Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 23
January is an epic milestone month of new beginnings for me and I've been reflecting a lot in the darkness of these days. Four years ago, we moved here just before a series of major blizzards. Life has changed in drastic ways since then and I share my thoughts on that later in this post. And this week, I marked a full year since my surgery. While my brain remembers nothing of the experience -- except the before and after -- I am certain my body does. Anxiety has been bubbling at the edges for weeks as the anniversary approached and I have needed long stretches of nothingness -- of staring out the window at the trees, walking on the beach with the wind stinging my face, and hiding under the covers for hours. I know this will pass as we move away from this date, but for now I'm swaddling myself with stillness and quiet. ********************
In my last post, I promised to share a publishing schedule for 2019. I should confess that I considered turning this into a subscription-only newsletter. After much thought, I am keeping it the way it is and embracing the "back to the blog movement." Two ways you can support my efforts: 1) click on and buy from my Amazon affiliate links. I get a few dollars here and there from that, possibly enough to cover some of the cost of maintaining the site. (PLEASE NOTE: I only recommend products I have bought myself, used, AND feel strongly about their quality and usefulness), or 2) if you like what you read and/or hate Amazon, I've set up a Ko-fi page that works like a virtual tip jar. Check it out here! Thank you so much for your support!
With that, here's the 2019 schedule:
Notes from a Clamshell Path (in its regular format) will be posted on the first day of each month. I'll also be adding special postings around specific topics (like finally getting around to fleshing out the Chronic Pain Library, sharing new editions of my used-to-be-popular travel posts, and adding a whole new Cape Cod insiders section.)
The changes in my life after four years in Provincetown. Often and weirdly, it's hard for me to remember what life was like in Boston. Twenty years is a long time, yet I have only a short list of things I really miss from the city -- my neighborhood nail salon, crab rangoons, someone else shoveling the snow, and the 10-minute cab drive to and from the airport. And since then: I stopped dying my hair, wearing makeup, and discarded all my Spanx. I have dress sneakers, beach walking sneakers, and everyday sneakers. I recognize the nuances of the seasons by the order in which the flora blooms: from wisteria in the spring through to the Montauk daisies in the fall. I can often tell where the tide is by a quick glance at the harbor. I have three weather apps, a tide app, a shark tracking app, and the hunting seasons marked clearly in my calendar (so Stephen and I don't get shot!). I own a balaclava and ice traction grips for my shoes. I have fisherman-grade water shoes and a shellfishing license. I know the difference between a bearberry and a cranberry and where to find them in the dunes. I can identify some animal tracks in the sand and the snow -- although this is forever a work in progress. I know where to get local honey and freshly grown sunflowers at the farmstands on the back roads of the Outer Cape. I have spare flip flops, safety orange vests, an extra long leash, towels, and a shovel in the back of my car at all times, year round. I carry a laminated townie pass to Tea Dance and a Provincetown Public Library card in my wallet. I schedule my days around the weather, the tides, and when the sun sets and rarely look at the clock anymore. I know when there's one turkey in the road, there are at least ten more behind it. I know coyote deterrent strategies. And I know what the fox says, in the middle of the night when she's calling to her babies. Everything I own has a spattering of sand (and/or glitter) on it. My two most-used pieces of equipment are my cordless leaf blower and my hot glue gun. Treasures from our walks are scattered on every horizontal surface in our home. I have a storm prep list posted on the frig and I am perennially prepared for a weather emergency. I now have not one, but two, large costume boxes and a closet full of sequins -- name the theme, she ready. My life has contracted down to the essentials, but it has expanded in ways I never thought would be so meaningful. And even though I prefer to linger at the fringes, I am proud to be a member of this small, hardy, determined group out here on this narrow sandbar. More often than not, I am deeply content.
