the lord of the weddings: tolkienesque bridal charm bracelets

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With our wedding just over a month away (seriously!), I find myself overwhelmed with strange desires – a bizarre attachment to the notion of programs that double as hand-fans, a craving for customized bubble wands, and a yearning for a stereotypical T-shirt printed with some variation of “Bride.” (Even though I never wear T-shirts: not even Emily Dickinson ones.)

A little while ago, I became fixated on the notion of wearable gifts for the “wedding party” – which consists of me, my mom, and my sister – that would capture the spirit of the event and lend our appearances some small element of cohesion. I spent hours transfixed by the bridal charm bracelets on Etsy, but nothing really won me over: and, to be honest, I became quite convinced that I could make one myself.

Enter these Tolkien-inspired bracelets, which I cobbled together from bulk-bought charms curated by a whimsical eye!

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“come away, o human child!” my victorian fairy painting investigation

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If you’d told my child-aged self that one day I would embark on an academically sponsored research trip to Scotland to investigate fairies [and their representation in three paintings by a particular Scottish artist], she…probably would have shrugged and said “well, it’s not as good as finding a portal to a fay kingdom, but it will do.

As someone who grew up fascinated by fairy lore, I find Victorian fairy painting such a compelling and strange epoch of modern artistic production. For one relatively brief nineteenth-century moment, winged creatures of fantasy held centerstage in the world of fine art – occupying monumental canvases typically reserved for history painting. I won’t reveal too much about my particular research angle yet, but through a number of museum and library visits in Edinburgh and Glasgow, I’ve discovered some truly fantastic archival material to help me on my journey.

The experience of seeing these three J. N. Paton paintings in person after studying them for so long, of course, may be as close to real magic as I’ll ever get.

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“it had become a glimmering girl”

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I’m running out of opportunities to coordinate my outfits with local blossom activity! Fortunately, this dress offers a spectacular grand finale. I’m not sure if the embroidered blooms that wind their way around the neckline and sleeves of this gown represent dogwood specifically, but they match well enough, and I feel like a flower fairy whenever I wear it. The moth-pixie profile pin by Hannah Kienzle Illustration, one of my absolute favorites, further affirms my fay attitude.
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I’ve searched diligently through my blog archives to determine whether or not I’ve referenced one of my most cherished poems–Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Aengus”–in a post before. As it turns out, I quoted its opening lines two years ago while recounting a flower-gathering walk I’d taken in nearby woods. I suppose that enough time has passed to merit some reminder of its almost-mystical transformation from trout to woman:

When I had laid it on the floor,

I went to blow the fire -a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor

And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

– W.B. Yeats

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Until such a time that I have access to apple-blossoms for hairstyling purposes, I guess I’ll have to rely on the sun to manufacture glimmer instead! I’m thankful, at least, that my love is not the sort who will disappear into the brightening air (except when we lose connection on a video call).

bold like the chestnut burr

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That one sublime moment when the tree adjacent to my home explodes in a cloud of blossoms always marks the end of my winter sadness–and this year’s bloom coincided with the conclusion of my first year as a graduate student! Though I’ll sorely miss discovering the most eccentric and fascinating aspects of medieval art every two days, I am glad to have some time to recover from a challenging semester. Now begins the season of writing letters, reading novels, admiring flowers, and wearing enormous hats to protect myself from the sun!

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Inspired by the keenly methodical botanical activities of my favorite poet, I spent all of my finals week dreaming of acquiring a flower press and creating my own herbarium this summer. Considering that I’ve now survived that demanding cycle of paper-writing and sleep deprivation, I’m making such whimsical activities my top priority!

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Other ridiculous goals I have in mind for the upcoming months of relative freedom include:

  • finding out absolutely everything I can about nineteenth-century attitudes towards fairies (this is technically for school, but that’s of no consequence if it’s fun!)
  • apprenticing myself in the arcane practice of NAIL ART (since I’ve stopped biting my nails for the first time in my entire life!)
  • [re]learning Latin (it’s been a long time since I superficially studied it in fourth grade, and I’ve felt a strange desire to return to such ancient speech!)
  • carrying out a host of crafting projects for my wedding in August–many of which you might see soon, because my final goal involves…
  • actually blogging regularly! (Oh how I’ve missed writing these strange letters to the world. See you again soon!)

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spellbound by the faerie handbook

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What could be a more appropriate distraction from my newfound fear of flying than The Faerie Handbook, a volume dedicated to winged creatures? It was with this logic that I toted this gorgeous, enormous tome in my carry-on luggage to Europe and back this past winter, hoping its lush pages might soothe my anxiety mid-flight. I waited in the terminal clutching it behind my boarding pass, too afraid to leave the book in my backpack and risk loosing access to it after the captain had turned back on the fasten seatbelts sign.

I shouldn’t bury the lede: my air travels are less relevant than my general adoration for this book by the creators of Faerie Magazine. Still, its detailed, whimsical contents did indeed prove a panacea to some of my turbulence terrors…so that’s saying something!

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fairy rings

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I journeyed through my childhood and youth as an eager believer, resolute in my conviction that the sort of magic I encountered in any number of obscure juvenile fantasy novels would manifest in my ordinary life one day.

Now, I wouldn’t say that a glimmering portal to another realm awaited me on Mt. Pollux one iridescent October morning – but three weeks ago, I came as close to real-life enchantment as a decidedly, disappointingly non-magical girl could hope.

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what’s in my mailbox? “I hide myself within my flower”

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As my life has quickly become a wonderfully ceaseless cycle of Emily Dickinson research,  I anticipate that all posts for the foreseeable future may include references to her verse or letters. In any case, I’m happy to hide myself within these flowers (and trees, and sea creatures)–all kindly sent to me in recent pen pal letters!

In praise of her beloved conservatory, Dickinson wrote “My flowers are near and foreign, and I have but to cross the floor to stand in the Spice Isles.” The letters I receive from my pen pals fulfill the same lovely function: I have but to cross the road to my mailbox to stand in Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, and Nevada, in this case!

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