Monday, December 31, 2012

Bad Day For Pain

Today was a bad day for pain. I'd slept poorly with pain and had many weird, pain related dreams. I went to physiotherapy and got pretty beaten up there. It was necessary, but not welcome. I took this picture as I hobbled toward the front door of my building.

On days like these, wearing some tiny little bit of beauty helps somehow. It turns the day from mere bleakness to a day with just a little sparkle, in spite of it all. Some people wait to find these things in the outer world. I bring them to me. Today, it was these little rosebud earrings, similar but not identical to the ones that match the bracelet given to me by my great-grandmother. These ones have a little blue in them, so I can wear them even with jeans.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Blahs

Mostly, Christmas is an extremely "bah humbug" experience for me. Anyone estranged from family must feel this way. If I could ignore the whole day, I would, but it inflicts itself on one for at least two months before its arrival and cannot be ignored. So I donned some berry red for the day, and did my best. The look on my face reveals my lack of total success.

Every December, I reread Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's by far my favourite part of the season and I start looking forward to it by mid-November.

And P.G. Wodehouse always makes any day or night better. For me, certain books and authors are like comfort food and Dickens and Wodehouse are way up on my list of comfort reads.

Pressies under the Tiffany tree! Beau loving his deluxe teapot. Heaven in an upstairs window.

Does Beau know me well or what? The 1920s book is a sticker book! Bizarre.

 We went for a walk. That helped, despite the back pain.

This house just seems made for the day, does it not?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Meeting Santa

Brooch and Coat: vintage; Sweater: Reitmans; Ring: Birks
If I can't overbling for Santa, for whom can I overbling?
Boots: Rockport; Jeans and sweaters: Reitmans; Clutch: vintage
What better respect to pay Santa than to dress like him?


Saw him in his natural habitat: an Italian cafe, of course!

Brooch and necklace: vintage; Rose ring: boutique

Have lily-white skin, impressive bosoms, and Santa hat, will smile.

This place goes all out.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Welcome to the Neighbourhood

Bottom left: a view of The Cut from a bridge that spans it; Dress, boots, rug (and all furniture seen here): thrift/vintage.
I live mere meters from a narrow valley, known as The Cut because it cuts diagonally through the city. Though it's now used for two rapid transit lines and the train tracks (which necessitate that I sleep with earplugs or don't sleep at all), it is still a haven for wildlife. I've seen skunks, racoons, feral cats (that my landlords have trapped, one by one, fixed, inoculated, and begun to feed), eagles, hawks, ravens, and any number of smaller birds -- all from my balcony. My downstairs neighbour saw a coyote the other day. (I've also seen any number of types of drug addicts, sleeping under the bridge, staggering down the street, yelling at no-one, and shooting up in our yard.)

I love this sense of being in an urban setting but still close to nature... and a fairly benign, clement nature too, never really too hot or too cold and absolutely abundant with life. This land here is utterly fecund. The mild climate and the rain make it emerald all year round. As is becoming evident on this blog, I even like the mold, mildew, and moss that creep into everything and make it all green green green.

Green, especially subdued, mossy greens, also suit me. It brings out the red in my hair and the hazel in my eyes, both of which usually appear plain old brown. Soft greens are in my home, my makeup, my jewelry, and my wardrobe.
I adore living a real neighbourhood, where everyone really does know everyone, and most shops and stores are owned by individuals or small families, not large corporations. There are untold perks to living in such an area. All the shop owners know about my disability and are happy to make special arrangements for friends to pick up my stuff, for me to carry my stuff home a few items at a time, or whatever else seems to work for me. Everyone has his or her favourite Italian cafes where the people behind the counter are also the owners and know their customers well, and the customers know each other well too.

And then there's Morgan the cat, twenty years old, stone-deaf, and deeply loved. She lives in a regular house but she chooses to divide her days between a local restaurant, and store, where she has special bed and food dishes on top of their safe. People come in to visit her all day every day, bringing her food and love. I met her the day after my twenty year old cat, also named Morgan, also deaf, also deeply affectionate, died, so she has a very special place in my heart.

Of course, neighbourhoods have their problems too. There are a lot of hard drugs in this neighbourhood. One learns to tell who's high and on what, who's tweaking, which high or tweaking people are safe, and which ones to avoid. These are finger marks on the wall outside of a methadone clinic.

