Published

Laurel World

Hi everyone,

I am happy to share my new websites today 🍃 ^^

http://laurelschwulst.com
http://laurel.world

a screenshot of the very green laurel.world, showing a list of projects you can click on

A little backstory: For those of you who know me / my work … maybe you know I have been working with the medium of the web for a long time now. But for the past few years, I’ve had this strange feeling, like a sort of weight … as if my websites weren’t accurately reflecting the person I am … or the person I’d like to be more and more in this world, today.

2022 began. I remember feeling the strong, glowing Q1 energy, so I began my personal website rehabilitation process. In doing so, I gradually realized that I didn’t have to re-haul everything (like I originally imagined) but rather undergo a process of refinement. That said, my updated laurelschwulst.com website actually looks a lot like a previous version (from 2019 and earlier), just with a new color scheme, updated links, and updated roles:

Note that these websites are also still works in progress. I need to add alt-text to laurel.world still. And there are probably some bugs and missing pieces! Anyway, if you notice anything weird, or you can’t find something that I previously had up, feel free to kindly let me know :]

Seasons, Birthdays, & Rituals

Over the past few years, I’ve been very interested in the idea of seasons.

At the start of 2022, I somehow knew that I would use my birthday (earlier this week — Tuesday, March 15th) as a milestone to “launch” this new version of myself. My birthday, which happens at the very end of “winter” and right before “spring” felt like the right moment for this type of energy … coming out of the cold and into the sun & green …

Speaking of cold things, a website is often just the tip of an “iceberg” … of a whole process of refocusing and reorienting oneself. In early 2022, I imagined how I would like to interact with the world more this year, and my website became my therapeutic medium to work through everything.

Thinking about newness and milestones, I tweeted this in January:

“it would be nice if people just sent each other cute trading cards of themselves (kind of like senior pictures) every new year ^^”

So in addition to launching my websites (quietly) on my birthday, I also sent a “belated new years” card to my friends and family. It included a photo of me (senior pictures style), a small note saying happy new year, and a laminated quote with a leaf.

In a way, this card and these websites are my own personal new year. While I don’t think I’ll do this every birthday (as it was a lot of work!), I am glad I found my own ritual / carved out my own personal milestone, especially amidst this amorphous pandemic world.

Speaking of birthdays, one important detail about laurel.world is that all items in the directory are sortable by “day” they launched or met the world somehow. This might seem subtle, but one thing I’ve been realizing more and more is that I like surprise and events, and that many of my projects “launch” after a long period of gestation. For me, finding an occasion to do something I already want to do fuels and directs it, making it real. As an aside, it’s fun to think about all my projects having birthdays, imagining what age each of my projects are, and also what their particular birthday (season, astrological sign, etc.) might illuminate about them, to begin.

Authorship & Ambiance

On my updated website, the primary roles under my name are:

Author, Director of Ambiance, Professor

I’d like to work in these roles more and more.

( 1 ) I am working on a book about websites. I would love to talk to anyone interested, or anyone who knows of a publisher.

( 2 ) I want to create more special & meditative video tutorials and “tours,” similar to my bird kite piece but also my videos Basics of HTML, Basics of CSS, and the Tour of the Alt-Text as Poetry website. If you are interested in sponsoring, somehow supporting me, or partnering on a video tutorial, please email me.

Gifts

As an ending note, I also want to share a couple wonderful birthday gifts people (website people) made me:

https://you-are-laurel-right.neocities.org

https://wesleyac.com/chime

My laurel.world directory ends with this quote, which I’ve shared many other times before, but I feel is always nice to return to …

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole person into activity; I want other lights other than my own to show all my friend’s facets… — C.S. Lewis

Thanks for joining me on my birthday. I hope you like my websites!

Peace,
Laurel

laurelschwulst.com
laurel.world
fireflysanctuary.today
veryinteractive.net
abundant.blue

Published

10 questions

Late last year, pe hu asked me to create ten questions for their special project.

The questions should be fun & exploratory. They are questions you ask when maybe first getting to know someone. But instead of being open, they come with (a) or (b) answers.

Well, without further ado, here are my questions:

( 1 )

Which is more poetic?

* wind
* water

( 2 )

Which number is more beautiful?

* 33
* 47

( 3 )

I love you exactly the way you are.

* Thank you for accepting me for who I am
* Wow, are you an angel visiting me on planet earth?

( 4 )

Which are you more like … a star (sun) or a plant?

* star / sun
* plant

( 5 )

What’s your relationship to eggs?

* I want to eat them
* I want to go inside one

( 6 )

Do you like talking on the phone out of the blue?

