Stephanie Madewell

stephanie madewell is a writer and editor who lives with her husband and son in Northeastern Ohio.
website / blog

01    Nature

Mostly birds: the staccato hops of a woodpecker moving deliberately up and down the trunk of the cedar tree; a swallow flying across the sky, wings out, then in, a swift and joyful looping like writing in cursive with a calligrapher’s pen; the racket of wings from a pair of doves kicked up from the brush; songs and calls in the trees, more and more all the time.

02    Object (old)

Ry Cooder’s Into the Purple Valley is an album my dad listened to a lot when I was young. Songs about a lost era of liberal ideals, economic injustice, and the celebrity culture of criminals feel pretty relevant right now.

03    Object (new)

I bought an etching of a cloudy sky by Barbara Newcomb in an online auction. A friend who knows I love clouds sent me the link, and I bid on impulse. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at the online image, wondering if I will like it as much when I see it in person.

04    Surprise

My son Hugh discovered numbers. It started with the digital clock. He kisses every day and thanks it for ‘time, time.’ He asks to see the numbers dance (watch a digital stopwatch). He started asking us to count everything — crocuses, potatoes, blocks — and his face lights up with joy whenever he sees a number. He chants numbers to himself while he plays. Being around him is like being hit by an avalanche of learning, gaining speed and power all the time. My husband and I can only marvel and try to meet him where he is.

05    Encounter

The cashier at the grocery store commented approvingly on some exotic salad fixing I was buying. In reply, I mentioned how, to my sorrow, I never seem to be able to make myself a salad that tastes as good as a salad someone else makes for me. The cashier agreed, woman in line behind me chimed in, and pretty soon there was universal agreement in Aisle 4 that somehow the labor of salad making robbed the salad of some mysterious and necessary deliciousness. We decided this also applied to popcorn. This may be the first relaxed conversation I’ve had with strangers since the election.

06    Night Out

Parenthood means nights generally find me in. But when the moon was full, the three of us spent some time looking up at the sky together.

07    Day Out

I went to the hospital to have blood work done, and Hugh came with me. They took us back to a little curtained lab cubby, and he sat in his stroller, watchful and curious. When they jabbed me, his little face slowly became a caricature of woe — lower lip out, fat perfect tears — and I started spouting a frantic nonsense stream of soothing words and sounds to try and convince him I was okay. After my arm was taken care of, I held him close for a bit and he calmed down.

On the way back to a car, we passed a poster print of a work by Lilly McElroy: ‘I Control the Sun’ (series here). It is a photograph of an arm extended, framed so that the hand appears to circle a setting (or rising) sun. I am not sure what I expected parenthood to be, but it is such a strange mix of closeness and separation. I feel like the hand pretending to hold the sun, wanting to touch something beautiful that is beyond me.

08    Time Alone

4 AM is my worry hour. It is the most alone (and lonely) time I have every day. My mind wants to go to the land of nonsense fear, and I want to go back to sleep. 4 AM is how I learned to love an e-reader. If I cannot make my brain stop, I read. The low light won’t wake Sean up, and it doesn’t make my eyes ache like a phone screen. 4 AM books are a very particular genre. Dry and drowsy histories are particularly good, or mysteries I’ve read before.

09    Time With A Friend

My cousin and her friend came for a weekend visit. We spent a Saturday morning browsing at a book store then a record shop. Wonderful conversation is a gift, but so is companionable silence.

010    Movie / TV / Book

No movies for me this month.

TV is a little easier, since it is episodes. Sean and I are watching two shows: Peaky Blinders: When it’s violent, I cover my eyes (they do a good job telegraphing when something awful is going to happen) and enjoy Cillian Murphy the rest of the time. Blackish: When I need to laugh, I watch this. The post-election episode was amazing (and Bow’s outfits are an inspiration).

Two books: Names on the Land by George R. Stewart. Stewart was obsessed with names and the story of names, and this book is a chronological telling of those stories, covering the whole United States. Shaker Lane by Alice and Martin Provensen. I read a conversation between Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis where she talks about this book, so I ordered a copy. The pictures remind me of early American folk art and Mamma Andersson’s paintings of rooms, and whenever I look at them, I really wish I could paint. The story is a matter-of-fact telling of how a rural, low-income community came to be, and was displaced for new development. More original artwork from the book here.

011    Creative Act

I paired two images and posted them on my blog: a painting of windblown trees by Félix Vallotton and a poem mentioning wind written on an envelope by Emily Dickinson. I also spent a fair bit of time drawing caterpillars for Hugh.


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Into the Purple Valley

Into the Purple Valley

Fall Sky by Barbara Newcomb

Fall Sky by Barbara Newcomb

Lilly McElroy: ‘I Control the Sun’

Lilly McElroy: ‘I Control the Sun’

Shaker Lane

Shaker Lane