Friday!

I'm going here!


Look at this! Read this, this and all of this.
"I have an ambivalent relationship to the things I love, to the heroes – the writers, artists, musicians – I worship. I skirt around them with some kind of discomfort. I close my eyes to the whole oeuvre: I like to leave something remaining, something unknown. I like to know there is something left over, something I have not yet encountered.
My hero-worship is sullen, blinkered – a little phobic. 
I don’t quite know why. It might be because I want to save something for later – to eke a pleasure out." - Katherine Angel, On Kate Bush

Have a great weekend!

A poem for Thursday

I've been moving day-to-day, stimulus-response. My sense of self, the thread that binds it all, has become a little frayed and loose. Some days, I've been looking at posts and tweets and wondering how it all keeps going, where we find the energy and the inspiration. Wondering just how ideas used to occur to me. Forgetting what it's like when there's enough air in the days to actually find inspiration, to actually hear myself.

Today is my last day at work before a vacation. It will be a restful holiday. I want to explore. And to walk (cf.) I want to finish some stories I've been working on that have gathered dust these past few busy weeks. Most of all, I want enough space to know what it is I want, and what I'm going to do next.

I'm going to Ireland. Every trip home is the same and different. Every trip there catches me off guard in some way, making me think things I didn't think I'd think. It can be jarring. And maybe it's a bad idea going there now, when I'm hoping for some kind of certainty. But part of me feels that it's in that kind of uncertainty that truth lies. And maybe I really want truth, not certainty at all.

And this is an old favourite, one you'll have seen here before. By Seamus Heaney.

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

After polish turns to patina

Usually, in summer months, I cast myself out into the world early in the day. My regular turf includes the ravines and the cemetery, a street nearby that I fantasize (against every odd) about living on and a bench under a tree I sometimes take my coffee to.

But lately, my workload has meant I'm often stuck indoors at my desk. And when I'm not bringing work home, I'm stuck in the office, wishing I could get home. I think it's because of this that I'm feeling very nesty lately. My senses are heightened to every angle of light in my apartment and the tactile qualities of my furnishings, the fragrance too of beeswax and steeped tea and lemon blossoms.

It fascinates me to think how other people see my home. It feels like such a merged part of me I can't conjure that objectivity. When I think about buying a new piece of furniture or drapes, it's so much more than a material acquisition: It's a chair I hope to sit in at 4am, when I start writing and light candles. And yes I think (and care) about the design too, but the scene is a picture I place myself in, not a disassociated magazine-style decor spread.

I'm sometimes repulsed that talk of "taste" and "style" has come to dominate these intimate extensions of ourselves. That homes are broken down so materially and technically -- the right shade of white, the light fixture by so-and-so. And yet, at the same time, I recognize that I'm part of that consumption and part of that obsessiveness too. I acquire slowly and deliberately. I cultivate a certain style, whatever it is. I save for a very long time before I spend. I cast around for options and pay attention to all the details.

Still: When that intimate connection to home, to something sheltering, safe, enveloping and shared is left out of the dialogue, I detest concepts of decor style. So, as I'm feeling nesty right now and thinking about buying things, I'm trying to think less about the commerce of it, the transaction and the unboxing. And to think instead about the experience three months in, the experience five years from now, about the reflection I'll see of myself through it all, the memories and longing that certain objects will cast back to, long after their polish has turned to patina.

Sunday best: Summer romance

Yesterday, I slept late, strolled down the hill for a haircut and then went shopping. It felt like so long since I had a day of nothing. A day when I bought a pretty scarf, just cause. I browsed lazily, indulgently instead of my usual search-and-destroy shopping blitz.


It can colour a day when everybody you meet along the way is happy. My lovely hairdresser. The gentleman who works at the Byredo counter at Holt Renfrew — one of my favourite people in the whole city to shop from. I treated myself to one of the leather travel cases. And the girls at Gee Beauty, where I stocked up on my skincare staples and samples.

Today, I have a bit of writing to do and errands of a more banal variety. Still, my neighbourhood is heady with lilac and mock orange and I'm having a bit of a summer romance with Toronto. There's something exciting in the air. Something new.

Happy Sunday!

Products: Cancer necklace from Brooke Gregson | Lace Dress by Girl by Band of Outsiders from La Garconne | Sommer bike from Papillionaire | Chloé sandals from Net-a-Porter | Roses from David Austin Roses


Friday!

This week was another big heave-ho and so my links are much more of the "look and feel" than "read and think" variety (though of course looking and feeling can also lead to thinking).

I loved Victoria's photo "Real life, Café Comercial, Madrid" and thought then about the singular deliciousness of reading in a coffee shop - is it the perfect blend of public and private, being alone and in-the-world?

