by Angeliska on August 10, 2010
Surprises of all sorts are abounding in this scorching season.
The heat has gotten so intense that the minute you step outside,
all the air is sucked out of your lungs. I retreat into the cool, dark
cave of my studio and endeavor to respond in kind to some of the
very wonderful things I’ve received in the mail recently. What better
occasion to craft some thank you letters than while taking refuge from the sun?
I’ve sadly fallen out of practice in being a good mail correspondent.
I think it’s a muscle you have to keep taut, the reflexive stretch for
stationary and stamps. I have an impressive collection of accoutrements
for the most elaborate letters, and now it’s time to put them to good use!
To those who’ve sent me sweet things, know that a response is on the
way, with apologies enclosed for the length at which it may arrive…
Slowly but surely, I’m working my way through a long list – and really
trying to be better about responding swiftly to calls, emails and letters.
Little goals, climbing the mountain! I’ve been thinking a lot about this
thing Gala posted about recently, a very simple secret to success that
really gave me pause. It’s just this: Do what you say you’re going to do.
Oh man. Living hard by that rule really changes things. Now that my time
is more my own, and I am my own task-master, I have no excuses for not
doing everything I promise, even in passing. My to-do lists are epic lately,
and I’m learning a whole new array of tricks to get everything done. Have
I mentioned ever how much I adore Teux Deux? It’s such a useful tool for me –
a satisfyingly simple and attractive online to-do list designed by Tina Roth Eisenberg
I cannot wait for the iPhone app version to come out! Compulsive
list makers unite! I feel lost without a list, and crossing things off it can be so sublime.
Once again, I’ve wandered out in spiral – onward to the treasures!
* EDIT: D’oh! The Teux Deux app is out, and apparently has been for a bit now!
Why wasn’t I informed? My plans for world domination through obsessive
list-making were delayed only momentarily – now I am an unstoppable force!
So Miss Tamera Verhext is one of the best parcel-senders in the universe,
but this magic box of goodies procured on her recent trip to Paris really
was just beyond… I got so excited that I forgot to take pictures of the
beautifully wrapped cadeaux – Greedy Gretel, me! Well, they were
wrapped in rosy vintage wallpaper, and in the music for “Sur le pont
d’Avignon“, which I have fond memories of singing in French class.
I about peed my britches when I saw what she had sent me:
a beautiful bottle of L’Artisan Parfumeur Coeur de Vétiver Sacré,
which is my new signature scent, and is not even available here in the
States until September! Double-fancy! It is truly glorious, and I feel like
the luckiest duck ever. Tamera spoils me rotten! Here’s the fragrance
breakdown: sparkling, peppery and vibrant-smoky. Notes include:
bergamot black tea, date, dried fruits, saffron, ginger, pink berries,
vanilla, incense, musks. Exquisite! Also, the Leone pastilles, in my
favorite color! I collect the tins, and I love the mint flavored ones
especially. It’s wonderful that the company has existed since 1857,
and has kept their distinctive art nouveau packaging intact! So good.
Inside the golden box was also my very favorite brand of tea, (Kusmi!) in a violet flavor
that I reckon would be divine iced, little gilt die-cut leaves and a postcard designed by
Miss Amy Earles with a little lady tumbling out of a hollow tree. She’s tacked up on my
wall now, with many of her sisters, all made by Amy. You’ll meet another one below!
Miss Oola was visiting recently, and brought me a stack of wondrous gifts,
including this amazing film Ma-ma, a Soviet-French-Romanian musical film
from 1976 about a family of goats being persecuted by a heavy metal big bad
wolf-man with flowing lavender locks. It’s basically the best movie ever made.
Oola also gifted me some books, which look very absorbing – Ashe of Rings by Mary Butts
and Asylum Piece by Anna Kavan. I’d never heard of either, so I’m excited to delve into
unknown waters at her recommendation. Apparently Miss Butts was a student of Aleister
Crowley’s and “about twelve weeks in mid-1921 at Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema in Sicily;
she found the practices there shocking, and came away with a drug habit.” Oh dear!
Miss Earles also sent me this lovely lady, which you can see in greater detail here and here:
Cellophane over the ocean beds, seashells & glass eggs…
I need to find some nice vintage frames and put her under glass!
Another surprise: this rather large spider decided to make her web right over the kitchen table!
