A Magpie sent me a lovely direct message in response to my post on the extraordinary gift of being a daughter to my parents in which she said:
“My parents are the type to show love but not express if verbally, and your post was a reminder that there are many ways to express and receive love.”
Her insight here reminded me of UA Fanthorpe’s poem, “Atlas,” which I’m sharing in full below —
There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.
When I first read this poem, I thought of the people in my life “who store the WD40,” and how their ministrations are, in the end, permutations of love. As Fanthorpe articulates beautifully, these tiny acts of service are different ways of saying “I love you” — equal in worth, perhaps even more valuable, to the verbal expression, which can occasionally feel more easily-gotten anyhow.
I also thought, somewhat out of the blue, of a handful of excellent teachers I had at the University of Virginia and then Georgetown University, and especially the ones who arrived at class with obvious preparation, as though birds of flight settling into meticulously-crafted nests. I romanticized these professors at the time because I longed for their discerning erudition and shorthand, but there was another kind of love afoot: their dedication to their areas of expertise suffused the room with a kind of tingling energy and seriousness. I can remember one who would bounce on the pads of his feet as we’d file in, scarcely able to contain his excitement to get into it all. College students are notoriously flip in the face of decorum, but it was damn near impossible to lampoon or otherwise subvert the earnestness of a faculty member who ran electric while talking about Fin de Siecle literature or the representation of physical space in the Gothic Novel. Even the Doubting Thomases abandoned their grievances, and the James Deans dropped their postures. Those classroom experiences felt like a grand beneficence I did not deserve, as though I was the unworthy recipient of a love born far upstream. By this I mean I could see in their enthusiastic care with the matters on docket the ink-stained pages, the midnight oil, the oral examinations, the marked-up drafts, the hours of labor and commitment, the times they felt intellectually small and then charged in their labors. And I was standing blindly in the door lintel, as though receiving a painstakingly crafted trinket I hadn’t ordered. Still, I received it, grateful for the unexpected windfall. I’ll collect love wherever it finds me — the kind that holds the sky intact, the kind that reminds you to check the weather, and the kind that is almost atmospheric, a meteor shower trailing the lifelong work of a devoted professor.
Many years ago, when I was studying abroad in France, I wrote a letter to Mr. Magpie in which I said: “I love you in the big ways and the small ones.” I was so young at that time; what did I know about the widths of love? And yet, I think, I am lucky to have known at nineteen that love can shape-shift, can hide in lent sweatshirts and post-it notes just as easily as it parades around in engagement rings and “I just had to see yous,” slicked with rain and romance in the midnight hour.
+Sometimes, love is also a salad.
+Wild, how you can be falling in love and feeling like you are floating in space while the person next to you has no clue.
+What’s your house music?
+This convertible dress is a wardrobe wonder — love in either black or white, and can’t believe it’s under $100. Such a great, timeless shape and the pleating at bodice makes it interesting.
+Finally caved and ordered a pair of Adidas Sambas in their new chalk green color, which just launched and is selling fast. So different for late summer/fall! The two other new colorways are fab, too. Neutral one would be chic with anything!
+VERY sad I missed out on this brown dress in my size. It’s perfect. PERFECT. Exactly what I want to wear to a fall cocktail party.
+Don’t sleep on the denim/pants from both Old Navy and Gap. I have the BEST luck and they are rolling out surprisingly on-trend styles — great way to test a trend before investing, or without investing a ton of money. Love these high-waisted wide leg jeans from Old Navy.
+The kind of top you’ll never regret purchasing. (Or this one, from Jenni Kayne.) I like the way Julia Amory has been styling this kind of white swing top with skirts, pareos, etc, but also amazing with jeans or shorts.
+Ordering one of these adorable inexpensive waste baskets for my office!
+These versatile woven ballet flats are giving Loeffler Randall (comparison) for a fraction of the price. Great pre-fall buy. Imagine with dark-wash denim or a denim dress?! P.S. Found that exact denim dress on sale here, but then you have to pay international shipping, so you might do a price check comparison.
+Speaking of denim, these Citizens’ “gaucho jeans” are having a moment. I love the color Chrissy Ward bought (see her in them here). They look like a slightly more wearable take on the barrel jeans of last year.
+Zara steal. LOVE.
+My husband just bought himself some new head covers. The driver cover looks a lot like this and the putter cover is needlepointed Smathers and Branson (<<not this exact style, but similar)! Great gifts for men.
+Speaking of green…this Prada bag in the pistachio!
+This Tory Burch column dress is beyond spectacular. I can’t. SO good and so different from everything else on the market.
+This woven envelope clutch is perfection.
+Still some good buys at Nordies’ Anniversary Sale, which wraps up soon. I actually ended up ordering both the Skims bra and the True & Co bra (part of the sale) after hearing conflicting opinions from Magpies — will report back on what I liked.
+For your inner Swiftie. BTW, I was listening to “Taylor’s version” of “Dear John” and OMG! John Mayer really did a number on her!