I looked at Amy's flowers and felt all she said about her city. I thought about seasons and change a lot this week. About going home soon and the different me I am there versus the me I am here . And the solid luxury of never having to choose between, because the loss would be great on either side.

The little stuff that has been filling the in-between includes Sketch the Book (one of my favourite Tumblrs) and Hannibal (my new favourite show). Fragments of poetry, Winnie-the-Pooh and Maira Kalman are my go-tos on frenzied days.

This weekend: A haircut and buying the things I need to buy before I go to Ireland. Digestion of thoughts and ideas that haven't sunk in yet. Some sort of gathering. Some sort of peace.

Happy weekend!

A poem for Wednesday

I think it's because I seem hyper-aware of this 10-year emigration anniversary that I've started to crave change. Nothing dramatic, but some flavour of starting from scratch, ebeginning from nothing. Much as I love the idea of gentle change and evolution, there's something so beautiful about clearly demarcated beginnings and endings, even if they're our own artificial constructs. Maybe it'll be a fresh coat of paint. Maybe I'm getting ready to move on from my building. I don't have a clear idea of the particulars, only a desire to end one chapter and start a new one.

This is by Mary Oliver and, of course, I also love it because I'm also an astrological crab.

The Hermit Crab
Once I looked inside
  the darkness
    of a shell folded like a pastry,
      and there was a fancy face—

or almost a face—
  it turned away
    and frisked up its brawny forearms
      so quickly

against the light
  and my looking in
    I scarcely had time to see it,
      gleaming

under the pure white roof
  of old calcium.
    When I set it down, it hurried
      along the tideline

of the sea,
  which was slashing along as usual,
    shouting and hissing
      toward the future,

turning its back
  with every tide on the past,
    leaving the shore littered
      every morning

with more ornaments of death—
  what a pearly rubble
    from which to choose a house
      like a white flower—

and what a rebellion
  to leap into it
    and hold on,
      connecting everything,

the past to the future—
  which is of course the miracle—
    which is the only argument there is
      against the sea.

Monday flowers

I took a short break yesterday and walked down to the flower market. In the glaring heat, the colours looked especially saturated. I had in mind muted pinks, but couldn't resist the brighter peonies, mixing them with lilac and white freesia, some yellow-hearted salmon roses and one hydrangea. By the time I got back up the hill, I was feeling slightly wilted, but thankfully the flowers withstood the walk better than I did!

Sunday best: Could / couldn't wear

It's another working weekend for me, but I'm managing to squeeze in some small delights. Today, I'll nip down to the flower market and buy myself some pink roses and peonies and grab a coffee at my favourite coffee shop.

I read this thought-provoking piece on Friday (via TNI). I've never really (deeply) questioned the phrase "I couldn't wear that" though I've probably written it many times here about clothes I admired. I've also myself written many articles on the topic of flattering fit, what silhouettes complement what shape etc.

Occasionally - and I'm being completely honest here - I've run into a woman who lets herself wear what she wants, even if it's not flattering, and I've been confused about what I think. Where I used to perceive some kind of disconnect in self-awareness or judgement, I'm beginning to see, and love, the balls-to-the-walls braveness of it.

I myself am not balls-to-the-walls brave when it comes to letting myself wear what I love.

I don't just judge good fit. I judge how fat / thin / short / tall I look wearing clothes. I judge my body, my perceived assets and "problem" areas. I think about layers I could add or subtract to impact what I judge less favourable. I think about accessories and how they will draw the eye here and there.

I'm so deep inside all of this that I equate loving something with deeming it something I could wear. And I'm even judging what I can wear here in these Sunday bests. I used to think that made them more genuine; because I'm really thinking, "I could wear that". I never stopped to think what's behind that "could" - that it's very much about looking more or less like somebody with a different body.

I did have an outfit all ready for today's post, but it was something I could very much wear. Maybe instead, I'll think what I couldn't and wonder why.

Happy Sunday!

Friday!

My week was all work. In my few spare moments, I reached for easy things; magazines and Italian soda, my new favourite sweatpants (can you believe I bought coral sweatpants? I can't) and the beautiful fade of peonies.



Some more substantial things caught my eye too, but I mostly filed them away to later read. One piece I did read was Alexandra Molotkow's piece on friendship and loneliness over on Hazlitt. I fight this feeling, but I do sometimes feel that - as a single woman so far from home - loneliness is especially mine. But I also find that, for me, there's a tremendous and rarely articulated upside to brushing up against loneliness.

I often feel this way about insomnia too (not so this week, when I felt I might die on the subway one morning). But I love this piece, which I tweeted a long time ago and just dug up again. I believe it too speaks from the side more often unspoken.

Links I've saved for later: Read.Look.Think. | Hilma af Klint | Country Crushes

Ireland's new postage stamp - shown above - features an entire short story (found via Mark on Twitter). I must mail a few when I go home in June. (coming up fast now!)

