To bring about the calm

While reading Why We Should Memorize this weekend, a piece on poetry from The New Yorker, I came across a wonderful phrase, "memorable cadences."

I pay my bills by talking to my students about poetry, and about stories and novels and essays—ultimately, about memorable cadences, about the music that occasionally lifts off of words carefully deployed on a page.

My first thought, like so many of you I'm sure, was, "I must remember to add cadence to my list of favorite words". Some time ago, I grew tired of saying, "I love that word!" and not remembering what others words I also loved, so I started writing them down in one place (odd, I know). Cadence now joins nefarious, blithely, ubiquitous, belies, apace, nebulous, and cacophony. I couldn't tell you why I love them; they just make me smile.

My second thought was, "That's a very high standard to reach." I'm sure we'd all like to write sentences worthy of that description, but those who do are few and far between. I'm perpetually unhappy with my writing, and most others I talk to are, too. A few people have mentioned that they hesitate to contribute to Uncommon because they don't think their words will measure up in some way.

I assure you, that's not possible. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the contributions to Uncommon, but what makes the words so meaningful isn't the quality of the writing, it's the heartfelt honesty. When we write about our favorite things and moments that matter to us, whether a single sentence or a few paragraphs, we share a part of ourselves. That will always be captivating, and always worthwhile.

Prompted

Last week's dispatch asked, What’s your food of choice for celebrations?

Kesha wrote:

My favorite food of choice for celebrations is some good old oreo cheesecake. I only get it every now and then because I only know one person who makes it really, really well. I really need to learn how to make it myself so I can do whenever I want. :-)

Melissa wrote:

The year I fell in love with Robert B. Parker's Spenser books, I made a birthday dinner from a detective novel. They're not very good judged by the usual standards of detective novels - often no real mystery, the plot moving fast or slow as convenient. But Parker has an amazing voice, delivering perfect snappy patter and the most loving descriptions of those things that matter to the narrator. And one of the things that matters to Spenser is food. (Aside: for all you dorks in the room, Rands thinks Robert B. Parker is awesome too.)

The fanciest dish in the early books is Scallops St Jacques. It's described in detail, not so much that I didn't need to hunt down a recipe, but enough that I knew it would be decadent. It was magical, making something from fiction come alive in my kitchen. Amazingly, it tasted exactly as described.

Andrew wrote:

A special moment in my life has always been celebrated in the form of steak. Not only does it taste so good, but it always reminds me of good times I've had with family and friends in the past when I scan over the item in a menu. Just recently I was passing through Rome on my way back to Ireland and I stopped at a small restaurant in the outskirts of the city. It looked abandoned, and as I got closer to the entrance, it looked pretty dirty but I was hungry and didn't have the option to be choosy. It had been a long day of traveling and I was exhausted. The one thing keeping me going was one final succulent meal before I headed back home.

As I scanned through the menu, scouring up and down at the dishes offered from the main course section, there it was, steak. Due to the state of the restaurant, I was dubious, but it had been a long time since I'd celebrated something, so I ordered my favorite food. I waited for approximately thirty minutes for my feast and in that time I sat and reflected on my trip, whilst hoping and praying that my choice of main course wasn't a poor one. Eventually my food arrived and it was the nicest steak I'd had in years. Whilst I may have been in a country I wasn't very familiar with, miles away from loved ones, feeling truly exhausted and alone, I celebrated my final night in Europe before heading home to my wonderful family and friends :)

Colin wrote:

My absolute favorite food for celebrations would have to be tortilla chips, roasted tomato salsa, and homemade guacamole. Growing up in Southern California I had a plethora of opportunities to experience delicious Mexican food from a variety of restaurants as well as from my own family's cooking and gatherings. Though the main dishes were always the focal point that everyone looked forward to, some of the best conversations with grandparents, friends, and extended family were when we were huddled around a table picking at a bowl of chips while inadvertently bumping knuckles as we dipped our chips into the colorful flavors with unplanned synchronization.

The conversation covered a variety of topics from interests, to gossip, to advice—but unwaveringly did I always learn more about those I was surrounded with. The whole process seemed rhythmically governed by the time it takes to grab a chip, dip, chew, and conjure a worthy response. This dance of observation and contribution to the free-form conversation always felt like the perfect balance of listening, enjoying, and responding. Now I want some chips and guac, and to find some people to share them with.

Uncommon reads

The New Life Cube by Dan Guterman, my favorite thing I've read this month:

Yes, it's the brand-new Life Cube. Easier to handle in moments of great stress. Quicker to load, to hum, to glow reassuringly in the palm of your hand. To bring about the calm.

Cabin Fever: The creative sensation at the MacDowell Colony by Eva Talmadge:

And I’m having one of those days (every other day) where I find myself adding up the number of hours of freelance work I’d need to do to pay back everyone to whom I owe large sums of money, plus the credit card, minus the value of my collection of potentially resalable hardcover books.

The Redemption of Distraction by James Shelley:

Perhaps eliminating so-called ‘negative’ distractions is only half the story: a monastery is designed to eliminate interruptions, and yet sights, sounds, and smells are still employed to ‘pull away’ one’s focus from intruding, wandering thoughts. Such a place does not provide the absence of distraction, it utilizes distraction.

Your turn

What three words would you use to describe your city?