Blues

Blue is so many of my favourites. Joni Mitchell's Blue. Yves Klein's. Blue the sea, the stones, the berries. Even the mood sometimes, in a strange and compelling way. And Bluets the book by Maggie Nelson; a book I can open on any page and love and feel affinity with. Two excerpts:

"And so I fell in love with a color—in this case, the color blue—as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out form under, in turns."


"Well, and what of it? A voluntary decision, you might say. That each blue object could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code to be unfolded for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse ever to be unfolded in entirety but that contains the knowable universe."

Products: Book | Containers | Paint | Coat | Ring | Boots | Pyjamas

Sunday best: September came and went

September is just about my favourite month of the year, but this year it barely glanced off my senses.


My days have been extra long, my weekends spent working. I've lost my sense of self in all of it. No time for reading or writing, no time for just sitting and drinking in a coffee shop and I'm sure my friends all hate me right now. All the things that usually hold me down me have lost anchor.

I miss September already. Today, I'm office-bound again. But I'm going to look up and close my eyes and hold onto the feeling of the sun still warm and the air getting chilly, the light so golden but clear and blue too, the leaves falling so that it's never really quiet. The gathering glow of it, the gentle letting go.

Products: Leather travel case from Byredo | Charles Anastase dress from La Garconne | Popcorn knit cardigan from Barneys | Cathy Waterman Rose Cut Diamond Leaf Necklace from Twist | Shooter bag from Loeffler Randall | Lanvin flats from Luisaviaroma | Cathy Waterman Rustic Diamond Leafside Ring from Twist | Autumn Leaves lipstick from NARS

Living with forever empty

I'm generally not one to run from the bittersweet angst of loneliness. I don't think those are feelings to be cured or symptoms of something wrong. In fact, I think they're something we should all create space for the feeling of. Because I believe those feelings are as true and real as joy and that it's in that full spectrum that eudaimonia lies - the idea of a good life (as opposed to a merely happy one).

Last week, this Louis C.K. video about cellphones went viral. At the same time I was thinking a lot about my apartment, the sometimes small desolation of coming home to its emptiness after a long day, running a bath and trying to sleep, feeling so beat and so alone. The part of the video that struck me the most was where he mentioned that we reach for phones as props to kick to the curb feelings of loneliness or aloneness or general fear.

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it's all for nothing and that you're alone. It's down there."

I thought about my home then too. It's my safe and cozy place: Only people who matter get to come in. I keep things just so, uncompromisingly. I love this place and living here alone feels essential and right. It doesn't make me stop feeling those feelings, but there's no other place I'm more comfortable feeling all there is to feel than here. The safety of home is a prop too and a comfort from those forever empty feelings.

But my home also reinforces my own aloneness. It is unshared. Although I open it up to dear friends, company's not always there when I crave it. I fill my home favourite things; talismans, treasures, tokens that are, in a sense, just other props. I always know underneath all of that it is a shell. And if/when I move out, I will pack all of that up and I will look around and be unable to see what that "home" was.

Living alone is beautiful. I think everybody should do it for some time, really. Maybe some people are wholly at ease with others around, but there's a deeper "being you yourself" when you're fully alone. Not just for a day, but for days. How you eat, what you watch on telly, what you laugh at when you're laughing alone; all the minute things you choose without the burden or support of others. I can't imagine not knowing those things about myself.

Living alone also means coming home to aloneness. For introverts like me, that's often a relief, a sweet salve. But even for introverts like me, that can be a lonesome thing. I often want to share all these things I've chosen. And I want sometimes not to have to do all the choosing; every meal, every evening's activities, every picture hung and spoon washed.

Living alone is both like a cellphone and not like a cellphone. It is where I strain to be to soothe the forever empty feelings. It's also the place where I'm most alone. But I guess I want to say that both these two extremely opposite things can be true. As they're true for phones, blogs, this internet thing, friends and all relationships. There's both the belonging and the loneliness, not just one or the other. There's also the reality of who we each are, reaching into and out of ourselves.

I don't agree that cellphones are bad, really. I think it's a category mistake. I think what we're really talking about in these conversations is living with awareness; of self, of others, of place, of time. What we're really complaining about is not that we reach for those things, but when and why and how we're reaching; when we reach unreflectively to chase the forever empty away, instead of digging deep down into the beauty of it.

Apartmenty things

I'm a pretty big nester at any time of year, but it really kicks up a notch in the fall. I want everything to be tactile and glowing and warm. I think that desire is amplified this year by how much time I've been spending in the office... when I get home I'm just a big comfort monster!


