Friday!

I had a very work-weighed week. So much so, that I've just been fantasizing about sitting still, falling into one of those veiled gazes where no object is in focus and the world becomes an impressionistic blur. I have today off and am only permitting lovely things.


But this morning, my heart was broken by the news of Seamus Heaney's death. It always seems strange to me (phoney of me even) to have strong emotional reactions to the passing of people I didn't know. But I've caught myself shedding tears today, thinking of favourite poems this wonderful man planted in me, lines memorized that conjure my soft and rugged home. Two favourites here and here.

I think because I'm so worn out and down, I've been extra fragile (a few of you commented on it in this week's posts - thank you for caring. Sometimes it feels like you're more in tune with my feelings than the people who physically surround me). Hila's piece over on Meanjin also moved me incredibly. Indeed, it is one of my favourite pieces that Hila has written, so I hope you'll check it out too.

And other than that, I found gentle salves in images like these and this simple, perfect lookbook. I also rejoined Instagram because other lives are sometimes easy, pleasurable things to wallow in and my own long days seem a little more bearable when they surrender a pretty picture.

Finally, if like so many bloggers and blog-readers, you fetishize the list, add this to yours: Mark O'Connell's list about lists.

And also, have a happy (long, I hope) weekend!

Basics I love

I can get pretty evangelical about beautiful basics. I fuss over the details of tees — perfect necklines and sleeves, the right drape. And simple sweaters, perfect for layering. Not too constricting at the neck. Neither too heavy or light, too slouchy or too fitted


There are brands I love simply for their ability to deliver great basics. Club Monaco does great tees. James Perse too, when I'm feeling saucier. I love the leggings from Solow. When you're a uniform-wearing layerer, like I am, it's easy to become obsessed over these things, to hunt for days on end, all for a perfect tank top. My new favourite is Everlane. I ordered a Ryan tee and then went back and ordered two more. And I treated myself yesterday to one of their new Seed Sweaters.

Aside: I know it's becoming a rare thing on blogs these days, but love for products is possible without there being a covert transaction in the background. I never accept freebies, discounts or payment for posts. I hope you know that about me, but because Everlane has collaborated with a number of bloggers, I feel the need to clarify that this is not an advertorial. Call me a cynical old hack, but I never trust somebody when they sell or barter their endorsement. Me, I know that I really like something by my willingness to pay for it.

A poem for Tuesday

I had a long preamble written to this post, full of thoughts and feelings. I just deleted it. I'm sick of the sound of my own voice, of the recurring ideas, the cycle of seasons, the sameness of it all and of the people who inhabit it. Of the ways the world hurts me (or is it I who let myself be hurt?) This is by Rachel Hadas.

The End of Summer
Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Over the summer months hung an unspoken
aura of urgency. In late July
galactic pulsings filled the midnight sky
like silent screaming, so that, strangely woken,

we looked at one another in the dark,
then at the milky magical debris
arcing across, dwarfing our meek mortality.
There were two ways to live: get on with work,

redeem the time, ignore the imminence
of cataclysm; or else take it slow,
be as tranquil as the neighbors’ cow
we love to tickle through the barbed wire fence
(she paces through her days in massive innocence,
or, seeing green pastures, we imagine so).

In fact, not being cows, we have no choice.
Summer or winter, country, city, we
are prisoners from the start and automatically,
hemmed in, harangued by the one clamorous voice.

Not light but language shocks us out of sleep
ideas of doom transformed to meteors
we translate back to portents of the wars
looming above the nervous watch we keep.

Sunday best: Salty depths

Perhaps it was a simple matter of timing, but my vacation this year barely registered. I even knew when I was there that I wasn't making the most of it. I seemed to just crash. And though I spent days on the beach and in the sea, I wasn't able to let go the way you're supposed to on holidays.

So, I find myself forgetting that I had a holiday at all. And now it's nearing the end of summer and the beginning of those stretched-out golden days I love so much. But part of me feels like this summer was missing something; a feeling like something forgotten in another room, but when you go back to look for it, you can't remember what it was.


The tides of change have been strong the last few months. I feel them pushing me forward and pulling me back. Right now, I relate more to a version of myself from ten years ago than the me I was last year. Like a planet has returned after a long absence and now I'm myself again, but there's stuff to be done and undone before I'll be fully righted.

