Currently {NYC Edition With An L.A. cameo}

ny ny

What a weird, wild, wondrous whirlwind these past few months have been!

I reluctantly visited my least favorite city on earth, and three weeks later, I found a new city to (quite unexpectedly) love; I have communed with quarrelsome goats and curious chickens, I have stood in the shadow of a 305 ft copper lady, I finally met, for the first time, friends I’ve known for over a decade and some I’ve made more recently, and I made new acquaintances of several people who know me or recognize me from my writing (this is a weird one but I secretly love it!) And lastly, I’m sorry to sound a bit schmaltzy, but I also discovered–a little late in the game, but better late than never–how vital and valuable and just…really lovely…that spending time with family can be. Even if it’s your found family. Even if I was resisting it with every particle of my being!

ny wardrobe

In April I tagged along with my partner’s family on a trip to NYC. I know it’s probably impolite to say so and may hurt some feelings, but I truly loathe New York City. It’s just too much, and all of the too much, all at once. However, I was with my love, and his family–so it’s not like I was there hacking it by myself, all alone. His mother had just celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday and wanted to celebrate with her family, doing fun touristy things, in a city that she’d never really gotten to spend much time in.

Being a bit of an ingrate and a brat, I suppose, I was not necessarily looking forward to this trip. Spending time with other people’s families is always a dicey venture. Everyone’s got their own routines, their own agendas, their own way of doing things. Three opinionated brothers are going to snip and pick and bicker a lot. Grumpy dads with bad knees and bad hearing are going to (understandably) be uncomfortable and unhappy and probably pretty vocal about it. Me, I was resentful and sullen and anxious about the distinct possibilities of family squabbles but hopefully no one could tell; I would just be the same, old “why is she so quiet?” Sarah that they had grown to tolerate, if not necessarily love, over the past seven years.

(As you can see, above, I was dressed as a veritable ray of sunshine. I packed approximately seven variations of this outfit! To be fair, this is how I dress no matter where I’m traveling, or with whom. Cloak: Phantom Lovely; Leggings: Blackmilk; Tunic: Aakasha; Necklace: bloodmilk)

lady

ellis

hair

Hungry and exhausted, I was brought to tears the very first day in the city, after having just arrived and meeting the family in a small sandwich shop next to our Midtown hotel. The first comment directed my way was a concerned, “oh dear, you look so tired”, and come on–who wants to hear something like that? I bit my tongue but I was tempted to say “nah, I’m just ugly.” Then the quarrels began. Where to sit, what to order, who is going to pay for what, was this really the best place to eat?

GAHHHH. I thought I was going to lose my damn mind. Fussing, cussing, contentious people have always upset me, ever since I was very young. I just feel like…people shouldn’t disagree and argue in front of other people, and definitely not in public. I realize I just might be a little bit sensitive to that, though, and I recognize for lots of folks, this is a very normal way to communicate, and they don’t think twice about it. Especially in close families! I know myself well enough, though, to identify what my triggers are, and what is going to upset me, so I stepped away from the group, took a deep breath, and counted to ten. Visited my safe place (Thanks, therapy! More on this later.) Ordered a falafel salad. Rejoined the fray after I felt the tears retreat.

I must note that this was the best salad I’d ever eaten in my entire life! And though the spot where we dined was probably a chain, and really nothing special considering all the options that the city has to offer–it really was some of my favorite food from the whole trip. Maybe because it delivered a delicious respite and nourishment when I sorely needed it.

I’m happy to say that after our initially rocky arrival, most everything settled down–including me–and it was actually a lovely time. I did so many things that I probably never would have chosen to do, if asked; taking a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visiting the Empire State Building observatory (look at my crazy hair, it wants to fly off my head straight into space!) — these things have never been at the top of my list of priorities. Or…even on my list at all. Part of me might have said that these pilgrimages were very much wasted on me. Midway in the doing of them, I became aware of feeling… not exactly jazzed learning more about our nation’s history… but rather I came away with a sentiment that I have not experienced much in the course of my lifetime, and as it’s not part of my lived experience, I’m not sure that I have the proper words available in my lexicon to describe it.

My own family is so very small. Two sisters whom I adore. A cousin whom I don’t know very well. A father with whom I don’t communicate. That’s it, really. Everyone else is dead, or else I don’t know them at all and they either don’t know me or have forgotten I exist. In my time as an adult, my family has certainly never traveled together; at most, we’ve had one annual holiday dinner for the last few decades. And even now, that yearly Thanksgiving dinner is becoming a thing of the past as we opt to travel elsewhere, to create our own traditions.

To spend time with this family then, who has accepted me (as far as I can tell, and even though often they tell me I need to wear more bright colors) as one of their own, to do with them the things that “normal families” do; whether it be traveling, dining together, sitting around the table for coffee and conversation–I have never had that, even when my family was alive and whole. That just wasn’t our thing, and though I’m not always sure that I want that level of closeness and communication, it has become something I appreciate more than I ever would have thought possible. It took this trip away with them to the city I most dislike in the world to realize that.

cher
cher show

hilma

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I did, however, do other things in NYC than learn maudlin, melancholic life lessons! We got tickets to The Cher Show, a production recounting the evolution of an iconic star, “packed with so much Cher that it takes three women to play her, ” and, I might add, very accurately reviewed as “…an explosion of fabulous excess that survives against all odds under the weight of all its sequins.”

