I succeeded at marigolds today, leggy tumbles of them bought from the florist a classmate recommended. My apartment is fairly stark: two black desks, blond bed frame and kitchen table, a solid gray couch, white bookshelves. I keep bringing home blue accessories from Goodwill: a blue teapot, a blue vase, a blue jar for my tea. The towels are blue, the bathmat is blue, the winter duvet for the down comforter is blue, the first set of sheets was blue. The apartment cries for an interruption–an eruption–of complements, reds, mauves, yellows, oranges. And so marigolds, the color of saffron and sunsets, all the things that are holy and sanctified amid the dust of the world and are still a bit of the dust itself, offering garlands and monks’ robes and housing developments’ flower gardens. Crayons, chalks thick as yogurt, mangos and oranges sweeter than the satiety they bring.

The scent of marigolds filled the three rooms so quickly. A color so warm and a smell so cool and composed. A smell for the ending of summer; it’s early summer, the smell of marigolds, warm at first glance and cool later on.

It’s something to feel like a success, at marigolds or the laundry or a project or a word or a moment. It’s something to put the flowers in vases and spread them around, the little bowl on the altar, one on the temporary coffee table, one on the kitchen table. There are so many things that are always falling off the edge of my flat world, sailing clear off the edge and falling away into whatever chasm exists beyond the edge of a flat world; I don’t know. Deadlines come and I miss them, projects loom and I founder in them, work washes over me in an unceasing tide, sometimes in and sometimes out but never slackening over the long haul. So it’s something to succeed at marigolds, not even despite all the things that will not see success but simply because success is so rarely understood as the fact of doing a thing. Success?–there’s some of it out there that comes dosed out by a measurable standard and I would like some of it very much, I always have–but there is also this unmeasurable thing that smells like raspberries, or fresh-brewed tea, or cumin and coriander, or marigolds, or wet dirt, that complements whatever was already there by being something other than what was already there, by being itself, by filling three rooms unexpectedly, and without design.


A cemetery walk; an accident at the bookstore; a thunderstorm

Today I met Lorianne of Hoarded Ordinaries for a walk through Mount Auburn Cemetery. The cemetery was quiet and beautiful; it felt more like walking through the large park behind my home temple in Korea than a cemetery. Views unfolded (I had sudden moments of understanding what Austen meant in her novels when describing how the grounds of some vast estate would open up into a “view”), little dells appeared, well-shaped lawns and fascinating monuments challenged my old idea of a cemetery as a place always emerging from a well-worn and predictable mold. Mount Auburn Cemetery surprised and delighted. What we build for the dead often has more purpose for the living, I think. And if we’re soothed and pleased at the same time that we’re asked to contemplate our mortality and our relationships to the living and the dead, then maybe it’s a more skillful way to invite us to consider death than most.

Walking and talking and generally being with Lorianne is always a delight, and today was no different. The conversation ranged widely, as it does with her. Over the past several years, Lorianne has introduced me to several little nooks and corners of Cambridge and Boston that have been the compass points for me as I orient myself in this new city. Today’s walk, and the absolutely fabulous little diner we went to afterward, will be another set of coordinates; and, ever-insightful and somehow energetic and gentle at the same time, Lorianne herself is a kind of compass point.

Afterward, I headed over to Harvard Square to do a little work before class. I went to Harvard Bookstore. My sole purpose was to pre-order Roxane Gay‘s Bad Feminist. But, since hanging out with Lorianne also involves talking about writers we know or know of and this had reminded me of a writer I’d been meaning to read for years, I also found myself looking for Teju Cole’s two novels. I missed his debut novel when I was in Korea, so I picked up that one; and his new novel out this year also found its way into my arms. Like lovers–that’s how I pick up books. Then, since I was obviously in for the proverbial dime, I went ahead and got two French novels from the used book section. The cashier took one look at me and said, “Care to sign up for our frequent buyer card?”

I will be getting a public library card later this summer, I tell myself as I walk out. I will. (I haven’t even mentioned the two used books I picked up at Manchester-by-the-sea yesterday when we took a trip to the beach…)

I’m tired today. It’s probably the antihistamine I took this morning to manage a sudden onslaught of allergies. It could also be the strange weather this afternoon and evening: a tornado warning followed by a short, violent thunderstorm. I rode home in a rising, soggy heat. Unlike last week’s rain, this one didn’t cool anything off.

Homework. This project application. A book review. And the floors, the tub, the kitchen table, the Ikea lamp, the last box of clothing. The gas and electric bill. Financial Aid. The to-do list, the endless quotidian carousel. After I got home, sweating and steaming, I took a shower and went over to the main house for dinner. I’m also waiting for a letter, and was hoping it would be tucked into my mailbox. That minor shock I felt when I saw my little cubby empty, the sudden disappointment–I’d spent all weekend willing the letter to be there when I came home from class tonight, I’d counted up the days from when it was probably sent and done my math, and thought I’d had got it right–that little shock was curious. I watched myself react, and wondered: what would I do if the letter never arrived?

Now I’m sitting in a dark kitchen with the fan going, wishing I had seltzer water to mix with my cranberry juice and trying to figure out what work I’ll get done tonight. Or, maybe I should just call it quits, give into the sticky feeling in my head and take a book to bed. I don’t know. There’s still a blue light outside the windows, like a jar full of the watercolor paint from a washed brush. The night feels open, restful. It could go either way; it could go any way at all.