Mar 8 • 16M

Feeling skitchy

The lessons of a 5K, deep seas & clay classes

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“What’s this!?”

Well, it’s not Christmastown. But, it is my newsletter. I love this song, and the sentiment behind it. The bouncy brass and rhythmic sleigh-bells in the intro put me in a MOOD. It’s a special mood I haven’t dabbled in much lately. But this song just stirs something in me. It makes me dance around my room, picking up everyday objects and re-inventing the lyrics as I go:

What's this? What's this?
There's clutter everywhere
What's this?
There's dust motes in the air
What's this?
I can't believe my eyes
I must be cleaning
Wake up, Cath, this isn't fair
What's this?
What's this? What's this?
There's something very odd, see
What's this?
There's random bits of laundry
What's this?
My sheets are lined with
Books and art supplies
Everything seems so crafty
Have I possibly gone batty? 

What, is, this?

I send this newsletter out the week before releasing a new episode of my podcast Material Feels. As you read or listen, I hope you feel like Jack (or me), bopping around a new universe for a bit, exclaiming “WHAT, IS, THIS!?” as you engage with all the unique/inspired/queer rabbit holes I compile each month.

Oh, I also have now turned Rabbit Hole Buffet into a lil’ audio series… sort of like a chill podcast where I get to practice voicing. If you would like to listen to me read it aloud, press play above. If you’re hearing me read it right now, congratulations, you already figured it out!

Lastly, the playlist. This playlist runs parallel to keywords, concepts and references from the writing, and includes audio treats I mention towards the end. It’s a fun extra that helps me think about the topics I cover in new ways! Listen below or go directly to the playlist here.

On the menu:

  • Word of the month

  • Question

  • Obsessions

  • Podcasts

  • Life updates


Word of the month

skitch /skiCH/

To hold on to the back of a moving motor vehicle so as to be pulled along while riding a skateboard, bicycle, etc. A combination of the words “hitch” and “skate.” Source

I ran a 5k in mid-February!

Three things I loved about the race:

  1. Families ran together. An 8-year-old and his father finished in around 30 minutes, and the dad was cheering on his kid all the way to the finish line. Another family of five ran: two parents in their forties, an 11-year-old, 8-year-old and a… 3-year-old!? I know this because I saw the kids on the trail; I also checked my results and you can see names and ages on the list of 78 other people who were running the 5k that day. I loved seeing family run together; it made me think about my family, and my chosen family, and what would happen if we navigated race day together.

  2. Runners cheered one another on. Several people said “good job” when they overtook me after mile 2 (which is where I tend to loose steam). One person cheered me on as I passed a dude, and then ran alongside me for a minute. “Only one more mile left! You got this!” she said, as her footsteps synced with mine. “Thanks!” I responded breathlessly. Two more people passed me at the 2.5 mile mark, one person in particular who I remember. She came up to me after we finished and said, “Great job! Thank you so much, you kept me going the entire time.” I was floored. Truth time: as she had passed me I… did not think nice things about her. I was disappointed, and even made a personal remark about her in my head. I was so taken aback by her gratitude, and maybe a little guilty about my reaction on the trail, that I responded, and I’m not making this up, “Aw, thank you! You were my….north star.” Which makes NO sense.

  3. You are not alone. After I consumed some electrolytes, some of my brain-parts turned back on; I processed my mortification, and I began thinking about what she meant and how my run may have impacted her. During a race, when I’m running right behind someone, it feels like I’m a skateboarder coasting with my hand on the back of a moving car (skitching). My body mirrors their body and I’m able to keep pace, running in tandem with them at a speed I was not accomplishing on my own. I had been so wrapped up in myself, when this person passed me I only felt resignation. With my eyes ahead the entire time and my focus on my own breath, muscles and bones… I had been purposefully ignoring the sound of her footsteps, trying not to let it psych me out. Without realizing it, I was also establishing a pace for her for two and a half miles leading up to that moment.

This runner’s version of skitching has me thinking about other ways we “skitch”: temporarily riding the tailwind of a friend’s victory and surprising ourselves with velocity we didn’t know we had in us.

