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
by Angeliska on May 1, 2014
Today is Beltane, the first day of May, and the world is bright and beautiful – at least, it is from where I’m sitting. Out my window, climbing roses twine over the gate, and my garden is coming along nicely with vegetables, flowers and herbs. My fruit trees were heavy with blossom, now heavy with ripening fruit. I took today to come back into my body – something I’ve been neglecting for far too long. Sometimes it feels like a lifelong habit, an ingrained way of being: my consciousness relegated to a balloon or bubble that floats above my corporeal form on an invisible tether. I learned how to disassociate early, as a young child, as a coping mechanism. To just go away from the intolerable here and now becomes so easy… How much better, just to drift… But, now, I want to come back, come back to earth, to my body, my pulse, my breath. The joy of movement, and the affirmation of what it is to be alive, to be truly human. I want to stay in my body, and to utilize it for all the wondrous purposes it was made for. Not just the basic tasks of getting from here to there, eating and digestion, sleeping and rising, propping one’s self up and simple ambulation – but to dance, to leap, to push further and harder and more joyously! I was raised to be sedentary, to be still – always reading and writing, but rarely moving around unless forced to. I woke up one night with a worrying thought about how much longer I might have on this planet, in this body. I intend to live long enough to be a very, very old woman – but you never do know, and anyway: if I do live that long, I’d like to be relatively fit, and have joints and muscles and things that actually function properly. So I’ve been trying. Back to walking around the lake, to yoga and dance classes, to remembering to breathe. I get furious sometimes when I hear people complain of being bored. It makes me want to slap them! How dare you get bored with this incredible life? My mother always told me that only boring people get bored, when I used to complain to her of ennui. I took her words to heart, and learned to live by them. My mother died of cancer long before her time, and I know for certain that she never got to do all the things she wanted to in this life. When I think of all the places I want to go and see, the books I want to read, the songs and instruments and languages and skills I want to learn, the people I want to meet, the foods I want to eat – well, it makes me want to live forever and never sleep. Never waste a day, a drop of life on being bored, on whining, on endless scrolling through the annals of the internet, on laziness. These words are an exhortation, an invocation, a vivification – to myself as much as to anyone reading this. When you are done here, with this little corner of life, these words and songs and pictures, promise me that you’ll go away from your computer, even just for a minute. I promise to do the same, to do all of this. Go outside. Stretch your arms up towards the heavens. Kick your shoes off and dig your toes into the dirt. Do a little dance. No one is watching. Or even if they are, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to take long, or, you can take as long as you like. But go outside and look around. Breathe deep, and welcome the fire back into your body. Come back to life, to your life. There is only this one time to experience it in just this way – so, dance while ye may!
“When everything seems like it is over, one must only try a wee bit harder to find the beauty. We are very lucky to just be alive.” This little film is a very good reminder.
“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
“Someone said that thirty was a significant birthday, and everyone around the table agreed. Someone else said it was the first time you heard the bell.
What bell? someone asked.
But they all knew what bell. It was like you’d already completed a few laps, observed another, but this was the first time you’d properly heard the bell. There had been one at seven, but you hadn’t heard it because you were so young; and then one at fourteen but you hadn’t heard it because you were too busy looking over your shoulder; then another at twenty-one but you hadn’t heard it because you were too busy talking; and then one at twenty-eight which for some reason took two years before you heard it. But they all agreed you did hear that one, eventually.
Your lousy career, said one guest. Babies, said one of the women. Lovers, friends, travel, said another. Parents aging. Bong. All the things you hadn’t done. Might not do. Bong.”
― Graham Joyce, The Silent Land
“To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” is a poem written by Robert Herrick in the 17th century. The poem is in the genre of carpe diem, Latin for seize the day. It goes as follows:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry;
For, having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
In a little bit, I will go make ready for a small ceremony welcoming in the May, with a bel-fire, flower garlands, and traditional songs and ritual. No maypole yet this year, but one day I shall have one – and we shall sing the Summerisle song and Hal-an-tow and weave the sacred phallus tree all with ribbons and crown it with the Queen of May’s flower garland!
If you’ve never seen the original Wicker Man (hush, we shall never speak of the remake…) I suggest you hie yourself to a video store and remedy that! It is a folk-horror classic! I love this exchange between the square copper and the suave Lord Summerisle, (played by Christopher Lee!)
