchen. I can open the book almost anywhere, and find a passage that resonates with my own feelings, that whittles all the confusion of the world down to beautiful, simple ideas, and that nourishes my mind and spirit. There are really only half a dozen books (if that!) in my life that I feel this way about. Alain de Botton‘s The Consolations of Philosophy is one. Coleman Barks‘ translation of The Essential Rumi, and Kris Larsen’s Monsoon Dervish are others. In high school, Richard Bach’s Illusions was “one  of my teachers,” as were Herman Hesse’s Siddharta, Strunk and White‘s Elements of Style, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Kahlil Gibran‘s The Prophet. You know the sort of volumes I mean? Those slim, cheap paperback books that you often have more than one copy of (because every time you come upon a copy, like an old friend sitting forlorn on a shelf, you have to take it with you) Those dog-eared manifestos that you carry around in your backpack when you travel—and the extra weight be damned—or that you pack separately from the rest of your library when you move to another house or another country? Taken together, these works constitute my bible. They mold my thoughts and guide my actions, they teach me how to live, and prepare me to die.

It’s such a delicious feeling, knowing that life can be a gradual discovery of books written by teachers like these, and that the consolations of their wisdom are available to anyone that wants them. Like a gingerbread cottage, in a forest where the witch has gone to visit her sister.

What are some of the essential books in your life’s backpack?

Doodling doilies…

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

—Jalal al din Rumi, ca. 13th century

Give me some white encre de Chine ink and a dip pen with a fine steel mapping nib; pour me a cup of black coffee (*thank you, my darling*), then shut the door to my studio softly…and I will very happily doodle bits of lace and doily loveliness for the rest of the day. I love this sort of mindless doodling…a dozen loops, a picot, a scallop or three…

I can still sort of remember how to crochet, but don’t feel the urge to take it up again—it never really made an impression on me; I love the look and feel of doilies and crocheted lace, though, as love drawing these bits of fiddly finery.

This is a ‘case’…a made-up pair of covers for a hardbound, flat-backed book…minus the book. Just a little something Valentine-ey to brighten (i.e. to em-Pink-en) my etsy and Madeit shops soon. The lines are from a short poem by the incomparable Sufi mystic, Rumi (transl. Coleman Barks)…the most beautifully ecstatic and mystic poet I know, and, hands-down, my absolute personal favorite.

P.S. The beautiful drop cap ‘G’ above is from Jessica Hische’s amazing Daily Drop Cap project…you really have to go over there and see! The equivalent of 12 alphabets of quirky, classic, showy, modern, eye-catching drop caps—each one such an individual, with a character all its own— are available free for personal use, to jazz up your blog posts. It’s incredibly generous of her to share these typographical works of art with everyone, when people of much less talent are so grinchy about everything they post on the internet, don’t you think?