I should probably begin with the context that I’ve been feeling particularly self-centered lately, in the way that’s really very easy to be when you are freelance and work from home and spend a lot of time alone and online in the age of self-care. Thankfully I live in a place where I can log off and go for a walk and also where I have people around me who can lovingly tell me to pull my head out of my ass. But it got me thinking.
Someone told me once that a huge part of successful relationships—romantic, platonic, generally being in the world—is catching the ball that’s thrown to you. Typically this means the occasionally Herculean-feeling act of actually listening when someone is talking instead of just thinking about yourself; sometimes it means a physical action, like, say, turning your head to look where someone is pointing. What it really comes down to is acknowledgement, and trying to meet someone where they’re at. And look, it’s hard! We have these sexy little pocket screens in our hands at all time and they don’t require anything, just a tap and a tickle and we can fill our eyeballs and serotonin banks and shut them up just as easily with the squeeze of a side button. A real person, who you can’t turn on and off with a swipe, and who has all sorts of things going on that may not immediately be evident by looking at them, is another proposition entirely. People are famously full of surprises, not all of them good! But truly engaging with someone when they offer up one of the hundreds of daily small gestures that make up an attempt at human connection goes a hell of a long way for both of you.
And look, not everyone wants to be engaged with on a deep level in the checkout line, but I do believe that most of us, at heart, want to feel seen and heard. A lot of people go through life having “conversations” that are actually just them waiting for their turn to talk. I now like to picture that person with their arms hanging loose at their sides, being pelted with tennis balls; failed attempts at a rally. Do you think that person gets asked to play tennis very often after that? Probably not! Let’s all try to not be that person, right?
Anyways, when this video popped up on my TikTok For You page, I saved it to share with you. Come for the sharing of relationship red flags, stay for Jenifer Lewis’ excellent description of the value of trees.
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Speaking of natural delights, last September I had the great good fortune of visiting the potter/photographer/gardener extraordinaire Frances Palmer at her Connecticut studio. Her exquisite, abundant flower gardens frame her property, and her dahlias, especially, are a thing to behold. Should you have (or aspire to) a green thumb, too, she just shared some tricks of the trade with the New York Times. (She also has a visiting day in late September, if you’re on the east coast.) Dahlias hold an interesting place among female artists, apparently: the NYT notes that Frida Kahlo grew them in Mexico (where they’re native), and wove them into crowns to wear; “Vanessa Bell, a member of the Bloomsbury Group, grew and painted dahlias at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex, England, and a memorable photograph of the contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama as a child shows her holding four giant ones.” So there you go! Great company. (If you don’t care about growing flowers but still like to look at them, or beautiful scenes in general, I suspect you’ll enjoy the pictures regardless.) My friend Janie (who designs, among other things, a line of spring/summer-perfect bedding) sent me some wildflower seeds to plant, and a note written on paper which is also made of(?) seeds, so I guess you just tear it up and plant that too, all of which has to be among the top 3 things I got in the mail this week.
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I’ve got a lot of proteas around the house at the moment, which I love because they look weird and friendly, like spiky little aliens. You can buy a couple or just one big one and put it in a short vase somewhere in moody lighting and it looks really directional and intentional in a way supermarket roses could never. Nothing makes me feel as happy and fancy as having lots of fresh flowers around in different arrangements, split up at different landing spots around a room. On top of which, going to get said flowers is a highly recommended practice for my fellow procrastinators. Speaking of which!
I’m up to my eyeballs in work at the moment, with more to come, which is a good feeling, but also a bad one, because all I really wanted to do this week was watch Jury Duty. Have you seen it yet? Please do yourself a favor and begin immediately. It’s on Freevee(?), on Amazon, which means there are ads, but I don’t care, it’s worth it. It is gentle and kind and rib-wrenchingly hilarious. It is maybe a perfect TV show? The gist: a documentary-style reality TV crew descends on a L.A. county civil court to chronicle the inner workings of a (increasingly bizarre) jury trial, only it’s actually a semi-scripted show in which everyone—everyone!—is an actor…except for one guy. (And he’s really very “some guy.”) It could be a particular kind of Truman Show-esque paranoia-affirming nightmare except it is so gentle and kind and human(/ity)-forward. Also James Marsden is on it, playing himself, with the blowhard turned all the way up. It’s truly such a delight. Please give it a whirl.