I’ve never really thought of myself as a Cher fan, though I’m not not a Cher fan, I guess? I mean, I know all the words to her songs, but is that because I enjoy and connect with them on some level or is it because they’ve gotten so much radio play that  it’s all a bit unconscious and subliminal at this point? Well, I’ve always appreciated her over-the-top sense of style, at any rate, and the show certainly played up that aspect in the form of the glittering excess of several dozen amazing costume changes!

I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to actually do anything I wanted to do during this visit, but much to my delight, the group consensus was that we might like to stop by the Gugenheim for the Hilma af Klint exhibit. It’s a cliché, I know, to talk about an artist being ahead of their time, but I think even Hilma herself knew that her paintings–imaginative, abstract articulations of her views on mysticism and spirituality–were the sort of experimental, boundary-defying works that the world in that moment would neither appreciate nor understand. Hilma af Klint stipulated that her art not be shown for twenty years following her death; her work was all but unseen until 1986, and only over the subsequent three decades have her paintings and works on paper begun to receive serious attention. I’m so pleased that I was in the right place at the right time, while this exhibit was available to the public, and that I had the good fortune to have seen it for myself.

creeping

Not even a month later I flew out to L.A. (AND I upgraded to first class seats to mitigate the stress of the whole “peeing in airplanes” situation!) The above photo was taken at the excellent and hitherto-unknown-to-me Clifton’s during a lovely meet and greet hosted by the sweet ladies from The Creeping Museum. Lovely though it may have been, I disappeared back to my hotel room shortly after this photo was taken. I was overcome with …is party anxiety a thing? I am quite certain it is. When I encounter a room where people have already arrived and started to congregate, I can’t think straight. My heart races, I get flushed and sweaty and I want to make a break for it. I have a hard time jumping into conversations; I feel pressured to chat, and even if I can think of a conversation topic suitable for the group, I overthink what to say, and I either end up saying nothing or something …really … weird.

On top of a rude, brutal surprise period and being extra-crampy and headache-y, having spent the last ten hours on my feet in another, slightly different but equally high-stress situation, and not having eaten since about 8am that morning, well…I panicked and split. And I feel awful, because everyone there was so nice, and probably just as awkward and strange as me, but I had reached my limits. I vanished as soon as it seemed appropriate and hurried back to my room for a bit of a weep. I was really beating myself up about it at the time, too, like “why can’t you be more like so-n-so? She’s clever, she’s charming, she always tells a good story that holds listeners rapt, she’s probably nervous too, but she keeps her shit together!” But I also know that I tried… maybeit wasn’t a perfect attempt, but it was an attempt, you know?

Ah, well. I know myself fairly well. I know I am best equipped for circumstances where I’m communicating and interacting one on one; add a few other folks in the mix and I think that’s nearly too much stimulation for me. Make it a roomful of people, and, 99% of the time, I will probably straight up shut down. I’ll keep trying, though! And hopefully people will continue to understand. Your weird friend Sarah is weird, guys. Sorry about it.

But of course Los Angeles was more than uncomfortable social situations; that was truly only one minuscule part of my visit!  There were wonderful friends met and made; friendly farm animals and feral cats; art and artists and books and cocktails and both the most liberating breakfast sandwich I have ever devoured as well as the most elusive sushi burrito that I never actually ate at all. And much, much more! All of that though, is a tale for another time and place …like over at Haute Macabre sometime in the near future, hint hint! Once I’ve had a chance to parse and process and parcel it out, there will be loads more details to share in a ginormous collaborative post with a few of my HM coven-cronies and travel-mates.

I will instead leave you with this image of some the beautiful things I brought back with me. As we all know, the best part of any travel is returning home to spread your newly gotten treasures over your bed and bask in the glory of acquisition and collection!

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this, that, and the other thing {xlviii}

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The Los Angeles Oddities Market is happening this weekend, and I will be there! I hope to see you!

#MetGala2019 looks as minerals: a twitter thread

8 Modern Witches Share Their Daily Beauty Rituals

The Fantastical Sketchbook of a Medieval Inventor

The Secret Language of Jewelry in Women’s Portraits

Frida Kahlo’s Garden Is Still Thriving—Six Decades after Her Death

Alien spaceship, Hammer horror? The pulsating visions of Harry Clarke

Rare and Endangered Butterfly Species Recreated in Glass by Laura Hart

Yes, Giant Technicolor Squirrels Actually Roam the Forests of Southern India

Who’s the Darkest of Them All? The Arcane Origins of the Tale of Snow White

Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Dark Times, Resisting the Defeatism of Easy Despair, and What Victory Really Means for Movements of Social Change

Book Stuff

Book stuff

So…some recent book stuff!

…not to be confused with “butt stuff”. Which…don’t ask me how one could be mistaken for the other, but as someone who frequently mishears and misreads things, I know it happens!

Book stuff the first is our Stacked reading compilation over at Haute Macabre, covering the months of April and May. Among others, I really enjoyed In The House In The Dark Of The Woods by Laird Hunt, a witchy woodland fever dream of a tale, set in colonial New England, is utterly immersive and twisty and strange. Not mentioned, because I didn’t even know how to begin to tackle the material, is The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang. I feel funny saying that I “enjoyed” this book, a woman’s exhausting struggle with chronic and mental illness, but it was intimate and candid,  beautifully written and immediately compelling, and provided perspectives and insights that were surprising, terrifying, and sometimes even quite empowering.

