An Odd Moment of Beauty

Thoughts at the end of a busy Wednesday:

  • I love California. So much. I’ve lived here seven years now and still have that thought almost once a day. The only problem with California is that my twin sister and best friend lives 5,351 miles and an eight hour time difference away. This is a real bummer, especially when at 5pm Pacific Time I discover a hilarious TikTok that I have to share with Leslie and she won’t be awake for another few hours. I cannot stop laughing at this one in particular.

  • My obsessive-organizing method of coping (with the pandemic? with general anxiety? who knows at this point) translated today into sorting through our kitchen cabinets and re-shelving everything. The big win was moving our spices from a cluttered mess in a bottom cabinet to this beautiful display in a drawer:
(Yes, I know we have duplicate spices.)

The spice reorganization initiative ended up being a double win in that it inspired me to cook a curry for dinner. It came out pretty well, if I do say so myself:

I also, while making the curry, came to the realization that peeling potatoes is extremely meditative. Because I am awful at sitting still, most of my “meditation” – or, more accurately, mindfulness practice – happens when I’m doing something else: cleaning, walking, biking, peeling potatoes. (That being said: I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I peel potatoes often; I’m generally extremely lazy and buy frozen, pre-chopped vegetables.)

  • I finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I absolutely loved. It wasn’t so much an “I-couldn’t-put-it-down” type of book as it was a book that made me feel better about life. I – which should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog – have always been plagued by questions about “the meaning of life,” “what the point is of it all,” etc. The book simultaneously explores these questions and recognizes them as absurd; it validates my tendency to ask them while at the same time reassuring me they don’t need to be answered in order to live a full life. A few of my favorite quotes:
    • “When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
    • “I have finally concluded, maybe that’s what life is about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. It’s as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never. Yes, that’s it, an always within never.”
    • “There’s so much humanity in a love of trees, so much nostalgia for our first sense of wonder, so much power in just feeling our own insignificance when we are surrounded by nature…yes, that’s it: just thinking about trees and their indifferent majesty and our love for them teaches us how ridiculous we are – vile parasites squirming on the surface of the earth – and at the same time how deserving of life we can be, when we can honor this beauty that owes us nothing.”
    • “I have read so many books. And yet, like most Autodidacts, I am never quite sure of what I have gained from them. There are days when I feel I have been able to grasp all there is to know in one single gaze, as if invisible branches suddenly spring out of no where, weaving together all the disparate strands of my reading. And then suddenly the meaning escapes, the essence evaporates and no matter how often I reread the same lines they seem to flee ever further with each subsequent reading and I see myself as some mad old fool who thinks her stomach is full because she’s been reading the menu.”
  • One of my favorite things in the whole, whole world is when I am listening to a live performance of a song and the artist forgets his own lyrics or starts singing the wrong verse, and the audience helps them out. Earlier today I was listening to a live version of Bruce’s “Spirit in the Night” in which he forgets the lyrics to a verse (~3:45). It’s something about the way he laughs at himself and keeps going, the whole crowd cheering him on, that makes me break out into a huge grin every time. I guess it’s a reminder that even Bruce is human.

  • I am now retroactively titling this blog post “An Odd Moment of Beauty” in homage to the excerpt from The Elegance of the Hedgehog and its manifestation in the simple experience of listening to a Springsteen song.

Good morning!

It’s a great morning to:

  • wake up obscenely early (4:30am) because you needed to pee and then once you were awake your mind started racing so you just got up instead of lying anxiously in bed
  • drink coffee and
  • watch videos from Bruce’s 1975 Hammersmith Odeon show and
  • cry of emotion before 5am!

For reference:

1975 Bruce is…everything to me. His beanie!!!!!!!!!!

And – because why not – here are couple of my favorite relatable tweets from the past week:

Oh wait…that last one was my own…that I tweeted just now while in an 8am meeting with teammates from Israel. I’ve been working with our Tel Aviv team more often and I don’t think anyone quite yet understands how much 8am meetings suit my lifestyle.

