sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 17, 2019

portfolio of life lessons
posted by soe 2:53 am

It’s now going on eight months since I was laid off. I had hoped to use my severance time to reflect on what seemed important moving forward and to gain some clarity about what I wanted from my next job during this forced time off. To some extent, I have — I’d like to stay with a mission-driven nonprofit, I’d like to earn a living wage with just one job (those two things often seem surprisingly at odd with one another), I’d like writing to be part of my responsibilities, and I’d love for it to focus on books or literacy in some way. In other ways, though, what I’m looking for remains as mysterious as it did in my first days of unemployment.

So far what you can say about the jobs I’ve applied for is that they are all at nonprofits and most of them involve writing in some way. (I have deviated from that only when the ability to focus on reading is an option.)

The next wave of jobs I’ve bookmarked ask you to send in a writing sample as part of the application, which has required me to revisit the material I’ve put out into the world over the past two decades. Some of it I remember quite vividly; a series of plain language health books and a couple of alumni interviews stood out. But a lot of my writing was done rather anonymously, under the general authorship of my project website. What this means is that it’s not enough to Google my name and see what comes up; I have to go back to the website and page through nearly 500 posts to see what stands out enough to be included in a writing portfolio of sorts.

It’s been illuminating. I often tell people that I don’t love writing, but I love having written. I definitely didn’t love being limited to writing about science, because that was never where my passion or my comfort levels were. It always seemed to require a lot of research to learn about something first, before I could capably explain it to my target audience of middle schoolers. But in the end, what I’m seeing and what I didn’t always appreciate in the moment, is that my job afforded me a lot of freedom to find things interesting or curious and to explore why that was and what might make someone else find it so. I’ve written about a lot of interesting things, from space to endangered species to engineering and from current scientific events and breakthroughs to famous dead people (and non-famous dead people I thought you should know more about). Mostly the prose is straightforward; I’m definitely not winning any contests for compelling posts. But most of them served their purpose — to educate — and even, on rare occasion, broke the barrier into inspiring reading.

This was all for a job that I didn’t love and that I never would have picked if a temp agency hadn’t dropped me on their doorstep.

So, if I can find things to be proud of — and that stand up years later as being worthy of reading — then I think that wherever I land next will also be fine, even if it doesn’t seem like the ideal fit at the outset. There will be things I won’t love about any job, but maybe what this shows is that there will also be things that I do.

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June 16, 2019

moon shots
posted by soe 1:35 am

Merriweather Post has some great sculptures and I captured two with the waxing gibbous moon:

Reach for the Moon

Ready ... Set ...

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June 15, 2019

brandi carlisle
posted by soe 1:20 am

For my birthday back in February, Rudi gave me concert tickets to see Brandi Carlisle this summer at Merriweather Post Pavilion amphitheater. This was before my car’s terminal diagnosis and Columbia is not easily accessible without one, so I’ve been a little stressed about how we were going to get up there. Luckily, Sarah kindly came to our rescue earlier this week with the offer to borrow her car for the night.

Rudi at Merriweather Post's Skydeck

It’s been a couple years since Rudi and I last saw a show out there and things have changed significantly. They’ve developed the area around the park and built more formal parking areas (as opposed to grassy fields) outside the venue and built an addition inside. They’ve added box seats at a mezzanine level and then above that built additional lawn seating they’re calling the skydeck. That new section offers 100-200 general audience members the chance to watch from a sodded-over balcony. We sat up there for the opening act, Lucius, a quartet of two male instrumentalists and two female singers who harmonize beautifully around a single mic (and who favor unusual matching costumes). I wasn’t familiar with their work, but I love vocal harmonies, so Rudi correctly guessed I’d enjoy them. In addition to doing their own songs, they covered “A Dream Is a Song Your Heart Makes” and Prince’s “Purple Rain” quite admirably.


Between the opening and main acts, we procured some refreshments and found our ticketed seats (while today was a gorgeous night for an outdoor show, we have experienced some doozies of thunderstorms from the lawn, which is not especially fun and who can tell the weather four months in advance?). Rudi, knowing my sometimes panicked reactions to crowded venues and a lack of personal space (my favorite GA spot is against the very back wall), found us the perfect seats — two of a tiny four-seat row next to a pillar — but with great sightlines. I have never felt so seen.

Brandi Carlisle

While I certainly knew the name Brandi Carlisle, was pretty sure I’d seen her as an opening act, and own her last album, I wasn’t sure you’d describe me as a fan. I mean, I couldn’t sing along with her songs, I thought. I was incorrect. I knew plenty of her songs, including “The Mother,” about her doubts after her first daughter was born; “The Story,” a love song that was featured heavily during the 2008 Olympics; and “The Joke,” about being yourself and living your best life.

She shared the stage with twin brothers, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, with whom she writes her songs and who provide backing harmonies and strings, as well as a drummer, a pianist/keyboardist/French horn player, and a trio of string players (two cellists and a viola player). They captured a broad range of music together — thoughtful and rocking, personal and transcendent. And all while Carlisle’s soaring voice ties it all together with an intimate bow.

Carlisle marveled throughout her set how amazing it was to see so many people here to see her. She had to take a moment to compose herself early in the set, saying you always think you know what it’s going to feel like. She assured the audience that she was especially grateful because she knew that so many acts would give anything to experience the sight and that she’d never take it for granted.

She finished her main set and her planned encore, and it was obvious people were expecting the evening to conclude there. But then Carlisle walked back out on stage alone with her acoustic guitar for one final song. “A special night called for a special song,” she said. She began to play and quickly asked people to pull out their cell phones to light up the night sky:

It was a very nice birthday (plus four months) present.

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June 14, 2019

fauna, temperate, and day off
posted by soe 1:06 am


Three beautiful things from this past week:

1. I stopped at the garden after my volleyball game this evening and saw both the bunny and fireflies (they’ve been out for about a month, but they were hovering in quantity at dusk just along the woods’ edge).

2. The weather this week has been cooler and less humid and utterly fantastic.

3. Rudi’s work conference ended yesterday, which meant that he worked long hours the first half of the week and that we unexpectedly got to spend much of the day together today.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world lately?

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June 13, 2019

knit-free unraveling
posted by soe 1:52 am

While I have carried knitting with me a bunch of places, I’ve done nothing else with it this week. So I’m not going to bother showing you this week’s lack of progress on any of those three (!) projects.

I have, however, been reading.

Here are the four books I’m currently working on in paper:

Knit-Free Unraveling

I mentioned that Rudi found Peter Mayle’s final collection of essays at the book sale on Sunday. I’m loathe to rush through them because, well, he’s dead and no more will be coming. I love his humor and count A Year in Provence as one of my favorite books of all times. (And one I’d been thinking of re-reading in the near future.)

I bought Elizabeth McCracken’s Bowlaway at the start of this spring after Rudi mentioned hearing about a book that featured candlepin bowling in Massachusetts at the outset of the 20th century on NPR while driving home from the ski hill. She was reading locally soon after that and I noted how many people at the event enthused about her style. (I felt bad; I’d never heard of her.) The Tournament of Books is running a summer edition, Camp ToB, with several books I’m actually interested in, so I pulled it out earlier this week, and have proceeded to attempt to read aloud to anyone sitting still in my proximity clever turns of phrases, gems of sentences, and even whole paragraphs. (As an aside, isn’t it interesting how reading aloud, particularly to other adults, is such an intimate act, yet we really don’t value it as such? Here is something that nuzzles my soul, we say; I hope you will find it moving in a similar fashion.)

I started Emergency Contact last week and, to be honest, I’ve found the beginning a little slow to get started, and I would give up on it soon if my friend Jenn didn’t rave about it so. Our two main characters have finally just had their first solo encounter, so I’m hopeful that it’s about to pick up.

Finally, I had a day today and at 7:30 finally headed out into the beautiful evening to read at the cafe for a bit. I needed fun and familiar and pulled the latest Discreet Retrieval Agency novel out of my library bag to keep me company. Lola and Bertha (and dog Cedric) are up in Vermont on a case that’s gone pear-shaped just before Christmas. You may remember that I read the third book in the series, Come Hell or Highball, earlier this spring, and I don’t usually like to binge series. But I requested it from the library and it came in quickly and … well, it was what I needed tonight, so I’m glad it was at hand.

Would you like to see what other people are reading and hear about how they actually work on their knitting, rather than shifting it from one bag to another? Head to As Kat Knits for her weekly roundup.

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June 12, 2019

office supplies
posted by soe 1:13 am


When I’m working at the park, this is often what my kit looks like.

Obviously the laptop, which is hooked up to my cell phone hotspot to provide internet, is the most crucial item.

I bring a thermos of tea and a bottle of chilled water and a snack/lunch for sustenance. Today, it was peanut butter and graham crackers. Sometimes it’s yogurt. Other times it’s a bagel.

For protection and comfort, I have sunglasses, sunscreen, and bug spray (although I try to sit at a picnic table under the trees and they spray for mosquitoes at the park, but that doesn’t stop the no-see-ums from chewing on me).

And there’s reading material (and, inside the wicker tote, headphones and a knitting project), although none of that is guaranteed to be used. But it makes me feel better about things.

When you work outside (in your backyard, maybe, if you have one), what do you always have with you?

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