I had the distinct honor of speaking with Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College, about her new biography on Romare Bearden. Check out the interview at ArtsATL, and hear her speak at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend or next week at The Carter Center!
My über talented pals, Wes Cummings & John Carroll, started this *amazing* portrait project the other year, Figure & Ground. I feel very fortunate that they reached out to me about interviewing some of their photo subjects throughout the year. Today my interview with my pal Myke Johns went up. Read all about it!
First off, I made you this mix. I hope you like it.
I started my Tiny Letter with the intention of keeping people in the loop about the going's on in our life in Vermont after the move . . . and realize I've been slacking. So in this edition, a walk through a normal day here, because routines are taking shape.
Habits are wonderful. In Atlanta, my morning pattern was borderline sacred. Not that it was anything flashy: breakfast with Jake, a phone conversation with my best friend, a walk with the pups, a long run. After that, my days usually descended into a joyful chaos, full of colorful characters, surprise news stories and lots and lots of hustle. That worked for me for a long time. It was hard to plan a day well because . . . well, my days were seldom my own.
In that respect, things have greatly changed, and I am grateful for it. Here it goes: every morning I wake up at 5 a.m., turn on the coffee pot, listen to it gurgle and sputter for a second and then get to writing. My first book will be finished before the end of this year, so help me God, and this is what it takes: an hour and a half or so of focused time, every day, no matter what. Jake stirs around six, and we have breakfast together, check the weather and read before diving into the day.
Right now the sun rises around seven. We make the most of the daylight we have.* We walk around the property with Cotton Gin, making notes of fallen trees that need to be taken care of, necessary fence repairs come spring and admire the menagerie of animal tracks in the snow. (Moose have really, really big feet.) We talk about his farm, the residency program and rentals here, the make of our days, discuss the day to come or the books that we're reading until we eventually part ways at the barn, where he either gets to work on the farm, diligently building his greenhouse on a blustery hillside in the harsh, cold air or working with Ed and Nick on the construction of our apartment, a 1100sq.ft. loft in the attic space above the barn.
This seems like a good place to say that it's very likely that the next email will be all about the apartment because it'll just about finished by March 1st. But for the time-being just know that it's coming together in such a beautiful and cozy way that I'm flustered with gratitude and amazement that we get to live in such a perfect space, and how involved we get to be in the creation of it. I'm flustered with gratitude almost all of the time now, but yesterday it increased about tenfold. We climbed up the stairs and sat on what will be a porch off of the master bedroom with a panoramic view of the countryside. The view is stunning to me now, but it's even more mind-boggling to contemplate the fact that it will inevitably become as familiar and intimate as my favorite t-shirt.
By 8:30 or so I'm back at the guest house answering emails before marching over to the main house to clean, fix, inventory or organize, busying myself with writing out guest manuals and paperwork for the residency program we're founding. Some days I help Jake out over at the barn, but the first part of the day is usually put to work in a combination of movement and thought that suits me just fine. One luxury of no longer producing media on a daily basis is that now I can consume media on a daily basis, which is my way of telling you that I am now catching up on podcasts and books-on-tape that y'all probably listened to forever and a day ago. I listened to the bulk of the first season of LeVar Burton Reads while shoveling snow and detailing the kitchen a few weeks ago. I stumbled upon the glory of S-Town while dismantling Christmas trees. George Plimpton and Eudora made jokes about her hometown while I folded laundry. It's been pretty glorious!
The podcast listening doubles as research, as I hope to start a one focusing on interviewing artists, musicians, and writers to support and promote the residency program sometime in the next year. (Any suggestions or input on what kind of content you're yearning for are welcome!) Diligent cleaning and organization are necessary because it's important to me to know every nook and cranny of this property for what we're building here to succeed.
Before Jake and I rally for lunch around noon I sneak in an hour of exercise. There's some workout equipment in the basement of the main house that's been fun to work with, and I've assembled a small library of workout DVD's that are super fun and surprisingly challenging. (JANE FONDA IS NO JOKE Y'ALL.) The rest of my day is research and development for the residency program and AirBNB / VRBO rentals that will open up shop in the spring. Sometimes there's erranding. Sometimes my friend Ann drops by for a walk, or our neighbor Ginnie, but that's pretty much the make of our days. The nights are mostly quiet, dinner and a movie or reading. Tinkering on the piano upstairs. I'm not ashamed to say that we usually pass out by 9:30, 10 at the latest. Because, well, it's dark and we've been up since early. It suits us just fine.