Sergeant Howie: Your lordship seems strangely… unconcerned.
Lord Summerisle: Well I’m confident your suspicions are wrong, Sergeant. We don’t commit murder here. We’re a deeply religious people.
Sergeant Howie: Religious? With ruined churches, no ministers, no priests… and children dancing naked!
Lord Summerisle: They do love their divinity lessons.
Sergeant Howie: [outraged] But they are… are *naked*!
Lord Summerisle: Naturally! It’s much too dangerous to jump through the fire with your clothes on!
Sergeant Howie: What religion can they possibly be learning jumping over bonfires?
Lord Summerisle: Parthenogenesis.
Sergeant Howie: What?
Lord Summerisle: Literally, as Miss Rose would doubtless say in her assiduous way, reproduction without sexual union.
Sergeant Howie: Oh, what is all this? I mean, you’ve got fake biology, fake religion… Sir, have these children never heard of Jesus?
Lord Summerisle: Himself the son of a virgin, impregnated, I believe, by a ghost…
Lord Summerisle: [singing] Summer is icumen in, loudly sing cuckoo. Grows the seed and blows the mead, and springs the wood anew. Sing, cuckoo! Ewe bleats harshly after lamb, cows after calves make moo.
Mediaeval Baebes – Summerisle (The Maypole Song)
A springtime wedding procession of the sistren bridesmaids – from Dana Sherwood and Mark Dion‘s wedding in a beautiful New Orleans cemetery, which I had the honor of officiating.
Wedding at Lafayette Cemetery, 2008, NOLA – photograph by Dawn Martin McFall
I loved this piece on honoring the sacred holiday by Byron Ballard:
“I love Beltane. I often say that it is always Beltane in my heart. Which is not quite true because it is also often Samhain in my heart these days, as we lurch through this Grand Cross thingy and this Tower Time.
But I relish the history of Beltane and the trappings and the way it was so stealthy going from a lusty Pagan rite to the perfectly lovely May Day of the Victorians. All pretty dresses and flower crowns. And now we try to manage a bit of both, as we can.
When my daughter was in elementary school, many of the teachers would put up a maypole in the school yard and celebrate the May. I came into several classes each year and taught them about the transition from Beltane to May Day. We’d have little cakes and sing songs. We’d go outside and wash our faces in the morning dew and then dance the circle round. It was always a bit of a challenge to get us going in the right direction but we got pretty good at it after all those years.
Beltane is almost here and it is time to think of maying, going a-maying. The apple trees on our land are in full blossom right now and that puts me in mind of hawthorn blossom.
If you have littles, you can teach them the bright activity of making May baskets out of cornets of paper with a pretty ribbon handles. Fill them with flowers from the yard and take them to your good neighbors or to your Gran. Come home to wash your face in that fresh dew to guarantee your perpetual good looks. Eat fruits for breakfast–strawberries and razzleberries and blueberries with cream.
Dress for the day in something light and summery.
Wear a flower crown, even if you are going to work.
Wear glitter, and ditto.
Give flowers to people you don’t know.
Find time to dance the Great Ring with a few or with many. With or without a maypole.
Whistle a tune.
Remember Thomas Morton and the utopia of Merrymount.
In the evening, if you are old enough, have a cold glass of Maywine and toast the new life of the season and the old life you are living.
Sleep near a faery mound that night.
Give yourself over to the greening of the year and the brightening of the light. For the holy day after Beltane is Midsummer and after that…the Long Dying of the Year commences. Again. And we begin to wind down the path that leads inevitably to Samhain.
So soon it comes. And Spring is tardy in making Her appearance this year.
We fight against the destruction and dishonesty by embracing the living Earth that we’ve been given. Let Beltane this year bring you home to the comfort and joy of that.
And, as always, fear not. Fear not.”
