Archive of ‘guest post’ category

Caitlin Ffrench: Ten Tools That I Use Most Often

ffrench

I am so excited that Caitlin Ffrench is joining us for this month’s edition of Ten Things! I have been knitting Caitlin’s beautiful pi shawls and assorted patterns for a few years now, and I quite often marvel at her wildcrafting adventures on Instagram– so I was wonderfully intrigued when she mentioned she’d be writing about her favorite tools that she employs in her various practices. I interviewed Caitlin in November of 2017 for Haute Macabre, and it was such a treat to work with her again for this piece.

Caitlin Ffrench is a Canadian Fiber Artist and Forest Lurker working with wildcrafted pigments from within the land bases she visits. Ffrench gathers discarded stones, bricks, weeds, and other waste to grind into useable pigments to make paint and dyes. ffrench paints with wildcrafted pigments as a way to find the connections between place and memory.

46296164_721249281578761_1515712636645692080_n

10 Tools That I Use Most Often

Explaining what I do for work is a hard thing. I make paints from earth and botanical pigments, I write knitting patterns, I’m an artist, and I teach natural dyeing. I’m sure there are other things too, but at the moment I can’t think of them.

The tools I use are well worn and loved dearly. These 10 tools are the most important in my arsenal, but there are many more I could name. (If this was a list of 100 things I think it might cover my most important tools… maybe.)

basket

My Basket

This well-worn basket has been across the continent with me. I use it for wildcrafting dyes and dirt, as a purse when puttering around town, to carry objects back and forth to my studio, and to store my knitting in while at home. I think it is most useful because I can take it outside and hose it out if I’ve left wildcrafted plants in it a little past their prime, and it can be reshaped while it dries. This one is 9 or 10 years old, and the bottom is starting to give way- but I won’t let it go that easily. A repair is in its future.
books

Books

Books are my most dynamic tool. I think that as a teacher I need to be constantly learning, and books are the easiest way to study new things. Last year I took on a reading challenge to read at least 100 books (I hit 110 last year!) which means I almost always am carrying a book with me.

Out of last year’s books The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair was in my top 5, and I showed it here alongside The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar and Colors from the Earth by Anne Wall Thomas. These books are three of my most prized possessions, and I’m constantly rereading them to glean knowledge.
(Note: Today I finished my 86th book- I may make it past 100 books again this year!)

bronica

Film Cameras

Shooting film photographs is a great love of mine, and this camera is my favourite out of my collection. It is a medium format camera that is really simple to use. I got it at a camera swap a number of years ago, and I bring it on most of my travels. I shot a book of knitting patterns in Iceland on it- a feat I’m not sure I’d repeat. There is a nuance in shooting medium format film that you can’t get any other way, but shooting a book halfway across the world on film was a ballsy move. (It is called The Darkness Fell and you can find it, along with my other patterns, on Ravelry.com)

gatheringsilk

A Silk Scarf

I naturally dyed this silk scarf using the eco print method with Trident Maple leaves and Iron, and then overdid it with homegrown indigo. I wear it as a neck scarf or have it jammed in the bottom of my purse almost every day. I use it when gathering earth pigments–silk is sturdy. I used it yesterday to collect ochre while hiking (the dirt shown in the photo).

mordarandpestle

Mortar and Pestle

I have two granite mortar and pestles that I use for grinding earth pigments; the one shown here which is the larger of the two, and a smaller one I take traveling. I use the granite ones because they’re a very hard stone, and can break up almost any stone I gather. Using these tools makes me feel like the witch I dreamed of becoming as a child. Some real Baba Yaga vibes.

shears

Shears

I am a scissor hoarder–and I don’t regret it. I use scissors in my studio and at home all the time and have a pretty lovely collection. The shears shown here though are my absolute favourite because they’re the burliest ones I own, and they’re sharp enough to get through many layers of denim at once.

sketchbook

Sketchbook

I feel naked without my sketchbook. I use it to take notes, to design knitting patterns, for painting and drawing, and for reminders to remember things for later. I use the Moleskine brand and the ‘sketchbook’ paper one. The paper is tough enough that I can use watercolours on it. I use the same size every time, and they sit on their own shelf in my studio. They look quite handsome all in a row.

When I start a new one I put the start date in the front cover so it’s easy to look back at ideas from older ones. I go through between 5-8 a year, and they’re always a little rough looking when they’re finished. I think they’re an intimate glimpse into the workings of my brain.
Shown here is a drawing from a hike I did yesterday, and pigment samples from the side of the lake I was at. I even remembered to put in the date on the drawing. Past me likes to leave helpful notes for future me to look back on.

cauldron

Dye Pots

As I child I made potions out of plants and dirt, and it seems that nothing has changed–I’m still making potions out of plants and dirt.

As a natural dyer, anything you use for dyeing is no longer food safe. You need separate deepest, spoons, lids, scales, etc because the things you’re dyeing with may be toxic. I have a bunch of dyepots, but I prefer to think of them as cauldrons. Be the witch you want to see in the world!

toolroll

Oilcloth Tool Roll

My friend Kassy at Old Fashioned Standards made this custom tool roll for me this summer. It is a riff on a tool roll she already makes, but with a pocket large enough for my sketchbook, and a zippered pocket. She makes things from Oilcloth, and they’re sturdy as hell. (And water resistant!)

It was made for a residency I did in Iceland, and it needed to hold all of the drawing and painting things I would need while traveling.
Cassy also makes jackets, pants, hats, bags, witch hats, and other magic. Look her up- she’s badass.

hands

My Hands

My hands always look rough, are stained or cut up, and I love them. My hands are my greatest tool, and when I came into my 30’s I realized that stretching and physiotherapy would make a world of difference on them. They’ve been tattooed by my friend Nomi Chi (The roses on each hand), and by my partner Arlin ffrench (all the things on my fingers.) Having them tattooed was a way of making them fancy- to thank them for their hard work. I also wear Bloodmilk rings on my left hand, and a moonstone ring made by my friend Janet Harrison on my right hand every day. The amber ring on my right hand comes and goes- but the others are always there.

‘I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands.’ -Louise Bourgeois

Find Caitlin Ffrench: Website // Instagram

10 Things to Stop You Burning it All Down (the World, the Universe, and Everything) by Ekho

ten things ekho

This month’s installment of Ten Things is brought to us by my friend Ekho, whom I originally met over on instagram and while now I don’t recall the exact circumstances, you can bet your booty there were lots of books involved.

I am consistently awestruck and wonderglobbed by all of the unique, diverse, and interesting titles and beautiful cover art they share– and my to-read list has grown exponentially in the time I have known them. But more important than the book envy they inspire are the super fun chats that we have on topics ranging far and wide; humorous, heartfelt, and well, just very human things: dreams, therapy, the dumb idea of “glowups”, the vagaries of our physical meat suits (and the skeevy rando turdmuffins who offer unsolicited comments about same) and ever so much more. Ekho is such a phenomenal companion for conversation … I was actually going through our DM history just now, and to be perfectly honest, I think we would be so fascinating to eavesdrop on!

Ekho is a nonbinary trans person living on Wurundjeri land, writing, daydreaming, doing social anthropology, dyeing their hair colours in the blue/green spectrum and looking for shortcuts to mushrooms. Find them on Instagram or check out their blog they promise to update soon. In the meantime,  however, I am so happy that they have generously contributed to Unquiet Things this month with 10 Things to Stop You Burning it All Down (the World, the Universe, and Everything), featuring Tolkien tenderness, why comic books have no gender, and how they fill their broken heart.

ten things ekho

Acknowledgment of Country
Before I begin, and you begin to read; I wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Wathaurong peoples of the Kulin Nations, the traditional and original landowners where this article was mentally gestated and developed as a digital taskscape, whose sovereignty was never ceded. I pay my respects to the Elders, past, present, future, and, emerging.

Introduction
These 10 Things might not be for you, they might not inspire you to keep fighting the good fight. This might in fact just be a wee snapshot of the insides of my mind and how I reason with myself to get out of bed, put on my clothes in that very specific order I need to keep myself going, make that coffee, take my dogs out to the loo, switch on the laptop and do what needs to be done. Generally what needs to be done is University work (for some strange reason, that began with a hole in my heart, and sorrow I couldn’t fix; I have been enrolled in various Uni courses since 2010), or attending to life stuff like waged-labour and making sure my world doesn’t fall apart. I recognise that I have manifested a portion of self-harm into the research and uni work I do. I tackle the hardest, most painful topics, I refuse the easy way out, I go above and beyond with research and I write out my pain in complex, analytical anthropological essays. I am not fully ready to work on this and make it something more positive. We develop in stages and it is enough that I am willing to think about it and evolve these behaviours in the future, however; sometimes I need to remind myself that I cannot fight if I am dead. The why of the fighting will emerge throughout this article, and the reasons I stay sane might be inane, cute, childish, simplistic and definitely not cool but here we are… I don’t have time for cool anymore, it’s 2019. As 2 parts Anarchist and 1 part Nihilist I will tell you cool is pointless and the pursuit of it is just subscribing to social approval but that might also be the 90s kid or the Gemini in me.

