Friday

I had a Friday post written. Something reflective in the way you like me to be, with links to things I’ve read this week and musings on some of the ideas that lay therein, an Instagram photo to break it nicely up.

Then I read Steve’s advice column for this week and decided to just shut the fuck up. Because when somebody writes something so true and beautiful and good, the thing to do is just let it fill up all the space in between us.

Peering out of the deadlight

In March, my little blog will be eight years old. It's funny that this is considered old in our world and that after a mere decade many of us are ready to declare blogging is dead. And it's funny too that I don't disagree and yet I continue blogging and feel less wavering about that than I did when it was all much headier.

Five or six years ago, I saw blogging as a potential escape. I thought my blog might lead me to quit the cubicle. I thought it might get me on radars that might lead me to places. These things both did and didn't happen. I sometimes felt like they didn't fully happen because I was the bad blogger who broke character and disappointed everyone. If only I had kept my mouth shut and played the game! But we know that's not me and the small group of you who continue to read here count on it not to be, I suppose.

Anyway, I guess I've always had a slightly different perspective on blogging because I work in media. I saw blogging as an antidote to much of my day job rather than a stepping stone to it. It was really different from the get-go: My blog has a name that makes no sense to most people, isn't at all optimized for SEO. My content is haphazard - only cohered by me, and I'm hardly coherent. I could jump from a post about poetry to a post about lampshades without thinking twice about strategy, or being aligned with advertisers, or reader demographics. And it became my favourite thing when readers came and stayed for that roller coaster, especially when they were the readers I didn't expect to stay.

Then blogs started ticking us all off: I think we all saw certain blogs going in certain directions and felt that the very notion we held so dear was deserting us; that blogs were becoming the very thing they purported not to be. I remember a particular moment when I saw an ad for a Happy Meal on a certain "independent creative" Mommy blog and thought, the end is nigh! I flailed about it. But now that rage seems silly, the way we got amped up, Twitter DM-ing about how stupid we thought so-and-so had become. In the end, I simply stopped reading those blogs, magazines and sites that I found repeatedly stupid. And the group of blogs I clung to became smaller, less connected, more idiosyncratic. What holds them together now isn't a coherent aesthetic or a sense of likemindedness, but a vaguer sense of admiration and enjoyment, sometimes intimate to the point of feeling like a friendship and sometimes pleasantly detached and cloaked in anonymity.

Last year, the comments trickled away from most blogs. Comments had become a measure of the worth of a post, both for me personally and for the blogging community more generally. I think those of you who read closely will know there have been times when I struggled with comments, with a sense of being judged or related to too closely or, worst of all, misunderstood. I also appreciated comments. Even when a comment was simply "lovely" or "beautiful", I saw it as a sort of sweet embrace. Maybe not rich in semantic content, but expressing fondness and support nonetheless.

But there's an upside to distancing blogs from audience, engagement, dialogue: The lack of comments now makes me forget a little about readers. And I think content creators should sometimes forget readers. Now, I blog more like I did right when I started -- without a sense that anybody's listening. The idea of obligation has faded, as has the idea of enterprise. I'm just doing it now because I really like it. And I'm just saying what I want to say, not carefully cushioning my words to protect myself from misunderstanding. Of course, readers are not gone from my mind entirely, especially when I write posts like this. But I don't keep going because of others.

I keep going because I like giving voice to myriad things, some easy and light, some not. Because, somehow, I have this sense that my blog is a valuable part of me, perhaps valuable in ways only to me. I see a sense of self emerge that I don't always grasp in the ever-fleeting present tense. I see recurring themes and struggles, as well as progress and purpose. It's a cloudy mirror, not the Lacanian vision of a realized self. But I don't wince at the reflection, as I so often do in real life or in memories. And that's an important feeling for a girl so often wracked with doubts about goodness and worth.

But despite saying all this... I also do still blog because you're silently here, whoever you are: People I know and people I don't. People who would find me disappointing in real life, or people who might like me even more. That beautiful simultaneous sense of longing and belonging, hope and isolation. Like this excerpt from one of my favourite poems. And you well know who wrote it if you've read this long. And I like you so much for that knowing.

what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness

Jamie Beck's Patagonia

I assume you all know and follow Jamie Beck on Instagram etc. She has such a gorgeous filmstar quality and it's impossible not to heart everything she posts. But her recent trip to Patagonia blew my mind. I did quite a bit of travel last year, some of it wonderful and some of it was ill-timed and felt a little wasted.

