Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Winter Sunshine

20140308-102120.jpgLately I find it hard to wake up. My dreams are dense, deeply felt and vivid — I’ve been doing a little yoga before I sleep at night, just little videos I find on YouTube (LOVE YOU TARA STILES) and doing shoulderstands and plow poses to stretch out my neck and upper back. I haven’t done yoga on the regular since I lived in San Francisco, but working out those knots and kinks is really firing the synapses. They must be firing in my brain something fierce, because I wake up from my dreams feeling like I’ve lived a whole second life that’s pulling energy from my waking one.

Or maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and the baroque, sprawling, labyrinthine structure of the novels — where stories lay coiled within other stories, nested like Russian dolls — is kind of influencing my night-brain. I don’t know. I wake up and I feel walloped before the day’s even begun.

The days are getting longer, and the tumult of the past few months is smoothing out. I rediscovered my own “ways to beat the winter doldrums” post, and what do you know — the advice still holds. There’s a time in life to push yourself, to exceed your own self-defined boundaries — but there’s also a time to be kind and gentle to yourself. Now is one of those times, I guess. I mean, even if I wanted to push myself, outside there’s just piles of slush and snow, and it’s just a battle to get anywhere.

But I’m excited. I’m sitting now in a patch of sunshine coming through the window at the coffee shop where I’m writing. I kind of feel this itch in my fingers, and I’m just writing, and writing, and writing. The gift of going through tumult these days is that I realize now just how anchored I feel in everything basic: who I am, what I love, what I’m about. Not all of life’s mysteries have been illuminated, but the most central ones have. Not that I’m a static entity and I’m not married to the form and content, but if the self has a core — and I’m not entirely convinced as a Buddhist that it does — then my core is solid. It makes you realize that doing the hard work of sovereignty and self-reliance in the best senses of those words matters. Life is unpredictable, but you are always there.

I had more written here, but the crappy new WordPress iOS app somehow destroyed my previous draft, and the last 600 words of this post are somehow gone to whatever ether words go to when they disappear. The Island of Unexpressed Expressions? It doesn’t matter — those words and thoughts belong to the past. Some of those impressions remain: a smile from a handsome stranger, the sunset staining a horizon, the way my five-year-old nephew’s head emerged from the huge infinity scarf he tried on, grinning like Curious George. Right now a day lies ahead of me, waiting to be filled and savored. Have a beautiful weekend, everyone.

Like Ghosts, Underwater

Sometimes you see images and they feel like your dreams. There is an instant psychic recognition, like subterranean harmonies coming to surface in your waking life. Something of your nighttime landscape echoes in the daylit world, and the convergence feels like discovering continents within yourself and out in the world. It feels honestly like magic.

That’s how I felt the moment I laid eyes on Erin Mulvehill’s photographs. Sadly, I don’t remember where I stumbled across them or how — too many travels on the Internet will blur the routes behind you. But I immediately fell in love with her “Underwater” series, and then with the rest of her vision. Her images are beautiful, spectral, dreamlike, with a lovely calm and melancholy — I wanted to share more with you than just a tweet and a link to her work. She says she is influenced by Buddhism and time — maybe that’s what resonates with me, raised Buddhist and being something of a time philosopher myself. Anyway: please see much more of her work at her gorgeous site. Her pictures will make you feel oceans inside you.

Opium, Angels and Carnal Flowers

True confessions time: I think about perfume a lot. It’s something I’m minorly obsessed with. It doesn’t interrupt my life and I’m not cashing in on any insurance policies to get my fix, but I do find myself making detours to malls and department stores to stroll past perfume counters in a happy daze, eyes transfixed by glass bottles as my nose catches strands of delicious scents. I’ll catch a note of something that particularly enchants me — praline, maybe, bluebells, lotus flower, or a particularly rich version of orange blossom — and then wander up and down the aisles until I’ve located the source of my happiness and delight. And then I’ll spray a bit on some paper and hold it up to my nose and inhale. And for one little moment: experience pure beauty for beauty’s sake.

There are a lot of ways I enjoy fragrance. Some perfumes I like as works of art. I smell them — they are often from niche lines — and I admire their craftsmanship, their artistry; I revere them like I do Agnes Martin paintings, Francesca Woodman photographs, Tim Walker fashion editorials, Erik Satie symphonies. I’d rank the Frederic Malle line of fragrances up there, some Serge Lutens, the new line of Francis Kurdjkian scents, some of the more conceptual Comme des Garcons lines. In fact, I long to visit a museum of fragrance, where I can wander vast rooms of carefully curated fragrance exhibitions. Think of the possibilities! You could do a whole exhibition on a genre of perfume I call “the children of Theirry Mugler’s Angel”: voluptuous gourmands with deep, heady musk-patchouli bases. There are lots of them I like: Il Profvmo Chocolat, Coco Mademoiselle, Calvin Klein Euphoria, Lolita de Lempicka, Lancome La Vie est Belle, even something mass like Bath and Body Works Dark Kiss. Afterwards, you’d need an insulin shot and a divan to collapse on, both from the headiness and from delight.

Other perfumes, for me, work as fashion accessories: a lovely apercu to a fantastic outfit. Some of these come from fashion houses: I think of the Chloe perfume, with its notes of lychee and its general aura of fancy laundry detergent, as a nice accessory to a pretty floral dress or quirky outfit. (I know lots of indie ingenues who are very fond of it.) I liked wearing Marc Jacobs’ very first fragrance — a lovely ginger-and-gardenia scent — with a cashmere sweater, jeans and riding boots, a total ensemble that felt both subtly luxurious, understated and vaguely outdoorsy at once. Some scents feel like warm, cozy scarves to wrap around your neck — anything with the rich woody oud note works like this for me. But I’ve been looking for the fragrance equivalent of a spiky, punky, metal bracelet lately, to match the jewelry I already have. Something bold, a little spicy, but close to the skin.

But lately I’m starting to think about perfume in the way that I think about music: kind of a locus of emotion, memory and dreaming. I’d love to be able to make a mixtape of scents — maybe some scents, with their complex symphonies of top, middle and base notes, are whole mixtapes or songs in and of themselves. I like the narrative possibilities of scents. When I think of my life as told through a series of perfumes — the ones I’ve bought and worn in the past, and will wear in the future — it unfolds something that my monthly mixtapes or even written bios can’t capture in words or sounds. I’ll save the perfume-as-biography for another post, but the movie trailer would open with my mom’s Chanel No. 5 and a purloined spritz of Enjoli from my babysitter, and then plumes of Opium, The Body Shop’s Ananya and Carnal Flower would unfold to coincide with significant love affairs — and then it would conclude with a move to the countryside of wide-open fields and vast horizons, a trail of fresh jasmine, orange blossom and ripe woods scents traipsing behind me. Perfume is a story through scent that’s able to capture dreams, places, people, and affairs of the heart and soul in an quiet, elusive yet economical way. A story so utterly personal and poetic that words on a screen or page can’t even begin to capture.


Picture: A few of my current lineup. I like a mix of hippie, department store and luxe.

On autumnal beauty

Nature is beautiful all times of the year to me, but I especially love the stark, rich melancholy that is autumn, when light fades early and the branches get bright and vivid, and then spindly and skeletal. Spooky beauty, dusted with sadness that everything fades with the passing of time.

There’s this grass garden at my local arboretum that’s especially subtle when it comes to the passing of time. Who knew that bunches of grass planted together could be so lovely? Different hues of green and gold, a mix of textures: feathery, papery, silky. I’ve been stalking this garden all year and watching it change slowly, shifting in saturation. The color gets leeched out as the cold approaches and then stays. I finally made a little movie of it because I loved the way the wind makes it move.

It makes me sad that it will only be this way for so long, really. Ephemeral, beauty often is — but that is what makes it so beautiful.