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Letter 34. The Valentine's Letter
Space-bouquets, romantic film, and love that rests in ordinary things
We have a long letter this week all about love – how hard it is to write about, or explain. We hope that whatever this holiday signifies to you, you find a small reason to celebrate :)
Mixtapes and Being Seen
In middle school a friend gave me a mixtape CD of songs for my birthday and I still remember it as one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten. I used to play the CD on my old small radio so I could hear it scratch evenly through the speakers and come to life with a clear, vibrant melody. All we ever want is to be psychologically seen, someone told me earlier this week. That’s precisely what the mixtape allowed me a glimpse of – a mirrored version of myself through someone else’s eyes.
That’s the most important part, isn’t it? Seeing and being seen. Being inadvertently formed by others. Having experiences that do not just pass through you, but linger and shape you into who you are today. I often think about how much I am grateful to others for who I have become.
Thinking about the mixtape from my friend reminds me that feeling seen does not just have to come from a romantic partner: it can be given through friends, family, even yourself. This definition of love is expansive, not limiting. And when you engage with the world, this feeling comes easily.
So even though this Valentine’s letter is ‘explicitly about love,’ everything we write about, everything we’ve ever written about, is indirectly about love in a way that extends past just romantic love. We are obsessed with love that rests in ordinary things and ordinary people. Love that doesn’t have to be loud or flashy in order to embrace it. With people, spaces, things. Love that we cannot help but acquiesce to. What we can’t translate, convey, talk about out loud. At the end of it all, maybe love appeals to us because it is unexplainable, and therefore mysterious and perfect.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Capital L Love
I read somewhere that writing about love mirrors the act of falling in it: the wrestling with hard-to-describe feelings, the transfer of trust; both are exercises in vulnerability. Especially with drafting this week's newsletter, I realized a slight irony: I am a romantic afraid to talk about the idea of love. The capital L kind. I wonder if this is why I keep rewatching the same sappy romance films, or listen to mushy ballads – to admire love from a comfortable distance. To watch others give form to feelings I’m still afraid to claim as my own.
In a strange way, I am grateful for the way Valentine's Day normalizes conversations about love. The overwhelming presence of oversized teddy bears, bouquets and the color pink seem to signal that it’s okay to admit that love is on our minds: even if it is to question it, or to admit you’re still looking for it, or to not fully understand what it means.
Nicole is right – I think our newsletter has always been a quiet love letter in disguise. An ode to the small beautiful things that make our week. But this week also makes me wonder how much of that disguise is necessary. To make space for conversations about love, without ever feeling like we are being too much.
so to conclude…
A Short List of Things About Love That I Love:
This line from a recent Maybe Baby, in which Haley shares a love letter to her boyfriend Avi: “I was a grown woman acting like a child, and the only idea more unbearable than more of that tortuous ecstasy was less of it.” (It reminds me of another quote from Alain de Botton’s On Love: “We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.”
Our new weekly tradition of date nights @ the apartment. Last week, we celebrated the much-needed arrival of the weekend with a warm bowl of pho and trashy Netflix movies. This Sunday: the plan is a pizza feast, paired with (many) bottles of wine.
An early Valentine’s surprise from my family :’) I love you all
A Nostalgic Song
A Slow, Chill Vibe one:
And an upbeat French one:
I like the lyrics
Je m'baladais sur l'avenue le cœur ouvert à l'inconnu
“I was walking down the avenue, my heart open to the unknown”
An Accidental Blue
1. The first new blue pigment discovered in 200 Years is finally commercially available and it is called 'YlnMn Blue'.
“The pureness of YInMn Blue is really perfect,” a spokesperson says. Described as something of a cross between Ultramarine blue and Cobalt blue, YInMn Blue fills “a gap in the range of colors." It fills a "gap" in the range of colors that I thought was already perfect and complete. I should know by now to always leave space to be surprised.
If you haven’t already, read Maggie Nelson’s poetry book, Bluets. You won’t regret it. We wrote about Bluets way back in March, when we first started Kopi Club in Letter 5: A Color Story.
Goethe describes blue as a lively color, but one devoid of gladness. “It may be said to disturb rather than enliven.” Is to be in love with blue, then, to be in love with a disturbance? Or is the love itself the disturbance? And what kind of madness is it anyway, to be in love with something constitutionally incapable of loving you back?
Here are some pictures of YlnMn Blue:
Read more: The science behind YlnMn Blue by the University of Oregon and I absolutely love this video about how university students in an art class were the first users of this blue.
(Hello! Little side note from Justine here – I have a playlist inspired by YInMn blue. Check her out below)
2. From the article: The Masterclass Diaries
I have realized that there are two kinds of teachers. Some focus on transmitting their skills. They seem to be saying to the student: “this is how to do what I do.” Others offer themselves as models to be imitated: “this is how I became who I am.”
Gardens, In Many Forms
Karen Blixen and her incredible flower arrangements
It turns out the renowned author Karen Blixen – author of books like Out of Africa, under her pen name Isak Dinesen – was also an avid fan of floral arrangements. Someone noted that her bouquets were always made to somehow reflect the guest; I love that.
I also love this Blixen quote:
“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”
A beautiful visualization of the orbital patterns created by pairs of planets moving around the sun. Together, it looks like planets are drawing bouquets in space.
On the Valentine’s theme:
“It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.” – John Updike
“To try to write love is to confront the muck of language; that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive (by the limitless expansion of the ego, by emotive submersion) and impoverished (by the codes on which love diminishes and levels it.)” – Roland Barthes
“I understood then, as any human being would, the difference between love and a love which is visionary. The first may well be guaranteed by security and attachment; only the second has the power to transform.” – Eavan Boland
“It’s taken me these many years to understand that a human being can encompass very contradictory ideas and feelings at the exact same time. They’re not separate; they don’t even follow each other so much. They just live in you. For me, to clarify what I love, to do what’s amazing, to understand my confusion or my sorrow and to still continue to — the thing about it is that you persevere” – Maira Kalman
Poem of the Week (one of my favorites)
black and white film makes everything look more romantic
Documenting an obsession with windows and doorways
J & N