Skitching is an opportunity. Sometimes we’re on the receiving end: we see an in and take hold, allowing someone’s current to help us along. Other times we are the ride, plowing onward, hyper-focused, unaware of who we are impacting.

I’m imagining a larger ecosystem now, a highway of people living their lives, riding different cerebral currents. Skitching takes guts (at least it looks like it does - I haven’t skateboarded since I broke my arm attempting an ollie in 1997). When you skitch, you reach out and hold on to something bigger than you. Faster than you. You propel yourself forward, hurtling towards your goal and hanging on with all your might. And when the car stops at a red light, or turns left, you keep going with fresher legs and an emboldened heart. Sometimes I’m in the driver’s seat, barreling along, charging onward. Other times, I’m the skateboarder, embracing chance and holding on to something I believe in.


Question.

“Small talk” is such a strange phrase. For something so small, it takes up way too much space! My personal nemesis is, “How was your weekend?” LOL. What weekend? I’m a self-employed freelancer; your Saturday night is my Tuesday afternoon and I already forgot what I did two days ago!

Imaginative questions can be a balm for it all.

A buddy asked me this question the other night and I want to pass it on; it’s potent ammunition and could set off some fireworks, but at least you won’t be a deer caught in the headlights of “How’s life?”

If you could go back at any point during your lifetime and change the course of an event (including events not connected to your own life), what would you change?

Send me a voice memo via SpeakPipe or discuss in whatever version of a focus group you have going on right now.


Obsessions

  1. Puppets. I’m SO INTO PUPPETS for so many reasons. First: can you imagine having a scene partner who is a red furry blob with stationary eyeballs!? That takes so much imagination! Then: I’m amazed by the people working the puppets, who are masterminds of timing and body language, like in this bit about Ernest Hemingway’s life story by Randy Feltface. Watching a puppet portray complex emotions in real time, especially if the puppet is as simple as the sock on Bo Burnham’s hand in the video above, is a sight to see. Lastly: I’m fascinated by the part our brains play as viewers. We simultaneously suspend disbelief and fill in the gaps, breathing life into Kermit, Elmo and Tinky Winky. I fully believe Kermit has thoughts, feelings and a backstory. Elmo feels more real than most people I know. Tinky Winky is a whole mood, he is like a genre, I love him. My love of puppets can be directly traced to my love of muppets, which can then… possibly be traced to the things I have in common with muppets. A friend told me they understand this connection, because I’m so “dramatically cute.” I have also received feedback that I am “vocal.” And, like Miss Piggy, I wave my entire body around when I am perplexed.

  2. Winnie the Pooh’s vibe. Obvious one, right? Who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh? He’s humble, kind and committed to living slow. Dude does his exercises in front of the mirror like a bro at the gym and then after ten toe touches rewards himself with a pot of honey, affirming regular-degular viewers like you (and me). The OG animations from the 70s and 80s were amazing and had the illustrations of a book, in the story, coming alive. Remember when Tigger got stuck in a tree and the narrator turned him sideways so he could step off into the text? Brilliant. I also love Pooh’s friendship with Piglet, who is a flustered manifestation of anxiety. There are conversations between Pooh and Piglet that seem to be lifted right from my mind. Similar to the characters of Inside Out that represent key emotions in the brain, the cast of Winnie the Pooh easily builds out the infrastructure of my psyche. We’ve got Tigger, the exuberant, confident, theatrical child. Rabbit is focused on success and adulting, and tries to enact boundaries even though his fellow cast members don’t seem to really GAF (give a…fart). Eyeore is depression slash sad boi slash, low key realist who reads about climate change every morning. Piglet is the anxious, but ride or die, friend. Owl saves everything for later and stays up late researching whistling as a competitive sport. Kanga is the part of me that empties the dishwasher, puts sheets on my bed and brews a pot of tea even though I’m SO TIREDUGHHHH. Roo is the honest one (like how four year olds tell you that you have BO. No? Just me?). Oh, and Pooh. Lovely Pooh, the chilled out, material loving mammal I strive to be on a daily basis.