* I love calling people on the phone spontaneously for fun and connection
* Impromptu calls scare me; I like to plan calls instead

( 7 )

What’s your perma-age (the age of your soul)?

* 11
* 55

( 8 )

When you put utensils in the dishwasher or on the drying rack, which way do they face?

* handle side down (fork / spoon part is up)
* handle side up (fork / spoon part is down)

( 9 )

What’s your relationship to rocks / pebbles like?

* I collect them
* I want to be them

( 10 )

Which question would you ask a first date?

* What is something that’s brought you joy lately?
* How did you get to be the way you are?

Published

To write, I first must world

Over the decades I’ve been on the internet, I’ve admired bloggers.

It’s beautiful to write on one’s own platform about anything that interests you. Especially when that writing wouldn’t easily be accepted on a platform that already exists.

But I’ve often felt like an outsider. That is, I never felt like a blogger myself. Why? Maybe because, despire admiring bloggers, I never felt like I would write about any of the same things they did, or in the same way. I also never felt “literary” in that certain way people who were good at “language arts” class in high school were. In school, I remember never getting the intended meaning from books and poems we were assigned.

***

Somehow though, despite everything, I started blogging.

Over the past few years, I created a few different blogs. But I call them notebooks.

While perhaps easily overlooked, this naming them “notebooks” is important. Traditionally a “notebook” is something you have multiple of … in the paper world, you often have different notebooks for different purposes. Whereas a “blog” feels like you have only one and it’s this monolithic thing. So inherently notebooks are less precious and more context-specific than blogs.

Going the notebook route is a clue to how I was able to convince myself that blogging / writing, despite feeling like an alien, was okay and fun. In other words, I first created the world (the environment … feeling, constraints, audience, etc.), and only then I could easily write.

These are some of my notebooks:

Ellipsis

This is a notebook I only write to when I’m in motion.

https://notebooks.laurel.world/ellipsis

It originally started as an experiment on the p2p web (specifically: “Beaker Browser”) because the technology enabled me saving offline and then it syncing whenever I was online. I’ve kept it up for ~3 years now, posting intermittently … whenever I’m on a train, plane, boat, or even walking. I gave a talk about this notebook once, and I keep references surrounding it, too.

Pomera

With this notebook, I create all my entries first on the Pomera DM30, an e-ink typewriter.

https://notebooks.laurel.world/pomera

I started this notebook when I was traveling in Japan and Korea, summer 2019, pre-pandemic. I had been curious about “distraction free” writing devices for a while. So when I landed in Japan, one of my first stops was to buy a Pomera DM30, a simple e-ink typewriter that saves .txt files to an SD card. All the entries on Pomera are written with it and then translated into HTML. Sometimes I would add photos. I don’t update this anymore — it’s more a time capsule of that special summer.

Reflections

This notebook is my 2020 email newsletter sent to friends.

https://notebooks.laurel.world/reflections

I had a regular email newsletter during 2020 I sent to friends called “Reflections.” This is that newsletter as a website. This newsletter had a more thematic constraint. I remember typing, “I want to write in a way… in which I don’t know exactly what I’ll write before I write.” I used various constraints in the actual writing … sometimes I used the Pomera, other times I wrote in motion, and other times I just did it somehow. Looking back, one of the main constraints of this newsletter was the email format and audience. I would regularly receive replies, and most of the people signed up I knew personally.

***

While I said I felt like an outsider in the blogging world, it might be more true to say that I’ve felt like an outsider almost *everywhere* — not just blogging. This is likely why special friendships and work situations in which I’m appreciated for what I’m truly good at are so vital to me. I’ve also enjoyed using the internet to connect with others who feel different, to realize we’re not as alone as we may first believe.

This circles back to a larger idea I’ve been thinking about … world-building as self-care. For those of us who feel different, who don’t easily fit into structures of this society or this world, we have to make our own structures, definitions, and taxonomies to feel at home — that is, to build our own world. And while others might be confused why we spend so much energy inventing new names and containers seemingly constantly, it’s important to remember doing this helps us simply exist … so that we can connect in this one world we share.

Published

On immersion

A couple years ago, I created this list:

immersive:

  • walking
  • taking a shower
  • sleeping
  • teaching
  • falling in love
  • cinema
  • life or death experience

I was curious about these amazing parts of life that feel so meaningful — like portals, where time and space take on a totally different, enchanted feeling.

I remember writing this list to expand on the way Jenny Odell, in her book How to Do Nothing, put it:

I stopped looking at my phone because I was looking at something else, something so absorbing that I couldn’t run away. That’s the other thing that happens when you fall in love. Friends complain that you’re not present or that you have your head in the clouds; companies dealing in the attention economy might say the same thing about me, with my head lost in the trees.

