Sunday best: Sister-inspired

I recently tweeted that the outfit I was wearing was a little "Sister Annunciata meets Star Trek away team". It's true that I gravitate heavily to a minimalist starkness in what I wear. But it's not really minimalism I have in mind (unfortunately, manifestation does not always capture intention when it comes to what I wear). I've long loved nuns in habit. I was taught by them, and was lucky to have a positive experience with them (countless, of course, didn't). But I loved their starchiness, those perfect creases, the solemnity of their habits and also the contrast to the spaces they occupied.


The convents and churches of my childhood were not austere or ascetic spaces. Stained glass and dripping candles, beeswaxed wood,  mosaic floors were the backdrop. And always religious iconography, the stations of the cross, the gold leaf of halos, the blue of the Virgin's garments. It all melded in my mind, so those plain black dresses looked not stark but mysterious outlined against a palette of decadent other-worldliness.


Comrags have a dress called "Monk" this season. And the dress above from La Garconne is called "Pilgrim". Both recall those outlines that appeal to me in such a visceral way and directly impact how I dress today. I was also looking at the photos of Desiree Dolron on Friday and felt the same feelings or familiar starkness. Nuns were always beautiful to me in their navy and black, their sensible footwear and sure steps on polished floors.

And of course, there's fear and mystery built into all of this. They could be formidable and fearsome. For all their stark sameness, the personalities and foibles of each nun who taught me stands out in my mind. Sister Bernadette with her cruel and weary disappointment. Sister Nuala, with her doting eyes, but quick readiness to tell me I was vexing her. Sister Annunciata, the most evangelical of them, and the one who permed her hair beneath her habit, susceptible to flares of passion and anger, rousing us always to song.


I outgrew the religion, but not the aesthetic of those places or the silhouette of nuns. On past posts, people have commented that they find it depressing that I wear so much black. But in my mind's eye, it's not that simple or stark; surrounded as it is by a world of colour and patina. And when I move around the world in black, I feel simultaneously defined and protected, secretive. I love the power of clothes to make me feel that way.

Products: Rose Noir from Byredo | Bamboo by United Bamboo Pilgrim Dress from La Garconne | Chromatic Ribbed Tights from Anthropologie | Sylva & Cie Rose Gold and Black Diamond Caviar Band from Twist | Mimi Frank purse from Mimi Berry | Dieppa Restrepo Leon shoe from Totokaelo

Artwork by Desiree Dolron

Friday!

It was one of those weeks where I felt I was searching - for the right passage to leap off a page, for the right artwork to surprise me with joy. It didn't come and I was swirling. Every time I sat down to share something here, it didn't feel quite right. Rather than force it, I closed my computer, lay on my bed and closed my eyes.


Still, there were simple pleasures this week: A shelf emptied and cleaned with a wet cloth. The pictures I hung last weekend happily registered every time I walked into my bedroom. Some wonderful mail and e-mail and the slow wilt of beautiful dahlias, their small banal, unblogworthy beauty.

I love the transitional seasons, but they also bring out my own restlessness. There are things I want to change and I don't quite understand what's holding me back. There are other things I think I want to change, but I'm not fully sure of yet. As the angle of light grows longer and the days shorter, that quicksand feeling takes over; the sense that all around there's change but my sameness is startling.

And so, I suppose, that's why I was searching for something to leap off a page. And, I suppose, that's why it didn't. Because those moments can rarely be summoned by sheer will, with projected needs and missives.

And some weeks are just like that. The days pass, nothing special happens, no new desires surface, no new ideas seize. There's just the waking up and thinking and feeling and searching. Until somebody, something we're not even fathoming, cuts through and catches us.

Sunday best: Fall, baskets and home-keeping

All weekend, I've been reading Ben Pentreath's new decor book and, yesterday, I did some fall-cleaning, taking out the A/C, vacuuming up a storm and hanging up some unhung pictures. I bought dahlias and roses in fall's warm oranges and lit candles.