It's a three-day weekend here, so I'm hoping to catch up with myself a little, enjoy the sun from the shade, start a new book. I'm excited about this one.

Happy weekend!

Links from image: Elle Decor | Sweatpants | Irish stamp

Mirror images

Howe London is one of those most special shops. I usually go straight to their upholstery section, but last night it was the mirror images that struck me. These have got to be some of the most beautiful product shots I've ever come across — so painterly and atmospheric.


I also, you may recall, have a thing for imperfect reflections (see here and here).

A poem for Tuesday

It occurred to me today that I'm coming up on my ten year emigration anniversary. And I remember arriving in Toronto and the taxi-ride from the airport, the driver saying he thought Spadina was the most beautiful street in the city and me knowing - even then - that he was cracked, heading to an apartment in Little Italy.

It was the summer of the big blackout. The summer of SARS. Biblical times, my arrival.

And we walked the city looking for a place. Figuring it all out. I strained for a sense of the town and found only fragmented neighbourhoods, all seeming so arbitrary. Until we walked into Glenn Gould's building.

I don't mind coming up on ten years at all, but I dread the year (I haven't done the math yet) when I'll say I've lived longer in Canada than in Ireland. I dread feeling less Irish over time, like sand in an hourglass, draining the top half empty.

When I flew back from Calgary, I got a towncar from the airport. The driver said he liked my accent. Never lose it, he said. I could have cried. It already shifts like sands.

This is by Alice Lyons.

Reverse Emigration
When I boarded the plane, everyone looked like Uncle Tom
ruddy, some were empurpled
gray hair or auburn in terrier thatches
pale blue of eye
a smidgen of resignation:
the tribe.
I thought We are driving to the interior
I thought holy god
the airline upholstery
was Yeats, Kavanagh and Heaney
handwriting. I thought
holy shit, this is the maw.
The maw.

Romantic greys

I filled my place with colour on the weekend. Coral peonies, lemon and grapefruit-hued roses. Armfuls of lilacs and peonies. Corners of my apartment are alight with verdancy, in others basks a perfect yellow bloom under the glow of a lamp. And though I love all this colour, it's the backdrop of wispy greys and soft neutrals that feels more me.


I watched I Am Love on Friday night. So beautiful. Tilda's Swinton's character wears all kinds of colours, flaming reds and vibrant corals. And her character inhabits a world of cold and wealthy greys, a Milan subdued and sorrowful. Maybe I'm the opposite, muted in a world of colour. I don't know what that really means though. These opposites don't go anywhere. Yet, I know I stand a little apart, a little aloof, seeking mist and shadow, which seems nonetheless beautiful to me.


Image credits: Valentino | Horses Atelier | Fieldguided - Anabela's pictures from the MET | Saipua | Eliza Faulkner | Candela

Sunday best: Working Sunday

I was exhausted on Friday and took the entire evening off working, so I'm paying for it today. It means I'll soon be buckling down to get a tonne of work done and e-mails written.


To be honest, I had a whole other Sunday best in mind, a gorgeous Helmut Lang dress with Lanvin flats. But it seemed so ridiculously far from the reality of my day that I couldn't bring myself to use it.

Still, favourite jeans and sweatshirts hold a special place in my heart too. Perhaps the most special place. And on days like this, when I won't venture farther than the local Starbucks, there's no need for anything more fancy than that. And even if there was, I'd probably wear this anyway.

Happy Sunday!

Products: Inflorescence from Byredo | Current/Elliot The Boyfriend jeans from Net-a-Porter | Dolman Sweater from James Perse | Tory Burch Eddie flats from Shopbop | Eddie Ballet Flats Rebecca Minkoff Endless Love Satchel from Shopbop |

Friday!

I'm three people at work for the next three weeks, so I really had to strain to remember my nice thing from each day this week. But they were there, like treasures hidden in forgotten pockets. I was grateful to make myself find them again.

For the same reason, I'm so very behind on my reader, but I did spot this over on TNQ's wonderful beauty blogosophere post. In the late 1980's and early 90's when I first was dabbling in lotions and potions, animal testing was a big issue. We'd get mad at our mums over it and demand to be taken to the Body Shop for our animal-friendly vitamin-E soap and white musk perfume. I can't say I'm massively surprised that a company (any company) would either adopt or abandon ethics when dollar signs dance, but this story still smarts.


While I'm on ethics and shopping, I'm feel very knotted about fashion lately. We all want the high-low mix. We also cultivate a love for beautifully, locally, ethically made brands. Most of us also support such brands and purchases by making compromises elsewhere. We save and splurge. We believe in treating ourselves, but also in consuming less. We promote constant lust on our blogs but we worry most about our own financial security. We worry about being seen as promoting inaccessible things but wonder about the real cost of what seems too affordable. We cry over Bangladesh factory collapses, but then cheer about Phillip Lim at Target.

