Attic and Barn

I simply love this collection from new-to-me label Attic and Barn. Autumn inspiration sorted!

A poem for Tuesday

My favourite reading is the kind where language falters, when it teeters on the edge of the uselessness, becoming a wet paper bag of a thing. I don't know why that is - why I like to see words (after all my favourite thing!) fail and silence expand. I guess maybe because it makes my own failure wielding them a little faultless. Maybe it's because I really believe the greatest moments of beauty lie only in the unutterable.

Lately, words have seemed more hollow than normal. I hold them up to my ear hoping to hear the churn of the sea. I find myself wanting to say things like this: That egg yolks tasted like they did when I was young. I don't think they ever will again. That feels like a monumental loss and I don't know how to tell you. This is by Nick Laird. You can hear him speaking about it here.

Use of Spies
Upright and sleepless,
having watched three bad movies,
I am flying across the ocean to see you.

I am a warrior and nothing will stop me,
although in the event both passport control
and a stoned cabbie from Haiti will give it a go,

but I meant to mention something else.

Just before dinner I woke in mid-air,
opened the shutter and saw the sun rising.
Light swung over the clouds like a boom.

The way it broke continually from blue
to white was beautiful, like some fabled
giant wave that people travel years to catch.

I thought I’ll have to try and tell you that.

Friday!

It seems like a long time ago now, but on Monday I did something nice, buying tickets for Godot on Broadway, with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart. It's like an explosion of things I love for very different reasons (LOTR, TNG and Beckett? Madness!) so I'm very giddy about it. My trips to NY always revolve around theatre since we're starved up here in Toronto, but I've never gone to a Broadway play, so this is pretty exciting... though a long way off yet.

I also joined Eat Your Books. It indexes the contents of all those magazines and books so you can browse the recipe list of your entire cooking library and see what ingredients go into each one. Ultimately, you have to consult your books for the precise recipe and instructions, so it's not like it makes the cookbooks redundant.

I hope this gets me trying more things and makes it easier to shop for ingredients (it's $25 a year to add unlimited books to your library. You can also add certain blogs). So far, I love that it abstracts the recipes from the styling, so it's making me pay attention to recipes based on ingredients rather than pretty pictures. It's also been pulling my attention back to some of the older forgotten cookbooks on my shelf.

I'm sure you all caught the Booker longlist out this week. I'm, of course, happy that there are three Irish writers on there. But, I'm particularly delighted for Donal Ryan. I read his book many months ago -- it's a great character piece, taking on the crash in Ireland. The Irish Times is also launching a series of stories about the crash. For some levity, Tommy Tiernan's take on it.

That's it for this week! Have a good one!

Seea

I don't think I'm alone in having a hard time with swimsuits. For me, the familiar challenges and insecurities are compounded by the sun. We're just not the best of friends. I love these swimsuits from Seea not because only because they're more modest and offer more coverage but (even more) for the pattern combinations, sweatheart necklines and undeniable surfer cool.

GIVEAWAY: A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing

I'm going to blame Mercury retrograde for this one: I accidentally obtained two extra copies of Eimear McBride's book A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing and the (very kind) publisher told me to keep the extra copies. I've decided to give them away. To you.


"Eimear McBride's debut tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman's relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist, to read A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator's head, experiencing her world first-hand." - Galley Beggar Press

I want to make sure it's your cup of tea, though, so please do take a moment to read this review over on TLS or this one from the Indo.

"Joyce comes to mind, of course, and this could be Molly Bloom’s great-great-great-granddaughter’s soliloquy: the story of a bright young woman who is argumentative, confused, sexually adventurous, sad and angry." - David Collard, TLS

I haven't read my own copy yet, so I can't add to these reviews. My interest was obviously piqued by the references to Joyce and, especially, Beckett in these reviews. But just as much by the female perspective (I also thought of Maggie Nelson when reading these reviews).

I'm excited to read the book. I'm also excited to send copies to two readers in any location. Leave a comment to be included in the random selection. Please make sure your profile links to some contact information or include it in the comment! I'll make the selections on Friday at noon EST.

