Tino Rodriguez, Ecstatic Metamorphosis

A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From heart-rending to gut-splitting (sometimes you gotta laugh, you know?) from informative to insightful to sometimes just downright weird and creepy, here’s a snippet of recent items that have been reported on or journaled about with regard to death, dying, and matters of mortality.

Previously: June 2020 | June 2019 | June 2018 | June 2017 | June 2016

💀Make your Own Memento Mori

💀Searching and Yearning in Grief

💀What to Expect When Death Comes

💀Growing Around Grief

💀Girl buried with finch in her mouth puzzles archaeologists

💀Why Did Early Medieval Europeans Reopen Graves?

💀Death is Both an Event and a Process

💀What Is It Like to Be Dying?

💀You Can’t Outrun Pandemic Grief

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I’ve written about bean soup before. Probably right around this time last year. Well, here it is again, friends. And thanks to the brilliant friend on Instagram who gave me the idea for this blog’s title!

I hated my grandmother’s bean soup when I was a little girl. If I’m being quite honest I always cried when I had to eat it. I sobbed through every spoonful. There was nothing wrong with it. I just wanted something more familiar like a salami sandwich with yellow mustard. That was my favorite! Bean soup was just so…ugly. I hated looking at it. I hated smelling it. No thanks!

Anyway, I must feel awfully guilty about it these many years later, because anytime I am inspired to make a soup, it’s usually of the beany variety. Here’s a recipe, if you are interested and you’ve got some of these ingredients lying around. I’m really bad at keeping track of amounts, just eyeball it and make it soupy, you know? It’s still an ugly soup, but holy beans, is it delicious.

As they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beanholder.”

“I’m Sorry, Mawga” bean soup
-a bunch of beef of vegetable stock (from scratch is best.) Maybe 6-8 cups?
-a few cups of dried beans, whatever you’ve got, soaked overnight
-3-4 strips of bacon
-one onion, diced
-however much garlic you like, minced
-hefty squirt of tomato paste
-a few bay leaves
-sprig of fresh rosemary
-several leaves of fresh sage, chopped
-salt and pepper

Chop bacon and fry in a deep pot for a few minutes until some of the fat is rendered out. You don’t need it to be crispy. Toss in your onion and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the garlic, stir it up and sauté for a minute or so more. All of this is on medium heat, I suppose. Squirt in your tomato paste and stir around until everything is coated and let it cook for a minute. Add all of your both, beans, and herbs and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Reduce heat, cover and cook until beans are tender or to your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

We served the soup with some focaccia that I’d made using a not-too-peppy sourdough starter and whole wheat flour, with a recipe from Pro Home Cooks. I mean… even mediocre fresh-baked bread is good bread, but I would definitely like to try my hand at this again, with better, fresher, more lively ingredients. Still, to accompany a humble bean soup, I think it worked well, and it was made tastier with a dollop of the compound sage butter I had made this past weekend with loads of fresh sage from the garden. GOOD LORD this stuff is good. Just make it and put it on everything.

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Amouage Fate for Woman is another fragrance I’ve been avoiding talking about because I feel like it hasn’t yet revealed its heart to me. And if you think that sounds a little melodramatic, here’s a bit of the copy which refers to its: “rich floral heart intensified by a dark and destructive accord resonating with the tumultuous unknown.” And as much as I love the delicious poetry of an overwrought word salad…that is not helpful. It sounds like a James Bond movie. Here is what I do know: for not being listed in the notes, I smell a goodly spike of sharp, woodsy cedar, and soon after, a dry veil of green mossy rose, wrapped in a honeyed balsamic leathery cloak lined with the smoke of a coniferous incense. It’s so opulent that at times it feels like I’m wearing a costume, and it did kind of trick me into liking another rose scent, so maybe this is a spy novel double-crossing femme fatale of a fragrance.

Jean Paul Gaultier Classique does not list jasmine in the official notes yet it smells like a glittery jasmine vanilla powder bomb drunken dance floor. It recalls an evening I visited a friend and without telling first, she had agreed with other friends that we’d all meet up and go to a club. Being a brutally shy homebody, that’s the last thing I EVER want to do, but as a visiting guest, you’re sometimes trapped into these things, and I am also a people pleaser, so there you go. And there we went. The ladies room was filled with tipsy club-goers fixing their hair and makeup, and our mutual friend pulled a whole-ass bottle of perfume from her purse to refresh her scent. Even me, being the perfume obsessed weirdo I am, thinks that’s strange. A whole bottle, wow. Anyway, it was this Jean Paul Gautier scent, and to this day it makes me think of boozy nightclub cocktails and the jasmine-scented tears of strangers in bathrooms telling me they love me just moments before puking on my feet.

Initially, Coromandel is nose-prickling, aldehydes, bright and sharp and sour, like a bitter citrus slice of moon on a night when winter is sparingly giving way to spring. It’s also brimming with curious camphorous woods and strange subterranean echoes when the first spritz settles on your skin. Soon though, it is inexplicably a dark, floral sprinkle of black pepper atop a mug of palest milky cocoa, smooth and rich and creamy on the tongue, but tinged with that underlying musty bitterness. The strange interplay between those primordial notes and that velvety decadence offers dueling impressions of opulence and austerity; imagine enjoying a delectably elegant beverage…on the damp, cold floor of a mossy limestone cave.

