My plants are doing well, and now that it’s consistently warm, a lot of my indoor plants are living outside. Including my small army of baby aloe. The mama aloe just keeps having babies.
My friend Kara recommended to me an excellent collection of essays by Durga Chew-Bose last year. Her reflections on the dream of having a porch always make me think of the deck I suddenly gained access to when my landlord had it redone (because it was previously condemned and had no railing). I feel like even though I'm renting this deck month by month, I've gained "some semblance" of the mythologized porch, which Chew-Bose supposes is a place for listening to a parent's stories. (Over the last couple years I've been trying to track down family storytelling with a recorder too, even if it's just me hitting record on my phone when stories come up in conversation.)
Here's an excerpt from Too Much and Not the Mood:
“There are nights when I go to bed a little foolish and pretend the world is a disco ball and that the stars are simply reflected dots. That none of this is too dire and how the impossibility of knowing everything is an advantage. Most children grow up and plan to, at some stage, sit with a parents, a pad of paper, a voice recorder, and listen. Most children, despite good intentions, never make it happen.
Perhaps we’re waiting for our porch. We defer, defer, defer, and make excuses until we’ve won life’s ultimate lottery: the porch. The kind that wraps around. There’s something neutral about the conditions of its build: inside’s privacy, but outside, it’s an extension that stipulates the promise of delay. Imagine if our foreheads had porches jutting out from them? Maybe our brains would experience some reprieve.
On porches, conversation flows freely because silences, while weighty, aren’t strained. The faint interruption of a neighbor’s car pulling up the driveway or leaves rustling, or the benefits of a view in August, kink the air pressure that might exist between two people. A breeze jangles wind chimes and gently jolts us from ourselves. It’s harder to speak selfishly on a porch. Even when it’s hot, no one overheats. Picking a fight on a porch means you’ve missed the point entirely.
So, until then -- until the porch or some semblance of it -- we put off the pad of paper, the voice recorder. We are self-centered. We are out with friends, yet curious why. We are running late. Mentioning things in passing. Not picking up our phones. Lying on our stomachs. We are ambitious, only kind of. Obsessed to the point of --not boredom -- but reprise. We are incapable of writing a letter of condolence. We are vulnerable when it suits us. Taking aim when wearied. Clumsily articulate when expressing intense feelings, like subtitles in a foreign film. We are in the midst of, or have just inched past, our stretch. We read a book that alters us but never talk to our parents about the books that change our fabric, so instead, the weather. The rain. The snow in April.”
-Too Much and Not the Mood
It seems that creativity, whether birdsong, painting, or songwriting, is as adaptive as anything else. Genius – the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work – seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context. When something works, it strikes us as not just being a clever adaptation, but as emotionally resonant as well. When the right thing is in the right place, we are moved . . . In my experience, the emotionally charged content always lies there, hidden, waiting to be tapped, and although musicians tailor and mold their work to how and where it will be heard or seen, the agony and the ecstasy can be relied on to fill whatever shape is available. We do express our emotions, our reactions to events, breakups and infatuations, but the way we do that – the art of it – is in putting them into prescribed forms or squeezing them into new forms that perfectly fit some emerging context. That's part of the creative process, and we do it instinctively; we internalize it, like birds do. And it's a joy to sing, like the birds do.
How Music Works, 29-30
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.