Whenever I look at the moon, I wonder at her celestial beauty and the fact that 47 years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on it. I also wonder what we’re immersing into the atmosphere, what we’re crafting as orbs of the night (ah, how lovely those words are to me) dip into new waves. It is certainly a cup of tea very different from the norm I know, but self-reflection is something that should still be done. Often. Or, every once in a blue moon.

Fragrance is more unexpectedly straightforward than you would believe, so much so, that I urge you to avoid the modern mainstream ‘pop scent’, and follow your own perfumed tune. Mine, well, it’s just an offering of sorts, it doesn’t burn brighter than all the shadows cast across it, it just feels homemade, which it kinda is, not in a way this is unsettling as homemade things can be, but in a way that feels rooted in reality.

So by now you know I’m fickle with fragrance. Sure, I always come back to certain scents, but I spend a lot of my time trying to add to a repertoire that could only be described as schizophrenic. Layering fragrances is like a Rubik’s Cube; it’ll drive you crazy until you happen on something that you know you’ve never smelt before. A once in a blue moon mix. The big plate of pomme frites I’ve been alluding to.

Try this, and it’s a definite that you’ll get you a cacophonous chorus of “oooooh, what you wearing missus?!” You just play—and play it really is—with Santa Maria Novella’s Tobacco Toscano and Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Ambre du Nepal in any spritz-order you see fit. Close the redolent circle with a drop of vanilla oil behind your ears, on your wrists, the small of your neck and just between your collarbone—C.O. Bigelow’s lasts for an eternity.

Frédéric Malle, the architect behind Editions de Parfums—a collection of nineteen original scents created in collaboration with the world’s top noses says, “Perfume is not an intellectual thing. It’s very primal. You have to use what you already know about someone, but you also need to trust your instincts.”

I think this mix will make you feel humid, narcotic, a bit unsettled even, and I think you’ll like it. Caution: Marinate for a good half an hour before stepping out.


And then it was January. Or actually, February if you’re a (mild) hypochondriac and the imminent end of the first month of the year of PROMISE is slipping away into the ether. It’s been a potent start to my year, how has it been for you?

January is always full of wonder and also longing. The last day at the end of the month is the day my father died, and whether I know it or not, it’s creeping up on me like a cloud of smoke. Historically the mist has particularly choked, but right now, it’s enveloping me like my favourite incense (Nag Champa) from Stick, Stone & Bone on Christopher Street here in New York City. Less than a week away and I feel oddly ambivalent. Ambivalent towards my physicality, and more interested in the invisible threads percolating around me. You know, the ones running out into the world—into and from other humans—but mostly just zigzagging without even so much as a nod from me. Maybe this is what happens one decade on from losing the great love of your life, but I’m mighty interested in these new sensations. They feel affirmative. Different. Smiley. Like honey. Or treacle. Which is always rich and unctuous until you eat too much and feel sick. And it dribbles, which I love.

Talking about love, reclaiming the familiar while discovering new horizons of an intimate relationship is frankly wondrous; my dad lives on in my heart and mind. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him in some context. Fucked up? Wish I could speak to dad. Done something brilliant? Need to tell dad! Met a man…DAD!!!!!! Need a bear hug and a looooooooooong walk? Where’s dad? Want to cook slow roasted lamb (his speciality)? Hurry dad, I’m hungry! Trying to be bold and jump into something new in my creative life? Well actually, he would just say jump. I ask for help now more than ever. Advice too. In fact, I want to know what people who I know intimately and don’t know from a bar of soap are thinking. Safe to assume they know something epic that I do not. How exciting is that? Dad, well he taught me THAT. My dad’s death has been the ultimate exposer. From facing my mortality to shattering the glass walls of control I thought I had carefully built, when everything crumbled around me with aplomb, it was a disaster. And then one day it wasn’t. And today it isn’t.