Gold and coral ring: vintage gift from Beau; Costume ring and hat: Barefoot Contessa
I love how making this blog has made me take notice of patterns and colours repeating themselves on micro and macro levels and everything in between. I'd never really paid attention to this condo building until this day, but suddenly they perfectly echoed my ring and a sort of reverberation of beauty asserted itself into my consciousness.
Brooch: vintage; Raincoat: London Fog; Boots: thrift; Scarf: gift
This scarf was given to me by an older, very funky, cool, stylish, Japanese ESL student in New York. I'd become too homesick for my west coast neighbourhood to stay in New York. To say goodbye, she and others took me out for the Japanese feast of my life and then, as the night drew to a close, she pulled me into her arms, wrapped this soft scarf around my neck, and said, "I love you. Always remember me."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Calming Coral

Since Beau has been wearing the steel dragon ring I gave him, to think of me when we're not together, and as a sort of talisman or symbolic protector, I asked him for something I could wear to think of him. He was understandably nervous about choosing something, since I have pretty decided opinions about jewelry, but, on Chanukah, he gave me this beautiful little coral ring. Beau being Beau, he'd done a lot of research and had found that, during the Victorian period, when gems were all said to have special meanings or powers, coral was seen to protect one from fears and anxieties. If you knew me, you'd know that this was the perfect present then: coral for calm. Calming coral. It's also just... pretty.

I went for a walk, something that can still quite painful with my injury, and found myself seeing and photographing coral everywhere. Doing so did indeed reduce my fears of pain and made the pain a little easier to bear.

A study in contrasts: this elegant house, now chopped into many individual suites, and this little shack, now a very popular cafe. I found the handicapped "push to open" button kind of symbolic and even ironic, since I've had to push and push myself during my recovery to open the world to me once more.

Living here, one really comes to appreciate the beauty of clouds. They bump up against the mountains and get stuck over us, in all their variations and oppressions.

What could be more beautiful?

 And so, from the micro to the macro, coral style, I bid the day adieu.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Quaker Grey... and Silver!

I just learned that the "knock off" Art Deco flatware set I bought for $80, is the real deal, silver-plate, from 1940.

"The Presence in the Midst": a well-known image of Quaker worship
Having spent a great deal of my life in the Pacific Northwest (henceforth known as the Pacific Southwest because I’m Canadian), I’ve come to really appreciate grey. It rains a lot here in the autumn, winter, and spring. When it’s not raining, it’s overcast. A good day is when the clouds lift enough to become bright grey, almost white. A bad day is when it’s hard to differentiate between night and day. In Jack Hodgins’ novel The Invention of the World, someone says that the Pacific Southwest in the winter has only three colours: grey, green, and blue. Really, these are all variations on grey. (Except for emerald. The ground is also always emerald but I’ll save that for another post.)

So I’ve come to appreciate grey: pearly grey, silver grey, dark slate grey, smudgy dark blue grey… You get the idea.

I was also raised as a Quaker, a Christian sect that traditionally mandated a very simple dress code, not unlike the Amish, in which all colour was banned and Quaker Grey was a must.
So, here, an ode to winter in my beloved part of the world: Quaker Grey… and silver.

I got this cloche hat at the Barefoot Contessa, and I'm actually posing in the shop's window, which reads "Love of Beauty". I love this cloche because it makes me feel like I'm a sophisticate from the 1920s; I put a vintage Art Deco dress clip on it to add authenticity. The Deco diamond solitaire was my grandmother's. Beau wears a ring I bought for him that has little dragons on it, like protector dragons.

The raincoat is London Fog.

I'd been admiring the silver-haired woman from across a cafe and asked if I could take her photo. Her much younger partner told her she should let her hair down and she proudly did so, giving it a shake and revealing the most splendid silver hair I think I've ever seen. It goes perfectly with her grey sweater and the silvery handbag she had on her chair. Do also note her black manicure.

I think this dress looks kind of 1960s Mod via the early 1990s. Thus, I wear the swirly, brooch with it. I actually found this dress in the alley outside my building. I live in a poor part of town where it is simply polite to place one's good "trash" beside the dumpster so people can come and pick through it. It would simply be rude to put good garbage in the dumpster. I got the bracelet from a trans-woman who was selling jewelry on the street but gave this to me free because she decided I must have it.

The beauty of the woman in the black hat needs no explanation. What you can't see is her partner gazing at her with complete admiration while I take the photo. He was not surprised when I asked to take her picture. It was not the first time this had happened to her.

Earrings: Reitmans (!). Cat: Houdini, my lazy neighbour cat.
This pose makes me feel all 1915 Gibson Girl.

