City as a Palimpsest

Issue #5: Wildcard

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Welcome! I'm Nanya, development economistpoetwanderer. You can learn more about who I am and what I’m up to right now here, and about this newsletter here. If you got this from a friend, consider signing up!


Dear Friend,

I hope your week has been warm, restful and colourful. If you celebrate Persian new year, Nowruz Mubarak to you! What a joyful time of year.

You may already know this newsletter is meant to be a creative experiment, and one that I hope will become more of a conversation than a one-sided broadcast. In the spirit of newness (and in response to requests for more photos from my travels), this issue of the newsletter takes on a different form from the usual — more photo essay than long, textual account. 

I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed making it.

(Heads up! If you are using Gmail and this email gets cut off, please click on the link below the email that says ‘View entire message’ to see the complete essay.)


Palimpsests | Mexico City

Palimpsest: a piece of writing material on which the original writing has been erased to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.

Palimpsest comes from the Greek roots palin + psáō, which mean ‘wipe anew/scrape again’. The word was originally used for writing materials such as wax tablets or scrolls made from animal hide, which were expensive to produce and had to be reused. It has since been adapted to mean anything reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

I think about erasing and rebuilding a lot. All the greatest cities in the world are palimpsests, living Etch-a-Sketch boards of the dynasties that have unfolded along their banks.1 The city I live in, Mexico City, was built by the Aztecs over a lake surrounded by volcanoes. This city, which they called Tenochtitlán, was razed and built over by the Spanish. Some of my favourite, tree-lined neighbourhoods are a lovely hodge-podge of Spanish neoclassical buildings, gilded, geometric Art Deco, curlicued French pastiche from the Porfirio days, and repurposed warehouses turning into shiny, hipster coffee shops. Ah, gentrification.

Building and rebuilding over a body of water has consequences. Buildings are sinking, pavements are crumbling, irreparable sinkholes appear out of nowhere in the middle of the street as pieces of tar decide to join their underworld brethren. But still, the construction continues. Cycles of architectural fads are set in wax and melted at random. As the city builds taller and tighter to fit more people into smaller spaces, ceilings are getting shorter, and the price of architecture and human life are getting cheaper. And still, amongst it all, we are all building higher, one storey at a time, in an effort to reach the sky.

Here are some photos I took of the city so that you can experience it with me: history and modernity, home and around, sky and ground. This beautiful, perpetually changing city.

In return, I ask if you could share with me a photo (or more!) of the city you live in. I’ll share them here next time.

1. History

“But what if the City were a growing neoplasm, across the centuries, always changing to meet exactly the changing shape of its very worst, secret fears?”

― Thomas Pynchon

City of cities.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico, gothic/baroque/neoclassical, sinking at the rate of 38-51 centimeters (15-20 inches) a year. You can roll a bottle down the sloped floor of this sinking building. A bit of poetic justice towards colonialists who decided to build castles in the air with no thought for improving the foundations of the city built centuries before them.

City of Aztecs. City of tourists.

City in progress.

Chapultepec Castle, French construction, overlooking the shiny parts of the city. 

City of culture.

The Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), theatre and home to some of the country's most historically important murals. The dome of this iconic Mexico City building changes with the light of the sun, and though it looks neoclassical/Art Nouveau from the outside, the interiors are lavish va-va-voom Art Deco/Art Nouveau. 

City of history.

Kiosco del Moro, Moorish dome. 

City of Moors | City of more | Cuidad de amor.

A cosy nook in a cantina in the historic centre.

City as a phoenix.

Art Nouveau door, crumbling 1950s mosaic exterior. 

City at sunset.

Baroque church, historic city centre.

2. Home

“I will never lose the love for the arriving, but I'm born to leave.”

― Charlotte Eriksson, Empty Roads & Broken Bottles: in search for The Great Perhaps

City of squeeze.

A vecindad, a common Hispanic housing setup with a row of houses in a gated community overlooking a central courtyard. Vecindades, or conventillos, are sometimes thought to be lower income housing complexes, in some cases with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, but the amount of embellishment on some of the ones I've seen around leads me to doubt that. 

