(featuring two of Joni Mitchell's versions and three covers)
If I were to curate a list of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs, Big Yellow Taxi wouldn't ordinarily take top spot. I much prefer the story of Cactus Tree, or singing along to California, or feeling heartbroken to A Case Of You.
But on a day like today, Big Yellow Taxi is what I needed. There's a deeper political and environmental meaning to it but when I listen to it, there is also just a message of, "go outside."
Switch off the computer. Step away from distractions. Spend time in a forest or a field or an ocean.
Take notice of the natural beauty all around us, and appreciate it.Care for this planet, and spend time in it too.
And don't just listen to songs about it--go and live it.
Somehow, this song means more to me the more I listen to it.I've played this playlist over and over several times now, and the more I listen, the more I want to step offline this weekend. It's a four-day bank holiday and I have already promised myself that I will take that time off from internet happenings and instead pour my energy and time into appreciating summer.
Do you have a song like this? Let us know!
I had somehow managed to make it to the age of fifteen years and eight months without knowing how to cartwheel. Oh, I would cartwheel mentally whenever I was particularly happy about something, but I was never able to actually do it. So I did what any normal person would do: I added learn how to cartwheel on my bucket list. (Which was actually the only thing on my bucket list. Aren't you glad I have high goals in life?)
My eight year old sister is the queen of cartwheeling. She is seriously one of the best I've ever seen (you can check out this video if you want to see her in action). She cartwheels all day, every day--down the hallways, in the front yard, in the backyard, on the trampoline, at karate, at ballet...you get the picture.
One night in late spring, after the dinner dishes were washed and the table cleared, she lead me to the golden light filtering through the backyard, determined to teach me once and for all how to cartwheel. We stayed out there for well over an hour. I repeatedly fell and made an all around fool of myself while my sister coached and cheered my on in between those perfect cartwheels of hers. By the time it was dark, my cartwheeling skills were nowhere near perfect, but they were much better than they had been earlier in the day. We practiced every day that week, and while my cartwheels are still nowhere as perfect as my sister's, I can do them. No longer am I the fifteen year old who can't cartwheel, but I am the fifteen year old who just learned how to cartwheel--and who checked off the one and only item on her bucket list.
I wonder what my next goal will be?
There a few meals that remind me of home, and of family. The tastes of those dinners and desserts instantly send me back to a certain season of my life, and when I move out I am sure they will be what I cook up whenever I feel homesick. My mum's delicious 'bigistrone' soup is one of those meals, as is the fruitcake my grandad makes and the pasta dish my brother taught to me to cook.
But our one family recipe that we eat year round, talk about constantly, and completely adore is crumble. This is the kind of pudding that results in texts from my brother at university, asking what our crumble recipe is. It's so delicious; this is one of the first things I started cooking on my own. When I was a few years younger, I would cook the aforementioned pasta dish with crumble for pudding, and cooking this dish has become second nature to me now.
Those kinds of recipes are the best ones. After time, you get to a stage where you can just play it by ear. Grab a spoon, taste the fruit, add more sugar to taste. Chuck in almonds or oats to the topping. Serve in tiny ramekins or a huge dish to serve a hungry extended family. With this, follow your cooking instincts.
rhubarb & strawberry crumble
for the fruit filling:
approx. 4 stalks rhubarb
half a punnet of strawberries
two to three tablespoons sugar (more/less depending on how tart your rhubarb is)
a dash of water
for the topping:
5oz self-raising flour
1 1/2 oz butter
two tablespoons sugar
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5
Chop the rhubarb into 1/4 inch pieces. Chuck in a saucepan over a medium heat with sugar and water. Simmer for three minutes with the lid on. Then take the lid off, turn the heat down and cook for a few more minutes until soft. Add in strawberries, turn off the heat and put to one side.
To make the topping, rub together the flour and butter. Stir in sugar.