Here you see a rare sunny day, with the cool slanting sun of winter in the north. I'm wearing a Birks ring, and a little coloured ring that I bought myself as a present when I'd had my college teaching job for a year. I've yet to wear the vintage orchid brooch, which I think looks incredibly and unabashedly erotic.

Burgundy... for the birds.

Brooch: garage sale. Hat: from Barefoot Contessa.
Feeling well-dressed and overly optimistic about my back, I set off across town, on transit, a.k.a. torture for my injury, in search of the perfect, starling proof, suet feeder for all the little birds I feed on my tiny balcony. The hat was new, so 1950s, and its colour was my day's inspiration. Indeed, it contributed to my physical optimism.

It was my first visit to Wild Birds Unlimited, a kind of mecca for bird lovers. It was all very exciting and I did get the perfect feeder, but oi, my back!

When I got home, I had to lie on ice for quite a while. I was really very demoralized. Beau, as usual, was a brick, carrying things that were too heavy, letting me lean heavily on him on the bus, making me a snack when we got home. I'm much more courageous about my pain when he's around. I take more risks and push myself a little harder (which my doctor recommends) because I know I'm not alone; I have sympathy and I have practical help.
Scarves (Beau's and mine): thrift gifts from a friend. Coat and jeans: Reitmans. Boots: Ecco.
I love to see photos of myself in motion, especially walking, because it wasn't long ago that I could not walk more than a few agonizing steps, and those with a cane. It helps me remember how far I've come, in the midst of feeling down about how far I still have to go.

This winter rose reminded me of me: a little beaten up but still not devoid of beauty.

The top middle photo is moss -- very close up. It is these small beauties, these sublime mercies, that give me small balms for my pain and big joys in my life.

 Just what is that tree behind us? I really don't know.

See? Now wasn't it all worth it to make these little bushtits happy and safe? Even as I write this, they're back yet again.

A home without a cat is no home at all.

Beau the man should not be confused with Bo the bear. The house is here just because it's too beautiful not to put in this blog somewhere. Would that it were mine!

My plushy sixteen year old cat. Softest, thickest, silkiest fur I've ever encountered, and I've loved cats all my life. At his age, he's no threat at all to my birdies.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Polka Dot! Why Not?

I got this boys duffel coat at a clothing exchange; everyone brings clothes she doesn't want anymore, throws them into a pile, and we all just dive in. Jeans: Reitmans. Shirt: fun 2 fun.
I recently had reconnected with a very good high school friend, with whom I've lost and regained touch many times over the years. She took these pictures. We used to always have a friendly competition for who could be the top student in our little, academically enriched, alternative school. She always won because she's into the sciences as well as the humanities. She got a degree in Environmental Studies and always teaches me new things about botany. The world of plants and trees is quite wondrous, at least the way she tells it.

I can't tell you where she got her clothes, but, if I know her, they're probably all from Value Village, which is a laudable thing indeed.
Like me, she was raised by hippies. Flower children's children share a sort-of vernacular, a kind of lifelong alienation from "normal" people. It's almost like an ethnicity we share with each other. Getting together and speaking the same language, we can breathe just a little more easily, like coming home.

Boots: Ecco. Earrings: Toni Cavelti for Birks
I'm crazy about these boots. Because of my back injury, I can't wear high heels anymore and even flat shoes can hurt my back, so footwear can be a real battle for me. Truth be told, I based this entire outfit around these boots, trying to pick up their warm butterscotch colour throughout. They're Ecco, one of the few brands I've found that doesn't hurt my back and actually looks good on me. And they were half price!

I carry clutches these days because, unlike purses with straps, they don't pull on my shoulder, twist my back, and cause pain. I have a vast array of second hand clutches that I get from between 25 cents to 10 dollars.

I have a total pash for "scarf ruffle things" as they're called in Jane Wagner's one woman play for her life partner Lily Tomlin, Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Why? Well, partly because I get to call them "scarf ruffle things," partly because they make me feel like I'm costumed as a second wave, feminist, career woman, circa 1982 (though this style of shirt was also popular in the 1930s). But, mostly, I think, because Jessica Fletcher wears them so often in Murder She Wrote. You'd be surprised at how often I dress with her in mind. I'm sure she'll be the subject of a future blog post or two.

My friend, getting creative, gave me the following pose instruction: "Look sad. But think of something happy." This was my response. I actually love this photo. I didn't laugh a lot when my pain was at its worst.

I got the square ring at the Salvation Army. The glass, round ring and the glass bangle are from garage sales. The gold ring is part of Birks' Links Collection.

Even a coffee looks more exotic when the hand holding it is wearing interesting rings.