I'm not planning to travel home this year. Indeed I'm thinking of taking a year off big trips altogether, hunkering down and nesting a bit, paying some bills and saving some pennies. But that - of course - means planning something worth waiting for the following year! There's a little shortlist going. But right now, my dreams are full of horses and Patagonia.


All images from Jamie Beck | Ann Street Studio.

Rebecca Atwood and Raquel Allegra

I don't know if artist and cushion-maker Rebecca Atwood and designer Raquel Allegra are familiar with each other's work. But I think they're hitting many of the same beautiful notes!


Cushions and paintings by Rebecca Atwood. Clothes by Raquel Allegra.

Sunday best: Revisiting the Arans

When I was in my early teens, we went through a phase in Ireland where we all ran around dressed up like jolly Wicklow farmers. We vied for wax jackets and aran jumpers, argyle socks and penny loafers. We topped it off with velvet scrunchies and White Musk from the Body Shop.



In University, I spent most of my time running around in long plaid or floral dresses, with lace-up boots and an oversized aran cardigan. I cut my hair short (and it's stayed short ever since) and wore Eau d'Issey layered over Crabtree and Evelyn vanilla body lotion.

Yesterday, I came across & Daughter in the latest Vogue (UK) and thought it's time to add a new chapter to my Aran story. I've never gone off Arans really... in fact I tend to like them more when they're slightly out of style and the saltiness of sea comes back over them.

The way I miss home has changed so much. I've come to realize that I enjoy conjuring the place and sometimes mistake that for a kind of homesickness. But it's really that I just like turning over the stones in my mind, seeing the blue of The Burren or the haze of heather on Howth. I enjoy how these ideas bloom in my chest, filling me up. And that I can make that happen here, sipping tea and watching a wraith of snow outside my window.

Products: Current/Elliott jeans from Net-a-Porter | The Patchwork Aran from & Daughter | The Runwell from Shinola | Sel Marin from James Heeley | Late 1800s Victorian Pearl and Diamond Crescent Ring from Erie Basin | Gomez shoes from Ina Grau

Martha Sturdy

Back when Hollace Cluny was right in my neighbourhood (I miss it so!), it was easy to pop in and wind up impulse purchasing a little something. When I think of all the wonderful things I bought there; my favourite cushions (Adam + Viktoria, Judy Ross), my beloved Jielde lamp. But most of all my two Martha Sturdy pieces. One is on my dressing table, so I really see it every day, a big resin moon-like piece. And the other controls my nail polish collection.

The thing I love about Martha Sturdy's pieces is how they're very special but also not -- nothing precious or twee. There's a coolness to resin (literally and figuartively) that makes these pieces fade and sing at once, somehow. And they're simple, neutral enough to adapt to my sometimes roaming style. Martha Sturdy is based in Vancouver and as well as making her collection of furniture and home accessories, she is a talented sculptor.


All images via Martha Sturdy website and Facebook page.

A poem for Wednesday

All I can think about is the cold right now. It's strange: I looked up a bunch of poems about such cold, flints of glass in the lungs and throat, the sting of tears hitting dry skin, wet wool around mouths. Something to put a ribbon on the brutal beauty of it. I found a lot of poems about winter summoning memories of the dead. And I realized how much I've been lingering in their company too, thinking more about my grandad and my brother, my godfather (so young when he died). And maybe winter weather is a time to commune with the dead, to pull on silver threads reaching back in time, to reel them in a little. This is by Larry Levis, found over on the Poetry Foundation.

Winter Stars
My father once broke a man’s hand
Over the exhaust pipe of a John Deere tractor. The man,
Rubén Vásquez, wanted to kill his own father
With a sharpened fruit knife, & he held
The curved tip of it, lightly, between his first
Two fingers, so it could slash
Horizontally, & with surprising grace,
Across a throat. It was like a glinting beak in a hand,
And, for a moment, the light held still
On those vines. When it was over,
My father simply went in & ate lunch, & then, as always,
Lay alone in the dark, listening to music.
He never mentioned it.