I moved here ten years ago mostly to be close to a friend who's no longer in my life. It's strange, inhabiting this city, his city, without him. And now I feel like it's more mine than his. And I can't help but notice his absence, though that's not the same as missing him.

I gather things around me and I share some of them here and others not. I might talk about the moon and the sea, about salty lips and how Canadian seasons change the cast of light on my armchair. But there's so much unsaid. About people and places and grief. About my past and the ideas that churn during sleepless nights. The stuff that's beyond sharing in all of us. All our salty depths.

Products: Jackie cardigan from J.Crew | Ondine dress from Lotfi | The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor | Sel Marin by James Heeley | Star and anchor necklace from Ylang23 | String bag from Need Supply | Lanvin ballet flats from Barneys

Eeyore v Beckett

It's a thing for Beckett fans to lament how misrepresented Beckett's grimness is. Indeed - while there's often despair, there's also often great levity; bathos, pathos, poignancy and tenderness. But, let's face it, Sam could also give Eeyore a run for his money (and vice versa)...



Eeyore: "Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning, which I doubt," said he."
Beckett: "The sky sinks in the morning, this fact has been insufficiently observed."
(Molloy)

Eeyore: "End of the road. Nothing to do, and no hope of things getting better."
Beckett: "Estragon: Nothing to be done. Vladimir: I'm beginning to come round to that opinion." (Waiting for Godot)

Eeyore: "This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it."
Beckett: "Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness."

Eeyore: "After all, what are birthdays? Here today and gone tomorrow."
Beckett: "Birth was the death of him." (A Piece of Monologue)

Eeyore: "We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it."
Beckett: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." (Worstward Ho)

Images: Eeyore drawing by E.H. Shephard. Sam Beckett by Avigdor Arikha.

Eve Gravel

How I love a dark floral! Eve Gravel's new collection is all kinds of decadence. Sorry summer, I've gone darkside. I'm not coming back...

Sunday best: Sycomore-inspired

Yesterday, I went into the office to try to get ahead on this project I'm working on. After a solid day there, I knew I had to do something nice for myself, so I headed down to Bloor for a little gallivant.


At Holts, I bought new make-up (I'm trying Burberry foundation and it's the first time in my life I haven't had to buy the lightest shade and still feel it's too dark, or too yellow). And I bought some of the new Chanel cream blush. As the make-up counter lady was trying out the shades on my skin, I admired her perfume. It was Sycomore from the Les Exclusifs de Chanel range. 100% not the kind of fragrance note I would usually gravitate towards. But she sprayed it on me and it enveloped the way a golden fall day does.

I browsed around, not seeing much else to really tug at my heart. Despite what my blog might lead you to believe, I find myself mostly bored looking at clothes and at shoes. So I went to the flower market and bought some dahlias instead. Still, the fragrance stayed with me and I started to think about fall. About knits and dark colours, beautiful objects with depth and patina and a sort of pungent beauty to them.

The truth is that I really only buy a few special things each season. And today's inspiration won't be translated to reality verbatim, of course. But the greens and blacks and greys are really compelling to me right now. In the heady sway of Sycomore, this is my ideal sort of fall look...

Products: Sycomore from Les Exclusifs de Chanel | Rag & Bone Cara pullover from La Garconne | MiH Jeans from Net-a-Porter | Runwell Watch from Shinola | 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Satchel from Shopbop | Blaise flats from Loeffler Randall

Friday!

My weeks right now are full to the brim. In certain moments I feel overwhelmed by it, forgetting meals and finding myself holding my breath. My thoughts at bedtime have become a strange cascade of work woes, crawling under my skin when I'm trying to sleep.


And yet... I'm feeling more myself last week than a month ago, even than a week ago. I've been working out every day. And when I have remembered to eat, I've been making beautiful and brightly-coloured food. The weather, too, has put a spring in my step. People are complaining it's too cold, but I catch myself walking to the subway, my face lifted to the beautiful blue of our sky right now.

I'm reading a new book too and that always fills me with something akin to euphoria. I love how that hook sinks in and I'm as always filling to be swallowed, to submerge, to lose myself in it.

I barely glanced at my reader all week, but certain things jumped out: The lushness, the obvious choices. Stories as storiesFilling it fuller and fuller with the past.