Into a medium-sized dish or five to six small ramekins, spoon in the fruit mixture. Top with the topping mixture, and smooth the top. If desired, sprinkle with a little bit of brown sugar.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the top of the crumble is golden brown.
May rolls around and with it comes a longing for Woodland. Woodland, the little resort on a lake that we've been going to for years -- in fact, my mom has been going up there since she was eight. This will be my seventeenth year. For one week, all my family (parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncle, grandparents) head up to the lake and live simply. We laugh more. We fish and play card games and go swimming and get sunburnt and make good, simple food, and have wars with noodles (we're talking about the floating on the water kind here), and roast s'mores over a campfire under a sky filled with stars. And when June comes, we'll be heading up there. So it's no surprise that this whole month, I've been itching for Woodland. It leaves a happy ache in my heart just thinking about it, and I may have a countdown made.
Do you have any family traditions and vacations that you can't wait for?
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Today's post is from Fernweh reader Andrea. If you're looking at this in a reader, hop on over to see it live on the website for the full effect. It's a truly gorgeous magazine-style editorial with text across the pages, sumptous colours and of course stunning photography. To see more of Andrea's work, you can read her blog here and her official site here.
Rachel is an incredibly talented writer, poet, and a student living in the Midwest. On her tumblr, Poorly Written History, she answers questions, talks about her poetry, and, occasionally, shares music. On her flickr, you can find all the published pieces of her writing. Near the end of April, I emailed Rachel asking if we could talk with her on Fernweh. Here are her responses to my questions.
Your poetry seems incredibly raw and honest. Was it hard for you when you began sharing your poetry on Poorly Written History? How has the sense of community that's developed around your blog and your flickr influenced your writing?
I was originally drawn to writing because of the connection factor. For years, I had felt the tug in my chest while pouring over novels, finding the places where I understood exactly what the author was trying to convey. It was magical. There was something incredibly powerful about the way words bridge gaps, how they stretch between people previously unattached, how something can be triggered just by a simple sentence. It was my lofty dream of being a writer—to have that same comforting influence. It wasn’t something I expected to find through an internet writing project, especially one which is essentially just a purge of my mind, a place to tuck things away. Yet I have been gifted with an incredibly community of people who reassure me not only of the validity of what I have to say, but also the way I say it. How fortunate am I, to have a place where I am given support from people I might never know. I’m damn lucky. I don’t think I’ll ever stop saying that.
You've curated several side projects, including No Shame November and Quiet Little Things. What have you learned from these projects?
No Shame November was created because I felt I had a duty to give back to people what they had given me. Having an outlet to challenge the idea of bravery, to pursue vulnerability, to release my stories allowed me to become a different person. There’s such a catharsis in writing something out of you, especially when you’ve been trying to ghost it for years. You can’t hide it anymore when you place it in a public forum—it is yours and it is exposed. I wanted people to have that opportunity on a smaller scale. The first year I did No Shame November, I was shaken. I still have certain lines echoing through my mind. It is incredible to witness the willingness of people when you give them an opportunity, and how much trust people placed in me just because they had watched me do the same. Quiet Little Things was another branch of this idea. I realized I had gained an audience and I wanted to be able to use that to get people’s voices out there. I’m always looking for ways I can push others the way I have been pushed. It feels like the least I can do.
(-)I've noticed something popping up on your tumblr a lot in recent days...can you tell me about On the Cusp, the zine that you're involved with?
On the Cusp is a submission generated art and writing zine I piece together with two of the most talented (and cool!) people I know. For months, I had a dream of collecting work from others and publishing it. In a way, it would be a tangible manifestation of previous online-only projects. I wanted to take the next step. But at the same time, it seemed incredibly daunting. No matter how small the publication, it takes work for it to become a success. Luckily, when I brought it up to two fellow creators, they were more than thrilled to help me out. Bi-monthly, we collect submissions from all over the world revolving around a certain theme. After, we sit around and choose the best pieces. They are then formatted into a 40 page booklet, printed up and sold to happy readers. We’ve had incredible success so far, more than I could have ever imagined. Currently, we are packaging up out third issue, echo, and the next theme will be announced within the week. Ideally, we’d like to branch into more publishing endeavors and push this as far as we can. Without sounding too much like an overzealous zine mom (which I totally am), I highly encourage everyone to send in your work, purchase a copy, or spread the word to your friends.