I first read Black Dianthus described on EauMG’s blog as a witches brew of a scent, and being an-all-or-nothing person regarding potential holy grail witchy fragrances, I bypassed a sample and bought an entire bottle. This was in 2017. I sniffed it once, thought, eh, it’s fine, and never wore it again. I saw it glaring at me balefully from the shadowy recesses of my perfume cabinet recently and thought that perhaps it was time to give this one another try…and I am so glad that I did. Black Dianthus officially only lists notes of black dianthus, which is I believe carnation, in addition to licorice, and vetiver, but what I smell is a bitter brew of bracken and moss, tannic, leathery bark, and peppery hemlock leaf littering the damp forest floor, the sour fruit of burst baneberries, and spiced smoke spiraling from the cauldron where this potion hisses and sputters over a strange, green flame.

We’ve got a date with Old Scratch and we’re gonna meet them wearing Idole de Lubin and nothing else. This fragrance is marketed for men which is a bunch of malarkey because this woodsy, darkly spiced scent with notes of saffron, rum, teak wood, and sugarcane would be devastating on anyone who possesses a human body. And speaking of possessing human bodies, our bae Beelz is due to stop by at midnight and this infernal gourmand redolent of unholy smoke, syrupy booze, and leather-clad sin, will make them feel right at home.

I love that Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, which was inspired by the unearthly and surreal Tilda Swinton and her idea of a magic potion that smelled like the familiar grace of home. Greenhouses and kitchens and gardens and intriguing notes like yellow mandarin, pumpkin accord, Moroccan neroli, and heliotrope. I don’t know if I was influenced by the copy, but: the connection of magic potions and kitchens, along with the initial hit of citrusy-ginger, fizzing and spiced as if glowing in cauldron, summoned for me the transcendent, transgressive art of Leonora Carrington’s paintings of kitchens as magically charged spaces, as conjured through her singular and visionary filter. Floral, honeyed tobacco, an earthy spring greenness, and gentle musks bubble and brew alongside those first bright and zingy notes and the end result is a joyous creation that feels both celebratory and sacred.

Geranium Bourbon from Miller Harris Perfumes is what I imagine Jo from Little Women smells like; it’s willful and smart, and it’s somehow both no-nonsense and very creative. It’s got a very upfront “take me as I am vibe” which seems appropriate, as even though geranium is listed in the notes and it’s the name of the perfume, it doesn’t exactly smell like geranium…so you’ve got to judge it on its own merits… for what it is, rather than what it is not. And as for what it is, well. It’s a sort of dry, sunny lemon grassy palmarosa, a sour green rose, bitter, musty black pepper, and some sort of aromatic woods. It’s classified as a floral, but it’s certainly not your typical offering from this category of scent; it’s not at all sweet or spring or even summery, and the rose is a strange one. I guess I might say this is an herbal, woody autumn floral, and much like our girl Jo, one of a kind. (Hoo boy. I just went back in to add a link, and this is discountinued and very hard to find. Sorry!)

I am struggling with wrapping my head around L’Instant de Guerlain. My first impression is that it smells like a classic, powdery vanilla Guerlain but with a “how do you do, fellow kids?” vibe, reworked with fresh fizzy citrus and cool, misty iris notes, for a contemporary crowd. I just noticed that these are bees on this bottle, so maybe that’s the powdery, bright, golden halo I get from the initial spritz. It’s a very pretty scent, very spring picnic with frothy petticoats and bonnets, which I guess isn’t very contemporary, but young people get up to all sorts of weirdness, don’t they?

In a fit of nostalgia, I recently found and purchased a doll on Etsy that reminded me of one that I had when I was much younger. If her frothy, tiered, ruffled, and lace cream-colored frock was a perfume, it would most certainly be Heliotrope from Etro, a floral gourmand dessert course confection of a scent, with delicate almonds at the forefront. This is a powdered marzipan, pillowy meringue, candied almond nougat, bonbon on a base of fluffy spun sugar vanilla clouds. It’s displayed in a window somewhere in Paris, nearly too beautiful and too delicate to eat. (Much like this doll, which sat on a shelf and I was not allowed to play with when I was a little girl.) As it wears on the skin, it becomes iced almond milk tea, barely sweetened with amber-hued grains of brown sugar and poured over rich, chewy tapioca pearls. I do go on about how I don’t care for sweet scents, but in that I’m referring more to fruity fragrances. I don’t want to smell like a strawberry shortcake or a fruit salad or a lollipop. But vanilla and amber, I guess you could say that’s my sweet spot.

I first heard reverent whispers of the enigmatic Filigree from Thymes before the 2014 relaunch, and my interest piqued, I tracked down a bottle on eBay. Never have I read such wildly differing reviews about a fragrance! The Thymes website sings praises of its intricate layers and elusive nuances, and alternately people refer to it as rich, spicy, warm, creamy, and luxurious, but despite the dissimilar impressions, it is undeniably universally beloved. To my nose, it is a scent just this side of crisp and not exactly fresh. It reminds me of antique lace doilies and porcelain teapots It is gentle lemon peels and sweetly grassy and a delicate dusty amber that translates more as vanilla. It’s light and lovely and apparently, many things to many people, but we all seem to adore it.

I am going to do the thing I hate and be a total hypocrite, but Fleur de Lune from Strangers Parfumerie is totally a “grandma perfume”. However! I mean that in a very particular and very personal way. This is *my* grandma. But not when I was older and I could recognize and appreciate her heavy-handed love of Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew or Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door; this is my grandmother when I was 4 years old, before I realized perfumes even had names. I only knew that I loved the scent of her hair when she came to visit and I would fling myself into her arms and bury my face in her shoulder. Fleur de Lune is a sort of sneezy retro violet talcum powder, clean laundry dried on the line outdoors in the spring sunlight, and a sort of milky, creamy floral, like a vanilla and honeysuckle pudding. I don’t know if I love this scent, but how could I not be fond of it, with all of these lovely associations?

