This past Sunday in Berlin, perhaps in registering a long-brewing homesickness, and blindly following some magnetic pull towards what would cure me – or maybe just finally resolving to fix the problem of my own boredom on a day in a city where everything is closed* – I found myself making a spontaneous visit to Amerika Haus, a.k.a. the new-ish home of theC/O Berlin Gallery.
I was lucky enough to spend an intermittently sunny & dismal morning at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London last week, where Woodman’s work is on view through this weekend. I’m not sure whether my babe or I loved the show more. Not that there is anything childish about the work, but that Woodman deals so tantalizingly with the visual equivalent of sugar, for babies: her obsession is with creating and confounding surfaces.
Like any practice, a daily dedication to cleaning is difficult. And yes, sometimes it feels good to let your apartment go fallow and watch Nashville in old pajamas for three days while your cereal dishes crust over. I've been there, I feel you. But a good, redemptive cleaning is one of life's biggest pick-me-ups. There's time to think, listen to music, to finally drink a warm lemon water with turmeric and honey, and time to get optimistic while you make everything better. Bad days are the best cleaning days, because you can turn it all around.
In the spirit of not-yet-abandoned new year's resolutions, the recent Chinese New Year, never not sparking joy, moving house, being bored and out of work - and not to mention our Olympian month dedicated to all things Hearth and Home - we're cleaning up our whole About-ness.
Image: Rubber beauty masks, worn to remove wrinkles and blemishes; modelled by two women at a typewriter. Photograph, ca. 1921. From the Wellcome Library
As I see it, in the disorganized days that follow the great physical and psychological trial that is Moving House, there are only two acceptable types of eating to do: either abdicating responsibility for health and finances altogether and getting take out for every meal....OR doubling down on both those things with some intensive Francis Mallman-like (or Babette's Feast-like) cooking in your new kitchen.
Oops! It's been a while. Our excuses for our long winter's silence are too numerous to list, too flimsy to be believed and also too real to argue with. And maybe we've been away for reasons we're holding close to our chest (for now).
Coming home with a baby for the first time was a completely overwhelming experience. I hadn't been around one at all since my teenage babysitting days. So there I was, too afraid to let Henry cry to take a proper shower, let alone change into a shirt without spit up caked on the shoulder. And I found myself feeling completely untended. So one vain day, I decided that with the right accessory I might feel more put-together.
Here’s what I know: the simple practice of exercising keeps me from winding myself into the boa constrictor of my mind, it keeps me from falling asleep at the television every time my infant goes for a nap or agrees to be strapped into her rocker. It recalls me back the animal simplicity of my weird self. So without further ado, I present to you my favorite exercises.
"I know the cure for everything: Salt water...in one form or another: Sweat, tears or the sea." –The Deluge at Norderney, from Seven Gothic Tales, 1934
I would trust Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke - or, if we're to go by one her better-known pen names, Isak Dinesen (author of Out of Africa and Babette's Feast, the latter of which I am personally crazzzzy about) - on this one. No doubt about it: salt water, in one or several of its forms, will cure what ails you. Sea salt will also do all sorts of other things, all of them practically alchemical or just plain regular magic.
According to Greek mythology Aphrodite was born from sea foam, probably fatherless and most certainly motherless. On Olympia Monthly, if I’m especially full of myself (which, due to this week’s round of not-so-bad sleep training, I am) she has two mothers: Lydia & me. Image via NASA.