by Angeliska on November 11, 2014
Last night I dreamt I was getting married. Walking through a garden with tables set for a banquet, floral arrangements spilling over with bright orange berries and paper lantern flowers. Lights were strung from the trees. Everything was being prepared, made ready. The guests had yet to arrive. But the colors were all wrong, not mine. Everything was secondhand, leftover from somebody else’s wedding, but I’d agreed to make do. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? So much rushing around to do, and all alone, because I can’t see my fiance until we’re both standing at the altar together. I miss him. It seems wrong that we should have to be apart for all this madness, even for just half a day. I’m standing in front of a pair of priests in suits with my husband to be. I don’t know him. He’s a stranger to me (but I think he might be Frank Zappa.) The old men in suits, the priests, they can’t find the paper with our ceremony written on it. They dig through their suit pockets and get red-faced, flustered as we stand there stiffly, awkwardly waiting. After awhile, my bridegroom leans in towards me and whispers, “Hey – I love you and you love me, so how about we just leave it at that and blow this pop-stand?” He takes my hand and we leave the priests blustering, gobsmacked and we’re out the glass doors and I’m thinking – but we didn’t even kiss. We made no vows. The wedding party has been gathered out on the stone stairs below, taking photographs of themselves for some time. When we emerge, arm in arm, there is nothing but a stunned silence. I instruct them to clap for us, cheer, throw rice or ring bells, blow bubbles – something, for god’s sakes. They half-heartedly manage a hurrah, but we’ve already escaped. I think we might not even know those people, that they are possibly somebody else’s wedding party after all. I pause for a moment on the garden path to examine the ring on my finger. It’s made of gray and heavy lead and set with sapphires, inscribed with words I can’t remember. This, and the wedding gown I’m wearing belonged once to his first wife. The dress doesn’t fit me – it hangs off my body like a brocade sack, much too big. I wonder where my sisters are, all my ladies – surely they would’ve helped me prepare, done my hair, taken this awful dress in, told me not to go through with this thing. I wonder where everyone was. It seems we didn’t invite any of our friends or families. I feel like I’ve been swindled out of a wedding. I’m married now, Mrs. Zappa, apparently – but I wish we could have a do-over, because none of this seems right. My husband is a taciturn type, and not likely to put up with another wedding, now that we’ve just had one. There’s a finality to it – something I had wanted for so long, and now it’s done. The wedding as a thing, a seal on a canopic jar – but nothing like a long life, a long marriage. The actual work and joy of being together. I see my boyfriend down the way, and he doesn’t seem very happy that I’ve gone off and married Frank Zappa. I squat down in the dirt beside him to examine the impressive array of alien mushroom species on display in this garden. They look more like psychedelic jellyfish than fungi – glassy and swirling with an otherworldly sentience. Feathery anemones undulating inside shiny orbs like millefiori paperweights from outerspace. He pokes at one sullenly with a stick, making a hole in the slick, bulbous clear surface. It regenerates, morphs, comes back together bigger and better – healing itself like a starfish, growing new appendages.
I wake up, and it’s 11.11.14 – maybe no surprise that my subconscious spent the night struggling to parse the anxiety of a wedding, given that I was supposed to get married on this day, three years ago now. Dreams are funny that way, showing us the ways our psyches are still preoccupied with certain subjects and scenarios. Trapped in a situation that you suddenly realize is all wrong. Marrying someone you thought you knew. I don’t really think about that part of my life all too often these days – or, I guess I try not to. It comes up, of course. But the way my dreams will hand these things over sometimes still shocks me. They hiss: Pssst. Hey. Hey, you! Did you forget? Does that scar still ache? Well, sure it does, if you poke at it like that. Conversations can happen in dreams that might never happen in waking life. Things can surface in dreams that can still make you hunch over your teacup at the kitchen table early in the morning, weeping helplessly over what was lost. I wanted to be married, so much. I wanted to belong to someone, to be part of a partnership, a team. You and me, baby. Together, we can handle anything. Me for you and you for me. I think I still crave that: the companionship, the connection, the surety of knowing that you have someone to come home to. I still want that, but I see it somewhat differently these days. The past few years have made me question deeply my own motivations behind wanting a partner. I realize now that there was something about that ring on my finger that symbolized the ultimate validation, proof that I was loved eternally, unconditionally. I think that there are maybe a lot of people, perhaps women especially, who secretly view being married as “winning” somehow. A golden ring won like a prize at the fair. It’s 2014, and yet – I think many of us still feel the imprint of a heavy weight made up of a thousand years of human history where marriage has existed most commonly as a financial, social and logistical transaction, as an institution where the worth of a woman was indeed based upon her marriageability. For most of us in the Western world today, marriage is supposed to be solely about love – not necessarily about our the wishes of our families, or security, society, money or children – and yet all of those things are still very much part of the story. There’s the idea that being married means that someone wanted you enough to pledge their life to you, to stand in front of god and everybody and say the magic words that would bind you together forever. I think about this a lot, especially when I am called to perform wedding ceremonies, as a priestess. It is not something I take lightly at all, and truly – the main reason I do it is because I would rather a couple have someone participating in their ceremony who actually cares about them and their union, rather than a blase Justice of the Peace who gets their names wrong. In the Catholic church, when a couple wants to get married, they must go through a lengthy preparation process with their officiating priest. I think it can potentially take months, for discussion, answering questions, and considering deeply the proposal before them – which is: nothing less than eternity, in a religion where divorce is an extremely undesirable outcome. Even though I only have a sort of vague idea of what this process actually entails, I’d like to know more, and perhaps somehow adapt it for the couples who come to me wanting to get married. I think of myself, three years ago – and how I wish someone would have sat me and my (now former) partner down, and asked these penetrating questions of us – made us look clearly at what we were getting into, what we were truly asking of one another. I don’t think either of us actually knew. I want to believe that it was more than just the idea of marriage that bonded us then, but now it’s hard to see more than disparate points in the sky where our lines once met, intersected. What we were to each other is now a constellation whose true shape has been forgotten. The dots still exist on the map, but the roads connecting them got washed out over time, and after many storms.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from all of this, is that in order for one to have a good relationship with anyone else – you must first have and continue to cultivate an extraordinary relationship with yourself. This is an ongoing process of learning for me – how to nurture and nourish that relationship with myself. I see now how completely I used to neglect it, and how it caused all my other relationships to suffer greatly in turn. More and more I understand profoundly how you really just can’t give what you ain’t got. We hear it all the time, how you gotta love yourself before you can love anybody else (can I get an amen?) but I’ll remind you that that is just the goddamn truth. So, I’ve been focusing on that more and more in my life – all the different ways that I can replenish the well, keep the fountain flowing. To not feel I need anyone else, to be validated, to be desired, to be a whole person. But just to be enough in myself – no matter what. Of course, we are creatures who are built for connection – we naturally gravitate towards the idea of a mate, a family, community. Belonging. It is an idea that is still hardwired into us as true survival. But it has to go further than the illusion of safety and comfort. It has to be concurrent growth, awakening, and mutual understanding. And this is where the real work comes in. For both individuals in a relationship to be actively and devotedly attending to the care and feeding of their own souls/minds/hearts/bodies – that’s what the work is made of.