Radical Vulnerability
(Making time to heal, and acknowledging that healing looks, smells, and feels like a dumpster fire.)

Let’s start with something really easy, like the concept of Radical Vulnerability. I hate being vulnerable, ew (have I mentioned I am a Gemini) and vulnerability generally = feels, and weakness. For the past decade, I strove to make myself indestructible. As someone with a shopping list of medical and mental health diagnosis, we can see that panned out really well. Radical Vulnerability is something I saw trans nonbinary icon Alok Vaid Menon start mentioning on their IG. They would discuss when they were hurting, they would acknowledge their abusers were likely hurting too and told others what they needed (a hug, love, friendship, safety, an escort to a cab or home, etc). Through being vulnerable, and expressing it, we normalise the very human need for help and kinship and love (of all forms) and we invite others to experience it too. We allow those around us to let down their walls//their golden hair//and allow others in.

I do believe now that Radical Vulnerability has changed my life this year. At the end of 2018 I had yet-another-health-scare and ended up having to see bunches and oodles of specialists, changing my diet and supplements yet again, and do tri-weekly body conditioning. I do not believe in Cartesian Duality so I anticipated the physical struggle would be accompanied by an emotional/mental struggle and that perhaps if I got through it, I could change some of the unhealthy mental landscapes I was existing in. Radical Vulnerability had a big part to play, communicating to myself and my friends the changes I wanted to make, what I wanted to introduce into my life, communicating (EW) feelings, communicating when boundaries had been crossed, allowing others to be vulnerable, admitting I wanted to heal/myself/things… this list goes on. And it’s not easy. I have spent a really long time not being vulnerable, burying feelings, being stoic or angry but defs-not-vulnerable. This has taken practice and active brain rewiring. It has been exhausting. I am also happier this year than I have been in forever because I feel as authentic as I can be.
Please follow Alok on IG  see their shows, buy their poetry etc.

10 things pokemon

Pokémon
(Something I can always rely on and turn to when my brain is noisy and my heart hurts.)

Something totally different… As a kid who grew up in the 90s I was left salivating after Pokémon cards, Red and Blue, OG Gameboys, yet I was not allowed to participate in that world. I don’t think my Mum liked it. I don’t think she got it. I think she thought that the cards were a waste of money and we were too middle class (aspiring) for that. Who knows? Then my sibling and I got Gold and Silver. My life was forever changed. I remember the moment my egg hatched into an Eevee and the love of my Pokémon life appeared. I was dedicated to Pokémon, I had books that I filled with my analysis of patterns in the game, when specific Pokémon appeared, when items went on sale in the underground Poke-Marketplaces, how to make Pokémon like you more (haircuts). I was 10. I was obsessed. It was the best summer of my life.

Since then I have had my fluctuations with the games, times where I was less inclined to game. But the reinventions and changes have brought wholesome additions to the Pokémon experience. Pokémon Go has introduced a level of accessibility that bypasses the privilege emphasised by being able to afford games. As a free app, it is pretty easy to avoid in-game purchases. This level of accessibility is so important because gaming is expensive. There are so many testimonies to the benefits of the gaming experience as well, with folks playing it to de-stress, increase exercise, socialise, deal with anxiety in its many forms and also network. I used to play it a lot more when it was first released but then went back to the DS games. I have recently started Let’s Go Eevee and am reminded why these games help me alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. The new gaming format has a bigger emphasis on compassion and empathy, and the games have always had a big respect for nature, animal life, nonhumans, and compassion. Introducing these ideas to kids, and adult-kids, is no bad thing. A world where we are compassionate to one another, to animals, to ourselves isn’t a bad place. If you have not checked out the Detective Pikachu film yet then please do, it was for me, what the War Craft film was for my Dad (family of #gamers). If it wasn’t for the fact that a cute person had started holding my hand (see- Ew gross- Radical Vulnerability), and felt the need to talk to me throughout the entire film I probably would have been in tears coz that is the world I want to live in. It was beautifully depicted and so wonderful.

10 things pratchett

Terry Pratchett
(His writing can be relied upon to remind me others empathise with the world and the situations we are in and anger is a valid tool to get shit done; he didn’t have his days of rage for nothing.)

One day Terry Pratchett became my favourite author, the end, good bye. I never imagined that would happen to me. Me, an outrageous gothic queer, a nonbinary dreamer, an activist academic (aspiring)… perhaps that is why he became my favourite author. You cannot read a book of his without realising he was/is pro-equality, a dreamer, and a realist; able to dismantle social justice issues then reboot them into heartbreaking sci-fi fantasy narrative.

At first, I didn’t exactly click with his writing. Discworld has no chapters and that was a bit of a head fuck, plus his older writing is short and satirical; which took time and probably maturity to adjust to. Pick up a Discworld book towards the middle of the series and they are different books and he is a different writer. He turns literary clichés on their head while still weaving an amazing gothic narrative. He gives us ghetto gang warfare but between trolls and dwarves and still breaks your heart. DEATH is a kind, curious anthropomorphic manifestation that I hope will usher me on to the land of black sand. I still weep that Terry Pratchett is gone (sort of, I mean he lives on in his books and creations and our imaginations) yet he politically resonates more than ever.

Good Omens the TV show was a perfect culmination and evolution of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimans’ book brain baby. It was a pleasure to watch with a lot of discourse that is gender affirming in a sense of nonbinary gender and the lack of gendered behaviour. The main characters which had always appeared campy and gender nonconforming in the original text are beautiful soft marshmallow babies who deeply love each other (whether you interpret that as platonic or romantic) and fumble around and don’t really save the world (a very practical witch does, and a young ordinary boy who happens to be the antichrist) but maybe they save each other. Read it. Watch it.

10 things mushrooms

A Short Cut to Mushrooms
(Rewilding is a gross buzzword I won’t mention here or again because it’s ridiculous but also go out to a forest or a stream or a sand dune or some tundra or a bonfire and get out of your own messy head once in a while.)

It’s no lie that when I am stressed out, the stressed get going – to the forest – to look at mushrooms. I adore fungi. I am not a mycologist so I do not know everything about them but I know enough to look and not touch coz somehow the edible ones in Australia also look like the ones that give you the runs and also look like the ones that make you cough blood and also look like the ones that will kill you. The most distinguishable, in fact, are the ones that will get you high, which I think the local parks council has realised much to my dismay when I went to my favourite wet bush walking spot and half the place had been dug up. Now, I get where they are coming from. They think ‘fellas some class A drugs are growing IN THE GROUND’ and probably ‘we Australians need to make this forest Australian again so we will dig up the introduced holly, psylocibin fungi, non-native trees and let’s just hope the ecosystem bounces back and looks like the hardwood forest pre-invasion’; (hot tip that forest was decimated by logging by colonisers to make happy homesteads and farms, it will never ever look pre-invasion, not a single one of those trees exist anymore). The land there seems sad. The land there seems like it is waiting. I deeply love the Macedon Ranges, it welcomed its self to me in its damp mossy ways and I plan to live in this area as long as is feasibly (fiscally) possible. I spent a lot of time in this forest looking after my mental health (by walking and taking photos of fungi), many a friendship has been forged as I forced a pal to walk one of my dogs here, and I have spent freezing afternoons with the heater in my car pumping while starting (gasp) the prelude to a romantic relationship. Spending time in a spot that I feel deeply enriches and soothes me is one of my favourite parts of living in the Australian state of Victoria, and living on Wurundjeri land. The land is diverse, exquisite, and bursting with narratives. You only need to step out your front door to encounter stories, old, new, and emerging to help you fall in love with the land.

ten things elderlings

Realm of the Elderlings
(This book series reminds me that having everything crap happen to you makes for a hell of a narrative, forgive me Beloved Fitzchivalry Farseer.)

As a series of books I passionately love. it is a little bizarre that I haven’t reread these novels yet. The Realm of the Elderlings is a recent turn of phrase for the sprawling universe Robin Hobb developed with her multiple fantasy series. It begins with a coming of age story, a boy and his dog, except this child is nameless and then given the lovely term of endearment Fitz (yikes) and begins many an adventure as an emotionally underdeveloped and unreliable narrator. You may wonder why I adore these books as Fitz is pigheaded at the best of times and downright problematic when the occasion arises. Hobb is a brilliant writer (is why) with a beautifully constructed gender diverse character who weaves their way throughout the entire series (sort of) also SPOILER. Hobb gives us a crash course on how fantasy can be hugely gender inclusive and gender diverse without mirroring transgender narratives in the Western world. I refer to her writings when discussing great ways to be gender inclusive to author friends who want tips and do not want to rinse-repeat the male-to-female, female-to-male coming out trope. It’s trope even in our world; something frequently expected of trans people to experience. What if that person was always nonbinary but had a doctor assign a different gender at birth because we equate genitalia with gender. What if that person was always male regardless of what stage they are in with their physical transition; they’re not trying to achieve masculinity because masculinity is a social construct, they are just on their gender journey to their gender destination. Fantasy and sci-fi books can be fantastic ways to think about these things and apply these concepts without people breathing down your neck telling you what trans is/isn’t or spewing transphobic rhetoric. Oh, wait they do that anyway to the author?

