Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ides, Goldfinches

[Friday, March 28th, 1am]

We survived the ides of March somehow. (You did too if you're reading this. If you live in a snowy cold horrid dark medieval winterplace, CONGRATULATIONS! It's almost hellebore season!)

A blur of Block Shop. We launched our new collection a few weeks ago, which we've been been SO excited about (we've been working on it since we were in India in June!). We sold out of a few colorways faster than we could have predicted, which is both panic-inducing and thrilling, but we're about to get a new batch in any day. Hopie was in Bagru in January overseeing our first mobile healthcare clinic and eight older members of our co-op family finally just had their cataract surgeries. Block Shop is growing, our co-op is growing, and we have exciting things ahead of us. This puts everything in perspective when I type it out like that, but sometimes I wake up a little blue and as the day wears on I go from general self-worth malaise into an athletic swan-dive of unmollifiable (not a word) anguish. Anxiety! Self-doubt! The Gemini of millennial privilege! Whee! I called my mom when I was feeling bad about myself/the world/the art market/Ukraine/not giving Dolly enough exercise during the March freeze-over and she said "oh HONESTLY, go outside, get some exercise, and then get back to work." She's so tough sometimes! And always, maddeningly, right.

Last night P. and I, exhausted, dragged our bones down to our corner bar for a dinner of their unbelievably satisfying curried sweet potato fries –because we basically stopped cooking this year save for the occasional random jolt of inspiration like these to-DIE-for lemongrass coconut broth mussels– to celebrate the completion of his thesis. It's about water and conflict in Southern Africa. I wish I could be more articulate about it, it's incredible and inspiring and troubling all at the same time, but it's already almost 1am, so instead I will lay out a simple hierarchy of Goldfinches for you:

The Goldfinch (the book) < The Goldfinch (the painting) < a real goddamn goldfinch, which is a miracle of evolution and makes me believe life is worth living even when my mom is unsympathetic about my low-grade seasonal effectiveness disassociation or whatever it's called. I saw one (a goldfinch) at our feeder in Joshua Tree on Sunday, the day I finished that endless snoooooze of a book, and I thought at myself, JESUS CHRIST, go outside, get some exercise, and get back to work. (SEE? Moms! Always getting in their daughters' heads!)

[three days earlier, Joshua Tree]

We blew our tiny Flat Top budget on a number of things, most recently and comprehensively on replacing the 1950's jalousie windows with super-efficient windows that actually open and close, so we're holding off on the Phase Two stuff until I sell some paintings and P. finishes grad school in June and starts work.

We got into a minor disagreement because I sneak-bought $200-worth of plants while P. was on his phone and thought I was "only getting a hose." Which is $200 we really don't have to spend on Non-Essentials. "But it's for the FUTURE," I insisted. "It's an INVESTMENT."

(Do you want to know what they were? Yes you do, because you too are sneaky and love botanizing: mountain aloe, desert spoon, a rare lavender-colored Jerusalem sage, and a dozen artichoke agave pups. Everything else we've planted were free cuttings and pups from local hort friends.)

We compromised (no we didn't. I kept ALL the plants.) and made really excellent margaritas and watched the sun go down over the mesa and schemed about the future.

Outside. Exercise. BACK TO WORK.

[present day, reality, in real life, but also online]

If you're a Block Shop person, you hopefully already know this, but just in case you missed it, use code BLOCKSHOPSPRING on orders of two or more at checkout for a 15% discount.



  1. Finally! Someone on the interwebz who isn't gushing praise for The Goldfinch, which I found to be a torment of a book. I only finished because I needed something to read on a recent vacation, and had spent a 6 hour plane ride immersed, waiting for it to get better. Alas, it did not, and I wasted precious beach time slogging through it.

  2. yep, keep workin' girl. you are doing everything right! I just snapped out of winter deluge myself. I can't wait to visit that cabin in person!! oxoxoxo

  3. Agreed - did not actually finish the Goldfinch because it was SO boring. Happy to have you justify my lack of perseverance!! Also I've been waiting for some of your paintings to be purchasable (or at the very least to ogle if I can't afford them) - do you have advice for us about how to get involved on that front?

    1. Hi Vron, just email me! lily.stockman at gmail dot com. Any pieces you're particularly interested in? And do you have a rough budget you have in mind? I have work available, and if you happen to be in LA I have work at my gallery there that you can see in person. Thanks for asking! Can't wait to talk over email! xo

  4. Man, I love you. And I've given up on the Goldfinch (the book) for now. Not sure if I'll bother slugging through. Life's too short, and I clearly need to go outside, get some exercise, and get back to work. (Thanks, Lily's mom.)

    Also, that sounds a splendid botanical investment. P'll thank you some day.

  5. I am going to echo the sentiments, the goldfinch was less than satisfying. Have you read The Dog Stars by Peter Heller? It's wonderful, short, and includes a lovely dog character.
    Keep up the beautiful work. Two of your scarves kept me cozy and cool on a recent desert camping trip. Love them.

  6. I love that you call baby plants 'pups'.

  7. The real goddamn goldfinches out here go into a feeding frenzy over milk thistle seeds in late summer, which frenzy involves the goldfinches hovering in a butterfly-esque flutter above the seedheads and yoinking out great beakfulls of pappus that foof out across their little faces and make them look like they've just been lathered up for a shave. And then they throw the fluff out into the air around them and go in for another bite, still hovering. I think about this whenever the weather is giving me the bleurghs...