Still, I haven't done anything new with my apartment in a while. I did get new drapes for my bedroom (these ones, in fog of course) and had a lampshade made for a lamp Dad turned for me. Other than that, it's been pretty unchanged around here.

Years ago, around when I started blogging, I was obsessed with Saarinen tulip tables. I went off the somewhere along the way - I blame all the ripoffs and countless Domino spreads. But, now I see I was on the right track… it's a classic piece and completely neutral despite its modernity. I think it will be my next big investment. I also love these chairs from Stylegarage.

I think I've promised to buy a leather chair the last three times I've done an apartment update post so I completely understand if you're rolling your eyes at me over that one. I will do it one of these days! I add a few pieces from Heath Ceramics every year, mostly blues and taupes from the Coupe line. I don't like dinnerware to be completely matchy, so I'd love to bring in some of the Alabama Chanin pinks for some variety.

A smaller treat is a new Baies candle... it's my all-time favourite scented candle. Finally, I need a new rug for my bedroom too. I have the Henley in my living room, so this is a pretty boring choice. I guess it shows you just how dull I am that I got excited it's not available in grey.

Interior photos: Interior via | Via Trendland
Products: Dinnerware | Table | Chair | Rug | Candle | Armchair

Fall reading - new and old

I'd love to say that there's some strategy to my fall reading. But really, I wander a little aimlessly around the world of books, waiting for something to seize me. My reader is rife with fall book lists right now, but I don't limit myself to new releases or even new reads. In fact, I try to reread books frequently and there are certain books I love to reread at certain times of year.


Likely to my detriment, I can have an inexplicable resistance to reading certain books. Sometimes, the more somebody tells me I ought to read something, that I'm sure to love it, the more I'll fight it. I don't think this is simply my inherent bolshie streak. It can be that strange gap between what you ought to love given everything else you love and what you actually do that the heart of each of us dwells, I think.


But even if I do read their books, you don't need another list with Deborah Levy and Jhumpa Lahiri on it. There are other writers who won't get the same press and make award shortlists, who won't work the PR machine or tweet so compellingly. There are books your local bookstore won't display prominently, perhaps won't even get in stock unless you ask. I'm always drawn to such discoveries and many of my favourites have fallen from those mysterious places.


There's also a different shade of pleasure that comes from discovering something rather than simply following a bankable list. My favourite thing about blogging isn't just that some of you read and follow my book recommendations. It's that you sometimes end up reading a book that you would not have otherwise crossed paths with otherwise. So, if I happen to be your gateway to something new, nothing could make me happier.


Books:
- Young Skins by Colin Barrett: Mary Costello's The China Factory was one of my favourite books of recent years. I'll basically read any new writer Stinging Fly publishes.
- I just finished Evie Wyld's All The Birds, Singing and am now working systematically through all her available writing. After the Fire, a Still Small Voice was published prior to that, in 2010.
- Éireann's a blog friend and I much admire both her work for her writers and her own writing. I'm excited to hold Her Poems in my hands.
- It seems strange that I don't really count myself a poetry reader and yet I read poetry every day. It's like I haven't fully realized something about myself. This book made it onto my wishlist a few months ago and I can't remember why, but with a title like Woman Reading to the Sea it's coming home. You can read some of Lisa Williams' poetry here.
- Donna Tartt's book has already been getting a lot of press. This is in the category of books I might ordinarily resist but I'm drawn to this one and all that's being said about it.
- I started The Luminaries last weekend. This book exemplifies all that's strange and magical about purchasing decisions: A dreamy mood and desire to get lost in something vast. A mention of David Mitchell. A cover that appealed to the moonchild in me. A overwhelming desire to hold something with real weight.
- I always miss reading William Trevor's stories when I stay away too long. Courting controversy, I will say that I really believe there's an argument to be had about Trevor versus Munro. Revisiting Cheating at Canasta is bound to confirm this.
- I loved Divisadero when I first read it and found myself thinking of it the other day, some of its lines humming in me. I think there's something in it I'm craving right now that I haven't quite realized  I'm excited to reread it and discover what that is.

Forest floor to canopy

Before it all turns golden to brown, I've been wallowing in the shades of greens, muted and murky, bright and washed. In the depth of winter, I know my eyes will crave something verdant, mouthwateringly so.

In the depths of winter, the ravine will feel like a forbidden place, dark and skulking, slippery and shy. But now it's still lush, soft underfoot, rustling and friendly, variegated in greens. From floor to canopy I drink them in.


