Friday!

The weeks are speeding up and my mind is starting to wrap itself around the concept of spring. Fractions of it appear in small moments every day and even stepping out into -15 yesterday held a faint promise of a finale.

This winter has been long, but also especially stagnating. Last year, I had much more on my plate — so much freelance work and also many more schemes cooking. And it feels of late that I'm not up to much. So I hear about people taking classes and figuring things out and feel a little apart from that kind of engagement. Which is all to say, that I've become a little bored with myself.


I'm not going home this year so jumped keenly on reading this: On not going home. But I found that it didn't quite capture the experience for me. I don't think that I've "made a home" here in Canada, but that "Home" is Ireland. Rather, I think of concurrent concepts of home; both entirely possible, each desirable in its own right. One I inherited, the other I fought for — both powerful connections. One now a present-tense life and the other etched on my bones. Maybe it speaks to the wonderfulness of Canada that these feelings do not compete in me, one does not threaten the other. My sense of home is as much as introspective ideal as a geographical one -- so that both the phenomena and noumena of place are really distinct from my own feelings of home and of belonging. I wouldn't be me without either home. I don't intend to try to be.

Some other links: Normcore fashion. I don't really blog fashion week posts, but I do follow the shows vaguely. Etro and Dries were my absolute favourite. I don't have a tattoo, but I think this one is exceptionally beautifulAmanda Brooks on The Selby might be my favourite yet.

So... A new month and a new moon looms and it's the perfect time to commit to something. A new look perhaps? A new skill of some kind? The all-too-frequent recommitment to health and fitness that never really seems to take steady and firm hold? I'll think about all of that this weekend...

Have a good one, everyone!

A poem for Monday

I'm all stimulus-response these days. One moment a dog will wag his tail and I feel elated, the next a biting wind takes hold and I hunker down into my coat, frowning, embittered. Winter commands me to be wholly present in these multifarious disconnected moments. Pleasures take hold suddenly and seem in that moment rich and endless, but are chased away quickly and replaced with the next feeling, the next response. With nothing constant except the straining to see buds push through earth and through bark, tender shades of green that darken too quickly... This is by Marie Ponsot.

Half Full
outside in
grief rage grey pain
bright pain
this is it the
worst cold spring
lost tired with too much to do
no time to fix the garden
no money
no friend
a pain in the gut
no good love
this is it the
bleak hurting year
I guess a lot of years
got me in to.

at noon of the long day
flat out taking time to catch my breath
under the butterfly drift
of apple petals I see the many
spears and heads of perennials
coming up! strong green
well I even see
lots of buds on that delicate
difficult old gorgeously
fireflowered
peony tree

Sunday best: Can we pretend it's spring already?

Yesterday felt like Spring. I strolled around my neighbourhood, bought a few things, stopped in a new coffee shop (Edison bulbs and bearded baristas - check, check) and found myself browsing sample pots in Farrow & Ball, which is a clear and obvious sign of a new season -- the light changes and I want to redecorate.

Oh, I know it's not over yet. After all, just two days ago I was pushing my way home through a blizzard and we all know winter doesn't end just like that, on a sunny Saturday morning. But if any winter should, it's this one. So, I'm ignoring the fact that I'm probably back to wearing down and rubber today and pretending it's weather for perfect things.

Speaking of perfect things, I recently resurrected my Tumblr. This is what a few restless nights does to a girl. There are horses, perfect-to-me rooms and baggy woollen things aplenty.

I'm in a good mood as I type this... seeing my way past winter's funk. I'm thinking about using some vacation days, of returning to walking to work, after a few weeks when the weather every day made it hit or miss, mostly miss. But the days of looking yearningly at my shoe closet are numbered. Soon, very soon, I'll break those babies out.

Happy Sunday!

Products: Rock crystal amulet from Temple St Clair | A Detacher Lola Dress from La Garconne | Joues Contraste blush from Chanel | Tights from Falke | Dieppa Restrepo Dina oxford from Anaise | Chloe Alice bag from Net-a-Porter

Friday!

Sometimes, I forget how renewing the small feats of adulthood can be. Going to the dentist, getting one's eyes checked, deep-cleaning that one cupboard. Although we're in an age when to-do lists are ridiculously romanticized, we don't dwell much on the actual doing, the completion of things.

But those acts are little reminders that we're still alive, and that we're going on. They're investments in a future we assume will continue to unfurl, the bi-annual teeth cleaning, the annual check-up. Each one marks an investment in a future we can't be sure of. This week I went to the dentist, and made another appointment for 6 months from now.