Damn. I guess this circles back to Radical Vulnerability, writing about this stuff makes me vulnerable, and as soon as a transphobe opens their mouth (or Twitter account) they are vulnerable too and fear leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side, and dark side leads to goth, and goth leads to emo, and emo leads to scene kids, and now we have Instagram Influencers with big eyebrows and snatched things and I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S SNATCHED I AM TOOOOOO OOOOOOLD I am one sprained ankle away from Baba Yaga and a cauldron full of semen and smeg (neither of which are gendered either, they are simply bodily emissions and some folx can do both).

ten things star wars

Star Wars
(This cash cow brings me a lot of binge watching down-time pleasure. Also social justice in space, Finn and Poe are my princes, maybe Rey will bring balance to the Force?)

A Long Time Ago, in a cinema… far far away; I was 7 years old, it was 1996 and I was watching The Empire Strikes Back because the films were in cinemas again and my little sibling was being babysat and my parents wanted to take me. No, I wasn’t scared. Yes I ADORED HAN SOLO he basically is the same person as my (Grand)Pa and OMG DARTH VADERS’ VOICE is exquisite thank you James Earl Jones (I am sorry they stuffed an old bald white guy into your sexy rubber suit for Return of the Jedi). I watched the full trilogy on VHS and yep dug it, medieval space battles, magic swords, and celibate wizards. Got it.

Then oh boy, then… The Phantom Menace came out. I have zero interest in debating whether this is a good film, I literally don’t care if you don’t like it. It was a bloody masterpiece with a martial artist actually getting to play the character whom he is doing the judo chop for, and Yodas’ furry green ball sack; Darth Maul changed my life. Gothic af, his aesthetic is still drool-worthy, his stunts and choreography are breathtaking and John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” is still my favourite cinematic score and basically the soundtrack to my internal dialogue. Whenever I am frustrated, I build Star Wars Legos, I jump into a generally trashy Star Wars novel, I chuckle about all the forced celibacy and sexual yearnings of the Padawans and Sith apprentices, and I let myself emotionally uncurl and unspiral while watching podracing … and try to not write mental essays on the colonisation of Naboo and reoccurring, always-there-NOT-A-NEW-THING-social-justice politics embedded in the narratives.

ten things buddy reading

Buddy Reading
(If I burnt everything down, who would read with me?)

A few years ago I relocated from the place I grew up to the place I am now. I did in fact make a handful of IRL friends, however, our calendars often clash and I often have not enough spoons to physically go out (and they, for the most part, don’t have cars). Creating a Bookstagram on IG became a wonderful healing process where I connected with all kinds of bookworms and discussed my love of literature, comics, novels, and all-round geekery. I have had my Booksta account for around 3 years now and due to this, I have made some incredible lifelong friends. I love finding odd nooks of the internet where all of a sudden your nerd herd emerges and you are no longer alone.

The chaos that the TV adaptation of Good Omens has brought to the internet has kept me going all June. It is a gender non-conforming queer life force. Buddy reading, this was about that. It really got me communicating with likeminded people and sharing my bookish love. It is this wonderful feeling to curl up on your couch, in your time zone and send a voice message to a friend overseas about where you are up to in the book you are reading. Or send photo reactions for your heartache. Or grieve together for the death of a fictional character. It has really helped fill that sense of lacking within me due to loss of community and has brought me back to myself. There are less intense ways of participating in Buddy reads of course; like, you do not actually have to record how much you have cried over The Faithful and the Fallen (by John Gwynne) but if you are so inclined, you can. You can be as extra or as introverted as you wish. Did I mention this has somehow formed kindred spirit type friendships and also made friends for me, with folx in my own new-to-me city?

ten things comics

Comics
(Beautifully illustrated and written capsules of narrative, I would miss you the most if I burnt everything down.)

I was lucky to have access to comics from a really young age. A few years back when a lot of femme readers came forward to me saying they felt gate-kept by the comic community and like it was something just for cis-boys I felt really confused. My Mum would take me to the corner store to buy Archies, Jugheads, and Sabrina Double Digests in the 90s. My Dad would take me for my Birthday, and then again for Yule, to the expensive comic book store in Brisbane city to buy me 2 trade paperback comic books (that was basically all I got for those events and I literally do not care, priceless) in the early 00s. No one around me read comics so not only did I NOT FEEL LIKE THEY WERE A GENDERED ACTIVITY, as an Australian I was seeing very little evidence that it was a masculine thing.

Growing up in Brissy, the cis-boys were skateboarding or surfing or playing AFL. The cis-chicks were playing netball or softball or getting orange fake tans coz it was Brisbane in the early 00s. Geekery has no gender (none of the above-mentioned activities have genders either FYI), so for me, I never felt like I was reading something for boys. The rebirth of the comics industry ESPECIALLY WHERE IMAGE COMICS ARE CONCERNED works to cater not only to being gender inclusive but simply put; inclusive AF.

You want POC driven feudal fantasy? I got ya, fam. You want empathy robot children in space with sexy cyborgs? I got ya, fam. You want alt-world Batman where the Joker is a woman and Barbara Gordon is in charge? I got ya fam. You want a queer urban fantasy with pop-icon deities in stunning fashion? I got ya, fam. You want a femme murder mystery with drama galore? I got ya, fam. You want comics written and illustrated by Indigenous creators? You want comics written and illustrated by women? You want comics written and illustrated by queer folx? I GOT YA, FAM. All of a sudden, I realised the stuff I loved about comics, was beloved by more than me, and these people weren’t sitting on their hands (like me) wishing they could create, they were creating, and I was reading and buying their work. Not only are comics for everyone, (ok unless you are blind, I mean there is word-to-audio conversion programs but unless it describes what has been illustrated this is not as accessible as I imagined 2 seconds ago), ahem if you are willing to pay, they are being made by… everyone.

Look around and women are taking over DC, Latinx creators are getting their voices out there, DC has an Aboriginal superhero (WHO DESERVES HIS OWN COMIC), Marvel is writing trans characters and Image is covering every base there is. If a new identity emerges I know Image will feature a creator or include a character by next comic book day (so Thursday).

ten things reading

Reading
(Because it builds empathy, slows you down, gives you access to more voices than the ones in your head, and ideas can change this world.)

Reading has saved me, and many a friend, many times over. It’s what I turn to when life gets too much (so, daily) and it has been a companion from a young age. One of my earliest not-quite-memories is of walking over to my Mums’ tabby cat Cosmo and throwing a pile of board books on her head screaming “READ TO ME” like the demon child I was. I think my Mum had to surgically remove the cat from my arm. My childhood was full of bizarre health issues which impacts my behaviour and moods and often made doctors send me off for CT scans. When things got too much, my Mum would read to me. Read absolutely whatever, but as a bookworm. the children’s lit library she developed for me, and then for my sibling was, and is, phenomenal.

One of my fondest summer holiday memories is after swimming for hours we’d sit outside drying off (in the Brisbane humidity, yep it took a while) and she would read one chapter of The Hobbit, acting out sections and doing scary voices where necessary. I was petrified of Flies and Spiders, and my sister wept when Thorin lay dying. My Mum was bemused, “didn’t you say every afternoon you hate this book?” I remember my sister replying, hands crushed in fists against her eyes, golden curls refracting blistering sun “bu-bu-but I loved [Thorin] him”. That dried my tears up quickly. I knew as the loud, annoying older sibling that this was teasing dynamite. I was ready to explode. My Mum saw this immediately and made it clear I was not allowed to tease other people about their feelings. I still maintain that feelings are gross.

ten things lotr

The Lord of the Rings
(Middle Earth is debatably where I belong, I am definitely an Orc, an eloquent Orc however.)

My family took me to Middle Earth at a young age, (no not New Zealand, still not visited yet) and introduced to me to a wonderful universe. As an adult, I have had my fair share of qualms with Tolkien, pastoralism not the least of them, but on average they are wholesome books with wholesome characters and wholesome adaptations and SO MUCH QUEER CODING SWEET BABY GANDALF. Something I really adore about the film adaptations is the tender masculinity present in the characters. Aragorn kissing his friends’ foreheads and singing poetic verses. Sam weeping over salt or rope or potatoes or Frodo or Rosie or pints. The sweet sexual tension between Gimli and Legolas. Legolas’s facial expressions. Pippin and Merry–the bffs or friends-with-benefits?

These characters fought the good fight, for others, not themselves. And some are lucky enough to live, but never to live unchanged. They give me hope in dark places when I need courage, and when I need to remember that the smallest of folx can make big ripples in this universe. Plus the LOTR community make pretty sweet memes. And fanart. And fanfic. When I am stressed out I put on Howard Shore’s An Unexpected Journey (perfect for reading any kind of fantasy book or just having on low volume for naps). When I am weary I binge well, the LOTRs film trilogy, not the Hobbit so much; this is an article about things keeping me in the world or keeping me from destroying the world so SKIPPING OVER THE HOBBIT FILMS (the first is not so bad, and Thranduil is glam af) is a good idea or I may just need to write a follow up rant article on 10 Things that Make Me Want to Take Back My Word and Burn Everything.

Whether you think Bilbo and Thorin are perfect soul mates or just platonic enemies to frenemies, there is a lot of comfort in these tales. I think that’s what Tolkien set out to achieve, to talk about awful traumatic things that change the shape of your world and how you then relate to that changed world and your changed self. There is a sense of comfort whether it’s imagining Bilbo’s larder and pantry (drool), listening to Thorins’ singing voice (drool), pushing yourself to go on an adventure without your damn pocket handkerchief, crossing over to the Grey Lands as some kind of … assisted dying with emotional support group; there is a lot of beauty in Middle Earth. Which means that it is a beauty that can still be found in our world; Tolkien based his creations on Saxon, Norse, and Anglo myths to bring new meaning to the history of the land he lived on and fought for. This resonates with us; we live now seeing the outcomes of these wars and like a Nazgul on the horizon, we know too that another war is coming. We don’t know how it will be fought, I cannot anticipate this stuff despite my study, despite my heart, despite my paranoia. But we have the stories of our ancestors, our transcestors, our Elders, and we still have time to learn. Maybe that’s what Tolkien set out to do, not build a great faerie tale or a mythic cycle for Britain, but caution us against ourselves and our shared history of violence. To be gentle, to be tender, to kiss those we love (ew), and to find a peaceful mode of living.

Find Ekho: blog // instagram

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

© Janice Gobey. Used with written permission.

© Janice Gobey. Used with written permission.

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.

 

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 the choir and fantasized about 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

Ten Favorite Pieces From My Collection by Katie Kierstead of Roses & Rue Antiques

Roses and Rue feature

As the product of two antiques-dealing parents and having grown up in New England surrounded by antiques, perhaps it was inevitable that Katie Kierstead end up a collector and purveyor of heirlooms, curios, and olde-timey objets d’art. But it wasn’t until she discovered the dazzling literary works of Oscar Wilde that she internalized what it meant to be an aesthete, to cultivate an intrinsic sense of beauty for herself, and to be one’s own work of art. She rapidly began accumulating whatever late 19th century odds and ends she could afford, eager to place herself in his world.

46301030_1757733907687637_6182378867362103296_o

Katie’s antique shop, Roses & Rue, is inspired by an early poem of Wilde’s (one that keenly resonated with her, though not a particularly good poem, she notes) and offers us a glorious glimpse into another era– via a meticulously curated treasure trove of gems from the past, with a focus on sentimental items like mourning jewelry, hair work, and love tokens. She take a fastidious, curatorial approach to collecting, choosing items for their quality, uniqueness, and beauty. These timeless qualities are the hallmark of the items in Katie’s personal collection as well–from which she is sharing ten of her beautiful, beloved favorites with us for this month’s installment of Ten Things!

1

1. Victorian figural hand-shaped paperweights

Hands were a very popular design motif during the 19th century and served a variety of functions, from the cold porcelain hands that held salt cellars and vases on dinner tables, to hands clasped in love or friendship in sentimental jewelry. To the modern eye, they smack strongly of the surreal: Disembodied, suggestive; strange. I can’t quite place where my own attraction to these hands began, but I suspect it has something to do with the enchanted household objects in Cocteau’s La belle et la bête.

I have many Victorian hands in my collection- vessels, ex votos, jewelry, and even a wedding cake topper made of wax with a real cloth cuff. However, these two paperweights, one cast iron and the other an unknown metal, stand out as favorites. I cherish them especially because I found them both by chance. That’s often how it goes: Online searches for “Victorian hands” usually turn up a maddening number of results that are neither Victorian nor hand-shaped. Look out for reproductions of these metal hands: Real Victorian pieces will have very lifelike, fine details, and no seams.

2

2. Victorian silver locket

This silver locket, which dates to around the 1880s, is the most recent acquisition on the list. I acquired it only last December, and I’m including it simply because it’s just one of those things I have wanted for eons. There are always plenty of Victorian lockets around, but it took me literally years to find one large enough and extravagant enough to suit my tastes. I am no dainty damsel- neither in personality nor in bust circumference, so I just can’t do tiny jewelry: It makes me feel like a bus. At 2 inches long, this is the locket of my dreams.

3 3-2

3. Floral Forget Me Not, 1853.

I am fortunate enough to have many beautiful antiquarian books in my collection, and I particularly love books from the 1840s-1860s with covers blindstamped in gold. Perhaps this is the book that inspired the obsession? Both of my parents were antique dealers, and this book has been in my mother’s collection for as long as I can remember… At least, until it became a part of mine! (Read: I totally stole this from my mom.) The symbolism of flowers was very important to the Victorians, so collections of verses that correspond to various flowers and their meanings were popular gifts.

4

4. Mid-19th century hair album.

During the 19th century, women and young girls arranged locks of hair into elaborate patterns, exchanged them with classmates, family members, and friends, and collected them in scrapbook albums. Paper was still relatively expensive during the mid 19th century, so many of these albums were made from ordinary scrap paper, like mine. This album measures about 3.5” squared, and the hair works inside are roughly the size of a penny.

5

5. Victorian miniature hair work on mother of pearl in velvet case

This piece combines two of my favorite things to collect: Victorian hair work and decorative objects made from mother of pearl. Just 2 inches tall, this miniature love token is made from palette worked hair on a disc of mother of pearl inside a purple velvet case, the sort that more commonly held photographs. The forget-me-not raises the possibility that this is a mourning memento, but it could also be simply a remembrance from a loved one who is far away. There seems to be tendency to presume that any Victorian item that involves human hair belongs in the “mourning” bucket, but the truth is that many of these objects are love tokens or family pieces. Unless there is clear language or unmistakable symbolism like a willow or urn, it’s not fair to make a definitive statement one way or the other. Beware of sellers throwing around the word “mourning” willy nilly.

6

6. 1860s casket plate

I’ve bought and sold many antique casket plates over the years, but only ever kept one. Its highly detailed imagery with angels, a tombstone, willows, and an urn are more typical of the black and white funeral cards that were popular during this era. Those are my favorite mourning cards to collect, but I had never seen that imagery on a casket plate before. My gut-feeling about its rarity was correct: I’ve been in touch with an archaeologist who collects and catalogs images of casket plates, and in all his years of research he has only seen 7 with this design, all dating from 1859 to 1865.

7

7. 19th century German memorial

I’m not really the kind of collector who needs to have a large quantity of the same thing: I have one very nice Victorian hair wreath in a shadowbox, and that’s enough for me. After all, one hair wreath is very like another, and I would rather spend my money on something different and unique. When I stumbled across this piece, I smashed the “Buy It Now” button without even thinking twice.

This shadow box contains a memorial for a pair of siblings who died during the 1860s. Their names and dates of birth and death are written on a paper heart surrounded by a wreath of pink cloth flowers, above which are forget-me-nots made from their blond hair. Blue and pink are colors that are traditionally associated with the Madonna, so this shadowbox displays beautifully beside my Marian relics and sacred hearts.

8

8. Victorian shellwork wallpaper box

Victorian shellwork runs the gamut from “sailor’s valentines” assembled by women in Barbados for tourists passing through the port, to unusual folk art treasures like this. It’s unusual to see a wallpaper box painted black, which suggests this may be a mourning piece. I had admired it in a favorite shop for months before it suddenly disappeared. After several more weeks of cursing myself for not buying it when I had the chance, it reappeared at 50% off! I like to think I was meant to have it, but I certainly learned my lesson about procrastinating on a purchase. In the antiques trade we like to tell people, “The time to buy it is when you see it.”

9

9. Victorian swordfish bill sword

There’s nothing worse than walking into an antiques shop only to find a homogeneous hodge-podge of milk painted furniture, mid-century knick knacks, reproduction “hearth and home” stuff, and yard sale fodder instead of actual antiques. But sometimes I find the most amazing things in places like that: Where the selection is not closely curated or where true antiques are not the focus, oftentimes there are gems hiding in plain sight.

This piece was propped up against a bookshelf in a crowded corner and labeled “vintage wooden toy sword.” The handle is wood, but the blade is actually a swordfish bill. These were made by sailors during the late 19th century and are usually found in coastal towns.

