scenes from a sail

mini whales (2 of 7)whales and ocean (1 of 3)whales and ocean (3 of 3)

As someone who cultivates an association with the ocean throughout all she does, I must confess that I can count the number of times I’ve actually traversed the sea on one hand. Unlike the protagonists of The Wind in the Willows, I lack much experience with “messing about in boats.”

You can imagine, then, what a deeply moving and exhilarating experience I enjoyed on this recent sailing adventure during my trip home! Flat water, clear skies, and a few humpback whales passing through (captured in all their glory thanks to my zoom lens!) made for a most enchanting morning.

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2018 in wandering

 

On the one hand, 2018 might have qualified as the most adventure-packed year of my life. As my husband (then-fiancé!) and I finished up our last few months of long-distance love, I visited the United Kingdom twice in six months – a new record for me! We enjoyed a brief period of quiet time in our new home after that final visit resulted in the happily-ever-after of a granted visa: and then the rest of the summer concluded with a trip to my home, our wedding, and a mini-honeymoon.

I always enjoy looking back over my various voyagings in a given year, so I hope you will indulge me as I post my virtual travelogue nearly a week into 2019!

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outgoing mail: my gallant star

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The almost-equitorial skies of my childhood dazzle me every time I return home. Thanks to the welcome lack of light pollution intervening between my eyes and the heavens, the sky sparkles with a clarity unmatched in any suburban setting.

I made these envelopes just before I left on my trip – during one fleeting moment of post-semester freedom! – and their stellar sensibility seemed to prefigure the celestial adventures awaiting me here…

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Summer in Salem

salem photos (8 of 9)salem photos (4 of 9)

Every time I leave my forested home in favor of the coast, I imagine what it would be like to move there permanently. Nothing appeals to me more than the idea of spending every day by the ocean – or at least being within a short drive of the seaside. As a consequence of such visits, I also find myself rekindling my fascination with maritime art: spending weeks afterwards brushing up on New England’s seafaring history!

Though it’s been almost six months since my husband and I went to Salem for a mini-honeymoon, I’m glad that my academic circumstances prevented me from posting these photographs until now. Those wildly hot August days meandering past the Atlantic seem even more appealing in January!

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my year in letters, 2018

 

pure imagination  ♥  the whole world is a garden  ♥  odontocetes and others 

diving into the wreck    lost worlds    pastel imperfections 

It might be tempting to characterize 2018 as a “Dark Age” for my snail mail productivity and hope that a glorious Renaissance awaits me in 2019. Given the surprising amount of medieval art scholarship I’ve done in the past year, however, I would never bandy about the reductive stereotype of the “Dark Ages” lightly. In fact, just as the Middle Ages featured some truly remarkable artistic and architectural developments, I would argue that my low-letter year has included a few instances of rather satisfying envelope-crafting.

Looking back through these posts has been honestly a little frustrating, though: I remember, for example, excitedly making those dinosaur envelopes in July with very particular recipients in mind (you may know who you are) – and then not actually having the time to send the letters until months later. What a difference from January, when I put together those envelopes from the most glorious mermaid-themed paper pack and sent them off into the world days after!

I considered deleting this blog altogether a few times this year, but I think I’ll give it another concerted try and see what happens. It’s now officially been four years (four!!) since I started my pen pal journey in January 2015, and it’s always been a joy to document the art I send and receive, the friends I’ve made, and the massive assortment international stamps I’ve collected as a result. I don’t want to stop!

I know I have not been the world’s most reliable correspondent this year, but I have not stopped thinking about you, pen pals who might be reading this! And to anyone who used to write to me but hasn’t been able to for a while – please feel free to get in touch with me. I’d love to hear from you again, and I promise I won’t judge: I’ve been there myself!

(It’s probably no surprise that I’ve enjoyed reliving the Golden Age of my snail mail days by reading through my 2017, 2016, and 2015 “Year in Letters” posts – here’s hoping 2019’s list will join their illustrious ranks!)

ex libris

Literary Dress (3 of 3)Literary Dress (1 of 3)

For every book cover printed on this dress, I can assure you that I have a real-world equivalent stacked in the massive monolith of research texts I acquired for the end of this semester.

Sometimes the treasures that fall into my hands through interlibrary loans astound me. A few weeks ago, I went to retrieve a stack of books about the Lindisfarne Gospels and wound up with a resplendent gold-embossed tome from 1908, its covers graced with as much elaborate interlace as the Gospels themselves. I felt almost afraid to touch it, much less page through in search of historiographical significance – it currently sits on a single shelf in my office like an arcane sorceress’ grimoire. 

Literary Dress (2 of 3)

I wore this dress not for an endless day of research (of which I’ve had many of late) but to celebrate my favorite poet’s birthday, an occasion for which I participated in a reading of an eccentrically droll children’s Christmas story from the nineteenth century. I have to confess that the experience of holding that original book up for the audience to see absolutely delighted me. 

I wonder how perplexed (or delighted) these various writers from the past century would be to find that the vogue for ornamental Victorian book covers has persisted to the extent that I own a dress covered in their likenesses! 

outgoing mail: pastel imperfections

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Perhaps the reason why the stereotypical fairy tale/ fantasy romance closes with the wedding scene is because the alternative–“and then after the marriage, they proceeded to live a quiet and wonderful life together as the princess spent her days reading primary source texts from the nineteenth century, studying the history of ceramics, and otherwise navigating her second year of graduate school”–while delightful to me, lacks the charm of the more celebratory happy ending.

Which is all to say: hello! In the two months since I vanished from this blog, I’ve enjoyed the wedding of my dreams, spent a two-day maritime mini-moon by the coast in Salem, and subsequently found myself very reluctant to return to real life. Living with my husband/best friend/former pen pal for the first time has been absolutely incredible, but it’s also coincided with a very busy fall semester. Needless to say, I’ve not only fallen behind on my letters once more, but have also barely had the chance to experience mail-related post-wedding activities – like sending out thank-you cards and announcements!

Because we “eloped” (which is to say we had 10 people in attendance at our enchanted Hobbiton-esque venue), there are many friends and relatives around the globe who were not able to share in the festivities, and we planned on sending out some photos and cards to spread the word in a way that’s a little more personal than a Facebook post. Combining my husband’s illustrations with some Tolkien-friendly typefaces quickly resulted in the ultimate elopement postcard! To keep them safe, though, we will nevertheless send them in envelopes – which I took upon myself to create this past long weekend.

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