Art by: Forest Floor by Eamon MacMahon from Bau-Xi
Products: Trench | Eyeliner | Nail polish | Paint | Ring | Purse | Branches



Products: Dress | Country book | Nail polish | Plate | Ring | Clutch
Art by: East from Birch Mountain from Bau-Xi

Sunday best: A new book, a new something

There's something ungrounded about my days right now. Maybe they're just moving too fast; faster than my own lunar and introspective rhythm. I look up and another week is gone, my days strewn like fallen petals. It's a beautiful mess that I don't quite feel myself in, though that does not mean that there's anything wrong.


I had a lovely day yesterday, just walking and drinking coffee mostly. Today, I want to lose myself in a book, find a sliver of something brand new. The Luminaries was delivered to my desk this week and it has just the heft of a tome to start on a Sunday.

We're told to live in the present, to not lean back into a sepia-toned past or strain forward to a rose-tinted future. But being too much in the present can begin to feel very stimulus/response. Like there isn't a bigger next, a larger connection, only this constant in-and-out of versions of the same day.

I need to find a way to cast myself forward and then pull back holding that fine silk thread. So that n these sometimes aimless days I can look down and see I'm holding onto something, even though I've forgotten what's on the other end, even if I never really knew.

Products: Splendid leggings from Net-a-Porter | Coventina dress from Toast | Helmut Helmut Lang jacket from La Garconne | Bloch flats from Gravity Pope | High tide pendant from Pamela Love | The Luminaries: A Novel by Eleanor Catton |

Friday!

When I lived in the mountains, I learned each season like it was a new language; the peculiar winds that blew down from the Rockies, the angled light across foothill scrub, the vapour-thin, hot air of summer. And it took a full year before it became familiar. And then when autumn circled around again, I recognized it and felt at home. I could look to the sky and say, a Chinook is coming.

Small things matter a lot to me and these small things make a place home.

Last night, I walked home and looking at the ginkgo trees thought, this is the last shade of green they go before they go yellow. The changes so minuscule you doubt that you could really know that. But I trust some animal part of me reads these signs, has learned this terrain, has staked out this territory and knows it viscerally in detail that I don't always articulate.

When change is in the air these senses really tingle. Summer's beating heat or winter's scalding cold numb me. But my whole body awakens with the minuscule changes of transitional seasons. The sky, the air, the light, the rain, the movement in the earth, the way sound moves through thinning or thickening air, the unfurling, the falling. The straining for what's to come.

Have a lovely weekend!

A poem for Wednesday

I was four myself when my own brother died. The details at once vivid and vague, as a dream has moments of clarity and still plots that meander and turn aimless and insensible. Memories are compounded by the retelling and rewritten by the narratives they create.

And in the Flanagan house, with me at least, conversations don't happen and I alone write my memories, based on my four-year-old's eyes. And I see myself looking, so I know it's a memory written by a me now looking in on a remembered scene that may not even have happened like that.

People press on memories for truth. Not just distant memories, but what happened yesterday, what happened during that conversation when two people fell away from each other. I do it too, but I try not to too much. Because it doesn't seem to matter; that line between the memory and the narrative of it.

I'm still not over Heaney's passing. Maybe I'm wallowing in it, the way grief can be so compelling; its pinpricks create a seeking-out. And if that's what it is, that I'm wallowing because it means reaching deeper into poetry, it's a beautiful grief. This is by Seamus.

Mid-Term Break
I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Skincare essentials - updated

I've blogged past skincare and beauty regimes here and here. My favourite products have evolved a little since then, so I thought I'd share my updates. I'm always a little nervous sharing these recommendations; skincare is such a personal thing and there's no "one shoe fits all" rule. A lot of my best recommendations (mostly beauty, but also skincare) have been found in recent years through Lisa Eldridge and I really appreciate that she's so down-to-earth, recommending drugstore finds nearly as often as department store ones.

My other source of amazing recommendations, sound advice and all-round feel good indulgence is a local boutique called Gee Beauty. Between the two, I get a research jumping-off point and some in-person advice and care. I think it's really important to listen to a professional, especially when it comes to concerns like congestion, dryness, pigmentation etc.