    **Sidenote….I am seeing a theme here. My Christmastown lip sync is followed by a puppet fascination followed by a series about stuffed animal best friends who come to life. Are puppets stuffed animals? Does anyone else crave pretend as intensely as I do? Am I playing pretend when I sing musicals and tidy, or when I’m typing a professional email trying to land a gig? Is it both? Neither? Which woodland creature am I today!?**

  3. Fall, by Oklou. One of my personality traits is vibing to the same song constantly over relatively short period of time. This song was first an emotional release while I was going through something hard. Then I started listening to it on my drives to my trail runs, the winding melody taking me through back roads. The associations have blended now and I put this song on whenever I need to fully fuse with intimate vocals and a juicy current of synth. Oklou is a French-born artist hanging in London; I am recognizing that I have a thing for French artists with beautiful voices, because I also have obsessively listened to songs by Jorane and Christine & The Queens over the years.

  4. Role Playing. Okay, enough with the stuffed animals and cushy vocals. Let’s get REAL and use our imaginations to heal our trauma. I’m into role playing… And right now I’m talking about role playing in the context of unlearning behaviors and practicing boundaries. As someone who a) struggled with people pleasing for the first few decades of their life and b) loves the THEATAH, I find practicing a script or acting out a scene extremely helpful. This therapist on YouTube does a great job of using role play to teach corrective behaviors you can implement IRL. What I love about his videos: he models three different conversations with the same scenario, shifting his reactions and communication style depending on the level of codependency and/or narcissism at play. Check it out and see if any of the dialogue rings a bell (either things you’ve said, or things others have said to you).


Black stories in audio

Last month was Black History Month, and any month is a good time to listen to Black creators crafting their own narratives, whether it’s diving into history, unpacking the present or visioning the future. Here are some must-listens:

Into the Depths. This podcast from National Geographic will give you goosebumps. It’s an intense listen with beautiful sound design and soul-stirring content: host and explorer Tara Roberts tells the story of how she joined a team of majority Black scuba divers on a mission to catalogue the remnants of shipwrecks from the transatlantic slave trade. Not only is the mission itself crucial, so is the impact of listening to a Black host, historian and diver share her personal connection to it all.

1619 Project. Another sound-rich, lush listen with a focus on history, starting four hundred years ago when a ship of enslaved African folks arrived in the colony known as Virginia. Presented by host and writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, this series delves into the meat and potatoes of what went into making America America. Focuses include the economy, democracy, the flag, music and more. An absolute must for anyone who needs a refresher (or an un-learning session) on American history.

Code Switch. Pick any episode; the hosts are different now, but when I was a regular listener, Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby hosted candid, meaningful conversations about race, class, religion… through the lens of their own personal experiences and through chatting with and learning from others. They address all kinds of questions from listeners, questions and many people shy away from or find themselves at a loss to address. I was particularly impacted by this episode on race and friendship.


Life Updates

My happy housemate and first student of 2022, who said they were “not good at making things” and “bad at throwing on the wheel.” LOL.
  • Clay classes. I offer them now through my home studio, Waveform Ceramics! If you’re local to the Bay Area and want some 1:1 clay instruction, I’d love to see you. Click here to learn more about what I’m offering!

Me, testing the waters of my job search with head to toe protection and an emotional support lizard
  • Job search. I’m looking for gigs; if you hear of an artsy audio job that seems fitting or if your team happens to be looking for a non-binary version of Mrs. Frizzle to take your team down a rabbit hole, shoot me an email at catherinemonahon@gmail.com.

On one of my favorite runs, via the East Bay watershed trail system
  • Running bug. I caught it… and I signed up for ANOTHER run. You’re into running and you’re in the Bay Area? Join me on April 10th at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland for another run by Sasquatch Racing!

I hope you have a few minutes this month where you feel like Jack in Christmastown for the first time. If you feel like you’re the only one out there… look around and discover there are people who are propelled by your progress.

If you feel like you’re falling behind, take a leap of faith and skitch a ride.

Until next time,

C (they/them)