Friday, January 23, 2015

Inconsequential Miscellany

Speaking of brooches, I just love the cheeky one on the top of this model's hood.  I suspect the image may have been styled by the great Diana Vreeland who was fearless in her vision, whether it was Twiggy's freckles or a shameless love of fur.  This image is now the winter screensaver on my phone. 

My picture reminds me to dress warmly.  The Today Show lamented there are no dresses with sleeves anymore, as all three hostesses sat there in January in summer dresses sans sleeves.  I'll be wearing sleeves at my daughter's summer wedding, albeit short ones with a small flounce on each.  But more urgently, I have a terrific need to dress warmly - it's been such a dry, cold and bitter winter so far.  And for the first time, I am truly dressing for comfort and not just personal style.  Leggings are the better part of my weekend garb with long wool tunics and short insulated boots -  chunky wool socks notwithstanding.  My detached fur infinity scarf has been employed even over my pajamas at night, so chilled it is in the downstairs living room.

I am awash in lavender though thanks to my Grace Livingston Hill reading.  The mothers in Hill's books always scent their bedrooms with the freshness of lavender.  I'm using the essential oil in a diffuser to fragrance my bedroom as an adjunct to my before-bed sleep ritual and its working beautifully.  My friend Judy recommended it.  She is one of my belles lettres - friends I have met in correspondence from this blog.

Have you ever read Vera Brittain's book, Testament of Youth?  It's her story of love during World War II in Britain.  Love of brothers, fiancés, and friends.  A raw tale but with delightful fashion highlights (Miss Brittain loved clothes) such as this one:  "a neatly cut navy coat and skirt, a pastel blue blouse in a soft crêpe De Chine, an unusually becoming fawn felt hat trimmed with crimson berries and a black taffeta dinner dress with scarlet and mauve velvet flowers tucked into the waist".  I would love to see a "fawn" hat which means it's probably "beige" but elevated now in my mind to the color of the bottom side of a soft baby deer.  I swoon.  Look for the film of the book which should be out soon.  I think it will be a perfect post-Downton Abbey view.

Regarding brothers, I have two.  They bookend me, one older and one younger.  Tonight is my big brother's surprise 60th birthday party (obviously, he doesn't read my blog).  My first memory of him is the assistance he gave me when one of my white baby shoes fell down the back stairs on a hot summer afternoon.  Being boy-like, I see him rooting around underneath the porch and emerging triumphant, waving my shoe above his grinning face.  I thanked him with a thwack to the top of his head from a child's sand shovel.  I hope it's the meanest thing I've done to him - he's been gallantly  dear and a constant safe presence through the years.  I cannot miss the birthday party of my first Prince Charming, no matter how ungrateful his Cinderella was. 


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Starry, Starry Night

A few years ago for a time, I was bullied at work.  The day I returned from Christmas vacation that year, my boss asked me to meet her in the conference room.  I remember how happy I had been that morning - I was tranquil and rested from my time away, I had enjoyed a lovely holiday with my family, and I was joyfully anticipating the new year.  So happy was I, that when I dressed, I impulsively pinned a beautiful purple velvet flower to my grey workaday cardigan.

My boss began our meeting stating that someone had made some complaints about me.  The specifics don't matter here but they were lies.  And after, I couldn't get over the fact that while I was blissfully and ignorantly enjoying my vacation, someone was making trouble.  Suddenly, as I looked at my boss, things became crystal clear.  The weeks before I was increasingly bewildered by the behavior of a young woman in my office.  Oddly enough, I had something to do with her hiring and yet, she had begun to check my work.  At first, it was a distant bell but as I sat across that conference room table, the bell began to clang.  This young woman had my boss' ear because she was whip-smart, albeit destructive and maligning.  I often felt insecure around her and didn't know why.  And as many victims of bullies do, I felt a rush of humiliation.  As I sat there, I became acutely aware of my pinned flower.  And I felt foolish.

Sometimes I come across that velvety flower which I never wore again.  Now when I have the urge to adorn a sweater, I often reach for a sparkly brooch.  I am lucky to have a few of my grandmother's and I've added to my collection with pieces from antique shops and boutiques.  They are so wonderfully arresting, like dazzling stars in a dark winter sky.  And they have a nice retro appeal.  I think it  takes a special woman to wear an eye-catching brooch with ease - a woman who believes in herself enough to festoon her soul with something celestial and otherworldly.  A little luminous astral glint which marks her spot in the world and says, "Yes, I am someone to be seen.  And I am not foolish". 

Fortunately, the bully was eventually remanded and removed and I am not completely unhappy that it happened to me.  I learned a lot about myself and I toughened up.  I had been too trusting at work and certainly needed lessons in the vagaries of peoplehood - not everyone is kind. 

My sister gave me a sparkly midnight blue pin and it looks just like one in the picture above.  It reminds me of the astonishing night sky.  And just as I see the stars above...when I wear my pin, I believe they see me too.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Just Beyond the Page

This is Jean-Honoré Fragonard's painting, A Young Girl Reading, 1770.  The reader is enraptured with her book but her mind is soaring with vivid imaginings born on the pages.  I see her as a lass on the brink of womanhood who is about to leave a life of quiet domesticity for a world she has thus far, only read about.  My dear sister bought me a blank notebook with the painting's image on the cover.  The pretty pages are lined and gold-tipped and perfect for jotting down ideas and quotes.  I will take her with me as I head back to work tomorrow after one of the most peaceful vacations I've ever had.

I made a point of staying home a lot and immersed myself in reading - real escapism in the form of Grace Livingston Hill novels.  Critics of Livingston Hill reject the spiritual rhetoric the author interjects in her stories.  But I actually found it comforting, especially after having a particularly spiteful December at the office.  Livingston Hill also includes lots of fashion descriptions and domestic details in her books and I latched onto those too, especially the homey fine points.  The Substitute Guest, The Gold Shoe, and Astra all put me into a wintery nesting mood, helped along by the prettiest little dining room chandelier my future son-in-law gave me on Christmas Eve. 

As fun as puttering about my home was, I also had a mind to the future.  I am writing a book and must find a way to wend that work around my day job.  A newspaper gig I've had for three years has ended and new freelance work is yet on the horizon.  I do still love coming here for naturalness and a bit of creativity.  It's where I write most authentically.  Like Fragonard's reading miss, I have imaginings about my new year that bob just beyond the pages of the books I read this week.  And as I head back through the familiar doors of my job tomorrow morning, my golden notebook will accompany me to capture buoyant dreams for home, work, and love in the new year.


Here are some Grace Livingston Hill highlights from this week:

"It takes a canny soul to read her own heart."

"The very chime of the cathedral clock in some dim recess (of the house) seemed like fairy bells."

"They just live in it, like sunshine!"

"The girl saw a sprigged china bowl, the steaming fragrance of whose contents made her know suddenly that she was hungry.  There was a plate of delicately browned buttered toast, a tiny mound of ruby jelly, some crisp hearts of celery, and the cup of tea."

"He stocked up his refrigerator with all the delicacies he could think of for midnight suppers and quiet meals by themselves."

"This home even the brief glimpse he had, showed that there was still beauty and love and good fellowship left upon the earth, still a real spirit of Christmas to be found if one looked in the right place for it."