"It's as wick as you or me!" - the lesson of undead trees
Crying, laughing and then crying again
What’s on the menu?
Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter! I send this out once a month, the week before a new episode of my podcast Material Feels drops. Enjoy a buffet of rabbit holes not included in the usual MF programming, now accompanied by a Spotify playlist inspired by the tangents I’m about to go on. The playlist incorporates keywords and concepts from the writing as well as specific recommended podcast episodes I mention towards the end. It’s a fun extra that helps me think about the topics I cover in new ways.
On the menu:
Word of the month
Talk to me
Word of the month
From Latin regenerationem "a being born again," from re- "again" + generare "bring forth, beget, produce.” Originally theological, "radical spiritual change in an individual accomplished by the action of God;" of animal tissue, "power or process of growing again.” Source
The constellation that brought me here:
I was toying with “depression” as my word of the month, and then I was like, damn, that feels kinda cliche. We get it, Caty (pronounced Cah-tee), you’re down in the dumps and it’s the holidays and it’s COVID. WE KNOW. US TOO. But on Tuesday December 21st, something different happened. Little did I know (and thanks to this gem of a writer’s newsletter, I found out), it was Winter Solstice that day!
I’ve been feeling pretty stagnant lately. Stuck, blah, meh. When I launched my business in August and my online shop in October, several people remarked (rather unhelpfully, I felt), how “interesting” it was that I was kicking all these new projects into gear when the natural rhythms of our region slow down, and many of us hibernate (slash succumb to Seasonal Affective Disorder). I smiled and brushed them off, but… I think they were right. I have felt dead inside trying to make moves professionally this season, until December 21st, when I ignored my to do list and my phone and sat down to spend a few hours doing things “just for me.”
Listen, I know I’ve been saying this all along. I made the Fill Your Cup line to encourage people to fill their cup, and not just for five minutes. For a sizable chunk of time.
On the outside, this is what my evening on December 21st looked like:
-Sit at the piano. Play usual cords (C, A/Am, F, D/Dm, G) in my usual way and make up my usual songs that are so freaking sad, I start to cry a little while I sing.
-Start reading music. Play “New York State of Mind.” Play “Blues Run the Game.” Google chords for my usual lineup. Revel in being alone in the house so I can really get into the six different parts in the timeless ensemble piece from Les Miserables, “One Day More.” Sing “I Can Go The Distance,” from Hercules while staring, meaningfully, into the distance.
-Head to room to flirt with my to do list, a one-sided love affair. I do some research for a pitch I’ve been nursing for nearly a year and apply to two jobs with a brand of confidence I can only get from belting songs of the French Revolution (What makes me unique, folks at KQED!? Oh, let me get REAL REAL with you). Suddenly I’m starting to deviate from filling my cup because I got a lil’ taste of “On My Own” with the rain against the windows and I’m high on life and—
-I hit the brakes. I turn away from my list…to work on a creative writing project I’m working on with a loved one, just for… fun?! Two hours later, I’m five pages deep in a screenplay about a manic pinecone going through a career change.
Two cool things happened after this four hour chunk of time:
I had really cool dreams. Partly about my pinecone character and his adventures. I also dreamt about friends I’ve been worrying about or missing, and my brain definitely did some serious processing and emotional labor because when I woke up the next day, for the first time in a long time, at 6am, and I felt… okay. I felt like I could lay in bed for a bit and space out, read some articles, text some people and eventually get up. It was nice.
I started running again, and made a pretty significant discovery about myself. You’ll hear more about that in next week’s Material Feels episode!
So, the word of the month is regeneration.
This specific word is a gift. It’s a word that reminds me I am not alone when I am stuck. A word rich in spiritual and ecological meaning, it has evolved over hundreds of years and it is what’s in store for us after our hibernation.
It should be noted that every winter I turn into Mary while she’s still contrary. I just need another version of myself (Dickon) to remind me that the dead things around me are actually “as wick as you or me.” If I’ve lost you here, consider watching the 1993 version of The Secret Garden, not to just to better understand my references, but also for the long exposure shots where spring arrives in fast motion. It’s invigorating AF.
Plants are potent teachers. Where I grew up, the trees seem lifeless in winter. The ground is hard and bare with grass that is brown and thin. But lime green buds will emerge, and daffodils press their fingers out of the soil eventually. This is regeneration, a pulse of life in branches that were so still and bare they seemed dead.
Talk to me
A bitty section where I pose a question I wish I could ask everyone I know, to learn more about the human condition.
Shower thoughts: those chaotic, wildly boring or random realizations we have while doing the thing we’ve done upwards of 10,000 times.
Did any remarkable thoughts come up for you in the shower this week?
Dish via Speak Pipe or email me if voice recordings aren’t your jam.
My obsessions ebb and flow, and I usually tell everyone I know about them, sometimes over and over. To reduce the amount of times I repeat myself, I thought I’d consolidate here, while also crystalizing a month-by-month play by play I can reference in the future.
Yellow legal pads. I grew up with three siblings, two type-A parents and complex schedules to juggle. Our family functioned thanks to the stack of yellow legal pads (YLPs) on the kitchen table every morning: lists of chores, tasks and things to do. Each kid had their own YLP with a list to cross off, and to this day I keep YLPs placed “artfully” (this is a strong word for what’s happening) around my room. Sometimes my lists are linear and chronological, with bullet points that add structure to my day. Sometimes my lists are like a Where’s Waldo spread: characters upside down and sideways that I pick from like trail mix. Once I’m out of M&Ms—cleaning and tidying—and cashews—catching up communications, I turn to the trickier characters: the peanuts—marketing tasks—and the brazil nuts—pitching audio pieces to shows and applying to jobs.
Am I a little hungry as I write this? Yes. Do I inexplicably hate trail mix, and find myself questioning this metaphor, because at the end of the day why don’t I just buy a bag of M&Ms?! Also, yes.
If you aren’t familiar with YLPs, here are the highlights:
yellow is a cheerful color, the pages don’t feel precious: you can get to writing absolute crap without worrying that you’re ruining something fancy the sheets tear away easily, or you can keep them in order as a record of your days or thoughts they look like clipboards and make you feel important
It’s Okay Not To Be Okay. This show is AMAZING and the trailer does not do it a bit of justice. I have never been exposed to K-Dramas before, and I’m so glad my housemate introduced my other housemate and me to this show, which we religiously watched together for about two months. Episodes are over an hour long (so… a movie), with iconic music, drawn out romantic yearning, silly jokes, rich character development and spooky d/trauma that adds just the right amount of spice. Speaking of spice: the characters eat delicious food together, something that is typically missing from American cinema. My watching partner, who is a fan of K-dramas in general, likes to point out little easter eggs common in K-Dramas: a person gently dabbing a damp cloth on the forehand of a fevered love interest, prolonged eye contact with a slow motion wrist grab, feeding a cutie pie a quail egg. This show is poetic, gripping, ridiculous and fun.
Silk robes. I imagine if I were to surround myself with silk, I would look like this person. Ecstatic, deriving pleasure from my every move, totally at peace. Instead, I’m either wearing leggings and a sweatshirt or pants and a button down, with a sports bra cutting off my circulation and mismatched, hole-y socks that even Dobby might refuse. I don’t really care how it looks, but I’m starting to notice how it feels, and it doesn’t feel…the best. My closet is a mix and match of my sister’s and my dad’s clothing, clothes friends have tossed away in my direction, and a few signature pieces I’ve gotten at thrift stores when my friend and style genius Alicia helps me out. “Cloth yourself, why don’t you?!” Listen, populating my wardrobe still feels beyond my bandwidth, but when folks ask me what 31 looks like this year, I have my answer: I’m gonna get myself a silk robe.
My glass tea infuser. I quit coffee a few months ago, a fact I try to share without sounding like a total ass. I replaced my coffee-as-soon-as-I-am-vertical with a tea carafe that I use throughout the day. I love the way I can see the herbs and flowers rise and sink as they absorb water back into their bodies. I especially revel in this at night, when I make a relaxing cup of tea (right now I’m really into a few buds of lavender with oat straw and tulsi). I set the carafe on my night stand so that the bedside lamp illuminates it like a lava lamp, and I lay down to read. But often my night reading never takes off; instead I watch the leaves, buds and stems float as the tea steeps and my body settles.
Podcast treats: cry, laugh, then cry again
Some cute recs for whatever rollercoaster you’re on! (Also, listen to Material Feels and the EP of Elizabeth de Lise’s music that comes out on Spotify next week.)
Poetry Unbound. Episodes are typically a sweet 15 minutes; host Pádraig Ó Tuama opens with a poem, gives the background of the poet and the context of the piece, unpacks concepts and then reads the poem again. I struggle with reading poetry on my own. I space out easily. But a poem read twice and decoded with a companion whose Irish accent and thoughtful reflections I could listen to for the duration of an entire audiobook? Yes, please. I recommend this episode in particular, featuring Danez Smith and his poem, “I’m going back to Minnesota where sadness makes sense.” The piece speaks directly to the relationships we have with seasonal changes and topographies of our upbringing… and was certainly a part of my word-of-the-month constellation.
Cleaning House. I’ve only listened to this episode so far, Savages, and I can’t believe this show. It’s hilarious and, maybe illegal? The premise: “Two maids working for one of Manhattan's most high-end cleaning services tell all.” I found myself wondering as I listened, “How is this allowed?” I don’t usually listen to off the cuff interview podcasts, and I thought I preferred watching stand up comedy to listening, but these two hosts have fantastic chemistry. It’s laugh out loud funny, especially if you enjoy the shameless, salty humor of theatrical New Yorkers (which I hope you do, because, Hi).
Art Heals all Wounds. I listened to the pilot episode of this show after getting connected with the producer, Pam Uzzell, who is another Oakland-based podcast producer. The pilot moved me to tears, it’s so good. Pam talks with artists about their work and how creative process can heal trauma, conjure connection and create more freedom. The first episode featured two facilitators with the The Theater Lab’s Life Stories Institute in Washington D.C., where “non-actors write and act in plays about their lives. Everyone from senior citizens, people in recovery, and veterans have been able to take control of their own narratives in this innovative and healing program.”
Anyone remember geometry? IF, “life realization” THEN “course of action.” Some nope-ity nope nopes in form of a proof… though you don’t need the logic, because this just in babies, “nope-ity nope nope” is a full sentence. I’ve been trying to distill my life a bit and I’ve come to some conclusions (boundaries) that have been making my life…better.
IF podcast newsletters, listservs, webinars, forums and “best of” lists make me feel terrible, THEN I can reduce contact for now until I can wrap my mind around a more nuanced course of action.
IF my physical reactions to emotional stress requires physical (and mental) therapy, THEN I need to address the emotional stress and shift my reaction, or avoid the stimuli.
IF I don’t want to do something THEN I don’t owe anyone an explanation.
And now my three happy thoughts, reminiscent of the “love lists” I used to do in my journals as a kid:
Inter-species animal friendships
3-5 year olds learning about the world
How tea was discovered (the wind blew some leaves in an emperor’s hot water in 2732 B.C.?! WHAT!?)
Thanks again for taking an interest in my thoughts, I hope you enjoyed this! If you were forwarded this, please subscribe; if you subscribe already, please forward on to friends who would enjoy and tune into Material Feels wherever you get your podcasts.
I hope you have a regenerative month,