Hello, apricot tree! I totally thought you were dead – but no! One of my favorite things about spring is walking around making discoveries in my garden – seeing what survived the brutal summer and long winter freezes… To survive in my garden, you gotta be tough and hardy – the survivors stick it out and inspire me endlessly…
Beltanes and moons of yore:
by Angeliska on April 29, 2014
I’ve been saying it over and over for the past few weeks now: I feel like I’ve woken up from a strange dream. Or more, it’s like waking up from a dream within a dream within a dream – never feeling quite sure if you’re really awake this time for certain. Coming back to myself has required a slow journey inward, a reeling in of all my webs, my loose threads, tying knots in some, severing others. Cycles of neglect spawn forgotten rooms, like those ones I still dream about sometimes: a dim place long unvisited, coated with thick swags of velvety dust. In order to nurture these corners long forgotten, others fall by the wayside: including and especially this one. So I brush it off, attempt to sidle my way back in and put things back in order. This is where I’m at. Simultaneously, there’s been a spring: a glorious, long chilly spring unlike anything we’ve seen down in these parts for quite awhile. Ever since gaining a garden, this has become my favorite season – spurning autumn’s fires for pale shoots and tender budding. Though for at least the third year in a row, I’ve found myself gripped by a strange malaise, an ennui of sorts that makes it difficult to want to do anything much at all. I’m slow to wake up, in the mornings – slow to rise out of my cave from a long hibernation. I guess that’s it. I am trying, though – forcing the chrysalis, squeezing the bud in efforts to get the green sap to rise and get flowing again. Uncharacteristically, I’ve not been much in a reading mood of late, which feels very strange indeed – though I did finally read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and loved it very much. In lieu of explaining anything more, I’ve chosen passages (in italics) from her marvelous novella, which seem to to a far better job of illustrating my current state. A strange brooding amidst a riot of lavender blossoms, a heart by turns hopeful and heavy, a turning, a lovely limen.
“She went and stood at an open window and looked out upon the deep tangle of the garden below. All the mystery and witchery of the night seemed to have gathered there amid the perfumes and the dusky and torturous outlines of flowers and foliage. She was seeking herself and finding herself in just such sweet, half-darkness which met her moods.”
Wisteria makes me very giddy! Also, I’ve decided that since I’m such a grown up person now, that I ought really wear more things made of silk. And so, this vintage Chinese butterfly dress, which also makes me a little giddy…
“There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day. She liked then to wander alone into strange and unfamiliar places. She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in. And she found it good to dream and to be alone and unmolested.
There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why — when it did not seem worthwhile to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation.”
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
“But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.
The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”
So many miracles great & small are occurring lately… Today I found the first ring I ever made, lost years ago! Chrysoprase with silver kitty heads. It was laying in the dirt, perhaps formerly obscured by a rain barrel. I had just assumed it was lost forever.
“Some people are born with a vital and responsive energy. It not only enables them to keep abreast of the times; it qualifies them to furnish in their own personality a good bit of the motive power to the mad pace. They are fortunate beings. They do not need to apprehend the significance of things. They do not grow weary nor miss step, nor do they fall out of rank and sink by the wayside to be left contemplating the moving procession.
Ah! that moving procession that has left me by the road-side! Its fantastic colors are more brilliant and beautiful than the sun on the undulating waters. What matter if souls and bodies are failing beneath the feet of the ever-pressing multitude! It moves with the majestic rhythm of the spheres. Its discordant clashes sweep upward in one harmonious tone that blends with the music of other worlds — to complete God’s orchestra.
It is greater than the stars — that moving procession of human energy; greater than the palpitating earth and the things growing thereon. Oh! I could weep at being left by the wayside; left with the grass and the clouds and a few dumb animals. True, I feel at home in the society of these symbols of life’s immutability. In the procession I should feel the crushing feet, the clashing discords, the ruthless hands and stifling breath. I could not hear the rhythm of the march.
Salve! ye dumb hearts. Let us be still and wait by the roadside.”
“Even as a child she had lived her own small life within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life – that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.”
“She had tried to forget him, realizing the inutility of remembering. But the thought of him was like an obsession, ever pressing itself upon her. It was not that she dwelt upon details of their acquaintance, or recalled in any special or peculiar way his personality; it was his being, his existence, which dominated her thought, fading sometimes as if it would melt into the mist of the forgotten, reviving again with an intensity which filled her with an incomprehensible longing.”
“Who can tell what metals the gods use in forging the subtle bond which we call sympathy, which we might as well call love.”
“…a tangle of sea smell and of weeds and damp, new-plowed earth, mingled with the heavy perfumes of white blossoms somewhere near, but the night sat lightly upon the sea and the land. There was no weight of darkness, there were no shadows. The white light of the moon had fallen upon the world like the mystery and the softness of sleep.”