What advice would give to someone who's trying to be more honest with what they write?
This past semester, I taught a girl who refused to turn in anything to her nonfiction workshop simply because she was afraid to have it read aloud in class. As someone who has a rampant fear of being “that girl,” I understood to an extent. But at the same time, it made me think about how I could convince someone to find comfort in honesty.
Here’s my list of top 5 things:
- Start small. Write wildly bad prose in every hidden place you possibly can—journals, old receipt tape at work, post-it notes shoved in your pockets, your phone. Practice developing an intimate relationship with your words. Don’t worry about who might see. This is for you.
- Read painfully honest nonfiction books and essays, interviews with people who have taken risks by exposing themselves in their work. Underline every passage that makes you squirm, every passage you think might have made the writer squirm.
- Start talking about the things that make you cringe in the dark with friends, driving around in cars with the windows down, standing on empty blocks with your hands thrown in the air. Play “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” with your secrets. Let your voice become soft and hazy with inhibitions over phone lines late at night. Practice oral storytelling. When something gets caught in your throat, remember it. This is where the story lies.
- Rewrite your scribbles—no matter what form. Craft them into something. It is okay if you can’t get the whole story out yet. Allow yourself to slant things if needed. Be as vague as you must allow yourself. If you want to share them with friends, post them on the internet. Don’t worry if people read, or don’t read. This is an exercise for you, alone.
- Remember, above all, that you have so many stories inscribed within your skin that no one else can tell the way you do. They are all important, they are all valid, they all have the potential to shake someone up. And really, what are you so afraid of?
I’m actually a fiction writing major, though I rarely write a fictional piece with enthusiasm. I spent my workshop class this past semester writing a nonfiction piece about a road trip I took to North Carolina last summer. Despite my gripes, immersing myself in a type of writing I’m not comfortable with has helped me realize I shouldn’t let myself be hindered by the truth. Allowing details to be bent to better a story is perfectly acceptable. No matter what class I’m taking—from Small Press Publishing to Tutor Training, Beginning Poetry to First Novels—I’m being asked to view my work in a different light, to think about writing in a new way. That’s something exciting and incredibly helpful. Even if you struggle through your poetry workshop, you are still picking up tools to weave into other types of writing, understanding the rules of the game and how to heighten your work to make it better than it was before. Being open to this is absolutely crucial.
I know that you don't like recommending music (I'm the same way); however, what is some music that you love? No recommendations, just opinions.
I’m a sucker for sad songs and rap music. That’s all there is to it, really.
Your flickr account is full of words. What's your favorite thing you've written? Or, alternatively, what are you most proud of?
While I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call a certain piece my “favorite,” I can say I feel that little swell in my chest when I read something I wrote and it hits exactly what I was trying to convey. My series from last summer, “Things We Tell Ourselves in the Dark” has certain pieces that still resonate with the desperateness I was experiencing. Many of the long form pieces I wrote in my “coincidences” set still ache. It is fun to write about my current relationship because I’m seeing how I let my past writhe through my present. I’m proud of where I’ve been, where I’ll go. It is nice to have reminders of that.