City as interior.

Library in an old Spanish house. 

City of forever (re-)construction.

A room I once had, one of the last times I unpacked in a long time. 

City of salt-and-pepper light.

Neighbourhood neoclassical.

City of desert flowers.2

Neighbourhood Art Deco/Art Nouveau.

3. Upwards | Bright Lights

“Cities are architecture plus space and time.”

― Peter F. Smith, The Dynamics of Delight: Architecture and Aesthetics

City of stars.

Modern downtown Mexico City: the Estela de Luz (right most), BBVA tower (inner right) with funky spiral staircases visible from outside, Torre Reforma (innermost left) and the Torre Mayor (curvy building, middle left). 3 4

City of architecture.

A few steps away, the Rufino Tamayo museum, a stunning piece of modern architecture with rotating experimental art exhibitions. 

Hipster city.

The Cineteca Nacional, a modern indie/foreign cinema complex with plenty of open green spaces and the occasional veggie burger-selling college dude outside. 

City of drainage.

Also in the neighbourhood, sculptor Sebastián’s El Caballito, a steel structure resembling a horse’s head. Built on a prestigious roundabout to take care of drainage vapour exhaust and look good doing it. 

4. Lush

“A city without some form of a transect is like a country without a constitution; It is a breeding ground for spatial anarchy.”

― Archimedes Muzenda, Dystopia: How The Tyranny of Specialists Fragment African Cities

Marigold city.

One of the city's many tree-lined bike/walkways. 

City of glass, green and open spaces.

Weekend rollerblading in the park, under the Estela de Luz. 

City of art.

Erase and redraw. Is there anything more palimpsesty than graffiti?

City of UFOs.

Shoots and scores. 🌱 🏀

Recycling city.

An events dome made from the repurposed 20 litre water jugs that are the city's water lifeline. 

5. Infinite | Eternal | Perpetual

“Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self; the heavenly by the love of God.”

― Augustine of Hippo, City of God

City in love.

Sunlight city.

City of water.

We started with what happens when you pave over a city recklessly (what you build literally falls in on itself). We end with a glimpse of how Mexico City used to be in pre-hispanic times of water trade. Xochimilco, one of the last remaining waterways/neighbourhoods where indigenous communities can preserve pre-hispanic agriculture on floating land (called chinampas) and trade via water canals. 5

City as one.

From seas to skies. 

Final thoughts

I have long believed that the world’s greatest cities, especially those with ancient blood running in their veins, have something in them for everyone. You bump into something historic on every corner - something that has seemingly always been there, or that will go on to hold memories for future inhabitants who will walk on the very same ground as you. Cities are palimpsests.

But our fascination with cities and their very real power as nexuses of employment, transport, culture and economic growth means they have been getting successively more crowded in recent years, building taller and tighter to fit the dreams of all the beings that live in them. 

This leaves me questions. As we try to build ever-taller, fly ever-higher, layer by layer, are we trying to reach the sky? Or just what lies beyond? In the process of building one wax floor at a time, are we building a tower of Babel? And did we stop to fix the sinking floor first?

As cities like Mexico City groan, squeak, expand and (literally) sink under the weight of all this growth, it becomes more important to work on the problems they have first before looking upwards. Easy and inexpensive solutions include using data to understand citizens’ needs, creating multiple-use public spaces, finding ways to generate less waste and smarter ways to process it, and using the resources we have (municipal and city budgets, but also data and local talent) to make the city more accessible for all citizens. 6 We are all living in this palimpsest, we should all have the right to walk around in it too.

Fin.


Share with me 🗺

Share a photo of the city you’re in with me! Hit reply, attach a photo or ten, share a few words if you want to. I want to know a bit more about where you are, what you’re seeing out of your window, your favourite building/rooftop in the city, your favourite tree in your neighbourhood.


What did you think of this format?


A big thank you to Saumya, Karthik, and Compound members David, Rajat, Art, Soma, Yasmina, Ryan and Giselle who helped me work through this in draft form.