Sunday best: High summer

The humidity dropped yesterday — enough for me to contemplate a long stroll and some non-salad groceries. I felt happy and at ease. Today, I expect I'll dip down into the ravine and stroll the trails. I haven't got down there as much this year and I miss it.



Putting this outfit together also made me think it's also time I got some new trainers. I hurt my foot recently and footwear has become difficult of late. Maybe I've just got to wear sensible shoes for a while and do the ole switcheroo once I get into the office. Upside: I can listen to Carly Simon and pretend I'm a real working girl.

As I wind down some freelance work, I'm also excited to find space in my days for other routines. I always feel better when there's time for yoga in my days. Classes are always tough for me -- the hit and miss atmosphere can make me lose interest for months on end. I'm going to give Yogaglo a go. I have a Seane Corne DVD I also love, but I like the idea of having more classes to choose from.

Mostly, right now, I'm enjoying contemplating those small changes. That straining desire to be wholly other has deserted me. I'm sure it's temporary, unfamiliar as it is, but I feel a lot of self-acceptance right now. I'm seeing a lot of beauty in my days. And that has taken the pressure off my own ideas of the future, in a strange and unexpected way. I'm straining less for something radically different and simply feeling content at the thought of whatever.

Happy Sunday!

Products: Sigg water bottle | Shift Dress from James Perse | UP by Jawbone | Trainers by Nike | Perfect Legs by This Works

Friday!

The heatwave remains unbroken and every day I feel a little more unravelled by it. Outside of work, it's been difficult to concentrate on much, to feel deeply absorbed by anything other than an immediate and pressing need to run cold water over pulse points.

I did read some interesting things this week. Jessica's Read.Look.Think was, as ever, stocked full of treats. In particular, I liked this piece, which I'm guessing is a kick up the arse many of us need to some extent, one time or another.

This morning, I read this piece by Claire L. Evans over on Aeon.
"Travel is inherently narcissistic. Even if we’re looking to be knocked off our axis, we’re still in the business of self-improvement. People want to go to faraway places and return changed. A lot rides on this expectation. We hunt for perspective, for miraculous connections, but when these moments happen, we don’t always recognise them — or we look in the wrong places. There is a collection of jungle villages around Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali, which is as remote and humid and disorienting as any foreign place. The landscape is clogged with temples spewing incense, and yet long lines of Western tourists snake out the doorway of the single mountain temple that featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love (2006). It’s easy to laugh at these people. It’s easy to say that they are missing the point, but are they? Maybe they’re just mainlining into the essence of what travel is always already about: pat revelations about the self. When we were in Bali, we went to a different temple, and our dirty tennis shoes looked ridiculous beneath the stiff embroidered sarongs we were commanded to wear. I felt nothing, except for self-consciousness and the impulse to snap a dozen pictures I haven’t looked at since.

The strangest dissonance of this life is the uneasy balance we strike between chaos and routine."


This is going to sound self-indulgent no matter what way I say it: But one of my own posts that I think about most often is this one, about the tension between routines and the desire for reinvention in a post-travel state of mind. I wrote it just after I got back from Ireland (the trip before this last one). I came back thinking I might unemigrate. That feeling faded, as I felt it would even then. And on this last trip, I couldn't reconnect with the same idea at all.

And I thought about all that again today - not about whether I want to move or not, which all seems incidental and would work out fine one way or the other - but about how much a function those feelings are of something we don't necessarily have access to in the moment. How strongly we believe present feelings are real and concrete and we could ride them like waves into change. But when we don't, they become less real and even become unrecognizable as our own.

If I was to sum up my thirties, I'd say it's the decade where I'm learning to keep going without feigning certainty.

My younger self liked to feign certainty in such situations. I'd blaze ahead without guarantees, doing bold things. Immigrating to Canada, for example, was bold and blazing and for reasons mostly unfounded. But I love it here — not in a way that makes me think I couldn't love other alternatives, but in the way that I've become attached to the quirky arbitrariness of my own life, the sense that it's not about picking the right place or person, but about finding small pockets of joy any way, anywhere, with strangers or friends. But mostly quietly and alone.