Book stuff the second: I interviewed Mallory O’Meara, best-selling author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent PatrickMilicent Patrick was an illustrator and artist “who designed the iconic monster from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but, unfortunately for decades, no one knew much else about her.” Mallory’s book is the incredible true story of Milicent Patrick’s life and legacy, and an exploration of why her accomplishments still matter today and why her story needs to be told now more than ever. Bonus: if you’ve never seen Creature From The Black Lagoon, you can watch it over on archive.org!

Links of the Dead {April 2019}

art credit: Isabee

art credit: Isabee

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {April 2018} | {April 2017} | {April 2016} | {April 2014}

💀 When Your Best Friend Dies
💀 What Cancer Takes Away
💀 To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time
💀 Why Pet Sematary refuses to die
💀 Why is death left out of wellness?
💀 When Cemeteries Became Natural Sanctuaries
💀 Suffering Blows: One Woman’s Journey With Grief
💀 6 Bricks Under: Vienna Cemetery Introduces Funeral LEGO Sets
💀 Washington may become first state to legalize human composting
💀 The funeral as we know it is becoming a relic — just in time for a death boom
💀 R.I.P. to a Startling Facebook Feature: Reminders of Dead Friends’ Birthdays
💀 A photo essay from the morgue that works as a description of what death looks like 
💀 From Jack the Ripper to Ted Bundy, why are dead women’s bodies still being used as entertainment?
💀 Caregiving can be overwhelming, but there are some ways you can prepare yourself for this new chapter in your life.

 

Ten Things I Tell Myself to Make Life Worth Living by Ariel of Carpe That Diem

ariel feature

I first met Ariel on a strange and stressful day during a very strange and stressful chapter of my life. It was on an afternoon spent surrounded by strangers, talking about potentially uncomfortable things, and though we were brought together for a common purpose and it was in fact, a gathering which I myself had initiated and facilitated, I very much did not want to be there. I am not sure if Ariel picked up on that at the time, but as we’ve come to know one another during the course of our friendship, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are one of the few people who just gets it. And is okay with it. And doesn’t judge me or think less of me for being a weird, squirrelly hermit.

Whether we meet up for scintillating discourse on matters of mortality, or deliciously unhinged Gothic cinema; were we to spend an emotional hour together discussing a local tragedy and its personal implications or just run into each other on a busy street corner (yes, this has happened! and we don’t even live that close to each other!) I always know I will come away astounded by Ariel’s brilliant insights, awestruck at their tremendous sagacity and, of course enthralled by their incisive wit–and I am astonished, to be frank, that this incredible human,  this one-of-a-kind (in the truest, purest sense) person actually wants anything at all to do with me! But …they do? This makes me indescribably happy and fills me with the sort of delirious, demented joy that I’m pretty sure only other lonely weirdos understand fully. And though we don’t get together often, when we do, it calls t mind Doctor Who meme I sometimes see floating around on Facebook, the one that says “Spend Your Life Doing Strange Things With Weird People.” Except, well. It wasn’t weird enough.

I had to make a version for Ariel and I. Here you go! You’re welcome!

I am lucky to have met Ariel when I did, and that we grew to become friends, and I am beyond thrilled that they are this month’s Ten Things guest blogger. See below Ariel’s Ten Things I Tell Myself to Make Life Worth Living, and I will share with you the same thing I said to Ariel, that I am awestruck and utterly humbled that they would write any of this at my behest, and I feel so incredibly undeserving of what they’ve shared below. It is beautiful and difficult and wrenching and absolutely perfect.

 

Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Woman Before Rising Sun’

Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Woman Before Rising Sun’

1. It’s Okay to Delay

This is a mantra that I’m just learning. It is a challenge, and by no means am I proficient. And while on the surface this phrase seems to echo sentiments that it’s “never too late,” it means something a little bit differently to me.

There’s a popular rationalization for transness out there that implies that a trans person is X gender trapped in a Y-sexed body. Personally, that is not my trans narrative. I have perceived myself, however, as the hapless protagonist in a cosmic narrative of a Can-Doer trapped within a Do-Little. I am predictably-unpredictably hindered, hampered, prohibited and limited by disabling chronic illness.

I idealize the tenets of minimalism and idolize the gurus who promise that the key to a fulfilling and adventurous life is the process of simplifying day-to-day tasks and purging material objects. The irony is that I live a fairly consistently low-impact lifestyle. I don’t have much to “declutter.” I don’t have an overflowing calendar brimming with engagements. I don’t keep many obligations. I scarcely have anything to write in a to-do list or planner or place in a twee inbox.

When I do accumulate tasks, I embark on a journey of epic proportions to hit all the high notes. When the mania strikes, I start plotting. I scheme out several “appointments”.

And then I hit my nadir.

For me, fatigue, flares and malaise are byproducts of ambition. I quickly become sobered by the humiliation that I have to suspend my schedule. And then I feel ashamed for it.

But then I defer back to what I learned all along from my minimalist icons. I appreciate what has “sparked joy” within me in my accomplishments. I appreciate the effort of taking on days, weeks, even months’ worth of accumulation and pre-planning to achieve. I appreciate that a “rest period” is an opportunity to regenerate. If delaying means reveling in the highs and charting a new course, then it’s okay to delay.

