Momentum

Dante, never one to sugarcoat things when writing about hell’s 9 circles or the terrifyingly familiar sins of purgatory, chose to put the phrase a great flame follows a tiny spark into the “Paradiso” section of his masterpiece.

Given that most of the wet matches I brought with me when I clawed my way out of limbo #562 are still drying, it’s a comforting thought. And hey: I’m starting to see flickers of light in some parts of my life and wisps of smoke in others. Surely that’s a positive sign?

Of course I’m hoping I’ll eventually have (contained) flames that qualify as steady-and-ready if not Mr Alighieri’s “great.” In the meantime, however, I’m glad I have what I have—including a better ability to support those trying to move from draining stagnation to freeing stag leap.

…motion is a sure-fire clue there’s momentum of some kind afoot, but it’s surprising how much energy can be conveyed without word, sound, or movement…

(top to bottom: Ilya Idelchik’s vivacious “Flamenco Dancers” grace San Diego’s Spanish Village Art Center; orchids in Balboa Park’s Botanical Building defy homogenity; just outside Granville Island’s totem-carving wonderland, flexing fish bedeck a totem pole that welcomes visitors; artist James Harrison’s glass-centric Ghost Ship casts a 24-hour glow on Portland Oregon’s Eastbank Esplanade)

Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore [pt 1]

Leaving a job that was well past its sell-by date for something with lots of tangible improvements—and the promise of intangible ones—should have been incredibly easy. But no: I exited dragging a chunk of reluctance behind me thanks to a core group of amazing co-workers I didn’t want to give up. Co-workers who’d provided daily laughs, intelligent insights, reliable teamwork, and empathy.

Plus genuine happiness when they heard I’d whipped together a week of escapism before starting over in a new environment. They couldn’t go unwind and have fun, dammit, but since I could I certainly should.

To them, I was the soot-choked canary weakly fluttering toward blue sky, the newly elected mascot of Team Save the Drama for Your Mama, the lucky thing who’d been handed pudding filled with proof we all deserved better.

Clearly I needed to do them proud in spite of my tight timeline and eroded energy. I went for a classic solution: a brain/body reset in Hawaii. With nothing from the old or new job to worry about, relaxing into island life happened surprisingly fast.

Easing into island life

Due to plane fares and vacation rental openings and preferences I ended up on Oahu’s rural, romantic North Shore. Mr Vix and I arrived as the surf season was winding down, which meant we only got to ogle folks on 25-foot waves vs 50-foot ones. And we found the smaller beaches sparsely populated even on weekends.

Somehow neither seemed like genuine hardship.

Surfers aside, daily walks along Kawailoa Beach usually featured more fishing poles than people

While we’d explored a lot of Oahu during our last visit to the island—including a couple of day trips to the North Shore—we deliberately stuck close to our temporary home this time. “Close” being a relative term, of course. As visitors, it seemed rude to ignore ALL of the outdoor activities that promised to take us farther and farther from the realities of everyday life, so off we went.

From an end-of-the-road trail that led to an oceanside preservation zone but came with pleasant diversions…

After a dusty hike in to the remote Ka’ena Point Reserve, I enjoyed a both-eyes-on-the-winter-surf-beyond reward while hiking out

…to encountering creatures who put my attempt at snazziness to shame…

Despite blue-green-grey colors and iridescent shoes, getting out-peacocked by a too-fast-for-me…well, peacock

At the Waimea Valley Reserve, a finally-still peacock provides a lesson in pattern-mixing

…to reminders of the ocean’s power—

Though I knew the North Shore’s legendary waves and riptides might rule out daily swimming, I was able to find protected spots without much trouble

and its beauty—I spent my days in a haze of delight. I’d arrived hoping for daily swims, and lucked out by finding local spots too boring for surfers but awesome for me.

At the end of Dillingham Airfield, Army Beach offers sandy shores, crystalline water, and a perfect spot to cool off after hiking to Ka’ena Point as long as the surf cooperates

Out of the water, plenty of intriguing visual stories drew me in. While the late Ron Artis’ community-driven work brightens many North Shore landmarks and gives locals and visitors alike windows into the past…

Storytelling is embedded in Hawaiian culture; here, musician-turned-artist Ron Artis’ work beautifies a storage unit outside Haleiwa and Wahiawa’s Sunny Side bakery

…one can also find communications that call for respect but vary in permanence…

Informal meets formal reverence: L, a call to keep the remote road/path to Ka’ena Point from becoming a dumping ground; R, the Waialua-Kahuku War Memorial

…hauntingly beautiful structures that leave the viewers with more questions than answers…

Vacant for more than 60 years, the former Waialeʻe Industrial School For Boys–a reform school–occupies prime North Shore real estate

…plus spots sacred in ancient Hawaiian culture and protected today.

L, Recent offerings at c. 1600s religious temple Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, likely a place of past human sacrifices; R, haunting eyes adorn an abandoned military bunker at Ka’ena Point, another sacred spot in Hawaiian culture

As we soaked up the sun along with the sights, I could feel long-term tension start to erode—and believe me, that’s a story my body’s been longing to tell.

Next: Part 2 of Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore, in which I reveal my apparent fascination with stones, empty space, and exotic red flora

Creatures

The last few months have seen too many of those in my circle checking their horoscopes in hopes the stars’ forecast calls for something besides more-serious-than-usual sickness, job woes, financial worries, and/or family issues.

Despite the astrological status quo, however, I’ve had a terrible time getting the independent types to obey Bill Withers’ now-classic lines:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend / I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long / ‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”

Others have it worse, they protest stoically—and depressingly, news article after news article supports their claim. Refraining from pointing out that others have it better seems the least I can do, but I hate to stop there.

