The Magpie Diary: Feb. 18, 2024.

By: Jen Shoop

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“We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.” – Louise Gluck. I’ve been carrying these words around with me this week. At the risk of running litigious, I don’t fully agree: there have been many moments in my life in which I’ve crossed a threshold and seen the world anew. Becoming a parent, closing a business, losing a pregnancy, falling in love — to name a few. These experiences reset the system, and made me look at the world as though with borrowed eyes. But there is something so true, too, about Gluck’s sentiment, and it has to do with the way memory works like a pastiche, porous and overlaid, but its very first layers live, intransigently, in childhood. Sometimes I forget these lower elevations, and think only of the serac. Flowers, for example. I think of them now through the latter-day lenses of Mr. Magpie and his green thumb, and the way the roses that bloom on the side of our home draw me to Elizabeth, and my mother-in-law’s obsession with cut flowers, and the local flora of our home in Bethesda. But if I strain to the hear the music at the bottom, I know what I will find: my mother’s love of peonies, and the ants that crawled their tender petals, and the way she’d wrap the cut stems in wet paper towels and send them in with us as gifts for our teachers in the month of May. And the delicate glass flowers in my grandmother’s living room — “look, don’t touch.” And the flower-embroidered dress my father brought me from Mexico when I was little, and the way he’d say “ooh la la” every time I wore it.

I think of this and I panic for a moment about all of the “first looks” I have witnessed and stewarded with my own children. Was I adequately present, and helpful? Was I pointing them in the direction of wonder, or was I shoo-ing them out the door when they first saw a hopeful crocus poke through the tundra? I cannot think too long on this, or I find myself in a posture of self-recrimination, or moving through my motherhood with stiff performance. I must instead trust. Trust my children and their vibrant imaginations and tendernesses, and my own self, who I know to be a genuine noticer of the world, and a bleeding heart, too. As Edna St. Vincent Millay put it: “The world stands out on either side / No wider than the heart is wide.” Which is to say that we control the bandwidth of our appreciation for the world with heartstrings. And I know we are extravagant with those in this house.

Here is my prompt for this week: practicing notice. A few quotes that pertain:

Mary Oliver: “To pay attention / this is our endless and proper work.” and “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Arthur E. Smith: “Metamorphosis is the naturally occurring consequence of paying attention.”

Simone Weil: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

In order to be effective at this, there are things I must let drop. (There are, after all, economies of attention.) What can I let go of? What is worth my focus?

Onward, Magpies —

Some snippets from the week, too.

+I found delicious raspberry-shortbread cookies in stock at Trader Joes. Divine! Strongly rec — worth a trip. Beneath them, and in the photo of my noodle lunch, you can see my placemats from Proper Table Co., which spark joy (and are highly functional) in our every day life. They introduce sophisticated designs and punchy colors to the table but don’t require laundering or ironing, and are easy to wipe down after the kids routinely smatter them with oatmeal, tomato sauce, etc. I just noticed she launched some new patterns that are FUN! The chopsticks in the photo are similar to these. Also spark joy.

+The sweetest book for helping children through the loss of a pet. It’s not too maudlin that you can’t make it through without crying, too. Sweet but not saccharine in the most perfect way.

+Taking time to sit and do nothing at all was just what the doctor ordered earlier this week. I like to listen to the Apple Music spa playlist with my noise canceling headphones when I need a minute to breathe and reset.

+Pajamas seen above are Petite Plume. My other two go-to pajamas for bumpy weeks (when I “take care of myself as though sick”) are Lake’s Relax Set and Lunya’s modal boxer set. Both have gorgeously soft and springy fabrics.

+I’ve featured these Camilla Moss scripture cards countless times but they are such a joy in my everyday life. This one has been sitting with me all week long.

+Soru sent me a few pieces of jewelry this week and these heart earrings arrived on Valentine’s Day! I put them on immediately. How gorgeous?!

+The first crocus sighting!

+Frank and Eileen sent me this collared popover (seen in final photo) and it’s honestly exactly what I want to wear daily. I put it in the same category as my Xirena white gauze blouse. Soft, breathable, requiring no adjustments. Throw on with your favorite jeans and you feel comfortable but pulled together. I like the way they look with my light-wash Charlotte jeans. (You can see my favorite Target socks and Ugg slippers peeking out at the bottom — #fashun. I love them so.). Also debuting my new Ossa phone wristlet. I love her!