To Write Love on Her Arms for World Suicide Prevention Day

“To Write Love on Her Arms,” for World Suicide Prevention Day

2. Tomorrow is Another Day

As someone who dissociates on the regular, time is an alien and abstract concept. Don’t get me wrong, I comprehend the science of the planetary rotations and the lunar cycle. I understand the guidance of the almanac and the shift of the seasons. I defer to the sacred obligations of my religious calendar.

But I’ll be frank. I don’t follow a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, etc. schedule. I divide my days by shifting between pajamas and civilian clothes, going outside for extended periods vs. remaining indoors indefinitely, or days when my partner is at work or at home. Sometimes the ‘pajama days’ are disproportionately longer than the ‘civvies days’. Sometimes my partner picks up extra shifts or flips his schedule around, and I’m sparked into spontaneity. As you can imagine, these units of measurement do not translate well to real-time deadlines.

Over the course of these ‘days’, I lose huge chunks of time to no recollection with nothing to show for it. And in the periods where I am cognizant of my presence, I’m often unable to project myself into ‘meaningful’ activity.

I still haven’t quite de-conditioned from the stress of a metered week. I used to live a very professional and organized life. I agonized under the weight of timed obligations. I grit my teeth and asked for extensions.

That’s not my life anymore. Maybe it will be again some day, but for the here-and-now, tomorrows might not necessarily be “tomorrow” in a traditional sense. It might be several days from the current day. But every “tomorrow” is a chance to center my presence in the present. It’s another opportunity to push through the fog and orient myself to the novelty of a new day’s offerings.

3. Yesterday is a Thing of the Past

This is really the same face of the Janus coin as the preceding truth. The pursuit of tomorrow means leaving yesterday in the past. This isn’t to say that the past is irrelevant. The past is a hard-packed foundation for progress. But no one can reach for the heavens if they’re wallowing in the dirt. (Disclaimer: this is by no means a diss on archaeologists.)

I have a hard time putting things down. I’m sure I could blame Aries energy. There’s countless astrological interpretations as to why I just won’t leggo my eg(g)o. I’m slowly learning to leave yesterday in its grave by meditating on the Jewish honorific: zikhronam liv’rakha. This phrase translates into ‘may their memories be a blessing’ as well as ‘may their memories be for a blessing’. The meaningfulness of for whom this blessing is for (for the deceased or for the living) may be debatable. In both senses: I am blessed that yesterday occurred, regardless of what happened there, and yesterday is blessed by the fact that I lived throughout it.

Henry Clarke’s illustration for “Cask of Amontillado”

Henry Clarke’s illustration for “Cask of Amontillado”

4. Forgive, But Don’t Forget

Yesterdays haunt me from beyond the grave with the ghosts of people, events and circumstances that have deeply wounded me. Much of my trauma has manifested into trigger points that are part of my everyday life. When a new mental health professional pushes me to express how trauma manifests, I often find myself trying to suppress the details.

My regular therapist noticed this veneer right away. He also identified what he suspected was going on. I was already re-living the trauma, but I was attempting to protect myself from experiencing guilt, shame, self-loathing, and all the other usual suspects. Most of the people and places associated with my triggers are removed from my life. Rightly or wrongly, in my headspace, I’m the only one left to absorb the culpability of what happened.

I will never forgive the people who did badly by me, partly because I logistically cannot, and partly because I earnestly do not want to (and nor should I have to). I can’t ever forgive the places where I was wronged, because to anthropomorphize a space in that capacity errs too closely to de-burdening humans of their accountability.

I can, however, forgive myself for subjecting myself to my own internally recurring unkindness. And by learning to forgive myself, I can eventually learn to recall my histories in ways where I can continue to practice compassion in my life.

Regenerate by Janice Gobey

Regenerate by Janice Gobey

5. Old Dreams Die; New Dreams Are Born

Even though I strive to live a death positive life, I grapple with thanatophobia every day. This isn’t always demonstrated by the anxiety of my own mortality. Sometimes it manifests in struggling to accept that I am not the same person as I have been previously. The current me often feels like an impostor masquerading in the skin of the older me, mainly because I am not fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the older me.

The older me is Oxford educated and was en route to doctorate status. The older me eagerly wanted to be a parent. The older me was a working professional who volunteered for special projects and promotion opportunities. The older me practiced yoga daily and researched teaching scholarships. The order me sang in choir and fantasized of the opera. The older me drove a car and had aspirations of being an air-conditioned vagabond. The current me is not a realization of any of these.

The current me, however, is the descendant of all of these. The death of my old dreams was the birth of new opportunities. Those dreams, too, may age out of me in the tomorrows from now. But new dreams will be birthed from those dreams, and so on and so on.

this is a clever lyric shot from the 88rising video for “Midsummer Madness,”

this is a clever lyric shot from the 88rising video for “Midsummer Madness,”

6. Expectations and Standards Are Only as Real as You Make Them

In the words of the prophet Joji: fuck the rules.

At least 30% of my therapy sessions in the span of 5 years have covered my anxieties, my resentment and my wallowing grief regarding my deep-seeded fear that I’ll never produce a life worth the monetary value. I routinely agonize that no amount of expensive surgery or recurring costs of hormone replacement will ever convince the public to perceive with my gender; that no amount of emotional, physical or skill-based labor will equal out the debt of my student loans; that no temple will accept my patrilineal heritage and consider me a worthy investment of “birthright”; that no mounting medical bills or adaptive tools will enable me to maintain pace with my abled fellows.