Last Friday, I learned that my friend Acacia passed away.

Acacia, like so many of you reading, was a person I only knew through blogging. So, although I didn't think I would write about this today, it makes sense that I would mourn her here. It was here we met and became friends and each other's followers. Although she was going through so much, she felt that this was worth her time. And this week, when most things have seemed a little sillier, a little more meaningless, I've reminded myself that Acacia never thought that, even when she was angry, and tired, and dying.

These online relationships we have, where you wait for the next post to pop up in your reader, or a tweet... there's something presumptuous about them. We nearly arrogantly expect them to continue, to be constantly updated and refreshed. And online presences sometimes seem more certain, more solid than real people in all their naked fragility. It's a beautiful optical illusion, how deprived of sense data to the contrary, it's easy to imagine continuity, even permanence.

But life relies on some of this arrogance too. And what are we to do? Live in the shadow of full uncertainty? Not make the next dentist's appointment? No. We must go on.

So, another Friday, another weekend to enjoy. Happy Friday!

Kordal

It can be impossibly hard to find really great lightweight knits for the summer months, but I am completely smitten with the work of Mandy Kordal. I don't like exposing my skin to sun at all, so I'm always trying to juggle staying covered up and cool. And although I can't wait to cast off my winter boots, I know that too fast on spring's heels will come the days of swelter. The Kordal collection looks so breezy and light and I love that these pieces actually have form and interesting cuts too, even while being so lightweight. Plus, check out the model's grey pixie!

Ariele Alasko

I've included Ariele Alasko's work here before and love her Instagram too. Last week, she shared these "hand spoons" she was working on. After a nail-biting few minutes I scored one on her weekend shop update.

I haven't been spending a lot of money lately, weighing up every purchase against other goals and those larger items I've wanted to purchase for way too long. But I can never let my head rule entirely because it leaves no room for spontaneity. And some purchases are best made in a swoop of passion rather than planned and dissected and stripped of all delight.


Ngoc Minh Ngo

I puttered about with some of my houseplants on the weekend, happy that my citrus is blooming. There's a special feeling from having soil under one's nails. And when I see pictures of gardens, a deep craving takes hold. These images by Ngoc Minh Ngo send me soaring.

Friday & Valentine's Day!

I have a friend who sometimes tells me it makes her sad that I'm single. Sometimes, it makes me sad in the same way, so I can't feel fully mad when she says it. Other times, I want to tell her about a life suffused in romance. How I love flowers in vases by Frances Palmer. Reading, rereading, rerereading this letter from Ted Hughes. Listening to this song sometimes.

How yesterday, I walked to work thinking the whole way about horses and I barely took in anything else, just thinking of the smell of horses. And those days when I just love my apartment and Toronto, the home I've made from scratch by myself. And objects that become so intertwined with who I am that they no longer seem like material things. Those dogs that look like they got all the awesome parts from a bunch of other dogs. Or when I see an Irish wolfhound and think, you're a wizard, you're a wizard, you're a wizard.

Even the days when work was hard but I did my very best and on the way home, I smile at people and there's something that makes them all smile back and the whole city just feels good. Or using Granny's china. Having a name that makes this my song. Lou and Laurie's love — all theirs and not at all mine, but it still makes me feel so much. The bad movie I watch when I need to cry. The feeling of crying when I need to.

The magic of words on pages, shapes of letters conveying meanings and feelings across time and space and from one mind to another so wholly disconnected and all so ineffable. When my sink is full with flowers. The way I can write a post I'm not sure of, but then somebody emails or DMs and says what I hoped. Old Irish houses, the tragedy of them, the beauty of their tragedy. Making friends laugh, laughing with them. Hugs on demand. Cake, fucksakes!

Thinking of the sea. Thinking of riding horses by the sea. Thinking of rain-wet wool and wild eyes and flushed faces. This poem, again and again... oh, Seamus. The gentle souls and wild souls and lost and lonely souls that have crossed my path. Endless crushes. Roses and rose jam, rosewater, arctic roses and rose tea. Still loving all the people I've ever loved. Forever. That being okay. Even the pain and occasional drunken wishes.

The places I go when I'm asleep that I don't remember when I'm awake, but that colour the world for me. The full moons and the new moons, the wax and wane of it... 


You see? - A heart bursting even if I'm alone. And a happy Valentine's Day.