And now, a weekend. Have a lovely one.

Blues

I love my blues. And I have  a new discovery: I splurged on Sunday Riley's Disrobe body lotion last week and am in love with it. It doesn't smell divine and the packaging isn't gorgeous, but my skin has never been softer. And this Sea Salt Soap is one of my landlocked sea substitutes. I really love the smell of it and the squeaky clean feeling.

I've blogged Judy Ross cushions a gazillion times and I finally bought one (on wicked sale) from Hollace Cluny a few weeks ago. It's one of my favourite stores in Toronto and it's moving, which makes me feel forlorn. It's been one of my neighbourhood anchors since I moved here.


My apartment is full of blue hydrangeas right now. These ones are from Katy's blog - just so bountiful and such a rare, perfect colour for flowers. There's also some lust for Toast's new collection; this sweet denim skirt is similar to ones I've owned in past lives... it makes me feel nostalgic and I feel myself wanting something old and familiar anew.

One of the most exciting things on the distant horizon right now is that our office is relocating (within walking distance of my apartment!) That and this milder weather have me thinking about buying a bike and the possibility of biking to work. I love the blue Linus Dutchi. Such a perfect shade!


Links: Hydrangeas from Katy Elliott | Sea Salt Soap | Judy Ross | Toast | Sunday Riley | Linus

Vicki Smith and thoughts on facelessness

There was a recent kerfuffle about the number of book covers featuring faceless women. I understand the arguments made, but - at a visceral level - it's not at all how I react to faceless images. In fact, I love them.


I love the mystery that shrouds them, the fact that we project a state of mind onto a body, uncertain what expression the face is wearing. When it comes to a book's character, I especially like having faces remain somewhat elusive - for me such visual details are most beautifully blurred when reading. And it's one of the things I sometimes dislike about movies; that they make concrete too much. And, while that experience can be beautiful too, it becomes other than it was (I've written about this before, here and here).


Faceless portraits aren't didactic. We can see them as projections or mirrors or imaginings, vague or vivid. I often become more involved in these images and, contrary to the "objectification" responses that stemmed from the NYT piece, they make me wonder more about the person or character portrayed; their internal state becomes much more salient to me than superficial appearance or facial features. (I also think it's interesting that I very often imagine pensive or serene sorts of expressions, not passionate exertions or turmoil).


I've described before the gorgeous coma of solitude that I feel when I'm in water -- you all know what a waterbaby I am! To me, Vicki Smith's paintings capture this beautifully. And in their facelessness, they resonate more deeply and more mysteriously. I like to think that in those eyes there's something beautiful and introspective and unsayable, really, a very private kind of awareness, timelessly suspended.


You can see more of Vicki Smith's work over on Bau-Xi.

Shinola watches

I started wearing a watch again last year and now I wear one every day. I have a few that make me happy (Daniel Wellington, Boca), but I don't think I've found The One yet. Watches are a whole thing you can get into, as we all know, and I really can't afford to cultivate a really meaningful obsession here. Happily, these watches by Shinola seem to strike an elusive sweetspot.

When it comes to timepieces I have a couple of must-haves: I prefer a round face and I mostly want silver or stainless steel (over a gold metal). But most of all I'm picky about the numerals. I hate Roman numerals and I'll pass over a watch if the number 6 is missing (it's my favourite number and once you start to notice how often it's missing from an Arabic numeral watch, it will fuel a strange sort of obsessiveness).

Unusually, given what I just said about gold, I'm drawn most to the black face and green strap of the third one down. See more here.


A poem for Monday

We had a heatwave in July but other than that this summer has been perfect for me. Nights are cool and breezy and the light is often oblique, creating plenty of shadows for sun-shy girls to duck into.

Still, lovely as it is, this gradual dissolve to golden is not something I'll put up a fight against. I suppose it's all different when you have children who need back-to-school supplies. Or when you have a cottage that needs to be locked up, boats and docks pulled out of the water.

My seasons are measured in much smaller things; walkable distances, flowers and the distance produce has travelled. Sure, I'll pick my favourites but the truth is I relish the changes: That peaches in August are incomparable. That lilacs in May could break your heart. That the golden hour in September is something you want to bottle. That even unmentionable snow has its miraculous first moment every year.

