Over the next few months, we’ll be putting put on a spotlight on each of our editors and three things that they’ve been enjoying right now: whether that be a beloved piece of music, a tried-and-true recipe, an all-consuming movie or show, and of course, always, books. We’re looking to highlight the ways we’ve found solace and inspiration, and celebrate the things that have transported us, uplifted us, carried us through this time into a place of comfort.
I stumbled across a plant I didn’t recognize (happens more often than not) and, looking it up later, stumbled across the U.S. Forest Service website feature “Celebrating Wildflowers.” There’s a plant of the week (Hoary Puccoon!). A pollinator of the month (Orchid Bee!). A piece on ethnobotany, in-depth features on butterflies, and a slew of information (and photos) about native plants all over the country. It feels like a botany class field trip that lets you visit far-off states from the comfort of your own home.
Two most beloved New York Institutions have been keeping me connected to the everyday joy of normal life in our great city. Marie’s Crisis is streaming live piano bar performances twice a night via Facebook—tip your pianist!—and you can almost feel the bonhomie of a Wednesday night down that stairway on Grove Street (reportedly the same building where Thomas Paine died—a fellow who knew a thing or two on common sense and going full-voice about an American crisis). Film Forum has made it possible to rent films you’d usually watch with strangers in the dark, while eating some of Derrida’s favorite banana bread. They even have a documentary about books right now. And you can make your own banana bread—you don’t even need yeast. I like Dorie Greenspan‘s (and usually make myself a calming facial out of some of the yogurt (plus honey and apple cider vinager and oats or green tea) while waiting for it to bake).
Books. Books sustain us even when we’re not reading them, don’t they? Their permanence and promise; their offer of escape and a puzzle you can (sometimes) solve. I know a lot of people are having trouble reading right now. We all have to be patient with ourselves and with the books, and just keep trying a few pages until we find the right one. For me, those have been mostly poetry, especially Rita Dove, Ada Limón, and Wislawa Szymborska (her sense of the absurd really suits some days). But I’ve also been portioning out The Overstory to myself a little each night; even though it trades in very human stories, every chapter tunes to the Eternal in a way that feels like a very long, necessary, transcendent song.
Jenna Johnson is an executive editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux.