29 November 2007

A place where I can bid my heart "Be still"

I am in love with Anthropologie's newest website holiday feature, which is called Sweet Treats and groups items according to delicious eats and drinks in rich jewel tones, aka "cranberry relish" and "creme de menthe." My favorite part, however, is the styling of the photos. They remind me of an enchanted garden.
Which brings me to...
Is anyone else thrilled about the Annotated Secret Garden? Granted, I love A Little Princess more than The Secret Garden, but there is something so magical about the idea of a misunderstood, unhappy child finding herself and her loves in life in a walled garden. Mary was special because she saw the garden's beauty even when it was frozen over, full of tangled, tortured vines and hard gray ground. Something stirring from within (signified in the chirp of the robin, perhaps?) called to her and let her know that the garden was "wick"-- that even though nobody else could see the potential, the life, the GREEN, it was still there just waiting to be released.Obviously I love that idea of self-discovery, but there's something about the cultivation of a sanctuary-- one whose beauty could not be appreciated by anyone else-- that I feel is necessary to development of children and adults alike. When I was a little girl, my secret place was actually a tree on my neighbor's lawn. Every time I was upset, I would pack my pink plastic suitcase, flee several yards down, and hoist myself up into the tree branches. I would sit there until my parents found me, neighbors started staring, or the position became too uncomfortable for my legs. Granted, now this is one of those "when I was six years old I was ridiculous and ran away to a tree" stories, but the point is that I needed a place that I, and only I, saw as truly special. When I was studying abroad in England it was Yorkshire, which is where, strangely, Mary Lenox travels to in The Secret Garden. In New York? Well, I am still trying to find my special place. Sometimes it's Alice's Tea Cup. Sometimes it's my English garden-styled apartment. Sometimes it's with a close friend, a glass of wine, and bad television. Most of the time though, it's a bit out of reach, a vague idea, or something I've yet to find...

Oh, Jezebel, Jezebel...

A quick post this morning, a little inspiration in the early hours.
I am newly obsessed with Jezebel's "19th century silhouettes and 21st century epigraphs" on gorgeous gorgeous stationary. It makes me want to send rose-scented notes to my many admirers! (Snap out of it, snap out of it, you are not Zelda Fitzgerald...)
I love the poetry of the epigraphs, many of which refer to Shakespeare, fin-de-siecle literature (my favorite) or the madcap days of the jazz age. So if anyone wants to send me an early birthday present, these will do!
Leigh Batnick, I take my hat off to you, you mad, mad bibliophile. I share your obsession and your love of ephemera and, as you marvelously put it, "flotsam and jetsam." Now, I know I'm not Zelda Fitzgerald, but at least let me pull an Aubrey Beardsley and frequent Cafe Royal, okay (see fabulous blog post about Cafe Royal!)? Well, if I have to stay in the states, I guess Cafe des Artistes will do....

a madcap, punch drunk ballad for aubrey and oscar

eliot's ghost treads the phosphorescent snow

Speak, memory

This is going to be one eclectic post. When I was at the wedding this weekend, someone asked me to describe my blog and I said "A verbal collage." Well, we'll test that idea tonight I guess.

Once again, I have insomnia. I'm not quite sure what to do about this. When I was a little girl, whenever I couldn't sleep my father would pretend to be a sheep and jump over my bed. (Did I mention that I was the firstborn and the only girl?) That would be a bit creepy if he did that now, plus I live nowhere near my parents and my bed is lofted. So that is clearly not an option. Meet Me in St. Louis was on last night (again, at 2 AM-- this insomnia is fairly consistent) and I recorded it, so attempting to fall asleep on the couch to Judy Garland's trills is a possibility. But there is something about Judy Garland that defies sleep. Her voice is so alive that snoozing during her singing seems almost blasphemous.

I believe that the voice is a very powerful thing. Whenever I am in a relationship with someone, I always notice the quality of his speaking voice and see that as an embodiment of his persona. I've dated people before where you could hear their smile in their voice. I've heard about being able to tell that someone is upset through hesitances in their speech patterns, but smiling conferred through the voice quality itself? To me that suggests someone extraordinary, as if his happiness could not help bubbling up and coming through every medium, even a perfectly normal conversation. Maybe that's why I like champagne and blowing bubbles so much: the idea that simple substances simply cannot suppress their desire to bubble up and fizzzzzzzz. :-) Champagne can soothe frazzled nerves, but so can that little tickle in the voice of a friend or loved one that lets you know that somebody knows you well and is the type of person whose effervescence is an ever-present source of comfort.

Granted, I've never met Judy Garland or talked to her on the phone. But that little quiver in her voice when she sings reminds me of that comforting quality, where deep from the chest, through the throat, through the mouth comes very real feeling. Sometimes the trill is melancholy, as in "The Boy Next Door." Sometimes it is joyful, as in the triumphant final note of "The Trolley Song." I dare you to not be smiling when Judy throws out her arms, almost knocking over the "boy next door" who has crept up next to her.

Speaking of things creeping up, I've been sensing the stress starting to tap at my door. Starting over is far more difficult than I ever could have imagined, and it makes me want to revert to my tried-and-true response: run far, far away. I picture the "overwhelmedness" as those contorted creatures from Ghost, you know, the ones who come to take people to Hell? I'm trying to take things one step at a time, and I guess if I ever feel down I could just think of the line "Clang clang clang went the trolley, ding ding ding went the bell." Delivered with that vibrato from another (although hers was artificial) redhead, it seems to have the power to snap anyone out of a bad mood based on sheer ridiculousness of lyrics! Whatever, I'll keep "chug chug chugging" along... :-)

26 November 2007

Save the last dance for me

I just got back from my friends Chris and Sara's wedding in Washington, DC, which was so beautiful and meaningful. They are one of those couples that I feel is as close to perfect as it can get-- Chris mellows Sara out, Sara brings Chris out of his shell, they have strong lives both with and without each other, and they are unconditionally supportive of each other. I have been good friends with Sara since our sophomore year of college, and throughout our friendship she has been absolutely phenomenal. During the past rocky year, she was available for phone calls at any hour and, if I called her upset on a weekend, she would say "Hop on a train and come see me" as if that were the obvious answer. We would have girls nights in with funfetti cupcakes and 80s movies, and Chris would be incredible and leave us the apartment, sleep at a friend's house, and bring us coffee in the morning. We would then all have breakfast together, and I would never once feel like a third wheel. They are true friends and to me, better than a fairy tale. They are real love, personified, and they inspire me to no end.

Overall the weekend was a dream. The marriage of two of my favorite people, the reunion with friends who to some extent know me better than I know myself, and unconditional support for the decisions I've made over the past couple of weeks. Sara and Chris are each other's soulmates, but I think that I have many: the friends who I can depend on in any situation. One of those is Sara. I cannot wait to see the evolution of their marriage. Congratulations, Chris and Sara! I love you both.

23 November 2007

Honeys and Rebels

I was thrilled to find this 1977 Time Magazine book review of Jessica Mitford's A Fine Old Conflict. My Mitford fascination is new, but I just find something so thrilling about these families between the wars who were known for their unconventionality, their talent (four out of six sisters were published writers), and for their distinct personalities. The Garman family is another one like this, although they do seem to be more famous for their love affairs than their actual accomplishments.

Granted, I don't agree with the Mitford sisters' politics. Diana was married to the Fascist leader Oswald Mosley, and Unity (whose birth at "Swastika" and middle name "Valkyrie" seem to be a bit prophetic) was a companion of Hitler; on the opposite side, Nancy and Jessica (Decca) were involved with the Communist party. But Nancy's humorous prose and Decca's investigative nonfiction and essays really inspire me, not by how well-written they are but more about how the girls themselves are so individualistic. Granted, their upbringing was not easy or even good at times, but both of them turned their rough experiences into humor and art. I think that is pretty inspirational! I've gotten really into reading biographies lately, and I think that is because I am looking to be inspired by real people, especially strong women.

Beauty also inspires me, and New York Review Books (which, in my opinion, publish the most aesthetically pleasing and deserving titles) has reissued a 
stunning edition of Decca Mitford's Hons and Rebels. You know that old adage about not judging a book by its cover? That is completely ridiculous. Judge, judge away! How gorgeous are these books?

22 November 2007

What's the harm in being enchanted?