I never understood how anyone could risk his life,
Then listen to Vivaldi.

Sometimes, I go out into this yard at night,
And stare through the wet branches of an oak
In winter, & realize I am looking at the stars
Again. A thin haze of them, shining
And persisting.

It used to make me feel lighter, looking up at them.
In California, that light was closer.
In a California no one will ever see again,
My father is beginning to die. Something
Inside him is slowly taking back
Every word it ever gave him.
Now, if we try to talk, I watch my father
Search for a lost syllable as if it might
Solve everything, & though he can’t remember, now,
The word for it, he is ashamed . . .
If you can think of the mind as a place continually
Visited, a whole city placed behind
The eyes, & shining, I can imagine, now, its end—
As when the lights go off, one by one,
In a hotel at night, until at last
All of the travelers will be asleep, or until
Even the thin glow from the lobby is a kind
Of sleep; & while the woman behind the desk
Is applying more lacquer to her nails,
You can almost believe that the elevator,
As it ascends, must open upon starlight.

I stand out on the street, & do not go in.
That was our agreement, at my birth.

And for years I believed
That what went unsaid between us became empty,
And pure, like starlight, & that it persisted.

I got it all wrong.
I wound up believing in words the way a scientist
Believes in carbon, after death.

Tonight, I’m talking to you, father, although
It is quiet here in the Midwest, where a small wind,
The size of a wrist, wakes the cold again—
Which may be all that’s left of you & me.

When I left home at seventeen, I left for good.

That pale haze of stars goes on & on,
Like laughter that has found a final, silent shape
On a black sky. It means everything
It cannot say. Look, it’s empty out there, & cold.
Cold enough to reconcile
Even a father, even a son.

Tennant & Tennant

I'm so completely in love with the creations of Tennant & Tennant. Stella has always been one of my favourite models (July's Harper's Bazaar (UK) was one of my all time favourite issues). And I love the beautiful gilded treasures they create, especially the carved flowers. This article by Rita Konig and photographs by Julian Broad (slideshow here) capture the utter magic of all they do and where they conjure it. Read the full article here.

Apartment update: Rug shopping

I've been loving Canadian House & Home lately. The February cover, featuring Sarah Harthill's gorgeous home really blew me away. That rug! It's from ecarpet gallery and I've spent hours since browsing their site and thinking a new rug would be just the thing to inject some freshness into my living room. And maybe my bedroom. Oh dear, now I'm really running away with myself...


So this is my living room, shot a few years ago when it was featured in N.E.E.T. It hasn't changed a whole lot since then, though the desk now lives in the corner and there are different drapes. On Friday, I opportunistically bought a vintage Knoll / Saarinen tulip dining table. It will sit in front of the window and I might get a pair of these Gus* chairs to go with it or perhaps these chairs from Green Light District. (As an aside, my licensed original Tulip cost less than one of the ubiquitous fakes out there, so if you love a design, hold out for the real deal and give a piece of well-made furniture a second life instead of peddling in disposable plastic crap). Also on my to-buy list is a side table, but that's a whole other post.


So what do you think? I'm thinking of getting rid of the brown Henley and getting a much larger rug that would allow the chairs that back onto the bookcase to sit fully on it. I like rugs with a touch of blue because that's my only existing colour. And I prefer the more coral-to-rust shades of red (versus bright red to burgundy). Here are some of the ones I've been looking at:


Here are the links to the ones shown here, though I'm sure they'll be gone by the time I get around to buying. which do you prefer? 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 all from ecarpet gallery. And I hope I don't have to say that this is not a sponsored post.

Sunday best: Open concept day

I know I'm wrong, that I'll be sorely disappointed by the next big snow fall. But my very being thinks we're through the worst of winter. Just a week ago, it seemed a perpetual thing of boots and coats. But now I'm imagining what it's like to wear shoes again, to step outside without bracing.

I've had such a lovely weekend, I won't ruin it now with realistic thinking about the weather. Because I love this look altogether too much for that. And instead of cluttering this post up with my usual musings and ideas, I'm just going to leave this open concept space for whatever today turns out to be.