10

10. 19th century French hair work heart

Judging by the quantity of hair and the image of the Christ child at the center, this is likely a devotional piece made by a Catholic nun: Hair cutting is part of a nun’s investiture ceremony, representing the woman’s renunciation of the secular world and its vanities.

giveaway giveaway2

Also! Roses & Rue is teaming up with Seance Perfumes for a giveaway! We’re not hosting it at Unquiet Things, but it definitely bears mentioning as it’s a wonderful opportunity that is no doubt relevant to many readers here. One lucky winner will win a Pre-release of Seance’s newest product, an Eau De Parfum spray of Dearly Departed adorned in a vintage style spritzer bottle with atomizer, as well as an Embalming Oil body lotion. You will also receive a Victorian lay down perfume bottle as well as a deadstock memorial print from the turn of the century from Roses & Rue! Details for this giveaway are on both Roses & Rue’s instagram account as well as Seance Perfumes instagram!

Find Roses & Rue: website // instagram // facebook

Sarah Jahier Of The Spooky Vegan: 10 Things Getting Me Through The Post-Halloween Blues

spooky vegan feature

November’s Ten Things is brought to us by Sarah E. Jahier (another Sarah Elizabeth, just like me!) of The Spooky Vegan, where she shares vegan eats and treats, her love of horror, Halloween, and all things spooky! I’ve been following her blog for many years now and I always love peeking in on her scary movie reviews, her thoughts on the newest and tastiest vegan snacks, and the fun and fascinating glimpses of her lovely home!

Today, Sarah shares with us 10 things that are getting her through the post-Halloween blues (an issue that I know many of us can relate to and will be dealing with for the next 353 days!)
Read more below!

1 Cozy clothes lularoe leggings1. Cozy clothes – After all the excitement and events of the Halloween season, all I want to do in November is curl up on the couch in some cozy clothes. I have a drawer full of Halloween socks and love wearing them as soon as the weather gets cool enough (current faves are my “Everyday is Halloween” socks by Cavity Colors.) A slouchy sweatshirt or one of my well-loved oversized t-shirts and some soft Halloween leggings (I love the super-soft ones by LuLaRoe) round out my lazy, couch-ready look.

2 Autumn perfumes seance perfumes2. Autumn perfumes – I love evoking the feeling of fall with the perfumes I wear. Right now I’m favoring Séance Perfumes’  All Hallows’ Eve scent (it was a limited Halloween 2018 release, along with the candle and room spray shown in the photo above, and unfortunately it is no longer available) as well as Bath Sabbath’s November Coming Fire, which smells like burning autumn leaves, and Hexcider, which smells like caramel apples.

3 Thanksgiving food - vegan pumpkin pie at Whole Foods3. Thanksgiving food – Mmmmm, give me all the vegan roasts, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pies this time of year! I have been looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday, where I cook up an all-vegan feast before binging on horror movies. This year I picked up a turkey-less roast from Trader Joe’s, lots of cranberry sauce, peas, sweet potatoes, and plan on roasting veggies and making mashed potatoes, along with a few other sides for Mister Spooky and myself. I’ll probably pick up a pre-made vegan pumpkin pie from Whole Foods, along with some So Delicious Coco Whip to top it with!

4 hello fall4. Longer nights and cooler temperatures – I adore this time of year when darkness creeps in earlier and earlier every day. For some reason longer nights make me feel cozier and much more comfortable. I think it helps that it getting darker sooner also means that the temperatures are starting to cool off which makes it finally feel like fall here in Southern California.

5 Shudder5. Shudder – I finally signed up for this horror streaming service (think Netflix, if it was just horror movies/series) a few months back, and its extensive selection of horror movies, series, and specials has been getting me through this November. I’m currently re-watching Channel Zero (such a good, underrated series) and recently enjoyed the Shudder-exclusive Terrified, which is an Argentinian horror film that was a total mindfuck!

6 Black Moon Cosmetics highlighters and lipsticks6. Black Moon Cosmetics Liquid to Matte Lipsticks – I adore all the products I’ve tried from Black Moon Cosmetics (they also have some divine highlighters, a few shown in the photo above), but my favorite product from them is their liquid to matte lipsticks. These lipsticks are the only ones I have found that work with my skin color, have real staying power, are comfortable to wear, come in stunningly unique colors, and are cruelty-free and vegan. My favorite for autumn has been their Eternal shade, which is a blackened rose gold and reminds me of the golden glow of fall.

7 Califia Farms Peppermint Mocha Cold Brew7. Califia Farms’ Peppermint Mocha Cold Brew – The rest of the year I only drink black coffee, but something happens to me during the holidays (gasp – is it holiday spirit?!) and I am all about festive flavors! I am usually more of a pumpkin spice fiend, but this dairy-free Peppermint Mocha Cold Brew from Califia Farms is becoming my fave!

8 A to Z Candles Halloween collection8. Candles and incense – I am obsessed with the fall-scented candles from A to Z Candles. I loved their unique Halloween collection (shown above), but recently I have been burning their Apple Cider Donuts and Caramel Apple candles, which are both incredible at evoking autumn scents. The company is woman-owned and operated, and their candles burn clean and long and fill my home with their spectacular scents. I also love Cellar Door Bath Supply Co.’s  candles (Lavender Pumpkin is a favorite) and Burke and Hare Co.’s candles (their whole goth line is incredible). When I’m not burning candles, I’m burning Bloodbath Products’ incense – my fave scent from this company is Absinthe and Sugar, which reminds me of Dia de Los Muertos altars and sugar skulls.

WIC9. Horror Podcasts – I love listening to podcasts year-round, but my post-Halloween blues have been soothed by some of my favorite horror podcasts. Mind you, I’m not talking about the ones that tell spooky stories, though I love those, too, but rather podcasts that cover current news in the genre along with discussions, interviews, and film reviews. My favorite horror podcasts in this vein include Shock Waves, Women in Caskets , Nightmare on Film Street, Queens of the Damned, Sirens of Scream, and Boys and Ghouls, and Faculty of Horror. Female voices in horror are of utmost importance to me, and these are all co-hosted or entirely hosted by women horror fans.

10 Planning Next Years Halloween10. Planning next year’s Halloween season – I already am dreaming of next year’s Halloween festivities, which will include attending all my favorite Halloween/horror conventions, haunts and events here in Southern California, but I’m also hoping to squeeze in some travel, hopefully to the East Coast – my number one bucket list destination is Haunted Overload  in New Hampshire.

Find Sarah aka The Spooky Vegan: website  // instagram // facebook  // twitter

All photos in today’s post are the property of Sarah Jahier/The Spooky Vegan, with the exception of the Women In Caskets podcast image.

Amanda Lynn Of Ghoulish Delights Bath Shop: 10 Things I’m Loving For Fall

Dark Autumn by Nelleke Pieters

October’s Ten Things is brought to us by Amanda Lynn of Ghoulish Delights Bath Shop. Amanda Lynn, a licensed Esthetician, blended her passions for skin care and horror in 2016 to create Ghoulish Delights Bath Shop, a venture melding science, nature and the macabre and which focuses on body and facial care with a dark twist. (Read more about Amanda in our Haute Macabre interview earlier this June!)

Today, Amanda shares with us her ten things she is loving for for fall. Read more below!

bonfire tea

  1. Tea

I joke that my life revolves around tea but it really does. There’s something therapeutic about it and I really get into it. Bitters, flavored sugars, elixirs, and whatever else I can find gets thrown into the mix. It’s my little sip of self care sitting patiently waiting for my tea to steep. I’m a huge fan of Adagio teas (they have killer autumn blends like Bonfire and Candy Apple). Adagio offers some of the best fandom teas created by others and their house blends are super tasty.  Why yes, I’d like t a tea inspired by Hobbits, please and thank you.

socks

  1. Wool Socks

Hear me out! They are majestic in their scratchy thickness and I literally wait all year to bust out my precious Russian handmade socks with robins and deer on them. They’re big and floppy and everything you’d hate about normal socks but for some reason they turn magical once those leaves start turning.

orb

  1. Eyeshadow

I barely wear makeup during the summer, so once it turns cool I feel energized and ready for some serious eyeshadow time. I’m currently loving the Rust Stack and The Gemini Palette by Melt Cosmetics and the Orb of Light Full Moon Palette by Black Moon Cosmetics. These have some of the best formulas around, plus they boast some serious fall color stories (which make my green eyes pop something fierce).

scary stories

  1. Scary Stories on YouTube

My mind goes 100 mph when I’m trying to sleep, so listening to scary stories via YouTube helps calm me down. I light candles, rev up the fake fireplace ,and hunker down to listen to collections that I randomly pick. Some are duds, some are nightmare inducing,  but I love the randomness of them. Bonus points if they have a video of thunderstorms playing while they narrate.

bbw candle

  1. Candles, all of them

I sadly admit I’m addicted to Bath and Body Work Candles. I can’t help myself. Give me all that pumpkin sweetness wafting into every crevice of my house (Pumpkin Pecan Waffles everything). I light candles daily but autumn makes me light up an additional 3 and saturate myself in pumpkin and dirt. My current favorites from small businesses are Sanctuary Candle Company’s Samhain, Witch City Wicks Sleepy Hollow, Laughing Crow Candle  Get Out  and Reel Life Candle Company Rick’s Garage.

