Summertime started for me when the mask mandate was lifted in California 12 days ago. I’d already begun frequenting a coffeeshop in the mornings, which actually went a long way toward restoring a feeling of being out in the world again, but in hindsight that was nothing when compared with the full experience of just… going places maskless. Showing my face and seeing other faces. Wearing lipstick. Seeing the lipstick of others! Such thrills.
Friday night I went to a bar and had a ginger beer and two pieces of pizza. Saturday night I went to another bar and whiled away a couple of hours in conversation with friends over some bitters and soda. I didn’t even miss the drinking; it was just nice to have a nighttime existence again in public again.
One thing that’s abundantly clear to me is how I’m coming out of the pandemic a different person than I was when I went in. I don’t know the details yet, but I can sense the contours. The world looks different to me—simultaneously more and less fraught. Incredibly fragile yet filled with possibility. It’s probably always been this way, but in any case I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to decide how I want to be in it.
I can see now that a cynicism had descended upon me over the past few years. Even before Covid hit, my existence had been growing more and more insular. I’m sure a lot of that was just a function of getting older (and quitting drinking), but I also had been making less and less effort to do things I’ve always loved. Live music, exposure to new people and places, continuing education classes, stuff like that.
Now I’m so excited to bring all of that back and see it with fresh eyes.
On to some things I found worth sharing this week.
I want to be clear that this is not a newsletter about despair. I want it to be a light—just the kind of light that acknowledges that there is also darkness.
This month marks the three year anniversary of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, which was one of the catalysts for me starting to write this newsletter in June of 2018. You can read the first issue here—I was pretty depressed when I started it, and I’m not now, but I think this is still holds true to what I’m doing with this project. A continuous practice of witnessing this life and all its contents, not just the ones we want to see. A radical acceptance of all things.
Just some feelings floating in the ether.
Like all of my albums, “Blue” came out of the chute with a whimper. It didn’t really take off until later. Now there’s a lot of fuss being made over it, but there wasn’t initially. The most feedback that I got was that I had gone too far and was exposing too much of myself. I couldn’t tell what I had created, really. The initial response I got was critical, mostly from the male singer-songwriters. It was kind of like Dylan going electric. They were afraid. Is this contagious? Do we all have to get this honest now? That’s what the boys were telling me. “Save something of yourself, Joni. Nobody’s ever gonna cover these songs. They’re too personal.”
The LA Times had Cameron Crowe interview Joni Mitchell on the 50th anniversary of “Blue.” The focus on her cycles of retreat and reinvention feels especially relevant.
Loved this cover of “Wide Open Spaces” by Soccer Mommy, an artist I think is one of Joni’s heirs. Beautiful vulnerability, incredible talent.
No commentary, no music, just David Hockney flipping through his sketchbook. Six delightful minutes.
The modern condition.
The speaker has boasted of the ability to master any loss; this one, we’re told, will prove the exception.
Here is a beautifully done examination of how Elizabeth Bishop’s famous poem “One Art” (“the art of losing isn’t hard to master…”) came to be: 19 Lines That Turn Anguish Into Art
In case you’re driving around this summer: Hit the Road With These 4 Unforgettable Land Art Road Trips
The thing is.
A Tiny Assignment
Pay attention. What looks different to you now?
Thanks for being here.
“ One thing that’s abundantly clear to me is how I’m coming out of the pandemic a different person than I was when I went in. I don’t know the details yet, but I can sense the contours.”
Oooooooof. I felt that. Beautifully put.
Congratulations on three years of tiny revolutions, Sara!!