Friday!

It's Canada Day weekend so big yay for Fridays of long weekends! My dreams have still been flitting to Ireland, but I'm starting to feel like I'm back in my normal and happy. And now the sweetness of a forgotten long weekend...

Yesterday evening, it cooled down a little and my first thought was, roses! With my birthday being so blah this week, jet-lagged and work-logged as it was, I felt simply happy to fill my home with blooms for no reason whatsoever other than a slight drop in the mercury.


Doreen published some amazing photographs this week that I highly recommend you check out - they swept me away.

And, based on reading this: "Like Pessoa, Reliquiæ dreams up forgotten landscapes, some real and some fictitious but all vivid and colourful in their poetic recall," I was very excited to order Reliquiæ.

Finally, the latest edition of The South Circular is out. I was on the reading panel for this one, so I can say with all confidence that it's worth checking out!

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

A poem for Thursday

I had a birthday yesterday. I wasn't in the best mood for it, really, though many lovely people said and did many lovely things (thank you!) I've reached the age where I have to think before I can answer what age I am. Sometimes, I even do the math, subtracting the year of my birth from the year we're in. And the answer matters and it doesn't matter. And though I'm not 38, yet, this poem was on my mind. By W. S. Merwin.

In the Winter of My Thirty-Eighth Year
It sounds unconvincing to say
When I was young
Though I have long wondered what it would be like
To be me now
No older at all it seems from here
As far from myself as ever

Walking in fog and rain and seeing nothing
I imagine all the clocks have died in the night
Now no one is looking I could choose my age
It would be younger I suppose so I am older
It is there at hand I could take it
Except for the things I think I would do differently
They keep coming between they are what I am
They have taught me little I did not know when I was young

There is nothing wrong with my age now probably
It is how I have come to it
Like a thing I kept putting off as I did my youth

There is nothing the matter with speech
Just because it lent itself
To my uses

Of course there is nothing the matter with the stars
It is my emptiness among them
While they drift farther away in the invisible morning

Book report: TransAtlantic

In fiction, I tend not to love the epic arc, starched folds of history made ready to be put away with lavender tucked between them. There are exceptions: Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture and William Boyd's Any Human Heart both notable among them. Colum McCann's TransAtlantic also belongs there.

I winced a little as I went through the second half and the fragments of the first were pulled together, like a silk cord gathering a purse, tightening its contents and creating a shared sense of belonging. Some readers will love that best of all. What I loved most was the range of voices. For as much as there was an epic overarch, there were beautifully drawn characters that compelled and moved me. I fell in love with these women (mostly) and with these moments in history.


And when I think about it, I can say it was those things that resonated in the Boyd and the Barry too. I like the micro; the internalism and the smell of stone and rain boots, the descriptions of flight and the sense of self in relation to what has come before and what will be left after. For me, it could as well not come together, and still there would yet be a unity of course and idea and voice.

Novels that weave different stories run a risk of pulling readers away from characters they related more deeply to and thrusting them into narratives that are there more for structural purposes. I felt this way about being yanked from Douglass and cast into the George Mitchell section (though perhaps as a reader Northern Ireland peace talks make me feel weary).

And much as McCann ignites the lives of unknown women, juxtaposing them against historical male figures, he lets all his characters flicker out without ceremony. And of course that can be a great leveller, but it also left me as a reader at a bit of a loss when characters I felt attached to were dropped out of the story as the structure propelled it forward.

I read TransAtlantic while I was at home. When I travel to Ireland, I'm always cognisant of those who have worn that deep furrow in the map before me, especially those who travelled during times of starvation or unemployment or The Troubles. McCann's book wraps a beautiful recurring narrative around this well-worn path and grounds it in history as much as fiction. He's a dab hand at this, as we also saw in Let the Great World Spin. Still... much as I enjoyed TransAtlantic (more than The Great World), I would love to see from him a simpler tale in the future.

Sunday best: Rose moon

It's the season of Cancerians, so I had to do a Sunday best with those Charlotte Olympia flats. No better weekend, since I've been doing all manner of lovely things, falling easily back into my familiar favourites.

Yesterday, I went to see Before Midnight. It was raining and muggy so it was lovely to retreat to the dark of a theatre. An elderly couple beside me held hands through the entire film, laughing laughs more knowing than my own. I loved the film, as I do the other two in the series.