Mary Oliver. I cried when I read that she had died. Mary Oliver IS Provincetown in many ways. ("After winning the Pulitzer, she worried she might not be able to go to the town dump to get firewood.") In honor of Mary Oliver and her walks on this land, I'm taking steps this year to conquer my fear of being in the woods by myself. (I'm fine when I am with other people and/or with Stephen and totally comfortable in open landscapes, like the dunes or the beach.)
A fairly open calendar. Last year I had at least one medical appointment almost every week for six months straight. And then one every few weeks after that. I've returned to only annual exams from this point forward and I cannot tell you how good that feels!
The Looming Tower. No idea why I decided to end the year binging this stress-inducing series about the rivalry between the FBI and CIA leading up to 9/11 and how it may have kept us from preventing that attack. Warning: the last episode has real footage from that day. I watched it from the kitchen, as far from the TV as I could get.
Avicii: True Stories. It is extremely difficult to watch this film. I was struck by just how little control he seemed to have over his own life decisions. And when he finally did, he should have flourished. The most painful part is we know he didn't.
Derry Girls. IT IS HILARIOUS!!! We watched it the same day there was an IRA bombing in the town where it takes place (London)Derry. I mean, really? Are we just going to do all the worst things over and over again? Tip: turn on the subtitles.
A Simple Favor. Such an entertaining film -- creepy but campy! That Anna Kendrick is definitely someone I'd be friends with.
The Smiths' last live show. I was/am/will always be/Morrissey forever! a Smiths fan. I will liquidate my retirement account to pay for a ticket to see them should the impossible happen and they reunite for a reunion concert. Favorite song is at 27:10.
Winter bird resort for our feathery friends. It's really easy to get involved in birding on the Cape. Between the Bird Watchers General Store and the Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, you have all the tools and resources you need! We started with a small feeder that attaches to our side window and a squirrel-proof feeder that hangs on our deck where the disco ball goes in the summer. It's been wildly popular with the neighborhood birds!
30 pages a day or 10,950 pages by the end of the year. After receiving an email telling me that I was in the top 1% of Pocket app article readers and the article pages I read last year were the EQUIVALENT of 48 BOOKS, I am now being WAY more selective with my article reading. Combining that with my new habit of reading at least 30 pages a day has resulted in me finishing three books already this year.
My 2019 Reading List. As promised, I published my reading list for the year on a separate page. I've also added a short list of books I want to listen to on Audible. There are a lot of Cape Cod, nature, animal, and Jamaica-themed books on it. You can check it out for inspiration here.
The Big One: Your Survival Guide podcast. Granted, I am as far away from California as one can get in this country, but I am (not-so) secretly a prepper. It is horrifying to hear how the earthquake will likely go down and I am translating the survival tips to our own dangers out here. Step one: put sneakers by your bed so you can quickly put them on should you need to flee unexpectedly in the middle of the night.
Podcast episodes: -Elizabeth Gilbert's The Moth episode about the death of her partner, Raya. You will cry and you will laugh and, most of all, you will remember why you loved Eat Pray Love so much. -How To Survive the End of the World episode, "Awww Shucks: How Do We Prepare for Climate Apocalypse?" Clearly there is a theme here. But assuming a climate apocalypse would require you to stay where you are (likely not the case for us as we would be UNDERWATER), how would you survive? Do you know how to grow or forage for food? Who in your community could you depend on? It is Walking Dead Season 3-level planning.
The Ravenclaw Common Room ambient sounds on Ambient Gradient app. The Super Mr. and I both were sorted into Ravenclaw and, thanks to someone's absolute brilliance, I can write this post while pretending I'm at Hogwarts. (I also like the Slytherin one, which sounds like you are underwater -- just turn off some of the jarring noises and you will feel like you are floating.)
Eating + Drinking:
Nothing. Sweet Baby Jesus, do not make me eat one more cookie or cheesy casserole or bacon-sprinkled dish!! Those holidays did me IN! (Actually, this is a fib. I've been eating EVERY delicious thing The Super Mr. has been cooking up this winter.)