Happy Friday!

Coping mechanism

This heatwave has me wrung out, wrinkled, longing for something cool and salty and running over limbs. I picture the sea.


I picture the sea on subway platforms and bus stops. During those moments when I step into frigid AC and the perplexing prospect of feeling cooler disappoints. Waiting for that temperature to become one with mine, breathing slowly, picturing the sea.

I picture myself under the sea, in a brocade of seaweed. Its cool fingertips around my legs and neck. I picture the glare and burn of the surface at safe and appealing distance. My eyes open and all the green and blue and the sodden dance of it around me.

It's my only defence, picturing the sea.

Weekend

I had a distinctly offline weekend. It was wonderful.

I brought a lamp my Dad had turned for me to a shop on Mount Pleasant. One of those stores so specialized you think, I'll be the only person there today. How many people in Toronto can possibly want a lamp rewired or a custom lampshade on a 30-degree Saturday? Lots, it turns out.

I love these moments when the world reminds you you're not special. Like at airports, when your own journey feels so singular and special and you get there and face the reality that hundreds, thousands of us have also chosen that day to get on airplanes for their reasons, likely not so different from your own. Sometimes being unspecial in these ways is also special.

And I walked back through the cemetery on the way back from the lampshade shop and looked at the gravestones. Mount Pleasant is my local park really — 83 hectares of graves dating back to the 1870's. Headstone patterns recur, names bob and weave. You start out wanting to register each one, but they're too much of a rich brocade. Graveyards and airports have something in common in that way. We feel so singular, and we're reminded we're not.

I don't know. The whole thing put me in this elated kind of mood. Maybe it was the sun or that I'm feeling more myself after recent decisions. Maybe it's just good to let go of that straining desire to be meaningful and to matter and instead just watch new freckles form in the sun, knowing they'll fade again come winter.

Rose Uniacke

I've long adored Rose Uniacke's style. So calm and deliberate. But unlike other spare spaces, I don't feel that immediate restrictiveness. Rose seems to let herself like what she likes. I was so happy to see a feature on her on 1stDibs (her World of Interiors feature was another favourite).

Nick Brandt

Remember when you were little and you first started to think about other places in the world? For me growing up, and I imagine many others, David Attenborough documentaries were a conduit for that experience. I was always more interested in the natural world than in people or civilizations. And then every animal seemed Aesopian and my favourite country or continent was often chosen based on its wildlife.


But it wasn't just about the animals and geography, it was also about the magic of the capture. Each one of those documentaries seemed to witness something that hadn't been caught on film before, to break new threshold in camera technology working in extreme environments, at night or underwater. Even as we sat in our living rooms, the sense of seeing something fresh and new was palpable and the knowledge that somebody was there capturing it for us made the watching even more vicariously thrilling.



There's something about Nick Brandt's wildlife photographs that recall that very childlike wonder. His animal portraits remind me of the staged taxidermy displays at the Natural History Museum, in all their impossible stillness. But also of those moments of first grasping the weight, heft, speed, danger of wildlife through the TV screen. Of briefly becoming involved in one elephant's march or a lion's hunt, straining entirely for that animal to simply survive.


All images via Hasted Kraeutler on 1st Dibs
Official site of Nick Brandt

Experiences over things

This post may, at first glance, seem at complete odds with Monday's. But when I was in Ireland I had two days when I just splurged on experiences. I ate at the most amazing restaurants and I treated myself to a night in a five star hotel.


And no, I can't afford those choices on a regular basis (and I prefer really not to normalize such treats). But I do want to commit to using my money to create experiences rather than buying stuff. When I emigrated, I got sucked into such a "build a life" mindset that all my energy (my obsessiveness) was channeled into my home, the things I needed to buy to feel at home here.

But when I was young, I was all about experiences. I saw places I have no pictures of, no souvenirs from. Staying at the Merrion reminded me of those days, because it was silly and carefree and yet a sublime sort of experience. It made me think that it's sometimes worth prioritizing those experiences against better judgement.