farm.pumpkins.2013.sm_

  1. Local Farms

While I frequent my local farms all year, I get extra giddy when I see the corn fields being carved into mazes, acres of pumpkins, hot apple cider, and bumpy gourds. Being born and raised in Massachusetts, all of these things remind me of my childhood and make me feel both joyful and reminiscent. I look forward to these feelings every year and I’m always on the hunt for the perfect pumpkin or apple dumpling.

foxcroftfairgrounds5ml

  1. Perfume

I adore perfume and wear it every day, but some of my favorite blends just smell better when the leaves are orange. I layer Foxcroft Fairgrounds and Cellar by Solstice Scents pretty regularly during October. I’ll douse myself with Vlad Dracul by Sixteen92, Vampire Vanilla Bat by Nocturne Alchemy or The Old Hag With A Golden Spinning Wheel by Blooddrop. [EDIT: Blooddrop has closed, but you can find the perfumer’s new venture at Astrid Perfume!]

steeped offerings

  1. Facial Steams

My first run in with a facial steamer was when I was a teenager and my mom bought me this contraption from Conair that made my nostrils burn when I inhaled. Since then I’ve dialed it down and opt for a big bowl, a kettle, dried flowers and a fluffy towel. Towards the end of September my skin goes sideways and gets dry and lackluster from all summer’s abuses. I grab my bowl of herbs and spend 15 minutes inhaling the fragrant steam in my makeshift towel dome.

Adam Burke

  1. Art

My art purchases always spike during autumn when artists are creating beautiful and dark pieces that have all my favorite colors; burnt oranges, mossy greens, flecks of yellow, blood red smears, and dark, earthy browns. One of my favorite recent purchases was from Adam Burke called “Emergence,” which is perfect autumn in my eyes.

Night-of-the-Demons

  1. Horror Movie Parties

These evenings are some of my favorites as we gorge ourselves on horror-themed snacks while throwing our hands up as the protagonist trips yet again. It’s always fun to see what scares people and it’s such a great bonding experience. I love introducing people to new films and this is the perfect time to share the love of horror and tasty snacks. These evenings usually end with us playing horror VR games, screaming bloody murder, and high fiving each other for not tripping over the dog.  My watch lists usually include: The Possession, Scream, Young Frankenstein, The Exorcist, Wishing Stairs, Sinister, and Ju-on

Find Amanda Lynn and Ghoulish Delights: website // facebook // instagram

Guest Post: A Little Bit of Childhood Magick

Getting the party started!Sometime last month I was scrolling through the instagrams, and I paused, thoroughly enchanted by some photos that my friend Megan had just shared. To give a little backstory, Megan and I met at Orlando’s inaugural Death Cafe, which I was hosting at the time, and, having several interests in common of the morbid and macabre variety, we became fast friends. As a matter of fact, she learned of that Death Cafe event entirely due to the fact that I had posted about it beforehand on instagram…. which, at the time, I thought was maybe a frivolous way to advertise for an event, but, hey, it worked! Megan is a lovely friend and I always looking forward to spending time with her and talking perfumes and jewelry, and Hannibal, and spooky stuff whenever the opportunity presents itself.

At any rate, several weeks back, Megan and her family had begun their annual Halloween decorating party, and, as I believe this was probably in back in August’s sweltering dog days, that makes these seasonal preparations even more delightful (as I’m sure all my rabid weenie weirdo friends would agree!) I suppose I just really adored that idea that she has made a yearly tradition of bringing out all the Halloween-themed goodies and turning the festooning of their home into into a celebration with her children to herald in their favorite season and its high holiday. It reminded me a bit of how I felt when September rolled around when I was a little girl in Ohio. Though I don’t have many memories of my early life there, I definitely recall the eerie cardboard skeleton being hauled out of storage, and once it was affixed to the basement door with lots of scotch tape, I knew magic was soon to be afoot!.

I asked Megan if she would mind sharing a few words with us here at Unquiet Things about the spoopy childhood magics conjured forth via her pre-Halloween festivities, and she happily obliged. Read on for more, and thank you, Megan!

shelves
Every year at the end of August, (after weeks of anticipation -i.e. pestering- from my little monsters) we pull down the orange & black storage containers from the dusty attic and commence what I have not-so-creatively titled “The Annual Halloween Decorating Party.” It really isn’t anything too elaborate: I bake cookies, light a Fall-scented candle (go ahead, call me a basic witch!), queue up the Beetlejuice soundtrack, and we all dance around decorating our home with ghosts (both literally & figuratively) of Halloween’s past. The kid’s faces fill with wonder and excitement as they unearth the next decoration from the box, as if discovering treasure for the first time (even though it’s just the same ol’ stuff), or greeting an old friend they haven’t seen in a year. Elaborate or not, a wonderful time is had by all.

Our favorite find this year!
This has always been a sort of tradition for me at various stages of my life, drawing from my early childhood experiences centering around the holiday. In those days (you know, the days of yore – AKA the 80’s) I’d watch my mom pull out the terracotta jack-o-lantern

from some seemingly secret cupboard containing all-the-cool-things, and carefully place it in the center of the dining room table. Then we’d hang up the old & worn (now vintage!) paper witch & skeleton & pumpkin and that’s when I knew: HALLOWEEN IS COMING! The very sight of these things would send spooktacular shivers down my spine. Oh, the magick of the season!

Making sure the gravestones are just right.

Someone insisted on changing into costume!
Now, decades later, I create these moments with my children in hopes of passing the same magickal feelings on to them. They are intangible but so very real, much like memories themselves. I hope that they will look back on these times with great fondness. Maybe they will continue the tradition someday, excitedly unpacking decoration after decoration from an orange or black box and invoking the magick of their past. Or maybe they will share it with their own little monsters, should they choose to have them.

Haunting the Halls

There are many opportunities throughout the Fall to practice a bit of childhood magick. I love to pick pumpkins at the pumpkin patch, get lost in a corn maze, and of course we are in full-on celebration mode come Halloween night. But for me, it all begins with the decorations. Just like it did all those years ago with one silly little terracotta jack-o-lantern and some worn out paper.

What about you? What sort of special Halloween magick lives on from your childhood? I’d love to hear about it!

Wishing you many blessings this most magickal of seasons!
Megan
IG @beneaththethorn
beneaththethorn.com

10 Things I Cannot Live Without: Nuri’s Picks

I had so much fun with last months “What I Can’t Live Without” feature that I decided to do a monthly column spotlighting my favorite people and some of their favorite things! This month’s 10 Things list is shared by Nuri McBride, a lovely friend with whom I share many passions and common interests, and whose enthusiasm, insights, and support have bolstered me immensely in the past year, with regard to my creative projects.Nuri writes beautifully and extensively at her own blog Death/Scent, which explores the fascinating world of fragrance & funerals. She is also a Contributor at Death and the Maiden.

10 things Nuri books

Books

I adore books (print, audio, and to a lesser extent, digital) and I could not live without them. Some of my most beloved authors are Neil Gaiman, Pablo Neruda, Umberto Eco, Michael Ondaatje and Margret Atwood. If I had to recommend a book from each it would be, in order, Anansi Boys, The Capitan’s Verses, The Name of the Rose, Anil’s Ghost, and a tie between The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace. [Bonus: I listen to Neil Gaiman read Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol every December while baking gingerbread men. I highly recommend it for a chill afternoon.]

10 things Nuri comics

Image Comics

A lot of people write off comics as juvenile and banal but there are amazing things going on both art and story wise in comics these days and nowhere more than at Image Comics. Who would have thought a publisher started by illustrators that founded a venue in which creators get to keep their copyrights would produce such diverse and interesting stuff? #sarcasm My favourite titles are Fatale, Pretty Deadly, Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, Sex Criminals, and Chew.

10 things Nuri perfume

Perfume

I think Sarah and I bonded over our deep psychological need to smell like the Queen of Sheba. Picking one favourite out of my 300+ smell-babies would be impossible. However, I find myself reaching for Incense Avignon (Comme des Garcons), Incense Pure (Sonoma Scent Studio) Gypsy Water (Byredo) and Carnal Flower (Frederic Malle) the most these days.