Every time, I have to re-educate myself that the gospel of ‘Being Human’ is actually an arbitrary set of guidelines inferred from a messy collage.

Some folks over the years have approximated what “gender” looks like and whether that gender’s presentation amounts to being “ugly” or “beautiful”; others have calculated how the “value” of a human being can be measured; some have proposed what amount of competency in one flavor-of-the-victors language amounts to “literacy.”

For the most part, we unconsciously enforce the ‘rules’ of humanity. We make baseless accusations and judgments from precognitions that were taught us by parents, siblings, friends, television personalities, magazine advertisements, history books, religious doctrines, billboards, neon signs, stump speeches, inspirational speakers, etc. We mount these on a vision board that coats our minds’ eye with the color lens of our choosing. Such lenses are ableism, white supremacy, classism, xenophobia, misogyny, heterosexism, cissexism, antisemitism, etc. We may identify these lenses by different shades or hues depending on our learned perceptions (what differentiates ableism from internalized ableism, for instance?), but ultimately, “blood orange” by any other name is just fucking red.

The fact of the matter is that these hypothetical ’truths’ are based on centuries’ worth of tradition, rebellion, assimilation, appropriation, aggrandizing and the existential need to apply meaning to every little thing. It’s a social neurosis that’s demonstrated perfectly in the Garden of Eden narrative: Adam is charged with identifying every animal and plant in Eden, yet humankind is cursed by the malady of sin when he and Eve seek to qualify their knowledge from the tree. Is it our own desire to categorize and define the world around us rather than simply identify and appreciate the beauty of diversity that pollutes our souls?

Who knows? Judging our current human relevance off of archaic presumptions shouldn’t be how we define what it means to “matter.” “Mattering” should be determined by our compassion (however we choose to express it), our presence (however we make it known) and our impact (however we manifest it).

At the Alfond Inn in Winter Park

At the Alfond Inn in Winter Park

7. We Are the Gods, Now

If everything around us is, at best, subjective, or at worst, built on fakery, lies and creative exploits, then where do we go from there? As Gabriel Byrne-as-Byron once bellowed to Natasha Richardson-as-Mary Godwin in a delightful 80s romp: “We are the gods, now.”

In the context of Ken Russell’s Gothic, Byron, Godwin, her paramour Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, and Byron’s [strikeout]#1 Fan Please[strikeout] biographer John Polidori are questioning their own personas, desires, grievances and dreams. Guilt, lust, heartbreak, grief, insecurity, mortality, anger and fear plague the fivesome when they are imprisoned in a labyrinthine villa by an atmospheric dark-and-stormy night. Godwin herself becomes the Promethean bringer of the dawn when she channels her negative energy into the momentum for her first published novel, Frankenstein: a piece that in real life would see revision fostered by the same manipulation of tragic energy from within her inner circle and drawn from a changing European social climate.

Frankenstein relays much of its explicit religious overtures from English comprehensions of Christian mythology. And from the exclusively Abrahamic perspective, a fallible god that lives, dies, achieves or fails is inconceivable. A god who is driven by passion and by mundanity is unfathomable. But these are the very tenets of godhood in other mythologies globally: the Olympians, the Teotl, the K’uh, the Deva/i, and so on and so on. The winking acknowledgment is in Godwin’s subtitle: the Modern Prometheus, a Titan who is credited in Hellenic literature for both bringing fire to the first people manifest of clay… and for drunkenly mis-applying genitals to many of the clay peoples he personally created (Aesop’s 517th Fable on gender fluidity and attraction model fluidity).

By no means do I want to portray myself as sacrilegious or anti-theistic. Rather, I want to celebrate my status as a vessel of divine power, from wherever and whomever I may have inherited that divinity from. I want to learn to perceive my mistakes as opportunities for vernal growth to replace my ingrained doctrine that successes are the only tales worth celebrating.

via quote fancy

image via quote fancy

8. ‘Failure’ is Another Word for Everything to Gain

If ‘freedom’ is just another word for nothing left to lose, then it stands to reason that ‘failure’ is another word for everything to gain. The basis of this one isn’t very novel. It’s preached in sermons, penned in self-help books, bulleted in business seminars and parroted in virtually every Hero’s Journey that sees the protagonist stumble before they run.

It’s a redundancy, because for as true as the statement is, the mantra that ‘failure is not an option’. It’s a phrase that in its popular application is, at best, apocryphal. In practical translation: it’s a fucking lie. It’s a lie that has become a commodity. It is a provocative phrase that evokes fear even in the most humble of practices.

Failure equates to destiny. Failure draws out the possibilities of what were previously sketchy boundaries. Failure identifies goals and stretch goals. Failure articulates purpose. Failure generates motivation.

Every failure I experience is just exposition to my next accomplishment, which may be totally unlike that I initially projected for myself. Taking the path of Ls may lead me to a road that I never would have discovered if I only stayed on the straight and narrow. The terror of being and feeling lost is outweighed by the sublime sights of possibility.

