Val Nelson & other thoughts

Blogging has felt lately like a memory of something I used to do. I haven't stopped, but the gears aren't turning the way they used to and I have yet to figure out what that means. Am I uninspired? Is blogging done for me? Should I try a different approach? I know I'm not ready to strikethrough this whole thing and walk away. But I'm not sure what staying looks like. Maybe it will just be a slow death.

I looked at these paintings by Val Nelson tonight and thought, my home and life and way of being feels more like one of these paintings than it looks like any photograph. The ways in which I'm moved in life are less material, more embroiled. It's stuff that's hard to share here, where the moodboards and the curated lists reduce life to something attainable, shareable, somehow detached.

I don't want to deconstruct looks or blather on about the act of blogging. I want to live with blurry feelings and not lean on them to have a clever blogging hook. You know, birth and death and sorrow and sex and work happen too and it all gets left out here. And when all that stuff feels especially real and present, a blog post feels like a bit of a lie — a simplistic and fatuous sort of alternative reality. And I'm not up for that.

I'm up for these messy paintings of rooms where it looks like people fuck and cry and think and live all of life. I'm up for fictional stories that say something more true and moving and real than our primped and preened "real" blogs. And what does that mean for here? I still don't know. Maybe I just wanted to tell you that I like these paintings. And to give you some kind of warning about a potential retreat to a wordless and blurrier place.

A Room in Kent and The Room in Hampstead, both by Val Nelson, via Bau-Xi

Home, lately

I've always been a nester. And for a long time that has meant caring about decor, thinking about my style, looking at design blogs and magazines and seeing stuff; stuff I loved, stuff I could or couldn't afford, things I could fill my home with.

I don't want to pretend I'm over that, that I'm immune to fantasizing about Carl Hansen chairs or gorgeous accessories. But I want to explain that the way I feel about home has become so much bigger than the sum of those parts. I love my home. Not because I think my decor is special. Not because I look at it through "design" eyes.

I love my home because it holds so many things that I treasure, because the light on weekend mornings always makes me pause, because the plants on my windowsill seem so happy. Because friends gather here but moreso because it's often just me and I feel safe and calm here.

I have friends right now whose lives are in flux. They're moving and starting over. I can, of course, relate to all of that. But liberating as the fresh start is, exciting as all of that potential is, I can't help but be glad for the roots I now feel, the sense of place that underpins everything. The pure steadiness of this idea of home, steadier now than any decor whim or daydream. Steadier than my own mutable ways.

Sunday best: Caught up

On Friday night I did my taxes. And yesterday, I stripped my bed and decided that the pillows would never feel de-flued, so I took myself downtown and bought all new pillows and bedding basics. A proper spring clean. I washed every piece of clothing, cushion covers, the shower curtain, the bath mat. My place feels like mine again and I feel caught up.

So no errands or chores today, then, just coffee and a good book. A few flowers maybe, a candle lit.

Happy Sunday!

Products: Cathy Waterman Diamond Blackened Leaf Charm Pendant from Twist | V-neck sweater from Toast | Echec au Roi scarf from Hermes | Wild Bluebell Cologne from Jo Malone | J Brand's Jake jeans from Net-a-Porter | Gommino Driving Shoes in Nubuck from Tod's


Oh, I had so many things to tell you this week. But a sudden flu cut all my ideas down, rendered my brain feverish and made breathing seem more difficult than it was worth. The world becomes so small when you're sick. For a person like me, it's a good reminder that I'm a body and not just a mind. Because most of the time I feel fairly disassociated from this little machine I live in. And I should stretch and feel that it's all mine more often, that I'm its minder as much as it minds the part of me I value most.

I was sure I had saved up some links while I was sick, but maybe I hallucinated that.

This, I didn't hallucinate: A woman reading a self-help book on the subway, with a page open to a chapter titled "Love Unconditionally." And I immediately thought bullshit, because I think all relationships, all feelings, have their conditions. And often we should uphold more conditions than we do - not less (not physically hurting each other is the kind of condition we should all apply to love, for example).

But then I thought about the phrase "love unconditionally" more. Like we're ever really making these choices. Because either the love is greater or the conditions are and we don't really make that calculation as much as feel the result of it. The same love and the same conditions can outweigh each other at different times in different relationships. And I'm not so sure we're wielding choice or recalculating in those moments as much as responding to our own present situation, knotted up in multifarious thoughts and feelings and needs as it is.

More and more I really believe that doing our best isn't about loving unconditionally but about just saying something truthful. And letting the other person have the rare advantage of knowing what we're feeling uncloaked, even if it doesn't make sense, even if the feelings are confused, even if there are conditions. Because making things seem uncomplex, making love seem easy and unconditional is just another deception we sweet-talk ourselves into, with all the shoulding that never lasts.

So there I was on the subway, picking feverish fights in my head with some stranger's self-help book. And feeling like we're all missing a better point here. A point not about love or conditions but about something simpler. About trying to be good and kind and patient with each other and knowing that there are always conditions, that we've all got our knots and bends in our brains, and holes in our hearts.