“I ache for shared silence, not the awkward lulls in conversation where we reach for something – anything – to cover the tension of trying to be with too much of the other and too little of ourselves, but the moments of fullness that let each of us unfold and know who we really are. I long for silences with another where there is nothing to forgive or explain or justify, where we agree to abandon quickly spoken words for a time so we do not abandon ourselves or each other, the silences where no one asks me to choose between belonging to myself and being with the world. And when these silences come, I feel how I am working my way home through whatever they hold- terror or tenderness, grief or celebration – spiraling ever closer to a sweetness I have ached for all my life.”
May we find some shared silence today – where we are present with each other and whatever the silence holds. How sweet and intimate it is to be able to truly be together with or without words.
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” – Fred Rogers
This applies to self-love as well. To accept yourself exactly the way you are, right here and now.
And so to that end – I’ve been going inward, taking time for myself to do the things that feed my heart, that reconnect me with who I am. There’s this quote I read one day that moved me so much: “If you want to see the face of the one true love of your life – just go look in the mirror.” It’s silly, maybe – but it hit me that I’ve been searching for this love outside of myself desperately my entire life, and all along, the real love was here – always. There is one person who can count on to never leave you, never betray you, never deny you – but only if you will recognize yourself of being worthy of that steadfastness, that kindness, that generosity. To radiate that love inward, so that it can shine outward. There are so many ways to do this, and each person (hopefully) will find the different sources of that sustenance that is always available – but for me, this heart food is made of light, of quietude, of time to think and to create. I have been retreating to my studio to putter for hours, my happy place that receives the afternoon sunset through open curtains. Sometimes I listen to music, or sometimes just the sounds of grackles squawking in the cedar outside, motorcycles whizzing by, schoolkids chattering, the last calls of the cicadas. I clean my altars and light the candles. I cut zinnias from my garden and make bouquets, offerings. I give thanks. I anoint my wrists, temples, throat, heart with oils that make me feel strong: frankincense, ginger, black pepper, rose. I take tinctures, medicines made with love by friends: El Corazón Elixir and Passiflora Spagyric. I calm my rattled nerves and breathe deeply. I remember.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
Owl & unicorn window in the tarot trailer.
For so long – years and years – there was a part of me that was hungry like a starving dog begging out in the cold. Pleading eyes and ribs jutting out over a concave belly, and yet – all the while I was begging for scraps in empty alleys behind long closed restaurants. Looking for love in all the wrong places. Barking up the wrong goddamn trees. It’s just true. You can’t expect someone to give you what they ain’t got. To finally come in out of the cold, to learn to receive love rather than just shiver and hunger for it. The question is: do you know how to feed yourself? Do you know what nourishment your heart craves? What’s the recipe, what elements, once mixed will bring you back to a place of fullness? Sit still and listen to what your soul craves. Feed yourself like a mother taking care of her child: gently, lovingly, tenderly. Do you want to sit at the table and draw? Rock in the hammock on a slow day? Sleep in ’til noon and dream? Take a four hour bath with your book? Eat chicken pot pie on a cold night? These inquiries, aimed within, are how we can begin. It takes some time to learn, but it can happen if you tend to it: this process of blossoming, heart-opening, self-honoring.
I cup my hands around a lit candle, warming my fingers on the glass.
I stand in the afternoon light, making wishes.
I go back to the source, call upon my ancestors, obscure saints, strange angels,
whoever might be guiding me, looking out for me.
I know there’s someone, something out there –
or I certainly wouldn’t be here now, writing any of this today.
Help me, bless me, guide me, show me. Lead me back to myself, back to love.
“Down where the valleys are low, there’s a refuge so high
And down where the coldest winds blow, there the warmest winds hide
And deep in the forest of woe, sweet deliverance is nigh
And deep in the heart there’s a rose that a glimmer keeps guidin’”
– Judee Sill – “Down Where the Valleys Are Low”
Here’s a recipe for happiness, in the form of actual food (with many thanks to Miss Allyson Garro):
(this is good for gray mornings when you need some light in your belly)
Make some oatmeal on the stovetop (I like Irish steel-oats)
Add coconut milk
Dried coconut flakes
Butter, and a little salt and honey
Toast some raw cashews in a skillet
That’s heartfood, too.
by Angeliska on September 25, 2014
Tonight is the new moon, both a few days after the Autumnal Equinox and a new year, if you celebrate Rosh Hashanah (and if you do, then שָׁנָה טוֹבָה to you!) I’m trying to slow down a little, and remember the sweetness of writing just for myself, for my own enjoyment – of living that way too, running my hair through with a little wooden comb, while sitting on a stone in my garden. Electric blue dragonflies hurtle past my head, and swarms of striped legged mosquitoes make a feast of my ankles. It’s officially autumn, but in Texas even late September is still thick and humid in the bright gold haze of afternoon that seems to go on and on. It’s finally getting cooler in the mornings and late at night now – a blessing to have the windows open and a slightly thicker coverlet. But even though the dress I’m wearing is patterned with autumn leaves, worn in honor of the turning of the year, it’s still made from light rayon – a short summer dress with the sleeves cut off, in russety fall colors. It’s stuck to my back with the sweat rolling down between my shoulder blades, because in this weather any kind of clothes just feel like too much. I’m wearing my favorite dark red knit knee socks and my old boots that I refuse to give up the ghost on, despite my pinky toes sticking out holes in the sides. It’s still too hot for this kind of footwear, but I’m stubborn because it’s FALL, dammit! And I WILL wear Fall things! My hair’s a wild tangle, a bird’s nest soup of knots and damp snarls. Whether I want to admit it or not, it’s still late summer in my world, and I will have to be a little hot for another week or so at least… It’s time to harvest the honey, to go hunting for mushrooms and ripe berries – elsewhere, anyway. Here and now for me, I know it’s time to take a breath and come back to magic, to come back to knowing. Time to feel the humming of the earth deep in your veins, and to sing that song back to the birds in the trees. The mockingbird in the front yard is happy the season is starting to change – the slightly cooler air makes her frisky and she sings happily from the yaupon holly tree all day long.
Sometimes in late summer I won’t touch anything, not
the flower, not the blackberries
brimming in the thickets; I won’t drink
from the pond; I won’t name the birds or the trees;
I won’t whisper my own name.
the fox came down the hill, glittering and confident,
and didn’t see me— and I thought:
so this is the world
I’m not in it.
It is beautiful.