This is by Jane Kenyon. Also, see Ben Pentreath's beautiful post and Helen McClory's too.

Three Songs at the End of Summer
A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket ...
                                 In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

Sunday best: Black and pink

For years, my childhood bedroom had wallpaper with flower fairies on it. I loved it when it went up, but I remember Mum and Dad mumbling that I would outgrow it too quickly. I was on the threshold of whatever age that is when childish things become embarrassing, I suppose. They were right, of course, and in no time I was sick of the patchwork of fairies alighting my walls.


It started in one corner. Perhaps a piece of wallpaper got scraped by furniture. I started to pull. And soon my mind was bent on destruction. But ours was not the kind of household where you could stroppily demand a bedroom be redecorated. Besides, I didn't want to ask. I had a feeling that would break the idea I had. I worked in stealth.

It was the 80's then and all I wanted was for everything to be pink and black. I had one of those furry pencil cases. It was pink. And I hung L'Enfant poster inside my wardrobe door. I took myself to the paint shop and bought a sample pot of pink paint and tried it out in a secret spot behind my dresser. It was the colour of marshmallows. I might have painted some other things with that pink paint too. Perhaps I took it to my cassette holder.


Mum and Dad must have noticed the smell of paint, even if it was only a Dulux sample pot. They probably laughed and shook their heads and tried to delay the inevitable work. Eventually, the fairies came down and I got some abstract, textured wallpaper instead. I never really got the pink and black room in my head, but I rallied and moved on.

And nowadays I nearly always wear black. Yet pink sneaks in. And when it does, I remember that room; the flower fairies so forlorn in the end. The swell of an independent idea, the eager strain of not needing to ask for something.

Products: Red Roses by Jo Malone | Lip balm from Rodin | Nail polish from Chanel | Dress from Gillian Tennant | Wallet from Mulberry | Anchor bracelet from Saskia Diez | French cotton net bag from Kaufmann Mercantile | Lauren flats by Chloe from Net-a-Porter

Friday!

I should never tell you what I'm going to read next, because invariably I pick up a different book. I found a blog ages ago (or maybe it was a section of an online journal) about forgotten books that readers and other writers recommended. I sourced a signed first edition of Failing Paris by Samantha Dunn based on one of those recommendations and am finishing it today.

Ironically, I've forgotten what the site was. Oh dear. It's a shame because I remember making a small resolution to read my way through their lists. Donal Ryan's book (which I bought a signed first edition of before it became really famous) is proof that it can go the other way too -- and after being forgotten and forgotten and forgotten, a book can suddenly jump the fence.


When I was little, I believed that hard work paid off, that talent got its due. It's been one of the hardest lessons of adulthood, that it's much more of a flimsy concoction than that. Stars must align, public consciousness must be in some ineffable state of readiness, promotion must hit the right note. Hard work alone can't construct all of that. Good or bad, all artists and creators and entrepreneurs quickly feel that fact. And sometimes, it's an indignant realization and other times a celebratory one. For most, it's a lesson in quiet persistence and looking inwards rather than outwards for a sense of something akin to fulfillment.

Of course, for many, the idea of jumping the fence is also a scary proposition. I don't rate myself as much of a writer, but I have a little fantasy about being a forgotten one; one who is praised quietly in certain small circles, who appears on lists like the ones I found. It's an out from all the other stuff that fills me with pure dread. I suppose none of this will ever apply to me anyway, but I do think about it - probably because I play in these online environments that promote celebrification while mostly despising it.

This week, I also loved this - another writer to explore:
"...all that matters is that they were there, and that freight trains broke their fucking heart, and that someone wanted them to stay but they didn't."

And I reread this over on Aeon. These days, I don't feel as much loneliness as I've sometimes blogged. But I think there'll always be a bit, a small of sense of unbelonging even in my belongingness., like this ought not feel like home even when it does...

Happy weekend!

Muted

I love the muted pinks and greys in these images. Some plates from Heath's Alabama Chanin collection have been too long on my wishlist! However, I did splurge on the earring set last week.