Lately, I’ve been writing more. I’ve been trying a daily practice with pen and paper. But sometimes it can be difficult for me to continue, to get to my goal of three pages. When this happens, I remember that I should write about what really matters to me … a continuous excavation.

The only thing I know about how to be more prolific? Write about the thing that means the most to you, then write about the thing that means more.

Using this advice from Ava Huang, I decided to go deeper into immersion.

Immersion is defined as “an absorbing involvement.”

It certainly has liquid qualities. And apparently an “immerser” is someone who baptizes another person, using water.

I believe being immersed is one of the best ways to live happily today.

If I were to add anything to the beginning list, I might even add:

  • writing (as excavation)

Zooming out, it might be useful to begin with a regular universal immersive experience: sleep. We need to do it; it’s totally necessary. We feel off if we don’t have our sleep.

For something so everyday, it’s amazing that sleep is so mysterious. Like outer space, like the deep ocean. The subconscious part of life, where things naturally connect and balance out again. We need this balance to live a healthy life.

Sometimes it can be difficult getting from modern life to sleep (or immersion in general). There is this weird gray area, transition time … before falling asleep or becoming fully immersed. For it to work, the paradoxical thing is that you have to surrender. But how do you choose to go with the flow, to become powerless? It’s about controlling the environment to allow the process to happen naturally. Controlling your environment or circumstance so immersion comes easier … maybe you put your phone on Airplane Mode, get a nice pillow, put on your white noise machine. And before you made sure to get some exercise so that you’re truly tired, needing sleep. Or maybe you do this all in one swoop and decide to live a different lifestyle, one tied to the land, the sun, and the moon.

But what about other immersions in life, ones that are more particular per person? Similar to the surrender required to sleep, I find the times I don’t have to choose much easier. I find surrendering and immersion go hand and hand. Maybe I need money, so I find a job. Maybe my friend is sick, so I make them soup. Maybe I feel disenchanted, so I research what I’m curious about. For me, immersion should come from direct needs. It’s normal to have needs, and it’s important to be self-aware about what those needs are, so that you can then go about achieving them in a way that is best for you and doesn’t harm others. Often, we can achieve multiple needs through a single immersion. And that’s one of the beautiful things about being immersed. It feels like a dream. One thing flowing seamlessly into the next.

Two years ago, I wrote:

Nowadays, I fantasize about having other jobs. What would it be like to be a boat driver? To feel the waves and current under me and be responsible for others safe journey? What about a spin class instructor? Maybe I’d have to be fit, inspiring, a good DJ, and again, caring for my participants. I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. I’d have to do CPR on someone if something bad happened. Or what about being a park ranger? I could give tours and introduce guests to specific medicinal plants, for example. Of course while it seems idyllic, it might be scary to be near nature too—it’s awesome in both it’s beauty and power. Again I would be caring towards any hikers, giving them the best information for a safe and fun hike.

I keep trying to define the properties of being fully immersed. One is certainly being embodied, or conscious of your body. Another aspect might be social. The occupations I mentioned above are all caring for others in some way, leading them on an embodied path. I feel most immersed when I’m on a journey with someone else, like when I’m teaching.

It is certainly more difficult to be both embodied and social during this worldwide pandemic. Which is probably why immersion is so vital now more than ever.


I like to imagine social media as a catalogue of possible immersions. (This is a mindset shift that has been helping me personally lately.)

I think humans who use social media would benefit by regularly seeing some sort of PSA about immersion, ideally pinned to the top of each social media as a gentle, humane suggestion. But since modern day platforms probably won’t do this, I need to pin it inside of my brain instead. It goes something like this:

You are here, on this social media platform. It’s actually a sandy beach.

You look out to the horizon and see wave after wave coming in. There are some surfers wading in the ocean, and a pod of dolphins jump in the distance. Is that an island far away, or maybe it’s a shipping container?

It’s true: the world is vast and abundant. There are so many things to do with so many different people! It’s an amazing world, ready to explore.

But remember: the jewels of existence are out in the sea, in the depths of experience.

I know it’s comfortable, but please don’t stay on the beach forever.

I want you to deeply explore the ocean: the waves, the other surfers, the dolphins, the island and/or shipping container. And so much more that’s not even visible!

Think about this beach (well, this social media platform!) as an catalog of possible immersions. Yes, the abundance of items in our catalog can feel overwhelming at times, but the trick is to choose just a couple things you feel drawn to, and try them out, one at a time.