—Excerpt from October
Mary Oliver, New and Collected Poems, Beacon Press 1992
Two posts from two friends who both teach me a lot about what matters and what’s good:
☾ How Summer Ends… Paciencia, Paciencia This post is a year old, but I never stopped thinking about it. So gorgeous. Miss Patience really has a way with… Well, words, images, metals, hearts – she’s just amazing.
“The purpose of Ritual is to wake up the old mind, to put it to work. The old ones inside us, the collective unconscious, the many lives, the different eternal parts, the senses and the parts of the brain that have been ignored. Those parts do not speak English. They do not care about television. But they do understand candlelight and colors. They do understand nature”
– Z Budapest
I’ve been feeling frustrated and stifled the past few months, because I’ve fallen away from my rituals, my habits that bring me closer to the earth, closer to my circle, closer to myself. I’ve been traveling quite a lot, and it always seems to take me longer and longer to come back from orbit, for my soul to lodge back properly – I lose my rhythm, my daily routine is disrupted, and it requires an almost tedious period of reeling in, re-spooling where the thread has come unwound. Daily tasks like sweeping the floors, folding the linens, cooking the food, these all fall aside, and it takes a bit to return to the good ways. I think that kind of household task magic is essential ritual – especially for real harmony in home and heart. Blazing months passed by unrelentingly in the dog days of summer where my garden went unweeded and the zinnias started to droop, fall over and go to seed. My letters and emails piled up, personal deadlines floated on by, and all the words I had intended to get written still cluttered and clacked around the inside of my head. So, it feels sweet to bring myself back to a way of being, a way of doing, that I know deep down sustains me at a soul level. I’ve been hermiting terribly in the heat, and in the wake of the hustle and bustle and constant necessary human interaction that comes with long travel, and I’m sad to say that despite best intentions, I’ve been neglecting my friendships, most especially with my sistren, the women who I call sister. These are the ones that keep me anchored down to the root, the core of the earth – the ones who will say, “Let’s take tea, why don’t we?” or, “go outside and look at the moon!” or “Come and dance with me now!” I forget so often how essential their company and the reminders of what truly matters both are to my sense of well-being. I want to be honoring these relationships more in everyday life, but for now – because it’s late at night, too late for tea or dancing (though some of my sisters might disagree!), I will dedicate this writing to all of them instead. Today, there are a couple in particular that I’ve been missing hard all summer: two strong witches who always remind me how to live.
“Through the loveliness and power of her dream world she was now, in her old frock and botched shoes, very likely the loveliest, mightiest and most dangerous person on earth.” ― Karen Blixen, Winter’s Tales
Amy Annelle (Nellie) and I at Vintage Vivant a few years back. She performed with her band the Feedsack Shimmies in her feedsack dress, singing songs from the Great Depression. It’s pretty much impossible for me to describe how incredibly special this lady is, really – not if I want to do her any justice, anyway – so I’ll just say, if you’re not lucky enough to live down the river from her, to sit at her table for a meal, or huddle chatting and eating homemade cookies around her woodstove in winter, well then – I guess you better just go listen to her songs and be charmed by her fey ways. This post is dedicated to her most especially, in gratitude for all the ways she’s helped me and been there for me. I learn a lot of things from Nell, but more than anything, she inspires me to be a better witch, and a better friend. I feel I mostly fail at those things, most of the time, but I do try. A lot of the articles in this post either came from her, or reminded me of her. If you’re reading this, Nell – thank you! From one Polish witch to another.
My mom dressed me up as “The Spirit of Poland” for a preschool pageant representing our various heritages. It was definitely from this moment that I acquired my passion for folk costume. Luckily, I later lost my taste for ugly flip flops, which I guess I insisted on wearing that day, much to my mother’s chagrin.
“The true mystic is always both humble and compassionate, for she knows that she does not know.” — Richard Rohr
☾ KATARZYNA MAJAK: KOBIETY MOCY – WOMEN OF POWER
“Katarzyna Majak explores the power of women as she searches for female wisdom and plurality of spiritual paths hidden within monoreligious Polish society. Majak’s Women of Power series turns stereotypical witch imagery on its head and showcases striking images of women ranging from their 30’s to 80′s, wearing colorful unconventional clothes, and holding their unique objects of power. When asked what being a witch meant to one of the subjects in the series, she replied ‘A witch is a woman of knowledge who takes a broom and sweeps to cleanse the world.’
The women of wisdom, healers, enchanters, visionaries and spiritual leaders depicted in Majak’s vibrant photographs often facing discrimination, have taken great risk in being photographed. This is the first time many of them owned their power publicly. Majak’s journey with the Women of Power began when one of them accompanied her in a ritual to say ‘good-bye’ to her wedding dress, and the journey continued from woman to woman as the artist became fascinated with their alternative wisdoms on female power.”
☾ Resurgence of Pre-Christian Beliefs in Poland
“‘Native faith’ is the literal English translation of ‘rodzimowierstwo’ – a Polish term derived from the words ‘rodzimy’ (native) and ‘wiara’ (faith) – that refers to a belief system based on ethnic Slavic traditions. Native faithers reject the labels ‘paganism’ and ‘neo-paganism’ as both pejorative and not capturing the ethnic Slavic elements of their beliefs. Some scholars refer to these as ‘ethnic religions.’”
“The secluded village of Zalipie in southeastern Poland is home to a charming tradition. Over a century ago the women of the village began to paint their houses: however, it was not the single, uniform color one might expect from a traditional and conservative society. The village, through the intricate and vibrant paintwork of its womenfolk, bloomed.”
Photo by Mieszko Stanisławski
“They say everyone has their own way of grieving, and in the village of Săpânţa in Romania, this couldn’t be more true. In this rural farming commune lies a cemetery, known as the “merry cemetery”, that looks unlike any other you’ve ever seen. Here, you won’t find the usual dark and doomful gravestones, but instead, a colourful parade of “merry” and beautifully carved wooden crosses, marking the townspeople’s graves.”
“Wisewomen were members of a local community and a familiar face of the neighbourhood who provided health advice. In pre-industrial Britain, these healers were known to have special knowledge of anatomy, astronomy, psychotherapy and herbalism. Such practitioners also had midwifery skills and laid out the dead. This knowledge was acquired as it was passed through families and kin groups.” – Francesca Moore
The Limits of Enchantment is a fantastic book about a hedge-witch midwife in 1966 England, by Graham Joyce, who I wrote about recently. The main character makes me think a lot about Nell! I wonder if her story specifically was an inspiration…
Published in the early 1970s costing only 60¢ a copy, this hand illustrated and typed journal carried this mission:
“We see Country♀Women as a feminist country survival manual and a creative journal. It is for women living with women, with men, and alone, for women who live in the country already and for women who want to move out of the cities. We need to learn all that women can do in the country and learn to break out of oppressive roles and images. We need to reach out of our isolation from one another, to know that we aren’t alone, that we aren’t crazy, that there is a lot of love and strength and growing to share. Country♀Women can bring us together…”
☾ Do you know about the powerful work of the The 13 Grandmothers Council ? They are truly inspiring.
