Like a bad penny

I think I was wishing for something that doesn’t exist when I quit here - an idea of self that pre-dated blogging and social media, where I didn’t feel the presence of anonymous others. Not that its a bad feeling - happily, readers here have always been benevolent. But the idea of “others” infiltrated me in ways beyond blog readership. I sometimes felt I was doing things for you. I sometimes felt I wasn’t doing things because of you too. I projected an audience watching me and then felt strangely beholden to it.

I blame the feeling watched feelings on my Catholic upbringing. It was supposed to be comforting, of course. You’re being watched from heaven and all that. And in some ways it was. In other ways, it struck judgement into the very heart of every move.

My favourite saying is that you have to climb the ladder to kick it away. I think I love it because it represents two very contrary things. Careful study and abandonment. But it’s not something I excel at. I tend to be a reckless student, a bit too eager to form my own opinion too soon. But then when it comes to abandonment I never quite feel that freedom to fully go my own way. Sometimes, I daydream things and even find myself baking into the daydreams the reactions of others; parents, friends, teachers, coworkers, even people I despise.

I guess I’m describing insecurity. Sure, I throw shapes that look a lot like confidence. Emigrating was probably the biggest - most people think emigrating must be terribly hard. But it wasn’t really. Actually that’s a lie, it was hard as hell - just not for the reasons people imagine. I didn’t even understand the ways it was hard as I was living it, the strange sort of falsity you encounter when as an adult you have to construct an identity in a place you don’t belong.

Emigrating was a superficial and dramatic way of kicking away the ladder - using distance to manufacture freedom I couldn’t have summoned living in Ireland in close proximity to family and history and things like that that can weigh heavily.

But then I got here and it wasn’t so much kicking away the ladder as beginning to climb a different one. And because it felt so new and arbitrary, I clung to each rung even harder. And eventually I found myself feeling stuck by things I didn't even necessarily feel a connection with.

I’m at an age that makes me question everything. I’ve run away from all the default decisions so there are no foregone conclusions. I’ve kept the blank slate. And yet I don’t know what to do with it. And I think because blogging felt like one of those rungs, I let it go. I hoped that some domino-effect of freedom would follow. But blogging was never really the broken thing in my world. In fact, blogging was one of the good things, even though it is a silly sort of activity.

I’ve always been interested in what we structure our lives upon because I seem to be great at deconstructing my own. Emigration blasted away familiar faces and landscapes, the physical and social underpinnings of my world. Not having connections left me without obligation. And yet it’s easy to wonder if this is precisely why it’s so hard for me to know what I want sometimes — if I’m missing a sort of cornerstone. I'm not talking about regret,. But I am trying to understand what's still holding me back.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Just popping in quickly to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

I suspect I won't really be here much in 2015. Blogging has changed. I've changed. I need something new and hopeful. Captial-B 'Blogger' has become a label I fight against rather than buy into. It's wonderful and admirable that there are many out there still fighting the good fight. But I need to move onto something not as fighty over what it is and whether it has sold itself out or can still be meaningful and interesting. To be frank, I spend enough of my day-job in this mode and I want to build something from a positive place, not a negative or contrary one.

But blogging has been an extraordinary experience. I've met so many wonderful people and I've been able to push my writing in very personal, and sometimes difficult, directions away from scrutiny or affiliation with media. The people who've read and who've cared to respond have been supportive and intelligent and at times challenging, but in ways that were kind and made me reflect and learn. None of us is perfect and that's always especially evident online. And I've seen my own imperfections painfully magnified here at times but people have always been generous. I think that's really reading and writing at its best; each person straining to be understood, to find meaning and truth in each other.

I'll miss blogging too. And I'll miss the connection with people, though it too has waned and migrated to other social media. Although I haven't been doing it much of late, the muscle memory to blog still there. It's been eight years (!) after all. But I know the difference between doing something from habit and it being right and having forward momentum.

If you care to follow me, I'm very active on Twitter and Instagram and, if I have new writing anywhere, I'll share links there (and likely update my Portfolio too).

Other than that: Just thank you. And much love for 2015.



Robert Spellman

I can't recall where I first saw the work of Robert Spellman, but I remember immediately recognizing these watercolours as pictures of home. It's funny how little can trigger recognition in that way.

People talk about the way places get under your skin, especially their places of birth, but they seldom explain where that feeling sits. One day, I'll have lived in Canada as long as I ever lived in Ireland. But unless I also leave Canada, I'll never know if it's etched under my skin the same ways that Ireland is. I suppose this feeling is something so magnified it needs to be viewed from a distance — in the way so many writers see a place more clearly when they write about it from afar.

But I wonder too if certain places just possess us more than others. Ireland does seem especially haunting for its diminutive size. Perhaps it's the way the Irish wrap their language around certain scenes and feelings that captures the resonance of the place long after you've left it. Or maybe it's something inherent in the very land itself, in rain on flinted rock, glancing light through hurried skies, the call of the wild green sea.

All images from the portfolio of Robert Spellman.

Just nice things

I'm guessing that we all suffer the proliferation of gift guides in similar ways: So much product being thrust at us; a mix of fatigue and occasional delight, the dreadful feeling that this season is already too expensive and it's going to get more expensive yet.

Still, I would be lying if I said I don't like looking at nice things. And these are some of the nice things I've liked looking at lately - whether considered in a gift or non-gift or self-gift context.

Products: Lavender Quartz Lamp from Score & Solder | Equinox Ring by Immortalia by ManiaMania | Dark Side Moon Phase from ABJ Glassworks | Moon Coasters from Karen Kimmel | Beauty Dust & Good Night Dust from Moon Juice Shop | Clay Chambray Facet Cushion from Susan Connor

Discovered lately...

Remember when we used to blog, not for anybody was reading, not because we had created a machine that needed to be fed, but simply to remember? Lately I've been recalling the early pleasure of having a place to record the seemingly disparate things I encountered and latched onto fleetingly. I've been remembering too what it was like when a certain coherence began to emerge between those things and I became aware of having an actual style of my own.

A little time away from blogging and that space opens up again, where it's not about seeking but about recording, and where a little assembly of lovely things can be just a simple pleasure. These are things that have caught my eye of late.

Product information: Corriedale Wool Knit Stitch Blanket from The Line | Cliff Murale from Lambert et Fils | Candles from Maison Louis Marie | Skincare and bodycare from Grown Alchemist | Strata Study Wallpaper form Zak and Fox & Apparatus | Andrianna Shamaris Resin Cube from The Line | Pearl Earring by Yvonne Leon

Sunday best: What you already know

I think one of the reasons I like astrology is because it gives me symbols to articulate what I already feel, think, know. Some people have disdain for that - the need for symbolism: Use your words, use your reason, don’t lean on such flimsy notions, they might say. But the idea that reason exists in a cool, abstract clime, is erroneous too. Even our reasoned conclusions are guided by our emotional selves, by what we feel is true.

I believe in listening to my inner animal. The me that seems to know certain things a priori. The me that I often try to ignore or change or manipulate, but that’s there whether I like it or not, underpinning my self, my identity.

Now that I’m older I tend to think I’m wiser about a lot of things. But wisdom often isn’t an ah-ha moment of acquiring new knowledge. It’s very often a moment of coming to a deeper understanding and acceptance of something you already know, that you might have known from the very start. What is wisdom isn’t the information itself, it’s how you come to hold it in your hands over time.

Last weekend, I cleaned out my closet. What was left will hardly be a surprise to any of us: Black tunics and sweater dresses, silk, wool, leggings, flats; the uniform I’ve articulated over and over and over in Sunday bests and posts about the clothes I love. It wasn’t a new lesson, but I grasped it more deeply.

And of course, this isn’t just about the shape and colour of the clothes I like to wear. It’s about knowing who I am too and accepting that. My retail mistakes weren’t just moments when I made a rash choice, they were also moments when I rejected myself and tried to be something else, when I was fighting who I really am.

The exercise left me feeling calm, unwanting. It’s funny how less can immediately be more. My closet became an easy thing to open — a simple reflection of who I really am today, rather than a faceted mirror filled with past and possible versions of me (or perhaps not me). Still, I I can’t say that I learned anything new -- only that I held this truth in my hands differently this time. That I accepted what I already knew in a way I hadn’t before.

So, why the Sunday best? Because style isn’t a single snapshot moment in time - it’s something that moves in tandem with our days, our moods, our mutable selves. Even a style as narrow as mine is improvised on, changing slowly over time (though nowhere near as fast as the revolutions of fashion would wish it changed). I realize anew the power of these symbols, these talismans we wear on our backs. And what I already knew became new and exciting again.

Products: Maison Martin Margiela MM6 coat from Matches | Gravitation Earrings in Rose Gold from Pamela Love | Artist Dress from Elizabeth Suzann | Lip2Cheek by RMS from Cult Beauty | BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector from Sephora | TIFFANY T Wire Bracelet from Tiffany | Woman by Common Projects from SSense | Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag from Net-a-Porter