Musings + Essays

Imprints of a New Lifestyle.

By: Jen Shoop

The first few nights in our new home in Bethesda, Mr. Magpie and I were bewitched by cricketsong and destroyed by mosquitoes while sitting on our back porch. We were tired those days, our backs aching from unpacking boxes and the emotional fatigue of uprooting our lives from New York City and replanting them in the D.C. area, but I remember Mr. Magpie lacing his fingers through mine and sighing in a way that said: we made it home, and the crickets and cicadas and mosquitoes and spiders bearing witness to our silent communing only reified the sensation that we had shut the door on one noisy and urban chapter and opened another, with a different kind of noise — a therapeutic, buggy wilderness kind — waiting at our front stoop. During those early days in suburbia, our children would retreat from mornings spent trampling grass and foraging through the dense hedges into our neighbor’s yard with constellations of bug bites and twig scratches across their arms and legs. Imprints of a new lifestyle. Our move coincided with the tail end of the “Brood X” cicada hatch, and our children collected their shells in buckets, and crouched on the ground to investigate their sluggish movements, and ate al fresco breakfast, lunch, and dinner amidst their symphonies. And the very first night we spent in our new home, Mr. Magpie and I put ourselves to bed with the blinds up and sat with our backs against the headboard in the pitch black staring out the windows as fireflies lit up the sky. It must have been peak-mating season for them, as we never saw such a dramatic display again, but Mr. Magpie insisted the next night, and the one after, and every night since, that we sleep with the blinds up, and I think it has something to do with witnessing the sky and the seasons turn and not wanting to cosset himself from the calm those rhythms bring.

We are at peace here. I have lived in urban areas my entire life, and while we aren’t exactly “out in the sticks” living in Bethesda, I think something about owning a house where the first thing I see in the morning is green rather than concrete has changed something in me. The world could be on fire, and it has felt that way for a long time now thanks to COVID, and still there will be mosquitoes to swat and spiderwebs to cull and a fistful of raspberries to collect for breakfast. There will be dew on the lawn, and thin, wet blades of grass brought in by tiny bare feet shellacked to my kitchen floor. There will be conferences of fireflies mating one midsummer night in July, oblivious to the global disruptions borne of a pandemic. I am one tiny and unoriginal voice in a lineage of transcendentalists, and there is nothing new for me to offer in this vein, but still I must say it: the presence of the natural world in my daily life here reminds me to hold fast to what I know to be good and true. Beyond that, I am too poetic-minded not to imagine that the coincidences between enormous personal shifts in my own life and the Brood X hatch and the firefly orgy are in fact not coincidences at all, but, you know — God’s way of remaining anonymous while pointing my head in the right direction.


+I drew some adjacent conclusions in this post about watching my daughter observe the rhythms of the natural world.

+And, observing my husband at peace in his gardening regimen awakened something in me, too.

+More on the peace this move has afforded.

+I found similar (thought not as profound or long-lived) release in Central Park during the depths of the pandemic in NYC.

+On longing for nature during the early days of the pandemic. It is painful to reread those posts. We were just at the very beginning, and so fatigued already.

+If you’re into naturalist thinking, you must read Mary Oliver. Some musings on her work here, here, and here. And her book of essays is a delicious alternative if you aren’t interested in poetry.

Shopping Break.

+This bouquet of Halloween balloons would be such a fun surprise waiting at the children’s breakfast table on Halloween morning.

+Seriously fun Halloween party favors. More Halloween treats and decor here.

+Oo! This corduroy dress is so fun and unexpected.

+The kind of cardigan you will live in all season long and wear over EVERYTHING.

+Vejas in fun fall colors.

+This statement fleece is just so whimsical and unexpected! Get the vibe for less with this steal from H&M.

+Classic skinny cords in great colors — and if you’re looking for a more on-trend twist on cords, check these out from Anthro! Love love love! They also sell them in a full-length (non-cropped) variation which I would pair with pointed toe pumps and a cropped sweater for a more feminine/polished look.

+Wow – love this new Matouk duvet pattern.

+Into a poncho moment.

+My children are obsessed with the TV show Bluey, and it’s a sweet show mainly about parents playing with their children and learning lessons along the way. Just ordered mini this sticker book. I like to keep my closet stocked with a few little surprises like these for rainy days, long car trips, etc.

+This scalloped suede clutch is SO chic for fall.

+Love this herringbone jon jon for Thanksgiving.

+Chic home finds from an unlikely source.

+OO this statement scarf for winter!

+You know I love velvet…this dress is so chic for winter parties.

+OMG super love this cardigan with the floral trim and buttons!

+One of my Magpies asked last week about gold hoops to have forever and I shared some chic picks but — THESE are your answer!!! Swoon.

+I own this Dondolo blouse in a print but the blue is SO chic. Loretta Caponi vibes — and virtually seasonless in that blue!

+Love these pearl hoops — under $40!

+Adore these shams as a fall update for your couch.

+Cute finds for babies.

+These heels are SO fun and ridiculously well-priced. Pair with a pretty fall frock for your next wedding!

+What to read this fall.

+Just added this lip balm to cart. Have heard such good things about this brand.

+My favorite lipstick colors!

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6 thoughts on “Imprints of a New Lifestyle.

  1. I’ve noticed that the 1.5 years I’ve been working from home in Brooklyn (as opposed to in a Manhattan office) has greatly reduced my tolerance for Manhattan’s noise. I love getting off at my outdoor subway stop south of Prospect Park and hearing the crickets and cicadas in the summer, and lying in bed and listening to the locust tree behind my building swish in the wind. It’s not quite the green idyll you describe here, but it’s my little slice of nature in New York and I appreciate it so much. This pandemic era has made so many small things feel big to me, and that has been one of the biggest takeaways for me.

    1. So interesting, Anna — “small things feel big to me.” I am sure we are all processing the pandemic in so many ways we aren’t yet aware of. Thank you for sharing this insight!


  2. I relate to this so much. I have had a more bittersweet transition than you from NYC to Bethesda (which may be in part because I left soon before the pandemic – but I miss walking places, and the restaurants, and though it’s cliched to say, the energy). But I love looking out from my bedroom windows and seeing nothing but green. It is amazing to me that I live so close to a city but sometimes also feel like I live in a treehouse. The proximity of nature brings an undeniable sense of peace.

    1. Hi Leah – Oh man, I can imagine that the departure from NYC would have been harder if we hadn’t just experienced it in a pandemic. Maybe it’s cushioned the transition for us. But, yes – I so relate to describing your home in Bethesda as “a treehouse.” So amazing!


  3. Lovely, Jen. I know that I have felt very grateful to be in the suburbs with a very large backyard during covid, especially with a three and a half year old. I was born in NYC and then moved around, but my five first years out of college were spent living in DC–a few months in Eastern Market, then four and a half wonderful years in Glover Park. Somehow my housemates and I lucked into the most perfect rowhouse where all I could see out of my window was trees, where we had a lovely backyard, where we could hear the Cathedral bells chime. Miraculously, we never heard the traffic, even though we were a block off Wisconsin. A perfect place to transition from academia to the working world–nature and city all right there.

    1. Hi Sarah – Yes! There is just something about waking up to trees. I have fond memories of Glover Park, too, and I know what you mean — pockets of it feel so sleep and quiet and removed, and yet you are right next to so much!


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