“We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth and the destruction of indigenous ways of life. We believe the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future.
We look to further our vision through the realization of projects that protect our diverse cultures: lands, medicines, language and ceremonial ways of prayer and through projects that educate and nurture our children.”
“‘In the beginning there was only,’ you said in the course of that unreal night of tales, a ‘Storyteller, and she was a woman. What kind of woman? You may ask. And I can only answer; a Woman, any Woman. Slowly, as time and more time went by, the Storyteller continued to tell tales to fill her loneliness, and spoke a world into being, a world of plains and mountains and rivers and dry places, and of forests and succulents and grass, and of birds and animals of all kinds, and in the end, because she was still aching with the need to be heard, and herself to hear another voice, she spoke into being a man and a woman. For a time that at first seemed endless they told her their new stories, and she listened in wonder and admiration. But in the end they began to forget that it was the Woman who had given them life through her stories, and they began to tell their stories to each other only, stories of children and cities and farms and ships and money, and hunger and cruelty and slavery. And the forgotten Storyteller fell asleep into a deep sleep of ages, because they no longer seemed to need her. and when at last they remembered her again they tried to find the story that would awaken her, but no one could tell them what that story was. And all the stories people have been telling since that time have been their attempts to find the one that would cause the Storyteller to wake up from her sleep again and restore the world to the happiness it surely knew in the beginning.” – by Andre Brink, from the book On the Contrary
☾ Meeting Medicinal Mushrooms with Sophia Rose from Female and Fungi – I’ve been meaning to share this tale of a fungal treasure hunt featuring my friend Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs – and here’s also a great recent feature and interview with her from Charm School Vintage.
Photo by Terence Spencer — The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Caption from LIFE. “High priestess Artemis stirs salt and water mixture which is used to ‘purify’ the sacred circle in all witchcraft rites. On the table are incense burner, cord and statue of goddess. At right is herb chest containing incense.”
☾ Real Witches at Work: Photos of English Pagans in the 1960s
“Fifty years ago, in the fall of 1964, LIFE magazine published what must have felt to the venerable weekly’s long-time readers like a strikingly weird feature. Titled “Real Witches at Work,” the piece included photographs of modern-day British pagans—doctors, housewives, nurses, teachers—celebrating their ancient rites, dancing around fires and generally behaving like perfectly normal, faithful worshippers of the sun, the moon and Mother Nature have been acting for thousands of years.”
☾ How to Make Borscht with Neko Case
I had a really vivid dream about hanging out with Neko Case recently. It felt like it went on for hours and hours and we just talked about all kinds of stuff. I think we went to New Zealand, or maybe back to Colombia. It was great. You know those dreams that just feel real? You wake up and feel like you’ve really seen the person, spent real time – it was like that. I have been lucky to talk with her a few times, because she would come into Uncommon Objects when she was in town. One time, she did me a real good turn – I had just had major abdominal surgery, and though I was back at work, I couldn’t really stand up for long periods of time at that point, especially towards nighttime. She came in the day before her show to shop and asked if I was going to be at the concert. I told her sadly why I hadn’t bought tickets, and she told me she’d put me on the guestlist, and saved me a spot in the VIP balcony area so I could sit down and watch the show. So goddamn kind, that lady. I just cried happy tears through most of her songs that night. Thank you, Neko. I hope I get to do something nice for you one day!
Bind Us All by Festival
I made a mix of music to go with all this goodness, just for you! Please enjoy.
Artwork is from the book Wise Child (in my canon of most beloved magical YA fiction), by Monica Furlong. Cover illustration by my favorite book illustrator couple, Leo and Diane Dillon.
Happy New Moon, dears! I’d love to hear about any little (or big!) rituals that have been helpful for grounding your spirit in these turning times, if you feel like sharing!
by Angeliska on September 22, 2014
Here we are at the turnings again. It seems that the turnings are the main moments (or the only ones, lately anyway) that I feel inspired or most dedicated to writing about. This is when I write most, when the air shifts and something in me feels beholden to this marking of time, honoring the days here in this journal of sorts. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what it’s all for – the medium and how it’s changed and what I want to write and why. The kind of thinking that feels maybe like what carding thick wool or spinning rough thread feels like, but I don’t necessarily feel the satisfying hefty hank of spun and done fiber in my hands at the end. Maybe that’s where the writing part comes in. This is something I’m going to try and elaborate on here, on a different day. We’ll see how that goes. No promises, though. It’s dangerous to make promises at the crossroads, and that’s where I’m standing – between here and there, looking back on some of the big changes that have occurred in my life and just feeling sort of dazed and amazed that I even made it through this far I suppose. I did, though. And it changed me, the road, the journey. Turnings will do that to a person, which is one of the reasons we feel compelled to mark them. The reason I do. Lately, it’s felt so heavy. The feeling I have in my chest is like a river stone, a large one – the weight of the world, the responsibility of honoring, of marking, of archiving, of telling. Do spiders and storytellers feel this way sometimes, or does that silk always just effortlessly spool out from their mouths, hands, and rear ends? Oh hush, I do know the answer. Of course it’s hard sometimes. Life intervenes. Reexaminations occur. The wheel turns, and every year the same solstices, anniversaries, death days, birthdays, weddings, winters, wakes. Honestly, I get exhausted by poignance sometimes. The weight of meaning, the constant flood of wonder and disaster that my life (all lives) seems to be made of. There are times when I have to just sit and stare at the sun heading down the horizon line, go inside and close the door, blow out the candles and oh, I don’t know – watch funny cat videos or read a frivolous book about time-traveling witches. As much as I want to always be present and participating in every ritual, I’m trying to remember that fields have to lay fallow sometimes in order to produce. So this autumn equinox, I’ll just be happy if I can write a little, say a few things I want to convey, and mark the hours, the months, the days in my old way. The candle is lit on the altar, the little bouquet from my garden gathered, and I sit below it, trying to tap out the words, the wishes. The heavy poignant things that have happened, and the passing fancies. Mark them, lest they fade away – they will anyway, but still. On long afternoons like this with golden sunlight flooding low into my writing room windows, my heart wants to honor it all. To try.
Our practice is to find our true home. When we breathe, we breathe in such a way that we can find our true home. When we make a step, we make a step in such a way that we touch our true home with our feet.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Little ramshackle shack, you feel like a place I go to in my dreams. Long time ago, someone who loved you planted those oxblood lilies along the path to the porch. Those hands are long gone but y’all still rise bloody and graceful every year in September. The lilies remember when.
