Hello, friends! We hope 2013 has been a delight so far. This week, Lisa writes about choosing, watching and cherishing films.
Over the course of our holiday staycation, my husband and I watched quite a few movies from the glow of a laptop screen. We’d get all settled on the couch, feet propped on the coffee table, pooch sprawled across our laps, and then came the inevitable question: “So... whaddaya wanna watch?”
It can be quite a challenge, taking into consideration two different film viewers’ histories and preferences and moods, to finally settle on just the right thing. Even when we can agree on a genre—usually documentaries or foreign films—we still grapple over subgenres. Historical quest or inspirational profile? Epic journey or spiritual awakening? Comedy or tragicomedy?
There’s a lot of back-and-forth and screening reviews and watching trailers. We’ll practically spend as much time searching for the perfect movie as we do watching it. But when we finally land on our selection for the evening, we just know. After all that hemming and hawing, a brief title catches both sets of eyes, and it’s decided within seconds. Not too long, not too short, not too sad, not too scary. It’s like Goldilocks at the movie theater.
The good ones leave you with a warm glow after the closing credits, then disappear back into the ether. The best ones linger with you for days or fasten themselves to your consciousness forever. I still can’t get over The Buena Vista Social Club, an unexpected gem we watched almost two years ago, and I can’t wait to see what new worlds we’ll stumble across next. — Lisa
Last week's dispatch asked, What three things would you take with you to your cabin in the woods?
In February, I'm running off to a cabin in Idaho for 8 days. Everything I'm taking can be boiled down to three things: People, heavy with worth. Too much food, to fill the people. And lastly, too much whiskey, to fuel the conversation. When it comes down to it, all you really need are good people, good food, and good whiskey.
For my three things (I guess the top priority "good company", doesn't count as a thing?) I would bring:
- My Kindle – filled up with a lot of great books.
- A good loose leaf green tea.
- An instant read thermometer to make perfect slow-cooked food and control the tea temperature.
My family, art supplies and a paper Bible... I'm assuming the cabin would already have things like candles, a stove, and a way to hunt. :)
Blank pages, a sharp pencil and lots of chocolate for eating and melting purposes.
Three things I'd take with me to my cabin:
- Kindle loaded with books
- My favorite notebook
To the cabin in the woods, I would take the following goods:
- A pen and notebook
- One fiction book, one non-fiction learn-y book, and several uncommon reads
- A bottle of whiskey, for sipsies, not tipsies
These, of course, are in addition to my two companions (the husband and the dog).
I would take the following 3 items to a cabin (if the obvious survival items were included; family, food, water, bedding, etc.):
- Notebook/Pen with lined pages
- Bible (ESV translation)
- iPod Classic with headphones
I would bring a notebook, a pen, and The Oxford Book of American Poetry.
I would take my favorite letterhead, a black ink pen and red roses from my garden to write sincere thank you notes to all the people who nourish my soul with their love.
Three things I'd take with me to a cabin in the woods:
- My laptop. Not "the internet," mind you. I'm a programmer, and my laptop is an ultimate source of creation for me. I can download whatever tutorials or blog posts I need beforehand, and I'll have all the internet I want right there.
- Cooking gear - not for the obvious reason of needing to eat, but for the opportunity to experiment with cuisine. Cooking is one of the finest ways to create, and I don't get to play with it as much as I'd like.
- Hiking boots - because what's the point of being snowed in if you can't go outside and play in it?
Everything I could think of seemed so trite. (My music collection, certain books or photos, etc.) Or might already be there. (A good knife, a nice fleece blanket, binoculars.) As I closed my eyes and pictured the "things" that I would want in that cabin with me, the people in the room were what stood out.
- My wife.
- My parents, including my mother, who died on October 31st of this year after a painfully and mercifully brief 3-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
- My two sisters and their families (2 husbands, 4 kid total).
