Inspiring women: Marie Tharp

Marie Tharp's name is relatively new to me. I read about her over on the New York Times and I kicked myself for never really thinking about the how or who of mapping ocean floors. There was a time when all these maps showed were vast blueness punctuated by a curlicue of serpent or a clipper with billowing sails. And I never processed what had come between those maps and the ones I studied in school.

Tharp spent most of her career mapping ocean floors, working alongside a geologist named Bruce Heezen at Columbia University. "I discounted it as girl talk and didn’t believe it for a year," Mr. Heezen later said in an interview.

She analyzed and unified measurements of ocean depths, filling in gaps by marrying actual data with her knowledge of geology and using all of this to draw the ocean floors. I love that intuition, albeit grounded in scientific knowledge, played such a role in her work.

"In the course of her work, Tharp discovered an enormous valley, or rift, within the mid-Atlantic mountain range, which would prove the theory of continental drift. Yet she was underappreciated, and in 1982, a few years after Heezen’s sudden death from a heart attack, she was pushed into early retirement. Even Heezen, whose research and academic writing relied on her mapping, never fully acknowledged her contributions" - NYT

Years later, satellite images proved Tharp’s maps to be accurate.

Further reading:
Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor by Hali Felt

Columbians Ahead of Their Time and Marie Tharp Remembered
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
NYT obituary

Photo via Columbia University.

Reverend Michael Alan

You know, the feeling of making new discoveries is increasingly rare these internet days. So often, what I come across looks already familiar, something I might have registered from elsewhere, be it blog or magazine. And even though our tiny blog world is just a tiny patch in it all, that patch is well-grazed. So, it makes it extra-exciting when I really feel that rush of finding something new... like these amazing, amazing handpainted charts and certificates from Reverend Michael Alan. I obviously (obviously!) need one of the astrological charts.

Visit his website here, and Etsy store here.

A poem for Tuesday

These two things came to me within days of each other. There's a dreadful beauty to these kinds of scenes, a tragic wrenching. And I suppose we're drawn to them because they're such vital pinpoints in our lives and in the life of an animal, and the connection so immediate it brings us down from wherever we soar and makes us feel more animal, and more human too, and fully present for it.

Peregrine Honig's The Twin Fawns
"I came upon twin fawns in the display case of a mom and pop toy and science store in kansas city, missouri. it took me two years to win the trust of the shop owner and save the money to buy them. a taxidermist spotted a dead deer by the side of the road. he stopped to properly dispose of the body and realized she was pregnant. he opened her and found near full-term twin fawns, he removed and preserved them." - Twin Fawns, via The New Inquiry

Traveling Through The Dark
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

- by William Stafford, via.

Black and white

Even while I'm fighting the elements, the images I collect on my desktop usually match the array outside my window. So, as much as my mind strains for a shock of green or blue, another part of me loves the graphic contrast of my desaturated world, the Rembrandtesque glow that sometimes leaps into this world. Here are some of the images I've been collecting...

Image credits: 1. Photography by Annie Schlechter | 2. Byredo fragrance | 3. Joshua Jensen-Nagle at Bau-Xi Gallery | 4. Apiece Apart | 5. Toast

Margaret Howell

I'm skipping my regular Sunday best today to share these stunning campaign images from Margaret Howell. Her season features lots of Irish linen and this campaign was shot in Ireland by Koto Bolofo.


There are things on my doorstep that I never participate in. I've never watched the ice-breakers work out on the lake, for instance. I've never gone to the other side of the island in winter and listened to the slow groan and grate of moving ice.

I don't even know the reality of such things. And yet I imagine them just past the edges of my daily experience... things I could push out and into easily enough if I could only summon the energy. Sometimes, I realize I'm hoping that somebody will take my hand and say, look I want to show you this. So that these things are not hanging always on the thread of my own volition.

Last night, I went to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

I surrendered to the confines of winter this week; mostly staying in, finding shortest distances, calling for cabs. It's near the end, I know, and yet it's unfathomable that it will end. And I know there will be a day when I step out and think, spring. And the animal inside of me already notices the light changing quality, the movement in the earth, the slow awakening of trees.

I'm reading Jo-Anne Beard's The Boys of My Youth right now.

