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 Alchemy | 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

Charlotte Linton

I have an established weakness for scarves and they're generally one of the few places in my wardrobe where colour gets free rein. I especially love when patterns that are figurative when unfolded become abstract when tied, creating prisms of colour and only giving glimpses of strange zoomorphic creatures, landscapes and pattern.

Charlotte Linton was a recent discovery and it's love at first sight. I love that her collections are tied to geography; each collection named for its inspiration - Scotland, Greenland, Himalayas, Java, Madagascar. I'm excited to see where in the world she goes next...

Book report: Rereading Middlemarch

I've been rereading Middlemarch for months now. Walking to and from work means my reading has slowed; my old commute time was always used for reading. And maybe it's because of this pace, or perhaps it's because of Eliot's prowess, that rereading Middlemarch this time has had a profound effect on me. Eliot is sympathetic to all her characters, but in her plain portrayals there's a mingling of light and a shadow; we're shown what each person is at their best selves and how those same traits can lead them to be their worst. Fred Vincy, Lydgate, Dorothea, even Casaubon have daubs of deep and distinct humanity that yield just as many moments of sympathetic exasperation when they undo themselves.

Perhaps I was craving a moral story too: with ideas of good character, of nobility (moral not class) and of holding oneself accountable to a standard rather than simply relying on an unarticulated and roaming sense of goodness. Whether it's external or internal, each character in Middlemarch holds a moral compass that builds into a system of ethics by which they live and shape their lives. They do so imperfectly. When the real world and real people meet a code of conduct, there's inevitable failure. But Eliot doesn't let the inevitability of failure undermine the endeavour.

And while my quiet moments have been spent with these characters and in gentle regard of their foibles, I turn online and find moral outrage blaring at me. I see it on my Twitter feed, from Gamergate to Gaza and everything in between. It is fully justified a lot of the time. We should be outraged, we should use our voices. But it's also a constant negative articulation; we're all hyper-aware of what we find offensive. We're all sunburnt by certain words and ideas, ready to flinch as soon as they're mentioned. And, while the outrage is often an appropriate response, I can't help but wonder where's the positive counterpoint?

Perhaps it's our agnosticism or relativistic sort of morality that means we don't articulate our positive moral goals as much. Maybe it's because we're so steeped in skepticism. After all, these are times when ethical concepts like "authenticity" are transformed into hollow marketing terms... articulating something as positive as a description of a "good life" might seem naive, pitiable even. Or maybe we're just selfish - focused on what we want and need out of the system, that we don't think about what we want to put into it.

But why not frame something positive — like saying out loud how we think things ought to be, or describing the moral code by which we want to live — in ways that actually hook up to our actions? So that, for example, instead of voting strategically to prevent the worst outcome, we vote for the candidate we actually want. And instead of spending our days offended and outraged, we keep some energy for doing and saying and contributing to how we believe things ought to be.

I don't mean to say we should lie to ourselves and only speak when we have something nice to say. But I don't want us to forget that passive outrage doesn't move us closer to a "good life". I, for one, have felt so intermittently jaded in recent years; cynical about successful people, bitter about the kinds of endeavours I see thriving, at times lost in my own malaise, feeling stacked against because I'm a woman, an emigrant, single, childless and unwealthy — all things that make me feel voiceless in certain contexts (and, yes, at the same time acknowledging that I'm also very privileged because I'm white and European and living in Canada and have free healthcare and gainful employment and so many nice things).

I can't put my finger on precisely how reading Middlemarch made me think about all of these things differently. But some of its effects include a trivialization of materialism, a newfound patience for the things I want, a tempering of daydreams and romantic idealism. The timing of this reading has been a factor too: This isn't my first read of Middlemarch and while I've always loved it, it never moved me quite as deeply. It s a mature book and, at 38, I found something in every character to love, to admire, to pity. And, perhaps, what I'm really talking about is really just that; seeing the world with those same sympathetic eyes. Knowing that it's how I would like to be seen too, for all my many flaws and follies, past, present and future.

P.S. I reread Middlemarch this time after reading Rebecca Mead's wonderful My Life in Middlemarch, which I also loved.

Image credit: Pierre Mornet, The New Yorker

In October

And just like that we're a month into fall. Though it seems like I'm still waiting for it somehow, its noumena hasn't fully unfurled yet -- the leaves haven't fully turned, the ravine not yet a carpet. I've been gathering little things; conkers in my pockets. I roll them between my fingers when I walk, nuggets of beauty to be held and regarded.

Listening & Watching: David Naimon interviews David Mitchell | Mothers of Ireland (I love Peggy) | RTE 2-part programme about Heaney | BBC 5-part about Beckett | Best singles of 1984

Reading: A Kevin Barry short story (to read online) | Bad Art is Good for Us All | I Start & I Finish (and yes, Colm Tóibín has a new book) | So lots of Tóibín | Caring About Clothes | "Madewell rifles through its non-existent past, desperate for borrowed heritage + authenticity" - via | And more David Mitchell | Jeff Koons | Everything Mark O'Connell writes | Things to Be Cognizant Of

Loving: The Row | &Daughter | Facial massages | This cleanser | I haven't shampooed in 3 months (using this, trying this next) and my head is happy | Pink walls | Moon coasters | Colourscopes, via Anabela

I feel shy being here after so long, though there have been moments when I strained to come here, to tell you my tales. But I've got used to my own silence. I write posts in my mind sometimes, walking up the ravine, but by the time I get home the urgency is gone. Stephanie shared this article recently. It has stayed with me.

End of summer

The last two weeks, I've walked home with a growing anticipation of fall. By the end of summer, I usually feel like a wrung-out dishcloth, so autumn is always a welcome reprieve. But this summer has been different, milder in ways that go beyond the weather, and I've loved it. On Thursday, I lingered longer in the ravine, sitting under the trees and I felt a strange and not unwelcome sadness that summer is ending.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know these walks have shaped my days this summer. But I've wondered if stepping back from the blog has also helped me be more present in my world. And, coupled with that, the feelings that I wrote about in my last post. I've increasingly come to think that what makes me happy isn't necessarily loving myself, but simply knowing who I am.

While my own days have been green and easy, the world has become so hard of late. I don't think it's appropriate for me to try to wrap my arms around news like Gaza and Ferguson and Ukraine in some blog post because these discussions are the opposite of neat end-of-summer discussions. But that doesn't mean that my heart and mind aren't stunned by what we're still living through. There are days when I walk home and despite the verdancy of my Instagram pictures, I feel world weary. 

"The best piety is to enjoy - when you can. You are doing the most to save earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight - in art or in anything else" - George Eliot, Middlemarch

Which is all to say that we're lucky to live with that duality; where our hearts are ripped asunder but we still go on living out pretty days, with coffee and walks and phases of the moon on your mind. It's easy to think people who aren't constantly warbling about issues on social media aren't engaged with what's happening. It's too easy to admonish people for carrying on with their pretty little lives while others share the headlines that cut things in two. But the complex ways we each decide to carry on, or just to irreconcilably vacillate between carrying on and feeling and thinking and doing, are not always visible; not always worn like badges or shared in blog posts or tweets.

And the over-riding truth is that life does goes on and we each find our way of caring and being engaged that also let us assert our own lives, with all their silly and serious wonder. And somehow, I find myself thinking, isn't that the point of all this anyway? So, here's to a fall full of golden and gorgeous wonder and hopefully happier news.