There is no other way to say it: these are difficult times to be living in. We have made it through the pandemic only to come out on the brink of WWIII. We pushed through an economic shutdown only to confront inflation – a word etched into my mind after growing up in the '70s. Some of us experienced professional success in the last two years, but others lost everything.
Today I want to come to you all with something simple. It’s a meditation of sorts that has helped me get through the bleak moments of the last few weeks. As I move around my home in Harlem, I’ve started to take note of the little details that center me and bring me a glimpse of joy. I encourage you all to take a moment and notice the seemingly minuscule things that could ground you in gratitude right now, and please don't hesitate to share them with me in the comments 💜.
In college, I killed every plant I owned. I convinced myself I had no green thumb. But later in life, inspired by my mom, I took the challenge of caring for plants head-on.
Plants, like any living thing, respond to being taken care of. I find so much joy in seeing positive responses from my plants, like a new pothos leaf or a blossoming flower on a cactus. Having green all around my apartment is a symbol of something bountiful. In this case, these plants only exist because I’ve had the patience to learn how to properly take care of them. When I’m taking the time to water them, sometimes before dawn, I’ll reflect on the beauty of this growing living thing right in my home.
I am one of those strange people who doesn’t like curtains in my apartment. Like a true New Yorker, I need to get as much direct sunlight as possible. In the last year, I rearranged my bedroom so that my east-facing windows are completely unobstructed. The sun pours in as it rises over the Harlem skyline.
I love simultaneously living in one of the biggest cities in the world and finding moments to connect with nature. When the sun rays hit my face, I’ll pause and give thanks to this primal power that keeps us going day in and day out.
My tub is one of the few inanimate objects I adore. I believe our bathtub has historic roots. Our building was constructed in 1891, so our tub has no child protective drain like modern ones do. This means I can fill it to the very top and float when it’s full (I mean, I'm only five feet tall!).
My baths are my quintessential “me time” and an undisputed act of self-love. I pour in lots of Epsom salt to help heal my muscles after intense workouts. I know life is good when I can take a bath five days a week.
While I’m relaxing in the bath, my bathroom radio is tuned to NYC jazz stations. New York City is the heart of jazz and Harlem is its core. The story goes that before the 1960s, Black artists and performers used to stay in our building. The units were rented to Black artists who could work downtown, but not live there.
The sounds of the radio help me feel connected to that time when there wasn't TV or social media, and radio was the primary means of communication and entertainment. The radio in combination with my tub helps situate me in history; Harlem history in particular. Most of the time the radio stays on 24/7, playing the songs of John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone as they echo throughout the apartment.
I am a child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and incense imported from India made a big cultural impact everywhere during those two decades. I still remember smelling it at grade school beach parties in Chicago and during civil rights demonstrations on the south side. In Mexico, the artsy leftist side of my family had incense burning all of the time. I loved it. But I never found out which incense they used. For decades I tried to find the scent to no avail.
And then, just before the pandemic, I visited my brother in his hippie-influenced Venice Beach apartment. To my luck, he was burning the incense I had spent all these years searching for.
The incense is called “Karma” – a perfect name. The scent transports me back to my past self: a curious, rebellious, and spiritual young Latina. It reminds me of how far I’ve come. When I visited my cool tio’s apartment in Mexico City, I dreamed of filling my future adult apartment with art, music, and burning incense just like theirs.
And here I am living that life. Every day. Grounding myself in gratitude and memories in every little thing.
I’d love to know the little things that make your house your home in the comments below! Here are some of my favorites that some of y'all shared with me over on my Instagram stories:
Comment your little things. Maybe we can start featuring them and other moments of gratitude each week❤️🔥.