1

I wish I could take credit for being the first person to have had this thought, but others have had it before me. For example, Lyonel Trouillot, whom, during research for this piece, I found wrote “Les villes sont des palimpsestes” for his novel ‘Ne m'appelle pas capitaine’.

2

Fun fact: When I was growing up in Syria, we had a bush of these exact flowers below our house. When I lived in Delhi, too. Maybe I’m chasing them, maybe they’re chasing me.

3

LEED-certified Torre Reforma shares the record for being the Latin American building with the most elevators (35). It has garden spaces on nearly every floor, a greywater recycling program, light-saving sensors in areas that receive natural light, and a light frame that doesn't put as much pressure on the city's foundation. Because of its shape, the shadow it leaves on its neighbour buildings lasts no more than 25 minutes a day.

4

Torre Mayor, also LEED-certified, is renowned as one of the safest buildings in the world. A skyscraper built and tested to resist earthquakes of up to 9.0 on the Richter scale, it also has the continent's highest and safest heliport, puts less strain on the electrical grid as it balances its electricity use over three different city grids, and holds a world record for no serious accidents or deaths having taken place during its construction.

5

The public area is a jangle of brightly coloured boats where rowdy partygoers can buy beers and snacks from smaller boats nearby. But this is just a small part of a much larger UNESCO-protected aquatic ecosystem. The ecosystem is held together by willow trees, called ahuejotes, which stop soil erosion and maintain an aquatic environment that encourages the breeding of otherwise dying endemic water animals - acociles, Montezuma frogs and my favourite, axolotls!

6

I’m a big fan of low-tech, high-data solutions for smart cities. If you are too, let’s talk!

On bodies

Issue #4

Hello,

I’m back and I bring. new. toys! Read through to check them out (or click each word above).

This week, I’ve been sharing my thoughts about women in the world of work, editing and getting to know the community at Compound Writing, and really enjoying and learning from this piece on Cultural Appropriation by non-profit Studio Atao that I helped edit. I also just started a course on bodies, and I have so many thoughts on that, but more on that (and a chance for you to tell me what to write about) below.


New around here?

Welcome! I'm Nanya, development economistpoetwanderer. I write here and there, take photos, build data models for equitable policymaking. My home on the web is here (my home on the earth is a bit more everywhere). You can learn more about this newsletter here. If you got this from a friend, consider signing up!


On bodies

Hi, I'm Nanya, and I'm learning to be in my body.

This week, I started a course called On Body, a dance-forward philosophical approach to learning more about the body in its forms and our interaction with it. I enter it trying to learn more about our own personal relationships with our bodies - how we see them, how we interact with them, how much importance they have or don't have in our everyday lives, and whether they are the central character or just a prop in the art we make. I hope to ask all this and more of my own relationship with my body as I learn to live in it.

In so many ways, my body has taken up so much space in my head over the past decade. Deciding what to feed it so I can feel at one with the fishies and plants, learning how to move so I can chisel my abdomen into chocolate bar abs and put some muscle on these skinny arms, discovering the power of rest. Finding my way, so slowly, to being ok with my hip dips and lightness of chest, with my panda eyes and monkey teeth. Learning how to heal what my random late twenties acne portends. Mapping out what gets it all wound up and makes it all tick, tock, work around the clock.

In some ways, it's a perfect time to start a course about bodies. Four weeks ago, I started a pill that put me entirely out of touch with the body cues I have worked so hard to get to know over the past few years. I’m off it now, but oof, did that hit like a brick. Bloating, fullness, acne, mood swings, fuzzy head, and the distinct feeling of being in a straitjacket in my own body. A slow, month-long nuclear explosion of my perfectly calibrated routine with my body, tugging apart our still very new ok-ness with each other and pushing me a little more into a playpen with my own black dog. Hello, depression, old friend!

Why am I telling you this? Because this is not a singular experience. Because the side effects of medicines are not normal. Because we are still not talking enough about the impact of the pill (or other hormones) on women's everyday functioning, on their ability to work, on their personal relationships, and most personal of them all, on their relationships with their own bodies.