But I also pay attention myself, not locking too hard into a rigid regime. Instead, I notice what my skin needs, how it changes day-in, day-out, during my monthly cycle. If it's dry, I switch to a gentler cleanser, ease up on exfoliation, wear a moisturizing mask. If it's congested, I use products Dermalogica products with gentle acids (I don't like anything too "scrubby" and decided against getting Clarisonic after my last post). I also massage my skin daily; a habit I got into when I first started using Eve Lom cleanser. And I've become a big believer in serums; I wear a serum + sunblock during day instead of a moisturizer.

Some notes:
Concerns: I do not have great skin, but I've definitely seen it improve with care. With certain concerns magnified by age, I'm also really trying to take care of myself. Recently, that has meant a few trips to the dermatologist and a beefed-up SPF regimen. My skin is pale, but pinkish rather than porcelain, and now prone to pigmentation. It can be both oily and dry and I sometimes get hormonal break-outs. My face also "caves in" when I'm tired, with my eyes hallowing and my skin leached of any colour - grey almost. I wear make-up, of course, so that helps. But I prefer for make-up to be playful rather than necessary.


Scent: The products I use are more dermatological. I used to use skin creams with the texture of souffle and the scent of roses but it was obvious the formulations were designed to be sensual rather than effective. My picks may not as "pretty", but I favour performance. Still, I know from reading reviews that some people find the smells off-putting. Sunday Riley Good Genes, for example, smells like Refresher chews (which I happen to love). And Skinceuticals Ploretin CF, smells metallic, like copper.

Price: I haven't tallied the cost of all these products, but I know my regime isn't cheap. Some products I use more often than others. I've had my Eve Lom cleanser for over a year now and it's still half full. I use it only when my skin feels really dehydrated and drawn so its value is spread out over a long time. But, honestly, it's more than that: I've spent so much money over the years that I'm really more interested in using the right products that perform for me. These are just worth it to me.

The products:
Cleaners: Bioderma Sensibio (a very gentle make-up remover, including waterproof make-up - I always remove make-up with this and then cleanse, effectively double-cleansing). Dermalogica skin-resurfacing cleanser (an exfoliating, deep cleanser with Lactic Acid for aging skin prone to congestion). Eve Lom cleanser (the most gentle and decadent cleansing ritual of all).

A.M.: Sunday Riley Start Over (eye cream, a.m. and p.m.), Skinceuticals Phloretin CF (a protective and defensive serum), Institut Esthederm Photo Reverse (sun block designed to address existing pigmentation while preventing new - I believe it prevents new brown spots forming, but it hasn't reversed existing for me).

P.M.: Sunday Riley Start Over (eye cream, a.m. and p.m.), Sara Happ Lip Slip (I use this all day, but really love to apply some at bedtime. I was never loyal to a lip balm before this one), Sunday Riley Good Genes (serum; my newest addiction).

Specialty: Dermalogica creme exfoliant (more of mask, no scrubby bits - full of Lactic acid), Dermalogica overnight clearing gel (my break-out remedy), Kiehl's Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating mask (for when I'm especially dry), Kiehl's Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque (really deep cleaning traditional clay mask).


I know I included beauty in the last versions of this post (I could share separately if you're interested?) but there was so much to say in this post, I thought I'd better limit it to skincare. But for past beauty recommendations, see those two older posts here and here.

Friday!

Just dropping in to say hello and happy weekend!

What I thought would be a super-short week turned into a strange medieval form of torture. But I'm taking back today and just returned from the flower market. This arrangement was inspired by one in the Flower Recipe Book -- a book I bought many months ago, but this is the first time I remembered to look at it before I went to market.


TIFF is on right now and it always turns Toronto into a bit of a circus. It's changed so much in the 10 years since I lived here and I miss when it felt more down-to-earth. But there are some films I would love to see, most notably The Sea.

I'm also starting to feel really excited about some fall reading. And fall temperatures. And the stretched light of fall. And the cashmere and the whiskey.

Also notable:
- Toronto darlings Horses Atelier opened an online shop.
- We can all buy a Carly Waito print!
- Read.Look.Think. and welcome to sweet Sunday!

Happy weekend, everybody!

These I hold close

Every day, I tweet and blog links to stores and stories, to other blogs and online articles. The internet makes us into fast and furious consumers and creators. Of course, while we can bemoan shortening attention spans and growing distractions, it's really in our own hands how much to take in and, more importantly, how to take it in.

I abandon things I'm reading all the time. I often pick up the salient point quickly enough and don't feel the need to see it hammered out. But I'm also guilty of abandoning things because I can't concentrate at that moment. I think I'll come back when I have more time, but it often doesn't pan out that way. This saddens me, not just because of an idea of something missed, but because it makes me feel unbearably light… as if my hand is grazing over all these wonderful things but they move too fast for me to grab hold, to take possession.