But tonight it will snow again. And I'll put on eyeliner and rub creams into my skin, hoping nobody notices the dry patches in the low light of some crowded venue. I'll resist going at all, but the tickets are bought and there's a show to be seen. And I'll be nervous, about finding my friends and picking my way to the bar and feeling the music in the right way. I'll probably drink too fast, waiting to feel it hit the right spot behind my eyes and in my fingers.

At one point I'll look up and say, I'm so happy it's Friday.

Inspiring women: Marianna Kennedy

Years ago, I blogged about an artist's studio and home without any idea who the artist was. I had come across the images on the portfolio of Annie Schlechter and the space captured my imagination. As did the glimpses of the creations within.

I learned about Marianna Kennedy's creations through Ben Pentreath. His homes and shop feature her lamps and I've long admired the burst of colour they bring. Mr Pentreath has a genius touch and pulls of combinations of eras and juxtapositions of formality and fun in a manner that astounds and inspires me directly.

And it was only through examining what he does that I came full circle and found the source of my original admiration. Even lovelier, I also came to learn that Marianna Kennedy is, in fact, a Canadian who attended art school in Ireland before settling in Spitalfields, London. And, of course, those shared connections deepened my own interest and admiration for her pieces.

I love and covet her lamps - indeed one is on my ultimate wishlist. But, I really love her mirrors. I wrote a blog  post about mirrors and imperfect reflections here. And when people come over to my place it becomes apparent fast that I am fascinated with anything that bends, reflects, refracts, distorts, occludes light. Her mirrors do all that. For me, they're like a fairytale and a history lesson entwined and are true works of art.

More links: A visit with Marianna Kennedy on Remodelista
World of Interiors article about Marianna Kennedy by Jeanette Winterson and here.

Official site here.

Image credits: Portrait of Marianna Kennedy by Lucinda Douglas Menzies, via Spitalfields Life | Mirror from Galerie Chastel-Marechal | Set of four images of her workshop by Annie Schlechter | Interior by Marianna Kennedy

Sunday best: Straining forward

I can't write any more Sunday bests conjuring the magic of snow days. It's gone.

Instead, imagine this: A warm day. The last of the snow leaving a grey spine of ice down the middle of the road, until it too melts. A day when the sun climbs high and warms the ground enough to evaporate every memory of snow. The same day you decide - although it's too early, still too cold - to wear a cardigan instead of a coat. To wear flats without socks.

And it doesn't matter that you're cold all day. Nobody looks at you strangely, because the entire city is collectively straining for that day when winter can be mothballed in plastic bins that are stashed under beds and in basements. And every little act, no matter how premature, is license to rush towards the birdsong of spring.

And it all sets off a chain reaction. You dip down into the ravine or the park for the first time in months. Spring starts to unfurl before your eyes; a verdant flame alights on the end of every branch. Each week is meted out with a new flower; snowdrop, daffodil, tulip, cherry blossom, magnolia, hyacinth. You dream of lilac days.

Products: Rose Noir parfum by Byredo | Bianca dress from Steven Alan | Poudre Signée de Chanel from Chanel | Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil from NARS | Georgian Flaming Heart Ring with Rose-Cut Diamonds from Erica Weiner | Brompton mini-hobo from J.Crew | Lanvin shoes my own (past season)


I say this every year: February is by far the cruelest month. Eliot was high on goofballs. I’m so completely over the snow right now, seeing in it no magic, only the mental gymnastics it takes to make me push outside these days, the numb boredom with coats and snow-boots.

I can’t even imagine sockless feet, or stepping outside without adding layers. I can’t imagine not looking down when I walk. I can barely fathom spring flowers, sunny evenings or the air fragranced with anything but the wet cardboard smell of days-old snow. I guess it’s all making me feel particularly grumpy.

The internet dried up a little for me this week too. I think I spent more time with my nose in books and my own writing than I cruising blogs. Unfortunately, that means I'm short of links to share this Friday. But I do have a few: Ben Pentreath blogged about Rena Gardiner... Ahh! the thrill of a new discovery! And heart-shaped books over on Stephanie's blog made me happy. This is really what I would buy if I were slightly more of a millionaire than I already am.

Finally, I loved Niall Foley's story The Great South Wall over at The Bohemyth.