Millions of women go through all sorts of frustrating and inscrutable changes when they are put on hormones, and so much of publicly available medical research denies the statistical significance of these symptoms. Apparently, it's ok to put women through debilitating mood swings, headaches, and nausea, all life-sucking, joy-warping conditions, for the first four months of being on the pill, and then call them hyperbolic, hysterical beings. Apparently, depression is not counted as a symptom of the pill, even though so many women suffer it. It's 2021, and we are still not making enough space to talk about this freely in public discourse. It makes me so mad.

You may already know this. You may even be infuriated by it. Or maybe you just don’t care. Well, especially if that last one is you, I’m asking you to build some more empathy and work towards holding space for conversations about bodies, especially women’s bodies, in your lives.

Bodies are weird. Bodies bleed. Bodies hurt. But bodies also tell us what’s going on around us and how it may be affecting us. Bodies are the most visceral way we express love. And bodies find their way back to balance when we find a way to be with them.

During a pandemic, when the absence of physical touch leaves such a hole in some of our lives, my second ask to you is to take a moment to be with your own body. Do it every day. Learn to read the information it is giving you all the time (this is called interoceptive awareness). You are the only one with access to this treasure. You are the only one in the universe who knows how it feels to be you.

Learning to be in my body is one of the things that has helped me most in understanding myself and being present to process whatever is going on, inside and outside. And I have a million thoughts on the intersections of bodies, states of being, and identities, especially my own, that I’m hoping will be the work of future essays. (Would you be interested in reading that? Feel free to suggest what I should write on, body or not body.)

I'll keep you posted on my journey. I'm so far from being...there, but I think I am maybe just starting to enjoy it.


I leave you with this question:

What's your relationship with your body? Has it changed over the years? Is it true that we become more accepting of ourselves as of our bodies as we grow older? Do you see your body as its own willful creature or as something that you have a nurturing/symbiotic relationship with?

Reply to this email, share it in the comments, or click below to answer on this brand new tool from Palette.

Click here to answer


Links and things

  • While you’re thinking about your relationship with your body, here’s some food for thought by powerful artist and advocate for marginalised people, Priyanka Paul.

A post shared by Priyanka Paul (@artwhoring)

[Text reads: “where Do I put my dissatisfaction with body? = there is no +positivity for my dissatisfaction | only for my -body”]

  • Here’s a quick exercise you could do to sense where you are in terms of interoceptive awareness:

Breathe in for a second and try to feel what’s going on in the fingertips of your right hand, in the toes of your left foot. Is it cold or warm, tingling or pulsing, or nothing? How does it feel on the top of your head? In the space beneath your earlobes? In the hollow of your chest? Take another breath in. Can you feel that? Can you feel your heartbeat?

To read more about interoceptive awareness, try this or this.

  • While we’re talking about senses, here’s a piece about trusting your sense of smell by Natalie Toren, whom I’m hoping will be my friend

“Sensorial pleasure is profoundly linked to scent. This you probably know if you’ve hunted down a special perfume, or stood beneath a jasmine bush or tasted offerings at an ice cream shop (where tantalising flavours are more indebted to their fragrance than most realise). Beyond providing or enhancing pleasure, however, the important role scent plays has been diminished in the vision of modernity we inherited. Just think of all the scentless hallmarks of technology we interact with regularly: audio, visual, and tactile--the internet, iPhones, VR—but none olfactive…But it would seem that outside of a cosmetic realm, our sense of smell’s utility is too ephemeral to be an organising principle, too subjective to be trusted.”

  • If you want to read more about women and their exclusion from the world in certain ways, there is a lot(!) out there, but perhaps you could start with Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Pérez, which I’m reading right now. Or Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly, which I’ve recommended to everyone in the past year. Or more on the topic of bodies and radical self-love, My Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, which I’m working my way through.


One last thing

I would love to know whether you’re enjoying this newsletter so far, whether it’s what you expected, and what you’d like me to write about. If you have 3-7 minutes, please help me out by filling out this form. Or just take twenty seconds to suggest what you’d like me to write about here.

I have 3 minutes

I have 20 seconds

The real problem of stand-up, of course, is that you must constantly justify why you are the only one talking while a room full of people sit quietly.

Jerry Seinfeld

So please don't sit quietly, write to me!

Almost not a newsletter

Issue #3

Hi friend,

I wasn't planning to send out the newsletter this week because I received some big, not good, news on the family front that dampened all will to do anything and changed any plans. But this mailing list is still fairly small and I know most of you in real life (or indirectly), so maybe I can share this with you, and you can just skip ahead to the links if it’s too much. 

My grandfather passed away on Tuesday morning. 

We were close. He was the first person in my family to hold me in his arms when I was born, I learnt how to do a chakra on his yoga mat even before I could walk, and he is the reason I am where I am today. The morning I found out, I wrote a little (1500 word) note, perhaps to process the shards of feelings I was walking on in that haze. As someone close and wise said to me when they found out, “Writing is healing, writing is processing” and also, “It must hurt.“ So here it is if you want a glimpse of the person who paved every single stone of the way to where I stand today. Writing it did help me to begin the process of unraveling this journey of healing. 

The wise person is also right on that other account; it does hurt. I thought the length of my grandfather’s illness would make me prepared for this possibility. I thought logic and philosophy and meditation and physically living on the other end of the planet would mean I could take everything at a distance and give it some perspective. But the truth is, for two weeks before it happened, I had been sleeping with my phone clutched in my palm, the terror of waking up to an untimely message making my heart pace each night. And the truth is also that since it happened, my world feels like it shattered a little and I can’t put it back together again. I haven’t felt normal. I feel like half the time little lima beans are jumping up and down inside me making my heart race, and half the time they are melting into puddles on my face. (How can lima beans melt into puddles, N?) I can’t even put together a decent metaphor.

Anyway, this just to say, I’m sad. I know it’ll take its time, and I know my sister and I have been luckier than most to have had the joy of experiencing our grandparents for as long as we have. So I’m just sitting with it, really feeling the deepness of my love and gratitude for him. And people have been so, so kind.


But while I dwell on that, here are this week’s links for you (make sure you read the last one!):

  • This episode from the 10 Percent Happier podcast, which you will see plenty of plugs for although I am not getting sponsored (yet). Host Dan Harris talks to mega monk Haemin Sunim in a fresh way about so many things that have relevance to life, I had to stop every two minutes to transcribe them. For example, his definition of love:

“I think one of the wonderful expressions of love is paying attention. When you love someone or love doing something, you pay attention to it. And in paying attention to it, you don’t think about yourself. When our mind becomes quiet and can pay attention to whatever that is, in that moment there is a quality of love. The ‘you’ drops away.”

Wherever you are in your journey, you’ll probably want to hear this.

  • This Guardian article on how all of humanity’s problems come from human beings’ inability to sit in a room and think. 

  • This Vittles article about imperialism and indigenous food traditions, or if that’s too serious, this one about cultural revolutions and culinary evolutions through deep fried snacks. Vittles doesn’t sponsor me either, but I encourage you to check out their archives and maybe consider sponsoring them. 

  • This Zine from one of the few people on here I haven’t yet met in person but really want to, Ida Yalzadeh. I know there are a few of you on here who are women of colour on your way to university and so on, so here comes a highly, highly recommended guide of things you will wish someone had told you. If you’re not or around the academic scene, a woman, or of colour, this is probably helpful to you as well. Check it out, and check out Ida’s newsletter while you’re at it. 

  • And finally, this wonderful article from my sister on our grandparents. It is sweet, funny, generous, thoughtful, incredibly well-written, and I can’t think of a more fitting close to this newsletter. Her intimate observations do justice to our grandparents and their often comical characters. If you read only one thing today, make it this one. 


That’s it for this one. I’ll be back in two weeks.

As always, stay safe, share with a friend, hit reply, and pick up the phone and call your loved ones.

On finding God's bellybutton

Issue #2

Hi again!

Has it been a month already since my last missive? *Checks calendar* No, it hasn’t, but this is my newsletter and I have updates!