Nature classes. As an adult, I can only tolerate about an hour or two of "instruction" in a group setting. (Flashback to a cooking class I took in Cambridge when we went around the room to introduce ourselves, one woman READ A POEM she had written for the class. On day one. It was the most Cambridge experience I ever had.) However, if you add a live animal or nature in general to the mix, I turn into Hermione Granger. I am filling up my late winter and spring calendar with these types of learning experiences.
The struggle to understand "Stan Twitter." I fell down a rabbit hole a few weeks ago after that whole hoo-ha with Paulie, Cara Maria, and Danielle came out. YES, I am still watching those damn Challenges. And, YES, I watched the live stories and listened to Reality Steve's podcasts. And, YES, I read all the Stan Twitter accounts about what was going on. I AM NOT PROUD OF IT. I'm still not super clear how to use "stan" in a sentence, though.
Crawling into bed around 4:30 pm every day to watch the sunset from under the covers. I cannot tell you how much joy this brings me -- something about the weight of the blankets and the warmth of the bed and all those pretty colors outside (we have the BEST winter sunsets out here!)
The peacock at Snug Harbor Farm. It's half peacock-colored and half white. But all mixed up. I can't stop looking it at!
Plant lights. The Super Mr. calls them my weed lights. I was able to bring several of my summer container plants inside and am trying so very hard to nurture them through the winter. We have some really grey days out here and I am hoping these will fill in the gaps.
The Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell. I have my mother, an avid birder, to thank for this discovery! You can set the app to your exact location, pick a date of year ("today" is an option), and get a list of common birds you are likely to encounter. AND there are recordings of all the songs and callings the bird makes!
The Hay Bullet Pen. I bought one of these at my church, also known as the McNally Jackson pen store in NYC. It's shiny, writes smoothly, is sleek, and feels great to write with. Mine is also bright metallic green. And it's #9 on The Strategist's 100 Best Pens list.
Savagely purging my digital intake backlog. At the end of the year, I cleared out most of the things I had saved in DVR (except Bourdain and a select number of House Hunters International), got rid of anything in my Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime watchlists that I would likely never watch (goodbye Oscar-nominated shorts from 2016!), trimmed my saved items in Feedly down to less than ten, and cleared a backlog of articles in my Pocket app. I also edited my Overcast podcast player and unfollowed at least 100 accounts on both Twitter and Instagram. NO ONE NEEDS A CONSTANT REMINDER OF ALL THINGS YOU WILL NEVER DO. Purge away, my friends!
White sage bundles. Did you know that white sage is a protected plant?? Best to steer clear of those smudge sticks and burn something else instead. The Good Place is right -- you can't do anything good without doing a million things bad at the same time.
I just bought a fire ladder. I have no idea where to put it, though. Do I store it in one of the two rooms where we would need to use it? Do I put in the closet next to my escape sneakers because we can take it where we need to should there be a fire while we are sleeping? And don't think I haven't figured out how to get Stephen down it. I'm currently speccing a backpack to carry him.
Planning + Organizing:
My 2019 Plan. My overall goal for the year is to be more purposeful in how I use my time. I mentioned in my last post that I have a million things on my to do list for the year. Most are things I have put off doing for some time and now I need to get cracking! My system this year is NOT simple and involves daily work in the Many Moons planner, a super comprehensive Trello board named "Life" that I have been developing for about five years, and a new two-page weekly To Do Sheet that includes: -my quote for the year -my 2019 themes (like cancer prevention and debt reduction) -my monthly goals (like getting the car detailed) -my daily questions (which I mentioned in my last post), and -my areas of daily focus (like nourish, meditate, earn, read, write, etc.) It is a bit of a beast but I have learned that in order to keep things top of mind I need to SEE it all. Just taking 20 minutes in the morning to remind myself of what I want to make room for in my life has been super useful!