Products: Eyeliner Stylo from NARS | Leather travel case from Byredo | The Slouchy Cashmere V-Neck from Everlane | Cathy Waterman ring from Twist | Étoile Isabel Marant Ebba Blanket Coat from Otte | Helmut Lang jeans from Net-a-Porter | Bloch flats from Gravity Pope | The Balmoral satchel in Chestnut from Belgrave Crescent

Friday!

The weeks feel very long right now, don't they? Even though the weather was so much milder this week, the paths more clear and walkable, I feel the weight of winter bearing down on me. I booked today off early in the week knowing somehow that I wouldn't summon the strength for five days and I'm so glad I did.

My mind is craving greenery like some kind of tonic. I'm sitting here sipping a green juice from a new local juice shop (it's making me immediately happier, I can feel it behind my eyes). And I just bought three new plants; a calamondin orange, sago palm and ruffles anthurium. Between these and my coaxed (I hate saying forced!) daffs, my spirits are lifted.


Jessica wrote this beautiful post about motherhood and we all fell a little more in love with her. Did you feel the moon this week? I wondered if it was why I seemed so overwhelmed, even dizzy at times. As always, The Sphinx and the Milky Way had a wonderful moon post. One line will stay with me for a long time... I wrote it down in my journal and I suppose combined with Jessica's post I thought differently about everything. It was simply: "Be your own Mother" - it's still sinking in what that might mean for me.

I've been a terrible reader lately, watching one after another of you finish the Goldfinch while my page-turning has slowed and slowed. But there are some releases on this list that promise to hold my attention. New Barry and Tóibín this year are in particular exciting for me.

I think I mentioned before how I find paintings of interiors often more inspiring than photographs; the level of abstraction and the lack of product specificity makes these images about atmosphere more than product lists and precise measurements. These ones are especially good.

Finally, the very talented Mark wrote a piece about Twitter regret and this piece about "Doing What You Love" was much shared. I'm not in full agreement, but I do think there's an unspoken privilege to DWYL sometimes, though not always. Food for thought, perhaps.

Happy weekend, friends!

Inspiration & other's otherness

On the weekend, I was reading Ben's book, which is really my favourite decor book. As you know, I don't live in a home as grand or old or beautifully proportioned as the homes featured and yet I find so much inspiration there.

I think a lot about what inspiration is. It's one of those words people throw around online, reading blogs, collecting pictures. And it hooks up to such a wide range of thoughts and feelings and, only sometimes, action.

Sometimes it's the "doing" that something inspires. Like a Lisa Eldridge make-up video can inspire me to try the look that she's demonstrating verbatim. But, more generally, her videos also inspire me to care about my appearance, to cultivate an interest and knowledge, to play and experiment and put a good face forward.

Other times, I feel inspired by things I cannot do. And that inspiration can sit on me like an ill-fitting, but beautiful coat. The yearning to create what one can't, to dress in a way one won't, to live otherwise. I've begun to understand that this feeling is better filed as admiration than inspiration. It's better taken as an opportunity to appreciate differences, to revel in other's otherness than as an need to be applied to oneself.

The experience when I make that switch, when I stop trying to hook up another's life or style or talent to my own, is the opposite of solipsism - it's a reinforcement of other people existing in realms beyond our own meagre imagination. It's a gift of transportation, exposure to another possible world... so beautiful. I feel it when I read blogs like {this is glamourous} or look at pictures of Alice's beautiful home. I love those spaces. It doesn't matter that they wouldn't be the home I'd create.

Of course, inspiration isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Even in other's otherness there can be moments of intersection. Our little Venn diagrams overlap occasionally. But I don't look for these similarities in others any more. Rather, I enjoy when they come along and it catches me off guard. And so I visit these places pretty passively, with not a lot to say. I'm not looking to learn or change, rather to wallow and appreciate. It's a beautiful, non-pressured sort of experience, simply enjoying the company of another person, appreciating how they live and adorn their space and self, all the things that fuel their fire.