Mr. Pentreath's book is an absolute treat, but my very favourite decor book is The Irish Country House. It can be hard to find nowadays, but worth tracking down if you're the World of Interiors kind of girl or guy. Both books lured me back to the website of Joe Hogan, an Irish basket-maker. I don't think I blogged about him before, but I meant to.


And today's outfit is inspired by his creations. I love these mossy, woollen textures and colours... they evoke kicked leaves and lichen-covered bark. And I can almost smell a peat fire and feel a damp chill when I look at all of this together.


It's dark now so very early... pitch black by 8 o'clock. I'm reacquainted already with my favourite blankets and woolly socks and, although I don't plan any major wardrobe splurges in the near future, I can perhaps see a thick mossy cardi in my future.

Products: The Irish Country House | √Čtoile Isabel Marant Plume Cardigan from La Garconne | Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil from Nars | iDris bag from Ally Cappelino | A.P.C. Zip Ankle Boot from La Garconne | Indigo Jean from Toast

Baskets by Joe Hogan.

Friday!

It really felt like fall this week. Chilly mornings called for scarves and I was caught off guard more than once by cold ankles and sudden shivers. But I love that September evening long light, every shadow a Giacometti as I walk across St Clair.


This week, I read this piece in the Paris Review and rolled around in ideas about homesickness.

"...hiraeth is a protest. If it must be called homesickness, it’s a sickness come on—in Welsh ailments come onto you, as if hopping aboard ship—because home isn’t the place it should have been. It’s an unattainable longing for a place, a person, a figure, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and recognize it as familiar.

Mae hiraeth arna amdanot ti. There’s a homesickness on me for you. Or, if we’re mincing words, I miss you. That’s fair, too. But the deeper, national hiraeth is something you don’t have to go away to experience. You can feel it at home in Wales. In fact, that’s where you feel it most."


I sometimes recognize my longing for Dublin as more of a timesickness than a placesickness — a Dublin that existed for a fraction of a moment in certain memories, rather than a physical place I can revisit. That idea of feeling homesick even when you're in the place you're homesick for resonates with many returns.

Which brings me to Matt's post this week. It wasn't about homesickness, but with all this on my mind his post filled me with certain words tied to certain places, certain feelings for places, certain people in those places.

"a word or sentence can conjure a thousand more words and an uncountable number of associated thoughts and images.

Words can be taken hostage by those places and forms where we first came to feel their real potency. They can be stolen from one context and divert our thinking towards something else. They can seem to belong to this other place. They can travel so quickly and forcibly to that place without our bidding."


It is a beautiful post and I hope you read it in full.

And I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Prof Richard Weston & Ed Burtynsky

Arguably, there could not be two artists whose work is further apart than Professor Richard Weston and Ed Burtynsky. Prize-winning architect and landscape designer, Richard Weston creates silk scarves and accessories inspired by blown-up images of crystals and minerals. Burtynsky is a renowned photographer who captures nature transformed by industry, from open marble quarries and mines, to tailings and oil spills. Yet his images are undeniably beautiful. When I look at both their works together, I see so much that's different and also so much that's the very same. And that intrigues me.


1a. Weston Agate printed silk scarf from Net-a-Porter
1b. Dryland Farming #9, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain, 2010 by Edward Burtynsky


2a. Weston Scarves Turquoise Agate Print Silk Scarf from Liberty of London
2b. Mines #17 - Lornex Open Pit Copper Mine. Highland Valley, British Columbia 1985 by Edward Burtynsky


3a. Weston Scarves Abalone Shell Print Silk Scarf from Liberty of London
3b. Oil Spill #4, Oil Skimming Boat, Near Ground Zero, Gulf of Mexico, June 24, 2010 by Edward Burtynsky