I also recently started The Diplomat (Netflix), which is fun and diverting and stars the divine Keri Russell and the superbly charming Rufus Sewell, among other heavy hitters. It’s very Netflix but also very of the school of Aaron Sorkin, which is not a bad thing, but remains a “thing” nonetheless. I will likely have more thoughts when I’ve finished it, but it’s definitely a good distraction if you’re looking for one, and falls neatly into that bucket of shows you can watch while you fold your laundry. That’s not an unimportant bucket!
I spoke to the divine Sharon Stone a little while ago for L’Officiel about her lesser known career as a painter, and a recent show of her paintings here in Los Angeles. She (and her deeply charismatic dog, Bandit), looked terrific and she sounded even better: cool, clear, vivid. She’s famously beautiful and talented, of course, but she’s also in possession of this palpable inner strength, some true deep-seated conviction of who she is: solid, boundaried. It’s a magnetic quality. If you could bottle it you’d put the beauty industry out of business, it brings its own glow. I love people like that. As my friend Jenna says, “she’s been to the puppet show and seen the strings.” I could have talked to her—or watched her paint, or decorate her house, which she learned how to do from her friend and neighbor, the iconic Tony Duquette(! who she says once filled her then-empty home with the giant flame sculptures and furniture from The King & I! As a favor! After which she just invited a bunch of people over to sit on these horrendously loud shiny red couches and smoke pot because what else could she do!) for hours. You can read that interview here, but here’s a part I liked, about how after years in the Hollywood wringer, art has offered her a return to herself:
L’O: This must feel dramatically different as a practice for you. You have been making a type of art for years—performance—that requires other people.
Sharon Stone: You can touch [a painting] and feel it and see it. Someone else doesn’t get to change it after I make it. It wasn’t a collaboration; it’s just me alone, which is very healing and nurturing. I feel that I really got to get back to my core and I got back to my own personal goodness, my own personal kind heart. Back to my own peace of mind, my own gentle center. All of that defensiveness that you get from being too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too blonde, too brown, too white, too black, too–fuck that. [Laughs.] I got to simply be myself in a room with my art. My art was always good enough. It just was so nurturing and restorative for me, and I’ve been able to be a much more generous, loving, kind being. My well is refilled. Fame is a vampire.
Never in my life did I think Sharon Stone would lean in and tell me that she’s done being sucked dry but it did in fact happen and I’m glad I can tell you about it.
What else? I got a new pair of jeans! I am thrilled about them.
Filed under: I knew it. Ice cream IS good for you. Everybody in the car, we’re going to Graeter’s. (An aside: would you like my list of America’s best ice creams? Because I have one. I keep notes.)
A dear friend sent me a link to this painting (Vilhelm Hammershøi’s 'Interior. The Music Room, Strandgade 30'), and I enjoyed looking at it for far longer than I would have thought. Perhaps you will too? For the past 75 years, apparently, it’s hung on the wall of the very room it depicts. You have to love that. Now it’s in New York and going to auction for a lot of money, go see it there when you can.
A new David Grann has dropped, and it’s about shipwrecks! I can’t wait.
I made this (insanely easy, so delicious) chicken and then added leftovers to this salad two days later and felt like a goddamn culinary genius.
I do not receive presents on Mother’s Day (May 14, don’t forget, but you still have weeks to plan) because Hugo does not have any money (or opposable thumbs) but if I was to, I would want a big gorgeous heap of flowers and to try these very beautiful Flamingo Estate bonbons. In case you feel like treating yourself too, I think you should. You deserve it.
Thanks for being here, as always. I appreciate it, and you. Shoot me a note if you feel like it, I always love to hear from you, and love you in general. See you next time!
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