I rode home past this place on the way back from the bike shop, admiring it, as I have for years – and wondering who exactly dwells in this tumbledown vine-nestled clapboard cottage. Someone does still. I almost didn’t take this picture, but I’ve been regretting that lately, because you never know if you’ll have another chance, and even though you can tell it in words, describe it in a story, I want to try my best to capture both. So I turned the bike around, past the tough-looking fellas with no shirts smoking on the porch next door, and photographed the little shack. I didn’t take a picture of them, so I’ll do what I can to tell the little story of our conversation instead. One of the guys said, “You like that place, huh?” and I replied, “You know, I really do… I always have, but I’ve never stopped to take a picture.” He says, “Oh, people are always stopping to take photos of it. Everybody likes that old place.” We talk for a minute about oxblood lilies, and the person that maybe lives there and how there are lights on sometimes and trash bins, but they never see anybody come in or go out. The guys don’t seem so menacing to me anymore, just a little rough around the edges, maybe a hint of faded prison tattoos, a bleared inky teardrop tucked away in a leathery crow’s foot, but you know – real friendly. The one guy says, “You like old stuff, huh?” and I tell him I do. He asks me if I like the Back To The Future movies, and I say that I did when I was little. I’m about to pedal away when he says, “Lemme ask you something. If you could go back in time to any time in history, when would it be?” That one gets me, because I think about that question all the time, and have since I was a kid. I tell him that I just posed the same question to my boyfriend over breakfast recently, so I don’t even have to think about it. But he says “Naw naw, hang on lemme guess first…! I bet… 1973!” I say, “You know, that’s funny, because my fella and I, we ended up agreeing on two times between us, more or less. For me, it’s anywhere between 1910-1920. He wanted the 40′s. But we both thought going back to the early 70′s would be great if you could bring stuff back with you, because the antique stores then were crammed full of all kinds of great stuff nobody really wanted or cared about back then. Funny for him to come up with that, because he doesn’t really like too much stuff, but I’m an antique dealer, so I’d be in hog heaven…” We talk a bit more about finding cool stuff in the trash and he asks for my card so he can let me know when he rescues something good.
Returning home grateful to storm soaked earth, my garden rising gracefully back after the pummel & swelter of August in Texas – I feel so blessed and blissful to be back where I belong, and be in time to witness the first yearly blooming of the oxblood lilies welcoming me back. Called hurricane lilies or schoolhouse lilies, they always tell you what time of year it is. Maybe the ones that grow in my garden are called returning-home-after-late-summer-travels lilies, or maybe breathe-easy-long-and-deep-because-fall-is-just-about-here lilies…
Lycoris radiata. Red spider lily. Higanbana. Autumn Equinox flower. In hanakotoba, the Japanese language of flowers, red spider lilies are associated with loss, longing, abandonment and lost memories. As legend has it, if you meet a person you’ll never see again, these flowers will bloom along your path. I had bought some of these bulbs and just planted them when Maldorora turned me on to the story behind the flowers, which I’d never heard before… (Thank you!)
“The flower has many other names, but many of them are no longer used.
I’ve come across an old name that’s not used in Japan anymore as far as I know,
chicken blood plant (鶏血草, keiketsusō), due to its colour.
It’s known as shibitobana (死人花), flower of the dead, because it blooms while you visit your ancestors’ graves.
It’s called yūreibana (幽霊花), because the flower looks like a ghost.”
More information about this lovely bloom from the same author: Higanbana, the flower of the dead,
“Ohigan (お彼岸) is a Buddhist celebration that takes place twice a year. Both are public holidays in Japan: Spring Equinox Day (春分の日 Shunbun no Hi) was on 21 March and Autumn Equinox Day (秋分の日 Shūbun no Hi) will be on 23 September.
Ohigan roughly means “the other shore”, in other words, enlightenment. The lofty ideal during ohigan is that you should focus on the so-called six perfections; the more practical application is that you return to your hometown on these days, clean family graves and pay respects to your ancestors.
One flower has become anonymous with the autumn equinox: higanbana, English name red spider lily, scientific name Lycoris radiata. I know autumn is on its way – doesn’t matter how hot it still is – as soon as I spot the year’s first higanbana. They’re beautiful flowers, both delicate and flamboyant.”
The golden apples of the sun. First and only the apple tree in my garden has ever produced. They were a little wrinkly, because I let them ripen too long before harvesting, but so very sweet! Hopefully there will be more to come.
This is a good day for this poem:
The Song of Wandering Aengus
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
– William Butler Yeats
I think of Eudora Welty’s Golden Apples, also:
“She knew that now at the river, where she had been before on moonlit nights in autumn, drunken and sleepless, mist lay on the water and filled the trees, and from the eyes to the moon would be a cone, a long silent horn, of white light. It was a connection visible as the hair is in air, between the self and the moon, to make the self feel the child, a daughter far, far back. Then the water, warmer than the night air or the self that might be suddenly cold, like any other arms, took the body under too, running without visibility into the mouth. As she would drift in the river, too alert, too insolent in her heart in those days, the mist might thin momentarily and brilliant jewel eyes would look out from the water-line and the bank. Sometimes in the weeds a lightning bug would lighten, on and off, on and off, for as long in the night as she was there to see.”
This is my dear friend Pandora, who is an enormously talented artist, performer, and puppeteer. Her beautiful home & performance space, The Mudlark Public Theatre was destroyed recently by a devastating fire. New Orleans needs this hub for magic & creativity to exist and this creator to thrive! Please help if you can: www.youcaring.com/savethemudlark & spread the word! Thank you! p.s. I took this photo last Ash Wednesday – Pandora is standing in front of her theatre/home, on the corner of Port and Marais in the Bywater neighborhood, NOLA. Help save the Mudlark so you can go see shows there and be amazed!
The majority of this footage was shot for a theatrical project campaign prior to the fire. It has been arranged to show that the people affected by the fire are hard working, productive artists that have succumbed to a tragedy. Donations will go to helping restore Pandora’s home and theatre. While the home was devastated, the theatre also requires extensive repairs. This means securing a space that she’s built over the years to master her art, and as a sanctuary for burgeoning underground artists.
The fire has halted the efforts of The Mudlark for the moment. Let us not allow it to remain in waste. Please Donate.
I was fervently wishing I could’ve been in New Orleans yesterday for my friend Veronica’s second line, celebrating her life and honoring her passage to the world beyond this one. Vee was gorgeous, insanely talented, sassy and sharp as a tack, with an enormous lust for life. Joie de Vee indeed! I can’t believe she’s gone. We were all so in awe of her talent, style and effervescent verve. I will miss her lusty laugh & the mischievous glint in her gorgeous green eyes… Goddamnit girl, we are gonna be missing you sorely… R.I.P. Veronica Anne Russell – one helluva dame, a great beauty, and a true southern sweetheart.