Fortunately my independent types will usually accept a meal, joke, hug, distraction, or even a heartfelt sentiment or two. Compared to what I’ve received from them over the years it doesn’t seem like much. But when I’m in their shoes, even momentary access to my more carefree self means everything.

…after a run of bad news, it can be tough to remember that life is full of surprises that leave us contemplative, curious, delighted, or bemused versus on high alert…

(top to bottom: In Bandon Oregon, a majestic seahorse is just one of the boardwalk’s unexpected pleasures; thanks to one family’s tree stump and the calendar, a neighborhood sports a quite literal interpretation of the lion in winter; Vancouver BC’s VanDusen Botanical Garden manages to find room for a dragon sculpture amidst the water lily leaves; it’s hard to resist a closer look when front yard decor is the bee’s knees; being outnumbered by dandelions is cause for one critter’s celebration—or surrender)

Landmark

As the extent of Hurricane Sandy’s damage becomes even clearer, I continue to wish individuals and communities strength as they recover and rebuild.

…because navigational markers orient our hearts as well as our heads, we feel their presence or loss—which is why we’ll never stop creating, reacting to, protecting, and cherishing them…

(top to bottom: On Long Beach Washington’s Discovery Trail, a basalt monolith offers up quotations from William Clark’s 1805 exploration of the area; a driftwood sculpture helps mark the way along an oceanside pathway; a 1925 covered bridge rides out another Central Oregon storm; in southern Oregon’s Lithia Park, a heartfelt (if destructive) message; sculpture provides a sense of stability in Vancouver BC’s English Bay)

Periwinkle Silk Goes Goddess-y Blouse

In my younger and more Miss Priss days I was prone to living vicariously through charismatic slightly-bad-boys. While age has dampened my attraction to males full of razzle and dazzle, I rather suddenly and mysteriously seem to be prone to desiring clothing with similar attributes. Should I blame biology for my increasingly flamboyant taste—or just boredom?

Whatever the reason behind the change, it’s wreaking havoc on my plans to add a few practical spring-to-summer wardrobe items to my closet.

Instead of bringing home pieces ideal for my body shape, coloring, and lifestyle, I let an acre of periwinkle silk captivate my heart and my wallet. And though the material is fashioned into a blouse that can be worn in a multitude of ways and feels like heaven on, I can’t delude myself into thinking it’s ideal.

It’s too shiny. It’s too voluminous. It’s too in-need-of-belting (always a dicey proposition for a short-waisted H/Rectangle).

Blue meets green on a rare 85 degree April day (blouse worn V-neck/halter-tie style)

But despite knowing the blouse is rather wrong I don’t care that it’s not quite right. [And after decades of obliviousness around proportions and cut, these days I generally care about such things a great deal.]

I’d attribute the buy to my small but powerful Persnickety Bohemian side, but there’s plenty of finger-pointing to go around. Don’t think that my Contrarian Classicist style persona wasn’t whispering, “What’s more classic than a garment reminiscent of ancient Greece?” whenever I ran through the pros and cons of adding a vat of charmeuse to my closet.

L, Roman copy of a 4th century A.D. Greek statue wearing a peplos; R, attributed to Liberty of London c 1880s (via the Metropolitan Museum of Art's online gallery)

Periwinkle silk blouse worn V-neck/halter-tie style (with tighter vs looser gathers)

Post-purchase I learned that my blouse is more chiton-like than the peplos beloved by sculptors. Or more chiton-crossed-with-a-peasant-blouse-like. Translation: I bought rectangles of fabric meant to be transformed from boxy blah into luxuriously draped goodness. Er, yea?

Precedents for my periwinkle: Greek Chiton and Peasant Blouse

Unsurprisingly for someone on record as loving a good sarong dress and often sure that rouching will solve many a wardrobe problem, I feel more at ease with structured draping that has at least a small molecule in common with the artistic masterpieces of Madame Grès than I do with a couple of fabric rectangles.

2011 saw a long-overdue Madame Grès retrospective at the Musée Bourdelle

Alas for my comfort zone, there’s no getting around the fact that even when corralled, my blouson-y periwinkle doesn’t exactly create softened-yet-sleek lines.

Periwinkle silk blouse worn with keyhole in back

But here I am, and forward I must go. All hail that inspirational master of volume, Balenciaga!

Mid-50s Balenciaga via the Metropolitan Museum of Art's online gallery

Dear Balenciaga made things look so easy, yet two months after purchasing what Mr Vix rather annoyingly yet semi-accurately insists on calling my “purple sack” I’m still trying to figure out how to get the most out of the blouse’s range of wearing options.

Keyhole neckline front or back, gathers tightened/loosened, hem higher or lower—things can get a little complicated. I ain’t gonna lie: at times, styling my new boho luxe delight has proven as challenging as taking self-portraits in a dark hallway.

Voluminous meets variety in a dark hallway: Periwinkle silk blouse worn with split-neck/straight-across tie, deep V-neck, and with keyhole in back

At this point, tossing it over or under a column of color has been how I’ve started getting my cost per wearing down. As the weather dries up and warms up, though, I’ll keep on experimenting with variations that put this blouse front and center. Because when one’s inner goddess decides it wants to assert herself, it seems best to get out of the way.

PSA #1: Get an overview of Madame Grès and her sculptural designs—a mix of “austerity and sensuality”—including glimpses of the 2011 Musée Bourdelle exhibit that featured her work:

PSA #2: Enjoy Grainsdesel’s extensive, multi-part walkthrough of  the 2011 Madame Grès retrospective at the Musée Bourdelle—including beautiful shots of the museum itself: