SUMMER IN THE HILLS 1.1: Not Doing Nothing!!!

Eleven drafts. I have ELEVEN DRAFTS saved right now, all incomplete, just a few with any chance of seeing the light of internet-day. Some ceased being relevant months ago, others are just waiting for me to make up my mind about if they are too personal/not personal enough/uninteresting/worth sharing/contain enough decent prose to publish. It’s harder than it looks, this blogging thing.

But today I am sitting down, at ten am in the Eastern Time morning, with two pieces of toast, coffee, a hard-boiled egg, and every intention to finish, edit, and share this little listy bit of writing that is the first in a series of what I am calling SUMMER IN THE HILLS, aka, the riveting chronicles of my daily life as a professional salad maker (stay tuned) and amateur everything else in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as I try to make some art and rest a little bit before returning to Wheaton to do a play and also my last year of college. Sounds like an exciting time for blogging!! Right? OF COURSE RIGHT.

(I really hope you read that in your best Fiddler on the Roof Yente impression.)

I am something of a serial accomplisher, an addict of productivity. People ask me sometimes why I like to knit, and why I do it in such public/odd/inappropriate?/ otherwise unexpected places. Often I answer that knitting is, among other wonderful things, a form of productive fiddling. Rather like doodling in class, but you get a nice warm sweater (or hat, or sock, or ill-fitting cardigan) at the end of it. The whole idea is that I am doing something, making something, in environments that otherwise feel prohibitive to accomplishment or any other sort of worthwhile-ness. Times like waiting for chapel to start, sitting through a class that requires no real note-taking, watching season seven of Gilmore Girls. 

And times like these slow, stretched-out summers between semesters, where it is easy (even amidst the professional salad-making) to feel like I am doing nothing, nothing, nothing at all. Or at least not anything worthwhile. Going from a packed-full semester of four lovely but difficult classes, three different genres of creative work, a part-time job, big questions without answers, making the hardest choice of my life so far, recovering from a crippling period of depression/maybe not actually recovering but still being there, just medicated, and more emotional breakdowns than I can count–to here, now. A long summer, not quite warm enough yet, in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. A city I hardly know but love just a little, for the bridges and rivers and the hills, always the hills. Even the roads I drive over, the ground I step on, presses into me that where I am now is not the same as Wheaton, and it really isn’t supposed to be. Let Pittsburgh be Pittsburgh, summer be summer, home be home and here be here. Give the flatlands their chance, and the hills too.

I am going to give home and the hills a chance. Here are things I have accomplished since I arrived here, last Saturday night. Look at me!! I am not doing nothing!! Read this list and witness the amount of not-nothing I have done!!

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(see #8, nesting.)

 