Scandalwood is a fragrance that makes me a little sad. I first discovered the brand when I used Polyvore, a sort of virtual moodboard for curating imaginary closets and creating fantasy outfits. I used to play around on it every single day for nearly a decade, and then in 2018, without warning, they shut it down. I was pretty upset–I made many friends through Polyvore and it was a fun distraction that got me through some rough patches. Were any of you guys over on Polyvore? There’s a few similar sites now and I’ve been using one called URStyle but it’s just not the same. I’m ghoulnextdoor over there by the way, if you ever want to say hi. Anyway, this is a perfume review, sorry. Scandalwood is inspired by Dita von Teese and much like her own outfits, the scent is very bare and barely there. Light and close to the skin, it’s a lovely blend of sandalwood, cedar, rosewood, leather, and musk. It’s not really all that erotic unless you get off on quiet naps and whispered ASMR. And hey, it takes all kinds.

Comme des Garcons Rouge is an odd and surprising scent, and at all not what I expected to smell from this glossy, cherry red popsicle of a bottle. It instead reminds me of an artwork by the fabulous, and flamboyant Argentinian painter, Leonor Fini In Les Sorcieres, we observe five frenzied witches swarming and swooping on their broomsticks through a swirling blood-red sky. This scent mirrors these feverish sensations of airy, dizzying fizziness and couples them with a terrestrial earthiness, like herbs and leaves and things freshly dug from a garden patch. Rouge smells like an effervescent shrub (the vinegary drink, not the bushy plant. But also minus most of the vinegar) of rhubarb and beet, fiery ginger root, and floral pink pepper. A witch’s cauldron tipple that tapers to a beautiful gingery incense.

I often pause and meditate on how evocative writing can influence our perceptions and sucker us into buying things. But also, how those perceptions can change as we change and grow. I’m looking at you Ormonde Jayne Woman, with your notes of hemlock and violet and all your talk hypnotic, mysterious potions! In Perfumes, the A-Z Guide, Tania Sanchez describes it in terms of haunting witchiness and tall trees in the night and when I read those sentiments over a decade ago, I couldn’t get my hands on a bottle fast enough. At that time, what I got from it was corporate executive realness with a weird green twist, or if Day-to-Night Barbie was changing into Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West costume instead of the pink sparkly disco outfit that came in the box alongside her no-nonsense pink girl-boss suit. I haven’t worn this Ormonde Jayne Woman since I got it, but today I *get* it. Initially, there’s still that whiff of generic woody-green sophistication, but as it lingers I catch glimpses of shadowed forest paths lined with sweet, purple aromatic woodland blooms, leading one to the door of an enchanted sugarplum storybook cottage. The witch may or may not be in.

I don’t think it’s just me who feels this way, but much like how orange blossoms smell nothing like oranges, so too is the disparity between the fragrance of the blossom of the lime tree and actual fruit itself. I should also note that lime blossom smells nothing like orange blossom! Just using it for an example, I guess. Though like I said, I’m pretty sure that’s how most people feel, so I don’t mean to offer that opinion like I’m the first person to ever come to that conclusion. Anyway! We have a small lime tree in our yard and its flowers smell heavenly, but it’s a delicate scent that I find elusive of precise description. Jo Malone’s version captures it somewhat, the bright charm of a spring breeze, pearlescent morning dew, and sweetly herbaceous green sap encapsulated in in a small, white flower…which if I had to compare it to another blooming thing, I might say honeysuckle. But it’s got an extra element of synthetic linen freshness and a note of something that smells like how a mild tingling jolt of static electricity feels, and this gives it a bizarre bionic blossom quality. It is a little odd? Maybe. Do I love it? Also maybe.

I smell this and I’m suddenly time traveling back to the olden days of 2014 when I did a thing on the internet which some of you may remember though you may not have known it was me. I shared daily missives of love and self-acceptance from Eternia’s most nefarious skull-faced villain, as he progressed on his journey of healing. I am speaking of course, about Skeletor is Love. The facebook and tumblr pages still exist, if you have no idea what I am talking about. Anyway, someone on Makeup Alley realized that was me, and tickled that the creator of that weird thing was a also fragrance enthusiast, we became friends. Miyako from Annayake was a rare scent she insisted I find, she pointed to an eBay listing for it, and it was soon in my possession. Inspired by Japanese incense rituals, it was a perfume I’d never heard of, but was intrigued by, and it’s unexpectedly lovely. It’s warm, richly-scented amber, copious dry, dreamy spices and woods, and a shifting but utterly ambrosial note of smoky green floral cardamom. It is lush and hypnotic and when I wear it calls to mind the strange connections we make in life and how if you’re not open to them, you might miss out on something spectacular.

Tibetan Mountain Temple from Pacifica does not smell like my idea of a blend prepared in accordance with centuries-old traditional Tibetan Buddhist methods to accompany prayer offerings or spiritual purification rituals. But what do I know! This is more like the snack aisle in a tourist shop *next* to the monastery but the only thing they sell are orange creamsicles and those ridiculously delicious Newman ginger-Os, which if you’ve never had them, they are basically like Oreos in concept, but instead of a chocolate cookie sandwich, it’s a ginger snap.

La Couche du Diable by Serge Lutens smells of clementines and dates preserved in amber, soaked in rare, imported spirits, and tossed on the smoking remains of the fire you lit to conjure a demon to do your bidding. Your bidding, it must be noted, involves some petty shenanigans regarding your nemesis and chopping off all of their hair as they sleep. Your final ingredient for the spell, as it happens, is a single strand of their richly tinted auburn tresses that you plucked from their burnished mahogany hairbrush in the span of a second when you cried, “look, over there, what is that thing?!” And like a dummy, they looked. The hair sizzles and pops in the flames and an aromatic wind fills your chambers, scorched citrus, bronzed resins, bitter wine,  and something eerily metallic, echoing the diabolical snicker-snack of twin blades, wickering eagerly from the depths of the glowing embers.