4a. Weston Scarves Orange Agate Silk Scarf from Liberty of London
4b. Nickel Tailings No. 30, Sudbury, Ontario 1996 by Edward Burtynsky


5a. Weston Printed silk scarf from Net-a-Porter
5b. Rock of Ages # 4, Abandoned Section, Adam-Pirie Quarry, Barre, Vermont, 1991 by Edward Burtynsky

Powerscourt Estate

My weekend was busy packing up last orders (thanks everyone!) and running to the post office. I was powering my way through it all and only when I had delivered the last package to the post office did it hit me, a despondent sort of sadness. I know closing the shop was the right choice—it was frustrating me that I couldn't devote all I wanted to to it—but it was still the end of a small kind of dream and I felt forlorn once it was done.

I found solace editing and uploading some of the remaining pictures from my trip home. These are from Powerscourt Estate in Co. Wicklow. It's an obvious destination for day-trippers and tourists, but I still enjoy it every time. After all, there's a rose garden and two giant Pegasuses (Pegasi?) flanking a pond. It's a rule that one must be cheered by roses and Pegasuses...


More photos here.

Friday!

I haven't been sleeping enough and my dreams take me on confused voyages so that I wake up disoriented. But somehow I'm not tired, until I am and then I come crashing down. But mostly I'm thinking about words and wake up excited to write. So at 3am, I'm shuffling into my living room and turning on my desk light.

I love this time of year when the nights are cold but the heating isn't on in my building yet. Everything is just right and when I wake warm with sleep, I can open a window and feel cold enough to bring a blanket with me, to sit in my chair like that and write or read.


One of the loveliest things I read this week was this letter from Ted Hughes. It's something I will hold onto and reread. It feels connected to things I've been feeling.
"...everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact’. But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child. It’s an intangible thing. But they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child."

With all this talk of sleep, and my earlier talk of rhythms of daily life, I found myself drawn to Louise Bourgeois' insomnia drawings. Especially the one of waves, though perhaps they're mountains, but of course I see waves...
"My drawings are a kind of rocking or stroking, and an attempt at finding peace. Peaceful rhythm. Like rocking a baby to sleep."

And I read this and daydreamed about a house smelling like stormy seas.
“My mother boils seawater. It sits all afternoon simmering on the stovetop, almost two gallons in a big soup pot. The windows steam up and the house smells like a storm. In the evening, a crust of salt is all that’s left at the bottom of the pot. My mother scrapes it out with a spoon. We each lick a fingertip and dip them in the salt and it’s softer than you’d think, less like sand and more like snow."

And those daydreams found their way into my sleeping dreams too, so the whole week was salty and laced with sea spray in this landlocked city.

Happy weekend!

P.S. Coterie's last day of business is TOMORROW and I'm offering FREE SHIPPING to US & Canada right now on all remaining merchandise! There have been further reductions since I first announced the sale, so check it out! And many thanks to those of you who have already placed orders!

Into fall

When cars stop at crosswalks with music playing loud, I always watch as people find the beat and walk in rhythm, sometimes with mild embarrassment and sometimes unabashed joy. My days here have their rhythm too and I easily fall into it. I think we all look for that beat, whether it's our own or one imposed on us.

When I got back from vacation, I promised to cling to the rhythmless days. I saw truths transmitted through the looseness of travel that normal routine muffles. Still now, weeks after I'm back, I'm clinging to the early mornings of that time zone and resisting that familiar, numbing rhythm. I leave the TV off and buy more books, sticking with resolutions I made.

And every day, I fight a quiet war against prevailing moods and manners, against stresses that, in a foreign place, seemed wholly manufactured. But routine really is a compelling beat. I feel myself gravitating towards it again, finding ways to move my body to it, and I start to relax and enjoy its familiar cadence.

Transitions after holidays pit me against myself. My free-wheeling self against the one that loves to find that daily groove. The lure of practiced reactions and routines in the face of vacation's romantic mutiny.