I'm in this neutral zone where I'm back in Toronto but normal routines have not commenced yet. So I'm only letting in lovely things and listening to the urge of my own wants. It's a nice way to experience Toronto, my neighbourhood, my apartment... free of shoulds. What would life be like if we could live it this way?

Today, I'm going to think about my own birthday resolutions and about those habits that I saw as traps while I was away. I'll make firm decisions to just do certain things, things I'm maybe too shy to even blog about. But also room for the lovely; a favourite book and favourite flowers - all the small things that are part of my little sense of self. Speaking of which, did you know that June's full moon is called the Full Rose Moon?

Happy Sunday!

Products: See by Chloe Suzie Satchel from Shopbop | Clyde tunic dress from Imogene + Willie | Ring stack by Blanca Monros Gomez | Rose Noir by Byredo | Middlemarch by George Elliot | Charlotte Olympia Cancer suede slippers from Net-a-Porter | Ambridge Rose from David Austin Roses

Friday!

I got home yesterday evening, walked into my apartment and immediately unpacked and then went for a walk. Toronto never looked so lush to me as it did on the drive from the airport, nor so clean, nor so much like home.

I said before I left that every trip home is different. I keep waiting to lock into a stable relationship between here-home and home-home, where I can move from one to the other with predictable results. But I increasingly think there's too much constant change on both sides for that to happen, for me to strike some kind of neutral ground. And why should that be the goal anyway, don't I also go there to feel deeply and to somehow "measure" myself against my own past, against roads not taken?

I slept long and languorously last night, my own bed the simplest joy of all. Today I'll find my feet in familiar joys, my flower market and coffee shop. I realized while I was away how much of me there is in my routines, how I've come by them on my own and love that I've carved out these small ways of belonging. It's good to be home.

Some links for your weekend:
- I wish every fashion shoot was so supremely human as this one spotted over on Anabela's blog
- "We are increasingly understanding that attributing obesity to personal responsibility is very simplistic" - an interesting read over at Aeon
- Holidays tend to make us bloggers think more about the act of blogging and social networking and how it affects our thought and creative processes. “Does articulating a thought in public freeze it in place somehow, making it not part of a thought process but rather a tiny little finished sculpture? Is tweeting the same as publishing?” - over at The New Yorker, via The Millions
- Also "I want to retreat from the world and think and write in solitude. At the same time I wouldn’t mind a few readers knowing I’m out here being all mysterious." also on The Millions
- Compare and contrast: This piece by Éireann over on Necessary Fiction on printmaking: "Showing up, day after day, made the community stronger. It made my work stronger. It made my work as a process visible to me. It also (no surprise) increased my skills. It gave me time to think about writing outside of the desk-classroom-workshop triangle, and confirmed my sense that my best writing happens in concert with other work, especially work that uses my body."

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Georgian Dublin

I love Dublin's Georgian architecture. There's such beauty in these proportions, in the simplicity and symmetry of Georgian facades. But it's about more than the individual homes; they're often laid out in squares around the loveliest of city parks. And much as I dream about the elegant proportions of Georgian living rooms, I also dream about the street and park life there could have been in these squares. I think that must be the mark of great city planning (modern Dublin architecture does not elicit this inside/outside reaction nearly as much).


When I stayed at The Merrion, I got to see the south side of Merrion Square from behind. It's quite something to see how the flat unity of the front facades is broken at the back. Even excluding the modern additions, there are deviations that would date back to the original build. I find it fascinating to think of Georgian homeowners demanding their quirks be pandered at the back of the house, while falling in line with the shared sensibility at the front.


Of course, not all of Georgian Dublin is beautifully preserved. And sad as some of the ruined grandeur can be, it's nice to look in windows and see interiors being restored. And it's nice to look in other windows and see time itself take hold and see beauty in there can be in decay.

Denise Nestor

Today, I fell really hard for the illustrations of Dublin artists Denise Nestor. Her animal illustrations, especially the "wreaths", evoke the same feelings as Peregrine Honig's The Twin Fawns, which I shared here. You can also follow Denise's blog here. Seriously beautiful work.

Decadent days in Ireland

On Friday, I took off for the west coast with my friend Kirsten. We hadn't planned a single thing and even as we hit the motorway, I was saying "Cork! No no, Galway!" And in that way that holidays sometimes are when left blissfully unplanned, our jaunt turned into something pretty special.