I’m laughing at what I am not sure is actual copy or editorializing by LuckyScent for Initio’s Musk Therapy. They write of “pleasure receptors activated, the mind being energized, and inner peace and pure delight.” and I love you Luckyscent, but you are A LOT. And before you argue that I’m jealous because I’m not the staff writer tasked with churning out this poetic perfumed piffle…well, ok. You’re right. I’m jealous. It was not for their description that I bought it, though. Victoria of EauMg described it as smelling like “hot people effortlessly being hot” and friends, I am not immune to that sort of hyperbole I’ll even one-up it. This is a fragrance that makes you feel like you’re just better than everyone. And you’ll smell so good, they’ll go with it. It’s got a beautiful bitter sourness like the salvia flowers just outside my house, which smell like velvety aldehydes and sparkling grapefruit peels and a musky magnolia and sandalwood soapiness that’s neither too much of one or the other and wow…this really is a flawless, perfect summer scent.

Madam Moriarty, Misfortune Teller from BPAL’s Carnivale Diabolique series is the dark fruit of thickly sugared plum jam, tart pomegranate & redcurrant wine, and the spiced, earthy incense of red musk and patchouli enhancing and emboldening the berries and stone fruit, rendering them that much more lush and sticky. I am not a fancier of fruity fragrances, but even I can admit that is an objectively beautiful scent and there’s a good reason it’s a cult favorite.

I thought peau was french for pear, and not being keen on fruit-forward fragrances was surprised by how much I like this one… but pear is poire, and peau is actually skin, so this perfume from Diptyque, Fleurs de Peau, translates to Skin Flowers and now I understand why I enjoy it. Created in tribute to classical mythology’s Psyche and Eros, it’s a love story with a heart of musk. At first a light and grassy scent of mildy soapy green florals, it abruptly drops in temperature, and strangely it’s in this chilly stage that the musks emerge, as if you’re kissing the wrist of a wraith. It’s a perfume that’s eerily bloodless and while it’s not burning with passion, it radiates a sense of cloudy befuddlement, the way a deeply consuming love affair may affect you. It conjures ill-fated lovers in a romantic mystery by the likes of Sarah Waters, a timid governess of modest means and the coldly beautiful mistress of the manor and they declare their secret love in a bed of irises and it turns out one of them was a ghost all along.

I originally purchased the sadly discontinued Velvet Tuberose from Bath & Body Works because my Best Good Friend wore it, and it smelled amazing on them. With an opening somehow both airy and earthy, it’s a creamy white floral cloud whirling with delicate powdery grains of amber dust and soft floral vanilla orchid petals. It dries down to soft woods and skin musk and of course, it never smelled quite as good on me as it did on my BGF, but I still associate it with them and some of our times together even though they probably haven’t worn it in years.

This scent is an exercise wherein I again come to the realization that hey, I’ve never spoken this word aloud and I am not certain how to pronounce it. I usually go to YouTube to get a consensus, but in this case it seems a bit divided. Some reviewers say LabDANum, and others say LABdanum. That’s always how I said it in my head, so that’s the one I am going with. Labdanum de Saville by L’Occitane is a honied, burnished amber that borders on fruity tobacco, with a bright, peppery, sparkling citrus aspect that reminds me of an illustration of jeweled autumn fruits in a golden dish that I recall from a lavishly illustrated edition of 1001 Nights from when I was a child. It’s a fairly linear scent that doesn’t evolve much over the course of the day, and while it’s not terribly complex, it’s still lovely. I’d suggest it as a less expensive option to the autumnal spiced apple compote magics of Ambre Narguille from Hermes, but I’m afraid it’s discontinued.

This scent that has haunted me since 2004 when I first tried a sample of this perfume from Elizabeth W. and I’ve been hoarding that tiny vial for over fifteen years! Back then it was called Sweet Tea, but they’ve since changed the name to . That looks like an accent aigu, but I’m not certain that this is French. Maybe it’s Spanish? Either way, perhaps they thought a rebranding would lend a classier vibe than sweet tea evokes with its deep south connotations as a sugared libation to accompany your all you can can-eat ribs and meat sweats. And as a Floridian, I love me some Sonny’s BBQ so I mock not. Listing notes of amalfi lemons, black tea, and almond honey, the opening is lively and brisk with a tannic, floral elegance, the aromatic tea and intense perfume of the lemon balanced and beautiful. I don’t get a sense of honey, just a lovely hint of sweetness, more like a light citrus syrup, or a limoncello. This is not the most nuanced or complex scent, but who cares? We like what we like and this is one of my favorite tea concept perfumes.

I was a little kid who never paid attention to anything. I perpetually had my head in the clouds. Of course, when you’re forever checked out of what’s going on, things happen without you noticing. Sometimes these are things like your mother signing you up for summer camp and you don’t know anything about it until she’s packing you up on a bus with a lot of kids you don’t know to a place you’ve never heard of. Still, there’s daydreaming and imagining to be done, so I’d just find a seat by myself, lean my head against the filmy glass of the bus window, and breathe in the clean, cool morning air of an early June morning in Ohio, as the vehicle picked up speed and we drove out of the suburbs into the sunshine. Demeter’s Fresh Hay smells like honeyed red clover blossom, warm, dusty earth, and soft woody grassy vetiver; the fertile ground of summer daydreams and limitless expanse of a young person’s imagination.

Angel Nova is a very horny perfume. But a sort of sad, lonely, horniness. It’s the drunk middle-aged lady at a concert or local gig, or festival, stumble-dancing alone. (I am middle-aged now, but in my memory, every incarnation of this woman always seems older than I will ever be.) It smells like what both partners might wear when they pack for their hedonism cruise in a last-ditch effort to save their relationship and they’re on the prowl for their unicorn. It’s a bit desperate and hopeless, like that last radiant burst of manic energy that you put into a thing that’s doomed to fail, so what the hell and why not. As to the actual fragrance, it’s a sticky stain on your sheets that if you dare get close enough to sniff, it smells of overripe raspberries, lychee syrup drizzled shaved ice, and a sickly sweet cola drink spiked with peppery patchouli bitters. Instead of spending your money on Angel Nova, I think it wise you invest in an extra session with your therapist.

Montale Full Incense is an ancient story of aromatic pine, strange, sugared crystals of frankincense, and fresh, grounding cedar shavings. It feels sacred and weird, like an epic legend with an unexpected instance of surreal comedy. Perfume-wise it’s a bit comparable to CdG Avignon, but where that one conjures a chilly, stern atmosphere, this is woody and warm and somehow beautifully wacky, like hallucinogenic incense smoke rising from a cracked clay vessel balanced on smoldering embers in the desert woodlands, but in a locale far removed from our reality. On the world of Thra plays out a drama between the tyrannical Skeksis and the Gelfling, as a darkening blight threatens the existence of all. Full Incense is what I imagine scents the scene wherein the Gelfling heroes have arrived at the Circle of the Sun and encounter the kind Skeksis known as the Heretic and the Wanderer. What ensues is the weird and brilliant puppet show within a puppet show, and they all must have thought wow, am I high right now? I feel a bit like that myself when I wear this scent.

 

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I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t obsessed with jewelry. Draped in my grandmother’s beads and baubles, I’d swan around the house, feeling fancy and beautiful, the queen of my daydreams and imaginary domain. My fantasies involved ornate treasure chests overflowing with glittering gems and gleaming jewels and I swore that one day, I would have one of my own.

I wish I still had a photo of it, but my favorite piece of “jewelry” was built from these colorful interlocking plastic blocks and spheres …I’m not sure if it was meant to be worn or just played with for hand-eye coordination type stuff, but I luxuriously delighted in imagining them as massive rubies and sapphires and emeralds…

Here’s another photo, instead. You get the idea!

When I first laid eyes upon the creations of Eternal Craft Designs, I was immediately transported back to a time when I dreamed in the lustrous language and scintillating brilliance of precious stones, a faceted and radiant light that set the landscape of my own strange and lonely little worlds aglow. I purchased for myself a strand of beads from their Poisons collection, and in its green glimmering reality, the flash of its colors and gorgeous tumbling heft, I held all of my childhood dreams in my hands.

It is pictured here in the disarray of my vanity in the lower right, artfully spilling out of a small Anna Sui container. And in the photo below that, entwined around my neck! The little-Sarah that still lives in my heart is utterly screaming with joy.

I recently chatted with Eternal Craft Designs about their unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, the stories and inspirations that go into the creations of these jewels, and the process of finding one’s voice through a maximalist aesthetic and the perpetually haunted aspects of one’s nature.


Tell me about the kind of jewelry that you create and who it is you envision wearing it.

Mostly I craft One of a kind beaded strands of various semi-precious stones and crystal beads. Some of them include vintage glass beads that I have collected over decades to adorn my dragon’s lair. (I’m convinced I was a crow in a previous life) I also make solid sterling silver tombstone keepsake pendants.

The type of person I envision wearing my jewelry loves to shimmer and sparkle in darkness. That person might be a little witchy, they might be a bit earthy, they might be into holistic and healing energies. Each strand is as unique as the individual who wears them. They’re hefty and have a good deal of texture and weight to them and I try to make them as sturdy as possible so that they will last through the centuries.

There’s a certain androgyny to some of the pieces, wearable by people on any level of the gender spectrum, particularly the tombstone pendants, which were originally designed as a commitment between lovers.


I get the sense that you love jewels and baubles as much or if not more than I do…I would love to learn what led you in the direction of making jewelry as opposed to draping yourself in it fabulously? (Which is also my move, by the way, hee!)

Oh, I drape myself in jewels and baubles! TRUST ME! One can ALWAYS count on me to show up at the holiday party with more shine than the Christmas tree!

Instead of removing one piece of jewelry before I leave the house, I add one.

I used to make little elastic bracelets for friends and include them with the wrappings of a prezzie. Then they would break or were promptly lost. I had a dear friend who was so creative and talented at everything, including making jewelry. She was trying to encourage me and help me find my crafty jewelry voice, and unfortunately passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly some years ago. The night before we were supposed to get together to play with jewelry) I inherited some tools and materials from her but couldn’t really do anything with a lot of it for a very long time. In a way, I feel like I finally figured out what I needed to be doing with all of the things she gave me.


I look at your work and how you talk about it and it makes me think of the idea of jewelry as story-telling. What are the stories that haunt you and inspire your creativity when making a new piece of jewelry? What else do you count among your inspirations and influences?

I have a lifetime of things that inspire me; music, literature, art. Let’s get the obvious influence out of the way; our beloved Bloodmilk Jewels. When their Mourning Beads and Ritual Strands launched, my vision became clear, and I was able to focus. Of course, I had no intention to copy them. I’m not a professional jewelry maker first of all, so it wouldn’t be possible. Secondly, BMJ fans are fiercely loyal, and I’d never want to provoke the ire of their followers. Jen and Jess and so lovely and so kind, I could never….

With the first BMJ strand I purchased, Bookstore Cat, I was blown away at how delicate and tiny and perfect it was! I felt more comfortable that what I had in mind was something quite different and that may or may not appeal to the same person.

I decided one thing that could impart into my jewelry was my vast music knowledge. I always have a song in my head & sometimes I can connect that with a strand of beads. I have a great catalog of music to draw from; thousands of CDs, and records that I have collected while working as a radio/club dj, then retail, and finally establishing myself as an inventory manager and buyer for some of the largest record stores in the country. (Remember Record Stores?)

I am perpetually haunted. The biggest flaw in my character is that I find it difficult to move on. I tend to hold on to the darkness in my life for far too long.

I try to use the ritual of cleansing the crystals and stones once I have completed a strand so that whatever darkness I may be enveloped in does not pass on, if that makes sense. I’m also no purist. I pick and choose elements that satisfy my visual aesthetic. I’m a novice when it comes to these fabulous crystal powers and don’t ever claim to be anything more. I’m sure there are experts out there that could quibble and cringe at how I write about or arrange things, but the powers and energies that can be drawn are entirely second to the sparkle and shine for me. These pretty shiny things are only here to make you feel pretty and shiny. My intentions are my own, get out of it what you want.

As far as “storytelling” goes…Thank you, but I dunno….I don’t consider myself much of a writer – it’s a struggle for me, and a lot of times I find myself paraphrasing and re-wording what I have come across in research through various mediums. The research itself becomes inspiring and I find I am learning a lot just by digging around some of my dusty old books and clicking through links. I always have a few completed pieces sitting around that I haven’t posted because I can’t quite find the story to go along with them.


What are your favorite materials to use and can you share what it is about them that speaks to you?

Everything is grounded and anchored in black; onyx, tourmaline, obsidian, etc…these stones are said to attract, envelope, deflect negativity. Almost every piece features flashy rainbow moonstone and/or labradorite, which nearly makes me fall over. Using scarabs from vintage bracelets as connectors sets my pieces apart. Infinity has been a consistent symbol in my life for a very long time, so I use infinity connectors often as well. Going back to Bloodmilk for inspiration, I think it’s how they utilize the connector as focal points, one never has to worry or bother with the clasp getting facing front. I like that a lot and I’m trying to include that feature in my own way.


What are you doing when you are not making these beautiful beaded strands? I’m always interested in the interests of the people who interest me!

Obsessing over my cats, ravens, crows and praying mantids in my garden. After leaving the music business in 2015, I dabbled around trying to figure out what to do with myself. I managed pre-recorded music inventory (CDs) on a national and international scale, handled multi-million-dollar budgets, coordinated high-profile media events, and more.

When I left music, it was the precise moment where ageism and sexism left me fighting to get back into the workforce. I found that my particular skill set could be quite useful to my life partner’s business in make-up fx. I work with him on film projects both on and off-set and handle a lot of the administrative work; scheduling, maintaining supplies, (I love a good excel spreadsheet), acting as a liaison with production, and so on. Covid has completely changed how films are made, there is a lot more admin work to be done by any Head of Department. My goal is to help free his time up to focus more on creative design, direction, and application. It’s a lot of fun and nowhere near as stressful as dealing with Amazon as a client! No one asks where I hope to be in 5 years, what my plans are with the company and they don’t care that I’m female and an adult! Everyone is working on one project to completion and everyone has the same immediate goals. (It’s kind of refreshing, really).

Find Eternal Craft Designs: website // instagram

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Whenever I hear the windchimes echoing through the blooms and blossoms and growing things in my backyard, I am often reminded of a haiku by Edo-era poet Matsuo Bashō.

The temple bell stops.
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.

Imaginary bells aside, tomorrow is the summer solstice, or midsummer, the longest day of the year. I remember the first time I ever heard the term midsummer; it was referenced in The Witches and the Grinnygog, a program on Nickelodeon’s eerie Third Eye anthology series in the early 80s. In the six-part series, an ancient English church is moved to a new site, and a strange statue, the Grinnygog – is found to be missing. It is unwittingly recovered by a woman who, not realizing its importance, gives it to her elderly father as a pseudo garden gnome for his rockery. Shortly thereafter, three eccentric old women appear in the town, peculiar things happen, and a quartet of young friends slowly uncover the mystery of their arrival and what it heralds. It dips into pre-Christian traditions, folklore, time slips, and ghosts, and it takes place leading up to, and during Midsummer.

I barely recall watching The Witches and the Grinnygog, only certain scenes and snippets and…impressions, really… remain in my memory. Luckily, some generous souls have uploaded it to YouTube; they’re a perfectly dreadful quality, but I’ve convinced myself that the fuzzy grain only adds to its strange charm. I have been rewatching it this week, and one sequence struck me intensely:  after a shared moment of magic, one of the characters declares, “the day will come that you say you dreamed it.” Quite so! That’s exactly how I’ve felt all these years about the experience of having watched it. Even after reading it and reacquainting myself with it after receiving a copy of the book as a gift over a decade ago! (Yes, it’s based on a book!)

In rewatching it, I was instantly bewitched all over again. The location is lovely, the music is perfect (you can hear the theme here, and how I wish I could find the lyrics to that song! Something about “four us was born” and “fly, besoms, fly!”) and I think all of the actors are wonderful. Is it perfect? Well, probably not. To my older, and hopefully wiser and a bit more worldly eye, there are some things that are troublesome or that feel a little problematic to me. It would be interesting to hear a critical analysis from someone who could do such a thing justice, but I don’t think that’s me.

