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As her new album, The Art of Renée Fleming, hits stores, the celebrated soprano talks about the City of Light, the secret to weight loss, and what comes after her final bow.
1. You Have to Make Time For Joy
You can't just focus on shoulds. You have to also do whatever makes your heart feel full. Maybe it's cooking for your friends, being with your children. For me, it's a sunset walk around Paris—where I keep an apartment—listening to jazz and Joni Mitchell on my iPod. It's like having my own soundtrack.
2. And You Have To Make Other Things, Too
It enriches you to enjoy music and art and writing, but creating something yourself is even more important. Ask yourself what it can add to your existence to write, to paint, to sing. It's so easy to leave creativity out of your life because you don't have time. But I know I wouldn't feel fully alive if I couldn't put forth some expression of myself.
3. Success Is Nine-Tenths Elbow Grease
I once said to the photographer Annie Leibovitz, "You've met so many incredible people. What have you learned from them?" She answered, "Everybody works really hard." That's the key.
4. Changing Your Body Means Changing Your Thinking
My whole life, I've struggled with my weight. Many people in my profession do—"It's not over till the fat lady sings," as they say. But I've learned that weight loss, like a lot of things, starts with your mind. If you don't look inside and examine how food is protecting you from dealing with something difficult, and why some inner voice is undermining your resolve, no diet in the world will help.
5. Nothing Lasts Forever
A singer's career is like an athlete's—short. It would be easy to view this negatively, but instead I try to think about what my legacy will be, how I'll give back, and all the new things I'll get to try. Like spending less time in airports, for example.
"At work it was all about packaging, marketing, and advertising," says Liz. "But once we decided to make products just for us, we thought about only one thing: efficacy." Their goal was to include the highest possible levels of various antioxidants, peptides, fruit acids, and moisturizing sodium hyaluronate. More than a year later, Rachel and Liz left the lab with their dream products in clear vials labeled with a Sharpie. Before long, Liz's fine lines were fading, Rachel no longer needed antibiotics to control her rosacea—and their friends wanted what they were having.
Now everyone can; their Radical Skincare line is available at Barneys New York stores and barneys.com, as well as their own site, radicalskincare.com. The packaging has been upgraded, but it's still simple. "We wanted to keep all the value inside the bottle," says Rachel. "A fancy jar or celebrity endorsement isn't going to transform your skin."
Just when you think you've seen everything, here comes the spirit bear (conveniently enough, in gorgeous and mind-bendingly close-up photographs). No, this white bear is not a Polar Bear, but rather a denizen of Canada's Great Bear Rainforest, and get this -- she's actually a black bear. Born of a recessive gene similar to the human genes for pale skin and red hair, Kermodism, as it's called, is quite rare in the larger black bear population. But on Gribbell Island, nearly one in three black bears is white. (Read the entire article for theories as to why this is.) The native people of the area, the Gitga'at First Nation, call these creatures spirit bears, and according to Bruce Barcott's fascinating National Geographic article, they have never hunted them.
There is something really special about these Kermode bears, something beautiful and rare. And like with so many creatures, their uniqueness seems to lend them a secret advantage in life: apparently the white bears are more successful at catching salmon than their darker counterparts. Oh, and they are scientifically proven to be more likely to make your heart flutter in your chest. Okay, maybe not that last one. You must check out the full National Geographic story, complete with a stunning slide show of Paul Nicklen's miraculous photos. (via My Modern Met.)
Experience Nature's Beauty
The Health Benefits of Time Outside
I am fond, along with everyone I know, of saying things like, "I don't even have a moment to breathe." But what that means is, "I don't take a moment to breathe." Because there are hidden moments here and there, even in the most hectic life, moments that most of us spend staring off into space, or more often at our phones' glowing informative faces—when we could be breathing, or stretching, or humming a tune, or scribbling down a few choice lines or images on whatever is at hand. The back of a receipt. An envelope.
This was the first thought I had when I heard of a new artist's book that includes facsimiles of Emily Dickinson's "envelope-poems." Now on view at the New York Public Library, this lovely object offers insight into Dickinson's later years and creative process, as well as a celebration of the poet's famous economy: the title comes from Dickinson's manuscript A 821, "the gorgeous | nothings | which | compose | the | sunset | keep." But it also offers a reminder to the rest of us non-Dickinsons in the world. It's not your materials that matter (i.e. "This crappy old laptop is keeping me from writing my memoirs!"), or even your scope. We all have envelopes, and pens, and scattered (and non-grocery-list-related) thoughts. We all have tiny moments we can transform into gorgeous nothings.
Golden moments that everybody gets
Why you need improbable goals
Each week, we'll be letting you know about the new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're enthralled by the newly rediscovered memoir:
Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler
By Trudi Kanter
Who doesn't love buried treasure, especially when it's of the literary variety? Part love story and part intimate history of the Nazis' 1938 arrival in Vienna, Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler was originally released—and promptly forgotten—in 1984. Wandering through a bookshop a few years ago, a British editor discovered the out-of-print memoir and decided to republish it. What makes the book so instantly mesmerizing is Trudi Kanter herself, who fashioned sentences just the way she fashioned hats as a milliner in late 1930s Vienna—each a dazzling, delicate object of delight. When Hitler overruns Austria, there is plenty of tension to draw the story forward: Jews are forced to wash the sidewalks with acid, her husband, Walter, is hunted by the SS, and Kanter must find visas that will allow them to escape to England. But what distinguishes this particular tale is the lavish portrait of Vienna just before the war, back when people went to cafés for "elevenses, delicate snacks and pastries with cream," and Sunday afternoon dates took place in forested gardens under chestnut trees. Her yearning for this vanished life creates the kind of dark, dreamy melody that causes you to fall for this lost Vienna too. And yet, Kanter is aware of what this era was built on. "The poor were getting poorer; the rich, richer," she announces in retrospect. In 1935, "hats became smaller and smaller" until "a feather and a sequin was a hat." In 1938, that age of decadence ends with the arrival of the Nazis. Kanter escapes the atrocities in her hometown but not its devastating losses—including her own young, dazzled way of looking at the world from that time when, as she describes, "Kisses fly in all directions. I try to catch them in my green butterfly net."
October's absolutely, positively must-read books
Surprise your book club...with a stranger
As the only Dutch-certified journeyman miller in America, the only woman member of the Netherlands' professional corn millers guild, and the sole miller of a 251-year-old Dutch windmill in Holland, Michigan, Alisa Crawford is a singular presence in her field. Crawford uses the mill to grind flour, which involves scrambling up the windmill's staircase with 50-pound bags of wheat, which is fed into the mill to be processed.
"I don't need a gym membership," she says. "This work uses all my strength." It also dovetails with her love of historic craft, which was first ignited during a trip to Colonial Williamsburg at age 13. Enchanted by the visit, Crawford landed a job in her native Michigan at a historical reenactment village, which used a water-powered mill to produce flour. At 17 she apprenticed with the miller; by 19 she was running the mill herself.
In 2006 Crawford began more in-depth study: Enlisting a local Dutch professor to teach her the language, she made five trips to the Netherlands to learn the art of Dutch milling—and in the years since, Crawford's connection to that specialized corner of the past has only deepened. As she says, "History is so much more interesting when you live it."