I spotted this place on Unique Home Stays. Isn't it a dream? I can't afford to go there, of course. But there are similar, smaller versions of this that are accessible. It's funny to reflect on the things you easily grant yourself ($80 scented candles!) and the other things you withhold. When I bought myself a ring last year, it felt oddly foolish and yet I've worn it every day since, while less foolish-feeling purchases languish  in closets.

And silly as checking into the Merrion felt, I smile when I think about it, and if there's silly money to be spent in the future, I hope I spend it on another experience like that, or like this.


Images used with permission from Unique Home Stays.

Feeling conflicted and forcing change anyway

I’ve read many articles and blog posts about cutting back, going more slowly, about consuming less, about Wabi-Sabi and "undecorating". These all seem connected, and to contain ideas that intuitively appeal to many of us. We read these stories and articles and share them on Twitter, seeming to understand at a visceral level that this is what we need. And then we go back to blogging about stuff and pinning, keeping up with a chockablock reader, while maintaining multiple social networking accounts and scheming ways to make more money so we can buy more of the stuff that we think of not as materialism but as self-expression and identity. Because before we can slow down, we need to get our lives in shape and all of that costs money.

By "we", I mean "me" and only possibly "you".

For a long time, I’ve wanted to want less while unapologetically wanting more. And while my spending philosophy may seem like a "less" approach, I really just buy fewer things that cost more and I’m often still stretching beyond my immediate means. To increase my elasticity, I’ve always increased my workload. And I’ve always been proud of this ability to earn more money when I need to. I will sacrifice a lot in order to reach certain goals. But lately, I’ve really been feeling how all that takes me farther away from that cutting back ideals that appeal so much. And how that short-term pragmatic decision so quickly becomes a way-of-living.

Here’s what I’ve realized (you know, in that patently obvious way when you figure out something you really knew all along): I’ve got to give something up that's hard to give up. That relaxed, slow-movement life will not come about if I keep wanting more, if I keep romanticizing my own ambition and workload and inability to balance it. I have to prioritize my wants and be just as willing to sacrifice some of the "stuff" as I am to sacrifice myself; my time and health.

One of the most annoying truths is that expenditure rises to meet income. I think we all lie in bed and think the thing that would evaporate our stress would be some kind of windfall or income increase. I’ve long been trapped in a mindset that if my income changes I’ll get farther ahead. But looking back at times when my income did change, that's not what happened. It really just got me more stuff-stuff and less of the stuff that’s finite, priceless; time, energy, joy.

There’s a cycle I get stuck in here too (and it applies to both money and food): I work so hard, then I feel deprived. So I treat myself. I don’t have time to treat myself in the meaningful ways that I prioritize in resolutions and ultimate wishlists, so instead I reach for the sugary substitute, the quick fix. It might literally be a little sweet something, or it might be some other equivalent, like a little online purchase at lunch. These treats get me no closer to my long-term goals (sometimes actually they move me in the opposite direction). But they do create a false and fleeting sense of “feeling full”.

Now, I’m not advocating a life without sugar, literally or metaphorically. I like sugar. And I think life should have sweet things. But I also know that I’m living in a manner at odds with what I say I value. That makes me feel pretty greedy. And I can feel that quite physically sometimes, a frantic feeling behind my eyes; to keep up, to read everything in my reader, to tweet at a certain frequency, to redecorate, reinvent, start over, be better.

So once in awhile I pull the plug on all of that. I throw away the blogging schedule, I shut down my Instagram. I recommit to yoga and to cooking recipes from the cookbooks I buy absentmindedly at my desk when trying to create a moment of calm and beauty and oasis. But then a new project percolates up and the work takes over and I fail to see the role my own volition is playing in it, feeling like I don't have any choice in it, that I need to stay until 9pm, that I need to work weekends and holidays.

Last week, I forced a change: I quit one of my freelance jobs. It was work I was very grateful for and in this industry and economy I knew lucky not just to have a day-job in my industry but regular freelance work too. But I had started to see some of my work as a financial nosebag rather than something more meaningful or passionate. I didn’t like that reflection of myself. But, more than using this as an opportunity to self-flagellate over my sense of greed, I also want to recognize that at some level I thought this was the life I was supposed to be content with. I wasn't really standing up for my own happiness.