I used to be inspired by too much. I'd want to change my style at break-neck speed. I never did. I suppose I had a strong enough sense of self not to follow through on something blatantly un-me. But I'd feel whiplash reactions as I scrolled through my reader, like I was looking for a magical signpost in another. When I remember it now, that early blog consumption feels feverish. I don't miss it. I like the small and motley crew I follow now, the distinct individuality of each blog, and that I don't lean on any one for common feeling or identification or emulation.

I think a key part of seizing inspiration effectively is having a realistic grasp of who you are and what you love and I guess I've grown into this a lot in my blogging years.

Now, the inspiration I most enjoy, and need in the smallest doses, has more in common with recognition. In Ben's London apartment, for example, I recognize many of the wide-ranging things I'm attracted to, from Georgian furniture to mid-century modern. He, with greater talent and daring and acumen, brings it all together. And I learn from him too: Georgian versus midcentury was often a tug-of-war for me (I thought of it as Dublin versus Toronto). But Ben lives with both and seeing them sit together, melded so seamlessly inspires me: Not to change, just to accept what I love, even when it seems dissonant. And it's that recognition of self that often makes visiting his blog inspiring for me.

I'm happy now to be able to recognize what's me and what's not. To know the difference between liking something and wanting it. And to enjoy liking without wanting so much more than the pangs of desire that used to hit with every reader refresh. And all of this is to say that lately, I'm so glad to be the age I am. Suddenly, a lot of feelings have lifted and, in that space, I've found myself to be more bold and daring than when I was saturated in so-called "inspiration". As somebody who has struggled with being at ease with my own self, that's a lovely arrival. I don't crave this undertow of inspiration any more, I much prefer the gentler currents of recognition and admiration.

Kristina Krogh Studio

I've been sitting on a link to Kristina Krogh's website for a while now. I really don't have a spot on my wall, and yet I've been hovering over the buy button on these... Maybe one of you will be inspired and then I'll feel a little better?! Okay question: Do you buy art because you've got a spot to fill, or do you buy it for love alone, or only when want and need collide?

Sunday best: Slow states

The snow has mostly melted, a premonition of a spring that is still too far away. Yesterday, I stayed inside and listened to its dripping, with my windows open. 3 celsius can feel warm indeed after a week of twenty to thirty below.

I've doing a mini-reno on my bathroom, resetting some tiles, grouting and caulking. I seem always to take on a project of some sort in January when staying home makes me antsy and any peeling corner is too much temptation.


When I was little I used to always help Dad doing home renovations and when I do such work now, I conjure him here with me, showing me the better technique just as I figure it out on my own, or pointing out the spot missed that I just noticed. I suppose I need and don't need him still and that's the way of parents when you reach my age.

I sort of love the way projects like this set their own pace. There's drying and setting time and it can't be rushed or the results will tell. And that slows things down to a meditative pace. In the in-betweens, I've been making little moodboards of other updates I'd like to make to my apartment. Last year, I did a lot of travel, but I'm feeling much more nesting this year.

And today will be in keeping with that. I'm just going to nip to the hardware store before coming back and measuring more small progress. I wish I could convey the satisfaction I get from change that's compounded in such small measures, the simple joy of affordable change, the easy flitting between deep, tongue-between-teeth, concentration and unconscious repetition.

Happy Sunday.

Products: Golden Goose Golden Skinny Jeans from La Garconne | The Row T-shirt from Net-a-Porter | Small arrows pendant from Pamela Love | Moon phases mug from Small Spells | Classic Merino Cardigan from J.Crew | Adidas Gazelle from Gravity Pope

Joinery

I've been thinking about style a lot lately. About gaps between inspiration, aspiration and reality. I think we often ignore the obvious. We look at pictures of beautiful rooms and clothes and ignore our own innate and individual style. I feel like I'm maturing with my style now. It's not about playing dress-up or house any more, as it was for some of my twenties. Now, it's about recognizing something about me while looking at objects outside of me. Now, it's about finding brands that resonate more than brands that I simply, abstractly think make something beautiful. Joinery's collection resonates deeply with me in this way... it feels grounded, as if the breaking-in, literal and figurative, has already been done. I love this.

