Archive for September, 2012

I Love a Little Witchiness in my Aesthetic, Don’t You?

Like a lot of ladies of a certain bent, I went through a phase where I said I was Wiccan. It is a thing that young ladies of a certain semi-Goth/pagan persuasion like to say, I suppose. But even as a kid, I had a pull towards that spectrum of things: when I was six, I made up a “church” of “moon worship” where we’d plant flowers under the full moon and dance and sing around them. (It wasn’t unlike that scene in My Neighbor Totoro where they plant the trees and hop around the shoots!)

These days, I am pagan-sympathetic and still like my Tarot cards and believe in the Divine Feminine and all that, but I’ll never be of the organized spiritual persuasion and am sometimes am inclined to think that matters of spirituality transcend human identity. Still, deep down, I really still wish I were a witch, able to sculpt the hidden energies of the universe into beautiful, powerful forms. So I’ll always appreciate a bit of that witchy feminine spirit in my art and entertainment. Witness:

Dum Dum Girls, “Lord Knows”

Black-and-white spectral spookiness, evoking a kind of almost Eleusinian mystery. I would time travel to see that kind of isht, but since my powers are confined to this portion of the time-space continuum, I’ll have to make due with this beautifully directed video:

Is it just me, or are the Dum Dum Girls getting better and better? Outside of their girl group/garage rock style, their music has a lot more emotional depth than you’d think at first, and her voice is just so deep and dusky. I’m excited to get their new EP End of Daze soon.

Fever Ray, “Now’s the Only Time I Know”

I saw Fever Ray live and it was the closest I ever felt to a “techno-pagan without being a 90s San Francisco cliche” experience. It was a fantastic, mystical, beautiful show full of dancing, music and a kind of theatricality that you rarely see in a semi-indie milieu. I felt absolutely transported outside of myself during the show, and when it was done, it was such a disappointment to wander back onto the streets of New York full of noise and crowds.

In a way, that’s what the longing for the supernatural means to me — a kind of desire to know that we’re not confined to the seen reality around us, that the sometimes inchaote sense we feel that there is something bigger out there is real and not imagined. Some people have aliens, others have witches.

The Tao of Serafina Pekkala

I’m a massive fan of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” books. Truth: I love this trilogy more than I love the Harry Potter books — and I really dig the Harry Potter books. I love the intellectual audacity of Pullman’s books, the richness of the characters, Lyra and Iorek Byrnison, and daemons in general. And the stories have my favorite conception of witches, ever: I love how they are so fierce, political, argumentative, how they fly up in the air to study the winds and starlight, how they’re impervious to cold, how their attitude towards love is both light and sorrowful. I love that their daemons can travel great distances from them, and the intensity of the ritual that makes this so. And you know, look at Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala in the movie version: she’s so beautiful!

They understand the gravity of human existence and yet it lands lightly on them because they are so focused on nature and the cosmos. In other words, these witches have their priorities straight.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

I read this book when I was 16, and it’s one of the important personal literary events in my life when I look back in retrospect, shaping almost unconsciously my feminist, political and spiritual inclinations. I’ve written earlier about it, so I won’t rehash it here, but anyone who wants a little fictional paganism/witchery would do well to pick this up — it’s absolutely epic. I know more than a few real-deal pagans and Wiccans who cite this book as a gateway into their interest in alternative spiritualities. I never quite went there myself, and even if you’re not inclined, it’s still an absorbing read when it comes to those literary matters of story and character.

And Of Course, The Craft, i.e., The Best Semi-Trashy Movie About Teenage Witchcraft, Ever

One of the reasons the 90s were so awesome for women was that, in the latter half of the decade, there were all these movies about young female teenage rebellion and empowerment hitting the mainstream: I’m thinking stuff like Foxfire, and yes, The Craft. There are all sorts of late 90s ingenues running around in this movie, like Neve Campbell (i.e., most boring celebrity interview ever transcribed), Robin Tunney and the wonderfully batshit Fairuza Balk. Watching it again, the plot barely hinges together coherently, but man, it is still so satisfying to see these ladies take control and wreak SUPERNATURAL HAVOC. Magic as a parable for hormones: love it!

It’s sort of the anti-Mists of Avalon: it’s semi-campy, trashy and ridiculous, but there’s still an emotional core of righteous anger and power that resonates.

Hello, Autumn! And Some Equinox Thoughts

The equinox was on Saturday, ushering in the official change from summer to fall. Yay! Fall is my favorite season of the year — I love the cooler temperatures, the deep and melancholy colors, the way everything buzzes with a kind of purpose. I will always have that “back to school” urge to get new notebooks, new sweaters, new folders, new bag.

I’m a lazy pagan in general: though I’m not one to light a candle and dance under the moon, I like to use the change in seasons and the rhythms of nature to reflect and contemplate and celebrate — in my own, modern, idiosyncratic way, to feel like I’m in sync with the larger world around me.

Equinoxes are symbolically about balance: equal amount of light and darkness. I’ve actually been thinking about things like balance and equilibrium, maybe because lately my life doesn’t feel like it’s had much of it. I feel like I’ve spent the last month and a half settling down into a new place. Hearth and home, I guess. I couldn’t concentrate, really, on much else — it was a compulsion, to make sure the pots and pans were in order, basic furniture settled, building up my pantry, etc. I have never felt like such a stereotypical homebody Cancer, bustling about buying five kinds of vinegar and contemplating throw pillows for the sofa. (Yes, I can’t believe I woke up one day and was like, “Oh my god, I absolutely NEED to have champagne balsamic vinegar!”)

But now that’s done and passed, and I can get back to everything else. Theoretically, at least — lately I feel my focus and attention is a little scattered and frayed, and I don’t really have a lot of clarity as a result. I pass through time so quickly that the days scroll by in a blur; I sometimes feel like I’m just an airless wraith being tossed and turned by the winds in my days. You know that feeling, when you’re eating something and you don’t taste it because your mind is in a million different places. Or you just had a conversation and can’t recall what you just talked about. Or you lie down at the end of the day and the day’s events are all still racing through you. I hate to make many decisions in a cloudy state, so I really need to take some time to regain a sense of harmony. I need to do things like:

Make sure I get enough sleep. I haven’t been sleeping as much as I should, and I am kind of feeling it. Not burned out, but getting close to that edge. Sleep! It’s so easy for people to think they need to do without it, but it’s such a pillar of well-being.

Getting enough fresh air. Even if it’s just having coffee on my porch and sitting in the sun for a moment. There’s just something nice about it. Plus: I have to soak in what I can before it gets too cold for it.

Read! Watch movies! Listen to music Lately I feel like I don’t read as much as I’d like, or watch enough quality stuff, or listen to music as deeply as I used to. It’s not wallpaper; it deserves my full attention. It’s time to fill the well again.

Write! I haven’t really done a lot while moving — it’s hard for me to focus, for sure, on anything, and now I feel rusty and out of practice. I used to be quite good at getting up early to work on projects — I need to start doing that again, and carving out the space to honor that priority for myself.

Recreate a rhythm for myself. Even if it’s just ten minutes in the morning to have coffee and ten minutes at night for hot cider! Just something that creates a tiny oasis of time where I don’t have to do anything — I can just sit and exist.

I guess it’s a “back to basics” time for me, really, restoring my footing or center, or whatever word you want to use for the state of feeling rooted in life and solid in yourself and what you’re doing. For a long time, being creative felt effortless to me, but then I realized it was being my lifestyle at the time was structured around it. (Going to film school will do that for you.) Now I have to be a bit more purposeful, with so much else in life happening: a full-time job, loved ones, a home to run, etc.

I don’t quite believe in “life balance” much, honestly — I think creative people have muses and passions, and they need to pursue them in the seasons where they’re most ripe. But I do think even when you’re chasing your dragons, there’s such as thing as equilibrium to help you ride those tides. That’s what this equinox is about for me, finding my own balance of light and dark inside.

My Life in Pictures: A Trip to the Zoo, A Room and An Outfit

The days are bright but cool, the winds setting in, and suddenly everything apple-, cinnamon- or pumpkin-smelling appeals: fall is here! There are speed bumps here and there, but overall, everything feels purposeful and optimistic. I have plans for stories, projects, meals, trips.

But there’s something different about this fall: I’ve carried the feeling of relaxation from the summer with me into the season, and the usually intense, hyper-driven forward push has mellowed a bit. It’s strange: I feel how little time there is in a lifetime sometimes, but that only means more and more that I want to savor the moments I have. So, I guess that’s what these kind of picture posts are: savoring the bits of life that don’t seem so consequential, but add up to what my heart will hold dear in the future.

Last weekend I went to the Brookfield Zoo. I haven’t been there since I was in grade school, and I had forgotten how massive the place is. It was pretty much the last truly summerlike day of the season, and the place was overrun with kids and families: at one point, I turned around in an exhibition room and felt like I was drowning in a sea of strollers, manned by tired, grumpy parents. I guess it’s a zoo — what else do I expect? I still got to see lots of animals, like the critters above. (Okay, that gorilla? So not a “critter”! He was huuuuuge.)

Yep, I think those turtles were feeling a bit frisky? I didn’t see the dolphin show, but the underwater viewing rooms were so peaceful. I’d love to be surrounded by such a serene bright blue. Then I’d sleep like those adorable parrots!

It made me a bit sad in a way, because most of the animals I love — like wolves, for example — are nocturnal. I wish zoos had nighttime hours every now and then; maybe then the rampant stroller factor would be a bit lessened as well. Who’d be up for a zoo happy hour?

Closer to home, my little apartment is coming together slowly but nicely. My bedroom is right about where I like it: spare, serene but pretty. See?

Lately I’ve been using my extra points at Paperback Swap to collect as many of the L.M. Montgomery books I can get. (I’m re-reading all of the Anne of Green Gables books: so much love!) I’ve burned enough candles so that it feels like I’ve cleared out all the old smells, and now I wake up and I’m not so startled or disoriented about where I am. A home takes awhile to pull together (and…it’s so expensive!) I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the living room. I can dress and style a bedroom with no problem, but having a living room all of my own feels slightly daunting, mostly because I haven’t gotten all of the furniture for it.

Outside of home decor musings, I’m taking great pleasure at wearing my cool-weather clothes. Scarves! Sweaters! Boots! Coats! All of my favorite sartorial things. I haven’t bought very much for fall so far (most of my money’s gone to house stuff.) What should I get? What have you been getting for the season?

I paged through the fall magazines and nothing has really caught my eye but a peplum top here and there. I did get a pair of bootleg jeans on a kind of whim, though: I was trying on stuff and threw them in the pile as a bit of a “what the heck” type of thing. But when I tried them on, I really liked them. Lately my eye has tired of the skinny jean silhouette, and I like the 70s-ish feel of a nice bootleg. It feels a bit more subversive to wear than it did in, say, 2000 — such are the cycles of fashion, I guess. (I even subtitled the outfit above “fighting the hegemony of skinny jeans”!) I still wear skinny jeans, mostly with my bigger and longer boots, but it’s definitely weird sometimes to wear a bootleg — it skews your other clothing choices when you consider a new silhouette. Lately I like a vibe that’s basically “dressing like a Neil Young song”: kinda worn-in, melancholy yet sunlit in a way. I like faded florals in gamine yet romantic shapes, cozy textures, kind of gentle colors. Everything natural and with a sense of ease. Kind of like life in early fall, right?

On Driving

One thing very different about my life post-NYC is how much I drive now. I’m not entirely happy about this, though there are several pleasures about driving: how great music sounds in a car, for example, or passing through swaths of natural beauty in a particularly cinematic way. My car has become like a second room, full of music, snacks stashed away, my gym bag in the backseat, a fashion magazine spilled over onto the floor.

But overall, I don’t like the fact that I’m driving and burning up gas. I try to allay my environmental guilt by reminding myself I spent nearly my entire adulthood up to this point not driving, relying on public transit and avoiding car ownership. But still, at a time when gas prices are so high and the impact of our consumption on the environment is so apparent, being a driver smarts, especially living in a town whose public transportation is shamefully paltry.

But the strangest thing about driving is being confronted with the darker thoughts and misanthropic impulses that seem to float up into my consciousness whenever I’m behind the wheel. I get angrier more often; I can’t believe how judgmental I am. I get so irritated at how badly people drive, what poor manners they have on the road, and in my head I deliver these intense lectures on cell phone use while driving. (Also: I really don’t understand why people love to cut across two or three lanes to rush to the left-hand turn lane.) I can feel my temper inside of me flaring up, stinging me with spiky little thorns every time I suppress my desire to lash out over some perceived transgression or another.

At night when I drive, my imagination becomes baroque, wild, and very catastrophic: a car pulls out of a quiet neighborhood and I’m convinced they’ve robbed and murdered someone. A sedan with darkened windows in the lane next to me is going to carjack me — a plastic bag slumped at the side of the road contains a severed head. And sometimes, as I speed down the road looking out through the windshield at the road spread out in front of me, I feel as if I’ve been cut off from the world, trapped behind a glass jar with just my music. Wafting in an airless world: cut off, detached, rigidly clasping at the wheel as I drift in the strange chamber that is my life on the road.

But then I roll the windows down, air fluttering in as the music plays louder, letting the world in even as I speed through it. Most car rides are short; so are my excursions through the dark, jarringly violent corners of my imagination, thank goodness.