welcome to pocket observatory

I use my pocket observatory to collect the dead starlight illuminating trending topics. Detect atomic insights in kitchen breadcrumbs. Listen for the cultural frequencies that move through all of us. Every piece of writing and bit of audio is a single imprecise measure.

welcome to pocket observatory

This is not a newsletter. This is an observatory.

Meg Conley is doing some of the smartest and most challenging writing on intersection of women, home, money, and care. She is an exquisite writer, constantly surprising me with the turns and clarity of her prose. - Culture Study, Anne Helen Petersen

It’s incredible how she can always be funny, incisive, and eloquent, all at once. Actually, it’s maddening that she’s this good. - Historian, Benjamin E. Park

If you’ve ever wished you could have been a part of Tolkien’s Inklings or swirl a drink by the fire with Emerson and Alcott, Meg’s writing is pretty damn close. I’ve never paid for a subscription so fast. - children’s book author, Camille Andros

A masterwork on modern capitalism, care work, and sexism, honestly. Subscribe and pay for it—worth every penny - Matriarchy Report, Lane Anderson

Historically, observatories have been built by and for men from a certain class with a certain expertise. These men got to decide which parts of existence were worthy of observation. They mostly looked up. They wrote the records and drew the conclusions. We live in the reality created by their measures.

Today, there are all kinds of observatories observing all sorts of things. There are still observatories in clear high places, with telescopes pointed towards the stars. But there are also observatories in the ground, underwater and up in space. They are used to observe the changing winds, the rising tides, the shifting plates, the melting rocks, and the dying stars.

The people in these observatories record what they see, hear, and detect. One observation on its own is a curiosity. But enough observations from enough people over enough years can help map a corner of existence.

I am a fan of these observatories! And we need more of them.


We continue to treat great swathes of the universe as unworthy of formal observation, for example. My country will spend billions of dollars on a telescope meant to collect light from the beginning of the universe. But it cannot be bothered to implement paid parental leave. Observing the first few months of a child’s life is not considered as important as observing a star.

Or what about the community organizer running a mutual aid pantry out of her garage? Isn’t she observing, too? Taking note of the changing tides of need and abundance in her community? Trying to measure the distance between one and the other? Isn’t her garage an observatory? Isn’t every bit of food given and received a study of humanity? Why aren’t we funding the organizer’s observance?

If my country could see beyond the base logic of the market, we could fund observance of the stars and the everyday. I hope someday it will.

Until then.

I do not have billions of dollars to fund everyday observation for all the observant people. I cannot even fund my own observance. But I have a skirt pocket big enough to hold a pencil, a little pad of paper, and a phone. I carry my instruments of observation with me.

Anyone can build a pocket observatory to observe anything that matters. And everything is matter. Or can be. Or has been. And I think, maybe, pocket observatories can also be pocket dimensions. They can hold and keep whatever we put in them.

I use my pocket observatory to collect the dead starlight illuminating trending topics. Detect atomic insights in kitchen breadcrumbs. Listen for the cultural frequencies that move through all of us. Every piece of writing and bit of audio is a single imprecise measure.

Sometimes, I write about about very hard things. This is not a place without confusion or despair. How could it be when it’s about being?

Together, we’ll map new corners of existence.

As I share my observations, my readers help me make sense of them, often by sharing their observations from their careful watching. Sometimes, I wonder if we can work together to map new corners of existence. I hope that happens.

My conclusions will sometimes be wrong. And they will always be incomplete. But this space is more concerned with the measure of all things than the mapping of them.

I’ve built this place to help me become aware of the frequencies beyond the known spectrum. I do not want to learn how to harness them to propel me. I do not want to focus them into a single point that burns. I just hope to learn to recognize their hum. And I wonder if I could ever understand how to hum along.

Observation is part of the scientific method. We have to notice before we can seek. It’s also the word we use to describe the performance of a rite. Observation helps believers heed what they cannot hear.

I am not a scientist. I am not religious. But I am observant.

If this were an observatory like the ones built in Ancient Greece, it would have a statue of Mary Oliver at its center.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Mary Oliver, Poem 133: The Summer Day

Mary Oliver said, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

Devotion comes from the Latin votum, "a promise to a god, solemn pledge, dedication; that which is promised; a wish, desire, longing, prayer.” De- means completely in this context. To be devoted is to be comprehensively promised.

I am closest to almost understanding my existence when I find myself in a state I describe as homesick for a home I don’t know. I use the word “homesick” because it’s a feeling that comes from a deep place I can’t name. An urgent longing met by the pull of home.

This feeling of almost understanding is like that, but deeper and less knowable. It happens when I pay attention to little things and big things, too. It’s a recognition I can’t quite recognize. There’s a sense that some of the particles that make me up have a charge that pulls them towards a state or a place or something that knows them.

And there is the slightest sensation that if I could get the rest of my particles to rotate the right way, my whole self would be transported or transmuted or something. And when I am paying attention, when I am really, really paying attention, sometimes, I have this sense that a particle or two has turned. Perhaps forever, perhaps not.

Do I think I’ll be able to fully turn to whatever pulls me? No. Not really. But each tiny rotation feels like proof of a promise of which I am just one part. What is on the other side of this promise? I don’t know. But it feels like love.

Whatever it is, I want to devote myself to it. I have a feeling that if I do, I’ll find myself devoted to what has been promised to it, which is everything and everyone.