It was suspended from cut-out star streamers that I’ve left up since my birthday (ha!) and the entire
things was quite a work of art – spanning three feet high and two feet wide! The bottom anchor
thread went through a loop of ribbon on a little gift box. We managed not to disturb her too much
while going about our daily business, but at one point I forgot, and tossed some keys across the
table. The very irate spider had packed up every thread and vanished to another part of the
kitchen within the hour. Photographing her in such low light wasn’t easy, as you can see from
my blurry attempt. I also spritzed her web with some water to make it show up better. How rude!
Yesterday, I woke to find that the postman had left two parcels on my doorstep: one was from
our puppeteer friend Libby’s mama Sue. When all the Mudlarks were roosting in the backyard
and putting on puppetshows, Libby’s folks came down from Kansas to see her performances.
I love meeting my friends parents, and seeing where they came from, and where they got their
features. Sue sent me a lovely letter, and great picture of Libby and I, and a beautiful print of
a Victorian lady having tea with a flock of blackbirds. Sue is also the spokes-model for a brand
of goat-food! If you happen to raise goats, keep an eye out for her on you bag of goat chow!
My dear friend Raven was down in Bolivia recently, having joined the circus there…
Years ago, she had brought me a mummified llama fetus back as a gift. It was one of my
most treasured possessions. I named her Galadriel, and loved her enormously until one day
she was stolen from my altar by a very bad someone. Raven had also given one to our
friend Francesca, who framed it in a domed glass frame with dried roses. She was much
chagrined to discover that her mother had tossed it out one day on a cleaning spree.
When I opened the box, and caught a whiff of something slightly rank, my heart soared!
Once again, I would have my very own little llamita! Alas, the box was empty. The two
tiny llamas Raven sent as replacements for the ones Francesca and I had taken from us
had been confiscated by the authorities! Bastards! They were destroyed, alas. I love how
the customs agents referred to them as “dried meat”. I suppose that’s fairly accurate.
(Photo by Christina Cooke)
In Bolivia, you can buy a mummifed llama fetus of your very own at the Witches’ Market.
They are used for house blessings. You burn them as offerings to Pachamama, or Mother
Earth, according to Inca tradition. It’s also traditional to bury them under the doorstep of your
home, and many construction workers will refuse to work on a building unless there is a
“sullus” buried under the front step. Maybe it’s okay to have them on your altar too.
A visit to the Witches’ Market is a must for any curious explorer.
One finds all sorts of combinations of turtles, little frogs and serpents,
which respectively bring health, money and protection from the evil spirits.
These three elements can be found on the figurines of Pacha Mama,
as she is represented with three heads, a turtle on her front, a frog on
her back and a snake around her legs. These make wonderful blessed
gifts to bring home to family and friends. Not only are there Pacha Mama
figurines of all sizes at the Witches’ Market but there are also a wide selection
of dried llama fetuses, known as “sullus.” I had been forewarned about this
practice by my friend from La Paz yet I was taken aback when I saw so many
of them heaped into a pile, staring up at me. The llamas’ legs are tied together
and the smaller fetuses look strikingly like little birds, due to their undeveloped
jawbones resembling beaks. Before a fetus is sold, it is blessed by a witch and
wrapped with some dyed “lana de llama,” a multi-colored llama wool.
The impression I got was that the blessing was contained in the colored
wool and that it was not to be removed.
“Are you a witch?” I asked.
She and her friend laughed and she replied “No, I’m still training to become a witch.”
“Ah, and how do you get these llama fetuses? Are they killed?”
“No,” she said, “llamas often give birth to two babies at the same time,
often one lives and one dies … we don’t kill the babies.”
The answer left me a bit perplexed and to this day I have not discovered
exactly how the fetuses are acquired. Many of the fetuses sold still have their white hair intact
and you can choose the size you like. At New Year’s, special plates are made as offerings,
which include a dried llama fetus and sweets. They are to be buried to ensure a prosperous,
healthy and happy New Year. I bought one but did not bury it and what followed was a stream
of bad luck. Upon returning to Los Angeles, I lost my job, my upcoming photography exhibit
was indefinitely postponed and I nearly got married to Mr. Wrong. So take heed of what the
witches say and beware of their potent magical powers.
- Monique Mizrahi