@muertosruz

image: @muertosruz

9. You Live Your Own Obituary

I have lived long enough to see my friends die. In the LGBTQ+ and in the disabled and chronic illness communities, it happens disproportionately more often and sooner than in the general population. Not all of them were honored in ways that did justice to their legacies, namely due to a lack of respect to their core identities. But even if their services were all-inclusive, I don’t know if words and actions alone would have been enough to eulogize their memories.

For every grim and sober detail, I have several living memories, anecdotes, recollections and flashbacks. However brief my friends’ lives may have been, they were rich. Like a spectacularly fudgy, heavy slice of cake cut into a deceptive sliver on a comically large saucer. Had they lived longer, how would it shift the narrative of that presentation? Where would my memories trail off to?

Every day that I thrive, I add another chapter to my living obituary. I generate more content for an everlasting eulogy that will be curated and maintained by those who survive me.

Atlas and Caliban snuggling on it’s a small world

Atlas and Caliban snuggling on it’s a small world

10. Your Friends Will Bury You

At the time of writing this, a friend has been dead for several days. My partner and I lived with him for a time. When we moved out, we made plans to stay connected. It didn’t work out. We were on opposite sides of town living opposite lives. When we had the news broken to us, we were told he was living in a group home just down the street from us. That crushed me.

We never explicitly related to each other about living as severely mentally ill people, but it was definitely the baseline of how we were able to be friendly toward one another and respect one another’ boundaries. Our unspoken civility was refreshing at the time. Now it’s a weight in the pit of my heart. I feel equal parts culpable for not being present in his life and equal parts fearful that I could flicker out in the shadows cast by the people surrounding me.

My life has very much been pillared by isolation, loneliness, drifting and severed relationships and by agoraphobia. It is only now, as I crest on my 30s, that I’m forging friendships that are forgiving to my less-than-sociable tendencies and nourishing to my hunger for human connection.

Part of this I can credit to my personal growth, particularly my learned talents of pruning back toxic relationships and nourishing what I’ve managed to germinate within inspiring people and compelling communities. Part of this I want to credit to the fact that as I’ve aged and matured, so have the people I choose to surround myself with. But I feel most confident in and grateful to what emerging technology has enabled me with in order to stay connected to the friends I rarely see and the friends I’ve never seen in the flesh.

Tangential to the above, if I have faith in nothing else when I die, I will have total faith in the fact that my friends will be the ones to memorialize me. Regardless of whether they may be physically present, I will know that they will hold space for me because of how I have pushed myself and how I continue to push myself to hold space for them while we are alive.

Find Ariel: Carpe That Diem blog  // @carpe_that_diem on instagram

Goodbye, Sweet Meepster

My heart is breaking for my sister today. One of her dear girls has gotten old and very unwell, and they’ve come to the conclusion it is time to say goodbyes and gently facilitate little Megan’s journey to the next world. I spent the day with them yesterday, but am back home this morning, weeping all morning with sadness for everyone, and still mourning my own losses of this kind, when I had to do the same for my own beloved companion back in 2010.

Anyway, here’s to Megan, lil Mama, the meepingest Meepster to ever meep. See you in another life, you sweet, silly thing.

(If you’d like to see more ridiculous photos of these lovelies, my brother in law made a tumblr for their ridiculousness a few years back: Mallory and Megan.)

Weekly Fragrance Picks January-April

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At the beginning of the year, I shared that I would choose a spot in my home that I see every day, and use it to set out a few choice fripperies and fragrances selected for the week, so that I’d wear more often the lovely things that I own, wit the hopes that they wouldn’t languish, unworn, in a dark cabinet for all eternity.

I will admit, I haven’t exactly been consistent with it; sometimes the same scents remain artistically placed, a fragrant mise-en-scèn, eye-level, atop my chest of drawers for weeks on end without me switching it out (either because I’m lazy or uninspired or else they’re so good that I can’t bear to wear anything else!) But I really have been trying!

If you ever peek at what’s going on with me over on instagram, you probably will have seen my weekly choices posted at various intervals–or maybe not, what with that crazy algorithm and all–but I thought it might be good to do a quarterly check in here on the blog, and show you what I’ve been wearing and enjoying since January.

January 11

January 11: Week two consisted of switching between Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Antique Lace (light, lemony tea cakes and a lace shawl into whose delicate stitches have been knit sugary breakfast cereal crumbs) and an enormous decant of what I believe is Amouage Opus VI (a huge, handsome, peppery-boozy amber); the scents couldn’t be more different but I love them both! Also my dazzlingly fierce rose gold dagger earbobs from Arcana Obscura and a small bracelet from some relatives in Tijuana. I think someone’s kid made it in school.

January 21January 21: I’m a little late with sharing last week’s frippery and fragrance choices, but here we go! Two scents and a sekrit snek mirror by Flannery Grace.

Monarch by Solstice Scents is a sharp, green incense that is balanced out by rich, warm woods, and is for me, personally, is the olfactory equivalent of the golden glow that spreads through your chest after a few sips of whiskey on a winter evening.

Ambre Narguilé by Hermès gets a lot of apple pie references from perfume reviewers, but I don’t quite sense that myself. Pie filling, perhaps. Sans flaky crust. Dried fruits–raisins and plums, stewed in honey and rum and spices, and left on the stove very nearly too long. It’s been cooked down to a syrupy essence of its former self, and if you hadn’t pulled it from the flame, the caramelized sugars might have started to smoke and burn. I don’t know if I smell the tobacco that people mention, either, but then again, many people think tobacco smells like raisins, so…
This is as sweet as it gets for me. It calls to mind a cozying up by firelight with a charmingly old timey book, while wearing an oversized sweater with thick cables and toggle buttons.