In becoming intimate with death and loved ones who have lost, I have seen unbelievable stances of beauty, of bravery, of devotion, of sparkling soul bursts, gosh so much that it makes me giddy thinking about it. Of course, I’ve seen self-destruction and bad behaviour (myself included), but I choose to remember not forget anymore and feel the light and the good. I’ll leave you and me with this passage of sheer candescence that touches me so very deeply:

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

image: yogibe.tumblr.com

source: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

 


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“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer … and everything collapses. ”

― Colette

I’d make a terrible undercover cop or spy I realized last week. Over on MI6’s (the British equivalent to the CIA) website, they lure you in with the promise that they will “test your ability to maintain a simple cover story”. So I was walking in my local supermarket, and I saw a dad doing a food shop with his daughter. She must have been at college because he was insisting on all manner of superfoods, and she was insisting on all manner of junk foods. They had a rhythm that I couldn’t take my eyes off, and I proceeded to follow them round the aisles mesmerized. I’m not usually one to follow in hot – or in this case slow – pursuit, nor am I unaware that 6ft human beings are conspicuous, but it was better than saying: “My name is Kayla Hannah Jacobs. I live just down the road. I sometimes wish I was a vegetarian and I’m absolutely petrified of pigeons.” As an aside, let’s hope I didn’t freak them out or seem .. creepy?

This is all to say that the faint undertone of grief that catches at the back of your throat hit me immediately, and is still lingering in a way that perfume clings to scarves, hair and skin. My dad and I used to shop together gleefully because of our mutual love for food and cooking. We would spend hours in aisles the way one can spend hours going back and forth from a work of art. I miss being in a supermarket with him so much that the juxtaposition of detectable lingering and longing is still a shock because I always forget what grief smells like.

I was surprised at the sheer fact of my dad’s absence seemed a bit too .. fresh? In the way a perfume can seem when newly sprayed and not yet marinated into flesh. It’s hard not to love someone who’s always on your side isn’t it? That’s a dad, that was my dad, that was the dad I saw at the supermarket. I blush when I think about it, the gulf between what my heart and my head think, what we’re capable of imagining versus actual reality. I’d like to think my dad is with me always, but at that moment when I felt achy like I haven’t felt in a while, I thought on how great of him it would be if he decided to haunt me. Especially at Wholefoods.

A sensory experience is lonely if you’re missing the very person you want to share it with and will never be able to. I carried on walking those aisles (don’t worry, I stopped the ‘observation’ at some point) in a heightened state, yearning for emotional connection with my dad, but also laughing a bit at some memories piercing through the lump in my throat. Ooooh, the brain is a seductive beast, because really I just have a simple longing to see my dad again and navigate our way around the world as we used to. As I thought on him more, the nostalgia for the days gone by when so much still lay ahead made my skin tingle so much that I needed to go home and shower off the scent accumulating – I’d call it ‘Wistfully Ravenous’, but I’m not sure it would be an olfactory blockbuster.

The by-product of the permanence of reality is ardour, and the joyful synonyms of that five letter word are numerous. Particularly: passion, zeal, fire and jazz. On a whim when I got home I read a few chapters of The Book Thief and happed upon these raw lines:

“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands.”

Somehow they ease me back into my body, my skin, my mind and my heart.

source: Wolfgang Tillmans|alexquisite


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Growing up in England, you want to be an agony aunt. Step forward my Aunty Wendy. She signs herself off on my blog as “Your Loving Aunty Wendy” lest she was trying to go undercover, and she’s all that and so much more.

Let me take you back. She gave me my first cigarette—a slim stick that I’m positive hypnotized me—encased in metallic blue and white packaging. Actually, I stole it from her with my cousin David because I’m sure we thought it would be good for our mental health or that we would look cool or that anything Wendy did was aspirational (Rothman’s side effects still unknown). She gave me my first Magic Garden, a rectangular piece of green on to which you added water and wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, in three hours your flora and fauna would start to blossom. In ten, it would be fully grown, giving the term ‘topiary’ a serious run for its money. She gave me my first joy ride through Tuscany, which trying to describe all the pleasures of that ridiculously picturesque region would take a lifetime, and even then, we’d just scratch the surface. I’m pretty convinced that’s why I went to study in Florence during my GCSE’s, why I took Italian at University, and why I have such an affinity with fields dotted with olive and cypress trees.

She gave me my first serious crystal, a giant piece of amethyst on my 21st birthday that travelled across the oceans to be with me here in New York. She told me about turquoise and rose quartz and took me to The Scratch Patch in Cape Town where we picked the smallest morsels of rocks to be beaded into anklets, amulets and rainbow-hued bracelets. She introduced me to the naturopath Roderick Lane, a man who’s had a profound effect on my life and work. She’s been a sounding board through adventures of love and exploration, a soothing-voiced ally, except this one, wears skintight leather pants and heels as if they were Converse and jeans. She understands deep-seated psychological difficulties, and by the look on her face, if she hasn’t done it herself, she’ll be doing it later on (after she’s eaten 12 rusks, that is).

Everything she gave me made me feel less alone, and that’s why I think an aunt can be such a powerful creature. When I think of her, I am in awe of her intelligence, her language, her wit, her gift of loving. I don’t share her political views to find her an inspiration mind, but nothing seems to shock her, not even our most recent delve into some pretty odd shenanigans. Unlike dreams or star signs, my life to her is endlessly fascinating.

Aunts, we’re lucky to grow up with one or two (shout out to Aunty Cherry, a relationship which I can’t wait to expound on) who help our mothers free us of so much worry. The best thing about my aunt Wendy though is that we laugh a lot, actually cry with laughter a lot. I hope we continue to do so for infinity, and if that ain’t really possible, then for all the years to come.


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Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant. And it occurred to me after I wrote on my father that I wanted to write on my mother—hell, I felt compelled—because she is alive and I’m crazy about her. And at some point, in the interest of remembering, we can forget the present as the word “ordinary” ceases to exist. Mind you; I wouldn’t describe my parents and my relationship with them as ordinary. I doubt most of you would. Remember what Philip Larkin wrote? “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.” Always makes me howl with laughter. I was blessed to have been brought up in an eclectic home. My family brought South Africa with them to London—braais, proteas, passion fruit juice, strong accents and soul.

“And then—gone.” In the midst of life, we are in death —Episcopalians say at the graveside. But we are in the midst of living always, and my mother was the key that unlocked cavernous wooden doors slammed violently shut. At first, second by second, then minute by minute, until hour by hour I regained life. Those moments when I was abruptly overtaken by exhaustion, she fed my shrinking frame with all manner of smoothies and my favourite chips in the whole wide world: Nik Naks. If you’ve ever smelt or touched their neon knobbles, you’ll know that that’s true love right there.

In the past few years—most especially—we have unpicked death, love, illness, luck, fate, addiction, strength, will, marriage, children and memory. I think this is because we have both have taken the time and actually relish the exploration of life and all its kaleidoscopic intricacies. My mother is a recovering alcoholic and she wouldn’t mind one bit that I mention that here. She’s as open about her sobriety as I am about my passion for scent. She’s eleven years sober this year, and if anyone knows about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about sanity, about being in the trenches, it’s her. When she told me after my father died that you can move on, that you’re allowed to because there’s happiness ahead of you, I believed her.

“It’s a brave thing, loving another person.” I’m laughing now, but my mother tells me she knows when my father and she conceived me. And I still smile every time she mentions it because I think its a beautiful memory for her, and as I like to remind her, she was lucky to get me! I want for her to know these daily moments we have together—even if they are more across the oceans nowadays—they’re some potent wizards. I want her to know that she shaped the way I see women. She taught me to love them and she exposed me to friggin’ awesome women doing friggin’ awesome things. She taught me about friendship and I’m sure that’s why I’ve been blessed with the best girls. She taught me to write stories and be authentic.