And we lost sweet Nicky. He was a bright shining star, gentle heart, powerful force, magical being. My heart is hurting for him, for his family, and for everyone who loved him… I feel so grateful that I got to know him a little but in his time on this earth. Only 24 years old. So goddamn sad. I just can’t even say everything I want to about him, his life and his death right now. I hope to be able to at some point. I loved that he would always trust me to paint his face with wild colors. I love having those quiet times with him, holding his face in my hands, dusting those shadowed sad eyes with sparkle, making each other laugh. I love you, Nicky.
As Rusty Lazer says about this video: “Getting past the ridiculous name of the show, this is the best representation of the spirit and attitude of Nicky Da B I’ve seen. His open personality and self assured joy is what really shines through:”
Nicky da B, rising young New Orleans rapper, remembered by friends, family and media
I’m also very saddened to have learned that a favorite author of mine, Graham Joyce, has died earlier recently, after a valiant battle with cancer. I’ve been reading his work of dark fantasy and intrigue since I was about 17, first falling in love with Requiem (Mary Magdalene + Jerusalem Syndrome!), The Tooth Fairy (I don’t even know what to say about this one, other than that I loved it the most) and then Dark Sister (witchcraft + herblore!). A couple of years ago, I rediscovered his work when I picked up The Limits of Enchantment from the library – it’s about a hedge-witch midwife in 1966 England, and it utterly captivated me. I sobbed over the characters in that book as if I’d known them – and because of his writing, I did. I remember vividly that feeling you have sometimes when you’ve stayed up all night reading something amazing, and then suddenly – it’s finished. You turn the book over in your hands and gaze at it lovingly, longingly. I was struck by a sudden desire to reach out to the author, and tell him how much his writing had meant to me over the years. I found his email address on his website, and before I could second guess myself, I wrote him a letter. Imagine my excitement, when a few days later, he wrote me back – and on my birthday, no less! Through other writerly friends we have in common, we became friends here on Facebook, and I would read his sometimes cheerful, sometimes morbidly hilarious updates about the vicissitudes of chemotherapy over the last year or so. It was here this morning that I learned of his passing. I sat at the kitchen table and wept for a man I’d never met, but whose words had taken me on so many journeys. Graham, thank you for being so wonderful. I’m going to savor the books I have of yours, and most especially the ones I haven’t yet read. Thank you for creating these worlds for us. Rest in peace, lovely man. Even if you never read a single one of his books (though I certainly hope that you will!) – please, read this. It’s the last thing he wrote on his website, and it made my heart seize up and the tears flow again. So beautiful. So true.
“And with that uncertainty of the time previously taken for granted comes the prospect of grace. I’m not religious, but I know moments of grace when they are gifted. Ordinary moments, but they make the hairs stand up on the back of your forearm. Watching my boy race through the field with our dog; getting deliciously lost in a new bluebell wood; the four of us laughing until it hurts at something said one dinner time; my daughter showing me her latest painting; the music of rain; driving back from a beach walk on my wife’s birthday when the setting sun boiled up huge, blistering poppies in a golden barley field and flushed pheasants and hares and other totemic animals from the roadside. Quotidian moments, each no bigger than a nutshell really, but infinite and delirium-inducing when you come to examine them.”
Oh, death. It’s just too much sometimes. I know we live in a blessed era of health and relative peace, at least for the moment, in this country – and that compared to other times and places, when people were just keeling over right and left from, you know – yellow fever, starvation, bombs, whathaveyou – we just don’t lose loved ones constantly. But I feel like I do. I’ve known so much death in this life already – lost so many friends too soon. Maybe it’s just that I know and love so many incredible people, maybe it’s New Orleans – or maybe it’s that so many of the incredible people that I know and love tend to live and die in New Orleans? I don’t know, but I’m real tired of it. Tired of saying goodbye, of wishing I’d said hello more, of missing their faces, and knowing their places stand empty in the fabric of living and breathing and doing and making that they used to occupy. And it always seems to be the ones who were doing the most, being their best, trying the hardest. True hearts. I want to write about them and honor them more, better than this. It’s not enough, you know. Bright stars just wink out and we miss them and all the pieces of their lives get distributed hither and thither and we tell their stories and try to keep them alive, but they’re just fucking GONE. A whole life lived, up to a point – and then, never again. My friends got sick, real sick. They knew they were dying, felt it coming. I have been thinking about this a lot, and I don’t know what I want to say about it yet. Maybe I will someday. The sun is setting, like it does every day, and the days are getting shorter from here on out. I went out and planted a Mexican oregano that smells like limes and some wormwood, and got dirt on my hands. Sitting in the amber light on the porch among the morning glory vines, saying goodbye to summer.
(Amazing artwork by Brian Luong)
The Autumnal Equinox is upon us, dear ones. I am sending each one of you heartfelt wishes for long golden afternoons, full bellies, and a gentle transition into fall. It’s been an intense summer for so many people I love. A darker season approaches, and our candles must be burning brightly to light the way. Keep the kettle on the hob, and the ones you love comin’ through your kitchen! Happy Harvest Home to you & yours.
Autumnal Equinox wishes from days of yore:
by Angeliska on June 21, 2014
Today is the Summer Solstice. I woke early (earlier than is my wont) and though the sun was already up and high, I greeted the dawn in a squinting, sloth-like way – which mostly involved shuffling and muttering as bumbled around in the kitchen, making a smoothie. I’m not a child of the morn, much as I would like to attempt to be. I rose, and went down to the water, down to the spring to be present for a memorial service honoring the life and death of my friend’s mother. I did not know her, but tears flooded my eyes nonetheless, standing in witness to the love and grief in that circle – the songs sung, the memories shared, the poems uttered. I thought: grief shared is a gift. The water, the river, the flow all around us of voices and laughter and children and dogs – life happening everywhere, as it continues to. My friend kneeling down on the rocks, curled over the water with her urn, dust of the one who made her falling out of her hands into the stream, going back into the current, into the flow. I came back home for a bit before returning to the water to meditate on the solstice, and this is what I have to share.
I am a winterborn child, come into being not long after the winter solstice. In high Midsummer, the air is full of milkweed fluff, floating down into the water. Summer in the south is a fat round ripe honeydew melon. The sun presses down on you like an insistent lover, making every crease of flesh on your body drip with saltwater. Hammocks become cocoons for long naps, and getting lost in books, transformative pauses – when we emerge, we are often something else entirely. Even the butterflies and moths take siestas, their unfurled wings gone limp with dew, each lazy proboscis sated and heavy with nectar. We are reminded of transitions, the wheel of the seasons, of mortality – and how precious our time here on this earth is. How precious our relationships, friendships, families and communities are.
On the Summer Solstice, I always long for ecstatic ritual that involves this sort of languor and remembering – just being in my body, outside in the warm air and long light, and connecting with heart friends. I want to be TOGETHER. Not apart, alone, inside, solitary (and soon as I post this, I’m headed back into the glorious summer fray to jump in the water!)