And every day back, doubt builds: I start to believe that those truths transmitted while I was away were but idle dreams in an unhinged geography. That this rhythm is really closer to the truth and something I ought not to fight.

Still, too, every day the lingering mutiny: That life could be more than this simple rhythm that starts so languid but eventually constricts. That what I thought there, so clearly, by the sea was true.

And I try not to struggle too much while all of this works itself out inside of me. I look for compromises, ways of bringing the two closer together. Ways of being patient and taking it by the small decisions and not the sweeping gestures.

This week, I'm watching the seasons shift and hoping I can latch onto fall's trajectory, using it to pull me onto a different course, a better way of being back in my familiar place.

Howth village

Lest my photos of Howth Head deceived anybody into thinking I was in the countryside, let me clarify that Howth is very much part of Dublin... a mere half hour drive from the city centre in good traffic.

The peninsula of Howth forms the northside of Dublin Bay. But the village of Howth, sheltered by Ireland's Eye, is its own port too and was originally a fishing village. Residents like to tell you it's all been ruined... now a haven for famous occupants and day-tripping tourists. But, when you walk down the pier, it's still a port and place for work for many fishermen.

Dad always jokes that I'll photograph any old rusty boat, and it's true I gravitate towards the fishing pier and not the more popular promenade south pier. I took to wandering there so often with my camera, one of the fisherman called out, nodding in my direction, "paparazzi is at it again". Classic Dubliner.


More photos here.

Friday!

When I was at home, I swam in the cove. I always took the side away from the small group of diehard swimmers who were there every day. I liked their presence but also craved that coma of submerged solitude. I would dry off the other end of the sea wall too, but pet their dog when he came near, wagging and wet and stepping on my feet.

But when they were dry and dressed and leaving, climbing steps to the road above, they would wave and nod and smile in my direction. And I would wave and smile back, full of friendship.


There was a thread of aloneness running through me week. At times it was decadent, at others lonely. Then, I conjured people to talk to, company to tidy up for. I dug around the edges of all these feelings, trying to understand the qualities and circumstances that changed one from the other.

I looked again at Irish Grandmother by Kate Hutchinson (previously blogged here):
"My grandmother is a quiet and reserved woman who is an integral part of who I am. She does not readily allow people to enter her world or know her thoughts. While photographing her daily routine and rituals, I did so much learn about her history or her life story, as was part of my original goal, rather I discovered who she needs to be to get through the day."

And I dug out my old Thoreau too, a copy I've had since my own summer near Walden Pond.
"Some of the pleasantest hours were during the long rain-storms in the spring or fall, which confined me to the house for the afternoon as well as the forenoon, soothed by their ceaseless roar and pelting; when an early twilight ushered in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfold themselves."

Contrast with: Solitary, half mad
"I became interested in the capacity we have as people for isolation, and how romantic ideals of solitude and escapism are often more fantastical than reality can offer."

Happy Friday, friends.

Howth Head

Although the paths around Howth are intimately familiar to me, I'm still caught off guard there, blown wide open by a sudden patch of light on the water or the heather, by the delicate beauty of sea campion or windswept bend of a tree and, always, by the constant boom of the sea.


See more here.

Lilith

I'm past the days when I draw up seasonal shopping lists for clothes or shoes. Things churn and get replaced. Those favourite flats or staple cardigans. Something occasionally catches my eye. But my style is pretty trend-agnostic and even season-agnostic too.

Still, I'm susceptible to lookbooks, mostly for the mood they can conjure. And I think this one embodies how I love to feel in fall clothes, enveloped and warm, with cheeks flushed and warmth radiating against cold air. Golden light filtered through trees - my favourite season in Ontario by a long mile.

And this company, Lilith, has nothing to do with any of that and yet it conjures it all and I find myself thinking about my drawer full of scarves and my drawer full of socks, of berets and wristwarmers and mugs blown into, cupped in both hands. And I look forward to all that.