The memories of flowers

I can be just as charmed by perfectly pink supermarket carnations as full-petalled David Austin roses. But in my mind there's always some kind of Platonic ideal of each flower. When I reach for carnations at the supermarket, it's usually because that peculiar anise smell transports me back to Grandad's garden in Limerick. For roses, it will always be the ones that grew in Mrs. Byrne's garden in Delgany. We used to run around her garden, playing tag around the flower beds and I always remember the rich fragrance and the squeals of the chase filling the air. For me, these paintings conjure the same kind of heady experience...


Artwork above by: Darlene Cole | Carmelo Blandino | Jamie Evrard | Bobbie Burgers

A poem for Tuesday

Feeling the fear is part of my momentum in life. And, it's true, I'm suspicious of those who don't admit of anxiety and allow its place in all they do. Still, there are fine lines here. Persistent anxiety can quickly sour small victories. It can transform progress into paralysis. It can also take us away from our present and from those there with us. I think the key is to love the world, and to love oneself as part of it. So that your anxiety becomes a part of something bigger and still beautiful, something shared, rather than a cold and isolating shard of glass.

This is by Mark Strand.

Lines for Winter
Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

Sunday best: Fancy sweats

I'm a little in love with the fact that some sweats have just become pants. The idea of wearing your comfiest pants with fancy shoes and jewelry seems like something we should have invented a long time ago...



Yesterday, I spent a lot of time thinking about the type of life I want to lead, the type of woman I want to be. I had strong ideas about these things when I was in my twenties and sometimes I think a lot of the guilt or pride or disappointment is because I still carry those outdated notions... twenty-something ideations seem difficult to shake off... I'm not sure I'll ever get over the fact I didn't grow up to be Winona.

But lately I've been feeling, simply, happier. It's not that there's less angst, but that I no longer think that angst is a matter of curing or growing out of.

I'm always interested in how a change in our attitude to ourselves affects our approach to style too. I mean, fashion for women is often a place we go to reinforce feelings of needing or wanting to change. It's not always negative, but it's often about stretching and being different in some way.

Lately, I just want something to speak to me. Whether it's decor or fashion. I don't want it to shout some call for transformation or reinvention or emergence. Just to whisper how easily it could fit right in, how it might have been there all along. Fancy sweats - what can I say? - they fit right in.

Products: Brett shirt from Equipment | Earrings from Satomi Kawakita | Renee Sheppard bangle from Twist | 3.1 PHILLIP LIM Ottoman Knit Sweats from La Garconne | Shoes from Sezane | Olio Lusso face oil from Rodin | Lip Slip from Sara Happ

Friday!

I'm sure if I looked back on my blog, February is always a low month. I'm maxed out on winter, lacking the will to push out into cold days, but sick of staying in too. Still, I think there's value in these cycles, and months of low energy and introspection have their place too. There's something about February that feels very boiled-down. It's a month when I feel less enchanted by frippery. It's a month with space to think and say things I might not think and say if there were light and easy distractions at hand.

It's been a recurring theme here that I wanted to embrace my own mutability. I've mostly expressed that as a very internal thing. But part of it is also understanding the ways I'm connected to a world that's mutable too. February's melancholy is part of that external mutability and I think it's important to acknowledge it (and also not to mistake it for something it's not, something I alone am feeling). I know it will lift, certain as I know the days will get longer and that soon I'll sense movement in the ground again. So right now I'm trying to listen to what February has to say to me.

Some links: A Read.Look.Think. from Jessica. Especially romance.

I wrote a post around Christmas about longevity and love. About how lasting shouldn't be a measure of depth always. I still believe all that. And yet... endless love. And I guess even after love is ostensibly over, I don't really stop loving. Because there's a difference between the events of friendships and relationships ending and those feelings being put away for good.

This weekend's major priorities amount to $10 roses and the first pages of a new book.

Happy weekend friends. And thank you for all your recent comments and support, especially on my last post.

Paul

There are times when my feelings are so strange to me that I don’t really understand what feelings they are, what name I should give them.

When my brother died, I smiled when I told my teacher. It wasn’t that I was happy. I mean, I didn’t really understand what had happened, the things that were happening around me. It all felt different and up until that point different had always been special. I didn’t quite understand different as being a bad thing.

I was only four then. I’m thirty-seven now. And my brother would be thirty-three. His absence has been one of the most defining things of my life and yet I still don’t really know how I feel about his death. He was too young to be known. I was too young to know him. And the rest all seems very strange and hypothetical.