This push-and-pull has been really pushing and pulling me lately. The Target collabs really put me off those designers, to be honest. But just because I don't touch those examples, doesn't mean I only ever the right decisions. And, of course, it's more and more (via) difficult to make the right choices, to know what you're really buying, to trust a brand no matter how much of a lovebrand you feel it is. But of course, we're not meant to solve these things and move smugly on. We're supposed to live with these dilemmas and engage with them and feel the burden of choice.

Two things I did recently contribute to that I'm proud of: Socrates and His Clouds, a play written by my dear friend, Bill. The image of Wittgenstein above is by Sean Lingwood and part of their Kickstarter campaign. Also, Miel Retreat Scholarships, a project by Éireann, who does so much to support writing and writers. I've also signed on to be a reader for The South Circular, a quarterly journal of short stories that I admire very much. I do hope you'll check it out - each issue blows my mind a little more.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday stroll

I cleared my head after work today by taking a walk through the cemetery. It is my closest green space and I depend on it for my sense of the seasons. I get a glimpse into it each day, as the subway emerges from its tunnel briefly. And, when we're on the threshold of something, I go there to feel those animal instincts of change.


Tonight, it was filled with robins. I always miss the robins from home, such sweet fat birds, friendly with gardeners. The Canadian robins are bigger and less tame, but they signal spring the way robins at home adorn Christmas cards. One day in March, you'll see one and then quickly you see them everywhere and know it's afoot.


I thought it was another robin rustling in the leaves when I spotted a little bandit friend. We eyed each other up amiably and he followed me and my camera around for a bit. The eyes of a wild animal have a power to yank me out of my introspective mulling, commanding me to be fully present not only in my surroundings, but in the moment too. And that made whatever happened at work today seem suddenly so forgettable.

Home things

Last week, I took a gander around Elte in Toronto. It put me in the decorating mood (though, to be fair, I'm nearly always in a decorating mood). For me, that's largely mean craving sensual things... chairs that are comfortable to curl up in with a book, light that warms, vases filled with heady blossoms and rugs that feel like silk underfoot.


I've so long hated broadloom (I grew up with it and always craved exposed wood). But one of my friends recently carpeted her entire upstairs in silken broadloom and walking barefoot on it is such a delight. I would never completely cover my lovely original oak floors (one of the few lovely features of my apartment), but a rug in my bedroom might capture the same pleasure.

Other than that, my list looks pretty consistent with sometime last year. I never did get around to finding a pair of leather armchairs. And lighting - it's always so difficult to invest in, even though it makes the biggest difference. A Frances Palmer vase, however, is starting to look like an annual investment. The two I own now bring me untold pleasure. A tulipiere seems like something I ought to own, no? I a little obsessed with them!

Links: Vases | Sofa | Lighting (1, 2, 3) | Armchairs

Sunday best: Summer flowers

I'm throwing out the rulebook on seasons for the rest of 2013. The only thing to rightly call this weekend is summer. Everybody in my building has thrown windows open and last night the piano players played me to sleep.


It's one of my favourite times when the sun shines down on those delicate first blossoms, the tender shoots of green. I spent most of the day out yesterday, walking down side streets and envying those with magnolia trees taking over their entire front garden. Small groups of us looked upwards and held phones up to light and the blossoms. Parents told children the names of flowers and trees.

I came home with armfuls of flowers from the market; roses and peonies, hyacinths, tulips and freesia. At the checkout I threw in a posy of lily-of-the-valley. As I trudged up the hill on Poplar Plains a woman cycled by, huffing her way. She looked at my arms and breathlessly said, beautiful. The day was filled with such small moments, each one perfect, everybody seeming happy.

Products: Mother of Pearl tank top from Net-a-Porter | Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil from NARS | Frame denim jeans from Net-a-Porter | Galop Hermès from Hermès | 3.1 Phillip Lim 31 Hour Bag from Shopbop | Britta flat from Loeffler Randall

Friday!

It's nice to be back after my short trip away... it was also very nice to be away.

Calgary was unchanged in ways both reassuring and somewhat haunting. I expected any moment to see a past version of myself walk by the Heartland Cafe or walking by the Bow. I also spent time holding the sweetest wee man, establishing myself firmly in the role of unofficial auntie.


I returned to a Toronto replete with spring. The magnolias are blooming and I made my recurring resolution to one day have a garden with a magnolia tree. I felt that bubbling energy for change that comes with a shift in the light and temperature. I read an old book and bought a new dress.

This weekend: Flowers galore, inspired by Jessica. A browse in this lovely shop for something for wee Marcel. A new book to sink my teeth into... and just catching up to where I am from where I've been.

Normal posting resumed. Have a lovely weekend!

Links: Book | Plane | Dress