And, of course, I too contribute to that kind of overwhelmed attention span by sharing the new, the new-to-me, the new-by-me every day. I too am part of that fast-moving flow of information. So today, instead, I'm going to share some repeat favourites; those pieces that I really did manage to grab hold of and that I hold close still. These are articles I think about constantly, that I've nearly memorized and that I reach for often.

(1) Ted Hughes letter to his son
"It’s something people don’t discuss, because it’s something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances."

(2) The Skin of Anxiety by Kevin Barry
"The connection hissed more loudly and sputtered hard, and we held our breaths as the great network that we knew was out there tried to snag its digital hooks on the virgin nodes of Cork city, but it failed, and the room went silent, and we turned off the computer and got on with our lives."

(3) What Can't be Published by Stacy May Fowles
"Writing is risk, yet for me, personal protection is always superseded by the purpose of the craft; it is an act of figuring out a feeling, a way of lending structure to an experience that feels impossibly fraught, a process of giving value to suffering. It is a lone strategy for untangling the webs of chaos, of making pain purposeful, of moving people to comfort and driving them to change."

(4) What Is Real Is Imagined by Colm Tóibín
"The world that fiction comes from is fragile. It melts into insignificance against the universe of what is clear and visible and known. It persists because it is based on the power of cadence and rhythm in language and these are mysterious and hard to defeat and keep in their place. The difference between fact and fiction is like the difference between land and water."

(5) Éireann's post about Zadie Smith's NW
"What is NW about? The inconsequentiality of most things and the immense consequence of things we overlook most of the time. It’s about London. Is that easier? No, I think they are the same thing. Immensity, minority, value. It is about being lost. About being no longer young.The sad and hollow space of her characters’ thirties. The echoes of each bad decision. About the points in one’s life at which one feels, very sadly, that there can be no more great change (rightly or wrongly). About being stuck where you are despite the myths of movement."

(6) This piece from the Irish Times* by Michael Harding
"I'm always waiting, for one thing or another. In fact during December I do little else but wait for the darkening climax of the solstice and the light of Christmas. And as I waited I tweeted again: three tweets, like doodles scattered into cyberspace – horse, mouse, moon. A child born. Or not born. That's how I tweet: just small things or single words. Like bread on the deep water, I cast them out for fun, or in quiet hopefulness."
It's an archive link so this will take you to a premium access page where you have to pay for a day pass.

Sunday best: Unremorseful

I'm not going to lie - I've had a spendy weekend. On Friday, with my face freshly unstitched, I felt like I had earned a little pick-me-up. It turned into a big one. At Augustina, I was seduced by the new Loeffler Randall collection and also by this Athena Procopiou tunic (seriously guys, it's grey and has roses. How could I resist?)

At Holts, I also bought just a wee bottle or Sycomore. Within 30 minutes, a man and then a woman asked me what perfume I was wearing, which was all it took for me to mentally erase that cost.



I feel my style, or mood, is getting darker and darker. I've been thinking about getting a tattoo. Instead, I bought a rose print (yes, another rose) from Jennifer Ament. I've been saving up for this for a long time and given how hard the last few weeks have been, I'm letting myself be saucy.

Usually purchases are long-considered and well spaced-out for me. And, of course, it's fashionable these days to pooh-pooh the redemptive powers of shopping. But although guilt is never at a safe distance, I'm also feeling okay about the fact I sometimes just plain want and that I also work hard enough to sometimes give in to that feeling.

At the Chanel counter at Holts, some woman was having a meltdown over heavens knows what. She started screaming. I'm sure it wasn't about the nail polish, or mascara or whatever it was she was buying. I've felt that brittle myself a few times lately so my shock was laced with concern.

But she escalated to a whole other extreme of ferocious meanness. I mean, not to be all Holly Golightly, but if you can't be happy at the Chanel beauty counter, then where can you be? Because sometimes, with all the bends in our brains, with all the things unsaid and unsayable to the people we most need to say things to, the simplicity of a indulgent transaction can really smooth a wrinkled soul.

Products: Mama's Rose print from Jennifer Ament | Ryan tee from Everlane | Sycomore from Les Exclusifs de Chanel | Charley boot from Madewell | Smoke red nail polish by Tom Ford | Luciano Cono Bracelet from Vita Fede | MiH Paris jeans from Net-a-Porter | Loeffler Randall Work Tote, purchased from Augustina