My mother is hilarious. She walks in and everything is better. If she walked into a room and it was beige, it would suddenly become brightly coloured. One thing I do remember is that my mother and my father were always laughing at each other’s jokes. The afternoon of the evening that he died we were in the hospital in Cape Town and it was just mum, dad and me; a rare moment of my perfect triangle. He took her hand and squeezed it tight and didn’t want to let go. I don’t think she did either. I’d never seen that between them, only heard about it, as they divorced when I was little. Still gives me goosebumps. At that moment, everything in my life came full circle. No one was watching me and I loved it. I was watching them imagining the whole sky lighting up in perpetuity.

My mother and I have repeated rituals we love to do together. Eat. Light candles. Read to each other. Oooooh and aaaah at a certain set of annual fireworks on the edge of an ocean. Build fires (metaphorical so far). Cook (me, her watching). Behold the world go by. Fragments that matter to us. She’s the only person I know who can tell me the name of every tree and plant wherever we may be walking. She’s the only person that can eat kale and make you think she’s eating pasta and fries. She’s the only person I know who gets genuinely upset that I still don’t carry tissues on my person for every single life occasion. She’s the only baby whisperer I know and I can’t wait til’ she has mine to whisper to. She’s the most generous soul I know, and now, right here in 2016, she believes in me the most. Not just for her, but for my father. She represents as Joan Didion said, ‘the constant changing of the earth, the unending erosion of the shores and mountains, the inexorable shifting of the geological structures that could throw up mountains and islands and could just as reliably take them away.’ Ladies and gents, that’s MY mother.

 


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First off, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog and not necessarily because of me, but in spite of me. It makes me happy. As I’ve continued to prod and explore deep inside my bones and all above, below and around me, I’ve realised that I’ve shared a lot of very personal things. And frankly, I don’t intend to stop. And so to that end, I thought I’d share some more about my father; it’s Father’s Day here in America next week and I can’t escape it.

If you don’t know me from a bar of soap, my father passed away in 2008 from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It’s only now, eight years later, that I can write words on this experience. Before? Forget about it. Grief is an elusive beast. At some point after his death, although I can’t remember when because my memory of that period is hazy, someone gave me a copy of C.S Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Most people, myself included, know Lewis for that most magical of series, The Chronicles of Narnia, but his primary work was teaching English at Oxford.  Not only did he gravitate toward brilliance in conversation, but also in correspondence. That’s how he met his wife, Joy. Joy was a recent convert from Judaism, and they began writing to each other (ah, sweet love letters). Eventually, the two married but she died three years later. The book is a collection of his journal entries that were compiled as he struggled through the mourning process. Here’s a gem that resonated early on:

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course, it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

I think the first year my father was gone I was on autopilot. I was also in a relationship with someone who had people around him continually serving as a good distraction from the seemingly purely physical pain I was feeling. My heart ached in such a way that an overstrained muscle does. Except it never dissipated. Not for a long, long time. My pain threshold must have gone up immeasurably. That’s why I’m convinced I managed to climb Kilimanjaro and put myself through all manner of physical feats. I thought: if it hurts this much, might as well go with it. Also, physical distractions were vital to me in those early years. If I had felt the full weight of his loss, I think I would have died of a broken heart. Truly.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”

I’m not nearly as restless now as I was during the initial years after my dad died, but I recognise when I’m heading for another significant grieving cycle because I become fidgety and angsty. And about when I become a whirling dervish, BAM, grief stops me in my tracks.

There is no recipe for dealing with pain, but my hope in starting to open up the doors and write about it is that I can be of some help to ‘restless’ souls like myself, and maybe even bid my own ghosts farewell. “The death of a beloved is an amputation,” Lewis wrote, but more than that, “The same leg is cut off time after time.” I think what I’ve learned is that life is to be embraced in all its messiness. And actually, the messier the better, because even in our darkest times, we aren’t other than our flawed and jumbled selves. And that’s pretty damn grand.