For anyone who's new: Hi, I'm Nanya, development economist, poet, wanderer. I write here and there, take photos, build data models for equitable policymaking. My home on the web is here (my home on the earth is a bit more everywhere). If you got this from a friend, consider signing up!


Personal news

My brand new website is finally up! (Whew, it only took five years and three weeks to figure that out.) It’s still very basic, and I have to figure out how to get more stuff on it and where it should go, so your suggestions are more than welcome (please, give me suggestions!). I also did an author interview about my book and writing process last week with my fellow writer and stand-up friend Lacey Mclaughlin - check it out if you haven’t already! And my article about the farmer's protest in India was featured in Sustain the Mag, just as the world is waking up to to what's happening in India through a tweet by Rihanna.

Links and things

These last two weeks, I've been reading about the power of surrounding yourself with people you can share creative synergies with (scenius > genius, ecosystem > egosystem); how flow comes from stillness and spaciousness, not from busyness; this depressing-but-true piece on how the only way instagram will reward you is if you spend your entire life on there (and everyone else's); and this thoughtful essay on chai and migration in Dubai.

(If you’re in the mood for some learning-by-viewing, I highly recommend these videos by Aditi Mayer and Vandana Shiva on the history of farming and colonialisation, how the green revolution was not really so green (this made me cry), and how the farmers protests in India are not at all new.)


Ok, it's about to get a lot more esoteric. Put your seatbelts on and try not to hurl.

God's bellybutton and cultural mishmash

(Atheists, agnostics, dog-lovers: This is not an email for religious recruitment, keep reading!)

One of my favourite expressions in Punjabi is 'rab di dhunni', [literally: God's bellybutton].  It is used to refer to places that are absolutely in the middle of nowhere -- somewhere you've traveled so far to get to, you've probably reached God (or wherever the universe comes from).

I learnt the phrase growing up, but only internalised it on a family trip through the Black Forest in Germany, where grumpy teenage Nanya's family and friends drove for what seemed like hours through essentially what was just a 'bunch of pine trees' to get to an Alsatian village in the middle of nothing. Rows and rows of perfectly planted pine trees (trust the Germans), a thunderstorm of Bollywood proportions, a dozen identical European towns, and at the end of it all, a tiny decimal point of a village called Meisenheim with nothing around for miles except fields of wheat, one bakery and a police station. Rab di dhunni. God's bellybutton.

And God's bellybutton it was. Sun setting and rising through the stalks of wheat, horses with very happy lives running free-ish, a BnB owner who one morning laid out a 'simple' 18-course breakfast of cold cuts, fruits and fresh, dark bread, and generously shared a bottle of peach schnapps with us to celebrate the last of the summer, and the very best Black Forest cake I may ever have in my life.

If that were God's bellybutton, the thing we had traveled to the end of the universe to get to the beginning of, I could just curl up and die there, happy and very well-fed.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, I think the eternal human questions are, for a lot of us, centered on trying to align our existence with a higher purpose - a kind of discomfort that pushes us to seek answers, to interact with the world around us, to find our way in the world and also our way to The Truth, whatever it means for each of us. In our lives, often we look outside for answers, for sources of comfort, for things that bring us joy or meaning or connection. Some of us with Type 'A' tendencies hope to grow or change towards their ideal selves forever. Some of us wake up before dawn every morning in search of this light. Some of us search for it in the late, lonely hours of the night. (Some of us are just all right.)

There's no map for all this. As you reach your first goalpost in this real-life game of Catan, you may already have created a second one, because that's what growth is about. (Capitalism too, but how capitalism makes us forever-lightchasers is for another issue.) So you make your way to next known unknown, and to the next, and the next, and the next, supposedly on your way to God's bellybutton, not realising how much cosmic stardust you've already picked up on the way.

While you were trying to grow taller, you didn't realise how much you've grown richer, fatter, your own laughing Buddha.

You know where I'm getting with this: the journey is what's important, yada yada ya. What we seek outside us is within us all along. You know this in the ancient wisdom that makes up your bones.

How fitting, then, that in her guide to self-care for social justice, author Naomi Ortiz asks “¿Y dónde está tu ombligo? Where are you centred or rooted?” [Literally: Where is your bellybutton?]