Routines are only temporary, though. As the days get longer, life will start sprouting up and the farm will take off full-speed ahead. The residency program and the rentals too. We'll have our hands full with the fruits of what we're laboring for now. I'm grateful to be in a new era of my life where I'm cognizant of the change around the corner, it makes the simplicity and the solitude of these moments so much more worth savoring.
Much love, world.
*It's crazy to think that by the time the summer comes around the sun will peak her head up from behind the rolling green mountains alongside me around 5 am and stubbornly not lay her head to rest until 9 pm. The winter sun is less stubborn here, but she is brilliant, and when she's out the whole world is dazzling white with a glittering magnificence that will take your breath away.
Hello friends & family,
(Pro-tip: Maybe listen to this mix while you read this. I made it for you!)
In the past two days, I have grown deeply acquainted with silence. After the bedlam of preparing to move across the country, peace is a welcome friend. This morning the predawn woke me around 6:15, and I Milk-Dudded around the guesthouse in the robe my mother-in-law just gifted me (it’s a weighty, lavish L.L. Bean robe of my dream that feels more like a hug than an article of clothing when you slip it on). I made coffee, cleaned cups leftover from the night before and took in the day slowly. A little later Jake and Cotton Gin stirred, and by the time I had gotten out of the shower my husband had busied himself over the griddle in the kitchen, scrambling eggs, and sizzling bacon. We have a breathtaking view of the green mountains Vermont is so well-known for from the bedroom window, and as I dried off the sun was breaking above them with a jubilant shock of pink.
Though life isn’t all tranquility here –– we’ve got our work cut out for us –– an overarching sense of calm blankets this place and it’s something Jake and I are both grateful for. I’m equally indebted to Atlanta and every opportunity the city offered us, and am eager to put the lessons it taught me to work. For instance, being measured in getting to know our new community slowly and surely. Being sure of ourselves and what we’re setting out to accomplish. Knowing the importance of healthy boundaries with the people you work with and encounter. And –– here’s the big one –– not overcommitting myself to a point of inefficiency.
We are now the stewards of an incredible 120 estate owned by Tom and Karen Reed, Joe Lord Farms. It’s our hope, overtime to make this land work for them in a few different ways. Come spring, Jake will be working with the earth and farming. The greenhouse arrives on Tuesday, and over the winter he’ll be working to get the infrastructure for the farm together while also helping Ed Sayers, the most recent property manager and the man who built the homes here, build out our future home above one of the two barns.
Meanwhile, I’ll be working with Tom and Karen to prepare the two houses on the property available for short-term rentals, while also establishing a musician and writers residency on the property. My hope is to offer talented musicians, composers, writers, and curators the chance to get to know this silence that had become such a stranger to me in my own artistic pursuits. There’s magic in solitude. It’s just a matter of standing still and listening. Thinking. Breathing.
P.S. Much gratitude to those of you who reached out with condolences for the loss of our dear friend and pup, Wolfman Jack. It means a lot that he was loved by so many of you. As you can imagine, it's a little too fresh for me to write about my grief at the moment. But someday I hope to commemorate him in writing. He was so important.
I'm so, so thrilled that ArtsATL has the chance to team up with our friends at The Bitter Southerner again, this time to celebrate the 30-year legacy of photographer Jerry Siegel.
I'm so stoked about this series at ArtsATL, "Conversations from the Executive Suite," where I speak with c-level executives about the importance of art. My first conversation was with Ben Chestnut of Mailchimp, an incredibly inspiring leader.
"The art is closely tied to what MailChimp’s business is all about, however abstract. Hopefully we can reflect that creativity back into the work we do every day."
Anthony Harper and I go way back -- Vouched Books was hosted at the Goatfarm Arts Center in the first generation of their programming. A lot of changes have happened over the years. It was good to catch up with Anthony and ask him some hard but important questions about the Beacons project.