My week was topsy-turvy so, it will be a pretty quiet weekend here - in fact I only now realized it's a long one for us too! What are you up to? Promise me it will be spring soon...

Shape-throwing positivity

My mood spectrum is full of murky blues, greys and greens, misty skies and churning sea. This is my emotional terrain and I am happy there. Other people find happiness in primary-coloured landscapes, full of bright blue skies and fairground attractions. Not me. Those scenes glare and feel artificial to me. It's not that I never feel drawn to those sights and sounds, but when I do it quickly feels too heightened, something I can't quite trust and something that certainly won't prevail.

So, I gravitate towards people and objects that elicit those more muted emotions; poetry and music, literature that is tinged with mist and musing. I'm fully aware that this seems sad to some people, but it really makes me happy. I guess what I'm saying is that my brand of happiness is quieter and more subdued than the heady concoction we're often sold.

I get that some people prefer a skipping disposition to a gazing one. I mean, isn't it lovely that these varieties all exist and that we can explore them all? What I resent is the idea that anything that's not primary-coloured needs a cure; the idea that everybody has to be happy in a primary-coloured way all the time.

That primary-coloured brand of joy seems somehow connected to consumerism; an idea of unquestioning well-being invented by men on Madison Avenue. And their invention, while grand and appealing, looks increasingly plastic over time. I'm not sure I could be happy - I mean in the eudaimonic sense - without accommodating pensiveness, or acknowledging sadness or doubt.

I can't tell you how many times I've been accused of being depressed on my blog. Not in a sympathetic or supportive way. Rather, in a way that seeks to undermine what I've written or questioned. I usually react defensively to the idea, mentally arguing against it, wanting to point out that one post, even my entire blog, is not the whole of me, or of what occupies my mind. But the truth is I am often pensive and my writing tends to be introspective rather than gleefully jumping up and down on a trampoline. Still, I don't believe I'm always brooding, engaged in some orgy of self-flagellation.

But I don't really think this is just about me and my own emotional spectrum. When I write a reflective or pensive post and receive a "uh-oh, you're depressed" response, I think it betrays a larger tendency, and one that's not just about me personally: It's a bias against the expression of certain dispositions and emotional states. And it implies that being in those states renders a viewpoint invalid; that the veracity of certain ideas or reflections on life is somehow connected to the emotional state those ideas or reflections are born from.

Of course, in broad strokes, and especially in extremes, people have ideas that draw from their emotional state. But to undermine the veracity of their ideas because of an emotional state is a leap I'm unwilling to make. I mean, even if I am sad, blue, feeling depressed (and, yes, I sometimes am), that doesn't mean I'm completely unhinged in a way that prevents me from having insights that hit some truths or ideas at least worth considering. And, let's face it, the opposite doesn't happen; people don't dismiss a story of love or success or inspiration because the person is so clearly upbeat in their ebullient joy.

So what's really going on?

I often think this pat response is an "out" from examining ideas or reflections that are perhaps challenging or unsettling to consider. I notice people react to writers like Beckett, Pessoa and Plath in this way too (and, no, I'm not putting myself in that company of writers). When I hear the depressed / over-thinking response to those writers, I usually think it's an escape from examining ideas that require hard work. But I also think it's a way of avoiding ideas that make us confront our own doubt or anxiety, things that many of us find difficult to look at in the eye.

In the interview I linked to recently, Calder said about Beckett:
"Beckett was always looking for deeper meaning. Why are we born? Why do we die so early? What’s the world about? What’s life about? He was always asking those questions. Most people tend to try to avoid those questions, and that’s one of the problems people have with him. He was very contradictory that way. Although he abandoned the lifestyle and the outlook of his family, he never got it out of his system. He more or less gave up his religion, but he always had a sort of longing for it. There’s not a single non-believer in Beckett’s work. Not one."

It may seem bizarre, but that tension makes me happy. I mean really happy. It's hard and real and tragic, but also wry and funny and beautiful.

