i'm working on a piece about the mental health benefits of various outdoor activities—have been all summer, actually, as the book that led my editor to assign it to me was pushed back, and i'm only marginally better at juggling stories than i was around this time last year—and was invited to a guided meditation and walk across the brooklyn bridge, my first in-person Work Thing since last february. (there have been other invitations, but i remain awkward and picky.) i walked down to a fountain near city hall, signed a waiver, took a pair of glowing blue headphones, and wondered if i was being invited to join a cult. (i had just watched the "moira rosé" episode of schitt's creek.)* i had intended to secret-shop the session, but i ended up introducing myself to the program's creator and leader and interviewing him with my phone while my commuter sweat dried. a hundred other people showed up, we all fired up our tech and formed a circle around the fountain to set our intentions, and atmospheric piano music tinkled into my ears.

thunderheads boiled across the river almost immediately and our leader encouraged us to "choose the rain" ("it's only water"). in a low, smooth masseur's voice, he talked us across the bridge and through the downpour; i both love summer storms and have been contending with exotic personal weather, so i was all for the walk's spontaneous metal subtheme. water cascaded down a concrete staircase with us and fizzled against a halal cart that emerged from the steam at its foot. we huddled under the brooklyn side of the bridge like an aspiring new-age rat king, and a handful of participants accepted the invitation to return their headsets and walk some other time; the rest of us funneled into the park. i believed our leader when he said he was impressed with the rest of us.

i probably don't need to say that the walk felt like a third installment in this summer's Lauren Learns and Grows Through Kooky Participatory Events. i made a silent promise to myself and tearily high-fived a tree in a walled garden; i joined a final circle at the edge of the river and, when invited to share my name and a word, leaned into a bean-sized microphone and said i'm lauren and i'm regenerating.

*two high school friends and i went to a house party in oxford that turned out to be a cult recruitment session, complete with weird crackers, a long-haired, moon-faced guru who ostensibly didn't speak english, and a mysterious assistant who refused to give us back our shoes when we realized what was going on and said we wanted to leave.


so this comparatively-unknown literary magazine just published this creepy sexual poem named for and about a very well known writer whose bestselling essay collection i read a year or two ago and whose parents, i read last night when i was struggling to fall asleep, were once investigated for human trafficking, as someone discovered last year? (lit twitter and weird twitter and weird lit twitter are all over this, the poem, because it's both unsporting clickbait and because the writing is so bad that it's typically referred to as "the poem," the loose consensus is that one should avoid it if possible, for both reasons).*

when i finally went down around five this morning i dreamed that i went to a new, fancy salon-retail-organic-garden** hybrid place, for i needed a haircut, and my stylist was the writer. i explained to her that i envisioned bangs, but she would have to come up with some way to texturize them because i have a cowlick at my right temple and my hair has always parted like curtains right there. i also wanted a pretty short pixie cut, but skewing femme, please, so go soft at the edges and follow a rounded shape at the back of my head, but otherwise i trusted her to do whatever she thought was right. things started off badly, as she accused me of leaving bleach on for far too long when i prepped for dyeing my hair blue at home (true, i ended up with some little scabs last time after frying myself), and then she kept wandering off. the appointment began in the early afternoon, but by early evening we were under a scraggly live oak in the organic garden and the writer still hadn't gotten to work. i knelt before her as though we were gawain and the green knight*** as she finally, finally, started to razor the back of my neck. "if you had a boob**** that was floating in a vat of fluid, what would you do to make it float higher or lower? that's what you can think about while i do this," she said. one of the dickensian orphans gathered around us piped up: one should add stones to the vat, which would increase the volume of its contents and elevate the boob. that's stupid, i said. i would add a fluid with lower specific gravity than that of the boob-fluid if i wanted the boob to sink, and a fluid with higher specific gravity if i wanted it to rise.

*i immediately found and read it, and i'm now sorry to have given it a click and to have those lines in my head, but here we are.

**i'm on a nordic-authors kick and halfway through auður ava ólafsdóttir's the greenhouse, which i'm enjoying; her miss iceland is a fascinating look at her country's bro-centric midcentury literary culture.

***we saw that movie yesterday; i thought it was quite grand, particularly alicia vikander's green speech, though the CGI fox wasn't animated very realistically.

****ólafsdóttir's hotel silence, also good, concludes with the recovery of three disembodied breasts. like japanese in translation, icelandic in translation has, i find, a very distinctive/characteristic(?) cadence, and it's soothing.