Sunday, October 16, 2011

Live as well as you dare.....

I happened upon the Letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Georgianna Morpeth, 1820, and it so aptly advises what to do in the melancholoy times that come to all of us. My favorite advice is "live as well as you dare". Going about one's business and making life sing again always shows our personal perpetrators that they cannot send us to the abyss no matter how hard they may try.

Sydney Smith was a charming cleric known for his wonderfully clever letters of hope, faith, and chatty news sent to various friends of social standing. His letter here gives me great inspiration and instructs me to take good care when the melancholies come to visit. It also teaches me to carry on and keep the focus on my own good life when others want to see me falter. I hope if the melancholies are your guest for a time, Rev. Smith will assist you. And remember, living well is the best revenge (blazing fires, notwithstanding)...
Dear Georginna,
Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done, so I feel for you.
1st Live as well as you dare.
2nd Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold.
3rd Amusing books.
4th Short views of human life - not further than dinner or tea.
5th Be as busy as you can.
6th See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th Make no secret of low spirits to friends but talk of them freely - they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce on you.
10th Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th Don't expect too much from human life - a sorry business at the best.
12th Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholoy sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion ending in active benevolence.
13th Do good, and edeavor to please everybody of every degree.
14th Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
16th Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th Keep good blazing fires.
19th Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th Believe me, Dear Lady Geogianna.
Very truly yours,
Sydney Smith

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Isn't She Lovely?

I love the month of October; it is heralded in by my birthday and it begins the happy run up to the holidays. As my custom, I watch the DVD of Mona Lisa Smile to get me in the right mindset.

This 2003 film stars Julia Roberts, as Art History professor Katherine Watson who takes a position at one of the Seven Sisters Colleges, Wellesley. Julia Stiles (above), Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllanhaal, and Ginnifer Goodwin play the conservative college students to Robert's feminist and bohemian Miss Watson.

To me, the real stars of the film are the magnificant weather and scenery and the marvelous 1950's costumes. It was shot on the campus of Wellesley, just outside Boston, Massachusetts, a place so very dear to my heart. The Wedgewood blue skies of fall are the backdrop for the stunning foliage found in New England in October and as I watch the movie, I imagine Boston before I was born, when I my mother wore the same long tweed skirts and matching cardigans with her Keds.

We are treated to plenty of long full skirts, cinched at the waist by leather belts, separates which include Peter Pan collars and soft Shetland sweaters, heels, pearls, stud earrings, and red lipstick. I believe I have narrowed down the lipstick color to Cherries in the Snow, the Revlon color which made its debut with much fanfare in the '50's (happily, it still can be found at the drugstore!). Miss Watson's wardrobe is indeed a little more "gypsy" but she sports some gorgeous wool pieces just the same.

Fortunately, there is a grand wedding in the film and this is when the gloves and the small hats with netting that perch so femininely on top of the head can be seen. The colors are pure and clear especially a color a friend told me was "petrol blue", a cross between peacock and royal.

Yes, Mona Lisa Smile makes a statement, and very loudly, about women's roles and choices in post-war America. I simply cannot think too much about that, however, when I am mesmerized by the Jonathan Logan separates and Delman pumps. I can almost smell the Chanel #5 and Arpege off the screen. It's a saturating film; a feast for the eyes, and it focuses for me all the wonderful things I love about the fall - it is absolutely lovely. It makes me want to run to my closet for that cream wool cardigan and brown and gold tweed skirt that feels like a cat's scratchy tongue. And when I do find that skirt and sweater, and we finally get one of those fine high blue days, I will be lovely too.