Mr. Alabaster, for example, is a neat character and he stole every scene he was in, but I wonder if he might fit into the “magical black man” trope/archetype, and if so, that does make me feel a little uncomfortable. Was he there solely to help the white people? Well, I’m not sure. On one hand, I’m fairly certain he was there to reclaim an artifact that belonged in his country. His motivations didn’t really seem to be about helping anyone but rather sticking to his own agenda, one which seemed perfectly reasonable. But then there was all the witch doctor stuff, and they really just seemed to play up his “otherness.” I don’t know. Maybe I am overthinking it. But I also think it’s important to examine this stuff, even the stuff we really love. Nothing should be unimpeachable.

Aside from these thoughts, which obviously didn’t come up the first time I saw it, I mean I was only seven years old in 1983. But the thing that I actually remembered most about it? Like, if you had asked me a few years ago (or maybe even mere seconds after I watched it) what it was all about, I would have said “FLOWERS!” without even thinking. As I’m viewing it again I can see how The Witches and the Grinnygog was formative to many of my obsessions and interests: witchcraft, hauntings, eerie mysteries; reading, writing, and collecting; but most of all…flowers. The flowers that grow around and surround the grinnygog when it is placed in the garden, the ridiculously magnificent floral hat that is magically conjured forth from the laundromat washing machine, and of course the spectacular emergence of blooms and blossoms on houses and street corners which sprung forth mysteriously overnight in honor of the Midsummer festival.

I’ve longed for a lawn and garden space filled with flowers for as long as I can remember. Or rather, now I can say with clarity and certainty–ever since I first saw The Witches and the Grinnygog. I gasped aloud so many times watching this story play out over the course of the past week, thinking, “oh, THIS is the reason I am the way that I am!” So much of me today, who I am, what I love and aspire toward, how I dream and what I dream of, started in the details of this odd little gem of a show. I am so happy I finished the final episode a few scant minutes before midnight on Midsummer Eve, and I plan to spend my day tomorrow, however I spend it, exuding, inhaling, and surrounding myself with the tender, powerful sentiments intoned in the chant begun by Mrs. Bendybones in the scene below.

“Goodness is goodness…peace is peace…and blessings is forever.”

Goodness and peace and blessings, and all the wild magics of a beauteous explosion of flowers to you on this extraordinary Midsummer’s Day, friends.

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The Batsheva Resort 2022 collection is everything I want all the time. It’s all of my selves on each part of my timelines, and it makes my heart feel silly and gleeful, and somehow– seen.

Drab brown dresses? Check. Chaotic microfloral mod frocks? Check. Profoundly plush velvet? Check check! Dresses and pants, the best combo ever? Yes, we can check that too! So, so good.

And with regard to the models? I love this, too:

“Rather than hypothesize about how wearers might make a Batsheva ruffle dress or bow-trimmed trouser work in their life, [Batsheva] Hay put her garments to the test. With her photographer husband, Alexei Hay, she set up a booth in Washington Square Park and recruited people in the area to change into her resort 2022 pieces and model for her look book.

One went full Dovima in a strapless ’50s-style golden gown and kitten heels. Another just tossed an ivory dress coat over their regular clothes, coffee cup in hand. There are teen goths, lovers, sisters, NYU graduates, and passersby smiling throughout the look book, a total celebration of New York back in action.”

See more at Vogue: https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/resort-2022/batsheva

 

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Artist credit: Midori Yamada

Artist Midori Yamada has captured my memories of summer vacations, elementary school grades 4-6. They were spent in the company of books, immersed in their pages from the time I rolled out of bed in the morning until sunset and sometimes well into the evening. I sat on a cracked vinyl chaise lounge on our backyard screened porch in the searing, stifling midday heat, my hair plastered nastily to the back of my neck, and cooling myself with icy cups of Crystal Light.

I didn’t care about the sticky, sweaty discomfort or the artificial sweetness inflaming my considerable thirst. I was satiated with stories, and I wanted nothing more than to hide away with them in the hopes that everyone had utterly forgotten that I existed. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such glorious freedom, since.

Many years later, I am still chasing that elusive high. No obligations, no intrusions, just me and the next page and the next after that. In the ensuing years I’ve probably accumulated enough books that I would never have summers enough to finish them all.

Here’s the current state of the stacks, below. How are yours looking?

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“The arrogance of man is thinking that nature is in our control, and not the other way around.”

Yvan’s birthday was back at the end of April (it’s true, we are both Tauruses, a fancy-cheese-eating, garden-loving, never-admitting-we’re-wrong power couple!) and I wanted to get him something special.

I’ve been looking for a non-dorky Godzilla garden statue for ever so long and I finally found something *really* close to what I was envisioning —this amazing succulent planter from Red Thread DIY. Initially, it was only offered in smaller sizes, but I requested a larger-sized commission, and now I think it’s a regular listing on their shop!

Anyway, here’s Godzilla, a power to restore balance.

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7 Jun
2021

Ugh. It’s getting to be that time of year where my motivation runs low and my well of inspiration runs dry, and I just…don’t wanna. Whatever it is, I refuse to do it. I stepped outside today after what has until now been a very mild and strangely windy summer, and in the still, humid morning my glasses fogged unpleasantly, my hair frizzed frizzily, and I was immediately soggy with sweat all the way to my bones. Nope, I thought. NOPE.

I had a birthday less than a month ago. Apparently, I am now 45 years old. I’ve begun, sometime in the past year or so, to think of myself as old. I hate that. I don’t feel old. But I do feel like if I don’t keep that feeling in check, I am going to do something or say something deeply uncool and get outed as an Old who is trying to be Hip and Young. How embarrassing. It stinks that I even care enough about such things to think that way. But better to just avoid embarrassment and lean into my elderly decline.  Grumble about how I don’t understand what young people are into these days. Pontificate about how stuff from way back when (the 90s) was better. Bend your ear about my GERD and achy hip. Push my glasses up on my head so that I can read the fine print, but refuse to get transition lenses or bifocals or whatever. The chin-hair I’ve been cultivating since I was 25 has been longing for this day. Welcome to your future, little guy. It’s old and creaky here.