January's patient trance

I find January an introspective month. Maybe it's the dark and the cold, the mounting winter-fatigue (snow's magic starts to slip away soon after Christmas, it always seems), all the time spent indoors and calculating shortest distances, weighing up every detour. But January forces patience even when the desire for Spring is pounding in my chest.

And I like its slowness too as it gives me space and time to dig deep. I've been eating more carefully and writing down words, reading words too. And checking some chores off the list, but all in a dreamy, muted sort of mindset. There seems endless time to fall into a slow and methodical trance, but also to meander and return, allowing myself distractions on bookshelves, in images and certain songs that I play over and over. And sleep that sinks deeper and warmer and fuller than other, less patient months.


Art by Brooks Salzwedel | Art by Vida Simon | Excerpt from Bark Xylem by Richard Skelton from Corbel Stone Press | Francesca Woodman book | A List of Probable Fauna by Richard Skelton from Corbel Stone Press | Mats Gustafson book | Art by Vida Simon

Inspiring women on Nollaig na mBan

It's Women's Little Christmas or Nollaig na mBan today at home. Traditionally, on Nollaig na mBan women took a day off after orchestrating all the food and entertaining festivities around Christmas. Needless to say, in the auld days, men weren't expected to lift a finger to help with all that. So by the time Christmas was over, women were well and truly knackered from cooking and cleaning, washing up and visitors galore.

Nowadays, of course and quite rightly, we expect the men to share the domestic workload. So Nollaig na mBan isn't so much a day off the housework any more as an opportunity to celebrate women. I love seeing this concept evolve rather than being disregarded entirely. Today, in my Twitter feed, Irish women were sharing inspiring women, authors, mothers, housewives, artists, scientists, professionals, sisters and more.

Undercutting the celebration is awareness of ongoing inequality. Just as Nollaig na mBan highlighted the unfair distribution of household responsibilities (albeit pretty passively) so today it reminds us how far we've come from that, but also how far we have yet to go with issues ranging from income equality to domestic violence.

Still, despite our shared realities, we women can often be hard on each other and on ourselves. Even here in the blog world, we  reflect often on the pressure felt; making comparisons with others, the battle with visceral feelings for those who seem to have more, the sense that our real lives are but an anemic cousin to our vibrant blog / Instagram / Pinterest lives and the "should, should, should" sometimes implied by all we express in these places and to each other.

For me, so far from home, Nollaig na mBan is still a reminder to seek a better understanding of the women in my life, especially those from older generations. To default to empathy and sincere support. To not reduce lives to a metre stick against which I measure my own. 


Too often, individual life decisions like marriage, motherhood, career and even location polarize us. Instead I want to celebrate, respect and, yes, revel in our diverse and deliberate choices. But also to recognize that much as these roles and decisions shape us, they are not sufficient descriptors of the rich tapestry of personalities of the women I know and admire. And so on Nollaig na mBan, I resolve - as I always to - to see past the labels of career choices, marital and motherhood status, the lifestyle similarities, or dissimilarities and instead simply share moments of kindness and of friendship.

Friday!

Happy Friday! I hope 2014 is off to a good start for you. It's especially frigid here in Toronto (knocking me off my mountain woman pedestal!) but extreme cold is conducive to other pleasures and my apartment is feeling like a cozy refuge these last few days.


Aside from my one sweeping resolution, I've resolved to taking better care of myself. Last year was so hard on me physically. I wrecked my body with overwork and exhaustion, a lazy diet and letting exercise slip away. On New Year's Day, I was the clichéd shopper at Whole Foods, buying green juice and kale, grapefruits and stocking up on Vitamin D. I already feel a little better, if only for the pleasure of taking hold of something again.

Of the seen and said things this week, I loved rereading this piece by Liam Heneghan, The ecology of Pooh (of course he had me at Pooh, but there's much more here too). Also on Aeon, I loved this video about Voyager's Golden Record as a Valentine.

Ben's little books and illustrations (gosh, he's such a talent) reminded me of the importance of recording these days. I do have a soft spot for Instagram and, of course, this blog is a record of what I'm reading and thinking. But both these things are missing the tangible artifact and looking at Ben's pictures made me pang a little to create something tactile.

Although I've been back at work this week, it feels like today is really the last day of the holidays. A slow exhale then.

Have a lovely weekend.