I think it's beautiful that what one viewpoint considers going out of your way to reach (the eternal quest, let's say), another considers a grounding force, right there within you all along. 

In other words, whenever you feel a little lost, take a deep breath, rub your own tummy, remember that you are your own Buddha and that which you seek is within you. What (literally) centres you also connects you the universe. And vice versa, too.

Question

Where's your bellybutton? What are you in search of/growing towards? What centres you?

(Hit reply, leave a comment, share this with a friend)

Until next time!


As always:

Mark this email as 'important' or move it from your promotions folder to your inbox if you want to see it there, send me something you think I ought to include in this newsletter, and though I promise this is not going to turn into a spiritual advice column (though I can't guarantee it won't be at least a little hippie-dippie), feel free to unsubscribe if this isn't for you 🙂

Hello!

Issue #1: A beginning

Hi,

I'm Nanya. Welcome to my mailing list. I hope this week finds you nourished and loved.

If you're getting this, it's probably because I have at some point shared my writing with you and you responded favourably. Your mistake.

But you’re here. You made it. Welcome again!

First, some housekeeping:


What exactly is this?

This newsletter is born out of wanting to give form to the thoughts running around in my head more consistently and create a conversation with people who care about some of the same things I do.

What should I expect?

Once a month or so, I hope to share with you a small piece of writing, other fun stuff and things I found interesting on the interwebs. For me, this is part practice and accountability, part letting go of writing, part evading the inertia of perfection. For you, I hope it will be like a postcard from a friend that you like but don't get to see very often. Though we should write/see each other more often!

What will it look like?

Usually a combination of:

  1. Reflections

  2. What I've been up to

  3. Links and things

  4. Questions for you

But we'll figure it out as we go along. (Suggestions welcome!)


Ok. Now that’s out of the way, here we go!

A beginning

On finding roots

I used to want to be a floatingperson. I thought I would land up living in a Japanese house in the middle of a rice field, dyeing clothes, writing poetry on parchment, soaking in mineral salts in a square family bathtub, and discovering the joys of natto and mackerel for breakfast.  

Now, in the year I will turn thirty, I am living in a far-flung corner of the world in Mexico, married to a musician I met in a bar one rainy night, having just released a book of poetry, starting this massively public missive of sharing my inner life with the world again. I have a job, I have a husband, we have a dog, and for the first time in my adult life, I own more things than can fit into two suitcases. Terra firma feels like a strange place to stand.

And yet. And yet. Having roots allows me to expand, too. I have built myself a family completely new to the one I grew up and that was the only solid, safe thing of love in my life before this. I, former floatingperson wannabe, found and figured out how to do that all on my own (ok, with a little help from my friends).  Am I... adulting?

Who knew that having stability and unconditional love would be so beneficial to flourishing? Who knew that having a room to call your own, being forcibly loved beyond measure even when you don’t quite know how to love yourself, and being with a person who in your absence builds you the perfect reading nook - hammock, hanging plants and all, would make me feel finally so at home I could finally take flight, knowing I could always return?

Who knew that given sunshine, soil and love, a seed could grow into a tree? 

Question

Are there ways about how you are living a different now than one you imagined for yourself? How does that make you feel?

(Leave a comment, or just hit reply)

What I've been up to

Hawking my book on poetry to loved ones; writing this article on the farmer protests in India; reading this stellar Q&A on how the system is set up to use renewable fuels - even when it's becoming cheaper and faster to build your own sustainable smart grids/green grids (and remembering this 99 Percent Invisible episode on how difficult it is to literally live 'off the grid'); stalking Matt Goulding's revivifying food writing again, this time on the power of rituals in a life without routine; and laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of the millennial aesthetic (even if you don't read all the way through this, definitely do read through the piece on the 'Peggy' sofa).

Not the end

We start here, on a hopefully long journey of sharing together. Its path may be changing, its form may be shifting, but I hope you’ll stay awhile with me. 

Invite a friend. And write in any time. 


Next time

More about me, a brand smashing new website, and hopefully more tinywriting.


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