Trips west are most often about landscape and sea. That's certainly been my agenda before (here and here and here). We didn't do that though. We booked ourselves a table at Aniar in Galway, drank champagne and ate one of the most mind-blowing meals I've ever experienced, including a dessert of beetroot and rose parfait, hazelnut praline, sorrel. The entire experience was perfection.


Really amazing food just makes you think and talk about other memorable food experiences. So, we decided to get up the next day and head to Cork for lunch in Cafe Paradiso. I've eaten there before and loved it, and it didn't disappoint a second time.

We got back to Dublin in the late afternoon and I booked myself into The Merrion. There's something deliciously selfish about staying in a hotel when you don't need to and I've always fantasized about The Merrion. My suite was utter luxury and I went for a sunset walk around Merrion Square in all its Georgian splendour, before coming back for a long hot soak and king-sized sleep.


When I come home to Ireland, it's so often about the heaving sea, the rugged beauty, the patina. It was nice to have a few days exploring and indulging in flavours more delicate and refined... things that really rise above the everyday. And while I'd never want to normalize those things so that I no longer noticed how special they are, there truly is beauty in experiencing rich brocade of everything.

Finally, because it's Bloomsday today, a picture of the Rowan Gillespie Joyce sculpture from the courtyard of The Merrion:


Images via Aniar and The Merrion. Joyce picture, my own.

Friday!

I'm off to the west coast for the weekend, so just popping in to say hello and goodbye!


Some things I read and saved this week:
- “I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts.” - Jonathan Safran Foer.

- Beautiful shots from Nicole Franzen make me wish I was shooting (and processing and printing) from film more lately, though they wouldn't be this beautiful by a long country mile.

- I have a quiet obsession with forgotten things. I suppose I find it's comforting somehow to know that there's greatness to still unearth, and it makes this whole popularity thing more plainly about timing, that magical synchronicity between artist and audience than alone about any Platonic ideal of greatness. I want to read this.

Have a good weekend! I'll return with Atlantic pictures to share.

P.S. Happy Bloomsday on Sunday!

Ardgillan Castle

Yesterday, I strolled with Mum and Dad around Ardgillan Castle. It's not at all an old castle, built in 1738, but the setting is pretty spectacular and the gardens and demesne beautiful. We had tea and scones on the patio afterwards and Mum and Dad bought me a painting from an exhibition that was being hosted inside. The heatwave we've had since I arrived was starting to break... Dare I say that Ireland looks better with some wind in her hair?

The Mountains of Mourne

Yesterday, I was going to head into town, but I ended up driving to Northern Ireland and around the Mourne Mountains instead. It was a beautiful day -- that shocking shade of green you expect in Ireland magnified by the clear air and cloudless sky. Rhododendrons grow wild all along the roadsides and between them and the jolt of yellow from gorse, it looked like somebody had been playing with their Photoshop levels.

I didn't take many pictures. But I'd love to go back and walk the mountain pathways sometime. I grew up during less happy times in Northern Ireland. And, truth be told, I've always felt a little nervous about the place, remembering reactions to our Irish accents and license plates, and mirrors being rolled under cars at shopping centres. The differences to me now are more aesthetic than political. But the beauty of the countryside on both sides of the border is pretty undeniable.

Sunday best: Beach days

I didn't think a lot about this trip in the lead-up to it. People asked, are looking forward to it? and I'd look blankly back at them, a blurred haze over my eyes. And even when there was only one week, one day left to go, it felt very far away. I told them, I'll feel it when I step on the plane. But even then, I didn't.


I've been waiting for the relaxation to take hold. And Dublin's been amazing; sunny, warm, beautiful. I'm sunburnt. I've been swimming. I read half of Colum McCann's new book on the beach one day. But something's keeping me tethered to that same unease I've been feeling now for months.

I've been mostly walking and sitting still, wading into saltwater. I'll keep these simple things on repeat and hope they take hold.

Products: Photo Reverse by Institut Esthederm | Vada Printed Linen Caftan from Calypso St Barth | TransAtlantic by Colum McCann | Ruched swimsuit from J.Crew | Mademoiselle Cream sunglasses from Illesteva | Marni sandals from Net-a-Porter

Friday!

Being at home is hard sometimes because it forces me to confront reasons I left home in the first place. Some days in Toronto, those reasons seem to fade, their content diminished by time and distance. But being back at home renders them more strongly one thing or the other, real or not.

