not gonna lie to you, this month has been pretty fricking awful. i spent most of it sick with what was either bronchitis or walking pneumonia, which i couldn’t do much about. i not only have no health insurance, i also have no childcare, so i suffered through about 3 weeks of the worst cough ever and slowly, finally started to feel less terrible. i mustered the strength to put on actual clothes only a few days this month, pictured above. apart from feeling like physical hell, i’ve also been going through a sort of emotional hell, one that feels heavier than my usual bad weather depression. here’s hoping the clouds start to lift. throwing on my attico velvet ankle cuffs and all my pairs of boots to cheer up some.
an odd october, and one that flew by. wildfire panic and what felt like endless smokey days trapped indoors. once the fires settled i felt incredibly grateful to be outside, breathing fresh air. every weekend visiting family or up to something in the yard. doing my best to remember to enjoy every minute of sunshine while it lasts by not complaining about flukey hot days. letting myself be moved by twinkling bridge lights and burnt umber leaves and the glorious symmetry of solange and her band, by cupcake squeals and joan didion’s long fingers and california digger pines.
a crazy october filled with threats of phantom illnesses and wildfires, heavy air and moody weather, so many family visits and semi-fancy outings. doing my best not to shop and so digging into my closet for a remix. feeling fully inspired by this celine outfit shown for spring, and real glad that i happen to own a pink ultra suede dress (a vintage bill blass one, found at a thrift store with the actual 1970’s i. magnin tags still attached). going through my annual boot crisis (the one where i feel like i am racing the clock against crap weather to find the perfect pair of boots- which does not exist or at least can’t be selected from the blurring masses of beautiful pairs). enjoying cooler days that allow for turtlenecks (which do a lot for my manky old lady neck) but don’t yet require a coat, but secretly savoring the random heat wave before another winter. cashing in coupon codes and gift cards to buy this satin culotte jumpsuit (because i so can’t afford the real thing). wearing said jumpsuit to see the incredibly staggeringly gorgeous solange and trying not to cry when too many plastic cups of cheap champagne forced me to use the bathroom where puddles of manky sewer water soiled my pant leg. upon exiting the bathroom i exclaimed to my best friend and all the sympathetic ladies in line, “i got toilet water on my beautiful outfit!” overall, embracing the toilet water smudges and school visitor name tag stickers and recycled outfits and walkable shoes.
i am trying.
to speak gently in the company of ladies.
to drop the shield from my chest when i jump off of the train.
to never practice carelessness. not ever.
to be a farmer instead of a fatalist.
to see my brother’s smile at the sound of richie havens’ voice.
to sing about my own time.
to be decisive in restaurants.
to allow myself to be sad, to be angry, lonely, or exhausted,
but never mired.
to abandon brevity.
to know the difference between hope and naivete.
to miss him, to let the missing build up
and spit out of me like a whistling teapot,
each day less screeching
and less scalding.
to stand back and allow the mighty to fall.
to whisper hymns to myself in the night.
to start a love affair with the south.
to stand up straight on the subway.
to learn to be loved back.
to close doors left open in my dreams.
to be sincere in print and convivial at parties.
to be a daughter.
to rebuild from wars remains with renewed faith.
to reject coercion.
to find salvation in river beds and warm hands.
to shepherd my ghosts.
to listen. vehemently.
to step gracefully out of cages.
to smile at babies and old women on the street.
to muster the strength to flirt.
to give up on the anagrams,
of pretty cowards.
to never put on airs.
to root for change.
to believe in everyones best version of themselves.
to hold my head up as i walk.
to relearn tenderness.
to swallow the enormity of nature
and to swell up with it
to give up blunder and despair.
to follow the tides.
to no longer be
kissing strangers through veils.
to greet those who have hurt me
with the cautious respect that i give to strangers.
to be not an orphan but a self-made woman.
to love. actively.
to walk slowly.
to keep the beat until the emptiness in my chest
i have a very romantic view of my grandparents. being the last of several grandchildren allowed me to blend in in a sort of inconspicuous way. at family functions i was often able to disappear into the crowd, and stand back and observe my grandparents. i always saw my two grandfathers as characters that were very specific to their generation: the irish fireman in cowboy boots and the real estate agent in a golf sweater. the working class hero and the president of every club in town. both of my grandfathers were defined by their experiences in the war, but they also both had a charismatic allure to them.