10 things Nuri tapophile

Graveyards

I am a taphophile and I love to stroll in a good cemetery, it’s my happy place. You can learn a lot about a town and its people by visiting the local graveyard. Wherever I go in my travels there is always a day devoted to the nearby cemetery and I enjoy visiting the old and forgotten little pocket cemeteries of 20 or so graves that are tucked about my city. Some of my favourite places of rest in the world are Abney Park (London), Bonaventure Cemetery (Savannah), The Old Jewish Cemetery (Prague), South Park Street Cemetery (Kolkata) and the Cross Bones Graveyard (London)

10 things Nuri Avene

Avene Skincare

Skincare is super personal. My run-into-a-burning-house-to-save-it holy grail cream is Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream, but when Sarah Elizabeth tried it she hated it. I think 90% of skincare is knowing what your skin needs and giving it that and nothing more. As such I am not loyal to brands but to ingredients yet the one brand I use the most for both face and body is Avene. Avene is a French pharmacy brand hailed for its gentleness and sensitive skin preparations. Yes, I am one of those bougie women that spray their faces with Eau Thermale water and I swear by it for my last step in cleansing. I love their XeraCalm A.D Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil in the shower and follow it up with the Lipid-Replenishing Balm to keep my skin silky. Their Antirougeurs Mask is great if you find your face gets dry and inflamed. I use a touch of the Cicalfate Post-Procedure Cream on recovering skin from a cut or acne breakout to keep scaring at a minimum. I would also recommend their Mineral Mattifying Facial Sunscreen because it is SPF 50 and doesn’t break me out.

10 things Nuri podcast

Stories of Strange Women

Oh podcasts, they save me on long bus rides and when I’m out walking my dog and people want to talk to me. What would I do without them, be forced to speak with people! I’m a big fan of Oh No Ross & Carry, Sawbones, and Welcome to Night Vale but the podcast that I feel not enough people are listening to and they should be is Stories of Strange Women. As a strange woman myself it makes me happy to hear the Hurley Sisters, interviewing other weirdos about the circuitous paths and interesting lives they lead. I find it very inspiring.

10 things Nuri Critical Role

Critical Role

So, most people don’t know this about me but I’m a huge table top role-playing nerd. It’s a form of collective story-telling that both requires and develops advance social and communication skill like empathetic listening, conflict negotiation, and improvisation.  This idea that all D&D fans are shut-in young men with no social skills is nonsense. Sadly, getting my party in the same room on a weekly basis with jobs, partners, and babies is a tall order these days so I satisfy my craving for the theatre of the mind by watching Critical Role (available on YouTube, Twitch, Project Alpha, and as a Podcast). Critical Role is a show with professional voice actors being professional dorks. It’s my lunch date almost every day, and it makes me happy. I recommend starting with the second campaign.

10 things Nuri boardgames

Dark & Dreamy Cooperative Board Games

I believe firmly that Monopoly is the worst game in the world. Not only does it promote ruthless land speculation by the 1% it also has shitty game mechanics that will lead to players getting eliminated long before the game is done so only the person that wins really has any fun. Isn’t Capitalism a hoot kids? I much prefer cooperative games were the players must work together. These games make sure everyone has a good time right and you might actually learn something about your friends. If the game is artistic and a bit spooky even better. While not a true co-op game Dixit is a magical card game everyone should have. It requires you to think empathetically about how your other players would interpret dream-like images. Mysterium is like Clue and Dixit had a baby in a haunted house. Betrayal at House on the Hill starts off co-operative before one of the players is revealed as a defector and you all need to battle against them and their unclean legions. If you like games with a lot of chance, the dice rolling Elder Sign is a personal favourite as is its big bother (we are going to be here for 5 hours minimum) Arkham Horror, both set in the Cthulhu Mythos.

10 things Nuri eye gloss

Butter London Eye Gloss

When it comes to makeup I’m a cream kind of gal. Cream lipstick, cream blush, cream highlight. I don’t really use powder and maybe that’s why I’m so crap at doing my eye makeup. But I always look cute in Butter London Eye Glosses. They are pudding-like shadows that go on beautifully and blend out great with just your finger. Plus, they stay put and don’t feel sticky. I throw on some liner and mascara and I’m done. Spark and Oil Slick are my go-to shades.

10 things Nuri gdt

The Films of Guillermo Del Toro

There are some creative people that just make the world a better place, not because they dress it up in ribbons and bows but through their stories of monsters and devils they show us something of ourselves and make us better people. That’s how I feel about Guillermo Del Toro’s work. Unlike some other directors beloved for their fantasy settings that are all style and no substance, Del Toro is using fairy tales to process the trauma of war, the terror of patriarchal love and the inhumanity of institutions that turn men into monsters. I highly suggest watching the Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth back to back as they are set in the same world just a few years apart and are part of an eventual trilogy based about the unprocessed trauma of the Spanish Civil War. Crimson Peak and the Shape of Water feel like precious jewels to me. Also, I adored the novelisation of the Shape of Water which delved deeper into the characters and the themes of the movie. You should read it.

Find Nuri: blog // facebook // twitter // instagram

{Guest Post} Stuffed in a Bell Jar: A Taxidermy Piece

Abe

“Liz T is a seaside kitchen witch who lives with her husband and his weird dog in New Jersey. A paradox of a woman, she reads the classics and poetry while guiltlessly enjoying reality TV garbage. Find her on instagram as @divebardame.

It was one of those things that you couldn’t help but keep staring at. Curiosity driven by fascination and a bit of fear.

It was the bear skin rug that sat on top of the refrigerator in my Nan and Pop’s basement in North Philadelphia. A black bear Pop had killed on a hunting trip, folded so only the head was visible, peering over whomever was grabbing a Coors Light from the fridge. The bear’s mouth drawn wide open, showing all of his teeth. A pink rubber tongue forever shaped into a soft wave. Glass eyes staring out. The eyes were probably the most unrealistic thing about the bear. If there’s one thing I have learned while dabbling in taxidermy, it is that the eyes are the key to imitating life.

I used to pet the black bear, pat him on the head. And sometimes, pinch his teeth. After Pop had passed and the neighborhood turned, we had to move Nan out of her home and into a smaller apartment in Northeast Philly. The bear lived with us for a while, folded on top of our refrigerator in our garage. I’m not sure why this bear always ended up on top of a fridge, but who were we to question tradition? He now resides with my Uncle who has the bear and other bucks mounts on his wall. Nan and Pop are gone, but that bear is still around.

Another distance family member, my aunt-by-marriage’s-brother’s -wife, (if you’re Italian, you know this just means ‘aunt’) had a massive collection of insects. Vibrant butterflies, glossy green beetles, jet black scorpions- all framed and labeled around their home. Again, this experience occurred as a child, so in reality she may have had about a dozen frames of bugs. But I still like to believe my child’s memory of there being hundreds. I loved staring at them, but even more so, I wanted to touch them. I had never seen butterflies so big and blue growing up in Pennsylvania. And even if I did, I would never be able to catch those agile things. But now here they were, right in front of me. So close and delicate, with only a pane of glass between us.

On a trip to Chicago, my partner and I visited a friend who took us to the Field Museum. Not only does the museum have Sue the T. Rex, the largest and most complete dinosaur ever discovered (kudos to Sue for living large and staying organized) but they also have hall after hall of preserved animal specimens, some over 100 years old. Some are beautifully displayed in glass cases. Others are shown in a scene reflecting their environment in the wild, like the notorious man-eating lions or a grizzly bear standing upon rocky terrain. If you have ever wanted to feel like a tiny, feeble speck, go stand by that grizzly. You could easily spend an entire weekend looking at every specimen just once- that’s how big this place is.

A derpy breed of antelope at the Chicago Field Museum. Photo by my friend, Jon.

A derpy breed of antelope at the Chicago Field Museum. Photo by my friend, Jon.

So after all of this time and admiration, I finally started a collection of my own. We have a pheasant hanging in our garage which was left by the sellers- so thanks! I also have a gorgeous black tarantula gifted to me by my very best friend. We named him Abe as she purchased him in Lincoln, Nebraska. His abdomen broke off and got kinda stuck between the sealed glass by his head, but I guess that’s part of his charm. The real Abe didn’t make it out completely unscathed either.

The next piece I want to add to my collection are these gorgeously obscure little mice dioramas made by Brooklyn Taxidermy. I first came across these little delights at a punk rock flea market in Asbury Park, NJ a few years back. The company is run by Amber Maykut, a skillfully talented taxidermist and entomologist who has worked for several museums around the country, restoring and creating gorgeous pieces. The ethically sourced mouse/mice pieces are too precious. They’re exactly the storybook imagery we grew up with- little mice in their own community, maybe living inside an old grandfather clock or a hollowed out stump in the woods. Some mice are displayed enjoying a thimble sized cup of coffee, others are calling on the cards, ready to read your fortune.

If you’re reading this and are thinking “hmm, I wouldn’t mind trying to make one of these babies myself,” you’re in luck! Brooklyn Taxidermy offers classes. Whether you’re looking for classic taxidermy pieces, quirky mice, or the more creative, crypto-zoology inspired pieces such as the jackalope, Brooklyn Taxidermy is definitely worth a gander.