For months, I’ve been saying that quitting some freelance work would be a “reward” I’d give myself when I achieved certain things. Extricating myself from unhappiness should not be a reward, it should just be something I just do when I recognize I'm not happy. So, last week I gave myself permission to move on from something that was no longer working for me and to move towards new goals, ultimate goals, and – canny as it sounds – happiness.

This is but a first step and I know others have done things way more dramatic, way more liberating. And I still feel conflicted and expect to remain so (and I expect some of you to point out the hypocrisy of this post following a Sunday best, or whatever comes tomorrow... But, like I said, I'm not promising to swear off sugar. Plus, I never mean these posts to be read didactically, they certainly don't represent my own spending or life. And I want to learn to enjoy these ideas and objects without needing to grasp them, rather than pretending they're not there).

Quitting is not easy for me. I’m worried I’ll regret it. I’m worried about what circumstances could arise that create a future unforeseen need. But I made a list around my birthday of the things I want to achieve in the next year. None of them really involve income, but they do involve time and energy and freedom. So, although the worry is there, there’s also an overriding belief… that I have to be an agent of what I really want; that I have to articulate it and then I have to follow through with action. So small as this is, in my little lonesome corner, this act feels like a positive step forward.

Sunday best: Sunny unreality

It's too hot for a realistic Sunday best, but isn't this lovely? So sweet and demure.



It's not all fiction though, I will be reading the latest Dublin Review today - I have so much reading to catch up on (all of these!) And I might go for an ice lolly too.

Yesterday evening, I went to see Frances Ha. Have you seen it? I really didn't enjoy it. I thought I might like it the way I did Happy Go Lucky. But I felt like I couldn't really relate to it. Like, are these female characters (Girls etc.) to girls that age what Winona was to girls like me? I just find that a bleak sortof view of the world and of self and lacking real agency or sincerity or hope. I know I'm not articulating that well.

But I did have a nice (very belated) birthday dinner afterwards at The Oxley. And I came home delightfully full and hot, had a long soak and a deep sleep.

Wishing you a lovely Sunday. Stay cool!

Products: The Dublin Review | DAY Birger et Mikkelsen Penumbra dress from Net-a-Porter | Ice lolly from Pop Bar | Lulu Bow Sandal from Loeffler Randall

Friday!

This was an eventful week. I made some hard decisions I've been juggling for a long time. And then, as if I had planted that seed in the universe, lots of loose threads got tied up. I can't say they're all the outcomes I'd been hoping for, but resolutions are always welcome... I'm not good at being patient in the in-between.


It's funny too. These things happened and suddenly I found my words again. Words built into ideas and ideas into stories. So though I lost some things, my restlessness lifted and I felt more like myself again.

Many thoughts are churning and I hope I parse some of them out this weekend to share with you. In the meantime, some links:

- Women in Clothes sounds like a fascinating project (and you know I love Leanne Shapton). I'll find time this weekend to complete the survey
- A video worth watching: Kevin Barry reads from The Ox Mountains Death Song
- Simply beautiful dresses (I especially love the midis)
- Some days I feel very old, but more often I wonder when I'm going to grow up and stop being such a fuck-up. I loved this piece
- Audio: What was it like to collaborate with, publish, and know Beckett?

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

Creamy

The images I've been gathering of late having been in the softest shades of creams and greys, vanilla ice-cream and tea-stained fabrics, bleached wood and marled greys. I've never (in real life) been able to buy into blogger's white (those ubiquitous white interiors, all crispy clean), though I so admire them on the screen. It's funny, I sometimes look at blogs and think I'll buy tins of white paint and make it all that pristine. I guess I'm just not cute out for pristine!


Image credits & sources: Ariel Dearie Flowers | La Maison de Pompon | Viktoria + Woods | Antonio Martins, via Remodelista

Three of a kind


3. Cranberry Lake (1934) by Franklin Carmichael, via