I've been working on the January Cure from Apartment Therapy. Happy to report that I have tackled most of the assignments so far and the china cabinet and utensil drawer have been cleaned out and organized, I have an ever-filling box in the laundry room of stuff that we'll donate or get rid of, and a project plan to make the office easier to switch over to a guest room. You can start anytime but you may want to go in and print out the assignments because they go away at some point. Note: the premise is small actions add up and you don't have to go all Kondo on your home.
This great list of New Year's Resolutions for your pet. When we adopted Stephen, I knew that I had been entrusted with the care of a very special soul. He'll be six in March and his energy has changed somewhat. Two things we'll be working on this year: finally getting professional recall training (he has a strong prey drive and will take off after seagulls) and finding new ways to enrich his indoor environment.
Winter walks with your dog. Definitely read this article on how to walk your dog safely in cold weather AND this one on winterizing your dog to gets some tips on making sure your dog is comfortable when it's freezing outside. It's most important to have a coat that covers their belly and some way of protecting their feet (we use Musher's Secret.)
Honey and salt sleep aid. "Disturbances in sleep are most often linked to biochemical reactions due to a high level of stress hormones that flush through our system between approximately 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. The spike in our hormones dramatically affects our ability to remain calm, which is why it interrupts our sleep." Even if it's just the placebo effect, I use this and find I fall asleep again quickly.
Nutrition and breast cancer. I recently listened to several podcasts featuring Dr. Kristi Funk (Angelina Jolie's breast surgeon and a doppelganger for my own). She recently published a book, Breasts: the Owner's Manual: Every Woman's Guide to Reducing Cancer Risk, Making Treatment Choices, and Optimizing Outcomes, and was enthusiastically talking about how eating plants can keep you from getting cancer. I immediately grabbed an orange. And then I read the FORCE report: "We address false claims made by Angelina Jolie's doctor, Dr. Kristi Funk." "It is important to remember that changing diet does not protect against breast cancer. Some lifestyle changes will have more impact on breast cancer risk than others. Weight loss, increased physical activity, and reduction of alcohol consumption provide the greatest benefit for most populations." OOF. I encourage you to listen to these two podcasts: "Is Breast Cancer Preventative?" and "Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer" AND read the FORCE article.
Traveling: Welcome to a new section! Much of Juniper Disco over the years has been about traveling to warm places. I'm adding this new space to share with you some of my tips and things I discover.
Compression bags. We recently bought a new suitcase that I SWEAR was listed as the same size as the one we had. It is WAY smaller! We've taken two trips with it so far and I've managed fairly well with it. However, Jamaica is coming up soon and I tend to bring a lot of outfits with me. Luckily, I found these compression bags that you can stuff to the gills and then zip them up to compress everything.
"How to Pack Like a Doctor." Luckily, I've never gotten horribly sick on a trip so far, but I do go prepared. Unlike this doctor, I buy small travel size versions and leave everything in the box unopened (just in case the country you are traveling to has some questions!). And remember to leave products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers) or codeine at home if you are traveling to Mexico -- it's illegal to bring them into the country!
"The Inside Story of Mike Isabella's Fallen Empire." I was never a fan of his, but I've always wanted to try that pepperoni sauce.
"Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?". Pale people make me uncomfortable. And it may turn out that they are also wrong. And for the record, I usually allow myself 15 minutes in the sun before I slather on the sunscreen. My Vitamin D levels are good according to my doctor.
Futuristic designs of Provincetown by Harvard GSD students. These are fascinating. Some are really ugly. And all of them remind us that most of this town will be underwater at some point in the future.
"Like an Alien Landed in the Middle of Los Angeles": Hope Hicks, West Wing Alum, Begins Her Second Act on the West Coast." Like anyone involved with the current administration, she deserves, at best, a mediocre life.
Harvard Music Lab Tone-Deafness Test. When I was in 3rd grade, I played the French Horn. That is, until my music teacher told my parents I was tone deaf and should choose another instrument. Turns out, I AM NOT!
Once again, thank you so much for reading! See you back here in a few weeks! This is a short month. Make the most of it!