Some bits and bobs…

+Blue Mercury is offering 20% off orders over $200. Now is a good time to stock up on our pricier beauty staples — I know many of you swear by Skinceuticals’ CE Ferulic serum, and I hate to admit that I’m positively dreading when I run out of my Augustinus Bader rich cream (also included in the sale). I find myself using it only when I’m going out and want my skin to look at its absolute best, which is to say, I realize its preciousness and effectiveness, and I’m trying to make my bottle stretch. Also a good time to stock up on splurgey candles and hand soap, or finally spring for the Dyson Air Wrap!!!

+Old Navy also released an answer to the Highsport kick flare — under $30! Shop here.

+Sezane’s new spring arrivals are spectacular. I am swooning over this skirt, this fun denim vest, this eyelet blouse, and this powder pink coat.

+Target is running a sale that ends tomorrow! You can score these Hermes-inspired sandals for $16, and these Loewe-like sneaks for $28. Also included: $8 sandals for the kids — mine have lived in these for several summers in a row. Inexpensive, waterproof, wipe-clean, easy to get on/off. Ditto some good deals on furniture/decor, like this rattan mirror and this console table.

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4 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: Feb. 18, 2024.

  1. Hi Jen! Simone Weil is a favorite. Thank you for the little nudge back towards her. There’s a Simone Weil statue I pass on the way to our choice boulangerie several times a week.
    We read Gravity & Grace at my small Catholic college, which had no fewer than 6 ethics classes required for each degree. Ethics & classic philosophy, ethics and business, ethics and the public good, ethics of nonviolent resistance, and so forth. I really recommend it, there’s both a weight and a lightness to her writing. She sees attention not in the sense of an effort, a muscle flexed, but in the French: to attend, to wait, to draw back the focus and pause for an answer without judgment, if there is one to be had, but the success of the attention is not based on whether one appears or not. It goes alongside grief, caregiving, the sacramental in the daily. She says « the capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. » This is quite clear as my husband and I face aging parents, question of mortality. The impulse is to fix, to offer suggestions and platitudes, but that’s not what our dads need from us at this moment. My dad needs me to be receptive, to hear about his new reality without judgment, even if distancing would be more comfortable.

    I loved your point about the economics of attention. I’ve been focusing on creating wonder for my children at the expense of my own, as of late, and in this delicate postpartum period I’m now trying to force myself to pay a little attention to me too. And to notice the joys and sorrows of this time.

    Sending love as you continue to navigate loss, joy, and the everyday!

    P.S. Villeroy and Bosch do lovely glass flowers this time of year

    1. Thank you so much for the note, and such a beautiful sentiment about drawing back to pause for an answer without judgment. I admire the way you are aware of this as you watch your parents age. Sending you love during this transition.


  2. Jen, your post reminded me of scenes from the 1990s version of Little Women and from both the book and film The Hours. As well as snippets from Under the Lilacs, another classic by Louisa May Alcott.
    I love the quote by Simone Weil. My favourite localish artist Kimothy Joy had a free download of this as a scrensaver for phones. It’s my locked screen background. I too feel both ways about yoir initial quote from Louise Gluck. Being back where I attended undergrad 14 years later on a regular basis I am seeing things differently. One would hope that as a student becomes an alum they age and mature, even though physically I look the same age as I did when I was 22 and 18. Ha.

    I also have been helping my Mom go through her home, the one I grew up, as she is getting rid and clearing out. She also has this fabulous program through her health insurance for an assistant. But going through old books of hers, family photos, things she kept from my Grandparents house. I know I can’t change the past but had my Grandma died when I wasn’t 19 or had her home bot been sold when I was 14 there would have been a great deal more I would have asked her about and asked to inherit. And perhaps just doing my own inner work these past 4 years I see some family members a lot differently. I’ve had to have the difficult discussions with my Mom especially on being adopted as a baby from India into an Irish-Catholic and WASP family. I also feel with my own parenter, I finally understand him more after the first time we went to Australia. Because one of my favorite parts of my first trip was being with his Dad and looking through family photos of my partner whom I call Favourite Human Male. I feel you really get to see someone when you understand where they came from, how they grew up, and being on their home field….home field advantage is preferred. What are your thoughts on this?

    Keeping you all in my thoughts as you navigate the loss of your dog, a family member. Your posts keep me grounded and help me look beyond myself. Thanks Jen for continuing to spark JOY and bring peace and understanding and care.

    1. Hi Michelle! Thank you for the sweet note today. I’m so flattered and intrigued that this musing brought to. mind Alcott! I totally agree that seeing your loved ones in their homes / seeing how they grew up gives you new dimensions and understandings. I see such strong lines between the way Mr. Magpie does things / likes things and his home environment.


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