I hold this ambiguous position in my family: I am both the youngest child and the middle child. And the part of me that is the youngest feels that Paul would have taken my place and made everything so utterly different that it’s just unfathomable to think about. And the part of me that is the middle child feels his absence all the time, this ghost of a brother, this outline of another that never got coloured in.

Can a four year old grieve? I don’t know if I could or did and yet I feel like I’ve never stopped. I’ll never forget the man in our house, saying to another in front of me, isn’t it a good thing she’s too young to understand. Something I’ll never say in front of a child. A moment of complete fracture, hearing myself being talked about, perceiving a gap in my own comprehension. The earliest moment when I simultaneously felt embarrassed by all I didn’t grasp and yet squirmed on the inside to assert that I wasn’t, in fact, uncomprehending.

The thing is I don’t understand it much better today. I don’t think, oh I get it now — why he died, where he went, how it derailed my family in some ways forever, what it would have been like otherwise. In fact, I maybe get it less now. Back then, I swallowed the explanations given to children that I don’t believe in any more — that God missed Paul and called him back to heaven. There was some sense to that. Maybe that’s why I smiled. Maybe I did think it was special.

And I don't understand it better today because at that moment it was simple to see how Paul's death had forked the road for my entire family. But now... now that road has been travelled so far, has been forked so many times, that it’s impossible to imagine all the ways it would have been different. And it’s impossible to want to change that first big fork. After all, everything we’ve known, our whole lives, fall from that spot.

But more: Can I grieve for Paul when I don't know who he was or would have been? I only remember a baby in a striped orange onesie with pom-poms down the front, a little clown in my Mammy’s arms. I don’t know what combination of Flanagan, Maher or Conway he would have been. Would he have had my eyes (my only nice feature)? It’s as impossible for me to think about Paul's 33rd birthday as it is for me to think about Joyce turning 132 on February 2nd (I don’t even really get why we tweet Happy Birthdays to dead celebrities).

And when I miss Paul it’s often in selfish ways. I think of there being somebody more like me in my family, of having somebody who was on my side at times. I think of saying and doing things for a little brother that were never said and done for me. I'm grieving for myself over something I never had and will never have. Those wishes will always mark an absence of Paul. And I wonder about the ungranted wishes the rest of my family have too, the different things Paul has stood for for each of us.

Sometimes - mostly when I don’t want to say all these messy things - I too say what that the man in our house said; that I was too young to understand. As if I've been immune to sadness all along because I was so young.

But some nights I just cry. And I don’t know if I’m crying for me or for Paul, or for Mum or Dad, or for us all. Or just for loss. Or just for loneliness. And when I cry like that, not comprehending what it is I'm feeling, I’m four again. Only now I don’t think I’ll grow up and understand it any better.

Book report: The Goldfinch

The first fifty pages of The Goldfinch flew for me. Passages about art, gorgeous descriptions, heady page-turning. I thought it would be my thing entirely until I slowed to nothing and all but gave up. I don't give up on books easily and I guess I pulled myself back in part because so many people were tweeting about the trembling, wrenching finish.

I finally finished last night. The book lost me in Vegas. I'm not one much for booze and drug-addled storylines. But the descent from the violin patina of New York to the barren glare of Vegas emptied me out. I suppose it was supposed to and I don't think it was a mistake that I felt this way. But the writing too at this point became barren and flat to me, stretching on page after page.


It's something to read a book and know it's good, to think it's probably a masterpiece, but not feel moved by it. I've always been guilty of following my heart. Yes, I like layered intelligence. Yes, I relish the challenge of difficult language or ideas or construction. But if something doesn't also move me - fizzle in my mind, fill up my eyes, wrench its way into my dreams - I find it difficult to believe in its brilliance.

But still. The loneliness of having missed something. Of feeling that something great has eluded me. I read this, feeling none of it really hooked up to how I felt reading the book. And I don't think SNP's wrong, in fact I'm inclined to think you should go by her and not by me. I only think I missed it, was not ready for it, am not built for it somehow.

I guess this is one of those points and it's a point made beautifully in the book itself at the very end (the part of the book I most enjoyed and wished more had been like): "A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are."

I love the dilemma this creates; whether we should fight for the oughts or hurl ourselves into the wants. And I guess I tend to follow my wants, though my conscience often pricks with the oughts. And I finish books I don't love, hoping there's a moment when the light pours in, feeling like it's the dutiful, good and respectful thing to do.

But I'll reach for the next one and hope instead it's one that sends me hurtling.