I've sometimes felt pressure to become a person who lives a primary-coloured emotional existence. Until I realized that I'm most drawn to knotted-up people who want to explore and articulate and press down on all their complexity. Beckett's my favourite writer because he really goes there. And he leaves so much space for silence and being lost-for-words, for unanswered questions, and ideas and feelings that aren't neatly packaged. I guess I love confronting these ideas because, personally, I find tremendous beauty and truth in these tensions. And these sorts of ideas make me feel the most sublime elation.

The blog world is sometimes pretty one-dimensional in its ideas of emotional health. Blogging and social media etiquette advice often advocates a sort of vacuous shiny-happiness, remaining aloof from complex emotional or thinking states. Ironically, these same people will, in one breath, lay it on thick about the importance of being "authentic" and "having integrity" (words they, marketers and media people have picked clean of their real meaning), and in another breath tell you to be positive and avoid airing anything challenging or controversial or, heaven forbid, negative, even if constructively so.

Frankly, I think, fuck that shit. This culture of shape-throwing positivity admits little that's sublime in its depth and complexity. I cannot imagine being happy or productive or interested in anything that does not occasionally, or often, wade in the deep end or get lost in the mist. And I don't think this makes me depressed. Nor do I don't find it depressing. And I definitely don't think it requires intervention or medication or a solution.

Sunday best: Indoorsy

I opened my curtains later than usual yesterday and saw this and thought about who lives in my building and who it might have been for. And I get by most days by inhibiting the idea of all of those I live in such close quarters with. But, occasionally, it's nice to know they're there, to bear witness to facets of the lives running parallel to my own.

And much as whoever did it for their beloved, they would have known that we would all look down and become involved in their gesture, without show, but quietly and mysteriously. And that seemed lovely.

My own weekend has been shrouded by easy, gentle things. I did a lot of writing and made hot drinks. I lay on my bed and listened to music, looked at magazines and dipped into books and journals. I threw on my most worn and favourite jeans and sweater, padded around in socked feet and closed my eyes sometimes for minutes, just listening to the melt outside.

Happy Sunday!

Products: Current/Elliott The Boyfriend cropped straight-leg jeans from Net-a-Porter | Boy by Band of Outsiders Chunky Cable Pullover from La Garconne | No. 3 Flower Urn from Frances Palmer | Cathy Waterman Rustic Diamond Thorn Post Earrings from Twist | Vellum books from 1st Dibs | Ripple porcelain mugs from ABC Home |

Erica Tanov's bedroom photographed by Leslie Williamson. Leslie has a Kickstarter project right now that I contributed to over the weekend. You can read about it here. Hers is one of my favourite blogs so I'm delighted to lend her my support.


I think we all do this: Fall into a familiar sort of relationship with something we don't like, getting comfortable with that feeling, letting it mould itself to us and moulding our own days around it. We stop realizing the thing is anathema to us, how it grates and degrades and saddens us.

It really is a wonderful thing about the human brain, our ability to inhibit information. It allows us to focus for one thing. If we couldn't inhibit the vast amount of sense data bombarding us at every moment; the sounds and sights and smells, every tingle on every nerve ending, we'd fast have some kind of mental breakdown. Our brain lets us inhibit some of that data so we can focus on other parts, so we can concentrate and create and pursue in that zeroed-in way we do.

But this function also lets us inhibit things we really ought to take notice of. We start working around unfortunate situations and people rather than addressing them. As consumers of information we do this too, blocking out challenging or confrontational ideas, troubling news and returning to familiar comfortable places.

2013 is turning out to be a year when I confront those things that I've been aware of, but have too long inhibited. The process is painful. There are legitimate reasons I've been inhibiting certain ideas, information, emotions, after all. But whether it's because of my own readiness, or external changes forcing me in a certain direction, I no longer feel like there's an option to carry on that way.

I really believe that simply beginning to think about these things, letting myself simply acknowledge the sense-data I've been inhibiting, will initiate change. Some kind of Carveresque "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" is sure to burst forth once I acknowledge all the noise that's crowding and jostling me. And as much as all this confrontation and change can challenge and upset, I know I will be better for it.

That's all for now, from a snowy Toronto.

Have a great weekend, guys!

A poem for Thursday

I always seem caught between rhythm and revolution. Wanting everything to change, loving things as they are. Connected to what I've built, fantasizing about changing my name and opting out. One of my exes used to always say, chin up Søren when I said things like this. He was trying to tell me it's not all either/or and big things can happen while small things stay the same. And small things can change that affect grand transformation, in the end. And change really is a wily fucker; the desire for it, the romanticization of it, the underestimation of it and the overestimation of it.

