It’s Father’s day today. So we thought we would kick off the newsletter with this poem:
Those Winter SundaysSundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden (Liveright, 1966)
It’s a short poem, yet it’s bridling with so much grief, love, regret, value and acknowledgement.
“What did I know, what did I know?” Hayden’s speaker, a son, caught in the inability to speak his love to the person he loves the most. The speaker’s father, labouring silently out of love for whom he most loves. The son doesn’t recognize his love for his father, or his father’s love for him. Not until time has passed, until… It is too late. To recognize love too late must be one of the greatest sorrows of being alive.
One of us feels the ache of the speaker’s wistful sorrow intimately, unable to express her love for her father when he was alive, and never quite aware of how much she was loved by him.
And so this poem comes as a gift and a nudge: We know fathers are notoriously brusque and bristly beasts, so lines of communication tend to be hard to navigate. But today, we urge you to tell your dad how much he means to you. Tomorrow you can go back to trolling him for whatsapping shady memes on the family group and holding politically dodgy opinions.
And here’s our programming for the week:
To read: A beautiful essay about what rainbow trout can teach us about relationships: “When I start to feel shaky, I look at the spot above Paulo’s upper lip. Staring at that diamond-shaped divot, I remind myself that humans evolved from fish. That in the womb, before our eyes and lips migrated across our faces, we looked less like people and more like rainbow trout. That we, too, feel the urge to travel, and also, to return home. That sometimes the trip requires leaping over impossibly high barriers. And that sometimes, because of the love and insanity of those around us, we make it to the other side. Such journeys aren’t impossible, they’re just upstream.”
To joy scroll: Bill Mayer’s crazy creatures, characters and comic creations have been sought after for Magazine covers, countless articles, editorials and ads. All of the paintings are done in gouache on watercolor paper. They’re an ongoing experiment with medium and composition and the potent nature of dreams, and there’s a sense of poetry in the playful use of surreal elements.
To travel: 2022 has been the year for bumper international travel, if airline prices and the crowds at airports are anything to go by. We think hiring a car and going where the road takes you is one of the most adventurous and intimate ways to get to know a country - so here’s some of the best road trips in the world.
For those who prefer walking (Judging from the record number of wheelchairs at the airport queues - we, desis, apparently don’t!) here are observations from Craig Mod as he wanders through the UK’s Cotswolds after years of wandering through Japan: “Japan on a whole — continuously changing in remarkable ways. Even the “old” stuff, the landmarks like Ise Shrine are under constant renewal, max out at twenty years. Sure you can find “true” old stuff — a stone marker here or there, a fat tree that wasn’t chopped and replanted for post-war cedar harvesting — but it isn’t like the Cotswolds; the old can feel accidental in Japan. In the Cotswolds it feels elemental. “
And, continuing on that theme, for the micro number of desis who truly like going off the beaten path 25 famous trails around the world, in Australia, Iceland, Namibia, and elsewhere.
To listen: This Spotify playlist comprises 715 songs, handpicked by neuroscientists, and meant to elicit “frisson,“, a word for that moment when a song pierces your body and soul. It’s the reason why music from artists as seemingly disparate as Johnny Cash, Metallica, Céline Dion, and Mozart are all featured on this list, as it claims to give people “chills.”
This article on Big Think will give more background on the ways we experience this profound emotional state: “Suddenly, my body is seized by a rapturous electricity; my mind is invigorated by an indescribable fusion of ecstasy, awe, despair, and longing. And in an instant, I realize something deep in my bones: This is what it feels like to be alive.”
To try: Shepherd is a curated book discovery tool based on author recommendations. “We ask authors to share their favorite books around topics and themes they are passionate about and why they recommend each book. We want to create an experience like wandering around your favorite bookstore but reimagined for the online world.” We love how specific some of the recommendations are: ‘The best woman-led horror novels’ or ‘The best books to savour the history of Paris’.
To quote: An excerpt from the book, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a book we devoured over the 2020 lockdown: “To love someone is like moving in a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.”
To cook: We love it when two disparate seeming things come together in unusual ways - like cardamom and bay leaves with white chocolate. It just makes blissful sense in this super simple dessert, perfect for lazy Sundays, or any day you think you deserve something distinctly delectable.
A collection of words on fathers:
Sometimes, I thought my father was a god. I loved him that much.
- Leila Chatti's poem, "Muslim Girlhood
I know you've taken to wearing around your father's hand-me-down. I wish that you anger. But wouldn't. It's a few sizes too big and everyone can see it doesn't fit you…
-from Sarah Kay's poem: "Hand me Downs, from her book "No Matter the Wreckage"
I buried my father in my heart. Now he grows in me, my strange son...
- from Li-Young Lee's poem, "Little Father"
I buried my father in the sky. Since then, the birds clean and comb him every morning and pull the blanket up to his chin every night.
- from Li-Young Lee's poem, "Little Father"
And I think that's what a father is a blade that never stops cutting.
- Desireé Dallagiacomo's poem, Origin Story
Do you believe me if I say I only ever wanted to be worthy of my father's grief? Of the kind of obsession that nearly drowns us?
- Julian Randall's piece in "Refuse"
I could never reach the whole way around the equator of his body; he was that much larger than life. Then one day, I could do it. I held him, instead of him holding me, and all I wanted at that moment was to have it back the other way.
-Jodi Picoult, Vanishing Acts
As we sign off, we’re holding a candle for those who lost their fathers and holding space for those who may have had negligent or abusive ones. Whatever the nature of one of your primary caregivers, as an adult you deserve the grace of your own love.
Please remember to take care of yourself. Remember that you are seen, and cherished!
Viv and Ami