May’s Monthly Memo – July

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one—
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table—
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Billy Collins

I write this memo from my new apartment in Berkeley, which Kevin and I will be calling home for the foreseeable future! It’s lovely here—the weather is perennially nice, I’m surrounded by the nicest plants I’ve ever seen in my life, and our first-apartment-out-of-college is pretty ideal, too. Since I’m already in an August state of mind, I’ll keep this monthly memo short (I had to really motivate myself to write it, frankly). It’s not that July seems a long time ago, but rather that I’m no longer sure whether I still think of units of time in months anymore. Anyway…

This is my second time in Berkeley, but my first time living on the west coast. While the sun is out every day, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t start getting sunny-sunny until after 10 AM (typically), which means that I have more time in the morning to go on a run while it’s still overcast outside. Right outside our living room window are a cluster of trees with spiky, burnt leaves and softer fern-like things springing out the top. They’re not the most radiant plants in the world, but I’ve grown fond of them nonetheless. Our neighbors to the west grow a lot of trees (even a lemon tree), and I have them to thank for our kitchen view; if I look directly out the window, I can imagine for a moment that we’re in the woods.

I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and Apartment Therapy in July, daydreaming of how I’d furnish this home when we got here. After all, this is the first place I’m living in as an adult that I get to furnish myself! That being said, a lot of my interior decor dreams needed a reality check once we got here. Alas! At heart, I’m still a functionality/budget over aesthetics/$$$ girl. Our dining room table, TV stand, coffee table, and chairs are currently all from IKEA (which is fine, IKEA is great for staples). Once the rest of our stuff arrives (I imagine our worldly possessions are in a truck somewhere, stuck in traffic) we’ll have a better sense of how to furnish this space into a cozy home. I suppose I feel a bit like the speaker in “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” (by Billy Collins, one of my favorite poets), “trying to manufacture the sensation / of fishing on the Susquehanna.” Trying to imagine an experience from a painting or a photo, sometimes so viscerally that it feels within reach.

🎬 We watched a lot of Lucifer last month, and I honestly think the show does better job of exploring themes such as vulnerability, agency, and desire as the seasons progress. I was giving someone life advice a few days ago and realized that what I was saying was inspired by Dr. Linda (the therapist) from the show. In some ways, Lucifer is really a show about how to manage your emotions.

📚 My reading draught ends now! After forgetting how to read for a very long time, I’m determined to turn reading back into an essential life habit this month. I did finish Joshua Wong’s Unfree Speech on the plane, though. It’s a very moving and heartbreaking read at this particular juncture in time.

🎶 Just when I thought I had everything under control, Taylor Swift decided to drop an ENTIRE ALBUM!!! I had less than 24 hours to emotionally prepare and the album landed on the day I flew to Berkeley, too. It’s actually quite nice, easing into a new chapter of my life with a new Taylor album. I will probably be writing a separate review of folklore soon. My current favorites from the record are: cardigan, exile, august.

💬 Word of the month, and biggest distraction of the month: Pinterest. For reasons explained above…

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