Since last night was the night before Thanksgiving, my family and I indulged in the nation-wide tradition of going to the movies prior to cooking frenzy and food coma. Since I'm a lover of escapist, girly films, I suggested that we see Enchanted, the ode to Disney movies and fairy tales. Of course I loved it, but my writings here are meant to express more than likes and dislikes. This movie actually really made me think about fairy tales and the concept of "true love" and "happy endings."
Much as I do love my Disney films, I sometimes wonder if those concepts of relationships hurt me more than they helped. Granted, I grew up a bit sheltered in a suburban existence being the only daughter, so I may have put a little bit too much stock in romantic movies and novels. I guess on some level I actually believed they were true! It's not like I expected cartoon birds to braid my hair every morning before I ran singing down the hillside to meet my handsome prince-- but I did believe that love conquers all and that somehow, one day, I would be rescued from confusion by my version of a handsome prince.
Flash forward to the real world: relationships are complicated. I've dated complete jerks and I've dated fantastic guys, but none of those guys wore those jackets with those little brushy things on the shoulders. And while I have fallen in love and do believe that it is very real, it was never without its complications. Sometimes it's hard not to become jaded, to think that lasting love is a myth and that it will never happen. But it's also tempting to rely on happily ever after, to think that you don't have to work to make yourself whole because someone will rescue you and do it for you.
Seeing Enchanted, which is a modern take on the Disney motif, reminded me of the importance of believing. If I weren't idealistic, if I didn't have a side of myself that believes in leaping headfirst into something that feels right, then I wouldn't be me. And frankly, I don't want to be the type of person who moves cautiously in romance-- I guess you could say that the way I've followed my heart recently (in relationships as well as in my career!) is the real-world equivalent of Ariel taking a chance at being human (except for the whole "losing your voice" thing...that messes with the metaphor, because this new chapter in my life is supposed to be about finding my voice!). Fairy tales inspire that hope in us and prevent us from being those jaded, closed-off types. But what I really liked about Enchanted was that it presented the opposite view as well-- the danger of being the damsel in distress. You have to rescue yourself. You can't see yourself as a victim.
Obviously this is something I'm still struggling with as I enter this confusing new stage in my life. I'm not even talking about relationships, although I guess it's applicable to those too. I mean more about taking charge and taking action, but still taking time to appreciate the beauty in life. And trying not to lose hope. Although leaping has sometimes meant that I hit the ground hard, I will never stop remembering the happiness and freedom I felt while I was still in the air. I hope to recapture that feeling as I go about finding more about who I am...

Photo courtesy of imdb.com

20 November 2007

Here I am

It's hard to post on a blog for the first time-- I can't quite get over the idea of exposure! I guess I'll think of it as a bit of a You've Got Mail phenomenon, sending a thought out into the cosmic void.
I'm back in the Midwest for Thanksgiving, which always makes me think about my childhood and my past and how so many little things in my life have made me happy over the years. I wore my grandmother's coat today because mine was at the dry-cleaners, and just being wrapped up in Grammy's old knit peacoat made me miss her a lot. She was one of those women who always appreciated the beautiful things in life, no matter how small. She always had fresh flowers in her house; she always had those decorative soaps that are in the bathroom just to look pretty. She lived her life with class and grace, which are qualities that I always try to embody, but at the same time she wasn't a pushover. That is something I definitely need to work on. I like to think that this new stage of my life is all about being true to myself and what I believe in, with a little guidance from the memories I have of my grandmother and grandfather.
Overall I guess I believe in decency and fulfillment. I believe in being a good person and that good things should follow those who strive to be good. So without revealing too much about myself to the "cosmic void," let's just say that for the past year or more I'd been in a rut career-wise, and I ended that rut last week. I couldn't handle the negativity and abuse (I guess that's the only word that can describe it) of my job, or the fact that I was basically told on a daily basis that something was wrong with me. Not my performance, but my personality. Like I said before, I believe in being true to myself, and the task of being submerged in such a cruel atmosphere was wearing me down and turning me into a person I didn't like being. I will not tolerate someone telling me I'm worthless. So I made a choice. Some would say this was a foolish choice because now I have no idea how I'm going to support myself and am living off savings for a bit until I find something new (to last until graduate school-- hooray! I made a decision!). But I stood up for what I believe in: human decency and truth.
So since I started out talking about You've Got Mail, which is how I got on this whole tangent of my grandmother and life beauty in the first place, I guess I'll close with two quotes from that movie. Oh, and the reminder that I was a Storybook Lady once upon a time and I rocked it.

Birdie, to Kathleen Kelly: "You're daring to march into the unknown armed with...nothing. Have a sandwich."
Kathleen Kelly: "Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but valuable. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void."