Dear Amy Poehler

 

 

Right after I finished your book Yes Please, I put it down, and sat for a few seconds in silence, save for the waves and wind blowing in the background. I got up, grabbed my computer, opened a blank document, and wrote the bulk of this letter. Then I picked up the book and reread it. I loved it so much that I didn’t want my time with it to be over.

I bought your book because I’ve been on a comedian book roll for the last couple of months and a friend recommended I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Amazon recommended that I add your book to my cart while I was at it. Amazon is tricky (and effective) like that with its hey-you-need-this-too upsale strategy. Thanks Amazon! You bring people together.

Lucky for me and my quick click-to-buy finger, the book arrived just in time to get packed into my suitcase before traveling to Tulum, Mexico. My annual winter retreat, for lack of any better term, to reflect and reset. I also sit in the sun and ride a cruiser bike and eat tacos and take naps on the beach. It’s not all life renewal-y. Though I would argue that good tacos can and will lead to spiritual enlightenment.

Back to your book. What I thought was going to be a funny lighthearted vacation read turned into a funny full hearted life changing read. That shift happened while reading your apology story. It crawled into the deep parts of my heart and stayed there. Tears were streaming down my face and landing in the spoonfuls of yogurt and fruit and Mayan honey that I kept eating so hopefully no one would notice me crying in a restaurant while reading a book. (They did.) Good thing I was wearing sunglasses. (Didn’t matter.)  

I laughed hard at the chapter on drugs, because 1) it was hilarious and 2) I could relate. I went through a brief period of stonerhood in my mid-twenties. I look back on those years of daily Bob Marley and munchies sessions with great fondness. Now weed has an occasional recurring guest role -- making an appearance when I need a break in the story or some stress comic relief. I’ve never done cocaine, and maybe I’m too old now 'cause it sounds like I probably wouldn’t like it at age 38. Missed the boat on that one! I’ve never tried mushrooms but I have tripped acid, so that’s kind of the same thing right? Either way, my parents will be so proud when they read this and your thoughts on the psychedelic subject helped me comprehend my own. Also - I'm both relieved and terrified that Neil Young can read my mind. And I believe it.

The chapter on show bizness inspires me to write more stories about the restaurant/food bizness, which is my chosen bizness. It seems like there is plenty of crossover. You can mostly substitute producer with restaurateur. It would be an entertaining exercise to compare/contrast chefs and actors. I’m sure both camps would be pissed/excited about it.

I loved the little part about your sons. I’ll now forever think of you and your family when I "moon hunt”, one of my favorite activities.

But I found the most connection on the subject of time travel. Thankyouthankyouthankyou for expounding upon this so eloquently. I write about time travel all the time without even knowing I am writing about it. I experience time travel all the time, and never had the words to articulate that feeling. People, places, and things that mean something to us are always with us. As long as we stay present, we are able to see where they live in the landscape of our lives. We don’t need words or phrases or quotes to define our experiences -- but those tools do help us identify and clarify those experiences while we are having them.

Time travel is my new favorite concept. Hope you don’t mind that I steal the shit out of it. Don’t worry. Every time I reference it, I will say it's Amy Poehler’s Time Travel Theory. (I probably won’t do this. But I will definitely give credit when it is due.)

Your experience in Haiti reminds me of the dissonance I feel when I travel to Mexico. It’s strange mixed cocktail of emotions that I don’t easily digest. Tulum is a beautiful, soulful place and I have a deep connection with the country of Mexico -- but some people live down there in severe poverty and danger. I feel simultaneously helpless to do anything about it, uncomfortable with having more opportunities just because of where I was born and because I am white, and also thankful for (and sometimes dismissive of) my own privileged, comfortable life.

I always leave Tulum with a stronger, more grounded sense of self -- and in turn, a stronger commitment to being a force for positive change in the world. For what it’s worth, your book gifted me another tool to help with that. Another lens to look through.  

I do believe people, places, and things come in and out and back in our lives at the right times. Your book came into my life at the right time. I’m incredibly grateful for that. Thank you for sharing your lovely, heartwarming stories of courage, strength, and growth. I also laughed A LOT and out loud, at times at embarrassing levels -- so please, don’t quit your funny person day job.

Sent with sunshine and tacos and solo LCD Soundsystem dance parties,

Christine Cikowski

 

 

 

 

 


Dear Mary Oliver

Thank you for writing beautiful and heart-pulling poetry. It delivers a sense of wonderment with the world and beckons us to engage in our endless relationship with nature. 

I was lucky enough to observe wild geese swimming in New Orleans City Park last week. Strange timing perhaps, as I stumbled upon your poem during my flight down south.

The wild geese waded on a pond surrounded by HUGE live oak trees, their thick branches plummeting to the earth before shooting back up, their wispy leaves hanging everywhere. The gang of geese approached me on the bank. I was still and a little uneasy -- the beasts getting so close that I could see the details of their feathers, so close that I could see into their eyes.

We stared at each other, the geese and I, for a few minutes and I wondered what they might be thinking. Probably if I had food to offer or I suppose they could have been considering an attack. (Obviously, I was outnumbered.) Or they simply had curiosity about another being sitting on the edge of their pond. They swam away, eventually heading home.

I'll never know what the geese were thinking. But no matter. I still love to wonder what. These words that you write, about the world offering itself to our imaginations. Maybe the geese think nothing and I think everything.

Nevertheless, I was comforted on that slow afternoon by their floating, wild presence and your floating, calm words.

 



Hey Austin Kleon

I totally stole your line.

Well, at least the template for your line… as the title of this writing project. But I feel like you’ll be fine with it since you wrote a book called Steal Like An Artist that said I could do this, and another book, Show Your Work, in which you wrote that you stole that line from cartoonist Saul Steinberg.

You also wrote to give credit where it is due so that’s what I’m doing here. Giving you credit for that line -- and thanking you for changing my life with your work.  

I appreciate your books, your art, your message. The way you present the creative process in manageable, practical steps makes it easier (and more fun!) to proceed through it. Your words helped shape and shift my perspective on work... and on life. "Creativity is subtraction." "Learn to take a punch." "Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started." Those are just as much life lessons as advice on how to work.

My well-worn copies of both your books are referenced often for guidance, reassurance and for reminders to do serious work but not to take it all so seriously. I’ve gifted copies of your books and forwarded blog posts to people who’ve said it has changed their lives. What a thing to behold. We can never give enough credit to those who inspire us to do good work and tell great stories.

Your post with the anecdote 'play til the ninth inning' got me back in the game when I was about to give up. Your post that declared Keep Working as a response to most questions inspires me to move forward despite be scared and not knowing what to do. It was pointed out to me once that life actually imitates art. Maybe it was just coincidental timing of those posts but given the impact they had, I’d say there’s plenty of truth in that statement.  

And so -- I keep working. Stealing. Creating. Showing my work. Pushing through the mud of doubt and uncertainty. I can only wrap my head around one day too. Sunrise, sunset. The only measurable increments of time that make sense. In a year, I’ll have done this for a year. So here it goes: pressing publish on this project. Thank you for the encouragement.

Thank you for your writings and drawings. Thank you for sharing them with a world that needs them.

To anyone reading this letter, buy these books. Read this blog. Follow this guy on the internet. He's got some good stuff to say. 

Photo stolen from Austin Kleon's website

Photo stolen from Austin Kleon's website