The only issue with having to join this meeting was that it meant I had to change out of this amazing fuzzy polar bear PJ set my brother got me for Christmas a few years ago:

As much as I tend to push the boundaries of what is professional work attire, I will draw the line at fuzzy PJ tops (for the sake of my career only).

Anyway, this week in longer-form content:

  • I enjoyed this article about workplace ambition during covid. Highly relatable
  • I finished reading Fates and Furies and have started reading Deacon King Kong. Impromptu book club anyone? Or, since we’re all lazy and scheduling is hard, please comment your thoughts on those books on this post
  • Important: Criminal Justice on the 2020 Ballot
  • I agreed with this Atlantic piece on the American “College Experience” (namely how ridiculous it is)
  • And, if you have time to watch, I strongly recommend “Gather,” a documentary on Indigenous food systems that is perfectly timed in celebration of this month’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Happy Wednesday, folks. Don’t forget to vote and cry if you need to and buy everything pumpkin-flavored from the store before they stupidly stop stocking the best flavor of all time.

Fires, coffee, books (the usual)

I woke this morning to a red “Unhealthy” warning on my AirNow phone app. Instead of waking up, rolling over to grab my phone, and checking my work email, my mornings now consist of waking up, rolling over to grab my phone, and checking the air quality maps. What an inspiring way to start the day!

For my friends in California, the California Environmental Justice Alliance has put together an Environmental Justice Voter Guide that I found helpful. For my family and friends not on the West Coast, this opinion piece echoes what my experience has been like with the wildfires. Please, please take the time to educate yourself on the devastating impacts of climate change and vote accordingly. Here’s another recommended reading about the intersection of climate change and racial justice. And if you’re reading this and have other resources to share, please do so in the comments!


After drinking coffee and contemplating the dire situation in which we find our country and our planet, I finished reading Paul Beatty’s The Sellout. Ironically, I was hesitant to read it after seeing it won the 2016 Booker Prize, as I have not enjoyed many of the recent Booker-nominated novels I have read. I finally picked it up after one of my friends gave me his copy and I’m so glad I read it. My sister and I are planning to discuss the book in our little two-person book club so if anyone else wants to join, here’s your invitation!

I need more time to process the book before delivering my final thoughts and opinions; at the moment my reaction is best articulated by “Trish” and this review she posted on Goodreads:

My copy of this novel is spiked with tabs marking something deeply insightful, stabbingly funny, or needing revisiting. There is simply too much to point to: Beatty must have been saving up observations about race relations in America to get so much into this relatively short novel.

Same, Trish, same. I’ve also been reading so many books on my Kindle that I’ve taken for granted the ability to highlight passages and return to them whenever I want via a simple search; now I have a paperback book covered in Post-It Notes with no way to organize my thoughts! Ahhhhh! (The smell and feel of a paperback book in your hands is still unparalleled, though.)

In other morning news: Thomas was so exhausted that he made himself a cup of coffee. On one hand, I want him to get sleep and feel well-rested. On the other, it gives me great pleasure to watch him pouring that black elixir-of-the gods into a mug…

Oh, and I can’t end this post without a mention of the best news to come out of this week (besides the fact that one of my friends is getting a puppy):

It’s Bruce time (now, forever, and always), b*tches!!!!!!

Racing in the Street

Leslie and I were talking the other day about how we only have so many “energetic” hours in our day; namely, the first few after we wake up. My hours of peak focus and energy are probably 6am-11am, after which I become increasingly unfocused and useless. The problem with having this limited 5 hour window is that it means I need to fit into it whatever has to be accomplished that day.

I think back to my college years when I’d wake up at 5am, be waiting outside the door of our campus Starbucks for it to open, and sit there for the next few hours cranking out whatever math or CS problem set was due later that day. Being a morning person in a CS major did not work well, considering all my classmates would collaborate on their problem sets from 10pm-2am, long after I’d gone to sleep.

