The Quiet Post #22: Autumn Chill

This is a legacy post from a blog I wrote in 2018 about language, storytelling, and the shape of things. Delivered here straight from the archives, please enjoy the following issue of The Quiet Post.

It’s beginning to smell a lot like autumn.

Or maybe it’s just this bonfire-scented candle on my desk. Either way, the temperature is about to plummet into the sixties and I’m already digging out my sweaters. Fall, unfortunately, only lasts for about a week and a half in Minnesota, but it’s a great week and a half.

Here are some calm recommendations for you as the leaves start to turn:

Listen: Interview with Elizabeth Gilbert

I have to admit, I haven’t paid much attention to Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame), and I might need to fix that. This interview is beautiful. I have a feeling I’ll continue to return to it for years. It’s fifty-one minutes of Gilbert encouraging quietness and curiosity, gently reminding us that emotions don’t need to set your head on fire. They can be small. I’m also a big fan of her theory that everything interesting is ninety percent boring.

Watch: Wolf Children

Oh man. This movie stayed with me for a long time. Though it features half-wolf children, it’s a wonderfully human look at motherhood, childhood, sibling-hood, and growing up. I’ve written before of Amy Krouse Rosenthal writing in her final book about the Japanese term mono no aware, which means “an awareness of the impermanence of all things and a wistful, gentle sadness at their passing.” This movie has that in spades.

I, uh, was going to link to the trailer, but it literally goes beat by beat through the entire movie. Maybe skip the trailer and just trust me on this one.

Work: Aventine, by Agnes Obel

I’m cheating a little, because this is technically also a “listen.” Aventine is Agnes Obel’s 2013 album and it is sweet magic. I listened to it non-stop during work last autumn and it is the perfect soundtrack for crisp weather, warm lights, and miles to go before you sleep.

Read: Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve been slowly working my way through this for a while now. It’s both deceptively simple and frustratingly obtuse, and every once in a while it cracks open to reveal something incredible. Among the things I’ve discovered so far:

Those who think to win the world

by doing something to it,

I see them come to grief.

For the world is a sacred object.

Nothing is to be done to it.

To do anything to it is to damage it.

To seize it is to lose it.

It reminds me of something Austin Kleon said in a talk back in March about the inspirational phrases we use, ie: “make your mark on the world!” These phrases, he says, “presuppose that the cosmic purpose of human beings is vandalism.” How much better to be like David Sedaris, who when he’s not writing spends most of his time picking up garbage on the side of the road. How much better to be part of the cleanup crew. The custodians. The helpers.

Hope you find some time to chill this week.