I read a quote a few days ago that said, talking about what she learned from Anne Lamott's books, “‘Sometimes you’re not blocked, you’re empty’ – if you are an artist of any kind, or if you are trying to get any kind of large-scale project accomplished, you know that “writer’s block” is always at your heels, that jinxed feeling that the gig is up, and no matter how long you stare at the blank screen, you’ve got nothing. Less than nothing. Anne Lamott reminds me that sometimes the problem isn’t that I’m blocked but that I’m empty. Perhaps I need to spend some time filling up again, engaging in the small moments of inspiration that provide energy for the work. a walk outside. a conversation. Using ultra fine tip sharpie markers in a journal. Rest. etc. This is some of the best advice I have ever heard. Instead of trying to push past the block, perhaps the best thing to do is go about filling up.” In regards to this, what do you do when you're drained, and empty, and the words won't come?
Often, I find myself experiencing what I call “writer’s exhaustion.” It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say—there’s always a million things pressing at my fingertips—but sometimes the mind (and heart) become so tired process shifts from being enjoyable, rewarding, important and feels difficult. Throw in a self censorship issue: things being too close, worrying you won’t do them justice, wondering if it is worth writing and I’ll find myself frustrated. It takes a moment of pause. Usually, I just need to return to a place of where I feel more comfortable. Open up a notebook and write something entirely different—party and bullshit prose just to get some of that anxiety out. Get to the root of things. It helps to remove the phrase “I can’t” from your vocabulary. If you are trying to work on something fictional, switch to nonfiction—your past provides a wealth of stories. If the form is challenging you, write it shorter and expand later. Anything to jog you away from whatever you are struggling with.
Words are art. However, is there any other sort of art form that you're involved in? What inspires you?
I’m a sucker for writing—always have been, always will be. But the artistic possibilities stemming from that—creating little publications, performance poetry, oral storytelling—is forever catching me by storm. They all hold unique possibilities of stretching your boundaries, something I love. As for inspiration, I am just constantly fascinated by human interaction, by the way our relationships echo throughout us, how we build and manipulate ourselves. Growth, in essence. Living in a city has strengthened my observational skills. Memory is hugely important to me. I just constantly want to absorb everything I possibly can, to find a story in both myself and those I touch briefly.
Thank you so much, Rachel!
Summer is practically on my doorstep, her hand poised and ready to knock. Our whole house is waiting to usher her in, ready to tell her how much we've missed her and how excited we are to see her again. But until that day, I've been compiling short summer lists to celebrate her arrival. There are so many little and big things that I can't wait for, so here's a collection of a few pieces that make mine up.
What's your summer list made up of?
I have a strange relationship with art museums. When it is announced we are going to visit one, as my family usually does on vacations, I groan and complain, thinking about the hours spent in cold rooms looking at ancient relics that have little or nothing to do with my life. But occasionally I'll find something that captivates me, like that girl on the left in the last picture. A lot of figures look so stiff and emotionless, but she looks so real. Her chin is held up in a slightly defiant manner and her eyes suggest she knows something you don't. I feel like she may have done something wrong and is being punished, but she doesn't deserve to be punished. I'm not sure. I find it all interesting to contemplate.
Have you ever been in a gallery when it's empty? It's so peaceful. When everything is right, it will feel like the best place to be in the world. You can really look at the art, imagine what it would be like to be there. I always leave feeling inspired.
I wonder sometimes, if I had never discovered blogging, where would I be now? Blogging lead the way for writing which turned into designing which ended in photography and culminated in a love of art and photos and words. But if I had never stumbled upon blogging, had never picked up a camera because of another blogger's post, if I had never had that flame ignite a spark of curiosity, where would I be? I am learning to love and embrace who I am in Christ, and am confident and crazy excited about the direction I'm going. Yet sometimes I wonder if things had been different, where would I be now? It makes me so grateful for this whole blogging journey that I've been on, and it reminds me of how even though the past few years have been filled with good things and hard things, they've led me to where I am now. And I wouldn't trade that for the world.
question:What is the biggest passion blogging has shown you?
There is something about the stars and the dark and the silence that brings out the teen-angst-ridden poet inside of me. When I reach this stage, there is no turning back. Poorly formed syntax and stiff rhymes and attempts at iambic pentametre fill the page. The only way out of my poetry brain is through emptying it.