February 11

March 12: The last few weeks’ frips & fragrance picks were so nice that I haven’t the heart to change them out yet!

Scent no.1 is Laveau from Seance Perfumes: a soft, simple, gently musky fragrance with notes of sandalwood and bourbon, and which also smells fantastic in candle form on an early spring night, with the breeze (or maybe ghosts) softly ruffling the curtains.

Scent no.2 is Fate for Woman by Amouage, which is described as “a chypre oriental with a rich floral heart intensified by a dark and destructive accord resonating with the tumultuous unknown.” Fate opens up with cool, nose-tickling pencil shavings and spicy, peppery florals follow soon thereafter, just the barest wisps of jasmine and rose. A bronzed and leathery labdanum slinks in and gives way to billowing quantities of powdery vanilla. What remains is the intensely scented blend of talcum powder cut with that opening note of pencil shavings, which seemed to play into every phase and facet of Fate, despite the fact that cedar isn’t even listed in the notes. The tumultuous unknown, it would seem, is a powdery abyss, teeming with the souls of number 2 pencils.

Frips are comprised of the lunar landscape ring from Chase & Scout Jewelry, which is pretty much a permanent fixture on my finger, as well as a simple obsidian pendant from Laurel Whitting that I received as a gift with purchase and which I have found myself wearing almost every day since receiving it.

March 1

March 1: This week’s study in frips and fragrances had me so pleased to rediscover some beloved favorites from past years! Ornaments: my jaunty eyeball necklace from Flora and Fauuna and my glimmering, good luck cicada from Flannery Grace.

Aromatics include Ambre Noir from Sonoma Scent Studio, and which is dense and intense and the darkest amber you could ever hope to meet. Somber and smoldering, with notes of labdanum, rose, incense, moss, leather, and woods, it is a blackened forest fireside frolic when the veil between worlds is thinnest. See also: the final moments in the film The VVitch. I got this in 2009 or so, and I just read that Sonoma Scent studio is closed as of last year. That’s a bummer, I think so many of you would have loved this fragrance.

Holy Terror from Arcana Wildcraft is one of my top ten forever scents. A blend of frankincense, deep myrrh, and beeswax candles, it smells of gentle resins, lofty sandalwood, and less of the fearsome spirits known to haunt certain long-deserted abbeys, than it is curling up and reading about them in a horrid novel by the warm glow of candlelight.

Absinth by Nasomatto is bitter mosses, green woodsmoke, and sinister woods. It’s a bit of a nose-jarring scent at first sniff, as if the punky-poet green fairy quit bohemian Paris to live amongst the ancient dryads and they didn’t get on well but eventually formed an uneasy friendship. It’s a softly surreal, slightly subversive scent that is definitely worth seeking out.

Incidentally, I just finished In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt and Nasomatto’s Absinth is most certainly the fragrance with which I would scent this witchy forest fever-dream of a tale.

March 12

March 12: I am currently switching out last weeks frips and fragrances, and I barely just remembered to take a photo to memorialize them!

Annick Goutal’s Mandragore reminds me of a scene in the 1980’s vampire film The Lost Boys, when the main characters’ grandpa says “….well that’s about as close to town as I like to get.” My perfume shelf is filled mostly with deep, dark, resinous fragrances, and Mandragore, with its bright lemony/peppery opening that quickly fades to a soft, minty bergamot, is as close to a “summer scent” as I like to get. It’s a lovely, (softly) zingy scent that calls to mind some sort of mildly alcoholic herbal shandy one might drink to refresh one’s self at the close of a balmy June afternoon. Unfortunately, much like the buzz from this weak cocktail, the scent lasts but a moment and is gone.

Velvet Tuberose, is a discontinued Bath & Body Works scent which I originally purchased because my Best Good Friend wore it, and it smelled amazing on her. With an opening somehow both airy and earthy, it’s a creamy white floral that dries down to a lush cozy/woody/musky scent, and of course, it never smelled quite as good on me as it did her, and I still associate it with her even though she probably hasn’t worn it in years. I have linked here to a bottle on amazon for $145 if, you know, you absolutely gotta have it.

This lovely butterfly wing pendant was a treasure I picked up at Paxton Gate PDX, though I have long forgotten who the designer is. The ring is of course from Blood Milk; it’s the moonstone version from the Belonging To The Darkness part II collection.

March 18

March 18: Clearing out last week’s frips and fragrances to make room for this week’s picks…

L’Eau by Diptyque is a scent is perhaps discontinued, and one that I am perpetually on the fence about. I think I am probably one of those people that office workers and elevator takers complain about…I like bombastic scents with big personalities, you know, mind-blowing, room-clearing stuff. And L’Eau, well. Hm. It’s initially a massive puff of clove but it’s also an airy clove, a clove phantom. A clove ghost that drowned in a scant puddle of citrus-herbal toilet water. It’s a bit too subtle for me to think of reaching for it, often.

Mississippi Medicine by DS & Durga opens with an astringent, peppery cypress, and gives way to a pine-crackling, smoky fire, sweet birch, muddy grass and scorched leaves… and dries down to a sweetly herbaceous, woody, incense; strange smoke-scented hair upon waking, and the vague dream of descending into the dark, dancing and divining with ancestors, and having been part of rituals older than you can imagine.