But I’m still the same way, and each morning I wake up and have to decide what to use those precious few hours to accomplish. If I’ve got a lot of work on my plate I’ll do that, which means that on days I used to head into the office around 8 or 9am I’d have already done my most important work of the day.

It’s frustrating, though, to not be able to focus on much after a certain time. Every silly “life-hack”/productivity post tells you to schedule around these hours of peak performance, but for me it’s difficult to decide what I want to use those hours for. If I have work to do that takes priority – gotta pay the bills! – but if I want to have energy for a run or bike ride, or to read or write, those activities fall by the wayside. With my writing, for example, either I do it first thing in the morning (like I am now) or it doesn’t get done. And I want to write more!

That’s the good thing about Sundays, I guess. I woke up with no plans and am now out for a walk, typing this on my phone as I head down Folsom St. The rain just stopped and the sky is clearing up and the trees lining the street look especially green this morning:

I’m listening to Bruce (duh) and thinking about how basically everything in life (work, sports, our bodies) is temporary except for art. My body will age and at some point I won’t be able to hike any more, but music will still be there. Maybe that’s why I love music so much? Because I’m subconsciously afraid of the day my job and my body can’t preoccupy me anymore and I’m left feeling empty and unfulfilled?

Just passed this beautiful rose still wet from the rain.

Ah, man. Well at least I got a few words down this morning. Most of my thoughts happen when I’m out walking or hiking or running or riding so the walk-and-type strategy works well for me. It does mean that I have to make sure I’m paying attention to traffic and, if I’m on a trail, rocks and divets. I said to Thomas earlier this week that I need to buy a cheap handheld recorder so I can safely dictate my thoughts while out on a ride. Maybe I’ll start updating this blog with some of my morning “one-liners,” which is how I like to refer to a random thought that pops into my head but never end up elaborating on.

Anyway. Back to Bruce.

(Finally) Writing About Springsteen

I’ve written pages and pages about Springsteen over the years: in my journals, in notebooks, even in a few high school English class papers (those definitely got As). I have multiple unpublished drafts on this blog that attempt to describe the impact his music has had on my life, but none of them ever feel complete. There’s too much I want to say and – because I’m not Springsteen, of course – I can’t find the words.

So I’m ditching that paradigm for now – the quest for the perfect words to describe everything I feel about his music and its influence on my life – and instead pedaling slowly on the stationary bike inside my house, watching the Springsteen documentary “Wings for Wheels” on the computer screen set in front of me, typing these words out on my phone as they come to me.

It’s no coincidence I’m watching and writing about Springsteen in the midst of this global crisis; his music is where I’ve always turned in personal times of crisis. I think back to deaths in my family, or when I’ve received difficult news or experienced bouts of serious depression…whenever I was grieving and needed hope, his music was there.

“Religion” is a loaded word and it sounds dramatic (not to mention slightly concerning?) to proclaim Springsteen’s music as my religion. But if you think about the purpose of religion in people’s lives, it’s often for that very reason: to instill faith and hope in dark and difficult times. (“Show a little faith,” I’m now singing to myself.)

There’s a solid chance I sound crazy to some of you (to be fair, last time I went to a Springsteen show the couple next to me alarmedly asked if I was ok when I started sobbing during the piano introduction to “Backstreets”) but in this – or any – time of crisis, it’s essential to have something that brings you hope. Maybe that’s religion (in the conventional sense of the word), maybe that’s music, maybe that’s art, maybe that’s family or friends.

In the words of the great Clarence Clemons, legendary saxophonist and member of Bruce’s E-Street band, “When a fan says, ‘Man, you saved my life; I heard [your sax solo on] Jungleland … and I cried … and I felt joy in my life again,’ that’s my hall of fame.”

Maybe one day I’ll find the right words to explain the role of Bruce’s music in my life; maybe I won’t. I guess that’s what faith and magic and music are all about.