(Remember too that ours is not the only catalog. There are other catalogs, some incredibly valuable ones can be unlocked through friendship with other humans. And friendship itself is a kind of immersion!)

Anyway, you can think of getting immersed like exploring the ocean. I wouldn’t bring your phone here if I were you — it’s going to get wet. Leave it on the beach, or at least put it in a water-tight container.

When you come up to the surface for oxygen, to rest, to share with others, just remember to not get too comfortable or languish here. Let your collected jewels gleam in the sun as a way to reflect and encourage others, but never forget the depths they came from.

I think it was Einstein who said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” I like to believe that’s true. It is out there, not here.


Indeed, surfing seems to be a great metaphor for the cyclical experience of going out for an experience and then reflecting back on the sandy beach, and doing it again and again.

There’s a beautiful song by Pardon Kimura whose lyrics go like this:

I keep waiting for waitlessness
The wave is life
I’m going to ride on it
Surfing is love
I’m going to wave my weakness goodbye
I don’t have to be afraid of wiping out
if I don’t try to catch the big one,
I’m stuck in the water anyway

It’s a loop
I’m going to get out…
to wait
I’m going to wait…
to surf
I’m going to surf…
to wipe out
I’m going to wipe out…
to get out
and that’s it

In other words, disillusionment is normal, and part of the process. If we are patient, we can immerse ourselves and become enchanted again.

“Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine” – Carl Jung

Published

People, Exercise, Home, Universe

Recently, I received this amazing tote bag:


It has the words “People, Exercise, Home, Universe” on it … screen-printed in a soft gray.

This was a gift from “pehu,” a group of creative people in Osaka, Japan … where I did a residency back in 2019.

The bag came about because they invited people to come up with meanings / mottos for their name, “pehu,” which is just a string of nonsensical characters. (In Japanese, it’s ∧° ┐ which is also mostly nonsensical, but forms a nice sort of visual picture of perhaps a mountain with sun and a table.)

One day over the summer, I came up with “People, Exercise, Home, Universe” because it was a useful rubric for me … in the sense that I could try to follow it on a daily basis to have healthy balance in my life.

P = People ( hanging with friends, family )
E = Exercise ( physical activity with body )
H = Home ( cozy security & centering activities )
U = Universe ( zooming out )

So for example…

I would draw this 2×2 for every day over the summer and fill it in. Sometimes it would help me have a bit more of a healthy day if I realize one area is missing, for instance.

I hope this motto of PEHU helps anyone who needs it.

Published

I took my phone out of my phone

For the past few years … I haven’t had a smartphone.

Instead, I usually carry these three devices:

  • a flip phone (this one is by Sunbeam Wireless, an F1 Orchid)
  • an iPod Touch
  • another iPod Touch

(Note this “lifestyle” could work just as well with only one iPod Touch. I’ll explain further below why I roll with two instead of one.)

Flip Phone + iPod Touch … Lifestyle

So, just a disclaimer … this isn’t a perfect system … but it’s more or less been “working” for me for a while now.

By “working,” I mean:

  • I feel more agency in relationship to my handheld technology
  • I am more easily able to enter a calm state when I’m out in the world
  • People can reach me, and I can reach people, when needed

It all started in 2018. I remember accidentally losing my iPhone one day at school while teaching, and thinking … “I’m never going back to the way things were!”

At the time, I felt there was way too much power in my iPhone alone. It was amazing, but also often debilitating. It was difficult for me to be alone with my thoughts sometimes, with the power of the iPhone and internet coursing through my body, especially when I was in transit. (I took the train often to teach at universities, sometimes spending up to 4 hours on a train at a time.) Of course, I could delete the apps that caused me trouble on my iPhone, but it was almost too easy to install them again. I wanted to set up an environment that would enable me to be my best self (out in the world / in transit) … doing calm activities like reading, spending alone time with my thoughts / feelings, maybe journal-ing, etc., instead of refreshing Twitter, for instance.

So essentially, I “took my phone out of my phone” … because the iPod Touch has (more or less) all the capabilities of an iPhone … just without the phone aspect.

With the iPod Touch, I can still use iMessage and other messaging apps. (I just need to be connected to wifi.) And I can still use most other apps. I can even use apps that require phone verification … I just have my flip phone at the ready and confirm when necessary. (Some people are surprised I can use ride-share apps like Lyft and Uber with only an iPod Touch, but yes, it’s possible!)

iPods

Often, I get this funny question:

“Apple still makes iPods?”

Yes. They’re called iPod Touches. They’re less than $200, and they’re basically an iPhone without the phone part. The camera isn’t as good, but everything else is pretty decent.

