Wool Gathering.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image via The Studio Melrose.

It is OK to take the long road,

to earn the title “wool-gatherer,”

to be the handwritten cursive subscript under the 12-point Times New Roman font,

to move beneath, rather than with or against, the grain,

with meanderings so under-the-radar that they are dismissed as insignificant.

It is OK to take the squiggly path,

that draws you from arranging name tags on the reception table at the Phillips Collection

to stammering through academic papers in ancient towns in Italy

to gliding through rehearsed presentations to large audiences

to starting and shuttering a business

to writing for a living —

just an example.

It is OK to feel that you have been searching for something you can’t quite put your arms around,

each phase a phantom hug —

but know that the footprints that brought you here

suggest otherwise:

There is meaning-making in the tracks.

For Susie


+You are enough.

+More on that ill-fated academic paper in an ancient town in Italy.

+The moment I realized how little my peers thought of my choice to pursue English.

+Do you see a difference between the way those of us who studied the humanities and those of us who studied STEM approach the world?

+Are you a perfectionist?

Shopping Break.

+This new-release at J. Crew is SO cute. I love it in that cherry red! Reminds me of something from Staud.

+We are going to put either a bunk bed or two twin beds into the large, open playroom on the top floor of our home. We will have two sets of young cousins visiting us this spring/summer and I’ve always thought it would be great to have sleepovers and the like up there as my children grow older. I’d like the room to feel fun but not too childish so that it can age with the children and also not to be too offensive for an adult to sleep in if need be. My top picks for bunk beds are this or this from Room and Board (so many fabulous colors) and this metal frame one from Crate and Barrel. I like how modern/architectural they feel. They will make statement bedding POP. My top pick for a set of twin beds is this spindle bed.

+In that vein: cute children’s rooms finds.

+These Hermes-esque bag straps are back in stock!

+If you feel like your hair has been through the wringer this winter, you might consider Oribe’s new formula for weak/damaged hair. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but IMO, Oribe is the only high-end shampoo worth the cost. (Otherwise, I stick with Pantene.) I really like their shampoo/conditioner for blondes. BTW, thanks to a Magpie reader tip, I now know you can often find Oribe on sale at Marshalls!

+Rope bins in GREAT colors.

+Darling little white top.

+These adorable Carrie Forbes mules just dropped further in price — around $60 now!

+Love these cheery earrings.

+Another great straw hat option for the summer.

+Brides, delight — apparently this dress sold out in an hour flat last time it was released! Now available again. SUCH a fun and unexpected rehearsal dinner dress.

+Cute and well-priced eyelet shirtdress! Love the blue and ecru colors!

+These play tents are adorable and so reasonable!

+This dress is seriously sweet.

+Did someone say Cinco de Mayo?

+Cute gingham Easter baskets from Dondolo.

+Into the cut of these jeans. Imagine with this cute top (under $100).

+People are obsessed with this detangling brush.

+Absolutely the most random thing in this roundup, but you need these OXO funnels for your kitchen. I can’t believe I didn’t think to include them in my post on great kitchen gear to up your cooking game. They are in near-constant use in our home, whether decanting liquid soap from the Costco-sized jug into the soap dispenser, transferring used fry oil from the pot to the jug, pouring peppercorns into a grinder, etc, etc. They’re fantastic because they are really lightweight so you can usually balance them in the neck of something and pour with both hands; there are two sizes that fit close to all of your needs; they are semi-sheer so easy to see what’s happening at the neck; and they are dishwasher safe (a must!)

+Just the coolest sunglasses I ever did see. You can get the look for less with these.

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15 thoughts on “Wool Gathering.

  1. “It is OK to feel that you have been searching for something you can’t quite put your arms around,

    each phase a phantom hug —”

    these verses – oh wow did they speak to me this morning. love the imagery of a phantom hug; i can’t quite describe in words what it calls to mind but i think that is the beauty of good poetry. it is evocative in a way all its own.

    1. Hi Molly – I’m so glad this resonated with you. I have tried to communicate these sentiments elsewhere, to various friends/colleagues, and the image was helpful to me, too, when it dawned on me. Thanks for this comment and for your continued encouragement of my writing! Very fortunate to have you here.


