Improvised Life » books + zines (mindset) If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:52:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ‘The Good Life…Gives No Warning’ (Mark Strand) Mon, 16 Mar 2015 06:26:41 +0000

Maira Kalman

Usually we think that only difficulties come without warning. It hadn’t occurred to us that harmony and abundance can seem to come without warning as well, until we read this from the Selected Poems of Mark Strand: (more…)

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Owl Poem, via Mary Oliver + Vine Thu, 12 Mar 2015 06:59:32 +0000

A convergence of two owl poems: one, wordless, at Vine…one by Mary Oliver, when we opened Blue Horses:

Owl Poem

One has to say this for the rounds of life

that keep coming and going; it has worked so far.

The rabbit, after all, has never asked if the grass

wanted to live.

Any more than the owl consults with the rabbit.


Acceptance of the world requires

that I bow even to you,

Master of the night



—with thanks to Maria Robledo


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Klee’s Pink Spring in Deep Winter Wed, 11 Mar 2015 07:01:01 +0000

(Video link here.) A camera mounted to an umbrella captures the experience of walking down the snow-covered streets of New York City in winter in this short video from the New York Times. We saw it not long after we heard a mother reassuring her little girl, as they walked through the frigid, still-snowy park across the way, that Spring was going to come SOON.  We realized that the one thing we could all still count on is Nature and change. That is the rule, as this wondrous, very pink “Young Tree” by Paul Klee attests. (more…)

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John Cage: Saying YES to Unpredictability Tue, 10 Mar 2015 06:52:01 +0000

We opened the John Cage’s enduringly great A Year from Monday and found this extraordinary set of questions*:

How immediately are you going to say Yes to no matter what unpredictability, even when what happens seems to have no relation to what one thought was one’s commitment?

The kind of YES he’s talking about is full committment: (more…)

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Desmond Tutu on “Random Kindness” and Becoming “Life Artists” Wed, 04 Mar 2015 07:08:59 +0000

Over the years, we’ve written often about the great Anne Herbert, the extraordinary writer that long-ago coined the phrase “Practice Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty“, and the curious little book of that name that was published in the ’90’s. Long out-of-print, its charm and power continued to resonate, inspiring an updated edition, now with full-color drawings by its original illustrator, Mayumi Oda, and a moving Forward by Desmond Tutu that is, in itself, rich with wisdom. He writes: (more…)

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A Poem for Starting A New Year or Day or Hour Mon, 05 Jan 2015 07:31:43 +0000

One of the best gifts we received for Christmas was Mary Oliver’s book of poems Blue Horses. No matter where we open it, we find a few words that reminds us of a way of living and seeing we’d like to follow. (The epigraph features the remarkable Kabir quote, above.)

Here’s a catalyzing fragment from the poem “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac”: (more…)

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Holiday Strategy?: Abundance Without Attachment Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:16:19 +0000

Siglio Press

For those wondering how to navigate the lavishness and commercialization of Christmas, we recommend "Abundance without Attachment", Arthur C. Brooks' New York Times' op-ed in which he tells of the three principles he's learned for handling the painful contradictions of the season and of our aspirational era. ]]> 0
An Intro to ‘Bird by Bird”s Brilliant Instructions on Life Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:05:57 +0000

A while ago, Brain Pickings posted on Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, for our money one of all time BEST books about the creative process. Although we’ve written about the book ourselves — including our crazy-favorite quote about being “flanged” — Brain Pickings offers a trove of excerpts that make a fine introduction if you’re not familiar with the book. Here’s just one: (more…)

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Basho Haiku for Cabin Porn Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:27:20 +0000

Claude Guérin.

The other morning, we opened our favorite book of haiku to this astonishing three lines by Basho, written in the 17th century.

       Life in this world—
a makeshift hut
       like Sogi’s.


Such pleasure, contentment, and wonder in a simple makeshift hut made us think of ones we’ve admired at Cabin Porn(more…)

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The Beauty of Unfinished…and Asking for Help Wed, 12 Nov 2014 23:44:04 +0000

Amanda Palmer/Maria Popova

This image of musician Amanda Palmer in Brain Pickings reminded us how beautiful walls intentionally painted in a rough “unfinished” line can be.

But the real gift was this little video of Amanda Palmer talking about why it is so difficult—and can be so healing — to ask for help, which is the subject of her new book, The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. Check this out: (more…)

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Gary Snyder’s Buddhist Grace Thu, 06 Nov 2014 09:22:13 +0000

We’ve come upon this passage about saying grace before a meal many times while flipping through The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations and each time have thought, We need to do that, to at least think it if not say it aloud. Snyder’s view is just right. It may be especially resonant now that we are receiving food every week from Essex Farm in northern New York. We are cooking and eating with the seasons and are astounded weekly by that abundance that we are lucky to have. In hearing of what goes on on the farm, we feel like we somehow are part of it, aware of the weekly harvesting of vegetables, gathering of eggs, careful, mindful slaughtering of animals.

In The Practice of the Wild, Snyder puts eating in a much bigger context that we find deeply connecting and comforting. His grace is about taking a moment to think about our food and to express gratitude for the hugely creative force behind it, which we are part of: (more…)

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Maira Kalman’s Favorite Things (What are Yours?) Tue, 04 Nov 2014 09:31:24 +0000

Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman’s latest book My Favorite Things is already proving to be an enduring beauty on our morning reading pile. It features more than fifty objects from both the Cooper-Hewitt and Kalman’s personal collections — an Ingo Maurer lamp, Rietveld’s Z chair, a pair of Toscanini’s pants, photographs Kalman has taken of people walking towards and away from her, to name a few —with Kalman’s handwritten reflections on their meaning.

The strange little book is a meditation really, on the ways rooms, hats, shoes, things of all sorts, resonate in our lives, inside and out. We find opening it anywhere gives us an excellent shift of view with which to start our day. (more…)

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Marie Kondo’s Philosophy of Decluttering Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:55:03 +0000

Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has taken Japan and Europe by storm. And it seems, it is in the US as well. What sets Ms. Kondo off from other decluterring experts is her underlying philosophy that dictates the work of “tidying”.

An article in the New York Times outlined Kondo’s two basic, somewhat radical/spiritual, tenets:

Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service and… (more…)

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When Things Fall Apart, They Come Together Again Mon, 29 Sep 2014 06:54:47 +0000

Sally Schneider

Last week, my dear friend whose hospital stay strategies we documented a bit in June ended up back in the hospital for a rather scary heart procedure. Test-after-test indicated dire problems that had to be taken care of NOW, ASAP, STAT!!!!

While helping him navigate challenging tests and meetings with the doctor, my 94-year-old mother passed away in her sleep, about a perfect a passing as you could ask for. But a blow nevertheless.

It’s been a week of very wild life, each moment unpredictable. (more…)

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