This is a day for wearing flowers in your hair and singing songs. Whether dancing or swimming, snoozing or talking, I just want to feel alive and let the juice of summertime run down my neck. Last year, I sailed in a canoe and shimmied to the sounds of my favorite brass band on parade as the moon rose over the lake. Tonight, one of my favorite festivals is holding a fundraiser for their yearly springtime gathering. I plan on attending, and ideally, reveling with friends in support of one of the most magical events my city has to offer. This past Gay Bi Gay Gay was unseasonably chilly and grey, and what normally feels like a hedonistic summer of love picnic for happy queers and friends was more of a wild and windy romp (though picnics and love were indeed shared!). The organizers are dear friends who muscle and hustle to make this thing happen for their community every year, and they lost a huge amount of money because of the shitty weather. So today, I’m offering my Summer Solstice wish up in support of a community that has always supported me – for all the inspiration, beauty, strength and joy they bring to all of us. Though it happens in early spring, Gay Bi Gay Gay always feels like a dream Summer Solstice festival – with lots of colorful self-expression, making out, and moon-worshipping.
Here’s a message from Hazey + Silky, who make this thing happen every year:
Gaybigaygay needs YOUR help! Our beloved music festival lost some BIG bucks this year. ($7,000+) Brrrrr on the out of ordinary, oh so windy cold cold cold March day Austin served us this year.. This event comes together with the help of wonderful volunteers and is made magical by your fantastic faces. We choose to not charge at the door or be sponsored by anyone but you. This festival has way outgrown the back yard it started in and with that growth comes the added expense of throwing it. We make no money at this event except to usually break even, this year we just lost too much. Help us out darlings! The more we make the more excellent our festival gets.
We hope to recoup some of this cash by offering a night for us all to come together and support a good time. We will have music and dancing! A raffle with some banging prizes! A piano bar! Get your photo take with the stars! We will also have some amazing cheap art for sale!! You like fun, lets have some together!
Please come and support a big ol’ queer party so we can get going on its 10th year!
If you don’t live in town or can’t make it to the party we have a Indiegogo thingy to come… Just wait until you see the video. This is our first time fundraising like this, let’s make it AWESOME. LOVE YOU ALL. EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. Feel free to share and invite!
If you’re in Austin, Texas tonight, here’s the invite:
Despite the bad weather, we had a marvelous time last year. Here’s proof:
Trinity, bundled in a quilt, eating apple pie.
Francesca made a pie, in honor of Gay Bi Gay Gay, our yearly festival of delightful queerness!
Drew knows how to dress for a wet afternoon! Don’t forget to wear your rubbers…
Magic Allyson, keeping the rain clouds at bay, bringin’ on the rainbows!
I had the honor of painting up Cakes da Killa‘s gorgeous mug!
Rainbow confetti goddess Fiona colored my world…
I promise you that i spent most of that bitterly blustery day inside the cozy fantastical warmth of the giant inflatable eyeball. But it didn’t occur to me to try and photograph it from the outside until it had already had a critical malfunction and deflated. Just trust me.
We had MUCH better temperatures at GBGG last year! Hot pants and parasols were the look of the day…
Austin’s own Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Gay Bi Gay Gay
Kim Boekbinder is a magical unicorn. I painted her face to reflect that fact. Lisa Frank, eat your heart out.
Happy memories of Gay Bi Gay Gays of yore: especially this precious moment when we got to meet the magnificence that is Krylon Superstar of Double Duchess!
And, some Summer solstices of yore:
by Angeliska on June 13, 2014
I was raised to adore roses. My mother loved them passionately, and watching her nurture them, prize them, photograph and paint them, I always knew that they were sacred to her. From early on, I came to associate her name, Margaret, with a certain kind of rose. Now I know that Margaret means “pearl”, and though my mother did very much appreciate baroque pearls, her name does not evoke the moony whiteness of an oyster’s gift, or the simple daisies called marguerites, but something far redder, wilder, thornier. If my mother were a rose, she would be a very particular one indeed. I know what it looks like, because when I see one twining over a neighbor’s fence, I am struck with a deep and visceral longing – like what I feel for my long gone mother. My mother’s rose is deep magenta, the color of the lipstick she used to wear (that I so fiercely coveted) – a ripe fuchsia with a blue sheeny undertone, so dark that it looks purply-black in dim light. This is a wild rose, some cabbage-y pillowy tea rose bred with a cherokee outlaw bloom, cultivated in rare gardens, tricksy and uncommon. This is no tame garden variety long stem, no – this rose, were you to attempt to pluck one, would prick your fingers cruelly, and then drop all her petals out of spite. Not that’s she’s an evil flower by any means – just one that won’t be contained, curtailed, or bartered for a kiss. This feral rose climbs rampant over stone walls, her spiky canes heavy with dusky nodding heads. These are the fairytale briar roses that enveloped Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and tore her suitors to pieces – enchanted by dark magic and ancient witchery. My Margaret rose only grows way out in the country, on the edge of the woods, and if she could sing a song it would be a strange old one, played on a crackling fiddle with words sung in a low aching voice about lost love. A wild Irish rose, singing gypsy lullabies.
I’ve never found one for sale in a nursery, though they do sell a few that come quite close online. Short of ordering one of these bare-root babies, I think the only way to have my own is to work up the courage to knock on the door of one of the granny-ladies in my neighborhood who’ve been growing them for decades and beg for a cutting. One day I’ll figure out the spell to get them to root, and my garden will be tangled with heady blossoms. I do have a beautiful Basye’s Purple in a pot, a birthday gift that came from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. If it were combined with a Night Owl and perhaps a Midnight Blue, I think it would be the rose I see in my dreams, my mother’s rose.
And what would such a rose smell like? Well, certainly not like your grandma’s tea rose sachets, oh no – this is a far more exotic and intoxicating aroma. Imagine smelling a color, breathing it in deep and holding all that richness in your lungs. A spicy earthiness that threatens to cause swooning. A dangerous rose. For years, I imagined what I thought a rose perfume ought to smell like, and was continuously dismayed to find only prim and proper pink roses, powdery and cloying. I wanted to smell crimson red, burgundy, mulberry scarlet – I wanted to smell tempestuous, dark and somewhat peculiar. I think I’ve finally found what I was looking for in L’Artisan’s Voleur de Roses, described as “The brutal yet tender collision of rose and patchouli. It captures the chaos of a rose garden shattered by a thunderstorm.”
“Michel Almairac created Voleur de Roses (French for “rose thief”) in 1993. The L’Artisan Parfumeur website lists its notes simply as patchouli, rose, and plum. That sounds right to me. Voleur de Roses smells like a Syrah-soaked rose washed over with wet patchouli, moldering wood, and cold plum. The wet has an almost metallic edge, like the ocean. The fragrance’s patchouli is one of its main features, so if you don’t like patchouli, steer clear. Rose-phobes who do all right with patchouli might like Voleur de Roses. Its rose would be more at home at a dive bar than a garden party.