Taxidermy Jackalope courtesy of Brooklyn Taxidermy Etsy

Taxidermy Jackalope courtesy of Brooklyn Taxidermy Etsy

So is taxidermy odd and strange, even slightly depressing? I suppose so. It is, at its root, dead things. This once stunning, grandiose creature is now dead, gone. And that’s how we get to ENJOY the thing? Once it has passed and everything that makes a butterfly a butterfly, a bear a bear, a fox a fox- is now gone? I understand all of this- yes. But taxidermy extends beyond that. It creates eternal life only in death, through death. It offers accessibility: taking something so beautiful and striking, something that you could never get to see up close in person, and placing it right in front of you, larger than life. Even if it is only the shell. Which is also the part that is so quickly whisked away once death takes it. The shell is what is burned or boxed up and buried because it is “tainted” with death. Taxidermy says, “No, no. Not just yet.” and makes it possible for that magnificent something to stick around for a little while longer.

Instead of that old bear inciting an interest in hunting, I’ve grown to have an interest in collecting dead things. Not through channels of killing, for, as I’ve mentioned, the whole hunting thing has never sat well with me. And I absolutely do not support big game hunting. I believe any taxidermy that is acquired in present times should be obtained through ethical channels, once it has died on it’s own accord. That’s what I find most fascinating about taxidermy. It keeps around for us the semblance and structure of what something was, long after the spirit of what it was has dissipated.

If nothing else, it will make a great conversation starter for your next cocktail party.

Thank you, Liz! Do you have a weird or strange interest or passion or obsession that you would like to share with the readers of Unquiet Things? Are you interested in writing up a guest post about it? Please let me know! I will pay you with a knitted good for your time!

Previous Guest Posts:

Planners: Rituals Of Comfort, Agents Of Change
Ten Gems Of Decadent Cinema

{Guest Post} Ten Gems Of Decadent Cinema

Fascination2

I have a difficult time watching movies. I mean, I love movies, and I love watching them but I tend to become fixated on minute details. And if it is a particularly gorgeous film, brimming with opulence and utterly dripping with lavish details, well, then we have a problem, because I am painstakingly pausing the film every few seconds, scene by scene, to capture a certain detail–the shadowy fold of a velvet skirt, the glinting facets of a crystal goblet, the glow of candlelight on skin. More often than not it takes me five hours to watch a standard length film.

Sometime starting in 2016, I think, I began marveling at the sumptuous, sensuous cinematic screen shots posted over at @la.belle.otero‘s instagram. This person, I thought, has without a doubt elevated the dreamy, decadent screen shot to an art form! I became obsessed with the images they would share– poetic, hypnotic glimpses of films I’d never even seen or heard of! In addition to mesmerizing scenes graced by magnificently beautiful women, the account is also awash in an abundance of wickedly exquisite art and fashion.

On a whim, I inquired of the owner of this instagram account if she might like to put together a guest post detailing some of her favorite or most beloved gems of decadent cinema to share with the readers of Unquiet Things, and I was delighted when she agreed!

Jessica enthuses about all things strange and unusual in art, books, film, and fashion on her Instagram, @la.belle.otero , and contributes regularly to @dreamersofdecadence and @lesfemmespsychotiques. Her formal background is in Comparative Literature and Fashion Design.

7thvictim
The Seventh Victim: Produced by B-movie master Val Lewton, this cult/noir classic from 1943 oozes with glamour and gloom. Set in Greenwich Village with a plot revolving around a mysterious missing sister and a Satanic cult, it features one of the most visually striking characters in noir cinema. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of Jean Brooks as Jacqueline, with her long black bob and dark fur coat, sunk deep into an armchair. The Seventh Victim is a concise and enigmatic thriller steeped in a highly stylized, sinister atmosphere, but it’s truly Brooks as the troubled and traumatized femme fatale who makes it essential viewing.


LizardBlack Lizard
: I rarely recommend films to people if they’re hard to find or not commercially available. There’s one I always make an exception for, and that’s this one. This 1968 gonzo Japanese campadelic crime caper stars renowned drag queen Akihiro Miwa as a glamorous jewel thief, and features Aubrey Beardsley-inspired sets, a collection of human statues, and a cameo by literary icon Yukio Mishima (who wrote the play on which the film was based). Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who would much later become famous for Battle Royale, this gem is ripe for rediscovery.

Morgiana
Morgiana: When it comes to aesthetics, nothing makes me giddier than the Belle Epoque through the lens of the 1970s, and this Czech gothic horror film revels in it. It’s a study in elegance and creepiness with an interplay of light versus darkness, embodied in the two sisters (both played by the same actress, Iva Janzurova) at the center of the of a surreal fairytale struggle between good and evil. The costumes and art direction are ominously executed with meticulous detail (every delicate object, every fold of cloth catches the eye), and emphasized by the hallucinatory camerawork.

DontDeliver
Don’t Deliver Us from Evil: Two teenage girls in rural France, fed up with the humdrum of their lives, give into the temptations of the dark side by way of the writings of Charles Baudelaire and the Comte de Lautrémont, and are ultimately and irrevocably plunged head first into a life of crime and an unwavering devotion to evil. With such a plot, it would be easy for this film to be little more than typical exploitation fare, however director Joel Séria gives the viewer something much more poetically sinister, propelled by strong performances from the lead actresses and capped off by an unforgettably shocking final scene.

5dolls
Five Dolls for an August Moon: I’m a devotee of the giallo genre, and although a well-developed plot is often what makes the best of these films great, sometimes storyline simply takes a backseat to pure eye candy. Mario Bava’s take on Ten Little Indians utterly abandons logic in favor of a pop art extravaganza dripping with candy-hued tones (even the blood is peppermint red). Featuring giallo queen Edwige Fenech at her most beautiful, the “dolls” are resplendent in retro-fabulous costumes that parade on the screen like a late ‘60s fashion show. If you’re feeling puzzled by the ponderous and often incomprehensible dialogue, most DVD releases treat you to a soundtrack-only option, which is one of composer Piero Umiliani’s grooviest.

Daughters
Daughters of Darkness: Who wouldn’t give into the ravishes of vampires who looked like Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks? Renowned actress Delphine Seyrig, with the help of her young companion, seduce a newlywed couple in an abandoned grand seaside hotel in Belgium. Seyrig’s elaborate and breathtaking costumes took up a large chunk of the film’s budget, and it shows. Her hypnotic beauty and lines delivered in a voice that manages to be both breathy and husky at the same time are reason enough to see this 1971 treasure, but there’s even more to be enjoyed, such as the desolate beach locations, and the deserted opulence of the hotel itself.

Nightmares
Nightmares Come at Night: Les Cauchemars naissent la nuit, one of dizzyingly prolific director Jess Franco’s most personal and obscure projects, has a title that is not as elegantly rendered in English, but in any language, the title reveals little of the film’s secrets. Thought to be lost for many years until it was released on DVD around a decade ago, Nightmares contains many elements and themes central to Franco’s filmography: mind control, madness, bizarre night club acts, remote locales, and perhaps most importantly, borderlines between dreams and reality. A difficult film to describe, but truly worthy of watching in an attempt to unravel its mysteries.

Fascination1

Fascination: French director Jean Rollin is often mentioned in the same breath as Spaniard Jess Franco, but the two directors’ works are as different from each other as they are intimately aligned with each director’s singular vision. Rollin, famed for his repeated use of vampires, took an unusual diversion on the theme in 1979. Rather than the traditional fanged undead, Fascination centers around two women (another construct frequently employed by the director) holed up in a chateau who are initiates of an all-female blood-drinking cult, where they are about to turn the tables on a violent gang of criminals who invade their terrain. The Belle Epoque via the ‘70s aesthetic is another huge plus.

Possession Possession: Made infamous by appearing on the banned British “video nasty” list in the 1980s, this film by late Polish art house director Andzrej Zulawski transcends the oversimplification of mere “horror movie” into something sublime and inexplicable. The plot centers around the violent dissolution of a marriage, and the crystallization of the resulting outpour of emotion into a truly horrific physical entity. Possession is simply unlike anything else, and defies description (and often, comprehension). Isabelle Adjani was awarded Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981 for her gut-wrenchingly unhinged performance.

Camille2000
Camille 2000: Radley Metzger specialized in making the sublime ridiculously sublime through his softcore (and later, hardcore) adaptations of literary classics. This film takes the 19th century novel La Dame aux Camélias (which has been adapted numerous times into theatrical, opera, and prior film versions) and transplants it into swinging ‘60s Rome. Metzger excelled in creating lavish masterpieces out of what could easily have been done on the cheap, and true to form, every shot is lovingly framed with exquisite cinematography. Even the sex scenes are filmed with a sophistication rarely seen in “euro-cult” movies of this era. A rich orchestral score, an outrageous dungeon party scene, ultra-mod furnishings (oh, to have a clear inflatable couch!), and a dizzying array of costumes, all add to the icing on this decadent confection.

Thank you, Jessica! Do you have a weird or strange interest or passion or obsession that you would like to share with the readers of Unquiet Things? Are you interested in writing up a guest post about it? Please let me know! I will pay you with a knitted good for your time!

1 2