Things I Want to Know More About.

I was moved by Erin Gates’ recent post on turning 40 and then — in the fortuitous way in which reading fortifies and amplifies life — found myself reflecting further on aging as I indulged in Mary Oliver’s book of essays (this month’s book club pick). Erin’s struggle with fertility throughout her 30s has been heart-aching to follow. I have many friends who have walked a similar, lonely road and I have seen first-hand the way IVF, miscarriages, and the agony of waiting for a child entirely consume the hearts and minds and bodies of so many women. In her book of essays (at least thus far), Oliver speaks only obliquely about her personal life and often through the prism of the natural world, and we are left to guess at the private heartaches and tragedies she has endured. But she writes from the end of a life satisfyingly well-lived, one with which she has made a deep and abiding peace, and Erin writes from the middle of its busiest season, when some of the biggest struggles of her personal life gape open like wounds.

Reading Erin’s post left me in a state of melancholy contemplation for some time. Even though I cannot possibly imagine the heartbreak she has endured, I felt deeply for her. But I also felt uplifted by her determination to make the most of her 40s — to enjoy herself a bit more as she slopes towards middle age. Her list of resolutions alongside Oliver’s wise reflections as an aging woman made me think about all of the things I want to know more about in this life. Below, a few of them, some serious and others decidedly less so:

+Impressionist artwork. I love artwork from this period but know only the bare minimum about it. I dream of auditing a college course on this. In the interim, maybe I’ll make a point of attending a lecture at a local museum or picking up a book on one of my favorite artists from the era.

+How to unplug. I have tried this in small doses and with middling success.

+Spoken French. I’ve been wanting to take a conversational French class for years and years, and somehow always make up an excuse as to why it’s inconvenient or not worth the price (I was surprised to see how expensive some of the classes were at L’Alliance Francaise!). I was briefly, highly motivated by Jhumpa Lahiri’s decision to learn Italian and write a book in it — just because of the intellectual exercise it presented. While in the Hamptons last month, my friends and I spoke to one another in French all evening (to the best of our abilities) and — yes. I need to continue to exercise the language I spent so many years learning.

+The American South. Mr. Magpie and I occasionally talk dreamily about where we might live if money and careers were no object. We have often mused about trying various cities in the South, drawn to the pace of life, the warmer climate (especially after those five damned Chicagoan winters), the rich history, the vibrant food culture. We recently decided that we would like to explore more cities in the South over the next few years on family vacations as a kind of litmus test for livability. Could we be Charleston people, for example, at some phase in our life? Are we through-and-through Virginians?

+Baking. I’m a passable though ambitious baker. I’ve been known to take on a meringue, an angel food, a souffle — to occasionally wonderful and often mediocre result. But I would like to elbow into this a bit further in my future years.

+How to write a novel — a pipe dream of mine.

+Wine. I drink enough of it that you’d think I know more than just “this tastes good, this tastes bad.” But such is the extent of my prowess. I’d love to embark on a more formal wine appreciation program. (A thinly veiled excuse to drink a lot of wine.)

+Whether expensive skincare is really worth it. (I keep going back and forth on this.)

+How to raise happy, healthy, curious, well-mannered children. Currently in a crash course called motherhood but could use additional support.

In short, and in the words of the one and only Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Post Scripts.

+Shoutout to Nicki for reminding me of the Oliver quote above.

+Things that make me happy and things I need to unlearn.

+Loeffler Randall has a fantastic end of season sale running. I insist you consider adding these block-heeled mules to your wardrobe. They are perfect (!) for outdoor weddings, can be dressed up and dressed down, and are surprisingly comfortable. I wear my similar Tory Burch Tatiana mules (now only available on eBay) CONSTANTLY. Like, at least once a week. They’re the perfect way to transform a day dress to an evening one and are so easy to walk in.

+Loeffler Randall has a fantastic end of season sale running. I insist you consider adding these block-heeled mules to your wardrobe. They are perfect (!) for outdoor weddings, can be dressed up and dressed down, and are surprisingly comfortable. I wear my similar Tory Burch Tatiana mules (now only available on eBay) CONSTANTLY. Like, at least once a week. They’re the perfect way to transform a day dress to an evening one and are so easy to walk in.

+Also love these and these (I own and adore the latter).

+Mini is going through a major princess phase — she only wants to wear “pretty nightgowns” to bed (just added this one to my cart) and always wants a “pretty dress” during the day. She’s often seen clunking around in these dress-up heels, which I think every girl ever has owned a pair of.

+PSA: Yoox has an incredible collection of baby/toddler Supergas in the cutest patterns and prints (difficult to find elsewhere!) Mini had asked me for a pair of red sneakers, and I finally found a pair in her size here. Also love these and these!

+It is taking all of my restraint not to buy this exquisite Emilia Wickstead

+A cute way to look pulled together at the playground without sacrificing function. (Also, nursing-friendly!)

+I always find the greatest discounted pieces by Polarn O. Pyret on Amazon — check out this under-$20 all-in-one!

+You can always count on Ulla for fun statement sweaters. Love this.

+Fun date night / girls’ night top. (Very Johanna Ortiz.)

+Affirmations and learning to be somebody.

8 Comments

  1. We have so much overlap on our lists, including speaking French (I majored in French but mine has become so rusty), Impressionist art (I’m traditionally more of a modern/contemporary fan, but always want to learn more about various periods of art I know little about), and weighing the benefits of expensive skincare. I’d also add learning German, polishing my tennis game, and reading more non-fiction about issues close to my heart, like the climate crisis and gun violence.

    Great, thought-provoking post — and that Ulla sweater is ::chef’s kiss:: !

    xx

  2. I started reading I Miss you When I Blink (as in, this morning!) and I think you’d also enjoy Mary Laura Philpott’s words as well. It’s a book of essays and although I’m only on page 35, I’ve already saved a few pages to my quotes photo stream.

    Happy reading!

  3. Oof, my list grows longer and longer, as it combines with things I’ve dropped and want to return back to. These days, I’ve been thinking more about the latter, since there’s less of a mental block of not having to start from scratch. With moving a couple of years ago, having the baby (or toddler now, I guess, ha), and picking up more consulting work, it’s hard to find the time – but I’ve been feeling the pull to enhance my activities these last couple of months. So on my list: get back into my calligraphy seriously (just doing it in bits and pieces here and there, largely for family and friends), work on learning another language (probably Italian, which I have a basic proficiency in, but I also toy with a non-Romantic language like German or Greek), and pick up tennis again. Can’t believe I live in this beautiful weather but have only played a handful of times (when I used to play at least twice a week when I lived back East).

    And travel more is always on my list – we have a wonderful trip to visit the Christmas markets in Europe coming up this winter, I’m so excited! Btw, I love Charleston, and would definitely recommend the nearby Isle of Palms, especially for a family get-together. We went this spring to the latter and had a lovely time.

    1. Thanks, as always, for all of the thoughtful suggestions and (!!) I’m so impressed by all of your pastimes! A true renaissance woman. xox

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