  2. Beautifully written sentiments – but mostly, I’m just heart-eyed over that William Morris wallpaper in the header image! We have WM throw pillows on our living room couch (the fabric took forever to arrive from the UK, but so worth it!) and I’m currently eying a few of the wallpaper prints for a potential (!!) office-to-nursery transformation.

    Also, clicked on juuust about every linked item in the roundup – so many great picks, thank you! Particularly intrigued by that Oribe shampoo… I always teeter on the edge of purchasing an Oribe shampoo/conditioner set (esp. during Sephora sales!) but haven’t taken the plunge yet.

    1. Isn’t it SPECTACULAR? It actually stopped me in my tracks. It was almost coincidental that I wrote something on the subject of wool — I knew I had to use the picture somehow and it’s a tenuous connection but…had to.

      Oo I really encourage Oribe next time you can avail yourself of a sale!


  3. Jen, I love these thoughts, and I love the little lamb image even more! It really spoke to me with its spring atmosphere as I sit in the doldrums of mid-February, expecting yet another winter storm tomorrow. And when it spoke to me, it said I need to plan a visit to the Scottish boarders 😉 My family is predominantly Irish, but I feel a strong pull to visit Scotland instead. Maybe after reading Winter Solstice, Alexander McCall Smith, The Cafe by the Sea, etc, and watching Case Histories, I’m primed for Scotland. Anyway, thanks for reminding me that “spring is just around the corner” (a family catchphrase that my dad starts using right around the winter solstice, ha).

    1. I love your dad’s encouraging refrain! It is! Isn’t the picture so evocative?! Those sweet lambs, the gorgeous interior design, the feeling of a space that is lived in and has been lived in for years? It stopped me in my tracks. I can’t imagine opening the door to that view! You’re making me have a deep wanderlust moment, too.


  4. Jen!! This post totally resonated, and immediately brought to mind Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Have you heard her talk about how the world is divided into jackhammers and hummingbirds? The former focus on a singular passion their entire lives, heads down. The latter (us “hummingbirds” or wool-gatherers”) are described by Gilbert as bringing “an idea from here to over here, where you learn something else and you weave it in, then you take it here to the next thing you do.” She explains that hummingbirds keep “the entire culture aerated and mixed up and open to the new.” Gilbert’s perspective, and her explanation of how us hummingbirds enrich not only ourselves, but our communities, brings great comfort to this unequivocal hummingbird/wool-gatherer.

    For those who haven’t read Big Magic, here are some savory tidbits I’ve kept in a note on my iPhone that I revisit when I start feeling angsty about my own squiggly path…

    “I don’t yet know exactly what I am, but I’m curious enough to go find out. The life you’re negotiating to save is your own!”

    “Follow your fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them.”

    “You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble human virtue of inquisitiveness.”

    “Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.”

    Jen, I’m adding to my iPhone note your wise words that “It is OK to feel that you have been searching for something you can’t quite put your arms around, each phase a phantom hug.”

    1. Hi Jacqueline – I so love and relate to these quotes. Another Magpie reader, Joyce, has turned me toward Gilbert’s writings a bunch of times and I always take away so much from what I hear about her. I think I have to read “Big Magic”! Thank you so much for sharing these. Should we rename Magpie as Hummingbird? Haha :).

      Fellow Hummingbird

    2. Jacqueline! I love these notes, as Jen knew I would 🙂 I have the Big Magic audiobook downloaded on my phone and listen sometimes when I am in a creative slump. Thank you for sharing these! I find Gilbert’s perspective on creativity so incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating and appreciate the hummingbird reminder. I also appreciate this poem, Jen! It’s beautiful.

  5. Oh, goodness. I was having a bad morning (for no real reason!) and this was truly touching to read. “Wool-gathering” is such a wonderful image. “There is meaning-making in the tracks” is a good candidate for a new mantra or foot-hold for me. Thank you <3

    P.S. Those OXO funnels went right into cart! My husband uses the cut-off tops of plastic bottles and this will be such a nice, easy upgrade for him 😉

    1. I am so glad it arrived at the right moment! It feels kismet that this was dedicated to another lady named Susie, doesn’t it?!

      Your husband will LOVE this simple upgrade!


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