More than any other perfume I know, Voleur de Roses seems to elicit gothic descriptions. I’ve heard it compared to graveyards, dirty roots, and haunted basements. There is definitely something moody about the fragrance. Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff might have worn it. Or, for a less lofty comparison, remember the turret organ room in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken? (Even Bon Ami couldn’t get rid of the blood stains on the organ’s keys, the ladies’ psychic society said.) It had to smell of Voleur de Roses.”
– L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses – a fragrance review from NST
In my mind, Voleur de Roses evokes a bandit with flashing eyes, who kidnaps (consensually, natch) his rose, a lady fair clothed in red silk. She faints beneath his road-dusty cloak, dank with earthy patchouli and sweat, coming to in his arms, nestled a thorny grotto made from rose boughs. A wet garden dripping after the storm, strewn with fallen fruit and scattered petals ground into the damp dirt. Imagine kissing your dashing lover underneath the brambles, and pausing only to feed each other over-ripe jammy plums. Sticky fingers with dirt beneath the nails winding through dark locks, grazing flushed skin striped bloody from rosy kisses. Perhaps that’s a bit extravagant, but Voleur de Roses is that kind of perfume: seriously seducing, yet playfully – slightly nasty in a faun-like way. This is what a very refined satyr might smell like, were his goat’s horns draped with a garland of stolen roses. Not your grandmother’s kind of rose at all. Or my mother’s, really – but it’s a perfect scent for me, a gothic romantic to the core.
I haven’t yet smelled it, but another perfume that might tango well with my dark dream of a perfect rose is L’Arte di Gucci . My friend Barbara Herman, (writer of a brilliant book about vintage perfume, Scent and Subversion) describes it tantalizingly:
“A dark, leather-patchouli rose, L’Arte di Gucci has a cult following among certain perfume lovers, and after hearing them sing its praises, I had to see what was up.
Black, inky and goth, L’Arte di Gucci is an Edward Gorey-esque animalic-rose chypre. In my fevered imagination, its rose comes from the rose bushes surrounding the dilapidated and haunted Victorian home of Merricat, the witchy protagonist from Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. (On a less literary romantic note, it first brought to mind Calvin Klein’s 2005 perfume Euphoria, a spicy, woody floral that also has “exotic” flowers and notes: rose hips, Japanese apple, green leaves, Lotus, black orchid, red woods, black violet and amber.) L’Arte is definitely the darker — and more beautiful — of the two.
As L’Arte di Gucci dries down, the rose just radiates from its dark lair lined with leather, vetiver, musk and oakmoss, the patchouli prominent throughout.”
“Ombre Rose can be translated literally as “pink shadow” or figuratively as a rose’s shadow. Both readings suggest that the rose scent in this Françoise Caron-composed perfume will be softened, and we will smell its shadow rather than rose straight on. Shadows cast darkness over things, shrouding them and making them mysterious and maybe even sinister. But pink shadows? Not exactly intimidating!”
Barbara just passed through Austin on a mini-book tour, and did a reading from Scent and Subversion at Coco Coquette, where a roomful of perfume enthusiasts were kept rapt by her tales of scents from days of yore. Read more about her work here:
Along the way in my search for the perfect rose perfume, I found this helpful list: 25 Rose Fragrances Every Perfumista Should Try. The only one I’ve tried on it is Jo Malone’s Red Roses, which caught my attention when I smelled it on a chic lady shopping for antiques. It does smell red to me, a little – just not quite red enough.
Rose de Nuit:
“It repeats the rose theme in the base, suggesting its smooth, satiny touch, but never offering the full view. Like glimpsing into the dark room through the carved screens, one is left to imagine the rose that is hiding under the layers of woods and amber. Yet, whether those veils conceal a lover or a flower is a mystery that Rose de Nuit never answers with certainty.”
– from Bois de Jasmin
La fille de Berlin:
“It’s a deep red rose that dries down to a lusty animalic drydown and takes you on a whirlwind journey along the way. I love its explosion of crimson rose petals, which smell almost sinfully rich with their hint of overripe blackberries. (In the less poetic industry parlance, it’s called smelling money–a rose like that requires a generous budget.) Just like some roses can smell of violet, La Fille de Berlin takes a turn towards dark, jammy violets, making a small nod towards Bois de Violette.
…the scent was about finding beauty in the darkness and persevering through adversity with strength and humor, as women in postwar Germany had to do, when they were as plundered as their cities by occupying forces meant to restore order. This story is movingly told in the anonymous best-selling autobiographical book titled “A Woman in Berlin,” clearly an influence.
“Beauty is the moment when you rise up. It is the moment when you pick up your head, stride through your own ruins, and climb up the mountain,” explained Lutens. “That’s La Fille de Berlin. We all have our own ruins.”
– from Bois de Jasmin
“I wanted to capture in perfume the experience of walking around my garden and smelling each rose, as their perfumes blended in my nose. Wild Roses perfume evokes the garden in our imagination and memory — the book of a hundred petals unfolding: balsamic, spicy, apricot, and honeyed roses, mixed with the smell of warm earth and herbs.
The apricot-rose heart is perfectly rooted in a base of tarragon absolute — its herbal round anise aroma giving a nuance of both earth and leaves. The balsamic vanilla absolute and the whiskey-ness of aged patchouli support tarragon’s warm, powdery aspect. Indole contributes the almost animal aspect of ripeness in a rose. The heart is punctuated by pimento berry, lending its nuances of clove, ginger, and cinnamon. The candied-orange flower aroma of methyl methyl anthranilate, the soft powdery floral of heliotropin, and the slightly floral citrus of bergamot contribute a modern freshness to the opening.”
I made a music mix in honor of my rose obsession: Ashes of Roses – Music for burning rose petals on gray days. A soundtrack for burying your nose in a rose.
IN YOU THE EARTH
tiny and naked,
as though you would fit
in one of my hands,
as though I’ll clasp you like this
and carry you to my mouth,
my feet touch your feet and my mouth your lips:
you have grown,
your shoulders rise like two hills,
your breasts wander over my breast,
my arm scarcely manages to encircle the thin
new-moon line of your waist:
in love you have loosened yourself like sea water:
I can scarcely measure the sky’s most spacious eyes
and I lean down to your mouth to kiss the earth.
― Pablo Neruda
This was written in honor of tonight’s Full Rose Moon. To read last year’s moon honoring, please follow:
SUMMER SOLSTICE – STRAWBERRY ROSE MOON
More writing about perfume:
L’AUTRE – Exotic Autumn Perfumes
ENDLESS SUMMER – Summer Perfumes
SUPRISES + SUCHLIKE – Coeur de Vétiver Sacré
MAGIC WINDOWS #12 – Iris Perfumes
COLD WINTER MOON, SOLSTICE BLUE – Winter Solstice Perfumes