People always remark how light and small my iPod Touch is … it’s the same general dimensions as the iPhone 5s, but a little thinner.

Because most people use larger phones these days, sometimes I’ll use apps that were clearly not designed with the iPod Touch in mind, which is unfortunate. But I haven’t found an app I can’t use yet, more just ones that are sized a little awkwardly.

“Why do you have two iPods?”

You might be wondering why I have two iPods instead of just one. This is a matter of personal preference, and actually I rolled with just one iPod for a long time.

1) Light Pod

One of my iPods is my “light pod” meaning I don’t put social apps on it. It’s for taking out with me when I go on a walk, when I simply want to listen to my music and podcasts rather than be distracted by anything social. Most of the apps on my “light pod” are “offline first,” meaning their data is already downloaded to the device and I really don’t need to be connected anyway. (This naming / division was definitely inspired by the light phone, which I don’t have, but like the general idea of!) If there is an emergency and I need to contact someone, or someone needs to contact me, they can call my flip phone.

2) Messaging Pod

The other iPod might be called my “messaging / cursed pod” because I allow it to have any social app, or really anything. My most used apps on this pod are probably iMessage, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram (although I’m trying to take a break from some of the social media lately).

***

So when I go out into the world, I bring my flip phone and at least one iPod. If I’m going to be social, I bring both pods. If I’m going on a solo reflective journey, I just bring my light pod.

Flip Phone

I use the Sunbeam Wireless F1 Orchid. (This is a fairly new acquisition for me … before, I had a generic AT&T flip phone.)

Sunbeam Wireless is a pretty thoughtful, wholesome, and cute company, and so far I’ve only had good experiences with the phone.

I’m using the “Orchid,” which is the most feature-full of their three phones. The “Dandelion,” on the other hand, only has calling and no text messaging. The “Daisy” is somewhere in between.

One primary feature of the Orchid is that it doesn’t open Internet links from text messages. This is on purpose.

The Orchid does texting, and thankfully it has a pretty reliable speech to text feature. It’s fairly easy to text, actually!

The Orchid does have maps, and so far I’ve only had to use it when I got lost once walking around Green-Wood Cemetery. It’s not the most easy to use map app, but it works if you’re genuinely lost.

***

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts … let me know if you have any questions, or if you roll with a similar setup, or have related ideas 🙂

***

Updates:

  • 12.10.21 — Jeff wrote a post about their flip phone setup! Wow now I have a Sunbeam friend 🙂
  • 1.8.22 — I have been realizing how much this setup helped me pre-pandemic. Having two pods versus one, to be honest, doesn’t help me that much in the pandemic, since I am mostly at home. I am dreaming of new configurations 🙂

Published

Suddenly, leaves

Recently, I started collecting leaves.

And sometimes I laminate them.

Today, I found a particularly beautiful and unique leaf. It’s pictured above. It has such a special shape, even though you could also easily look at it and think it’s generic. Its shape almost makes it looks like a figure … maybe even one dancing.

I picked this leaf up off the ground to admire it more and realized it was actually quite fragile. Later when I laminated it, I held it up to my glowing light. I noticed it actually had small holes scattered throughout that I hadn’t noticed before, the light coming through like little stars in a galaxy.

Yesterday, I found five brilliant red leaves and similarly laminated them. Red leaves lose their color quickly when they’re exposed to regular air, but laminating them keeps them preserved so their brilliant color remains.

Sometimes it feels cruel to preserve something so ephemerally beautiful…

Taylor Swift recently re-recorded her album from over a decade ago called “Red.” The new version is called “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Taylor wants to own her own music, and this is her way of doing just that.

In the song “Red,” Taylor sings:

Loving him is like trying to change your mind
Once you’re already flying through the free fall
Like the colors in autumn, so bright, just before they lose it all

Losing him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark gray, all alone
Forgetting him was like tryna know somebody you never met
But loving him was red

Loving him was red

Red, blue, and dark gray are the colors Taylor mentions pertaining to her love experience. This was when Taylor was pretty young, as she released the original “Red” when she was in her early 20’s. I wonder how she felt re-recording this song in particular now that she’s in her early 30’s.

I know Taylor was trying to drive home a certain type of love experience with her limited palette, but to me, love is so many more colors. It’s almost infinite. I know certain animals can see more colors than humans, like certain species of birds and also “mantis shrimp.”

One thing I love about leaves is how remarkable they are for being so commonplace. Especially if you find a special one, it can easily be the star of a whole blog post. Or maybe a whole forthcoming film.