This is Mallory. She, like me, is also old. I recently spent a week cat-sitting for her while my sister was out of town (yay for finally getting to pack a bag and go somewhere!) and waking up at 4am every morning to begin the cycle of feeding her every five hours was the closest to a vacation I’ve gotten in a year and a half. This particular sister has a swimming pool though, so it was pretty much exactly the opposite of a hardship. Wake up early, exercise on the sort of very nice equipment I don’t have at home, work my job during the day, drink a glass or two of wine in the evening while splashing my toes in the pool and read, knit, watch movies, and eat junk food, and do it all again the next day and the next. It was pretty glorious if I am being honest. I mean… of course, I can do most of these things at home, but at home, I’m constantly distracted by chores and cooking and various projects, and I run out of time for the leisure activity stuff. Absent all of those particular facets of home-life…you find yourself with a whole lot more time on your hands. I finished a sock, read a whole book, watched three movies, and a whole television series.

If you’re curious, I read The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, a novella that is both a tribute to and criticism of H.P. Lovecraft, and which is brimming with racism, brutality, and cosmic terror. I watched Saint Maud, which has been on my list for a while, and despite having read reviews and listened to podcasts about it, that ending was still… while not exactly shocking, it was breathtakingly gruesome; I also finally watched Parasite, and I guess I enjoyed it, but I think I had heard too much about it and maybe it wasn’t as twisty or surprising as I had hoped. And then of course the Sailor Moon movie on Netflix. It was fine. I guess I am an old lady who is becoming very hard to impress.

One of the things I love to do when I am visiting this sister’s house is to take a bunch of photos of all of her shelves and corners and art and tchotchkes and trinkets. Though our interests and tastes do overlap somewhat, her home is definitely more vibrant and kaleidoscopic than mine and a million times more organized. It’s always such a treat to peep at her treasures, so I thought I might share a few favorite peeks.

And of course, while I was there, I had to keep up with my daily Midnight Stinks report. I took the opportunity to weigh in on a few of her perfumes, which I found in various places all over the house. Some of them were lovely, and some of them not so much! A mutual friend of ours commented that she didn’t think she’d be too happy with her sister rummaging through her things and talking about all of the things she hated about them, but I am pretty sure my sister is not going to take it personally. And neither, I hope, would you! If I don’t like something you like, well, mine is just one dumb opinion out of millions and you are in no way obligated to take my baloney seriously. My sister(s) certainly don’t!

My favorite room, of course, being The Fairy Wonderland room! Which in the past year and a half has gotten a bit of an overhaul, if I am not mistaken. It’s less a trip to the fairy realms and more a visit to a witch’s cottage. I didn’t think it was possible to love this magical little haven more than I already did, but gosh.

I wasn’t alone with my thoughts and my sister’s stuff the whole time, though. Yvan spent the weekend with me at either end of the week, and for the first time since January of 2020, we went out to bars and restaurants and dined indoors, and MAN IT WAS WEIRD. I think what was weirdest was even though I thought “oh, this is gonna be so freaky and I’m going to be really uncomfortable,” instead it immediately felt so normal, “just like old times” and it was the immediacy of that normalcy that was the scary part. We’ve been fully vaccinated since mid-May, and this was our first jaunt out among people, and I think we’re still analyzing our feelings about it.

Still…it was nice to accessorize with my Gudetama barrettes and my big earrings and play Magic at a brewery for the first time in a loooong time. It’s actually been a long time since I’ve played at all, and I’m finding myself getting kind of excited about it again! I’m not great at strategy (that’s an understatement, I am really terrible) but learning to play Magic was how I got to know Yvan, that’s how we spent a lot of our time on our first dates, and so it’s something that will always feel really special to me. Nerdy romance! Are you a MtG enthusiast? I’m a green/black player, what about you?

I’ve since arrived home and am settling back into my routines which sadly involve neither swimming pools nor cats, but there is one last thing I’d like to share. One of the dishes I make for myself when I’m on my own is this Orecchiette with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, and while it looks like a bowl of slop when it all comes together, well…it’s classy slop.

It’s practically perfect as written, but I do think it could benefit with either a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or a bit of lemon zest, and I suppose if you wanted some extra protein you could serve it with some kind of beans or grilled chicken, but it’s really just fine on its own. What are your favorite dine-alone dishes or meals-for-one? Do you attempt to class things up a bit, or do you make the rapid descent into a garbage trough when no one’s watching? Full disclosure, I only had this pasta one of the nights I was away. The other five nights it was Cheetos and Funyuns. Because I am a trashbag old lady.

 

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Francesco Santo, Vanitas #02

A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From heart-rending to gut-splitting (sometimes you gotta laugh, you know?) from informative to insightful to sometimes just downright weird and creepy, here’s a snippet of recent items that have been reported on or journaled about with regard to death, dying, and matters of mortality.

Previously: May 2020 | May 2019 | May 2018 | May 2017 | May 2016

💀 A Stone You Should Never Put Down: The Secret Language of Grief

💀 Why Is This Woman Dying All Over the World?

💀 What Are You Going Through By Sigrid Nunez: A literary journey into, through, and past loss

💀 The Secret to Happiness? Thinking About Death.

💀 India’s COVID-19 Disaster Has Changed Our Relationship With Death

💀 Meet the Nun Who Wants You to Remember You Will Die

💀 After a sudden loss, seeking serenity among old headstones

💀 Sarah Posey explores death in a more positive context with ‘One From Us Has Gone’ exhibit

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