When nothing is everything
And everything is something.
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This month, my book club is reading How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell. The book - a collection of essays about how capitalism tries to convince us to monetize and optimize every moment of our lives, and how to find value in resisting that urge - is really, really good. I won’t go into a full review (though if you’ve read it and want to chat, please hit reply!!!) but I do want to talk about one section that really spoke to me.
In the chapter “Exercises in Attention,” Odell discusses bioregionalism which, she writes, is “based on observation and recognition of what grows where, as well as an appreciation for the complex web of relationships among those actors.” Most of the time, this web is invisible to us because we don’t recognize it - we haven’t spent enough time looking. But it’s possible to render the world anew if you’re willing to pay attention.
I recognized the truth in this, because I’ve seen experienced it. A few years ago, the entire plant kingdom was a great green blur of leaves and stems and whatever else plants had. I didn’t see their individual qualities; I barely looked at them.
Then I brought a few plants home, and I started paying attention. I began to notice the shapes of their leaves, the way they bent toward the window if I didn’t rotate their pots. In the beginning, I watered each plant on the same schedule, dousing them indiscriminately, and some of them suffered. I began to recognize thirst, to stick a finger in the soil and feel their need. Slowly I got to know each plant, began to understand their unique requirements. Our relationship deepened, leaves unfurled, buds bloomed.
Now, when I walk the dog through our neighborhood, our route is exactly the same yet completely different day to day, thanks entirely to the view. Boston ferns hanging from porches. A patch of prickly pear cacti, today bare, tomorrow dotted with fruit. The bright red blooms of a Turk’s cap leaning into the sidewalk that eventually gets so big we have to step on the grass to get around it. Hurricane lilies popping up in the yard a week after the storm, right on time. In early spring, the azaleas begin their riot; in late summer, the lantana blooms. Noticing these things is a way to mark the passage of time, not by a clock or a calendar or a to-do list, but by walking. Looking. Seeing.
“More than observation,” Odell writes, “[bioregionalism] also suggests a way of identifying with place, weaving oneself into a region through observation of and responsibility to the local ecosystem.”
The time I've spent tending to my plants isn't productive in the traditional sense. They’re not a smart investment - more like a money pit. No one is going to pay me for my ability to propagate a pilea or a pothos. And in an attention economy, where every experience and feeling and relationship is reduced to data, caring about something like houseplants can be a form of resistance, a way to stay rooted. 💛
✨ Snack of the Week ✨
I spent a long weekend in Myrtle Beach with a lovely group of people, celebrating my good friend's birthday. There was lots of mini-golf, lounging at the pool, tiki bars, brunch, board games, BYO everything, and late night sing-alongs. I did not take any pictures of our snacks, but I did photograph approximately 37 alcoholic beverages from our balcony. Let's just say I can't wait to consume vegetables and water this week. In the meantime, here's a glass of champagne at sunset. 🥂
I'm Paralyzed by Anxiety About Climate Change, Ask Polly. As someone who is a mostly cheerful nihilist, this was very comforting. I'd expect nothing less from Polly. 🌎
How to Build a Life Without Kids, The Walrus. "The marketing materials explained that women without children live life differently, from how they spend their time and money to how they plan for their future. I wanted to hear, first-hand, what answers women sought from the summit—and, more crucially, what answers were provided. If we were redefining a woman’s legacy, what were we turning it into?" 🙌
I Committed to a No-Spend Summer. Here's How it Changed My Relationship to Money, CNBC. Y'all know I love a good no-spend challenge! Also Alicia writes a great newsletter about personal finance, which I highly recommend. 💸
A Tiny Challenge
This week, let's slow down. Let's pay attention. Let's look at what's right in front of us and truly see it for perhaps the first time.
See you next Sunday! 💌
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