  1. Read an entire novel! Something I haven’t done, by choice at least, for a long, long time. The cobbler’s children never has any shoes and the English major never reads for pleasure. But just these past few days I read an entire, entire novel, all three hundred something pages of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, a book everybody has been telling me to read all my life and I picked up and never finished a number of times. I like to think I was saving it for now. I needed it, right now. That bit in the last few pages, about being able to give someone contentment–“That isn’t enough to give. Not for the giver,” words that laid me open and somehow put me back together, too.
  2. Also started reading a second novel, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which I am not very far into because it’s the sort of novel that requires a steady slowness, a gentle returning every day to read. It’s a small-sips story, one that can’t really be appreciated in big gulps. But Robinson’s prose is worth it, as I learned a year ago studying Lila in American Lit after 1945 (arguably the hardest class I have taken at Wheaton), and so I plan to return to Gilead in the here-and-there moments of quiet.
  3. Went out and got myself a real-person summer job, working guest services/salad making at Hello Bistro, a nifty little Pittsburgh chain where you can watch the perfect salad constructed RIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES, according to your exact wishes. Or, if you want, you can also order a burger, fries, and a milkshake. I have never worked a job like this, something that felt a little embarrassing during the interview, but I need the work and the experience will be good too, and I get the bonus of telling people (such as you all) that I am a professional salad maker. What could be better? Training is today, at four, and for that I had to learn what a voided check is (they don’t teach you this in liberal arts college!!!) so I suppose I can count that newly acquired knowledge as summer accomplishment 3.5.
  4. Stitched up the last seam of a cardigan I’d been knitting all semester (supplies bought during a miraculous New Year’s sale) only to discover that this article of handmade clothing does not fit me. Note to self: save knitting projects that have to fit particularly well for times other than between lines of International Politics notes.
  5. But on the positive making side, I’m making consistent headway on these socks, started these mitts again, for Ben, untangled the yarn and knit a few more rows of the back piece of this tank top, finally picked up a special, secret embroidery project again, thought about improving a cardigan with a big pile of dark green wool/alpaca I got for Christmas, and also thought a lot about quilting, and sewing. Even went so far as to order a little bundle of Sara Parker remnants after admiring them on Instagram since a college acquaintance and fellow maker started quilting with them. Get ready for more making posts!
  6. Finally watched Sleepless in Seattle, completing the trilogy of match-made-in-heaven Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan romantic comedies that I have slowly, slowly savored each of my college summers. When Harry Met Sally is still my favorite, likely always will be, but gosh Meg is lovely in this one. HER HAIR. Also, her breakup scene with Walter hit me way, way harder than I think it’s meant to. He doesn’t want to be the guy that she settles for!!!! No one wants to be that!!!! And of course I cried when he said this, but I guess that’s just where I am in life.
  7. Have actually worked out consistently, something I never seem to manage at school despite my roommate’s unfailing commitment to her morning run and continual prodding for me to join her. Since being home I’ve tried a couple classes at the nearby YMCA my family joined, and I think this is really the way for me. Dragged my little sister to Zumba last night and the part of me that survived four years of high school show choir was INTO IT.
  8. Unpacked a little into my bedroom here, enough to make it feel like my bedroom and not a guest room. Laid dried flowers atop a bookcase (including prized ones given to me by a dear theater mentor, who directed Fiddler along with playing Tevye, and gave me a bit of his bouquet after a particularly difficult show), hung a cluster of pictures/watercolor pieces/letters/embroidery hoops above my little desk and a smaller cluster (including my favorite wedding picture from Fiddler, can you tell how much I am not over Tzeitel?) above my nightstand. Stacked books wherever I could fit them, organized knitting supplies, folded fabric scraps into a bin besides desk. Making a summertime home, and a space for creating.
  9. Made a list of books I want to read this summer, one that I will hold loosely because when I make hard-and-fast lists of books I never actually seem to read any of them. So this one is a gentle list, more a cluster of ideas really, all of them novels I started to read, or reread, during this past school year and decided to save till summer: Anna Karenina, To The LighthousePersuasion, The Givenness of Things (nonfiction, a collection of essays by the ever-impressive Marilynne Robinson, purchased with delight at an independent bookstore over Thanksgiving break) and of course those already started: I Capture the Castle, Gilead. Comment with further suggestions, please!!
  10. Wrote more blog posts in my head than I did in reality, obviously, but still wrote a little: this list, soon to be shared with the world (!!!), and another, longer essay/manifesto of sorts, about things learned and discovered during this most recent year of college. That one is harder to write, but worth writing, I think. Look for it soon.

And more, of course: took a children’s ministry application from my parent’s church, cleaned my mom’s kitchen, considered cutting my hair and decided not to, ate tacos for lunch twice in three days, listened to Rhymes and Reasons on repeat, finished S-Town, tried out every reading nook in the house and decided the sectional couch in the music room, facing the two big windows, is best. Always the little things, always the life between breaths, much the sort of thing I hope to keep recording here because I really believe it is worth writing about.

If I had any more pictures of the summer so far I would put them here, but it appears I haven’t taken a single one, besides the two already shared, since arriving in Pittsburgh. Will have to change that.

In any case, thanks for reading.

Yours, though rather unphotographed,

Carolyn

 

 

 

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