The sweet eyeball ear-bobs are an eerie amber favorite from Loved To Death.

April 10

April 10: It’s been maybe two or three weeks since I have switched out my revolving corner of #weeklyscents–I’ve just been enjoying these two lovelies so very much!

Coriandre by Jean Coutrier is a gentle chypre that’s somehow both soft and slightly crisp, and reminds me of a hazy 70’s Polaroid. A warm, grassy summer day recalled through the yellowed veil of memory. It’s dry and woody and musky and I think it smells a bit like a lovely little secret that you might never be ready to share.

Labdanum de Saville by L’Occitane is a lovely resinous amber that is probably categorized as an “oriental” and some might refer to as “sensual”, but I won’t because that word grosses me out. It’s fairly linear, and just the right balance of sweet and dry, with some benzoin and citrusy notes. It’s one of those scents that doesn’t stand out as terribly unique or complex, but it’s also not super boring. It’s a good one to reach for on the days when you want to smell vaguely interesting but you don’t actually care enough to go all-out. I am afraid this one also may be discontinued. I am sorry!

Fripperies include a large moth ring from Blood Milk and a pointy-fingered hand pendant from Burial Ground.

….Which brings us up to current times! I was traveling all last week and only brought one scent with me (quel horreur!) Tom Ford Oud Wood is fine and well and is pretty great, actually; a very handsome fragrance, all cool, slightly bitter, peppery woods. A coniferous-rosewood-sandalwood combo; a tiny, weird, creepy statue of a scent. The kind that might show up in an MR James tale and that moves in the corners of your vision when the eye is focused elsewhere, inches eerily closer to your bed when you’re at the knife’s edge of wakefulness and dream. I truly love it but after wearing it for a week straight while I was in New York,I am quite sick and tired of it, so I must tuck it away for a while.

Other than all that stink-related stuff, did you see I’ve finally got a subscribe button, visibly displayed in the upper right hand portion of the blog? So that you can be notified of new posts? Yeah, I sure do! It only took me four years!

A moth, a swan, a cold, clear moon

A moth, a swan, a cold, clear moon from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

{image: James Jean}

Track list: The Moth by PJ Harvey | The Swan by Ionna Gika | For The Sun by Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky | All Of This by Ayla Nereo | Cold Clear Moon (Written By Tomo Nakayama) by Swimming Bell | Tiptoe by Gracie and Rachel | Possession 2019 by Kompromat | Psychic Sobriety by Foie Gras | Romance Noire by Double Mixte | Kuiper Belt by KÅRP | Starbound by Mouth Wound

How To Wear ‘Feeling Some Kind Of Way’

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I don’t think I really need to explain this one, do I…? There have been feelings lately, and I am muddling through. This is a look that matches my mood. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, and some of it should actually be exciting, but I am terrified; between this and the thing I wrote about last week, and some other work-related things, I really don’t know whether I am coming or going right now. I’m simultaneously ecstatic and and electrified with possibility. but also frustrated and angry and utterly paralyzed.

Pairing together clothes and jewelry that I’m only pretending to have seems a silly thing to do with my time, but it’s doing something, and having done one thing, it may easier to do the next, and then another. Progress will be made, I know it will, because it always is.  I just have to start somewhere.

This is a look for that foggy somewhere place of vague starts and stops; where the ideas are buzzing and whirling around your head like hungry flies; you just need to reach out and snatch one of them out of the air with the tips of your fingers. It doesn’t matter which one you grab. This is where you start.

Yohji Yamamoto Asymmetric Layered Dress // Else Boomerang II Underwire Longline Bra & thong // Nutsa Modebadze NM0062 boot // Alexander Wang Roxy hobo bag // Hvnter Gvtherer Whipsnake Accessory // Hagerskans Jewelry moth ring // KimyaJoyas herkimer diamond ring // Arcana Obscura sword necklace // Stacy Hopkins Design Odontolabis Femoralis ring // Lauren Wolf Sea Urchin bangle // Valley Eyewear Gravestone sunglasses // Chantecaille Celestial Nail Sheer // Punker mascara // Moth & Rabbit Perfumes, Enter The Void

 

A Visit To Roversia

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Excuse me while I slip away into this Roversian dream world where one swans in silence on velvet staircases, leans tenderly into the open hearts of somber trees, and runs away forever to weep one’s sorrows into the thorny embrace of labyrinthine shrubbery.

(I recall seeing this October 2009 W Magazine editorial several years ago, but it’s resonating so deeply with me right now. I frequently these days find myself longing to hide away from everything in a secret dream world via a hidden door in a hedge. I’ll come back in 100 years and all my troubles will have crumbled to dust.)

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Photography: Paolo Roversi

Hair by Rita Marmor/TRESemme; makeup by Lucia Pieroni/ Streeters for Cle de Peau Beaute; manicures by Yuna Park/Streeters. Models: Jac/IMG; Darya Kurovska/Supreme; Dorothea Barth Jorgensen and Regina Feoktistova, both at Women Model Management. Set design by Piers Hanmer; production by Viewfinders; digital technician: Antonio Pizzichino/d-touch. Photography assistant: Arno Frugier. Market Editor: Carolyn Tate Angel. Fashion assistants: Kathryn Typaldos and Katie Casamassimo

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