Then I realized that I just had this for the last week over Christmas. We had all gathered at my father's house in Richmond to celebrate Christmas, the first without the light that was my mother during her favorite time of year (she liked the anticipation of it all). We decorated the house and followed all our old traditions. Chinese takeout on Christmas eve, shish kabob's over the fire on Christmas day, painfully slow present opening, ambrosia, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Then on Friday, we gathered with 100+ family and friends to celebrate the life of my mother.
And here on New Year's Day, recovering from all that and a flu that saw me in bed with a fever of nearly 103, I long for a day in a cabin in the woods (Walden-style). The only thing I'd take, and the one thing I'd hope to find, would be myself.
Bible, notebook, pen.
Firewood, a cozy blanket, and my current knitting project.
My family starting with my wife and my two young boys. I'm an only child so I grew up with a lot of 'me' time. As I've grown older and started my own family, the space between me time and we time has shrunk. I find it hard to have a truly great time without my immediate family. And the more family (e.g., cousins, nieces nephews, aunts/uncles, etc), the merrier.
At least one (or 3) of dozens of books I've wanted to read. My reading goes in fits and starts. I'm in a fit phase. There are many books I want to get to but haven't made the time to do so. A few days/weeks away gives me the time to sit and read more of the stuff that doesn't deal with the day-to-day success of my company but generally expands the mind. The breadth ultimately creates a more interesting me and helps me solve problems more creatively.
Diversity of food. We're a foodie family and love exploring locales through cooking. I'd love to cook something from another continent each day. Maybe Chinese coconut buns and Vietnamese Pho for lunch one day; ackee and salt fish with boiled dumplings for breakfast another day; Jolof, Ewo and Chicken stew for dinner another day. Boscotti di Prato and Mexican hot chocolate for dessert!
The three things I'd take, barring people/dogs. :)
- The Hobbit: I first read The Hobbit when I was 8 years old, and I've read it at least once every year since. It remains one of my favorite books. Every time I break open my current copy (faded pages, almost cracked spine, and all), it takes me back to that first time I journeyed through Middle Earth. I will always treasure this book.
- Aeropress: The simple ritual of brewing coffee has become a reminder to me to slow down. The Aeropress gives me a few minutes to just enjoy making something on my own.
- Axe: I love building a fire from scratch and then spending an evening in front of that fire. One of the most rewarding experiences I've found is chopping my own firewood for those evenings around the fire.
A cabin in the woods. . . Part of me wants to say I would want to take nothing and just savor the experience and the slow for what it is, but the other part of me thinks I would regret that.
If there's no limit to what I can take and my desire for adventure is a given, I'd likely take I would include:
- A deluxe espresso machine with the finest beans I can get my hands on.
- An empty Rhodia dot-gridded notebook with my favorite pens & pencils.
- A backpack packed by Ron Swanson with all the wares he would choose for such an outing, thus equipping me to survive there satisfied for many years.
The 3 things I would take to a cabin in the woods (presumably it had no internet) would be a knitting project, all the pre-selected New Yorker magazine articles that my husband carefully curated for me, and my kind husband.
The three things I’d take with me to my cabin in the woods, assuming my cabin was already outfitted by me and thus had blankets, a wood-burning stove, hot chocolate, scotch, etc.:
- Robert Pirsig’s “Lila” – A book so great that it never gets old. My mind is renewed each time I read it.
- Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy” – A massive tome filled with some of the richest thought in the history of the Western world.
- My laptop – Only as a writing device, as handwriting has become painful and tiresome for me.
A Moleskine, for ever since I was 21 I keep jotting and sketching everyday. It keeps me alive; The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand; a box of pancakes made by my mom.
I'd take my guitar, my paints and my journal. Time and space to create seem to be at a premium these days, and that sounds like the perfect place to do it.
Skipping Steps by Wayne Curtis, on lessons from walking tours of New Orleans:
What do we lose by walking less, and breaking up our walks into Halloween-candy sized missions? We lose that opportunity to tightly stitch together our world.
What movie do you wish everyone would see?