These words? I cannot share them. They are honest and true and raw, but awful too. It seems to be a fundamental aspect of Being A Teenager to use words or music or art ias a release for all this angst and confusion. And I don't think I'm ready to share that heartbreak and sadness with you yet.
That doesn't mean I shouldn't write it though. These pages of poorly written poems are a map of my fourteenth year. Of my attempts to cultivate an meaningful life, and of trying to help others just stay alive. Of plane journeys that left me crying, and of Sunday afternoons spent drinking coffee. Of huge dreams, and of sleepless nights.
Go--write a poem.
A couple of our favourite books from the past month. What have you read recently?
Selected Poems 1923-1958 by e. e. cummings
Between Shades Of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Grace for the Good Girl by Emily FreemanA Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Donald Miller talks about how to tell a good story with your life. Story is, in essence, a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. He talks a lot about his adventures in learning to tell a better story, and the changes he made in his life. They range wildly from biking across the country, to climbing mountains in Peru. It's engaging, and entertaining, and it's made me think about the story I want to be telling in my life. He says that in movies, if the character doesn't know what it wants, the story become muddled and stops moving forward; and I've looked for the ways that's reflected in my own life. I recently read this book for the second or third time, and I loved it just as much as the first.
You Can't Get There From Here by Gayle Forman
Gayle Forman's book is about her and her husband's travels throughout a shrinking world. I'm halfway through this now- I've been taking my time, not speeding through it like I normally do. Her stories of Tonga, Cambodia, India, and ect. are easing my appetite for wanderlust, at least for the time being. She's a phenomenal storyteller, and I'm really enjoying it. There's on line in particular that stood out to me. I've written it everywhere, in notebooks, on my hands, saved as a draft on my phone. It goes like this, "We weren't really here. We were waiting to go there." And that, I think, is something we can all identify with.
When this submission from Kaya arrived in our email, I knew instantly that we would have to share it with you. The spooky images and haunting writing have left me desperate to find an old house to investigate this summer. Leave her a comment, and check out her blog here.
There is a strange sad beauty in abandoned houses. The aged wood and sagging wallpaper paired with the smell of mould and memories leave you with a melancholy sort of feeling. The creaking of the boards as you tiptoe over the floor and that eerie illusion someone being behind you. Giant window filled time capsules, bursting with junk, treasures and stories just waiting to be discovered.
We pause respectfully at the door, paying homage to the symbol of respectability and accomplishment that it once was. Our voices levels stay low as we call back and forth about our various findings. Feet avoid rotten floorboards and dust coats our fingers. We toss stories and theories around. Who was this family? And why would they vanish, leaving so many possessions to sink their dusty grave? We wonder if the house, in its own way feels sad to be loved and then neglected. And if it could talk, what stories would it have to tell us?
We take only pictures.
We leave only footprints,
And never forget to pay the house our respects.
If your house could speak, what sort of stories would it tell?
In fact, I can tell you now that it's sixty four days until my six weeks of freedom begin. And I can tell you that I have a lot of dreams for this summer too. Dying my hair and hanging out at the park with friends and going to festivals. Painting canvases and shooting filming and making art. Writing until my hand cramps and sitting under the stars and impromptu picnics.
And I can tell you too, that this won't all happen. But dreaming up plans, and waiting for the nigellas to blossom, and wishing for sunny days is all part of the inevitable countdown.
Sixty four days.
Summer come soon.
I am whispering this into my garden.
There's a certain quiet beauty about the twilight, when the sun has set but still leaves a lingering glow in the west and trees are mere silhouettes in the darkening sky. Sitting on the front step still hot from the sun, watching the stars twinkle on one by one, and breathing in the silky almost-night air is my favorite way to unwind. And when I head inside (after the mosquitoes have had a royal feast on my blood), I store up the calm until I can sit in quietness again the next night.