Happy weekend, friends.

A poem for Thursday (and Friday links)

I haven't been here much this week. I guess I've been distracted, finding it difficult to find time to wrap words around thoughts, feeling like a half-formed idea all week. But I'm happy for a long weekend and will share some links with you today instead:
- Seamus Heaney's North
- The full moon, eclipse that just passed. Perhaps I'm in the wake of it. A churn of things new and old.
- It Will Look Like a Sunset
- "Artists put down their brushes and stole my objets trouves, my staple guns and glue guns." - Simon Doonan
- Dutch Masters flowers
- Tumblring

And a poem, by Frank O'Hara.

To Jane, Some Air
Now what we desire is space.
To turn up the thermometer and sigh.

    A village had gone under the water
of her smile, and then, quickly, it froze clear
so that the village could know our whereabouts.
And had you intended it?

I found a string of pearls in the tea bags
                               and gave them her
with what love?

            With the love of the camelopard
for the camel, for the leopard.

                                   Oh space!
you never conquer desire, do you?

You turn us up and we talk to each other
and then we are truly happy as the telephone
rings and rings and buzzes and buzzes,

    so is that the abyss? I talk, you talk,
he talks, she talks, it talks.

                                   At last!
You are warm enough, aren't you?
And do you miss me truly dear, as I miss you?
    I don't think I'll return to the zoo


Since we're having a winter relapse, no better day to share some knitwear from a new-to-me designer Nido.

Sunday best: Nothing special

There are no epic schemes right now, no lofty missions. Yesterday, I bought some new plants — a jasmine and some succulents. My sago palm is not doing so great so I troubled over that a little, moving him to a different spot, running my hands over his fronds trying to exert some healing powers. Not everything bursts forth in blossom and colour when spring arrives and I guess many of us need some gentle coaxing.

I'm enjoying the simplicity of going outside right now. Throwing on some clothes, some shoes, walking out the door. Not bracing for the cold, not scared of the sidewalk. I've been walking up and down the hill at rates to rival the Grand Old Duke of York.

Today will be more of the same; just walking, grocery shopping, reading. Nothing special. The perfect Sunday.

Products: Rag & Bone jeans from Net-a-Porter | Xana Henley Top by Etoile Isabel Marant from Steven Alan | The Lip Slip from Sara Happ | Sel Marin from James Heeley | ERES Lumière Lydia bra from Net-a-Porter | Crescent Moon Earrings from Satomi Kawakita | Bloch London flat from Gravity Pope | Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm from Aesop


A week of unexpected things, progress of sorts, I suppose.

My mind was cast home for many little reasons, but this post is about one of my favourite places at home that I've always kept a little to myself (unintentionally, I guess I never thought to share it when I had visitors). And it's nice to have a place that you keep to yourself so that when people come and go, as people do, and it changes the places you saw together, there are some things still selfishly unaltered.

I've been looking forward to the weekend since Wednesday, feeling Friday ought to be closer all the time and now it's here at last and there's a dinner at my favourite local with a lovely friend tonight. More links:
- Sleep as resistance
- We are all very anxious
- Car of my dreams
- I love this bracelet

Still inspired by Doreen's, I'll shop for plants on the weekend instead of buying flowers. I'll sleep and watch Hannibal, the only TV show worth watching if you ask me. I'll pick through some pages of my book. I'll keep my eyes wide open.

Happy weekend!


Of late, I've felt pretty immune to decor spreads. I mean, I can admire them, but it's rare that one spurs me into action or inspires in more than the most abstract way. Rather, I've been hunkering down in my own space and letting it whisper to me, guiding my next move. This feels like a less harried way of finding inspiration and of evolving decor.

All this temperance was suspended dramatically when I saw the pictures Doreen shared of her home on the weekend. I suspect Doreen's home is precisely the vintage and design of Dublin home that I love the best. And what inspires me in these images isn't so much this paint colour or that sofa style (though, wow) as the sense of home and family and the life lived in this space that comes through these images.

When I was little Mum and Dad took to me to visit Eric Barrington's house. He was an elderly gentleman we knew and his house was so full of treasures he'd conduct little tours of it. Every item had a story and Eric was just the sort of grandfatherly man to tell those stories to children in ways that made each thing an adventure come to life. I guess I always think homes should have objects like this. Beautiful, yes. But with a reason for being there that goes beyond their beauty.

And this too is the sense I get from Doreen's pictures. That if I stepped into this room and picked something up, a story would be told. And it makes me realize that the things I love in my own home have their own stories too.

On the way home tonight, I picked out some new plants. I definitely have to credit Doreen with that too. Beautiful light hitting greenery never fails to lift the spirits!

All images by Doreen Kilfeather and used here with her permission.

A poem for Wednesday

I just walked home. Midway, I sat on a bench to Instagram something and a dog came over to say hello. His name was Bob and he's just moved here from England. I wondered how differently the world smells to him here. Even I can smell the difference between Dublin and Toronto; there's a wet-stone mustiness to Dublin. All drenched moss and heather, salty rope, peat and grass. Bob probably thinks he's hit the squirrel bonanza here. Wait until he meets his first skunk.