 

source: RETROKIMMER.COM


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The art of buying a carpet. It’s an art ain’t it? Could be whimsical, or covered in an ecology of fanciful creatures, maybe a few sacred signs and stylized flowers thrown in for good measure? Pictorial echoes of the cultures that made them rolled up in threads of days gone by. Lovely that. Makes me think of the nomad wandering in a (hostile/barren) desert carrying his imaginary paradise in a two-dimensional Eden. Makes me think that having a carpet handy is imperative. Never mind a mounted elephant head, a handmade tapestry is the supreme travel trophy and a rare thrill. I don’t like trophies. But I love thrills. Like most alluring things, bagging a good carpet is not easy.

I remember being in Marrakesh, a place thick with carpet sharks and labyrinthine markets that I doubted I would ever find my way out of (as an aside I found and bought my very first pack of Doreen Virtue angel cards amidst the matting). The restrictions on portrayal of the human form in Islamic countries means some of the most popular designs are geometric arabesques. Which I happen to like. A lot. My bargaining session in the carpet souk took place to the sounds of Muslim devotional music. I felt triumphant and wanted to buy a tent too. Then I’d have the winning team that could always create an instant oasis. All I’d need is a sunset to ride off into when the time to move came.

There are two schools of thought about this. The buying and not my imaginary oasis. The first, the one expounded in many a story of old, holds that a casual carpet buyer like myself is a rare personality – an enthusiast. And as such, acts of expediency and novelty are performed almost without thinking. The second sees the exchange between myself and the carpet dealer as akin to a barely disguised duel, and that the art that lies within the rug must therefore contain hidden messages when put together. Am I suggesting subliminal carpets? Hell yes I am! I dig what Virgina Wolf wrote in A Sketch of the Past: ‘It is a constant idea of mine, that behind the cotton wool (of daily reality) is hidden a pattern; that we – I mean all human beings – are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art.’ Treadable magic and being taken for a ride? Who’s gonna say no to that.

 

source: Maryam Montague


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So it’s official. I’ve been in New York nearly two years. End of June that is. And I’ve never had a Age of more clumsiness. Or more bruises – just ask my acupuncturist. I’ve heard it said that clumsy people are slightly at odds with their environment. Which is funny because I feel totally assimilated into my current one. Perhaps I’m missing a beat? But then the clumsy never believe themselves to be clumsy. To them, it seems as if there is a grand conspiracy. I think there may be. I recently dated someone who was appalled at the continuous misplacement of a large plastic, turquoise, seashell-encased phone. I know, I know. But I reason this: going out with a clumsy person is a great way of reducing your dependence on material things. And, I must confess, the items do tend to find their way back. It’s almost an exact science.

Most people feel quite warmly towards the clumsy. Shoutout to my mother. She knows the best that my clumsiness is actually a great way of meeting new people and apologizing profusely to them on my behalf. She also knows that I don’t dance on elevated surfaces. Ever. How do strippers do it? So far in the U.S. of A, I’ve torn my meniscus, broken a tooth, cricked my neck after lying on hidden rose quartz in a pillow (my rose quartz, my pillow), fallen up a flight of stairs and cut my lip, then slipped off a curb while my friend Gabi had her arm interlaced through mine. Side-note: I was holding a bottle of wine in one hand and a pair of perspex lips in the other. All you need to know is that the wine, the lips (thanks Lulu Guinness) and Gabi’s arm remained perfectly intact. Not one scratch on them – see two paragraphs above for more detail. Now might be a good time to tell you that my nickname is Bambi.

The thing is, Nature is spectacularly clumsy. There’s volcanic eruptions, comets crashing into planets and seismic earthquakes. Is evolution one clumsy mistake after another? A swan is grace in motion, but not when it lands on ice. Am I comparing myself to a swan? Maybe. But I’ll tell you this: if my physical manifestation of the internal awkwardness everyone feels in the china shop of life makes you laugh (not scowl), then I’m doing something right. And I don’t mind one bit if you think I’m goofy. Or call me Bambi.

 

source: ohmy.disney.com