my grandmothers were perhaps the perfect opposite poles to them. on my father’s side my grandmother was the consummate housewife with the white furniture and perfect bee hive and kool cigarette always attached to her graceful fingertips. i remember her as elegant and glamorous and a bit detached. on my mother’s side, my grandmother always worked. she enlisted with the red cross and joined the war effort as a teen, and worked as a maternity nurse for most of my mother’s childhood. once she stopped nursing she went to work as my grandfather’s secretary in his real estate office. she was loud and unfiltered and larger than life if not overbearing. both of my grandparents were charming couples, living the post-war american dream in suburban homes with hi-fi systems and high ball glasses.
my grandmother’s respective senses of style cross my mind often. my grandmother on my father’s side had a sophistication and sartorial smartness to her style. my memories of her are always in the colors white and gold. she wore high waisted white trousers with sweaters that had gold lurex woven into them that would catch the light from her amber glass mid-century pendant chandelier. i remember her big closet full of heels with matching handbags in different shades of crocodile leather. i have a few photos of her from the 1930’s and 40’s, wearing little tailored dresses and peep toe mules, her hair in liberty rolls. she died at the incredibly young age of 60 (which my mother attributes to her declaring that she did not want to become an old lady). my grandmother on my mother’s side lived to be 89, and i saw her embrace a uniform later in life of high waist cropped wide leg jeans, white sneakers, and a crisp button-down shirt that she’d button all the way up to the top. as a young woman she was a sewing fanatic and would buy patterns for the latest trends and make her own clothes. for me, the images of her in her nurse’s uniform are the ones that stick.
recently i have been thinking about what an influence these women have on my own sense of style. a few unearthed photographs of them had my family reflecting on how much we physically resemble them, how strong the genes are that gave me my round jaw and wide eyes, my long legs and short torso. but i also realize that there were images of them that made impressions if not imprints on my sense of what is stylish. when i look at my closet the things that i collect, over and over in my life are high waist, wide leg jeans, button down shirts and ANYTHING with gold lurex woven into it. little vintage handbags in crocodile leather. dresses with cleverly tailored sleeves. and i am unequivocally, undeniably obsessed with high waisted white trousers, and vintage nursing pinafores. so perhaps style is, in fact, genetic.
a place near to me. a place i spent time as a kid, summers in my step-mother’s family cabin at the russian river. her italian father’s enormous breakfasts, afternoon bocce ball games and perfectly groomed rose bushes. the smell of manzanita and coleman lanterns and river mud. my best picture smile with sunburned cheeks pushing a paddle boat around spring lake with my brother. even though my father & step mother split up when i was 12, it was to santa rosa that i went when i graduated high school to be near her. she put me up for a couple of months, helped me to find my first jobs, my first apartment, meet my first friends out of the small town that i had come from. she was dying of cancer. she was dying but we didn’t talk about it. we drove to bodega bay and held hands on the beach. she showed me all of her favorite places, and i loved them because i loved the way her face lit up at the sight of them. i loved them because she needed me to. because she was preserving something in showing them to me. an unspoken legacy. a light of some kind.
my first apartment was the basement of an old 1900’s victorian house across the street from the giant cemetery on franklin avenue. it was only a few blocks from the ritzy macdonald historic district with it’s palatial victorian mansions, but in a decidedly less fancy area. the basement that i lived in had no heat but for a gas oven in the kitchen area. in the winter when the rain would come it would always flood a bit. it was there that i painted my first paintings and wrote a shit-ton of bad poetry, in between shifts at wolf coffee and photojournalism & astrology classes at the junior college. the rent was only $150 a month, and i spent what was left of my paychecks buying sherman cigarettes & french fashion magazines at the news stand downtown and elvis costello & firehose records at the aptly named vinyl only shop the last record store.
i also moonlighted as greenhouse tender and rose de-thorner at a beautiful little flower shop, managed the pastry counter at a health food store (which left me smelling like silken tofu and powdered sugar most days), worked as a clerk in a giant hospital file room (where i could often be found holding early era & present day x-rays up to the light to compare bones). i cleaned houses in exchange for psychic healings, shamanistic rituals and nutrition counseling. i went to women’s creativity groups, writing workshops, and tarot circles. i met a lot of talented women who acted as sirens and psychopomps and were incredibly gracious to me in my naive state. i wrote love letters. lots of them. i rented woody allen movies and drank (pre-big lebowski) white russians made with soy milk. i acquired my first credit card debt buying too many black velvety things at the local mall.
it was sifting through the racks of vintage wedding dresses at the incredibly romantic lytton springs salvation army store where my first real boyfriend proposed and, several hours later (after a drive to reno), became my first husband. i drove a cream white 1962 ford falcon around town and saw my first ballet at the luther burbank center, fifteen in the back of an ice cream parlor, and had my share of tom waits about-town sightings. i spread my step-mothers ashes over the russian river and filed for divorce at the courthouse.
santa rosa represents a little period of my life where i started becoming myself. it provided the space i needed to grow beyond the small town where i came from. it is a part of me that has been locked away for a long time. a place that i lived that was never home, not really. a place i needed to be, for a time, a place on the way to some other life, some other self.
there is a sort of karmic heaviness to my life these days. perhaps it’s not just my life, but there has been more than one occasion recently that has called into question who i am and what i stand for. people have brought a strange sense of moral relativism to things which i always felt were absolute truths. on more than one occasion people have challenged my word & called my integrity into question. things have made me question myself in ways i never have before.
the tarot card the tower has always been significant for me. cyclicly throughout my life i’ve felt a connection to the archetype: the idea of an earthquake, a crumbling foundation. the idea of an unexpected shock, something that shakes up your life and leaves you changed. the thing about this card, to me, is that it signifies a clear change. a clear end to something. it’s not ambiguous. when this card appears something is clearly changing, something is ending. lately i’ve felt like i’ve been trying to cull the meaning out of piles of junk. lately the tower hasn’t been showing up for me. lately things have not been so cut and dry.
this year i’ve been very aware of the tarot growth year that i am in, which is justice. to me the justice card stands for balance (this card also represents the astrological sign libra). it’s about getting extremely honest with yourself, and it is about responsibility. understanding the consequences of your actions. being a grown up. having to step back and weigh all of the options. having to take one for the team and play the middle person, but also being willing to be true to yourself in every situation. prior to this justice year i was in a wheel of fortune year. wheel of fortune is also about balance and the consequence of your actions, but i think of wheel of fortune being more about karma, while justice is about dogma. it feels like it’s been a long period of ups and downs, of little fortunes followed by debts, little victories followed by failures. since my birthday in august, there has been a gravity to these things. as i really turned into my justice year on my birthday, things became louder. more confrontational. less easy to chalk up to mercury retrograde or pms. things that are much heavier and cause for asking, “what in the world did i do to deserve this?”
recently a tarot card that has been showing up a lot in readings for me is the 5 of cups. fives represent mars, which is a very reactive, aggressive energy. they represent tests, struggle, conflict and some kind of loss or break. cups represent the element of water and emotion. the five of cups card depicts 3 cups that are knocked over, and typically a figure with their back turned to 2 remaining cups which are upright. this symbolizes a focus on the negative, and the card asks you to turn around and look at the upright cups. it asks: what can you learn from this, how can you not get bogged down with grief and look for the positive?
i’ve been caught up lately in feeling like a bit of a victim. like the universe is taking a giant crap on my life. i’ve been questioning my faith in said universe. i’ve been feeling like all of the confidence i thought i’d amassed over 39 years has dissolved into self-doubt. i’ve been feeling like i am being served some karmic retribution for all of the terrible little things i must have done in my life. i’ve been asking “why me?” instead of “what do i need to learn from this?” recently the 5 of cups card has been literally jumping out of the deck at me, when i pick up the deck, when i shuffle the cards. and i realize what it’s telling me is not just to take a look at the positives in these situations, but to look for myself in all of this. to take responsibility and to step back and accept the consequences or face the oppositions in my life with some amount of awareness. instead of blindly reacting. instead of always being defensive.
when i step back from my daily dramas it feels like a pretty universal theme right now: the struggle to balance compassion and gratitude with standing up for what is right. which is actually the definition of the word justice: the quality of being fair and reasonable.