It's still easy for me to feel outside of all this too. I sat in a meeting this morning and everybody talked about curling. Several minutes of curling talk. And I just sat there and thought, I really live in Canada now. It never goes away -- the little things that trigger feelings of novelty and giddiness. Bob and I aren't that different, I guess. This is another one by Mary Oliver.

The Dog Has Run Off Again
and I should start shouting his name
and clapping my hands,
but it has been raining all night
and the narrow creek has risen
is a tawny turbulence is rushing along
over the mossy stones
is surging forward
with a sweet loopy music
and therefore I don’t want to entangle it
with my own voice
calling summoning
my little dog to hurry back
look the sunlight and the shadows are chasing each other
listen how the wind swirls and leaps and dives up and down
who am I to summon his hard and happy body
his four white feet that love to wheel and pedal
through the dark leaves
to come back to walk by my side, obedient.

Beautiful ennui

This time last year, I was staring down a huge project and juggling a substantial freelance workload. I was in that pocket at the start of something where it felt like we could do everything right. I knew it was all going to get overwhelming, but I was even excited for that. The stretch of it. But, as I typically do during projects, I burnt myself out, losing all balance. And then I strained for the finish line and fantasized about all the things I’d do once we launched.

This all wrapped up before Christmas, but winter was so long, so hard and cold and bitter, that I didn’t really feel that relief of having finished something. Sure, there were moments. When I got out of town. Or a day here or there where I kicked back. But if I’m honest, I didn’t really feel it in my bones. And I certainly didn’t feel my days open up wide again, full of potential, or start doing all the things I thought I’d do when all this let up.

It’s April already and I’m still carrying around the extra weight (literal and figurative) I attribute to that project. And feeling a strange mix of daily feelings; boredom, desire to find something new to do, and a languorous apathy that makes me give in to easy, lazy things. Ennui is not something I’ve experienced much in my life. I tend to push myself out the door even when I don’t want to go out. I tend to give myself long to do lists.

I guess I’ve been tired enough to let myself just sit with this ennui. And I think there’s value in it.

Because I believe some things need breathing room and that sometimes we’re scared of silence, of gaps in things. And I think we lean too heavily on things to inspire us rather than letting that happen naturally, organically. And sometimes we poke and prod things so we’ve something to tinker with, instead of stepping back and deciding what really needs to be fixed, what really can be improved.

Plus, I know something will come: There’ll be a day when an idea, when words, when some new thing jumps out at me. There’ll be something that wakes me from this slumber. And when it does, it will be more real than anything I could force myself into right now. And I’ll have the energy then for it too.

In the meantime, I’m walking a lot, wandering streets, taking long ways home. I’m scribbling words… not even sentences, barely phrases. I’m keeping a tidy house and enjoying banal routines. I’m finding a certain freedom from expectation in this ennui, a certain open concept ease. And I'm discovering there’s something beautiful in that too.

Images: Eye Platter Michele Quan from The Future Perfect | Francie Hester Vessel #11, 2014 from 1st Dibs

The White Briefs

Always a fan of beautiful basics, I was immediately drawn to The White Briefs' collection. What it is about the simplicity of a white, grey and black in soft cotton mixes? Perhaps it's the well-learned experience that these are pieces I'll actually wear threadbare, while novelty pieces sit unworn at the back of my closet. 

A poem for Tuesday

I didn't buy a metropass for April, which means I'm back to walking to work. In winter, I'm all about getting to my destination the quickest way possible and minimizing encounters with ice. So it's a sudden freedom to amble and take detours and go down side streets. To not bother keeping an eye on the path or planting each foot with deliberate caution.

I am a walker. I've always been happiest when my days incorporate long walks naturally, around the Head at home, or my favourite work walk that took me from Ballsbridge to Ranelagh by way of Herbert Park, though sometimes down Raglan Road (detour though it was) just to walk accompanied by that song. Luke Kelly's epic timbre.

And I realize now that this has always been what I wanted; days with such slow and loose movement. I might as well be on the Head again, watching gulls eddy and swirl, feeling the pulling boom of the tide below. I might as well be in the cove about to cast myself out into the salty heave. My mind can go to such places.

This is by Mary Oliver.

The Sea
Stroke by
     stroke my
       body remembers that life and cries for
             the lost parts of itself—
fins, gills
     opening like flowers into
       the flesh—my legs
             want to lock and become
one muscle, I swear I know
     just what the blue-gray scales
             the rest of me would
feel like!
     paradise! Sprawled
       in that motherlap,
             in that dreamhouse
of salt and exercise,
     what a spillage
       of nostalgia pleads
             from the very bones! how
they long to give up the long trek
     inland, the brittle
       beauty of understanding,
             and dive,
and simply
     become again a flaming body
       of blind feeling
             sleeking along
in the luminous roughage of the sea's body,
       like victory inside that
             insucking genesis, that
roaring flamboyance, that
       beginning and
             conclusion of our own.