Image credits: Sweet Woodruff | Elephantine on Etsy | Kate Monckton Interiors, photographed by Andrew Wood, via Remodelista | Heath Ceramics
Last week tested my ability to say "no". To do so firmly, not cushioned in apologies or counter-offers. It's something that doesn't come easily. In relationships, I'm often a giver, often a yes-woman. Very often, I lead with giving too much, only to have to pull back later. Often, also, I feel like I don't deserve something better -- putting my foot down seems like a luxury somebody like me hasn't earned, that I really should be grateful and compliant. I know that's wrong, but that's often the feeling the springs up.

I think we also have this sense that saying "yes" is the key to success, to opportunity and advancement. We think "no" means we're afraid, that we have some kind of mental block to progress, that we're missing out on something. We think of "yes" as a powerful, positive response, one that will lead to things unforeseen beyond what's immediately apparent. We think that "yes" is the key to going somewhere new.

But "no" is not the opposite of that. It too can hold its own world of promise. In saying no to one thing, we're actually saying yes to many more options, to staying open-concept instead of locking down. No can also be a word that rescues us from situations that stress and restrict. From people who manipulate and bully. No can be a refusal to be controlled or coerced or mistreated. Yes often involves surrendering some autonomy; no often means refusing to do so.

Still, people don't take no well. Some won't take no for an answer. We women know this only too well and we're usually well practiced in saying no in certain areas, to unwelcome advances, for instance. But saying "no" at work, or no to a friend can test a different kind of resolve. And when somebody really wants you to do something they'll make you say no repeatedly. They know it's difficult to reiterate something that was hard to say in the first place. They know you're likely to lose some footing, to find a way of softening the blow.

For me, saying "no" now comes from a sense of not enough time. I don't want to dick around anymore. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm becoming ungenerous or solely self-promoting. (And, of course, feeling the need to make that qualification shows just how hard-sounding "no" can be to me). But "no" can be nice, it can be simply plain, it can even be kind to others and oneself. And when it needs to be hard, well, that's probably when it needs to be its most adamant.

Sunday best: August

August isn't the most inspiring fashion month for me. The novelty of summer has worn off and the new collections feel premature. I catch moments of autumn on certain days; a certain angle of sun or a chill when it's dark. I'm already looking forward to it.


Of course, I wear black whether it's plus or minus 30 celsius, so I'm not sure how much all this seasonality really affects me. After all, I would wear this today and wear it again in October with a big cardigan. I've never really felt that seasons, trends etc. apply to the way I dress, apart from exposing me to different ideas and new labels that might go with what I already like.

I did lots of small, niggling things in July... taking coats and blankets and duvets to the dry-cleaner, repotting plants, hanging new drapes, making a long put-off dermatologist appointment, trying new recipes. My list for August is similarly banal but satisfying:
- Replace pillows on my bed (I really want a Hastens pillow!)
- Get new trainers
- Cook from Jerusalem (I bought it yesterday and feel so inspired!)
- Re-establish my daily yoga habit
- Read A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing today (also, post copies to the giveaway winners)

Products: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride | Saguenay Tunic Shirt from Toast | Splendid leggings from Net-a-Porter | ginette_ny Mother of Pearl Ring from Shopbop | 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Satchel from SSENSE | Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil from NARS | Charley Booties from Madewell

Friday!

This week has been all staccato notes. I've been thinking in unhinged words rather than sentences, my brain jumpy and restless and unsubduable. So, I'm glad for this four-day weekend and vague, but hopeful, plans to get my shit together.


You can always tell I'm burning out when I use my blog to reach for more beautiful things. It's funny now I think about it: When it pretties up around here, I'm probably my most harried and when I'm banging on about my angsty old self, I'm probably pretty grand. A past version of me would insert something about the intentional fallacy (pdf) here, but I'm too tired.

Still, there's something of a salve in the purely pretty. Like these ceramics - beautiful, right? I particularly love the soft pink and blue mugs. Or ideas about making Elderflower Cordial, a recipe by way of home.

When I'm in this mood, all our wordiness feels like jabber. And I think how nice it would be to switch it off. Even to retire from words. And I think of Alice perhaps spending hours on Pinterest instead and beating down any sentences that spring up.

I think it's okay to feel this way for a while and know I'll 180 on myself and grow tired of the flimsiness of pretty and want to use my words again. But, this weekend: just quiet and lovely things.

Happy weekend!