A Summer Letter

Dear friends,

I hope you are well. It’s been a while since I’ve written on here. Please forgive my recent lack of consistency — the past few weeks have been pretty busy.

This summer, we traveled back to the states for a two-month summer visit. It has been an exciting, hectic whirlwind of an adventure. Hard, in many ways, but, ultimately, soul-restoring. The beauty of open skies, starry nights, libraries, wind-tossed hair, freedom has renewed my tired, storm-tossed being.

However, emerging from the virus-torn shadows of Malaysia into the (seemingly) pandemic oblivion of America was strange… and, at times, saddening. I delight in the freedom to walk outdoors, to tread through stores maskless, to read in the library. Yet, in the same breath, I cannot forget my friends in Malaysia, imprisoned in their houses, denied the freedom to move. And to that captivity, I return, with joy and sorrow.

Nonetheless, I’ve had a lovely summer. And, as I am a list fanatic, I will transcribe the highlights of the past two months.

Meeting friends – old and new

After a year of total isolation where the sight of a non-familial face was unorthodox, it was a joy to see a bosom friend – face-to-face. A kindred spirit to do lovely things with. To enjoy a cookie over a lively conversation, to admire and critique paintings at an art museum, to laugh (really laugh – with one’s head thrown back, eyes dancing, stomach aching but one delighting in the ache, hair tossed carelessly like one enveloped in sheer happiness), to watch black-and-white movies and 90s rom-coms, to discuss life and literature, to engage in deep, meaningful conversations.

Friendships are beautiful, powerful things. Treasure them.

Keeping a common place book

I’d heard of this practice before, but I’d never pursued it until several weeks ago. A common-place book is, in essence, a notebook filled with quotes, notes, conversation highlights, music lyrics, ponderings, dreams/goals, and anecdotes. In other words, a notebook that records inspiration.

Although I do like to journal, I’ve never been able to do it consistently. Common place-booking, however, is far more simple and far more to my taste. I’ve employed it to transcribe lecture notes from the classes I’ve taken — as well as quotes, anecdotes, and literary annotations.

Here are some unedited excerpts taken from various pages:

  • I want to have deep, meaningful conversations. Conversations that extend beyond celebrities, makeup, politics, the weather. And I want to have open conversations. Conversations not blinded by prejudices, personal perceptions.
  • Saw beautiful sunset (21 June) – star appeared, then, like a sign, a lamp post light flickered on beneath it. Purple rosy sky.
  • “For your face I have exchanged all faces.” – Philip Larkin
  • Staring into a squirrel’s eyes. Having it mistake me for a tree. Having it almost (I believe) try to climb me.


I was able to participate in two different literary intensives this summer: As You Like It Shakespeare Intensive and How to Read Fairy Tales. Although I enjoyed taking both classes, the fairy tales class was my favorite. Angelina Stanford is phenomenal, and everything she revealed about fairy tales in her class blew my mind. Literally. Her lessons were rich (and heavy) in content — I had to rewatch some of the class recordings in order to process everything she was relating. Furthermore, under her guidance, I unravelled the tales’ layers, continually surprised by their depth. All this to say, I highly recommend her classes at The House of Humane Letters. She provides year-long classes for teenage and adult book afficiandos who want to dive deep into literature. (There are still some spots open in her classes, including a self-paced option). If you can’t commit to a year-long course, I’m certain she’ll host another summer intensive in 2022. ๐Ÿ™‚

Reading (of course)

As you all know, I love to read. And the summer is not complete without a sprinkle of books.

Here are some of my summer reads (and 3 phrases to describe each):

  • Jane Eyre – formation of self, gothic architecture, redemption
  • The Secret History – tainted morality, classics, broken humans
  • Till We Have Faces – jealousy, veils, love
  • 12 Angry Men – prejudice, law, justice
  • My Name is Asher Lev – art, familial conflict, estrangement
  • The House on Mango Street – longing, home, community
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (still reading) – revenge, deception, isolation
  • When Breathe Becomes Air – mortality, meaning, life
  • The Lost Art of Dying – ancient traditions, view of death through time, preparing for death

All of these were excellent reads. However, I would spotlight Till We Have Faces, Jane Eyre, and When Breathe Becomes Air as my favorites.

Volunteering at a library

I was able to volunteer at a local library for the summer (a dream fulfilled) and I spent many a lovely summer morning/afternoon among the tomes. Living overseas, libraries are places I dearly miss.

Early morning walks/runs

It’s a wonderful miracle to move. To have the freedom to wade through the cool morning air, shadowed by pines and oaks. To inhabit solitude. To watch the trivial scuffles of squirrels and hear the sleepy murmur of waking birds. Running, walking instill freedom in my lungs, bones.

Summer, 1909 Painting by Marcus Jules

REMINDER: These are highlights. I’ve definitely had awful days this summer — illness, mental exhaustion, anxiety, physical fatigue, etc. My life isn’t perfect, but I do like to share the little moments that illuminate my being when they appear. ๐Ÿ™‚

What about you, friends? What have you been doing this summer? What are some of your highlights (imprisoned or not)? Let me know in the comments. I love to hear your thoughts.

7 responses to “A Summer Letter”

  1. Abbi, Glad you had a happy summer as every teenager should. I’m sure it was hectic at times. It was good to see you. Many years ago I read “12 Angry Men”. Hadn’t heard anyone speak of it since but, I remember I enjoyed it.

    • It’s a wonderful play. Concise but impactful! I’d recommend a re-read or a viewing of the 1957 film version.

  2. Wow! I loved hearing about your summer! Great post! I love how you see beauty in everything! And thank you so much for the reminder at the end! Nobody’s life is perfect but sharing bits about the beautiful, awesome times that truly happen in life is what its all about! Great job!

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Kylie! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m happy you enjoyed reading.

  3. Great post Abbi. It was a joy having you here.
    I enjoyed our walks, trips to the art museum, Czech museum, Grant Wood Studio, antique stores, plays and conversations at local coffee shop. Blessings to you Abbi. Grandma

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