Why is there this sense, with the approach of the New Year, that we’ve been given time, when, if we look back, we can just as easily see that another year has slid out from under us? I think it’s because we humans are, by nature, hopeful. I know I am.
So it was with a feeling of hope that I set out on a 5+ mile walk along the Hudson River with our walking partners L and C on the second to last day of 2018. The men were going to a Chelsea bar to watch Liverpool (the Chef’s) and Arsenal (C’s) teams duke it out in the premier league. L and I were headed to Greenwich Village and Grounded on Jane Street, a new favorite café of the Chef’s and mine, for their fine selection of Sullivan Street Teas you can order by the pot. Grounded, of course has copious coffees and also has a good array of baked goods, from biscotti to lemon bars and financiers, more on which below. There is almost every type of seating from low tables for two, high tables, counter with high stools, comfy couches. Grounded is also chock full of life: plant life and human life, and its walls always covered with artwork from local artists.
L and I were going to Grounded to get grounded. On route we talked about writing and other creative goals for the New Year. We have a long history of writing in parallel at cafés. We will write for a pomodoro—one 25 minute segment—as timed on my phone’s focus app, and then chat, write or draw or paint for another one, and so forth. Today, L was inaugurating her new bullet journal, the analog calendar/planner system created by designer Ryder Carroll “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”. I have kept a “bujo” for two years now, and L was keen to learn from my experience. However, I had to confess I have come up with my own system that so often is used in retrospect. Nevertheless, I like the ritual of using pen and ruler to lay out the days of each new month, of writing out my goals with colorful disposable fountain pens. By creating the calendar myself, there is the illusion that I am taming time, that I actually have control over the next block of 30 or 31 days. And, hey, I’m a stationery and pen fetishist; anything that spurs the proliferation of notebooks, pens and paper gets my vote.
The breakfast wrap ($5.75) at Grounded also gets my vote. It’s a tidy vaguely Mexican-themed mouthful that doesn’t make you feel disgusting afterwards. In fact, L turned to me and said, “I could see having another one of those!” Eggs, Amish cheddar and a breakfast sausage patty—ooh yummy— are rolled tightly in a flour tortilla and warmed up in a panini press, judging by the grill markings. It comes with a small container of zippy salsa for dipping. Just the thing to power us through two pomodoros of bullet journaling, writing and, for L, painting her lovely, delicate watercolors of objects. Of course, after two pomos, it was time for a tea and sweets break. L and I split a round raspberry financier ($3.75), generous with raspberry jam in the center and heavy with almond paste on the bottom, and I had a pot of bracing keemun mao feng tea ($6.00).
As we were getting up to leave, we noticed the woman sitting next to us was writing in her own Bujo. We “oohed” and “aahed” at her neat, precise markings and her calligraphic flourishes. Yet, at 60—a landmark I passed since I last blogged—I know by now that I cannot force myself to be neat and tidy. And I also know I will always try. From the moment I got my pink leatherette diary as a child, I started each page, as I start each journal or Bujo page now, with resolute neat, precise writing. It quickly devolves as the days and pages go by, to my characteristic untamed script and doodles. As the years go by, though, I love looking back over what I’ve written, recapturing the moments, however messy, that happened when I was making other plans.