Emily Siner

The Rules Of Wandering

Seriously, this is the dead end of a random street in Venice.

Seriously, this is the dead end of a random street in Venice.

When I think back to my time studying abroad four years ago, there are two things that stick out in my mind.

First, I remember being cold the whole time. Southern France was unseasonably chilly that spring, so I had brought the wrong clothes, and I was too money-conscious to buy the right ones. Instead, I layered three pairs of tights and double-wrapped my scarves and bought a cheap winter hat from a street vendor.

Second, I had no obligations outside of classes, which meant I would spend hours getting lost in the web of tiny medieval-era streets. (When my toes got numb, I would warm up inside one of Aix’s endless supply of French boutiques, fingering the price tags of clothes I wished I could buy.) My extensive wandering was such a profound experience that I blogged about it at the time.

Then, a couple of years later, I learned about the word flâneur. It’s French — fittingly — and it has no direct translation in English, but it means something like “one who wanders alone.” A New York Times reporter described it like this: “Flânerie is, in its purest form, a goal-less pursuit, though for some it evolved into a purposeful art: Walking and observing became a method of understanding a city, an age.” This word resonated with me so deeply that I wrote another blog post about it.

So this is my third time blogging about the profundity of wandering. I can’t promise it will be my last.Read More »The Rules Of Wandering

Weighing My Words

Moleskines

How many pens had to be sacrificed for this notebook?

It was the color that got me, a light purple with a tinge of pink: the color of the Dannon raspberry yogurt I used to eat as a kid, before I realized any color that vivid should not be eaten in one’s yogurt.

I plucked the raspberry yogurt-colored notebook off the shelf and examined it. It was a Moleskine with a soft, leathery cover, and it was more expensive than any notebook I’d ever bought before. But I had just read a blog post by a writer — some writer, I can’t remember whom — professing the joys of using a Moleskine. Maybe, I thought, owning this notebook would inspire me to write more.

I know that logic is flawed. Proof: I bought a bike two years ago, hoping it would inspire me to ride more, and instead it’s been sitting on my porch and wasting away in the elements. But it came recommended by a real writer somewhere on the internet, and besides I liked the color. What the hell, I thought.Read More »Weighing My Words

On Looking Up

The clouds are the landscape in central Illinois. (© Emily Siner)

The drive to Champaign: great big skies and road construction. (© Emily Siner)

One evening my first semester of college, a friend and I drove back up to the suburbs of Chicago for another friend’s father’s funeral.

We were leaving from the University of Illinois, a place that people frequently refer to as “in the middle of cornfields.” It’s kind of meant as a joke, half-endearing and half-exasperated — but the expression is mostly true, except that some of the fields are planted with soybeans instead.

Either way, it’s true that as soon you leave the small, semi-urban hub of Champaign-Urbana, you’re surrounded by huge swaths of flatland. The drive north to Chicago is basically one straight, horizontal line. It’s one of the things kids lamented about when they decided to go to the University of Illinois. The drive is just so boring.

My friend and I left after class on a Friday in October, so we were driving when the sun began to set. It dipped slowly on our left until, at a certain angle, something unusual happened. Suddenly, the light flooding the road was a vivid pink. It stained the concrete interstate and the flat yellow fields. The clouds looked like they were spun with gold. I stared out of the car, couldn’t get enough of it. It was healing.

People were looking at the landscape of central Illinois all wrong, I realized. It was like an optical illusion, one of those pictures with a double image where you can’t see other point of view until someone points it out to you. We call it a “landscape,” but it’s not the land here that’s so remarkable. It’s the sky.Read More »On Looking Up

Annual Review

Speaking at TEDxNashville was a definite accomplishment of 2015.

Speaking at TEDxNashville was a definite accomplishment of 2015.

Until this year, I had no use for New Year’s resolutions. I thought they were a fabrication of glossy magazine publishers, a sort of “New Year, New You!” myth. Why tie important life changes to an arbitrary date each year?

Recently, however, I found myself reflecting more on what I’ve done in 2015 and want to do in 2016. And that makes sense: For most of my life, goals and accomplishments weren’t measured in calendar years. They were measured in other beginnings — new school years in August, new internships, new cities — but for the past year and a half, my life has been fairly monotonous, beginnings-wise. I’ve been in the same job, same city, without many starts or stops to mark the time.

So even though Jan. 1 still feels a little arbitrary, I see it as a decent time to reflect. And instead of simply making a list of my favorite stories of 2015, which seems a little self-serving, I want to focus on one professional accomplishment that I find truly meaningful, that I want to improve upon next year, and that I hope will also help other young journalists starting in the field: feeling comfortable as a reporter.Read More »Annual Review

The fleeting beauty of French macarons

Très fragile

I took this picture about two minutes after I bought them in 2012. Très fragile.

Yesterday, I bought a macaron from a stall at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. It was tiny and fancy, dyed pastel peach and filled with orange confit. I held it firmly between my thumb and forefinger as I walked away — too firmly, it turned out, because I ended up crushing the delicate flat top of the cookie under my thumb.

It was no loss. It tasted the same, although maybe slightly less smooth under the roof of my mouth. But it reminded me of a conversation I had with my favorite macaron vendor at a market in France on my last weekend there.Read More »The fleeting beauty of French macarons

On Hemingway

Hemingway's favorite? Photo by Claire via Flickr

Hemingway’s favorite? Photo by Claire via Flickr

Despite the fact that Ernest Hemingway was a depressed alcoholic who cheated on multiple wives, his writing has always thrilled me, ever since the first time I read “The Sun Also Rises” in college. He was originally a newspaper reporter, which you can tell from the extreme simplicity of his writing. But what I loved most was his ability to cut to the core of complex human emotions. He was especially good, perhaps unsurprisingly, at writing about angst.

Last October, I started reading his memoir about living in Paris, “A Moveable Feast,” and it resonated with me so deeply that I began to write a blog post about it. I never finished the blog post, probably because I finished the book first and became kind of disillusioned with him — he is, after all, a depressed alcoholic who cheats on his wife — but still, parts of it were pretty profound to me. Especially this part, where he’s sitting inside a Parisian café on a rainy day, writing a story and staring out the window.Read More »On Hemingway

What’s My Age Again?

I’m about to tell you something really personal. I’m going to put it out on the internet for anyone searching for me to see.

My age.

Celebrating one of the birthdays in my third decade.

Celebrating one of the birthdays in my third decade.

I used to think it was small-minded and coy when women refused to say their age. Perhaps it was because my parents had me in their 40s. I learned early that, for many people, age has very little bearing on life events or personality traits or health. Even now, I can barely guess which decade my coworkers are in.

And why were only women ashamed of their ages? It seemed to me that by not admitting their age, they were perpetuating the myth that women lose value as they get older, while men hold on to their worth. Say your age and be proud, ladies!

But this past year, I realized that there’s an age-shaming culture apart from women being too old — which is women being too young.Read More »What’s My Age Again?