Much as leaving a place is entirely personal, entirely subjective and a decision I make only for myself, it's still a kind of rejection. I put my own decision under a continuous spotlight, taking my pulse the entire time I'm here. Wondering if what I'm seeing is what's real, if I'm overreacting, if it would be different if I were a better person, if I have some elaborate need to be different.

Those differences are, of course, now both internal and external. I have a Canadian accent. I wear too much black and not enough fuchsia for an Irish woman. It's interesting how the material things compound the differences. With all our globalization, even with the fact that Grafton Street looks now like Bloor Street, there's still a different look. Where Canadians are conservative, Dubliners can be colourful, even brash. I take the pulse of all of that too. I walk into shops and look for the rack with the neutral colours. It's not there. I'd have to change to fit in here now.

And I think about the role all of this plays in the Canadian self I've created. Is it Canadian or is it just me? The thing that I loved about emigration was the chance to start fresh, to create a brand new moment. To be in a culture without any background and to decide what to make mine... nothing was inherited. It may sound Gatsby-esque but isn't that the fantasy? The self-made woman? And yet, sometimes I look for those anchors and connections that I cast off so readily.

I read this piece this week. I'm interested in the role materialism played in my newly constructed life. How much of that dream is rooted in stuff (and how much of my blogging expresses that connection). In having a home decorated differently than the homes at home. In having different clothes, cars and beauty products.

"Consumerism, with its idealization of idiosyncratic personal taste as a marker of self-actualization, demanded an atomized self bent on escaping the “trap” of social influence. Its rewards — rooted in being able to measure the distance you’ve come from your origins — are premised on the goal of achieving a unique identity purged of debts to the taste of others; only then is the self existentially free, truly self-created." TNI

When I come home, it's often those material differences I most readily perceive. And I at once see more people who are very much like me (bone construction, eye colour, body type) and also people who are entirely unlike the constructed me. And sure it's about stuff, but it's also about expression, identity and belonging.

I also started to read Colum McCann's new book TransAtlantic this week. This jumped out:
"... Alcock and Brown took one look at each other and it was immediately understood that they both needed a clean slate. The obliteration of memory. The creation of a new moment, raw, dynamic, warless. It was as if they wanted to take their older bodies and put their younger hearts inside." p.6

Happy Friday!

Neisha Crosland

Neisha Crosland's handmade tiles have been on my radar for a little while now. In fact, I've long followed Crosland's work... for many years lusting after her wallpapers and then, more recently, her Chelsea Textiles collaboration. Her tiles, though, are something truly special. I would love these to floor a conservatory or garden room - in my more decadent dreams.

Sundown on the nicest day

This evening, I enjoyed sundown walking the coastal path that runs between Portmarnock and Malahide. People were swimming and walking their dogs, kids were carrying buckets and spades, eating and dropping 99-er ice-creams. So many vivid sense memories flood back, especially the sharp edge of a red spade I used to have for the beach. A little boy (probably impressed by all the weather ooh-ing and awh-ing) asked his Mum if this was the nicest day since he'd been born. She laughed and I wondered if it would be the laugh that jolt him into self-consciousness. But he looked unblinking until she thought about it and said, it's certainly close.

Treehugger

Is it weird that I have a favourite tree? I like to think we all do! I visit mine every time I'm home. He's a big old oak located in the demesne of Malahide Castle. His outstretched arms always seem to invite hugs. I have no idea how old he is - the oldest parts of the castle date to the 12th Century and it belonged to the Talbot family. The groundskeepers have given my old oak a crutch since I last saw him.. but it only makes him all the more dapper.

St. Doulagh's Church & a faerie trees

There's a tiny church about five minutes from my parent's house and I'd never really explored it, preferring as I do to walk the seafront and the cliffs. But these are the kinds of things I kick myself about when I'm far away and so today I went there for a little snoop. My timing was happy because they were giving a tour.


The oldest part of St Doulagh's dates back to the 12th Century, and the more modern addition (still in use) is Victorian. The history on the tour was vague enough. But St Doulagh himself was an Anchorite from the 7th Century. He supposedly is buried on the grounds and there's a hole in one wall where you can stick your head in to get close to him. The church is remarkable for it's standalone bapistry and steep stone roof. Oh, and a leper's window for good measure.


Irish people won't cut down a hawthorn tree (they're considered faerie trees), so they excavated / built around the one in the second image below.


You can hear more here.