I think about it a lot. I mean, we're the transformation generation, right? Shedding weight and quitting cubicles, never too old to reinvent, life beginning at the end of every decade. And I think often about those women who seemed old to me when I was little. Who seemed old then but who really are old now, twenty or thirty years later. And I wonder were they really youthful when I was little, or was it a thing back then, to look and act older than you were. And not being able to perceive those changes in mothers and aunts and teachers compounds this illusion that we're the first to be so changeable.

Here's just an excerpt of poem by Mark Strand. You can read the full poem here.

The Story of Our Lives
We are reading the story of our lives
which takes place in a room.
The room looks out on a street.
There is no one there,
no sound of anything.
The tress are heavy with leaves,
the parked cars never move.
We keep turning the pages, hoping for something,
something like mercy or change,
a black line that would bind us
or keep us apart.
The way it is, it would seem
the book of our lives is empty.
The furniture in the room is never shifted,
and the rugs become darker each time
our shadows pass over them.
It is almost as if the room were the world.
We sit beside each other on the couch,
reading about the couch.
We say it is ideal.
It is ideal.

Writers & their drinks

I get pretty bored with the fetishization of famous writers' lives, as if their banal routines might hold some secret key to their output. That we might all be Beckett if we were to prefer our eggs poached, or something like that. But I'll make an easy exception for cocktails. Not because I think they hold creative secrets, but - after all - cocktails are built for sharing. And who wouldn't want to drink with this guy?

Anyway, these great cocktails come from Port, one of my new favourite sites, where you'll also find the recipes and other information. The photography is by Liz Seabrook.


Pink is a winter colour for me. The sky here is often pink when I'm walking to and from work and there's something about the way that colour transmits through cold blue air that makes it extra ethereal. I've been collecting hits of it on my desktop. It softens out my edges.

Image credits: Canvas | Freunde von Freunden | Freunde von Freunden | Howe London | Ben Pentreath

Sunday best: Quiet

My weekend has been quiet. I've been leaving music off; I can't seem to find the right songs to listen to right now. And though I can sometimes hear what neighbours play, it's dampened by walls that keep the silence within.

February's the start of spring at home, but not here. And squalls still swirl outside my building, always falling upwards outside my window. Is this the lowpoint? I never seem to remember past years. But people seem most splintered right now, with jagged edges of cold, and eyes like cut glass, hard and cold and beautiful. Or maybe it's just me and the splinters are my own...

I bought roses yesterday for my bedside table And I've been rereading Middlemarch and other old favourites, dipping into things, putting them down. The days are soft on the inside and in my dreamless sleep. The hours are hazy. I know the light is stretching now. I can see it, but I don't feel it yet. It all feels a long way away. A sort of dream I don't know if I belong in.

Products: Middlemarch by George Eliot | Antique and Pale Pink Hat Box from The Real Flower Company | Calendar by Rifle Paper | Pyjama from Toast | Løv is Beautiful tea from Løv | Boulder mug from Terrain


I'm glad to land on Friday.... Not the most graceful landing ever - it's been quite the week - but here I am. Still, I did find some moments of thought, inspiration and even beauty this week:

Kevin interviewed Beckett's publisher John Calder. The accompanying photograph by John Minihan (who famously photographed Beckett too) made me almost as happy as the interview. I especially liked the part about longing for something you've given up on. I think that's a beautiful contradictory state to live openly, and without real hope, in.

Hayden's new album is streaming on the CBC (it comes out February 5th). I'm not sure if it will stream outside of Canada, but it's worth a listen, or purchase upon release. I probably listened to it too much this week. But I am prone to shrouding myself in music like that and not fully understanding how it might affect my mood until it's too late. Still, so beautiful.

This piece in The Walrus about how women are written about by men is important to read and consider, I think. Somewhat related, the mad descriptions of skin (via The New Inquiry a few weeks ago). Also this - ugh.

Being a mad, bad moonchild, I also love Lauren's regular moon posts.

Okay, I'm spent. Have a great weekend!