  8. The "Hierarchy of Goldfinches" made me laugh out loud... Also the "Gemini of millennial privilege." I love your writing as much as your artwork.

    I, too, am glad to be out from under the mantle of winter, even though I haven't had it nearly as bad by comparison. It's tough to go through what feels like creative hibernation, not to mention all the physical huddling. I went without long underwear today and it felt practically scandalous!

    Okay, then, carry on -- your work is amazing.

  9. Oh god, I am SO GLAD I am not the only person on this planet that found The Goldfinch to be boring. It feels so good to be able to say that out-loud! I struuuuuuggled to make it half-way through. Now I'm reading the first Game of Thrones book instead. So much better. I also read The Art of Hearing Heartbeats recently, which is a short and easy read but sticks to your ribs.

    On the subject of winter/spring....we're still very much in winter's grasp over here in WI. Trying to be good sports and enjoy it, now that the days are warming up (to ABOVE 0! Hooray!) but we still have lots of snow to play in. Lots of outdoor hockey games and tubing happening here. No whisper of maple syrup season yet. The tree roots are still sleeping under four feet of snow.

  10. Oh Lily, I love you! Our mothers have the same advice - I've been told that as long as I can remember. And yes, it's always the right advice, but ugh. Can you please write a book so that I can read much more of your witty, insightful, wise writing in one sitting?

  11. I hope this doesn't make me look little empathetic, but this post made me laugh. So hard. Only because, all that you describe sounds like my story these days. Minus Flat Top, it can be converted into Berlin, mothers and usually lovely husbands, not happy about a herd of fresh plants. The self-doubt. And oh, "the exercise and get over it part". Far too familiar. Still grinning over here.

  12. While I actually liked The Goldfinch (the book), I do agree with your hierarchy of goldfinches. But in the hierarchy of finches, black-capped chickadees will always be the best—black & white, so chic!

    Now taking Mama Stockman's advice to exercise then get back to work!

  13. Hahahaha! I can so relate to the ups and downs! And I have a mama with the same attitude and damn, she's always right! Taking the advice and going outside RIGHT NOW! :)

  14. Yes to plant purchasing extravaganzas, moms, mobile health clinics, and the end of March!!! And I'm with Liz, I'd LOVE to read more from you, cough book, cough cough.

  15. In my dreams I'm selling your textiles in my little shop here in Italy. They are so beautiful I'm sure italians would love them. If you'll ever go wholesale please tell me! And I love what you are doing for the people working for you, it is truly amazing. Good karma is definitely flowing in your direction. I also would like to borrow your mother, because mine gives terrible advices. They often include to eat something very wrong and watch tons of bad television! Fun, but doesn't work. I'm with all the rest of the group here, you should write more. Your blog it's always a pleasure to read.

  16. Add my voice to the chorus clamoring for more long-form Lily Stockman. The thoughtful words you've posted here have stayed with me since I started reading bigBANG this summer. Aaaand if you're taking requests (and it's not too weirdly personal), I'd love to hear more about the influence your mother and great-aunt have had on you and how you live your life. You've previously touched on how they have inspired you to amazing ends. I know nothing is ever one-size-fits-all, but methinks there might be some excellent and most applicable advice contained within such a post as I go about my own business of raising wee lads. Thanks for your consideration and keep up the good work.

    Sincerely, Leslie (currently of Istanbul, soon to be of Madagascar)

  17. Excellent post, as always! By the way, if you haven't seen it yet, you might like Francine Prose's piece on The Goldfinch in The New York Review of Books...

  18. Just a little story Lily. When I wanted to go to Art Center, which my grandmother had helped establish BTW, my mom said to me....."Ginger, you will always be an artist. Now go out and get a real career." Of which I took to heart and have always, always, 30 years later, wished I had pursued, with a vengeance. The art world is fickle, and I understand your questions, about Clarity, Beauty, and Worth. Also, know, that after a career in Horticulture, Landscape Design, it still is about Clarity, Beauty and Worth. And continues to be a challange. You will always have your Art.

  19. I just finished Dept. of Speculation and would highly recommend it. It's Brilliant and far surpasses the Goldfinch in my opinion. Bon Weekend!

  20. I dunno, I think it's highly normal to feel anxiety and self-doubt when one is a person who likes other people and the Internet is always telling one that one is #%@#ing horrible and worthless and should die because one is privileged and a millennial, both of which are accidents of birth and not exactly moral failings that one can do anything about. I am working hard on not trying to please those voices any more, because the only way I could please them would be to cease existing.

    You are lovely and your anxiety/self doubt are only natural but unjustified. Anyone who has a blog that includes the phrase "overseeing our first mobile healthcare clinic" is OK in my book. Affirmations are horribly cheesy, I know, but maybe try saying some (just to yourself, maybe out in the desert...) Or a good, less cheesy place to start is by asking yourself out loud, does my feeling awful and hating myself make me more, or less, useful to the world? Less, right? Then why make myself feel awful?

    Sorry for so much unsolicited advice, I'm probably mostly writing to myself here. I struggle with these jags of self-hatred and when they happen I'm useless at art or anything for that matter. So this is what I find helps. But right now I'm finding plants help the most, which you seem to understand very well :)

  21. The dogs wears the scarf gives him a poetic vibe. Happy creating!


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